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Humanitarianism, Islam and 11 September

Briefing/policy papers

Neither the word ‘humanitarianism’ nor ‘charity’ has an exact equivalent in Arabic, the formal language of Islam. Nonetheless, injunctions to be generous towards those in need are certainly part of Islamic doctrine; the emphasis on charitable giving is at least as great as in any other religious tradition, and Islam is justly credited with having developed the principles of a welfare state long before Christian Europe. This paper traces the roots of charitable action in Islam, and explores the role of religion in the development of Islamic conceptions of humanitarian relief.

Jonathan Benthall