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Faith In Action: Zakat, Sadaqah, And Islam’s Role In Embracing Humanitarianism In A Globalized World



At sundown, the adhan echoes across the streets of Muslim nations. This call to prayer is also a reminder that it is now time for Muslims to break their fast. For a full month, Muslims worldwide are now in the middle of a month-long fast. In a constantly changing world, what does Ramadan represent to Muslims, and how do they perceive the impact of their faith? Ramadan’s message reaches all the way from Jakarta to Detroit, reminding people from different backgrounds that compassion and generosity can bring us together despite our differences.

I’ll look into how Islamic principles and humanitarian values can work together to make people’s lives better all over the world. Muslims are encouraged to be their best selves and help others during Ramadan. The discipline and compassion of Muslims usually peak during this holy month. Islam’s humanitarian principles encourage Muslims to extend their help to those in need, irrespective of their race, religion, or nationality. This promotes a borderless approach to humanitarianism. Given that the world is becoming globalized and that cultural and national borders are fading, it’s important to look at how various religious traditions contribute to humanitarian efforts. Islamic teachings are known to emphasize the significance of charitable giving, which shows how influential the religion is in this area.

Zakat and Sadaqah: The Power of Islamic Principles in Humanitarian Efforts

Islam has a long-standing tradition of valuing charitable acts. Muslims have been known to engage in various philanthropic efforts, as evident from different sources. Zakat and sadaqah are two such practices that have been integral to Islam for centuries. These principles drive Muslims to make significant contributions to society’s betterment. Beyond monetary or material assistance to the less fortunate, they also cultivate compassion and responsibility while highlighting our interconnectedness as individuals.

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If Fridays are charity’s favorite day, then Ramadan is its whole month bender! Many Muslims pay their annual zakat, and the spirit of charity is prevalent during this holy month. Zakat, or almsgiving, is a fundamental duty that Muslims must fulfill every year. Muslims must give a certain percentage of their money to qualified recipients under Islamic law. This charity commitment provides food, housing, healthcare, and monetary assistance to the underprivileged. Sadaqah, on the other hand, is a voluntary charity that may be given at any moment, in any sum. Such acts are a way to show gratitude for the blessings in our lives while providing support to those who may be experiencing difficulties1Bowering, Gerhard, et al., editors. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. 2012..

Zakat is often referenced alongside prayer with the term “salat wa-zakat.” This demonstrates the importance of zakat in Islam. A strong faith in Islam and the need of performing good actions are both reflected in this phrase2Singer, Amy. “Giving Practices in Islamic Societies.” Social Research: An International Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 2, Project Muse, June 2013, pp. 341–58. Crossref, The Qur’an highlights the importance of giving to others and the promise of Allah for doing so:

“And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do is Seeing.” [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:110] 

Just as prayer shows our connection to God, acts of charity demonstrate our connection to humanity. By showing kindness and generosity, we put into practice the values we have gained through prayer. Giving back to the community strengthens our feeling of community and our relationship with God.

When I think about the significance of giving to others, the statement of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ: “Charity does not decrease wealth” ([Book 45, Hadith 90, Sahih Muslim 2588]) springs to my mind. This hadith means that we don’t lose anything to ourselves when we give to others. Charity has many benefits that can improve our lives both spiritually and socially. It brings us closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and earns His blessings. Charity also improves the way we get along with other people. In a world where material things are often seen as wealth, it may be easy to lose sight of what truly matters. Ramadan offers a timely opportunity to prioritize these values and reflect on the blessings of generosity, which have power over both the giver and the recipient.


PC: Wizdan Zacky Fouzan (unsplash)

Think about a world where people are only concerned for themselves. A place where showing kindness is considered a weakness and acquiring wealth is the ultimate goal. Everyone then would be fiercely competing and there wouldn’t be any regard for collective welfare. Now, imagine a community where individuals are driven by empathy and compassion, and they give selflessly while viewing money as just a means to an end. In this society, people would collaborate to achieve common objectives and support each other during challenging times. Such a community would foster a sense of shared purpose, resulting in a more interconnected and encouraging environment where giving is an inherent human quality.

It would be beneficial to humanity as a whole to put more emphasis on kindness and generosity because more people would see how working toward common goals brings people closer together and is in everyone’s best interest. Over time, everyone would benefit from a society built on these principles.

Abdul Sattar Edhi: A Model of Humanitarianism in Islam

The Prophet Muhammad is best described as a mercy to all of creation

“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [Surah Al-Anbiya 21:107]
, and Muslims are called upon to be good stewards of the earth and take care of those in need and be kind toward all creations.

