The Restoration of Zakat

From what we have seen it is clear that in order for the fiqh of zakat to be properly applied again and the pillar of zakat restored to its pivotal position at the centre of Muslim society, two main factors must be radically addressed – the necessary link between zakat and Muslim governance and the reintroduction of gold and silver coinage as a medium of exchange among the Muslims to enable the zakat of monetary wealth to be correctly paid. A third corollary factor should be added to these two and that is the re-establishment of awqaf among the Muslims. This is partly because zakat is now viewed as charity and used for purposes that have traditionally been undertaken in Muslim society by the establishment of awqaf and partly because the re-establishment of awqaf is absolutely necessary next step beyond the restoration of zakat to the proper functioning of a Muslim society.

The Question of Leadership

In the first section we saw that there is an inextricable connection between zakat and the political leadership of the Muslim community and that when that link was broken, zakat, as originally instituted, ceased to exist. It follows, therefore, that in order for zakat to be restored it is indispensable to reactivate the the link between it and the political leadership of the Muslims.

There is one point of view which maintains that this is certainly essential but that it can only be achieved when the overall leadership of the Muslim nation has been reinstituted. In other words there can be no zakat until the khilafa has been restored because only the khalif has the right to appoint zakat collectors and oversee its distribution. It must clearly be the explicit resolve of every Muslim to see the khilafa restored as soon as possible but if we take this standpoint with regard to zakat we will be failing to take on our divinely appointed task of doing everything within our power to see Allah's deen established to the maximum extent which our situation allows.

There have been many times throughout the history of Islam when the power and authority of the khalif failed to reach many parts of the umma but that did not prevent the complete and correct establishment of zakat in those areas. When such a situation occurred the local political leader of the Muslims would stand in for the khalif and appoint collectors and organise the distribution of zakat in the region concerned. It is clear that our responsibility as Muslims in this dark time without a khalif is to do the same thing and, Allah willing, our strong resolve to re-establish the pillar of zakat on the correct foundations will prove a stepping stone on the road to the restoration of the khilafa.

Obviously the situation of the Muslims varies according to where they live in the world. In the so-called Muslim countries – those lands which used to be part of the umma when it was truly Dar al-Islam – the responsibility of the political leadership vis a vis zakat is clear. They must immediately start the process of desecularisation which zakat demands. They must start collecting zakat in the way demanded by the shari'a and this does not mean adding two and a half percent to income tax or culling one fortieth of people's bank accounts which have been the erroneous, face-saving devices employed by some ill-advised governments.

It means putting back in place the whole machinery of zakat collection and distribution and abandoning those unjust, illegal taxes by which zakat has been replaced. It means reorganising regional governmental structures and appointing zakat collectors supervised by qadis and establishing local distribution centres into which zakat is collected and from which it is disbursed to the correct recipients in each locality. And it means, moreover, reinstituting the corollary to zakat, the jizya, so that the correct relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims within the polity of Islam can be reinstated and maintained.

Since the fall of the khilafa and the break-up of Dar al-Islam a new situation has developed in the world which for the first time sees significant populations of Muslims in many parts of the world living under non-Muslim rule. Although there were isolated examples of this phenomenon before, they were rare and short-lived but, as we know, in the last fifty years millions of Muslims have emigrated to other lands, particularly to Europe and the United States, which has led to permanent settlements of Muslims in predominantly non-Muslim countries and, therefore, to a set of circumstances never before faced by Muslims in the whole history of Islam. The Muslim community in Britain is a typical example of this anomalous state of affairs.

Our responsibility as Muslims, however, remains the same wherever and whoever we are and indeed it becomes more clear-cut when we are under non-Muslim rule: we must either emigrate to a place where Islam is established and the rule of the shari'a is in place – which is not an option because there is nowhere in the world where this is possible – or we must strive to the utmost and do everything in our power to see Islam fully implemented where we are. Most communities have managed to establish the prayer and the increasing number of mosques in every city is evidence of that. Most Muslims observe the fast and many go on hajj. But as we have seen zakat is absent so it is the immediate and urgent obligation of every Muslim community to remedy that situation and put the missing pillar back in place. There can be no Islam without zakat. But nor can there be any zakat without the kind of Muslim leadership it necessitates. So our inescapable duty to implement this fundamental obligation of our deen automatically involves us in re-establishing among ourselves the political structure which makes it possible.

