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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gallery: A Look Back at Day of Dignity in 2010

2010's Day of Dignity season was full of memorable moments, lives touched, and dignity given and received. For those who volunteered to the beneficiaries who came for health screenings, school supplies, clothing, and hot meals, the Day of Dignity events was an important model of how important it is to give dignity to those who need help. Thanks to all who turned out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gallery: "A Night for the Love of Palestine" in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds came out for Islamic Relief USA's "A Night for the Love of Palestine" in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. It was an evening of love and celebration, featuring Islamic Relief Goodwill Ambassador Hanan Turk. A second event is coming up in Florida. Click here to learn more.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Islamic Relief USA Receives Interfaith Visionary Awards

The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) awarded Islamic Relief USA with the InterFaith Visionary Award for its generous donation to support the vital work of building community and nurturing understanding among different faith-based communities.

The award was presented at the 31st Interfaith Concert at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception by Catholic University on Nov. 16, 2010.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, Islamic Relief USA was awarded with a plaque in recognition of its interfaith efforts. The plaque was received at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)’s 9th Annual Peace Gathering and Law Enforcement Appreciation. The “Peace Gathering” allows community members of all faiths to come together and remember the victims and families affected by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and to honor members of law enforcement who risk their lives to protect citizens’ rights.

Islamic Relief USA CEO Abed Ayoub, VP of Programs Adnan Ansari, VP of Operations Khaled Falah, Director of Public Affairs Christina Tobias-Nahi and Fund Development Coordinator Belkacem Nahi were at the event to accept the interfaith award on behalf of the entire organization.

IR USA Participates at CFC Kickoff Events across the Country

One fact that you should share with your friends, especially those employed by the federal government, is that Islamic Relief USA (IR USA) is on the U.S. government’s Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charity list, which means that federal employees’ contributions to IR USA are matched by the federal government!

This is not something new, but recently, IR USA has been trying to spread the message to federal employees who are interested in making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

IR USA staff members traveled to Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Wash.; and Scott Air Force Base, Ill., to participate in CFC kickoff events and raise awareness about Islamic Relief’s projects. The events were meant to showcase U.S. nonprofit groups that are featured on the CFC list.

In Washington, D.C., Director of Public Affairs Christina Tobias-Nahi and Financial Analyst Rehan Tahir participated in the kickoff at Bolling Air Force Base, informing federal employees, many of whom were in the Armed Forces and worked on the base, about IR USA’s work.

“Many of the people didn’t know about Islamic Relief USA,” Tobias-Nahi said afterward. "They stopped by to talk to us about the projects we are doing both overseas and in the U.S. and were enthusiastic to learn more."

You can make a difference too. If you’re a federal employee and interested in taking advantage of the CFC program, Islamic Relief USA’s CFC code is 10194.

The CFC is the world's largest workplace charity drive and raises millions of dollars every year to assist thousands of charities through donations from federal employees and service members. The CFC supports eligible nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

You don’t have to be a federal employee to donate to IR USA though. Donating online is fast, easy and secure. Donate today!

--Zeyad Maasarani

photo (from left): Heidi Wolfset, Wash. Secretary of State Sam Reed, Daud Mohmand

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Islamic Relief USA's Abed Ayoub Speaks at White House for ‘Leadership Consultation’ Event

Islamic Relief USA (IR USA) joined international leaders and convened with local stakeholders of government, NGOs, and faith communities for the “Leadership Consultation for Faith, Health and Development” event on Nov. 23 at the Washington National Cathedral and Nov. 24 at the White House. IR USA CEO Abed Ayoub spoke at both of these events, where a new report titled “Many Faiths, Common Action: Increasing the Impact of the Faith Sector on Health and Development: A Strategic Framework for Action” was launched.

This event came on the heels of IR USA’s participation in “Breakthrough Summit,” led by the Women, Faith and Development Alliance and spearheaded by then Secretary of State Madeline Albright in 2008 at the Washington National Cathedral. One important development from that summit was the subsequent creation of the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty.

IR USA aided in planning the two-day “Leadership Consultation,” which was organized by the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA). The first day’s events focused on the engagement of the faith community to promote existing interfaith work in the developing world while also addressing the critical gap for additional resources, technical assistance and sustainability of projects.

Those attending the event also agreed that health issues should not only be the domain of the medical profession but should constitute overall well-being, including food, water, sanitation, environmental stewardship and protection from violence — as individuals only become ill when the societies in which they reside fall ill. Many attending the event said that religion should be used for inspiration and not for division. In the evening, an interfaith service was held, and IR USA’s Naaem Muhammad presented the Muslim call to prayer. The group then met Indonesian Ambassador Dr. Dino Patti Djalal for dinner and heard his remarks on the need for moderation and tolerance.

The discussion was continued at the White House the next morning with representatives from many of the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership offices as well the Department of State, National Security Council and various government agencies, where an emphasis was made on the need for better monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of overseas programs overseas rather than inputs. For example, instead of evaluating how many bed nets are distributed, programs should be assessed for how many lives are saved.

Finally, newly appointed Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Dr. Rajiv Shah addressed the attendees and called upon everyone to become development partners working toward the same common goal. Jan Henningson, senior advisor at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and member of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, quoted the Qu’ran, saying “Compete [only] with each other in good deeds.”

To view or download the report, Many Faiths, Common Action: Increasing the Impact of the Faith Sector on Health and Development – A Strategic Framework for Action, click here.

– Christina Tobias-Nahi, Director of Public Affairs, Islamic Relief USA

photo (from left): Christina Tobias-Nahi, Abed Ayoub, Admiral Tim Ziemer - U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, President's Malaria Initiative (PMI)
photo courtesy Donovan Marks

Annual Report Reveals Islamic Relief USA Reduced Costs in 2009

For a charity and relief organization, one of the most important things is to use the least amount of money for administrative costs so that the maximum amount of money from donors reaches those who need it most — the beneficiaries. Therefore, we’re excited at Islamic Relief USA (IR USA) to share this great news with you!

A recently completed financial audit found that IR USA reduced its ratio of administrative and fundraising costs in 2009 from the year before.

An independent auditing firm found that 93.85 percent of donor contributions were allocated to the intended projects in 2009, as compared to about 91.94 percent in 2008. This means that your contributions are making an even bigger difference and helping even more impoverished people around the world. This should come as no surprise. At IR USA, we are committed to using our supporters’ donations in the most effective and efficient ways possible.

Recognizing IR USA’s fiscally responsible practices, America’s largest nonprofit evaluator, Charity Navigator, has awarded IR USA with the highest rating of four stars for seven years in a row.

“Only 2 percent of the charities we rate have received at least seven consecutive 4-star evaluations,” Charity Navigator’s President, Ken Berger, wrote in a 2010 letter. “This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Islamic Relief USA from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

To view prior years' Annual Reports, click here.

The tax year is almost over! But you can make a tax-deductible contribution on our easy-to-use online donation form by clicking here.

To learn more about IR USA’s projects, click here.

-- Zeyad Maasarani

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Islamic Relief USA Ranks in Philanthropy 400 List

Islamic Relief USA (IR USA) recently announced that it ranks in the top 150 on the 2010 Philanthropy 400 list published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a biweekly newspaper that covers the nonprofit world.

Each year, The Chronicle of Philanthropy surveys the nation's charities to determine which have raised the most in monetary donations and non-cash gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations over a one-year period.

