FAQ

The obligatory alms that Muslims are required to pay as an obligatory alms tax is known by its Arabic name "zakāt." Zakat is taken from specific sources of wealth and given to specific categories of recipients. The specific sources of wealth include livestock, savings, trade goods, crops, and minerals.

The 8 categories of eligible recipients for Zakat are mentioned in the Quran: "Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them [Zakat], those whose hearts are to be reconciled, captives, debtors, in the cause of Allah, and wayfarers...“. Refugees fall under at least four of these categories: the poor, the needy, the debtors and the wayfarers.

It is a shared responsibility to respond to the burgeoning humanitarian needs in the region, which have reached a new peak. Refugees are entitled to receive Zakat and UNHCR will act as a credible agent to facilitate access to the most vulnerable families in order to meet their most basic needs through the innovative cash assistance programme. UNHCR’s Zakat initiative is fully Shariah compliant, and is backed by fatwas from five leading scholars and institutions.

To provide an alternative source of funding to refugees in need with a focus on families comprising widows and their children, through an efficient and trusted route for people to fulfil their Zakat obligations, while ensuring 100% of their donations go to needy recipients – refugees.

UNHCR’s Zakat initiative is designed to help Muslims fulfil their obligations regarding Zakat. Non-Zakat donations can be made to the same UNHCR assistance programmes through other pages giving.unhcr.org

At this stage, UNHCR’s Zakat initiative assists eligible refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon, with a focus on families comprising widows and their children.

Yes, we will be looking at other refugee and internally displaced situations, including Malians, Rohingyas, and Somalis, in the near future. More information will be made available on our website in due course.

Our focus with the Zakat initiative is ease, speed and transparency – we feel that only digital payments provide such characteristics. You may also transfer your Zakat to our dedicated bank account in Geneva with the following instructions to ensure it is recorded and spent as Zakat money

  • Bank transfer:
    • Beneficiary: UNHCR Voluntary Funds
    • Beneficiary Bank: Bank: UBS AG
    • Beneficiary Bank Address: Case Postale 2770, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
    • Clearing number: 240
    • Swift Code: UBSWCHZH80A
    • Account #: D710 0000 5
    • IBAN #: CH79 0024 0240 D710 0000 5
    • Currency: USD
    • Reference or description: “Zakat Lifeline Campaign”
(please make sure to include it so that your donation goes directly to the cause)

Yes, quarterly reports on UNHCR’s Zakat initiative collection and distribution are published on UNHCR’s Zakat.

Zero. UNHCR is following a 100% Zakat policy. There will be no overhead or operational costs associated with donations on the Zakat page (i.e. 0%). The biometric registration of refugees by UNHCR is linked to cash assistance, which reduces overhead costs, ensures 100% accountability and timeliness of assistance. Other overhead costs, such as bank transfer fees, will be covered from other sources of funding to UNHCR.

Money is allocated through a vetting system that ensures Zakat goes to most vulnerable (below extreme poverty line) eligible refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon, with a focus on families comprising widows and their children. Zakat funds are strictly allocated to our cash assistance programmes in Jordan and Lebanon, which we see as the best use of Zakat. Zakat donors choose where their Zakat goes from the onset of making a Zakat donation (to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon or both), options to help other eligible displaced populations will be available soon.

UNHCR does receive funding from governments, however due to the sheer number of refugee emergencies globally, this funding doesn’t fully cover our important work in assisting vulnerable persons of concern to UNHCR. We are addressing that shortfall through alternative sources of donations and through innovative programmes such as the Zakat initiative. 

UNHCR’s Zakat initiative has received five fatwas endorsing UNHCR as a legitimate recipient of Zakat funds, all from major Islamic scholars & institutions.o Dar al-Ifta al-Missriyyah is one of Egypt and the world’s leading centres for Islamic legal research. It was established in 1895CE and is considered one of the earliest modern fatwa producing institutes.o The Senior Scholars’ Council of Morocco is the highest official religious authority in Morocco, which includes a fatwa council.o The Fatwa Council of Tarim is located in Hadramaut, Yemen. Hadramaut has been a major centre for scholarship for over a millennium and has produced many of the world’s leading scholars.oDr Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the former Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt and professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University.o Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah is an instructor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.

The cash assistance programme is an innovative way to ensure 100% of Zakat donations go to people most in need, with no overhead. Through the Zakat initiative, we provide refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon – who are not in camps – with the money they need to continue living their daily lives in dignity.

Zakat recipients are of course vetted by UNHCR. The aim of the Zakat initiative is to help refugees help themselves, and we know from years of experience administrating the programme that recipient refugees do spend the cash on essentials. Most vulnerable families remain supported by our cash programme until UNHCR helps them become self-reliant or finds them other durable solutions.

Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are integrated within society – they are mostly not in camps. The bulk of cash assistance is spent by refugees on rent, food, healthcare and debt repayment among other essentials. The cash assistance programme has saved families from eviction, addressed health conditions, child labour and other exploitative work conditions, and has ensured many families can send their children to school and repay the debts that lay heavy on their shoulders.

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