I am not sure, but I have this vague recollection that some time ago I ran into a report of some kind on Annual Muslim Giving – charitable gifts and donations, I mean, that Muslims give away each year.
And I suspect it was from the United Nations.
And that report said something to the effect that Muslims around the world give in charitable donations, of one kind or another, on a yearly basis, between US$200 million and US$1 trillion in Zakat – and other charities.
Zakat is Obligatory Annual Giving of at least 21/2 percent of one’s accumulated wealth and assets. Islam requires that of all its wealthy adherents. Just like Islam requires that everyone perform five-times-a-day obligatory “Prayers,” called Swalaat, and also observe a full month of daylong fasting – abstinence from food, drink and sex – during the month of Ramadan.
And just as Islam also makes it compulsory for all well-to-do followers of the faith to perform the Pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in a lifetime, provided they can afford it, financially and otherwise.
My very first reaction, I recall, on reading that report, from the UN or some other source, was: “Wow! Man!”
Then I am sitting here, even now, and saying to myself: Mashallah! Subhanallah! Alhamdulillah!
And a whole lot of La Ilaha Illallah!
And Allahu Akbar!
Which all in colloquial English more or less translates to: “Wow! Man!”
And then my brain does what it always does: Fill the space between my ears with all kinds of questions. Questions that I don’t always have the courage – or the tact and wisdom – to raise or share with others, especially my fellow-Muslims.
Here I will try and share – articulate – just one or two of the safer and more benign of those questions that assault my consciousness from all directions.
Question Number One
If, somehow, the outer figure of one trillion US dollars is true as the Zakat and charity amount that is given out by Muslims annually, then, how much money do Muslims have stashed away that they can take out one $trillion from it and give it out in charity every year?
I am saying “stashed away,” because Zakat is due only on money that has been put away for a year. If your stack of money has been sitting around for only 10 or 11 months, and not for a whole year, then no Zakat can be levied on that money.
So, how many … what is the word I am looking for? …“Trillions” of American dollars is that?
I don’t know if you understand this, but a $trillion is really a ton of money. It is, I am told, actually a thousand $billion.
That is right, thousand times billion, which in figures would mean 1000 X 1,000,000,000. That would be numeral 1 followed by nine 0s.
And then a $billion is simply a thousand times a $million, right? That is what I think. Just take out the last three zeros from the previous equation for a $trillion and make it look like: 1000 X 1,000,000. Number 1 followed by six 0s, and that should give you a $billion – I think.
Ask someone who knows better, someone who can really count. Don’t ask your Christian friends, though. For, they may tell you 1 = 3 and that will nicely mess up your math.
I don’t know, but I have a feeling you are looking at more or less US$40 billion. Oops, did I say “billion”? No, make it Trillion, as in US$40 Trillion, with a capital T.
That is how much money is rattling around in Muslim coffers. And that to me is a fair amount of change.
Mind you, this figure applies to only known Zakatable assets. It says nothing about all the other moneys hidden under or inside a mattress or a pillow, or inside some kind of a personal bank.
By the way, what do Muslims call their “Piggy Banks”?
So, this was the safe question I thought I would ask. Now let us take a peek at the other question, the one the thought of asking which frightens me.
The Question I Am Too Frightened to Ask
Here, then, is the question I am simply too frightened to ask. I have been for years. And that question is: What is the correct percentage of Zakat that should be calculated on what I would euphemistically call “Ill-Gotten Wealth”?
In other words, how much of one’s stolen money – money people in one way or another “stole” from others – should be given away in charity so that it would become clean and “Halaal”?
Should it be one percent, 10 percent or 100 percent? I don’t know the answer to that question. All I am doing is just asking the question.
If my question sounds too scary to you, even to contemplate it, and I told you how scared I myself feel asking it, then I would suggest you ask a rather more naïve question and let things rest at that: Just from where, and how, did these folks get this money?
Now, that is not such a bad question to ask, is it?