Is it moral for Muslims to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine’s refugees and people of other nationalities that Russia’s invasion has displaced into other border countries? Is it acceptable when the leaders of those host countries have brutally and resolutely barred Muslim refugees from their human right to life-saving hospitality for years only “because” they are Muslim, and even when many of the citizens of these nations — including some Ukrainians — have likewise shown contempt for Muslim refugees and non-European displaced peoples, openly declaring their enmity to Islam?
Some longtime and conscientious supporters of Muslim charities like the Zakat Foundation of America have raised this question to our staff and directors. They bitterly decry our March 3 call for Muslims and others to stand in the breach of the countries Ukraine borders — especially Poland, Hungary, and Romania — to provide relief to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced streaming into them.
These objecting donors have condemned “any aid you provide to the displaced white, blue-eyed, and blonde-haired Ukrainians” as misguided humanitarianism at best, or simply “in vogue” opportunism, “jumping on” or “cashing in on the misery of these people.”
They say that they “cannot in good conscience support a racist and Islamophobic regime in Poland, which your organization will be supporting indirectly” with this aid, and that, as Muslims, they “along with many others feel the same way about this issue.”
This brings them to an incriminating moral judgment: “If you are going to be working with the Polish government on this, then you are also part of the racist and anti-Muslim problem in Europe.”
They deem any outside humanitarian effort from Muslims for Ukraine not only an ideological but also a chronological and geographical misappropriation of charity. “You could have done better to make people realize that Palestine and the Middle East including Syria (which shares the border and refugees in Turkey) is still a bigger and longer running issue than this recent one in Europe.”
Words mark the furthest extent of help Muslims can legitimately offer Ukraine, “to condemn the aggression perpetrated against them by Russia.” Beyond this lies moral transgression, they say. Hence, the charitable step Zakat Foundation of America has taken to help Ukrainian refugees in Poland, they contend, has carried us past the limits that Islam permits.
This, they say, has rightly earned us a “new and much more critical eye” from them for support of our humanitarian work. They “no longer have the respect … for your organization after your utter disregard of the Muslim sentiments on this matter.”
Now, our Prophet, on him be peace, has taught us that we Muslims are absolutely to uphold advice from one another — the giving and the taking of it — as a sacred religious duty we owe to one another. So we at Zakat Foundation of America quite sincerely want to thank our donors who offered their advice to us on Muslim relief for Ukraine.
Now, we want to return that religious favor of advice to these donors, and to all who would fulfill the sacred sadaqah imperative of the Quran and its Messenger, on him be peace, through the great blessing of the domestic and international humanitarian avenues Allah, in His mercy, has opened to us in our times.
We Muslims follow a path, not of personal emotion or partisan loyalty, but of divine Revelation. What Allah, Most High, and His Messenger, on him be peace, have given to us — in the Quran’s doubtless verses and the Prophet’s guiding way, on him be peace — we take.
Thus it is not ever befitting for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have for themselves a contrary choice in their affairs. For whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has truly strayed into clear misguidance (Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:36).
This Revelation has specifically warned us to scrutinize the opinions and pronouncements that come to us, “so as not to afflict a people out of ignorance, and thereafter become regretful about what you have done” (Surat Al-Hujarat, 49:7).
Moreover, we are to be a people of deliberation and deliberateness when it comes to the actions we take because we Muslims remain the bearers of this decisive Heavenly guidance in the world, Revelation “recited” and “not recited.” The former is the Quran. The latter is the statements, actions, and approvals of the Prophet, on him be peace. This is his living Sunnah, which specifies the Quran for us. It is this that keeps our religion supple in our hearts and our practice of it dynamic through our lives and the ages. It is as if the Prophet, on him be peace, is still among us, leading the way.
So take note, for here Allah cautions us:
Were he [the Prophet] to follow the inclinations you express in most matters, you would, most surely, become overburdened with hardships (Surat Al-Hujarat, 49:7).
This means we cannot leave the ruling regarding the morality of Muslims providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine through a global Muslim charity (that has painstakingly put a human structure in place that can fulfill this for us with a click of our fingers) to impulse and whim. Rather, we should refer our feelings and biases back to Allah and His Messenger, on him be peace, for right guidance.
