Alizeh JaffreyAlizeh Jaffrey Zaidi is a 2022 MPNL graduate and a member of the Nu Lambda Mu International Honors Society for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Social Entrepreneurship. She’s also a Development Manager at the Ontario Veterinary College, at the University of Guelph.

Alizeh established the “Benevolence Award for MPNL” in honour of Hasan ibn Ali, a seventh-century philanthropist and spiritual leader known for his grantmaking and teachings about philanthropy. Today, Alizeh’s work in the philanthropic sector is inspired by his teachings and example. This Q&A session with her has been edited for brevity.

Beginning in 2023, the “Benevolence Award for MPNL” is awarded annually by Carleton University’s Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, on the recommendation of the Graduate Supervisor of the MPNL program, to students entering the program. Eligible recipients will be selected based on academic promise, past academic achievement and/or professional experience. Preference is for students in financial need.

How did you come to create this award so early in your career, so soon after graduating?

Alizeh's diplomas

Alizeh Jaffrey Zaidi’s Carleton University degree and Nu Lambda Mu induction certificate, as well as honours cords, are draped with a green shawl, a colour that traditionally represents Hasan ibn Ali.

Jaffrey: In 2022, I had my convocation at Carleton University – my first time there because of two years of Covid restrictions. There was a beautiful moment as we walked into the convocation hall. A receiving party of professors and administrators stood in a hallway to greet us as we walked past, clapping and celebrating our achievements. I teared up a little bit, and in my heart, I said, “Hasan Ibn Ali is here with me. This is his moment, too, not just mine.” With this award, I want to honour him, because I’m grateful for his example — and because his story and his philanthropic work haven’t been fully recognized throughout history.

Was there a personal connection?

Yes, for sure. I want to help people feel the fulfillment I did when pursuing this incredible degree. The MPNL program was one of the best things I’ve had the opportunity to do — and I’m grateful to the university. My masters program was practically impossible for me to pursue without a scholarship from Carleton.

I wish I could just tell someone, “Here’s your full tuition: go do this program, because it’s such a great experience.” Hopefully, one day, inshaAllah. For now, this award is what I can do.

Islam contains many ideas about charitable giving and helping others. How do you incorporate the ideas of the prophet Muhammad and his family, especially Hasan ibn Ali’s ideas, into your work and the award?

Hasan ibn Ali and The Chosen in caligraphy

Calligraphy depicting “Hasan ibn Ali” and “Mujtaba” (which means “The Chosen”). Photo is courtesy of Wiki Commons.

The family embodied different elements of how to be a good person. They demonstrated how to practice the guidelines prescribed by the Islamic faith (in the case of charity, the giving of sadaqah, khums, and zakat).

Hasan Ibn Ali was, essentially, the patron saint of philanthropy and charitable giving, and was known as “The Generous One.” In his public-facing role 1,400 years ago, Hasan ibn Ali explained the tenets of philanthropy to society. I studied these teachings from the point of view of the philanthropic sector and found that the teachings remain relevant. The inspiration for the award is about sharing some of these teachings and helping to promote the study of philanthropy.

Is there an example of a teaching from Hasan ibn Ali that you can share?

Cindy Boustani, an MPNL student, is the inaugural recipient of the 2023 “Benevolence Award for MPNL.”

Cindy Boustani, an MPNL student, is the inaugural recipient of the 2023 “Benevolence Award for MPNL.”

One tenet that I love is: “A truly generous person gives before being asked for help.” In other words, when seeing signs of need, you don’t wait to reach the point where someone has to ask for help. What I take from this is that you should be observant, keeping an eye on society and resources. People shouldn’t have significantly less and significantly more than others – there should be some element of balance.

Further, one thing our sector requires heavily these days is more unrestricted giving. As I see it, if more people are guided towards seeing signs of need early on, then when they donate, the trust element increases automatically. Building out this culture of increased awareness is our job as fundraising professionals.

Alizeh Jaffrey Zaidi  is on LinkedIn.

Sunday, September 25, 2022 in , ,
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