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Zakat, Poverty and the Kitchen Sink

Zakat, that economic act of worship often paid in Ramadan we regard as the third pillar of Islam, is increasingly becoming a hollow shell. A few examples:

An Imam is invited to give a seminar on Zakat at an Islamic Center serving an affluent neighborhood. The organizers ask him if he believes Zakat funds can be used for their Masjid construction project, he answers in the negative. He is disinvited.

Zakat is used to rent an expensive hotel conference space so that a panel of speakers can discuss current political issues.

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A major Muslim non-profit spends Zakat funds to pay a famous public figure thousands for an honorarium and a first-class flight to speak at its gala.

 

9_60

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise. (9:60)

This oft-cited ayah of the Quran has eight categories of eligible recipients. The first two deal with poverty, the third is the one who collects and distributes Zakat and the others included are those in bondage or in debt and “those whose hearts are inclined” to champion the cause of Allah and the stranded traveler.

Poverty colors every other category. Zakat recipients need not always be poor of course. For example, refugees may be land barons but could benefit from Zakat all the same.

In the United States today, non-profits provide vital services that are often done by governments in other countries and are a significant portion of the economy. Tax benefits are provided to the non-profits and to those who donate – a recognition of their importance to society.

The Muslim non-profit sector includes places of worship, educational institutions, and service organizations. It employs much of the US Muslim community’s leadership, activists, teachers and other professionals and provides a system of conferences, symposiums, galas, buildings and a speaker circuit that educates and inspires many. This is all good. Many of these organizations take special care with Zakat contributions and do good work with them. However, many non-profits have found reasons to not take special care with Zakat. The American Muslim community should guard against this.

Why You Should Care

givePoverty is a continuing concern though it is often invisible to the well-off by design.  As Khaled Beydoun pointed out recently, a Pew study found 45% of American Muslims families earn less than $30,000 annually.  While the study did not measure poverty per se, this level is sufficiently close to poverty for many families.  The federal poverty guidelines are not a measure of Zakat eligibility; rather it is nisab, possession of 87.48 grams of gold (approximately $3500), which would not overlap perfectly with the guidelines. Around 34% of Americans have no savings at all to fall back on. Muslim community leaders all over the United States would attest to the many struggles of individuals and families who need help, brought on by illness, incarceration, displacement or a wide range of other chronic and transitional circumstances. Islam’s prescription for addressing these difficulties is Zakat. We help each other out as an act of worship. Just as prayer demonstrates how serious we are about our relationship with Allah, Zakat demonstrates how serious we are as a community.

Oversleeping for Fajr is considered bad even when no social harm comes from it. Misappropriated Zakat causes social harm. With Zakat there are often genuine differences of opinion among scholars that should be worked out and standards should be established for use of these funds. In other situations, its use is a clear grift that no scholar could rationalize.

Charitable giving  does not always help those in genuine need. Indeed, much of what passes as “charity” in the United States is merely giving donations for the benefit of the affluent. The poor are becoming increasingly numerous in the United States even as the non-profit sector continues to grow in size and strength.

There Will be Fatwas

Some non-profit organizations rely on the general sounding opinions of individual Islamic Scholars to validate their view that their own organization should receive Zakat. While there are differences of opinion among scholars, these differences can be exaggerated. Even if a donor is told a scholar agrees with a non-profit that a particular non-self-evident use of Zakat is acceptable, that should begin the inquiry and not end it.

Often the context of the Fatwa will be mixed up. A common example is using an opinion that justifies the construction of a Masjid in an impoverished or war-torn area to justify an expansion project of an existing Masjid in a wealthy suburban neighborhood. Those are not the same thing.

A significant controversy concerning disbursement of Zakat comes from the phrase “in the path of Allah” as the kind of cause for which giving Zakat is acceptable. The debate arises as to whether this phrase in the Quran means something specific (the physical struggle of Jihad was the traditionally understood meaning), if it means somewhat more (yet still specific) in the modern context, or if it means there are no practical limits. The “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to Zakat has become more popular among certain non-profits as everything they do can be viewed as a public good.

Zakat donors should be skeptical of “kitchen sink” claims, even while donating non-Zakat funds for organizations that do good work. The relevant verse in the Quran (9:60) is restrictive in terms of the categories that are allowed to receive Zakat. If every noble endeavor can be classified as “in the path of Allah,” then all other categories would be superfluous.

Some Muslim non-profits do not make public their rationale for accepting Zakat funds for their general budget. They just do it. Muslim Advocates for example, an organization that has done excellent work, makes the “Zakat-Eligible” claim without supporting it. Calls to the organization revealed they do not know why they make the claim, or can’t say. They are far from alone. This can be easily fixed as described below.

