ISLAMABAD: Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, an Islamic scholar and a former judge of the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court, has suggested replacing the entire Zakat system, especially after the 18th Amendment, with a new one based on ground realities.
“If the Zakat system has to continue, it must be reviewed thoroughly and replaced with a fresh system based on realities on the ground, lest the Zakat, a sacred form of worship, should fall prey to corruption and to say the least of mismanagement,” suggested Mufti Usmani in his opinion he rendered to the Supreme Court.
While hearing a suo motu case on government measures in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Supreme Court on April 20 asked for the opinions of Mufti Usmani as well as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on the question that whether the contributions of the Zakat funds and Baitul Maal be utilised for the salaries of the employees of the departments or incurring day-to-day expenses.
The directives were issued when the lack of transparency in the distribution of funds under the Zakat and Baitul Maal funds came under scrutiny of the court.
SC orders Mufti Usmani’s opinion be placed on court record
Subsequently on May 4, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed while heading a five-judge bench had also expressed thanks to Mufti Usmani for his valuable opinion in the matter of Zakat with an observation that such opinion had been read and found to be substantial material for the guidance of the court. The apex court also ordered placing the opinion of Mufti Usmani on record of the court.
In his opinion, Mufti Usmani said the handling of Zakat at the government level required a very robust and well-organised system which currently was not in place.
If the Zakat system cannot be replaced with a fresh system, the opinion stated, then it would be better to forego the idea that the government manage distribution of Zakat.
“Let the people pay their Zakat with confidence to the poor directly and be satisfied that their Zakat has reached those who deserve it,” the opinion stated.
Mufti Usmani regretted that the people had lost confidence in the system of Zakat and try to avoid paying Zakat to the government, either by drawing the bulk of their money from the bank before Ramazan or giving a declaration that their ‘fiqh’ does not allow them to pay Zakat on certain items.
Some Ulema, Mufti Usmani recalled, were also of the opinion that deduction at source was not allowed in Shariah and the obligation of Zakat was not discharged when the amount so deducted.
After the 18th Constitution Amendment in 2010, the system of Zakat was undertaken by the provinces and the Federal Zakat and Ushr Ordinance 1980 was somehow repealed.
Thus all the provinces adopted their own Zakat and Ushr Acts in 2011. The Punjab promulgated the Punjab Zakat and Ushr Act 2018 on Feb 15, 2018 while Sindh enacted the Sindh Zakat and Ushr Act 2011 on April 7, 2011. The same was amended on Aug 25, 2015 and re-amended on Jan 24, 2019 and now called the Sindh Zakat and Ushr (Amendment) Act 2018.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) enacted KP Act 2011 on Oct 6, 2011 whereas the Balochistan enacted Balochistan Zakat and Ushr Bill on March 22, 2012.
Mufti Usmani said the collection of Ushr had been totally abolished by all the four provinces and though no legislation could be found, practically no Ushr was collected anymore.
The practical position, the opinion said, was that the Zakat was collected at source through banks only and was deposited in the Zakat account of the federal government that transfers these funds to the provincial governments on the basis of population of each province.
Mufti Usmani said during the during the days of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and the four caliphs, different persons were employed to go at the time of harvest to those who have grown agricultural produce and collect Ushr from their crops and to cattle owners to collect Zakat of cattle according to a well-defined formula.
These people used to bring the Zakat and Ushr mostly in kind and pass on to Baitul Mal (the exchequer of the state). Once became a part of Baitul Mal, the collected Zakat was used by the state in the eight heads mentioned in the Holy Quran, the opinion said, adding that the people who collected Zakat used to be given their remuneration out of the Zakat fund.
Obviously, the basic purpose of Zakat was to give financial support to the poor and the needy. It was never envisaged that the entire Zakat or the bulk of it should be spent on those who work for it, the opinion stated, adding that the Muslim jurists have restricted the expense on them to a certain limit or percentage according to circumstances prevailing in different space-time situations.
According to Imam Shafi, the expenses on employees should not exceed one eighth of the total receipts of Zakat, the opinion said.
Mufti Usmani also drew the attention of the apex court to the miserable situation of the Zakat Funds created by different amendments brought in the original law and said the collection and distribution of Zakat was first introduced in Pakistan through the Zakat and Ushr Ordinance 1980.
According to the Zakat Manual published in 1983, the number of local committees formed throughout the country was around 32,000. Expenses of the Central and Provincial Councils had to be borne by their respective governments, and not by the Zakat Fund.
The list of those deserving Zakat was prepared by the local councils and the expenses on the local councils had the maximum limit from two per cent to 10 per cent of the total receipts of Zakat and Ushr.
The banking services and the services connected with the assessment, collection or disbursement of Zakat and Ushr realisable on compulsory basis had to be rendered free of charge.
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2020