Shafiq R Khan


Muslim society: Institutionalized Philanthropy vs instant Charity

Goodwill should be “not charity, but a chance” for people in need.

Parliament of India had passed landmark legislation in 1986 namely "the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act" to dilute the Judgment of Supreme Court of India in the matter of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (1985 SCR (3) 844). The law diluted a secular judgment of the Supreme Court and, in reality, denied even utterly destitute Muslim divorcees the right to alimony from their former husbands. However, the newly enacted Act clearly says that the magistrate would order the Waqf created under section 9 of Wakf Act, 1954 to pay a nominal maintenance to the divorcee women.
It is well know fact that the judgment of Supreme court was (in favor of Shahbano Begum who was 62 at the time) widely criticized by Muslim community, and Government was forced to introduce this law. Scholars and socio-political leaders considered it as a conservative response towards a secular and progressive judgment, and they criticized the government for vowing Muslim conservatism by introducing this law. But in reality, socio-political leaders of Muslim community were not against the woman in question, they were worried about the institutions created by the community and they argued that Muslim community already had institutions to deal with the situation and the support of divorcee as well as widows. They were also worried about protection of institution of marriage and family law for the Muslims. Unfortunately, their arguments were not propagated among masses and they became a villain for all. The Act "the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act" addressed their demand and said that the women will get benefited from already existing Waqf institutions.
The word waqf is derived from Arabic Waqafa, which means to detain, to stop, legally; the word means to describe an Islamic institution by which corpus of a property is detained or stopped from transfer of it rights by way of inheritance, sale or any deed, and it products may be given as sadqa (charity) for some pious use. The first creation of waqf was by Umar the second caliph of Islam in 644 after suggestion of Prophet Mohammad. UK poor laws 1834 was inspired from the waqf institutions and later the UK Poor law 1834 became a format for modern philanthropy. 
In a sentence, Muslim society had always been engaged in organized philanthropy not short-term and emotional charity. However, nowadays a majority of the Muslim faith inspired organizations are engaged in emotional charity.
Usually, Muslim faith inspired organizations receive Zakat, fitra, ushr, Sehan-e-Imam and many more which are religiously obligatory for Muslim people from different socio-economic level. They also receive some Islamic charity donations like Sadqa, atiya and khairat which are not obligatory but one is expected to donate tends to be a short-term, emotional, immediate response, focused primarily on rescue and relief.
Traditionally, these donations were used in supporting local people in need, maintenance of a madarsa, library, magazines, marriage of poor girls, scholarships for students and maintenance of different monuments/community buildings, and to support divorcee or widow women as well as unable men and children. But when modern institutions came into existence, a large number of these types of donation went to those faith inspired modern charitable organizations, which used to offer Ramzan kit for Iftar and sehri to the poor people and to some extent for providing timely help in natural or human made disaster or emergency support. It is hard to find such organization who contributes in social development or fighting the social evils affecting the community or people in general.
So why faith inspired organizations are focusing on instant charity? rather than creating some sustainable charity mechanism for people in need which is already part of their tradition.
Let us see with some of my first hand experience  
Last year, I was campaigning in a village of Assam and we were making them aware of Bride trafficking. A group of young men who were fed-up after watching some of video interviews of trafficking survivors advised me to propagate obligatory Burqa for all girls. And when I asked them how a woman who usually wears 2.5 meter by dividing a standard length of saree, can afford a Burqa? And how can a Burqa protect them from an abductor or trafficker. They said our women should offer Namaz and live like a dignified woman, Allah will protect them.
In another village I was told that nothing can be possible without consent of Allah and he is punishing us for our own deed, they suggested me to offer Namaz and pray for Muslims as well as humanity.

And not only people living in villages who are usually considered ‘illiterate’ or ‘uneducated’, the elite Muslim Intelligentsia, who is worried about rising communalism and hatred against Islam as well as Muslim society—they offer translated Quran to their ‘haters’ as a solution. They also preach Individual Islamic practices and believe that Allah will protect them if they will follow their path. But they did not want to understand the social aspect of the religion of Islam and Muslim society. One may consider this radical or orthodoxy but being part of them I strongly believe that the Muslim community has now almost lost its spirit and goes under gross desperation in a neo-liberalized world.
Yes, overemphasis on theological aspects and ignoring the community as a social group is only the problem from which Muslim needs to overcome.

The community needs to train and support the social activists, researchers, film makers, media and others who can help them in institutionalization of their causes. Just like faith inspired social movements ‘Nation of Islam’ and Martine Luther King Jr. led civil rights movements in America played a major role behind Institutionalization of the causes of Blacks. Presently, Neo-Buddhism is helping Dalits and tribal communities of India to reclaim their history and organizing their causes.  
Muslim faith inspired organization can play a major role in Institutionalization of  the causes of ample number of prisoners from oppressed communities, trafficking victims, increasing number of street children and homeless adults and many more problem directly affect not only the community but the whole society and the nation. They need to create mechanism to promote entrepreneurship and income generation programmes for people.

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