Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
Religion Caste

Eid Eve Thoughts: The Zakat of Digital Gadgets

An Interview with C.T. Abdurahim

N. P. Ashley 23 May 2020

MUSLIMSImage Courtesy:azislam.com

Till last year, in the last week of Ramazan, every year, senior school students of different religions, financial backgrounds, both boys and girls of Dayapuram Educational and Cultural Centre in North Kerala, run by Al Islam Charitable Trust, formed a semi-circle on the school’s stage. The centre’s patron, C. T. Abdurahim handed over small white sack-full of food items to be distributed in the households around the campus. These were the kits of Zakath- the mandatory 2.5% financial contribution Muslims are required to give to the poor during Ramazan. The symbolic event was to avoid exhibiting the recipients.

The centre has been collecting and distributing Zakat among the needy irrespective of religion for the last 36 years, a majority of recipients being socially and economically backward Hindus. Seeing the inclusive nature of the Zakat in Dayapuram for decades, in the last few years Hindus and Christians also have been contributing to the Zakat fund. Last year, out of the 475 Hindu and Christian families who study in the school, 312 of them made contributions to this fund, making it a shared platform of kindness, harmony and mutuality. 

In an interview the Islamic scholar, the chief architect of Dayapuram and author of a dozen books in Malayalam, C. T. Abdurahim talks about Dayapuram’s new Zakat amidst the Coronavirus crisis:  

Question: This year due to lock down the Zakath distribution ceremony could not be held. What was done this year?

C.T. Abdurahim: As we wanted to make sure there are no hungry ones in the village, we arranged funds from our Zakat for the community kitchen run by our Grama Panchayath to meet the expenses of dinner for a month. We also provided subsistence allowance to the families of students who we educate freely, more than 300 of them. But a major part of our Zakat funds this year is kept aside for providing laptops, tabs, phones, internet connectivity and inverter hubs for the orphans, destitute, socially and economically backward students we educate. 

Question: Zakat for digital gadgets? 

C.T. Abdurahim: Zakat should be seen as a means of social development. The socio-economic disparity in society is maintained and reproduced by giving people who are orphans, lower class, lower caste and women poor quality education. The biggest and fair criticism against online classes is that all students don’t have digital gadgets or internet connectivity.  We want to address that issue and use this fund to create equality in terms of digital access when the school goes online. 

In 1984, Dayapuram started Kerala’s first invisible and inclusive English medium orphanage. The idea then was to shift the focus to empowerment from subsistence: poverty can be and needs to be eradicated through quality education (including equal treatment in stay, food and clothing). 36 years later, equality also has to mean access to and control over technology. That is why we utilise Zakat fund in this way. Moreover, it is a commitment to the inspirational scholar and philanthrope from Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim Al Ansari, whose inaugural words for Dayapuram were “Dayapuram should grow to become an asylum to all those who  suffer without food, medicine or education, irrespective of their region or religion”. 

Donations and Social Development: The Case of Dayapuram

Question: You seem to present Zakat as a project for economic equality. But it can also be seen as a means of maintaining economic equality: rich can pay Zakat and feel they are entitled to be rich, even when many of them exploit.

C.T. Abdurahim:  True, a lot of the rich do exactly that. I think when a person has been giving Zakat for ten years to the same person, it is clearly inadequate. When you give, give education or means of livelihood, so that you are equipping the person. Through a socially sensitive and imaginative mechanism, Zakat can be used for social transformation. 

Let us take Dayapuram’s case: 

In 1984, we collected money for an orphanage and a school as charity largely from the Gulf countries. As a former student of a University there and a former employee of the Qatar Police department, I had connections and some wonderful mentors and friends both abroad and in Kerala. With those contributions, we bought 40 acres of land. Well off students were paying for their education and orphan and destitute children were educated by us. The revenue was not enough.   

For the first ten years, the organization had to be run on donations and even the education was of those who paid was subsidised by these donations we received for the poor. In the next ten years, once it became viable, we constructed buildings required. From the 25th year onwards, we started reinvesting this money in the education of the socially and economically backward. We get to save a lot of money because the entire management team is volunteers who take no remuneration and we get a lot of expert help for free as this is a social cause. So now, the income over expenditure of 2600 fee paying, largely middle class students, is largely enough to fund the education of 320 students and give 65 patients. 

So in a way, middle class students fund poor students directly and poor students fund middle class ones indirectly. That is a cycle created by donation, right? I think we just need a vision of social justice and communal harmony. Originally Zakath was the tax, collected centrally and distributed to the poor. Zakat was to be given for creating harmony between communities also, as per The Quran. 

Question: What do you think should be the concern of Zakat (mandatory charity) and Sadaqah (voluntary charity) in this Corona time and afterwards?

