The role of Zakat in the provision of social protection

Child poverty remains an issue of concern in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although the region has made significant progress in reducing extreme poverty and improving health, education and child survival rates, progress has been uneven. Higher-income countries have advanced more than lower-middle-income ones, and those impacted by humanitarian conflicts have seen reversals in child well-being indicators.

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Slide presentation of the webinar held on 15 January 2019. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and considered a religious duty for all Muslims above a minimum wealth threshold to help those in need through financial or in-kind contributions. In Muslim-majority countries, it has a long tradition of providing social welfare. Yet, countries vary significantly in the institutionalisation of Zakat and in some contexts, collection and distribution has been channelled through public institutions and are now part of state-provided social protection systems.

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Malaysia has followed a comparatively equitable development path, largely eliminating absolute poverty and greatly reduced ethnic inequality. Income and wealth inequality have gradually declined since the mid-1970s. With the “people economy” at the centre of Malaysia’s ambition to become a high-income country by 2020, the focus is shifting to the challenges of relative poverty and achieving sustainable improvements in individual and societal well-being through inclusive growth.

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Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and considered a religious duty for wealthy people to help those in need through financial or in-kind contributions. In Muslim-majority countries, it has a long tradition of being part of the provision of social welfare. Countries vary significantly in the institutionalisation of zakat, ranging from obligatory to voluntary contributions. In some countries, the State supervises the collection and management of funds.

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In many Arab countries affected by armed conflict and occupation, non-State institutions often become front line assistance providers, as statutory provision of social protection and social services breaks down or is limited.

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