“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al An’am 6:165] 

Islamic history is replete with examples of Muslims who have exemplified generosity and service toward humanity. In modern times, one such example is the immensely inspiring figure whose life has made a significant impression on me – Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Pakistani philanthropist who has devoted his life to aiding humanity. He founded the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit organization in Pakistan that provides a range of social services, including shelter for the homeless, ambulances for medical emergencies, and burials for the deceased. The Gandhi Peace Prize and the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize are just two of the many international honors and accolades he received for his altruistic work. He possessed a broad-minded and forward-thinking outlook on the world’s most pressing social issues. Despite being a Muslim, Edhi helped people of all faiths and backgrounds, proving that compassion and generosity transcend all barriers.

Humanitarianism and Religion: Finding Unity in Our Shared Values

“My religion is humanitarianism, which is the basis of every religion in the world.” – Abdul Sattar Edhi

One of his statements, “My religion is humanitarianism, which is the basis of every religion in the world,” caught my attention. An eye-opening proclamation like this could provoke deep reflection and contemplation. At its core, this quote suggests that the essence of every religion is rooted in a fundamental belief in the inherent value of human life. While there may be differences in the way that various religions express their beliefs, the idea of treating others with kindness, compassion, and respect is a thread that runs through many faiths. From the Golden Rule to the concept of karma, many religions emphasize the importance of treating others as we would like to be treated.

On the other hand, I will try to give a broad view that is in line with Islamic teachings based on what he said. Islam is a faith that imparts upon individuals the duty to be kind, merciful, and fair to all of God’s creations, be they humans, animals, or the environment. To Muslims, the ultimate purpose of their existence is to worship God and serve humanity by promoting goodness, preventing evil, and establishing a just and equitable society.

By proclaiming his faith in humanitarianism, Edhi is making a bold statement that goes beyond the confines of traditional religious affiliations. He is saying that he finds the essence of all religions in the principles of humanitarianism, which put the well-being and dignity of every human being at the center of their belief systems. In essence, the message urges us to adopt a universal principle of compassion and empathy that surpasses cultural and religious boundaries. This call to action emphasizes the link between humanitarianism and religion, which reflects a significant narrative in the context of modern globalization3Geneva, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding. “Religion and Humanitarianism: Floating Boundaries in a Globalizing World, 10-11 October 2009, Geneva, Switzerland.”, 2009,

At the same time, this quote also raises some interesting questions about the nature of religion itself. If the basis of every religion is humanitarianism, why do we sometimes see conflicts between different faiths? Is it possible that the differences that we focus on are superficial and that, at our core, we share more in common than we realize? Could a greater emphasis on humanitarianism be the key to promoting greater understanding and unity between religions and cultures? Can we find a way to move beyond the divisive nature of religious boundaries and find unity in our shared commitment to the value of human life? How can we promote the principles of humanitarianism in a world that is often marked by conflict, inequality, and oppression?

Humanitarianism in an Islamic Framework: The All-Encompassing View on Doing Good


PC: Masjid Pogung Dalangan (unsplash)

The term “humanitarianism” is based on the idea that every human life is valuable and that every individual and society must alleviate suffering and promote well-being4Barnett, Michael, and Thomas G. Weiss. Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics. USA, Cornell UP.. While the exact definition may vary, the core moral principle remains consistent across cultures and throughout history.

To grasp the idea of humanitarianism in the Muslim world, it must be understood in an Islamic framework. In Islam, humanitarianism puts an emphasis not only on traditional acts of charity but also on broader interactions between humans and all other living things. This definition emphasizes a holistic approach to fostering empathy and compassion for all living beings, going beyond the scope of contemporary humanitarian aid.

Charity, in Islamic teachings, is not limited to monetary donations but encompasses various acts of kindness and care towards living beings. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ emphasized the importance of charity and taught that everyone should do something kind every day. This is supported by the following hadith.

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. And the good word is charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim; Hadith 26, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi]

This teaching suggests that in Islam, charity is not just a materialistic gesture but a way of life, where every individual can contribute towards the betterment of society through simple acts of kindness and care.

