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Non-compassionate care: a view from an Islamic charity organization

Authors
  • Mittermaier, Amira1
  • 1 University of Toronto,
Type
Published Article
Journal
Contemporary Islam
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Feb 15, 2021
Pages
1–14
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11562-020-00457-9
PMCID: PMC7882867
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork at a large charity organization in Cairo, this article describes a bureaucratized Islamic ethics of care. Founded in 1975, the Mustafa Mahmoud Association today offers free and discounted medical services, funds micro-projects, and provides financial support to about 10,000 families each year. The bulk of that financial support comes from donors’ private donations in the form of obligatory and voluntary alms (zakāt and sadaqa). By taking a close look at three offices—the donation, intake, and disbursement office—I untangle the regime of care that shapes the daily transactions at this Islamic charity organization. In particular I highlight a significant gap between “caring for” and “caring about.” Donors view caring for those in need as a duty and frequently frame their donations in calculative terms, as a way of “trading with God.” Less central is a language of empathy or compassion. While this seemingly careless care-less?  Careless means not careful, sloppy. form of caremight seem cold and heartless, I suggest that it offers a powerful alternative to the liberal illusion of “compassion.”

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