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Cure of Poverty in Islam

Islam has proposed cure of poverty in various ways:

  • Encouragement to work and earn money: Islam taught us that poverty harms the society at numerous occasions. This deprives the society of stability, peace, security and tranquility. As a result, anarchy and disorder prevail in the society. To cure the poverty, Islam has obligated the Muslims to pay zakat. It made zakat a right of the poor. The poor must not quit demanding payment of zakat. The wealthy should not abstain from paying zakat. If someone refuses to pay zakat he shall be punished as Abu Bakr RadhiAllahu Anhu fought war with those who ceased to pay the zakat.
  • Islam has set a principle, establishing that the wealth is in fact Allah’s possession and indeed it is not a property of the wealthy. Wealthy persons are just a trustee of that wealth. This wealth is the custody of Allah (Ta’ala) placed with them. Allah, (Ta’ala) says:

وَأَنفِقُواْ مِمَّا جَعَلَكُم مُّسۡتَخۡلَفِينَ فِيهِ‌ۖ فَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مِنكُمۡ وَأَنفَقُواْ لَهُمۡ أَجۡرٌ۬ كَبِيرٌ۬ (الحديد:٧(

Translation of Meaning:

“And spend of that whereof He has made you trustees. And such of you as believe and spend (in Allâh’s Way), theirs will be a great reward.” (Al-Hadeed:7)

  • Providing opportunities of earning livelihood to those who are able to work: It is a duty of a Muslim country to provide opportunity of earning livelihood to people. A hadith has been reported as under:

عنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، أَنَّ رَجُلاً، مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَسْأَلُهُ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَمَا فِي بَيْتِكَ شَىْءٌ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ بَلَى حِلْسٌ نَلْبَسُ بَعْضَهُ وَنَبْسُطُ بَعْضَهُ وَقَعْبٌ نَشْرَبُ فِيهِ مِنَ الْمَاءِ.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ ائْتِنِي بِهِمَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَأَتَاهُ بِهِمَا فَأَخَذَهُمَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِيَدِهِ وَقَالَ ‏”‏ مَنْ يَشْتَرِي هَذَيْنِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ رَجُلٌ أَنَا آخُذُهُمَا بِدِرْهَمٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ مَنْ يَزِيدُ عَلَى دِرْهَمٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ مَرَّتَيْنِ أَوْ ثَلاَثًا قَالَ رَجُلٌ أَنَا آخُذُهُمَا بِدِرْهَمَيْنِ ‏.‏ فَأَعْطَاهُمَا إِيَّاهُ وَأَخَذَ الدِّرْهَمَيْنِ وَأَعْطَاهُمَا الأَنْصَارِيَّ وَقَالَ ‏”‏ اشْتَرِ بِأَحَدِهِمَا طَعَامًا فَانْبِذْهُ إِلَى أَهْلِكَ وَاشْتَرِ بِالآخَرِ قَدُومًا فَأْتِنِي بِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَأَتَاهُ بِهِ فَشَدَّ فِيهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عُودًا بِيَدِهِ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ ‏”‏ اذْهَبْ فَاحْتَطِبْ وَبِعْ وَلاَ أَرَيَنَّكَ خَمْسَةَ عَشَرَ يَوْمًا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَذَهَبَ الرَّجُلُ يَحْتَطِبُ وَيَبِيعُ فَجَاءَ وَقَدْ أَصَابَ عَشَرَةَ دَرَاهِمَ فَاشْتَرَى بِبَعْضِهَا ثَوْبًا وَبِبَعْضِهَا طَعَامًا ‏.‏ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ هَذَا خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنْ أَنْ تَجِيءَ الْمَسْأَلَةُ نُكْتَةً فِي وَجْهِكَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّ الْمَسْأَلَةَ لاَ تَصْلُحُ إِلاَّ لِثَلاَثَةٍ لِذِي فَقْرٍ مُدْقِعٍ أَوْ لِذِي غُرْمٍ مُفْظِعٍ أَوْ لِذِي دَمٍ مُوجِعٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ (أبو داوود، ترمذي ، ابن ماجه)

Translation:

A man of the Ansar came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and begged from him. He (the Prophet) asked: Have you nothing in your house? He replied: Yes, a piece of cloth, a part of which we wear and a part of which we spread (on the ground), and a wooden bowl from which we drink water. He said: Bring them to me. He then brought these articles to him and he (the Prophet) took them in his hands and asked: Who will buy these? A man said: I shall buy them for one dirham. He said twice or thrice: Who will offer more than one dirham? A man said: I shall buy them for two dirhams. He gave these to him and took the two dirhams and, giving them to the Ansari, he said: Buy food with one of them and hand it to your family, and buy an axe and bring it to me. He then brought it to him. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) fixed a handle on it with his own hands and said: Go, gather firewood and sell it, and do not let me see you for a fortnight. The man went away and gathered firewood and sold it. When he had earned ten dirhams, he came to him and bought a garment with some of them and food with the others. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) then said: This is better for you than that begging should come as a spot on your face on the Day of Judgment. Begging is right only for three people: one who is in grinding poverty, one who is seriously in debt, or one who is responsible for compensation and finds it difficult to pay.  (Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Ibne-Majah)

The concept of idleness has no place in Islam. Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:

“‏ ما أكل أحد طعاماً قط خيراً من أن يأكل من عمل يده، وإن نبى الله دواد صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يأكل من عمل يده‏”‏‏.‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه البخاري‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

Translation:

“No food is better to man than that which he earns through his manual work. Dawud (ﷺ), the Prophet of Allah, ate only out of his earnings from his manual work.” [Al- Bukhari].

A person who adopts a lawful profession to earn his livelihood, Allah (Ta’ala) has equated him in the Holy Quran with a person fighting in the cause of Allah. Allah (Ta’ala) says:

وَءَاخَرُونَ يَضۡرِبُونَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ يَبۡتَغُونَ مِن فَضۡلِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۙ وَءَاخَرُونَ يُقَـٰتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ (٢٠(

Translation of Meaning:

There will be others travelling through the land, seeking of Allâh’s Bounty; yet others fighting in Allâh’s Cause. (Al-Muzzammil: 20)

If the Islamic government fails to provide with employment opportunity to those who are unable to work, it is obliged to help them when required.

  • Sponsoring people working in the country.

A Muslim government is obliged to sponsor those who work in the country.

“‏ مَنْ كَانَ لَنَا عَامِلاً فَلْيَكْتَسِبْ زَوْجَةً فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ خَادِمٌ فَلْيَكْتَسِبْ خَادِمًا فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ مَسْكَنٌ فَلْيَكْتَسِبْ مَسْكَنًا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ أُخْبِرْتُ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏”‏ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ غَيْرَ ذَلِكَ فَهُوَ غَالٌّ أَوْ سَارِقٌ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ (ابو داوود)

Translation:

“He who acts as an employee for us must get a wife; if he has not a servant, he must get one, and if he has not a dwelling, he must get one. He said that Abu Bakr reported: I was told that the Prophet () said: He who takes anything else he is unfaithful or thief.” (Abu Dawood).

Allah’s Messenger further clarified that the Governor should not be anxious about his family and children. The wealth he has left will be given to his heirs. If he has left young and weak children they will be sponsored and taken care of by the government.

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