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Contemporary Vision of Poverty and Islamic Strategy for Poverty Alleviation:

Contemporary Vision of Poverty and Islamic Strategy for Poverty Alleviation: Currently, irrespective of one’s religious, ideological, and political inclination, poverty is seen as a destructive force in all aspects. Subsequently, various strategies have been formulated to alleviate poverty. But what are actually the components of the destructive force of poverty in the vision of contemporary Muslim scholars? What kind of Islamic strategies have they formulated out of this vision? This article seeks to answer these two main questions by first investigating into the contemporary vision of poverty that has been adopted by Muslim scholars, followed second by an investigation into the strategies for poverty alleviation they proposed, and third, by critically analyzing their vision of poverty and strategies from an Islamic perspective. Based on a textual analysis of references, this article displays an inadequacy of the vision and strategies of the contemporary Muslim scholars for ignoring material-spiritual definition of poverty, as well as for formulating strategies for poverty alleviation using an exogenous, top-down approach. In a nutshell, this article attempts to provide a justification for rescrutinization of the vision of poverty from an Islamic perspective, and for a reconstruction of the poverty alleviation strategies based on the faith of the Muslim communities themselves. Keywords poverty, Islamic vision of poverty, poverty alleviation strategy such individuals—with the support of the verses from the Introduction Holy Qur’an, sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon The main aim of this article is to rethink about poverty from him), and works of classical scholars—need to be addressed an Islamic perspective through a critical analysis of the con- meticulously in a separate paper. temporary vision of poverty and poverty alleviation strate- gies that have been put forward by Muslim scholars. The Backdrop Generally, this article attempts to develop a fair, balanced, and holistic understanding of poverty and strategy for pov- As an effort to paint the backdrop of this article, the main- erty alleviation from a religious perspective. More specifi- stream vision of poverty and the so-called “Islamic strate- cally, it has the following two objectives. First, to investigate gies” in poverty alleviation are discussed below. The former the vision of poverty and strategies for poverty alleviation of reflects the general perception of scholars on poverty while contemporary Muslim scholars; and second, to analyze the the latter shows how such a perception has shaped the strate- strategies for poverty alleviation that have been considered gies for poverty alleviation proposed by the Muslim writers. as Islamic. In so doing, this article is divided into two main sections. The first paints the backdrop of the whole discus- Mainstream Vision of Poverty sion by highlighting the contemporary vision of poverty and the contemporary “Islamic” strategies of poverty alleviation. Almost all Muslim scholars who write on poverty, irrespec- The second delves into critical analysis of the contemporary tive of their ideological underpinnings, seem to dislike pov- “Islamic” strategies for poverty alleviation. erty. They do not only perceive poverty as having negative Indeed, this article is a preliminary groundwork that strictly focuses only on the understanding of the vision of poverty and strategies for poverty alleviation of contempo- 1 Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia rary Muslim scholars. It neither intends to provide a specific Corresponding Author: detailed redefinition of poverty, nor does it formulates the Muhammad Syukri Salleh, Centre for Islamic Development Management measurements for the identification of individuals infected by Studies (ISDEV), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Minden, Penang 11800, moral and spiritual poverty. An in-depth study on the redefini- Malaysia. tion of poverty and the measurements for the identification of Email: syukri54@gmail.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open nature in itself but also implicate negative consequences to care of the basic needs of the poor is a collective obligation individuals, society, and nations. Poverty is regarded as (fard kifayah) of a Muslim society. In terms of social impact being one of the worst problems in society (Nofal, 1984), as of zakat, Zaim (1985, p. 117) states that zakat ensures redis- a dangerous social problem (al Qaradawi, 2002), as the most tribution of income and the state uses it for the purpose of terrible social ills and main enemy to nation’s development alleviating poverty. Zakat is also designed to promote the planning (Abdullah, 1984), as a social time bomb (Fadhil, welfare function of the public expenditure. The argument is 1992), as one of the oldest enemies of mankind (Iqbal, 2002, quite similar to those of Nodal (as cited in Sadeq, 1994, p. p. 1), as the greatest evil (Huq, 1996, p. 226), as a threat to 17) who explains the function of zakat to eradicate poverty human’s beliefs and to the security and stability of the soci- and argues that poverty is one of the worst problems in a ety as a whole (Salih, 1999, p. 91), as disrupting human dig- society. Khan (1995, p. 131) says that reduction in poverty nity and stability of a nation (Fadhil, 1992), as not only an and economic inequalities is one of the primary objectives of economic phenomena but also a social and political problem the Islamic economics system and Islamic banking can play (Alhabshi, 1993, 1996), and as very dangerous to individuals an important role in achieving this objective. and society, aqidah and belief, thinking and culture, and fam- ily and races as a whole (al Qardhawi, 1980). Contemporary “Islamic” Strategies for Poverty Simultaneously, the negative consequences of the pov- Alleviation erty are also highlighted. They argued that poverty degrades Muslim’s dignity (Ahmad, 1991), emerging along with Discussion on the strategies that have been undertaken both unemployment, catastrophes, indebtedness, unequitable in Islam and mainstream domain are definitely huge and do income distribution, and so on (al Qaradawi, 2002), to vari- not adequately fit into the limited space of this article. It is ous evils, including apostasy (irtidad/ar-riddah) (Fadhil, acknowledged that the mainstream strategies in alleviating 1992), leading to crimes and hatred between rich and poor poverty have gained a considerable accomplishment, in spite (Nofal, 1984), leading to untold sufferings resulting in beg- of their ‘tangibility-centred’ nature that denies spiritual ging (Sadeq, 2002, p. 17), entailed with the decline of many domain, hence becoming un-holistic. However, this paper empires and civilization following the struggle between the does not mean to deliberate on the accomplishment and the haves and the have-nots (Iqbal, 2002, p. 1), leading to inca- un-holistic strategies. Instead, this paper only concentrates pacity, helplessness, and dependence on others, driving a on the so-called Islamic strategies for poverty alleviation as person close to disbelief, and it is in fact in conflict with are suggested by certain authors, with a brief introduction of human dignity (Chapra, 2008). As poverty is regarded as the an overall strategies. root of many crimes and misdeeds, it jeopardizes the moral, In general, poverty alleviation strategies could be said to social, and spiritual standards of a society; creates imbal- have passed four phases (Iqbal, 2002, pp. 10-12). First, in the ances in social and moral aspects as much as of an individ- 1950s and 1960s, it has been concentrated on the growth in ual as of a society (Huq, 1996, p. 226); and denies people the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), hoping that it would the freedom of choice and actions that can help them getting “trickle-down” to the poor. But this was much to be desired. rid of deprivation (Ahmed, 2004, p. 45). All in all, poverty Second, in the 1970s, the attention shifted to direct provision is seen as serious not only from a humanitarian point of of nutritional, health, and educational needs of the poor as a view but also from an Islamic point of view because abject matter of public policy. But this was realized that it was not poverty is incompatible with Islamic ideology (Ariff, 1988, sustainable in the long run as it puts heavy burden on govern- p. 336). ment budgets. Third, in the 1980s and 1990s, emphasis was Based on such a disastrous nature and consequences of shifted to efficient labor-intensive pattern of development the poverty, these writers make a firm stance on poverty. and increase of investment in human capital formation. But it Qardhawi (1980) pushes that poverty must be handled, was found that promotion of labor-intensive growth is diffi- obstructed, and fought. Fadhil (1992) argues that poverty cult, provision of basic services to the poor requires more must be killed. Ibrahim (1983/1984) says that fighting pov- public spending and involves the trade-off between the inter- erty is a Holy War (jihad). Ahmad (1991) perceives that ests of the poor and the non-poor, and there were misman- fighting poverty is equal to upholding dignity. Al-Qardhawi agement of public funds and corruption. Fourth, in 2000s, (cited by Ibrahim, 1983/1984, p. 25) issues fatwa that war the strategy shifted to promoting opportunities, facilitating could be launched due to poverty, and that Caliph Abu Bakar empowerment, and enhancing securities. This was based on Al-Siddiq’s war against those who refused to pay zakat (ar- the realization on the importance of