Why You Should Contribute to Projects Like Satakanya

It appears to be a “perfect” project. The proposed intervention in Satakanya village has all the ingredients of success. One, it is a small village of just 80 odd families (resource need for the intervention – human and financial – is modest). Two, all of them are extremely poor (no Shariah issue regarding their eligibility for zakat). Three, they have neither farm land nor technical skills (pointing to a clear value-addition through skill enhancement). Four, the village is located at a distance of just about 12 kilometers from the airport and well-connected to the capital city by motorable road (strong logistics advantage in marketing products and services locally and even globally). Five, the socio-economic survey undertaken by an independent professional team identified specific problems and the proposed solutions have been clearly mapped to these problems. Six, the team behind planning and execution of the project is a fine mix of talent and experience in project management. And finally, it is a first of its kind Islamic community-driven-development (CDD) project in India that may leave highly visible footprints and be replicated elsewhere.

Yet, the task before us to raise the required resources seems daunting. Is it scary, because the current socio-political environment for non-profits is somewhat hostile?[1] That doesn’t sound very logical, because the tightening of regulations pertaining to non-profits by itself cannot be deemed as an adverse development. It can potentially enhance transparency and accountability of the players in no small measure. Is it because there is an in-congruence between proposed areas of intervention and the priorities of the state and/or the Muslim community? Again, the answer is clearly in the negative. Hardly any Muslim is unaware of this tradition in Islam that “cleanliness is half of faith.”[2] And, which Muslim is unaware of the importance of education, the evil of addiction, the significance of a respectful livelihood, of a life of dignity in Islam? Faith mandates all these. So do the policies of the state. Therefore, any move towards strengthening the alignment of the objectives of the Shariah with those of state policies should logically, have a much greater chance of success in terms of donor interest. And here is a village where school dropouts don’t raise parental concerns, where open defecation is a necessary evil. How can we, the faithful and believers be apathetic and indifferent to such a scenario?

My search for answers leads me to introspect. As they say, introspection is a valid method of inquiry. Here are the possible reasons why I may not be keen to donate to an institution seeking zakat, sadaqa and other forms of charity for a project like Satakanya.

  1. I am inclined to conceal my act of donation. I do it to seek Allah’s pleasure and the principle of ikhlas or purity of intention demands that one’s left hand does not know what one’s right hand is giving. The institution seeking my zakat on the other hand, “markets” its record of accomplishment. It perhaps does so to instill trust and confidence among donors. But frankly, this is unpalatable to me.
  2. Those guys also spend a fortune in aggressive marketing and promotion!
  3. I am not comfortable with the idea that the institution may share this information (my being a donor) with other stakeholders or use it, with the outcome that I continue to be haunted by these donation-seekers, repeatedly, month after month, year after year.
  4. I “feel good” when the beneficiary acknowledges my support, prays from my well-being, blesses my family and so forth. This humane touch is absent when I donate to institutions. They are very impersonal indeed.
  5. I “know” about the needs of my immediate family or clan members, neighbors and what-have-you. It is a case of direct mapping of my donations to their needs. Regarding institutions, well, I have no idea about who is the ultimate beneficiary of my contribution. They seem to have an ‘impersonal and objective” criteria for selection of beneficiaries.
  6. I don’t believe in recording my acts of benevolence or involving witnesses or asking my family member in need to sign a written document. Won’t my needy relative feel hurt, since this is also symbolic of my lack of trust in his/her honesty, integrity and good intentions?
  7. My needy relative needs assistance urgently, today. Cannot expect him/her to approach those well-dressed managers sitting in comfortable cabins, go through their grill and drill and wait for days, and weeks.
  8. My needy relative is extremely reluctant to approach an institution for assistance as s(he) doesn’t want people to know about his/her penury.
  9. At the end of the day, I am accountable to Allah swt for my zakat liability. How can I trust a third party (the institution) to be my agent in the performance of my divine obligation? How do I ensure that the institution is not flouting the Shariah rules regarding use of zakat money?
  10. How do I ensure that my contribution is not ill-spent?

There could be other reasons beneath my reluctance in “giving” to institutions. However, let me pause here.

So, any institutional charity has to address my above concerns, all of them.

  1. It has to be honest, and must be seen to be honest.
  2. It must ensure the “privacy” of the donor and the beneficiary, not sharing or using their identity related info without their consent.
  3. It must demand minimum paper-work and processing time.
  4. It should ideally provide for a P2P or donor-beneficiary transaction.
  5. It must inculcate a humane culture among its staff, especially while treating the beneficiary.
  6. It must seek moderation in its administrative, operational, and promotional expenditure.
  7. It must engage communicate proactively and on a continuous basis with its donors and provide feedback on the “progression” and “impact” of their contribution.
  8. It must ensure complete transparency and accountability in its actions.
  9. It must ensure separation of zakat from other funds and compliance of Shariah norms pertaining to use of zakat funds.
  10. And, it must comply with conditions imposed by the donor in utilization of funds.

On the flip side, are there any strong reasons why institutional management of zakat and other forms of charity make more sense than individual acts? The answer is a resounding yes.

  1. Institutional management of zakat will result in the creation of “sustainable” charities.
  2. Pooling of zakat will facilitate financing of larger projects targeting an entire village community like Satakanya for alleviation of poverty.
  3. It will facilitate efficient and effective allocation of zakat resources through scientific planning and tools of implementation.
  4. And yes, it will certainly curb the vulgar display of affluence that often goes with long queues in front of houses of rich individuals. After all, who can forgive and forget the unfortunate incidents as happened in Mymensingh a couple of years ago?[3]

______________________________________________________________________________________

[1] characterized by the plethora of allegations against a sizable number of them

[2]  الطَّهُورُ شَطْرُ الْإِيمَانِ : Sahih Muslim

[3] Deaths in Mymensingh Zakat Stampede, Financial Express Editorial, accessed from http://print.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2015/07/12/100116

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