At least 1.8 billion Muslims around the world welcomed the holy month of Ramadan on 16 May 2018. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and observed by Muslims every year as a month of fasting (Sawm) to commemorate the first revelation of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The holy month will consist of various forms of piety including fasting, praying, reading the Quran and of course, charity. In addition to fasting, Muslims focus their attention on giving to charity, known as zakat.
During Ramadan, both fasting and acts of charity are obligatory upon Muslims who are able to do so. Fasting from sunrise to sunset is representative of a spiritual cleansing, an effort to become closer to God, and an attempt to gain a better understanding of human suffering. The act of fasting calls for Muslims to practice self-discipline and sacrifice, as well as reflect upon and show compassion for the poor and less fortunate. Muslims are reminded to be generous and increase their charitable activities.
Donations are usually focused on giving to those stricken by poverty and hunger. One type of charitable giving in Islam is zakat, which is obligatory for those who are financially able. There are two types of zakat: Zakat Al Mal and Zakat Al Fitr.
Zakat is an integral part of the Muslim faith and, like fasting, is one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s a duty performed on a regular basis. Zakat is not an option but a compulsory act for all Muslims and is neither charity nor a tax. Muslims pay it as an obligatory act of Ibadah, which is the Arabic word for worship, obedience and submission.
This giving of wealth is a way for Muslims to ‘cleanse’ their money and possessions from excessive desire or greed. The idea is, that by giving this money, a Muslim learns to place less importance on material wealth (cash and possessions).
As an opportunity to share their excess wealth with those less fortunate than themselves, Islam requires Muslims to give 2.5% of their wealth to the poor every year, which is known as Zakat Al Mal. Zakat Al Mal does not refer to charitable gifts given out of kindness or generosity, but to the systematic giving of 2.5% of one’s wealth each year to benefit the poor.
Apart from helping the poor, the benefits of zakat, are to:
- Obey God.
- Behave honestly.
- Acknowledge that everything comes from God on loan and that people do not really own anything themselves.
- Not cling to anything because when a person dies, they cannot take anything with them.
- Acknowledge that whether a person is rich or poor is God’s choice so people should help those God has chosen to make poor.
- Learn self-discipline.
- Free oneself from the love of possessions, greed and money. In addition, to free oneself from being arrogrant or egocentric.
The 2.5% paid only applies to cash, gold and silver, and commercial items. There are other percentages payable for farm and mining produce, and for animals. It is paid on the balance of wealth after a Muslim has paid for basic necessities, family expenses, outstanding debts or loans, donations and taxes. If the amount of money one possesses is greater than the value of 592.9 grams of silver, and one owns this money for more than a lunar year, then it is obligatory for one to pay Zakat Al Mal. Islam has set certain conditions for the payment of zakat:
• It should be paid on properties that are liable to grow. You do not have to count the value of your home or land as part of your assets. Also, you don’t have to include personal items such as a car, clothing or home appliances as part of your assets. There is no zakat on public property, endowments and bad debts.
• The property should reach nisab. This is the amount one’s net worth must exceed for the Muslim owner to be obligated to give zakat. Gold and silver are the two values used to calculate the nisab threshold. The nisab is the value of 87.48 grams of gold or 612.36 grams of silver. You can find the current values at jewellery stores. No zakat is due on wealth until one year passes. Zakat is then determined based on the amount of wealth acquired; the greater the assets, the greater the tax.
• The person should be free of debt. A long-term mortgage is not to be counted as a liability in your zakat calculation. Loans that are taken out for personal purpose can be subtracted as a liability in the zakat calculation.
• The property should be in the possession of a person for one complete year, but for agricultural products zakat must paid at the time of harvesting.
Through the payment of zakat, the rich share their wealth with the poor and thus the process of concentration of wealth is checked and fair distribution ensured. One of the key concerns that many people have is that the zakat given ultimately reaches the people in need – this means that there is no money kept by a charity for any reason.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims observe a celebration called Eid Al Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking). When the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, and before Eid Al Fitr prayer, every Muslim who possesses enough food in excess of his need and of his family (approximately 2.6 – 3 kg of staple food), he/she must give Zakat Al Fitr. Unlike Zakat Al Mal, Zakat Al Fitr is smaller in amount (approximately QAR15 per person) but for the same purpose. Muslims are required to pay before the commencement of Eid Al Fitr. Qatar Charity, Qatar Red Crescent, Sheikh Eid and other charity organisations in Qatar assist Muslims in paying their zakat, and give it to Muslims in need.
Among other things, Islam has its own economic principles. Zakat is one of the basic principles of the Islamic economy, based on social welfare and the fair distribution of wealth. In addition to the compulsory payment of zakat, Muslims are encouraged in the Quran to make voluntary contributions to help the poor and needy, and for other social welfare purposes. This voluntary contribution is called sadaqah. Sadaqah or saddka is an Islamic term that means ‘voluntary charity’. This concept encompasses any act of giving out of compassion, love, friendship or generosity.
