Role and governance of Islamic charitable institutions: the West Bank Zakat Committees (1977-20...


For centuries, mosques in the West Bank have been running informal voluntary committees charged with the administration of donations from local communities. In the 1970s, the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf started to formally establish some of these committees as ‘zakat committees’ under Jordanian zakat law. These voluntary zakat committees continued to run charitable projects funded by the local community, and gradually accessed funding from Muslim communities in the West and in Gulf states as well. They thus remained independent from traditional North American and European sources of funding, such as development agencies. This working paper is the result of a short research project of the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP). The objective of this paper is to provide a detailed account of the zakat committees in the local context of the West Bank by relying mainly on Palestinian sources and the internal political debate. The zakat committees have evolved in a changing socio-political context under Israeli occupation and successive Jordanian and Palestinian authority. This working paper explores how political shifts in recent years have led in particular to the politicization of their role. Based on information gathered, the author concludes that since their establishment, the West Bank zakat committees were, by and large, tactful and efficient grassroots organizations that strengthened local response systems and self-reliance while minimizing dependency and victimhood.