So, this all-encompassing view of humanitarianism promotes the idea that everyone can do good, no matter how much money they have or what their social status is, and that there is no difference between people who give and people who receive, or between people who are weak and people who are strong5Abuarqub, Mamoun, and Isabel Phillips. A Brief History of Humanitarianism in the Muslim World. United Kingdom, Islamic Relief Worldwide, 2009,

Jamal Krafess, the Director General of Islamic Relief – Switzerland, posits that humanitarianism is a core part of Islamic teachings. Like praying, fasting during Ramadan, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca, giving money to those in need or helping those in trouble is not a matter of personal choice for believers; it is seen as a responsibility. Muslims believe that helping others is an important part of their faith and daily lives. This is true whether the help comes in the form of money, goods, or hands-on help, such as distributing aid. In this context, religious beliefs serve as a source of inspiration, guidance, and reinforcement for the moral and spiritual duties of giving6Krafess, Jamal. “The Influence of the Muslim Religion in Humanitarian Aid.” International Review of the Red Cross, vol. 87, no. 858, Cambridge UP (CUP), June 2005, pp. 327–42. Crossref,

Moreover, the concept of humanitarianism can be seen as an extension of the fundamental Islamic principle of tawhid, which is the belief in the oneness of God. This belief in the unity of God implies a unity of creation, and hence a recognition of the inherent value and dignity of every human being. The Holy Qur’an states,

“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created with [definite] preference.” [Surah Al-Isra 17:70]

This divine decree affirms the inherent worth of all human beings, irrespective of their background, and elevates their status above all other creations.

From an Islamic perspective, one could say that Islam is a humanitarian religion because it stresses how important it is to treat all people with respect and dignity. Islam also encourages Muslims to be charitable and to help those in need, regardless of their religion, race, or nationality7A. Diouf, Sylviane. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. 15th Anniversary Edition, USA, NYU Press, 2013.. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ exemplified the qualities of kindness and generosity that would come to define his legacy. He was known for his kindness towards orphans, widows, and the poor, and he taught his followers to be compassionate toward all living beings. One of the most famous sayings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” [Sunan Ibn Majah  Vol.1 Book. 1 Hadith 66]

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also reminds us of the importance of serving and helping others, stating in a Hadith that “the best of people are those who bring the most benefit to the rest of mankind.” [Daraqutni, Hasan] This hadith emphasizes the essential role that each of us has in contributing positively to society and the greater good.

But some Islamic scholars might say that even though humanitarianism is an important aspect of Islam, it can’t be said to be the basis of every religion in the world. They may argue that the foundational beliefs and practices of each religion are unique and cannot be reduced to a single concept.

In any case, the statement that humanitarianism is the basis of every religion in the world can be seen as a call to recognize the universal value of compassion and empathy towards all human beings, regardless of their background or beliefs. This can be seen in the light of the Islamic belief that all religions came from the same place and have the same goal, which is to lead people to the right path and spiritual fulfillment. Islam recognizes the prophets and messengers of other religions, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, as messengers of God who delivered His message to their respective communities. Therefore, from an Islamic perspective, the essence of every religion is to promote compassion, kindness, and social justice, which are the fundamental values of humanitarianism. In Islam, this is expressed through the concept of “taqwa,” which means God-consciousness, piety, and moral uprightness. Muslims believe that by fulfilling their duty to God and contributing to the well-being of humanity, they can achieve true success in this life and the hereafter.

“My religion is humanitarianism,” in some situations, could be taken as a rejection of religious division and sectarianism. By focusing on the shared goal of helping others, Edhi is highlighting what unites people of different backgrounds rather than what separates them.

Humanitarianism is mostly concerned with providing physical necessities, and it doesn’t address people’s spiritual needs. Religion helps individuals find meaning and purpose, so it fills this gap. Another way to fill this void is through human rights, which are sometimes referred to as a secular religion. That’s why humanitarianism often uses human rights language to address the spiritual needs that are commonly neglected8Geneva, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding. “Religion and Humanitarianism: Floating Boundaries in a Globalizing World, 10-11 October 2009, Geneva, Switzerland.”, 2009,


PC: Samuel Regan Asante (unsplash)

Even though the modern word “humanitarianism” is not used in Islamic teachings, the ideas of compassion, justice, and service to others are at the heart of the religion. Therefore, it is possible to see a statement like “my religion is humanitarianism” as a reflection of Islamic values rather than a departure from them. This is a profound statement because it challenges us to look at the world from a more open, compassionate, and empathetic perspective that goes beyond our own beliefs.

Moreover, Edhi might suggest that humanitarianism is not a departure from religious traditions but rather their essence. In other words, all religions share a common foundation of compassion, empathy, and service to others. By pointing out this thing we all have in common, he is asking us to look past the small things that make us different and focus on the things we all have in common.

