Five top seminaries in the country have issued a fatwa (religious opinion) that Zakat (alms) cannot be given to welfare organisations run by artists and that anyone who does so would be committing a sin. Last week, a media group based in Karachi sent a question on the matter to Jamia Naeemia and Jamia Ashrafia in Lahore, and Jamia Binoria, Darul Uloom Karachi and Darul-Uloom Naeemia in Karachi. Most of the seminaries belong to the Deobandi school of thought.
The question framed before the religious scholars was “every year some welfare organisations run by singers, film actors and slapstick comedians enthusiastically collect charity. Their modus operandi and credibility is not conformed to Islam. The people working in them have no inclination towards religion and people have no access to check the spending of these organisations. Is it fair to give zakat to them?”
Mufti Muhammad Rafi Usmani, Mufti Muhammad Naeem, Chairman Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Mufti Shahid Obaid and Maulana Ibtsam Elahi Zaheer in their written response clearly said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and welfare organisations run by artists do not qualify for Zakat and Fitra.
The scholars claimed that artists spend the money to make their offices instead of doing welfare work. The head of Jamia Naeemia said that NGOs that are involved in spreading “anti-Islam” activities in the country such as “obscenity” should not be given any money, while Mufti Shahid Obaid of Jamia Ashrafia not only barred zakat and fitra to artists, but also usher and hides of sacrificial animals.
Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at University of Central Punjab Dr Khalid Zaheer told The Express Tribune that the question put up before the ulema (Islamic scholars) was biased.
“It only tried to steer the ulema to respond in a yes or no. Regardless of whether someone is a cricketer, artist or maulvi, the important question is if the money given to them is honestly being spent on the welfare of the poor. The opinion given by ulema is not a new phenomenon, but to us it is unfathomable.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.