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.