Ramadan is over and lots of money was distributed as Zakat. Yet, the poor Muslim of the country’s richest city is still deprived of the most basic necessities of life.
Ramadan passed off peacefully. Majority of Muslims (eligible) distributed zakat. Islamic Voice in association with Trends Research and Analysis Centre (TRAC) conducted a study on the pattern of Zakat distribution in Mumbai.
The study focused on two aspects. What is the top priority of the Zakat distributor? Secondly what are the real issues of the downtrodden and those who deserve Zakat?
The research design followed was the combination of Cross-Sectional designs and longitudinal designs. Sampling techniques followed was stratified sampling. The total sample size was, 136 (57 Zakat givers and 79 Zakat takers).
The study revealed that there is a huge gap between the priorities of Zakat giver and those eligible for Zakat. 39% of the Zakat giver’s priority is education, both secular and religion.17% gave preference to unrelated poor from the city. 14% gave importance to generating employment for Muslims, 13% preferred Islamic organisations.11% opted for Masjid renovation, and 3% for Dawah activities amongst non-Muslims. 3 had other priorities.
The deprived section’s top priority is the lack of basic necessities of life.26% of the respondents felt that water is their top priority.19 % said lack of toilet facility, specially for women and children, is their real issue, 21 said that education aid will make their life worth living. 18% were worried about their increasing debts, 11% identified sanitation, and health care, 5% other issues.
Ironically, making available the basis necessities of life like water, healthcare, sanitation and toilet facilities is not the priority of the Zakat givers in Mumbai inspite of the fact that more than 50 % of Muslims in Mumbai live in slums. Ironically, out of 57 Zakat distributors, none of them considered Muslims living in slums as a top priority. Even seven respondents who also distribute Zakat to the slum dwellers do so only for education.
Another neglected aspect as revealed in the study is that none of the respondents considers Muslim women living in the Mumbai slum as deserving top priority for Zakat. Consider this- one of the respondent, Sakina had to wait till midnight to search for a suitable place to answer nature’s call. Another respondent Nasreen had to walk two kms everyday to get couple of literes of water. There are a slew of women like Sakina and Nasreen whose daily life is nothing but a never-ending struggle of survival.
Lack of water and non-existent toilet facility, leads to health related problems, which once again pushes them further into the depth of poverty. On the one hand, they are unfit to work because of bad health. Secondly what ever they earn is spent on treatment.
Millions of rupees are distributed every year as Zakat. Still the poor Muslim of the country richest city is still deprived of the most basic necessities of life. How much it takes to provide a water tank and toilets for a slum cluster of about 100. Hardly couple of thousands.
No doubt 41% of respondents give top priority to education while disbursing Zakat. But the figure is misleading. Our survey last year revealed that more than 80% of the Zakat disbursed under the head of education is given to middle and lower middle class Muslims. A major chunk is distributed for post-graduate education and for managing the network of Madrasas.
Since last couple of years, the share of the downtrodden Muslim is further reduced, thanks to the trend of the so-called Islamic schools. Even these Islamic schools cater exclusively to the middle class. Since they survive on Zakat and donations, the share which is the right of the most deprived sections of our society is diverted to the middle class, pushing the downtrodden further in the poverty trap.
Out of the 79 Zakat takers, only 19% is able to afford the education. The rest just cannot afford education, not even the free education in the municipal schools as they cannot afford the cost of uniform, textbooks, notebooks and other related expenses. This further confirms that Zakat disbursed under the education head goes to the middle and lower middle class and not to the downtrodden.
In Mumbai, during Ramadan, a number of mosque received expensive carpets. The cost runs in lakhs. With the same money, water tanks and toilets can be easily constructed for the poorest Muslims living in the slums.
The study covered 15 mosque also and atleast in10 mosques one or the other renovation was underway.
Another alarming finding of the study is that out of the 41 respondents, 35% reserved a major portion of their Zakat for their pet projects. Few have their own schools, or other social projects.63% respondents give huge percentage of their total Zakat to mega projects.71% respondents said that a major portion of their Zakat goes to those who approached them rather than doing some own research.
Zakat is one of main economic tools for the social and economic upliftment of the Muslim. It deserves more attention. More research and studies are needed so that the real essence of the Zakat is achieved.
(This article is the first in our series of stories on the “Issues of the Downtrodden Sections” among the Muslims).
(The writer can be reached at email@example.com).