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Lost in Logistics

“I am skydiving for Medical Aid for Palestinians; please donate generously for a truly worthy cause,” is a request that was retweeted to me some months ago. Naturally, any attempt to raise money for a people who are suffering under the yoke of oppression and terror deserves support, but I could not help but reply back to the individual in question and ask, “Why do you need to skydive to raise money for a worthy cause?”

The truth is that if a cause is genuinely deserving, people should be ready and willing to support it financially with a simple request. The mere fact that sincere individuals feel compelled to undertake some sort of activity to raise funding for their cause is, in my opinion, symptomatic of an underlying problem.

The example of skydiving is only the most recent; a particular culture has developed in the fundraising world where Muslims seem more ready to part with their money when provided with a celebrity speaker and three-course meal. I even heard one person say (paraphrasing) “It’s not worth going to this event, because there aren’t any good speakers coming.” These attitudes, in my opinion, and naturally I stand to be corrected, are the corollary of the adoption of a culture whose approach, if not antithetical to the tradition of our Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), is questionable at the very least.

My concern with these methods, is that they potentially divorce the act of charity from its ultimate purpose, which is to please Allāh and attain His Paradise. This is not to say that the two are mutually exclusive, but having assisted in organising fundraising dinners in the past, the considerations of fundraising committees are focussed around how to make the event attractive enough to secure a broad base of attendees and potential donors. Discussions usually focus on the style of the hotel, the quality of the food, the calibre of the presenters, the uniqueness of performances, etc.; all seeming to focus on incentivising the experience in order to ‘drag people in’. The importance of exhorting our fellow Muslims to donate for a worthy cause and by doing so simply earn the pleasure of their Lord, has become somewhat lost in logistics.

I place less blame at the feet of smaller charities in undertaking such events, because the predominant fundraising culture has forced them to conform or lose out. In fact, fundraising has developed into an industry of its own. With the proliferation of Islamic charities in the UK, the ‘fight’ to secure donations from a very limited Muslim supporter base has become fierce and necessarily corporate. The industry has become a multi-million pound enterprise with exorbitant sums of money paid to ‘Islamic’ TV channels throughout the year for advertising, and to professional fundraisers who have managed to turn the act of charity into a well-paid career. What this means is that established charities which have a broad base of support and therefore more finance at their disposal, can afford the fees of the channels and experienced fundraisers, while smaller charities that are often undertaking critical work for the Muslim community, and already struggling financially, will necessarily lose out. In order to claim a piece of the pie, these smaller charities are forced to hold one-off lavish soirees, paying significant sums of money for fancy venues, celebrity speakers, professional fundraisers, live entertainers, etc., most of which is met through sponsorships, but part of which is inevitably sourced from the charity’s coffers which should ideally be used for beneficiaries themselves.

While tempted to delve further into the fallacies of the western capitalist system and how Muslims living in the west unwittingly fall victim to conceiving of solutions borne out of a culture which is the very antithesis of their faith, I will instead share with you two moving statements of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), which I heard only very recently:

Anas reported that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The giving of charity extinguishes the anger of your Lord and averts an evil death.”[1]

‘Uqbah b. ‘Āmir reported that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The believer will be under the shade of his charity on the day of resurrection.”[2]

Notwithstanding the evident need to dig deep and help Muslims in times of a crisis such as we have witnessed with our brothers and sisters in Syria, we should, in principle, have a more measured approach to giving charity as a community. The first is to proactively give charity with a sincere intention. The second is to give to several organisations rather than one. The third, rather than simply giving your money away to a charity that has the best looking advert on TV or your favourite Muslim celebrity employed to raise money on its behalf, is to take a more methodical approach. You may, for example, decide on supporting six charities; four whose work is based in the UK and the other two who predominantly work abroad. When selecting charities, a person will often find himself or herself confronted with a number of organisations which undertake virtually the same type of work. Selecting four or even two charities that have the same remit would not be sensible; it would be preferable to consider those charities that are offering something unique to help Muslims who would otherwise have been forgotten and neglected by the community.

