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Are Muslims Charitable?

Now and then, I see statistics that make me wonder how Muslims and Christians stack up against each other. One religion is not better than another, but do conditions warrant one religion being different? For example, earlier this year, I compared birth rates and acceptance of Democracy between the two religions. Regarding birth rates, Muslim nations have higher birth rates than Christian nations mainly because Christian nations have a higher rate of technology, which makes them wealthier and, consequently, they live longer. Muslim nations are more likely to be agricultural and less developed, resulting in a more labor-intensive environment that requires more family members to get the work done. Having more family members is a social safety net to offset a higher mortality rate and less use of technology.


Regarding Democracy, Muslim countries have less Democracy than Christian nations. Democracy is the fertilizer for a competitive market economy. Christianity is linked to free speech and individual rights necessary for a robust capitalist economy. While capitalism is not the magic elixir that will make our financial blessings grow wildly, it is the best use of market forces for resource allocation. Muslims, on the other hand, have less Democracy because, in Muslim-dominant countries, all political parties are Muslim; pluralism is dead. There are more restrictions on individual rights, and on free speech. Sharia focuses on the community, not the individual.


How Charity is Measured

Today's blog is a comparison of charity between Muslim and Christian countries. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) publishes an annual summary of charity by country. Their 2023 World Giving Index measures the charity of 142 countries. While there must be dozens of ways to measure charity, the CAF method is succinct. Their index is based on three key questions:


1. Have you donated money to a charity?


2. Have you helped a stranger or someone you didn't know who needed help?


3. Have you volunteered your time to an organization?


They contracted with the Gallop Organization to conduct surveys, and for this year's report, they surveyed a little more than 1000 people per country. This report has been completed over the past nine years, and more than two million people have been interviewed. Each year, they take an average of the responses for each country and calculate an index score and a global ranking. A higher index indicates that more of the population is engaged in giving. The lowest possible score is zero, and the highest is 100. For question one, the amount of money donated is immaterial; what is essential is whether the person donated any money, not the amount.


Both religions have strong credos for being charitable. Muslims have a proud history of giving zakat, which can be used for different purposes. Muslims are also known for their hospitality, and many verses in the Qur'an urge believers to volunteer their time to help the unfortunate (34:39; 4:114; 90:11:16, 76:8). Christians are also charitable. There are numerous stories and verses (2 Corinthians 9:7; Proverbs 19:17; Luke 6:38) about charity, the most familiar being about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Charity is a crucial component of the Christian faith.


Two Trends

This year's survey focused on two different trends. One trend uncovered by this survey is that religious people have a higher giving index. All over the world, religious institutions and organizations play a crucial role in charity and helping others, offering opportunities to donate money or to volunteer. People who say religion is an integral part of their daily lives have a higher overall giving index than those who say it is unimportant. The global average index score between the religious and the non-religious was 40 to 37.


The survey's second trend was that generosity is linked to life satisfaction. How individuals perceive their current situation is linked to their likelihood of donating money. People who rated their life today positively were more likely to have made a gift to charity in the past month.


Two Samples – Muslim vs. Christian

The CAF report for 2023 provides a charity index score for 142 countries. From this data, I identified the Muslim-majority countries where 50 percent or more of the population is Muslim and the Christian-majority countries where 50 percent or more of the population is Christian. I will not say this is a scientific study, but I will say that the information gives us some good talking points. The Pew Research Center recognizes 51 Muslim-majority countries, while the US CIA World Factbook shows 49 countries. My sample included 37 countries only because some countries were not included in the survey. Some countries like India, with a substantial Muslim population, were not included, as India is neither a Muslim-majority nor a Christian-majority country.


I followed the same procedures for identifying Christian-majority countries. In my sample, there were 78 Christian-majority countries. There are one hundred ninety-three (193) member states in the UN. My two sample groups (37 + 78=115) represent 60 percent of the world's countries. Considering that Muslims and Christians combined make up a little more than 50 percent of the world's population, I would say the two samples I'm using represent what's happening worldwide.


The charity index score shows the average index for all Muslims and Christian countries for 2023. The charitable index score is not in proportion to the country's size. In this study, small countries carry the same weight as large countries. However, the averages and trends represent the world because the samples are so large. For example, Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, was ranked number 1 on the World Giving Index.


The CAF survey shows that in Indonesia, 61 percent of adults helped a stranger, 82 percent donated money, and 61 percent offered their services as volunteers. For the same survey, the US showed 76%, 61%, and 38%. That last category of volunteering brought the US average down. To calculate the final index, add three distinct categories and divide the total by three. Indonesia averaged a 68 index, while the US earned a 58 score. The Indonesian score was the highest out of all 142 countries.


You could argue that wealthier nations would have a higher score because their citizens would have a higher discretionary income, allowing them to give generously to charities. That part may be actual; however, the other two categories on the survey, helping strangers and volunteering services to people who need help do not cost out-of-pocket cash. The survey does show that most people help strangers much more than they give to charities or volunteer their time.


And the Results Are In

The sample of 78 Christian-majority countries was slightly more charitable than 37 Muslim-majority countries. The average index for the Christian countries was 39.1 versus a score of 38.0 for the Muslim countries. The world score for religious givers was 40. My first thought would be that a 1-point difference between the two samples is insignificant. My second thought would be that neither Christianity nor Islam measure up to the World score of 40. Certain individual countries like Indonesia and the United States do stand out as generous, but the overall results of Christianity and Islam, to me, were moderate, not outstanding.


The "Helped a Stranger" Score

Muslims were slightly ahead of Christians in this category: 61.8 to 60.6. Again, approximately a 1-point difference. This category does not require any money to give; it just requires a person going out of their way to help someone who needs help: a grieving widow, a sick patient, a homeless person, orphans, single mothers; the list goes on and on. The country with the highest score was Liberia which scored 80. That tells me there is a community spirit where people care about their neighbors.


The "Donated Money" Score.

The Christians had the edge on this score: 32.0 to 31.0. Again, a 1-point difference. You could argue that in wealthier nations, people have more to give, which could be true. As I mentioned earlier, Indonesia had the highest score with 82. Their generosity to charities was not to be outdone.


The "Volunteered Your Time" Score

The Christians were more tolerant of giving their time and effort by scoring 24.4 to 21.4. I would say this is a significant difference between the two religions. I was expecting the Muslims to excel in this category. Sharia is the law that guides Muslim behavior, and the focus is on the community, while Christian behavior is on the individual. However, when Christians volunteer their time to organizations, they give back to the community. In this survey, Christians gave back to the community more than Muslims did. The country with the highest score was Liberia, with a score of 65.


Summary

Charity is the act of helping other people. Most people are compassionate and try to help, either directly or indirectly. Part of the Charities Aid Foundation survey suggested that religious people have a higher giving index. However, that higher score did not materialize when analyzing countries based on their religion. The scores for the two religions were similar except for volunteering. Christians seemed to have the upper hand in that category.


Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image by Kristof Verslype, titled “Beggar on the Avenue des Champs Elysees, Paris”, taken August 8, 2010.


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