R E S E A R C H Open Access
Poverty alleviation by Zakah in a transitional
economy: a small business entrepreneurial
, Mohammad Aktaruzzaman Khan
and Kazi Deen Mohammad
Department of Business
Administration, International Islamic
University Chittagong, 154/A
College Road, Chittagong 4203,
Full list of author information is
available at the end of the article
Around 3 billion people are living in poverty of which 35 % are from Muslim World
(World Bank 2010). In this case, global Muslim community has prime role to address
the injustice of global poverty through zakah as an Islamic faith-based institution and
having potential annual fund of $139.32 billion in Muslim world. This study designed
an explanatory sequential mixed method. For qualitative data, 17 managers were
interviewed and 85 zakah recipients were purposively surveyed (disproportionate
sampling) for quantitative purpose between August 1 and December 30, 2013. The
results indicate that zakah has significant bearing on the conditions of zakah recipients
and lie the foundation of developing small business entrepreneurship by mobilizing
zakah as seed money (investment) and not as spent money (consumption). A
five-phased process model underpinned by two well-grounded theories: Becker’s
human capital theory and Kirkpatrick’s training evaluation taxonomy has been
proposed for developing entrepreneurship having universal application. The
model’s implications for alleviating poverty by governments, zakah management
institutions, and policy makers also discussed in the paper.
JEL Codes: I32; L26; P36
Keywords: Poverty alleviation; Zakah; Entrepreneurship development; Skills
The World Bank estimates that approximately 3 billion people are living in poverty
and 46 million more people will come under the income level of US$1.25 a day due to
the recent global economic meltdown and slow economic growth rates (Ali and Hatta
2014; World Bank 2010). Thus, poverty has become one of the severe problems for
many transitional economies like Bangladesh. Indeed, poverty is considered as a severe
disease in any country (Affandi and Astuti 2013) which may exist amidst plenty even
in those countries that have been doing better (Ariffin 1994). Poverty is the state of
one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions
(Encyclopedia Britannica). Actually, poverty is a situation in which people lack neces-
sary income to satisfy essential needs such as food, clothing, energy and shelter. There
are many types of poverty such as absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute
poverty (extreme poverty) refers to the deprivation of basic human needs, which
© 2015 Hoque et al.; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
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medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7
commonly includes food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care, and education
(UN declaration 1995). Relative poverty is defined contextually as economic inequality
in the location or society in which people live. Indeed, relative poverty exists as long as
there is inequality in income and wealth distribution. Thus, relative poverty is not a
serious problem as long as it does not imply absolute poverty (Dogarawa 2009).
There exists an argument that elderly, disabled, and children significantly contribute
to the cause of poverty and unemployment. But the study claims a shifting focus from
this traditional economic view point to the religious and social commitment perspective
where zakah, as an Islamic faith-based institution can be effective vehicle of poverty
alleviation. The study argues that if zakah is distributed as seed money (investment)
within the entrepreneurial framework, is sufficiently capable of alleviation of poverty in
Muslim countries as well as elsewhere. Several studies described ‘seed money’as start-up
financing, investment or pre investment expenses (List & Lucking-Reiley 2002; Seelos and
Mair 2005), and the present study considers ‘seed money’as the amount spent for
The structure of the paper is as follows. “Background”section threw light on the is-
sues of poverty in Muslim countries, the application of zakah as an Islamic faith-based
institution centered on the argument of mobilizing zakah as seed money within entre-
preneurial framework. “Methods”section is consisting of qualitative and quantitative
research approach employing explanatory sequential mixed method. “Results”are di-
vided into qualitative and quantitative parts which inform the proposed entrepreneur-
ial framework for zakah mobilization. Finally, “Conclusion and policy implication”
section concludes and puts forward suggestions for governments, zakah management
institutions, policy makers, and researchers followed by “Limitations and future
Poverty in the muslim countries
Today, despite the possessing of 70 % world energy resources, 40 % natural resources
(Laghari 2013), rising Muslim population from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030
(Pew Research Centre 2014), with strategic geographical location (Hoque et al. 2013a),
Muslims are world’s poorest nation. At present, out of 1.7 billion world’s poor, 44 %
(The Nation 2011) or 35 % (World Bank 2010) are residing in Muslim countries and
only 8 (eight) percent of world’s GDP is produced by Muslim countries, whereas, only
paltry sum of 0.81 % of GDP is spent on research and development (The Express
Tribune, June 15
2013). But, Muslims can reduce poverty scenario permanently in a
dramatic way by developing entrepreneurship by mobilizing their zakah fund in a pru-
dent and deliberate way and thereby can increase gross domestic product (GDP). In
fact, Islam as a religion of universal brotherhood wants to ensure social and economic
justice for all human being in general and Muslim in particular (Choudhury 2002). But,
Islamic teaching of brotherhood and social justice would not be meaningful unless
accompanied by economic justice so that everyone gets his due for his contribution to
society or to the social product and that there is no exploitation of one individual by
another. To meaningfully realize social justice, therefore, all the resources at the
disposal of human beings must be utilized efficiently and equitably to fulfill the needs
of all and to bring about an equitable distribution of income and wealth (Sadeq 1996).
Hence, Islam emphasizes distributive justice and incorporates in its effort to foster
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 2 of 20
brotherhood among Muslims by collecting and distributing zakah and enforcing
Islamic teachings related to law of inheritance to accelerate distribution of income and
wealth in the community of Islamic brotherhood (Dogarawa 2008).
Causes of poverty in muslim countries
A country is poor not because of the lack of resources. Among others it lacks sufficient
number of good entrepreneurs (Gupta and Srinivasan 1992; Hoque et al. 2014). In the
last decade, there has been a growing interest in entrepreneurship as a mechanism for
poverty alleviation across international boundaries (Murphy and Coombes 2009).
