The article explores the promotion and reception of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the Arab world, taking Syria and Dubai as "most different" case studies. It observes that government-connected organizations have taken the lead in promoting CSR but are facing difficulties in rooting the concept beyond the ranks of crony capitalists. It argues that businessmen remain attached to an Islamic framework of social responsibility that contrasts with CSR as currently promoted. Extracting key themes in the businessmen's approach and comparing them with the UN Global Compact the article proposes an ideal-typical comparison of what it calls the Zakat and the CSR models. It discusses their relative utility as symbolic resource for the different actors.