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1 2015, Horizons in Humanities and Social Sciences: An International Refereed Journal

HHSS-CHSS-UAEU From Traditional Charity to Global Philanthropy: Dynamics of the


Spirit of Giving and Volunteerism in the United Arab Emirates el-Sayed el-Aswad United
Arab Emirates University eelaswad@uaeu.ac.ae ABSTRACT: The literature concerning the
development of philanthropy, volunteerism and the culture of giving in the United Arab
Emirates through civic engagement at societal, institutional, and individual levels is limited.
There is a lack of both theoretical and empirical work in this important area of the culture of
the UAE. This paper contributes to both the scholarship of benevolent philanthropy and the
inquiry of the development and current status of the social responsibility, volunteerism and
the culture of giving across the Emirates at macro and micro levels. Drawing on theories of
traditional and modern worldviews and practices, the study critically examines the theory of
economic-material factors of philanthropy. The research endeavors to develop theoretical
orientations that go beyond the market-oriented philanthropy to encompass cultural and
moral values. It attempts to demonstrate how the culture of giving developed in the UAE
from traditional small scale practices prevalent in the pre-oil era into institutional, national
and global activities incorporating various forms of government, non-government, societal
and individual philanthropy. It seeks to show that social organization, traditional worldview
and new cosmology are viewed as essential forces that, along with global forces, shape the
unique landscape of the culture of giving in the Emirates society. Keywords: Charity,
Philanthropy, Volunteerism, Worldview, Cosmology, United Arab Emirates (UAE) The
scholarly literature addressing the progression of the culture of giving and philanthropy in the
UAE through civic engagement at societal, institutional, and individual levels is scant. Except
for a few published studies (el-Aswad, 1995, 2010; Parkhurst, 2014), there is a lack of both
theoretical and empirical work in this important area of the culture of the United Arab
Emirates. One of the core objectives of this study is to contribute to both the scholarship of
benevolent philanthropy and 2 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1
(1) 1-21, 2015 the inquiry of the development and current status of the culture of giving
across the Emirates at macro and micro levels1 . Gifting, or giving, means to bestow
voluntarily and without compensation. Gift giving is an interpersonal experience of symbolic
communication that explicitly and implicitly reflects a persons image of the self (el-
Aswad, 1993b). The culture of giving or philanthropy, including donation and volunteerism,
constitutes not only important resources for nonprofit organizations during economic
recessions when demand for services increases (Bornstein, 2012; Brady and Hapenn, 2012;
Newman, 2005), but also reflects peoples attitude toward altruism. This inquiry aims to
explore the practice of philanthropy or charitable giving in the United Arab Emirates, an oil-
rich country in which populations enjoy among the highest of per capita incomes in the
world, and where the giving of alms (zakat) 2 and involvement in charitable acts (adaqa) are
recognized to be widespread (elAswad. 2014a; Benthall and Bellion-Jourdan, 2003; Ibrahim
and Sherif, 2008). This research aims to answer the following questions. How do Emirati
people view or define philanthropy and charitable giving? What kinds of charity
organizations (individual, governmental, NGOs) are most effective in the UAE? To what
extent do local, cultural or religious differences influence philanthropic activities in the
Emirates? Are there institutions or organizations that inspire and instill the culture of
volunteering in the society? To what extent has traditional charity been developed into a
national and global philanthropy in the Emirates? This article displays how the culture of
giving in the Emirates developed from traditional small scale practices prevalent in the pre-
oil era into institutional, national and global activities incorporating various forms of
government, nongovernment, societal, and individual philanthropy. In the Emirates charitable
foundations have proliferated and become highly visible arenas of activity combining the
practices of long-term investment and capital of the for-profit sector with the mission-driven
principles of the nonprofit sector (Frumkin, 2006; Bekkers and Wiepking 2011; Bekkers,
2012). This research discusses the impact of philanthropy on the transformation of social
relations as well as the impact of social relations on the way philanthropy is used by the
Emirati people. To be more specific, the study tackles the social responsibility of wealth and
the role parlayed by religious and political leaders as well as government and non-
government organizations (NGOs) in the development of philanthropy and the culture of
giving among the people of the Emirates. Methodology This paper is based on a literature
review, theoretical orientation, and multistrategy research approach integrating fieldwork and
survey methods. I conducted interviews with people at local charity organizations in several
cities including Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah. Put differently, in addition to
qualitative methods utilizing participant observation and in-depth interviews, this study
applies quantitative method through the administration of questionnaires. Due to the bilingual
feature of the Emirati culture, the questionnaires were designed and administered in both
Arabic and English versions. The questionnaire consisted of three components. Part 1
included 14 questions collecting demographic information about participants. Part 2 included
41 Likert-type statements designed to assess several issues in philanthropic giving, including
volunteering and donating. Each respondent was asked to indicate his/her degree of
agreement on each of these statements by selecting one of el-Aswad: FROM TRADITIONAL
CHARITY TO GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY 3 the 5 responses that range from Strongly
Agree (5 points) to Strongly Disagree (1 point). The 41 items in part 2 were categorized into
the following 10 factors: religion, family, marriage, work, friends, local community,
governmental and nongovernmental organizations, international factor, technology, and
media. Part 3 (including 15 questions) focused on the participants common donating and
volunteering practices. In all, the questionnaire totaled 70 questions. Data was collected from
410 Emirati young adults (males and females, ages 18-30) from the seven Emirates including
different institutions, charitable foundations, and programs. Insofar as the research took into
account the interaction between the various domains of philanthropy, as they impacted the
activities of different individuals or groups of people, it was able to yield an analysis of the
dynamics of the phenomena of charity and philanthropy within cultural and social contexts.
