I remember in 2012, I was working on a few new social service initiatives with some amazing people. One of them was New Muslim Care Program and the other one was the Women’s Resource Center (now called Nisa Helpline). Both are amazing programs that have now matured and are providing much needed support to our community. At the time, I was managing New Muslim Care and I had come to realization that financial assistance is a big part of social services. Yes, the majority of problems they faced were emotional, psychological due to lack of integration; however, I noticed a common theme among many that finances were a huge roadblock. Living in a country like Canada I never thought about people needing money, especially since we have a welfare system.
So how did Zakat come into play?
One day, brother Farris, one of the people we were working with in New Muslim Care contacted me directly and told me about his financial worries. He did not have enough money to pay for his one room rental since his parents had kicked him out of his house. He told me about his struggle to eat properly for the past few weeks. He was working some part time job trying to survive. Farris, a new Muslim was coming to the masjid, spending time with so many countless people, and none of us ever helped him or even knew he needed help in this way. I felt so ashamed that I never helped him without him feeling embarrassed and asking for help. Farris was so keen on learning about Islam in those days so he specifically said the following to me: “Brother is it possible you can help me with your Zakat?”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. All those years I have been paying Zakat not knowing where it went, and today this brother is asking me and he is living right here with us and no one has helped. I personally met with him and gave him my Zakat in cash. I got no tax receipt, I went to no fundraiser, did nothing except my duty to pay Zakat. At the same time, I felt that without saying anything Farris’ love for me increased, as did my love for him; unity formed. We never spoke about that issue again to this day. I love that brother for the sake of Allah, and for no reason than to be privileged, Farris changed my perspective on Zakat forever. For this, I am thankful to him without limit. Today, Farris is married and has kids. May Allah bless him and his family.
Since then, I have been working hard on making the vision of the National Zakat Foundation a reality in our community here. We have faced so many challenges to this point, and we continue to face them. However, I am personally encouraged to go on because I have felt the power of giving Zakat locally and this pillar of Islam has meaning in my life, which it never had before I gave my Zakat to that brother.
Written by Zubair Qasim