Inventing New Reasons to Take Zakat

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has been perhaps the most aggressive among Muslim non-profits in inventing novel rationalizations for accepting Zakat funds. The organization cites several categories on its website, explicitly including the entertainment awards galas they host as counting towards “those whose hearts are inclined.” Another reason they give is helping people be free of bondage, undoubtedly a permissible reason for giving Zakat. But what has MPAC done here? MPAC cites their work in the “Arab Spring” and “sustainable solutions for Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

We confirmed with a call to MPAC that it has no solutions to the real problem of people in bondage in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or anything else in those countries. MPAC’s work on the Arab Spring consisted of opining on current events, hosting panels in the US and participating in them. They also signed a petition to Egypt’s then President, asking him to oppose proposed wording of “Sharia” in that country’s constitution, as this would violate human rights. Political opposition to Sharia internationally as being a “Zakat-eligible” activity would seem to be the logical endpoint to this wild west state of affairs for Zakat in the United States. However, they went further, opining on how they “rejoice and celebrate” the military coup by General Sisi against the democratically-elected government they had previously petitioned.

The dictatorship they celebrated went on to commit one of the largest single day peacetime mass-killings of civilians in history, incarcerated and “disappeared” tens of thousands and engaged in systematic torture. Instead of working against bondage, as claimed, American Zakat was used to cheerlead a repressive military coup in another country. To their credit, unlike other organizations, MPAC is transparent about their Zakat use. This state of affairs of American Zakat is not primarily the fault of any one non-profit.

The privileging of Zakat funds for expenditures on ornate buildings in wealthy neighborhoods, expensive hotel conference spaces, panel discussions on politics, airline tickets, press releases of dubious value, interfaith networking, awards and honorariums for the already-affluent over the rights of those families and individuals in genuine need is a racket Muslim donors have been either tolerating or enabling for too long.

A Few Suggestions

1. Donors should be more purposeful about who they give Zakat to. Never accept a bald claim by a non-profit that donations are “Zakat-eligible” if the claim is not otherwise obvious to you (i.e. it is for the poor).  An independent, qualified scholar you respect should provide a specific, well-reasoned rationale to support such claims.

2. Muslim non-profits should collect Zakat. However, donation forms should allow donors to designate Zakat funds separately from other donations. Zakat funds must then be accounted for and disbursed with transparent policies different from general fund donations. Non-profits that accept grants are already used to this. Grants, like Zakat, are usually for specific, enumerated purposes and not for a general fund, so there should be no excuses. It’s fine to pay large honorariums to speakers at expensive hotel banquet halls or build nice buildings in affluent communities. Just don’t do it with Zakat.

3. Islamic scholars, leaders and activists in the non-profit sector should do more to protect the institution of Zakat and the rights of those in need. This starts with implementing best practices and addressing abuses taking place in the Muslim non-profit sector.


Osman Umarji was born and raised in Southern California. After spending years working as an engineer, he left his career to pursue an Islamic education at Al-Azhar University, specializing in Islamic law and legal theory. He  previously served as an Imam and has spent years studying Zakah and has given numerous seminars on the topic. He is currently pursuing a PhD at UC Irvine in Educational Psychology, while also serving the community as an educational consultant.

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Ahmed Shaikh is a Southern California Attorney. He writes about inheritance, nonprofits and other legal issues affecting Muslims in the United States. He is the co-author of "Estate Planning for the Muslim Client," published by the American Bar Association. His Islamic Inheritance website is www.islamicinheritance.com

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nasreen

    June 20, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    Assalamalaikum brother,

    Since youve done quite a lot of research on this. Can you name some reliable organizations we can donate zakat to?

    • Avatar

      Rafe

      June 20, 2016 at 12:18 PM

      Assalamu Alaikum brother Osman,

      Yes, I agree with Sr. Naseen. We would appreciate some suggestions on reliable organizations.

      • Avatar

        Osman Umarji

        June 20, 2016 at 1:33 PM

        Assalaamualaykum,

        I would simply suggest you ensure that the organization you are interested in donating to promises 100% usage of zakah for the poor and needy. I also recommend giving priority to organizations that support the local Muslim community, as that is the sunnah of the Prophet. Since locality is a preference, I cannot sincerely advise beyond where I live. If you live near me, send me an email and I will provide some names of great organizations.

  2. Avatar

    Fatima

    June 20, 2016 at 2:01 PM

    Salamalaikum

    A small suggestion.

    Before searching for an organization, look around in your circle. In your masjid, your family, relatives. If you cannot find anyone, alhamdulillah.
    You can ask if anyone knows of any muslim who is needy. Once a recipient has been found, you just give them what you can/should.

    PS: You will need to figure out how to work the tax exemption.

  3. Avatar

    Fatima

    June 20, 2016 at 2:15 PM

    Br Usman,

    I would request your opinion on giving Zakat to eligible relatives, family, acquaintances and the poor in our neighborhood. This could be a way to avoid one enmity and contempt between the rich and poor families.

    Should one rely solely on organizations to dispense of Zakat?