the participation of the riddah) could be considered as a war against poverty (al- poor in decision making, better governance of public funds, harb `al faqr). It is said to be the first war in Islamic history and protection of the poor from economic and natural shocks to protect the fate of the oppressed poor. Ahmed (2004) pro- through public policies. The strategy involves, inter alia, pro- poses poverty eradication through the provision of basic vision of material opportunities such as jobs, credits, and needs of every citizen and regards it as a duty of every infrastructure; cohesive pattern and quality of growth, mar- Muslim society. Chapra (2008) issues a stance that taking ket reforms that reflect local institutional and structural Salleh 3 conditions, greater equity in the distribution of income, support. He suggests four approaches in alleviating poverty access to market opportunities and public sector services; through the zakat and awqaf institutions: first, by integrat- sound, responsive, and accountable institutions; reduction of ing zakat and awqaf into the overall development scheme; vulnerability to economic shocks, natural disasters; ill health second, by introducing laws and regulations that can create and disability; building assets of poor people; diversifying incentives for the proper functioning of zakat and awqaf household activities; and providing a range of insurance institutions and establishing institutions that operate in an mechanisms to cope with adverse shocks. efficient and transparent ways; third, by introducing effec- For the poverty alleviation through Islamic approach, tive organizational structures that could build trust among Iqbal (2002) starts with a belief that strategies for poverty people to maximize collection/revenues; and fourth, by cre- alleviation involve two trade-offs, that is, first, between inter- ating institutional development and diversity, with the help ests of the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and second, between of various institutions using contemporary organizational the role of public sector versus the market (pp. 12-13). For the structures and instruments to reinforce the endeavors in first trade-off, he comes back to the very worldview of the poverty alleviation. Islamic teaching, that life in this world, and the context of Awqaf is also perceived as one of the irfaq (nonprofit) sec- poverty, the difference in income and wealth, is actually a tors that is able to support the elimination of interest in test. Those bestowed by Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala (May He accomplishing redistributional function, hence poverty alle- be glorified and exalted) (SWT) with high income and wealth viation (Tag el Din, 2002). Cizakca (2002) believes that need to share the resource with the poor, and the poor, while awqaf system could help in reducing government expendi- not grudging against the rich, are assured to be richly rewarded ture, hence reducing budget deficit, the need for government in the life Hereafter for bearing their hardship patiently. borrowing, curbing the crowding-out effect, reduction in As for the trade-off between the public sector and the interest rates, removing major impediment to private invest- market, Iqbal (2002) suggests an “institutional approach” to ment and growth, as well as solving the problem of under- achieve its redistributive goals (pp. 13-20). The market as an supply of public goods. institution is allowed to play its role, while other institutions, Huq (1996, pp. 229-230) also advocates the institutional such as zakah, awqaf, takaful, irfaq (non-profit sector), and approach by going beyond the institutions of zakat and awqaf so on, become supplements to correct some in-built tenden- per se to include positive roles of other Islamic economics cies in the market solutions. institutions as well. Apart from zakat (which he terms as The above idea of alleviating poverty through the “institu- involuntary sadaqat or compulsory tax on idle wealth/ tional approach,” as Iqbal (2002, p. 13) terms it, has become income after the nisab is met), he also mentions ushr (com- one of the main approaches advocated by many Muslim pulsory payment in the form of tax from the produce of land scholars. In realizing the zakat, for instance, Yasin and Tahir or specifically zakat on the produce of land); voluntary con- (2002) advocates full-scale Islamization, as opposed to a less tributions such as hibah, waqf, gifts, wills, and so on; muda- efficient policy such as maintaining the status quo, introduc- raba (profit sharing on trading capital in place of interest); ing zakat only, and replacement of interest with profit shar- law of inheritance; organization of various cooperatives, and ing. al Qaradawi (2002, p. 569) regards zakat system as a so on. Two other institutions that have been advocated by permanent mechanism from within the economy in continu- other scholars are microcredit or microfinance (Hassan & ous transferring of income from the rich to the poor, with the Alamgir, 2002; Obaidullah, 2008a, 2008b; Obaidullah & aim to enrich and remove the later completely from poverty Khan, 2008), and takaful (mutual surety) (Bakar, 2002). In level through sufficient income and ability to take charge of fact, Hassan and Alamgir (2002) argue that microcredit has all their needs by themselves. According to him, the basic been found to be an effective instrument for creating self- objective of zakat indeed is to solve poverty, along with other employment, while Bakar (2002) argues that takaful could social problems such as unemployment, catastrophes, indebt- become an important element in the modern poverty-reduc- edness, inequitable income distribution, and so on. This tion agenda by protecting people from shocks, both eco- could be done by providing the poor and the needy, as two of nomic and natural. eight groups of recipients of zakat (asnaf), with necessary Another approach to Islamic poverty alleviation adopted education, training, and capital equipment. by Muslim scholars is what could be called economic More direct that manifests the institutional approach is approach, which is based mainly on the belief in economic the writing by Ahmed (2004). He believes that zakat, along growth. Iqbal (2002, pp. 15-16), for instance, believes in the with awqaf, are able to play a role in policies of redistribu- importance of economic growth in alleviating poverty, espe- tion of assets and opportunities, capacity building and cially in the pattern of growth that corrects the distribution of wealth creation, and extending income support, hence alle- income. In addition, population growth and demographic viating poverty (Ahmed, 2004, p. 15). Ahmed (2004, pp. changes are also suggested to be taken into consideration, so 15-18) believes in the ability of zakat and awqaf to play a that young people could be developed into a productive role in policies of redistribution of assets and opportunities, workforce through human capital formation, job creation, capacity building and wealth creation, and extending income finance facilities, and secure environment. 4 SAGE Open Sirageldin (2002) proposes “effective growth strategies alleviation, they concentrate heavily on either Islamic insti- with a built-in equitable opportunity mechanism” as the tutions or on economic formulation. In both cases, poverty is foundation for sustainable poverty-reduction policies (p. 41). accepted as is understood by conventional thinking, leaving To him, these strategies are in harmony with the Islamic ethi- alone the very base of the attempt, namely, the definition of cal system, in particular the axiomatic approach developed the poverty itself. They, for instance, elaborate on the use of 1 2 3 by Naqvi (1994) which is based on four basic tenets: Unity zakat and awqaf, or on microfinance, or on takaful, or on (Tawhid) which indicates the vertical dimension of the ethi- economic formulation, but all seem to be done with a view cal system; Equilibrium (al-‘adl wa’l-ihsan) which provides of overcoming the problem of the undefined conventional for the horizontal dimension of equity leaving a lot of free- poverty, not an Islamically defined poverty. dom for policy details; Free-will (ikhtiyar) in which careful Undeniably, they are commended for at least providing intellection is required to interpret-reinterpret that freedom the bases for the endeavors in poverty alleviation. within specific social contexts, and to suit the needs of Nevertheless, their vision and strategies are embedded with changing times (p. 31); and Responsibility (fard) which the mere economic indicators and instruments such as states that although “responsibility” is voluntary, individuals growth, market, income, wealth, employment, capital, assets, and society need to conserve for the public good Sirageldin revenues, and profits, as if that poverty is void of spiritual (2002, p. 26). dimension. To make them in tandem with Islam, they pro- Khan’s (1995, p. 19) ideas also could be considered as pose an injection of Islamic elements such as Unity (Tawhid), falling into the economic approach. Although he does not Equilibrium (al-‘adl wa’l-ihsan), Free-will (ikhtiyar), and directly talk about the growth, his suggestions are full of eco- Responsibility (fard) (Naqvi, 1994, p. 31; Sirageldin, 2002, nomic formulation. He suggests a set of criteria for poverty p. 26). elimination that is believed to be able to fulfill the basic Of all the scholars researched, only Huq (1996, p. 225) needs of the people. These criteria are firstly, low-cost; sec- seems to mention briefly about the meaning of poverty, but ondly, the state is not forced to indulge in heavy borrowing; still it hardly could be considered as an Islamic definition. He and