Working Paper 195
Blurring Boundaries: the regulation of non-profit organizations and transformation of Islamic charitable work in Uttar Pradesh, India
Department 'Law & Anthropology'
Year of publication
Number of pages
Working Paper 195
This article examines the reconfigurations of Islamic traditions of giving within contemporary nongovernmental organization (NGO) structures, in light of the larger legal and social transformations of the concept of charity in India. It argues that Indian laws regulating charitable institutions – along with current globalized models of philanthropy and development – have partly shaped institutional forms of Islamic giving into modern, public modes of welfare provision. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with Islamic charitable associations based in Lucknow, I discuss two features that illustrate the new orientations of Islamic giving practiced within formally registered nongovernmental associations: first, a turn to giving practices that lead to tangible social and economic development; and second, an emphasis on public, universal care. Simultaneously, the article discusses how Muslims also get involved in these organizations to fulfill spiritual aims and perpetuate specific Islamic traditions of giving. In this sense, organization founders and volunteers blur the distinctions that laws have created between unregulated, ‘traditional’ private forms of religious giving and ‘modern’ public modes of welfare regulated by the state. Attention to these actors’ aspirations and strategies thus demonstrates the particular, localized ways in which religious traditions of giving are re-articulated in modern secular states, beyond formal structures and frameworks that tend to organize and shape charitable traditions into distinct spheres.