Entrepreneurship can help alleviate poverty is not new, rather from long before it was
assumed that entrepreneurial activity leads to economic growth (Schumpeter 1934) and
vice versa. According to Sadri (2010) entrepreneurship is both cause and consequence
of economic growth; technological advancement and conceptual innovation and they
are interknitted, interconnected and interwoven with one another. Indeed, poverty does
not only depend on resource endowments, population size, economic and social
policies, but also on the kinds of economic activities that are being undertaken
Empirical studies revealed that the problems faced by Muslim countries are
chronic absolute poverty, high unemployment, inequality of income distribution, low
levels of productivity in primary sector, increasing inequality of living standards, less
optimal fulfillment of public facilities (education and health), a worsening balance of
payments and the most severe is the foreign debt and the weakening of the institu-
tional structure and system of values and customs are increasingly faded due to ex-
ternal influences (Affandi and Astuti 2013; Djumiarti 2005). According to Hanafiah
(2009:1) the causes of high rate poverty in Muslim majority countries as compared
to non-Muslim countries are very reasonable since the majority of Muslim countries
were former colonies of the colonial western countries that resulted in a sluggish of
national economy. This is evidenced from unequal distribution of resources and
huge gap between the poor and wealthy people (Affandi and Astuti 2013). Indeed,
poverty in the Muslim world is the outcome of many factors out of which lack of
effective policies and strategies to develop entrepreneurship is one of the key factors
(Hoque et al. 2014).
Furthermore, due to improper distribution of the resources, poverty exists in the
world in general and Muslim world in particular. In fact, the resources of the world are
sufficient to fulfill the needs of all people but resources of the world are not sufficient
even to fulfill the greed of a single person (Gandhi 2013) as depicted in Fig. 1.
Allah has created sufficient resources for his creatures (Quran, 41:10). Allah says:
It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down from heaven water
wherewith He brought forth fruits to be your sustenance. And He subjected to you the
sea at His commandment; and He subjected to you the rivers and He subjected to you
the sun and the moon constant upon their courses, and He subjected to you the night
and the day, and gave you all that you asked Him. If you count Allah’s blessing, you will
never number it; surely man is sinful, unthankful. (Quran, 14: 32–34)
In another verse Allah says: “Verily, thy lord doth provide sustenance in abundance
for whom He pleases and He straiten it, for He doth know and regard all his creatures”
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 3 of 20
Allah further says:
But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and
[yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to
you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.
Though Allah has created sufficient resources still there is poverty and one of the key
reasons is that a few greedy people own majority of world’s resources. The word greed
appears eight times in the Quran. The greedy rich have more thirst for resources. Allah
says, “The craving for ever-greater worldly gains and to excel others in that regard
keeps you occupied and which continues until you reach your graves”(Quran, 102:1–2).
The Prophet (SAW) says “Watch out for greed because the people before you perished
from it. Greed led them to be miserly so they became misers. Greed led them to break
the ties (of kinship) so they broke it. Greed led them to sins so they committed sins”
(Abu Dawud). Ibn Abbas narrated that “I heard the Prophet saying”,“If the son of
Adam (the human being) had two valley of money, he would wish for a third, for noth-
ing can fill the belly of Adam’s son except dust, and Allah forgives him who repents to
Him”(Bukhari). Surely, if all rich play their effective and efficient role in removing
poverty, within short span of time the word poverty would be no more in the world.
Strategies of poverty reduction
There are many anti-poverty programs which can be broadly classified into two strat-
egies –(1) Indirect Strategies: that formulate a macro-economic policy framework to
ensure sustainable growth, higher employment, higher per capita income, eventually re-
duce poverty, and (2) Direct Strategies: that targets the underprivileged population and
provides them necessary assistance to ensure credit access, improve health conditions,
increase literacy rate and ultimately eradicate poverty (Hassan 2006; Pramanik 1994).
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are good examples of countries that have alleviated
poverty through indirect strategies. These countries pursued consistent macroeconomic
policies that ensured growth of six percent or greater and increased public spending on
education, health, family planning, etc. for decades. In contrast, Bangladesh is an
example of direct policy application where government and non-governmental organi-
zations provide a set of services for the targeted poor population like ensuring access
Fig. 1 Need and Greed Linking with Resources
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 4 of 20
to credit, health care and educational services to targeted underprivileged individuals
(Hassan 2006). But, still significant level of poverty exists in Bangladesh which can be
reduced by developing small business entrepreneurial skills with the help of zakah
Entrepreneurship development as a tool of poverty alleviation
Entrepreneurship is the dynamic process of creating value to achieve rapid, profitable
growth (Low and Macmillan 1988), to exploit the business opportunities (Schumpeter
1934) and business success (Islam et al. 2011). It is the skills and innovativeness by
which people take initiative to become involved in productive pursuits for achieving
their objectives (Chowdhury 2008). On the other hand, entrepreneur is that person
who has ability and mentality to start an enterprise either for producing goods or ren-
dering services for making profit. Entrepreneurs are called forth factor of production
(Glancey and McQuaid 2000), engine of economic growth (Azim 2011), because
economic development of a country is accelerated by the activities of qualified entre-
preneurs (Matlay 2005).
