Voluntary Sector Review
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Muslim philanthropy: living beyond a Western definition

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  • 1 Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, , USA
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The commonly used definition of philanthropy used in Western scholarship excludes many Muslim acts of philanthropy. This definition privileges Western scholarly framing of philanthropy, which has been heavily informed by scientific approaches to philanthropy. This article argues that this framing of philanthropy limits our understanding of Muslim philanthropy and should not be privileged over other cultural and religious traditions’ notions of philanthropy. Muslim philanthropy is explored by examining theological and cultural sources in order to point towards a broader conception of philanthropy within an Islamic context. It illustrates the challenges of strict adherence to the Western definition of philanthropy for scholars of Muslim philanthropy. Ultimately, the article suggests a framework that the field of philanthropic studies can use to go beyond its Western-centric definition to be more inclusive of other cultural and faith perspectives, and proposes that Muslim philanthropy should be interpreted as a discursive tradition.

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  • 1 Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, , USA

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