How Islam Fought Poverty (Part 3)

How Islam Fought Poverty (Part 3)
Zakah is one of the strong weapons by which Islam combats poverty and its outcomes.
By Editorial Staff

While God, the Creator, is the All-Rich and Magnificent, man is otherwise weak, poor and helpless. No matter how wealthy or notable one is, he or she remains in deer need to the Power and Help of God. Almighty Allah says,

O you mankind, you are the poor (in relation) to Allah; and Allah is The One Who is The Ever-Affluent, The Ever-Praiseworthy. (Fatir 35:15)

And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak. (An-Nisaa’ 4:28)

The natural state of man which is characterized by feebleness and indigence is constant and indispensable whereas the attributes of Omnipotence and Self-Sufficiency are eternal for God. Nothing or nobody can impede, stop, challenge or overpower His Power. He is the All-Dominating and All-Overseeing. God says in the Qur’an describing Himself,

And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record. (Al-An`am 6:59)

To him [alone] is attributed knowledge of the Hour. And fruits emerge not from their coverings nor does a female conceive or give birth except with His knowledge. (Fussilat 41:47)

We all are equally in a pressing need to God, no matter how strong or well-off one is. And the only way to gain God’s support is the willful submission to His Will, which is the core of the concept of worship in Islam. This concept is what we are going to talk about in this article to see how Islam utilized the relation of worship between God and people in combating poverty.

The concept of worship vs poverty

In Islam, worship is based on submission and surrender to God. Both the poor and the well-off, all practice it evenly. The poor one observes the same rituals just as the rich, with no discrimination whatever, which cultivates the feelings of equity, humbleness, fraternity and brotherhood in them. The worship thus sustains the sense of a unified community that boosts the concepts of equality, mutual engagement and cooperation among its members. Those who badly suffer in the community will thus be generously sustained, looked after and provided for. Worship in Islam combines all the Muslim community members under its umbrella of equality and brotherhood. Therefore, we find that most of the worship institutions in Islam, such as mosques, undertake the responsibility of social care for the needy Muslims, springing from the spiritual impact of worship upon its visitors. These blessed rituals create a lively atmosphere that intensifies the feelings of mutual assistance and combined action among people.


Fasting is one of the Islamic pillars of worship and is obligatory upon all Muslims. Its reality is to abstain from food and drink from the break of dawn to sunset for a span of one full month. This worship is a must upon every adult Muslim with exception of the ill and the travelers, because of their special conditions. Almighty Allah says,

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

The full-day-fast is not feasible. It involves extreme hardship and fatigue to the fasting ones, not less than the fatigue and suffering that the poor and destitute always endure. A fasting person temporarily experiences the pains that the indigent ones used to undergo along with their old and young ones. This hardship in the worship of fasting is quite meant, to let all feel the same aches of those poor ones who have nothing to provide for themselves and their dependents. Therefore, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the ideal example of Muslims, used to give out in charity during Ramadan more than he would do in other months. It was narrated that `Abdullah ibn `Abbas said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people, and he was most generous in Ramadan when Jibril (the Angel Gabriel) met him. Jibril (peace be upon him) use to meet him every night during the month of Ramadan and study Quran with him.” Ibn `Abbas said, “When Jibril met him, the Messenger of Allah was more generous in doing good than the blowing wind.” He taught people to give out during Ramadan to help the destitute and alleviate their suffering and pains, after they already felt a part of them.


Zakah is one of the pillars of Islam. It is considered part and parcel of the Islamic Shari`ah. It refers to a specific amount of the property to be paid out by the wealthy ones in the community. It is to be given for 8 categories of beneficiaries whom Allah has determined in the Qur’an. Actually, 4 of the 8 categories are related to poverty sufferers. Almighty Allah says,

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise. (At-Tawbah 9:60)

The beneficiaries of zakah are topped by the poor and the needy and those working for collecting zakah and distributing it among the ones who deserved it as well as those in debt. It is obligatory upon those whose properties reach the designated amount, since small-owners are exempted. Almighty Allah has made it obligatory not optional and made it a means of forgiveness and mercy for its givers. God says in the Qur’an,

Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase, and invoke [ Allah ‘s blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (At-Tawbah 9:103)

Yet, God made zakah a right of Him in the properties of the wealthy ones but it is to be given for the poor and the needy and other expenditures. Almighty Allah says,

And those within whose wealth is a known right. For the petitioner and the deprived… They will be in gardens, honored. (Al-Ma`arij 70:24-25..30)

So, zakah is a divine not a clerical right. It is not allowed to pay it to clerks or sheikhs but it should be delivered to the poor or their deputy. Zakah is one of the strong weapons by which Islam combats poverty and its outcomes. Sheikh Ibn `Uthaimeen mentioned some of the pieces of wisdom behind the legislation of zakah by saying,

  • It makes the Muslim society like a single family, in which those who have the provisions show compassion to those who do not have the provisions, and the rich to those who are in hardship. Thus a person feels that he has brothers to whom he must do good as Allah has been good to him. Allah says:

And do good as Allah has been good to you. (Al-Qasas 28:77)

This is what is known nowadays as “social security”, but zakah is better than that, because a person is paying it as an obligatory duty and benefitting his brothers thereby.

  • It extinguishes the flames of revolution among the poor, for a poor man may be provoked by the luxurious life the rich has. But if the rich are generous to the poor, they will prevent rebellion and soothe their anger.
  • Zakah prevents financial crimes such as robbery and stealing and the like, because the poor will get enough to meet their needs, and they will excuse the rich because they are giving them some of their wealth, and they will see that they are treating them well, so they will not transgress against them. (See: Al-Sharh Al-Mumti`, 6/4-7.

                                                                                       To be continued…

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