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Organisations Turn Zakat Into Multi-Crore Industry – I

Hyderabad, June 18: A 14-year-old poor Muslim boy sells head-bands on the busy Charminar road throughout the day. He breaks his fast on road and forced to skip his Taraveeh prayers as he had to earn money to buy Sehri for his poor family members waiting at home.

The boy is among hundreds of other poor Muslims who sweat it out the whole day, even during Ramazan, to earn a day’s meal for their families. However, such eligible boys and men never get the benefit of crores of rupees being collected towards Zakat by various organisations.

While the entire Muslim world is preparing to welcome the holy month of Ramzan, several fake and real organisations are gearing up to collect crores of rupees from the rich Muslims towards Zakat.

A few institutions are certainly doing a great service by delivering the Zakat amount to the real beneficiaries. But a majority of institutions are indulging in large scale fraud. Most of them are backed with Fatwas to keep about 40 per cent of total collection as Kaffaf for themselves. However, many organisations have devised innovative means to swindle a major part of the remaining 60 per cent Zakat amount meant for beneficiaries.

According to rough estimates, the rich Hyderabadi Muslims, especially the NRIs, have been paying over Rs 500 crore Zakat every year for the last eight years. Although the Zakat amount till 2005 was confined to about Rs 100 crore per year, it increased manifold in the later years due to the increase in the number of rich Muslims and their assets in the last eight years. This was primarily attributed to real estate boom and strengthening of economy. This year, the Zakat amount is likely to touch Rs 1,000 crore.

Although the rich Muslims strictly followed the religious obligation and promptly paid Zakat every year, some organisations and individuals converted this religious practice into a full fledged business and multi-crore industry. Some of the Zakat organisations have corporate structure, impressive offices and huge staff – all aimed at attracting the rich Muslim NRIs. Some of them have spent lakhs of rupees on their websites, brochures, corporate films and other literature.

Many institutions are armed with a long list of achievements. Their claims suggest that the Muslim community would have been completely illiterate and destitute without them. However, a simple analysis of their claims clearly shows they are just playing with the numbers to impress the innocent rich and NRI Muslims.

For instance, a prominent institution has claimed in its corporate brochure that they have spent a few crores on over 40 lakh beneficiaries. A simple division of amount mentioned against the number of beneficiaries reveals that each beneficiary got mere Rs 1100 – 1400 in the last one-and-a-half decade. What good this amount would have done in the lives of beneficiaries may be easily judged.

The organisations doing real service are not afraid of sharing their details in public domain. However, several reputed organisations not only avoided tough questions, but requested that they would answer them after the month of Holy Ramzan. The questions asked by INN Live to such organisations were quite generic. For instance, a prominent organisation collecting Zakat for over a decade was asked to give details of how much it spends on publicity, newspaper advertisements, printing of brochures, production of corporate films, etc., Further, they were asked whether they got any clearance from the religious heads on whether Zakat amount could be spent on publicity?

At least three leading institutions in Hyderabad simply skipped the question and they said they publish advertisements in newspapers at discounted rates. But the question whether they were entitled to spend Zakat amount on newspaper advertisements remained unanswered.

In another shocking instance, one organisation has spent Rs 25 lakh for giving publicity to a government-run scheme and took entire credit for its success. Imagine how many families would have got directly benefitted from Rs 25 lakh that was spent on publicity.

While the intentions of some of the organisation may be right, but the way they are spending the Zakat amount is highly questionable. Such institutions are primarily being run by a few respectable families whose credibility and dedication towards the cause was never doubted or questioned. But unfortunately, they have built an impression that they are not prone to mistakes and scrutiny.

(TO BE CONTINUED….INN Live has not named any organisation/individual in its story. We do not wish to harm the practice of mass collection of Zakat as it has been benefitting thousands of poor Muslims, specially the students. However, our intention is to weed out the fake organisations/individuals and bring awareness among Zakat payers that their money should reach the real beneficiaries)

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