Zakah is a key ritual worship and an important social/economic tool to reduce poverty. As a result, it is also a large responsibility for organizations who undertake the collection and dissemination of Zakah funds. In light of this, Muslim Aid recently commissioned a piece of work to develop a Zakah framework to somewhat formalize an approach to fulfill this responsibility. A key output of this was to develop a Zakah guide as a starting point, cognizant of the diversity of donors and the locations in which charities operate.
In mid-2020, MA commissioned an independent consultant to develop a Zakah framework and more specifically a revised Zakah guide. This was specifically researched to look not just at the rulings related to collecting Zakah, but how it should be delivered correctly. During this time, MA approached a number of Islamic institutions to vet this guide and towards the end of the year, a scholarly panel from the Islamic Council of Europe (ICE) convened a number of times to review and critique the guide. Panel members would meet to discuss specific rulings in light of the reality of charitable work and some of the scenarios faced by charities members. Whilst ensuring Islamic orthodoxy was the main criterion, the guide was reviewed by scholars and finally approved in March 2021. MA have also circulated this guide to other Organisations/scholarly panels for their approval to try and encompass various denominations and approaches. It is expected after Ramadan that MA will involve the services of ICE and other institutions to vet and audit MA Zakah activities on a yearly basis to ensure adherence to the guide.
Approach: The guide was researched via a number of sources, primarily amongst the four main schools of thought and more contemporary fiqh compilations. A number of scholars were also consulted on specific scenarios related to the charity sector. It was then critiqued by a scholarly panel from the Islamic Council of Europe (ICE) and other panels of different denominations where a number of iterations and discussions took place to modify the guide. Not all iterations have taken place, but it is hoped it will develop as time goes by.
The methodology of specific positions: The common denominator between the four schools of thought was preferred as a position where possible. Where there was a difference between the schools on a particular issue, the safest opinion was adopted being mindful of Allah’s right and then seeking to help safeguard the Hereafter of His slaves.
1) To rely primarily on classical, orthodox Islamic scholarship.
2) In line with the pragmatic need, situation and challenges of those suffering from poverty and the nuances of delivering charitable interventions in current times.
3) Attempting to fulfil the letter and spirit of the law (in this case, the edicts of the Shari’ah).
4) Where possible to align the charity’s position with the position of the majority of the scholars where minority opinions are relied upon less and only resorted to as necessary.
Increased accountability: A guide guide to assist MA to adhere to mainstream Islamic rulings.
Eight Categories: The categories are relatively defined including how much should be given, the type of recipients etc.
Reasonable administration: A proposed limit of 12.5% has been put forward for admin costs. The guide details more on this, but an attempt at differentiating between Admin, support and project costs has been highlighted to ensure the best value for money (VFM) and to ensure the obligation of Zakah is discharged effectively.
Promote ownership: As Zakah is the right of the poor, we will aim to empower the poor as much as possible to utilise Zakah funds the way they deem best. However, there is flexibility in the type of intervention based on the local context.
In the path of Allah and the majority of scholars: This has been highlighted and a position of the majority of scholars was enacted.
Exceptions: It is known certain circumstances are more complex and so recourse to a scholarly panel or individual should be made where guide exceptions occur, in particular for projects which may not incur ownership.
A – It is expected that this guide document will evolve over time. Many of the positions and content have been developed by both Scholars and International Development practitioners. However, we believe that with more Organisations implementing this guide, the number of scenarios will increase, hence requiring additional deliberation. We felt it was important to at least have a foundation to work on.