#314: The Rights of the Poor in the Wealth of the Rich

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. What are the commentary of verse 7 surah al-Hasyr and the method to solve the issue of poverty that the rich can play a role in?

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Allah SWT states:


مَّا أَفَاءَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَىٰ فَلِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ…

“And what Allah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns – it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and orphans and the [stranded] traveller – so that it will not be a perpetual distribution among the rich from among you…” [1]

Ibn Kathir in his commentary said: We make the expenses for the wealth of al-Fai’ (الفَيْءُ) (the wealth taken from the Kafir Harbi without going through war) so that it will not be of benefit of just the wealthy fulfilling just their desires and wants that they didn’t consider to give to the poor.” [2]

Imam al-Tobari stated: Allah SWT stated: And we make the wealth given by Allah SWT for His Messengers from this state for the asnaf (for Allah, Rasullullah and the family of Rasullullah, the orphans, poor and needy as well as travellers) so that the wealth will not only be distributed among the wealthy from amongst you and for them to spend for their needs. Thus, they spend it as they wanted, but We set for it a route that is unchangeable and irreplaceable. [3]

The author of al-Wasit stated: Al-Dulah: What is happening in the hands, sometimes in the hands of this people: That it will not be a perpetual distribution among the rich that it will not be of benefit for the poor. [4]

Syeikh Muhammad Mutawalli al-Sya’rawi when explaining the reason al-Mirath is sanctioned in the Quran which means the reason the sanctioning of inheritance, Allah SWT doesn’t want wealth to only be distributed amongst the wealthy that they kept it just for themselves, rather Allah SWT wants the wealth to be distributed to everyone. Thus, this is why al-Mirath is sanctioned. [5]

He also mentioned the famous words: 

إِذَا رَأَيْتَ فَقِيرًا فِي بِلَادِ الْمُسْلِمِين فَاعْلَم أَنَّ هُنَاكَ غَنِيًّا سَرَقَ مَاله

When you see a poor in an Islam state, know that there is a wealthy who’s stealing his portion of wealth.

In a newspaper dated January 18, 2022, among others, it was mentioned that the 10 richest men had doubled their wealth despite the world being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the level of poverty and inequality was reported to be rising according to a report. Through a briefing published before the virtual mini-summit of world leaders in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, Oxfam, the wealth of these men jumped from 700 billion US Dollars to 1.5 trillion US Dollars, at 1.3 billion US Dollars a day. Oxfam, a charity focused on reducing poverty, said the wealth of billionaires increased during the pandemic compared to 14 years ago, during the global economic recession. He said it was dubbed inequality or ‘economic terrorism’ and it also contributed to 21,000 deaths every day due to lack of health access, gender violence, famine and climate change.

It is understood this epidemic caused 160 million people to fall into poverty and non-white ethnic minorities and women were among the most affected when this happened. The report follows a study in December 2021 by a group that found that global wealth sharing increased significantly when the pandemic struck. [6]

In a country’s system according to the Islamic concept, the state as the owner of power has the right to take part of the wealth of the people in excess of their living needs if the Baitul mal needs it for the public interest. Islam establishes the rights of the poor over the wealth of the rich.

Allah SWT states:

وَالَّذِينَ فِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ مَّعْلُومٌ (24) لِّلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ

“And those within whose wealth is a known right. For the petitioner and the deprived.” [7]

Imam al-Nawawi cited the opinion of jumhur that states there is no other wealth that can be rightly claimed except zakah, while the commandment to give other than zakah is a commandment in the form of sunnah and commendable act.

He further said: Some scholars like Al-Sya’bi, al-Hasan, Ta’us, ‘Ata’, Masruq, and others are of the opinion that on the wealth of the rich other than zakah, there are other rights such as to free a prisoner, give food for the poor, helping the needy and maintaining silaturrahim (family relationships). [8]

While in Ibn Hazm’s opinion, “All the rich in a country are obligated to fulfil the rights of the poor and the government can force the rich to do so if the Baitulmal is no longer able to fulfil the rights of people.” [9]

In principle, Islam doesn’t permit the existence of injustice in a society, where one group of people live in excess of wealth when there is another group living in deficit due to a disaster, inability and poverty that surrounds them.

Among the roles of the rich is to help those who are in need and poor by closing the distance between them such as by creating job opportunities so that their wealth can be shared by all in the society. Furthermore, by them wanting to share and ease others, surely, Allah SWT will increase His sustenance to them due to the help and opportunities that they give to the public.

Moreover, in Islamic principles, a person isn’t permitted to let others around him to be in need. For example, a person lets his neighbour go hungry while he is full as stated in a hadith from Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma, Rasullullah PBUH said:

لَيْسَ المُؤْمِنُ الَّذِي يَشْبَعُ وَجَارُهُ جَائِعٌ إِلَى جَنْبِهِ

“A person isn’t considered a believer if he is full while at the time his next-door neighbour is hungry.” [10]

This hadith clearly shows the huge right a neighbour has and the encouragement to help one another.

Lastly, let us all stand together to help each other in matters of charity and good according to the divine guidance and subsequently fight for the poor in ensuring they are protected in these challenging times. We’re certain and believe that when faith and taqwa are combined, surely blessings will descend from the heavens and earth. So true is the statement of Allah SWT:


وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَىٰ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِن كَذَّبُوا فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied [the messengers], so We seized them for what they were earning.” [11]

Ibn Kathir said: ‘وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَىٰ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا’ (And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah) means their hearts believe and declared the truth of what is brought by the messengers, and they follow the messengers with taqwa by obeying them and leaving all the prohibitions. While the verse: “لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ” (We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth) means rain from the heavens and crops from the earth. [12]

Al-Baidhawi said: “لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ” (We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth) means Allah SWT will widen goodness for them and ease them in every aspect. It is also said it means rain and crops. [13]

May Allah SWT grant us all understanding in this religion. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah al-Hasyr: 7

[2] See Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 8/67

[3] See Tafsir al-Tobari, 22/520

[4] See Tafsir al-Wasit, 10/353

[5] See Tafsir al-Sya’rawi, 6/381

[6] See Akhbar Sinar Harian, Global, pg. 32 dated 18th January 2022

[7] Surah al-Ma’arij: 24-25

[8] See Syarh al-Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, 7/71

[9] See alMuhalla bi al-Athar4/281

[10] Narrated by Abu Ya’la (2699) and al-Baihaqi (20160). The author of al-Silsilah al-Sahihah (149) stated this hadith is sahih with its syawahid.

[11] Surah al-A‘raf: 96

[12] See Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 3/420

[13] See Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil, 2/294

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