I AM an avid reader of political philosophy. I find it interesting the way in which philosophers attempt to characterise our world.
The intellectual rigour it takes to formulate ethical principles which are thought to govern our actions and societies, is immense.
Recently, I came across an online article on a fascinating concept called “social minimum.”
The social minimum refers to a minimum standard of decent living below which no one is allowed to fall under.
Anyone who falls under this minimum is thus entitled to some forms of assistance from the state to help uplift them from their difficulties.
This concept advocates for a more compassionate view of the world.
We often hear that those who work hard often get rewarded proportionally to the amount of effort they have put in. As ideal as that may sound, we all know too well that is not how it works in the real world.
Some have to struggle really hard to make ends meet and even then, they barely make it. This is where the application of the principle of social minimum will be useful.
As much as it pains us to admit, not everyone in our society has had an equal start in life.
From the get go, some children are disadvantaged due to their parents’ financial circumstances, which would later extend into other areas of development such as access to education, food or even a hospitable shelter.
It would be naïve of us to think that those children can compete equally in schools without the appropriate amount of assistance.
People who have watched the local reality show on a Malay-sian television channel highlighting the plight of the extreme poor in the country would be familiar with stories where the children have to work to help support their family.
These children are robbed of a normal childhood usually filled with play and curious explorations, because they have to shoulder adult responsibilities from early on in their life.
These are the people whom the application of the social minimum concept would benefit.
In fact, I would argue that the bar for social minimum be raised to account for urban poor as well.
I cannot help but notice the similarities espoused by the concept of social minimum with zakat, a redistributive mechanism in Islam.
In Malaysia for example, qualified Muslims (those with sufficient nisab) are required to pay zakat. The zakat collection is handled by certified collectors called amil, though online payment is now an option too.
There are eight groups of people who are entitled to receive zakat payment, one of which includes people with financial difficulties and those who struggle to make a decent living.
Zakat reminds us that there are those less fortunate than us out there who deserve some compassion.
Sometimes we get too caught up in our day-to-day business that we forget about others whose lives are not as comfortable as ours.
We must remember that everyone – regardless of their economic standing – contributes something to society. We may think just because we have a higher salary and pay more taxes, we contribute more to the economy.
Truth is, without the “low salaried” people to form the backbone of our economy, we might not even have the comfy life that we lead today.
For every sen that we earn, a portion of that amount is owed to the people who have worked just as hard as us but are unfortunately less lucky to lay claim to the same pay cheque.
Ramadan is a month where we reflect on our life and remember those who have less to eat than us.
Let us do our part and use zakat to help keep the needy off the social minimum.