thirdly, it is consistent with (indeed built-in within) the still uses “the level of living” and “subsistence level” as the system. The strategy emphasizes motivating all human indicators of poverty. His categories of the poor are based resources to take up every possible opportunity to contribute on incomes, ability to buy goods, and services (purchasing to family income; subsistence and poor families should be power) to fulfill minimum basic needs for economically given every encouragement for self-employed activity and decent living. In addition, he defines the poor (fuqara) as improved family enterprise. This strategy is believed to be in those who lack the opportunities or abilities or both to earn consistent with the spirit of Islamic economy and that Islam their livelihoods, which may lead to suffer social humilia- provides for institutions for the success of such a strategy. tion, economic deprivation, and moral and spiritual vacuum (Huq, 1996, p. 226). Kahf (2002, p. 22) also, in mentioning about the first two categories of zakat recipients—the poor Critical Analysis of the Vision of and the needy—briefly mentions the difference in opinion of Poverty and the “Islamic” Strategy for zakat scholars on the definition of the poor and the needy, Poverty Alleviation based on human needs in relation to wealth and income. The first group of scholars he says defines the poor as a person Contemplating on the above vision of poverty and the so- who has less than his needs in terms of wealth and income called Islamic strategies for poverty alleviation leads one to whereas the needy is that who owns nothing. The second realize that the vision and strategies are actually suffering of group of scholars, however, considers that the poor is in a at least three deficiencies. They are first, the absence of the worse situation than the needy. The detailed discourse on redefinition of the very poverty itself; second, the exogenous this, however, was not deliberated because to Kahf (2002, p. domination of the vision on poverty and poverty alleviation 22), it is immaterial who is in a worse situation. What matters strategies; and third, the adoption of a top-down approach to is that both cannot support their needs by their own means, vision of poverty and the strategies for poverty alleviation. hence the supplementary support for sustenance, in this case, The deliberations of these deficiencies are as follows. through zakat. The definition of poverty and the poor outlined by both The Absence of a Redefinition of Poverty Huq (1996) and Kahf (2002, p. 22) is still not been able to As shown earlier, there are already literatures that attempt to liberate itself from the entanglement of tangible indicators deliberate on the Islamic vision of poverty and on the Islamic used by conventional economics. Both basically ignore the strategies for poverty alleviation. However, they are heavily spiritual dimension embedded within the poor-self, as is concentrated on two main things. First, in regard to the vision within the rich-self. So is Sirageldin (2002, p. 31). Even of poverty, all of them dislike poverty and suggest the elimi- though stressing on the insufficiency of the quantitative nation of poverty as much as possible to avoid its negative money-metric consumption (or income)–based approach in consequences. Second, in regard to the strategies for poverty measuring the multidimensionality of the concept of poverty, Salleh 5 he could not come out of the tangible indicators. His sugges- a similar treatment of the definition of poverty also has been tion to overcome the above problem is based on the expan- adopted by Mannan (1988, pp. 305-306). In spite of his sion of needs and measurement of sociopolitical externalities. acknowledgment that human poverty in Islam is concerned Such a phenomenon too could be found in the work of Khan both with material as well as cultural and spiritual poverty, (n.d., p. 4). He sees poverty, supposedly from Islamic per- and that the abundance of goods does not alone ensure rich- spective, as related to two concepts, that is, the concept of ness in Islam, he purposely shy away from the inclusion of necessities (dharuriyyah) and the concept of exemption limit cultural and spiritual poverty in his discussion on the com- (nisab). Necessities here refer to all activities and things that prehensive meaning of poverty, to just confine the discussion are essential to preserve the five fundamentals of human life, to material poverty and Islamic responses to it. that is, religion, physical self, intellect or knowledge, off- spring, and wealth (that is the maqasid al-shari’ah, though The Domination of an Exogenous Vision on he does not use the term so). One is considered poor if he Poverty and Poverty Alleviation Strategies does not possess sufficient necessities to fulfill his basic needs based on the above five foundations for good individ- Another deficiency of the vision on poverty and strategies ual and social life. Nisab refers to a certain minimum quan- for poverty alleviation relate very much to their exogenous tum of any good or wealth that must be possessed before that characteristic. As reflected in the above discussion, scholars good and wealth is subject to zakat. In zakat, the nisab who are dominating the thinking on poverty are actually the requirement implies that those who do not meet the nisab outsiders, not the poor themselves. These outsiders not only requirement are not only excused from paying zakat but also develop the definition of poverty based on their own respec- considered poor and hence eligible to receive zakat. Even a tive perception but also do not take into account the poor’s supposedly Islamic-oriented writing such as of Patel (1983, perception of poverty in the construction of the definition as p. 4) defines poverty in a material-oriented sense. He says, well as in the formulation of the strategies for poverty “Poverty, in its pure meaning is the insufficiency and the lack alleviation. of the material means to live a tolerable and meaningful Salleh and Md. Yusoff (1997) actually did research and existence.” write a paper on the poor’s perception of poverty, but seems If there could be considered a little bit of Islamic elements that it is the only one available on it. Even though there is an in the definition of poverty, they are perhaps the definitions attempt to seek people’s perception from below as has been put forward by Salih (1999, p. 91) and Iqbal (2002, p. 12). done by Amiel and Cowell (1997), it was just the perception Both consider poverty as a test of man’s allegiance to his of the people of the already determined standard axioms used Creator and a great fear. The Quranic verse which is related in the literature on poverty measurement (i.e., anonymity, to this argument, inter alia, is as follows: “We will surely test growth of the poor, monotonicity, focus, and principle of you with a measure of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth, transfers). Using a sample of 486 students from Australia, lives, and fruits; and give good news to the patient” (al- Israel, and the United States, Amiel and Cowell (1997) Qur`an 2:155). Ahmed (2004) also holds to the testing stance. investigated the extent to which individuals’ perceptions of Besides that, he also agrees with Chapra (1980) who says poverty correspond to the axioms. It was found that the first that Islam is a religion of balance and therefore has given 3 axioms were reasonably well supported by the respondents, equal emphasis on both the spiritual and worldly affairs. while the fourth gained very little support and the last was Ahmed (2004) is well aware of the integration of the material the least well supported. It is therefore a poor’s perception of and spiritual dimensions of poverty. He argues that the con- the axioms of poverty outlined by still the outsiders, not by cept of richness/poverty in Islam does represent not only the poor themselves. Institutionally, Islamic Development deprivation of goods and services but also lack of richness/ Bank (IDB) has in fact had its consciousness in going down poverty in spirit. to the grassroots, but the impact is much to be desired. For Unfortunately, however, Ahmed (2004) has purposely left example, IDB tries to establish strategic partnership and col- out this broader comprehensive concept of poverty, to only laborations and, as clearly stated in the Mission of IDB in the focus on the notion of deprivation in the economic sense. He Vision 1440H, ascertain the needs and aspirations of target does so with the belief that the economic concept of poverty communities before formulating any program. It also con- and its eradication indirectly addresses the spiritual aspects. sults the stakeholders especially the Muslim communities Like what has been asserted by Rahman (1974), Ahmed themselves in every proposed program and design the pro- (2004, p. 20) believes that the individuals can improve their gram in close collaboration with them, as well as encourage spiritual lives by improving their material life. Ahmed (2004, local initiative (IDB, 2006b, pp. 31-35). However, at the p. 55) too, in spite of his consciousness that the concept of implementational level, such an effort does not necessarily poverty has evolved from deprivation of material needs, edu- work. The real determinant of the efforts and the full power cation, and health to more broader ideas of vulnerability, is in the hand of neither the IDB nor the communities, but exposure to risk, voicelessness, and powerlessness still instead in the hand of their respective authority, again as an focuses his discussion on the former economic notion. Such exogenous agent. 