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Why Climate Change Will Alter How We Give Islamic Charity

With climate change creating so many new natural disasters in today’s world, Muslims need to focus more of their charity efforts on providing sustainable relief for those affected.

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With climate change creating so many new natural disasters in today’s world, Muslims need to focus more of their charity efforts on providing sustainable relief for those affected.

Islamic charity given by Muslims worldwide has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid within the last few years.

But as our environment, society and technology change, new areas of need develop, and it is up to the Muslim community to remain informed to ensure Islamic charity stays relevant. One major humanitarian concern is the increase in death and displacement caused by climate disasters, which are now more frequent due to a continued rise in global carbon dioxide emissions.

Traditional Islamic charities can provide stable, long-term solutions for needs arising from climate change.

Traditional Islamic Charity

“People ask you what they should spend. Say: ‘Whatever wealth you spend, let it be for your parents and kinsmen, the orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; and Allah is aware of whatever good you do.’”

[2:215]

Islamic charity is inherently comprehensive, with different forms of charity dedicated to many causes and individuals.

The most important form of Islamic charity is zakat, which is a yearly 2.5% donation of one’s cumulative wealth that is given to the poor. Zakat provides a large yearly source of humanitarian aid, with the Islamic Development Bank estimating the total value of zakat given by Muslims worldwide to be between $232 billion to $560 billion annually.

Another form of Islamic charity is sadaqah, which is voluntarily given and can be in any amount as well as in non-monetary forms by offering help or services to others. Muslims can also choose to give sadaqah jariyah, or ongoing charity, which involves giving charity that lasts long after one’s passing. Examples include building water wells, teaching others skills they will use throughout their lives and providing medical equipment to be used in hospitals.

Islamic charity is a powerful vehicle for supporting socioeconomic and humanitarian equality, and Muslims are encouraged to be creative with their charity, both in maximizing its effect and using it to create social change.

With climate change creating so many new natural disasters in today’s world, Muslims need to focus more of their charity efforts on providing sustainable relief for those affected.

Climate Change and Islam

“The world is sweet and green, and Allah has made you vicegerents here in order to see how you behave” (Muslim).

In Islam, Muslims are encouraged to be responsible guardians of the earth, with the word “earth” itself mentioned 485 times in the Quran.

The Quran, as well as several hadith, repeatedly emphasize using natural resources responsibly and not being a source of waste and environmental destruction. Indeed, the Prophet, on him be peace, remarked that even if one were standing in the middle of a river, they should conduct themselves so that not even a drop of water is wasted.

Currently, human activity is producing devastating environmental changes, mostly by greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and more. This year alone, our global emissions levels are 40% higher than they were in 1990, totalling 50 billion tons of greenhouse gasses.

This is causing many environmental problems like rises in global temperature, melting of glaciers, warming of ocean waters and rises in sea levels. These then lead to an increase in severe natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, monsoon floods, hurricanes and more.

When these disasters strike, they are unpredictable and can leave hundreds of thousands dead or displaced in an instant. The resulting humanitarian crises force us to come up with sustainable charity solutions that include providing shelter, clean water and warm food.

Islamic charity, and in particular voluntary sadaqah, is designed to accommodate emergency needs and adapt to changing times. During these environmental disasters, Muslims can get inventive about ways to provide immediate support to those affected and funnel their normal charity efforts toward this cause.

Taking swift and ongoing action to provide aid for those affected by global natural disasters is imperative to ensuring that large portions of our global population remain stable and have hope to rebuild.

Our Climate Change Relief Efforts

Currently, Pakistan and Sudan are both facing difficult recoveries from climate change disasters.

Over 33 million have been displaced in Pakistan due to monsoon flooding, and currently, over one-third of the country is underwater. In Sudan, seasonal flooding has also taken its toll, with nearly 290,000 displaced and over 16,000 homes destroyed.

Both countries produce less than 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and their people are unfairly having to bear the burden of larger powers’ irresponsible production.

You can help the people of Pakistan and Sudan recover with your Islamic charity and give them temporary shelter, food and medical supplies by visiting zakat.org/donate

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