The world is united more than ever in the effort of fighting Coronavirus, at least we are unified in recognizing the global challenges that the pandemic of Covid19 represents on all our nations.
Millions of people around the world have lost their jobs or are going to soon. Over sixty thousand people have already died, cities have been shut down and everyone, no matter what business they operate, has been affected negatively.
Today more than ever, philanthropists around the world have the opportunity to work together and come up with unified efforts and initiatives to reduce the negative effect that this pandemic continues to leave on people around the world. We have seen limited initiatives from some philanthropic institutions and individuals, but those initiatives still have a limited effect and don’t meet the level that should be acted upon.
Philanthropy is deeply rooted in the Islamic world, while I don’t want to talk about Islamic philanthropy as a sector in this article, I want to highlight the important role that Islamic Philanthropy could play to reduce the negative effect of Covid19 in the lives of people around the world.
Short Term Approaches
With an estimated value that exceeds US$ 1 trillion annually, Islamic philanthropy is recognised as one of the world’s largest philanthropic giving in the world.
With this tremendous contribution, there are a few short term approaches that Muslim philanthropists should take as soon as possible, such as the following:
– Form an emergency fund to support local organizations and government departments in an institutionalized manner with clear KPIs and reporting mechanisms.
With such funds, the support must be focused on providing a basic livelihood for those who might have lost their jobs or are unable to provide their families with basic necessities.
– Reduce the level of bureaucracy in the current grant management process.
– Make Ramadan this year a season where a level of humanitarian unity is showcased in Islamic philanthropy, i.e giving beyond faith. Every community regardless of their race or faith has people in need and affected by Covid19. Sponsoring Iftar this year should not only be for the fasting Muslims but for everyone who might need a meal.
– Seeking a possible local Fatwa/ religious opinion, for the eligibility of Zakat to support Corona relief funds in all countries that have formed such funds.
I was impressed by the initiative of the Moroccan king, who launched a local Corona relief fund so quickly, even before Morocco had even confirmed 50 cases. The king formed the Corona relief fund and kept the door open for everyone to donate to, after pledging 10 billion Moroccan Dirhams to the fund. The fund is now supporting families and individuals who have been affected by the pandemic.
– Finally, as a short term approach, philanthropists in the Islamic world must, at least, talk to each other! But the ideal scenario should be to form a network between themselves, from Nouakchott to Jakarta and stop working in silos. This network then can collaborate and unify the effort with the international community of fellow philanthropists from the rest of the world.
Long Term Approaches
We all know the effect of Coronavirus is going to last for a long time, it could be for a few years. Therefore, I assume the main long term goal of Muslim philanthropists in relation to Coronavirus is supporting two main areas:
– Supporting entrepreneurship and startups.
We all know that SMEs are the backbone of the local economy. However, many of which have been dramatically affected by the situation of COVID 19. To remedy this, businessmen and philanthropists must inject more money into SMEs and Startups that have been affected and impacted by COVID 19. This could be in the form of investment or interest-free loans, also known as Al- Qard Al-Hassan.
This will help those SMEs and startups to re-employ a lot of staff members that were forced to leave their jobs and at the same time contribute to the national economy.
– Enhancing the ability to respond to emergency situations.
Unfortunately, not all countries have the same response system and the agility of tackling certain emergency situations such as Coronavirus. While countries like the UAE have assured its residents and citizens that food supplies and medical treatment is available infinitely, some countries don’t have the capacity to provide the same assurance. Therefore, investing in creating an infrastructure that could have a timely response and manage a national emergency situation, in the long run, is a necessity.
For sure the world will witness another pandemic, maybe not in our time, but certainly, philanthropists in the Muslim world have an important role to play in enhancing the ability to respond to such situations and manage emergency situations at the national level.
Corona’s Effect On Islamic Philanthropy
Without a doubt, the Coronavirus will leave a huge negative impact on philanthropic giving in general and Islamic philanthropy in particular.
There are a couple of reasons for this, the first one is that the whole world economy is affected by the pandemic so as a result, philanthropists will witness a reduction in their wealth and income and this will result in a further reduction of their philanthropic donations and giving.
The second reason is that the Middle East is the heart of the Islamic world; the main resource is oil and the income represents a large percentage in the national economy for many countries in the region. The drastic drop of the oil price will leave a negative impact on the wealth of a considerable number of Muslim philanthropists from the Middle East.
But really, in my personal opinion – and I’m not an economist, the only way forward for HNWI and philanthropists from the region is to focus on the long term approach I highlighted above, because this will ensure the longevity of wealth of philanthropists and confirm their commitment towards their communities.