Guardian: Usman, a fisherman in North Sumatra, used to have a rickety fishing boat that could only take him as far as the mouth of the river, just before it meets the sea. He could not catch enough to feed his family of five but last month, he was able to buy a new boat with the help of Islamic donations. Now he can sail further into the sea, he catches more fish and his income can pay for school fees and even some pocket money for his children. This is just one of countless examples of how zakat can improve livelihoods and reduce poverty worldwide.
For Muslims around the world, the month of Ramadan is a time of deep reflection, sacrifice and joyous family gatherings. It’s also a time when Muslims make donations known as zakat; the giver is believed to be purified through the act of transferring wealth to the poor. Zakat is also a powerful source of good with untapped potential for contributing to sustainable development in communities, such as the small fishing village in North Sumatra.
There are some striking commonalities between the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and zakat. In the Islamic faith, five foundational goals – known as Maqasid al Sharia – include the protection of faith, life, progeny, intellect and wealth. Much of the SDGs – goals to alleviate poverty and hunger, improve health, education and access to water and sanitation, reduce inequality and protect the environment – are reflected in these Islamic values.
As one of the five pillars of Islam, zakat is mandatory giving; all Muslims eligible to pay it must donate at least 2.5% of their accumulated wealth for the benefit of the poor, destitute and others – classified as mustahik. It is one of the largest forms of wealth transfer to the poor in existence.