Wednesday 29th May
Response to 5Pillars article
In response to today’s story by 5Pillars about NZF, Iqbal Nasim, Chief Executive said:
We completely reject any assertion that NZF has ever used Zakat funds (or any other funds) to support Prevent, counter extremism or Israel lobby related activities. Moreover, we have never received any funding related to any of these agendas.
The circumstances in which these claims have arisen involve defamation, false assumptions, tenuous links and slander; and all of this in the last days and nights of Ramadan.
Please do not share this ‘news’. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The one who spreads rumours with mischievous intent will not enter Paradise.”
NZF is bound by Islamic ethics, data protection regulations and our commitments to 10,000+ beneficiaries since 2011 to keep confidential the circumstances of individuals who may have received Zakat from NZF under any of our programmes. This includes the 70+ individuals that NZF has funded under the Leadership Investment Programme (LIP). By contrast, we are open about the organisationsthat NZF has funded under the LIP.
We recognise that it may be of significant interest and concern to some Muslims, including Zakat payers to NZF, as to who the specific individuals funded under the LIP will be going forward. There are a number of complex factors to consider. We are carefully assessing whether to change our policy on this matter and commit to issuing an update before the end of the year.
In the meantime, I would like to reassure NZF’s supporters and the UK’s Muslims at large that we treat the distribution of Zakat with the utmost seriousness. We will continue to listen, to learn and to strive for excellence in everything that we do.
May our hearts become settled and united.
On Saturday 25th May an anonymous blogger published false and defamatory allegations about NZF’s Zakat distribution practices. Sadly, this blog post was widely shared amongst the Muslim community.
On Monday 27th May, we issued a statement of clarification, which can be found further below.
For anyone who is concerned about the Zakat distribution principles or policies of National Zakat Foundation, we would like to make the following points of clarification:
Since 2011, NZF has supported over 10,000 Muslims in poverty across the UK. We consider Muslims are eligible for support if they meet the accepted Zakat poverty-eligibility criteria.
We have never used Zakat to facilitate activities that might cause harm to our community.
We are and remain transparent about all the organisations and entities we support.
It has been our clear policy and commitment to protect the identities of all individual recipients of Zakat. This policy has been, and will be, reconsidered with regards to potential future individual recipients under our leadership strand.
If you choose to give your Zakat through NZF this Ramadan, then know that:
◦ your Zakat will be technically valid
◦ it will benefit thousands of Muslims in need who will be reaching out to NZF for help in the coming year
◦ it will benefit a small number of key institutions whose work will help to ensure a brighter future for all of us, God willing
◦ With your support, we can support them all. Without your support, we can’t.
– We recognise that it is amongst the highest of privileges, as well as the biggest of burdens, to be involved with Zakat education, calculation, collection and distribution. We are deeply committed to an authentic understanding of Zakat and building an effective Zakat institution. The NZF team strives every day to fulfil the trust of thousands of Muslims across the country who either pay Zakat through NZF or apply for support.
– Our vision is for Islam to flourish in society as a source of prosperity and harmony for all. We believe this vision can be achieved when Zakat payers come together to have their Zakat pooled, locally distributed and used to address the poverty of Muslims in need as well as support those who spend their time and energy striving to achieve a better perception, understanding and practice of Islam in society.
– From 2011-17, we focused on alleviating poverty for Muslims in need, offering them dignity and the chance of self-sufficiency. To date we have supported over 10,000 Muslims across the UK in this way. Currently, we are experiencing record levels of demand from our brothers and sisters in desperation. It is vital that Zakat payers come forward and fulfil their collective obligation towards believers who live in their midst.
– In the second half of 2017, we piloted a new Muslim Leaders Development Fund, which was publicly advertised and details of which were made available in our 2017 Annual Report. We also started to respond to applications we had received from emerging and existing leaders for poverty alleviation and debt relief. In this way, we funded 32 individuals with a combination of maintenance, debt relief, project and development grants. This accounted for approximately £280,000 (8%) of £3.5m Zakat distributed in 2017. We were careful to ensure that all of this funding met the accepted Zakat poverty-eligibility criteria that had underpinned the rest of our work. Moreover, as had always been the case for any Zakat recipient, this funding was provided with the understanding that the personal identity and financial information of all our beneficiaries would be kept confidential.
– At the very beginning of 2018 we communicated our expanded vision and strategy, committing to spend 15% of our Zakat over the year in what was then termed the Community Development Programme (now called Leadership Investment Programme) across three themes: better public perception of Islam and Muslims, religious scholarship & literacy and effective representation of Islam and Muslims. We explained that this new strand of our work reflected our contextual understanding of the fourth and seventh categories of Zakat distribution mentioned in the Qur’an (9:60), namely ‘winning hearts’ and ‘in God’s cause’. We shared this approach widely with existing and potential supporters over various messaging channels and in a number of events.
