Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 31, Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Cover story

The vital
two and
half percent

WHOEVER pays the Zakat on his wealth will have its evil removed from him.” Indeed, Zakat is one of the most important obligations of Muslims. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is often mentioned in the Holy Qur'an alongside Salat (the second pillar of Islam). Although Zakat can be paid throughout the year, Ramadan seems to be the 'season', since followers seek to earn extra blessings from Allah if the good deed is done in this holy month. For many, Zakat may be a complicated issue, with many questions left unanswered and having a tinge of uncertainty over the concept. Here's an attempt to throw some light on the subject.

Islam believes that God owns all things, thus, wealth is held by human beings in trust. The word Zakat literally means both 'purification' and 'growth'. By paying Zakat, our assets are purified, and like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and stimulates new growth. Hence, it is obligatory for all Muslims to give 2.5 percent of his wealth and assets in excess of what is required.

In order to be eligible to pay Zakat, one must be in possession of Nisab: he must have assets in excess of a minimum exemption limit. If someone has wealth equal to or in excess of Nisab in the beginning and at the end of the lunar year, Zakat is compulsory. The minimum standard of excess of wealth on which one must give Zakat varies from one property to another. One has to give Zakat on gold in excess of 88grams and silver in excess of 634grams. When calculating the Zakat, make sure you consider gold and silver individually. So, for example, if you have less than 88grams of gold, but more than 634grams of sliver, it doesn't mean you are eligible to give Zakat on both silver and gold. These two items require separate treatment. The minimum amount for cash is the same as that of silver and gold. Cash in hand, cash in bank, loan to others, the release value of shares, securities and bonds are Zakatable. Family home, and any other items for personal or family use, are not Zakatable. In the case of a property seen as an investment, you have to pay Zakat on the full current value; any rental income is also subject to Zakat. If a property is let, you have to pay Zakat on the rental income saved over a year. There is Zakat for mines and treasures, too.

Zakat can be paid to the following recipients/areas: the poor, the needy, the Zakat collectors, converts, to free the captives, those in debt, in the way of Allah (which broadly includes all the ways and activities of promoting Islamic faith) and the wayfarer. It is virtuous if one can give Zakat to his/her deserving relatives, but one cannot pay Zakat to his/her parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren.

The Zakat Fund
An extremely important topic in Zakat is the Zakat fund. Generally, the rule is that the state will collect Zakat from the people and then distribute it throughout the year. In our country, this system runs parallel with that of giving Zakat individually. However, one should consider the benefits of observing Zakat collectively and try to embrace it. If you are a bit skeptic about the government, you can opt for private Zakat funds then.

Different Masjid Panchayats at Bangshal offers such services. The committee collects Zakat, and redistributes it to deserving people throughout the year. But perhaps the best thing about the organization is that it doesn't simply give away the money that easily. Labeling a person 'deserving of Zakat' is an exhaustive process, where the potential applicants are scrutinized to check whether they actually meet the standard of receiving Zakat. Also, the committee allows you to choose between the categories of Zakat recipients (to a certain extent). For example, you might be moved by people who have converted themselves into Muslims; hence, you can specifically give Zakat to converters. The committee is quite old and popular; deserving people come for help from far-off places.

However, if you don't want to give away your money to an organization you have relatively less control of, you might consider opening a personal Zakat fund by yourself. It doesn't have to be anything official or big for that matter. Just invite relatives and family friends. If Zakat money can be brought together, you can really make a difference. Also, you might have a relative of yours who deserve Zakat whom you do not know very well. Or, your cousin may be staying abroad all his life and have no clue whatsoever who to give Zakat to. These problems can be solved by maintaining a Zakat fund.

Zakat is an excellent way of managing poverty and dealing with social and economic justice. Zakat, although a slightly complicated process, is very rewarding - not just in the life hereafter but in this world too. May Lord purify your soul and make your wealth grow.

By M H Haider
Photo Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Under a different sky

The lone umbrella

By Iffat Nawaz

7:30 a.m. Snooze for the freaking third time! God! Okay fine, fine! I will hit the shower. Nonsense, why do we have to follow 9-5, freaking conventions. I am not a morning person, never was, never will be.

