Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A reader comments on Islamic charity

I received an interesting letter from a Muslim reader. He concedes that some of what I'm saying is true, while talking issue with some of what I've written.

"I have to admit it makes me uncomfortable to read some of what you written. While it is true there has yet to be a real 'communal' charity founded by Mulsims, one might get the impression that Muslims aren't
concerned with charity at all. Nothing could be further the truth. One of the Five Pillars of Islam is Charity. Muslims go to great lengths to contribute to the well being of others here and abroad."

My reader is right. Muslims and Arabs are indeed charitable and most hospitable. In my travels, I have encountered levels of hospitality and warmth that are hard to match. Nevertheless, there is a disconnect between charity at home and charity that benefits all.

As a religious obligation, there exists no need to assist the non Muslim.

Q: Can zakat be given to a non-Muslim? If yes under
what conditions? I shall be thankful if you could please provide me the
refereces from Quran or Hadith as I have to convince a group of my muslim friends who insist for reference whether the answer is YES or No. in both cases. Your reply will be very useful to clarify the doubts in their minds.

A: It says, "Mas’alah 8-It is not permissible to give Zakaat to a non-believer. It should be given to Muslims only. But other charity, besides Zakaat, Ushr, Sadqa-e-Fitr and Kaffaarah (recompensation money), is permissible to be given to non-believers. "

Now, that is not to say that Muslims cannot give charity to non Muslims- but there is a disconnect between a Muslims obligation to give to charity and choice he may or may not exercise.

Further, this is highlighted here:

"The need for winning the hearts and enlisting the sympathy of others (non-Muslims), shall always remain, and with the present-day position of the Musalmans, particularly in countries where they live side by side with non-Muslims, a generous treatment of neighbours, particularly the needy amongst them and their leaders who can instill in them a better understanding of Islam and dispel the effects of centuries of malicious propaganda against Islam and the Muslims, is essential..... Even the vast scope of drawing people to Islam has not been properly explored. If Zakat can be spent on presenting Islam to the non Muslims, there are rich and unexplored fields awaiting that noble effort."
"The object is to draw people to the fold of Islam, and it cannot under all circumstances and for all times be achieved by paying out doles in cash. The funds are there. The object has been defined and the means so long as they are honest do not matter. ... If that has got to be done, as it surely must be, how can we say that the object has ceased to exist? (Sheikh Ata
Ullah, M.A., Revival of Zakat, Ripon Printing Press, Lahore, p. 81)"

Thus, we see that supporting communal charities has an agenda-- that of bring non Muslims to conversion. That is the real agenda. Need is not the foundation of that charity-- the efforts to aid conversion to Islam are fuels the giving.

This is no different than missionary work, I suppose, but in reality, the implication is that where there is no chance of conversion, charity to the non Muslim can be avoided. In contrast, missionary charities have always served their communities, regardless of the 'conversion rates.'

It must also be pointed out that Arab and Muslim immigrants to the US are better educated and have a greater economic base than immigrants that preceded them.

They also speak English in far greater numbers than previous immigrants of Italian, Polish, Russian, Jewish, etc., extraction. They have the resources to help but have thusfar, not contributed in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, poorer and less educated immigrants have contributed to communal American charities, despite the handicaps of lower economic and social status and language barriers.

There are certainly very charitable Muslims and Arabs throught the world. However, the sense of obligation to the community at large has yet to filter down.
While Arabs and Musims seek greater political involvement, they might also consider more communal involvement that is not predicated on 'condition.' I suspect that would go a long way.

I hope my reader takes that to heart. I am not responding to him in an adversarial way-- just the opposite, really. I know Americans welcome community involvement.

Wandering Mind

may not be suitable for political vegans