The situation for Islam and Muslims in the UK is critical. It is common for people growing up in secular Britain, especially the young, to drift away, to identify as Muslims culturally but to be less spiritually committed to Islam. 50% of Muslim households are in poverty compared to 18% for the population overall. Within the UK, young Muslims are excluded, discriminated against, or failed, at all stages of their transition from education to employment.
We have the power to change the situation. If Zakat is given within the UK via a central mechanism for the Zakat causes specified in the Qur’an – supporting individuals in hardship, Muslim community development, and advocacy for Islam and Muslims – then it will be easier to fulfil the purpose of Zakat. Its purpose is for Islam to flourish as a commitment to God that inspires believers to strive for prosperity, harmony and justice. The result will be a faithful, successful community of Muslims, contributing to society for the benefit of all.
But we can only achieve this purpose of Zakat if it is primarily distributed locally i.e. in the country where a person resides.
The hadith relating to Mu’adh Ibn Jabal’s journey to Yemen, prior to which the Prophet s.a.w said to him:
Verily, you are coming to a people among the people of the Book, so call them to testify there is no God but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah has obligated five prayers in each day and night. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah as obligated charity to be taken from their rich and given to their poor. If they accept that, beware not to take from the best of their wealth. Be on guard from the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah.
Note that where “their rich and given to their poor” is mentioned, it is referring to those who live in the land where the zakat is taken from and then redistributed. Our responsibility is locally. Local distribution strengthens the sense of belonging to a community. Those within a society know best and most effective ways to cultivate the necessary socio-economic environment for Islam and Muslims to flourish.
There is a strong emphasis on distributing locally in the Sunnah and narrations of the Tabi’in. Islamic scholar Ingrid Mattson explains: “The local nature of Zakat distribution is emphasized repeatedly by early Muslim scholars, who discuss extensively the purpose and benefits of local distribution”.