6 SAGE Open definition of poverty, the formulation of an Islamic poverty The Adoption of Top-Down Approach to Vision of alleviation strategy may come up with a new form. For Poverty and the Strategies for Poverty Alleviation instance, the target groups could perhaps be broadly catego- Come together with the exogenous characteristics of the def- rized into four groups. First, those who are poor both spiritu- inition of poverty and the poverty alleviation strategies is the ally and materially; second, those who are poor spiritually adoption of a top-down approach. This is another deficiency and rich materially; third, those who are rich spiritually and suffered by the definition of poverty and the poverty allevia- poor materially; and fourth, those who are rich both spiritu- tion strategies. A top-down approach may come up with a ally and materially. Expectedly, one may probably clear with favorable political will, resources, bureaucratic machinery, the measurements of the materially rich and poor, but won- and facilities, but they are still considered as outsiders, hence der on how to measure the spiritually rich and poor. Leaving “exogeneity” of their ideas. Most of the outsiders involved in this question alone for a while to be researched and deliber- the formulation and designation of the definition and strate- ated further later on, this categorization would probably gies, respectively, are usually development authorities and entail with two implications. First, the target groups of the agencies—local and foreign—many of which are not neces- poverty alleviation need to encompass all strata of society, sarily inclined to Islam. Their epistemological and philo- including the rich themselves. Second, true target groups sophical roots may be totally different from those of the may be identified, resources may be rightly allocated, and Muslim poor communities. Although by material indicators wastage may be avoided. The most to be given serious atten- there has been a considerable contribution to the alleviation tion and intervention, with reasonable allocation, is of course of poverty, but the contribution comes together with an the first category of the target group, viz. those who are poor accompaniment of a new alien cultural–societal construc- both spiritually and materially. This is followed by the sec- tion, and in many cases, even contradicts their previous ond group, that is the rich who are spiritually poor that may indigenous belief and cultural practices. expose them to adverse attributes such as oppression, corrup- tion, and so on, and the third categories who even though poor materially but neither troubling nor burdening the soci- Conclusion ety due to their rich in spirituality. The aim of the whole pro- The above discussion leads to a conclusion that may provide cess is definitely to create the fourth group who are rich both a base for further research. The contemporary vision of pov- spiritually and materially. erty seems to treat poverty as fully negative, without a room for rescrutinization, let alone an effort to do so. Such a stance Acknowledgments does not provide an opportunity to study in-depth many The author is indebted to Islamic Research and Training Institute Islamic teachings relating to poverty. For instance, in a (IRTI), Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Hadith Qudsi, Allah SWT says, for his appointment as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute that enables him to initiate a research on Islamic Management of Poverty, and to Some of My worshippers are only reformed and best fitted with Universiti Sains Malaysia and Malaysian Ministry of Higher poverty and if I to enrich them this will spoil them, and some of Education for granting a Research University Team (RUT) Grant to My worshippers are only reformed and fitted with richness and undertake a research on Islamic-Based Development that enables if I impoverish them this will spoil them. the study and finally the writing of this article. In other words, the poor and the rich seem to be selective, Declaration of Conflicting Interests depending on Allah’s prerogative, mercy, and love, in ensur- The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect ing the avoidance of spoiling the worshippers. Another to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Hadith sounds as follows: Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW had said, “Richness does not lie in Funding the abundance of worldly goods but richness is the richness The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- of the heart itself” (Muslim, p. 501). ship, and/or publication of this article. Both teachings open a vast area for the rescrutinization of the definition of poverty and the formulation of strategies for Notes poverty alleviation. The former signals the selectiveness of 1. See, for instance, Ahmed (2004), al Qaradawi (2002), Cizakca the rich and the poor, while the later reflects the importance (2002), Hassan and Alamgir (2002), Huq (1996), Iqbal (2002), of spirituality in matters relating to poverty. Both could per- Sadeq (1994), Tag el Din (2002), and Yasin and Tahir (2002). haps provide an understanding why the poor Companions 2. See, for instance, Obaidullah (2008a, 2008b) and Obaidullah (ahlus suffah) were never requested by the Holy Prophet and Khan (2008). (peace be upon him) to be rich, while a rich Companion 3. See, for instance, Bakar (2002). Sayyidina Abdul Rahman bin ’Auf was not allowed to be 4. See, for instance, Chapra (2008), Khan (1995), and Sirageldin poor. If such a rescrutinization is taken into account in the (2002). Salleh 7 5. Specifically, he defines poverty as the “the level of living that Fadhil, S. (1992). Minda Melayu baru [New Malay mind]. Kuala lies below subsistence level.” For the poor, he refers to “those Lumpur, Malaysia: Institut Kajian Dasar. whose incomes are not adequate for buying a bundle of goods Hassan, M. K., & Alamgir, D. A. H. (2002). Microfinancial services and services required to meet a minimum of calories for sus- and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh: A comparative analysis taining a decent living with basic needs, like food, clothings, of secular and Islamic NGOs. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Islamic eco- shelter, health and education” (Huq, 1996, pp. 225-226). nomic institutions and the elimination of poverty (pp. 113-168). 6. Sirageldin (2002, p. 31) suggests that the needs to be expanded Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. to measure sociopolitical externalities, both a result of the Huq, A. (1996). Poverty, inequality and role of some of the Islamic presence of poverty and of the introduction of policies to alle- economic institutions. In M. A. Mannan & M. Ahmad (Eds.), Economic development in an Islamic framework (pp. 224- viate it. 261). Islamabad, Pakistan: International Institute of Islamic Economics, International Islamic University. References Ibrahim, A. (1984). Kemiskinan dari perspektif agama dan politik Abdullah, H. (Ed.). (1984). Kemiskinan dan kehidupan golongan ber- [Poverty from religious and political perspective]. Kuala Lumpur: pendapatan rendah [Poverty and the life of low income group]. Institut Pertanian Malaysia. (Original work published 1983) Bangi, Selangor: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Iqbal, M. (2002). Introduction. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Islamic economic Ahmad, Z. (1991). Islam, poverty and income distribution. institutions and the elimination of poverty (pp. 1-24). Leicester, Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. UK: The Islamic Foundation. Ahmed, H. (2004). Role of zakah and awqaf in poverty alleviation. Islamic Development Bank. (2006a). Strategic plan (1426H-1430H) Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Research and Training Institute, (Rajab 1425H / September 2004). Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Development Bank. Islamic Development Bank. al Qaradawi, Y. (2002). Zakah role in curing social and economic Islamic Development Bank. (2006b). Vision 1440H: A vision for malaises. In M. Kahf (Ed.), Economics of zakah—A book of human dignity. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Development readings (2nd ed., pp. 569-620). Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Bank. Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank. Kahf, M. (2002). Introduction to the study of the economics of al Qardhawi, S. Y. (1980). Problema kemiskinan: Apa konsep zakah. In M. Kahf (Ed.), Economics of zakah: A book of Islam [The problems of poverty: What is Islamic concept] readings (2nd ed., pp. 15-57). Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic (U. Fanany, Trans.). Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia: Penerbitan Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank. Pena Mas. Khan, M. F. (1995). Essays in Islamic economics. Leicester, UK: Alhabshi, S. O. (1993). Tidakkah Islam menggalakkan kita meng- The Islamic Foundation. umpul harta? [Is it not that Islam encourages us to accumulate Khan, Z. A. (n.d.). Causes of poverty and role of citizen in alleviat- wealth?] In N. M. H. Nik Hassan & S. F. Abdul Rahman (Eds.), ing it from Islamic perspective. Islam, budaya kerja dan pembangunan masyarakat - Satu kefa- Mannan, M. A. (1988). The economics of poverty in Islam with haman [Islam, working culture and societal development – An special reference to Muslim countries. