x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Foundation wants 'zakat' in the English language

The aim of the National Zakat Foundation is to raise awareness about zakat, and educate Muslims on how to give.

Muslim shoppers say they have been attracted to the Ramadan aisle at the Tesco Extra in north London. Stephen Lock / The National.
Muslim shoppers say they have been attracted to the Ramadan aisle at the Tesco Extra in north London. Stephen Lock / The National.

The National Zakat Foundation was established in the UK in 2011 to focus on the 2.5 per cent payment to charity that is obligatory for Muslims each year.

Its aim is to raise awareness about zakat, educate Muslims on how to pay it, and to act as a channel for collecting and distributing funds to those who need it most.

"No other organisation was focusing on zakat and we felt it was a misunderstood concept," says Iqbal Nasim, a thirtysomething former investment banker who took an 87 per cent pay cut when he was appointed as director of the organisation.

Working with local and international Islamic scholars, the organisation has created a step-by-step guide for Muslims to understand the purpose of zakat, and to calculate the amount they should pay.

In its first 18 months it collected £840,000 (Dh4.7 million), of which £500,000 was zakat. This year it estimates it will raise £1.5m.

Out of 10 staff, four case workers focus on assessing each application for help they receive.

"We never turn anyone away. We come up with a plan to get the person out of their difficult situation and we work with them for as long as it takes," Mr Nasim says.

The foundation has processed 650 applications. It is setting up a third shelter for homeless Muslim women and will work with former offenders.

"Our unique selling point is to raise the money and do the assessment. Then, we work with best in class partners to deliver the projects."

Mr Nasim has high hopes for a positive understanding of zakat.

"I want zakat to be one of the first Arabic words the entire community in the UK associates with Islam. We want to put zakat into action."

The foundation's website is nzf.org.uk

* The National