Islamic Philanthropy

Learn more about UNHCR Canada’s Islamic Philanthropy program and our supporters and partners.

Photo: © UNHCR/Antoine Tardy

As Muslims gather in their homes around the world, many refugee families are observing the Holy Month of Ramadan away from their homes. UNHCR Canada’s Islamic Philanthropy supporters and partners provide hope to vulnerable refugee brothers and sisters.

Give your Zakat or Sadaqah to Refugees

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Share the blessings of the holy month of Ramadan with people world wide who have been forced to flee their homes.

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Islamic Philanthropy Supporters and Partners

We are grateful to partner with many foundations, NGOs and institutions involved in Islamic Philanthropy. Your partnership makes us stronger.

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Learn more about Giving Zakat or Sadaqah, how your donation makes a difference and UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund, which is backed by twelve fatwas.

Zakat Donations

All Zakat funds received by UNHCR are strictly dedicated to compliant cash assistance programs, which complements other aid provided by UNHCR.

Sadaqah Donations

Your Sadaqah is an act of solidarity with a community that is in need of our collective support. UNHCR will act as an intermediary to deliver aid to the most vulnerable families in order to meet their most basic needs.

Zakat Refugee Fund

Refugee Zakat Fund

Credible. Sharia Compliant. Effective.

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is a trusted, compliant and effective distributor maximizing the power of Zakat to transform the lives of refugees, including in hard-to-reach areas.

Due to the prompt development of the economy of the Islamic World and philanthropy sector, specifically pertaining to Zakat donors and institutions increasing desire to distribute a portion of Zakat funds to refugees and IDPs, UNHCR directed the receipt of $14.4M Zakat funds in 2017 and 2018 to assist approximately 7,000 families in Jordan and Lebanon . As a result of this, in 2019 UNHCR launched the “Refugee Zakat Fund”: a credible, Sharia compliant and a pioneering structure of Zakat funds which is transforming the lives of refugees.

UNHCR ensures 100% of Zakat funds are distributed to those most in need, by covering overhead costs from non-Zakat sources, to guarantee that 100% of Zakat contributions are given to most vulnerable, Zakat eligible recipients in critical need.

In 2020, UNHCR successfully raised $1.5 million from individuals in Canada and the United States. Canada ranks among the top 10 donor countries which contribute their Zakat to the Refugee Zakat Fund, demonstrating the Fund’s credibility amongst Muslim communities in Canada.

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund supports vulnerable families by providing them with cash assistance enabling them to support their essential needs. The fund follows rigorous governance tools and is monitored to ensure transparency at every stage. This governance approach entails the following pillars:

Zakat Compliance
  • Scholars: the Fund is Zakat compliant, backed by ten fatwas from credible scholars and institutions, including the Canadian Council of Imams.
  • Infrastructure: follows fatwa recommendations by dedicating 100% of funds to refugees eligible for Zakat.
  • Compliance review: annual third party field visits to oversee distribution and publish compliance reports.
  • Donor centric: the destination of Zakat funds is determined by the Zakat donor/ partner at the onset of partnership
Assessment and Monitoring
  • Vulnerability assessment framework: to identify eligible recipients, updated on yearly basis.
  • Innovation: use of technology in distribution, to increase efficiency and minimize fraud and duplication.
  • Post distribution monitoring: twice a year, to measure impact and improve implementation.
Financial Governance
  • Management & accountability: funds are kept in a dedicated interest-free bank account in Geneva.
  • Traceability: all funds are dedicated to Zakat compliant cash assistance programmes in identified countries with critical needs.
  • Transparency: UNHCR publishes annual Zakat reports, and partners are provided with customized reports.

2023 Islamic Philanthropy Report

This UNHCR report highlights the global impact of Zakat and Sadaqah contributions – received via UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund in 2022 – on the lives of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). UNHCR assisted more than 1.5 million refugees and IDPs in 21 countries with Zakat and Sadaqah contributions received in 2022.

Woman receiving food


UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is a credible, Sharia compliant, and a pioneering structure that effectively distributes Zakat, which aims to maximize the power of Zakat to transform the lives of the most vulnerable refugee and IDP families.

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is subject to rigorous governance and oversight, ensuring transparency at every step, from donation to provision of assistance. The Fund is Zakat compliant, backed by ten fatwas from respected scholars and institutions, including the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI).

Canadian Council of Imams

Canadian Council of ImamsThe Canadian Council of Imams is a collective leadership of Imams (Ministers of Religion) in Canada. Established in 1990, the Council has been serving the Canadian Muslim communities throughout the nation in different capacities as well as acting as a unifying platform for Canadian Imams and chaplains. Read their endorsement letter here.

The Fatwa Council of Tareem

Fatwa council of tareemThe Fatwa Council of Tareem is located in Hadramaut, Yemen. Hadramaut has been a major centre for scholarship for over a millennium and has produced many of the world’s leading Shafi’i scholars. Learn more here.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya

Sheik BayyaSheikh Abdullah bin Bayya is a renowned scholar from Mauritania. Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya is the Chairman of the UAE’s Fatwa Council, and an instructor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. Learn more here.

