TheReligionofPeace.com
Guide to Understanding Islam

 

 

What does the
Religion of Peace
Teach About...

Charity and Disaster Relief

 
 

Question
:

Why do Muslim charities generally attend to the needs of Muslims onlys?
 


Summary Answer
:

Muslims are not told to assist non-Muslims.  To do so is a waste of money, because they are going to Hell anyway.  The Quran and Hadith order money to flow either between Muslims or from non-Muslims to Muslims (the jizya in Quran 9:29).

Neither has the Islamic community ever been particularly keen on disaster relief, even for Muslim victims.  This is because the Quran teaches that the disasters which befall communities are a punishment from Allah.
 


The Quran:

Natural disaster is ordained by Allah:

Quran (9:51) - "Nothing will afflict us save what Allah has ordained for us"

Quran (11:117) - "Nor would thy Lord be the One to destroy communities for a single wrong-doing, if its members were likely to mend."

Quran (28:59) - "...And never did We destroy the townships unless the folk thereof were evil-doers."  'We' refers to Allah.  This verse refers to natural disaster.

Quran (57:22) - "No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence: That is truly easy for Allah."  Allah wills misfortune in advance.

Quran (42:30) - "Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because on the things your hands have wrought"  Your sin is solely responsible for any misfortune in your life.

Quran (28:17) - "O my Lord!... never shall I be a help to those who sin!"  Taken with the above verses (57:22 and 42:30), this provides the logical argument that helping victims of disaster is actually against Allah's will, since the unfortunates are merely suffering Allah's punishment for sin and Muslims are not to help those in sin.

Quran (64:11) - "No calamity befalleth save by Allah's leave..."

Quran (90:4) - "Verily We have created man into toil and struggle."


Those who are blessed by Allah insult Allah by giving away their "gifts" to those whom Allah has not favored:

Quran (16:71) - "Allah has bestowed His gifts of sustenance more freely on some of you than on others: those more favored are not going to throw back their gifts to those whom their right hands possess, so as to be equal in that respect. Will they then deny the favors of Allah?"


Charity to non-Muslims?  No.  Muslims are told that non-believers are the "vilest of animals" and commanded to be ruthless toward them:

Quran (8:55) - "Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve"

Quran (28:86) - "Never be a helper to the unbelievers."

Quran (48:29) - Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves
 


From the Hadith:

 

Bukhari (71:665) - The Prophet said, "No contagious disease is conveyed to others without Allah's permission..."

 

Muslim (1:153) - The best of all good deeds, according to Muhammad is "jihad for the cause of Allah" (not charity toward others).

 

Bukhari (55:558) - The Prophet said, "I give to them so as to attract their hearts to Islam."  The only example of Muhammad ever providing charity to non-Muslims was when it served the purpose of expanding personal power, either to buy conversions or loyalty (see Bukhari 53:373).  

 

Abu Dawud (41:4832) - The Messenger of Allah [said] "Do not keep company with anyone but a believer and do not let anyone eat your food but one who is pious."

 

Reliance of the Traveller (Sharia) - "It is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim."  The same text goes on to list the legitimate targets of charity, which include "those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations."  This is based on verse 9:60 from the Quran ("in the cause of Allah").  See also 9:41.

 

Numerous hadith also mention giving to the poor (within the Muslim community).  This is the zakat, or almsgiving, that has become one of the "five pillars" of Islam.

 

al-Tabarani, Hasan - "The most beloved of deeds according to Allah the Mighty, the Magnificent, is that you bring happiness to a fellow Muslim, or relieve him of distress, or pay off his debt or stave away hunger from him.” In Christianity, charity is for those in need, with exceptionalism noted in cases in which the grantee is an enemy (ie. Parable of the Good Samaritan).  In Islam, targets of the highest virtue are from within one's own identity group.

 

al-Tabari 8:40 - "Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful, was asked, ‘How did the Messenger of Allah behave?’ She replied, ‘His eye did not weep for anyone."  In real life, Muhammad was not a compassionate man.

 


Additional Notes:

It is common for Western multiculturalists to project their own values onto others.  If Western religion instills virtues such as kindness and universal charity, then surely Islam must do the same... shouldn't it?

Not really. 

