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P. 1
Clark, Grace. 1986maybe. Pakistan's Zakat and Ushar as a Welfare System in Weiss a Ed

Clark, Grace. 1986maybe. Pakistan's Zakat and Ushar as a Welfare System in Weiss a Ed

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Pakistan's
Zakat and 'Ushras a Welfare System
Grace
Clark
P
akistan's zakat and 'ushr system comprises' an essential part of
tKeIslamization
program of the current
government.
Shortly after coming to power, General
Zia.ul-Haq
emphasized the need to establish zakatin an Islamic state (Zia
ul-Haq
1979). In introducing the zakat system in1980, he called it "an essential pillar of Islam's welfare system." Thepreamble to the Zakat and 'Ushr Ordinance (1980) states that "the primeobjective of the collection of zakat and 'ushr; and
disbursement^ therefrom,*
is to assist the needy, the indigent and the poor." As organized in Pakistan,zakat combines elements of Islam's traditional religious
welfare institution
with those of a modern public welfare system. The moral imperative andmuch of the specific format are directly based on the Qur'an and* theshari'a. The system establishes the nation as the unit of policy and as thebody authorized to collect and distribute zakat: based on national law, it
uses,
currency as the basic medium of assistance, bases eligibility onindividual need, and is administered through
a'government
bureaucracy.This chapter examines Pakistan's zakat and
'ushr system
as an operating welfare system, or "a system for providing a means of livelihood tothose who cannot earn their own living
bymeans
considered normal
in" the
community" (Pusic
1971).
It describes how Pakistan's zakat works "on theground" and explores some issues now facing the system.Data for this chapter were collected in over two hundred interviewsthroughout Pakistan
.from
October 1983 to March .1984 and throughsubsequent correspondence with key officials in the zakat system, with
79
 
