Category Archive:Middle East

Afghan Sponsorship Foundation

sduncan post on February 22nd, 2016
Posted in Middle East

By Sundus Ali

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims worldwide are heavily involved in the act of charity (sadqa) and zakat (compulsory giving of alms). Giving of alms is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an important aspect in the lives of Muslims regardless of their social status. However, those who are more successful are likely to be largely involved with monetary donations where as others may simply donate their time.

For the past two summers, the Afghan Sponsorship Foundation (ASF) which is an NGO based out of California, has been contributing their time and services to the people of Kabul, the capital city in Afghanistan. Along with their yearly funding and program, ASF organizes an online fundraiser which they heavily promote through social media and encourage people to make monetary contributions on the internet out of the comfort of their own homes. They then use these funds to purchase basic necessities of living (primarily food, water, and hygiene products) for the neediest families. In order to determine who will be the recipient of their aid, ASF visits refugee camps, tent cities, and they also accept referrals from community members to help the poorest of the poor during Ramadan, so everybody has a meal to open their fast with. Their goal is simple “…Our goal as a foundation is to sponsor the youth of Afghanistan in order to guarantee they have equitable access to a quality education ”. Even though spending excessive time distributing aid is a threat to the lives of these young workers, they are so empowered to give back to their communities and build future leaders who they hope will continue this work.

By providing food and clean water, ASF is improving the lives of these aid recipients by reducing hunger of the children in the families, enabling them to be somewhat ready to receive an education. Children who may have never had the opportunity or hope to sit in a classroom now have the chance of improving their lives by going to school on a full stomach and being able to learn. Educating these young and very capable children encourages Afghanis to develop leaders and compassionate community members who will also contribute their time and effort to the communities that raised them together.

The work of the ASF team is a year round effort, with a specific emphasis on the importance of raising funds during Ramadan because many Muslims are both needier and more giving during this holy month. The importance of giving is highlighted in the Holy Qura’an in Surah Tauba (The Repentance):

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.
Ultimately this is an amazing victory for all. The board members and executive team of ASF are able to carry out the work of their organization and feel good knowing they are doing good, the donors are fulfilling their religious (Islamic) obligations, and the recipients of the aid are able to open their fasts, and eat well during Ramadan. If a specific family has been sponsored, they then receive a monthly basket with enough necessities to get them through the month and keep their children who are in school- on a full stomach. By providing meals, ASF is in essence sponsoring these children to have promising futures so they too can give back to their homeland.

Works Cited

Afghan Sponsorhip Foundation- our mission. (2012). Retrieved September/22, 2012, from

Holy Qura’an. Surah Tauba (The Repentance). Retrieved from

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“Thy Name is Charity”: Zoroastrianism and the Parsi Tradition of Giving

sduncan post on February 22nd, 2016
Posted in Middle East

By James John

Zoroastrianism is thought by many scholars to be the world’s oldest monotheistic religion.

Founded by Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra) in approximately 1500 BCE, Zoroastrianism was

the principle faith of the ancient Persian empire, which, while centered on the territory now

occupied by modern-day Iran, stretched at its acme from northern Africa and the Middle East to

China. In the 10th century CE, as Islam swept central Asia, many Iranian Zoroastrians fled to India,

where they settled in Gujarat. These Indian Zoroastrians became known as the Parsis. (“Parsi” is

Gujarati for Persian.)

The Parsis are renowned over the world for their robust philanthropic tradition. Indeed,

“Parsi, thy name is charity” is a common saying in India which dates back to the British Raj. Parsi

philanthropy encompasses individual giving as well as institutional giving, and the tradition is

rooted in the tenets of the Parsis’ Zoroastrian faith as well as in the unique set of social forces that

influenced the early development of their community in India.

Zoroastrians worship one God they call Ahura Mazda, a being they take to be all-knowing,

all-powerful, and perfectly good. Zoroastrians believe that Zoroaster was Ahura Mazda’s prophet

and that his, Zoroaster’s, central teaching can be summarized as follows: “Think good thoughts,

speak good words, and do good deeds.” Thus, charity is one of the religion’s fundamental tenets.

There are at least two reasons for this, both stemming from Zoroastrian views of good and evil.

First, Zoroastrians hold that poverty and suffering are evil at work in the world. While humans are

taken to be children or servants of God in other monotheistic faiths, Zoroastrians believe that

humanity must work in active partnership with God to remove these evils. Second, while other

religions often deplore wealth and its pursuit—think of the Christian Gospels on how difficult it is

for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven!—Zoroastrianism regards wealth as a good, so long

as it is acquired fairly and used righteously. The view that we must work with God to eliminate

evil thus comes together with a positive outlook on wealth to encourage a philanthropic

commitment on the part of Parsis.

