Peak giving in America tends to coincide with the end-of-year holiday season. But for a group of about 3.3 million Americans, peak giving season is happening right now. While observant Muslims can give zakat to charity year round, many do so during the month of Ramadan. Typically comprising 2.5 percent of excess wealth, zakat is a form of almsgiving that makes up one of the "five pillars" of Islam.
Along with zakat, many Muslims give additional charitable contributions, termed sadaqa. That combination—religiously proscribed giving and a cultural tradition of philanthropy—makes Muslims a charitable force to be reckoned with. However, the U.S. philanthropic establishment has a sparse track record of engagement with American Muslims. In our coverage of the Pillars Fund last year, founder Kashif Shaikh explained, "[We] haven't been on the radar, except in unfortunate circumstances." He added, "Foundations weren't explicitly looking at working with Muslims because the topic was too loaded and cumbersome."