LET US STATE a forthright word from the outset: Islam — from its principal sources and the practice of its most outstanding people – comes down unequivocally on the side of providing emergency relief to those who need it when they need it, if we can reach them:
Whether or not they believe like us
No matter their race, ethnicity, or geography
Even if their political leaders or they themselves express enmity toward Islam or to any of us because our religion is Islam
Allah and His messenger, on him be peace, have taught us to hasten to their aid. This applies even if the ones in dire need are not human at all but, say, animals in peril of death or harm, plants being poisoned, or minerals over-exploited such that they offset the balances Allah set in the earth. We are to do so seeking only God’s Face when providing their emergency relief.
It is for Allah alone to address the affairs of faith and belief for those in dire need or in the throes of calamity. Our responsibility is to do good to them. And not just for the empathy that should strike our hearts when we behold their suffering — but to soothe the yearning within us to be nearer to Allah.
It is not incumbent upon you, [O Muhammad,] to ensure the openness of the hearts of people and their acceptance of divine guidance. Rather, it is God who guides whomever He so wills. And know that whatever good you believers spend, it is for the good of your own souls. So whatever you spend in charity, do so seeking only the Face of God. Thus, whatever good you spend shall be rendered to you in full — and never shall you be wronged in the least (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:272).
This is Islam. It is “The Peace” or, if you will, “The Submission.”
And who are we Muslims but the ones who humbly seek with our lives to bear this witness?
We seek to restore peace to disturbances in the divine order.
“You are the best Community ever brought forth ‘for’ the good of humankind.”
We seek to return ourselves and the world after misguided defiance to its natural state of this submission.
“You enjoin what is right. And you forbid what is wrong.”
We serve Allah by serving the urgent needs of His servants, all His creatures, and all His creation.
“And you believe in the One God” (Surat Al ‘Imran, 3:110).
We intend, here, to account for why Zakat Foundation of America and other international Muslim relief groups should provide non-Zakat emergency relief to the refugees and displaced of Ukraine, if they have the means, but let’s first acknowledge something crucial:
There is a reason for the natural “Muslim sentiments” of outrage and repugnance for the emergency aid Muslim humanitarian organizations are now rushing to these people.
Ukraine and its neighbors — and most of Europe — have responded in the cruelest and most dehumanizing way for decades to Muslim refugees. And not just to Muslims, but they have also denied and withheld support for others whose skin tones are different from their own, fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), or Sub-Saharan Africa, or South or East Asia, or who are part of long-persecuted peoples within Europe itself, like the Roma. They chose not to take a stand against wars and displacements that these peoples of Europe themselves have mostly perpetrated against Muslims and the races to begin with.
You’d have to have a heart of stone, or lack communal, human emotion altogether, not to feel fury and sorrow after bearing witness to the difference of how Europe, east and west, is reacting to, portraying, and receiving with compassion and dignity-preserving welcome Ukrainian refugees. This is in clear contrast with its years of rejection and persecution of mostly Muslim, but also African and Asian non-Muslim, asylum-seekers. And just months after a new wave of the Afghan refugee crisis began.
Europeans and their global offspring lionize the Ukrainians defending their homes and land against aggression. Even those who’ve blown themselves up in the effort, they’ve hailed as heroes. But the Muslim who defends his rights and honor, his home and family, his ancestral lands and freedoms, they label “terrorist” and assail his faith as a “religion of violence,” such that all Muslims are “fittingly” suspected of terrorism.
Hungary’s notoriously Islam-hating and supremacist prime minister, Victor Orbán, refused to give Muslim asylum-seekers even the compassion of the title “refugees.” He instead marked them “Muslim invaders” and stigmatized them with the newly pejorative political classification of “migrants.” Yet Ukraine’s émigrés he now welcomes with among the most efficient, considerate “refugee” receptions of our times, proving it was possible all along to accept Muslim refugees if not for his abject bigotry.
“We are able to tell the difference between who is a migrant and who is a refugee,” he recently said, with trademark arrogance and hardheartedness. “Migrants are stopped. Refugees can get all the help.”
Kiril Petkov, his Bulgarian counterpart, minced no words about the difference between Ukrainian and Muslim refugees: “This is not the refugee wave we have been used to — people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.”