"We are truly humbled to rank among the most successful charities in the country," said Abed Ayoub, CEO of IR USA. "We see this as a reflection of the growing trust our donors have in us to provide meaningful giving solutions for global poverty. Islamic Relief USA is grateful to its many donors and strategic partners who are collectively helping achieve this mission."

This was IR USA's first time on the Philanthropy 400 list. It raised more than 147 million charitable dollars in its 2009 fiscal year, doubling its earnings from the previous year.

Donations overall to the nation's largest charities grew by 4.3 percent last year, to $6.75 billion, according to The Chronicle's survey this year. While the increase was smaller than in the previous two years — when Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunamis generated an outpouring of charitable donations — American fundraising organizations still achieved 18-percent growth in donations over the past two years.

To see the entire list, click here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Importance of Charity and Giving in Islam

A hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says that a voice was once heard commanding a cloud to irrigate a man’s garden. When the man was asked what he did with the garden, he replied that he estimated the produce of his garden. Then he distributed one-third to charity, kept one-third for himself and his family, and invested one-third back into the garden.

Just as Allah (swt) sent a cloud for this man who gave to the poor, Allah will also provide for us in miraculous ways if we give what we love for the pleasure of Allah and in the service of mankind. As the hadith beautifully illustrates, Allah replaces what we give and multiplies it.

The notion of giving, especially giving and helping those in need, is so entrenched in Islam. We remind ourselves of it in every step we take for the work we do here at Islamic Relief USA. But sometimes I feel that I — that all of us — cannot be reminded enough.

“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” (The Holy Qur’an, 2:245)

The Benefits of Charity
The Almighty promises us that if we train ourselves to give in times of ease and hardship, our sustenance will increase. Giving awakens our souls and triggers genuine concern for the well-being of others. Priority is given to feeding the poor and the needy, as that is one of the best acts in Islam.

Giving from what we are given from The Provider and Owner of everything not only releases us from the disease of want but also reminds us that everything belongs to Allah (swt) and must be used for the well-being of all of humanity.

We will never attain righteousness until we spend what we love, loving for our brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Protect yourself from hell-fire even by giving a piece of date as charity.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The personal sacrifice of giving one’s possessions, no matter how small, for the sake of helping those in need is a blessing and means purifying our souls and wealth. From a drop of water to gardens of fruit we must remember that everything in this world is loaned to us for a brief period of time. The true test is the test of giving the given.

“Allah, the Exalted, says, ‘Spend, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.’” – Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). How will you give today?

-- Nabeelah Naeem, Islamic Relief USA

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

Having just come off of our holiday of Eid al-Adha and having given our Qurbani, I find myself, with the American holiday of Thanksgiving around the corner, thinking about all I have to be thankful and grateful for.

Here at Islamic Relief USA, throughout all aspects of our work -- whether we’re updating the website, creating programs, working on orphan sponsorships, planning fundraising events, or doing those day to day tasks that keep this organization running – we are blessed to know that everything we do is to help those in need in the United States and around the world. Allah (swt) has granted us this opportunity to give back, and for that, IR USA is very thankful.

In our five daily prayers, in all that we do every day, we are taught as Muslims to always turn to Allah (swt) and to give thanks for what He has blessed us with. We are told to give back – to help our family, our neighbors, our friends, and anyone in need. As you embark on this four-day holiday, please reflect upon what you are truly thankful for. It all comes from Allah (swt). And anyway you can give back will only bring His blessings onto you, insha’Allah.

So what are you thankful for? And what will you be giving back in return?

-- Dilshad D. Ali

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Answering the Qurbani Question: Where and How to Give?

How and where are you giving your Qurbani this year? Like many Muslim families in the United States, my family asks the same questions: Can we give Qurbani here (where we live in the U.S.) by ourselves? Should we have family living abroad perform and distribute our Qurbani? How can we get the meat from Qurbani to those who really need it?

Last week, my family and I sat around the dinner table and tried to answer these difficult questions for this year’s Qurbani. My father-in-law, who had returned from a lecture at our local mosque, told us how the speaker, a visiting mufti, related the story behind Eid-al-Adha, why we give Qurbani/Udhiyah and how to go about doing it. The best way, the mufti said, is to bring the goat (sheep, camel or cow, whatever you will be sacrificing) to your home and let your attachment to that animal grow a bit.

That way, the mufti said, when you sacrifice the animal, it will be a little difficult for you, but you will do it for the sake of Allah (swt). That will more closely mimic the difficulty the Prophet Ibrahim had when Allah asked him to sacrifice his son Ismail, and at the last minute, Allah replaced Ismail with a sheep for the sacrifice.

That got me to thinking: Surely doing the Qurbani by your own hand is ideal, but as all things evolve and change, so have our lifestyles. In the United States (and I suspect many countries), it’s difficult, if not impermissible, to bring an animal into your home and perform the Qurbani there. Many areas organize a Qurbani where you can go and perform the sacrifice yourself, but often they permit you to do only one.

And in our family, we have five Qurbanis to do. So this year, we’ve decided to utilize Islamic Relief USA’s Udhiyah/Qurbani program and get a number of our Qurbanis done abroad, perhaps in India or Pakistan (still figuring the location out). The more we thought about it, the more it made sense: We make our niyyat (intention) when we fill out the Qurbani donation form online, the sacrifice is done on our behalf and all the meat will go to people who really need it.

One we will do here where we live, so we can go through the process ourselves, and we will distribute the meat to friends and family, the less fortunate and keep a third for ourselves. And Alhamdulillah, I have immense peace of mind that our other Qurbanis will be taken care of Islamically as well.

There are a lot of options out there for how you can give your Qurbani/Udhiyah, and there are thousands of people around the world who desperately need that meat — it's often the only meat they receive the entire year. Consider giving your Qurbani online through Islamic Relief USA, and may Allah (swt) accept our intentions and bless us all.

-- Dilshad D. Ali

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In D.C., Artistry Weds Charity for an 'Evening of Inspiration'

The prayer rugs were laid out in Lisner Auditorium for Maghrib, the evening prayer, just before the show was about to begin. Event producers were charging through the arena, backstage one moment taking dinner orders and on stage the next confirming sound and light adjustments. Volunteers were huddled outside the auditorium entrance going over last-minute plans and preparing to disperse momentarily to man their stations. Everyone had his or her game face on, and I had my camera in hand.

This year marks Islamic Relief USA’s fifth annual Evening of Inspiration (EOI) benefit concert to raise money and awareness for children in need worldwide, but it was my first time attending an EOI concert. As I watched hundreds of people pour into Lisner Auditorium to attend the event, I felt a rush of excitement for the opportunity to see Native Deen and Maher Zain perform live.

I went backstage to get a glimpse of the artists’ pre-performance and found Native Deen members Naeem Muhammad, Joshua Salaam and Abdul-Malik Ahmad in mid-dua’a, asking Allah for guidance and blessings. Soon, event host Karim Amin called the group to the stage and the show was on.

As I shifted from one location to another in the front row and backstage to capture the night in images, I found myself singing along with Native Deen’s rendition of “Tala’al Badru Alayna” and Maher Zain’s “Ya Nabi Salam Alayka.” The beats and lyrics worked synonymously to capture the audience, which ranged in age from infants to the elderly.

As the evening played on like a song itself, children graced the stage to sing along with the artists. The evening was all about children — from those who inspired the event (the ones in need) to those who attended the event. Children in need worldwide may have never heard of Maher Zain and Native Deen, but the cause for which these faithful artists sang was a higher one. I had little hope of capturing that on camera.