Theorizing of the Culture of Giving The culture of giving indicates an effort undertaken by an
individual, group of people or organization based on an altruistic desire to improve human
welfare as well as to establish or maintain good relationships with people (Mauss 1967;
Strathern 1992; Godelier 1999; Ben-Amos 2008). Further, the culture of giving indicates
social investment targeted at issues of poverty, development, health, environment, welfare,
and basic education, among others (Choi and DiNitto, 2012; Musick and Wilson, 2008;
Bronfman and Solomon, 2010). Another meaning indicates the strategic and systematic
investment of private philanthropic resources to address complex and inter-connected issues
related to chronic underdevelopment (Payton and Moody, 2008; White, 1998; Strathern,
1988). Voluntary and philanthropic activities are diverse and complex phenomena and require
an interdisciplinary approach. The crucial mechanisms of voluntary and philanthropic
activities are interrelated and embrace individual/collective, tangible/intangible, and
formal/informal components. The study of philanthropy and volunteerism has produced
multiple theoretical and conceptual paradigms yet no integrated theory has emerged (Hustinx,
Cnaan, & Handy, 2010). This study, however, examines two major theories of philanthropy
and volunteerism. First is the economic-market oriented theory, contingent on the logic of
calculation, which argues that philanthropy and the socio-cultural landscape are influenced by
economic-material forces that alter core elements of the societys traditional cosmology and
social organization. It seeks to develop ways to transform the poor into market agents or
active participants in the struggle against their misfortune (Popkins, 1979; Gainer and
Padanyi, 2002; Roy, 2010). Second, the community-oriented theory, also called the social
charitable theory, according to which voluntary and charitable foundations, like the family,
school, and ones neighborhood, are reference groups that socialize values and attitudes
among their members (Annette, 2011; Davis and Robertson, 1999; Putnam, 2000; Scott,
1976; Wuthnow1995). This theory sates that the culture of giving, in general, and giving
back, in particular, can be learned from people who practice giving (Brady and Hapenn,
2010; Musick and Wilson, 2008). However, the community-oriented theory implicitly adopts
the functional-structural thesis arguing that society is an organically interconnected and
changeless unit. The case of the UAE challenges such functionalstructural explanations. In a
systematic way, this paper seeks to combine the positive aspects of current approaches to the
theorization of the culture of giving. It endeavors to develop 4 HORIZONS IN
HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-21, 2015 this theoretical orientation
explaining the dynamics of the culture of giving that goes beyond the market-oriented
philanthropy to encompass social and moral values. Philanthropy does not involve any
buying and selling, and economic theory is not fully able to explain empathy, altruism,
charity and helping behavior through mere economic factors. This present study, however,
attempts to show that social organization, traditional worldview and new cosmology are
viewed as essential forces that, along with global forces, shape the unique landscape of the
culture of giving in the Emirates society. Further, applying the heuristic tools of survey,
ethnography and cross-cultural inquiry, this study examines individual, societal, institutional,
religious and political dimensions of the culture of giving as defined, theorized and practiced
in the United Arab Emirates. Emirati Traditional Cosmology and the Roots of the Spirit of
Giving Taking religion as an aspect of life (Bellah, 2011; el-Aswad, 2012), this study posits
that the uses of the terms worldview and traditional or folk cosmology, rather than
exclusively religion, may broaden circles of perspectives which go beyond religious beliefs
as such. Traditional cosmology or worldview indicates inner meaning systems made of
assumptions and images in accordance with which the universe, including the society and
person, is constructed. Worldview, referring to a perceptual framework, is concerned with
peoples place in the universe, setting boundaries between nature and culture on the one hand
and between the local and global on the other (el-Aswad, 2012, pp. 3-5). Though latent,
shared worldviews and cosmological beliefs have played decisive roles as cultural capital in
the social history of Emirati communities. Emirati worldviews are treated not as an
ideological system but as a system of meanings generated and enacted in different courses of
public and private scenarios dealing with seen and unseen domains of local communities (el-
Aswad, 2003 pp.81-83). The traditional roots of the culture of giving in the Emirates were
shaped by the subsistence/moral economy and traditional cosmology of the Emirates
communities in the pre-oil era (el-Aswad, 2013). Reciprocity and sharing resources were
principal elements in the Emirates traditional or tribal culture emphasizing the ethics of
giving. For example, a practice that gained the Al Nahyan ruling family allies was the custom
of allowing local families of different lineages or tribes to use various important places
including wells, fishing and pearling areas, and traditional grazing lands (Heard-Bey, 1996, p.
34). The Emirates culture and its historical continuity are expressed in gift giving and
customary volunteering as predicated on the continuing operation and replication of Emirati
traditional notions of mutual aid (faza), hospitality (karam), kin solidarity (abiyya), moral
obligation and social protection (dakhla) (el-Aswad, 1995, 1996, 2010). Today, multiple
utilizations of the word gift and/or giving (hidiyya, hibah or aiyya) are used in different
social contexts with reference to the giving of a gift without the expectation of return.
Traditional gifts signifying life-cycle exchanges include the following: aqqa: a festival in
which an animal is slaughtered to celebrate a newly born baby or a newly built house.