The number of verses in the Quran that define and advocate virtue is far less than those promoting hate and violence.  Likewise, historical accounts of Muhammad acting or speaking in a manner consistent with Judeo-Christian values are so scarce that Islamic scholars have had to explicitly authorize the dissemination of hadith outside the boundaries of acceptable reliability: "Mildly weak hadith can be freely used to establish the virtues of deeds." (Islam Online)

In fact, Islam discourages universal charity, particularly for disaster relief.  Muhammad routinely used natural disaster as a threat to compel others to believe in his claim to be a prophet.  The Quran specifically says that earthquake and famine are sent by Allah as punishment for the sin of the people (usually unbelief).  There is no theological basis for helping those whom Allah is trying to hurt.

Much of what is given today ($1725 or 2.5% of an increase in wealth) funds mosque operations or groups like CAIR, and never finds its way to "the poor."  A 2011 audit of one of Canada's top Islamic charities (run by ISNA, no less) found that less than 25% of the "poor tax" actually found its way to the needy.  The vast majority of zakat funds went to mosque maintenance, private Muslim businesses and even perks to the family members of charity officials.

Charity is technically an important part of Islam, but this does not mean that the word is defined in the same way in which Westerners usually understand it.  In Christianity, for example, charity means giving to your fellow man in need.  In Islam, it distinctly means giving either to support holy war or to a fellow Muslim - and generally only through the mandated poor tax (zakat) which is precisely calculated.  As Robert Spencer puts it, "Islam makes a distinction between believers and unbelievers that overrides any obligation to general benevolence."

The zakat (almsgiving) may be one of the five pillars of Islam, but the Hadith only speaks of it as a requirement to help fellow Muslims ("taken from among you and distributed among you").  Non-Muslims are not entitled to the zakat by virtue of their need, and mainstream Islamic teaching forbids Muslims to give this to unbelievers.  The website TheZakat.org, for example, lists unbelievers along with the wealthy, strong and healthy as being prohibited from receiving zakat (although some Muslims may personally disagree with this).

Interestingly, the Quranic verse that is said to be the basis for zakat (9:103) comes from the most violent and intolerant of suras.  Its context also appears to be that of a penance taken from the property of 'hypocrites' for their sinfulness and failure to participate in battle against unbelievers.

Islamic charities that raise funds openly in the West are savvy enough to downplay the fact that beneficiaries of their assistance are selected by ethnicity, which would not go over well with non-Muslim donors.  They also known to advertise "window dressing" projects on their websites or literature, in which they claim a role in prominent disasters or causes which is in disproportion to their actual contribution or concern.  It is usually enough to fool others into not looking deeper.

Generally speaking, international Islamic charities as a whole are more notorious for funding terrorism and hate than in meeting the actual needs of natural disaster victims (bankrolling Jihad through charitable giving is mandated by the Quran 9:60).  Even at its most legitimate, Muslim charity to the poor is heavily tainted by ulterior political agenda, such as the fact that most such international efforts go toward  Palestinians, while aid for the victims of Darfur (who are being oppressed by an Islamic regime) is virtually nil, even though their situation is far more dire by any conceivable measure.

When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the religion that claims 1.5 billion members contributed a whopping one tenth of one percent of all donations or, as Andrew McCarthy put it, "basically, a rounding error for a Saudi sheikh’s weekend in Vegas."

Out of a religion that brags of one-fifth of the world's population, there are no international Islamic charities that take money from Muslims to help non-Muslims in need*.  There is no equivalent to the Red Cross in Islam (the Red Crescent is actually a part of the Red Cross and is active only in Muslim countries).  Charity is truly an in-house institution, and, even then, the impetus is largely superficial.  The greatest contribution to disaster relief for victims in the Islamic world has always been (and always will be) non-Islamic organizations and nations with a Christian heritage.

*[Note: Some Muslim charities, such as Islamic Relief, say that they don't discriminate by creed.  This is quite dubious, however, given that over 99% of their aid goes toward projects in Muslim countries or in the majority Muslim regions of non-Muslim countries.  They also take in far more from non-Muslim donors than they provide to non-Muslim recipients.  See Islamic Relief and the Myth of Non-Discriminating Muslim Charity]

Recommended Reading: Islamic Charity: For Muslims Only
 

 

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