In continuation of our “Memos to the Sultan Committee on Almajiri” we today forward the submission of Prof. Sani Abubakar Lugga, Wazirin Katsina (firstname.lastname@example.org), who titles his piece “ALMAJIRI: SPECIAL LETTER TO NIGERIAN MUSLIMS” and subtitles it ‘TAKING THE ALMAJIRI OFF THE STREETS IN ONE YEAR VIA ZAKAT.’ The article (here edited for space) has recently been published in its full form on the social and conventional media:
For many decades, Nigerian Muslims have been on the receiving end of printable and unprintable abuses on their being the “almajirai”, the “illiterates”, the “parasites”, etc. All statistics on poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, street begging and their attendant consequences of thefts, rustling and even insurgency are tilted towards Islam and Muslims and ethnic groups that form the core of Muslims in Nigeria.
Muslims have always been left on the defensive as the Southern media and CAN are always at hand to brand every private and government action (or inaction) that looks “Islamic” into an attempt to “Islamise Nigeria!”. But what are Nigerian Muslims doing to dissuade people from these uncharitable comments; to do away with this dark toga; to change the bad situation into a good one; and to better the lives of Muslims?
It has been proven beyond any doubt that the main causes of youth’s restiveness that easily culminate into fatal crises of monumental dimensions are poverty and unemployment. Other factors are usually consequential to these two. Reports of various Tribunals, Commissions and Committees of Enquiries on conflicts and crises in Nigeria have proven that poverty and unemployment are the main driving forces of conflicts and crises, particularly in Northern Nigeria inhabited mainly by Muslims.
Since the late 1970s, Muslim leaders and Islamic organisations have organised uncountable number of meetings, conferences, summits, workshops, seminars, etc., with a view to generally find lasting solutions to the problems of poverty and unemployment amongst Muslims; and particularly of solving the “Almajiri” menace. Volumes upon volumes of published and unpublished literature have been produced on the ways and means of tackling these menaces. Indeed, public and private prayer sessions have been organised to attract divine intervention.
Why do Nigerian Muslims keep on groping in the dark searching for “medicine” to cure the Almajiri, the poverty and the unemployment “diseases” while Allah, Exalted be His Name, has prescribed Zakkat as the medicine over 1,400 years ago? Why keep on discussing and praying to Allah to give Muslims the “medicine” to these “ailments” while He has since prescribed it? Nigerian Muslims should change from the sin of ignoring Zakkat to instituting the goodness of this important religious obligation and panacea to social and economic problems. Remember, Allah will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not make effort change their condition.
As Muslims, we are fully conversant with the importance of Zakkat. We are also fully conversant with the worldly and heavenly benefits of paying Zakkat and the temporal and spiritual consequences of not paying it. Allah mentioned Zakkat over 80 times jointly with Salat (Prayer) in the Glorious Qur’an as an emphasis on the cleansing nature of Salat on the human body and soul, and the cleansing nature of Zakkat on the human wealth!
Allah says: “As-Sadaqat (Zakkat) are for the Fuqara (poor), and Al-Masakin (needy) and those employed to collect (and administer the funds); and for to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s cause, and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); (this is a compulsory) duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.” (Qur’an 9:60).
Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, established what could be equated with a Ministry of Zakkat Affairs during his lifetime. Subsequent Caliphs, may Allah be pleased with them, also did. Contemporary Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have full pledged Ministries of Zakkat and Awqaf. Other nations established commissions and institutions of similar nomenclature. In Nigeria, some state governments have established Zakkat Commissions while some Emirate Councils and Muslim organisations also have Zakkat Committees.
While it may not be feasible to ask all governments to establish Zakkat Ministries or Zakkat Commissions in Nigeria, the responsibility clearly falls on the shoulders of the Nigerian Muslim Leadership to establish a National Zakkat Foundation for the purpose of collecting, managing and utilising Zakkat. For the avoidance of doubt, these Muslim leaders, whose responsibility it is to so do, are His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto, His Highness the Shehu of Borno, Their Highnesses Muslim Emirs, distinguished Muslim scholars and leaders of the major Muslim organisations.
The establishment of a National Zakkat Foundation in Nigeria is therefore a compulsory duty that must be performed and it should be a priority as it is the best way to solve the myriad of Muslims’ social and economic problems, especially those affecting the poor, the needy and the destitute. If the Foundation establishes trust and builds confidence in the hearts and minds of Nigerian Muslims, it could add endowments (Awqaf) and other charitable activities to its mandate.
If such a Foundation were in place, it would have collected the following in its first year of operation in Nigeria: Money 12.5 billion Naira; Rice 1.125 million tonnes (equal to 22.5 million 50kg bags); Maize 540,000 tonnes (equal to 5.4 million 100 kg bags); Sorghum 490,000 tonnes (equal to 4.9 million 100 kg bags); Millet 360,000 tonnes (equal to 3.6 million 100 kg bags); Cattle 650,000 heads; Goats 725,000 heads; and Sheep 413,000 heads.
Before you brush aside the above as wishful thinking, note that the estimates are as a result of careful and meticulous calculation using sound facts and figures. For example, the Annual Money Zakkat of 12.5 billion Naira was calculated from the Naira currency in circulation in Nigeria released by the CBN factoring in estimates of what Muslims hold of it. The 12.5 billion Naira as Zakkat in one year may appear impossible to collect, but remember that the wealthiest African happens to be a Nigerian Muslim. In 2015, Forbes stated that this wealthy Nigerian Muslim was worth 15.7 billion Dollars. At that year’s exchange rate of about N400 to a Dollar, that was equal to 6.28 trillion Naira!
A National Zakkat Foundation should be a priority as it is the best way to solve the myriad of Muslims’ social and economic problems. Supposing that only half of the 95 million Nigerian Muslims would donate only 100 Naira each in one year as charity, 4.75 billion Naira shall be realised. Yes, 4.75 billion Naira in just one year! It is a pity that while adherents of other religions in Nigeria have silently devised ways and means of funding their activities and making sure their faithful do not roam the streets as “Almajirai”, Muslims have left an Allah-ordained source of funds and other wealth untapped! Are there no trustworthy Muslims to administer the envisaged Zakkat Foundation?
The attention of Nigerian Muslim leaders is therefore drawn to the necessity of establishing a Zakkat Foundation. Allah clearly states that He has imposed Zakkat as a compulsory duty and He has instructed for the appointment of its administrators and their payments from Zakkat Funds. To kickstart the process, Nigerian Muslim leaders should set up an all-encompassing high powered committee to immediately work out the modalities for the establishment of this National Zakkat Foundation that will conform to the Shari’ah and the Nigerian Laws.
Nigerian Muslims can make it and can do it. Please do not despair; do not read this submission with a defeatist mind; believe that with some striving and a lot of faith in Allah, it can be done!