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.

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“We can’t do this again”: Labour conference reactions to Jeremy Corbyn’s second victory

Overjoyed members, determined allies and concerned MPs are divided on how to unite.

“I tell you what, I want to know who those 193,229 people are.” This was the reaction of one Labour member a few rows from the front of the stage, following the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory at the Labour party conference. She was referring to support received by his defeated contender, Owen Smith, who won 38.2 per cent of the vote (to Corbyn’s 61.8 per cent).

But it’s this focus on the leader’s critics – so vehement among many (and there are a lot of them) of his fans – that many politicians, of either side, who were watching his victory speech in the conference hall want to put an end to.

“It’s about unity and bringing us all together – I think that’s what has to come out of this,” says shadow cabinet member and MP for Edmonton Kate Osamor. “It shouldn’t be about the figures, and how many votes, and his percentage, because that will just cause more animosity.”

Osamor, who is supportive of Corbyn’s leadership, is not alone in urging her colleagues who resigned from the shadow cabinet to “remember the door is never shut”.

Shadow minister and member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) Jon Ashworth – not a Corbyn loyalist, but focusing on making the shadow cabinet work together – shares the sentiment.

Standing pensively in front of the now-empty stage, he tells me he backs shadow cabinet elections (though not for every post) – a change to party rules that has not yet been decided by the NEC. “[It] would be a good way of bringing people back,” he says. “I’ve been involved in discussions behind the scenes this week and I hope we can get some resolution on the issue.”

He adds: “Jeremy’s won, he has to recognise a number of people didn’t vote for him, so we’ve got to unite.”

The former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, another MP on the NEC, is sitting in the audience, looking over some documents. She warns that “it’s impossible to tell” whether those who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet would be willing to return, and is concerned about talent being wasted.

“We have a lot of excellent people in the party; there are new people now in the shadow cabinet who have had a chance to show their mettle but you need experience as well as ability,” she says.

Beckett, who has urged Corbyn to stand down in the past, hopes “everybody’s listening” to his call for unity, but questions how that will be achieved.

“How much bad blood there is among people who were told that there was plotting [against Corbyn], it’s impossible to tell, but obviously that doesn’t make for a very good atmosphere,” she says. “But Jeremy says we’ll wipe the slate clean, so let’s hope everybody will wipe the slate clean.”

It doesn’t look that way yet. Socialist veteran Dennis Skinner is prowling around the party conference space outside the hall, barking with glee about Corbyn’s defeated foes. “He’s trebled the membership,” he cries. “A figure that Blair, Brown and Prescott could only dream about. On average there’s more than a thousand of them [new members] in every constituency. Right-wing members of the parliamentary Labour party need to get on board!”

A call that may go unheeded, with fervent Corbyn allies and critics alike already straying from the unity message. The shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon is reminding the PLP that, “Jeremy’s won by a bigger margin this time”, and telling journalists after the speech that he is “relaxed” about how the shadow cabinet is recruited (not a rallying cry for shadow cabinet elections).

“If Jeremy wants to hold out an olive branch to the PLP, work with MPs more closely, he has to look very seriously at that [shadow cabinet elections]; it’s gone to the NEC but no decision has been made,” says Louise Ellman, the Liverpool MP and transport committee chair who has been critical of Corbyn’s leadership. “That might not be the only way. I think he has to find a way of working with MPs, because we’re all elected by millions of people – the general public – and he seems to dismiss that.”

“If he sees it [his victory] as an endorsement of how he’s been operating up until now, the problems which led to the election being called will remain,” Ellman warns. “If we’re going to be a credible party of government, we’ve got to reach out to the general electorate. He didn’t say anything about that in his speech, but I hope that perhaps now he might feel more confident to be able to change direction.”

Corbyn may have called for cooperation, but his increased mandate (up from his last stonking victory with 59.5 per cent of the vote) is the starkest illustration yet of the gulf between his popularity in Parliament and among members.

The fact that one attempt at a ceasefire in the party’s civil war – by allowing MPs to vote for some shadow cabinet posts – is in contention suggests this gulf is in danger of increasing.

And then where could the party be this time next year? As Osamor warns: “We should not be looking at our differences, because when we do that, we end up thinking it’s a good thing to spend our summer having another contest. And we can’t. We can’t do this again.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.