Here is a list of the top reasons why people don’t believe in giving Zakat locally. Now I challenge you to think about each one of these because even I myself used to believe at least 3 of these misconceptions.
- There are no needy people in Canada
Did you know that right here in Canada at least 10% of children live in poverty? That’s about 546,000 children living in poverty, right here in Canada. Did you know that asylum seekers in Canada are not eligible for any benefits but are also not allowed to work? Did you know that nearly 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks each month. 38% of those helped by food banks are children and youth. As many as 200,000 Canadians will experience homelessness each year, according to a recent report from the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. On any given night, about 30,000 Canadians are homeless. Did you know that waitlists for affordable housing range anywhere from 3-10 years?
These are only some statistics to shed light on the kinds of cases we deal with on a daily basis here at the National Zakat Foundation. However, statistics don’t tell you about the mother of 3 that has to choose between paying her rent, utilities or food this month. Or the father who lost his job, that barely allowed them to survive paycheck to paycheck, and has now fallen behind on all his bills. Or the recently arrived refugee family of 5 that lives in a one bedroom apartment because they are unable to afford anything bigger.
- “Al Aqraboon awla bel ma’aroof” – Doesn’t that mean I should pay my zakat and sadaqah to my family and extended family back home first?
The understanding of this verse has been greatly disputed, however the majority of scholars agree that this refers to physical location, so we are meant to give our donations to those in our vicinity. The money being made here in Canada should be invested back within the community to boost the financial situation of the community as a whole. This makes us a stronger, more independent and sustainable community where we can inshallah reach a point where there are no longer Muslims locally in need. Additionally, a hadith by the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) clarified that our Zakat is to be paid “from our rich to our poor” referring to the poor within the same community. Finally, our Prophet (pbuh) told us to assist even our non-Muslim neighbours! So how do you think he would feel about us helping our Muslim neighbours?
- We have welfare here!
Welfare amounts today are barely enough for someone to survive, let alone be comfortable or satisfied on such a low income. Today, welfare is around $650 per person across Canada. It is usually split into living expenses, which is around $250, and shelter allowance, used for rent, of about $325. If you are able to find an apartment or even a bedroom for rent for just $325, please please do let us know! We have many clients who are in great need of this.
However, once people do try finding employment, this amount is reduced at a dollar for dollar rate if they are earning more than $200, resulting in a poverty cycle that is very difficult to get out of. As a result many of them do rely on food banks and community assistance to get by, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. Did you know that 1 in 6 Food Bank users are employed while 1 in 4 have a university or college education?
Additionally, our community is newer and primarily composed of immigrants, this poses a huge challenge in resettling as their credentials and experience are often not recognized here.
Finally, skyrocketing costs of living, a low Canadian dollar and inflation are not reflected in these welfare amounts, which have remained relatively constant, if not decreased, since 1991.
We don’t know of any NZF clients that simply want us to give them money or get welfare to sit at home and watch TV. They all beg us to help so they can get on their own two feet to be able to find a job and become independent and self-sufficient.
- The same amount I donate here will be insignificant in comparison to the effect it has abroad.
We are often told, “for $1 dollar a day I can feed a family back home in Pakistan/India/Egypt/Syria but it takes so much more to help one family here.” This statement is entirely true and it mathematically makes perfect sense. Also it is a really worthy cause. Now consider this, if it’s so much cheaper there, why don’t you move there and live there as well? It’s costing you so much more to live here isn’t it? Doesn’t that also make sense mathematically?
The reality is the cost of living is very high here, but it is home for many of us who would be unable to fathom the concept of moving “back home”, that’s if you are even allowed to and haven’t been forced to flee for your life. The bottom line is, we need to help each other out, whether locally or abroad. I say help here and help abroad. Our wealth is only useful if you invest it in the Akhira, the rest of it will not benefit us in the grave except what we give away for the sake of Allah.
- People are just lazy, why don’t they get a job?
I remember the struggle in finding a job when I graduated from University. I think I sent my resume to at least 50 different job postings, attended networking events, asked all my friends and family for connections. In the end, I went back to school because I couldn’t find a decent job in my field. I also remember my uncle who moved to Canada 10 years ago, and as a doctor for over 20 years back home was expecting to start work pretty quickly. Unfortunately, none of his credentials were accepted nor was his “Non-Canadian Experience”. In the end, he had to work with a family friend until he was able to start his own business, leaving behind his passion and talent for medicine. Would you say that my uncle and I and the thousands of immigrants, new graduates, single mothers and refugees are just lazy? Let’s be honest folks it’s not easy getting a job here and the first job is always the most difficult to get. The fact is no one wants to be poor. Everyone would like to have a nice job, live comfortably, go on vacations and enjoy quality time with their families, but in reality, that’s only a fleeting dream for the majority of us. Before we make assumptions like these, it’s important to put ourselves in their shoes and consider the struggle they have gone through in getting where they are today.
I end with this statement; no one will send their Zakat from abroad to help the Muslims in Canada. This is our responsibility and I am afraid that if we don’t help we will be held accountable by Allah as a community who neglected its own neighbours and its own community. This Zakat that we are to pay is the right of the people who are deserving of it and it’s our obligation to support them with it.
Executive Director National Zakat Foundation