I would like to reiterate that I am not suggesting all Muslims help six charities in particular, but certainly there are a number of charities that require our support and giving all of one’s money to one organisation is not as useful as helping several. It is up to every individual to decide on his or her algorithm of how their charity should be split, however, whichever way we decide to give charity, we should always be concerned for the correctness of our intention, as the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Indeed every action is judged according to its intention, and verily, each soul shall receive the reward of that which it intended.”[3]

I ask Allāh to make our intentions sincerely for His sake, to earn His pleasure, mercy and reward and that He enters us into His Paradise with the Prophets, with those that affirm the truth, the martyrs and the righteous, Amīn.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Recorded in Jāmi’ at-Tirmidhī and the Sahīh of b. Hibbān

[2] Recorded in the Musnad Imām Ahmad, Sahīh of b. Khuzaymah and the Sahīh of b. Hibbān)

[3] Recorded in the Sahīh of Imām al-Bukhāri and the Sahīh of Imām Muslim

About Usman Qureshi

17 comments

  1. Never mind that we have video charity appeals in the Masjid where faces are screened. At best, this is dubious in many leading scholars’ eyes. What was the prophetic methodology?

  2. MashaAllah very good points made in this article and jazakaAllahu khayr for sharing the ahadeeth on giving charity – very moving indeed.

    Correctness of our intention is first and foremost, for we won’t be rewarded for anything if our intentions are not purely for the sake of Allah (SWT). I think giving regular charity in secret can really help in this regard and this has been made easier with internet banking. Technology is a blessing from Allah (SWT) and we should use it to benefit our akhirah.

    Also, I like the suggestion of spreading one’s investment in several organisations rather than just one so one’s money benefits many different people in so many different ways. Imagine on the Day of Judgment, your rewards are multiplied because you’ve helped so many from different parts of the world in different ways.

    May Allah (SWT) accept our efforts, forgive our shortcomings, and alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters all over the world. Ameen

  3. Assalamu alaykum,

    I was glad to read this article. I came from the West but live in a Muslim country where there are large charity organizations, but they do not have to sponsor a skydiving trip to collect money. They also do not spend a lot of money renting out ballrooms, having fancy meals, etc.; they simply publicize the cause and have signs around, etc. Also, a lot of charity is given quietly; a friends tells you about someone they know who is in need or about a friend who is collecting for a worthy cause, and you give. It’s sad that people would have to be entertained before being willing to give… I remember hearing some British expats here planning to attend a dinner/dance at a hotel, and it was to collect money for victims of the tsunami – apparently just asking them for donations wouldn’t have been enough. I remember thinking that I hope that attitude doesn’t creep into the Muslim community…

  4. An interesting point made by the ustadh, it highlights our reluctant nature in giving, so much so that charity establishments need to conjure ideas that allow us to feel we are benefiting somehow from our donation. Whether it’s through entertainment , refreshments or 3 course meals. We have forgotten that although Allah has given us many blessings, they can be taken away just as easily as they were given to us , and perhaps one day we may be in the receiving end of that charity.
    May Allah put the zeal back into our hearts.

  5. Brilliant reminder mashAllah.

    I have two slightly different issues to raise on the issue if charities:

    (1) Do you not think that whilst it’s incumbent on us to help the plight of those from our ummah who are abroad, we should also make sure that we donate to local causes here in the UK, the local ummah. We may not be in financial difficulties here but Islam is under attack here in a different way to how it is in say Burma. We don’t have money to challenge many issues such as when our scholars and dua’ats are vilified in the media or employing Muslims into jobs which we need but don’t have the money to recruit. Surely if we are stable here, we can then better help those abroad?

    (2) I have a real issue with that one man band outfit who have very little overheads and all their campaigning is done on FB/Twitter bases in their “celebrity” status. I question what they do with that gift aid? Why is it necessary for them to open s charity, why not work with an existing charity as they are likely to have better links and thus you are likely to get better value for your money. Maybe I’m being cynical but we mustn’t forget that opening up and charity to some can be a means of a business.

    May Allah save us.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly woth this article snd for a long time my family have ‘boycotted’ any charity events which offer something in return such as entertainment and food. However, we now have a phenomenon which I can only describe as “charity by stealth”. Its probably happened to you already. You turn up eagerly to an Islamic talk hoping to refesh your Imaan batteries but instead find that the event has very quietly been sponsored by a charity who then proceed to auction to the highest bidder. The actual talk itself begins to feel like an afterthought and you have those satanic thoughts never to attend a talk again. If these kind of events continue and increase we have to ask ourselves whether knowledge should rightly be sacrificed for the sake of charity or whether a healthy balance can be achieved.

