According to Islamic views, what form should social assistance be distributed?

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Social assistance for the underprivileged is certainly good news. This is a breath of fresh air for them. Especially if the social assistance comes in a situation where the prices of basic commodities are soaring. Their hearts will certainly be very relieved to get it. Because, the basic needs for the next few days do not need to be bothered. But when the amount of social assistance received starts to run low, how will they live next, if basic foodstuffs remain high?

Social Assistance According to Islamic Views

Islam views social assistance for the poor as an obligation. Especially if the assistance is in the form of basic needs, such as cash, food, or education and health services. We can see this in the Qur’an surah Al-Ma’idah. There, Allah swt calls on His servants to help each other with good intentions.

It is important to remember that social assistance must only be given to those who are entitled to receive it. If people who are economically capable receive social assistance, then the law becomes haram. It can also be interpreted that if the capable person enjoys social assistance, then he is taking and consuming haram goods.

Read also: 5 Ways to Love Orphans According to Islamic Teachings

Illustration of zakat as a helper for the lower class.

The Legal Footing of Social Assistance

Providing social assistance to those in need can be interpreted as a helping activity in Islam. Allah Swt encourages His people to help each other to mankind regardless of ethnicity, race, and religion. This is in accordance with His words in the following verse:

وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡبِرِّ وَٱلتَّقۡوَىٰۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡإِثۡمِ وَٱلۡعُدۡوَٰنِۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ

“Cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.” (QS. Al-Ma’idah (5): 2)

Through this verse, Allah teaches humans to do good by helping fellow humans. This behavior will be the foundation for building harmony between people.

In addition to the verses of the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad Saw also explained the benefits of helping each other, in this case providing social assistance to those who are in trouble. This is revealed in the following hadith:

“Abu Hurairah reported: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Whoever relieves a Muslim of one of the troubles of this world, Allah will relieve him of the troubles of the Day of Resurrection. And whoever gives respite to a troubled person, Allah will respite him in this world and in the Hereafter; and whoever covers the disgrace of a Muslim, Allah will cover his disgrace in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allah will always help His servant as long as he helps his brother.” (HR Muslim)

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Through this Hadith, the Prophet taught people to help each other. Someone who provides assistance and leads to lightening the burden of others, means that he has done good. Not only that, he will also get help from Allah for all his problems. And Allah will save that person from various distresses that visit his life, both in this world and in the hereafter. As Allah has said in the following Al-Qur’an surah Muhammad:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِن تَنصُرُواْ ٱللَّهَ يَنصُرۡكُمۡ وَيُثَبِّتۡ أَقۡدَامَكُمۡ

“O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant firmly your feet.” (QS. Muhammad (47): 7)

Social Assistance System in Islam

For the Islamic economic system, the role of the government in the economy of its citizens is very important. This role includes regulating the distribution system of individual and community wealth, managing natural resources, and integrating Islamic law in everyday life. According to Islam, a good government is one that focuses on the welfare of its people in a fair and equitable manner. One of the indicators of a good government is a government that provides guarantees to all people to be able to fulfill their basic needs.

Meeting the basic needs of the community has been exemplified by the Prophet. In his day, the Apostle provided social assistance to the community through Baitulmal, a house or container for collecting or storing assets that would be given to the poor in the form of social assistance. Assistance was not only given in the form of material, but also assistance such as providing jobs for those who are able to work.

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The form of social assistance in every era continues to develop. Starting from the time of the Prophet, the time of the caliphs, to the present day. These developments can be seen from the system, recipients, to the emergence of various forms of social assistance programs like today. This shows that social assistance is flexible to adjust to the ongoing era. This does not contradict Islamic principles, because Islam only provides basic concepts.

Even so, there is one thing that is still relevant in the Prophet’s era and needs to be emulated by power holders in the current era, namely the formation of a special institution in charge of overseeing social assistance. The institution is responsible for organizing, registering, and directly distributing social assistance. Supervision of social assistance in the era of the Prophet and the caliphs was carried out by the government to avoid injustice, so that the welfare of the community could be achieved.

In the context of social assistance in Indonesia, the government is responsible for acting correctly and safely. Damage or loss caused by government policies is also their responsibility to the wider community. Governments have power over the areas they govern, so they are obliged to do their best to protect the community, as Allah has said in the following Al-Qur’an surah Al-Muddattsir:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍۢ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِيْنَةٌۙ

“Every soul is a pledge for its own deeds,” (QS. Al-Muddatsir (74): 38)

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Indicators of the Poor in Islam

It is clear from the beginning that social assistance is only given to those in need, namely the poor and needy. Allah SWT has also provided guidance on the indicators of people who can be said to be poor through the Qur’an, as follows:

“Here it is guaranteed that you will never go hungry or unclothed,nor will you ˹ever˺ suffer from thirst or ˹the sun’s˺ heat.”(QS. Thaha (20): 118-119)

Through this verse, it can be interpreted that someone who is called poor is those who are faced with difficulties in being able to get basic needs, clothing and food. Meanwhile, poverty in the Islamic view is about the efforts of those who are rich to care for, defend and protect the poor.

Social assistance is not just about “giving”, but also empowering

In the Islamic view, it should be underlined that social assistance is not just a matter of giving cash and staples. Furthermore, the Prophet has taught that providing social assistance to the poor is also about helping them become independent and empowered. Thus, their lives can become better, more independent, and ultimately can contribute to building the lives of their families and local communities.

In his time, Rasulallah Saw has modeled his followers to build care for others, especially those who are economically weak.

“Annas ibn Malik reported that a man from among the Ansar came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked him: ‘Do you have anything in your house?’ He said: ‘Yes, the saddle mats that we wear partly and spread partly, and the large glass from which we drink water.’ He said: ‘Bring them to me.’ Annas said: ‘Then he brought them to the Prophet, who took them in his hand and said: “Who wants to buy these two things?” A man said: “I will buy them for one dirham.”He said: ‘Who adds more than one dirham?’ He said it two or three times. A man said: ‘I bought it for two dirhams.’ Then he gave it to him, and took two dirhams. He gave the money to the Ansar and said: ‘Buy food with one dirham and give it to your family, and buy an axe and bring it to me.’ So the man brought it to him, and the Messenger of Allah (S) tied wood to the axe with his hand and said to him: ‘Go and get some wood and sell it. Do not let me see you for fifteen days.’ So the man went and looked for wood and sold it, then came and he had earned ten dirhams. Then he bought clothes with some of it and food with some of it. Then the Messenger of Allah said: ‘This is better for you than begging coming as a blot on your face on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed, begging is not appropriate except for three people, namely the poor and needy, or the one who has a very heavy debt, or the one who bears a dowry, and he is unable to pay it’.” (HR. Abu Dawud).

What we can learn from the above Hadith is that the Prophet sought empowerment by making a poor person from among the Anshar have a skill, in this case trading in wood. With his expertise, he can have a much better life and be free from poverty. The empowerment model carried out by the Apostle is to maximize the potential of the person. This has also been applied by Dompet Dhuafa as a humanitarian organization dedicated to the welfare of the poor.

In this era, poverty in Indonesia continues to be a concern. Therefore, it is imperative to continue empowering the poor. To stop doing so is to allow poverty to continue to grow. This is not only the duty of the government, but all empowered people have an obligation to empower the weak around them. People who empower the weak means that they have applied the caring attitude that is an important part of Islamic teachings.

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