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Islamic understanding], (pp. 127-135). Kuala Lumpur: Institut Distributive justice and need fulfilment in an Islamic economy Kefahaman Islam Malaysia. (Rev. ed., pp. 305-335). Islamabad, Pakistan: International Alhabshi, S. O. (1996). Poverty eradication from Islamic perspec- Institute of Islamic Economics. tives. Naqvi, S. N. H. (1994). Ethics and economics: An Islamic synthesis. Amiel, Y., & Cowell, F. (1997). The measurement of poverty: Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. An experimental questionnaire investigation. Empirical Nofal, A. E. (1984). Al-Zakat (the poor due) (translated from Economics, 22, 571-588. Arabic by T. Tawfik). Cairo, Egypt: The Supreme Council for Ariff, M. (1988). Comments on M.A. Mannan’s “The economics of Islamic Affairs. poverty in Islam with special reference to Muslim countries.” Obaidullah, M. (2008a). Introduction to Islamic microfinance. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Distributive justice and need fulfilment in an Hyderabad, India: International Institute of Islamic Business Islamic economy (Rev. ed., pp. 336-341). Islamabad, Pakistan: and Finance. International Institute of Islamic Economics. Obaidullah, M. (2008b). Role of microfinance in poverty alle- Bakar, M. D. (2002). The problem of risk and insurable interest in viation: Lessons from experience in selected IDB member takaful: A jurisprudential analysis. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Islamic countries. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Development economic institutions and the elimination of poverty (pp. 233- Bank. 262). Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. Obaidullah, M., & Khan, T. (2008). Islamic microfinance devel- Chapra, M. U. (1980). Islamic welfare state and its role in the econ- opment: Challenges and initiatives (Dialogue Paper No. 2). omy. In K. Ahmad (Ed.), Studies in Islamic economics (pp. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Research and Training Institute, 143-169). Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. Islamic Development Bank. Chapra, M. U. (2008). The Islamic vision of development in the Patel, Z. A. (Ed.). (1983). Small kindnesses: Poverty and Muslim light of the maqasid al-shari`ah. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Islamic charity. Nuneaton, UK: Muslim Venture Publications. Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank. Rahman, A. (1974). Economic doctrines of Islam (Vol. 1). Lahore, Cizakca, M. (2002). Latest developments in the Western non-profit Pakistan: Islamic Publications. Sadeq, A. A. (1994). A survey of the institution of zakat (Cataloging- sector and the implications for Islamic awqaf. In M. Iqbal in-Publication Data). Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: King Fahd (Ed.), Islamic economic institutions and the elimination of pov- National Library. erty (pp. 263-296). Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. 8 SAGE Open Sadeq, A. A. (2002). A survey of the institution of zakah: Issues, Islamic economic institutions and the elimination of poverty theories and administration (2nd ed.). Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: (pp. 187-232). Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Yasin, H. M., & Tahir, S. (2002). Poverty elimination in an Islamic Bank. perspective: An applied general equilibrium approach. In M. Salih, S. A. (1999). The challenges of poverty alleviation in IDB Iqbal (Ed.), Islamic economic institutions and the elimination of member countries. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Economic Policy and poverty (pp. 47-112). Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. Strategic Planning Department, Islamic Development Bank. Zaim, S. (1985). Recent interpretations of the economic aspects of Salleh, M. S., & Md. Yusoff, O. (1997). The poor people’s percep- zakah. Paper read at Management of Zakah in Modern Muslim tion of poverty and its implications on the realization of Islamic Society, 02–12 Sha’aban 1405 H (22 April-02 May 1985), at development in Kelantan, Malaysia, Humanomics, 13(3/4), Karachi, Pakistan. 215-244. Sirageldin, I. (2002). The elimination of poverty: Challenges and Author Biography Islamic strategies. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Islamic economic institu- Muhammad Syukri Salleh, (DPhil, Oxon) is professor of Islamic tions and the elimination of poverty (pp. 25-46). Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation. Development Management at the Centre for Islamic Development Tag el & Din, S. E. D. I. (2002). The elimination of riba: A mea- Studies (ISDEV), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, sure truly dedicated to poverty alleviation. In M. Iqbal (Ed.), Malaysia. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SAGE Open SAGE

Contemporary Vision of Poverty and Islamic Strategy for Poverty Alleviation:

SAGE Open , Volume 7 (2): 1 – May 8, 2017

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Abstract

Currently, irrespective of one’s religious, ideological, and political inclination, poverty is seen as a destructive force in all aspects. Subsequently, various strategies have been formulated to alleviate poverty. But what are actually the components of the destructive force of poverty in the vision of contemporary Muslim scholars? What kind of Islamic strategies have they formulated out of this vision? This article seeks to answer these two main questions by first investigating into the contemporary vision of poverty that has been adopted by Muslim scholars, followed second by an investigation into the strategies for poverty alleviation they proposed, and third, by critically analyzing their vision of poverty and strategies from an Islamic perspective. Based on a textual analysis of references, this article displays an inadequacy of the vision and strategies of the contemporary Muslim scholars for ignoring material-spiritual definition of poverty, as well as for formulating strategies for poverty alleviation using an exogenous, top-down approach. In a nutshell, this article attempts to provide a justification for rescrutinization of the vision of poverty from an Islamic perspective, and for a reconstruction of the poverty alleviation strategies based on the faith of the Muslim communities themselves. Keywords poverty, Islamic vision of poverty, poverty alleviation strategy such individuals—with the support of the verses from the Introduction Holy Qur’an, sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon The main aim of this article is to rethink about poverty from him), and works of classical scholars—need to be addressed an Islamic perspective through a critical analysis of the con- meticulously in a separate paper. temporary vision of poverty and poverty alleviation strate- gies that have been put forward by Muslim scholars. The Backdrop Generally, this article attempts to develop a fair, balanced, and holistic understanding of poverty and strategy for pov- As an effort to paint the backdrop of this article, the main- erty alleviation from a religious perspective. More specifi- stream vision of poverty and the so-called “Islamic strate- cally, it has the following two objectives. First, to investigate gies” in poverty alleviation are discussed below. The former the vision of poverty and strategies for poverty alleviation of reflects the general perception of scholars on poverty while contemporary Muslim scholars; and second, to analyze the the latter shows how such a perception has shaped the strate- strategies for poverty alleviation that have been considered gies for poverty alleviation proposed by the Muslim writers. as Islamic. In so doing, this article is divided into two main sections. The first paints the backdrop of the whole discus- Mainstream Vision of Poverty sion by highlighting the contemporary vision of poverty and the contemporary “Islamic” strategies of poverty alleviation. Almost all Muslim scholars who write on poverty, irrespec- The second delves into critical analysis of the contemporary tive of their ideological underpinnings, seem to dislike pov- “Islamic” strategies for poverty alleviation. erty. They do not only perceive poverty as having negative Indeed, this article is a preliminary groundwork that strictly focuses only on the understanding of the vision of poverty and strategies for poverty alleviation of contempo- 1 Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia rary Muslim scholars. It neither intends to provide a specific Corresponding Author: detailed redefinition of poverty, nor does it formulates the Muhammad Syukri Salleh, Centre for Islamic Development Management measurements for the identification of individuals infected by Studies (ISDEV), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Minden, Penang 11800, moral and spiritual poverty. An in-depth study on the redefini- Malaysia. tion of poverty and the measurements for the identification of Email: syukri54@gmail.