Ramadhan is a time for acts of worship, a time for introspection, and a time for seeking the purification of our souls. It is a time to ask forgiveness of our sins and to forgive those who have transgressed against us. It is a time for deliberate acts of charity. As this year's Ramadhan approaches, we see the politicization of the act of giving charity. Some say that in an effort to suppress financing of terrorism, US laws have suppressed charitable giving by Muslims. Some have said that if not allowed to give to charities outside the United States, they cannot or will not complete this religious obligation.
Perhaps because the Arabic zakat is often translated as tax, for some of us its significance has become more worldly than spiritual. The spiritual importance of giving charity is emphasized in the Holy Qur'an by its inclusion--with prayer--in many verses. Prayer and charity exemplify righteousness. Prayer and charity are goods we send forth for the benefit of our souls. We give charity, with hearts full of fear, seeking God's countenance, and hoping that some of our sins will be forgiven. Giving charity saves us from the covetousness of our souls and acknowledges that all that we are given is merely a loan to us from God and that therein is the right of those who have been given less.
Forgoing this part of our religion would mean willfully neglecting a requirement God has given. In this circumstance it would mean replacing the criteria God has given with your own invented criteria. Are you prepared to stand before God on the Day of Judgment and declare that in your neighborhoods, in your towns, and in the country where you have chosen to live, you found no person or organization that met God's criteria for receiving your charity?
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or West; but it is righteousness to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. (Holy Qur'an, II:177)