    • Avatar

      Ahmed

      June 20, 2016 at 10:33 PM

      I have the same question. Is Zakat something that should be dispensed through organizations, or can individuals give it directly to eligible relatives, acquaintances, etc.?

      A related question is who has more right on an individual’s Zakat: an overseas poor relative or a local poor person?

      • Avatar

        Osman Umarji

        June 20, 2016 at 11:05 PM

        Zakah can be dispersed by individuals. In fact, if you know someone needy, it is better you give them than rely on organizations to channel it to them. Relatives have rights and should be given priority if deserving.

  4. Abu Ibraheem

    Abu Ibraheem

    June 20, 2016 at 4:48 PM

    Assalam Alaikum, I’m interested in giving zakat to someone in my local community and I have identified an individual that I think would qualify. However, how can I ascertain that they have less than the nisab? Can I assume they have less? I don’t feel comfortable investigating further as it may make one appear nosy and intrusive. This has happened in the past and then I ended up just giving online instead to an organization instead locally.

    • Avatar

      Osman Umarji

      June 21, 2016 at 12:41 AM

      As long as you pretty sure they qualify (based on your observation of their lifestyle and conversations with them), you may give them zakah. You do not have to disclose that the money you are giving them is zakah. If it later turns out they did not qualify, you have still fulfilled your obligation. The consideration in such a fiqh matter is called ghalabat-al-dhann (that which is one considers to be most likely).

      • Avatar

        Abu Yusuf

        June 21, 2016 at 11:31 PM

        I read that it is only the hanafi madhab which uses the Nisab as the criteria to determine who is poor is and the other Madhaib have different definitions and criteria to determine who is poor. Is this correct?

      • Abu Ibraheem

        Abu Ibraheem

        June 23, 2016 at 6:57 AM

        Thank you, jazakAllahkhair for taking your time to respond, I appreciate it !

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      June 25, 2016 at 2:36 PM

      https://islamqa.info/en/82974

      This link is Shaikh Munajjids opinion on the poor person in America.

  5. Avatar

    Qasim

    June 20, 2016 at 5:42 PM

    According to charity navigator the number one org to give your zakat to is Helping Hand. They also are the top rated Muslim org http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=2215

    • Avatar

      Rafe

      June 20, 2016 at 6:33 PM

      Jazakallahu Khairan

    • Avatar

      Baabu

      June 21, 2016 at 1:40 PM

      Brother Qasim…i hope you dont work for Helping Hand..that would be a conflict of interest. Also, that link doesn’t say its #1-just lists it as a 5 star charity.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah

      June 21, 2016 at 2:54 PM

      The CEO of helping hands earns $158,315 a year. Your link shows their financials. This is the best charity? What has the world come to, SubhanAllaah

  6. Avatar

    OmarK

    June 20, 2016 at 10:00 PM

    What is the requirement to pay zakat on 401k and on IRA?

    • Avatar

      Ahmed

      June 20, 2016 at 10:30 PM

    • Avatar

      Osman Umarji

      June 21, 2016 at 12:51 AM

      InshaAllah a future article will address this matter, but it is my opinion that you pay on the full vested amount in your account. You do not subtract taxes or penalties unless you actually realize them (e.g., if you do not have enough cash on hand to pay zakah and have to dip into these accounts). The truth of the matter that many 401k fatawa miss is that one has complete ownership of the wealth (milk taam) in a 401k. They have chosen to stash money into an account voluntarily in order to maximize the financial gain for the future (yes, it has its conditions, but every participant chooses this voluntarily). It would be extremely oppressive to exempt 401k participants until retirement (who generally are from the wealthier class of society already) from paying zakah on their investments, while someone who stashes their savings in a checking account is obliged to pay. It is akin to telling the poor “you can’t touch our wealth for 30 years, even if it’s in the hundreds of thousands or millions”.

      • Avatar

        Arjmand

        July 1, 2016 at 11:09 AM

        Assalamu alaykum,

        Since I didn’t find a way to contact you personally, I wanted to know which organizations would you recommend that are in your state or area?

        Jazak Allah khair

  7. Avatar

    Fatima

    June 20, 2016 at 11:14 PM

    Muslim Advocates is disturbed by the reporting in this article, which includes false and misleading information regarding our organization’s zakat eligibility. Muslim Advocates is always happy to share zakat eligibility information with donors who request details. We have asked for a correction to this article and are hopeful the editors will make an update to reflect the facts.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      June 21, 2016 at 12:24 AM

      Thank you for your comment. If you know how Muslim Advocates justifies taking Zakat and using it for all its expenses please let us know and we will note it. I asked multiple people in the organization and nobody has any idea why they do that. If you are willing to share it, do so now. It would be false and misleading for us to alude to information we do not have, especially as there is no evidence such information exists.

  8. Avatar

    AHMAD

    June 21, 2016 at 12:19 AM

    Maşallah.Allah’u Ekber.