According to Sadri (2010) entrepreneurship is both cause and consequence of eco-
nomic growth; technological advancement and conceptual innovation and they are
interknitted, interconnected and interwoven with one another. In a later study, Islam
et al. (2011) found that entrepreneur’s characteristics significantly affect on the business
success of SMEs in Bangladesh. Indeed, due to many factors, sufficient numbers of
small, medium and large business enterprises are not being developed and managed in
the Muslim countries but lack of entrepreneurial skills and seed money for organizing
business enterprises are the paramount factors for which poverty is seen among the
large number of people of Muslims, though; Muslim countries possess huge natural
But Islam as a complete and comprehensive way of life (Quran, 5:3) highly encour-
ages the development of agriculture, industry, trade and commerce (Ubaid 1975; Hoque
et al. 2014), because, resources are mobilized and increased for fulfilling the needs of
people through business (Ariff 1991) and business enterprises are developed and prop-
erly managed by the entrepreneurs. So, for developing business enterprises, entrepre-
neurial skills should be developed properly. Allah the almighty says “Business is lawful
for you”(Quran, 2:275). Chapra (2008) opined that ‘need fulfillment’of all in a society
is of utmost importance in Islamic jurisprudence. Prophet Mohammad (SAW) was him-
self engaged in trade and commerce before he became a Prophet. He was a successful
businessman, known for integrity, he bore the honorific title Al-Amin (the Trustworthy).
The Prophet (SAW) says “Search for your livelihood much below the soil - at every layer
of the earth surface”. It is the spirit of Islam that no piece of cultivable land is allowed to
be left unused, because; Islam directs its followers to be productive and efficient in all
spares of life. Allah says “Don’t waste your wealth; those involved in misusing wealth are
the brothers of the devil”(Quran 6: 141). Allah also says “When your prayer is over,
spread over the earth and seek the bounty of Allah (Quran 62:10). Prophet Mohammad
(SAW) says nine-tenth of the livelihood lies in business activities and one-tenth in cattle
Indeed, without having entrepreneurial skill, no business enterprise can be developed.
Again, sufficient numbers of business enterprises (preferably small business) can be
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 5 of 20
developed by zakah fund if proper policies and strategies are devised by the zakah
management organizations (individual/group/institution). Consequently; poverty can be
reduced significantly and dramatically from the society in general and Muslims’society
in particular. So, zakah fund can be used for developing entrepreneurship as a tool of
poverty alleviation from Muslim society.
But, there may have a contradiction regarding the use of zakah fund, because; the
argument of this paper is that zakah fund should be used as seed money (investment)
rather than spent money (consumption). This is due to the fact that a significant
proportion of population of Muslim countries are poor and who require basic needs
and some or even most parts of the zakah fund is allowed to spend for meeting
emergent needs of the poor. In this case, the argument of the study is that once the
capacity of poor is enhanced for doing business then the opportunity to employ other
poor people will also be increased, consequently; the poverty would be reduced
Zakah and its measurement
Every Muslim having resources beyond a certain limit (which is very low) has to pay zakah
on annual basis. The low limit on the ownership of resources that qualifies the owner to
discharge zakah obligation is meant to keep a broadened base to generate resources for
the poor. The rate at which zakah is to be paid out of one’s resources is also too low
(which is only a reflection of the objective for encouraging the payment). Injunctions are
very strong relating to the payment of zakah obligation of which a few are as follows;
Allah says in the Qura’n:
…And there are those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God;
announce unto them a grievous penalty. On the Day when heat will be produced out of
that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks
and their backs [and it will be said to them], “This is what you hoarded for yourselves;
taste ye, then, what you hoarded. (9: 34–35)
Allah also says “Eat from their fruits, and give the due alms on the day of harvest”
(Quran, 6:141). In other verses of Quran, Allah says (2: 215), “They ask you about giving:
say, the charity you give shall go to the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and
the travelling alien“. Any good you do, God is fully aware thereof.”Allah further says in
Quran that (2:3) who believe in the unseen, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and from
our provisions to them, they give to charity. Allah further says, “And We made them
leaders guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, es-
tablishment of prayer, and giving of zakah; and they were worshippers of Us (Quran, 2:73).
Allah also says:
You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling
alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant. The extravagant are brethren of the devils,
and the devil is unappreciative of his Lord. Even if you have to turn away from them,
as you pursue the mercy of your Lord, you shall treat them in the nicest manner. You
shall not keep your hand stingily tied to your neck, nor shall you foolishly open it up,
lest you end up blamed and sorry. (17: 26–29)
The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said: If a single person were to sleep hungry
[Muslim or non-Muslim] in a town, God”s protection is lifted from such a town
(Masnud Imam Ahmed). Zakah is an obligation related to defined types of property from
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 6 of 20
which a part is to be paid every year to the poor as their right. There is a minimum
amount of property to be owned in order to qualify as payer of zakah.Itwillbepayable
only if one owns the property beyond that limit. This limit is called nisab. There is a mini-
mum amount that becomes due to be paid every year. Table 1 shows the nisab (minimum
amount of ownership of different kinds of property, beyond which owner becomes liable
to pay zakah) along with the minimum rate of zakah to be paid. The table is only indica-
tive of a broad picture about the structure of zakah obligations (Al-Qaradawi 1973). It is
to mention that some Shariah scholars draw the line of difference between zakah and
khoms, some are not. Hence, this paper considers the term zakah in common.
Zakah and its distribution
The zakah is to be distributed among people of the following categories (Quran, 9:60),
depending on need such as;
1. The Destitute: Those who don’t have material possessions nor means of livelihood.
2. The Poor: Those with insufficient means of livelihood to meet basic needs.
3. Zakah Workers: Those whose job it is to collect and re-distribute zakah money get
their salary from the zakah money.
4. New Muslims: Those who are new to Islam and require help to integrate
themselves into the Muslims community.