Answer: What has been disrupted is a cycle and a world order we are used to. I think the task should be to create new cycle of economic activities- charity should be aimed at creating livelihoods and establishing self-sustainability.  

The Role of Religion Ahead

Question: There can be a criticism about bringing in what is a religious concept into a plural society?

C. T. Abdurahim:  When things that have religious origins become part of an inclusive social mission of mutuality and empowerment in such a transparent manner, it celebrates plurality. But we are already a scared and diffident society. So doubts are natural. The question, along with a sense of justice and fairness, should be about aim and social impact. 

Question: What do you think can be done to undo the culture of fear, insecurity and resultant violence?

C. T. Abdurahim: We have had a world order which tells us to accumulate, to brag and thus to be selfish. This world view has created a lot of insecurities and hollow, antagonistic political discussions. Questions of social development and cultural synthesis have been completely discarded. 

Question: What would be religion’s role in all this?

C. T. Abdurahim: Religion historically has had two kinds of roles: one, as a source of spiritual and ethical guidance. We forget that things we ask of the government today, education and healthcare, were all initially done by the Catholic Church in Europe. Or look at the work of Gurudwaras in North India. Two is the dangerous, diffident and un-empathetic side: religion as a complete system with political control as its agenda. This is the basis of religious/theocratic state such as Hindurashtra, Islamic State or Nazi state, which rejects historical changes or technology. It is built  on dogma. 

 In giving away, in self-interrogation and in praying for the good of all, religion has both the theoretical potential and the base among. We need to capture that ethical, collective aspect and work ahead is my feeling. 

(N. P. Ashley teaches English at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi). 

Eid Eve Thoughts: The Zakat of Digital Gadgets

An Interview with C.T. Abdurahim

MUSLIMSImage Courtesy:azislam.com

Till last year, in the last week of Ramazan, every year, senior school students of different religions, financial backgrounds, both boys and girls of Dayapuram Educational and Cultural Centre in North Kerala, run by Al Islam Charitable Trust, formed a semi-circle on the school’s stage. The centre’s patron, C. T. Abdurahim handed over small white sack-full of food items to be distributed in the households around the campus. These were the kits of Zakath- the mandatory 2.5% financial contribution Muslims are required to give to the poor during Ramazan. The symbolic event was to avoid exhibiting the recipients.

The centre has been collecting and distributing Zakat among the needy irrespective of religion for the last 36 years, a majority of recipients being socially and economically backward Hindus. Seeing the inclusive nature of the Zakat in Dayapuram for decades, in the last few years Hindus and Christians also have been contributing to the Zakat fund. Last year, out of the 475 Hindu and Christian families who study in the school, 312 of them made contributions to this fund, making it a shared platform of kindness, harmony and mutuality. 

In an interview the Islamic scholar, the chief architect of Dayapuram and author of a dozen books in Malayalam, C. T. Abdurahim talks about Dayapuram’s new Zakat amidst the Coronavirus crisis:  

Question: This year due to lock down the Zakath distribution ceremony could not be held. What was done this year?

C.T. Abdurahim: As we wanted to make sure there are no hungry ones in the village, we arranged funds from our Zakat for the community kitchen run by our Grama Panchayath to meet the expenses of dinner for a month. We also provided subsistence allowance to the families of students who we educate freely, more than 300 of them. But a major part of our Zakat funds this year is kept aside for providing laptops, tabs, phones, internet connectivity and inverter hubs for the orphans, destitute, socially and economically backward students we educate. 

Question: Zakat for digital gadgets? 

C.T. Abdurahim: Zakat should be seen as a means of social development. The socio-economic disparity in society is maintained and reproduced by giving people who are orphans, lower class, lower caste and women poor quality education. The biggest and fair criticism against online classes is that all students don’t have digital gadgets or internet connectivity.  We want to address that issue and use this fund to create equality in terms of digital access when the school goes online. 

In 1984, Dayapuram started Kerala’s first invisible and inclusive English medium orphanage. The idea then was to shift the focus to empowerment from subsistence: poverty can be and needs to be eradicated through quality education (including equal treatment in stay, food and clothing). 36 years later, equality also has to mean access to and control over technology. That is why we utilise Zakat fund in this way. Moreover, it is a commitment to the inspirational scholar and philanthrope from Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim Al Ansari, whose inaugural words for Dayapuram were “Dayapuram should grow to become an asylum to all those who  suffer without food, medicine or education, irrespective of their region or religion”. 

Donations and Social Development: The Case of Dayapuram

Question: You seem to present Zakat as a project for economic equality. But it can also be seen as a means of maintaining economic equality: rich can pay Zakat and feel they are entitled to be rich, even when many of them exploit.

