Latest Updates

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