For 11 straight years, European governments and the European Union have executed policies of overt, inhuman rejection, humiliation, and walled-off encampments for tens of thousands of Syrian Muslims fleeing for their lives from horrific, relentless aerial bombardment, poison gas attacks, and military assaults.
The word "displacement" only clinically describes the saga these human beings have been forced to bear. They have been chased relentlessly from hideout to hovel and made refugees on multiple occasions. In desperation, they finally departed — fled — their country and region. They alighted utterly broken among Europeans they had never met.
There, barely clothed, Muslim and non-Muslim asylum-seekers — women, children and babies, just like the Ukrainian ones we’re now seeing tearfully humanized for hours on the nightly news — received only the frigid welcome of water cannons and teargas from Poland in the dead of winter.
Driven by despair into the Mediterranean Sea in over-packed rubber dinghies and scarcely seaworthy boats controlled by exorbitantly charging traffickers, these asylum seekers watched helplessly as Greek, Italian, Spanish and Maltese coast guards and navy ships left them adrift or committed illegal and unthinkable pushbacks of their vessels from territorial waters into open seas. And how many then washed up lifeless on the European shores they were prevented from reaching?
Beginning in 2016 with Italian efforts through fractured Libyan ministries and militias under cover of official Coast Guard status, the European Union has since surreptitiously funded and trained the personnel of a lucrative, for-profit shadow prison system. It centers on structures called Al-Mabani — The Buildings — in Libya to extrajudicially hold African migrants from Eritrea, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau and other countries, and keep them out of Europe. This, along with high-level payoffs to politicians in select African nations, has dramatically curtailed asylum migration from the heart-shaped continent to Europe.
The small percentage of these shrinking numbers of refugees who have found their way into Europe — often to great, self-congratulatory public relations fanfare from these countries’ leaders — came to receptions of isolated detainment, sometimes for years. In Germany, they literally went to Holocaust-era Nazi concentration camp buildings in Dachau, where thousands of Jewish slave laborers died — not refashioned but only renamed in true Orwellian style as “Refugee Center.”
We’ve spoken of Syrian refugees, but what of Afghans suffering 20 years of massive, and massively pointless, American onslaught; or Libyans, Tunisians, and Sub-Saharan Africans, all of whose lands still limp with the dysfunction and crippling intercession of centuries of European imperialism?
What of 5 million Palestinians ground for three-quarters of century under the millstone of unmistakable Israeli apartheid, brought to you by America, and Russia, and Europe, with a like number in permanent diaspora scatter-shot across the world?
Yet even this is insufficient to understand why Muslims feel an infuriated cognitive dissonance when beholding, say, Poland’s or Hungary’s well-organized, red-carpet welcome of Ukraine’s citizen refugees.
It is the blatant mistreatment of Muslim students, and Africans, Indians, and Asians trying to flee from the same life-threatening Russian assault on Ukraine. Ukrainian policemen, guards, and militiamen — people you’d think most sensitive to the shared plight of these scared, displaced young people — instead beat and harassed them in flight.
They physically stopped them — women included — from boarding trains and busses meant to serve precisely this purpose, even when these vehicles had room or the Muslim, African, or Asian students had humbly waited for their turn for hours, days.
Some who did succeed in boarding were forcibly removed from the transportation to safety they had paid for, compelling them at gunpoint to make way for free-boarding Ukrainians. Callously, these armed Ukrainians pointed west. “There’s Poland. Walk.”
Fleeing Ukrainians received the kindnesses of food, water, rides, and services along the way from both Ukrainians and their well-wishers in sympathetic host countries. Yet the Muslims and the displaced of other continents and complexions weren’t allowed to buy food. They were compelled by armed Ukrainians to relieve themselves in the winter woods like animals, though these students stood right outside the doors of available washrooms.
Most of our black, and brown, and Muslim young had to watch their displaced Ukrainian fellows cross into Poland or other countries in minutes — extended asylee visas ready and waiting all across Europe — while these same “hosts” forced them to wait for hours, even days, to gain entry and find services, when all these poor students were trying to do was go home.
But what has sent Muslims even more over the humanitarian edge is the reporting of transparently racist Western journalists from and on Ukraine. This self-blinded display of an obliviously ingrained Ukrainian and European religious prejudice and white supremacism has exponentially compounded the moral sense of Muslim outrage across the world.