Relatives, neighbors and friends are invited to share the food, mainly meat, of the aqiqa.
zihba: a gift, mainly of gold, given by the bridegrooms close female relatives to the bride and
her family. el-Aswad: FROM TRADITIONAL CHARITY TO GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY
5 mr or niyya: gifts, containing goods, animals or money, given by relatives and friends to
support newlyweds. abiyya: often gold, given by the bridegroom to his wife in the
morning following the wedding night. sufra, shifya and sugha are synonymously used by
Emiratis with reference to gifts given to relatives and friends by a person or traveler on
returning home from an overseas trip (el-Aswad, 2010). diyya or aydi: most often money,
given during religious occasions, especially d al-Fir (the Feast following the fast of
Ramadan, locally called al-d a- aghr or the small Feast) and d al-Aa (the Feast of
Sacrifice). al-mayub: mainly food, received by guests from people other than the hosts (el-
Aswad, 1995, 2010). In the Emirates gifts are given and received or accepted with both hands
and are not opened in the presence of the donor. For the Emiratis, exchange is not about
relations between things, but rather about constructing relations between persons, thereby
enhancing their cultural capital. Cultural capital here refers to peoples internal desires and
motivations for giving and volunteering primarily because the ultimate motives for giving
and volunteering stem from moral incentives to the self and others. For Emiratis, the
economy, traditional/subsistence or modern, is sanctified and rationalized by the religious
concept of livelihood (al-rizq) that belongs to the divine invisible reality (lam al-ghaib).
The sacralization of economy, gift giving and hospitality (el-Aswad 2015) indicates a cultural
process whereby economic activities, charitable deeds and gifts become invested with
sanctified meanings akin to religious beliefs and practices (el-Aswad, 2003, 2006). Similarly,
family and kin relationships are religiously and socially highly emphasized in the Emirates.
Islam sanctifies kinship relationships through the principle of kin connectivity (ilat arraim)
accentuating the importance of keeping blood and affinal relationships well maintained.
Tribal kinship units, headed by shaikhs or leaders, played a significant role in the reciprocity
and social solidarity of its members. In brief, cultural and religious dimensions of moral
economy, including charity and gift giving, have served a necessary and positive social
function assuring the ethics of sharing and promoting the valuation of altruism. Tribal
System, Benevolence and Faza Philanthropy In the past, the traditional society of the
Emirates provided subsistence insurance for its members to protect them against natural or
man-made disasters. One form of this subsistence insurance was the faza, which involved
the practice of giving in the forms of service or volunteer work as well as material goods
rather than in cash or monetary forms (el-Aswad, 2013). The faza is a traditional type of
giving and volunteering based on social and moral reciprocity and cooperation, prevalent in
subsistence economy, in which an individual, family, neighborhood (farj) or group of people
experiencing economic or financial difficulty, is individually and/or collectively supported by
people. Within this context, the faza is akin to Ibn Khalduns widely-known concept of
abiyya, group cohesion and solidarity based on blood relationships and common interests
within particular groups (Ibn Khaldun, 1981). The notion or practice of faza encompasses
essential attributes of philanthropy in the sense that it does not involve any buying and
selling; it is not a marketplace operation. The moral economy of traditional Emirati
communities was 6 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-21,
2015 based on values of goodness, mutuality, fairness, and justice (el-Aswad, 2013). Though
the traditional community has been based on interconnected social factors encompassing
family, kinship, neighborhood (farj), and residency, shared cosmicreligious worldviews and
moral values have been decisive factors in orienting Emiratis social and political actions.
More currently, traditional, social and moral systems of giving have been practiced in various
newer forms by Emiratis. Modern and Global Philanthropy The novel worldview or
cosmology of the Emiratis entails the cosmology of empowerment and is contingent on the
concept of substantiation meaning that what was possible or potential in the past (unexpected
economic relief; faray or faraj) has become real or actual prosperity, resulting from
manufacture and sale of oil. And, this wealth is shared (el-Aswad, 1993a, 1996, 2003, 2012).
The unanticipated economic affluence of the Emirates has been interpreted by locals within a
culturalreligious outlook as emphasizing the concepts of goodness or benevolence (khair) and
blessing (nimah) bestowed on them by Allah (el-Aswad, 2014). Their wealth, generating a
fluent social cosmology, is sanctified and rationalized in religious terms especially
livelihood (al-rizq). Metaphorically, al-rizq is akin to the rain, locally called ramah that
means mercy bestowed by Allah. Al-rizq, like rain comes unexpectedly and revives the desert
without the intervention of man. This powerful metaphor, prevalent in local Emirati
communities, is used to explain other resources of livelihood available to men, as in the case
of oil (el-Aswad, 2012). According to this viewpoint, the Emirates has transformed from a
society that used to be characterized by the image of Limited Good to a society with the
image of Unlimited Good, or from a tribal, closed, and static society to a modern, open,
and dynamic society. The new transformation from a traditional society with limited economy
to a modern state is manifested in the rise of a civil society in which charitable and voluntary
foundations form essential and core components. Since its foundation in 1971, the United
Arab Emirates has emerged not only as an exemplary in local or national philanthropy, but
also as a generous and consistent donor providing assistance to countries in need around the
world. Within the Emirates, charitable deeds and gifts are given in both public and private
zones. Registering as an institutionalized charity (jamiyyat khairiyya, muassasat khairiyya)
is one of the few legally and politically accepted forms of quasi non-governmental
organization in the Emirates, strongly supported by religious ideals and norms. On the whole,
UAE philanthropic foundations have developed institutionally and increased their financial
assets significantly. They have enhanced their financial and human resources, improved their
administrations, and developed new domestic philanthropic activities. The UAEs assistance
is made by government institutions in addition to private foundations and NGOs, and can be
