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New York conference
International networking of Zakat, Sadaqah, Infaaq and Qulil 'Afwa
Thursday June 5, 2014 2:41 PM, Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood,

A true believer can hardly imagine that any particular ayat of holy Quran would be more or less important than any other. Obviously every bit of God's entire revelation has equal weight, the reader needs only to fully comprehend the true import and utility of each one of them.

New York Zakat Conference
[ Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India making his PowerPoint presentation at the International Zakat Conference in New York. ]

According to the divine scheme Zakat, Sadaqah and Infaaq together comprise a small portion of Qulil 'Afwa (2.219) that encompasses the entire individual wealth and annual savings after making room for a satisfactory life for oneself and one's dependents. God requires the believer to spend this left over amount for His cause. Conversely, Muslims usually remain under the misinformation that their financial prayer is limited to 1/40th of their wealth and savings - that is, Zakat. In fact, in order to appreciate the divine expectation from the believers to spend for selfless causes one needs to internalize a comprehensive view of God's full message to humanity whose manifestation can be viewed in the lives of Prophet Mohammad (S) and his companions (R).

Trying to understand the divine message pre-requires laying of a foundation made up jointly of human reasoning and love of God while realizing that a true believer's DNA is made up of divine devotion. If human reasoning and love of God become mutually complementary it may give rise to an altogether new world. Dr Sir Mohammad Iqbal has aptly summarized the chemistry of human reasoning and love of God in these words: When the human reasoning strategizes itself it moves up to a higher lever of maturity; but, if love of God tries to be expedient it reflects its immaturity.

Against this backdrop let us try to appreciate God's message comprised in the terminology of Qulil 'Afwa. Presume that the value of a believer's gross wealth plus annual savings is 'A'. The sum of personal and family expenses and repayable loan, if any, are 'B'. On the balance (A-B) the amount of Zakat payable is 'C'. After deduction of these amounts the available net wealth and annual savings are A-B-C=D. God says that 'D' has to be spent for His pleasure. The amount referred to through Qulil 'Afwa is A-B and the same amount is also described as C+D.

During the International Zakat Conference held in New York (USA) on 28-29 May 2014, this vital Quranic injunction came up for comprehensive consideration. In the concluding resolution it was stated that the 'World Zakat Forum' is being designed to facilitate a platform for zakat institutions to develop strategic dialogue on the concepts and ideas for zakat implementation, discussing the objectives and the benefit of zakat; developing transparent, professional, and trustworthy zakat management; analyzing contribution of zakat for societal empowerment; and strengthening the contribution of zakat towards poverty alleviation and improvement of the mustahiqeen's (donees) quality of life. The Conference emphasized that the word zakat used by the Forum in this conference and elsewhere includes zakat, sadaqah, infaaq, Qulil 'Afw and any other charity recommended in the shari'ah.

The Conference noted with satisfaction that the believers' willingness and urge to pay zakat indicates the manifestation of faith in Allah, thankfulness for His grace, improvement of individual and social character with a high sense of humaneness & philanthropy, elimination of greed and materialistic behavior, and purification of oneself including one's worldly possessions.

The Conference also noticed that, manifesting itself as the absolute right of the beneficiaries (mustahiqs), zakat functions to help and empower them through upgraded life, especially for the poor and the destitute. Zakat is intended to assist them in fulfilling their needs, worshipping Allah and eliminating the envy and jealousy toward the rich. It works for circulating the worldly wealth in the society. Zakat is for organized productive purposes breaking the vicious cycle of poverty through education, health, job creation, and consolidation of faith and it manifests social security.

After intensely discussing the theme of Zakat etc for Global Welfare for two days the Conference resolved to set a common agenda to professionalize zakat management. It called for concerted action to improve global welfare by strengthening the role of zakat toward poverty alleviation in each country. The participants expressed their commitment to networking, learning, benchmarking and sharing ideas. Also, the Conference strongly condemned the crimes and atrocities against humanity specifically those against the Rohingyas in Myanmar (Burma) and called for international action to stop these atrocities forthwith.

In order to strengthen global zakat cooperation and work for the achievement of Islamic charitable objectives the Conference appointed Mr Ahmad Juwaini of Indonesia as the Secretary General of the Forum for the period 2014-2017 and eight Deputy Secretaries General namely Mr Mohamed Izam bin Mohamed Yusof (Malaysia), Mr Elnur Salihovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr M. Hoosen Essof (South Africa), Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood (India), Mr Mohammed A Rasiq Mukhtar (Sudan), Imam Shamsi Ali (USA), Mr Mohammed Obaidullah (IDB) and Mr Irfan Syauqi Beik (Indonesia). It was decided that the headquarter of the Forum shall continue to be in Jakarta, Indonesia.

[The author is President, Zakat Foundation of India. He can be reached]

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