Date of Publication: 2008
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Muslim beliefs have inspired charitable giving for over fourteen centuries, yet Islamic history has rarely been examined from this perspective. In Charity in Islamic Societies, Amy Singer explains the basic concepts and institutions of Muslim charity, including the obligation to give on an annual basis. Charitable endowments shaped Muslim societies and cultures in every era. This book demonstrates how historical circumstances, social status, gender, age and other factors interacted with religious ideals to create a rich variety of charitable practices, from the beginnings of Islam to the present day.
US scholarship on philanthropy tends to focus on US cases, of course, and “comparable” cases. For the most part, the field is not up to date on Islamic charitable practices or conventions. This might seem to just be one of those lagging areas of study that someone ought to fill in at some point, were it not for a powerful contemporary US rhetoric that uses the phrase “Islamic charity” as a coded term for terrorist fundraising. The time has come for us to expand our horizons and incorporate Islamic charity and philanthropy into our teaching and studies.
Happily, Amy Singer’s 2008 Charity in Islamic Societies more than fills in the gaps. The work is engaging, informative, creative, and timely. And while the book does contain a fair amount of comparative analysis to Jewish and Christian traditions, Singer presents the Islamic traditions in their own terms, not as a contrast to “our” ideas.
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