Pay Your Zakat Today!

“Establish prayer and give zakat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves—you will find it with Allah. Surely Allah sees what you do.”

– Quran 2:110

I always look forward to my annual “pay your zakat” post! It’s really awe-inspiring to see how many come to these posts in Ramadan.

Zakat is a major part of Ramadan. Before it ends, after fasting for the last few weeks, purifying oneself while feeling for the struggles of those less privileged, one must give zakat (or Ramadan charity). It’s the practice of purifying one’s materials by donating 2.5% of one’s wealth and assets.

Zakat Calculator

Here are some wonderful organization that I believe are worthy of your zakat and continued donations throughout the year.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) informs and defends community members across the nation. I commend and admire my friend’s working there for their dedication to support local communities, providing legal services, education and training.

Islamic Relief USA is always hands on and on the ground, be it here in the USA or around the world. You can choose to have your zakat go toward meal packages, disaster relief or orphan sponsorship programs.

Pure Hands started when the war in Yemen caused the most devastating humanitarian crisis in the world. Working with multiple organizations across Yemen, this US based non-profit organization has been working non-stop to provide on-going humanitarian aid.

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) provides medical aid to children across the Middle East. They continue to support refugee children in dire need from Palestine, Yemen, and Syria.

Zakat Foundation of America continues to support many initiatives throughout the year. They have multiple programs one can choose to contribute their zakat too, with the Covid response in India, clean water initiatives, and educational sponsorship.

Launch Good has been a crowdfunding staple for Muslims looking to organize and donate to local and global initiatives. This is a great starting point to find and support these amazing initiatives.

Qatar Red Crescent Society has started an initiative for vaccine equity. The WHO Director-General even acknowledged their efforts for this very important global cause. We truly can’t make it to the other side of this pandemic alone.

If there is an organization you’d like included, please do so in the comments below!

May God accept our fasts, our prayers, and our zakat.

How to Help Those Affected by the California Wildfires – 2.0

I’m disheartened as I find myself writing another version of a similarly titled rant.

The wildfires burning across not just the state of California, but the entire western US region is alarming and heartbreaking. Mainly caused by the effects of climate change and a few dumb human mistakes, these fires have now become one of the largest yet on record.

In California, fires have now claimed over 25 lives, burned over 3.2 million acres, with some fires barely 50-70% contained as I write this rant. Even while being many miles away from the closest fire, the smoke has made the air quality all across the Bay Area and the state one of the worst in the world. At one point, according to IQair, we in San Francisco hit 200AQI or “purple”. San Francisco air is now in the “green” for the first time in over a month.

Since my asthma attack earlier this year, I haven’t used my inhaler as much as I have these past several weeks. I have been home for almost three weeks straight and finally went for a walk for the first time this week, masked of course. Yet I keep thinking, how are the people in the heart of this disaster even coping?

The first responders have put their own lives on the line helping people evacuate and attempting to put out these fires. They’ve even gotten help from firefighters from as far as Australia, who battled their own wildfires barely a year ago.

If you still deny that climate change is real, please educate yourself!

So how can we help our fellow Californians in their time of need? Below are a few organizations I’m aware of that are on the grounds. Your donations in the form of finances, awareness, and time would be greatly appreciated.

– The California Fire Foundation is providing both financial and emotional support to our hardworking firefighters on the grounds as well as fallen officers and their families. Let’s be sure to show your appreciation to the amazing s/heroes out there.

Islamic Relief USA has a Disaster Response Team that is helping those affected by the fires all across the western coast.

– The American Red Cross is also providing assistance for all those affected by the wildfires, from temporary shelters to blood drives.

– The North Valley Community Foundation is continuing what they started during the Camp and Butte fires back in 2018 and providing continued support to local resources across Northern California.

– Of course, the World Central Kitchen is still helping provide hot meals across Calfornia as well as Washington and Oregon states. You can also donate to local food banks in the region through Feeding America.

I’ll update this rant with any additional information I come across to do our part in helping our fellow Americans throughout the west coast. If you have additional information to share, kindly email me or post the sources in the comments below.