5. To Free Slaves: Zakah money is to be used to purchase slaves and free them.
6. The Indebted: Those who are in debt and have difficulty repaying it.
7. In the Path of Allah: Zakah money can also be spent in the path of Allah. This can
include many things, basically any project that helps Muslims or Islamic causes.
8. Stranded Traveler: The traveler who does not have enough money to complete
Zakah as a means of developing entrepreneurship
Zakah is an important institution in the socio-economic framework of Islam (Kusuma
and Sukmana 2010; Muhamat et al. 2013) which is being underutilized for poverty re-
duction in many poor Muslim countries, though, is considered as third pillar of Islam.
The main objective of zakah is to achieve socio-economic justice (Wahab and Rahman
2011). It is considered as an effective divine tool for alleviation of poverty because Islam
Table 1 Nisab and Rates of Zakah for some of the contemporary items
Cash 2.5 % Equivalent of 85 g of Gold
Bank Deposits 2.5 % Same as for cash
Stocks in Trade 10 % Same as for cash
Agricultural Produce 5 %, if investment is made in inputs and irrigation
(10 % otherwise) 10 %, if there is no cost of inputs
Real Estate 2.5 % from their income Same as for cash
Professionals 2.5 % from their income after deducting cost Same as for cash
Shares/Stocks 10 % When dealing in the trading of shares Same as for cash
2.5 % from income if for the purpose of investment Same as for cash
Source: Al-Qaradawi (1973)
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 7 of 20
looks upon poverty as a religious and social problem, since poverty pushes a person to
lowliness, sin, and crime (Hassan 2006). But, as a divine tool, zakah fund can alleviate
poverty effectively and promptly when it is used as seed (investment) money not as
spent (consumption) money for the greater and better benefits of the poor of society;
otherwise, it will produce no fruitful result. And only due to effective and efficient im-
plementation of zakah-based economic system, the world had experienced a poverty-
free-society in human history in the domain of Islamic State (where there was not a
single poor to receive zakah) under the leadership of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and
His successors (Khalifa).
Unfortunately, in spite of having a divine tool of poverty alleviation like zakah,almost
35 % of world’s poor are Muslims (World Bank 2010) and many Muslims still pay no or lit-
tle attention to the Islamic guide lines while distributing zakah.Thisisbecause,inoneside,
many Muslims lack due Islamic spirits as well as knowledge about the depth and breadth of
zakah and on the other side, absence of effective zakah management institutions both in
government and private level in Muslim societies. As a result, the practices and applications
of Islamic injunctions regarding zakah management have deteriorated considerably over
time. But, payment of zakah is still carrying significant importance in the daily life of many
Muslims. This is partly reflected through donations given to NGOs and charitable organiza-
tions working for the poor in Muslim societies. Yet, the donations to charities and their in-
junctions form a rather small part of the zakah obligations constantly discharged by
Muslims in their societies through personal and informal channels. In most of the cases,
these channels may not be serving the purpose of fighting poverty as zakah is not given to
the right target groups (poor) in a planned and organized way. So, poor remains poor, even
after receiving a handsome amount of zakah while in the glorious history of Muslims, once
zakah had uprooted poverty from society and still can alleviate it.
So, the research questions are;
1. Why z akah is not uprooting poverty from Muslims society?
2. Is it due to lack of effective and efficient zakah management organization(s) in the
3. Is it due to spending zakah fund for consumption purpose not for investment purpose?
4. Is it due to lack of an entrepreneurship development model by zakah?
Therefore, this study is conducted through a mixed method approach in which 17
managers of seven zakah management organizations were interviewed and 85 zakah
recipients were surveyed though questionnaires to investigate into their poverty allevi-
ation programs so that a comprehensive process model can be suggested for developing
entrepreneurship by zakah mobilization for removing poverty. The rationale lies in the
fact that comprehensive research regarding entrepreneurship development by zakah
has been lacking. There are few studies addressing this issue, though, were not analytic-
ally written and theoretically underpinned.
The aim of the research is to propose a process model for developing small business
entrepreneurship by mobilizing zakah with a view to alleviation of poverty having
universal application. In the progression of the proposed process model, the authors
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 8 of 20
designed a mixed method approach called embedded design which combined the quali-
tative and quantitative data collection methods with a judicious blending of interview
and questionnaire survey to better comprehend the nature of the problem domain
(Creswell and Plano Clark 2011). This research is a cross-sectional study. The embed-
ded design of study consists of interview and questionnaire which is mainly explanatory
and to some extent exploratory in nature. During the exploratory stage, the primary
data regarding the different types of poverty alleviation programs have been collected
from 17 managers of seven zakah management institutions through unstructured inter-
view protocol. Unstructured interview were employed in order to keep ample space be-
tween the questions to write responses to the interviewee’s comments (Creswell 2007).
Managers’comments helped to get initial idea regarding the effectiveness of their
programs which eventually contributed to the final formulation of the close-ended
questionnaire (Creswell 2007). Closed-ended format is chosen in order to make the
respondents feel easy to answer and to increase the number of completed responses
and also to make data analysis convenient and more objective (Sekaran and Bougie
Subsequently, employing structured questionnaires, data have been collected from 85
zakah recipients, especially who received in the form of seed (investment) money. This
is due to the fact that the research is based on the argument that zakah should be used
as seed money not as spent (consumption) money. Thus, the zakah recipients who re-
ceived money in the form of consumption were dropped from the list of preference.
Data collection was conducted during the period August 1 to December 30, 2013
employing purposive disproportionate random sampling technique from three repre-
sentative districts - Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, and Banderban under Chittagong
Finally, the collected data were tabulated and analyzed by using simple statistical tool
such as frequency and percentage.
