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Islamic Philanthropy

The Islamic Philanthropy program is based on Islamic giving to provide innovative, dignified aid to refugees around the world. The program includes the Refugee Zakat Fund and Sadaqah Fund.

There are more than 114 million people forcibly displaced globally and nearly 50 percent are refugees from Muslim countries. Your gift to USA for UNHCR can help transform lives.



Share Ramadan blessings with people worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes. 

Faith-based Philanthropy Partners

We are grateful to partner with faith-based foundations, NGOs and institutions to meet the needs of refugees. These partnerships help deliver better care to refugees and forcibly displaced families.


Learn more about our commitment to maximizing your zakat and sadaqah.


Sadaqah, or voluntary charity, supports the well-being of those in need and ensures a better life for refugees and other forcibly displaced people, providing them with healthcare, education and livelihood opportunities.


Zakat, or obligatory charity, ensures that refugees and displaced people are supported through direct cash assistance and aid. The UN Refugee Agency’s Refugee Zakat Fund goes directly to vulnerable families to maximize your impact.

Refugee Zakat Fund

Credible. Compliant. Effective.

Zakat compliance graphic

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is a trusted, Sharia compliant and effective distributor that maximizes the power of zakat to transform the lives of refugees, including in hard-to-reach areas.

UNHCR ensures 100 percent of zakat funds are distributed to those most in need by covering overhead costs from non-zakat sources. This guarantees that 100 percent of zakat contributions are given to the most vulnerable, zakat eligible recipients in critical need.

The Refugee Zakat Fund supports vulnerable families by providing them with cash assistance, enabling them to support their essential needs. The fund follows rigorous governance tools to ensure transparency at every stage. This governance approach entails the following pillars:


Zakat Compliance

Recognition: The Fund is zakat compliant, backed by over 17 fatwas from credible scholars and institutions. 

Infrastructure: The Fund follows Islamic scholar recommendations by dedicating 100 percent of funds to eligible refugees.

Compliance review: UNHCR coordinates annual, third party field visits to oversee distribution and publish compliance reports.

Assessment and Monitoring

Vulnerability assessments: UNHCR regularly identifies and maintains a database of eligible recipients based on their vulnerability.

Innovation: Technology ensures effective distribution and minimizes fraud and duplication.

Post distribution monitoring: UNHCR monitors projects twice yearly to measure impact and improve implementation.

Financial Governance

Management & accountability: Zakat funds are secured in a dedicated interest-free bank account in Geneva.

Traceability: All funds are dedicated to zakat compliant cash assistance programs in eligible countries with critical needs.

Transparency: UNHCR publishes annual Islamic Philanthropy reports and provides partners with customized reports.

Islamic Philanthropy Report

The Islamic Philanthropy Report highlights the global impact of zakat and sadaqah contributions on the lives of refugees and internally displaced persons. Thanks to your support, UNHCR has reached almost 6 million refugees since 2017.

2022 Report
2021 Report
2020 Report


UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is a credible, Sharia compliant, pioneering structure that effectively distributes zakat to transform the lives of the most vulnerable refugee and displaced families.

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is subject to rigorous governance and oversight, ensuring transparency at every step, from donation to provision of assistance. The Fund is zakat compliant, backed by over 17 fatwas from respected scholars and institutions.

Canadian Council of Imams

The Canadian Council of Imams is a collective leadership of Imams (Ministers of Religion) in Canada. Established in 1990, the Council has been serving the Canadian Muslim communities throughout the nation in different capacities as well as acting as a unifying platform for Canadian Imams and chaplains. Read their endorsement letter here.

The Fatwa Council of Tareem

The Fatwa Council of Tareem is located in Hadramaut, Yemen. Hadramaut has been a major centre for scholarship for over a millennium and has produced many of the world’s leading Shafi’i scholars. Learn more here.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya is a renowned scholar from Mauritania. Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya is the Chairman of the UAE’s Fatwa Council, and an instructor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. Learn more here.

Dr. Sheikh Ali Gomaa

Dr. Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the former Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt and professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University. He is currently a member of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars. Learn more here.