How to Support the Beirut Relief Efforts

As you many all be aware, on August 4th, at 6pm local time, a massive explosion took place at the Seaport of Beirut in Lebanon. It appears the cause of the explosion was due to the accidental ignition of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for many years at the ports.

This very preventable explosion has taken over 125 lives, injured over 3,000 people and destroyed the homes of more than half the city’s residents. There is a dire need for blood donations, volunteers, and funds to help with an already strained healthcare system due to COVID-19.

If you are in Lebanon, you can safely go to any local hospital or clinic to donate blood and see if there is a need for volunteers. There are many groups gathering to help with the cleaning and rebuilding efforts as well. Every little bit counts.

For the rest of us outside of Lebanon that can donate, the best resources I’ve found so far are the Lebanese Red Cross and the Impact Lebanon crowdsourcing initiative through Just Giving. You can search for your local NGOs that may be offering assistance but I’ve listed a few I’ve come across below.

Kindly note that when making a donation to Lebanese NGOs, do not make it in the country’s currency (Lebanese Lyra/Pound), as it sadly has been collapsing over the past year. Your best bet will be to do so in either US dollars or the Euro.

Baytna Baytak has been helping house healthcare workers and first responders across Lebanon during the pandemic response. Now they are working to help the more than 300,000 displaced residents of Beirut find temporary shelter.

International Medical Corps is helping survivors get life-saving care, deploying medical units and mental health care efforts in support of the damaged facilities and overwhelmed healthcare.

Islamic Relief has an office in Beirut and thankfully their staff is safe. Now they are working to bring much-needed aid and relief support to Beirut.

World Food Program of the UN is helping bring food to the area after the major food sources, like the grain silos, were destroyed at the Beirut port.

If you know of any other organizations providing relief support and assistance that can use our donations, please share them in the comments or tag me on any social media platform, my handle for most is @mshalaco.

May God have mercy on the beautiful people of Lebanon, ameen.

Paid Your Zakat Yet?

If the answer is no, now is the time to do so!

First, what is “zakat”?

Zakat (or Zakah) is an Arabic word now used universally to mean “obligatory charity“. As prescribed to Muslims with means, it’s obligatory to make an annual contribution of 2.5% against all assets one holds for a minimum of one year towards charitable use.

A good example might be one has, after expenses, a $1,000 in the bank, gold or silver worth $5,000 and a car worth $10,000. Their total assets are at $16,000 and they’d pay a minimum of $400 against that.

Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

The Holy Quran, 58:13

Check out this Zakat Calculator by Islamic Relief USA

With fasting, we purify our bodies, minds, spirits as well as our material things. To do so, we sacrifice a bit of everything to bring forward our renewed selves. Fasting from food to bring in good energy. Fasting from day to day worrisome thoughts to bring in happier thoughts (think meditation). Fasting from earthly things to remind ourselves of the bigger picture through worship and Quran reading. To fully complete the month of Ramadan, one must give their zakat before Eid ElFitr (Festival of Breaking Fast), hence the term “Zakat ElFitr” (Zakat of Breaking Fast).

Remember, zakat is also giving your time and reminding others to do their part as well. Many get caught up with work, family gatherings and Eid shopping that a kind reminder is always appreciated. I know I appreciated the one I received yesterday and I hope this post as those I’ve written for the last several years serves as your kind reminder to fulfill your zakat.

Who qualifies to receive zakat?

The idea of zakat is to support those in need. That can be in the form of food, shelter, legal services or any other means to help them live a decent life. What do you have that others may have less of? If you were in a bad situation, what would you need to get out of it. It’s hard to put ourselves in another’s shoes sometimes but one of the main ideas of Ramadan is just that. Living with little food, little energy, but lots of dedication to get through it.

With that said, there are so many organizations, both locally and internationally, out there in need of our zakat to continue the amazing work they do not just in Ramadan but year round. I recommend checking on those that have been highly rated by Charity Navigator, many of which four star rated.