classified into the following three categories: 1-Development. This includes activities and
programs seeking to improve overall quality of life, with special reference to the construction
of roads, hospitals and schools, and economic and financial support. 2-Humanitarian. This
refers to assistance aimed at saving lives, alleviating suffering, and safeguarding human
dignity during and immediately after disasters. el-Aswad: FROM TRADITIONAL
CHARITY TO GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY 7 3-Charity. Charity here indicates assistance
motivated by cultural, social or religious values, encompassing the building of mosques,
distribution of material elements (including food) and facilitation of religious occasions and
practices (Smith, 2011). Many nonprofit organizations and groups rely on both volunteers
time and charitable donations to embark on and materialize their missions. Several major
foundations in the UAE have been established to grant funds made available as a result of
decisions by the Rulers of the UAE. These foundations include, for example: The Zayed Bin
Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation (launched in 1992), the Zayed
Giving Initiative (founded in 2003), the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation
(established in 2007), the Emirates Foundation (originally launched in 2005 and later re-
launched under the name Emirates Foundation for Youth Development in 2012), the
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment (launched in
1997), the Red Crescent for the United Arab Emirates (launched in 1983), the Dubai Charity
Association (launched in 1994), the Sharjah Charity Association (launched in 1989), and the
Al Maktoum Foundation and Dubai Cares (launched in 2007). In addition, the Shaikh Zayed
Housing Programme, established in 1999, provides suitable housing for UAE national
families in order to contribute to achieving the aspirations of the UAE government in
providing a high standard of living for UAE nationals. The shared plan of these foundations
is to transfer the simple acts of charity and donation to the implementation of sustainable
development projects. Global philanthropy plays a large role in the UAE government's public
diplomacy outreach abroad. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD), the UAE is one of the world's largest donors of foreign aid in
proportion to its gross national product. An official report issued by the OECDs
Development Assistance Commission (DAC) has shown an improvement in the UAE
international donor standing, placing it at the 16th position in 2012 in the proportion of the
foreign assistance it provides in relation to its Gross National Income (GNI), advancing from
the 20th global position in 2011, and the 26th in 2010 (Smith 2011). For the first time, in
2010, the United Arab Emirates provided whole-ofgovernment reporting of its aid flows at
the activity level to the OECD DAC, making it the only country outside the DACs
membership to report in such detail at that time. The data show that in 2009, the UAE
disbursed $1,038.2 million in gross official development assistance (ODA). This exceeded
the aid volumes of six DAC donors, making the UAE the third largest donor outside the DAC
after Saudi Arabia and China (Smith 2011). In total for 2013, UAE donor entities disbursed
AED 21.63 billion (US $5.89 billion) in grants and loans to development, humanitarian relief
and charity programs and activities in 145 countriesThe highlight for 2013 has
undoubtedly been the stellar success of the UAE in attaining this status, with an exponential
rise in Official Development Assistance (ODA) as measured against Gross National Income
(GNI) from 0.33 percent in 2012 to 1.33 percent for 2013, a more than four-fold increase
(United Arab Emirates Foreign Aid 2013)3 . Moreover, the UAEs aid program is far
reaching. Although the geographic distribution of UAEs foreign aid spans the globe, the
largest percentage of UAE ODA (official development assistance) in 2009 went to the Middle
East (61%), followed 8 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-
21, 2015 by South Central Asia (22%) and North Africa (9%) (Smith, 2011). In recent years,
the UAE has made sizable donations to international relief efforts, including Hurricane
Katrina, USA (2005), the Haitian earthquake (2010), the tornado that devastated Joplin,
Missouri, USA (2011), and the Japanese tsunami and nuclear disaster (2011). The Emirates
has played a major role in alleviating international hardship from several global crises. The
UAE government is concerned not only with offering disaster aid, but also with supporting
local and global communities. For example, in 2009, the government of Abu Dhabi donated
$150 million to build the Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children's National
Medical Center in Washington, D.C. (Sullivan 2012). More recently, the UAE University has
begun to approach education as a means to encourage volunteerism and the culture of giving
with particular focus on youth volunteering (Madad) (el-Aswad, forthcoming). The UAEU
among other institutions offers awards honoring young people involved in volunteer
activities.4 Philanthropy in Emiratis Everyday Lives Based on both in-depth interviews and
survey analyses the following sections focus on the Emiratis present attitudes toward and
practices of philanthropy including volunteering and giving. A total of 410 persons
participated in the survey by responding to the Culture of Giving in the UAE questionnaire
described above. Participants were from the seven emirates and from both genders. In
addition to the survey, I conducted interviews with people at local charity organizations in
several cities including Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah. The survey examined three
core components: I- participants background information, II-attitudes and values, and III-
practices and behaviors. However, prior to any statistical analysis, all variables in the
collected data set were screened for extreme values; none were identified. The data were also
screened for missing values. Most of the variables had very few missing cases, which did not
affect the results. A full description of participants demographic variables is presented in the
following results section. The culture of giving in the Emirates is significantly strong, with
more than 91% of Emiratis confirming the personal, social, moral and religious values
embedded in giving and volunteering. Socially, by giving and volunteering Emiratis
strengthen gift-based kin and neighbor relations, contrary to the view stating the decline of
such relations. At the individual level, personalization of the gift giving is highly emphasized.
I-Background and Information of the Participants 1. Demographic Information. Respondents
from the seven emirates of the UAE participated in this study. Table 1 shows that Abu Dhabi
represented more than 60% of the sample while Umm Al Quwain represented only 1.5%.
