In a meeting held at the headquarters of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, UNHCR and IIFA agreed to set-up an annual joint mechanism to verify compliance of the Refugee Zakat Fund with Zakat conditions.

The meeting was also attended by several reputable jurisprudential bodies, including Secretary Generals of the Muslim World League’s Islamic Fiqh Council, Al Azhar Islamic Research Academy, and the Tabah Foundation for Research and Consultancy. All attendees confirmed IIFA’s coordination role in the annual verification exercise which would enhance UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund’s governance, and thus its impact on the lives of the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. Attendees also agreed on issuing an annual review report confirming compliance and detailing the necessary recommendations to further enhance the governance of the fund.

The meeting was held on the side-lines of the launch event of UNHCR’s Islamic Philanthropy Annual Report, which illustrates the impact of Zakat and Sadaqah donations received through the Refugee Zakat Fund, on the lives of refugees and internally displaced persons, in the past year. 

The report also indicated that UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund received more than US$ 35 million through Zakat, Sadaqah, and Sadaqah Jariyah donations in 2021, helping 1,275,000 refugees and internally displaced people in 14 countries: Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Nigeria. While stating that all Zakat contributions received by the Refugee Zakat Fund, were distributed following its 100% Zakat distribution policy, without deduction of any fees of wages.

In this context, His Excellency Prof. Koutoub Mustafa Sano, Secretary General of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, said: “The plight of refugees is an integral component of IIFA’s humanitarian concerns and efforts in facilitating solutions to the increasing humanitarian needs. A fatwa was issued in 2020 to support the Refugee Zakat Fund, indicating confidence in its policy.” He added: “We are pleased to witness the development of our partnership with UNHCR, and with it our role in strengthening the governance mechanism, and credibility of the Refugee Zakat Fund, and thus its impact on refugees and internally displaced persons. We also urge all stakeholders to support UNHCR’s efforts in assisting the most vulnerable refugees and those internally displaced secure their needs.”

On this, Dr Nazir Ayad, Secretary General of Al Azhar Islamic Research Academy said: “Our participation in this session confirms the pivotal role of the academy in highlighting the situation of refugees and their needs, and in clarifying Fiqh evidence that ensure their smooth integration in host communities and facilitates for them to receive much needed support. Dr Ayad added: “We worked with UNHCR in the past, through launching a joint campaign and issuing a fatwa related to Zakat. We hope this session contributes to enforcing our collaboration and increasing the impact of the Refugee Zakat Fund which was granted a fatwa from Al Azhar Islamic Research Academy last year, endorsing it to receive and distribute Zakat funds to eligible refugees according to specific conditions.”

Additionally, Dr Saleh bin Zaben Al Marzouqi, Secretary General of the Islamic Fiqh Council, said: “What we heard from UNHCR about arrangements in place for Zakat distribution to eligible beneficiaries, such as no deduction of administrative costs, effective distribution mechanisms, and so forth, encourage us to say that UNHCR is allowed to receive and distribute Zakat funds to eligible beneficiaries as per the Holy Quran.” He added: “There is no doubt that this work done by UNHCR, and other accredited bodies, serves the high goals of Islamic Sharia, which aim to help people in need especially in countries of the Muslim world.”

UNHCR Senior Advisor and Representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council Area Khaled Khalifa expressed his appreciation to the support that IIFA provides and said: “The development of our partnership with all these entities, including IIFA, plays a pivotal role in ensuring the compliance of the Refugee Zakat Fund with Zakat conditions. This constitutes a priority and comes in accord with following the received fatwas.” He continued, “We strongly believe in the role that our partnerships with key Islamic institutions play in enhancing the impact of humanitarian tools on the lives of millions of refugees and IDPs.” He further elaborated “The verification mechanism is yet another step toward enhancing the credibility of the Refugees Zakat Fund and opens doors to further expand its scope and reach, to assist those in need.”

UNHCR launched its Islamic Philanthropy Annual Report through a series of events and webinars held in each of Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, United Kingdom and Canada, in collaboration with Zakat and Fiqh institutions, foundations and other private and public sector entities. 

The Refugee Zakat Fund was established by UNHCR in 2019. It is a globally trusted and efficient Islamic social finance programme, fully compliant with Zakat laws. It is governed by strict regulations to ensure transparency at every stage, from donation to distribution of Zakat funds. 

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