In today’s increasingly polarized world, his words remind us that we need to work together and embrace a broader sense of community to achieve a more just and equitable world. We can start to build a more accepting and kind society by putting humanity at the center of our religious and cultural practices.

The Holy Qur’an states,

“O mankind, indeed, We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13]

This verse reminds us that our diversity is a sign of Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wisdom, and our dissimilarities should not impede us from treating each other with human dignity but serve as an opportunity for mutual understanding and respect. It stresses the significance of recognizing the distinctions and commonalities among individuals in fostering a harmonious, empathetic, and considerate society.

Humanitarianism is founded on the belief that all people should be treated with respect and care. It’s a worldview that holds that every person, regardless of their background, beliefs, gender, or socioeconomic status, has value and worth in and of themselves. Humanitarianism is not tied to any one religion or ideology; rather, it is a principle that can be applied across all cultures and faiths.

The Qur’an calls on Muslims to be mindful of the needs of the disadvantaged in society and to work towards their betterment. One such verse is Surah Al-Ma’un (107), which stresses that true righteousness includes helping the needy.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reveals:

Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense?

For that is the one who drives away the orphan

And does not encourage the feeding of the poor.

So, woe to those who pray

[But] who are heedless of their prayer –

Those who make show [of their deeds]

And withhold [simple] assistance.” [Surah Al-Ma’un 107:1-7]

The surah illustrates that social responsibility and compassion are essential components of religious practice. It is a reminder that true righteousness is not limited to acts of worship, but also requires Muslims to extend help to those in need. This principle is in line with the Islamic concept of zakat, or charitable giving, which requires Muslims to give a portion of their wealth to those in need. The Qur’an’s emphasis on social justice serves as a blueprint for modern discussions about religion’s role in promoting social welfare. The Islamic teaching reflects that good Muslims must have empathy for their fellow humans. As such, it is not just a religious responsibility, but a moral imperative.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the concept of “deen” in Islam encompasses both religious and worldly aspects. In other words, Islam is not just concerned with matters of faith and worship but also with how we interact with the world around us. In this sense, humanitarianism is an integral part of living a truly Islamic life.

Essentially, the sentiment echoes Islamic teachings, which place a strong emphasis on giving to others, supporting those in need, and treating everyone with respect and decency. In Muslim societies, the ideas that make up the modern idea of “humanitarianism” have been around for a long time. By placing a high priority on everyone’s welfare and well-being, we are living out the essence of what it means to be a Muslim and fulfilling the fundamental purpose of our existence, which is to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by serving His creations.


In conclusion, Islam is a faith that values generosity, humanitarianism, and compassion for all of God’s creations. The month of Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to reflect on these values and to prioritize acts of charity such as zakat and sadaqah. The philanthropic work of Abdul Sattar Edhi serves as an example of how individuals can live out these values in their daily lives. The concept of humanitarianism in Islam promotes the idea that everyone can do good, regardless of their financial situation or social status, and that there is no distinction between givers and receivers or weak and strong individuals. By emphasizing the link between religion and humanitarianism, we can move beyond the divisive nature of religious boundaries and find unity in our shared commitment to the value of human life.

Let us make this Ramadan the time we really put into practice our beliefs about kindness and helping others. Let’s go beyond the surface level of observance and explore the spiritual meaning of Ramadan.

Thus, let’s roll up our sleeves, get involved, and make this Ramadan a genuinely transforming experience that will stick with us long after the month is done.



Charity Is A Blessing For Us All –

The Zakat Conversation: Giving Zakat To Islamic Organizations –

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Famidah Mundir- Dirampaten, a Bangsamoro woman who was reared in the northern part of the Philippines but is originally from Marawi City in the South of the country. With exposure to a diverse mix of cultures, religions, and ways of life, she developed a passion for interfaith understanding. Her journey led her to study and earn a certificate in the Nonprofit Organization Development Program in Virginia. She studied for a Master's degree in Religious Studies with a concentration in interfaith peacebuilding and nonprofit leadership from UTS in New York City. She is currently based in Doha and more than anything else, she finds immense joy and fulfillment in her role as a mother.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anon

    April 14, 2023 at 2:58 AM

    Zakat is only for the poor and needy. It canNOT be given for the construction of mosques, madrasas, orphanages, schools, hospitals, etc. It may, however, be given for someone’s medicines or school fees, but the money must be given in that person’s hands, literally.

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