We have to start from where we are. Let us take the example of Britain as a case in point. It would be desirable if all the Muslims in the UK were unified under a single leadership. Then zakat collectors could be appointed from the centre and regional collection and distribution points set up and the whole machinery of zakat set smoothly in motion without let or hindrance. Unfortunately this is not the case and the various attempts which have been made to bring about this unity have been fatally flawed. In every case they have been representative organisations based on kafir models and rather than provide the real leadership which the shari'a demands they have merely acted as an interface between the Muslims and the kafir power structure and have consciously or unconsciously sustained and colluded in the subservience of Islam to kufr which is so clearly forbidden by Allah and His Messenger.

But although there is no overall unity among the Muslims, two things emerge from all the ethnic, doctrinal, and factional differences which divide us. The first is a recognition of an overriding Muslim identity, which emerges, for instance, when Islam is attacked in the media or elsewhere, and also, crucially, clear-cut Muslim groupings on a local level which are recognised by all those who are part of them. In most places these are based on ethnic or factional divisions although there are some places where these divisions are ignored in favour of a more general Muslim identity.

The point is that these groupings do have a real and tangible bearing on the lives of almost all the Muslims in Britain, who identify with them to a greater or lesser extent, so it is at the level of these groupings that the political changes necessary for the collection and distribution of zakat must take place. Most of these groupings already have some kind of political structure, sometimes imposed from above by national organisations, sometimes based on local Mosque committees, but, however constituted, this political leadership is at present of a covert nature and entirely peripheral to the lives of most of the Muslims they pretend to represent.

Inasmuch as the Muslims actually have a political identity, it is expressed in kafir political terms both on a local and national level, dividing the Muslims along party political lines according to which party is best able to woo the local Muslim populace and expressly precluding the coming into existence of a specifically Muslim political identity among the Muslims of Britain. The political structure demanded by zakat will immediately rectify this situation. Zakat requires overt leadership in every Muslim grouping. In order for zakat to be collected and distributed according to the shari'a there must be an openly acknowledged and accepted leader in every Muslim community. It does nor matter whether these leaders are appointed from outside or chosen from inside so long as they have the support and recognition of the community they represent.

Not only will this enable zakat to be implemented correctly for the first time in living memory it will also radically and instaneously politicise the Muslims as Muslims, endowing them with a political identity which accords with the Book and the Sunna and giving them by that token the possibility of real power that can only come about when Allah's laws are properly put into practice.

When local Muslim leadership is established in this way and zakat is collected and distributed according to the shari'a on a local basis then each individual muslim community will be able to stand on its own feet in the face of the kafir authorities and the Muslims will gain a measure of independence from their present position of total dependence on the kafir state. A further result will be that the Muslim community will gain cohesion and political strength both on a local and national level and as a consequence the Muslims will begin to see themselves in their true light as a dynamic and transformative human force rather than as a beleaguered immigrant minority.

I would like to reiterate at this point that this appointing of a leader is not an optional matter for Muslim communities living under non-Muslim rule; it is not even something which they should do; it is something which the deen of Islam obliges them to do. It is obligatory for them. No group of Muslims anywhere would think of praying without appointing an imam from among themselves to lead the prayer. Zakat and the prayer are interdependent. As the prayer is not possible without an imam to lead it, so zakat is not possible without a political leader to regulate its collection and distribution. It is therefore compulsory for every social grouping of Muslims to have such a leader to enable zakat to be implemented in the way that the deen of Allah makes obligatory on them.

The Re-introduction of Gold and Silver Coinage

In his tafsir of the ayat in Surat an-Nisa, "O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in command among you,"(4:58) the great mufassir al-Qurtubi lists the seven main responsibilities of the sultan of the Muslims and the first of them is the minting of the dinar and the dirham. The pride of place given to this matter shows how important it is to the establishment of the deen and this is due in a large part to the fact that, as we have seen, gold and silver as a medium of exchange are essential to the payment of zakat. This is no less the case today than it ever has been and so it remains one of the primary responsibilities of all Muslim leaders, whether on a national or local level, to make sure that gold and silver coinage is available to those in their charge so that zakat can be paid in their communities in the way required by the shari'a.