Listen to this unconscious “honesty” from an NBC reporter on the difference between Ukrainian and Syrian war victims:
“To put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria,” she said. “These are refugees from neighboring Ukraine. I mean, that is, quite frankly, part of it. These are Christians. They’re white. They are very similar to people in Poland.”
Or how about this from a CBS reporter trying to stay self-consciously cautious:
“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”
Ukrainians, Europeans — they represent civility and do not, therefore, merit the victimizations of war. But those Afghans and Iraqi Muslims, they apparently have it coming to them. As supposed barbarians, they deserve all the violence the West could “hope” for.
Here’s the “overarching truth … on glaring display” since Russia’s Ukraine invasion, according to one Canadian columnist who has somehow remained conscious of the humanity of Muslims and non-Europeans: “The lives of white Europeans engulfed by war matter and the lives of everyone else outside that continent engulfed by war do not.”
This long enumeration of the West’s blatant dehumanization and cruelty to Muslims — historically, as well as today in Ukraine and in reporting on its war — is to let our morally offended supporters and others know this: We, too, have the same bruised feelings and trampled sensibilities that have caused some Muslims to denounce organized Muslim humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the face of such fulsome religious bigotry, racist supremacy, and ethno-nationalism.
It’s not that these Muslim donors want to withhold help from the desperate and dislocated. They simply don’t want to see Muslim sadaqah support the racism and Islamophobic governance at work in Ukraine and the European host countries receiving them. To these objecting donors, our aid seems only to abet these empowered perpetrators’ abuse of Muslim and non-European refugees and displaced, to fortify racist, fascist-leaning, fortress Europe.
But as the early 20th-century Libyan teacher Omar al-Mukhtar — turned anti-colonialist leader and fighter against Italian imperialist aggression — said to his followers who advocated abuse against captured Italian soldiers like what the Italians did to their Libyan prisoners of war and occupation: “They are not our teachers.”
Indeed. We seek, then, not the counsel of our passions and emotions for guidance in these fraught matters of Muslim humanitarian aid among the people mistreating us, or who have proclaimed themselves adversaries to us because of our religion. Rather, we look to the Quran and the way of Prophet, on him be peace, and their expression in the lives of our knowledgeable and our admirable predecessors in faith.
AMONG THE MOST crucial of all principles in Islam — and this applies to all human beings whether they believe in Islam or not — is that “actions are by intention,” meaning the real value of our deeds with Allah comes from what our true purposes are in doing them. And we’d do well to keep in mind that, with Allah, the words we say also count as actions.
Allah has barred us, in fact, from sitting in religious judgment about the people He strikes with calamity, and from moral speculation about why He brought disaster down upon people, be they acts of man or of God. The Ukraine war does not mark the first time Muslim donors have objected to humanitarian aid Zakat Foundation of America has provided to people engulfed in catastrophe.
When the great 2004 tsunami swept away hundreds of thousands, injured half a million, made 5 million homeless, wounded, displaced, or orphaned 1.5 million children, believe it or not, some Muslim donors complained then about Zakat Foundation of America rushing aid to the stricken across the world.
“Why do you help these sinners? Do you know what goes on in Bali?”
So came the withering criticism from some devout Muslims. Zakat Foundation of America’s Executive Director, Halil Demir, recounts his impassioned, if spontaneous, reaction to a surprise call from one such detractor in his 2019 book — part memoir, part vindication of the humanitarian sadaqah imperative in Islam — 9 Myths About Muslim Charities.
His evergreen defense for Muslim humanitarian aid to all victims is cogent for helping Ukraine today. Here’s what he said:
Ours is not to judge others, or even to hold preconceptions about someone’s suffering. Ours is to witness, which means to be conscious and then act on that consciousness in a human way.
That is our role as humanitarians, as Muslims, the Middle Nation of compassion: To help as many human beings as we can. To save as many people as we can. To be there for the victims — victims who are crying, victims who in an instant lost their families and livelihoods, victims who are in pain.
That’s what we know God ordered us to do. That’s what the Quran tells us to do. That’s what the Prophet, peace be upon him, showed us to do. That’s what all Islam’s teachings warn us to do.”
