KARACHI – With banners, posters and billboards inviting millions of Muslims to pay their Zakat Al-Fitr, Pakistan’s charity hospitals are depending on the Muslim ritual to provide medical treatment for thousands of patients in the south Asian country.
“Zakat is our major source of income, which is used for free-of-cost treatment of thousands of needy patients annually,” Dr Abdul Malik, a representative of Indus Hospital in eastern Karachi, told OnIslam.net.
“We do receive donations from philanthropists on regular basis, but most of our expenses are met through Zakat,” he said.
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“By the grace of Allah, the people of Pakistan trust in our services, and give away Zakat to the tune of millions of rupees to our hospital every year.”
Zakat Al-Fitr, the third pillar of Islam, is obligatory upon every (capable) Muslim.
According to Islamic Shari`ah, a capable Muslim pays 2.5 percent mandatory payment and spend it to help the poor and the needy.
The Zakat should be given during the holy fasting month of Ramadan any time but before the `Eid prayer.
Not only Islamic charities, but also secular NGOs depend on Zakat to run their organizations.
“Your Zakat will spread unlimited smiles,” read a statement by Indus Hospital on huge billboards at various roundabouts in the city.
“We expect more Zakat this year despite growing inflation and price-hike as there is no shortage of people who want to donate more and more if they see a business being done properly and transparently,” Dr Malik said.
Although, there are no official figures, estimates show that Pakistanis pay Rs70 billion (750 million dollars) in Zakat every year, making it a major source of income for Islamic and secular charities.
According to an international survey, Pakistanis are amongst first four largest donating nations, of which around 70 percent is met through Zakat.
Thousands of charity hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries are being run by several Islamic and secular relief organizations across Pakistan, where around 34 percent of the population live below poverty line.
“Zakat Saves Life”
Health and Education are the two most neglected sectors in Pakistan, where corruption, malpractice and bad governance have rid millions of Pakistanis of the two basic facilities of life.
“In a country, where millions of people do not have access to basic health facilities, these charity hospitals are not less than a bounty,” Dr Tabbasum Jafri, provincial president of Al-Khidmat Foundation, the country’s largest NGO, told OnIslam.net.
“And, most of these (charity) hospitals are Zakat-oriented.”
In addition to running schools, religious seminaries and other relief projects, Al-Khidmat Foundation is also running over 100 hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and dispensaries across Pakistan, where needy patients are treated either free of cost or at nominal charges.
“Zakat is one of our income sources, but we do not depend on that completely,” Dr Jafri said, referring to the foundation’s monthly support income program, under which poor and needy families are provided with ration.
“A major portion of Zakat we receive is spent on individual basis.
“We run our hospitals on no profit-no loss basis. However, we do have a patients support system, under which, if they cannot pay for the treatment, which is already very nominal, then that loss is bridged through Zakat.”
Al-Khidmat Foundation has recently introduced mobile medical units, which are operating in flood and rain-hit areas.
Karachi-based Agha Khan Hospital, Pakistan’s most reputable hospital, has also set up a patient welfare fund, which is mainly supported through Zakat.
Patients who cannot afford treatment at Agha Khan hospital, which otherwise is one of the most expensive hospitals in Pakistan, they are supported through patients welfare fund.
Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan’s Shaukat Khanum Hospital, one of a few sophisticated cancer treatment hospitals in the country, too depends on Zakat.
Khan himself reduces his political activities during Ramadan and gives more time to raise funds for his hospital, headquartered in northeastern city of Lahore and has branches in Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta.
“We will not let you go,” Imran Khan says while standing near a cancer patient in an advertisement and appealing to the people to give away their Zakat to save the lives of needy cancer patients.“Your Zakat saves life,” another billboard of Shaukat Khanum hospital reads.
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