The Social Sphere

“Islam has created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any other society had ever been in the world before.” (H G Wells, The Outline of History)

Although the role of Zakah in the Islamic economic order is both diverse and far-reaching, however at the societal level the primary objective of Zakah is to eradicate poverty. And this is a very significant objective which, in my humble opinion, assumes even greater significance considering the fact that some of the wealthier countries in the world happen to be Muslim yet, strangely enough, poverty is rife in the Muslim world. Why?

The simple answer is because in those countries wealth is largely controlled by a group of elites who care less for the poor and the needy. Worse still, these elites also avoid paying Zakah so that the poor and the needy of the society are literally forced to steal or beg for charity. Not surprisingly, the situation in Muslim countries today is both desperate and alarming not only because the elites of those societies prefer not to pay Zakah but because they are flagrantly violating Islamic commandments with regard to the obligation of Zakah. Perhaps they should ponder over the following words of Caliph Abu Bakr: “By God, I will wage war against those who differentiate between Salat and Zakah.” More importantly, the Prophet (peace be on him) said:

“He is not a true Muslim who eats his full when his next door neighbor is hungry.” (Al-Albani)

Such is the importance of charity and Zakah in Islam.

In short, at the societal level, one of the most significant objective of Zakah is that it seeks to eradicate poverty, the mother of all social problems, by ensuring that the rich live up to their social responsibility by distributing a portion of their wealth and fortune to the poor and the needy of the society at large.