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Making Muslim aid more effective

A man chops up an animal that has been slaughtered for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in Dakar, Senegal in 2007. Normally, such meat is distributed to the poor, and the rest of the body thrown away, but Muslims are increasingly finding innovative ways to Heba Aly/IRIN
Between the foreign aid of oil-rich Gulf States and the billions of dollars spent by Muslims in “mandatory” alms and charity every year, the Muslim world is by all accounts a huge reservoir of potential in the world of aid funding.

But players in Muslim aid say much of the money spent on aid and charity here is mismanaged, wasted, lacking in strategy or ineffective. (See IRIN’s in-depth article on this)

Here are a few new attempts to change that:

Madad: Created by a 30-year-old Egyptian activist who participated in the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak, Madad is a private, social start-up business which aims to shift some of the estimated 5-20 billion Egyptian pounds (US$825 million - $3.3 billion; statistics are not consistent) spent by ordinary people on charity every year towards more sustainable development. The idea is to scour Egypt’s governorates and estimated 40,000 NGOs, and identify those which run successful, sustainable projects that support livelihoods and work towards the Millennium Development Goals. Madad would then highlight those projects through online platforms, so that donors can make more educated decisions about how to spend their money and track the funds once spent. It will start small with a few projects it has already identified, and expand its coverage as its networks grow, with the aim that NGOs will eventually come forward themselves, looking for exposure. The word `madad’ in Arabic means supply; its CEO, Samed Awad, sees it as the supply not only of money, but of resources, visibility, awareness and knowledge, to both donors and NGOs. The commercial launch is scheduled for the beginning of 2013.

The International Waqf and Zakat Organization: A concept first introduced to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by the Malaysian government in 2005, the International Waqf and Zakat Organization is meant to become a global fund where `zakat’ (mandatory alms) could be pooled and spent more strategically on long-term objectives. Still in the making, the project does not yet have buy-in from many countries which see `zakat’ management as a sovereign responsibility.

The Hasanah Trust Fund: Created by the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists last month, the Hassanah Trust Fund hopes to become a sustainable mechanism through which money can be collected from governments and the private sector and then linked with UN agencies or NGOs with a strong track record in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and food security.

Awqaf New Zealand: Millions of sheep are estimated to be slaughtered every year during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Instead of simply distributing their meat to the poor, Awqaf New Zealand, an NGO set up in 2011, aims to create a sustainable cycle out of the process by using all parts of the animal to produce revenue that goes back to the poor. Some of the meat is canned for future distribution by aid agencies. The wool and skin go to refugees (along with training, sewing machines and medical insurance) to make relief blankets (sold back to aid agencies at low cost), or items like moccasins that help refugees in the West preserve their heritage. In the future, Awqaf New Zealand plans to use the bones to make Halal gelatin and, possibly, the blood for fertilizer.

Care by Air: An initiative of Maximus Air Cargo, based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Care by Air is a not-for-profit collection of airways and transport companies which have agreed to give empty space to humanitarian organizations and charities at cost. According to the International Air Transport Association, there are four million tons of empty space on aeroplanes every week. Filling 0.0003 percent of that space would provide meals for five million people, Care by Air says.

LiveFeed: Using the popularity of musician Sami Yusuf to raise awareness among a younger generation of Muslims, the LiveFeed campaign, launched in December 2011, continues to raise money for the World Food Programme to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa. The video of his single, “Forgotten Promises”, has been viewed by more than one million people on YouTube and has reached at least another 1.7 million through his Facebook and Twitter feeds. “People in the Middle East really want to do good,” Yusuf told IRIN. “They just need an opportunity and a means.”

Corporate `waqf’: In Malaysia, Johor State’s investment corporation, Johor Corporation, has partnered with the state’s Islamic Religious Council to manage a corporate waqf (religious endowment), to which all of its members can contribute a certain percentage of the shares or equity of their company. The returns fund hundreds of thousands of medical treatments for poor people at Waqaf An-Nur Hospital and its corresponding clinics. According to one local expert, the fund has more than doubled to over 500 million Malaysian ringgits ($157 million) in the last 10 years.

Collective `waqf’: Another new innovation in the age-old tradition of religious endowments is collective `waqf’, in which several people’s contributions are pooled together to create a single `waqf’. British NGO Muslim Aid is in the process of launching a legacy-giving scheme which will allow people to give a portion of their wealth in their wills to charitable causes to be managed by Muslim Aid.

Variations on Islamic microfinance: Muslim NGOs like Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Misr al-Kheir and Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia have been using no-interest microfinance for several years now, but others are now experimenting with micro-loans (as little as $20) and group-lending, in which a loan is given to several people who are equally responsible for paying it back, increasing the peer pressure and thus improving the pay-back rate.

Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA), UAE: Operational since 2009, the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid has been tracking the flow of aid out of the United Arab Emirates. The first of its kind in the region, the office is leading the way in aid transparency among Gulf donors and providing information with which to set policy. It is also training other donors in the region to do the same. “Muslim countries should really focus more on sustainable development projects, rather than being reactive to humanitarian crises,” OCFA Director-General Hazza Alqahtani told IRIN, insisting that the Muslim world needs to deliver more “efficient aid”.

Muslim aid structures: Several groups have emerged in the last few years helping to represent Muslim organizations working in aid. Founder of Islamic Relief Hany El Banna created both the Humanitarian Forum, which encourages dialogue and coordination between aid agencies from the Muslim world and the wider humanitarian system; and the Muslim Charities Forum, which has played a large role in lobbying Muslim scholars to expand definitions of Islam-acceptable charity. The OIC in 2008 created a Humanitarian Affairs department which is increasingly playing a role in coordinating aid among member countries, especially in disaster zones where Muslim aid workers may have better access.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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