Features of Islamic Approach

The existence of poverty, even if it is relative, does not mean that it is to be tolerated and left to perpetuate. As evident from the theory of test, the well-off in the society as well as the state machinery are to work hand in hand to narrow down the disparity gaps. A well-known saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is that “poverty might lead a person to disbelief (kufr),” The message is thus very clear that poverty issue has to be on top of the policy agenda of the state.

We may now attempt and identify quite a few factors that signify the Islamic approach to poverty alleviation.

  1. We see that individual initiative is given priority and maximum liberty for necessary action, which means that Islam is for the grassroots strategy and prefers cooperative action through community-based social organisations. In other words, it suggests a participatory development approach. Of necessity, such an approach would seek inspired, efficient and selfless individuals for which we find a solidly built back-up mechanism provided in the Shari’ah — primary sources being the Qur’an and Hadith.
  2. While defining what is Islamic we generally tend to speak in terms of good versus bad and that shows something is missing in our literature. Good or bad in economics can be misleading. The true Islamic perception is signified by what is right and what is wrong and this is irrespective of the question of material benefit or loss. This shift in viewpoint, which affects the whole gamut of human life, has direct bearing on the problem of poverty. The poor and needy, according to the Islamic concept, has the right to claim, which the individuals and society must honour to the extent due, better voluntarily or else through enactment of suitable laws by the state. As zakah alone may not always be sufficient to meet the total needs of the poor in the society, it implies that the government may look for other means and options, more specifically the tax-transfer mechanism. A novel idea been given by some economists that the government should have a parallel social budget whose funds should be non-transferable and non-lapsable and commensurate to the needs, should rather be beefed up through transfers from the general budget.
  3. Another feature of Islamic way to alleviate poverty is that it offers a comprehensive and multidimensional approach. It does not address the economic issues alone, but simultaneously takes up the social aspects as well. As pointed earlier, the poor’s dignity and self-respect is fully protected. The social status of the individual is not decided by the wealth or property holding; it is rather settled on the basis of taqwa and service to the society. That is why zakah and nafaqat have been declared, in clear terms, as the right of the poor and not a charity that he or she receives.
  4. Islam proposes the creation and maintenance of proper institutional setup and a thoroughly framed operational legal framework that forestall and continuously correct different modes and manifestations of exploitation on one hand and ensure the welfare of the poor and needy on the other.


Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.