Below is part 9 and the final part of article 'Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists', a research paper article written by religious scholar Ostad Daneshgar. You can read and review each part by going to Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part4, Part5, Part6, Part7, Part 8. By: Mostafa Daneshgar To sum up, last article seeks to find the views of jurists and the way they have dealt with the issue of poverty and absolute poverty in particular. Therefore, the article has been trying to address such issues as the rulings with regards to combating poverty, the duties of the government and the wealthy in the fight, the limits of their responsibilities as well as the question whether battling absolute poverty comes before other levels of poverty. What follows are the results of the study in a nutshell.
- In case someone is in urgent need of food, it’s incumbent upon everyone in possession of food to save them. If there’s only one person available to do so, then it becomes Wajib-e-aini (an act whose performance is obligatory for all Muslims). If there is more than one, the obligation becomes Wajib Kafai (a Muslim duty that won’t be obligatory for others if done by somebody), because saving the life of a person in need is viewed as an obligation in itself. Still, since offering is an obligation only to a level which is enough to remove the risk unless doing beyond that is required.
- Apart from the urgent situation and needs, the duties of the rich with regard to the needy fall into two categories. First, financial obligations such as Zakat, Khoms, Fitrah Zakat, Kaffarahs, harvesting right, and even Nazr. And second, voluntary donations by the rich like loans, public donations and donations mentioned in a person’s will, which the wealthy believers do for the sake of God and the afterlife reward.
- According to jurists, governments have a responsibility toward the poor, and can make use of sources of funding in their possession. Part of that funding needs to be spent on battling poverty, while the amounts which have no defined target should be allocated to the public interests of the Muslim community. It’s the religious government which decides what amount to be spent on combating poverty and which level of priority that fight is has.
- Some of the sources of funding allocated to combating poverty have targeted eradicating absolute poverty. A loan is another source through which the needy put together a limited amount of money to run a business and save themselves from normal poverty and even absolute poverty. However, lending would make no sense for the needy who are unable to pay the amount back. Different forms of charity, such as cash donations and harvesting right are voluntary moves considered to be rewarding deeds which are aimed at eradicating absolute poverty, while Fitrah Zakat and Kaffarahs are obligations upon the rich for the same purpose.
- Zakat is considered as the crucial obligatory source of funding in the battle against poverty. It appears that jurists have not set a priority for the levels of poverty when it comes to Zakat, because neither Shia nor Sunni scholars believe in the extension of Zakat to different groups of the poor. Indeed, they have allowed the rich to spend their Zakat on any group of the poor which might not be the worst-hit by poverty. Second, aside from Sheikh Tousi in his Mabsout, no other scholar has addressed the question of insufficiency; that is when the amount paid is not enough to meet the demands. (One exception is late scholar Sadr in his treatise “Our Economy”). Such an issue has not been addressed probably because of the fact that the scholars do not consider a heavier responsibility for the rich and the government beyond what has been already set, no matter whether the payment suffices or not.
- The point mentioned above indicates that jurists in general have not set priorities as to what levels of poverty should be tackled first. In other words, taking into account the quotes which consider Zakat as a sufficient source to meet the demands of the needy, the scholars have found it unessential to address the question of insufficiency. Indeed, they say, in case everyone upon whom paying Zakat is obligatory does so, poverty will be definitely uprooted. To put it in another way, the existing poverty is not due to the Zakat being inadequate, it’s rather because not all the rich have lived up to their responsibility to pay it. If this is a logical reason, then it can justify the jurists’ refusal to address the issue of insufficiency and the necessity for extension. In fact, it is supposed that even if extension does not take place, Zakat in itself should be sufficient to eradicate poverty. And when prioritizing is on a time basis, that still does not necessarily mean combating absolute poverty does not come before the other levels. However, in case the prioritizing is not about the timing and rather about the payment only, that means insufficiency has been an assumption that contradicts the issue of sufficiency of Zakat for the needy. Another reason why jurists never raised the issue of insufficiency could be the fact that they do not recognize financial duties for the rich other than the os already defined and set. As a result, to them, it’s out of the question whether the set paid amounts eradicate poverty or not, because in either case what matters is that the rich have lived up to their duty. This very conclusion has been drawn upon quotes which are still being questioned by some.
- Putting the above mentioned points together, it’s concluded that according to the jurists the necessity to combat poverty has been addressed in such obligations upon the rich as Zakat, Khoms, Kaffarah and Fitrah Zakat as well as government funding. Now, if even after those payments are made and obligations lived up to, poverty still exists, that would not create a new obligation on the rich to pay beyond the levels already defined. Nevertheless, combating poverty could be strengthened with extra charitable activities which the jurists have advised the rich to turn to on a voluntary basis, emphasizing extra financial assistance and observing brotherhood rights for good reasons and in an effort to gain divine reward and blessings in the afterlife.