Qualitative data analysis (interview)
In an exploratory intervention, 17 managers of seven zakah management institutions have
been interviewed through an unstructured protocol. The elicited data, thus tabulated, and
depicted that the zakah fund is not used as seed money (see Table 2).
Table 2 Distribution of zakah by sample zakah institutions
Year Total money
Distribution of zakah fund As
Seed money (investment) Spent money (consumption)
2005 $ .9 13 % 87 %
2006 $ 1.47 11 % 89 %
2007 $ 1.72 17 % 83 %
2008 $ 1.75 16 % 84 %
2009 $ 1.90 21 % 79 %
2010 $ 2.16 23 % 77 %
2011 $ 2.18 19 % 81 %
2012 $ 2.59 24 % 76 %
2013 $ 2.7 23 % 77 %
Average –18.5 % 81.5 %
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 9 of 20
Results in Table 2 shown that on an average only 18.5 % of zakah fund was used as
seed money, whereas, 81.5 % was used for consumption purposes. The results indicate
that zakah fund is not used for productive purposes; as a result, zakah is not uprooting
the poverty from the society as it could be. The findings of the study also manifested
that there are many types of programs (Table 3) such as training programs for develop-
ing tailoring skills of female, distribution of tailoring machine, distribution of Rickshaw
(a small two-wheeled cart), distribution of agricultural material, distribution of cattle,
and distribution of money for organizing business. Interestingly, it was found that there
are some methodological mistake while distribution of zakah as investment mode. For
example, though in small scale, there is a program of developing business entrepreneur-
ship, but unfortunately the methodology is defective because while giving money to do
business, experience is not the compulsory precondition. As a result, it was found that
the success rate is much low.
Quantitative data analysis (survey)
In the subsequent part of the mixed method design, 85 zakah recipients were surveyed
through a structured questionnaire. Survey results showed that (Table 4) after receiving
zakah, 44.71 % reduced their poverty significantly and 42.35 % reduced moderately.
That is, zakah reduced poverty condition of 87.06 % recipients. Whereas, though re-
ceived in the form of investment mode, zakah could not improve the poverty condition
of 12.94 % recipients. On the contrary, the programs like distribution of Rickshaw,
agricultural materials and cattle were somewhat effective while distribution of tailoring
machines was also effective.
Furthermore, the study reveals that out of different modes of zakah programs,
training on tailoring skill development was almost 100 % successful followed by sewing
machine distribution program (87.5 %). But it is found that there is no fruitful program
in the zakah management organization regarding the entrepreneurship development.
Though, small amount of money was distributed for doing business but it was the un-
planned exercise resulting 75 % failure rate. It was also found that in case of unplanned
distribution of zakah, after a certain time the receivers come again for asking zakah
which is the clear indication that unplanned distribution of zakah could not alleviate
Table 3 Available programs of zakah management institutions in Bangladesh
Programs of zakah Institutions Recipients’Status Precondition Use of zakah fund as
Cattle distribution Abject poor, disable,
handicraft, aged, widow
Rickshaw distribution Capable male poor Experience Seed money
Sewing machine distribution Widow, poor female Experience Seed money
Cloths, food stuff distribution Abject poor, disable,
handicraft, aged, widow
Providing tailoring training Widow, poor female –Seed money
Money given for doing business Poor Experience is
Distribution of agricultural
materials to farmers
Poor Experience Seed money
Offering scholarship to poor
Poor students –Seed money (indirectly)
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 10 of 20
poverty. So, most of the organizations have been utilizing zakah fund without proper
plan as well as having no vision-driven objective such as entrepreneurship skill devel-
opment. Thus, the empirical findings regarding the activities of zakah management
organizations motivated the authors to develop a process model for developing entre-
preneurship skills relating to small scale enterprises.
How zakah can be mobilized for developing entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty?
From the very dawn of Islamic history, zakah has been playing remarkable role not
only in reducing poverty but also in ensuring social development of less privileged
members of the society (Khan 2007; Sulaiman 2003). Zakah is also expected to increase
savings since it takes away a part of the precautionary savings (Choudhury 1983). Un-
doubtedly, zakah is a tested and proven divine tool of Islam for uprooting poverty from
every society in general and Muslim society in particular. History proves that by apply-
ing zakah-based economic system, poverty was alleviated from society in human his-
tory in Madina and Arabian Peninsula under the leadership of Prophet Mohammad
(SAW) and his successors for which hardly any one was in need of charity. As a result,
Muslims were finding hard to locate poor and hungry in order to discharge their reli-
gious obligations of paying zakah.
Table 4 Summary of survey with the zakah recipients
Demography No. of receipts
Age 25 or below 14
46 and above 25
Gender Male 32
Mode of receiving zakah
by the poor (recipients)
Gender No. of receipts Poverty is reduced after receiving
zakah (any mode)
Agree Somewhat agree Disagree
Training on tailoring skill Male ––– –
Female 28 16 12 –
Rickshaw distribution Male 14 8 5 1
Female ––– –
Cattle distribution Male 11 2 5 4
Female 17 7 8 2
Sewing machine distribution Male 2 1 –1
Female 6 4 2 –
Money given for doing business Male 3 –12
Female 1 –– 1
Distribution of agricultural
materials to farmers
Male 2 –2–
Female 1 –1–
Total Male 32 11 13 8
Female 53 27 23 3
Total 85 38 36 11
In percent (%) 44.71 % 42.35 % 12.94 %
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 11 of 20
Indeed, zakah management is the responsibility of Islamic government and Islamic
governments used to do the job. But, after the fall of Ottoman Empire in 1925, zakah
collection has been the function of individuals and groups of people aiming at
discharging their Islamic duty and prevents the institution from total forgotten. With
no state power to enforce this injunction, zakah collection shrink over time and only
small part of zakah due are paid by Muslims within their community through this
personal and informal channel (Kahf 2000; Yusuf and Derus 2013). Even today,
among the Muslims there is a debate regarding the method of collection and distri-
bution of zakah. If zakah is collected through institutional arrangements then
should it be given as consumption subsidy or should it be used to develop entrepre-
neurial capacity and thereby improving the economic conditions and status of the
poor. For the extreme poor faced with starvation and death and disease, this debate
is hardly relevant.
