Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have committed my zakat elsewhere or I’m not sure this is a valid use of zakat? Or what if I don’t owe zakat this year? Can I still participate? 

Of course. You can give sadaqa (voluntary charity) of any amount. And whether or not you give financially, you can also get involved in the work to end mass incarceration.

There are a lot of people in jail. How do you choose who to bail out?

We are prioritizing Muslims whose incarceration is likely to cause the greatest harm to themselves and those who depend on them: primary caregivers, disabled people, or others who are especially vulnerable, including because of their race, gender identity or health conditions, including mental health.

How do we know the person we’re bailing out is Muslim?

Our referrals will mostly come from Muslim organizations and people working with incarcerated Muslims, and we’re relying on people’s self-identification. As Muslims, we are warned not to declare other Muslims disbelievers lest we risk disbelief ourselves.

But shouldn’t I give my zakat to someone innocent instead of someone who may have committed a crime?

The American legal system is supposed to operate on the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. That means that someone being held before trial because of inability to pay bail is not being punished for their alleged crime but rather for being poor. Money bail leads to far harsher outcomes for the poor than the wealthy, something the Muslim tradition ardently opposes. Additionally, holding people in jail for inability to pay bail affects not only their lives but also those of their families, including children, and communities.

What if I want to participate but I’m not Muslim?

By all means, join us!

What is the process for donations?

Donations to the Believers Bail Out are passed along to the Chicago Bond Fund to bail pay the bond; if sufficient funding is received, it might be used to provide zakat-eligible forms of post-bond support to poor and needy Muslims released from incarceration.

So, just to clarify, what happens to money I give that gets used used for bond once cases are resolved?

Bond money is returned, minus fees, when a person comes back for a trial or if charges are dismissed before that. In the case of the Believers Bail Out, that money will remain with the Chicago Bond Fund to be used in their ongoing work. Learn more at https://chicagobond.org/

How do I make a donation? 

There are many ways to donate:

  • LaunchGood 
  • Write a check to out to Sirat Chicago and write "BBO" in the memo and send it to the following address: 4572 S. Lake Park Ave. Chicago, IL 60653
  • PayPal
  • To donate via QuickPay or Venmo, send your donation to siratchicago@gmail.com (type "BBO" in the memo). 

What else can I do besides give money?

There are lots of ways to get involved with Believers Bail Out and other organizations working to end mass incarceration. You can sign up to learn more.  You can find a community bail fund in your area. You can get involved in efforts to change the behavior of prosecutors, who have enormous discretion and power in the court system, or to elect District Attorneys who will be accountable to the communities they serve. The current criminal justice system is massively unfair and has repercussions in all areas of American life, from health care to employment to electoral politics. And you can educate yourself, starting with the resources in the Believers Bail Out Toolkit.