This can be explained by the fact that the number of residents from Abu Dhabi outnumbers
that from other emirates. According to a 2010 mid year estimate, the national population of
the Abu Dhabi emirate was 404,546, while that of while Umm Al Quwain was 17,482 (UAE
Population, 2011). el-Aswad: FROM TRADITIONAL CHARITY TO GLOBAL
PHILANTHROPY 9 Table 1. Number and percentage of the respondents in each emirate
Emirates Number Percentage Abu Dhabi 256 62.4 Dubai 36 8.7 Sharjah 30 7.4 RAK 38 9.3
Ajman 14 3.4 Fujairah 30 7.3 Umm Al Quwain 6 1.5 Total 410 100 2. Gender, Living, Work,
Education, and Marital Status. Table 2 summaries gender, living, work, education, and
marital status information of the participants in this study. As it can be observed, there were
more female respondents than male respondents in the sample, with more than 80% of the
participants living in urban or suburban area. As for work status, more than 75% of
participants were currently not working. Additionally, most of participants had or were
working toward achieving a university degree (76.2%) and most of them were single
(77.9%). Table 2: Gender, Living, Work, Education, and Marital Status Number Percentage
Males 161 39.1 Gender Females 243 59.0 Suburb 333 80.8 Living Rural 77 18.7 Working 97
23.5 Working Not-working 310 75.2 Secondary 81 19.7 University 314 76.2 Master 8 1.9
Education PhD 3 .7 Single 321 77.9 Married 77 18.7 Divorced 7 1.7 Marital Status Widowed
2 .5 3. Age. The age of the participants ranged from 18 to 30 years old or above. Most of the
participants (67.4%) were in their twenties. There were a large percentage of 18-22 year olds,
which reflects that many of the respondents were university students whose ages fell within
this range. 4. Income and Family Income. Income was an important factor in the donating and
giving behaviors or practices. Both the participants monthly income and his/her family
income are summarized in Table 3. The range of 10,000 AED or less was the highest among
individual participants (26.9%), while the range of 20,000- 39,000 AED was the highest
among the participants families (25 %). 10 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL
SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-21, 2015 Table 3: Income and Family Income: Amount Number
Percentage 10,000 or less 111 26.9 10,000-19,000 31 7.5 20,000-39,000 50 12.1 40,000-
49,000 15 3.6 Participant Monthly Income (AED) 50,000 or above 15 3.6 10,000 or less 72
17.5 10,000-19,000 86 20.9 20,000-39,000 104 25.2 40,000-49,000 48 11.7 Family Monthly
Income (AED) 50,000 or above 77 18.7 Very interestingly, individuals of lower income
(AED 39,000 and less) reported to give more than individuals of higher income, with those of
the lowest income (26.9%) donating the most and those of higher income (40,000 and above)
donating the least (3.6%, respectively within the top two categories). 5. Father and Mother
Information: Education and Work. The background information about the participants
parents included education and work. As shown in table 4, the highest percentage (29.6%) of
the fathers had a university degree, while the highest percentage (31.6%) of the mothers
finished only secondary school. As for work, the highest percentage (41.7%) of the fathers
worked with the government, while the highest percentage (61.7%) of the mothers were
housewives. Table 4: Father and Mother Information: Education and Work Father Mother
Number Percentage Number Percentage No Education 50 12.1 69 16.7 Elementary 91 22.1
95 23.1 Secondary 106 25.7 130 31.6 University 122 29.6 94 22.8 Master 19 4.6 13 3.2
Education PhD 15 3.6 3 .7 Private 43 10.4 17 4.1 Government 172 41.7 76 18.4 Retired 134
32.5 16 3.9 Not Working 46 11.2 43 10.4 Work House Wife - - 254 61.7 el-Aswad: FROM
TRADITIONAL CHARITY TO GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY 11 II. Attitudes and Values:
Questionnaire Results 1. Religion. Four items were used to assess the effects of religion on
the giving practices of the participants. The religion scale was reliable (Cronbachs Alpha = .
83). The results of the four religion items are listed in Table 5 along with the overall average.
All values were very high which indicates that religion has a significant influence on the
giving and volunteering practices of the participants. The respondents indicated that they
donated and offered gifts more during religious occasions, such the fasting of the month of
Ramadan, than during other regular days. For example, in the city of AlAin, a young Emirati
man serving as a volunteer in a local charity, said, during the holy month of Ramadan we
distribute meals (ifr served at sunset time) among the needy, poor people and low-paid
workers. Table 5: Religion Item Mean SD My religion encourages me to donate 4.56 .77
More donations in Ramadan 4.19 .91 Voluntary work satisfies Allah 4.74 .69 Donations
satisfies Allah 4.73 .69 Overall average 4.58 .63 The sacralization of donation and
volunteering practices indicates a cultural process whereby charitable deeds and gifts become
invested with sanctified meanings akin to religious beliefs and practices. 2. Family. Five
items were used to assess the relationship between family and giving practices. The family
scale was reliable (Cronbachs Alpha =.80 ). The results of the items of this scale are listed in
Table 6. As it can be observed, parents have clear influence on encouraging the giving and
volunteering practices of their children. Young Emiratis point out that they practice
volunteering and donations following or keeping the giving legacy of their families. This is
demonstrated in an interview in which a young Emirati man stated, My parents are very
religious and kind people. They have always encouraged me and my siblings to take care of
the poor and those with special needs. My father tells us that God helps those who help other
people. Table 6: Family Item Mean SD My donations depends on family resources 3.93 1.00
My family members encourage me to volunteer 3.84 1.00 My family members are active in
giving 4.28 .77 My parents encourage me to volunteer 4.12 .95 My parents encourage to
practice giving 4.39 .79 Family-Average 4.11 .67 3. Marriage. Three items were used to
assess the influence of marriage on giving and volunteering practices: It is important to
donate and volunteer before marriage, Gifts exchange is important to keep marriage, and
Donation increases after marriage. The scale reliability (Cronbachs Alpha =.61) was not
very high, 12 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-21, 2015
possibly due to the low number of test items on the questionnaire. However, there was a
considerable agreement with the test item indicating that exchanging gifts is necessary to
maintain good marital relationships. In the Emiratis everyday lives, a good wife is
metaphorically described as a gift (hadiyah), meaning that the husband is blessed with having
a virtuous woman who honors him and her family not only by behaving according to the
community's values of chastity and modesty, but also by being ready to cook and serve food
for her husband's guests (el-Aswad 2014b). 4. Work. This factor was assessed using four
items: People who volunteer find a job easily, I volunteer to get experience for my job,
My work requires a specific level of giving, and I will be more successful in my work if I
am involved in voluntary work. The work scale was reliable as Cronbachs Alpha was .69.
