Imam Abdullahi Shuaib, FCPA, FCIDA, FIMC, FCEnt, FIFP, is truly a slave and servant of Allah with many parts. A personified tiredless working machine, an Administrator with expertise in Islamic Faith-Based Organizations (IFBOs); is currently the CEO, Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation, Secretary National Moon-Sighting Committee for Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Imam Ruxton Central Mosque Ikoyi, Lagos and currently, a PhD student in Zakat and Waqf, Islamic Faith-Based Organizations (IFBOs) and Social Services at Loughborough University, Leceistershire, United Kingdom.
He served as the immediate past Executive Secretary CEO Jaiz Zakat & Waqf Trust Fund (JZWTF), past Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Zakat and Sadaqat Foundation, past Executive Secretary Nigeria-Arab Association/Nigeria-Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Coordinator Conference of Islamic Organisations (CIO) Lagos State, a Non Executive Director Hajj Mabrur Ventures Limited (HMVL), Executive Director, Global Centre for Peace Initiatives among others.
In this interview with Abdussalam Abdulfattah, this amiable personality, a team player, a man that is cut out to start a project from the scratch and nurtures it to maturity and make itself sustainable, a distinguished Alumnus of University of Massachusetts Boston, USA, International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan, University of Lagos , Nigeria and Muslim Students Society of Nigeria School’s of Thought explains why Muslims of our time shy away from the payment of Zakat . Excerpt.
Why the need for your organization?
Well, there is a vacuum in the sense that there is no national body that collects and distributes Zakat in line with Islamic dictates and nature detests vacuum and wants such to be filled. Amongst reasons why Jaiz Charity Development Foundation decided to establish the Jaiz Zakat and Waqf Trust Fund as a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organisation are to: inspire and empower the vulnerable persons in Nigeria as well as create a better society through kindness to humanity in order for them to solve their challenges without losing their Faith. In addition, we give wealthy Nigerian and non Nigerian Muslims the opportunity to fulfill one of the pillars of Islam in line with the commandment of our Creator. In Zakat payment and administration we remain a very robust organization with high integrity where Muslims can make their Zakat payment and can be rest assured that it will not be squandered but judiciously utilized. In order to encourage them to do more, we give detailed account of disbursement to the beneficiaries so that at random, they can verify and confirm payment or otherwise.
Why do you think it is difficult for Muslims of our time to pay Zakat?
Thank you very much for the question. It’s the nature of man not wanting to pay Zakat. It’s not only about Muslims but human beings. Allah SWT has explained this to us clearly in some verses of the Quran, but I will cite just two short ones ‘’Piling of more wealth has kept you heedless. Till you saw your graves Yes, soon you will come to know. Again, yes, soon you will come to know. Yes, you would have known with knowledge of certainty: you would not have loved wealth…Q: 103-Suratul Takathur and ‘Woe to every scorner and mocker, Who collects wealth and [continuously] counts it. He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal. No! He will surely be thrown into the Crusher. Suratul Umazah, Q:104. For a discerning Muslim these two and many more simplified why it is difficult for man to pay Zakat. However there are other reasons which are peculiar to nations and people. In our immediate environment, many do not want to pay Zakat because of their selfish nature and fear of being poor. Some have the erroneous impression that if they give out they may end being poor. Another is that Zakat is specific institution one must know the Nisab, before payment and many do not know and do not want to involve Zakat collectors so that their net worth is not known. The Nisab, is two and half percent of one’s net balance of wealth and with such fixed mode of calculation, it is easy to know the net worth of the payee and many do not want that. Aside, some rich Nigerians do avoid contact with the less privileged because they feel such people will always be coming in troops to their houses for assistance, hence only feel at home with the act of charity. Ignorance is another reason for people’s attitude on payment of Zakat. Many do not know its importance, whereas Allah admonish us on it is payment.
Do you not think leaders in Islamic community have faults in this respect?
Well, we cannot totally insulate leaders of various Islamic communities from this unfortunate situation because a part of their responsibilities is to be the vanguard in the coordination of its collection and distribution in line with Allah’s commandments. But since many are not doing it, a body like ours is already doing so except that there is no enabling environment and the required legal framework to operate fully. Zakat supposed to be an institution to be championed by a constituted authority like government of a country or Sharia boards.
In the true sense do rich Nigerian Muslims like Dangote and Folawiyo pay Zakat?
