From time immemorial there have been many who were in a ‘state that lacked a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions’. Recorded acceptance is furnished in all known scriptures, and in most the Lord God has envisioned solutions to mitigate the sufferings of the poor and the down trodden. For those who strongly and vehemently hold religious beliefs, it is ordained that they practice that is written. The compulsion is not from any constitutional authority or from a tyrant, it is from the Divine and in whom they trust. The Holy Bible says:

‘At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)’

Wow! Imagine the finances thus generated and gathered by the millions and millions of practicing Christians all over the globe, possibly running into billions of dollars! The Lord God will certainly bless them when the Vatican or the Church of England or the Evangelists Church or any other Church combine to distribute the collections to Levites, aliens, fatherless and widows, so that they may eat and be satisfied! No more poor practicing Christians! Possibly the rank and file of converts would increase exponentially!

Muslims consider the Holy Quran as the beacon of their faith and follow that has been revealed in it blindly and unquestionably. The revelations on poor and poverty are contained in many verses, one of which is mentioned below:

‘It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing (Quran Sura 2 Ayat 177- Yusuf Ali)’

More specifically the clarity is given in the following:

‘You shall give the relatives, the needy and the homeless their ‘haqahu’ (decreed right), but do not be excessive, extravagant. The extravagant are brethren of the devils, and the devil is unappreciative of his Lord. Even if you have to turn away from them, as you pursue the mercy of your Lord, you shall treat them in the nicest manner. You shall not keep your hand stingily tied to your neck, nor shall you foolishly open it up, lest you end up blamed and sorry. (Sura 17 Ayats 26 to 29)’

The means by which the charity is to be disbursed is through Zakat:

‘And be steadfast in prayer; give Zakat, and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship). (Sura 2 Ayat 43)’

Zakat is an obligatory payment on all believers who have an income. Nowhere in the Quran is there any hint of a fixed rate. The 2.5% of the annual income (money) which remains at the end of the year is followed by Muslims around the world. The rate is not found in the Quran. The source of this ritual can only be found in the ‘hadith’ collections. The Quran as mentioned earlier defines the Zakat payment, which is what a person is able to give away without incurring any great hardship. Obviously this amount will differ from person to another depending on each’s income.  Zakat is additionally payable on agricultural goods, precious metalsminerals, and livestock at a rate varying between 2.5 (1/40) and 20 percent, depending on the type of goods. Zakat is separate from the practice of khums, where Shi’ites are expected to pay one fifth of their income

However, imagine the revenue that accrues from Zakat from the Muslims world over. The Islamic countries rich with petro dollars have many billionaires whose contribution alone can run into billion dollars sufficient to feed and provide basic amenities to their brethrens world over! Why are Muslims poor in the Sub Continent? Where does the Zakat money go? I do not have the answers.

Ramadan is the Holy month as the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) during this month. Here in Boston I fasted for 18 hours everyday to remember the pain and agony of those who are not as fortunate as I am and remain hungry as they have very little to eat. This is what the Quran desires of me and so does the Guru Granth Sahib which says:

‘Nir-dhanar-dhan dono bhaee,

Prabh ki kalla na meti jaaee (Guru Garanth Sahib – p1159)’

“The poor and the rich are both “brothers” (i.e. neighbors). This is Lord’s immutable design.”