80
ZAKAT AND 'USHEL AS A"*WELFARE SYSTEM
members of various levels of zakat committees, with
mustahaqeen,
and withpeople outside the zakat system. Additional data were
obtainea
fromresponses to a mail-out questionnaire to a random sample of local zakatcommittees.BACKGROUND OF PAKISTAN'S SYSTEMZakat is one of the five
pillarfcof Islam
1
,
the acts required of a Muslimto demonstrate submission to God. Its primary traditional function is asan act of piety. It also reinforces the responsibility of Muslims for eachother's physical and social well-being.Zakat as a traditional religious institution involves
both
the paymentand distribution of
zakat.
Muslim jurists have defined zakat as a "complete,unilateral, and unconditional transfer by a Muslim of ownership, with allits usufructs, as an act of piety of
a
prescribed portion of property to a poorMuslim, other than a member of
Hashimi
Sajid family [a relative of theProphet], if
he.owns
more than the prescribed wealth a's
laid
down by
shari'a" (Tanzil-ur-Rahman
1980). Essentially, zakat is payment by a Muslim who has more than enough wealth to meet his needs (a
sabib-e-nisab),
toone of certain kinds of deserving
1
poor Muslims (mustahaqeen).
)3"
As traditionally interpreted by Hanafi fiqh, zakat is to be paid once ayear during the holy month of Ramadan on wealth
held
more than a year(Maududi 1980). Zakat rates vary with the amount of
labor^degree
of risk,and degree of good fortune
involved
in producing the 'wealth. Generally,the zakat rate is
2Vi
percent on, for example, money, gold, or silver, whileit is 20 percent on the produce of mines. There is an elaborate schedule ofrates for animals, depending on the species, age, and sex of the animal(Aghnides
1981).
Traditionally,
jtoo,
zakat is paid only
to.certain
groups, or "heads,"specified in the Qur'an and shari'a. These are the poor (with no income);the needy (with some
income,*
but not enough to support themselves);recent converts
|o
Islam; those in debt through circumstances beyond theircontrol; travelers; slaves to be emancipated; those who collect and disbursezakat; and those who do the good works of God (Maududi 1980; Aghnides1981). The Qur'an exhorts over a hundred times
that
"Muslims should givezakat. It particularly emphasizes giving zakat to those who are poor and toneedy widows and orphans. In Hanafi tradition, the concept of
tatnlik
requires zakat to be given as an absolute gift to one
individual,
or for hisuse.<CLARK.
'Ushr
is another
fornt
of almsgiving
paid,
on the produce
of'land
exceeding the value of
948
kilograms of wheat. It is not a tax on the value ofthe land itself, but on the harvest, and is due after each harvest. If the
harvest, is
lost for any
reason,,-no
'ushr is due. As 'ushr is a part
of,the
religious
tradition ,pf
almsgiving, the term
zakat
as used throughout thischapter will be assumed to include 'ushr.Zakat is an integral part of Islamic history; it was established by theProphet himself as part of
thcadministrative
structure of his government.After the Prophet's death, two
tribes'north
of Medina which had previously paid
zakat,
to the Prophet refused to pay zakat to his successor, Abu
Bakr.
Abu Bakr
went
to war against them to establish the principle thatthey must-pay zakat to him as the legitimate representative of
the
Prophet'sauthority. Abu Bakr also introduced a guaranteed minimum standard ofincome, granting each man, woman, and child ten dirhams annually; thiswas later increased to twenty dirhams (Sharif 1979). The next two caliphs,Omar and Usman,- continued to
.codify
and clarify zakat. During thecaliphate of
'Ali,
the payment of zakat became embroiled in the issue of thelegitimacy of the government. After
'Ali's
death, his followers (later knownas Shi'as) refused to
pa^
zakat to his successor because they did notrecognize the government's legitimacy (Aghnides 1981).Zakat as a governmental structure in an Islamic state had its last daysduring the reign of
Umar
bin Abdul Aziz
(7 L7-20
A.D.). It is reported thatduring his reign, no one could be found in Medina who needed zakat(Tanzil-ur-Rahman 1981). This report is often cited today as the epitome ofa system which identifies 'zakat with
a-
time of enormous political powerand prosperity
for Muslims,
and social and economic justice for all. Forcenturies after 720
A.D.I
zakat was considered an individual responsibilityand act of devotion.Shi'as, comprising a sizable minority of Pakistan's Muslims, traditionally pay zakat by setting aside 5 percent of
all
incoming wealththroughout the year, paying it bo,th to the poor directly
r
and
to theirreligious teachers (who are more hierarchically organized than those of theSunni majority). Unlike the Hanafi understanding of
tamlik,
the Shi'ashold that projects benefitting the whole communty
fall
within the categoryof "good works of Allah." According to long-standing Shi'a doctrine, nogovernment has the right to collect zakat unless it is the legitimate successor to the Prophet, which no modern government has been construed tobe. Thus, while both Sunni and Shi'a Pakistani Muslims agree on theimportance of zakat as a pillar of Islam, they differ fundamentally on howzakat should be determined, who may collect it, and how
it,
may be used.In the twentieth century, two overlapping sets of South Asian Mus-
 