Social factors have also played a role in Parsi philanthropy. Christian missionaries in India

began building schools in the 1800s. Seeking to ensure a place for their children outside of these

missionary schools, the Parsis responded with an ambitious, charity-driven program of school

construction. The Parsi Benevolent Association, founded by Jamsetjee Jeejeeboy in 1849, built 21

schools. So successful were these efforts that by 1901 the literacy rate for Parsi males was almost

88 percent and for females was 63 percent (p.213). This tradition continued with the work of Parsi

industrialist Jamsetji Tata, who established the J. N. Tata Endowment Scheme for Higher Education

in 1892 as well as a host of other philanthropic ventures. The business enterprises Tata founded

play to this day a leading role in Indian and global philanthropy.

The roots of Parsi giving go back a long way. Just how long can be guessed by the

distinction between three kinds of charity drawn by Aturput Mahraspand, High Priest to Shapur II,

King of the Sasanian Persian empire from 309 to 379 CE: giving without being asked; giving

immediately on being asked or required; and giving when one has promised one would give. He

stressed, too, that charity is good when one expects nothing in return, certainly not personal gain or

fame. Even today one of the first prayers a Zoroastrian child learns is the Yatha Ahu Vairyo: “He

who gives assistance to the poor acknowledges the kingdom of God.”

Works Cited

BBC, “Zoroastrianism at a Glance.” Accessed January 31, 2012.

Chothia, Fali S. “Getting to Know the Zoroastrians.” The Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan

Washington, Inc. Accessed January 31, 2012.

BBC, “The Parsis.” Accessed

January 31, 2012.

Dadrawala, Noshir H. “Parsi They Name Is Charity.” Parsis, Iranis, Zarathushtis—ALL Under One Roof. Accessed January 31, 2012.

BBC, “Zoroastrian Beliefs about God.” Accessed January 31, 2012.

BBC, “Humanity in Zoroastrianism.” Accessed January 31, 2012.

Rose, Jenny. Zoroastrianism: An Introduction. I. B. Tauris, 2011.

Wikipedia, “Shapur II.” Accessed on

January 31, 2012.

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Nizamiyah: An Madrasa in the History of Islamic Philanthropy

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Janice McMurray

Islamic history has seen many philanthropic conventions and traditions over time. Although some of these customs are no longer existent or have been significantly altered from their original structure, there continues to be many philanthropic practices that prevail in current Islamic culture.

One such tradition that has been closely connected to Islamic philanthropy for many centuries is the construction and support of madrasas (Blanchard, 2007). A historic Islamic madrasa can be defined as an institution in which male Muslim students go to receive higher education chiefly on the topic of religion among many other subject areas (Hefner & Qasim Zaman, 2007). Madrasas were typically founded and supported by Islamic elites who offered funding through religious endowments to sustain services offered to students by the institution (Blanchard, 2007). This paper will specifically examine Nizamiyah; one of the earliest madrasas established in Islamic history.

Nazamiyah was founded by Seljuq vizier, Nizam al-Mulk, in Baghdad, Iraq during the middle of the eleventh century (Blanchard, 2007). The institution was made up specifically of male students who practiced Muslim faith (Makdisi, 1970). Attendees of Nizamiyah were not required to provide any payment to the founder or the institution itself (Makdisi, 1970). During their time receiving higher education at Nizamiyah, students had access to educational services, learning facilities, dormitories, dining halls, libraries, and medical services (Blanchard, 2007). They were also granted with scholarships and supplementary allowances to compensate for any further living costs they encountered (Makdisi, 1970). Much of what was taught at Nizamiyah was based on Muslim faith and focused on religious sciences, architecture, and literature (Hefner & Qasim Zaman, 2007).

Madrasas were constructed from the wakf of an elite family, which typically consisted of a building, piece of property, or funds that were donated specifically for the charitable purpose of helping others in need (Lapidus, 1984). Although madrasas possessed many benefits for students, founders of these institutions also received reward for their generosity on a social and spiritual level. During the eleventh century, when Nizamiyah was an operational madrasa in Iraq, funding and supporting these institutions enhanced the familial status of the founder and was thought to bring them close to their higher power (Lapidus, 1984).

Political in nature, the overall goal of Nizamiyah was to produce educated men who were capable of contributing to the bureaucratic class in Islamic culture (Blanchard, 2007). Although Nizamiyah had many immediate philanthropic notions, such as providing food and medical care, it also aimed to promote social mobility for Muslim men (Hefner & Qasim Zaman, 2007). Essentially, Nizamiyah has played an instrumental role shaping and perpetuating modern forms of education and philanthropy in modern Islamic society.

Works Cited

Blanchard, C. (2007). Islamic religious schools, madrasas: Background.

