In a time of global progress in various fields such as science and technology: communicating across the seven seas is now instantaneous, the whole period of transcontinental journeys has decreased from months and years to a matter of hours and the planet was reduced into a global village. However, a matter of great significance that faces humanity at large is that of global poverty; a dark blot on the civilized world of the 21st century and its people.
A New Global Monitoring Report published jointly by the World Bank and the IMF predicts that an approximate 900 million people were living on less than $1.90 per day in 2012. The report also highlights the increasing concentration of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa in which the breadth and depth of poverty remains an overriding challenge if in regard to income-poverty or non-income deprivations resulting in a lack of access to quality education, basic health services and access to clean water. It's suggested that in the last few years, increasing land degradation, deforestation, extreme weather events and pollution have jeopardized progress of removing poverty. No matter the contributory factors, the figures for those living below the poverty line are shocking and highlight the growing need to have a practical approach to reduce poverty with a vision to finally eliminate poverty altogether.
Basically, Islam is comprehensive, balanced and complete In character and practice and thus isn't restricted to theological scripture but extends to socio-political and financial principles to mention but a couple of disciplines. These principles are designed to form the foundation of frameworks through the ages whilst considering the demands of the respective period and location. Since Islam is comprehensive, the Qur'an and the ahadith of the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihe wa sallam) emphasize on the voluntary supply of wealth that's surplus to individual need. (Source: www.happymuslimfamily.org ) This is the cornerstone of offering a solution to global poverty.
Without pondering much upon the Conditions of the Revelation behind the verse or the exegetical technicalities, some points are nonetheless crucial to be elaborated upon in further detail. Primarily, even though it's incumbent upon every Muslim to give 2.5 percent of his riches annually for distribution among the destitute as a tenant of Islam, no limitation was put on how much one can give as a max. That's to assert that spending 2.5 percent is a necessity yet more could and indeed should be spent from what remains as surplus. If stuck to the Qur'an, the world goes a long way to witness the eradication of global poverty.
Additionally, by elucidating the significance of spending that which Is in surplus to ones desires, the verse doesn't condemn the accumulation of wealth to the degree of fulfilling ones needs whilst simultaneously advocating a small lifestyle whereby the demands relevant to the lifetime of a person are reduced. The verse also indicates the separation of 'needs' and 'needs', thus accumulation to fulfill needs are allowed but so much as 'needs' are concerned, these are considered surplus to 'needs' and in this case the supply of wealth is favored than chasing such surplus 'needs'.
In touching upon the religious element of wealth distribution in Islam, importantly, virtue isn't attached with the number of wealth that's owned by an individual instead piety is credited to an individual that distributes wealth amongst the production of Allah - wealth that's been granted to man as a trial which one is ultimately accountable for in the court of the Almighty.
Moreover, the act of distributing wealth has been closely connected with belief in the context of both commanding the believers to disperse extra wealth as a sensible act along with the religious effect of the act that's shown on earth in the kind of God-wariness (Taqwa) and also in the hereafter. The distribution of wealth is therefore not seen only as an act of charity in Islam but incorporates a wider twofold dimension. The first is that the aim of practically eradicating poverty throughout the action of distributing and circulating wealth and the second is the spiritual benefit of the person who gives thus preventing the accumulation of riches.
In assessing the distribution of wealth, the social perspective on the matter is one which can't be neglected. Basically, the existence of classes in society isn't a new phenomenon. Categories have been around since the dawn of civilization and have even been the cause of various historical events like the French Revolution that had a large element of social class movement and change. Basically, whilst advocating wealth distribution, Islam provides due heed to society at large. Islam hasn't considered prosperity in negative light so much as the way of acquiring wealth isn't unlawful. Likewise, Islam hasn't announced prosperity in itself as a legal or ethical wrong but instead has announced the love and pursuit of riches in negative light as this forms the basis of various social ills prevalent in society.
In regard to the coordinated nature of the flow of Wealth, Islam is a clear proponent of a three-tier arrangement of priority:
a) The Household
B) The Kinfolk
c) Additional Members of Society (orphans, the widows, the needy and the wayfarers)
Therefore, the primary beneficiaries of the supply of Wealth are those nearest to an individual compared- the family. By spending on people who are closest in relation, Islam promotes the eradication of poverty from those closest to an individual by putting upon him a duty to keep and develop their well-being via monetary help. This is the demonstration of individual duty to eradicate poverty which could potentially remove many in the depths of debate if employed upon in a thorough and sincere manner by each person.
Adhering to the members of the family are people who are the Kinfolk- other relatives which aren't immediate family. This measure extends the practical nature of actively eradicating poverty through the promotion of moving beyond the four walls of the house to extent the web of those upon whom each person has a duty towards.
In addition to the family and kinfolk, Islam promote Wealth distribution among the orphans, widows, the needy and the wayfarers in the third and highest degree in a general sense to help people in society at large who are most in need irrespective of any family ties on a humanistic level. So, what is clearly evident is that Islam emphasizes on poverty eradication through wealth distribution if it's to those that are closely related or at the local community or whether it's in society at large on a national and global level.
However, in maintaining the balance between promoting the Flow of wealth, the Qur'an deters one from withholding in the distribution of wealth and so increasing global poverty as the natural effect of wealth accumulation.
To summarize, as Islam is a comprehensive religion, yet balanced totality that extends beyond a theological and spiritual guideline for humanity, Islam provides the world with thorough and comprehensive principles which are formulated into frameworks from the Men of the time and era which are compatible with the demands and necessities of the day. Because of this, Islam offers complete guidance into the socio-political and economic dimensions of life to name but a few.
Consequently, Islam recognizes the issue of global poverty and its incidence in many regions of the world. But, Islam goes beyond the recognition of the matter and further to diagnose the origin of the development of the symptoms as well as providing practical solutions. These solutions are of benefit to people distributing wealth and so preventing the accumulation of riches whilst at the same time seeing to decrease the amount of global poverty in a sustainable way.
Firstly, although Islam requires every Muslim to give 2.5 percent of the wealth yearly so that it could be distributed among the destitute, Islam promotes the distribution of wealth beyond the 2.5% necessity to invest whatever is in surplus to ones desires. One is invited to further practical actions that are feasible on a person whilst also keeping under consideration the requirements of the giver.
Second, Islam correlates the reception of religious Blessings as a direct consequential effect of the practical act of wealth distribution thus promoting the flow of wealth among more than a billion Muslims around the planet. Moreover, a thorough system is expounded by Islam whereby neither the family, the kinfolk nor society at large are failed consequently putting responsibility on every person to stop financial impoverishment and play an active role in poverty eradication.
If advice is taken from Islam on the principles pertaining to wealth distribution, the world would really move a step closer to eradicating poverty.