Tabah Foundation

Based upon our previous report and taking into consideration new fatwas from Dr Sheikh Ali Gomaa and The Fatwa Council of Tareem, Tabah approves UNHCR’s plan to distribute goods in place of cash provided that UNHCR can show that goods are purchased at a fair market price, and proof of delivery of said goods. Additionally, UNHCR may use Zakat to cover charges related to the storage and transport of said goods. This arrangement is only recommended in locations where the need for in-kind distribution is higher than cash distribution, or when distributing cash isn’t possible, which is the case for UNHCR’s operation for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

International Islamic Fiqh Academy | KSA

The International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) was created in 1981 and is located in Jeddah, KSA. It is a subsidiary of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is the largest organization representing the Muslim world with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Academy’s mission is to provide religious guidance on modern legal, social, cultural and economic issues. It is an international body composed of over 65 Muslim scholars from all over the world and is as such considered one of the leading religious references for Muslims worldwide.

After studying the various governance parameters of the Refugee Zakat Fund, including:

  • Distribution: UNHCR’s 100% Zakat distribution policy implying zero deduction of overhead costs from Zakat funds
  • Compliance: the Refugee Zakat Fund complies with essential Zakat rules and regulations
  • Beneficiaries: targets most vulnerable eligible refugees and internally displaced families, including families of widows, orphans and the elderly
  • Financial: a dedicated bank account is in place to receive Zakat funds only,

IIFA concluded in July 2020 that UNHCR is allowed to collect and distribute Zakat funds through its Refugee Zakat Fund, as long as it commits to the above-mentioned parameters.

Muslim World League

The Muslim World League (based in the Holy City of Mecca, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) was established in 1962 following a resolution adopted during a meeting of the World Muslim Congress, held in the Holy City of Mecca on 14 Dhu Al-Hijjah 1381 AH (May 18 1962 AD). Learn more here.

Dar al-Ifta al-Missriyyah

Dar al-Ifta al-Missriyyah is one of Egypt’s centers for Islamic legal research. It was established in 1895 and is considered one of the earliest modern fatwa producing institutes. Learn more here.

International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA)

International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA) was established in 2008 by the Central Bank of Malaysia as an Islamic finance and Shariah research institution. ISRA is recognized globally as a leading Global Premier Research Academy in the Islamic Finance industry, and has more than a decade of experience verifying and providing essential research on Islamic Finance to some of the top institutions around the world.

In February 2021, ISRA endorsed UNHCR’s Zakat collection and distribution mechanisms as Zakat-compliant. The endorsement confirms that UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund meets the following criteria:

  1. Adherence to rules and principles on Zakat collection and distribution.
  2. Competency of UNHCR personnel to undertake the above responsibility.
  3. Adequacy of UNHCR governance structure related to Zakat collection and distribution activities.
  4. Transparency and disclosure by UNHCR on its Zakat collection and distribution activities.

ISRA also included additional recommendations to further improve the process of Zakat-compliance by UNHCR.

The Council of Senior Scholars of Morocco

The Council of Senior Scholars of Morocco is the highest official religious authority in Morocco, and includes a fatwa council. It follows the Maliki School. Learn more here.

Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy (AIRA)

The university-mosque of Al-Azhar, situated in Cairo, Egypt, is the foremost center of religious learning in the Muslim world and plays a significant intellectual role in Egypt and beyond. Al-Azhar was built in 970 as a mosque and became an institution in 1171. Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy is the institution’s supreme body for Islamic research.

Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy issued a fatwa in March 2021 allowing UNHCR to receive and distribute Zakat funds, highlighting that most of the Zakat categories apply to refugees and internally displaced people. Learn more here.

Tri State Imam Council

The UNHCR sent a request for a fatwa from the Tri State Imam Council regarding the permissibility of UNHCR receiving Zakat funds from Muslims from different countries of the world and distributing it to those who deserve it from among the Muslims. The Tri State Imam Council’s response is follows:

The UNHCR is a global institution that has a global trust, and is not an institution which belongs to a particular country or party as much as it is an institution for all mankind, and after reviewing and making sure that the institution follows the Sharia’s regulations for distributing Zakat, as well as having the ability to reach the needy anywhere, as well as not deducting any administrative expenses. It distributes 100% of the collected Zakat funds, so the Tri state has no objection to the UNHCR collecting and distributing Zakat funds.

More information.