In fact, zakah can be used to meet the immediate survival needs of the extreme poor.
However, as poverty alleviation strategy, capacity of the poor should be developed
through health, education, vocational training facilities etc. so that the poor can get out
of the poverty trap. And also business entrepreneurship should be developed on prior-
ity basis. Because, through entrepreneurship development programs it would be pos-
sible not only to remove poverty but also to create employment opportunity for many
other poor. As a result, poverty can be removed promptly from society. Such initiatives,
however, should be taken by the government in an Islamic state.
Unfortunately, in the Muslim world, Governments are neither performing these re-
sponsibilities fully nor efficiently, rather in many places Government institutions are
misusing the zakah fund. As a result, zakah payers are reluctant to give zakah to
government for such purposes. But whatever the situation, it is the responsibility of
Muslims leaders, clerics (Imam) and scholars to come forward in developing awareness
among the Muslims of different class to play their due roles (Hoque et al. 2014). The
payment of zakah in proper amount with proper method for removing the poverty
from Muslim society will ultimately help in bringing peace, harmony, and prosperity of
the Muslim world.
Based on the above discussions it can be said that zakah can be utilized for develop-
ing entrepreneurship (especially small business) with a view to alleviation of poverty
promptly. But how zakah can be used as seed money (investment) rather than spent
money (consumption) is a research question? Hence, this study has developed the
following process model (Fig. 2) for developing small entrepreneurship by mobilizing
Fig. 2 An entrepreneurship development process model for zakah mobilization
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 12 of 20
Discussion of the model
The proposed entrepreneurship development process model (Fig. 2) of zakah
mobilization consists of five phases: collection of zakah, selection of prospective poor,
developing skills of target poor, evaluation of skills of poor, and establishment of
business enterprises. Two well-grounded theories underpinned the phases 3 and 4 of
this process model: Becker’s (1964) human capital theory, and Kirkpatrick’s (2005)
four-level taxonomy of training evaluation. Entrepreneurship research cuts across disci-
plines and integrates multiple theories to explain phenomena. Thus, the authors assess
the degree of multi-theory research within this stream (Marvel, Davis, and Sproul
2014). In respect of unit of analysis, Marvel et al. also found human capital entrepreneur-
ship research stream, though carried out at varying levels of analysis, the prominent exist-
ence portrayed the unit of analysis in the individual level accounting for 67.5 % (Marvel
et al. 2014) which is also in line with the present study. The detailed descriptions of the
process model is given below.
Collection of zakah from every single zakah-able Muslim will not be an easy job rather
a lot of activities are to be performed thoughtfully and delicately for that job. As part of
zakah collection, awareness should be developed among all Muslims including busi-
nessman, farmers, industrialist, professionals and service holders etc. Education should
be provided in all education institutions (schools, colleges, universities and madrasas)
so that every single Muslim can acquire sufficient knowledge about zakah and also
state should make the zakah payment compulsory for every single Muslim. Clerics of
Mosques (Imam) have very influential position in the Muslim society (Hoque et al.
2013a). They should come forward in creating awareness and motivation as to the
importance of zakah payment, since Islamic motivation is superior comparing to
traditional motivational approach (Ather et al. 2011).
Surprisingly, even in Malaysia, the actual zakah potential was not realized until the
early 1990s. Several reasons were responsible for that such as lack of proper informa-
tion on the concept of zakah on various zakah-able items in the community and
skepticism of the public on the effectiveness of zakah management office (Yusuf and
Derus 2013). Thus, there were three categories of zakah payers: those who know and
pay zakah willingly, those who know but were unwilling to pay and those who were
completely unaware of zakah payment (ATTAIC 2006; Yusuf and Derus 2013).
Throughout Islamic history, zakah collection and distribution had been among the
functions of Muslim governments until the end of Ottoman Empire. Furthermore,
during all this period, besides government, zakah had been managed through other in-
stitutional arrangements notably like Awqaf (Trust) organizations. Indeed, payment of
zakah is the inextricable part of Islamic organizational culture (Hoque et al. 2013b).
In contemporary societies, NGO organizational type set-up is considered more
suitable for zakah management. Some contemporary Muslim governments, however,
are taking the responsibility of collecting and distributing zakah. According to Khan
(2007), Yemen is one of those few countries where government continued to manage
zakah collection and distribution even after the fall of Ottoman Empire. Currently,
Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Libya, Pakistan, and Sudan are the major Muslim countries
having enacted laws for government bodies to formally collect and distribute zakah.
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 13 of 20
These countries make provisions, in the law, making it obligatory to pay zakah on
some specific items, defined in the law, to bodies created by the government while the
zakah on other items, not specified in the law, is left to be voluntarily paid either to
government body or elsewhere.
There are many Muslim majority countries where government has established insti-
tutions to collect and manage zakah only voluntarily contributed by zakah payers.
