Being a Good Humanitarian | A Muslim’s Perspective on Philanthropy
By: Mona Kafeel
Islam lays great emphasis on supporting the destitute and financially disadvantaged. The religion states in clear terms that it is the responsibility of the wealthy and privileged to look after the underserved segments of society. Muslims are not only instructed to do good to fellow humans, but are also told to treat animals well and to protect the environment.
Philanthropy is generally thought of as an act or gift to promote human welfare. Philanthropy for Muslims is of two kinds; obligatory and voluntary. Obligatory philanthropy consists of zakat and zakat-ul-fitr or fitra. Voluntary philanthropy includes the institutions of sadaqa and waqf. Islam takes giving a step further by making philanthropy compulsory and a legal duty in the form of zakat. Thus, a non-payer of zakat incurs God’s displeasure
Zakat is the annual share or portion of wealth that is obligatory upon a Muslim to give to definite categories of beneficiaries, if the value of his assets is more than a specified limit. The beneficiaries of zakat, mentioned in the Quran, are the poor, the needy, those in debt, and those employed to administer it in the way of God.
Zakat-ul-fitr or fitra is the charity which every Muslim pays at the end of the month of Ramadan and before the Eid to the economically disadvantaged. Zakat-ul-fitr is mandatory on every Muslim not only on his or her own behalf, but also on behalf of all the members in his or her household.
Sadaqa not only means charity in the form of money or food, but includes every act done for the benefit of fellow men. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Every act of goodness is sadaqa”; and “there is a sadaqa due on every Muslim. If he cannot give because he has no money, let him work so he can support himself and give charity; if he is unable to work, then let him help someone in need of his help; if he cannot do that, let him adjoin good; if he cannot do that, then he should not do evil or harm others: it will be written for him as a sadaqa.”
Waqf is the permanent dedication, by a Muslim, of any property for any purpose recognized by as religious, pious or charitable. Waqf causes the transfer of ownership, of the thing dedicated, to God. But as God is above using or enjoying any property, its profits are reverted, devoted, or applied to the benefit of humankind.
Any property can be the subject of waqf. The validity of a waqf is determined by the possibility of everlasting benefit being derived from it by any form of dealing of which it is capable, or by converting it into something else. It is only where the subject matter is totally unfit for being turned into profitable use that its dedication fails. Yet, the Islamic institution of waqf has a wider scope and purpose. The institution became so popular and important in Islamic countries that, in most of them, a special ministry was established to deal with the administration of waqf properties.
To conclude, giving of one’s wealth, property, time and talents for the betterment of others is central to Muslim life. I’d like you to consider including the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation in your yearly giving and the reason for that is this: through our emergency shelter and social services, we are saving lives and healing the human soul. We are making life safe for families. We are creating peaceful homes. Please join us in our work. May peace be upon you.