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Dawah and Interfaith

Bringing In Ramadan with a Chocolate Cake

Link to all Ramadan 2010 posts

I read a tweet from Wisam Sharieff the other day, on how he tried to spread awareness of Ramadan to non-Muslims by way of handing out treats.

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This inspired me to do something like this on my own, so I consulted my wife:

“I want to take something to work tomorrow. Do you think I should make brownies?” I asked her, before leaving for tarawih night prayers on the first evening of Ramadan.

“We could. But, how about a cake?”

After a little thought and realizing that she probably knows better than me, I approved it, and the plan went ahead.

The next morning, my wife baked and decorated the cake, while I went to work. I picked it up during my usual trip home for lunch, brought it in to work, and sent out the following email:

Hello everyone,

There’s chocolate cake with strawberries on the back counter behind Jayne’s desk. Please feel free to have some.

My wife baked it as a celebration for today being the first day of Ramadan this year.

Enjoy!

Saqib

While my associates were excited about getting free cake, it opened up a dialogue on Ramadan and Islam, as I had hoped.

Associate #1 asked what Ramadan was. I explained that it is our holy month, in which the Qur’an was revealed, during which we fast daily to come closer to God. She asked what the Koh-ran was, and if we do it for Mohamed. I explained that the Qur’an is what we believe to be the final scripture after the Bible. And, as is the case for everything else, we fast for God. To us, Muhammad is a prophet, just like Jesus, Adam, Moses, and so on. She was blown away! She had no idea that we believed in the other prophets, or in a continuation of scripture; she thought our religion was one dedicated solely to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). She then shared with me her annoyance at the way that Christmas and Easter have been commercialized and paganized, and commended us for keeping our tradition strong.

Associate #2 asked, “So are you fasting? When’s Eid?” Being from India, she probably knew what was going on, from being around Muslims back home.

Associate #3 came and said, “Happy Ramadan! Is that okay to say?”I laughed and replied that of course, it was.

Associate #4 also asked what Ramadan was and, after hearing that it involved fasting, mentioned that she used to fast three times a week for one year, while visiting sick people in the hospital. Amazed, I asked her if she felt spiritually empowered by it, to which she responded that it made her feel that, if she can give up things that she likes, then she can do anything. I explained that this is exactly what we believe we get out of fasting: if we can abstain from what we can have (halal), then we certainly can stay away from sins and what we’re not allowed to have (haram).

Associate #5 approached my cubicle with a very serious face. I asked her why she was so solemn; she said that she was going to ask a personal question, and didn’t want to offend me. When I let her know that she didn’t have to be so formal, she asked what Ramadan was. I explained to her what the month was about. She panicked at the idea of not eating all day, for twelve hours. I told her fifteen. She was shocked.

Associate #6 kicked in, saying that when he played football in college, he had a teammate named Nasir who fasted while continuing to train and lift weights. I mentioned that NFL’s Husain Abdullah of the Minnesota Vikings, and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon do the same. He said he remembered Abdullah doing so last year, and that he was really impressed that someone could do that for their faith. Props to that brother, Nasir!

Associate #7 chimed in, saying that she read an article in the Tribune the other day, about a woman who homeschools and was trying to focus on patience and self-control while fasting in Ramadan. The article is actually about Olivia Kompier, wife of MuslimMatters’ author Siraaj! I told the associate that she’s a convert who accepted Islam while in high school (may Allah reward the people who helped her find it), opening up the idea that non-Muslims in America find our religion and grab onto it.

So, with a little cake mix, frosting, and strawberries, I got a mix of dialogue that not only began with an explanation of Islamic theology, but ended with an example of someone converting to our faith.

As curious and open as some people are to hearing about our beliefs, a lot of them don\’t know much about them, or have misconceptions that can be easily corrected. It doesn’t hurt to have the information we give them go down with a little chocolaty goodness!

I hope this story inspires you to do something like this with your own co-workers, classmates, and neighbors. If not now, then for Eid. But try to do something!

Thanks to Wisam Sharieff for inspiring me, and thanks to my wife for baking the cake.