I personally would suggest the following organizations:

  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) for their amazing efforts to provide medical aid to children across the Middle East. They are currently supporting refugee children in dire need from Palestine, Yemen and Syria.
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for their dedication to helping local communities at large with legal services, training and support. They are currently supporting those in need through the disastrous border immigration response and the xenophobic Muslim Ban currently in effect.
  • Islamic Relief USA for their excellent disaster relief responses, meal plans across the globe and orphan sponsorship programs. You can select one or multiple programs you want your zakat to go towards.
  • Project Feed SF for feeding neighbors in need right here in San Francisco for over 10 years now. This and other amazing campaigns worthy of your zakat are listed under Launch Good.

Insha’Allah this information is helpful to you all. May God accept our fasts, our prayers and our zakat… ameen.

How to Help Those Affected by the California Wildfires

The wildfires in my home state of California has been devastating. The Camp Fire in Butte County has claimed over 40 lives, burned over 110,000 acres and only 30% contained as of writing. This fire has been so far the worst in California history. A second fire in Southern California’s Ventura County deemed the Woolsey Fire is fast spreading. CAL FIRE reports as of this writing that the fire has spread across over 91,500 acres and only 20% contained. There have been five injuries, three of which are firefighters and I’m praying there will not be reporting of causalities.

Being almost 200 miles away from Butte County, the billowing smoke has affected the air quality here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve used my rescue inhaler over twice a day since the fires began. I’ve stayed indoors as much as possible over the weekend, dunned a face mask when one was available to me but I keep thinking, how are the people in the heart of this disaster even coping?

The first responders have put their own lives on the line helping people evacuate and attempting to put out this fire. Many of them are from Butte County and have family forced to evacuate and lost their own homes in the fire.

So how can we help our fellow Californians in their times of need? Below are a few organizations I’m aware of that are on the grounds. Your donations in the form of finances and time would be greatly appreciated.

Source: AP/Noah Berger via Islamic Relief USA

Islamic Relief USA has a Disaster Response Team that is helping those affected by the fires in both northern and southern California. The California Community Foundation has a Wildfire Relief Fund currently supporting recovery and preparedness. Benevity is supporting the American Red Cross’ efforts on the ground.

According to the Sacramento Bee, shelters have been receiving “generous but useless donations”. Meaning, kindly check what is needed before donating your entire stash of hygiene products. If you can’t donate things like underwear or backpacks, the best thing to do is to donate a gift card from say Target. Your time is also highly appreciated but please inquire ahead, your safety and that of others come first.

I’ll update this post with any additional information I come across on how we can continue to help those affected throughout California. If you have additional information to share, kindly email me or post them in the comments below.

For help, support or information for Butte County, please go buttecounty.net or call 211.

UPDATE – 14 November: ABC7 News Bay Area is teaming up with Vitalant for a blood drive. The North Valley Community Foundation is collection corporate gifts and in-kind donations. To volunteer, head to Caring Choices for more information.

Captured November 21st at 7am on Judah Street

UPDATE – 16 November: GoFundMe has created a central page with verified campaigns to help the victims. The same has been done by Charity Navigator, listing all verified organizations on the grounds in both Northern and Southern California. The California Fire Foundation is providing both financial and emotional support to the firefighters and the fallen officers and their families. Let’s be sure to showcase our support and appreciation to the amazing firefighters and first responders.

For details on the current air quality in the Bay Area, go to airnow.gov and enter the zip code of your area. As of this writing, it’s lingering at 233 here in San Francisco which is “very unhealthy”. According to KTVU, we are experiencing the worst air quality in the world. I took this picture this morning of the smoke looming above the Sunset district. Due to the air quality, most schools and universities are not open today or the rest of the week.

UPDATE – November 21: I’m sure there are many small businesses supporting the victims of the California wildfires. One of them is San Francisco’s QSpa, located on both Steiner and Divisidaro, off the Haight. Right now, QSpa is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sales of their $25 in-house cuticle oil to those affected in Butte County. For $15, you can bring back your empty bottle for a refill.

Final Update – December 1: The Camp Fire may be fully out but there is still much to do to help our friends get their lives back to some form of normalcy and rebuild the many towns affected. I want to be able to continue to showcase my support in any way possible. Therefore, all season long, I’ll be donating some of the proceeds from Ms. Hala’s Boutique to the Islamic Relief USA  and the  California Fire Foundation, two of many amazing organizations helping our friends across the state. Please continue to share this post and add on it to with any additional information in the comments below.