It is widely-known that every religion has philanthropic components to it, and Islam is no exception. Islamic injunctions make the act of charity obligatory for its believers. Amidst how deep-rooted philanthropy is within the Islamic faith, it is even more important to advocate for strategic and sustainable giving by Muslims to philanthropic causes.
The third pillar of the Islamic faith, Zakat, makes giving mandatory. It should also be noted that the practice of Zakat is not only for the wealthy Muslims. In a recent webinar which the African Philanthropy Forum (APF) held in April, themed “Islam & Philanthropy”, our esteemed speakers and moderator shed light on the topic and emphasized why this was a timely discussion. One of our speakers, Dr. Marwa El Daly, Founder and Chairperson, Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation (WMCF), explained how Zakat is a powerful form of wealth transfer around the world and notably contributes up to 1 trillion US dollars yearly. She further stated that Zakat is not just embedded in the pillars of Islam, but is a right – as such, if you do not give Zakat, you’re seen as taking the rights of those who should benefit from it.
The focus is on the quality of the giving and not just the quantity of people. The obligation of Zakat is that even from the little you have, you are still able to give to those who are not privileged to be in your position. The less privileged have as much right to receive as much as you have a right to give.
“In Islam, there is a difference between Zakat and Sadaqah. While Zakat is mandatory, Sadaqah is not. Sadaqah is more about compassionate giving and not an obligation in the faith. “Zakat focuses on how people can use their income to alleviate social injustice” says Dr. Marwa. The usual practice of capital accumulation should not be the focus, and so Zakat requires that you allocate 2.5% of your earnings and possessions towards giving to the poor and the needy. Companies run by Muslims are also encouraged to comply with Zakat, as it not only applies to individuals.
In response to the discussion about the recent uprising in the world including – #BlackLivesMatter, the COVID-19 pandemic, #ENDSARS protests, and the rising number of refugees and internally displaced people, another speaker, Khalfan Abdallah, Managing Partner, ABRAR Consult, noted the timeliness of the practice of organized philanthropy. These recent happenings in the world have emphasized the need for strategic giving to become the norm if we intend to target the root causes of problems and measure impact. Additionally, the active involvement of Muslims in philanthropy will help improve concerning areas in Africa including education, poverty alleviation as well as healthcare.
“There is a need to put a human face to giving. Giving should be economically empowering, beneficial, and should provide the right tools to raise the less fortunate from their current positions. It should not be used to degrade others or make them reliant on the privileged in society, but should be targeted at meaningful and deliberate contributions that can empower communities”, were the closing remarks of our moderator Zahra Zakariya Abdulkareem, Founder & Chief Cultivator, The Umm Fariha Network.
As philanthropy continues to create a strong wake-up call for Africans to mobilize its own resources to alleviate poverty and improve development on the continent, the Muslim faithfuls are not left out.