BRIDGEVIEW, IL (28 July 2020) — Zakat Foundation of America has announced the creation of the Zakat Foundation Institute, an independent nonprofit graduate school aiming to professionalize Muslim charitable work and award masters degrees in humanitarian and development studies to candidates from the Islamic philanthropic sector.
The Institute plans to inaugurate its ambitious program this fall – in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy – by offering 10 Muslim Philanthropy and Humanitarian Studies Fellowship awards to prospective students with a proven commitment of service to Muslim charities.
“Muslim charitable work has grown exponentially in the last two decades, as has the legion of people who have dedicated themselves to making that happen,” says Halil Demir, founding executive director of Zakat Foundation and author of 9 Myths About Muslim Charities.
“It’s really past time that we focus a deliberately analytical and reflective eye on what we are doing as Muslim humanitarians,” he says, “and on the fast-changing and, honestly, daunting environments we are doing it in.
Demir says Muslim charities need the self-critique and to hone their approaches to Islamic humanitarianism. He also notes the serious need to raise the professional qualifications and prospects of those who choose this life of service.
“And, frankly, we need to be just as serious about where the Muslim philanthropic industry, if you will, will take its servants in their own personal and spiritual lives,” he says.
To help answer these concerns, Demir has enlisted the independent help of the Center on Muslim Philanthropy (CMP), a team of academics and educational management experts. They’re guiding the Zakat Foundation Institute through the higher education maze to becoming fully and independently operational, and accredited to award graduate certifications and degrees, in just 3 to 5 years.
That’s “ambitious but achievable,” according to CMP’s Rasheed Ahmed, set to become Zakat Foundation Institute’s founding executive director.
Beginning just a month from now, in the 2020 Fall Semester, selected Zakat Foundation Institute Fellows will embark on a one-year program requiring them to complete 18 graduate credits at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Successful fulfillment will lead the students to a Graduate Certificate in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University.
Simultaneously, they will earn a Graduate Certificate in Muslim Philanthropy and Humanitarian Studies from Zakat Foundation Institute. The program is part of the newly established Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at IU’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Zakat Foundation will fully fund the Fellowship, which CMP helped establish, and through it will cover all IU tuition costs for required courses. But Kamran Chaudri, who’s managing the legal implementation of Zakat Foundation Institute’s launch and work with CMP, as Zakat Foundation’s general counsel, says the Institute has begun its own life as a nonprofit independent from the Foundation itself.
“Zakat Foundation initiated the Institute and will support it with grants and hold a reserved seat on its board of directors, but it will function otherwise separately, with its own staff, assets, and direction,” he says.
He notes this kind of initiative is not an entirely new experience for Zakat Foundation, as it previously launched the now internationally thriving Khalil Center, a psychological and spiritual community wellness institution, though as a project of Zakat Foundation.
Since all required coursework for the Fellowship will occur online, with a limited in-person seminar, organizers see no coronavirus complications for chosen fellows, half from the US, with their counterparts international students, including several Rohingya refugees living and serving as humanitarian workers in the teeming, squalid camps of Bangladesh.
Or contact the Institute’s Executive Director, Rasheed Ahmed, at [email protected].
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