Charity in Islam

In the second of our series on faith and charity, the Senior Development Education Coordinator of <e

Charity is so often a hallmark of faith, just as justice is so often the very spirit of religion. Islam is a complete way of life and within this there is a duty to serve those who are less privileged than ourselves.

As a Muslim, I have a sense of responsibility to share my wealth with others. This is not hard to do since Muslims know that their wealth does not belong to them. We are trustees but ultimately everything we have belongs to God. It is this premise that forms the basis for the first type of charity in Islam, zakah.

Zakah means purification and comes from the Arabic verb zaka, which also signifies “to thrive,” “to be wholesome,” and “to be pure.” Muslims "purify" their wealth by giving a portion of it every year in charity. All Muslims with excess wealth must pay zakah.

The duty of paying the zakah differs from any other religions and their charity regulatory systems. Its purpose is to balance out social inequality by assisting those who are in need.

The Qur'an advises Muslims "…to perform the worship and pay the zakah…" (chapter 2: verse 43) and warns us of the need for material sacrifice if we wish to attain God’s pleasure: "By no means shall you attain righteousness, unless you give of that which you love.” (Chapter 3: verse 92)

Sadaqah, or voluntary charity is the second main form of charity in Islam. It purifies the soul from the malevolence of greed. In my own personal experience, when giving sadaqah, it has left me with a sense of peace and a deep realisation that I am not the true owner of any wealth that I have; God is.

Charity can also be performed in other forms which are non-monetary such as voluntary work, helping others, or using one’s talents and skills for good causes. In Islam any good word or deed is regarded as an act of charity. The Prophet (peace be upon him ) said: "And your smiling in the face of your brother is charity; your removing of stones and thorns from people's paths is charity, (to avoid potential threat from their way) and your guiding a man gone astray in the world is charity for you".

Many Muslims in Britain today feel it is their responsibility to share their blessings with those who have less. Several UK Muslim charities, like Islamic Relief, were set up to meet this growing demand. Initially, they focused on implementing humanitarian aid and development programmes in predominantly Muslim countries, but many British Muslims now feel the need to see their charity reach others of all backgrounds who are also in need.

I am proud that I work for an organisation that provides assistance to those that need it most regardless of religion, race or ethnicity. In my own role I have also seen the difference it makes when charities from different faiths unite to campaign for social or environmental justice. On these occasions it is clear just how much the different faiths have in common, especially when it comes to helping our neighbours in humanity.

This year Islamic Relief celebrates its 25th anniversary. For the organisation this is a time to reflect and to give thanks to all those who have supported us over the years. We feel blessed whenever anyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, entrusts us with their money. We are the temporary guardians of this money and have a great responsibility to ensure that it is used in the best possible way in order to meet the needs of those we work with and to please God.

Samia Ahmed is the Senior Development Education Coordinator at Islamic Relief.

BBC screengrab
Show Hide image

Owen Smith is naïve if he thinks misogynist abuse in Labour started with Jeremy Corbyn

“We didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Owen Smith, the MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has told BBC News that the party’s nastier side is a result of its leader.

He said:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.

“It’s now become something that is being talked about on television, on radio, and in newspapers. And Angela is right, it has been effectively licenced within the last nine months.

“We’re the Labour party. We’ve got to be about fairness, and tolerance, and equality. It’s in our DNA. So for us to be reduced to this infighting is awful. Now, I understand why people feel passionately about the future of our party – I feel passionately about that. I feel we’re in danger of splitting and being destroyed.

“But we can’t tolerate it. And it isn’t good enough for Jeremy simply to say he has threats too. Well, I’ve had death threats, I’ve had threats too, but I’m telling him, it’s got to be stamped out. We’ve got to have zero tolerance of this in the Labour party.”

While Smith’s conclusion is correct, his analysis is worryingly wrong.

Whether it is out of incompetence or an unwillingness to see the extent of the situation, Corbyn has done very little to stamp out abuse in his party, which has thus been allowed to escalate. It is fair enough of Smith to criticise him for his failure to stem the flow and punish the perpetrators.

It is also reasonable to condemn Corbyn's inability to stop allies like Chancellor John McDonnell and Unite leader Len McCluskey using violent language (“lynch mob”, “fucking useless”, etc) about their opponents, which feeds into the aggressive atmosphere. Though, as I’ve written before, Labour politicians on all sides have a duty to watch their words.

But it’s when we see how Smith came to the point of urging Corbyn to take more responsibility that we should worry. Smith confidently argues that there wasn’t “this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism” in the party before Corbyn was voted in. (I assume when he says “this sort”, he means online, death threats, letters, and abuse at protests. The sort that has been high-profile recently).

This is naïve. Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time. Perhaps because Smith isn’t the prime target, he hasn’t been paying close enough attention. Sexism wasn’t just invented nine months ago, and we shouldn’t let the belief set in that it did – then it simply becomes a useful tool for Corbyn’s detractors to bash him with, rather than a longstanding, structural problem to solve.

Smith's lament that “it’s now become something that is being talked about” is also jarring. Isnt it a good thing that such abuse is now being called out so publicly, and closely scrutinised by the media?

In my eyes, this is a bit like the argument that Corbyn has lost Labour’s heartlands. No, he hasn’t. They have been slowly slipping away for years – and we all noticed when Labour took a beating in the last general election (way before Corbyn had anything to do with the Labour leadership). As with the abuse, Corbyn hasn’t done much to address this, and his inaction has therefore exacerbated it. But if we tell ourselves that it started with him, then we’re grasping for a very, very simple solution (remove Corbyn = automatic win in the North, and immediate erasure of misogyny and antisemitism) to a problem we have catastrophically failed to analyse.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.