An observable result was the strong belief (4.07) that voluntary work offers experience
toward future work. This result is related to the belief that voluntary work will make people
more successful in their work (4.02). The respondents pointed out that acts of volunteering
provide them with unique experiences and valuable information that help them understand
the dynamics of employability and the job market. Nevertheless, respondents agreed less that
their work requires a specific level of giving. Also, respondents do not support the idea that
people who volunteer find job easily (3.78). 5. Friends. Giving practices among friends was
assessed using 3 items: I express my friendship to my friends through gifts, I give my
friends gifts because they expect that, and I rarely give gifts to my friends. Although the
respondents stated that they gave gifts for special occasions such as wedding ceremonies,
success in work or school, and social-religious festivities, they revealed that they also
regularly offered presents or gifts to peers, friends, and family members just to make them
happy. However, participants agreed that they did not give gifts because their friends
expected them to do so. In an interview with two volunteers affiliated with a philanthropic
society in Sharjah, they recounted that volunteering is a great way to make friends. 6. Local
community. The relationship between giving practices and local community was assessed
through 5 items. The results of this part are listed in Table 7. Participants strongly agreed that
giving and volunteering are the best ways to service the community and that giving back is
through using available resources (time, skills, money, and influence) to help others. The
social responsibility they felt toward their community or society motivated them to volunteer
to better serve the community. They expressed their desire to give something (valuable) back
to society. Further, participants agreed that they were encouraged by their community leaders
to donate and volunteer (4.00). However, they did not agree that social appreciation is the
reason behind volunteering and donation. They also did not agree that poor people donate
more than rich people in their community. el-Aswad: FROM TRADITIONAL CHARITY TO
GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY 13 Table 7: Local Community Item Mean SD Giving and
volunteering are the best to service community 4.47 .84 Giving back is through using my
resources to help others 4.40 .83 I am volunteering and donating to get social appreciation
3.87 1.08 Poor people give more than rich 3.33 1.07 Local Community leaders believe that I
have to donate and volunteer 4.00 .88 7. Governmental and Non-Governmental Organization.
This scale was assessed through 5 items. Table 8 summarizes the responses on each of these
items. There was strong agreement that the UAE government supports philanthropy and that
the UAE leaders encourage Emiratis, especially young people to contribute to giving and
volunteer activities. Also, respondents agreed that the UAE government and non-
governmental organizations care strongly about social investment. The idea of merging
governmental with non-governmental organizations to insure funds for non-profit programs
was also accepted by respondents. Table 8: Government and Non-Governmental Organization
Item Mean SD UAE government supports philanthropy 4.61 .82 UAE leaders encourage
practicing philanthropy 4.35 .94 UAE leaders encourage volunteering 4.35 .94 UAE
government and non-governmental organization strongly care about social investment 4.20 .
92 The best way to insure funds for non-profit programs is by merging governmental with
non-governmental organization 4.04 .93 An active volunteer serving as a coordinator in a
charitable organization in Abu Dhabi city expressed his opinion, reflecting both government
and nongovernmental outlooks. He recounted, charity, volunteerism and philanthropy mean
doing good things that range from guiding a blind person crossing the street, donating blood
to a hospital, or improving the living conditions of the needy families across the Emirates to
providing economic support to countries in immediate need especially those suffering from
natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes. He also referred to government-funded
programs that do not encourage passive recipients of aid, but rather facilitate employment and
job opportunities by supporting small businesses, such camel and date farms. He further
pointed that these programs help people and communities become economically
independent whilst saving animals (camels) and plants (palm trees). 8. Global/International
Dimension. This dimension was assessed through 4 items. The results of responses on these
items are summarized in Table 9. Participants strongly agreed that philanthropy is necessary
for the global fight against poverty (4.34). They also agreed that non-profit organizations in
the UAE play important roles in international philanthropic work and relief efforts during
natural and international crisis (4.11). However, respondents had neutral opinions about the
idea 14 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-21, 2015 that
international actions (e.g., 11th of September, 2001 and World Financial crisis) affected
negatively on giving practices. Table 9: International Dimension Item Mean SD Philanthropy
is necessary for the global fight against poverty 4.34 .86 Non-profit organizations at UAE
play important role in the international philanthropy work 4.01 .95 Non-profit organizations
at UAE involved in relief efforts in natural and international crisis 4.11 .89
Global/International actions (e.g., 11th of September and World Financial crisis) affected
negatively on giving practices 3.46 1.17 9.Technology. In this part
respondentsASAASASASASASASASASASASADASDASDASDADAwere asked to
respond to two main ideas about how technology affects donation. There was high agreement
that technology facilities donating and giving practices. The respondents preferred donating
money using specific phone numbers provided by charity or philanthropic institutions. Also,
there was a relatively high response regarding using technology, such as the Internet and
short messages, as ways to donate. Emiratis, in their giving and philanthropic activities,
particularly those dealing with charitable and humanitarian foundations, apply new forms of
information and communication technology (ICT) and cyber circulation such as e-mail, SMS
(short message service), and other sorts of internet-related contacts. 10. Media. The effects of
the media on donating and volunteering practices was the last factor assessed using three
items: Media increases the publicity of philanthropic organizations, Media is the most
important resource of information for activities related to donating and volunteering and I
like media and sport stars who care about voluntary work. The results of this part revealed
that the respondents strongly agreed that the media has promoted and increased the publicity
of charitable foundations and philanthropic organizations and that the media is the most
important resource of information for activities related to donating and volunteering. It is
worthy to note that many charitable and philanthropic organizations have established their
websites, blogs and online forums to inform people of their philanthropic activities.