He then pivots to a direct refutation of the anti-Islam propaganda against Muslim charities by “a hardened cadre of antagonists to Muslims that have since emerged.” He explains the Quranic basis for the universal application of Muslim humanitarian aid, and he debunks the spread of a gross misinterpretation of it that is oddly being forwarded by these two diametrically opposed groups.
On one hand, there are the dangerous Islamophobe lobbies fighting to de-institutionalize Muslim charities, and Islam altogether, as a legitimate religion in the West (a first gambit, incidentally, to selectively suspend civil liberties on a path that can well lead to genocide). On the other are the errant understandings of well-meaning Muslims who seek to theologize, politicize, or otherwise dogmatize Muslim humanitarian action.
Both groups variously claim, falsely, that Islam prohibits Muslims from helping others, either because Islamic Law prohibits Muslims from helping non-Muslims, or the would-be recipients constitute an ideological or militant enemy to Islam and Muslims, or the proposed charitable beneficiaries hold partisan beliefs that differ from our own, thus rendering them unbelievers.
We’ll indulge in a final, admittedly lengthy, excerpt from his argument from the Quran that explains why we Muslims — if we are to be true to Islam — not only can but must give to all the needful and victimized we can reach, including Ukraine’s refugees and its displaced of other religions, races, and ethnicities.
We do this because Islam commands this kind of active witness to professed belief expressed as humanitarian service to all other human beings, especially those in critical need of life-saving aid. With impassioned repetition, the Quran tells Muslims that a primary cause of human failure is our obstinate refusal to operationalize our claim of faith in One God, that is, to act in the most basic way on our humanity. In evidence of this, the Quran carries us to the Afterlife so we can hear direct human testimony — from those who did not pass the test of earthly life — about a main reason that they lost their souls everlastingly to the rebuke of God. Look at their answer: “We were not of those who prayed. Nor did we feed the indigent” (Surat Al-Muddaththir, 74:42-44).
Think about this. The Quran links ritual worship to charitable action that sustains the life of the poor and dispossessed. Not feeding the hungry can seem to us a small neglect for so great a forfeiture as the loss of everlasting happiness. Yet God embedded compassion for others in the human heart and then fixed this — in that same piece of flesh in our chest — to genuine belief in Him. In other words, you do not truly believe in God if you do not succor the vulnerable. And whoever does not succor the vulnerable does not truly believe in God in his or her heart, no matter what one’s mouth says. I have highlighted “succor” here, knowing this term has fallen from fashion, because it is the right word to use. It literally means to “run up to the help of” someone, to “rush to something or someone from below,” that is, to uphold the needful with aid when they suffer collapse from calamity.
“Succor” precisely defines the Quran’s repeated description of how all the prophets of God, and the believers who followed them, fulfilled His command to act as one faith-community, and expressly so in rushing to the aid of other human beings. This comes, moreover, with the specific warning, so relevant in these times, not to “split into factions among themselves … each party exulting in whatever they had taken hold of” (Sûrat Al-Mu’minun, 23:53) and believing that something special about them — in creed and essential quality — makes them humanity’s exceptional grouping.
The Quran does not allow for such identity politics when it comes to the collective human obligation to act as one in the interest of others in need. Nor does it leave unqualified the kind of unity in faith it is prescribing. It characterizes the sincere as “cautious,” that is reflective, about the consequences of their actions, and explicitly about what they take in and what they deal out. Pay heed here. A person of upright faith following upon the footsteps of the prophets of God, according to the Quran, restrains him- or herself to consume only wholesome things yet goes all out, and with urgent intent and acute humility, in doing righteous deeds.
Neither are we left to speculate about the kinds of acts that qualify as virtuous. The Quran very particularly characterizes them and the motivation of the people who do them as wholly benevolent, done for the sole purpose of promoting human welfare, in love and awe of God: “Those who give charitably all that they give, with trembling hearts, because they know they are returning to their Lord for Judgment — it is these who ‘hasten to exceed one another in good works.’ And they are, indeed, foremost in fulfilling them” (Surat Al-Mu’minun, 23:52, 60-61).
There’s where the human competition lies in the eyes of God — not in racking up profit no matter who we steamroll. Not in accumulating power, influence, and admiration to ourselves. Rather, the quest for our humanity lies in the opposite of this. Who can do most in helping the needy? Who can reach the suffering with assistance first? Who can give most from their wealth and their selves, without profligacy, to uplift the destitute and deserving?