  9. Avatar

    Shams Khan

    June 21, 2016 at 1:11 AM

    At Zaytuna College, we only use Zakat for needy students, and do not take any overhead costs out of the zakat we collect. Zaytuna.edu/Ramadan

  10. Avatar

    Faheem Baig

    June 21, 2016 at 3:56 AM

    Jazak Allahu Khairan Brother Usman for making us carefully think and consider this matter with fear of Allah.

    What is your opinion about zakat eligibility towards CAIR?

    • Avatar

      Osman Umarji

      June 21, 2016 at 4:59 PM

      I believe people should give sadaqa money (general donations) to CAIR and give zakah specifically to the poor via other institutions or personal connections. If CAIR changes their policy so that zakah donations will only be used for projects that serve the needy and poor, while using other types of donations for general operations, then perhaps they will be eligible in the future. This would need to be shown through detailed financials. I recommend people ask CAIR to do this.

      Some scholars have said CAIR is eligible for zakah under the general category of “fi sabeelillah”. I consider this to be exactly the kitchen sink dilemma the article has discussed (see https://ca.cair.com/sacval/home/donate/does-cair-qualify-to-receive-zakat/ for their justification).

      • Avatar

        Osman Umarji

        June 21, 2016 at 7:08 PM

        After a conversation with the brothers and sisters at CAIR, here is how they use their zakah: They absolutely do NOT use zakah for banquets, honorariums, or Quran donations. Rather, they use zakah for their civil rights work, which constitutes protecting Muslims from discrimination in schools, workplaces, and with government agencies (primarily through salaries for their legal staff). There is debate among scholars over whether this form of defending Muslims is zakah eligible (does it fall under fi sabillah). Regardless, defending Muslims is indeed noble work that the community needs to support, so sadaqa should be given for this cause even if you don’t give them your zakah.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      June 22, 2016 at 3:05 AM

      Just to add to Sh. Osman’s comment. CAIR comes up a lot in this discussion, it is the elephant in the room we did not introduce. Some may wonder why we picked Muslim Advocates and MPAC when abusive Zakat practices are rampant throughout Muslim nonprofits, especially Masajid (and we did not single out any, they know who they are). I think some feel there should be an equivilancy drawn between CAIR and MPAC, which is unfortunate. While some, including Sh. Osman, disagree with how CAIR may use Zakat and they may not be the model zakat organization, they do things very differently from MPAC, Muslim Advocates and bad practices of many Masajid. They (1) segregate their donations (2) are reasonably transparent about what they use Zakat for and what they don’t use it for from among these segregated funds and (3) they have opinions from respected independent scholars that say they can do what they are doing. There appears to be an effort to respect the institution of Zakat, despite what may appear to be misgivings by some Zakat experts. Keep in mind I have not looked at their books or evaluated the accuracy of these claims. Here you as a donor would need to evaluate this for yourself based on the information you have. Note MPAC and Muslim Advocates have done none of these things. They were highlighted because of how egregious their practices are and because they are national in scope (which is why we did not highlight an individual Masjid). Collection and distribution of Zakat on behalf of others is a public trust. It is time donors started demanding more from those who take on this responsibility.

      • Avatar

        Faheem Baig

        June 22, 2016 at 3:39 AM

        Jazak Allahu Khairan for both of your quick and insightful responses. May Allah bless you and guide you and us all to the truth. I separately consulted with my community Imam who sided on the cautionary opinion to consider donations to CAIR as sadaqah. But as brother Ahmed pointed out, I again reviewed the options that CAIR gives for donations, and it clearly demarcates a button for payment of “Zakat”. Further it provides 5 categories for you to select, with at least one of them sounding the closest to me as being a means of disseminating Islamic awareness to the public (possible fi-SabilAllah?).

        That said, this is a personal lesson to me as I started donating to CAIR about one year ago with the intention of “Zakat”, but I don’t recall going through these options carefully, and simply started the donation through their general portal. Therefore, this portion is heavily called into question, and now I have to go back to evaluate, and possibly repay the Zakat properly for the prior year.

        So it is very encouraging that CAIR has actually established a precedent for clearly demarcating the Zakat funds, and has answered your questions with transparency.

        I am a huge supporter of CAIR and will continue to support them In sha Allah. But I will also request of them to make more careful consideration on how they present, solicit, distribute and account for their Zakat collections. In addition, I will request them to put a little more thought with scholarly backing, and add more scholars to their page in describing how CAIR may be Zakat eligible.

        You are absolutely right to put the onus on us as the individual donors to be far more careful in demanding transparency and accountability in Zakat.

        I would not have given it as much careful consideration had it not been for your very insightful article.

        Jazak Allahu Khairan.

  11. Amad

    Amad

    June 21, 2016 at 5:37 AM

    I don’t know how I missed that MPAC celebrated the coup by Sisi — wow

    Did the organization ever recant or express condemnation of Sisi’s slaughters?

