By Moin Qazi
Giving in good faith
I am long past my active professional career and spend my day in the serenity of my home. Yet I still lead a productive life in all ways: academic research, community service and, most importantly, a very deep-rooted engagement with the Qur’an. On one tranquil evening, a motley group of spiritualists and eminent professionals approached me to join them. My nerve ailment isn’t a handicap and allows me to remain engaged in work, but I do this job directly from home, which also serves as an extended office. My restricted mobility has kept me away from our grassroots work. Still, my spirit keeps me familiar with the more profound philosophy of Zakat, visible from the greening patches on many Muslim colonies’ barren economies. I can grasp this transformation from the many success stories that our volunteers keep filing. Zakat is an annual wealth tax for the rich and a yearly gift to those less fortunate.
Corporatization of Zakat
The corporatization of Zakat may raise the eyebrows of retail charities. Still, if Muslims are visionary, they can preserve their solidarity by conceding space to every participant in the zakat economy. There is a small but significant shift in how philanthropy is carried out. Rather than giving traditional personal handouts, Muslim donors are increasingly interested in more standardized forms of charity. The impetus for this change comes from charitable organizations soliciting money and wealthy individuals who want to see their donations make a broader impact. Giving is becoming more professionally based [with] more emphasis on due diligence. I urge you to channel our knowledge and skills toward expanding the zakat landscape and making it meaningful and relevant to all stakeholders. This is a critical divine duty.
The dilemma of tax exemptions. Here I would like to emphasize that several charities do not have 80 (g) certification that deprives the benefit of income tax exemption for their donors and investors. I appeal to people to understand Zakat’s spiritual sanctity and dimension carefully. Zakat is a fundamental pillar of Islam, and tax exemptions should not sully our spiritual conscience. There are so many charities that are covered under the IT law. All corporate charities go to fund the vast penumbra of activities, particularly in the field of education, health and shelter provision. But Zakat is exceptional; smaller organizations may often not meet stringent statutory requirements. We should carefully examine the more profound philosophy of Zakat before concluding that income tax refunds should be weighed and compared with Zakat. There is every possibility that if we have received a refund, the refunded tax may dilute or neutralize the zakat component by that amount.
A Living Force
Zakat Centre is not even a year old. Still, I have seen them combine a novel approach to solving myriad problems of the community that has captured, in essence, the spiritual energy created by the meeting of two prayers:
• The earnest plea of a sincere giver who asks God to let the resources He has given one do well in the world
• The urgent requests of someone in need asking God for help.
That spiritual energy is called servanthood—servants are not status seekers, instead, they display humility.
I believe servanthood is the founding ethic of the Zakat Centre.
Servanthood is the condition that the people who direct, staff, and support the Zakat Centre strive for. I am a speck in the vast spiritual reservoir of Zakat Centre. They all seek to serve our One Creator by performing all of His creation. My contribution is small, but the spiritual energy that I derive is phenomenal.
What We Do – And Never Do
• We seek not merely to aid — but to enrich the impoverished— people experiencing poverty.
We stand by the widow and the single mother and do not desert her.
We support her through self-reliance with skills-acquisition courses that ready her for employment.