Muslims give 2.5 percent of their wealth to charity. This can be in money, food, or clothing, but it must go to those who need it most. It’s seen as a way of purifying oneself and others from greed and selfishness. And according to Muhammad, giving Zakat is just as important as praying and fasting during the month of Ramadan. Zakat must be given before distributing any other financial aid and after all debts and expenses have been paid off.
When someone says they live on welfare, you might think they receive government assistance or don’t work for a living – maybe even that they cheat the system. But what you may not realize is that this group includes some people who are willing to work but can’t find employment. According to the 2011 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 636,017 people in the United States were homeless in January 2011. Many of them are members of our community who either don’t have homes or struggle to hold on to their living situations. They may desperately seek assistance or shelter from other programs – sometimes with no success. No matter their story, it’s clear that they are not getting all the help they need.
With this in mind, Antioch University New England’s Community Action & Social Justice Center developed a program called Building Dignity, which helps local homeless and low-income families and individuals by organizing a food pantry, backpack program for children in kindergarten through ninth grade, and a clothing bank. These services are offered free of charge to anyone who is in need.
Busta Brown, director of the Community Action & Social Justice Center at Antioch’s campus in Keene, New Hampshire, says that they want to help everyone who comes to them seeking assistance, whether it’s finding a place to live or putting food on the table. “They [the clients] have been working their whole life,” he states. “They’ve been paying into everything just like everyone else has with no breaks whatsoever.” So far this year, they have served more than 400 people with their various programs.
Brown and his students find their strength in numbers. This program works to make a difference one step at a time by providing services for children and adults alike. But they need more help from the community this year if they hope to make an even greater impact. Unfortunately, they do not receive any funds from the federal government or other sources, so they rely on donations, fundraisers, and volunteers to keep the programs running smoothly.
The backpack program has produced almost 100 backpacks to send home with kids who cannot afford school supplies on their own during this upcoming school year. In addition, the food pantry went through its first summer of operation last year, serving about 40 families per month with fresh produce, breads dairy products that are often hard.
Muslims are obligated to give 2.5 percent of their wealth to charity each year. If they don’t, they risk going to hell when they die if their good deeds don’t outweigh their bad deeds in judgment by Allah or God. Zakat funds largely go toward helping poor Muslims make ends meet. It also goes toward funding Islamic schools and mosques in America’s inner cities, where many mosques have been forced to close due to a lack of money.
Zakat is obligatory upon every Muslim who owns more than the necessary amount for their expenses and family members. In other words, Zakat is payable if one has a certain amount in excess that may have been used for personal or family use without any need during the year preceding the payment of Zakat. This sum should be given away as Zakat by Islamic teachings.
Zakat itself does not bring a gain or a loss. It is neither a profit nor a loss but rather an action that ensures yields and prevents failures.
In many countries, financial institutions offer accounts from which 2.5 percent of individual deposits are deducted automatically and distributed to poor people worldwide who need it most.