Role of Zakat in reducing dependence on IMF, WB

d. Ekramullahil Kafi

Role of Zakat in reducing dependence on IMF, WB
By Md. Ekramullahil Kafi
Tue, 10 Oct 2006, 09:23:00

Economy occupies a large part of our life. We cannot pass even a day without undertaking any economic activity, whatever it is. Even eating three times a day or sleeping for a while comes within the purview of economics. As for example- why do we eat? We eat to survive. Why do we survive? We survive for work. Why should we work? We work just to earn our bread. How do we get bread? We get it either for money or by producing.

Therefore, both money and production are the two most important parts of economy. Today's economy is unthinkable without the help of banking system. We are so much dependent on the banks that those are now literally at our doorsteps and it is true not only in the town but also in the village. In all big markets in the village there is more than one branch of banks.

There is no secret that among all banks in Bangladesh, Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited is the best performing bank according to international rating.

The performance of the Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited is so excellent that even the non-Muslims are rushing to this bank. Several years ago, it is either Reuters or AFP reported that Islamic Banks all over the world had been among the top profit making banks for their excellent services and transparency. Islamic banking system, which is the reflection of Islamic economics, is so successful all over the world that according to the latest information available to us, Japan, the second largest economy in the world, next to the USA, is contemplating to introduce Islamic banking system.

What's the magic behind the success of the Islamic Banking all over the world? Actually, there is no magic. If there is at all any magic, it is because; the system comes from none other than the Almighty Allah, who created everything including men and the universe. Manmade theory may be wrong. But, there is no slightest degree of doubt that Allah's theory is perfect and beneficial for all irrespective of caste, creed, religion and time. Had this notion been incorrect, Islamic Banking would not enjoy such a prestigious position in the world.

Zakat is an indispensable part of Islamic economy. Zakat is a kind of tax paid to the poor at a certain rate (Taka 2.50 for every one hundred taka) by the affluent people of the society. It is a unique system given by the Almighty to prevent concentration of wealth into the hands of a few.

It is that system which narrows gap between the haves and the have-nots, for which the socialists had been relentlessly fighting during the bygone century, but failed. It is not a fiction but a part of the recorded history that during the rule of Hazrat Omar (Ra.), the Second Caliph of Islam, there was not a single man to accept Zakat. All men became rich enough to be able to give Zakat within 5 years of the introduction of the Zakat system. Why was the system proved to be so successful?

The answer is simple. Because, it came from Allah, the Almighty, who is the creator of everything. Allah, who created men, knows very well how to solve the economic problems.

If Hazrat Omar (Ra.) is successful in solving the economic problems, than why should we not be able to solve our economic problems by introducing the same system? One may very well say that there is a gulf of difference between the age of Hazrat Omar (Ra.) and that of ours. In reply we may also say that had this notion been true then the Islamic Banking system would not be so wonderfully successful.

The experts in Islamic economy say that in Bangladesh every year ten thousand crore of Taka, which is almost one fifth of our national budget of the current fiscal, can be realised as Zakat. And by proper distribution of this Zakat money through the state machinery, poverty, which is at the root of our lingering backwardness, can be eradicated in ten years only. Moreover, we can reduce substantially, our dependence on the IMF and the World Bank.

To draw Taka ten thousand crores from a single sector is not a matter of a joke. Employment opportunity for at least a million half-educated youths can be created every year with this amount. Or, the same number of youths can be provided with unemployment allowance every year at a rate of Taka ten thousand per annum.

Or, about two millions destitute men and women will be able to find out better way of life with the amount if they are provided with Taka 5 thousand each for rearing poultry birds and goats, etc. In a word, it is a very big amount, the proper use of which may bring about a revolutionary change in our economy.

But, we shall not be able to reap the real and optimum benefit of Zakat system until and unless the government comes forward to realise the same compulsorily from the affluent people of the society. Actually, very few people will be willing to give Zakat considering it as a religious binding. Even during the time of Hazrat Omar (Ra.) a group of people, after the death of the Prophet Mohammad (SA.), expressed unwillingness to give the same.

But, Hazrat Omar (Ra.) was bold enough to declare, "I shall declare war against those, who, during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad (Sa.), used to give even a rope of camel as Zakat, are not willing to give the same." So, it is no wonder that even today there is no dearth of such people among the Muslims as will be unwilling to give Zakat. It is human nature that unless compelled, they do not easily like to part with their wealth. If the government can compel its citizens to pay taxes for all kinds of commodities and services they use, than it can easily compel them to give Zakat also.

Until and unless the government comes forward in this regard, the role of Zakat in eradicating poverty will not be as pervasive as it was during the rule of Hazrat Omar (Ra.).

In conclusion, we must hope that the government which can allow the Islamic banks to function for economic development of the country can also introduce Zakat system to reduce its dependence on the IMF, World Bank and other foreign donors that give us money on condition and ultimately, keep no role in our economic development.

Besides, the so-called NGOs, which have actually opened up business centres in the country in the guise of lending money to the poorest of the poor on high rate of interest, will gradually find themselves irrelevant if Zakat system is fully geared up. There is hardly any example that any poor nation was able to become self-dependent with the prescriptions of the IMF and the WB. If there is any at all, it is by accident. The earlier government realises it and takes step in that direction, the better.

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