Below is part 8 of 'Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists' research paper article written by religious scholar Ostad Daneshgar. There will be one last part coming after this post concluding the entire research paper. You can read the previous parts by going to Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part4, Part5, Part6, or Part7 By: Mostafa Daneshgar 2) Issue of food: according to Shahid Thani in his Sharh Lame’h, the following are considered as emergency cases about food: a) When a person fears he might die if he is not given food on time. b) When a person is sure that if he fails to eat, he may fall ill or his illness may deteriorate. c) When failure to eat causes severe body weakness and makes the person in question lag behind fellow passengers on a trip and puts him in trouble. 50) A review of the way the Islamic scholars have addressed these special cases could help one understand them better. When a person fears he may die if he fails to eat, or he may get sick or his illness may worsen, then if there’s no food donation around, he’s allowed to eat a limited amount (enough to remove the risk) of the meat of dead or Haram animals. Now, if a food supply is available, there will be two possibilities: first the person may afford to pay for the food in which case it’s obligatory upon the owner of the food to accept the deal because the other party’s health is at risk. The same holds true when the person in question is sick or a lack of food may deteriorate his health condition. When the person is able to afford to pay, the payment becomes obligatory, because failure to do so is considered inflicting a loss on the food owner, unless he willingly and voluntarily refuses to receive the payment. But now the question is what should be done when the food owner offers it for a price higher than the normal rate? In such a case, Sheikh Tousi argues, the person in the emergency situation is allowed to take the food by force, because legally and basically that food is considered his share when the other party refuses to offer it. He goes on to say that if the person is not able to do so by force, then he can resort to a trick so that he won’t have to pay an amount bigger than the real price. Still, if that doesn’t work either, then he should pay the price which the owner demands. Tousi has found that there are differences among scholars regarding this last issue. He says a group of them has accepted the last resort while others contend that the person in emergency should not pay beyond the normal amount, because they believe the case of such a person is like the case of a person who’s forced to do so. And that’s the view which Sheikh Tousi himself finds better. 51 Allameh in his Mokhtalef, Mohaqiq in his Sharaye’ as well as Saheb Javaher all believe that if the person in emergency affords to pay the price above the normal rate, he can do so, but in case that price is beyond his power, then it’s not incumbent on him to pay. Another question is, now, what if the person in emergency has no money to pay, would it be then obligatory on the one in possession of the food to offer it for free? The answer by such scholars as Sheikh Tousi in his Khalaf and Ibn Idriss in Sara’er is negative. They argue that first of all donating one’s property does not come before losing it. Therefore, that doesn’t make it forbidden for the owner if he refuses to offer the food. Secondly, protecting the other person’s life is obligatory only when there’s “consensus” on that and consensus becomes convincing only once the reasons are strong enough. As a result, it cannot be asserted for sure that protecting the other person’s life in exchange for someone’s property is absolutely obligatory, because the conventional ways and rules negate that. For instance, when a person’s life can be saved by paying money for his release or someone who is ill can be cured by donation, the common rules have not made such payments obligatory, meaning that protecting the other person’s life is not an absolute must. Still, unlike what Sheikh Tousi and Ibn Idriss argue, other scholars believe that donating food to a person in emergency is obligatory. They have cited different sources and quotes, one of them by Imam Sadiq as narrated by Ibn Abi Amir in his Mo’tabareh: “Anyone who utters a word which may contribute to the death of another fellow Muslim will be deprived from Allah’s compassion on the Day of Judgment.” 54 Deprivation from God’s compassion comes when the person commits a forbidden deed. And for the case mentioned above, the food owner commits a forbidden act when he utters the words “I’m not giving away”, which leads to the death of the other side that is in urgent need of the food. Meanwhile, Saheb Javaher says the absolute necessity and obligatory nature of protecting another person’s life is so obvious that it does not demand any reasoning or explanation. 55) Now, having accepted the argument by the majority of scholars that offering food is obligatory, now the next issue is the amount. How much is the food owner obliged to donate? Should he offer only a limited amount, enough to remove the risk and save the life of the needy person, or should he give a share big enough to make the other side feel full? Shahid Thani raises two possibilities and offers explanations for both. 56 Saheb Javaher has found obvious faults in the argument that it is obligatory for the food owner to offer an amount which makes the needy person feel full. Thus, he maintains that the limited amount to save the person’s life in emergency would suffice and beyond that, is not an obligation upon the food owner. 57) What makes the issue challenging is the fact that two major contradictory points have to be taken into account, that is the necessity to protect the life of the needy person on one hand, and the notion that “any body has the freedom and legal power to decide about his possessions”. Now the contradiction arises when one has to observe both notions. However, the protection of the other person’s life is a priority over the second notion. Still, the amount being offered does not have to go beyond the emergency level. In fact, beyond that level would no longer make the first notion a priority over the second one. Therefore, offering an amount beyond the risk level is not an obligation. If the owner does so, however, he will be doing thawab that’s a deed deserving divine reward. Now, another question is about the case in which the person in need is in an emergency situation and there is more than one person in possession of food to meet his demand. Apparently, this has not been addressed. But jurists’ understanding says it’s Wajib Kafai upon them i.e. if the demand is met by a few, then it’s no longer an obligation for the rest. Conclusion (Last part Coming)