Hefner, R. & Qasim Zaman, M. (2007). Schooling Islam: The culture and politics of modern Muslim education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lapidus, I. (1984). Muslim cities in the later middle ages. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Makdisi, G. (1970). Madrasa and university in the middle ages. Studia Islamica, 32, 255-264. Retrieved from

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Beit Al – Yateem, a Druze Orphanage

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Dida Raouda

Since the beginning of time people have used religion to help guide them through life. There are many different religions out there with different religious paths that all eventually lead up to the same end result, which is a higher power that we look up to (in most cases). Some religions are more common than others and are very well established around the world such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In 1017 the Druze faith branched off the Islamic faith and was established. (Wikipedia, 2014) The Druze faith is a relatively small Middle Eastern religious sect characterized by its close-knit identity and distinctive faith. They are a monotheistic religious and social community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan and account for approximately 2,000,000 of the world’s population. (Wikipedia, 2014) The Druze beliefs incorporate elements from Abrahamic religions as well as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism and other philosophies creating a distinct theology known to highlight the role of the mind and truthfulness. (Britannica, 2014)

Conversion into this religion is not permitted, so due to the smaller extent of the people in this faith it is important that they have a strong support system for one another in order to maintain strength and posterity. One of the many things the Druze do for their community is support and fundraise for an orphanage with has now become a non – profit Druze organization with a social philanthropic institution for public services called Beit Al – Yateem.
This facility was established by Arif Al – Nakadi who had a great deal of passion for assisting those in need. With little support from the Lebanese social welfare service at first, Mr. Nakadi received the majority of the funds as a loan from the bank, and collateral of his personal properties. (Druze, 2014)

This project was financially very unsteady for Mr. Nakadi, but over the past thirty years the Druze Orphanage with the assistance of private and corporate donors the Orphanage now owns the main building along with the new administration and schooling buildings. The orphanage provides boys and girls who have no family or come from broken homes with housing, nourishment, clothing and schooling. The Orphanage now owns seven buildings in which 900 children are cared for. (Druze, 2014)

The Druze community is very supportive of their own people and has provided much assistance in maintaining the foundation for the Orphanage. I am of Druze faith and we host many events at our community center along with many Druze people in different cities or communities. This Orphanage has always been a focus of ours along with many other Druze foundations. During our events much of our proceeds are donated to the Orphanage, along with clothing drives which take place in hopes to provide these children with bright futures and the tools for great opportunities. (Druze, 2014) This summer I had the opportunity to visit this Orphanage with my family and it was such a blessing to see how strong of a community and belief system we have in order to work together and give these children the opportunities and care they have, otherwise who knows where they could have ended up based on their circumstances.

Works Cited

Druze Orphanage. (2014). Retrieved September 19, 2014, from:

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2014).Druze. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from:
Wikipedia. (2014). Druze. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from:

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Zakat and Sadaq in Islam

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Jamie Tyrrell

Acts of philanthropy occur in almost every population, all over the world. Often these acts stem from religious beliefs. In Islam, Allah is the owner of everything that exists (Jalili, 2006). From this comes the belief that wealth and money should be evenly distributed among the people in order to avoid the concentration of economic power within a few hands (Jalili, 2006). Read the rest of this entry >>

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Symbolic Gift of Food, and Muslim Inspiration

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Linda Innes

The Muslim tradition of sharing sacrificial meat with relatives and friends, and the poor and the needy, occurs during the religious celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the “Greater Eid” or “Festival of Sacrifice”, which is observed annually from the 10th to the 12th of the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Read the rest of this entry >>

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Sadaqah & Waqf in Islam

sduncan post on February 25th, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Cody Copeman

Sadaqah is an Islamic word that means “voluntary charity”. This concept includes any act of giving out of compassion, love or generosity and is the non-mandatory form of giving in Islamic culture (Wikipedia, 2010).

Often Sadaqah is made in the form of a “waqf, which is a gift that is used to bring a return, with the profits being put towards charity. Read the rest of this entry >>

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The Emergence of Hospitals in Byzantium

sduncan post on February 1st, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Iain Newbigin

A hospital is a building that houses sick and diseased individuals so that they can be treated and, ideally, cured by specialized medical staff. Absolutely central to the sophisticated medical care offered by modern societies, hospitals in fact evolved at a specific time and place – during the 4th century in Constantinople, Read the rest of this entry >>

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Zakat in Afghanistan

sduncan post on January 29th, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: , ,

By Roma Rashidi

Afghan Muslims are responsible for carrying out the duties and rituals commonly referred to as the five pillars of Islam. These include the recitation of the creed (shahdah), daily prayers (namaz), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (ruzah) and pilgrimage (hajj), (Sitar, 1969).

In this paper I will be focusing on the zakat system as practiced in Afghanistan. Zakat, or almsgiving, means donating a percentage of one’s wealth to the needy or poor. Currently, many institutions and organization are surviving solely on zakat money within Afghanistan. Schools and orphanages actively Read the rest of this entry >>

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Philanthropy in Islam

sduncan post on January 29th, 2013
Posted in Middle East Tags: ,

By Melissa Pimenta

Islam is the second largest religion in the world and still growing. There are five pillars which are obligatory acts of worship: The Testimony of Faith, Prayer, Giving Zakat, Fasting the Month of Ramadan, and The Pilgrimage to Makkah. (Leslie, 2010)

The third pillar is Zakat which means “purification” and “growth”. Giving zakat means “giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people”. It is required that every year 2.5% of one’s wealth is given away to the poor and needy. (Pennington, 2009) This may be in form of gold, silver, Read the rest of this entry >>

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