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.

Jump to a section about: 2021 Islamic Philanthropy Report, Refugee Zakat Fund, Sadaqa and Sadaqa Jariyah, Islamic Philanthropy Partners, Islamic Philanthropy Supporters, Fatwa’s, the Give Zakat App, or Zakat and Sadaqah Donations.

2021 Islamic Philanthropy Report

UNHCR has released the third Islamic Philanthropy Annual Report on the impact of the Refugee Zakat Fund in 2020, which supports over two million beneficiaries among displaced populations. The report is entitled, “Islamic Philanthropy: Transforming the Lives of the World’s Displaced”.

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Zakat Refugee Fund

Refugee Zakat Fund

Credible. Sharia Compliant. Effective.

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is a credible, Sharia compliant and a pioneering structure of Zakat funds which transforms the lives of most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced people globally.

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.

Give your Zakat or Sadaqah to Refugees

Sadaqa and Sadaqa Jariyah

Sadaqah, or voluntary charity, supports the well-being of those in need and ensures a vetter 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.

Our Islamic Philanthropy Partners

Faced with many complex challenges in recent years, UNHCR has redoubled its efforts to strengthen its partnerships with various organizations, both international and national, seeking to maximize complementarity and sustainability in its work for refugees and others of concern. Our partnerships related to Islamic philanthropy follows the same objective. The main goal of the organization’s vast network of partnerships is to ensure better outcomes for our persons of concern by combining and leveraging complementary resources and working together in a transparent, respectful and mutually beneficial way. In 2020, UNHCR built partnerships with more than 30 foundations, NGOs and institutions involved in Islamic philanthropy.

Canadian Council of Imams

Canadian Council of Imams (CCI) 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.

Our Islamic Philanthropy Supporters

Although there have been many challenges in recent years, UNHCR has been successful in strengthening the support it receives from various organizations, both international and national, seeking to maximize complementarity and sustainability in its work for refugees and others of concern. The support related to Islamic philanthropy follows the same objective.

Sayeda Khadija

Sayeda Khadijah Centre is one of the largest centres in Canada serving thousands of Muslims in the GTA. It has a large beautiful masjid, classes for children and adults, a gym, a conference hall, a food bank, a library, a community hall and an industrial kitchen. It accommodates large numbers of congregants on Friday prayers, Eids and other activities. The centre is also the home of Faith of Life Network, an organization that promotes dialogue, interfaith work, education and service to humanity.

Muslim Association of Canada

The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) is the largest Muslim grassroots Canadian charitable organization. MAC has a national reach in 13 cities across Canada, 20 community centers and 10 full-time schools. MAC serves over 150,000 Canadians through programs, holistic education, and personal development. MAC inspires Muslims to put their faith into action.


Ansar Co-operative Housing Corporation provides the opportunity to purchase a home without Riba (interest).  Since housing is one of the basic needs of individuals, Ansar Housing has provided solutions and alternatives on Co-ownership basis for Muslims in North America, who have been facing difficulties in regard to interest-free housing and Investments.


The Halal Monitoring Authority (HMA) realizes the complications of the food industry and thus have devised a three-part inspection plan that covers the entire route; from the source the middle‑men and finally the retailers. HMA labelling & certification is there to assist in making the Halal choice. It provides free service for its foodservice operators in the midst of COVID-19.


Manzil is the only Canadian Islamic FinTech that manufactures and distributes Halal financial solutions which currently include mortgages, investment funds, and prepaid credit cards.

Zero Mortgage

Zero Mortgage is Canada’s leading Islamic financial institution offering unlimited halal home financing. Zero Mortgage has secured a leading international group of scholars to sign fatwa who collectively sit on over 50 Islamic Banks all over the world. Zero allows Canadian Muslims to refinance your home to pay outstanding Zakaat.

Hands For Charity

Hands for Charity is a proud Canadian charitable organization that strives to follow Canadian values by extending a helping hand to all people in need and working hard to ensure they have the minimum living requirements, including clean water, education, food, shelter, and healthcare.

Al Safa

Al Safa Foods is the leading Halal food brand in North America. With over 80+ products, Al Safa Foods provides Zabiha by Hand Halal products in authentic and traditional flavours. Providing a variety & guilt-free convenience foods to the Muslim community.


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.

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.

GiveZakat App Information

GiveZakatUNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund launched the mobile arm of the fund, the GiveZakat app in 2020 due to an increase in digital philanthropy.

The mobile app allows donors to calculate Zakat, track their donations, donate both Zakat and Sadaqah funds easily and securely and set monthly Sadaqah donations for refugees and IDPs. Your donation through GiveZakat will be distributed by the Refugee Zakat Fund which is a credible, Sharia compliant, and effective distributor of Zakat and Sadaqah, as endorsed by respected Islamic institutions and scholars globally.

Download our new GiveZakat mobile app to help millions of refugee families who rely on Zakat and Sadaqah donations for shelter, healthcare, education and vital cash assistance.

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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.

Learn More

If you are interested in partnering with UNHCR Canada through our Islamic Philanthropy program, please contact: Mohammed Abu Asaker at 

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