Private Islamic Charity and Approaches to Poverty Reduction

Led by Kristian Berg Harpviken
Apr 2011 - Dec 2015


Understanding private Islamic approaches to poverty reduction is key to addressing the huge development challenges in Muslim societies. Yet, these approaches have received scant attention in traditional development research. Through a focus on private Islamic charity approaches to poverty reduction in Pakistan, this project will provide a critical examination of basic assumptions about Islamic charity and contribute new insights to the international development debate.

Four main research questions guide the project:

  1. How do private Islamic charity actors in Pakistan and in the diaspora view poverty reduction?
  2. How are these views of private Islamic charity actors reflected in actual poverty reduction practices?
  3. How are gender roles and issues of gender equity reflected and addressed by private Islamic ‘development agents’?
  4. In what way is private Islamic charity, with the aim of poverty reduction in the country of origin, practiced among the diaspora?

This will allow for an exploration of the role of religion in motivating, as well as organizing, development and poverty reduction initiatives, both locally and transnationally. By analyzing concrete examples of private Islamic charity approaches to poverty reduction the project will contribute more general insights about how the normative underpinnings of religion influence the potential for development.

The proposed project will be empirically based, using a range of qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews, focus groups, participant observation and narratives. Data collection will take place in Pakistan and Norway, adopting a multi-sited approach.


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Erdal, Marta Bivand & Kaja Borchgrevink (2016) Transnational Islamic charity as everyday rituals, Global Networks. DOI: 10.1111/glob.12137.

Book Chapter

Erdal, Marta Bivand (2015) The diaspora meets the ‘development industry’: Engaging Norwegian-Pakistanis in development back home, in Tan, Y.T.; & M. Rahman, eds, International Migration and Development In South Asia. Abingdon: Routledge (44–60).

Popular Article

Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2015) Muslimer flest feirer id [Most Muslims Celebrate Eid], Dagbladet.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2014) Norske fremmedhjelpere [Foreign helpers], NRK Ytring.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2014) Muslimsk dugnad for de fattige [Muslim charity for the poor], VG.
Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2013) Den usynlige bistanden, Klassekampen.

PRIO Policy Brief

Borchgrevink, Kaja & Marta Bivand Erdal (2015) Other Voices, Other Choices?, PRIO Policy Brief, 15. Oslo: PRIO.
Erdal, Marta Bivand & Kaja Borchgrevink (2015) Diaspora Development Engagements Seen Through the Prism of Islamic Charity, PRIO Policy Brief, 16. Oslo: PRIO.

Report - Other

Erdal, Marta Bivand; Alice Ennals; Kari Helene Partapouli; & Nadia Falch Bandak, eds, (2015) Diaspora og Utvikling [Diaspora and Development]Oslo: Development Fund.