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Zakat masterclass – by Iqbal Nasim

Delivered at the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum

Introduction

  • This is one of the first times, if not the first time that a full session of Zakat has been included in the World Islamic Economic Forum schedule, and it is very important that this continues and grows
  • It is in the context of the organisation that I work with that I will share some of my learnings on Zakat
  • National Zakat Foundation (NZF)  was founded 2011 and aims to institutionalise end-to-end Zakat services: education, calculation, collection and distribution.
  • NZF services both Zakat payers and recipients
  • Zakat is the means and not the end
  • There is vast untapped potential both in terms of quantity and quality of Zakat collection and distribution globally
  • How much Zakat is being collected and how much should be collected?
  • However large the pool of Zakat is, how is this being administered and how effectively is this being communicated back to Zakat payers?
  • NZF operates in the UK, Canada and Australia where there is a collective Muslim population of over 5 million
  • Our policy is 100% local distribution. Does that make any sense? It makes a lot of sense
  • 50% UK Muslims are living in 10% of the most deprived areas and relative poverty really does exist
  • On a regular basis we deal with cases of severe destitution and homelessness
  • We focus on providing hardship grants and supported housing projects; we have four in the UK for vulnerable women and ex offenders leaving prison for whom if we don’t intervene will end up back in prison!
  • There is a 90% reoffending rate amongst the Muslim prison population in the UK; young Muslims form 27% of the prison population in London, when Muslims only make up 10% of the London population

 

Key Lessons

  • Respecting role of Muslim scholarship – this is very important in order to institutionalise Zakat
  • Zakat is a pillar of Islam so the role of scholars to interpret that in an authentic and relevant way is critical
  • Scholars and practitioners must work together to find solutions that are authentically relevant
  • For example, one category of Zakat recipients is those whose hearts need to be reconciled, but there is a huge debate on what that means
  • How do we make a decision as a distributor of Zakat on what to do with that money to fit into that category in a way that will be acceptable to our Creator?
  • Zakat payers should be served as customers and treated as shareholders
  • What do Zakat payers need and want as customers?
  • Education is needed to deepen their understanding of Zakat.  On a scale of 1-10, the average knowledge of Zakat that is required in comparison to knowledge of other pillars of Islam is maybe only 2 out of 10
  • Calculation support with an understanding of pensions, shares, ISAs, suqooqs (Islamic bonds) and how Zakat relates to these
  • Collection needs to be accessible, easy and transparent
  • Shareholders want integrity of management, transparency and clear communications; Zakat payers aren’t any different and this is an issue even in those countries where Zakat is collected and distributed at the state level
  • We need to use Zakat in a way to transform people’s lives; to make a Zakat recipient into a Zakat payer, not to keep them as recipients for the rest of their lives

 

 

Concluding thoughts

  • Establishing the proper collection and distribution of Zakat is of great spiritual and economic concern
  • More dialogue is needed across stakeholder communities and Zakat institutions for sharing information and sharing best practice
  • Islamic financial institutions have a significant role to play in upholding this forgotten pillar
  • The impact of Zakat is much more potent than a poor person eating when they otherwise would not have
  • Proper distribution and collection brings mercy like rain from above; when rain falls it doesn’t affect one person, it affects a whole community and Zakat can also transform a whole community
  • This is the potential if we institutionalise Zakat properly and sincerely, using all the best practice, current knowledge and exciting developments across the world in different industries and sectors

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