More and more of the world is falling into poverty. As inflation runs rampant, interest rates rise and war causes chaos in food exports, energy prices and much more. We are in a crisis, an economic crisis, a crisis of faith and belief. We are uncertain of our futures, how to pay the bills, how to survive. Who will save us from this ill fate?
Will our governments fix these issues? Are they not just aggravating the problem by raising interest rates? Interest being a form of usury. It’s their “tool” for fighting inflation, but as inflation continues to rise, it’s not clear it’s an effective tool. Then if not the government, who will come to our aid? Could it be our local communities?
In Islam, we refer to community as the Ummah. The Ummah is in reference to an Islamic community that transcends borders, race or societal tribalism. It is a form of kinship that looks past blood relation or nationality with the goal of oneness amongst people. It is a profoundly strong ideal in a world that is utterly divided.
The world is broken, fractured into differing nations that cycle between globalism and self interest. Where it suits us we trade freely, and where it suits us, we close our borders to take care of ourselves first. Is that not the first principles of survival? Perhaps on an individual level, but to truly thrive as a community, we have to take care of our neighbours just as much as ourselves.
Every nation is blessed with different levels of sustenance, wealth, skills and so forth. This means we each have varying needs and some are more fortunate than others in abundance of such resources. Is it not then the responsibility of those more fortunate to help those less so? If we are truly an Ummah, then yes.
Zakat in Islam is a form of almsgiving. A 2.5% yearly tax on savings and wealth which is distributed to the poor and needy. It is a pillar of Islam and a religious obligation to all those who believe. By giving to those most in need we look to eradicate the most extreme forms of poverty in society.
Zakat has the power to change the world. While our countries tax us at varying levels, it is not always clear where and how these funds are being used. It is not clear that we are effectively distributing enough resources to those most in need. We can see that 50% of the population still lives on less than $5.50 a day. The world bank deems extreme poverty as those living on less than $2.15. In the first world we’d consider this inhumane.
Charities exist to provide food, resources and funds to those most in need. They are doing incredible work, and yet it’s still not enough. We have turned people’s suffering into someone else’s problem. We have outsourced the most difficult work and largely ignored those most in need because they are two steps removed from us. What we can’t see does not exist, what we can’t feel must not exist. Yet these problems are about to affect all of us.
The belief in Islam and the Ummah is that we are all one people, that we should want for our brothers what we want for ourselves. That we should aid our communities so that we all thrive. This is somehow lost as people in some nations die of hunger, have no access to clean water and the rest survive on so very little.
As these problems come closer and closer into our own communities it begins to highlight the need for economic reform and redistribution of wealth in a way that helps everyone. The power of Zakat is in the potential to rebuild the economic system of the world to be truly global and aid the most in need. 2.5% of wealth donated each year by every person capable would truly fix much of societies problems.
It is the responsibility of every local community to determine how these funds are most effectively applied but as an Ummah, as a global community, it’s our responsibility to first proactively make Zakat something integral to our society as a whole. If Zakat is not part of our economic systems then how can we look to solve the biggest problems we’re facing today? While national taxes fund public infrastructure and universal credit in some countries, it’s not likely to fix the larger issues at hand.
Community led infrastructure starting with Zakat has the power to change everything. By building an economic system that starts with charity, we can build a new approach to money and services. One that puts people first.