-- Muneeza Tahir

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

IR USA Joins Board of Directors at 'Alliance to End Hunger'

Strengthening a Partnership to End Hunger

After a three-year membership, Islamic Relief USA (IR USA) has joined the board of directors of the Alliance to End Hunger, a group of corporations, nonprofit groups, universities and religious institutions all working toward the goal of fostering real change to end world hunger. “The initiative allows us an opportunity not only to interact with peer NGOs on the issues of global and domestic food security, but helps us learn from corporate and private organizations doing this work as well,” said IR USA’s Director of Public Affairs Christina Tobias-Nahi.

In the past, IR USA has collaborated with the Alliance to host speakers on school feedings, including Jordan’s Minister of Education Mohammed Jum’a Okour. Ambassador Tony Hall, managing director of the Alliance, was a keynote speaker at IR USA’s 2009 Ramadan iftar and at the Interfaith Anti-Hunger Leaders Conference IR USA hosted last April. Additionally, IR USA has published an annual Ramadan Advocacy Guide in collaboration with the Alliance for the past three years.

“The partnership helps us to better educate our own community on this all-important issue and how we can contribute to the solution,” said Tobias-Nahi. “The first United Nations Millennium Development Goal is ‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger,’ and we all — organizations and individuals alike — have a role to play.”
The Alliance will host its first-ever hunger summit to be held in Washington, D.C., in April 2011.

Ambassador Tony Hall, managing director of the Alliance to End Hunger and retired member of Congress (D-OH), related this message about the problem of global hunger:

“Day in and day out, sunrise to sunset, more than 1 billion people in our world face hunger. While it takes 19 cents to feed a hungry child, every five seconds a child dies of hunger. In the richest country in the world, nearly 50 million of our neighbors — 17 million children — struggle to put food on the table during the month. This is our reality, but if we act, it does not have to be.”

--Muneeza Tahir

Slideshow: Evening of Inspiration in Washington, D.C.

See exclusive concert footage of Maher Zain and Native Deen from their performance at last weekend's 2010 Evening of Inspiration concert in Washington, D.C. -- with all proceeds benefitting children in need projects at Islamic Relief USA. Thanks for coming out!

-- Photos by Muneeza A. Tahir

Friday, October 29, 2010

'Day of Dignity' Serves Impoverished in New York City's Brooklyn and Manhattan

New York, New York
Karim Amin

Every time I drive past Exit 9 on the New Jersey turnpike, I feel a shot of energy. The air, traffic and scenery transforms: The autumn-colored trees and rest stops that line the highway are replaced by sprawling buildings and billboards. My mindset changes to a New York state of mind. But underneath all the bright lights of Broadway and the massive bridges that connect this metropolis are the often unheard stories of people in need.

This is the sixth year that Islamic Relief USA hosted Day of Dignity in New York. The weekend of events kicked off in Brooklyn at Masjid Al-Taqwa, the home of Imam Siraj Wahaj. Dozens of volunteers from all over the city converged on this historic mosque to serve the community. The line wrapped around the building. Recipients received basic health check-ups, clothing and food.

Each beneficiary was greeted at the end of the line with a warm meal and drink. Toward the end of the event, Imam Siraj Wahaj stopped by his mosque and provided a boost of energy to the volunteers who had worked so hard to organize this event.

The next day started with the same energy as the first. Recipients lined up outside of the Saint Francis Xavier Church in midtown Manhattan. As some of the city’s homeless and working poor entered the building, they were welcomed with goods and meals.

“This is a great example of interfaith work,” said a St. Xavier staff member. “There are Muslims organizing an event at a Catholic church, with donations (book bags and school kits) from the Mormon church with Jewish volunteers.”

That is the beauty of Day of Dignity. It marries dignity with giving and brings together diverse groups for a common cause — to simply help those who need it, no matter where they are from or where they are going.

--Karim Amin is IR USA's Day of Dignity and domestic programs coordinator
photo: Bilal Aslam

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Extending the Spolight on Breast Cancer Past October

October is dedicated to breast cancer awareness. But as the month winds down, it's important for us to realize that this is a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of women and men around the world, so the spotlight on breast cancer shouldn't end when October turns into November.

We must continue to fight for research, better medicines and more funding to find a cure. Yesterday was Global Pink Day — one special day when we were all asked to wear pink to draw attention to breast cancer. Did you wear pink for breast cancer awareness and for those suffering from this disease?

Consider these facts from the American Cancer Society:

  • Every 69 seconds, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of breast cancer.
  • Almost 500,000 women and men will die of breast cancer in just this year alone.

  • Islamic Relief USA staff and volunteers in Dallas, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for a number of years because we feel this is a very important cause, and we must do what we can to help bring an end to breast cancer. For us, like for so many around the world, this is not just an issue. It's personal. Many of us at IR USA have had a friend or family member diagnosed with breast cancer or have lost a loved one to this disease.

    Please share your support for this cause and wear pink on the last days of this month. Put on a pink shirt or headscarf. Pin a pink ribbon to your clothes. Make your profile picture on Facebook a pink one. Tweet pink. Or take it one step further and sign up to walk with IR USA or with any local group next year. Every little bit helps, insha’Allah.

    -- Nazia A. Hossein, National Volunteer Coordinator for Islamic Relief USA

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Maher Zain, Native Deen kick off tour to benefit children in need

    Evening of Inspiration officially kicked off this past weekend with concerts in San Diego, Calif.; Campbell, Calif.; and Richardson, Texas.

    Acclaimed artists Maher Zain and Native Deen teamed up with Islamic Relief USA to tour the country, helping raise money for Islamic Relief’s projects that serve children in need. More than $200,000 was raised at the events.

    The benefit tour, officially called Evening of Inspiration, lived up to the event’s title with inspiring lyrics and humble stories from the performers.

    One of Native Deen’s band members, Naeem Muhammad, told the crowd in San Diego, which was estimated to be nearly 1,000 strong, that the hip-hop group had originally planned to perform in the United Kingdom but chose to tour with Islamic Relief USA because of the event’s cause.

    “We had a chance to perform internationally in front of thousands of people in London, but we chose to join Islamic Relief, go city to city, across the country, to be involved with their great work,” Muhammad said afterward.

    “Native Deen has toured throughout Africa and visited Islamic Relief’s work in Mali,” he added. “We are inspired by their commitment to helping children, and we hope to invest our music career into the lives of young people around the world. So it’s a perfect match.”

    Don’t miss your chance to enjoy the music of Native Deen and Maher Zain while helping children in need.

    Evening of Inspiration will be coming to Rahway, N.J., on Oct. 30 and Washington, D.C., on Oct. 31.

    To purchase tickets or to read more about Evening of Inspiration, please click here.

    To donate to Islamic Relief’s children’s projects, click here.

    -Zeyad Maasarani

    Are You Ready for an Evening of Inspiration?

    How was your weekend? If you live in California or Texas, did you check out Maher Zain, one of the newest, most popular artists on the nasheed music scene? Along with crowd favorite Native Deen, Maher Zain performed at Islamic Relief USA’s Evening of Inspiration concerts in San Jose, San Diego, and Dallas last weekend — with all concert proceeds going to IR projects supporting children in need.

    The Evening of Inspiration concerts are a signature event for Islamic Relief USA that strives to bring together uplifting entertainment with a chance to help children in need. By purchasing a ticket to these concerts (click here to see the full concert schedule), you’ll be supporting numerous projects at Islamic Relief, like orphan sponsorships, education programs and health care projects for children in need around the world.

