Poverty is the biggest moral challenge of this humankind. Poverty has been a constant feature of society throughout history. History shows that poverty has always existed in lives of people. However, it is also a historical fact that although the majority of people have lived in poverty, the remaining minority has lived in luxury. This is also valid in today’s societies and nations. Again, while some countries, called first world countries, live in a very luxurious manner, the remaining countries, called third In primitive societies it was most often the case that everybody was equally poor, but more modern societies have generally tended to involve poverty being confined to an often substantial minority only - though this can often harm those concerned even more than universal poverty does. More than three billion human beings in this world live in abject poverty.
Muslim societies are far worse than the rest of the world in the matter of addressing the problem of poverty. The Islamic world is enormous with over 1.2 billion people, stretching from Senegal to the Philippines – comprising six regions: North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Except for a handful of countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, there are high and rising poverty levels in both urban and rural parts of most Muslim countries. Poverty levels have also been associated with high inequality alongside low productivity. In Indonesia alone with world’s largest Muslim population, over half of the national populations - about 129 million people are poor or vulnerable to poverty with incomes less than merely US$2 a day. Bangladesh and Pakistan account for 122 million each followed by India at approximately 100 million Muslims below poverty line. It is estimated that the ten Islamic countries at the bottom account for more than 600 million of the world’s poor.
In Islam poverty is a multidimensional concept. Term used in Islamic literature for a poor person is "Faqeer". A person is considered to be a Faqeer or Poor who do not have sufficient material wealth in hand to satisfy his/her basic needs which are defined in fiver broad categories. Word "Faqeer” is mentioned in the Qur’an twelve times. Careful examination of these verses reveals that two speak of “spiritual poverty.
v “O men, it is you that have need of Allah, and Allah is the Self- Sufficient, the Praised One.” (Al Fatir 35:15)
These verses compare the inability of human beings to sustain themselves and their absolute need for Allah (Al-Fuqara ilallah) while Allah himself who does not need anybody (wallahu’-ghani). The remaining verses are related to “material poverty” and mean helping, protecting, and sheltering poor people. In these verses; those who are not rich have material needs and require other peoples’ help. Thus, it is seen that the majority of verses deal with material poverty.
Since material poverty has significant mention of material poverty in Quran and Ahadith it can be stated that is does not like or promote the state of poverty. Islam encourages people to gain wealth and property as long as it does not become a source of pride, arrogance and oppression. The Quran mentions in this regard.
v Say, "Who prohibited the nice things GOD has created for His creatures, and the good provisions?" Say, "Such provisions are to be enjoyed in this life by those who believe. Moreover, the good provisions will be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection." We thus explain the revelations for people who know." Quran 7:32
On another occasion Allah S.W.T invites man to seek from the wealth Allah has bestowed and do not forget your portion.
v "But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on thee, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget your portion in this world: but do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief."
According to Islam poverty is a social anomaly that must be alleviated, and a situation from which a Muslim should seek protection from Allah from its consequences. Like other heavenly religions Islam provides some guidelines to eliminate its negative effects. The issue of poverty is spoken more comprehensively in the hadiths but there is not even a single verse or Hadith that advocates poverty. The authentic hadiths related to the Prophet indicate that poverty is an important danger and threat for both individuals and societies. The Prophet clearly points out that poverty is an unwanted situation from which every Muslim should protect himself/herself.
The Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) used to pray.
v “O my Allah, I refuge to you from the evils of poverty,”
v “O Allah, it is you who make the dawn break and makes the night a time for rest and appoints the sun and moon to reckon by. Relieve me of debt and PROTECT/DELIVER ME FROM POVERTY and let me enjoy my hearing, my sight and my strength in your way."
Muatta Imam Malik Book 15, Number 15.8.27
Poverty is a well-known fact Islamic society/economy and Islam has devised a very strong and meaningful institution of Charity. Islam does not want from its followers who are poor to become become dependant on charitable donations and become economically inactive. Rather Islam wants from such believers to undertake some kind of entrepreneurship activities and become economically active and stable. This fact can be grabbed from following Hadith
Narrated Anas ibn Malik:
A man of the Anssar came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H) and begged from him. He (the Prophet) asked: Have you nothing in your house? He replied: Yes, a piece of cloth, a part of which we wear and a part of which we spread (on the ground), and a wooden bowl from which we drink water.
He said: Bring them to me. He then brought these articles to him and he (the Prophet) took them in his hands and asked: Who will buy these? A man said: I shall buy them for one dirham. He said twice or thrice: Who will offer more than one dirham? A man said: I shall buy them for two dirhams.
He gave these to him and took the two dirhams and, giving them to the Ansari, he said: Buy food with one of them and hand it to your family, and buy an axe and bring it to me. He then brought it to him. The Apostle of Allah (P.B.U.H) fixed a handle on it with his own hands and said: Go, gather firewood and sell it, and do not let me see you for a fortnight. The man went away and gathered firewood and sold it. When he had earned ten dirhams, he came to him and bought a garment with some of them and food with the others.
The Apostle of Allah (P.B.U.H) then said: This is better for you than that begging should come as a spot on your face on the Day of Judgment. Begging is right only for three people: one who is in grinding poverty, one who is seriously in debt, or one who is responsible for compensation and finds it difficult to pay.