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The Benefit of Giving Sadaqa in Your Own Backyard | M100 30/30 Webinar Sunday Night

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Muslims living in America and other Western nations are generally better off financially than their counterparts around the globe. So when tragedy strikes any part of this ummah, as with the tsunami in Indonesia and the flooding in Pakistan, alhamdulilah we really step up to the plate to raise awareness and funds. Even when a calamity befalls non-Muslim lands, such as the earthquake in Haiti, we still recognize our duty to open our hearts and wallets. What we sometimes neglect, however, are the needs of our own local and greater communities.

It’s not uncommon, for instance, for Americans to send their zakat – all of it – overseas. I’ve done this myself, on occasion, and didn’t think twice about it. At the time, I reasoned that the everyday state of Muslims overseas is far worse than that of Muslims in America, and certainly rougher that the condition of non-Muslims here. Whatever the merits of this argument may be (today, I hardly find it convincing), the plight of our neighbors shouldn’t be trivialized – and neither should the benefits of aiding them.

Concern for those closest to you, both physically and biologically, is actually prescribed in our deen. One notable hadith in this regard states that the Prophet Muhammed (SAWS) said:

“To give something to a poor man brings one reward, while giving the same to a needy relation brings two: one for charity and the other for respecting the family ties.” (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

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During his joint session with Sh. Yaser Birjas at ISNA this year, Sh. Yasir Qadhi spoke on this theme noting that the major books of fiqh agree that zakat should be given locally, if possible. Expanding on this point some more, Sh. Yasir highlighted the need for Muslims to engage in sadaqah and acts that benefit ones locality at large, not just the Muslims within it. Indeed, it’s these actions that will allow others to appreciate our presence and build those oh-so-elusive bridges we always talk about.

As Muslims lay firmer roots in this country, this message of looking to one’s community first is beginning to hit home. It’s part of the reason that, alhamdulilah, we were able to raise over $20,000 in such a short period of time to help our dear shaykh, Dr. Ibrahim Dremali – after all, what would a community be without guidance from our shuyookh? It’s also one of the principles behind the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), and “Khairat”, a grassroots endeavor run by the Islamic Center at NYU that “seeks to foster dialogue and understanding through community service.”

This ethos is similarly a driving force behind the M100 Foundation and its Ramadan initiative, 30/30:

Throughout Ramadan, millions of Muslims worldwide draw closer to Allah by fasting and giving in charity…During each night of Ramadan, we will give out a grant to a different non-profit organization that fulfills a unique charitable category. 30 nights, 30 grants, 30 ways to make a difference.

To promote this project, which focuses on the greater D.C. area, the team at M100 is hosting a webinar this Sunday complete with a litany of A-list speakers, including MM’s own Sh. Yasir. So go register on their site and check out this great opportunity for sadaqah!

What: M100’s 30/30 Webinar

When: Sunday, August 22nd at 6:00 pm EST

Where: Online – Register here.

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Youssef Chouhoud is an assistant professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, where he is affiliated with the Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. Youssef completed his PhD at the Political Science and International Relations program at the University of Southern California as a Provost’s Fellow. His research interests include political attitudes and behavior, survey methodology, and comparative democratization.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. AsimG

    August 22, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    While I appreciate the message of this post and the drive for money for Muslim run causes locally, I think the opening justification is a bit inappropriate considering the massive scale of destruction and need in Pakistan.
    And the destruction hasn’t even stopped yet…

    BUT that doesn’t change the need to donate for this.

    • Osman

      August 22, 2010 at 10:10 PM

      I agree. The article makes it sound like giving to a local cause is more important than helping people who may die without our help. Couldn’t disagree more. Sure if you have two people who are in similar situation, giving to the local community would be better. But how can someone say that it’s more important to give funds to a local mosque than to give it to starving / dying people? Perhaps giving a little to both is the better thing to do.

      • Amad

        August 23, 2010 at 12:18 AM

        I didn’t see it this way at all.

        There are ALWAYS people dying and important causes around the world. This is a constant.

        But giving to your local community and giving to external causes are not mutually exclusive. You can and should give both. But it is a fact that many folks ignore local giving since there is this question of need-comparison. Those closest to us in proximity to where we live have more rights on us than those further away. The needs are different. Poverty level in a developing country is not at the same level as poverty levels in an advanced nation. But, being poor is still as hard!

        In fact, I really do believe that only through such organizations and outfits, will Muslims be able to change their image as being here for only extracting, to a community that is here to GIVE and receive.

        Let’s focus on the mission here… Muslims being true partners in local communities and efforts! I long for the day when we’ll have a Muslim Charities, competing (friendly) with Catholic Charities in local communities.

        I would also urge M100 to talk to the local United Way chapters. I worked for a UW chapter as a loaned executive for several months. Any 501c3 organization that doesn’t discriminate in its giving, can apply for and receive funding from UW. The fact that M100 itself is not the final recipient may make it a bit tricky. But its definitely worth it.

        • AsimG

          August 23, 2010 at 1:56 AM

          ^But that’s the confusing part. If the blood of a Muslim is worth more than the kab’ah, then isn’t it better to donate most if not all to where the Muslims are dying?

          I don’t know, it’s confusing. A lot of Christian charities do local stuff, but then they also send people overseas to go into Muslim countries to help them and bring them to Christianity. It seems like they’ve got us beat both ways.

