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Panic rips across my heart and a sudden rush of overwhelming sadness takes over. With tears streaming down my face, I make the split second decision to turn my car around away from the direction I need to go and follow this gentleman and try hard not to appear too creepy as I pull up to where he is walking. He looks at me with tears in his eyes and tells me I am an angel sent to help him and thanks me over and over again. This one gentleman — on the street, under those circumstances, in an arguably nice neighborhood — truly looked and acted like he had lost his dignity.

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That poverty, strife, and hunger targets our very human dignity. Being human entitles us to the basic conditions of food, shelter and clothing which are basic to our human dignity. And seeing our notions of security challenged in our own backyard makes it real and palpable, something we can grasp at. Our Declaration of Independence declared that we are given certain inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, as a member of the human species, we are born with even more basic rights, the primary one being the right to human dignity — to which food, clothing and shelter are fundamental.

Just Harvest works to do just that — elevate human dignity through their work in poverty alleviation.

The concept of poverty in Islam

Islam promotes the elevation of human dignity through its practices. As a Muslim, we have five pillars of faith. One is giving mandatory charity specifically to help the poor with these basic needs of human dignity — food, shelter, clothing and education. Every year we are required to calculate our wealth and take a percentage of it to contribute to the poor only.

This mandatory support of the poor provides them with a social safety net — and societies from the very beginning of Islam implemented this system to support the poor. This zakat acts as a means of purifying our wealth and promoting a balancing of wealth to give it to those who need it.


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For Muslims, we are not fulfilling a commandment of God if we do not pay zakat. Muslims, as part of our religious teachings, are also told that our neighbors have rights upon us. That if a neighbor is sick or is in need, that again, it is their right that we must fulfill by helping them. It forces us to realize that our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity across the world and in our neighborhoods, cannot be left alone to deal with it. He does so with the belief that the economic concept of poverty and its eradication indirectly addresses the spiritual aspects.

Like what has been asserted by Rahman , Ahmed , p. Ahmed , p. Such a similar treatment of the definition of poverty also has been adopted by Mannan , pp. In spite of his acknowledgment that human poverty in Islam is concerned both with material as well as cultural and spiritual poverty, and that the abundance of goods does not alone ensure richness in Islam, he purposely shy away from the inclusion of cultural and spiritual poverty in his discussion on the comprehensive meaning of poverty, to just confine the discussion to material poverty and Islamic responses to it. Another deficiency of the vision on poverty and strategies for poverty alleviation relate very much to their exogenous characteristic.

As reflected in the above discussion, scholars who are dominating the thinking on poverty are actually the outsiders, not the poor themselves. Salleh and Md. It was found that the first 3 axioms were reasonably well supported by the respondents, while the fourth gained very little support and the last was the least well supported.

Institutionally, Islamic Development Bank IDB has in fact had its consciousness in going down to the grassroots, but the impact is much to be desired. For example, IDB tries to establish strategic partnership and collaborations and, as clearly stated in the Mission of IDB in the Vision H, ascertain the needs and aspirations of target communities before formulating any program.

It also consults the stakeholders especially the Muslim communities themselves in every proposed program and design the program in close collaboration with them, as well as encourage local initiative IDB, b , pp. However, at the implementational level, such an effort does not necessarily work. The real determinant of the efforts and the full power is in the hand of neither the IDB nor the communities, but instead in the hand of their respective authority, again as an exogenous agent.

Come together with the exogenous characteristics of the definition of poverty and the poverty alleviation strategies is the adoption of a top-down approach. This is another deficiency suffered by the definition of poverty and the poverty alleviation strategies. Most of the outsiders involved in the formulation and designation of the definition and strategies, respectively, are usually development authorities and agencies—local and foreign—many of which are not necessarily inclined to Islam.

Their epistemological and philosophical roots may be totally different from those of the Muslim poor communities. Although by material indicators there has been a considerable contribution to the alleviation of poverty, but the contribution comes together with an accompaniment of a new alien cultural—societal construction, and in many cases, even contradicts their previous indigenous belief and cultural practices. The above discussion leads to a conclusion that may provide a base for further research. The contemporary vision of poverty seems to treat poverty as fully negative, without a room for rescrutinization, let alone an effort to do so.