    However… Speaking generally, Can we really make the case that if an organization does something wrong, it is colored negatively completely? I mean couldn’t we make the argument that the zakat would be thought of as going toward the other good that the organization may do?

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      June 21, 2016 at 7:57 AM

      You can check with them to be sure but I never saw them recant their position on the coup.

      The point was to not only highlight the ad hoc Fiqh being made up by a nonprofit, but the gap between the Quranic justification provided (freeing people from bondage) and the actual record, where it either makes up things in its solicitations that it does not do, or does the opposite. MPAC is a valuble organization as it provides abundant cautionary examples of things other groups should never do.

      Zakat does not merely exist to support “good.” Rather it must be for specific groups who have the right to it in the Sharia. Misappropriating it for other vague notions of “good” represents grift.

  12. Avatar

    Zain Zubair

    June 21, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    Kind speech and Forgiveness are better than Charity followed by Injury. & Allah is Free of need and Forbearing. Surah Al Baqarah [2:263]

  13. Avatar

    Muhammad

    June 21, 2016 at 11:55 AM

    This discussion has been long over due. JZK Br. Osman. In my limited experience many organizations lack interest and infrastructure that would be necessary to segregate zakat eligible funds. In some cases even Zakatal Fitr and Saadaqa funds are commingled with other funds. These instances are either reckless or quasi intentional.

  14. Avatar

    Baabu

    June 21, 2016 at 1:52 PM

    It’s about time someone had the courage to write about this. Too many imams staying silent on the issue because they are on the receiving end of zakat money. There also many Madaaris (Hifz Specialists) that use zakat money to basically pay for salaries under the disguise of covering student tuition. This needs to be exposed on a wide scale and transparency should be required and demanded from every non-profit organization.

  15. Avatar

    Abdullah

    June 21, 2016 at 3:09 PM

    http://www.uwt.org/site/default.asp

    Ummah Welfare Trust has a 100% donation policy. Whatever you give you are assured all of it will be spent for the poor. According to my research this is the most reliable.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad

      June 12, 2019 at 12:18 PM

      I contacted UWT a couple of weeks ago, and they informed me that the wealth is directly transferred to the poor. And their board is made up of scholars. And they strive to do everything in line witht he fiqh of imam abu hanifa… (As a point aside i am not sure what the differences between the 4 imams are on this issue; but it is better than using non-classical fatwas).

      As an aside they do ask you to pay the surcharge charged by the bank for processing the payment (a positive step as i wouldnt want my zakat to go to Mastercard)

      N.B. The correspondence was in May 2019, future readers of this comment should verify the info is accurate

  16. Avatar

    Sara

    June 21, 2016 at 3:26 PM

    The article recognises that non profits may have other sources of income apart from Zakat. Therefore, unless there has been clear mention in published audited accounts or official publications, what evidence is there to suggest zakat funds are being utilised for various activities such as political conferences or lobbying governments? (All of which are legitimate activities for non profits.)

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      June 21, 2016 at 5:28 PM

      Zakat that goes for general overhead (is not segregated) is by definition co-mingled and used for all expenses of the organization.

  17. Avatar

    Abu Yusuf

    June 22, 2016 at 6:18 AM

    This seems mostly a US problem. In the UK i havent heard of barely any orgs or masjids use zakat for purposes outlined in the article (it only goes to the poor). The issue here in the UK was trying to get most/all zakat collecting charities to be 100% zakat donations or as close as possible to a 100% donations policy (i.e. the full 100% of a zakat donation goes to the poor, no funds are used for admin, marketing, office, staff etc costs) …which by a large alhumdulillah many charities seem to have now.

    • Avatar

      Shareq

      June 22, 2016 at 2:30 PM

      First world problems….process over people.

  18. Avatar

    Noor

    June 22, 2016 at 12:57 PM

    Every one has poor and needy relatives. The first and foremost recipents of zakat should be our own kith and kin. Other than our parents and grand parents, zakat can be given to our brothers sisters, their children so on and so forth. Its sad and tragic thatwe run to find organisations when our family is in dire need of money. Please reflect upon this point to get a greater reward from Allah.

  19. Avatar

    Shareq

    June 22, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    At the time of giving Zakat, think of those who are near you and close to you. Relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, people from your mosque.

    This is also a good time to reflect of you are fulfilling your other required financial obligations. Your children and parents have rights. These days many families are split and some fathers do not support their children due to hatred of the ex wife.
    Some children may have drifted away from their parents at their old age when they need help and support.

    May Allah guide us all to fulfill the rights of relatives, neighbors, the poor and the deserving. Ameen.

  20. Avatar

    Almir Colan

    June 23, 2016 at 1:02 AM

    This is not only a problem for zakat collection but in my opinion all general sadaqa/donation that are often collected without transparency and accountability. More often then not there is no way to trace how much is collected and how some of these organizations are spend it.

