Symposium on Zakah and its social role [Archives:2002/47/Local News]

November 18 2002

A symposium entitled, “Zakah and its Social Role” was held at the Strategic Studies Center last Tuesday.
The symposium was attended by a host of religious scholars and experts from Yemen, Sudan and Iran.
Zakah (the compulsory divine tax in Islam) is aimed at taking limited percentages of the rich’s wealth to the poor and hence bridging the gap between them to a certain extent.
Different working papers were presented on Zakah and its role in fighting poverty and unemployment within the framework of the Yemeni community. The symposium concluded that this could only be achieved by establishing social equity and stability at grass root levels.
The fact that great emphasis was given to the significance of giving Zakah to the needy in the Islamic communities during the different Islamic eras was highlighted.
In his working paper, Dr. Mohammed al-Afandi, the Chairman of the Strategic Studies Center talked about the role of Zakah in today’s Yemen.
“Today, Zakah’s role is limited and incapable of achieving social equity due to the incapability of the government’s mechanisms and policies in fighting poverty and unemployment. The current Zakah legislation is considered to be mere revenue-generating similar to other revenues included in the articles and chapters of the general budget of the state (such as revenues from tax, custom, etc.)
Zakah has not been considered as an independent revenue, and that is why it is difficult to determine those who benefit from the revenues of the Zakah including almsman and women, the needy and the poor.” he said.
Dr. Afandi criticized the traditional methods of collecting Zakah and inability to generate new structures that could prevent delay of Zakah collection.
“The absence of strategic vision to develop the role of Zakah economically as well as socially has negatively reflected itself upon the almsgivers’ conducts and their preferences to redistribute Zakah to the needy and the poor considering Zakah given to the state as taxes because it doesn’t serve the ultimate aim that was set for,” the working paper said.
Dr. Afandi indicated further that the mechanisms used for redistributing Zakah by the Social Care Fund among the poor and the needy are stagnant and inflexible. That is due to the mal-redistribution of amounts of money in this regard.