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open nature in itself but also implicate negative consequences to care of the basic needs of the poor is a collective obligation individuals, society, and nations. Poverty is regarded as (fard kifayah) of a Muslim society. In terms of social impact being one of the worst problems in society (Nofal, 1984), as of zakat, Zaim (1985, p. 117) states that zakat ensures redis- a dangerous social problem (al Qaradawi, 2002), as the most tribution of income and the state uses it for the purpose of terrible social ills and main enemy to nation’s development alleviating poverty. Zakat is also designed to promote the planning (Abdullah, 1984), as a social time bomb (Fadhil, welfare function of the public expenditure. The argument is 1992), as one of the oldest enemies of mankind (Iqbal, 2002, quite similar to those of Nodal (as cited in Sadeq, 1994, p. p. 1), as the greatest evil (Huq, 1996, p. 226), as a threat to 17) who explains the function of zakat to eradicate poverty human’s beliefs and to the security and stability of the soci- and argues that poverty is one of the worst problems in a ety as a whole (Salih, 1999, p. 91), as disrupting human dig- society. Khan (1995, p. 131) says that reduction in poverty nity and stability of a nation (Fadhil, 1992), as not only an and economic inequalities is one of the primary objectives of economic phenomena but also a social and political problem the Islamic economics system and Islamic banking can play (Alhabshi, 1993, 1996), and as very dangerous to individuals an important role in achieving this objective. and society, aqidah and belief, thinking and culture, and fam- ily and races as a whole (al Qardhawi, 1980). Contemporary “Islamic” Strategies for Poverty Simultaneously, the negative consequences of the pov- Alleviation erty are also highlighted. They argued that poverty degrades Muslim’s dignity (Ahmad, 1991), emerging along with Discussion on the strategies that have been undertaken both unemployment, catastrophes, indebtedness, unequitable in Islam and mainstream domain are definitely huge and do income distribution, and so on (al Qaradawi, 2002), to vari- not adequately fit into the limited space of this article. It is ous evils, including apostasy (irtidad/ar-riddah) (Fadhil, acknowledged that the mainstream strategies in alleviating 1992), leading to crimes and hatred between rich and poor poverty have gained a considerable accomplishment, in spite (Nofal, 1984), leading to untold sufferings resulting in beg- of their ‘tangibility-centred’ nature that denies spiritual ging (Sadeq, 2002, p. 17), entailed with the decline of many domain, hence becoming un-holistic. However, this paper empires and civilization following the struggle between the does not mean to deliberate on the accomplishment and the haves and the have-nots (Iqbal, 2002, p. 1), leading to inca- un-holistic strategies. Instead, this paper only concentrates pacity, helplessness, and dependence on others, driving a on the so-called Islamic strategies for poverty alleviation as person close to disbelief, and it is in fact in conflict with are suggested by certain authors, with a brief introduction of human dignity (Chapra, 2008). As poverty is regarded as the an overall strategies. root of many crimes and misdeeds, it jeopardizes the moral, In general, poverty alleviation strategies could be said to social, and spiritual standards of a society; creates imbal- have passed four phases (Iqbal, 2002, pp. 10-12). First, in the ances in social and moral aspects as much as of an individ- 1950s and 1960s, it has been concentrated on the growth in ual as of a society (Huq, 1996, p. 226); and denies people the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), hoping that it would the freedom of choice and actions that can help them getting “trickle-down” to the poor. But this was much to be desired. rid of deprivation (Ahmed, 2004, p. 45). All in all, poverty Second, in the 1970s, the attention shifted to direct provision is seen as serious not only from a humanitarian point of of nutritional, health, and educational needs of the poor as a view but also from an Islamic point of view because abject matter of public policy. But this was realized that it was not poverty is incompatible with Islamic ideology (Ariff, 1988, sustainable in the long run as it puts heavy burden on govern- p. 336). ment budgets. Third, in the 1980s and 1990s, emphasis was Based on such a disastrous nature and consequences of shifted to efficient labor-intensive pattern of development the poverty, these writers make a firm stance on poverty. and increase of investment in human capital formation. But it Qardhawi (1980) pushes that poverty must be handled, was found that promotion of labor-intensive growth is diffi- obstructed, and fought. Fadhil (1992) argues that poverty cult, provision of basic services to the poor requires more must be killed. Ibrahim (1983/1984) says that fighting pov- public spending and involves the trade-off between the inter- erty is a Holy War (jihad). Ahmad (1991) perceives that ests of the poor and the non-poor, and there were misman- fighting poverty is equal to upholding dignity. Al-Qardhawi agement of public funds and corruption. Fourth, in 2000s, (cited by Ibrahim, 1983/1984, p. 25) issues fatwa that war the strategy shifted to promoting opportunities, facilitating could be launched due to poverty, and that Caliph Abu Bakar empowerment, and enhancing securities. This was based on Al-Siddiq’s war against those who refused to pay zakat (ar- the realization on the importance of the participation of the riddah) could be considered as a war against poverty (al- poor in decision making, better governance of public funds, harb `al faqr). It is said to be the first war in Islamic history and protection of the poor from economic and natural shocks to protect the fate of the oppressed poor. Ahmed (2004) pro- through public policies. The strategy involves, inter alia, pro- poses poverty eradication through the provision of basic vision of material opportunities such as jobs, credits, and needs of every citizen and regards it as a duty of every infrastructure; cohesive pattern and quality of growth, mar- Muslim society. Chapra (2008) issues a stance that taking ket reforms that reflect local institutional and structural Salleh 3 conditions, greater equity in the distribution of income, support. He suggests four approaches in alleviating poverty access to market opportunities and public sector services; through the zakat and awqaf institutions: first, by integrat- sound, responsive, and accountable institutions; reduction of ing zakat and awqaf into the overall development scheme; vulnerability to economic shocks, natural disasters; ill health second, by introducing laws and regulations that can create and disability; building assets of poor people; diversifying incentives for the proper functioning of zakat and awqaf household activities; and providing a range of insurance institutions and establishing institutions that operate in an mechanisms to cope with adverse shocks. efficient and transparent ways; third, by introducing effec- For the poverty alleviation through Islamic approach, tive organizational structures that could build trust among Iqbal (2002) starts with a belief that strategies for poverty people to maximize collection/revenues; and fourth, by cre- alleviation involve two trade-offs, that is, first, between inter- ating institutional development and diversity, with the help ests of the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and second, between of various institutions using contemporary organizational the role of public sector versus the market (pp. 12-13). For the structures and instruments to reinforce the endeavors in first trade-off, he comes back to the very worldview of the poverty alleviation. Islamic teaching, that life in this world, and the context of Awqaf is also perceived as one of the irfaq (nonprofit) sec- poverty, the difference in income and wealth, is actually a tors that is able to support the elimination of interest in test. Those bestowed by Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala (May He accomplishing redistributional function, hence poverty alle- be glorified and exalted) (SWT) with high income and wealth viation (Tag el Din, 2002). Cizakca (2002) believes that need to share the resource with the poor, and the poor, while awqaf system could help in reducing government expendi- not grudging against the rich, are assured to be richly rewarded ture, hence reducing budget deficit, the need for government in the life Hereafter for bearing their hardship patiently. borrowing, curbing the crowding-out effect, reduction in As for the trade-off between the public sector and the interest rates, removing major impediment to private invest- market, Iqbal (2002) suggests an “institutional approach” to ment and growth, as well as solving the problem of under- achieve its redistributive goals (pp. 13-20). The market as an supply of public goods. institution is allowed to play its role, while other institutions, Huq (1996, pp. 229-230) also advocates the institutional such as zakah, awqaf, takaful, irfaq (non-profit sector), and approach by going beyond the institutions of zakat and awqaf so on, become supplements to correct some in-built tenden- per se to include positive roles of other Islamic economics cies in the market solutions. institutions as well. Apart from zakat (which he terms as The above idea of alleviating poverty through the “institu- involuntary sadaqat or compulsory tax on idle wealth/ tional approach,” as Iqbal (2002, p. 13) terms it, has become income after the nisab is met), he also mentions ushr (com- one of the main approaches advocated by many Muslim pulsory payment in the form of tax from the produce of land scholars. In realizing the zakat, for instance, Yasin and Tahir or specifically zakat on the produce of land); voluntary con- (2002) advocates full-scale Islamization, as opposed to a less tributions such as hibah, waqf, gifts, wills, and so on; muda- efficient policy such as maintaining the status quo, introduc- raba (profit sharing on trading capital in place of interest); ing zakat only, and replacement of interest with profit shar- law of inheritance; organization of various cooperatives, and ing. al Qaradawi (2002, p. 569) regards zakat system as a so on. Two other institutions that have been advocated by permanent mechanism from within the economy in continu- other scholars are microcredit or microfinance (Hassan & ous transferring of income from the rich to the poor, with the Alamgir, 2002; Obaidullah, 2008a, 2008b; Obaidullah & aim to enrich and remove the later completely from poverty Khan, 2008), and takaful (mutual surety) (Bakar, 2002). In level through sufficient income and ability to take charge of fact, Hassan and Alamgir (2002) argue that microcredit has all