Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Reaffirmation of Islamic Philanthropy: a reflection

Reaffirmation of Islamic Philanthropy: a reflection

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pike

A few years ago, while wearing a different hat, I was invited to speak at an event hosted by UN Millennium Development Goals guru Jeffrey Sachs and Columbia University. At the end of that event, I was approached by a soft-spoken and unassuming man who introduced himself as Tariq Cheema. That brief moment and subsequent communications have not only ascertained our shared world view, but became the impetus of good friendship. Thanks in small part to Tariq’s infectious reasoned passion for philanthropy.

Tariq is the visionary architect who mobilized the economic, intellectual, political clout and strategic capacity driving the Islam-inspired umbrella organization known as World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP). In the years since, this organization that is guided by a vision of building “a peaceful, equitable, and sustainable world generously endowed by ethical, inclusive, and effective philanthropy” has given birth to the Academy of Philanthropy, and Global Donors Forum. The latter was recently held in Washington, DC area.

We are part of a vast world that is wholly interdependent and rapidly shrinking in terms of interconnectivity and indeed cultural integration. Under such condition, social, political and economic influence and counter-influence is not just plausible, it is immanent. The wheels of change are turning at full speed; therefore, strategic philanthropy can play the distinctive role of funding and cultivating positive change; hence the importance of institutions in the form of grant-makers and grantees.

Is Muslim Philanthropy Any Different?

Faith-inspired philanthropy is nothing new. The Abrahamic faith (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) has a long history of philanthropy within their respective faith traditions, though later it was refined and developed into a fine arts by the West, more specifically, the United States.

Though in recent centuries Muslims have fallen behind in the domain of philanthropy (the Ismaili Muslims being an exception,) one may argue the West would not have discovered Greek philosophy and other bodies on knowledge had it not been for Muslim philanthropists funding scholarly translations into Arabic. Yet, each year Muslims around the world spend many billions of dollars in feeding and clothing the poor.

In addition to charity, and alms-giving which mandatory on all financially well-off Muslims, Islam promotes a concept known as Ithar (peak of altruism). Ithar is to simply love for others more than what one loves for oneself. This is the highest level of sacrificing for the sake of the greater good.

“Have compassion on those who are on earth so that He who is in Heaven would have compassion upon you” is one of the main principles of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings. Also, the Qur’an clearly recognizes charity-giving, and indeed philanthropy, as mark of righteousness: “righteous is the one who… gives away wealth, out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free” (2:177).

Global Donors Forum

No this was not one of those international community organized donor nations’ conference to pool resources in order to provide aid to a nation that is in humanitarian crisis. It was a three day conference that brought together prominent grant-making foundations and grantees from around the world. This included, venture philanthropists as well as social and business entrepreneurs.

Held in Washington metropolitan area on mid-April, conference has provided the right platform and an environment conducive for international networking, experience-sharing and collaboration. This was an opportunity to emerge out of the incubation process in overseas, in cities such as Dubai or Kuala Lumpur.

Among the many good causes and initiates that I got to learn about at the conference, I was most intrigued by an ambitious project that advocates for land reform in Pakistan and empower farmers to become land owners.

In a feudal society where land ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few families, this may sound like a tall order. However, listening to the passionate articulation of Dr Fariya Bukhari, the founder of Free Kissan Free Pakistan, you would never think that way. Her face lights up with enthusiasm when she shares stories of poor farmers in remote villages that she periodically visits to provide immunization and her commitment to set up a one-stop resource center that provides seeds, tools, and micro-enterprise funding to poor farmers.

As constant drips of water could, in due course, make their profound mark on the concrete surface, so can the sincerely committed human will. I left the conference more educated about what philanthropy could do and highly inspired.

Challenges and Opportunities

Islam-inspired philanthropy makes its appearance on the modern world stage as Islamophobia persists in many parts of the world. More often than not, international media zoom on sensationalized stories dealing with totalitarian rulers, violence, terrorism, and extremism. That, needless to say, often out-stages the good that Muslims do. In that context, Islam is still erroneously perceived in the West as a religion that has nothing to do with philanthropy.

At this critical juncture, Muslim philanthropy ought to focus strategically on certain critical areas: institution-building, combating Islamophobia, advancing interfaith dialogue, conflict prevention, and leadership development. As well as anti-poverty programs that create jobs and help build sustainable assets far beyond Islamic communities and nations.

WCMP is mindful that strategic philanthropy requires certain level of engagement in all developmental facets of philanthropic initiatives from conception, implementation, evaluation, and ensuring sustainability. After all, at hand is an altruistic industry that lacks adequate transparency though it attracts the good, bad and ugly from all corners.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Eye-Opener For Islamic Community

An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney business district has been an eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia. Haron was shot down before he killed two innocent people, a lawyer and a manager ... More>>

Jonathan Cook: US Feels The Heat On Palestine Vote At UN

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France ... More>>

ALSO:


Fightback: MANA Movement Regroups, Call For Mana Wahine Policy

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Mockingjay Of Palestine: “If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Raed Mu’anis was my best friend. The small scar on top of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother was drying our laundry. He wouldn’t listen, so I threw a rock at him. More>>

ALSO:

Don Franks: Future Of Work Commission: Labour's Shrewd Move

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting 'Cut the crap!' - Andrew Little was great, wasn't he? Labour's new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key's flippant arrogant deceit. Andrew Little nailing the Prime minister on lying about contacting a rightwing ... More>>

Asia-Pacific Journal: MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia’s Melanesian Foray

Asia and the Pacific--these two geographic, political and cultural regions encompass entire life-worlds, cosmologies and cultures. Yet Indonesia’s recent enthusiastic outreach to Melanesia indicates an attempt to bridge both the constructed and actual ... More>>

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news