Zakat in Arabic means that which purifies. Now, a prominent Islamic group would like to use this 2.5 per cent annual tax, which every financially sound Muslim is supposed to distribute among the needy, as a consolidated fund to help cleanse terror-accused Muslim men of that taint.
The Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, an organisation that has been financing the legal battles of several Muslim men arrested in terror cases across the country, has been urging Muslims, particularly during Friday sermons at mosques, to contribute to that effort this year. Zakat, one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, is generally collected and distributed during the month of Ramzan.
“The Quran and Hadees spell out eight ways in which zakat can be used,” said Gulzar Azmi, head of the legal cell of Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind. “One of these ways is to help those who are in bondage and captivity. In today’s environment so many poor Muslims are getting caught in terror cases and languishing in jails for want of money to fight their cases. We are seeking zakat from the community to help fight the cases of such men. Earlier, we would spend zakat funds on providing medical help or education.”
The organisation last year spent over Rs 2 crore on the legal defence of 410 Muslims embroiled in 52 terror-related cases across India, he said, and added that 108 whose defence it had funded were acquitted of the charges.
An analysis done last year by the Association of Muslim Professionals found that even if 10 per cent of India’s 17.18 crore Muslims pay the bare minimum zakat, the total contribution would be Rs 7,500 crore. Any Muslim who owns assets worth more than 75 gm gold after deducting his liabilities is expected to pay 2.5 per cent of his total income, assets and savings.
The zakat is given either to a needy person or to an organisation. As such, the amount is never a consolidated one. It is either distributed piecemeal to individuals or goes into madrasas to fund religious education. Numerous groups in India collect zakat and utilise it for community work.
Members of the Jamiat have now started going to Muslim localities and mosques and have been highlighting the need of raising money for the legal defence of Muslim men.
“We have two messages to the community. One is to ensure that they do not fall prey to subversive elements who want to take them away from the path of peace and harmony,” Azmi said. “The other message is that the community needs to be aware that it needs to set up this legal corpus to handle the injustice meted out to Muslim youth.”
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