There’s a leftover chunk that didn’t get eaten. Iftar dessert after breaking my fast, you ask? Maybe. That, or a 4:30 am suhur… :)

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SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at SaqibSaab.com.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Uthman

    August 28, 2010 at 1:11 AM

    A very good story mashAllah! :)

  2. Avatar

    Ameera

    August 28, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    Hehe, loved it! Although the sight of that chocolate cake during the fast… =s Just kidding!

  3. Avatar

    Nadia

    August 28, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    I did this at work with savouries more because it was expected however they knew it was ramadaan but the amount of thought and respect I get us amazing being the one of the ten Muslims in the company that always wears hijaab

  4. Avatar

    CaliMuslimah

    August 28, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    very inspirational good read :)

  5. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    August 28, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    Good dawah brother!! we give Lindt chocolate truffles with Happy Ramadan/ Happy Eid cards to my husband’s coworkers and to my kid’s school office- They get so much stuff during the ‘Christmas’ break that is nice for them to get a random gift in the middle of the year.

    I got an ice-cream maker and its so HOT here, I’m thinking home-made organic strawberry ice-cream to the neighbors instead of Ramadan cookies this year, inshaAllah.

  6. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    August 28, 2010 at 4:35 AM

    oh that chocolate cake… :)

    my mom passes out candy baskets with a little brochure on islam to her neighbors on eid

  7. Avatar

    mms

    August 28, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    For almost 12 years, I used to gift 1 lb gift boxes of dates to the Principal, all teachers and office staff in a gift bag with an insert about Ramadan [from CAIR] included. This made many of them ask questions about Ramadan and some others who had dates for the first time in their lives, would come to me and inform that they have now started having dates as “dessert” rather than unhealthy creamy sugary desserts!
    Along with this, I would also make presentations in my child’s class about Ramadan and other teachers would invite me to make presentations in their classes when word got out.
    So yes, as implied in the article, many non-muslims are ignorant about the real Islam and it is our job to let the word out.

  8. Avatar

    Haleh Banani

    August 28, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    What an excellent way to open the doors of dawa!
    I love the idea masha’Allah .

  9. Avatar

    Sayf

    August 28, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    Pure genius mashallah! #7 was really cool – it’s a small world after all.

  10. Avatar

    abez

    August 28, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    That is a really great idea- now, if only I had co-workers…

  11. Avatar

    mariam

    August 28, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    a very inspiring article, ma sha’Allah!

  12. Avatar

    Olivia

    August 28, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Associate #7 chimed in, saying that she read an article in the Tribune the other day, about a woman who homeschools and was trying to focus on patience and self-control while fasting in Ramadan. The article is actually about Olivia Kompier! I told the associate that she’s a convert who accepted Islam while in high school (may Allah reward the people who helped her find it), opening up the idea that non-Muslims in America find our religion and grab onto it.

    Masha’Allah, those Muslims who helped me come to Islam during my teen years were and still are AWESOME. after we all split i made dua’ to Allah to bring us back to together in friendship and make them my neighbors here in Chicago.

    and you know what? duas totally answered :)

  13. Avatar

    mnm87

    August 28, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    Its a great story Alhamdulillah. But Id like the story more if you helped your wife bake the cake :O

  14. Avatar

    Megan

    August 29, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    WOW! This is excellent Masha’Allah!!! (and the cake looks amazing, masha’Allah! Your wife did a wonderful job)

    It’s funny how sometimes we make things so difficult in order to build bridges of understanding.

    I was slightly curious about one thing. Could that be seen in any way as bringing religion into the workplace in a way that could potentially violate a policy? I just wondered, and if anyone ever had some issues trying to do this.

    Otherwise, masha’Allah, I am really happy to have read this. Inspiring indeed…

  15. Avatar

    AbuMarjan

    August 29, 2010 at 4:29 AM

    Masha Allah !
    I appreciate your wisdom ..