82
ZAKAT AND
'USHR
AS A WELFARE SYSTEMlim
intellectuals have elaborated and reinforced a vision of zakat as anintegral
part-
of the socioeconomic system of an ideal Islamic state. Thefirst group are the "ideological engineers, who are striving
to
develop anIslamic identity that
is
1
totally Muslim and totally relevant to the modernworld"
(Haddad
1982). Represented most articulately by MaulanaMaududi in Pakistan, this
group-has
exerted a strong influence on thepolicies of the Pakistani government since its founding. The second groupare the Islamic economists, led by Shaikh
Mahmud
Ahmad who, as earlyas 1947, published
The Economics
of Islam,
in which he presented Islam as asystematic socioeconomic alternative to both capitalism and socialism. Forthis group, a very traditional interpretation of zakat provides the underpinning
for'an
envisioned perfect Islamic society. Both groups see zakat asserving the Islamic state as a social security system, providing comfortablelevels of support for those in need.More recent Muslim economists have built on traditional concepts ofzakat
while"
exploring new dimensions of these concepts. Naqvi (1981) setsout an important
role
for zakat in establishing economic and social justicethrough the
redistribution
of wealth. Khurshid Ahmad (1983) identifies akey
rple
for zakat in economic development, which would raise not onlythe well-being of individuals but also of the whole society.Events of the 1970s and 1980s have provided enormous energy tothese visions. Large numbers of people throughout the Muslim world havebecome convinced that an Islamic system, with zakat as the main source ofrevenue collection, can produce economic justice, provide a social securitysystem, eliminate poverty
and'beggary,
rehabilitate the poor to self-sufficiency, and increase the total wealth and well-being of the larger society.Political leaders throughout the Islamic world have fueled this vision:inclusion of at least some mention of zakat has become something of anIslamic litmus test to determine whether or not a government
is"Islamic."
While tremendous expectations have accrued to zakat, Naqvi andothers in
An Agenda for Islamic
Economic
Reform
(1980>
warn that zakatalone, and especially a partial implementation of the zakat system, shouldnot be expected to
"bring
about these economic goals singlehandedly.Although many people wax romantic about how Muslims have always paid zakat and how voluntary zakat can achieve economic justice, themost rapid glance at Pakistan's social structure documents the prevalenceof poverty there. People may recall their own parents and grandparents asgenerous with zakat, but severe disparities
in'
wealth have existed forcenturies. Traditional zakat practices certainly helped some people, butsuch help was ad hoc, irregular, a function of the
number
of rich people inCLARK
83
a particular village, inequitable, and dependent on the donor's individualinterpretation of his religious responsibility.Although little research has been done on personal zakat practices, astudy made by Sabzwari in 1978 among middle-class educated Muslims ina subdivision of Karachi shows that while almost
all,(95
percent) had heardof zakat, fewer than one-fourth paid zakat
regularly
themselves.
Only
about 5 percent
had-ever
heard of 'ushr.As Pakistan changes from a traditional to a more industrialized
.and
urban society, it is finding (as did the West) that traditional charities andfamily networks, however
well-intentioned,
are overwhelmed by the scopeof economic change and its consequences. The state is the only organizedinstitutional
vehicle
with
sufficfent
authority, scope, and resources toorchestrate nationwide solutions to poverty (Wilensky and Lebeaux 1965;Flora and Heidenheimer 1981), for while development schemes set out toupgrade
groups
of people, segments of the economy, or the society as awhole,
it is"government
welfare systems which address the immediatesubsistence needs of individual persons.In 1978, President Zia asked the Council of Islamic Ideology toaddress, theoretically, the issue of
a
zakat system in Pakistan. Shortly afterthat, he appointed
a-task
group headed by H. U. Beg (then in the PlanningMinistry and now secretary
"in
the Finance Ministry) to formulate a plan tofund and implement a zakat system. In March 1979, President Zia,
ap;
pointed J. A. Imtiyazi, a career administrator
with
a strong reputation for
personattntegrity,
to begin to set up the system. It
had
to have an effective
collection,
system falling within the guidelines of the shari'a, but administratively simple enough to minimize the cost of collection and
prevent
itsbeing bogged down in minutiae, loopholes, or appeals. Eligibility was tobe determined on the precepts of the shari'a, but also had to be simple,equitable, and sensible. Given Pakistan's historical experience with taxevasion and graft, the new system had to have strong accountabilitymechanisms so that people could believe in its integrity. Finally, since thesystem was to be based on Islamic precepts and was to use those preceptsto draw upon resources, it had to be credible: to meet the "Islamicexpectations" of the people and the government.PAKISTAN'S SYSTEM "ON THE GROUND"Conceptually, Pakistan's zakat system is very simple. Most zakat isdeducted at the source from financial institutions, forwarded to the Cen-

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