These countries include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman,
and Qatar (Khan 2007). Majority of the contemporary countries, however, leaves it en-
tirely to the private (charity) organizations or NGOs to manage (collection and distri-
Indeed, there is no country, where all zakah obligations are made to pass through
formal channels (whether government bodies, or NGOs or charity organizations). In all
countries a substantial amount of zakah passes through informal and unorganized or
personal channels that hardly have the capacity to ensure that the zakah fund is being
used as seed money (investment) effectively with a view to alleviate poverty from their
societies. The most important reason to organize formal management of this institution
at community level, national level and global level in the contemporary socio economic
set-up is the permanency of this institution to generate predictable and stable resources
for meeting the needs of the poor. Some studies conducted in Muslim countries
indicate the following potential of zakah. As there are juristic differences on rate of
zakah and nisab on certain items, the zakah potential has been shown under three
main juristic views such as pessimistic (view 1), most likely (view 2), and optimistic
(view 3), which has been depicted in Table 5. Pessimistic view indicates the minimum
rate of zakah collection, while optimistic indicates highest rate of zakah collection and
most likely indicates in between optimistic and pessimistic.
No country, however, is reported to have collected the zakah to the full potential
mentioned above. According to some other views, these estimates seem to be far
conservative. A study conducted in 1980s on the basis of UN statistics on national ac-
counts in eight oil producing countries and 10 non-oil producing countries concluded
that oil producing countries can potentially collect 10 to 14% of their GDP as zakah
and non-oil producing countries can collect 3.5 to 7% of their GDP as zakah (Khan
2007). The economy of the 57 Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) member
states (of which 49 are predominately Muslim) have a combined Gross Domestic
Table 5 Estimate of zakah potential as percent of GDP
Country View 1 (%) of GDP View 2 (%) of GDP View 3 (%) of GDP
Egypt 2.0 3.9 4.9
Indonesia 1.0 1.7 2.0
Pakistan 1.6 3.5 4.4
Qatar 0.9 3.7 3.2
Saudi Arabia 1.2 3.7 3.4
Sudan 4.3 6.3 6.2
Syria 1.5 3.1 3.1
Turkey 1.9 4.9 7.5
Average percent of GDP 1.8 % 3.85 % 4.34 %
Source: Khan (2007)
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 14 of 20
Product (at Purchasing power parity; PPP) of USD7,740 billion (CIA 2014). If only pes-
simistic view is considered, then total zakah amount of Muslim countries accounts for
$139.32 billion (1.8 % of $7740 billion).
Selecting prospective poor
In this stage it is the responsibility of the zakah management body (person/team/insti-
tution) to select those poor (male and female) who have enough potentials from the
stand point of physical fitness, vision of being business man, and mental capability; be-
cause only careful selection can ensure the proper development of skills of poor and
thereby can generate fruitful results. Of course, on situation, widows, orphans and
handicaps should get priority.
Management trainings have significant impact on the success of small business enter-
prises (Marshall et al. 1995). Indeed, there are three types of skills: technical, human,
and conceptual for running business enterprises successfully (Katz 1974). As part of
skills and knowledge development activities, various types of training programs and
workshops relating to small business management should be organized for the selected
poor. For this, both experienced practitioners and skilled academics with sound know-
ledge and skills in small business management would provide training to the selected
poor for developing human capital so that they can run and manage small business en-
terprises (Hoque et al. 2014).
The notion of human capital within the entrepreneurship literature has emerged as a
highly utilized theoretical lens (Marvel et al. 2014). But entrepreneurship education and
training (EET), until recently, lacked linkage to established theories that would explain
the relationship between education and entrepreneurship behavior (Martin, McNally,
and Kay 2013). A number of seminal arguments and meta analysis well described why
human capital is of distinctive importance to the field of entrepreneurship development
(Ardichvili, Cardozo, and Ray 2003; Martin et al. 2013; Unger, Rauch, Frese, and
Rosenbusch 2011). Considering the defining importance of entrepreneurial opportun-
ity to the field of entrepreneurship, human capital researchers should conduct studies
across opportunity discovery and opportunity creation contexts (Alvarez and Barney
2014) through skills development. Indeed, it has been found that 65.6% of the critical
success factors of entrepreneurship management are related with the skills of human
resources (Ibrahim et al. 2012). With the help of good training programs it is possible
to develop the abilities of people so that they can run their business more confidently
For evaluating the skills of the selected poor zakah management institution (authority,
individual, and team) can develop some evaluation criteria such as honesty, sincerity,
intelligence, interest to business, customer handling skills and necessary information
can be collected from the manager, owners, peers, and customers of those business en-
terprises where the poor are doing jobs as part of their skill building training. Through
evaluation, if the skill of the selected trainees is at satisfactory level then necessary
suggestions and guidelines can be provided to them so that they can take initiatives to
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 15 of 20
set up small business enterprises, the next phase of the model. To evaluate this particu-
lar phase, the study proposes to employ Kirkpatrick’s four-level training evaluation
model as it is related to issues of efficiency, effectiveness and impact (Kirkpatrick 2005)
which has been widely examined and implemented (Holton 2005). Kirkpatrick’s four-
level model answers the following questions: Level 1: how the participants feel about
the training; Level 2: what the participants acquired from the training; Level 3: how
much the participants applied what they learnt; and Level 4: how much the
organization benefited from this exercise (Khan and Ali 2014; Khan, Ali, and Arefeen
2014). If the skill of trainees is not up to the mark, further training programs should be
organized for them. It is obvious that the success of small business management de-
pends not only on the knowledge and skills of the managers but also on the external
factors such as political and economic. But managers having sound knowledge and
skills can properly handle numerous problems relating to small business management
and thereby can save the business from the failure. In addition to that there should
have problem solving services wing/window in the zakah management institution to
provide necessary services relating to many aspects of small business enterprises with a
view to help the entrepreneurs at any time regarding any problem.
