During the launch event of UNCHR’s 3rd Islamic philanthropy annual report on 29 March 2021, H.E. Prof Dr. Koutoub Moustapha Sano, Secretary General, International Islamic Fiqh Academy – IIFA (a subsidiary of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation – OIC), said that “Zakat is an entrusted right upon the Zakat payer towards eligible beneficiaries.”. It was my first time to think of Zakat this way.
Of course, I believe in it as a duty on every eligible Muslim but did not think about it as a “due right” to beneficiaries. “Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby, and pray for them; surely your prayer is a relief to them; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” Dr. Sano explained how this verse of the Quran explains that Zakat is genuinely a right to eligible beneficiaries by using the action of “taking” not “asking” as it is due, not a favor.
He added: “Zakat purifies our soul from selfishness and hatred. I believe that Zakat donations can cover the needs of the poor and people in need, including refugees and internally displaced populations.”
As per UNHCR’s latest Islamic philanthropy annual report, more than 50% of refugees and internally displaced populations come from OIC countries. UNHCR launched the Refugee Zakat Fund in 2019 to unlock the power of Zakat in transforming the lives of refugee and displaced families, including in hard-to-reach areas.
In fact, refugees and internally displaced families are among the most eligible beneficiaries of Zakat. “They fall under most of the eligibility categories,” said Dr. Sano.
In November 2020, the IIFA endorsed UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund, by issuing a Fatwa confirming that the Fund is Zakat-compliant.
The Refugee Zakat Fund helped more than 1 million refugees and IDPs in 8 countries during the first year of its launch. In 2020, it was able to help over 1.6 million beneficiaries with Zakat donations in 10 countries. Moreover, Sadaqah donations supported around half a million people in 10 countries as well. It is worth mentioning that 100% of Zakat contributions through the Refugee Zakat Fund are distributed directly to eligible families most in need.
Dr. Sano highlighted IIFA’s support to UNHCR’s efforts: “UNHCR works hard to help refugees and internally displaced populations to receive their share of Zakat, while adhering to the requirements and regulations of Islam. The International Islamic Fiqh Academy supports these efforts with all possible means.”
He indicated: “We wish that all organizations working on Zakat collection and distribution enjoy the level of transparency and credibility UNHCR is offering.”
UNHCR guarantees the possibility of tracking Zakat donations to the Refugee Zakat Fund through live reports and a tracking feature on its mobile app “GiveZakat”, in addition to detailed periodical reports on the impact of the Refugee Zakat Fund.
Today, when I think of Zakat as a due right that purifies the soul and promotes fraternity, I spontaneously think of refugees and displaced families as one of the most eligible beneficiaries.
I quote here Dr. Sano’s words about the importance of Zakat for refugees and IDPs: “Refugee and displaced families often lack their basic needs for a human being to live, including food, clothes, habitat, among others. We will always urge wealthy Muslims to support them with their Zakat and Sadaqah and remind every Muslim of the positive impact of giving on the people in need, themselves, and the entire Muslim community.”
I will always remind myself to remember the importance of Zakat to those who were forced to flee, lost their homes, and even sometimes their beloved ones.