    The concerts promise to be truly inspiring, joyous, and fun-filled evenings. This coming weekend the concerts are coming to the East Coast – to New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Don’t miss your chance to see Maher Zain and Native Deen.

    About the Artists

    Native Deen, a trio of talented musicians featuring Joshua Salaam, Abdul-Malik Ahmad and Naeem Muhammad, uses only percussion instruments to perform its music. The group has been performing its unique fusion of R&B and hip-hop music to promote positive Islamic messages for a decade. Native Deen’s last two albums sold thousands of copies, and its newest album, “The Remedy,” was just released in October.

    Singer and songwriter Maher Zain burst onto the music scene just last year with his hit album, “Thank You Allah.” His special blend of meaningful spiritual lyrics and beautiful music has touched millions around the world, and his music videos on YouTube have garnered more than 4 million views. His latest video for “The Chosen One” relates the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and has elevated Islamically inspired music to a whole new level.

    Together, these artists will insha'Allah make for a truly magical and inspiring evening of music. Don’t miss your last chance to see the concert event of the year and support children’s projects at the same time.

    Check out this personal invitation from Maher Zain!

    Click here for more information.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    World Food Day: Give Your Qurbani/Udihiyah and Help Feed the Hungry

    Today is World Food Day, a worldwide event designed to raise awareness, understanding, and action against hunger. This year’s World Food Day comes after massive flooding destroyed crops and clean water supply for millions in Pakistan. In numerous countries in Africa, severe droughts have led to food shortages and a major hunger crisis. And in developing nations all over the world, ailing economies are marginalizing the availability of food.

    Islamic Relief USA humanitarian workers travel to remote corners of the world, reaching out to those most affected by poverty and hunger. As IR USA VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan says, throwing packages off a truck to waiting hands by the side of the road makes for great media footage, but it doesn’t help the elderly ladies in the back of the crowd who aren’t strong enough to elbow their way to the front and collect their due aid. And it doesn’t help remote villagers, often the poorest of the poor, who cannot be reached by paved roads alone.

    In any given country on any given day, one person may die from an obesity-related illness while 100 miles away someone else dies of hunger. We, the nearly seven billion citizens of Earth, produce enough food to feed between 9 and 11 billion people, but one billion people around the world are still living with hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

    A Season of Sacrifice: Udhiyah/Qurbani

    This week at Islamic Relief USA, we launched our yearly Udhiyah/Qurbani program. The Islamic tradition of Udhiyah/Qurbani, in which Muslims honor the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), sets a stage for feeding the world’s poor. This Islamic mandate calls for Muslims to sacrifice an animal (goat, sheep, cow or camel – click here for more information) and share that meat with the less fortunate. This is an opportunity for Muslims to ensure at least some of world’s hungry are fed and provided for, especially during the Islamic holy days.

    In 2009 alone, more than a million people benefitted from IR USA’s Udhiyah/Qurbani meat distributions. Many of these people eat little or no meat during the year and look forward to these annual provisions. Many have not eaten a solid meal for weeks, while others have been suffering from starvation. The outpouring of food and nourishment eases their hunger pangs.

    This World Food Day and in the weeks to come, give generously through Islamic Relief USA’s Udhiyah/Qurbani program and help feed those who are unable to feed themselves.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Haiti, Nine Months Later

    It’s been nine months since I last stepped onto the island. I still remember the devastation caused by the earthquake, the camps of injured and newly orphaned children, the thousands of tired people standing in endless lines to receive a minimal quantity of aid, the brick and mortar homes reduced to piles of rubble, the lingering smell of corpses that received no burial and the ever-increasing demand for aid that simply could not be met.

    The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 killed 200,000 people, injured 300,000, displaced 2.3 million and caused $8 billion in damage. I witnessed the ensuing emergency chaos that shattered the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Walking through the camps, I heard victims’ stories of trials and tribulations; and when I landed in a makeshift hospital myself from dehydration, I heard screams echoing around me. It was a trip I’ll never forget.

    Since I left Haiti, Islamic Relief USA has continued to provide support for over 8,000 Haitians through relief and recovery programs focusing on shelter, camp management support and water and sanitation IR USA is also working to ensure that people have access to food and basic needs through cash-for-work programs.

    More than 450 people were hired by Islamic Relief to clear 20,000 tons of rubble from destroyed and damaged buildings, allowing more than 100 families to return to their homes. Damaged schools are being provided materials and labor for repair so an estimated 2,500 students can return to school. And over 600 youth are being trained in computer and trade skills through Islamic Relief USA’s vocational training center.

    While the initial emergency chaos has waned, Haiti is not recovering from the quake rapidly or smoothly enough. Poor infrastructure, an excessively dense population, a lack of adequate building standards, an unbalanced division of economic activity, and other factors have hindered Haiti’s recovery.

    Haiti still needs our help. Now more than ever. Please donate to Islamic Relief USA so we can continue our work there.

    --Karim Amin, Domestic Programs Coordinator for Islamic Relief USA

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Fighting Hunger, Disease with Aid, Faith and Love: Anwar Khan

    Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below.

    In the final days of my visit through flood-devastated areas, the Islamic Relief team and I headed to Thatta, a town in the province of Sindh, with Pakistani cricketers Moin Khan and Salah Uddin in a three-car convey to join other Islamic Relief staff in the area.

    As we passed the intersection closest to the town of Thatta, we saw some camps and then no organized camps for miles. As we drove into Thatta, we still could see stagnant water. The water is receding, but still stagnant.

    When we were a few kilometers from Jhatti Village, the road stopped and we were delayed by two hours to cross only fifty yards. The water was now a foot high and had gone down from Tuesday, but actually caused more delays. Many of the vehicles were being pulled out by tractors.

    One of our trucks was still stuck and was being unloaded by hand. Our workers were walking through water to load the supplies into smaller trucks.

    We arrived at Jhatti to see people waiting for us in a clinic. The clinic opening had been delayed by the floods.

    We did a quick distribution and then took a break as the crowd was getting larger. Some members of the crowd were getting anxious that they may not get aid. People have given them broken promises for their whole lives. We are asking them to be patient and promised that we would stay for 3 months.

    We proceeded to a quieter part of the village and spoke to more residents. Again we heard stories of aid not getting through, disease spreading and concern for the future. Locals are still drinking contaminated water.

    As we left we saw our water treatment equipment stuck at the flooded road. The driver was refusing to cross and our staff tried to persuade him to cross, like all the other vehicles. Lives can be saved by that equipment arriving in the village.

    We left hoping that we would have done more. We were able to reach areas that no one else has reached. Soon tents and more aid will arrive, however the situation is worsening. The road should open in a few days then more aid will go through.

    Our main projects in Sindh have begun and we are not well known there as in other parts of the country. In time, as people see our work, they will trust us more. We are planning to work in an integrated approach by working in several sectors in the same village.

    Fighting Hunger, Disease with Aid, Faith and Love

    I reviewed the Jhatti trip with our Karachi staff and prepared to leave Pakistan. As I was traveling to UK for meetings I was trying to reflect on the trip. However fatigue had set in and I was trying to just make it to my destination.

    This is my second trip to Pakistan in a month. We followed the path of the floods from north to south. Reconstruction of homes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started. In Punjab we are winding down emergency distribution and preparing for rehabilitation. In Sindh we are starting emergency distribution in some of the most needy areas.

