Thoughts on zakat as Ramadan draws near

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer, begins at sunset Saturday, and many believers are already planning a key observance: zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Often translated as "charity," it requires believers to give 2.5% of their cash assets (even including the value of their jewelry or stocks) to the Muslim needy and poor.Zakat might be given at any time in the year, but Ramadan's focus on compassion and introspection often prompts a greater outpouring.

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslims in the USA struggled to find charities to support human welfare that weren't suspect of being linked to violent political efforts in the Mideast or elsewhere.

It was good news indeed for Muslim donors, when during President Obama's address to the Muslim world in June, he pledged that the government would take IRS and anti-terrorism measures to make it easier to clear zakat hurdles.

Now websites such as Global Giving direct a small but growing number of Muslim donors to 40 suggested charities, such as organizations that offer clean drinking water in Morocco, meals for girls in Burkina Faso, and education and health services for girls in Afghanistan.

[Source: USA Today]

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