On a national level the need to return to gold and silver is beginning to be recognised in Muslim lands at a governmental level. During his recent prime ministership of Turkey, Nejmettin Erbakan held up a gold dinar in the mosque and declared it to be the currency of the Muslims. Gold and silver coinage have been proclaimed the official medium of exchange in one of the states of Malaysia. An official announcement in the Egyptian press recently called for a return to gold currency. While this is an encouraging sign that things are moving in the right direction, it still does not meet the immediate and urgent requirement for gold and silver currency to make it possible to pay zakat as the shari'a demands. And it does not even begin to address the needs of the millions of Muslims living under overtly non-Muslim governments in other parts of the world.

The situation is not, however, without a remedy. In recent years there have been several mintings of gold dinars and silver dirhams to the exact specifications of the prophetically endorsed coinage of the early Muslims and these coins can be made available to any Muslim community anywhere in the world who are determined to see the missing pillar of Islam restored and zakat once again discharged as Allah has commanded. What is needed is for Muslim leaders to establish agencies within their communities from which these halal coins can be acquired and where they can, if necessary, be exchanged. At the same time it will be necessary to encourage all kinds of Muslim shops and businesses to accept gold and silver currency so that the recipients of zakat and others who wish to use it will be able to do so.

However as with every kind of obedience to Allah and His Messenger there are likely to be benefits which extend far beyond the immediate obligation of using gold and silver for zakat. We saw at the beginning that the destruction of Dar al-Islam was largely achieved through financial instruments which removed gold and silver from the hands of the Muslims and it is precisely this same usurious world economic system that still holds the whole world, including all the Muslims, in its thrall. As long as we are enmeshed in it, it will be impossible to establish and implement Allah's deen. We have to free ourselves from it and that will only be possible by reversing what was done to us and turning the techniques of usurers back on themselves. The readoption of the use of gold and silver in the present economic environment will burst the grotesquely overinflated balloon of usurious finance and put power back into the hands of those who worship Allah and follow His Messenger.

Previously the paper currencies and other financial instruments were directly backed up by gold and silver but now that is no longer the case and the value of the currencies in use today is entirely fictitious – literally only sustained by people's belief in them. There are many examples in modern history which have shown all too clearly what happens when that belief is shaken, including the recent debacle in South East Asia. Ordinary people suddenly find overnight that the money in their pockets is worth a fraction of its value the day before. This is because it is worth nothing in itself; it has no intrinsic value. Gold is not like this. It is real. It is worth what it weighs.

Allah gives us an example in the Qur'an which is parallel to this in the story of Musa, peace be upon him, and the magicians, which is repeated for us several times. The magicians create an appearance of reality which fools the people into believing that there is really something there but when Musa throws down his staff, which is real, the sorcery of the magicians is shown up as a mere illusion and evaporates into thin air. The parallel is exact. The financiers have created the appearance of value in paper money but when it is faced with the reality of value in the form of gold coinage it will be shown up as the illusion it is – nothing but worthless pieces of paper and evanescent numbers in cyberspace. The gold dinar is truly a mighty weapon in the hands of the Muslims.

The Institution of Awqaf in Muslim Society

The restoration of zakat, particularly in non-Muslim countries, is a vital first step in loosening the stranglehold which the kafir state has over all its citizens. By re-establishing true Islamic leadership, which will for the first time give the Muslims a political identity independent of the state structure within which they live, and re-introducing gold and silver coinage, which will open the way to economic independence from the all-enveloping usurious world financial system, the Muslims will gain a breathing space which they must use to foster their strength and enable them to go on to fully implement Allah's deen once more so that balance and justice may be restored to the human situation.

But the modern state holds sway over its population by many means other than direct political control. Education, health, and social welfare form the umbilical cord which tie each individual citizen to the state, and in most cases create an almost hopeless dependence on it, making any real independence for the Muslims, which is a basic condition for the establishment of Islam, a virtual impossibility. You have the nonsensical paradox of the Islamic activist signing on to collect his dole, dependent for his provision on the very state to whose overthrow he is theoretically dedicated.

This is where awqaf come into the picture. In a properly functioning Muslim society none of these mechanisms of government control are in state hands. Throughout the history of Islam they have always been the business of privately founded awqaf, totally independent of government control. This is not a question of romanticism or looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses; objective historical research shows that education, health-care, social welfare, and indeed many other areas now considered to be the sole concern of central government, were undertaken within the Dar al-Islam by awqaf up to and even into the 20th century, with an efficacy unmatched anywhere else in the world.

