22 September 2018 / 12 Muharram 1440
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Ramadan, the time to give hope
- Written by Shafiq Morton
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A solid Islamic financial base is said to be the soundest way to harnessing Zakah, the compulsory cleansing and redistribution of wealth, deemed to be a pillar of the faith. In many parts of the globe, Zakah is said to be the forgotten pillar, either due to grinding poverty, famine and warfare in Islamic lands, or due to minorities with threatened civil liberties.
Nonetheless, Zakah as an institution in the 21st century has started to make great strides, especially since the dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1923 rocked the Muslim word, and set it back on all fronts – socially, economically, educationally and politically.
The Caliphate may have been a deteriorating establishment by the end of 20th century, but few know that its biggest impact in its heyday had been at the level of social development, and the eradication of poverty, via the mechanisms of Waqf and Zakah.
Few civilisations, if any, have enjoyed the redistributive capacity of wealth as the Islamic one. The Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Persian – and so many others – have never had a concern for the poor encoded in their constitutional existence. In those societies, charity was always conditional, never an obligation.
Of course, the underlying compassion of social welfare – as an individual and collective responsibility – reflects the beating heart of the Prophet Muhammad [SAW], who never turned anyone away, and whose own cupboard was consistently bare because of this. He was not known as a “mercy to all” for nothing.
As the Muslim world has recovered from the colonial era, without denying its current and urgent conundrums, it is interesting to note that when SANZAF was founded just over 40 years ago, the Islamic wealth base – locally and internationally – was very low.
For example, modern Islamic banking and investment had just arrived. In 1975, it could boast 10 million dollars (R 120 million) in assets under management. By 2008, this figure had risen to nearly 50 billion dollars (R 600 billion) and in 2017 to 70 billion dollars (R 840 billion).
Indeed, the huge growth curve is evident for us all to see. So what does it mean? What it means is that the creation of Islamic wealth distributes increasing amounts of liquidity (Islamic finance does not deal with fresh air) into the community. That means development, jobs, food security and societal stability.
In other words, this increased base of Islamic wealth – stripped of interest bearing mechanisms and scrutinised for Shari’ah compliance – is not only halal in the most basic sense, but is also ethically, and even environmentally sound, in terms of practice. This is a no-brainer for effective, conscience-free poverty eradication.
Therefore, it is my contention that we should begin to consider shifting our resources to Shari’ah compliant ones, especially in the light of today’s challenges. With Muslims constituting 25% of the world’s population, it is interesting (concerning?) to note that only 2% of the ummah, the world community, is currently invested in Islamic instruments.
If this were to just double, the ripple effect on the community in terms of Zakah, Waqf and sadaqah institutionally would be enormous. Just imagine.
So it is to organisations such as SANZAF, with its guaranteed infrastructure, its institutional capability and its accountability that I urge you to turn to this Ramadan. As we benefit from the fruits of our Islamic (and other) investments, its Zakah harvest – as it were – needs a good home.
SANZAF, to put it another way, is the final player in our wealth cycle. By empowering others, it injects uplifting resources back into the community, offers long term opportunity and gives joy to those in the darkest moments of their despair. For as a recent SANZAF WhatsApp says: “IN THE DARKEST TIMES BE THE LIGHT, STAND UP AND HELP US #GIVEHOPE.
And that, surely, is the biggest thing of all for this Ramadan. Hope. The poor and the aggrieved should be comforted by the wealth of others, knowing that at the end of the Holy Month, the holders of this trust given to them by Allah, and by Allah alone, will redistribute some of it.
May everyone enjoy a beautiful Ramadan filled with blessings, and of course, hope.