their needs by themselves. According to him, the basic been found to be an effective instrument for creating self- objective of zakat indeed is to solve poverty, along with other employment, while Bakar (2002) argues that takaful could social problems such as unemployment, catastrophes, indebt- become an important element in the modern poverty-reduc- edness, inequitable income distribution, and so on. This tion agenda by protecting people from shocks, both eco- could be done by providing the poor and the needy, as two of nomic and natural. eight groups of recipients of zakat (asnaf), with necessary Another approach to Islamic poverty alleviation adopted education, training, and capital equipment. by Muslim scholars is what could be called economic More direct that manifests the institutional approach is approach, which is based mainly on the belief in economic the writing by Ahmed (2004). He believes that zakat, along growth. Iqbal (2002, pp. 15-16), for instance, believes in the with awqaf, are able to play a role in policies of redistribu- importance of economic growth in alleviating poverty, espe- tion of assets and opportunities, capacity building and cially in the pattern of growth that corrects the distribution of wealth creation, and extending income support, hence alle- income. In addition, population growth and demographic viating poverty (Ahmed, 2004, p. 15). Ahmed (2004, pp. changes are also suggested to be taken into consideration, so 15-18) believes in the ability of zakat and awqaf to play a that young people could be developed into a productive role in policies of redistribution of assets and opportunities, workforce through human capital formation, job creation, capacity building and wealth creation, and extending income finance facilities, and secure environment. 4 SAGE Open Sirageldin (2002) proposes “effective growth strategies alleviation, they concentrate heavily on either Islamic insti- with a built-in equitable opportunity mechanism” as the tutions or on economic formulation. In both cases, poverty is foundation for sustainable poverty-reduction policies (p. 41). accepted as is understood by conventional thinking, leaving To him, these strategies are in harmony with the Islamic ethi- alone the very base of the attempt, namely, the definition of cal system, in particular the axiomatic approach developed the poverty itself. They, for instance, elaborate on the use of 1 2 3 by Naqvi (1994) which is based on four basic tenets: Unity zakat and awqaf, or on microfinance, or on takaful, or on (Tawhid) which indicates the vertical dimension of the ethi- economic formulation, but all seem to be done with a view cal system; Equilibrium (al-‘adl wa’l-ihsan) which provides of overcoming the problem of the undefined conventional for the horizontal dimension of equity leaving a lot of free- poverty, not an Islamically defined poverty. dom for policy details; Free-will (ikhtiyar) in which careful Undeniably, they are commended for at least providing intellection is required to interpret-reinterpret that freedom the bases for the endeavors in poverty alleviation. within specific social contexts, and to suit the needs of Nevertheless, their vision and strategies are embedded with changing times (p. 31); and Responsibility (fard) which the mere economic indicators and instruments such as states that although “responsibility” is voluntary, individuals growth, market, income, wealth, employment, capital, assets, and society need to conserve for the public good Sirageldin revenues, and profits, as if that poverty is void of spiritual (2002, p. 26). dimension. To make them in tandem with Islam, they pro- Khan’s (1995, p. 19) ideas also could be considered as pose an injection of Islamic elements such as Unity (Tawhid), falling into the economic approach. Although he does not Equilibrium (al-‘adl wa’l-ihsan), Free-will (ikhtiyar), and directly talk about the growth, his suggestions are full of eco- Responsibility (fard) (Naqvi, 1994, p. 31; Sirageldin, 2002, nomic formulation. He suggests a set of criteria for poverty p. 26). elimination that is believed to be able to fulfill the basic Of all the scholars researched, only Huq (1996, p. 225) needs of the people. These criteria are firstly, low-cost; sec- seems to mention briefly about the meaning of poverty, but ondly, the state is not forced to indulge in heavy borrowing; still it hardly could be considered as an Islamic definition. He and thirdly, it is consistent with (indeed built-in within) the still uses “the level of living” and “subsistence level” as the system. The strategy emphasizes motivating all human indicators of poverty. His categories of the poor are based resources to take up every possible opportunity to contribute on incomes, ability to buy goods, and services (purchasing to family income; subsistence and poor families should be power) to fulfill minimum basic needs for economically given every encouragement for self-employed activity and decent living. In addition, he defines the poor (fuqara) as improved family enterprise. This strategy is believed to be in those who lack the opportunities or abilities or both to earn consistent with the spirit of Islamic economy and that Islam their livelihoods, which may lead to suffer social humilia- provides for institutions for the success of such a strategy. tion, economic deprivation, and moral and spiritual vacuum (Huq, 1996, p. 226). Kahf (2002, p. 22) also, in mentioning about the first two categories of zakat recipients—the poor Critical Analysis of the Vision of and the needy—briefly mentions the difference in opinion of Poverty and the “Islamic” Strategy for zakat scholars on the definition of the poor and the needy, Poverty Alleviation based on human needs in relation to wealth and income. The first group of scholars he says defines the poor as a person Contemplating on the above vision of poverty and the so- who has less than his needs in terms of wealth and income called Islamic strategies for poverty alleviation leads one to whereas the needy is that who owns nothing. The second realize that the vision and strategies are actually suffering of group of scholars, however, considers that the poor is in a at least three deficiencies. They are first, the absence of the worse situation than the needy. The detailed discourse on redefinition of the very poverty itself; second, the exogenous this, however, was not deliberated because to Kahf (2002, p. domination of the vision on poverty and poverty alleviation 22), it is immaterial who is in a worse situation. What matters strategies; and third, the adoption of a top-down approach to is that both cannot support their needs by their own means, vision of poverty and the strategies for poverty alleviation. hence the supplementary support for sustenance, in this case, The deliberations of these deficiencies are as follows. through zakat. The definition of poverty and the poor outlined by both The Absence of a Redefinition of Poverty Huq (1996) and Kahf (2002, p. 22) is still not been able to As shown earlier, there are already literatures that attempt to liberate itself from the entanglement of tangible indicators deliberate on the Islamic vision of poverty and on the Islamic used by conventional economics. Both basically ignore the strategies for poverty alleviation. However, they are heavily spiritual dimension embedded within the poor-self, as is concentrated on two main things. First, in regard to the vision within the rich-self. So is Sirageldin (2002, p. 31). Even of poverty, all of them dislike poverty and suggest the elimi- though stressing on the insufficiency of the quantitative nation of poverty as much as possible to avoid its negative money-metric consumption (or income)–based approach in consequences. Second, in regard to the strategies for poverty measuring the multidimensionality of the concept of poverty, Salleh 5 he could not come out of the tangible indicators. His sugges- a similar treatment of the definition of poverty also has been tion to overcome the above problem is based on the expan- adopted by Mannan (1988, pp. 305-306). In spite of his sion of needs and measurement of sociopolitical externalities. acknowledgment that human poverty in Islam is concerned Such a phenomenon too could be found in the work of Khan both with material as well as cultural and spiritual poverty, (n.d., p. 4). He sees poverty, supposedly from Islamic per- and that the abundance of goods does not alone ensure rich- spective, as related to two concepts, that is, the concept of ness in Islam, he purposely shy away from the inclusion of necessities (dharuriyyah) and the concept of exemption limit cultural and spiritual poverty in his discussion on the com- (nisab). Necessities here refer to all activities and things that prehensive meaning of poverty, to just confine the discussion are essential to preserve the five fundamentals of human life, to material poverty and Islamic responses to it. that is, religion, physical self, intellect or knowledge, off- spring, and wealth (that is the maqasid al-shari’ah, though The Domination of an Exogenous Vision on he does not use the term so). One is considered poor if he Poverty and Poverty Alleviation Strategies does not possess sufficient necessities to fulfill his basic needs based on the above five foundations for good individ- Another deficiency of the vision on poverty and strategies ual and social life. Nisab refers to a certain minimum quan- for poverty alleviation relate very much to their exogenous tum of any good or wealth that must be possessed before that characteristic. As reflected in the above discussion, scholars good and wealth is subject to zakat. In zakat, the nisab who are dominating the thinking on poverty are actually the requirement