What Is Zakat?
Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a donation that Muslims regard as a mandatory act within their faith. Followers of Islam who have at least a minimum amount of wealth are required to give 2.5% of their liquid assets away to charity each year.
The aid should be given to the poor, travelers in need (such as refugees) and other specifically designated groups of people. Although it is difficult to find reliable figures on the size of zakat giving, there is no doubt that it is a major source of global charitable giving.
Note: Anera has no political or religious affiliations. Supporting our humanitarian aid programs may be a way to satisfy your faith-based charitable giving.
Zakat contributions can be made at any time of year but are most typically given during the time of the Hajj pilgrimage and during the month of Ramadan, especially on Laylat Al Qadr (or ‘night of power’), which falls on an evening during the last ten days of Ramadan.
Because zakat is restricted to direct assistance to the needy, it cannot be used for infrastructure or administrative costs. This is why organizations like Anera have specific giving forms designated for zakat. Zakat aid must be used within one lunar year of when it was given.
Zakat Al Fitr is specifically given after Ramadan, before the eid prayer, and must be used to provide food for the poor.
Traditionally there are eight groups of people recognized who may receive zakat aid, including these which are most relevant to Anera’s work:
- Al Fuqara – the poor
- Al Masakeen – those in need following disasters
- Ibnas Sabil – stranded and needy travellers (such as refugees and displaced peoples)
- Fir Riqab – those who are enslaved, trafficked or otherwise oppressed
- Al Gharimin – people in heavy debt
- Al ‘Amilina ‘Alayha – alms collectors; some organizations use this designation to cover administrative costs pertaining to zakat aid (Anera does not)
In addition to zakat giving, there is also a category of voluntary giving within Islam known as sadaqa. Sadaqa aid is given at any time of the year to help those in need and, unlike zakat, can be given on behalf of another person.
The types of sadaqa include sadaqa jariya (meaning ‘ongoing charity’) and sadaqa waqf (which refers to assets like endowments and investments that are donated, bequeathed, or purchased to be held in perpetual trust to provide ongoing charity).
With funding from Helping Hand for Relief and Development, Anera has rehabilitated 12 homes to make them more resilient against flooding and more habitable in a variety of ways.
This week, Sean Carroll, Anera’s president and chief executive officer, visited sites across Lebanon where Anera works. Here he reports from two locations in Akkar, in the northern part of the country. From the Ritaj El Hayat Medical Center In…