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Friday, August 21, 2009

Ramadan and the Tradition of Zakat

Ramadan, a holy time when Muslims fast and focus their attention on giving to charity, starts this weekend. Zakat is an integral part of Ramadan and one of the five pillars of Islam. Specifically, zakat requires Muslims to give at least 2.5% of their assets to the poor and hungry.

But American Muslims have found it difficult to meet this requirement in recent years. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US government increased its scrutiny of Islamic charities accusing some of providing support to terrorists. This dampened zakat as many American Muslims feared that their generosity may inadvertently support terrorist activities.

President Obama hopes to change that. In a speech he gave in June in Cairo, he said, "rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat."

To help Muslims practice informed giving during Ramadan, Charity Navigator published a listing of highly rated charities which either work in countries with large Muslim populations or strive towards the alleviation of hunger.

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Unknown said...

Ramadan is certainly going to be a spiritual month for Muslims around the world. I recently saw a beautiful documentary about three of the most famous mosques in the world. It certainly coincides with the spirit of Ramadan: http://explore.org/explore/middleeast/films/173

Unknown said...

Zakat is the compulsory form of charity for all Muslims based on the amount of wealth they have held over an Islamic year (the Muslim calendar is based around the moon and lasts for either 354 or 355 days). For Muslims, Zakat is not simply a form of charitable giving but rather a means of achieving spiritual, moral and social objectives - a path to ‘purification’ of a donor’s wealth and a mechanism to redistribute income to the poorer elements of the Islamic economic system.
zakat calculator