  16. Avatar

    FrenchFlower

    July 2, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Alaikom salam Dearest Brother and Sister! Sister, THAT cake…..looks HEAVENLY! I’m getting my “to-do” list today – for our upcoming Ramadan. May you and your family have a blessed Ramadan, and may Ya Rabb accept all our deeds. meen

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

charity

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

1. My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

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Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

3. Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

dardir

4. People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

5. Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

6. It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

7. Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

8. It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

9. Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

10. Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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#Islam

Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman

Iblees was no ordinary worshipper. He worshipped Allah for thousands of years with thousands of prayers. He ascended the ranks until he accompanied the angels with his noteworthy worship. Performing good deeds was no issue for him. He thanked Allah with his prayers, and Allah rewarded him with a lofty station in Paradise. But when Adam was created and given the station that he was, suddenly Iblees was overcome by pride. He couldn’t bear to see this new creation occupy the place that he did. And as he was commanded to prostrate to him, his pride would overcome him and doom him for eternity. Alas, swallowing his pride for one prostration of respect to Adam was more difficult to him than thousands of prostrations of worship to Allah.

In that is a cautionary lesson for us especially in moments of intense worship. When we exert ourselves in worship, we eventually start to enjoy it and seek peace in it. But sometimes we become deluded by that worship. We may define our religiosity exclusively in accordance with it, become self-righteous as a result of it, and abuse people we deem lesser in the name of it. The worst case scenario of this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one who comes on the day of judgment with all of their prayers, fasting, and charity only to have it all taken away because of an abusive tongue.

But what makes Iblees’s struggle so relevant to ours? The point of worship is to humble you to your Creator and set your affairs right with His creation in accordance with that humility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in their heart would not enter paradise. The most obvious manifestation of that pride is rejecting the truth and belittling someone else. But other subtle manifestations of that pride include the refusal to leave off argumentation, abandon grudges, and humble yourself to the creation in pursuit of the pleasure of the Creator.

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Yaqeen

Hence a person would rather spend several Ramadan’s observing the last 10 nights in intense prayer seeking forgiveness for their sins from Allah, rather then humble themselves for a moment to one of Allah’s servants by seeking forgiveness for their transgressions against him, even if they too have a claim.

Jumah is our weekly Eid, and Monday’s and Thursday’s are our weekly semblances of Ramadan as the Prophet (s) used to fast them since our deeds are presented to Allah on those days. He said about them, “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”

In Ramadan, the doors of Heaven are opened throughout the month and the deeds ascend to Allah. But imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother. Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “IM SORRY.”

Compare these two statements:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”

He also said:

“I guarantee a house in the suburbs of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right.”

Swallowing your pride is bitter, while prayer is sweet. Your ego is more precious to you than your sleep. But above all, Allah’s pleasure is more precious than it all.

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Dawah and Interfaith

Can I Give My Zakat To An Islamic Educational Cause?

As Ramadan nears its end, many Muslims are thinking about paying their zakat in the last ten nights. But what is a worthy cause to which we can give our zakat and, in particular, what do the scholars have to say on this issue?

A number of Islamic educational and media institutions in the West have in recent years been highlighting their ‘zakat-eligible’ status. The list of these institutions is quite long. In the US, they include this website, the al-Madina Institute, the Yaqeen Institute, Zaytuna College, and the Ta’leef Collective. In the UK, they include Cambridge Muslim College. Some of these institutions focus on covering the cost of tuition for students who would otherwise be unable to pay, but others are focused on running an institution whose raison d’etre is Islamic education.

But some might wonder how such institutions can receive zakat? A common belief is that zakat is meant only for the poor and destitute and that such institutions would, therefore, be ineligible. This is sometimes reinforced by the way that a minority of scholars, including learned ones, might deal with these issues.

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Last year in the UK, a respected scholar stated emphatically that “none of the scholars” in Islamic history until modern times had ever said one can give zakat to causes like supporting institutions that promote Islamic education. He asserted that only modern scholars permitted the spending of zakat on such matters in the name of the fī sabīli-Llāh category (which I will explain below). The same British scholar reiterated a similar view in the past couple of weeks, but this time said that his view was the opinion of the “vast majority of scholars”.

The average Muslim may find such conflicting claims confusing. How is it that some scholars say zakat cannot be given to Islamic educational causes, while a large number of prominent Islamic educational institutions, presumably led by Islamic scholars, are directly soliciting zakat funds?

The main reason for this is the existence of difference of opinion (ikhtilāf) among scholars regarding who or what is deserving of zakat payment. The Qur’an (9:60) sets out eight categories of zakat-eligible recipients. While people today often think of zakat as being due to the poor and needy, they only explicitly form two of these categories.