    In reality all donations and spending should be independently audited in my opinion. We should have professional Islamic auditing and accounting body that audits our books and finances to ensure shariah compliance and guard against fraud, misuse and cheating.

  21. Avatar

    Duston Barto

    June 29, 2016 at 1:04 PM

    Jazakallahu Khairoun for this MUCH NEEDED article!

    I used to work for The Zakat Foundation of America and I have been constantly frustrated with sociopolitical organizations like MPAC, CAIR and ISNA claiming that they are eligible for Zakat when none of their works fall into the 8 categories of Zakat!

    The “kitchen sink” analogy of the gross misinterpretation of “in the cause of Allah” is extremely appropriate. A scholarly opinion that I read recently states that since there is no truly Islamic leadership, that no overall cause can be declared a “struggle in the cause of Allah.” I tend to agree with this. We cannot be so arrogant as to presume that civil rights work is Allah’s work, perhaps we are overstepping our bounds in some of these issues. I have often felt that CAIR, for example, was pushing agendas where Muhammad (SAWS) would have found a more passive way to deal with a situation. One incident that sticks out is where CAIR fought vociferously to make a university prepare a prayer area near a soccer field when there was already a musallah on campus. I feel that Muhammad (SAWS) would tell the Muslims to pray in the grass.

    CAIR, MPAC and ISNA all do good works, but these are not Zakat eligible. We cannot change Allah’s law. Give your sadaqa to them, sure; but reserve your Zakat only for those Allah has instructed to receive it.

    One category of Zakat that I would like your fatwa on is “Warming the hearts to Islam.” Often I am told that this is exclusively giving money to people who would face financial hardships due to converting to Islam. This interpretation was used by Caliph Umar and it has sound scholarship. However, I am curious about dawah organizations whose purpose is to spread the message of Islam and to literally warm people’s hearts toward Islam.

    Would Dawah organizations like American Islamic Outreach and GAINpeace be eligible for Zakat?

  22. Avatar

    Duston Barto

    June 29, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    Another point of question. You stated that Zakat could not be used to pay off a loan the Mosque has, but Zakat is also to be directed toward those who have a debt and the classical scholars have agreed that this includes the debt one incurs in building a mosque. Why then would a mosque’s building fund not be zakat eligible?

    Or have I misunderstood and you are drawing a distinction between paying off a debt incurred by the Mosque and collecting funds for a new expansion/construction?

  23. Pingback: Reflections from Brother Daniel Haqiqatjou | Islamic Sunlight Canada

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Help! I Can’t Make Dua For More Than 30 Seconds On The Day Of ‘Arafah

Much emphasis has been given on the importance of fasting on the day of ‘Arafah, but don’t forget, this was a day the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) “made du’a from the time of Dhur til the time of Maghrib on the day of ‘Arafah while STANDING.” (Sahih Muslim)

He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also said, “The best du’a is that which is made on the day of ‘Arafah.” (Sahih Muslim)

If we can develop the capacity to binge watch on Netflix 5-6 for hours a day, we can develop the capacity to make du’a longer than 30 SECONDS on the day of ‘Arafah.

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I used to be a person who couldn’t make du’a longer than 2 minutes.

3 things changed

1. I started writing my personalized du’as on a mini-notebook

2. I started reading du’as using Hisnul Muslim (The Fortress of the Muslim)

3. I started following the etiquettes of making du’a.

As an Imam, I have numerous meetings with members of my community. Sometimes, at the end of my meetings, I asked the community member to end our meeting with a du’a. It is surprising that many of them do not know the etiquettes of making du’a. By following the above etiquettes of making du’a, you can make du’a longer than 2 minutes inshAllah!

Here are 16 etiquettes of making du’a from the Qur’an and Sunnah

1) Have 100% conviction that Allah will answer you

2) Find a way to praise Allah before making your request

3) Use the proper names of Allah

4) Send salutations upon Muhammad (upon him be peace)

5) Raise your hand like a beggar

6) Face the qibla

7) Be in a state of wudu

8) Cry

9) Be a lone wolf (Be alone)

10) Ensuring that your food is pure

11) Acknowledge your sins (Privately)

12) Repeat the du’a 3 times

13) Start the du’a by praying for yourself

14) Expand your heart, pray for everyone (in particular those Muslims in China who wish they could fast on the day of ‘Arafah, but they are prohibited from doing so.)

15) Say Amin after making du’a.

16) Make du’a during the “prime-times” (From Dhur till Maghrib on the day of Arafah is primetime!)

Bonus tip: If you’re like me, you may get stuck when making du’a. An excellent tip given by our master Muhammad (upon him be peace) is to use the “filler du’a”. This “filler du’a” was actually what Muhammad (upon him be peace) and all of the Prophets made on the day of Arafat!

He said, “The best invocation is that of the Day of Arafat, and the best that anyone can say is what I and the Prophets before me have said:

Lā ‘ilāha ‘illallāhu

wahdahu lā shareeka lahu,

lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamdu

wa Huwa ‘alā kulli shay’in qadeer.

