Economic classes in Islam

Economic classes in Islam

In terms of ownership of assets there are four classes. There are those who have plenty and there are those who do not have enough. The first are the privileged and the second underprivileged. The privileged may be (1) wealthy or merely (2) rich whilst the underprivileged may be (3) poor or dangerously (4) destitute. It is for the privileged to give and support the underprivileged each according to their capacity as ordained by Allah for their respective groups.

Praise be to Allah almighty who has gifted us the amount required for survival and as such he has exempted it from any form of compulsory charity. In his infinite mercy he has placed mechanism which ensures that the underprivileged are also privy to at least that amount. Hence, a person’s privilege, the right to give or receive, is determined by the surplus property they own or lack after necessary costs. This is the distribution of Allah almighty who is the all knowing, wise and from whom all sustenance comes.

The wealthy

Upon the wealthy, zakat, sadaqat fitr and qurbani is compulsory. They may not receive Zakat or fitr nor may they ask for it.

Wealthy are those whose liquid assets (mal nami) exceeds the nisab threshold. Gold, silver, cash, and trade goods are all liquid assets by their very nature as are livestock and agricultural output.

These assets have the capacity for growth and make its possessor wealthier year on year. Hence, it is only right that they share a designated proportion of their wealth with the underprivileged for they will not be at a loss.

Wealthy are those who have the capacity to make others rich. The miserly are inept as they have squandered the wealth and brought it to no good. It is Allah almighty who gave them their initial capital, it is he who flourished it and he rewards those who spend on his path.

The rich

Upon the rich, sadaqat fitr and qurbani is compulsory1; however, zakat is not compulsory upon them as they do not possess the nisab. They may not receive Zakat or fitr2 nor may they ask for it.

Rich are those whose liquid assets (mal nami) does not exceed the nisab3; however, their fixed asset goes beyond the nisab threshold. Fixed asset here are all property owned by a person other than the liquid assets and that which is necessary for survival such as regular clothing, work tools, home and the like.

These assets do not have the capacity for growth rather they are stagnant and often depreciate in value year on year. These are in fact luxuries bestowed by Allah almighty and hence it is only right that they give a taste of it to the underprivileged through wheat (fitr) and meat (qurbani) during the two festivities of eids.

The rich do not innately posses the ability to make others rich; however, they can alleviate the misery of the poor and destitute. Low are the miserly in that they cannot bring themselves to give food to the guests of Allah. Indeed, privilege is from Allah and what honour is greater than to host on behalf of the almighty. This is a great blessing to both the giver and receiver which only the despondent will deny.

The poor

Upon the poor, zakat, sadaqat fitr and qurbani are not compulsory. They may receive Zakat or fitr,4 however, they may not ask for it.

Poor are those whose liquid and fixed assets combined does not exceed the nisab; however, they have enough to survive day on day.

These people are making ends meet. They can take respite for a few days and rest assured, however, they are denied the luxuries of the rich and will struggle if any calamity befalls them. Allah has blessed them in that he has preserved their dignity and saved them spreading their hands out to others, hence, it is befitting that they turn to Allah almighty, beseech him, trust in him, and not demand charity from mere mortals. Indeed, Allah almighty will assist them through charity without them asking. If they abandon Allah almighty and seek their fortunes through begging they in turn deserve to be abandoned thus beggars in this class are restricted from charity by the decree of shariah. It is Allah who is the sustainer and no soul shall die until they have received what was preordained.

The destitute

The destitute are those upon whom zakat, sadaqat fitr and qurbani is not compulsory. They may receive Zakat or fitr and moreover they may ask for it also.

Destitute are those whose liquid and fixed assets combined does not exceed the nisab; moreover, they do not have enough to survive day on day.

Indeed, these people have fallen on extremely hard times and are living on the brink of survival. They live for the day and do not know what tomorrow will bring. Praise be to Allah who has mercy upon these souls and allows them to ask directly from his slaves. He redoubles their rewards if they are thankful and are patient.

Indeed, this class is the most deserving of zakat and it is incumbent upon the privileged to ensure that they do not perish. Amongst the privileged, the mandate is given to the relatives first, thereafter to the localities and finally to the Muslims at large extending by proximity.

Conclusion

Allah almighty knows our limitations and has not made anything compulsory upon us which we cannot bear or afford. Praise is to Allah, the most merciful and kind. He has made the din easy and as such it is easy as is. Only the weak seek to forego his commandment to make it easier. He only asks from us proportional to our capacity and only the foolhardy will waiver or be unthankful.

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Muhammad Saifur Rahman
Newham, London
23 Ramadhan 1433
11 August 2012

  • 1. قال الصدر الشريعة رحمه الله في النقاية بفتح باب العناية (550/1): "تجب علي حر مسلم له نصاب الزكاة و إن لم ينم، و به تحرم الصدقة. و تجب الأضحية" اهـ. لظاهر قول رسول الله صلي الله عليه و سلم: "لا صدقة إلا عن ظهر غني" رواه الإمام أحمد في مسنده (7115) عن أبي هريرة مرفوعا و ذكره الإمام البخاري رحمه الله في صحيحه تعليقا في كتاب الوصايا. قال العلامة علي القاري رحمه الله في فتح باب العناية (550/1): "الغني الشرعي نصاب فاضل عن حوائج الأصلية" اهـ قد اختلف الجمهور في نصاب الفطرة قالوا تجب علي ما له زيادة علي قوت يوم و ليلة لنفسه و عياله
  • 2. قال الله تبارك و تعالي: إنما الصدقات للفقراء - توبة:60
  • 3. op cit. Hidaya, Nuqayah et al.
  • 4. op cit. Tawbah: 60
Cite: 

Nawhami, Muhammad Saifur Rahman. (2012). The economic classes in Islam. Islamic Studies Bulletin (DIBAJ), Issue 1. Available at http://uloom.com/dibaj/article/120811501

Status: 
Peer reviewed