Q: I have $4500 Zakat to give and wanted to give it to a large international nonprofit Islamic group, based in the US and possibly Canada and Europe. Based on what you (the Imaam) stated earlier: one cannot expect their Zakat to gain acceptance if they do not care as to where it goes. So here is my case.
Two opinions are held within a particular group of Muslims, such as MSA.The first opinion finds that since they are asking for a known cause where poverty has been proven to have been established, we should give them our Zakat, regardless of our own knowledge, misgivings, nor ethical conceptions held. We must give because we shouldn’t judge the actions of others–even when giving them our money. Additionally, the money misspent might only be a small fraction–10% perhaps.
The other opinion argues that this is a major relief type organization, which I would call Agency X, that spends some of its money collected inappropriately. The breakdown of such inappropriate expenditures can be made based on what we see with our own eyes, and are documented online (by the organization, and even charitable navigator) and elsewhere. The percentages of money actually spent on charitable causes is blurred by these hidden costs.
Such includes money spent on:
- transportation (such as air-planes, when cars and other simple transport are the more feasible option),
- expensive lodging at 5 Star hotels (instead of more suitable motel lodging),
- Hollywood style Public Relations firms,
- top payroll employees receiving $250 000 (yes, in US dollars!) to upwards of $400,000,
- commission checks paid out as prizes/pay-checks to individuals most capable of soliciting these funds,
- dinners in restaurants, and other business related expenses, as any other major (secular) corporation would reward its employees.
This group truly pursues the peoples’ money, and often aggressively. I feel more guilty saying no to this corporate styled organization than I would to homeless man with three children, asking me for money in person. Their presentations make me feel directly responsible for the starving Muslim child’s suffering or death– with pictures of malnourished starving children being their poster children.
This organization X could not penetrate the major Islamic society of the state. Additionally, this organization has now been banished by many such Muslim groups (or by their local chapter members, thereof) in major states, such as NY, Chicago, Cincinnati, California, Texas and by independent Islamic organizations and communities in no less than 37 states, all which have Islamic centers that refuse them.
Reputable scholars, increasingly, refuse to go and speak for this group on a continual basis, when they find out about their improprieties. Illiterate rookie scholars/imams might do so at first for name recognition. Due to the buddy-buddy system and this “charitable” organization’s capacity to play on our charitable emotions whenever we are faced with pictures of poverty, group X managed to penetrate lately into our organization.
They have managed to dominate our immature student minds and those minds of wannabe scholars (among us, and from the outside) who seek the Preacher’s platform, with little more knowledge than that of being able to clean a child’s diaper. To defend themselves they bring a person or two with a beard and a self-proclaimed scholar that is in favor of such a system. This is little different from a bio student playing surgeon in the middle of the amazon jungle due to the lack of a truly qualified doctor from Harvard and the likes. These guys forget, even kaffirs can quote Arabic, so what’s your point! Language alone was never a qualifier. True, a scholar was present in this dialogue but was over shadowed due to egos that were developed before the meeting had begun and the stage was set to oust anyone that was to oppose giving charity to organization X from data collected from internet sites.
The hadith clearly states, leave what is doubtful. Additionally, if they wish to steal lilah, fine; but, can zakah be spent on such an organization? Another organization named Y is known to be better but, it is on some watch list for acts of impropriety not made fully clear, as of yet.
In your opinion, what must such a student group do? What should I do? Can I protest with placards in front of the organization, and leave angry letters on the cars of people who support this? May I spam people who won’t listen to reason? At the very least, may I heckle the presenters when they bring their fitnah into our MSA? Because, I know I can do THAT pretty well–insha-allah!
Answer: Students must be students. Their task is to ace their classes, not concern themselves with things beyond their jurisdiction. Both — my task and your task as well should not be to associate with all the above mentioned groups beyond the necessary.
The collection of Zakah must be done by good righteous people that are knowledgeable regarding its laws and methods of dispensation. According to your research, this research does not seem to be occurring by your student group. You are not the first person that has made such a claim. We are regularly provided with such information. Organizations know how to twist data to suit their wants/needs. After all, they are human. This is the nature of humans at the time of wanting the delights of the world.
Thus, for you to give your zakah in the above places would be wrong. However, if others choose to place their trust with the organization, you may only warn them politely.
Incorrect choices would lead to the detriment of its doers and organizers. Marshmallow scholars would be part of the admonishment: how can you say and advocate what you lack knowledge in?! Their negligence would allow for a voiding of your zakah. The giver and the scholar would be held as sinful, for they let emotions gain access to sanity. The organization would be held liable in the Sight of Allah for encouraging people to give their zakah in any manner, for the ayah states: do not assist in any wrong. Thus, if organization X were to appear at such student organized events, due to the pamphlets and videos they present , your student group would be held accountable (even if organization X does not directly make a plea for funds, their mere presence, being sanctified by the religious authority or larger Muslim group was enough), as people attending only expect the religious student group to do the right thing (after all, doesn’t Islam command us to do right, and abstain from the doubtful as well as the wrong?) The people assume that this student is working in counsel with religious authority.
Little does the public realize that all zakah collecting agencies do not always work hand in hand with knowledgeable scholars on every matter so as to do the right thing. As a result of the student group doing the incorrect thing, despite its good intention, the people likewise would not be absolved of their zakah obligation.
When two or more opinions/choices exist, we must chose that which is safest in the interest of all.
Allah Certainly Knows Best.