Why Zakat Matters

Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific
7 min readApr 19, 2023

How Ramadan Giving Can Support Survivors of Sexual Violence

Providing Relief and Empowerment to Women Survivors of Sexual Violence. Illustrated frame from UAF A&P’s Herstory

As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, there has been a call to give zakat to gender-based issues in Indonesia. Zakat is a form of religious charity in Islam and serves as a social act of worship that hones sensitivity and concern for fellow human beings. Our partner, Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (IKa), recently wrote an article in Bahasa Indonesia on Mubadalah.id about the need for resourcing feminist movements and supporting victims of sexual violence through zakat. As a way of amplifying their perspectives and fundraising and advocacy efforts in the region, UAF A&P shares the English translation of the article, “Why Zakat Matters” below.

Earlier this year, the UAF A&P team convened in Indonesia to learn from advisors, and women and non-binary human rights defenders to understand the rapidly changing context of Indonesia’s civil and political rights landscape specifically on religious, ethnic, social, gender, and sexual orientation grounds. With the revision of Indonesia’s criminal code, the government’s effort to move Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to a remote area in Kalimantan, and with the upcoming elections in 2024, activists and defenders are anticipating existing laws to be misused to persecute women and non-binary activists working on indigenous rights, the rights of religious and sexual minorities.

UAF A&P is in solidarity with Indonesian women and non-binary human rights defenders and their networks in this precarious time. There is an urgent need to mobilize resources to strengthen movements led by women and non-binary human rights activists and defenders in Indonesia, especially during Ramadan the month of giving. We hope this article inspires readers to donate zakat to feminist movements and sparks conversation among other feminist funds and organizations about how cultural and religious practices can help shift the narrative around gender and gender-based violence.

Why Zakat Matters

Providing Relief and Empowerment to Women Survivors of Sexual Violence

Given the dire condition of female victims of gender-based violence, donating zakat could serve as a crucial solution to aid these women.

On Monday, March 20, 2023, Mubadalah.id collaborated with the ITB Ahmad Dahlan Center for Islamic Studies, Women, and Development (PSIPP), Swara Rahima, and Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (IKa) to organise a webinar titled “Ramadan 2023, Zakat, Peduli Perempuan Korban Kekerasan”. This event served as one of the campaigns in a series of zakat fundraising efforts aimed at supporting victims of sexual violence during Ramadan month.

As stated in the committee’s opening remarks, the purpose of this webinar was indeed to raise public awareness about the importance of zakat for women victims of violence and to explore how zakat can be utilised to provide support, attention, and assistance to women who have experienced violence.

As noted in the 2022 Annual Report by the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), there were 457,895 cases of violence against women in Indonesia. These types of violence ranged from sexual, physical, and psychological violence to economic neglect, human trafficking, exploitation, bullying, and more.

Even in several studies, it has been revealed that many women victims of violence receive minimal support and have limited access to protection. As a result, they become extremely vulnerable, experiencing multiple layers of violence.

In her article titled “Ramadan Momentum: Promoting Zakat for Victims of Sexual Violence”, Yulianti Muthmainnah mentions that the fate of women victims of violence is still very concerning. They suffer permanent damage to their reproductive organs, decaying uterus, physical wounds that do not heal, disabilities, prolonged stress, and trauma.

Even worse, many of them end up dying due to depression. To make matters worse, the state-owned Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan) refuses to cover the cost of treatment and recovery for sexual violence victims, claiming that what they experience does not fall under the category of ‘illnesses covered by BPJS Kesehatan’.

Given the dire condition of female victims of gender-based violence, donating zakat could serve as a crucial solution to aid these women.

Understanding Zakat

Zakat, a form of religious charity in Islam, serves as a social act of worship that hones sensitivity and concern for fellow human beings. It aims to alleviate hunger, poverty, and economic and social deprivation among the less fortunate.

In her book “Zakat for Victims of Violence against Women and Children”, Yulianti Muthmainnah states that the term zakat linguistically means blessing, purity, goodness, growth, and increase. By paying zakat, it is hoped that one’s wealth and soul will become purified and their livelihood will prosper.

Zakat, a form of religious charity in Islam, serves as a social act of worship that hones sensitivity and concern for fellow human beings. It aims to alleviate hunger, poverty, and economic and social deprivation among the less fortunate.

