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Beyond Sustainable Economy: Aparigraha in Islam

Published: 29.06.2017

Rakesh, M.A. [1]

The huge structure of Islam is based on the five main pious pillars of Islam. These are:

  1. Tauheed & Risālat: Unity of God and firm belief in the Prophet.
  2. Namaz: Five times worship during day and night.
  3. Rozay:  Annual one month of fasting.
  4. Zakāt: Annual donation of (at least) 2.5% from one's total wealth to charity.
  5. Haj: Pilgrimage to Mecca, once in lifetime.

All Muslims have to follow these edicts in letter and spirit as prescribed in the holy book – the Quran, which is presented as the code of conduct for all followers of Islam.

Islam's basic principle is equality (Musāwat) in the society. This is one reason why the Quran prescribes circulation of wealth across the whole social spectrum. This is an important dimension of God's emphasis on developing Islam into a wide-angled charitable disposition. As such the purpose is to ensure that wealth does not remain confined to a few hands, rather it keeps circulating in the societal body to maintain social and economic equality in society. Islam has, therefore, prescribed Zakāt, Sadāqat and other forms of charity including Fitrā and Sadaqāt Jāriā. Zakāt has been described as obligatory and others are to be given voluntarily.

How much should one should give in Sadaqāt? God has mandated the directive principle in Quran:

"Wa yasālunakā Māzā Yun feqoon":

"They ask you, O Nabi! What should they spend in God's cause and for the needy?"

Say: "Qullil Afwa": What is left-over (after you have spent on you and your dependents needs) (Quran 2.219).

Thus does God make clear to you by revelation. Accordingly, after providing for yourself and your family, whatever is left has to be given away as Sadaqāh. It is thus clear that for the truest implementation of God's mandate, a Muslim will have to comprehend the concept of 'Qullil Afwa' and practice it with sincere efforts.


The fundamental code of the economic policy in Islamic societies is that wealth should permeate the entire community and must not remain confined among the rich alone. Therefore, the first restriction on the persons possessing wealth, imposed by the Real Owner of wealth (i.e. God), is in the form of zakāt. Zakāt means that 2.5% of one's total accumulated wealth from all sources and is to be given to the poor and the needy annually. All sources of wealth include possession of gold, silver, income from agricultural products etc. The zakāt is imposed on the value of total amassed wealth.

But, as per the Divine Scheme the instruments mentioned are surely not confined to zakāt alone. If, suppose 15 to 20% of the ummāh (community) are financially well placed, then only 2.5% of that wealth plus, savings annually will not suffice to bring up the remaining 80-85% (a large chunk of ummāh) to the level of economic equality.

That is the reason why God has prescribed sadāqat for quantifying how much sadaqā one should give. It has been mandated in the directive principle. But that has mostly missed the world's attention so far. According to that, after duly providing for self and family, whatever is left is to be given in sadaqā.

As the fundamental objective of Islam is to bring economic equality through circulation of wealth, zakāt has been made a popular instrument to achieve that by making it a prescribed mode of mandated worship, just like namaz. A deeper understanding of the circulation method of wealth among the community is an instrument of restricting hoarding and amassing wealth.

The importance of zakāt is further emphasized in the mandate that, unlike sadāqat, which is voluntary, zakāt is recoverable as per shariah (Islamic law). Like other taxes recovered by a government by law, and if not paid as prescribed and on time, the defaulter is liable to be punished; in the same way, not giving of zakāt is also punishable. Allah's punishment is very strict, so fear Allah and abide by the Shariah's caution. When Zakāt was not paid during the reign of first Caliph of Islam, Abubakra Saddique, Zakāt was recovered forcibly from the defaulters.

As mentioned above, earlier Sadāqat could be given from wealth, and other ways by providing with cash and kind to help the Momin brothers. God commands — 'Spend in the cause of Allah to help poor and needy as much as you can.'


This is a charity to be given before the performance of Namaz of Eid[3]-ul-fitra to the destitute. This should be equal to the cost of 1.75 Kg. of wheat-per person for all members of his family. Though it can be given after namaz, it is better to give it before that in order to facilitate recipients celebrate the festival in company of all others.


A meritorious deed done by a person in his own name, parent's name (living or dead) or anyone else of his choice.  This is done with the sole intention of providing relief and solace to the general public. Allah, the most beneficent, in return, showers everlasting virtue (sawāb) on both living and dead. There are many such virtuous deeds, a few of those may be as below:

  1. Propagation of education and belief
  2. Digging wells in public places
  3. Constructing canals for irrigation
  4. Planting shady trees
  5. Building a mosque
  6. Providing copies of the holy Quran for recitation (tilāwat)
  7. Ensuring pious and sincere descendents who pray for the maghfirat[4] (salvation

Ehtikār is a sin:

Ehtikār – 'parigraha' means the hoarding of wheat and edible grains (meant for people) for the sole purpose of gaining more profit by waiting for a famine so that it may be sold at much higher prices. Such persons desire to see other people in hunger and agony (sahih Muslim). According to Hazrat[5] Moammar[6], the Prophet ordained that hoarding of edibles meant for masses in order to create scarcity for the purpose of selling later at high prices, is an unpardonable sin. Moreover it is such a great sin that it "evokes Allah's anger" causing "upholding of divine mercy and care for the sinner." In Jain terms: obstructive Karma.


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Title: Beyond Sustainable Economy
Author: Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sushma Singhvi
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy

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