What can contemporary practices of Muslim giving to the poor reveal about the ongoing structural violence of our global regime of capitalism? Drawing on theories of racial capitalism, this talk analyzes the way that Muslims both constitute and are constituted by racialized trajectories of capital in the distribution of zakat, the obligatory giving foundational to Islam. Ethnographic accounts of zakat distribution chronicle Muslim contestation over the question of a viable, ethical Islamic life in the capitalist context of human disposability. Zakat thus emerges as a practice through which Muslims explore the possibility of containing or transforming capitalist violence.
Dr. Danielle Widmann Abraham is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion at Ursinus College, where she holds the Wright Chair in Middle East Studies. She has conducted field research on zakat in South Asia and the United States, and studies Islamic ethics through the lens of lived religion.