How Zakat Can Help Achieve Development Goals

Feb 3, 2017


By Maria Karienova

Zakat in Arabic means “that which purifies.” Most Indonesians associate it with charitable giving in the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan. Personally, it reminds me of my childhood when my aunt and uncle went to the least privileged of my grandma’s neighbors with a stack of white envelopes to give away. Zakat is in fact a sort of religious tax, a Muslim’s obligation to give a portion of their wealth to charity. Islam also encourages other forms of religious giving that are not compulsory. Like in my family, most religious charitable practices are informal and sporadic. But the potential for impact is high. 
 
The national zakat agency BAZNAS says 3.7 trillion Rupiah (US$269 million) was collected from various Islamic charitable giving in 2015. From 2002-2015, the amount has gone up by 39%. Even during the global crisis in 2009, it increased by more than 6%. It shows that zakat practice is immune to financial crisis, and therefore it has a tremendous potential to contribute to national development.
 
With that potential in mind, Filantropi Indonesia, BAZNAS and UNDP Indonesia held a discussion on the potential, role and challenges in channeling zakat to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
 

INS-ZakatFrancine

“Much of what is on the SDGs reflects Islamic values, as the SDGs are about alleviating poverty and hunger, reducing inequality by redistributing wealth and looking after the environment,” says UNDP Indonesia’s Deputy Country Director Francine Pickup in her opening remarks. 
 
One of the panelists, Haidar Bagir of Mizan group, brought up the potential debate around “who is eligible to receive zakat.” The sharia principles regulate a set of criteria for eligibility, known as asnaf. This could pose a challenge considering the SDGs have a commitment to leave no one behind.

INS-ZakatBagir

However, Mr. Bagir said of the 17 goals under SDGs, all but Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production) seem relevant for zakat. 
 
Ir. Nana Mintarti from BAZNAS added that zakat could particularly be channeled toward Goal 1 (no poverty), Goal 2 (zero hunger), Goal 3 (good health and well-being), Goal 4 (quality education), and Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation).  
 
BAZNAS has done a study on the impact of their poverty reduction programs through zakat in 13 districts, and found that it had cut poverty by 6%. 
 
Further discussions between Islamic clerics, BAZNAS, and other relevant stakeholders will be held to review the theology and develop the potential methodology to manage zakat in the context of SDGs adoption in the national development goals. 
 
Maria Karienova is junior campaign assistant at UNDP Indonesia. She can be contacted at maria.karienova@undp.org