Dr. Zia Abdul-Cader is a retired lecturer in Pharmacology from North London. He has been volunteering with National Zakat Foundation for over one year, so we asked him to share some of his experiences with us.
What’s your first memory of volunteering with National Zakat Foundation (NZF)?
On my first day as a volunteer, I was given an induction to NZF. I then met the team of caseworkers, whose job it is to distribute Zakat, and they gave me the responsibility for some simple but important tasks. Initially this involved answering telephone calls from applicants and updating the online database to ensure all cases were recorded and tracked.
The CEO, Brother Iqbal, treated me to fish and chips for lunch that Friday. Even though we were working, the atmosphere was filled with fun and laughter. All the brothers would go for jummah prayer together and have lunch thereafter. I am referred to as ‘Uncle’ by everyone in the office. I took it upon myself to the call the adhan for the team and this reminded me of my time abroad where I enjoyed the company of some sincere and loving brothers when I was at the College of Medicine in King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia.
Chasing up queries takes time and persistence. As part of the role we need to gather information to present a convincing case to the panel in order for financial assistance to be approved. It can be demanding and challenging at times, especially when an applicant has not provided all the necessary information. You have to ensure you have full information before a decision can be made, as our processes are robust and very thorough.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering with NZF?
Alhamdulillah it is very satisfying when a destitute case is resolved. When a solution is provided, the Zakat applicant expresses relief and I have the privilege of hearing that in their voice and seeing their worries taken away. This is the power of Zakat when distributed to the same locality from which it is collected. When I speak to applicants who are struggling with their faith, I am also able to assure them that the Muslim community is here for them and it is a good opportunity to do dawah to those in need.
Why are you volunteering for NZF as opposed to any other charity?
NZF is much needed in the UK. It is the main charitable organisation that deals with Zakat. The organisation is doing a tremendous job by helping the homeless, destitute, those in debt, etc. It is run by a team of dedicated professionals trained to distribute Zakat in accordance with Islamic principles and with the backing of well-known scholars to guide them in their decision-making.
Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working with NZF?
I have met lots of people here Alhamdulilah. I remember Brother Ahmed, our Community Relations Officer, kindly sharing a delicious Bengali fish curry with me on one occasion, which his wife had made him for lunch. Brother Umar is a volunteer like myself, who would come into the office once a week and share sweets with us all.
Last year I was also fortunate enough to perform an umrah with a partner organisation. We spent almost 3 weeks in Makkah and Madinah with others who knew about the work of NZF, including the scholars who have supported the work of NZF since its inception.
The interest in NZF and local Zakat seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?
NZF is almost 4 years old. It is running its own shelters here in the UK. Many masjids and other organisations, both muslim and mainstream, know about NZF and forward applications to us from the needy in their own locality, so the word gets around. The online following on Facebook is also growing so more people learn about the importance of paying Zakat and distributing it locally.
If you would like to join our team of volunteer caseworkers and make a difference on your doorstep, find out more and apply here.