Yes, but few of them. It is their Zakat we collect and distribute to less privileged Muslims. To be very fair to these people you have mentioned their names, I personally know that they surely pay Zakat . This is because I have administered their Zakat and I have been doing that for years and I also know that it’s not only through our organization that they honour their obligation; they also pay through other organizations. I think why we have low percentage of rich Muslims paying is because we do not have a national Zakat body that can effectively coordinate the collection and distribution. The impact of Zakat from these eminent Muslim personalities can be felt more, if collectors are more transparent in its collection and distribution.
Do you think Zakat has a role in the modern world economy?
Yes it does, because it offers a window of halal money that can be galvanized for spiral economic growth. In other climes, Zakat occupies a very important position in their economy and a veritable tool for poverty alleviation. In actual fact, Nigeria as a country is seriously short charging herself for not leverage on the potentials of Zakat. The money government can generate from a well coordinated Zakat programme can go a long way to complement government’s efforts in the provisions of social amenities, infrastructure and poverty alleviation models. It is a potential module for economic growth that is currently grossly underutilized. It offers a lot of money potentials that government does not need much outstanding efforts to collect. The donors see it as a religious obligation because what propel them to pay Zakat is purely because of their Faith and a core pillar of their religion. I can only wish and pray Nigerians can rise above religious bigotry syndrome and look at tremendous benefits the institution offers.
Can you mention some countries in the world where Zakat is part of their GDP?
To mention but a few, these are: Kuwait, Saudi-Arabia, Libya, Sudan and Jordan. In these countries, the Zakat institution is given prominence and its making a lot of contributions to their economies. Sudan for example has strong governmental control and support. Each company registered by government is obliged to pay Zakat. Through the immigration service, all Sudanese nationals that are outside the country are obliged to pay Zakat and if they do not, they are compelled to adhere the day they return to Sudan, either visiting or final return because the records are there. From these collection points Sudan, make good money to support her growth despite being an oil producing country.
What is your reaction to criticism that dole out as Zakat is paltry and cannot take anybody out of poverty?
No, I disagree with that. Before we give out Zakat, we normally do the need assessment of the people to know what to give. The need assessment give us the required data that can take that person out of poverty level to the self reliance level. In order for us to be able to sustain that, we have another unit called ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’ so that the person’s life and business is being monitored because the sustainability of the very business is important to us. If the business is sustainable, it means that the person’s name will be deleted from the list of the poor people in the community that needed to be awarded Zakat. Such people have been able to help us achieve the essence of Zakat which is to make them self reliant as well as well as an employer of labour. We have many people like that who are fending for themselves from the labour of their work that started with Zakat bail out.
Jaiz represents a new entrant into collection and management of Zakat; so what has been the experience?
Well it is very encouraging and stimulating. JAIZ has a very primary purpose of taking Zakat management and administration to greater heights. We want to cover the whole of Nigeria because we have the capacity and potential for that. As a matter of fact, within the first three months of our operations, we have been to the South-South and South-East, North-East and North-Central. We have since organized series of Zakat distribution ceremonies and planning in the coming years to cover the 36 states of Nigeria as part of our operational bases.
What is Waqf and how are Muslims responding to it?
In a very simple term, it means ‘endowment’ and cover broad areas. It is quite different from Zakat. Zakat is more specific with limited payment period and only compulsory on some specific people. But Waqf does not’ have specifics, it’s all round the year affair. For example, you can institute Waqf for education specially scholarship or bursary , health, widows care, mosques, orphans, cemetery, community facilities, build and tar roads, build bridges, provide electricity, provide library and so on. If a person chose to endow any of these, it invariably means the person is providing the resources to perpetually immortalize this public good that he wants to do. Our people have not been so much conversant with it. Even outside the religious platforms very few people are into it. Waqf, also provide a very wide range of opportunities for people to engage in beneficial activities.
What is your admonition for Muslims?
My admonition is that we should follow the Quranic injunction; that the believers, men and women are protectors of each other. They enjoin themselves to do that which is right and forbids doing evil to each other and obey their Creature, Allah. So let us stick together as one, let us hold our hands together and help one another as one, so that the community can be better off for all of us.
This interview was conducted while, Imam, was the Executive Secretary/ CEO Jaiz Zakat & Waqf Trust Fund (JZWTF)