This is why Muslims give charity. We know we hold no Godly exemption from the trials we strive to alleviate in others. It could be us. It might be. Today, it often is. We seek only God’s Face in giving, His forgiveness for our failings, knowing we are frail. We are the meek.
With this fear, our hearts quaver. With this hope, our hands work.
WHAT THE WORLD needs now and is quite literally dying for is a force of people who come forth and say, “We want to help people” — and it’s not based on tribe, or race, or class, or caste — and they do it. Isn’t this the indictment we Muslims are laying at the feet of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and all of Europe when it comes to a decade of thwarted, interned, and penned-in Muslim, African, and Asian refugees, with others left floating face down in the Mediterranean? The hypocrisy between its proudly proclaimed values and its boldly betraying actions?
Don’t we Muslims know best what it feels like for the world to swath-brush you with stigmatizing labels, like “terrorist,” “misogynist,” “a religion of violence”? Isn’t this similar to what we now hear some Muslims arguing to prevent Muslim aid from going to Ukrainians and the nations taking them in? Will we sweep all Poles, Hungarians, and Europeans into the categories of Nazis, racists, and Muslim-haters because of the identification and beliefs of some among them who harbor these aberrant convictions? Who has been harmed more by such detestable, whole-cloth generalizations than Muslims?
Will we Muslims, the most prejudicially pigeonholed people in the world, now mint our own disparaging label of bigotry — “white, blue-eyed, and blonde-haired” — as cultural code for not helping “certain types” of human victims who have lost everything? Will we not help those who are separated from home, land, parents, siblings, children, loved ones, and livelihoods they may never see again?
Will we conveniently forget how many Syrian, Afghan, and Yemeni asylees — Muslims like us — found refuge in Ukraine and who once again became refugees with their Ukrainian neighbors? And have we also forgotten how many a native, established Muslim community in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and even Ukraine has lived there for centuries?
Or is your “no refugee support with Muslim charity” argument for Ukraine’s exiles based on the governments whose powers represent the peoples of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, even Ukraine, and the capacity of these authorities to implement anti-Islam policies and mass repression of Muslims? Then show me the government in the Muslim world that meets this bar. If this is the criterion, we shall be providing sadaqah relief to exactly no one in the world.
We Muslims cannot see humanitarian aid as somehow mutually exclusive. Why can’t we help all of Adam's Children? Allah, who created us all, admonished us with one of the most consequential ayahs in the Quran:
O humankind! Be ever God-fearing, conscious of your Lord who created all of you from a single soul — and from it created its mate, and from them both spread abroad many men and women. So fear God, in whose name you ask consideration of one another. And, therefore, be dutiful to kindred. For, indeed, ever is God vigilant over all of you (Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:1).
This ayah reminds us of our overriding human brotherhood and the superseding God-given human right it confers on each of us over one another. And how special a divine sign is it that — since first Allah revealed this verse to him — our Prophet, on him be peace, began most of his public addresses with it?
No. We Muslims cannot withhold help from any needful ones we can reach.
Despite the shyness one may feel, then, in recounting our humanitarian efforts, let's remember what we’ve achieved together — Zakat Foundation of America and you, our donors — for Allah’s sake. Let’s remember walking what the Quran characterizes as sadaqah’s “steep road” (Surat Al-Balad, 90:11-12), for Allah permits us to speak of the good we have done in our defense when blamed.
Zakat Foundation of America, since its July 2001 inception, has, all praise for Allah, leaped to the forefront of delivering Allah’s vital blessings to Muslims across the world in every conceivable crisis on five continents.
In Palestine, Yemen, Iraq, Gambia, Kenya, Mali, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and dozens of other countries; for the Rohingya, Bosnians, Uyghurs, Rawandans, Cambodians, and other oppressed victims of genocide; for orphans, widows, the displaced, and countless stricken — Allah has delivered some of His help to a growing list of Muslim recipients using Zakat Foundation of America and the sadaqah and zakat you have entrusted to us. Our work together traces its way through the mushrooming crises devastating Muslims through the reaches of the world in these latter times of test and tribulation for our Ummah.
