Muslims are generally a generous community donating their personal earnings for various causes to serve Islam, Muslims and in support of the weaker sections of the society.
From a finance point of view Muslims are supposed to be engaged in spending via the institutions of Zakat and Sadaqa.
Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is an obligatory annual payment made to purify all wealth held above the Nisab threshold value.
Sadaqa or donating money is not obligatory but simply a kind gesture made with the intention of helping others.
Traditionally a large portion of Muslim donations end up in building mosques since this is indeed considered a good value for the money motivated by the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad (s), “Whoever builds a Masjid for the sake of Allah, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise.”
Most Muslims take a very narrow interpretation of this Hadith by donation money only to the building of mosques without realising that in the time of Prophet Mohammad (s), the Mosque was the only community institution that in addition to worship also benefited the community with many other activities.
With the passing of time and requirement of a change of place, the community needs have further developed needing building of new institutions.
The first of these was the madrassa, schools and universities for imparting of education that developed integrated with mosques at the beginning.
With the development of social welfare, philanthropic institutions were developed to help the needy, the traveller, the wayfarer, the orphan and the widow.
In modern times we need new innovative institutions to serve the cause of Islam and to serve the Ummah and the community at large.
Volunteering indeed is a good virtue but sustainable institutions can not be maintained by volunteers and funding is needed to appoint paid professionals to develop and run institutions that can best serve the community in the long run.
Thus Zakat and Sadaqa funds should be diverted from narrowly funding only mosque building towards founding of innovative institutions that serve the community on a local as well as on a global scale.
This should include aid organisations, universities, research institutions, media organisations, think tanks, sports organisations, hospitals and other institutions that will benefit the community at large.
It’s about time that the Hadith of the Prophet towards donation to mosques only is further integrated and extrapolated to include the modern institutions that serve needs of the Ummah today.
The best time to have this paradigm shift should be this month of Ramadan.