Muslims in the U.S. gave $1.8 billion in zakat in 2021, according to a report from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy published April 14.

Zakat and sadaqa are key Islamic philanthropic traditions. Zakat, the third of five pillars of Islam, is an obligatory act of giving. Sadaqa is voluntary giving beyond the minimum threshold of zakat,” the report explained. “Sadaqa can take the form of money, action or abstention; the intention is what defines the act as charitable. While there is no prescribed time for zakat or sadaqa, many American Muslims fulfill charitable obligations during Ramadan when charity is emphasized.”

The report’s authors sought to better understand how U.S. Muslims view zakat and sadaqa, and how they practice these core Islamic concepts related to these acts of giving.

While scholars generally frame zakat as a religious duty or obligation commanded in the Quran that is designed to address poverty and assuage class differences, most Muslims in the U.S. are more likely to see these concepts as calls for charity or philanthropy than as the imposition of religious tax.

Respondents were asked to explain their view of zakat by noting on a sliding scale of 1 to 5 whether they see zakat as charity, philanthropy or tax. The higher the number the more indicative the term was of their perspective on zakat.

Overall, charity received a 4.2 average among all respondents, while philanthropy had a 3.6 and tax a 2.9 average, indicating that charity is the most common way U.S. Muslims view zakat.

In 2021, zakat was given through various channels, with a plurality (25.3%) given to international non-profit organizations.

Zakat given to governments (21.7%) had the next highest percentage, followed by domestic non-profits (18.3%), informal (14.7%), remittances (12.7%) and other entities / expressions (7.3%).

Many Muslim-majority nations have formal channels for receiving zakat, though it is a requirement to give government zakat in only a few nations.

The report noted that it can be difficult to accurately calculate the amount of zakat, so a number of organizations – such as Islamic Relief USA and the United Nations Refugee Agency – have created a zakat calculator to help Muslims more easily determine the amount to give.

The $1.8 billion total zakat given means that “an average Muslim gave $2,070 in zakat.”

The full report is available here.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the statement related to average giving total.

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