We’re going inside the brain of the Team Leader at NZF to see what she has to say about Zakat in Australia. Allow me to briefly introduce you to our interviewee.

Shahnaz is a self-confessed coffee addict with a passion for supporting and serving the local Muslim community. She has a psychology major and has been working with NZF for the last five years. Unfortunately, she barracks for Collingwood but we’ll forgive her for that. Let’s get into it!

Tell us, what does your role entail? I’m the Team Lead with the National Zakat Foundation, head of Case Management. I help with the process of Zakat assessments. 

Is there a need for Zakat in Australia? Yes, there is definitely a need for Zakat in Australia. The reason why is there are people who have income or Centrelink, but it doesn’t cover the cost if they fall into a crisis. For example, if they lose their income, especially those that can’t fall back onto Centrelink like asylum seekers or non-citizens. Even if they do have an income and they have a crisis, they just can’t meet their needs.

Where do you think the belief that there isn’t a need for Zakat has come from? I think it’s historical when the first couple of generations came to a Western country. The mindset was it’s not a Muslim country we have to send our money back home to a Muslim country where they’ve experienced civil war, hardship, and poverty.

Do you think the Muslim community in Australia are educated enough about Zakat? I believe we are more educated than we were in previous years but there is a lot more work to do insha’Allah. 

What would that look like? More workshops trying to target the younger generation because they are the future Zakat payers and recipients.

How can Zakat transform and empower not only individuals but also communities? Empowering your Muslim brother or sister locally, in turn when they are back on their feet, they’re going to help the next individual like a domino effect.

Have you noticed any differences in the need of people applying for Zakat? Yes, definitely within the last year with the cost of living. We’ve seen an increase in rental arrears and bills. Whereas before there were a lot of non-citizens like asylum seekers who didn’t have government financial support. Now we’re seeing citizens who are working and do get Centrelink applying as they have fallen behind in their financial obligations.

Did COVID-19 have any impact on the need for Zakat? Yes, we saw an influx of asylum seekers and non-citizens because they didn’t get benefits of accessing COVID payments and relief.

Lastly, what more can we do as a community to support those that need Zakat? I think we can do more outreach and education is very important, because donors and recipients may not know the importance of local Zakat according to the sunnah. Many clients don’t know how Zakat works.