As one might expect, given the absolute centrality of charity to the Muslim way of life, the last two decades have seen a rapid expansion in the number of Muslim NGOs -- a modern-day articulation of the age-old phenomenon of giving in Islam.
These NGOs have been formed in all parts of the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and they owe their existence partly to the general rise of the international NGO worldwide. But, more specifically, it was the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the subsequent refugee crisis that led to a realization among Muslims – particularly in the West – of the need to develop mechanisms and organizations that could extend help across continents.
The refugee issue remains very much alive today. It is a sad fact that three-quarter’s of the world’s refugees are Muslims.
This awareness – and, for many, direct experience – of suffering among the Muslim community means that Muslim NGOs often enjoy a great deal of ready support in their work. Indeed, a distinguishing characteristic of many such NGOs is that – unlike their secular counterparts -- the bulk of their funding will be made up of individual donations from the general public, as opposed to institutional funding received from large governmental or multilateral donor organizations.