And, perhaps no other global charity, Muslim or others, has pioneered the innovative help for the Syrian displaced that Zakat Foundation of America has delivered to them, both in Syria and in Turkey (along with Lebanon and Jordan). In Gaziantep, Turkey, Allah has enabled us through your donations to provide free housing and entrepreneur training in the fully furnished facilities of the Muhammad Ali Safe House, and the first higher education undertaking of its kind, Zahraa University. Its professors, staff, and students (tuition-free) are all Syrian refugees.
Yet the reach of our relief, with your zakat and sadaqah entrustments, does not stop at the margins of our faith or the borders of Muslim-majority nations. We rushed lifesaving aid to Haiti with the devastating 2010 earthquake and have had a permanent presence there since.
We were on the scene in 2015, for Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala and throughout Central and South America, to feed and provide shelter for the largest refugee and migrant crisis in the history of the Americas. We are among the first Muslim charities to establish a Latin American headquarters in Cordoba, Argentina.
We fed, watered, and housed the Houstonians inundated by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 with our widely hailed Caravan of Love. And we were the first humanitarians on the ground a month later in Puerto Rico, having prepared and staged our food, medical, and financial relief in advance of Hurricane Maria, traveling to its most remote and largely unreached hardest-hit areas.
Nor is this an evolved impulse for Zakat Foundation of America to deliver relief to others in need besides Muslims. Notably, among the first people we began to help shortly after our 2001 founding were those of the Navajo Nation at Window Rock, Arizona, building them a Community Center to get out of the cold and heat, as well as providing other aid.
In addition, Zakat Foundation of America has established a broad, deep network of partnerships — internationally and locally — with civil and religious aid organizations and distributors throughout the world.
When the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-racism uprisings after George Floyd’s killing erupted, Zakat Foundation of America acquired and distributed, through your gifts, tens of thousands of PPE (personal protective equipment) to frontline medical workers. They were in the most underequipped facilities that could not access federal supplies, even though they provided health care to the most underserved populations in the nation. At the same time, we delivered millions of pounds of food to hundreds of thousands across the entire United States for nearly two years.
WE'LL GIVE THE last word here to Halil Demir in his 9 Myths About Muslim Charities:
The Quran holds giving charity as evidence of a Muslim’s true faith, while repulsing the vulnerable signals one’s unbelief.
Have you seen one who belies the coming of God’s Judgment? This, then, is the same one who repels the orphan and who will not urge the feeding of the indigent” (Surat Al-Ma‘un, 107:1-3).
But look at the Quran’s startling conclusion after these verses. It issues stern warning — not to the unbelievers — but to those who, in body, offer ritual worship purporting belief, but whom it labels “unmindful” of the meaning of their devotions! For the religious observance of the heart cannot hold true, the Quran tells us, if it fails to activate one’s hands in securing comfort for the afflicted and the necessities of life for the needful.
So woe to all those who pray — those who are unmindful about their Prayers, those who only make a show of worship, while they withhold basic aid from others” (Surat Al-Ma‘un, 107:4-7).
Not in text or precept does Islam constrain its people to help only Muslims. Rather, it exhorts us to just the opposite. It demands Muslims prove the truth of the faith they claim and the sincerity of the worship they perform by helping all in need — animal, vegetable and mineral — but especially the people it strikingly categorizes as suffering debilitating deprivation, disaster, or societal vulnerability. And it does so with no reference to space or race.
In other words, Islam identifies belief itself by the witness of our humanitarian action. That action’s prerequisite is detachment from want of favor or thanks. Without this purely human act of pure kindness, one’s profession of faith in One God hangs empty. For Islam refuses to uncouple its twin integrals of iman wa amal, faith and works, the paired fulcrum upon which this religion pivots.
Charity validates one’s faith in Islam. That is the literal meaning of sadaqah, or “truth-affirming” voluntary charity. To be Muslim is to give charity. In this, we seek to mirror a Loving-kind God — “both His Hands are stretched out wide. He dispenses His ever-flowing blessings as He so wills” (Surat Al-Ma’idah, 5:64) — unchained by the words, whims, and margins of much-bordered minds.
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In 2021, 94¢ from each dollar donated went directly toward programs serving those in need. 3¢ went to administrative costs & 3¢ went to fundraising costs.