Islamabad - In Arabic ‘Shariah’ literally means ‘the way’. More precisely, it refers to the body of divine law, which Muslim community believed as Allah’s will; based on the Holy book Quran or Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) reported words and actions.

It is religiously and conceptually not possible for a Muslim, who is serious about his faith to turn a blind eye towards mandatory religious responsibilities bestowed by Allah in the form of Shariah - the human understanding of those divine laws called as Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence; implemented through Islamic rulings (Fatwa) on the questions presented before Islamic jurists.

Most of the Shariah is about personal observance, but the life of a pious Muslim doesn’t only revolve around the realm of praying five times a day and observing fast throughout the month of Ramazan, however, an integral part of Shariah is about the social responsibility, including giving a certain percentage out of the personal income of every kind, levied as alms for the poor and needy once in the year, which is called as ‘Zakat’ which means ‘to purify’. The importance of this act is considered next in ranking after prayer, according to the revealed Quranic verses.

The month of Ramazan provides a great opportunity for Muslims to give donations known as Zakat, which doubles the reward. The giver is believed to purify wealth by helping the destitute and others. Before plunging deep in the details of financial stability achieved through this pious act, there is a list of misconceptions or a result of misinterpretation done by not so learned common man, which has menacingly stricken our society. People tend to get confused between the two commonly used terminologies Zakat and Zakat-Al-Fitr and its month of payment.

Zakat can be due at any time of the year after a Muslim holds a minimum amount of wealth that makes him liable to pay 2.5 per cent of the tax. Consequently, the presence of countless examples in our society depicts how Zakat can improve the livelihood of a person. The aforementioned terminologies seem homonym, however, they are both distinct entities and payment of either one doesn’t relieve the person from paying the left one.  Furthermore, the Zakat-Al-Fitr is usually paid before offering the Eid prayer to the people in need, which in contrast with the payment of Zakat.

Zakat is a powerful source for contributing to sustainable development amongst deprived communities, which may become a factor to reduce absolute poverty worldwide. There are some evident commonalities between sustainable development goal and Zakat. As we are acquainted with the purpose of Islamic faith, which rests on five foundational goals know as ‘Maqasid al Sharia’ - including the protection of faith, life, intellect, progeny, and wealth. Many of the sustainable development goals are present to diminish poverty and malnutrition, improving education, health, and access to water and sanitation, lessening the discrimination strike the mirror image of Islamic values.

Zakat being one of the five pillars of Islam is mandatory giving, upon all Muslims eligible to pay as mentioned earlier. No doubt, it is one of the largest forms of transferring donations to the poor in existence.

Despite, its massive strength of contributing to the sustainable development goal, Zakat organisation’s contribution, and role has been overlooked by the development organisations; however, it is a source of finance and, indeed an influential partner. Zakat is often channelled through unofficial way between the individuals, a cash payment to a distant relative in need, for example. Almost a quarter of contribution is channelled through officially certified organisations.

As the world’s sixth most populous and second largest Muslim country in the world, there is an enormous potential in Pakistan for Zakat to reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development. Around 38 per cent of Pakistanis are living in poverty and a further 51 per cent are vulnerable to fall into the poverty, according to the 2017 published report of social policy and development network. Much Pakistani’s regularly contribute Zakat, which can make up between 1.6 per cent to 4.4 per cent of GDP, and unfortunately, only 13 per cent of Pakistani’s have a bank account according to Global Findex 2014. Technological advances such as a transfer of money through mobile and online banking will make it convenient for people to contribute and distribute Zakat effectively.

People also need to trust the way Zakat institutions are spending their given donation wisely and in the right directions. In return, the institutions should take measures to win the donor’s trust considering as its duty, which can be done through their transparent act and well-governed policies by monitoring, reporting and evaluating the collected revenues.

–The writer is a student at iiui