As Salam alaikun warahama tu Lahi,
All praises are due to Almighty Allah, the Giver and Taker of life. It is because of His pleasure, approval and mercy that we are still humans. We are therefore grateful to Him, for giving us the opportunity to be alive and in good health and for giving us the opportunity to be here today. Alihamudu li Lahi, robili alamin.
The theme for this year’s event – “Poverty Alleviation: Challenges and Islamic Strategies” is appropriate, particularly as we battle increasing serious societal decay. This topic is especially needed to re-awaken our consciousness on the place of Islam as a religion in addressing societal issues as well as the need for us to re-examine ourselves on how we relate to the people around us as Muslims.
Over the years, Poverty alleviation programs and policies have evolved, including a succession of policies and plans by Government, Non-Governmental Organizations and International Donor Agencies. The Nigerian Government at different times introduced policies and plans with a view to addressing the problem of poverty but the problem still persists. In spite of these various efforts as intensified by both internal and external systems, poverty has become not only more complicated but almost impossible due largely to a number of challenges notable among which are both individual and institutional. This amplifies that the efforts have proven too inadequate to reduce poverty, hence persistence of the scourge in the country.
It is interesting to note that poverty is one of the calamities that Allah has decreed should happen, either to a specific person or a family or a society. On material ground, Islam defines poverty based on individual failure to fulfil basic human requirements of religion, physical self, knowledge, dignity and wealth. Islam, being a religion of balance, views poverty as social and ideological problem. It is considered as social problem because the effects are felt in the society as a whole. It is viewed as ideological problem because it affects one’s performance of religious obligation towards community and Islam, and may even lead to kufr (disbelief).
However, Islam encourages lawful earnings and abhors laziness and indolence. It allows mankind to move from place to place in search of viable and reasonable livelihood and there is no room for unwise decision to live in poverty or under persecution and oppression.
Islam enjoins man to struggle to earn his living through lawful means while it renounces earning through sinful means like looting, plundering, extortion, gambling and robbery. It equally condemns begging as a means of sustenance.
Ladies and gentlemen, today’s developmental challenges of unemployment, exclusion, inequality, economic shocks and corruption in Nigeria oblige us to rethink the way out of these problems since successive efforts have failed as stated earlier. Nevertheless, this has been taken care of by Islam 1400 years ago through institutions of Zakat, Awqaf, Sadaqat etc.
The means that have been prescribed by Islam to solve the problem of poverty and combat it are numerous. One of them is teaching people to believe truly that provision comes from Allaah and that He is the Provider (al-Razzaaq), and every calamity that Allaah decrees is for a reason, and that the poor Muslim should be patient in bearing his calamity and strive to relieve himself and his family of poverty.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, Allaah is the All‑Provider, Owner of Power, the Most Strong” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:58]
“Who is he that can provide for you if He should withhold His provision? Nay, but they continue to be in pride, and (they) flee (from the truth)” [al-Mulk 67:21]
It is because of these beliefs that a man should bear with patience whatever befalls him of the calamity of poverty, and turn to Allaah alone in seeking provision, and accept the decree of Allaah, and strive to earn a living.
The Islamic approach in addressing poverty alleviations involves three distinct sets of measures in alleviating poverty: positive measures, preventive measures, and corrective measures.
Islam engages different positive measures in alleviating poverty such as income growth, functional distribution of income, and equal opportunity.
Islamic economy also ensures preventive measures be taken so that wealth is not concentrated in a specific section of a population; such as control over ownership, and prevention of malpractices.
The “corrective measures” fosters wealth transfers so that wealth is not concentrated among the wealthy through compulsory transfers (Zakat), recommended transfers (charity), and state responsibility (enforcement and basic needs).
Allah Almighty, in the Holy Qur’an, praises the faithful followers by saying that they, for love of God, give their food to the needy, orphans, and captives. (86:8)
Allah is here explaining the characteristic feature of the believers. The sincere and devout followers offer help and assistance to the deprived members of the society. “Sadqa” is the term used for giving charity in the way of God to help fellow human beings.
The Prophet (SAW) has explained the advantages and benefits of Sadqa. Likewise, Allah, in many places in the Holy Qur’aan has instructed the financially capable to give “Sadqa”.
In Surah Ba’qara, Allah says, “O believers, whatever you have been given by God, spend from it.” (2:254)
In the same Surah, He further says, “Those people who spend money in the way of God in a hidden or explicit manner will receive great reward from their Creator.” (2:247)
In the light of the above mentioned Qur’aanic verses and the words of the Prophet (SAW), it is clear that Islam aims and aspires to create a certain ideology which dictates that a person should not just live focusing only on his own needs and wants. On the contrary, a person should think as a member of a society where many needy, homeless, and poor people may require his/her help. In this way, Islam promotes feelings of brotherhood and societal collective thinking.
Overall, distinguished guests, the Islamic approach for poverty alleviation is based on the premise that poverty is a historical phenomenon bearing multiple dimensions and causal roots. It is defined as a situation of non-satisfaction of material and socio-political ingredients that provide well-being. The absence of these ingredients causes human deprivation and decrease in the required level of human well-being consistent with the lofty status of man. A satisfactory solution of the poverty problem needs implementing a comprehensive policy package that realises accelerated growth favouring poor people. The Islamic social security system, by providing adequate safeguards against risky conditions, enables poor people to live a relatively stable and peaceful life.
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, all I have done was to give a brief overview of the topic of discussion. However, the organisers have brought competent Islamic scholars to discuss fully this subject and I want to hand over to them to do what they know how to do best. Let us listen to them and learn from their lecture and use it to improve our lives and our relationship with our Creator.
I thank you all for listening and once again, I say as-Salam alaikun warahamatu Lahi wabaraka tuhu.
Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa
Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly