Zakat Fund to give Dh1 million for 100 converts

New converts are one of eight broad categories defined as deserving recipients of zakat or mandatory tax in Islam.

ABU DHABI // One hundred new converts to Islam will each receive an equal share of Dh1 million donated by the Zakat Fund. Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a mandatory tax for every Muslim who is financially able to contribute. It is calculated at 2.5 per cent of financial assets, but has different rates for a variety of other sources of wealth, such as livestock and minerals.

New converts are one of eight broad categories defined as deserving recipients of zakat in Islam. "It is our duty as Muslims to encourage and support those who embrace Islam to help show them the right way of life and to encourage them [to] learn more about their religion and how to behave like real Muslims," said Abdullah al Muhairi, the fund's secretary general, in a statement yesterday. "Supporting those who have recently converted to Islam strengthens the feeling of brotherhood, justice and equality among Muslims," he added.

The Zakat Fund was established in 2003 by Sheikh Zayed, the late founder of the UAE. The fund recently set a record target of Dh72million for zakat revenues in the month of Ramadan, after announcing that its revenues in the first half of 2010 had doubled compared to the same period in 2009. The fund maintains that the increase in revenues is a result of greater transparency in the handling of zakat finances.

It recently approved scholarships for 59 students worth Dh14m for needy college students, as part of a separate programme called "Iqra" (Read). The project is one of several run by the fund, which include providing assistance for jailed debtors who defaulted on their loans, Emirati women married to foreigners and ill people who cannot afford treatment.