Zakat as a practice of Pancasila values

22 June 2017

by : Fadhil Akbar Purnama and Khairul Fuady

Zakah is the charitable practice of Islamic almsgiving. It is the third pillars of faith in Islam that emphasises the socio-economic development of human well-being. This practice is a form of financial worship to express gratitude for the material grace of Allah SWT.

The objective of zakah distribution as addressed in the Quran is to assure that “of their wealth, there is a right of the poor and the (needy) beggar” (Quran 51:19) so that “wealth does not continue to circulate merely among your rich” (Quran 59:7).

It is also important to note that zakah is a compulsory transfer to the society and not just a voluntary action of charity from individuals (Ahmed, 2004, p. 26). Paying zakah is required of every adult Muslim who possesses wealth of a certain minimum amount.

If we look more closely about the meaning of zakah, we will get the conclusion that this can be seen as one form of practising the spirit of Pancasila, the Indonesian philosophical foundation. There are several objectives of zakah that are linked to these five principles of our national ideology.

Al-Qardawi (1986) contends that zakah distribution should be improving and increasing the Tauhid (The Oneness of Allah), Iman (believes) and Taqwa (level of righteousness) to Allah SWT. As we can see, this paramount objective of zakah complies with the first principle of Pancasila, belief in the one Supreme God.

Moreover, this instrument is also believed to be a keystone to drive Muslim civilisation up to its ‘golden’ period during the Middle Ages. It is considered as a powerful instrument to reduce poverty and redistribute wealth more equally in the Muslim world. History proves there was so much prosperity at that time, it was even hard to find an eligible zakah recipient.

Some Islamic economists believe that zakah is an effective tool to eradicate poverty by referring to Islamic history. Two most popular references are from the reigns of Umar bin Khattab and Umar bin Abdul Aziz where they were unable to find eligible zakah recipients as the poor were made rich by the zakah they received previously (Ahmed, 2004). Theirs were recognised as ‘golden’ periods of social justice in Islam due to their effectiveness in combating poverty in the society. In the period of Umar bin Abdul Aziz (717-720 AD), for instance, poverty was eliminated in merely three years. This is an indication that there was a productive method in the management of zakah in advancing their civilization.

There are two reasons why zakah has been recorded as a successful tool, capable of creating social justice in the respective reigns of the two Umars. First it was due to the effective administration of both caliphs, and second it lies in the nature of management of its disbursement. The first reason has been discussed in many books and even filmed. What is interesting here is how the later reason could logically contribute to creating social justice compared to that of the taxed-based national budget. The ideal proportion of national budget is 30-40 per cent for civil service and 60-70 per cent for public service. However, some districts and provinces in Indonesia still face disproportion of their annual budget which in some cases are disturbed with the worse proportion of 60:40 for civil service and public service respectively.

Meanwhile, in zakah there are 8 groups of recipients with only one-eighth for amil (civil service). This means that in compliance with the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) guidance, 87.5 per cent of the collected zakah revenues must be distributed for public service, while only 12.5 per cent is reserved for amil. In regard to the current policy, Baznas even limits the proportion for civil service to only 10 % of the collected fund. With the most fund, up to 90 per cent of zakah levied allocated for civil service with focus on the social sector, we can clearly see the potential that zakah has to effectively eradicate poverty in Indonesia if managed optimally.

Referring to this fact, it can be concluded that zakah management can be optimised in order to achieve the higher purpose of life of our country, as stated in the second principle of Pancasila, a just and civilized humanity.
To optimally manage zakah, the government should also look at its function as deduction of income tax (taxes credit) as practiced in Malaysia and provisioned in Article 192 of Law No. 11 Year 2006 concerning Aceh Government but still cannot be implemented until now due to the conflict with the other provision of Article 22 of Law No. 23 of 2011 on Zakah Management. The policy to impose deduction of income tax from charity rather than deduction of taxable income is also commonly practiced in many developed countries. It is a more effective stimulant for citizens to pay charity for social purposes.

Additionally, the obligation of zakah is also closely related to the brotherhood concept (ukhuwah Islamiah). By doing so, social cohesion can be uplifted in a frame of the unity of Indonesia (third principle of Pancasila).
Consistent with the idea of equality and social justice, in further, it has close relationship with the last principle of Pancasila, namely social justice for all of the people of Indonesia.

Now, when we see the three factors above (the effective administration, the nature of management of its disbursement, and the optimal support of the government policy) are all combined and integrated, zakah as a practice of Pancasila can play as the vital mean to achieve the ultimate principle of social justice for all Indonesian citizens.