    I am happy to see progress, but much more needs to be done. We are in a fight against hunger, disease, ignorance and must use our love and our faith to combat these problems with food, medical care and education.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Winning Entry of 'Name that Bee' Contest: Beelal

    “Is this real? Is this really real?” Yomna Abouelleil, winner of Islamic Relief USA’s ‘Name that Bee and Win a Wii’ contest said when she discovered she indeed submitted the winning entry.

    Hundreds of youth across the United States submitted their entries for the contest and a panel of judges voted on the best entry. The winning entry, Beelal, will be the official name of the new Islamic Relief USA children’s mascot. Seven children submitted the winning entry and a drawing was held to determine the winner of the Wii: 15-year-old Abouelleil from Oswego, IL.

    Abouelleil said her cousins helped her select the name Beelal. She also had a message for children in the United States to become more active in helping others: “It’s always good to help out. Even the smallest amount of help can make a very big difference and affect someone’s life in a good way,” she said.

    The following six runner-ups each received a Visa gift card: Sajid Ahmed, 12, of Bridgeview, IL; Youmna Elboghdady, 14, of Orland Park, IL; Ahmed Gaballa, 17, of Franklin Lakes, NJ; Basma Muhammad, 8, of Sterling, VA; Adam Musleh, 7, of Schererville, IN; and Laila Sabagh, 16, of Xenia, OH.

    Other top entries included Bee-smillah, Humble Bee, Habeebee and Bee-liever.

    Islamic Relief USA’s Public Affairs Coordinator, Christina Tobias-Nahi, said the organization chose a bee to be the company’s mascot because of how bees work together in building communities, helping the sick and making the world a more beautiful place.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    From Orphans in the Slums of Rawalpindi to the Once-Lush Fields of Southern Punjab, Anwar Khan's Journey Continues

    Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

    Whenever I conduct field visits, even on emergency trips, I try to make time to visit the orphans we sponsor. Last Wednesday, the Islamic Relief team and I went to the slums of Rawalpindi where the stench of open sewage was prevalent in the air and entire families were living in one or two-bedroom homes.

    The first orphan we visited, Kiran, lives in a two-bedroom home with her mother and sister that was damaged by flooding four years ago. The roof is in poor condition, with water leaking into the kitchen whenever it rains. The kitchen is now out of use. Kiran's mother is too ill to work and sponsorship helps Kiran's family pay for food and school uniforms, along with paying down the debt on the cost of repairs to the house from previous flood damage.

    The second orphan we visited, Pari, is originally from Afghanistan and lives in Rawalpindi with her mother and brother. As in Kiran's case, Pari's mother is also too sick to work. Her brother works, but his income does not even cover the cost of food.
    I visit these orphans so as not to forget their plight amidst the destruction and devastation in Pakistan. It helps to fuel our fire to help them as much as we are trying to help the flood victims.

    Helping Many Areas at Once

    The following day, I had meetings with Islamic Relief Pakistan and our international staff to see how we can improve our services to those we help. IR Pakistan is planning an integrated approach where they will be assisting in several sectors simultaneously. We are trying this approach in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. These are our newer offices, and we already have other work in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Baluchistan.

    Traveling to Lahore on Friday, I saw the lush agricultural fields of northern and central Punjab contrast with the devastated fields of southern Punjab. The floods have mostly affected those in smaller towns and agricultural areas. None of Pakistan's major cities were affected; otherwise the number of flood victims would have been much greater.

    On Saturday we went to Karachi just as our shipment of tents arrived from Dubai and began the process of being cleared by customs for distribution in Sindh. The shipment is anticipated to be cleared by customs on Monday and sent by road to our warehouse in Thatta. We have been told that the food purchased in Karachi was not distributed today but will be tomorrow. I wanted the distribution to begin before we arrived with the cricket player Moin Khan. I did not want us to do the first distribution, but it appears that will be the case tomorrow.

    Traveling daily through flooded areas throughout the country has tired me some, but this is just a part of the work I love. I am blessed to eventually return to a home with running water and a refrigerator stocked with food. Millions of people in Pakistan do not have these luxuries.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Flood Victims Return Home to Debris, No Food, No Water

    Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

    During our days here, the Islamic Relief USA team and I have been following the trail of flood devastation through Pakistan from north to south. Thatta District in southern Sindh was devastated by the floods. The district of 300,000 was evacuated days before the floods was about to hit the area, only to have another 200,000 people pour in from remote villages after flooding began.

    The evacuees from the district were sent to camps and higher grounds. Some of the camps were located inside schools, and after Eid-al-Fitr, those taking shelter in the schools were told to leave as the new school year was about to begin.

    On Tuesday, we left Karachi early in the morning and, nearly two hours later, approached the main road outside Thatta. We saw many small camps all next to each other on the main road, with administering organizations’ banners and flags waving about, but as we continued further on down the road, the camps ceased.

    For miles we saw flooded fields, washed out roads, and destroyed bridges. There were not many buildings; those we did see were destroyed. There were a few makeshift tents near the destroyed buildings. As people were returning home from the camps, many found they had no home to return to. All that was left was debris and destruction. Slowly they will have to rebuild their homes and lives.

    From Bad to Worse

    During the drive from Thatta to Jhatti village, which was one of the most devastated villages in the district, we saw roads being rebuilt by hand as we were traveling on them. We were forced to drive in flooded areas while construction as ensuing and at one point one of our accompanying trucks got stuck in a ditch, requiring six people to free it. From that point onwards, someone had to walk in front of the cars in waist-high contaminated water to guide us. We were very grateful to the passerby who assisted us.

    There was a large semi-truck packed with aid that refused to go in the water. It was on a one-way road, and for hours it had blocked all traffic on the road. Finally the other cars had to drive off the road to pass it by. At least one of the cars had to be abandoned.

    We finally arrived at our destination to see a large crowd waiting to get registered to receive aid. Many of the people were told to go home after Eid-al-Fitr. Since their return 10 days ago, they have not received clean water, food, or medicine. In the afternoon heat you could sense the desperation. Children are thirsty and are drinking contaminated water. They are getting sick and have no money for medicine. If they do not receive aid, it is only a matter of time before they start dying.

    A teenage boy died the day before while crossing the flooded water to visit his home. This is the third village on this trip that I have visited where a child has died a few days before my arrival. It has been two months since the emergency was declared in Pakistan, yet children are still dying nearly every day.

    One of the villagers showed me his hands, which were ravaged with scabies. An elderly woman was barely able to talk about her struggle just to survive.
    We were asked to visit homes that were cut off. We had to go knee high in water to get to the first home. These homes are still submerged in water and will collapse.

    Islamic Relief has done a needs-assessment and will be helping this area. Tents have arrived from the Islamic Relief warehouse in Dubai, and we are waiting for them to clear customs. Food and non-food supplies will be purchased in Karachi. The aid will be sent in large trucks to an IR warehouse in Thatta and then will be transported in small trucks to villages. Once the trucks arrive distribution will be done to those who have registered. As we are winding down the emergency distribution in the north and starting the rehabilitation phase, we are preparing for emergency distribution in the south. No aid has reached the area we have visited. I plan to return in a few days to assist and monitor the distribution.

    That night we just about made our flight to Islamabad. Tomorrow we will visit orphans we have been supporting for years.

    Please don’t forget the people of Pakistan in their time of need. They need our help now more than ever. Donate today. Act now to save lives.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Anwar Khan: Pakistan Emergency is "the Tip of the Iceberg"

    Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

    Sunday morning started at 4 a.m. for me with a flight to Multan via Lahore. The flight was delayed, and I recalled last month when our flight also was cancelled -- we ended up driving 10 hours to reach Muzaffargarh.