Translation:

None has the right to be worshipped but Allah

Alone, Who has no partner.

His is the dominion and His is the praise,

and He is Able to do all things. (Al-Tirmidhi)

To recap, here are 5 action items you and your family can perform on the day of Arafah.

1. Go over the following hadith with your family members.

“Allah frees far more people from Hellfire on the Day of Arafah than on any other day, and Allah comes closer this day and proudly says to the angels, ‘What do these people want and seek?’” (Sunan an-Nasa’i)

2. Say to your family members or whoever you have influence over,

“The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) made du’a on the day of Arafah from Dhur till Maghreb. How long do you think we can make du’a for on this day?”

3. Go over the 16 etiquettes mentioned in this post.

4. Challenge your family members to make a 10 minute du’a.

     Materials needed

  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • A Creative mind
  • Brainstorm with your family members what du’a you want to make and then write them on a whiteboard.

5. Whenever you get stuck and you can’t don’t know what du’a you want to make, make the “filler du’a” the Prophet (upon him be peace) made on the day of ‘Arafah.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

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Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

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The Inner Dimensions of the Udhiyah

Apart from Ḥajj, the greatest action a Muslim can do in the blessed days of Dhū al-ijjah is to offer the udḥiyah (qurbāni/sacrifice).

‘Āisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) reports that Rasūlullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A human does no action from the actions of the Day of Naḥr [slaughtering; refers to the day of Eid al-Adḥā] more beloved to Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) than sacrificing the animal. On the Day of Judgement, it will appear with its horns, and hair, and hooves, and indeed the blood will be accepted by Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) before it even falls upon the ground, so let your heart delight in it.” [Tirmidhī]

Although we all know that this is an action that is traditionally performed on Eid al-Adā, a lack of understanding of its reality has led some to question the importance of doing it in the first place. In past years, and increasingly during the current pandemic, many have been asking, “Can I give ṣadaqah (charity) instead?”

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To answer this, it is necessary to understand the following.1 Everything in this world is comprised of an outer form – an appearance and a desired outcome – a “soul.” These two are intertwined in such a way that separating them is impossible. One cannot survive without the other. The clearest example of this reality is in ourselves.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ

“Soon we will show them Our Signs in the horizons [external] and in themselves [internal] until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth.” [Surah Fussilat; 53]

We are made of a body, which is comprised of several parts, and a soul, which fills the entire body and allows each part to fulfill its unique function. Without a body, our soul cannot survive, and without a soul, our body cannot survive. Additionally, if any part is missing, the whole person will be considered to have some deficiency. Likewise, the same principle applies to our n. Our n has an outer form, which is comprised of the actions that we perform, and a soul as well. The fact of the matter is that our goal in life is to achieve a complete connection with Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The Quran identifies this quality with the word taqwā. The soul that permeates our entire n and therefore, all our individual actions is taqwā. All these actions display a different aspect of taqwā and together form complete n in a person. If anything is missing, a person’s n will be deficient.

For example, the soul of ṣalāh is the portion of taqwā that relates to expressing humility in front of Allāh. The soul of fasting is the portion of taqwā that relates to suppressing one’s desires for Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The soul of is adaqah is the portion of taqwā that relates to curing one’s love for wealth by donating in the path of Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Each of these things is necessary, and although they are all types of taqwā, they are not interchangeable. To expand on this, imagine that a person had $100 in cash, $100 worth of food, and $100 worth of furniture.2 The values of all three would be the same, but the functions they perform are different. None is more important than the other but all are necessary.

Similarly, a person cannot discard the outer form (different forms of ibādāt) and say that the only thing that matters is the soul (taqwā). If this were the case, our entire religion could be discarded. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

لَن يَنَالَ اللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَٰكِن يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَىٰ مِنكُمْ ۚ

“Neither their flesh reaches Allāh nor their blood (the udḥiyah animal); it is your taqwā that reaches Him.” [Al Hajj; 37]

There goes udḥiyah. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“Oh you who have believed, fasting has been prescribed on you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may become people of taqwā.” [Surah Al-Baqarah; 183]

There goes fasting.

 إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ ۗ

“Verily ṣalāh prevents indecency and sin” (in essence, taqwā) [Surah al-‘Ankabut; 45]

Ṣalāh can also be put to the side.

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

“Virtue is that one sincerely believes in Allāh, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets and, out of His love, spend of one’s choice wealth for relatives and orphans, for the needy and the wayfarer, for beggars and for the ransom of slaves, and establish ṣalāh and give zakāh. And the virtuous are those who keep their pledges when they make them and show fortitude in hardships and adversity and in the struggle between the Truth and falsehood; such are the truthful people, and such are the people of taqwā.” [Surah Al-Baqarah; 77]

There goes our entire dīn.

