“In the name of Islam.” These words were uttered by Edward Archer, a man in Philadelphia who shot a police officer three times. Thankfully, the police officer survived, but a few more things have been lost in the coverage of this unfortunate event.
There are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide. The overwhelming majority of these people are peace-loving. They want the best for humanity. Yes, there are some bad apples who try to hijack the essence of Islam, but a very large number of Muslims carry out humanitarian acts “in the name of Islam.” You won’t hear about these stories in the news, but it’s true. Let’s take a look.
Charity, or zakat in Arabic, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Charity isn’t just recommended in Islam, it’s required of every Muslim that’s financially able to give to those in need. Muslims in America, for example, contribute significantly to charity groups, as Nathan Lean of Georgetown University points out:
Muslim charity groups in the United States are too numerous to catalog, though the Bay Area Islamic Networks Group, the UMMA Clinic in Los Angeles, the Chicago-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network and Dearborn’s ACCESS are examples of groups that provide crucial services and empower the underprivileged. In 2013, the Muslim charity Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) was rated among the top 10 charities in the United States.
Every time I visit a mosque, I see imams or other community leaders asking people to give financially to feed the homeless, help victims of natural disasters, or house refugees and asylum seekers. Let me be clear: Muslim Americans work towards these causes “in the name of Islam.” Perhaps they’re simply following the spirit of the Qur’an, which has too many verses on charity to count.
Many Muslim Americans also see Islam as influencing their professions as healthcare professionals or medical doctors. Lean teaches us more:
American Muslims have a substantial presence in the health care industry. The Islamic Medical Association of North America, one of many such organizations,estimates that there are more than 20,000 Muslim physicians in the United States. Similarly, an analysis of statistics provided by the American Medical Association indicates that 10% of all American physicians are Muslims. While no Islamic hospitals exist in the United States, per se, several Muslim-based health clinics do. And let’s not forget that the hospital itself is not an American invention — it’s an Egyptian one. For that matter, the father of modern surgery wasn’t an American Protestant pioneer, either, but a 10th-Century Muslim physician from Spain, Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi.
It’s unfortunate that none of these kind of stories – whether historical or contemporary – are given significant attention in mainstream media. Certainly, Muslims that work in the medical field are shaped by Islamic values such as compassion, mercy, and generosity. They act “in the name of Islam,” but unlike Archer, their stories are filled with peace and goodness. That’s why we never hear about them. The news only pays attention to Islam when Muslims act violently.
The phrase “in the name of Islam” has been hijacked by Islamophobes and mainstream media outlets who care about creating propaganda and sensational stories that boost ratings. Millions and millions of Muslims worldwide act “in the name of Islam” in ways that only benefit humanity. There’s no doubting that. You may not hear about these stories, but they happen every single second of every single day. Maybe it’s time to turn off your television and visit your local mosque. There you will see the true, peaceful, and loving face of Islam.
2 thoughts on “Reclaiming “In The Name Of Islam” – Muslim American Contributions To Charity And Healthcare”
Where does all that zakat go? There are 8 classes of recipient listed here:
The classic Shafi’i manual of Islamic jurisprudence “The Reliance of the Traveller”
clarifies a couple of points:
Firstly, zakat may not be given to a non-Muslim (H8.24). Dr Considine omits to tell us this but it seems to indicate that Islamic charity might not be as humanitarian as he claims. In fact it is my understanding that it is overwhelmingly reserved for Muslims (unlike Western charity which finds its way equally to Christians, Hindus, atheists and Muslims). If this is not the case I would be glad to hear the facts and figures.
Secondly, the 7th class of recipient is defined as “Those fighting for Allah – meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations…who are volunteers for jihad without renumeration” (H8.17). Hardly humanitarian at all, except to those who answer the call to jihad, believing that they are doing the kuffar a favour by bringing them to Islam by whatever means.
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Zakat is only one form of charity in Islam.
Other voluntary donations are highly encouraged of Muslims to be given to the poor, the needy and the homeless.