C.T. Abdurahim:  True, a lot of the rich do exactly that. I think when a person has been giving Zakat for ten years to the same person, it is clearly inadequate. When you give, give education or means of livelihood, so that you are equipping the person. Through a socially sensitive and imaginative mechanism, Zakat can be used for social transformation. 

Let us take Dayapuram’s case: 

In 1984, we collected money for an orphanage and a school as charity largely from the Gulf countries. As a former student of a University there and a former employee of the Qatar Police department, I had connections and some wonderful mentors and friends both abroad and in Kerala. With those contributions, we bought 40 acres of land. Well off students were paying for their education and orphan and destitute children were educated by us. The revenue was not enough.   

For the first ten years, the organization had to be run on donations and even the education was of those who paid was subsidised by these donations we received for the poor. In the next ten years, once it became viable, we constructed buildings required. From the 25th year onwards, we started reinvesting this money in the education of the socially and economically backward. We get to save a lot of money because the entire management team is volunteers who take no remuneration and we get a lot of expert help for free as this is a social cause. So now, the income over expenditure of 2600 fee paying, largely middle class students, is largely enough to fund the education of 320 students and give 65 patients. 

So in a way, middle class students fund poor students directly and poor students fund middle class ones indirectly. That is a cycle created by donation, right? I think we just need a vision of social justice and communal harmony. Originally Zakath was the tax, collected centrally and distributed to the poor. Zakat was to be given for creating harmony between communities also, as per The Quran. 

Question: What do you think should be the concern of Zakat (mandatory charity) and Sadaqah (voluntary charity) in this Corona time and afterwards?

Answer: What has been disrupted is a cycle and a world order we are used to. I think the task should be to create new cycle of economic activities- charity should be aimed at creating livelihoods and establishing self-sustainability.  

The Role of Religion Ahead

Question: There can be a criticism about bringing in what is a religious concept into a plural society?

C. T. Abdurahim:  When things that have religious origins become part of an inclusive social mission of mutuality and empowerment in such a transparent manner, it celebrates plurality. But we are already a scared and diffident society. So doubts are natural. The question, along with a sense of justice and fairness, should be about aim and social impact. 

Question: What do you think can be done to undo the culture of fear, insecurity and resultant violence?

C. T. Abdurahim: We have had a world order which tells us to accumulate, to brag and thus to be selfish. This world view has created a lot of insecurities and hollow, antagonistic political discussions. Questions of social development and cultural synthesis have been completely discarded. 

Question: What would be religion’s role in all this?

C. T. Abdurahim: Religion historically has had two kinds of roles: one, as a source of spiritual and ethical guidance. We forget that things we ask of the government today, education and healthcare, were all initially done by the Catholic Church in Europe. Or look at the work of Gurudwaras in North India. Two is the dangerous, diffident and un-empathetic side: religion as a complete system with political control as its agenda. This is the basis of religious/theocratic state such as Hindurashtra, Islamic State or Nazi state, which rejects historical changes or technology. It is built  on dogma. 

 In giving away, in self-interrogation and in praying for the good of all, religion has both the theoretical potential and the base among. We need to capture that ethical, collective aspect and work ahead is my feeling. 

(N. P. Ashley teaches English at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi). 

Related Articles

Monday

13

Jan

Nationwide

Saturday

04

Jan

Karve Statue, Kothrud, Pune

Theme

Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020
hashimpura

Hashimpura Massacre

The Lemmings of Hashimpura
summer

Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine.
khoj

Teaching Without Prejudice

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Campaigns

Monday

13

Jan

Nationwide

Saturday

04

Jan

Karve Statue, Kothrud, Pune

Videos

Health

Lockdown hit Naxalbari community faces severe food crisis

In this exclusive video for SabrangIndia, watch how the marginalised and daily wage workers have lost jobs, facing a severe food crisis and depending on daily relief, set up by community kitchens in Naxalbari. The lockdown has brought out several painful narratives of some of the most needy communities, that are not only battling hunger but struggling to maintain their dignity. Who is responsible for this crisis?

Health

Lockdown hit Naxalbari community faces severe food crisis

In this exclusive video for SabrangIndia, watch how the marginalised and daily wage workers have lost jobs, facing a severe food crisis and depending on daily relief, set up by community kitchens in Naxalbari. The lockdown has brought out several painful narratives of some of the most needy communities, that are not only battling hunger but struggling to maintain their dignity. Who is responsible for this crisis?

Analysis

Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020
hashimpura

Hashimpura Massacre

The Lemmings of Hashimpura
summer

Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine.
khoj

Teaching Without Prejudice

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Archives