Examples of sadaqah:
- Making a donation.
- Helping someone in need.
- Cleaning a street, beach or other places.
- Providing for your family.
- Speaking the truth and behaving in a just manner.
- Planting a tree – whatever is eaten from it, by either human or animal, is charity.
- Using any resource (time, food, knowedge) to spend on others.
- Every step one takes towards the mosque for salat or prayer.
Note: Zakat is compulsory or ‘wajib’ whereas sadaqah is voluntary as an act of sunnah. Unlike zakat, sadaqah is not a pillar of Islam.
Sadaqah Jariyah, which literally translates to ongoing charity, is a form of sadaqah which is believed to grant Muslims continuous rewards or deeds for good actions long after their death, such as the following:
- Donate and/or actively participate in building a mosque.
- Build or donate to build an orphanage.
- Build or donate to build a school.
- Help a child to continue his or her education.
- Build or donate to build a dispensary or hospital.
- Donate a wheelchair to hospital.
- Raising, full or part sponsoring an orphan (orphan sponsorship).
- Teach someone to recite the Quran, give away copies of the holy book, or give away Islamic reading materials in general.
- Teach someone to recite Dua and/or Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah) and each time it is recited, you will gain hasanat or rewards.
- Provide a public water supply such as a well, tank or cooler. Each time people drink water from it, you will gain hasanat.
- Plant trees or donate for this cause. Each time people or animals sit under the shade or eat from these trees, you will gain hasanat.
A common form of zakat is waqf (singular) or awqaf (plural), which typically is the donation of a building or plot of land or even cash for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. The donated assets are held by a charitable trust. The grant is known as mushrut-ul-khidmat, while a person making such dedication is known as wakif. Although awqaf applies to non-properties such as fixed property, land or buildings, it can be applied to money, books, shares, stocks, and other assets. The concept of awqaf is a well-practiced phenomenon in both the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
Kinds of awqaf
• Religious awqaf focuses on the maintenance of religious institutions, such as mosques and madrasas (the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious), and their adjacent premises and properties.
• Philanthropic awqaf aims to provide support for the poor, such as health services, as well as education. In the early days of Islam, Prophet Muhammed initiated this type of awqaf with the objective to reduce the disparity and inequality among the social strata.
• Family awqaf is unique in that it ensures awqaf proceeds are given to the family and descendants first with the excess then given to the poor.
Ramadan and the spirit of giving in Qatar
Ramadan is rich with activity in Qatar. You’ll find everything from special offers at supermarkets and hotels to lavish Ramadan tents. But there are also various ways to give during Ramadan. In observation of Ramadan, consider donating to these recognised local charity organisations which have specific Ramadan programmes in Qatar and other Muslim countries, striving towards the alleviation of hunger, amongst other things.
Qatar Charity (QC) qcharity.com
QC is a non-governmental organisation founded in 1992. It works in the fields of sustainable development, reducing poverty, disaster relief and emergency response. QC works in different countries around the world, covering Asia, Europe and Africa. QC’s Ramadan campaigns are believed to have benefitted more than 2 million people around the world. Their campaigns mainly include providing iftar meals for those who are fasting, Eid clothing and Zakat Al Fitr.
Qatar Red Crescent (QRC) ifrc.org
Volunteers have been the backbone of Red Crescent’s movement since its birth in 1863. Today, they are central to all activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, assisting millions of vulnerable people in times of greatest need. Last year, QRC spent QAR7,123,000 on its Ramadan campaign in Qatar and 11 other countries. Their local projects include providing Ramadan iftar and Eid clothing; and internationally, Ramadan iftar and food package distributions in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Nepal and more.
Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) reachouttoasia.org
ROTA has joined the global effort to achieve basic, quality education for both primary and secondary schoolchildren throughout Asia and the Middle East. ROTA will build or adopt schools; promote female education; initiate academic fellowships; coordinate student exchange programmes; provide teacher and vocational training; and connect participating countries through a shared knowledge network. ROTA’s annual Ramadan campaign includes food packaging and distribution, iftar for and with labourers, volunteers visiting and interacting with patients at Hamad Medical Corporation facilities, and celebrating Garangaou with the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre.
Eid Charity eidcharity.net
Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad Al Thani Charitable Foundation (Eid Charity) was founded in 1995 as an independent nonprofit organisation specialised in humanitarian aid and development assistance. The foundation works to make immediate and lasting improvements to the lives of people affected by poverty, war and disaster. It provides a wide range of services to the poor, refugees, and displaced people in more than 60 countries, including healthcare, food supplies, education, and development. Eid Charity’s annual Ramadan campaign is believed to benefit at least 1.5 million people worldwide. Last year, Eid Charity set up tents at 68 locations in 30 areas in Qatar to offer food for more than 15,000 people daily.
During Eid Al Fitr, Muslims enjoy time with their families and often exchange gifts. Instead of the usual gift exchange, Muslims may want to further their Ramadan-inspired philanthropic activities by giving – donate to the charity of your choice.
Author: Ola Diab
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