8:00 a.m. Tea is boiling the right shade of brown, the milk is about to go sour. Has one last day I think, yap it's fine. Heart shaped cereals drop inside my mouth like lovers united at death. Crunch crunch crunch. I think I will finally use my umbrella today, the yellow sunshiny one, been wanting to use it for days but we are having a dry heat spell here, no rain. I see dark clouds in the far corner, should rain by lunch time, must run errands under the umbrella and break it in.

8:10 a.m. Thermos full of sugary Bengali tea, black peep-toes, yellow umbrella peaking out of purse, grey dress to match the sky, and the same kajol lined eyes. Two blocks to the metro. The world looks empty. Where is everyone?

8:20 a.m. I can't believe I messed up! It's Sunday! I should be in bed. What's wrong with me! Embarrassing, at least I gave the station manager a good laugh. Good for him, I might as well get some errands done since I am out, and then straight back to bed for a two hour nap.

11:00 a.m. I hate my toes, seriously, look at them, I never have them painted, they are so plain and out of shape from all the abuse I do to my feet. Running barefoot through fields and roads for the sake of feeling young, always in the wrong shoes to look cute, they are just tormented. I am always embarrassed of them when they are out in public. You know what, the day I start feeling confident about my ugly toe nails will be the day I have achieved the ultimate ease with myself. And that day is not today.

2:00 p.m. Shouldn't have eaten all that, at least it's home cooked. I think I need another nap, maybe I will try to finish that book. My sunshiny umbrella needs to be used, rain looks nearer.

3:00 p.m. The sky is breaking! It's about to pour. Must run out now! Hurrying down the steps, running through the streets, green feels white and white feels green, I am drenched, the only sadness is in the voice of that fire alarm in the distance. Other than that I feel pretty loved in the best of ways, by me.

5:00 p.m. Sorry, sunshiny umbrella, you still didn't get broken in. Nothing could come between the rain and me today see, maybe tomorrow? For now, let me just enjoy my tea with a-day-away-from-going-sour milk and contemplating a workout that I know I will decide against.

9:00 p.m. Should I call it a night? It's too early. Should I watch a mindless show on TV; that always works to kill time, a book maybe? Phone calls? My mouth says no… how about some mint tea? Ya I thought so…

11:00 am. Hitting bed, early morning meeting tomorrow, must not forget my sunshiny umbrella, rain is on the forecast again, and perhaps a pedicure, nah, who am I kidding… lights off before midnight, three minutes till dreams rush in, end of July are good days.


Shedding the load

DUE to different initiatives of the government hourly power cuts are expected to be halved during the month of Ramadan, besides scaling up power generation.

These initiatives include diverting more natural gas to power plants, electricity generation by diesel run plants and heavy fuel oil.

Besides the government initiatives, we the general people have some responsibilities to contribute to power saving.

Complaining about load shedding has become a favoured national pastime. It is somewhat ironic, because if there is one issue where we all must shoulder the blame, it is that of power consumption. Of course, the harsh reality is there is just not enough power to service the whole nation all at once, but we can lessen the burden on ourselves by observing a few energy-saving guidelines. Most of our appliances contribute to the drainage of power, and therefore to loadshedding. We have a habit of heating our food on the stove, which is actually quite a pull on our power resources. For those who own microwaves, they are a much better option as they use two-thirds less energy than the stove.

Another easy way to save energy is to stock up your fridge to near full capacity. This keeps it from warming up too fast when the door is opened, and so your refrigerator will not spend too much energy cooling down again. Air conditioners are a major culprit behind our lights going kaput when watching that favourite serial or a big match. Keeping the temperature at 25 degrees Celsius will help save a lot of power. You can turn on the ceiling fans in conjunction with the A.C, as moving air will cool the room faster.

Last but not least is the conscientious use of electrical appliances. Turn off the fans, lights and air conditioning when you are not in the room. A little effort from all of us could indeed go a long way.


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