  7. Jamila kossar

    Interesting article, but unfortunatley we dont live in a time where people hear the plight of the ummah and empty their pockets. Even more when they do they feel the charities have eaten it, ive raised more money doing a skydive, climbing mountains, doing bike rides for a cause than when ive asked people outright. I dnt work for a chairty but im sorry the orphans or poor people need to money they are thankful for the care they dont care how ts been raised all it comes down to intetion and those that aleays question intetions are the ones that always do the talking and no action they dont even try and get people to make donations just try and criticise any good actions. May Allah guide protect and reward any little good done aroud us

  8. What I don’t understand is that now charities us haram means to do something good I.e. Music concerts, trips abroad climbing mountains (in free mixing environments with no mahrams for the sisters), etc…
    Even sky diving is considered impermissible by some scholars as it is a unnecessary risk….

  9. Asalaam Alaikum,

    I want to start off by saying that I am not employed by any charity so I am not coming at it from their angle. JazakAllah khairun for the article however I believe a variety of different issues are being conflated here.

    1. No one will argue that the intention behind giving and raising for Charity should be for the sake of Allah. But making the leap to say that the intention is called into question because of the way the money was given or raised (i.e. just handed over upon an appeal as you seem to be suggesting vs. at a fundraising event) is a leap too far.

    2. There is nothing inherently unIslamic about using a wide variety of fundraising tactics. This is also not inherently Western. The fundraising events may be more low key in Muslim countries (inviting people to a dinner or iftaar party, after a children’s play date etc…) but they are there.

    3. I agree with you that there are some practices in the charity industry that need changing – exorbitant TV fees and spending on lavish dinners etc.. But it needs to be highlighted that the charity industry is one of the most professional in the Muslim community and (this is vital) the money they spend is being invested back into the Muslim community. These TV channels would not be able to survive without the income they get from these appeals. The Islamic Societies and other organisations that get sponsorship from them NEED to have this sponsorship or they will find it difficult to continue the vital works they do. In an ideal world, we would give money to the charity AND the TV channels AND the Islamic magazine AND the ISocs AND the Islamic organisations. In reality, Muslims don’t do that yet so this is the system that exists. The system needs modifying gradually but not dismantling otherwise we risk losing these vital other organisations and initiatives.

    4. You seem to indicate that we should support lots of smaller charities as opposed to a few of the larger ones. Again, this is not entirely without problems as the large number of smaller charities means that there is increased overheads, decreased division of labour, decreased oversight and limited reach. This is exactly what the problem is. Take the example of Syria. We have hundreds of charities and individuals all saying they are raising money for Syria. It would be preferable if we combined the money and were able to achieve more. Rather than each charity buying an ambulance, we could rebuild a network of hospitals. But the mentality amongst the Muslim community is exactly as you describe… less interested in what is best for those we are trying to help and more interested in whether the particular charity we like follows our methodology/ is run by people from our country/ has my uncle working in it. The non-Muslims combine their funds for maximum impact through the DEC and USAID. (Note: there are indeed a few niche charities that do work that others do not, but these are the exception not the rule.)

    5. (And this is possibly the most important point) I think you completely miss the point of the fund-raising. It is not simply to fundraise. That may have been the point 50 years ago, but now a fundraising event is a dawah opportunity, a capacity building event, a brotherhood and sisterhood event, an excuse to pass on Islamic values to a crowd that may not have had it, a community cohesion event etc… That brother skydiving and raising £100 for the charity is getting a lot more than £100. He had to organise this, he had to take time, there is courage involved here, his friends may accompany him and he will share that he has spent time and effort doing something good with others and this may inspire them to follow suit. Contrast this with the another brother who simply asked people to donate in a passionate plea after prayer and raised £200. The person who is raising the money or organising the fundraiser and the one giving are not just spending their money in a halal manner but also their time, their energy, their brainpower. The non-monetary effect is extensive and important ESPECIALLY to the Muslim community living in the West.