Dr Sheikh Ali Gomaa

Sheik GomaaDr. Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the former Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt and professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University. He is currently a member of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars. Learn more here.

Tabah Foundation

Tabah FoundationBased upon our previous report and taking into consideration new fatwas from Dr Sheikh Ali Gomaa and The Fatwa Council of Tareem, Tabah approves UNHCR’s plan to distribute goods in place of cash provided that UNHCR can show that goods are purchased at a fair market price, and proof of delivery of said goods. Additionally, UNHCR may use Zakat to cover charges related to the storage and transport of said goods. This arrangement is only recommended in locations where the need for in-kind distribution is higher than cash distribution, or when distributing cash isn’t possible, which is the case for UNHCR’s operation for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

International Islamic Fiqh Academy | KSA

The International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) was created in 1981 and is located in Jeddah, KSA. It is a subsidiary of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is the largest organization representing the Muslim world with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Academy’s mission is to provide religious guidance on modern legal, social, cultural and economic issues. It is an international body composed of over 65 Muslim scholars from all over the world and is as such considered one of the leading religious references for Muslims worldwide.

After studying the various governance parameters of the Refugee Zakat Fund, including:

  • Distribution: UNHCR’s 100% Zakat distribution policy implying zero deduction of overhead costs from Zakat funds
  • Compliance: the Refugee Zakat Fund complies with essential Zakat rules and regulations
  • Beneficiaries: targets most vulnerable eligible refugees and internally displaced families, including families of widows, orphans and the elderly
  • Financial: a dedicated bank account is in place to receive Zakat funds only,

IIFA concluded in July 2020 that UNHCR is allowed to collect and distribute Zakat funds through its Refugee Zakat Fund, as long as it commits to the above-mentioned parameters.

Muslim World League

Muslim World leagueThe Muslim World League (based in the Holy City of Mecca, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) was established in 1962 following a resolution adopted during a meeting of the World Muslim Congress, held in the Holy City of Mecca on 14 Dhu Al-Hijjah 1381 AH (May 18 1962 AD). Learn more here.

Dar al-Ifta al-Missriyyah

Dar al-Ifta al-MissriyyahDar al-Ifta al-Missriyyah is one of Egypt’s centers for Islamic legal research. It was established in 1895 and is considered one of the earliest modern fatwa producing institutes. Learn more here.

International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA)

ISRAInternational Shariah Research Academy (ISRA) was established in 2008 by the Central Bank of Malaysia as an Islamic finance and Shariah research institution. ISRA is recognized globally as a leading Global Premier Research Academy in the Islamic Finance industry, and has more than a decade of experience verifying and providing essential research on Islamic Finance to some of the top institutions around the world.

In February 2021, ISRA endorsed UNHCR’s Zakat collection and distribution mechanisms as Zakat-compliant. The endorsement confirms that UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund meets the following criteria:

  1. Adherence to rules and principles on Zakat collection and distribution.
  2. Competency of UNHCR personnel to undertake the above responsibility.
  3. Adequacy of UNHCR governance structure related to Zakat collection and distribution activities.
  4. Transparency and disclosure by UNHCR on its Zakat collection and distribution activities.

ISRA also included additional recommendations to further improve the process of Zakat-compliance by UNHCR.

The Council of Senior Scholars of Morocco

Council of Senior Scholars from MorrocoThe Council of Senior Scholars of Morocco is the highest official religious authority in Morocco, and includes a fatwa council. It follows the Maliki School. Learn more here.

Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy (AIRA)

Al-AzharThe university-mosque of Al-Azhar, situated in Cairo, Egypt, is the foremost center of religious learning in the Muslim world and plays a significant intellectual role in Egypt and beyond. Al-Azhar was built in 970 as a mosque and became an institution in 1171. Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy is the institution’s supreme body for Islamic research.

Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy issued a fatwa in March 2021 allowing UNHCR to receive and distribute Zakat funds, highlighting that most of the Zakat categories apply to refugees and internally displaced people. Learn more here.

Tri State Imam Council

The UNHCR sent a request for a fatwa from the Tri State Imam Council regarding the permissibility of UNHCR receiving Zakat funds from Muslims from different countries of the world and distributing it to those who deserve it from among the Muslims. The Tri State Imam Council’s response is follows:

The UNHCR is a global institution that has a global trust, and is not an institution which belongs to a particular country or party as much as it is an institution for all mankind, and after reviewing and making sure that the institution follows the Sharia’s regulations for distributing Zakat, as well as having the ability to reach the needy anywhere, as well as not deducting any administrative expenses. It distributes 100% of the collected Zakat funds, so the Tri state has no objection to the UNHCR collecting and distributing Zakat funds.

More information.

Sadaqah and Sadaqah Jariyah

Sadaqah, or voluntary charity, supports the well-being of those in need and ensures a better life for refugees and IDPs, providing them with healthcare and education services, as well as livelihood opportunities.

Sadaqah Jariyah, activities in particular refer to projects – such as provision of shelter kits, rehabilitation of schools or installation of wells – that have a sustainable impact on the lives of refugees and IDPs and provides continued critical assistance to those in need. Sadaqah Jariyah can also be given on behalf of loved ones that have passed away.

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