Ramadan: An Opportunity for SRI via Zakat & Empathy

PITAPOLICY wishes all pita-consumers, whether they observe Ramadan or not, another year of professional and personal success as you decide to invest your time and money into community projects and industries.  Please feel free to reflect along with us in the posts below and comment!  Thanks!

Question Posed to Al Jazeera’s The Stream

  • Corporate Social Responsibility

Fasting: An Exercise In Empathy on Share Our Strength (Another version appeared in the Huffington Post Religion Section)

  • International Assistance/Development: Hunger, Poverty, and Responsibility

As a blogger, fasting is an emotional and physical task because the experience is a challenging exercise in empathy — regardless of education or social standing and outwards piety. The knotty sensation in my tummy and the 5 p.m. headaches go beyond hunger and thirst. Some will take naps to sleep off the stress. Others will sit down and watch the news or use social media to catch up with the world. Everyone needs breaks. But overall, in the 29 or 30 days of abstaining from food and drink, God is testing my patience along with my powers of observation. Fasting is the struggling to become empowered through empathy.

As an addicted Twitter user, I wonder if God is also testing me to see if I’m going to complain about the struggle between excessive tweeting and praying or contemplating. Will I, as @pitapolicy, exercise restraint in the addictive use of Twitter? Will I push myself to channel positive thoughts both inwardly and outwardly? It’s no one’s fault that I’m fasting … it’s my fundamental choice. So need to be negative. Ever year (and some would argue everyday) God is asking me to walk with someone who is on an empty stomach. I was exempted from fasting when I traveled for business, but being in Muslim-majority countries, I fasted anyway. I wanted to respect the places I was fortunate enough to travel to, and the people who were very hospitable. I wanted to experience the challenge of self-restraint in Egypt and Pakistan where millions live under the poverty line and community organizations provide the evening meals to break fast (iftar). I also wanted to share how wealthy countries like Bahrain took Ramadan as an opportunity to reach out to poor countries.

I am empowered in my choice to fast because to feel hungry makes one feel empathy for fellow humans — not pity.

— Mehrunisa Qayyum (@pitapolicy)

Ramadan Provides Opportunities to Leverage Social Capital via Zakat

  • Fundraising Iftars Leverage Social Capital

Before I describe the three opportunities, or mechanisms above, I will explain which definition of ‘social capital’ highlights Ramadan’s purpose. According to Social Capital Research, the term may refer to both internal and external influences, or ‘inputs.’ As a result, many definitions have emerged in the literature, but this essay refers to, “the web of social relationships that influences individual behavior and thereby affects economic growth (Pennar 1997, p. 154).” Hence, Ramadan provides about 30 daily opportunities to engage with networks and identify human and financial resources—essentially to leverage social capital.


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Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics)

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