        • Osman

          August 23, 2010 at 9:14 AM

          I think you and I are on the same page here as far as charity goes, but the following parts of the article seem to imply that he author feels it is always more important to give locally no matter how badly people abroad need our help, and makes no mention of it still being important to help abroad.

          “I reasoned that the everyday state of Muslims overseas is far worse than that of Muslims in America, and certainly rougher that the condition of non-Muslims here. Whatever the merits of this argument may be (today, I hardly find it convincing)”

          “Concern for those closest to you, both physically and biologically, is actually prescribed in our deen”

          “During his joint session with Sh. Yaser Birjas at ISNA this year, Sh. Yasir Qadhi spoke on this theme noting that the major books of fiqh agree that zakat should be given locally, if possible.”

    • Ibn Masood

      August 24, 2010 at 2:51 PM

      Giving priority to ones local community over ones further away, and to blood relatives over local community in matters of Zakah and Sadaqah is something that is recommended by the Shariah and practices of the companions. It’s not just the author’s opinion. Although yes one could say that when disaster strikes in the ummah priorities need to shift slightly to compensate.

      Read Sh. Yusuf Qaradawi’s PhD treatise on the Fiqh of Zakat for more info. (the excellent English translation is available in bookstores).

      • Ibn Masood

        August 24, 2010 at 2:59 PM

        IMHO, I believe that this trend of always giving money overseas and not even giving a nickel about the financial troubles at your extended family’s house, or at your neighbors house or your local community is because of the massive marketing budgets of many of the huge NGO Aid agencies.

        It’s hard to remember that Brother Abdullah who lives a few blocks away is going through a lot of financial trouble when the TV and Internet keeps blaring guilt-trip and emotional ads about what’s going on in other countries.

        Often we lose sight of the fact that many of our governments are giving hundreds of millions of dollars in Aid to these countries, and private aid organisations make up a minute fraction of that Aid. Even if we say that most of that money is probably wasted in bureaucratic process of corruption; the fact of the matter is that usually Brother Abdullah has STILL been neglected by everyone else in the process.

        Again this is not to overtly limit the importance of donating to disaster stricken areas, but this is to emphasize matters of constantly imminent priority in giving, especially for Zakah.

        And for those who still find problems with it… the Shariah has a divine wisdom to it… all we need is tawakkul.

        wAllahu Alam.

  2. anonymous

    August 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    SubhanAllah,
    Why don’t we actually think and prepare for doing both, even if it means cutting out certain pleasures ourselves like lowering our cell phone plans, cutting down cable bills or entirely sticking to bunny ears. Of course the people of Pakistan (and other places) command our assistance for the pleasure of Allah inshaAllah, but it is foolishness to restrict our zakat/sadaqa to foreign lands when people in our own community/society/country are suffering (PLEASE DO NOT START COMPARING the severity of the calamities) and ENTITLED to our excess wealth. Do we realize that some of Allah’s creation in this country can’t afford a computer to post/read/benefit from sites like MM? Some have one mouth too many to feed, some lost their jobs in the Great Recession of 2009… SubhanAllah, may Allah reward from amongst them who earned it and guide from amongst them who need it, and expiate for the plights they face due the gross misappropriation of wealth and resources. Ameen.

  3. Mansoor Ansari

    August 23, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    The poor here in the west r much better off than the poor back home in the 3rd world countries. Being poor here means u still have home, food to eat, send ur kids to school. There’s welfare check, low-income housing, food stamps etc. There’s no doubt that we should help those in our ‘backyard’ but those in our backyard are to able to survive. The poor I have come across in the 3rd world don’t know if they are going to have the next meal. I want my zakat to go to the most deserving & those r not here!

  4. Youssef Chouhoud

    August 23, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    Salam all,

    I’m really not sure how my words were misconstrued, but let me clarify.

    In NO way was I saying that we should give locally to the exclusion of causes abroad. In fact, just the opposite. The whole point of my article was that we should DIVERSIFY our charitable giving.

    There is no doubt that our brothers and sisters overseas are deserving of our aid – it would be heartless to believe otherwise. But that doesn’t mean that we should neglect the plight of those closer to us just because they don’t find themselves in such dire straights at the moment.

    How many ahadith have we all read in which our beloved Prophet (SAWS) informs us of our duties to our neighbors? Notably, these narrations don’t (to my knowledge) single out Muslims among these neighbors. The wisdom behind this being that the Muslim is to be a benefit to his locality whether he be surrounded by other Muslims or he’s the sole believer for miles.

    On a related note, if we give all of our sadaqah overseas, we perpetuate the belief that we’re just here “visiting” at that our “real” home is far from American soil. If we want to be a part of America, then we must want to better our community and become active members of it. Otherwise, we will have no basis to complain when someone attacks us as “foreigners”.

    W’Allahu Alam

    • africana

      August 23, 2010 at 8:57 PM

      salam alaikum,

      one point: non-muslim americans donate to oveseas auses, quite possiby to the exclusion of cuases in america itself but are not seen as lesser americans. i think we should do what’s right regardless..

      • Youssef Chouhoud

        August 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM

        W/Salam,

        Absolutely, do what’s right regardless. My point is that looking after one’s community in America is not ‘wrong’. The business about having better standing was more a discussion of byproducts than primary rationales to give charity closer to home.

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