Today we look at a growing group of Americans, our Muslims, and how they view money. According to Pew Forum, between now and the year 2030 the American Muslim population will double from over five to ten million people. How do they view money and how are their financial behaviors driven by their religion?
For one thing, Muslims have less ambiguity in financial matters than many other religions. The Quran is very specific about what Muslims must do and not do regarding money. Wealth is seen as a blessing from Allah, but also a test, to see how a person uses the wealth. Poverty is also a test of faith and submission.
While many Americans have a mental image of uber-rich Saudi Sheiks making their rounds in decked out Gulf Stream jets with an entourage of staffers in tow carrying Louis Vuitton luggage everywhere they go, the wealthy Gulf Region Muslims are fairly few in comparison to the group as a whole.
Muslims do believe that all Muslims are equal in the eyes of Allah, and that they must help each other. Of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, nearly half, according to Dr. Mohammed Obaidullah, in his article, Fighting Against Poverty in Islamic Societies, earn less that $2 per day. Nearly six hundred million Muslims live in abject poverty.
In the Quran it says: ”Oh you who believe! Do not forbid the good things which God made lawful for you and do not exceed the limits.” (5:87)
So, while some find ways to flash their wealth, there is a premium on modesty as well.
Muslims must earn money in a “halal” way, which is an honest, above board and lawful way. “Haram,” or forbidden ways to earn, include profiting from things against Islam ways, such as selling drugs or alcohol, or gambling. Muslims must not earn from profiting from the poor, or from “Riba,” which is effortless profit. Islamic banking is compliant with sharia laws, which forbid charging interest for this reason.
Whereas a tithe or gift of ten percent of one’s income is still somewhat standard in Judaism, and Christianity has a wide range of financial contribution levels, in Islam, giving is both compulsory and voluntary. Compulsory giving is established according to “Zakah,” which are established percentages and amounts that apply to everyone, and these tables leave little room for question about required giving. For example, a fee equal to two and a half percent of all one’s wealth must be paid by all wealthy Muslims once a year. This gift of zakah is given directly to the needy: the poor, widows and orphans.
The other voluntary giving is called “sadaqah,” which can be money, time, advice, services or other gifts.
Because Muslims have such exact rules regarding money, how to earn it, how to use it and even how to distribute one’s wealth at death, it may less simple for Muslims to blend fully into American culture than other religious immigrants. Remembering the evident need within their own faith community means it is perhaps less likely in the US that Muslims would adopt our financial behaviors and assimilate into giving to local, mainstream American charity causes and distribute their money outside their faith community. That may emerge as one key cultural difference as Muslims grow in presence here. We will see.
On the other hand, we may learn a thing or two about money from our Muslim friends. We will see.
“Muslim Teaching on Religion, Wealth and Poverty.” 123HelpMe.com.
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