The basis on which many of the aforementioned scholarly institutions claim zakat-eligible status is the category of fī sabīli-Llāh which translates to “in God’s path.” Historically, the more dominant interpretation of this zakat-eligible category was that it referred to jihād in God’s path, i.e. zakat was to be given to people engaged in military expeditions on behalf of the Islamic community.

However, some medieval scholars, and a remarkably large number of modern scholars, appealing to the fact that the Prophet highlighted that jihād was ultimately for the sake of making God’s word prevail (li-takun kalimat Allāh hiya al-‘ulyā), have argued for a far broader understanding of this zakat-eligible category.

Jihād, as a concept, is of course incredibly broad in Islam. For example, one finds in a sound hadith that the Prophet said: “Engage in jihād against the polytheists with your wealth, your lives, and your tongues.” Additionally, some of the verses in the Qur’an that enjoined jihād were revealed in Mecca where military jihād was not yet permitted.

Because of this, a minority of medieval scholars argued that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients could entail payments made to support any righteous acts, while others argued that the category was ultimately about upholding and strengthening Islam specifically through da‘wa initiatives that cause God’s word to prevail of which education is one of the most effective tools.

Indeed, giving seekers of sacred knowledge (ṭullāb al-‘ilm) was deemed a legitimate form of zakat payment according to all four schools of law. Clearly, the respected British scholar cited above was inaccurate in his claim that “none of the scholars,” or only a small minority of them, viewed the fī sabīli-Llāh category as referring to anything other than military engagements.

Among modern Arab ulama, the view that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients can apply to Islamic da‘wa and educational initiatives has perhaps become the dominant position on this issue over the last one hundred years. This is true of all major ideological orientations, whether Salafi, Neo-traditionalist, or Islamist.

Thus, for example, arguably the most important Salafi scholar of his generation, the first Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm Āl al-Shaykh argued that the most deserving recipient of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat was the cause of da‘wa, and responding to sources of doubt about Islam. Reportedly it is also the final opinion of his most important successor, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azīz b. Bāz. Among living Salafis, this is the position of senior scholars outside the Saudi religious establishment as well, such as Shaykh Salmān al-‘Awda and Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Munajjid (may Allah liberate them from their unjust imprisonment).

It is also the position of senior scholars of the Azhar and Egypt’s Grand Muftis for many generations from the 20th and 21st centuries. In our own time, this includes Neo-traditionalist scholars like ‘Alī Jum‘a and Abdullāh b. Bayyah. While the latter prefers a more restrictive interpretation for the category, he permits the more expansive interpretation in his fatwas.

Among Islamist (Ikhwān) oriented scholars, one finds Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, author of what is perhaps the most comprehensive work to be written on the fiqh of zakat in Islamic history, promoting such an understanding as well. His two volume work, which addresses the major debates surrounding the fī sabīli-Llāh category in great detail, has also been translated into English. Among younger Islamist-leaning scholars, the encyclopaedic Mauritanian scholar and master of the Sharia sciences, Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ḥasan al-Dadaw argues that the fī sabīli-Llāh category may even be used in the establishing of educational endowments.

The above is only a selection of voices among those who are supportive of promoting Islamic educational causes on the basis of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat. With due respect to scholars who would argue otherwise, it is clear that this is not only a legitimate legal opinion on this question but may well be the dominant view of many of the leading scholars of modern times.

Our communities are best served by an Islamic discourse that acknowledges the richness and diversity of our great religious tradition rather than restricts it to a narrow range of opinions. As the Prophet said to the Bedouin who prayed for God to exclusively show mercy to himself and the Prophet, “You have constricted what is vast!” (laqad ḥajjarta wāsi‘an).

Since there are a very large number of scholars who have recognised initiatives that promote the sound understanding of Islam to be eligible for receiving zakat, our community is best served by the accurate portrayal of the valid difference of opinion on such matters in which members of the community may legitimately seek to follow either opinion without claiming that the position adopted by others is illegitimate.

In an era in which the sound understanding of Islam is threatened by Islamophobic forces from without and extremist forces from within, we all recognise the importance of Islamic education as a central concern for contemporary Muslims to prioritise. May we all support this cause, whether through zakat or by some other means.

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