Over the course of 2018, we supported over 2,500 Muslims in poverty with £2.8m of Zakat (84% of total). We also funded 30 emerging leaders (under our Muslims Leaders Development Fund, MLDF) and 16 projects and institutions with £600,000 (16% of total). In February of this year, we released our 2018 Impact Report, which is available for download. The report details our objectives and policies, the progress that was made in our new funding strand as well as our ongoing work in empowering those in need.
Of the projects that were funded in 2018, a small number consisted only of personal maintenance grants directly to individuals who were involved in various positive initiatives aligned to the three themes above. In these cases, as well as in the case of the 30 MLDF beneficiaries, it has continued to be our policy to protect the identities of individual recipients of Zakat, whilst being open to disclosing institutional recipients.
Whilst the report does mention the largest institutional recipients of grants in 2018, the full list (in order of size – largest first) is as follows: Cambridge Muslim College, Ramadan Tent Project, MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring, Abu Hanifah Foundation, MCB’s Visit My Mosque, Ark Institute, Centre for Islam and Medicine, Pixeleyed Pictures, Sadaqa Day, Ramadan Legacy and Leeds Grand Mosque.
Every organisation, project and person we funded in 2017 and 2018 as part of our leadership work had strengths as well as shortcomings. Through our close interaction, due diligence and careful evaluation of numerous factors before making funding decisions, we are confident that the diverse range of their efforts has resulted in positive outcomes for Islam and Muslims across the UK.
Learning from our experiences, we have taken a more involved approach to our funding in this strand in 2019, making fewer organisational grants with greater support. As such our only institutional grantees so far this year have been as follows: Cambridge Muslim College, MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring and Federation of Student Islamic Societies.
– For some time, there has been a concerted attempt (which has peaked in recent days) by a small group of individuals to undermine our efforts. It is important for you to know that: data regulations and legal contracts have been breached to share personal information and break the trust of fellow believers; such unlawfully acquired information has been used to support anonymous, public acts of defamation; slander and suspicion have been spread about our motivations based on ignorance, false assumptions and tenuous links without any sense of perspective. These actions have accelerated in the last ten days and nights of Ramadan when most Zakat is paid, which can only serve to cause maximum damage to those eligible to receive Zakat in our community. We are already so divided and facing so many challenges as Muslims that to engage in this behaviour is nothing other than an act of collective self-harm.
– We do our work as God-fearing Muslims with an undying commitment to the flourishing of Islam in what is a highly complicated and challenging context for us all. Our only aim is to build a lasting community institution that can support Islam and Muslims for generations to come. We can emphatically state that we have never used Zakat to facilitate activities that might cause harm to our community. We receive no funding except from within the community, from a diverse range of Zakat payers across the country. As far as NZF and Zakat are concerned, we are not driven by the vision, agenda or policy of any authority or entity other than our own.
NZF is a relatively young organisation and we will therefore keep evolving and refining our approach to enable us to realise the wisdom behind the pillar of Zakat. Our processes will remain under constant review in order to improve the quality and impact of our services. We are open to ideas and constructive criticism offered in good faith. We welcome the contributions of scholars and experienced practitioners who can help us achieve excellence. We will continue to refine our operating model and policies in line with our vision, always attempting to strike the right balance between offering greater transparency and clarity to Zakat payers, whilst respecting the dignity and privacy of Zakat recipients.
– We live in turbulent and increasingly worrying times for Muslims. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to unite behind common objectives in the interest of Islam, our community and wider society. If you choose to join thousands of others in entrusting your Zakat to NZF this Ramadan, then please do so with full confidence that your Zakat will be legally valid and used in a purposeful and transformative way. Please understand that diverting Zakat away from NZF will affect: thousands of Muslims in need who will be reaching out to NZF for help in the coming year; dozens of sincere, mostly young, Muslims looking for support for their learning and development; and a small number of key institutions whose efforts will help to ensure a brighter future for all of us, God willing. With your Zakat, we can support them. Without it, we can’t.
In these last days of Ramadan, as people who are aware of our own shortcomings and who want to be forgiven by our Lord, we forgive those who have misjudged us. We are comfortable knowing that God knows the truth of our intentions and actions. He, and only He, will judge us all in the end.
Our Lord, guide us to represent you and your cause in a manner that pleases you, bring our hearts together as one community, and grant us success in this life and the next.
Iqbal Nasim, Chief Executive, firstname.lastname@example.org