implies that those who do not meet the nisab outsiders, not the poor themselves. These outsiders not only requirement are not only excused from paying zakat but also develop the definition of poverty based on their own respec- considered poor and hence eligible to receive zakat. Even a tive perception but also do not take into account the poor’s supposedly Islamic-oriented writing such as of Patel (1983, perception of poverty in the construction of the definition as p. 4) defines poverty in a material-oriented sense. He says, well as in the formulation of the strategies for poverty “Poverty, in its pure meaning is the insufficiency and the lack alleviation. of the material means to live a tolerable and meaningful Salleh and Md. Yusoff (1997) actually did research and existence.” write a paper on the poor’s perception of poverty, but seems If there could be considered a little bit of Islamic elements that it is the only one available on it. Even though there is an in the definition of poverty, they are perhaps the definitions attempt to seek people’s perception from below as has been put forward by Salih (1999, p. 91) and Iqbal (2002, p. 12). done by Amiel and Cowell (1997), it was just the perception Both consider poverty as a test of man’s allegiance to his of the people of the already determined standard axioms used Creator and a great fear. The Quranic verse which is related in the literature on poverty measurement (i.e., anonymity, to this argument, inter alia, is as follows: “We will surely test growth of the poor, monotonicity, focus, and principle of you with a measure of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth, transfers). Using a sample of 486 students from Australia, lives, and fruits; and give good news to the patient” (al- Israel, and the United States, Amiel and Cowell (1997) Qur`an 2:155). Ahmed (2004) also holds to the testing stance. investigated the extent to which individuals’ perceptions of Besides that, he also agrees with Chapra (1980) who says poverty correspond to the axioms. It was found that the first that Islam is a religion of balance and therefore has given 3 axioms were reasonably well supported by the respondents, equal emphasis on both the spiritual and worldly affairs. while the fourth gained very little support and the last was Ahmed (2004) is well aware of the integration of the material the least well supported. It is therefore a poor’s perception of and spiritual dimensions of poverty. He argues that the con- the axioms of poverty outlined by still the outsiders, not by cept of richness/poverty in Islam does represent not only the poor themselves. Institutionally, Islamic Development deprivation of goods and services but also lack of richness/ Bank (IDB) has in fact had its consciousness in going down poverty in spirit. to the grassroots, but the impact is much to be desired. For Unfortunately, however, Ahmed (2004) has purposely left example, IDB tries to establish strategic partnership and col- out this broader comprehensive concept of poverty, to only laborations and, as clearly stated in the Mission of IDB in the focus on the notion of deprivation in the economic sense. He Vision 1440H, ascertain the needs and aspirations of target does so with the belief that the economic concept of poverty communities before formulating any program. It also con- and its eradication indirectly addresses the spiritual aspects. sults the stakeholders especially the Muslim communities Like what has been asserted by Rahman (1974), Ahmed themselves in every proposed program and design the pro- (2004, p. 20) believes that the individuals can improve their gram in close collaboration with them, as well as encourage spiritual lives by improving their material life. Ahmed (2004, local initiative (IDB, 2006b, pp. 31-35). However, at the p. 55) too, in spite of his consciousness that the concept of implementational level, such an effort does not necessarily poverty has evolved from deprivation of material needs, edu- work. The real determinant of the efforts and the full power cation, and health to more broader ideas of vulnerability, is in the hand of neither the IDB nor the communities, but exposure to risk, voicelessness, and powerlessness still instead in the hand of their respective authority, again as an focuses his discussion on the former economic notion. Such exogenous agent. 6 SAGE Open definition of poverty, the formulation of an Islamic poverty The Adoption of Top-Down Approach to Vision of alleviation strategy may come up with a new form. For Poverty and the Strategies for Poverty Alleviation instance, the target groups could perhaps be broadly catego- Come together with the exogenous characteristics of the def- rized into four groups. First, those who are poor both spiritu- inition of poverty and the poverty alleviation strategies is the ally and materially; second, those who are poor spiritually adoption of a top-down approach. This is another deficiency and rich materially; third, those who are rich spiritually and suffered by the definition of poverty and the poverty allevia- poor materially; and fourth, those who are rich both spiritu- tion strategies. A top-down approach may come up with a ally and materially. Expectedly, one may probably clear with favorable political will, resources, bureaucratic machinery, the measurements of the materially rich and poor, but won- and facilities, but they are still considered as outsiders, hence der on how to measure the spiritually rich and poor. Leaving “exogeneity” of their ideas. Most of the outsiders involved in this question alone for a while to be researched and deliber- the formulation and designation of the definition and strate- ated further later on, this categorization would probably gies, respectively, are usually development authorities and entail with two implications. First, the target groups of the agencies—local and foreign—many of which are not neces- poverty alleviation need to encompass all strata of society, sarily inclined to Islam. Their epistemological and philo- including the rich themselves. Second, true target groups sophical roots may be totally different from those of the may be identified, resources may be rightly allocated, and Muslim poor communities. Although by material indicators wastage may be avoided. The most to be given serious atten- there has been a considerable contribution to the alleviation tion and intervention, with reasonable allocation, is of course of poverty, but the contribution comes together with an the first category of the target group, viz. those who are poor accompaniment of a new alien cultural–societal construc- both spiritually and materially. This is followed by the sec- tion, and in many cases, even contradicts their previous ond group, that is the rich who are spiritually poor that may indigenous belief and cultural practices. expose them to adverse attributes such as oppression, corrup- tion, and so on, and the third categories who even though poor materially but neither troubling nor burdening the soci- Conclusion ety due to their rich in spirituality. The aim of the whole pro- The above discussion leads to a conclusion that may provide cess is definitely to create the fourth group who are rich both a base for further research. The contemporary vision of pov- spiritually and materially. erty seems to treat poverty as fully negative, without a room for rescrutinization, let alone an effort to do so. Such a stance Acknowledgments does not provide an opportunity to study in-depth many The author is indebted to Islamic Research and Training Institute Islamic teachings relating to poverty. For instance, in a (IRTI), Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Hadith Qudsi, Allah SWT says, for his appointment as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute that enables him to initiate a research on Islamic Management of Poverty, and to Some of My worshippers are only reformed and best fitted with Universiti Sains Malaysia and Malaysian Ministry of Higher poverty and if I to enrich them this will spoil them, and some of Education for granting a Research University Team (RUT) Grant to My worshippers are only reformed and fitted with richness and undertake a research on Islamic-Based Development that enables if I impoverish them this will spoil them. the study and finally the writing of this article. In other words, the poor and the rich seem to be selective, Declaration of Conflicting Interests depending on Allah’s prerogative, mercy, and love, in ensur- The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect ing the avoidance of spoiling the worshippers. Another to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Hadith sounds as follows: Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW had said, “Richness does not lie in Funding the abundance of worldly goods but richness is the richness The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- of the heart itself” (Muslim, p. 501). ship, and/or publication of this article. Both teachings open a vast area for the rescrutinization of the definition of poverty and the formulation of strategies for Notes poverty alleviation. The former signals the selectiveness of 1. See, for instance, Ahmed (2004), al Qaradawi (2002), Cizakca the rich and the poor, while the later reflects the importance (2002), Hassan and Alamgir (2002), Huq (1996), Iqbal (2002), of spirituality in matters relating to poverty. Both could per- Sadeq (1994), Tag el Din (2002), and Yasin and Tahir (2002). haps provide an understanding why the poor Companions 2. 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Journal

SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: May 8, 2017

Keywords: poverty; Islamic vision of poverty; poverty alleviation strategy

References