Guest article by Selina Bakkar from Amaliah (www.amaliah.com)  

We spoke to the National Zakat Foundation about Zakat in 2017 and also managed to interview their caseworkers to gain insight into how Zakat helps people. From refugees to domestic violence victims your Zakat could really change someone’s life instantly.

Caseworkers Safa and Sadiya share what it’s like.

Who tends to receive the Zakat?

Safa: We deliver Zakat to Muslims who are destitute in the UK. Our job is to ensure no person who has a right to Zakat isn’t ignored.I always think if it was me in need of a second chance, where would I go. The National Zakat Foundation offers another solution. I often deal with vulnerable cases like; domestic violence, homelessness and the elderly.

Can you tell us about a specific case where their life was instantly improved?

Safa: There have been many occasions where we have supported individuals with a positive outcome. Applicants have completely turned their situation around and this has been because they have been given a helping hand from NZF. For example, we have many cases of domestic violence, where the applicant comes to NZF as utterly destitute. With a little financial support, they have been able to secure a roof over the head and some food to get them by. These women have been through such difficult situations and have been able to find a way to stand on their own feet. Through NZF support they can now afford to look for jobs and in most cases, they are no longer dependent on the support of NZF.

What other ways can people support NZF?

Safa: There are many ways you can support us. We are always looking for volunteers to join the caseworkers and of course all the other departments. Volunteer caseworkers get to deal directly with the people we support and have frontline experience. You can also support NZF by being a dedicated champion that represents NZF in different groups and circles.

Finally, you can support the National Zakat foundation by paying your Zakat to us or even donating some Sadaqah to help us keep going. Our most important request is that you remember us in your prayers.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Safa: A typical day for me is all about the applicants, as a caseworker, I have to fully understand the applicant’s case history as well as the intention for future plans. I often spend the day meeting applicants and going over paperwork, giving them advice and telling them what they need to do outside of NZF. When a decision is made we have panel meetings and discuss everything s a group. The whole group must agree based on Islamic policies before we are able to move forward with a decision. I often get passionately involved with cases and these discussions are where I believe it’s important to speak on behalf of the applicant.

What’s the hardest part of your role?

Safa: For me, it is probably the fact that such atrocities happen on my doorstep. Its believing that we live in such a crude society. We need preventative measures to stop homelessness and abuse. There needs to be a way to tackle the root issues. These root issues are why we get so many referrals.

What support or help do refugees need and how do you help them?

Safa: Refugees are a large group of the applicants that we support and they need quite basic support for accommodation, food and clothing. We normally support them until they have secured themselves something more permanent like benefits or work. Our history has shown that this is for a short time only and doesn’t take extensive long-term support.

Who tends to receive the Zakat?

Sadiya: We support a lot of cases, as one of my specialities is in the language I get a lot of applicants who don’t speak English, refugees and Asylum cases. These people are always really needy with no other solutions. Our job is to offer solutions.

Can you tell us about a specific case where their life was instantly improved?

Sadiya: Recently I had a case where the brother had originally been from Syria. He was a successful pharmacist in Syria but was unable to practise in the UK. He was working 30-hour shifts and not eating or sleeping so he could get qualified again. Unable to afford anything excessive he lived on the breadline. So, we gave him some money to get his degree converted, some money for food, and now he is successfully working. I love these cases because they make me feel like we are doing it for the right reasons. He was utterly grateful and he no longer needs NZF.

What other ways can people support NZF?

Sadiya: There are lots of things you can do, my daughter’s often assist at events and I talk about NZF at my local masjid. But if you want to get involved you can help us with cases, we will train you up and give you simple cases to start with. With everything else I would suggest you visit out website and have a look.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Sadiya: For me it’s a lot of phone calls, a lot of speaking to applicants, requesting payments and having meetings discussing how we should resolve cases. I have good relationships with other organizations so I know where to refer applicants to. I love the team I work with as we are all specialists in different fields.

What’s the hardest part of your role?

Sadiya: The hardest part for me is making the right decision. It can be difficult to know when to say no. There is a feeling of emotional responsibility. This is Zakat that we are dealing with so we must ensure we deal with it fairly and correctly. I try to do give every case the justice it deserves.

What support or help do refugees need and how do you help them?

Sadiya: A lot of the time refugees need someone they can go to. They come here feeling lost, isolated and confused. We offer not only financial support but advice and signposting to what they should be applying for.

About the author

Co-founder of Amaliah. Selina is passionate about empowering those around her. She loves gardening and a good cuppa. She is also Co-founder to Aishah and Eesa and currently a one digit mother! To join the Amaliah Writer Community email me at selina@amaliah.com

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