Volunteers use social media not only in public or formal contexts of the charitable
foundations but also in their private zones where they enjoy the freedom to reach out and
communicate with potential donors, recipients or beneficiaries. III-Practices and Behaviors
Respondents were asked 15 questions in this section regarding their practices and behaviors
in relation to volunteerism and donation. Volunteerism. The first important question in this
study was, Do you practice voluntary work? A total of 265 respondents (64.3%) answered
this question affirmatively indicating that they do practice voluntary work. This high
percentage reflects the distribution of volunteering in the UAE society. This also suggests that
cultural factors within the UAE, such as religion and giving back to the country, influence
and encourage volunteerism. In an interview, an active Emirati volunteer el-Aswad: FROM
TRADITIONAL CHARITY TO GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY 15 stated, what is fulfilling to
me is to see people in need such as orphans and the poor, sick and powerless (daf) happy by
providing a little aid or help, morally or socially and financially. The hours I give in
volunteering activities are worth more to me than any money I could collect. The second
important question concerns how often respondents participated in voluntary work. The
results of this question showed that the highest percentage of respondents (38.8%)
participated in voluntary work several times every month. Unsurprisingly, practicing
voluntary work daily got the lowest percentage of respondents (5.1%). Another question
asked, What is the main sector (religion, education, medicine/health, sport, government, or
private) in which you practice your voluntary work? The results of this part showed that the
religious sector received the highest percentage of respondents (22.6%). This is an expected
finding and matches the previous results of this study regarding the strong influence of
religion on volunteering. The second largest sector was education (18.4%). Donation. An
essential question in this study was, Do you donate? A total of 375 (91.0%) of the
participants answered this question affirmatively. This high percentage indicates how much
the culture of giving pervades the UAE. This is also reflected in a statement made by an
active Emirati donor, The UAE does not apply taxes. Therefore, our donation, charity and
almsgiving (zakat) are not tax deductable. We seek to follow our folk wisdom, do the
goodness (khair) and cast it into the ocean (imil alkhair wa irmh f albar). The only reward
we seek comes from Allah. People purify their souls as well as their wealth or property
through donation, charity, almsgiving and helping the needy and powerless. Donors give
charity for the sake of the souls of their ancestors and deceased relatives. In response to the
questions about type of donation, the choices included money, food, clothes, electronic tools
and machines, others. The results of this question indicated that although the respondents
stated that they were active in donating tangible material goods (including food, cloths,
electronic tools and so like), money was their preferred choice of donation (71.6 %). The
responses for the question about frequency of donation showed that almost half of the
participants (48.3%) in this study reported to donate once every month. A high percentage
(21.8%) also donated weekly. When asked if they participated in conferences organized by
non-profit organizations, 114 (27.7%) of the respondents answered affirmatively, while the
others said they did not participate in such conferences. The last two questions were about
whether the participant was satisfied with his/her donation and volunteering. More than 71 %
affirmed that they are satisfied with their donation and volunteering. The second question
addressed whether or not the participant was satisfied with his/her role in the non-profit,
philanthropic organization. The respondents expressed that donation and volunteering
promoted positive views of self-worth, pride and satisfaction without stressing class
discrimination. Emiratis tended to donate in an anonymous manner. Metaphorically, Emiratis,
like other Muslims, use the phrase, invisible hands in the sense that the left hand does not
know what the right hand is giving. In Emirates, as is the case in an Indian community,
Giving in secret avoids the immediate reward of an increase in the donors public status
(Bornstein 2012: 33). 16 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-
21, 2015 Conclusion Drawing on quantitative and qualitative methods as well as on theories
of traditional and modern worldviews and practices, the study has shown that the spirit of
giving in the United Arab Emirates encompasses both local and global elements. It
demonstrates how the culture of giving developed from traditional small-scale practices
prevalent in the pre-oil era into institutional, national and global activities incorporating
various forms of government, non-government, societal and individual philanthropy. The
study highlights how Emiratis negotiate the culture of giving in a variety of contexts, both
material and semiotic, both leisure-based and at school or work, and in the political sphere.
From the outcome of the survey, it seems that the value of giving is an important Emirati
value on personal, social, institutional and moral levels with the highest number of
respondents (more than 91%) providing confirmation of their participation in some sort of
giving or philanthropic engagement. Emirati people express their friendship to others by
offering them special gifts. Respondents stated that they value volunteering and giving not as
temporary activities but as lifelong commitments. The study has shown that Emirati
respondents confirm that both the UAE government and non-government agencies engage in
volunteering and charitable giving. Global flows of goods, ideas and practices have been
facilitated by the agency of indigenous actors and leaders. In other words, the native
entrepreneurs, with tremendous sources of privilege, have gained wealth and power through
their involvement in the global market. They use sizable parts of their wealth to support
philanthropic goals. Donation or volunteer work is a productive activity that necessitates
cultural capital and a market for volunteer labor, exactly like the market for paid labor.