Establishing business enterprises
In this phase, zakah institution will assist in establishing small business enterprise to
those poor whose skill is at satisfactory level. Since a lot of activities are required to set
up a business enterprise, it can be very difficult for the poor to set up business enter-
prises. On the contrary, zakah institution (authority/individual/team) should take initia-
tives to establish as well as run the business enterprises (where the poor will be the real
owner) on behalf of those whose skill is not at satisfactory level. In fact, for being the
real owners of enterprises, the poor will enjoy profit or bear loss. But, since the
management of the enterprise would be in the hand of an expert body, the manage-
ment will receive salary/allowance for their valuable time and expertise from the
income of business enterprises. Because, it is the experiences of many countries (such
as Bangladesh) that only due to poor managerial skills, the poor cannot run their
business enterprises successfully, consequently poor remain poor even after receiving
zakah in a good form like an organized business enterprise. But, the poor (owners) will
be able to do job in the business enterprises as per their skill.
The focus of the paper is poverty alleviation through zakah as a vehicle to establish
entrepreneurship development. Despite three decades of development efforts by philan-
thropists, non-government organizations, and governments, abject poverty still domi-
nates many parts of the globe (Stiglitz 2002). The abject poor are those who survive on
less than the equivalent of $2 per day (London and Hart 2004). Alvarez, Barney, and
Anderson (2013), in their study first suggested that entrepreneurship is a source of eco-
nomic growth across borders in conditions of abject poverty. And theory of entrepre-
neurship drawn on the opportunities: discovery and conditions (Alvarez and Barney
2014). Subsequently, this entrepreneurial opportunities defined as self-employment op-
portunities. Alvarez and Barney (2007) depicted on the notion that opportunities exist
when competitive imperfections exist in factor or product markets. That means,
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 16 of 20
economic wealth can only emerge when competition is not perfect (Alvarez et al.
2013). Entrepreneurs exploit these competitive imperfections to generate economic
profits and growth.
Human capital theory assumes that economic growth is only possible if there is in-
vestments in education and training (Cohen and Soto 2007) that enable individuals to
acquire business skills to exploit opportunities for their new venture that are more so-
phisticated. But what is still lacking is a bottom up entrepreneurial solution that may
increase productivity and innovation generating growth and wealth that ultimately may
ensure sustainability of the poor in abject poverty. The understanding that connects
how entrepreneurship—and specifically the formation of different types of opportun-
ities - transforms and leads to economic development with a view to alleviation of
poverty is also lacking. Hence, in the present study, the authors believe that the pro-
posed process model as a bottom up entrepreneurial solution will fill this research gap
to channel zakah for the purpose of alleviation of poverty with this entrepreneurial
Limitations and future research
There are a number of limitations of this study which is worthy of being mentioned.
First, this research is limited to zakah recipients who received zakah for investment
purpose. Second, the study conducted only in Chittagong, the second largest division
in Bangladesh. In order to overcoming these shortcomings, future studies can include
consumption-purpose recipients for comparison. Broad-based samples drawn from a
number of Muslim countries and cultures to ensure the generalizability of the findings.
A longitudinal research would also contribute to capturing the possible changes that
would occur over time.
Conclusion and policy implication
In a modest attempt, the study investigated the cause of poverty in Muslim countries,
the effectiveness of zakah management institutions, the mode of zakah distribution,
and the necessity for an entrepreneurial framework. Cause of poverty is not due to lack
of resources, rather in most cases due to lack of entrepreneurship (Gupta and Srinivasan
1992; Hoque et al. 2014). Zakah, being faith-based institution is coming within the
spotlight of development circles among practitioners, funding organizations, philan-
thropists, policymakers, and also in academia. Developing entrepreneurship by zakah
for poverty alleviation is a new concept opening a new avenue to argue and discuss. It
is argued that zakah should be incorporated into the literatures of entrepreneurship
development also put into practice through poverty reduction programs of inter-
national communities. The governments of the Muslim countries should take the pio-
neering roles having the authority to formulate necessary policies (considering the
Islamic Sharia) and strategies. In this regard, government should use the every oppor-
tunity and option effectively and efficiently. Moreover, every single Muslim, especially
the clerics, Islamic scholars and Islamic personality should play sincere roles in devel-
oping awareness among the mass people of Muslims (Hoque et al. 2013a; Hoque et al.
2014) to pay their zakah in such a way so that zakah fund can be used in the product-
ive way such as for developing skills of poor for establishing and managing business
enterprises successfully. But again, on situation, policy should not hinder that zakah
Hoque et al. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (2015) 5:7 Page 17 of 20
can be allocated for consumption mode with priority for old and disabled. Since, it is
to know that sometimes basic education become difficult to obtain as individuals in
poverty often are more focused on securing their next meal than on attending school
In conclusion, the multi-faceted nature of poverty requires a multi-dimensional ap-
proach to poverty reduction based on the development of human capital, creativity,
and resourcefulness of the poor, building upon their resources, capabilities, and survival
skills ensuring their sustainability against poverty. Conclusively, the most mentionable
aspect of this study are the results of an empirical attempt to complement existing,
mainly conceptual, literature on the role of zakah within entrepreneurial framework in
alleviation of poverty.
Chittagong is the second largest division and commercial capital of Bangladesh.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
NH and MAK carried out the data gathering and analysis. KDM help us in literature review of the Holy Quran and
Sunna and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of six anonymous reviewers through their rigorous comments in the
progression of the paper finally accepted.
Department of Business Administration, International Islamic University Chittagong, 154/A College Road, Chittagong
Department of Qur’anic Sciences and Islamic Studies, International Islamic University Chittagong,
154/A College Road, 4203 Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Received: 13 July 2014 Accepted: 5 May 2015
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