    I hope you don’t see this an attack on your article. I think you raised some important points but others I disagree with.

    And Allah knows best.

  10. Assalamalaikum wa rehmatullahi wa burakhatahu,

    Jazakullah Khair ya Sheikh for the article.

    When it comes to giving, then last Ramadan I was inspired to give a small amount in charity each day (by ‘Productive Muslim’). Since then I’ve taken this habit further and being efficiency conscious, I realised that I could just set up standing orders from my internet bank account once so that every day, a small amount of money is sent directly to a different charity bank account and this could occur for the rest of my life with no extra effort.

    I then set up about thirty of these, one or more for each day of the month, and over time have increased the amounts. I’ve never felt like this money was ‘missing’ or felt poorer as a result, in fact my rizk has nothing but increased again and again. I feel that charity is now become a strong part of my character and any time a charity makes an appeal to me then I give more as well.

    The bank account and sort codes for most charities are available on their websites so I reccomend doing this as it is easy, habitual and long lasting even if you start with small daily amounts. If you choose to do this, then please make dua for me every time you think about it and may Allah accept this action from us, Ameen.

    • Assalamalaikum. To make things easier, here are a selection of charities and organisations that you can donate to along with their account numbers and sort codes. This info is from each organisations public website.

      Children in Deen: 03079013, 300003
      Children of Jannah: 65611039, 601525
      Discover Islam: 11434098, 400714
      East London Mosque: 91681966, 400233
      Ehsaas Trust: 01242601, 300083
      Human Relief Foundation: 94176294, 401315
      IDCI: 01176701, 300083
      IERA: 46603956, 504110
      Islamic Aid: 01436818, 309421
      Islamic Relief: 10966177, 200771
      MRDF: 71766457, 402527
      Muslim Hands: 22820000, 601133
      National Zakat Foundation: 01249702, 300083
      Orphans in need: 81606883, 401917
      PennyAppeal: 42102331, 404511
      Qaaf Aid: 30546224, 201570
      Ummah Welfare Trust: 00014192, 402080
      West Wales Islamic Cultural Association: 91507001, 401623
      AL-Muntada-Al-Islami-Trust: 12449806, 602216
      CAGE UK: 80461393, 202178

      (Please note that you should contact each charity within 4 years of starting to donate to them so that you can make a Gift Aid declaration for your donations and they can then add 25% to all the money you’ve given.)

  11. I totally agree. This is something which I have been going on about for a long time. It really saddens me that it is not enough for some people to just hear about a fellow Muslims plight and wanting to help out without having the three course meal & entertainment that comes with it. May Allah have mercy on us, we are In dire need of His mercy.

  12. It actually boils down to the intention of the charity and vice versa, the person giving the money feesabeelilah. At the end of the day, the aim is for the charity to be accepted by Allah Azzawajal and secondly that it directly benefits the people in need bi’ithnillah.

    Im inclined to the view that many charities incorporate unislamic ways in these charity events such as free mixing and music etc. I generally do not feel comfortable attending such events that are held outside a masjid due to these factors. I wonder sometimes how much money can be saved by not hiring halls, speakers, admin, salaries and paying for the food. Like the writer indicates, this industry is becoming too corporate and needs to tone down the glitzy glamour events. I remember our forefathers raising money without no hoohaa. Others may argue you have to put a bit in to get some out. Allahhu Alam. I prefer to play it safe…

    May Allah accept from all.. Intention Intention Intention!

  13. The mixing of entertainment and giving charity seems to have been adopted from Western culture. In my memory it started as popular culture with It’s a Knockout (Royal) and continued later with Red Nose day etc. Many Muslim charity events held in hotels and providing 3 course meals at £50 per head are way too expensive for most of us, in fact if I have £50 to give away I will give it direct to people in Gaza who are struggling or even in the UK who I know personally. Least liked by me are the charity auctions where people publicly compete to give the most money, I find that terribly uncomfortable. Ironically as it has become widely known that Muslims are some of the biggest charity givers it has brought our community under the spotlight of the anti terrorism police.

  14. Excellent advice, ustadh. JazakAllahu khayra

  15. Jazakallah Khayr Uthman. It is certainly something Relief organisations and individuals need to look at carefully, especially from an intention perspective.

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