How Baitul Maal Transformed Society during the Time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

July 14, 2023Rahima Issa0

The Role of Baitul Maal

The Baitul Maal, or public treasury, was established during the time of Umar al-Khattab, the second rightly-guided Caliph in Islamic history. Although it had its roots in the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it was not initially formed as an institution.

When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him)  died Umar bin Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) gathered all the administrators and opened Bayt al-mal, yet they did not find anything there except a dinar that is dropped from the sack. Prior to this, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) though Baitul Maal was not formed as an institution some of the activities and services of Baitul Maal were there. There were people who recorded the public properties of the Muslims like war booties, fifth of the spoils, charity funds, weapons and instruments of the army, and so forth. All of these were registered and stored until disbursement (Abu Yusuf, 36).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not designate a specific location as Baitul Maal for the purpose of storing revenues and managing expenses, as the available resources were limited during his lifetime, with most being promptly distributed among the Muslims and spent for their benefit. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would distribute spoils and one-fifth shares (khumus) following each battle without delay. He ensured that funds were promptly distributed and used for their intended purposes.

Hanzalah ibn Sayfi, who served as a clerk to the Prophet (peace be upon him), reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed him, saying, “Accompany me and remind me of everything for no later than three days.” Hanzalah diligently reminded the Prophet (peace be upon him) about any funds, food, or money he received for three days, ensuring that the Prophet (peace be upon him) distributed everything before nightfall. Most often, funds were distributed on the same day they were received. Hence, there was no need for accumulated funds that required storage or safekeeping.

Later on, When the financial condition of Muslims improved Caliph Umar bin Khattab with his farsighted vision turned Baitul Maal  into one of the most powerful institutions to eradicate poverty in the Muslim community.

 

Social Welfare:

The main purpose of the Baitul Maal  was to manage the wealth contributed to and acquired by Muslims from various sources. Baitul Maal served as a central treasury, responsible for collecting and distributing funds for various purposes, including supporting the poor, needy, and vulnerable members of society. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) emphasized the importance of social welfare and implemented programs to provide financial assistance, food, and shelter to those in need. This aspect of Bayt al-mal played a crucial role in reducing poverty and promoting social cohesion within the Islamic community.

 

Accountability:

Baitul Maal maintained strict accountability and transparency in its operations. Qualified administrators, known for their integrity and wisdom, were appointed to oversee the funds. They were responsible for documenting financial transactions, ensuring proper distribution, and maintaining records for auditing purposes. This emphasis on accountability built trust within the community and ensured that funds were utilized for their intended purposes.

Baitul Maal reflected the concept of collective social responsibility in Islam. It emphasized the duty of those who possessed wealth and resources to support the less fortunate.

 

Source of Funding:

Baitul Maal‘s operations rely on two main sources of funding: zakat and optional charity (sadaqah). Zakat is the obligatory alms-giving prescribed in Islam, calculated based on an individual’s wealth and given to specific categories of recipients. Optional charity Sadaqa, on the other hand, is a voluntary act of giving to those individuals who can contribute in addition to zakat. These combined funds are from the financial resources managed by Baitul Maal.

 

Empowering Individuals and Strengthening Society:

The operations of Baitul Maal not only provided immediate relief to the needy but also aimed to empower individuals for long-term self-sufficiency. By supporting entrepreneurship, livestock and infrastructure development, Baitul Maal created an environment conducive to personal growth, economic stability, and social cohesion. This approach nurtured a society where individuals could thrive and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

 

Lessons for Today:

The role of Baitul Maal during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) offers several valuable lessons for today’s world. It serves as a reminder of the obligation to support the poor and vulnerable members of society. It encourages individuals to contribute zakat and engage in optional charity, emphasizing the importance of generosity and compassion. It highlights the importance of establishing transparent and accountable mechanisms for the distribution of resources. Baitul Maal teaches us the significance of collective social responsibility and the power of voluntary contributions in addressing societal challenges. Furthermore, it emphasizes the need to prioritize education, entrepreneurship, and infrastructure development as means to foster sustainable development and empower marginalized communities.

 

Conclusion

Baitul Maal, the central treasury established during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), played a crucial role in promoting economic and social development within the Muslim community, it provides a means for individuals to follow the Sunnah and contribute to societal stability through charitable donations. By supporting the poor and vulnerable, we not only fulfill our religious obligations but also create a compassionate society based on justice, empathy, and care for others. Let us embrace the teachings of Rasool Allah by actively engaging in charitable giving and supporting charitable causes, thereby working towards a more harmonious and stable world.

 

Rahima Issa

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