“Considering the adage ‘time is money’, we find that giving well beyond the required annual zakat is a way of life for many.”
Muslims have been long speculated to be collectively donating more money than any other groups (religious or not) and finally, there have been a few studies proving this to be right.
A 2013 survey of UK Muslims has similar findings to those of an international report by the Pew Research Center: Muslims donate more on average than non-Muslims, giving between 20 billion and 1 trillion US dollars annually in alms. While there is some concern about whether or not these alms are properly managed and distributed, another recent study finds that many Muslims find other ways to effectively give of themselves via their time.
Taking a close look at the population dense and culturally diverse Muslim communities of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) found that 62% of the over 1,100 Muslims polled had volunteered at least once in the past year. Again, these findings are considerably higher than our non-Muslim counterparts, with only 27% of the general public having volunteered during the last year.
Members of the longest present ethnic group of Muslims in the US, African American Muslims, are slightly more inclined to give their time, with 80% reporting volunteering.
Yes, Muslims are More Likely to Give
From simple acts of neighborly kindness and regular involvement in Mosque activities to establishing international non-profit organizations, the ways and means with which Muslims choose to give their time are a staggering scope.
Considering the adage ‘time is money’, we find that giving well beyond the required annual zakat, is a way of life for many. Often non-profit organizations are perceived as providing services, but looking beyond an occasional bake sale or donating percentages of small business sales to charities, the inception of product or sales-based non-profit organizations is becoming more common.
The general non-profit sector is currently experiencing a massive growth and many Muslims have taken the leap to create non-profit organizations where they can fully mix their business expertise or even their favorite hobbies with barakah(blessings)..
Community service has always been an integral part of life for Zarinah El-Amin Naeem. The daughter of Imam Abdullah El-Amin, one of the founders of the socially active mosque, The Muslim Center of Detroit, Zarinah has been involved in unnumbered charitable activities, but after a trip abroad, she found a special spark to kindle.
In 2010, Zarinah visited her mentor Dr. Viola Vaughn to see the non-profit organization Vaughn founded in Senegal, ‘10, 000 Girls ‘. Zarinah says: “We are blessed with unlimited opportunities for education in this country. When I visited Senegal, I witnessed how difficult it is for some girls to achieve even the basic right of literacy. “
“The 10,000 Girls program trains young ladies to become agents of their own lives. They start businesses, they teach each other and they speak up for themselves. I was inspired and I knew we had to do our part.” She continues. As an anthropologist and artist at heart, Zarinah felt that she “should produce something that highlights multiple cultures” to support the 10,000 Girls program. Focusing on an art she had practiced since childhood,-head wrapping- Zarinah began producing the ‘Beautifully Wrapped’ calendars to sell in support of the girls’ program.
As well as featuring a stunningly photographed diversity of head wrapping styles from many cultures, the calendars also include historical facts from women’s history, “Why I wrap” personal statements, dates of religious significance and the Islamic Calendar, serving as an educational tool to build religious and cultural knowledge. In the third year of producing the calendars, Zarinah and the other volunteers have raised over $2,500 for the 10,000 Girls.
They have also succeeded in furthering what Zarinah sees as her life goal; “To connect humanity and help us as human beings recognize that our differences are cause for celebration and mutual respect, not hatred and discord.”For Lubna Saira, moving into the non-profit sector was a much needed lifestyle change. Lubna had worked in the textile and apparel designing business for 20 years. During the last several years, she spent plenty of time sourcing fabric and manufacturing opportunities in Pakistan where she daily faced the reality of the poor lifestyles of the workers in the garment industry.
Lubna finally acknowledged that she needed to be the change and took the leap to open the non-profit clothing company, ArdOSama’a to help make the already existing non-profit organization’ Lahaute Foundation ‘self-sustaining through clothing sales.
Find Your Way, Go Ahead
Lubna is still amazed and awed at the simplicity of her business model. Instead of contributing to the oppression of others through her work, she is directly working to relief the oppression of many, and instead of having to constantly fundraise for charity, she simply has to sell her beautiful clothes.Just as Zarinah found her niche in the art of head wrapping, Lubna found hers in producing modest clothes for Western women- both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Based in California, ArdOSama’a manufactures quality garments using an ethical and sustainable business model: US garment makers are paid fair wages, professionally services are provided pro-bono and the profits from the garments go to the welfare organization ‘Lahaute Foundation’, which provides water, food, health care, education and more to families in Pakistan.
Zarinah and Lubna’s organizations share similar business plans and goals. Most of the services needed to produce their products, are provided pro-bono, such as the photography and modeling for Zarinah’s calendars and the marketing and design for Lubna’s clothes; then other supplies and services, such as printing the calendars or transferring money internationally to the charities are paid for via specific administrative support donations. The entirety of the profits for the calendars and clothes go directly to the organizations they were meant to support.
According to Zaheer Khatri ,co-owner of the Islamic educational resources company ‘Learning Roots’, Even for profit organizations and businesses should include barakah (in the form of ethical business practices) in every aspect of their design and performance. Zeher also sees sadaqa as a necessary function in business management: “Sadaqah is essential to the lifeline of a Muslim-owned business, since it’s one of the best remedies to a sales slump!
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said that,
“Sadaqah does not decrease wealth.” (Muslim).
Setting up regular automatic donations to a charity is one of the convenient ways in which businesses can build sadaqah directly into their systems.”
However we find ways to give of our time and resources, it is wise to think of giving in similar terms to how the prophet’s companions did.
Aisha narrated that they slaughtered a goat and the Prophet (pbuh) asked: “How much of its meat remains?” They replied: “Nothing remains except for the shoulder piece.” The Prophet said: “Everything remains except for the shoulder piece.” (Tirmidhi)
While we may feel that emptying our pockets or offering our time takes away from us, in reality, this emptying truly lightens our load on this end, while filling the scale that is waiting for us on the other end.
First Published in October 2013.