Charity is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and, during the Holy month of Ramadan in 2020, UK Muslim giving to charities exceeded £150m+ in donations, as zakat and in other ways. They don't get the recognition they deserve for their charity work and fundraisers are missing out on an opportunity. This year Ramadan begins on 12 April and will end on 12 May.
I'm white and middle class, like far too many in the charity sector, but I've increasingly been working with Muslim charities. This article has been written to help raise awareness of the huge contribution British Muslims make to charity, which doesn't seem to get the credit it should, and make fundraisers more aware of a missed opportunity.
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year. In 2021, it begins on 12 April and ends on 12 May. Muslims observe the month of Ramadan, to mark that Allah, gave the first chapters of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad in 610.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast, abstain from pleasures and pray to become closer to God. It is also a time for families to gather and celebrate. In 2020, it's been estimated that UK Muslims gave a record breaking £150m. In 2015, according to World Bank estimates the annual global Zakat contribution was worth between £152 billion and £763 billion. To put that in context, the entire UK charity sector annual income is about £50 billion.
Zakat, meaning to purify, is the third pillar of Islam. It denotes the amount of wealth that a Muslim is obligated to pay to underprivileged and disadvantaged people. Any Muslim, whose personal wealth exceeds the nisab (threshold of wealth) must pay Zakat, usually 2.5%, with exceptions for those who are unable to do so. Here's a video from the National Zakat Foundation that explains a bit more about it.
One aspect of zakat that I particularly admire is that it's not just about donating money, you must do so with humility. Muslims focus on doing good, not telling people about it - perhaps a lesson there for some in our sector.
There are also many other forms of charity support:
"On the other hand, Allah directs man to the spiritual purity through the act of giving that is represented by charity
that the pious pays as "Zakat" and "Sadakat" almsgiving, and other financial obligations."
Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah
There are 2.7m Muslims in the UK, of which 47% are UK born, 68% are ethnically Asian and 33% are aged 15 and under.
The towns with large numbers of Muslims are Bradford, Blackburn, Luton, Birmingham, London and Dewsbury. There are also high numbers in High Wycombe, Slough, Leicester, Derby, Manchester and towns in Northern England.
The largest ethnic group are of Pakistani origin, followed by those from Bangladesh, but there are also groups of Indian, Somali, Turkish, white European, Mahgrebi and Nigerian Muslims.
Muslims are less well off than others, yet give at a higher value. Giving per head annually is £371, but many British Muslims donate single gifts of up to £30,000. They are more likely to donate during Ramadan, online and are family orientated – areas of interest include children with disabilities, disadvantaged families, homelessness, education and refugee families.
"Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend (in charity) out of the (substance) whereof He has made you heirs.
For, those of you who believe and spend (in charity), for them is a great Reward."
The UK Pakistani diaspora alone donates £1.25 billion each year to good causes in the Uk and Pakistan.
The work of Muslim charities within the international arena is well known, but perhaps less so their work in the UK and that many support people of all faiths, not just Islam. They also work incredibly hard to ensure that the maximum amount of money goes to those in need. Many of the smaller charities operate on a purely voluntary basis and the larger ones work hard to keep their administrative costs to an absolute minimum.
I know that we all say that and I'm well aware of the fantastic work done by those in non-Muslim charities, but it is true. I recently advised a start-up where the founder is insisting that he personally pay all running costs, so that every penny goes to those in need, and another running substantial international programmes, without a single paid member of staff.
This is a resource from my free charity online toolkit, which enables you to increase impact, your financial resources and performance, in every area. It works for any charity and users rate its ease of use as 9/10: set-up is 2 mins, each of the 8 questionnaires 30 and there are 4000+ links to resources, including 200+ organisations that provide free goods, services and support for the sector.