Islamic Horizons, September/October 1997, ISLAM IN AMERICA
Islamic Philanthropy: For the love of Allah.
In 1993, Americans gave $104 billion
in charity - which amounts to $916 per
person. They also did volunteer work:
a minimum of six hours per week. We
the Muslims, who also know the
virtues of charity in this life, and who
believe in the life hereafter, are not able to
match that. All our Islamic institutions,
masaajid, full-time schools and organizations
are in the red, and we have to make frequent
fund-raising efforts to sustain and maintain
them. no addition, the political problems which
have been created in Muslim nations, whether
Bosnia, Kashmir, Palestine, or Somalia,
require our utmost attention.
If we consider the masjid, the house of Allah,
as our house, and the problems or sufferings of
other Muslims as our own, then we do not need
to do fund-raising since we do not raise funds for
our own house when the roof leaks or for any
needs of our own children.
The Qur'an says: : And be steadfast in your
prayer and pay clarity; whatever good you send
forth for your future, you shall find it with Allah,
for Allah is well aware of what you do." (2:110)
Miserly people think that their money will
decrease or that they will become poor by giving
money to charity; but our belief says the contrary.
Remember the Qur'an: "The likeness of those
who spend their wealth in the way of Allah, is as
the likeness of a grain that sprouts seven spikes.
In every spike there are 100 grains, and Allah
multiplies for whom He will. Allah's will is
embracing, all-knowing." (2:261)
The basic concepts in understanding Islamic
1. Charity has to be from lawfully
earned money; there is no concept of Robin Hood-
like acts in Islam.
2. The concept of ownership of
wealth in Islam is that all wealth, after necessary
personal and family expenses, belongs to Allah.
It is up to the individual to decide how much of
this excess wealth he should give back to the cause
of Allah; if lie does not give some of it, then it is
claimed by Satan.
3. All philanthropy should be
for the pleasure of Allah alone.
There are two types of Islamic charity There
is zakah, which is obligatory, and is the right of
the poor over the wealth of the rich, which
amounts to 2.5% of the year's savings. The other
is sadaqah, or voluntary charity, which depends
on need and the amount of excess wealth. The
word "zakah" itself means "purification", and
the purpose is to purify legally earned wealth.
Charity should not be used as a tax shelter or to
win personal recognition, but only for the love of
Allah. "To spend of your substance out of love for
Him - to your kin, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer,
those who ask and for freeing slaves." (2:l77)
One of the reasons some Muslims cannot
come up with charity is that they are not sure to
whom the masjid belongs. Does it belong to the
donors, to the officials of the organization, or to
the users? There need not be doubts because a
masjid belongs to all ; but mostly it is the house
of Allah - and He has given it for our use, so we
must pay the rent. On a larger scale, a masjid
belongs to the whole Muslim community.
The problems before Muslim fund-raisers are:
1. How to motivate people to open their hearts
and their wallets?
2. Should the name of the donor
and the amount of the donation be announced
3. If the names are announced should
it be just for disclosure or should they be placed
in a sort of competition with one another for
4. Should they be given an
incentive, like a gift or a lottery ticket?
1. Motivation. "Your wealth, your children,
are only a temptation, whereas to be with Allah is
an immense reward. So keep your duty to Allah
as best as you can, and listen and obey and spend,
That is better for your soul, and whosoever is saved
from his own greed is the one who is successful.
If you lend to AlIah a goodly loan, He will double
it for you and will forgive you, for Allah is the
Responsive Element." (64:15-17)
Sometimes we do not want to part with our
wealth due to love of our family and children - so
that they might not suffer from poverty; but if we
know that it is Allah Who is the Provider for all of
them, we should not worry. Therefore, Allah asks
us to send good deeds like this for the future before
we reach it. It is like putting money in a savings
account in this world and cashing it in the next
world, multiplied many times.
2. Disclosure vs. secrecy. "If you disclose the
act of charity, even so it is well; but if you conceal
it and make it reach those who are really in need,
that is best for you. It will remove from you some
of your stains of wrongdoing, and Allah is well
acquainted with what you do." (2:171)
If the charity is for a public cause, it must be
known and concealment itself may be a fault of
the official. The harm of publicity lies in the
motive of ostentation (showing-off). When charity
is to be given to an individual, it is better that it be
Additional Responsibilities of the Fund-raiser:
1. Usually they do not send a thank you note after
collecting the money. It is better to send such a
note along with a tax ID number.
2. They do not
follow-up on those who have given the pledge as
a reminder, since the pledge is a kind of loan, and
they must pay it.
3. Most importantly, they do not
tell the charity giver how his money was spent.
For example, a picture of remodeling before and
after a masjid project will increase the confidence
of the giver and will incline him to give more,
since he will know that his money has been well
4. A gift or lottery ticket is not necessary.
A word of thanks and a prayer that Allah will
accept the donor's gift and be pleased with it, is
all that is needed.
In Islam, for an action to be regarded as pure
and for it to be accepted by Allah, not only does
the intention have to be pure; but the means of
achieving that intention has to be pure as well.
"O son of Adam, spend on Me and I will spend
on you." (Hadith Qudsi)
In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
Oh believers, let not your possessions neither your
children divert you from God's remembrance, who ever
does that , they are the losers. And spend from the
sustenance We have given you, before death overtakes
any of you, and he says, 'O my Lord! if You grant me
respite for a short while, then I would freely give and
would be among the righteous'
Shahid Athar, M.D., F.A.C.S., a clinical
associate professor of medicine, Indiana University
School of Medicine, is also the Chairman,
Medical Ethics of Islamic Medical Association (IMA) of North America and Member, IAS. He is
the author of Health Concerns for Believers and edited the Islamic Perspective in Medicine.
(Originally published in "The Message" and republished with permission. This article is based
upon the author's speech at The Indiana
University Center for Philanthropy, Annual National conference in 1994.)
Shahid Athar, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Indiana University School of Medicine
8424 Naab Road
Indianapolis, IN 46260