Working Paper 163

Around the world, pandemic relief efforts saw renewed attention to state social protection and its limitations. Less attention has been paid to alternative forms of welfare provision, including zakat in Muslim countries. We ask how states and citizens engage with zakat during a crisis through a case study of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco, drawing on novel and nationally representative survey data from 5,484 respondents. While we might expect citizens to be less motivated to pay zakat at times of personal economic hardship, we find that a large majority of the general population and of zakat contributors perceive zakat as particularly important in the Covid context, and were also more likely to make other charitable contributions. We argue that zakat may play an important role in supplementing state social protection and redistribution in times of crisis. While we find evidence for zakat’s redistributive nature, the diversity of practice and common reliance on social relations need to be considered when looking at its redistributive impact and function in times of crisis.


Max Gallien

Max Gallien is a Research Fellow at the ICTD. His research specialises in the politics of informal and illegal economies, the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa and development politics. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. Max co-leads the informality and taxation programme with Vanessa, as well as the ICTD’s capacity building programme.

Umair Javed

Dr. Umair Javed is an Assistant Professor at the Mushtaq Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in 2018, where he was a recipient of the LSE Centennial PhD Studentship. His doctoral research focused on politics and practices of accumulation, and labour relations in Pakistan's informal economy, with a specific focus on the retail-wholesale (bazaar) sector. More broadly, his research interests span various aspects of political participation, socio-economic development, and urban public life in South Asia.

Vanessa van den Boogaard

Vanessa van den Boogaard is a Research Fellow at the ICTD and a Senior Research Associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD thesis on informal revenue generation and statebuilding in Sierra Leone, and has ongoing research on the topic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Vanessa leads the ICTD’s new programme on civil society engagement in tax reform and co-leads the research programme on informal taxation.
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