    We arrived at the newly-established Multan office at 1:30 pm. The office, which is currently based out of a hotel room, was opened by Islamic Relief after the floods. It has 28 staff members working there.

    More than 43 percent of Pakistan's wheat production comes from Multan. Wheat, and other crops like cotton, has been drastically affected by the floods. For many people affected by the floods, the emergency is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is a history of chronic poverty, inaccess to education, social injustice, and other issues.

    In Muzaffargarh the water has receded, but a combination of salt and sand residue have rendered the land incapacitated for irrigation.

    Food, kitchen sets and household sets have been distributed by Islamic Relief in Muzaffargarh. Medical camps have been set up and preparations for permanent shelter are being made.

    In Shagar, the road that was washed away has been rebuilt with difficulty. Water is receding and Islamic Relief is providing tankers of water so they don't have to drink dirty water. It is always wonderful to hear and see these improvements being made to help those who are in need. There are success stories and stories of human courage and endurance in this tragedy. It does not mean we should become lax in our response, but it is always good to know that we are making a difference.

    The government told local camp residents that they had until September 15 to go home. After that time they would be given no more aid in the camps. Many of the camps have closed as people have left. For most who returned, their homes are destroyed, and they want to begin reconstruction. However, they do not have the necessary materials or the money to purchase them.

    Many men say they have to stay in the camp, because they are unable to work at the moment. The local residents told us they received 20,000 rupees (approximately $250) from the government, but that is not enough to rebuild their homes.

    A “model” camp is about to be built across one of our camps. They initially told people it would be free but are now asking for 20,000 rupees to reserve a place in the camp.

    In Shagar last month I met some local men who were filling contaminated water in containers for their families. This month in the same location I saw local men fishing with hooks and string. The situation continues to worsen, but in different ways -- ways that no longer make the headlines, but cause suffering nonetheless.

    That night we flew to Karachi in preparation for our visit to Sindh in the morning.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Hunger, Disease and Death Continue to Plague Flood Victims

    Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

    Being a humanitarian aid worker often involves work outside of the field: Strategic planning goes into delivering aid. I spent a portion of last Friday attending strategic planning meetings about Islamic Relief's flood response. Because we're nearing the end of the initial emergency phase, a greater emphasis will now be placed on long-term aid relief and rebuilding.

    As we begin preparation for the winter and simultaneous rehabilitation in flood-affected areas, Islamic Relief Pakistan's capacity is being tested with work extending through all of Pakistan's major provinces.

    Most non-governmental organizations are facing a shortage of experienced staff; many NGOs can only cope with one large-scale emergency a year, and such an emergency has already affected the world: The Haiti earthquake. The flooding in Pakistan has already affected more people than the Haiti earthquake, the 2004 tsunami and 2005 Pakistan earthquake combined.

    I attended a press conference later that day to announce Islamic Relief's $20 million shipment of medical supplies that will benefit 300,000 people. Unfortunately, due to public demonstrations over a court ruling, media attendance was low, and this news wasn’t widely heard.

    The Distribution of Aid
    Due to security concerns, whether or not to travel to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) became an issue on Friday evening. But later, it was confirmed that we could go.

    We set off Saturday morning for the Nowshera district in KPK. Nowshera was the first heavily-populated area that was devastated by the floods. Islamic Relief is working in the more rural areas of the district, providing aid to people who are more difficult to reach.
    Aid is often given out where it is easier -- in the city or near a main road. But that causes a non-uniform distribution, where those in certain areas receive the bulk of the aid and the rest receive very little.

    We visited an Islamic Relief medical clinic in Zando Banda that is providing medical care for thousands of locals. They are trying to detect diseases in the early stages, when treatment is easier and cheaper. Dr. Atif, a health professional in the clinic, explained that skin infections, eye infections, acute diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, malaria, and acute respiratory infections are spreading rapidly.

    The clinic offers a female health professional who provides prenatal and post-natal care along with care for gynecological issues. Without a female health professional, many women in the area would seek medical treatment from female staff in other towns or would not have their medical needs met. A shortage of female medical staff in KPK has led to a lack of medical care for many women; that has been worsened by the current crisis.

    “No One Ever Comes Back”
    Later that day, I returned to Zarmina for the first time since my visit last month. The locals recognized me and were surprised to see me return. They said no one ever comes back.

    The floods had decimated the village. More than 80 percent of the buildings were damaged or destroyed; many buildings had washed away. The roof of the girls' school had collapsed and the walls had caved. The boys' school has cracks in the wall and is in danger of collapsing. University students are staying home because they cannot afford this year's tuition.

    Life savings were kept at home and they, literally, washed away.

    Six-year-old Mairoon died of diarrhea and heat exhaustion four days before I arrived. Everyone knows that 1,600 people died as result of the floods, but how many have died from hunger and disease? No one knows that tragic figure. Mairoon was one more child to add to that number. Her death is the second of malnutrition and diarrhea that I have come across in the villages I visited in the last month.

    And these are preventable diseases.

    Local resident Shahzad Ahmed said that people have just become shells of their former selves and have died from within. They feel they are under a tremendous weight just trying to survive.

    Later, in Ajab Bagh we saw land where homes were being prepared for reconstruction. Debris was being removed and new foundations being dug. Construction was scheduled to start the next day on the first ten houses. Islamic Relief is providing cement and other building materials, but the local residents will rebuild their own homes.

    We traveled back to Islamabad to rest for tomorrow's journey to Muzaffargarh.

    Please don’t forget the people of Pakistan. Donate generously.

    Diary of an Aid Worker: Anwar Khan Returns to Flood-Devastated Pakistan

    Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

    On the morning of my departure I was rushing to get ready and pick up my medicine and other items before the flight. Since I returned from my trip to Pakistan last month, I have been very busy between work and family commitments. Alhamdulillah, I arrived in time for the flight.

    I received an email on the way to the airport which reported an attack on an aid convoy in Pakistan. Two of the convoy’s staff members were knocked unconscious and had to be taken to a hospital. People are starving and desperate and some are willing to do anything to get food, even if it means hurting others. This happens around the world during crises and the email was a reminder that as relief workers travel to aid others, they themselves may be victims of harm.

    We train, plan, prepare and pray that the distributions go smoothly. This attack reinforced concerns of security, the great necessity of aid, and the importance of careful aid distribution. It is not as easy as throwing food from trucks. That provides dramatic shots for the media, but does not help the elderly women at the back of the mob who don't get aid, because younger, stronger men pushed their way to the front.

    I spent the following day in travel on my way to Pakistan. I had a couple of hours to spare in Abu Dhabi airport to peruse the stores in between flights. They had items from around the world, but were charging premium prices. A small water bottle cost $4. I compared the luxuries available at the airport with the scenes I anticipate seeing in the next week.

    We plan to travel through Pakistan from north to south; from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to southern Punjab and on to Sindh. The water has receded in the north and people are trying to return home; many are finding that their homes don't exist any more. In the south, the water is still high in some areas. We are still in the early emergency phase in the south.

    It has been two months since the start of the flooding and there are still millions who have not received the aid they need. There are still many people who do not realize there are even floods in Pakistan.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Hunger, Disease and Homelessness Afflict Pakistan's Flood Victims

    Islamic Relief USA’s CEO Abed Ayoub is in Pakistan assessing the current humanitarian situation, meeting with other relief organizations and visiting Islamic Relief’s aid distribution sites.