Such a stance does not provide an opportunity to study in-depth many Islamic teachings relating to poverty. Some of My worshippers are only reformed and best fitted with poverty and if I to enrich them this will spoil them, and some of My worshippers are only reformed and fitted with richness and if I impoverish them this will spoil them.

Another Hadith sounds as follows: Both teachings open a vast area for the rescrutinization of the definition of poverty and the formulation of strategies for poverty alleviation. The former signals the selectiveness of the rich and the poor, while the later reflects the importance of spirituality in matters relating to poverty. If such a rescrutinization is taken into account in the definition of poverty, the formulation of an Islamic poverty alleviation strategy may come up with a new form.

For instance, the target groups could perhaps be broadly categorized into four groups. First, those who are poor both spiritually and materially; second, those who are poor spiritually and rich materially; third, those who are rich spiritually and poor materially; and fourth, those who are rich both spiritually and materially.

Islam's Stance on Poverty and Wealth

Expectedly, one may probably clear with the measurements of the materially rich and poor, but wonder on how to measure the spiritually rich and poor. Leaving this question alone for a while to be researched and deliberated further later on, this categorization would probably entail with two implications.

First, the target groups of the poverty alleviation need to encompass all strata of society, including the rich themselves. Second, true target groups may be identified, resources may be rightly allocated, and wastage may be avoided. The most to be given serious attention and intervention, with reasonable allocation, is of course the first category of the target group, viz. This is followed by the second group, that is the rich who are spiritually poor that may expose them to adverse attributes such as oppression, corruption, and so on, and the third categories who even though poor materially but neither troubling nor burdening the society due to their rich in spirituality.

The aim of the whole process is definitely to create the fourth group who are rich both spiritually and materially. See, for instance, Obaidullah a , b and Obaidullah and Khan See, for instance, Bakar See, for instance, Chapra , Khan , and Sirageldin Sirageldin , p. Skip to main content. SAGE Open. Search in: Article Menu. Download PDF. Cite Citation Tools. How to cite this article If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice.

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Conclusion Section:. Notes 1. References Section:.

What Muslims believe about poverty and human dignity

View Abstract. Article available in: All Articles. Related Articles Citing Articles: Cookies Notification This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more. Tips on citation download. Abdullah, H. Kemiskinan dan kehidupan golongan berpendapatan rendah [ Poverty and the life of low income group ].

Bangi, Selangor: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Google Scholar. Ahmad, Z. Islam, poverty and income distribution. Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. Ahmed, H. Role of zakah and awqaf in poverty alleviation. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Zakah role in curing social and economic malaises. In Kahf, M. Problema kemiskinan: Apa konsep Islam [ The problems of poverty: What is Islamic concept ] Fanany, U.

Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia: Penerbitan Pena Mas. Alhabshi, S. Tidakkah Islam menggalakkan kita mengumpul harta? Kuala Lumpur: Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia. Poverty eradication from Islamic perspectives. Amiel, Y.

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Islam on Wealth and Poverty

Islamic welfare state and its role in the economy. In Ahmad, K. Cizakca, M. Latest developments in the Western non-profit sector and the implications for Islamic awqaf. Fadhil, S. Minda Melayu baru [ New Malay mind ]. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Institut Kajian Dasar. Hassan, M. Microfinancial services and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh: A comparative analysis of secular and Islamic NGOs. Huq, A. Poverty, inequality and role of some of the Islamic economic institutions.

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In Mannan, M. Ibrahim, A. Kemiskinan dari perspektif agama dan politik [ Poverty from religious and political perspective ]. Institut Pertanian Malaysia. Original work published Google Scholar. Iqbal, M. Islamic Development Bank. Vision H: A vision for human dignity. Kahf, M. Introduction to the study of the economics of zakah. A book of readings 2nd ed. Khan, M. Essays in Islamic economics.