Islam prescribes eight distinct groups as eligible recipients of zakat, which include the impoverished, the needy, those tasked with the collection and distribution of zakat (amil), recent converts to the faith (mu’allaf), those seeking to liberate themselves or others from slavery (riqab), debtors struggling to repay their loans (gharim), those fighting for the sake of Allah (fi sabilillah), and travellers who are stranded and in need of assistance (ibnu sabil). This is unequivocally laid out in verse 60 of Surah at-Taubah:

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ ۖ فَرِيضَةً مِنَ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ

“The alms are meant only for the poor and the needy and those who are in charge thereof, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free those in bondage, and to help those burdened with debt, and for expenditure in the way of Allah and for the wayfarer. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise”. [9:60]

Yulianti’s Views on Zakat for Women Victims of Violence

Yulianti asserts that the obligation to pay zakat, whether it be zakat fitrah or zakat maal (wealth), is an unequivocal commandment. In terms of this unequivocality, there is no need for ijtihad, or independent reasoning, when it comes to the verses pertaining to zakat. This is because the time frame for its implementation has already been established, as well as the minimum threshold for when zakat becomes obligatory to pay.

However, in her view, ijtihad (independent reasoning) must still be carried out to apply the maqashid al-shariah aspects of zakat verses. This way, the Islamic legal system we use will be in accordance with the maqashid al-shariah, the progress of time, and the needs of society. Therefore, the ijtihad on how to promote zakat for victims of sexual violence is crucial.

In light of Surah At-Taubah verse 60, which specifies that there are eight categories of individuals eligible to receive zakat, Yulianti believes that we must reconsider our interpretation. It is possible that the circumstances of the needy, the destitute, those in bondage, and those striving in the path of Allah today differ from those in the past. Therefore, it is important to draw analogies in order to expand the meaning of zakat recipients.

For instance, in understanding the impoverished class. Presently, we can liken those living in poverty to women who are victims of sexual violence and subsequently withdraw from social circles. This state of affairs arises from the stigma we attach to them, labelling them as unclean, dishonourable, impure, and carriers of shame.

“It is possible that the circumstances of the needy, the destitute, those in bondage, and those striving in the path of Allah today differ from those in the past. Therefore, it is important to draw analogies in order to expand the meaning of zakat recipients.”

In addition, we can also liken this to victims of sexual violence who are expelled from school due to pregnancy, fired from their job, expelled from their family, community, or other places of residence. As a result, they face difficulties in processing their case and recovering their mental health.

The Significance of Acknowledging Women’s Distinct Experiences

During a webinar titled “Ramadan 2023, Zakat, Peduli Perempuan Korban Kekerasan,” Nur Rofiah mentioned that women who are victims of sexual violence are particularly vulnerable in various ways, including economically. These women often experience mistreatment from their surrounding environments, ranging from their families, schools, workplaces, hospitals, and other public places, especially those who have experienced unwanted pregnancies.

In addition to struggling to process cases and recover from trauma, she also has to finance the baby she is carrying. From the costs of pregnancy and childbirth to the process of raising the child.

“Through this awareness, female victims of sexual violence can be categorized as eligible for zakat (charitable donation in Islam), due to their vulnerability in economic matters. Therefore, they are obliged to become zakat recipients.”

According to Nur, in promoting zakat, it is important to consider women’s unique experiences. This includes their biological experiences (menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and postpartum recovery) as well as their social experiences (marginalisation, subordination, stigmatisation, double burden, and violence).

Through this awareness, female victims of sexual violence can be categorized as eligible for zakat (charitable donation in Islam), due to their vulnerability in economic matters. Therefore, they are obliged to become zakat recipients.

On the other hand, Yulianti also mentioned that by including women in the category of zakat beneficiaries, it can reduce the burden experienced by sexual violence victims. They will not face obstacles in paying for medical examinations, treating physical injuries, and healing from prolonged psychological trauma.

Let us show care for victims of sexual violence by campaigning, channeling, and promoting alms-giving for them. May Ramadan bring blessings to us all, including women who have suffered from sexual violence.

Read the original article by Mubadalah.id here.

To donate zakat to survivors of sexual violence in Indonesia, send your donation to:
Bank Syariah Indonesia
LAZISMU-Zakat 7001318408
Unique Code: 93
Example: $100.93
Or write to us at info@uafanp.org for support in making the donation.

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Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific

A regional women’s human rights and feminist fund that protects, strengthens and sustains women and non-binary human rights defenders in Asia and the Pacific