    I’ve never seen this amount of destruction before in my life. Today, my IR USA colleague Adnan Ansari and I visited Sindh and traveled to Jati, a village in Thatta District located near the Arabian Sea. At least 10,000 families occupy Jati, but Islamic Relief is the first and only non-governmental organization to enter and aid an area that was devastated by heavy flooding nearly two months ago.

    The roads here are badly damaged and some are still underwater. They will take years and millions of dollars to rebuild.

    As we drive along, I can see people sleeping in tents next to the roads.

    Much of the flood-affected areas are agricultural which drastically reduces the amount of food available and will also marginalize the availability of food for a long time to come. Sheer desperation from a lack of food has led many people to fish through standing contaminated water in order to obtain a few morsels to eat.

    Islamic Relief USA delivered a $20 million aid shipment of medical supplies that has arrived at Islamic Relief Pakistan’s warehouse. The aid shipment, which will be distributed to needy people by Islamic Relief staff members, includes medications that will help treat waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, skin infections and malaria, and also includes anesthetics and antibacterial drugs such as penicillin.

    I spoke with a few doctors yesterday who said they are seeing many cases of skin and diarrheal diseases. The severity of medical cases will only increase, especially in Sindh where it will take another two months for the water to rescind. And with mosquito-breeding season rapidly approaching, the threat of increased malaria cases is causing a great amount of anxiety. The situation is dire.

    The people of Pakistan are still depending on your support for survival, now more than ever.

    Please donate now.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Why do you give Udhiyah / Qurbani?

    At Islamic Relief USA, we are curious: Why do you give Udhiyah / Qurbani? To help feed the hungry? To please Allah? To share the joy of Eid? We want to know!
    Share your answers, complete with your age and city that you live in, no later than Friday September 17, and you have a chance to win Maher Zain’s hit CD, Thank You Allah.
    Creativity is welcome!
    Please submit a high-resolution image of yourself [headshots only please] with your answers, if possible. Make sure the image is captured with a plain or monotone background.
    Please e-mail your submission to by September 17 in order to be eligible for a Maher Zain CD. Your answers may be shared online and in printed material for our upcoming Udhiyah / Qurbani campaign.
    Udhiyah / Qurbani is the the Islamic tradition of honoring the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and distributing fresh meat to the less fortunate on Eid al-Adha. Every year, Islamic Relief helps distribute thousands of pounds of meat on the behalf of donors worldwide.
    Thank you for your support! We pray Allah continues to bless you and your family.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Eid Mubarak!

    From the entire Islamic Relief USA family, we would like to wish you and your families Eid Mubarak. We pray that all of your fasts and supplications are accepted and that Allah (swt) blesses you in abundance for your generosity and support.

    Please click here to read a special message from our CEO, Abed Ayoub.

    Children's Ramadan Giving Stories

    This Ramadan, many children in the U.S. were touched by scenes of devastating flooding in Pakistan and decided to donate their own life-savings or raise money for a cause they felt passionately about. Read The Irfan Brothers and A Letter from Zain's Mother below.

    The Irfan Brothers

    Murad Irfan, 9, and his brothers Luqman, 6, and Sinan, 4, stopped by our Va. office last Thursday to donate $200 for Pakistan’s flood victims. Read their giving story as told by their mother, Inayet Sahin.

    My sons had been collecting sadaqa all Ramadan and were looking for someplace to donate it to. They only had a couple of dollars because they had been collecting change from around the house. They wanted to collect more and were discussing how they could do it.

    They decided to make some drawings and sell them, as well as some of their handmade pottery and books. They were up to $10 by the time they sold everything in their ‘store,’ but they still wanted to raise more and were discussing other methods of fundraising.

    The night of the Pakistan Floods Emergency Fundraising Dinner in Alexandria, Va., we had a mawlid at our house, read Surah Yasin and a made a special dua for the people of Pakistan. Since we were not attending the fundraising dinner, my sons suggested that everyone bring their donations to our house. We sent out a message to everyone coming over and that is how they collected the rest.

    A Letter from Zain’s Mother

    Dear Islamic Relief Worldwide:

    My son, Zaid, had his 6th birthday in the beginning of this month and he invited some of his friends. Instead of presents he requested his friends to make a donation towards the victims of flood in Pakistan. I hope you can forward this money to the people in need in Pakistan as quickly as possible. JazakAllah Khair for all your efforts.


    Mona Shah

    11-Year-Old Raised $2,400 for Pakistan's Flood Victims

    This Ramadan, many children in the U.S. were touched by scenes of devastating flooding in Pakistan and decided to donate their own life-savings or raise money for a cause they felt passionately about. Read Nilo Ahmadzada's letter written about her son, Arif, who raised $2,400 for flood victims.

    The devastation of the floods in Pakistan has affected millions of people. Along with all of you and your families, my family has been watching and hearing of the damage and loss that has come upon the people of Pakistan, yet my 11-year-old son, Arif, seems to be affected more by the devastation than his siblings.

    One day last week, Arif sat next to me and said,

    "Mom, I really want to do something to help the flood victims in Pakistan.“

    Upon hearing his words of concern, we sat down and started to brainstorm on how he could help. We came up with the idea of setting up a table at our local Masjid, the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI), Eid Bazaar. We were able to get Designs of Dubai, a local vendor, to donate scarves and shawls to the cause. For every $10 donation, a scarf would be given as a gift.

    The anticipation and excitement in my son’s face was priceless, as we began to make preparations for his table. Along with his brothers, Arif made a sign and began organizing the donated scarves.

    On Sunday August 28th 2010, with great enthusiasm, Arif set up his table at ICLI’s Eid Bazaar with no help from me. The temperature was 95 degrees but felt more like 102 degrees. Picture an 11 year-old boy, sitting behind a table of hijabs, waiting for buyers to approach, just so he can make a plea for flood victims in Pakistan. As I watched Arif from afar, I couldn't help but be proud of him.

    Arif raised $362 that day for the flood victims, but his goal was to raise $1,000 and he was sad for not meeting his goal. When his Aunt Ruia asked him about the experience, Arif seemed a bit disheartened.

    Arif and Ruia, brainstormed on how they could raise the rest of the funds in order for Arif to meet his goal. They decided Arif would make a donation box and take it with him to a family iftar the next evening and make his plea for the flood victims.

    At the iftar, he was able to raise another $838. Every member of the family was touched by Arif’s concern; So much so that even the other young kids donated whatever money they had in their pockets.

    Monday morning, I called Brother Waleed Gabr at Islamic Relief USA’s New Jersey office. I was informed by him that Islamic Relief USA donors would match Arif’s $1200 through the Matching Funds Program. He also informed me of a $50,000 donor-matching fundraising challenge.

    Thus far, by the grace of Allah, they have surpassed it and have since raised the goal. Islamic Relief USA donors will match Arif’s $1,200 for the flood victims, making Arifs contribution $2,400. I pray that Allah (swt) accepts my little boy’s efforts and the efforts of all those people who donated to this cause. Ameen.

    My son inspired me to do something and I pray that his story inspires you and your kids too, insha’Allah. Please remember your brothers and sisters in Pakistan in this blessed month of Ramadan.

    To contribute to the matching funds program, contact

    To donate online, click here.

    -- Nilo Ahmadzada

    A Giving Story: Noor and Usman Saleh

    This Ramadan, many children in the U.S. were touched by scenes of devastating flooding in Pakistan and decided to donate their own life-savings or raise money for a cause they felt passionately about. Read Noor and Usman's giving story as told by their mother, Yasmine Saleh.

