Ramadan is set to start at the end of this week. It is a month which always captures the attention of the British public. From its Muslims as they enter a period of self-reflection, fasting, increased prayer and generosity. And from wider society, through a perspective of how do their colleagues/ friends/ neighbours from the Muslim community somehow manage to go the whole day and evening without eating or drinking, even when ‘no one is looking’.
This Ramadan though will be like no other for the Muslims of the world, and especially for those in Britain. It’s the first time in the history of British Muslims where their places of worship, the mosques, will all be closed. Ramadan is a time where typically mosques are at their busiest and are frequented from morning to night to morning, and in its last ten days, actually play home to a small number of Muslims who take up residence for personal solitude and prayer.
The reality of Covid-19 and social distancing is being felt by all of us, but for the Muslims of this country from this weekend will be extra hard. Unfortunately, the right wing has sought to exploit this, by lots of fake news of how Muslims are intending to spread the virus through covert mosque gatherings and fast breaking. But this is the reality of a post-truth world that we now live in, that further adds to the pain of not being able to visit the mosques that now contribute beautifully to so many city skylines in the UK.
There is one thing for sure that Muslims will be spreading though. It is something that is at the very soul of Ramadan and is infectious too, it is generosity. Ever since the Times report ‘Muslims are Britain’s Top Givers!’ in July 2013, every year we see new reports and reflections of just how much Muslims contribute to philanthropy in Britain and support the third sector. Ramadan is the month of giving, and it is a time where most Muslims seek to give their alms known as Zakat. This is a 2.5% mandatory charge against net wealth given by Muslims who are considered financially independent. These funds are put to use to serve the needs of the community and make for a stronger, more united and understanding civil society, challenging poverty, debt, migration challenges and even slavery!
What is interesting about this, is that Muslims pay this on their net wealth and on that wealth acquired and held over the previous year. One can only imagine if it was a calculation on expected income or simply on cash available, in these times of uncertainty maybe very little would actually be paid and donated. However, as it is a calculation on a net wealth position, accounting for most asset classes held over a previous year, it ensures a boost to the economy when the Zakat is due, which for most people is in Ramadan.
In a Covid-19 society, where unemployment is rising, businesses are struggling, many of which are now folding, this comes as a real blessing. In the next month we can expect the Muslim community to give the economy a boost through their philanthropy, and hopefully help kickstart things as the lockdown is phased out in the coming weeks. The nature of Zakat is it improves liquidity, it builds confidence and for those that pay it and receive it, it improves self-esteem, confidence and dignity.
Communities across Britain are likely to continue to benefit from acts of kindness and generosity, but furthermore as alms are given, we can expect a major cash injection as people move funds from their savings to the service of the needy both in the UK and abroad.
This is something truly wonderful as not only does Zakat help serve so many vulnerable people in the UK, it amplifies Brand Britain globally, as British Muslim NGOs serve great causes across the world. iNGOs proud to be British, proud to be Muslim and proud to make life saving investments and development projects in the name of the community and the country are something we should all be proud of.
This Ramadan there is a lot for Muslims to be thankful for, and dare I say it, there is a lot for the country to be thankful for in its Muslims.