The soul of udḥiyah is that portion of taqwā that expresses our total submission to Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). “O Allāh, my life is in your Hands. Do with it whatever you wish!” The actual command was to sacrifice the thing that is most dear to you – a life. And in Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) case, the life of his only child. The life of the child who for decades, he prayed and hoped for. Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) commanded Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in a dream to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismā’īl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) said, “My beloved son, I have seen that I was sacrificing you in dream. What do you think?” Without hesitation, Ismā’īl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) responded, “O my beloved father, do as you have been commanded. Inshā Allāh, you will find me among the patient.” When Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) tried to push the knife on his son’s neck, it became dull and “We called on to him, O Ibrahīm! You have surely fulfilled your dream. This is how we reward those of excellence. Indeed, this was a clear test. We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice.” [As-Saffat; 100-107]. From that day until the end of time, Muslims have and will continue emulate this sacrifice of Ibrahīm 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a reminder of what true submission is.

When standing before Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we will need to present all types of taqwā. If we were to have a surplus of one type, for example, ṣadaqah, we would be rewarded for it, but that would not change the fact that something else is missing. If we were to tell our child to make sure that their room is clean for Eid and, instead of doing that, they cooked a delicious meal, we would thank them for their gesture, but then say that there is a time and place for everything and this time is for cleaning your room.

The purpose of ṣadaqah is to cleanse our hearts from the love of wealth by giving it to the poor. Although it is recommended to give a portion of the sacrifice to the poor, it is not the purpose, nor is it a requirement for its validity. The purpose of udḥiyah is to follow the command of Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), in the way that He commanded it. In the past, and even now in some agrarian societies, the most beloved belonging to many people was their animals. This is because unlike other wealth, animals serve many purposes. They are a means of milk and clothing, a status symbol, a means of breeding, and also can be sold or eaten. To sacrifice an animal was truly a great sacrifice.

However, times have changed. Yet due to this very reason, udḥiyah is still a sacrifice, especially in America. We are used to the comforts of our home and would much rather donate money than take a day off from work and spend time, money, and energy in going to a farm and performing the udḥiyah. This is our sacrifice. We cannot abandon this great act.3,4

May Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) preserve our pristine religion in the manner it was practiced by Rasūlullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his companions.

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

“Surely my prayer, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allāh alone, the Sustainer of Universe. He has no partner. This is what I have been ordered, and I am the first to submit.” [Al-An’am; 162]

و ما توفيقي إلا باالله عليه توكلت و إليه أنيب

[1] The concept of actions having an outer form and inner soul were expanded upon in the Khutbāt of Hakīm al-Ummah Mawlāna Ashraf Alī Thanvī (throughout volume 16 – Barakāt e Ramaḍān) and Hakīm al-Islām Qāri Muḥammad Ṭayyib رحمهما الله تعالى رحمةً واسعةً . Qāri Ṭayyib specifically spoke about this concept in relation to the udḥiyah (Sunnat e Khalīl ‘Alayh al-Salām, volume 3, page 211). I benefited from these works immensely in the course of writing this article and hope the readers appreciate the depth and foresight of our pious predecessors’ foresight.

[2] This general idea – actions of being of the same value but different types – is proposed by ‘Allāma Ibn Taymiyyah and mentioned by Muftī Rashīd Aḥmad Ludhiyanvi رحمهما الله تعالى رحمةً واسعةً  in Aḥsan al-Fatāwā in relation to another topic, but the concept fits here as well.

[3] This article is not meant to say that having someone else perform your sacrifice by sending it overseas is invalid. Its purpose is to explain that the sacrifice itself is an important part of our dīn, and its full benefit will be realized when we perform the sacrifice by ourselves. It should also be noted that perhaps the reason that there is confusion over why the sacrifice cannot be substituted with ṣadaqah and thus, the distinction between the two is not clear.

[4] This article was started before the current pandemic. In a situation like this, if someone does not feel comfortable from a health perspective to perform the sacrifice on their own, they can appoint someone else to perform it for them, whether here or overseas. However, the current situation does not allow for ṣadaqah to be given in place of the sacrifice. Many ahadith (Bukhārī, Ahadith 968, 984, 985; ‘Ilā al-Sunan 17:212-217) indicate that the sacrifice is wājib. A wājib act cannot be substituted based simply on our thoughts or opinions. For more details on the obligation of the sacrifice, please read Muftī Abdullah Nana’s upcoming article about the fiqh of the udḥiyah.

* Two more points should be kept in mind. First, despite the pandemic, people have not stopped eating meat. In the current climate, if one is not able to perform the sacrifice by themselves, having it done in another country will also be a means of helping others. In fact, for many, Eid al-Adhā is the only time of the year that they able to eat meat. Second, we must broaden our thinking about charity. Our charity should not be restricted to only those things that are obligated upon us by Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) such as zakāh and udḥiyah. If Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has blessed us with the means,  we should strive to give ṣadaqah above and beyond these obligated act.

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