Cultural capital includes such core elements as education, religious orientation or
worldviews, and social or moral values and mutual trust. For example, the research concludes
that higher education tends to increase a persons knowledge, skills, earnings, and social
connections and networks. The UAEU, for instance, organizes workshops providing the
young Emirati generation with basic education concerning long-term and non-profit projects
characterizing the spirit of the culture of giving and philanthropy. The qualitative evidence
indicates that the giving of donations is lower among young people compared to older people,
while volunteer activities are higher among the youth as compared to the elderly. The
underlying motivations for philanthropic practices stem primarily from worldview and
religious (Islamic) tradition. Respondents indicate that they feel good or that they
give/donate and volunteer because their religion motivates or asks them to do so. Motivated
by religious principles, Emiratis have developed strong attitudes toward supporting poor
people, especially orphans. Also, respondents stated that they donate following the giving
legacy of their families. However, more gifts are given during religious occasions than on
other special social occasions such as birthdays and weddings, or to maintain marital
relationships or express friendship, or to gain recognition or prestige. Emirati respondents
indicated that though volunteering was not necessary to help them find employment, many
sought volunteer opportunities to gain on-the-job type experience. Overall, the majority of
Emiratis felt that they benefitted from this el-Aswad: FROM TRADITIONAL CHARITY TO
GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY 17 type of unique experience to help them understand the
dynamics of employability and the job market. Giving back has always been an Emirati core
values. Emirati youth express a genuine desire to give back to their society, though some rely
on their families when identifying with giving. For these young Emiratis, the notion of
giving back is rooted in religious, traditional and modern worldviews. They articulate their
desire to give something (valuable) confirming that their government encouraged them to do
so. They indicate that by giving back they mean to use available resources for community
enhancement. Young Emiratis are motivated to give back through participation in various
economic, cultural and social activities. The majority of Emirati interviewees confirm that
they give back through volunteering activities such as secretarial and administrative tasks in
government institutes including schools, student clubs, municipalities, hospitals, charitable
foundations, and museums among others. They also give back through participation in other
volunteer activities such as environmental awareness campaigns. Most of the interviewees
stated, for example, that they give back and volunteer through participating in environmental
campaigns aiming at preserving and keeping streets, beaches and parks clean. It is interesting
to note that young Emirati people recount that they volunteer in cultural activities celebrating
the establishment of the union or state every year especially during the month of December
commemorating their National Day. When giving, Emirati young people point out that they
use electronic forms of new media as a means for charitable donation. They also report that
they use specific phone numbers made possible by philanthropic institutions to donate. It
seems that a higher percentage of those who give are doing so through more modern, remote,
and electronic means. There is a significant number of respondents who engage in
philanthropy related to the community and who give back to the community through
volunteer and donation efforts, but because of their position of privilege (wealth) may not
have encountered the opportunity to invest in a project for the development of capital. In
other communities, money is not given directly, but is used, for example, to buy a sewing
machine from which to develop sewing business. Through educational efforts and formation
of mission statements to support the goals of the government and the development of
business, this can be addressed. The study has shown how young people in the Emirates
produce and negotiate the cultural of giving. Though one young female person did inform
about how her family member was developing a business around the manufacture and selling
of incense, the project was small and focused on a more personal selection of
buyers/customers. Overall awareness of venture philanthropy is limited. The idea of engaging
in a for profit venture with capital, even the more so if based on a missiondriven principle is
not readily available to them. Emirati people have developed a unique pattern in their culture
of giving that combines components of local heritage, modernity, global capitalism, and
multiculturalism. Cultural, social, psychological and economic dimensions of gift giving
serve a necessary and positive role by accentuating the ethics of sharing and advancing the
valuation of philanthropy. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOTES 1 A part of
this research was made possible by the partial support of the Emirates Foundation for Youth
Development (July-August 2013). I would like to thank anonymous peer-reviewers for their
18 HORIZONS IN HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 1 (1) 1-21,
2015 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! insightful comments. Thanks also go to Hamza
Dodeen for his assistance in the statistical analysis of data, Mohamed Samier Sharab and
Anas Musa Abu Taha for their invaluable information and assistance in the field of
volunteering institutions and societies in the UAE. 2 In Islam almsgiving (zakat) is one of the
five pillars of the faith. To participate in a system of zakat) is not only obligatory in Islam, but
is also a means through which individuals fulfill their ethical and spiritual values (Tripp,
2006, p. 56). For more information see, Benthall (1999), Clark (2004), Singer (2008), and
Alterman et al (2005). 3 According to 2013 report of the Emirates foreign aid, The UAE
Government was the largest UAE donor entity for 2013, accounting for AED 17.85 billion
(US $4.86 billion), or just over 80.0 percent of total funds. In terms of geographical
distribution, Egypt was by far the largest single country recipient of foreign aid from the
UAE, to finance development projects and support the foreign currency reserves and
strengthen the financial system. A total of AED 16.99 billion (US $4.63 billion) was
disbursed to Egypt, almost all of it, 98.6 percent, coming from the UAE Government.
Countries, which have received foreign aid from the UAE in recent years, such as Somalia,
Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, saw no diminution in the levels of UAE foreign aid
provided to them in 2013 (United Arab Emirates Foreign Aid 2013). 4 For more information
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