What is needed now, therefore, is the de-nationalisation of all awqaf properties within the lands of the Muslims where they have been taken under state control and, in the case of the Muslims living under direct kafir rule, the gradual establishment of awqaf among the different Muslim communities so that they really will wrest the day to day control over their lives out of the hands of the kafir state structures which at present imprison them, stifling the love of Allah and His Messenger in their hearts and precluding it from being openly and graphically expressed in their lives through the implementation of Allah's deen.

In the Arabic language, the word 'waqf' literally means confinement or prohibition. In legal usage it means the non-negotiability of property ownership which is of employable value, and the direction of its benefits to a certain charitable purpose, once and for all.

There is a consensus of opinion among the legal schools regarding the validity of the waqf. Evidence for its legitimacy is taken from various sources.

¥ The Qur'anic ayat in which Allah says, "You will not attain to true devotion until you spend out from what you love," (al-Imran 91), which was heard by the Companion Abu Talha, and prompted him to give away his favourite orchard as a waqf. This action was approved of by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and is recognised as being one of the first examples of land being given as a waqf.

¥ Affirmative evidence in the hadith literature, such as the hadith, "A man's work ends upon his death except for three things: on-going charity, useful knowledge and the prayers of a believing child." 'on-going charity' is generally recognised as referring to waqf endowments.

¥ The case of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab giving his land at Khaybar as a waqf, on the advice of the Prophet, plus similar endowments made by other companions.

There are recorded incidences of awqaf being established by Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, 'Uthman and Ali ibn Abi Talib, as well as Zubayr, Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thabit, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, Khalid ibn al-Walid, Jabir ibn 'Abdullah and Abdullah ibn Zubayr, may Allah be pleased with them all.

The Purpose of the Waqf

The purpose of the the waqf is to open wide the doors of general goodwill and interest in the common good, at the same time enabling the contributors to the waqf to act out of a genuine desire to be pleasing to Allah, and to be rewarded accordingly.

Traditionally, all of the finance for the social facilities relating to worship, education, health, social welfare, caring for the poor or needy were provided by the awqaf, making them independent of the government and the safe from possible exploitation of the private sector. The awqaf also provided a secure means of livelihood for teachers, scholars, doctors and administrators, leaving them free to pursue their professions to the fullest degree. As a result, cultural, educational and scientific activity flourished.

Types of Waqf

There are traditionally two main types of waqf:

¥ The first type is dedicated to supporting the overall good of the people in general, the welfare of the poor, public utilities such as mosques, schools, colleges, hospitals and clinics, orphanages etc. This is made up of two parts: the institution itself and enough ancillary property or land to produce sufficient income for its permanent upkeep.

¥ The second type is an endowment to a specific individual, or someone's family, descendants or relatives (including one's own).

Both types are legitimate and within the recognised boundaries of the shari'a.

The Social Role of the Waqf

The awqaf have traditionally played a vital role within the social framework of a functioning Muslim society. Given that they are outside the control of both state and corporate interference, they provide a very secure and stable basis for society. Families are provided for, the poor and needy are looked after, hospitals, clinics, schools, madrasas, mosques, hostels are administered and financed by the awqaf system. The funding for these social welfare programmes is not dependent on state finance - and therefore taxes from the populace - nor on payment by the members of the public who use them. The stability of the awqaf cannot, therefore, be undermined by changes in government or changes in property values or other variables of that sort. They are outside the realm of real estate speculation.

The awqaf also contribute considerably towards cultural and intellectual growth, leaving the people involved in these activities free from the need to 'earn their living'. Teachers, students, researchers, administrators are provided for from the waqf income, and able to pursue their work to the fullest extent. The awqaf similarly perform a positive role in the establishment of social justice, encouraging the wealthy to establish the awqaf which in turn care for the needy. The voluntary relinquishment of substantial agricultural and urban properties help to reduce the excesses of wealth and poverty such as are commonplace in many major cities today.

Building on the essential first step of the restoration of zakat, which will once again base Allah's deen on its secure foundations, the re-institution of awqaf and the revival of correct business practices then made possible will be for the Muslims of this age what the ark of the Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him was for his. When the usurious bubble bursts, as burst it will, and the ensuing flood engulfs the world, we will be enabled to float free and, when the flood-waters subside, be ready with Allah's deen to give a fresh start to the human race so that the Book of Allah and the sunna of His Messenger will regain their rightful place at the head of all human affairs.