Hungry for Ramadan

Hungry for Ramadan

The Challenge of Ramadan and Charitable Giving

umma_clinic.jpgOne of the most important tenets of Islam is charity, and it is during Ramadan when Muslim pocketbooks open most freely. With our hearts softened through the rigor of fasting and reflection, our attention turns to those less fortunate. Charity, or zakat in Arabic, is considered one of the five “pillars” of Islam and a mandatory tenet of the faith, and a strong charitable impulse is an attribute for which Muslims worldwide are well known. And at the end of Ramadan, a specific donation, zakat-ul-fitr, is collected for these charitable purposes.
In a post-9/11 America, however, the institution of zakat has taken on a whole new meaning. Scores of US-based Muslim charities have been shut down or their activities curtailed for fear of promoting terrorist causes overseas. While in some of these cases a link was established between one or more staff members and suspicious groups overseas, most closures were preemptive in nature, leaving millions of dollars of Muslim charitable contributions with nowhere to go.


I am fairly sure I can speak for every Muslim who I know when I say that I would be horrified if my charitable dollar were used for political or militant purposes. But without acceptable alternatives to now-shuttered Muslim charities in the U.S. (the government will not identify clean Muslim charities to assure confused donors), we are left with few charities to address the humanitarian (not political or religious) needs of Muslims overseas.
Here’s the upside: There has been a positive side effect of the charity scrutiny. Fearful of the risks of donating overseas, many Muslims are looking for charitable outlets here at home–and dynamic home-grown Muslim organizations are rising to the challenge. Here are two of my favorites:
One is the University Muslim Medical Association (UMMA) Free Clinic, located in south central Los Angeles. Founded ten years ago by Muslim medical students at UCLA, this clinic has provided free health care to tens of thousands of residents of South Central LA, 97 percent of whom are not Muslim. Local Muslim doctors and health care workers volunteer their time and skills, and funds are raised from within the local Muslim community.
The other is the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), based in the south side of Chicago. In addition to a health clinic similar to the one in Los Angeles, IMAN has created substance abuse services, food banks, transitional housing, and other social services desperately needed in the community. As with the UMMA clinic, IMAN’s services primarily benefit non-Muslims in the area, and all funds are raised locally.
My zakat contributions this Ramadan will be going to these two organizations, among others that constitute Muslim efforts to better the society around them. Whether you are Muslim or not, I encourage you to look into these and other Muslim-led organizations as possible recipients of your charitable contributions.

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posted September 21, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Can’t we just give to those around us in need?

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Shahed Amanullah

posted September 21, 2007 at 2:29 pm

Can’t we just give to those around us in need?
Of course, but Muslims also want to be among those who help, not just as donors. People tend to give charity to communities with whom they are already familiar, and as more Muslims are native born, more of their charity dollars will go to their surrounding communities, Muslim or not.

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William T Walker

posted September 23, 2007 at 3:37 pm

i agree with charitable giving – yet the Muslim charities which diverted funds to other than good causes put a mark on the good people who worked and gave for the betterment of mankind. I have agonized since 911 about the intent of all Muslims. I have known Muslim people and dealt with them in the business world, yet the fault I have now is that in my heart I always wonder what their true intent is.
I was in combat in the United States Army many years ago. I and my fellow veterans now support orphanages of those we once fought against. We do this partly as an attempt at atonement for the ones who were unintentionally hurt in that combat. I have always prayed for forgiveness for those innocents hurt in war.
I heard nothing from our local Muslim community after 911. I saw nothing they did to indicate they were sorry for those innocent people killed (many of them fellow Muslims)
This is a fault of mine – yet I can not shake it from my soul. If the world Muslim community were to rise and denounce terrorism, denounce violence in the name of God, I could sincerely forgive them. For now I can’t. Tim Walker

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posted September 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Tim, read the following website. It shows that a number of Muslim clerics and organizations were very clear in their condemnation of terrorism in the wake of 9/11.

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posted September 24, 2007 at 12:26 am

There is still no shred of independent evidence that Muslims were behind 9/11. There are even several nonmuslims who have independently researched the evidence and assert that this was a false flag operation designed to incriminate muslims least able to defend themselves against the accusations. According to the PNAC website we needed an excuse to go into Iraq, something like a new Pearl Harbor.
As a start, let us consider why NORAD, which had scrambled successfully for so many years whenever an airborne emergency happened had effectively stood down. The only explanation that takes into account that there were patriotic people manning the posts is that there were military/security exercises that took place simultaneously, exactly mimicking the events that unfolded in real life. This confused communications as people could not be sure whether a message was for real or just part of the simulation.
What are the chances of an exercise mimicking a real life event at the same time? Virtually zero. And there is evidence that even in the London bombings of 7/7, exactly the same thing happened, with real life and simulated exercises about the same exact thing occurring at the same time.
The mainstream media has been singularly uncritical about how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been conducted, and even about the 9/11 investigations, preferring to take the government’s side in each case.
While Muslims abhor violence, there is no reason that Muslims should accept the MSM and Government versions of the stories about 9/11, especially in the hindsight of new evidence coming out every day. We sure need to catch the culprits, but a self-serving, government-sponsored “independent” inquiry is not the answer.
From recent revelations of previously classified documents, we learn that the Joint Chiefs were willing to go to war based on fudged evidence such as Operation Northwoods, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and even the explosion that sank the USS Maine.
Why should muslims believe it was muslims who did this, when those who have planned such deceptive strategies – as openly revealed recently through the freedom of information act – have done this kind of thing going back a long ways? A precision attack on the best-protected nation in the world carried out by primitives in a cave in Afghanistan? How could one even imagine such a thing, when we know that our government is not afraid of having Americans killed, in order to pursue their agenda, and is the only country to use nuclear weapons in anger?

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posted September 24, 2007 at 6:37 am

Shiraz, as long as Osama bin Laden praises the “magnificent 19″ at every opportunity, there is no point arguing that there is no evidence Muslims weren’t involved.

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posted September 24, 2007 at 3:55 pm

Please go to the following URLs and verify for yourself that most “Osama Bin Laden” videos and audios are fake, even those certified by the government as authentic.

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posted September 25, 2007 at 2:17 am

Just a question, then. Does the giving have to be done through a specifically ‘Muslim’ charity for it to count? Would, for instance, a donation to some secular (I could see not wanting to donate to one that proselytizes for another faith..) charity be considered alright?

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posted September 28, 2007 at 12:28 am

As far as I and many Muslims are concerned, it would be perfectly fine to give to a secular as long as it was going to serve the needy.

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