Some of the most philanthropic organizations around the world are directly affiliated with a religious group. For example, organizations like Compassion International, which supports less fortunate children around the world, and Feed My Starving Children, which sends nutritious meals to malnourished countries, are supported by Christian religious groups. These are only two of the organizations that have made an impact on the Twin Cities area, and there are many more. Many of the Islamic charities and organizations are operated and directly affiliated with a particular Mosque.
According to Shari’a Law all Muslims are required to give a certain percentage of their income to charity, this is called zakat. For Sunni Muslims it is expected that 2.5% of everything the individual or family owns is donated. For Shia Muslims this percentage jumps to roughly 20% of everything owned. But of course, these percentages are just guidelines; the individual can decide to donate as much as seems appropriate. For some, the more they donate to charity, the bigger reward they will receive after death, and therefore they donate as much as they possibly can. Traditionally, the zakat donation is collected at the local Mosque. But today, it has also become acceptable for people to donate to a specific individual in need. With the rise in worldwide communication and the large influx of Muslim immigrants to the United States, a new problem begins to rise.
There are generally two classifications of Muslims within the United States. The first group would be the Americans who converted to Islam and the second group consists of Middle Eastern immigrants to America. These two classifications view zakat in slightly different ways. The converts to Islam believe that zakat should be given to local Mosques to help local Muslims in need. The immigrant Muslims, on the other hand, still have strong connections to the country they came from and the people they left behind. Therefore they think that sending the donated money back to their homeland is more appropriate. This difference in viewpoint has created some tension between the two groups, but they both agree that charitable giving is an important aspect of the faith.
Zakat is an important pillar of Islam. It allows the Muslim to step out of their own world and help those in need. There are many Mosques in the Twin Cities area that help the individual donate zakat to others in the area, and around the world, that are in need. One such web-site that provides more information on donations is http://zakatmn.org/. To locate a Mosque near you please visit www.islamicity.com/orgs/.