How to donate legally in the UAE during Ramadan

Officials say residents should not run charity campaigns, especially on social media, unless they are licensed to do so

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During the month of Ramadan, Muslims across the world do charity work, giving food and money to help the less fortunate.

Although donations are encouraged, there are strict laws on the practice in the UAE that people are required to follow.

One of the attributes of Islam is to observe and practise regular charity and share with others
Dr Mohammed Eyada Alkobaisi, Grand Mufti

In January, existing laws on how money is donated were broadened to include food, supplies and medicine.

Officials stressed that residents should not run charity campaigns, especially on social media, unless they are licensed to do so.

Here, The National explains how you can legally do charity work in the UAE during the holy month.

Why is charity important during Ramadan?

Dr Mohammed Eyada Alkobaisi, Grand Mufti with the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai, said Muslims increase acts of charity during Ramadan.

“One of the pillars in Islam is to assign an annual share of one’s property for the needy and the destitute, and one of the attributes of Muslims is to observe and practise regular charity and share with others,” he told The National.

“Charity in Ramadan is considered among the best charity because of the nobility of the season and because of Allah Almighty promised to multiply the rewards of good deeds in Ramadan.”

He said there are many types of charity but some are better in Ramadan, including acts such as helping people break their fast by giving them water and food.

He said this helps “grant the giver the same rewards as the one he is helping”.

How to donate food?

People are allowed to give free iftar meals to small groups of people they know and trust, but they cannot run an entire donation campaign, either in person, on social media or on messaging apps.

The government has banned people from handing out free meals to strangers or running campaigns. This is because it makes it unclear who is really benefiting from the activity, and if the donated food is safe to consume.

“I noticed that people are collecting items from people on social media," Hessa Tahlak, assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Community Development, told The National earlier. "Some people use WhatsApp groups and they just randomly send everyone a broadcast. That is something that will be questioned.”

“Tracking items that are being donated and the person carrying out the donations is very important. This protects the donors. We want to tell people that if you don't know where these items are going, whether it's cash or items, don't take the risk.

“[This is] because it is something that you don't know where it's going to go — you might be questioned and [get] in trouble.”

A person can donate to a licensed charity organisation in the UAE. There are some you can give money to, which goes towards a free meal for the less fortunate.

If someone wants to run a campaign, a licence has to be obtained from the Ministry of Community Development. Then the person has to work with a licensed charity organisation to run that donation drive.

How to donate money?

It is also illegal to hand out money to strangers or run fund-raising campaigns without a license.

Residents cannot share or forward links to unlicensed charities on social media or messaging apps.

However, people can donate money to licensed charities.

Illegal fund-raising could lead to fines of between Dh200,000 and Dh500,000, depending on the nature of the offence. An unspecified period of time in jail is also a possibility.

What are the licensed charities?

— Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation

— Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation

— Emirates Red Crescent

— Al Maktoum Foundation

— Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charitable Establishment

— UAE Water Aid

— Noor Dubai

— Dubai Cares

— Al Jalila Foundation

— Dar Al Ber Society

— Beit Al Khair Society

— Dubai Charity Association

— Sharjah Charity International

— Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Foundation

— International Charity Organisation

— Al Ihsan Charity Association

— Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla Charitable and Humanitarian Establishment

— Umm Al Quwain Charity Society

— Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Charity and Humanitarian Foundation

— Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Charitable Educational Foundation

— Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi Foundation for Humanitarian Affairs

— Fujairah Charity Association

— Zakat Fund

— Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation

— Ewa’a Shelters for Victims of Violence & Human Trafficking

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Updated: March 17, 2022, 6:43 AM