    Two children who sold chocolate bars to raise money for the 2005 Pakistan earthquake started focusing their efforts on another emergency this Ramadan. Noor Saleh, 9, and Usman Saleh, 6, were devastated to hear about Pakistan’s recent floods that have affected over 20 million people. They wanted to do something to help.

    Their parents, Muhammad and Yasmine Saleh, had blank Eid cards at home, so they decided to decorate and sell them for $5 each to raise money for flood victims. Last Friday, they took the cards to Woodlands Islamic Center in Texas where, in addition to purchasing the cards from the children, the center’s patrons started handing the children additional donations for the cause.

    Noor and Usman have raised $660 so far and continue to make and sell Eid cards in hopes of helping more flood victims.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Day of Dignity in Baltimore: 'Today, You Made Me Feel Like a Somebody'

    A sign on the side of the road spoke the truth of the day: “You respect me, I’ll respect you.” It was painted in white on a piece of scrap lumber, leaning up against a fence. Across the street were boarded-up row houses, a few occupied by people. Though the day was bright and a breeze was blowing, the mood in that battered part of Baltimore was subdued.

    But as I neared Masjid ul-Haqq, where Islamic Relief USA’s Day of Dignity event was held on Saturday over the Labor Day weekend, the atmosphere changed to one of love, respect and friendship. A long table in front of the mosque held trays of food – spaghetti, garlic bread, fried chicken, and other things. People lined up for meals dished out by Day of Dignity volunteers and then received bags full of items to help them survive the winter.

    "It’s very good, very useful stuff," said Robert Wilson, one of the beneficiaries of event. “Islamic Relief, they treat me with respect.”

    Nearly 400 people came out for the event, receiving food, socks, soap, underwear, clothing, notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies. Many, clutching their bags, headed over to the picnic tables nearby to eat the food they had received.

    -- Dilshad D. Ali

    To read more of the post, click here to go to the Day of Dignity blog.

    Day of Dignity 2010: Scenes from Baltimore

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    So-Cal Event Raises more than $300,000 for Pakistan Flood Victims

    With assistance from the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and dozens of dedicated volunteers, Islamic Relief USA hosted an emergency iftar in Anaheim on September 4.

    Nearly 500 people gathered to help raise more than $300,000 in support of Pakistan's flood victims.

    Islamic Relief USA's VP of Fund Development, Anwar Khan, had just returned from Pakistan and shared his experiences with the attendees.

    Imam Zaid Shakir, Sheikh Yasir Fazaga, Sheikh Muzammil Siddiqui and other notable community leaders also addressed the crowd.

    Sheikh Muhammad Faqih, who was among the speakers, helped raise $105,000 through text messages during the event.

    Click here to read about Islamic Relief's efforts to aid Pakistan's flood victims.

    You can help too. Donate today.

    --Zeyad Maasarani

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Day of Dignity in Dallas: Helping People Survive Another Day

    The sun was blazing. But that didn't stop the hundreds of underserved and vulnerable locals from lining up hours before the gates opened at Dallas' Masjid al-Islam. Many of them were sweating, hungry and thirsty.

    You could see the desperation in their eyes. Still, they waited patiently as scores of volunteers rushed around, readying hot plates, carefully arranging distribution stations, and laying out heaps of clothing in hopes of helping the less fortunate in their neighborhood.

    With Ramadan in full swing, many of the volunteers were observing the daylong Ramadan fast and the scorching heat was audibly parching their throats. Their voices cracked when they spoke and many of them had dried saliva on their lips.

    "I can't think of anything better to be doing on a fasting day," Nahida Ahmed told me. Ahmed, 28, was helping pass out food trays despite being hungry herself.

    It was Islamic Relief USA's Day of Dignity – an event characterized by love, compassion and sacrifice. And volunteers flooded into the mosque at 8 a.m. to be apart of the event as if they were the ones benefiting.

    For people in need, the warm meals, fresh fruit, socks, shirts, caps, hygiene kits, and all the other items available for distribution at the Day of Dignity are a beacon of hope. One less worry for mind plagued with the most difficult of stress: "Will I survive another day?"

    "Every day is a challenge," 45-year-old Glenn Black told me as he munched on some rice and beef provided at the event. He balanced an Islamic Relief tote bag full of clothes between his knees. "I need these clothes because it's getting close to wintertime," he said. His skin was thick and calloused, probably from sleeping in the street.

    Another beneficiary told me just how much events like the Day of Dignity impact his community. "It helps out the neighborhood a lot," Alfred Burney told me. “Especially the kids.”

    The 54-year-old was impressed that Muslims were spearheading the cause. “I’m surprised that it’s Islamic Relief,” he said.

    Dennye Mills, a 55-year-old toothless and homeless widow, was there for the fresh fruit because it was easier to eat than the food she was used to receiving at food banks. "God bless Islamic Relief," she said between bites.

    "The need here is huge," said Islamic Relief USA’s Domestic Programs Coordinator, Karim Amin. Amin is a strong supporter of helping fellow Americans in need. "Islamic Relief USA organizes the Day of Dignity because you must help your neighbors first before you help people afar," he added.

    After the event was over and the bustle died down, I made my way across the street and noticed that one of the beneficiaries had picked an abandoned building's front step to lay his head. With his arms sprawled beside him and his newly acquired shoes cordoning off his territory, I realized what was going on.

    He probably couldn't sleep all night from hunger. Now with a nutritious meal in his stomach, the man could finally rest. It broke my heart to see his condition, but I was happy we could serve people like him. Without a Day of Dignity, he might have starved another day.

    To learn more or to donate to Day of Dignity, click here.

    -- Zeyad Maasarani

    ABC News Report from Day of Dignity, Flint

    Ramadan 2010: Giving to Those in Need is an Act of the Pious

    Gifts, good food, friends and family are things we think about when Ramadan approaches. It is in this month that we find our tables full of food. Friends and family we hardly see throughout the year gather in one place and in the name of faith and brotherhood share a meal. It is in these times that we realize Ramadan is a gift from God, and the last ten days of this holy month is indeed a most blessed time – a time where we should focus even more on worship and giving.

    A gift is a thing you give to others without expecting something in return. It is a selfless act, one that strengthens the bonds that bring people together. This is why the prophet said, "Give gifts to one another, and you will love one another. (Bukhari Manners #594)"

    In this respect Ramadan is a celebration of humanity that reminds us we are not consumers. Instead, it tells us we are people with a spiritual compass that drives us to be more than who we are. A gift is a symbol and the impact that it leaves on others depends on how appropriate it is. Giving is itself a gift, and giving it to those most in need is the most appropriate gift of all -- an act of the pious:

    God describes the most pious by saying in Sura al Baqara, "They spend out of love for Him on those close to them, the orphan and the needy. They spend on the wayfarer, and the beggar, and they free those in captivity from bondage. They are in constant prayer and they give as a responsibility charity. (2:177)"

    It is important to give. It shows you care. It recognizes and acknowledges the value of others. More importantly, giving teaches us to think of others before ourselves. It is an act that reinforces feelings of love and compassion, even develops them towards those we may not know.

    We are told to give and spend in the way of our lord so we may come to know God -- what greater gift is there than to know our creator? We have been given the opportunity to give and spend in the way of our Lord. The bounties of this giving benefit us in this world, but the best gift can we hope to receive is He who brings us near when we give.

    -- Hasan Seirafi