For your convenience, Islamic Relief USA has answered your general frequently asked questions below. Please note: Islamic Relief USA consults with a council of imams who follow the Fiqh Council of North America for information about religious donations. It is advised that you consult with your local imam or scholar for more detailed inquiries.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are donations to Islamic Relief USA’s spent?
At Islamic Relief USA, we work hard to ensure that every penny is spent in the most effective way possible because we are accountable to our donors, to people in need all around the world, and most importantly, we are accountable to Allah (swt). You can check out our most recent financial reports, but in 2013, only 15.3% of total revenue was spent on administrative costs and fundraising.
What’s more: Working with other organizations, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Church of Latter-day Saints, allows us to multiply your donations. A recent example of this was when a shipment of medical aid and children’s supplies was sent to Palestine. By working together with a like-minded organization, we were able to distribute more than half a million dollars of humanitarian aid for just a fraction of the cost—in that case, turning each $1 you donated into $14 worth of aid.
In addition to that, we receive matching gifts from some of the biggest companies in the United States. And often, our overseas affiliates are able to receive institutional funding that grows your gift further. This increases the power of your donation. Furthermore, a significant amount of our work is done by generous and hard-working volunteers who donate their time to stretch your dollars even farther.
What is the difference between Islamic Relief Worldwide and Islamic Relief USA?
Which countries does Islamic Relief work in?
Islamic Relief USA currently provides aid in 34 countries, including the United States: See our Where We Work section for more details.
To implement work around the world, the Islamic Relief global family has field offices (sometimes, multiple offices in the same country) based on need and location. In addition to the field offices, independent Islamic Relief affiliates operate in 16 countries along with the United States. These offices plan widespread relief efforts, provide funding and implement domestic projects. Learn more on our Affiliates and Alliances page.
Do you accept in-kind donations?
Due to logistics and costs, Islamic Relief USA can only consider accepting in-kind donations from institutional donors and manufacturers who deal primarily with in-kind goods as well as other NGOs.The cost to pack, ship, and distribute items from individual donors is typically greater than if they were purchased local to the area of crisis or from a neighboring country. The most effective way to help Islamic Relief aid those in need is through a financial contribution. We encourage our donors to support their local community by giving in-kind goods to masjids or organizations in their area who are best able to distribute the items to those in need. To learn about IRUSA’s Gifts in Kind program, call 1-855-447-1001.
What is the benefit of sending my donation through Islamic Relief USA rather than sending it directly to the country I’m interested in?
As a U.S.-based organization with hard-earned credentials to uphold, Islamic Relief USA regularly monitors U.S. laws to ensure that we and our donors remain in compliance with complex and changing regulations. We also take all precautions to ensure that funds are not diverted from their charitable purposes. Also, large organizations such as ours can leverage better prices on large purchases, meaning your donation works in a more cost-effective manner. And donating to a recognized charity may qualify you for a tax deduction—seek clarification from your personal tax adviser.
How is your relationship with the U.S. government?
Islamic Relief USA receives no government funding, but we have an excellent working relationship with the federal government. We work with U.S. agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture on projects (see a related blog from the USDA website, “Food and Faith: Setting a Safe and Healthy Table”). Islamic Relief USA’s leadership and staff serves on boards, and regularly attend U.S. government meetings related to the work we do. And each year, U.S. Office of Personnel Management lists us in its Combined Federal Campaign catalogue (CFC #10194) as an approved charity to which employees are encouraged to donate.
How does Islamic Relief USA derive its information about religious donations?
Islamic Relief USA consults with a council of imams who follow the Fiqh Council of North America for information about religious donations. The information we present is meant to provide a general understanding of the topics at hand. We highly recommend that you consult with your local imam or scholar for more detailed inquiries.
Why did the Charity Navigator rating for Islamic Relief USA drop from the four stars it held since 2004 to three stars in 2012?
Quite simply, it’s because we dropped in the “growth” calculation that Charity Navigator uses for rating charities. Here are the details: In 2011, IRUSA restructured its Gifts-in-Kind program, and voluntarily adopted a new accounting method for assigning value to Gifts-in-Kind. The new method resulted in a drop in the value of our GIK and in our total revenues. The loss of the four-star rating happened only because we adopted a more conservative number when calculating the vale of Gifts-in-Kind. The new valuation process is part of an industry-wide shift in response to new accounting rules, and IRUSA is taking leadership in this arena as many nonprofit organizations wrestle with how to most accurately value Gifts-in-Kind. Even though we lowered the value we assign to Gifts-in-Kind, the number of items we gave and the number of beneficiaries receiving GIK assistance actually increased from 2010 to 2011. Our ratings for accountability and transparency, the category that evaluates good governance and ethical business practices—all the things that demonstrate our trustworthiness as an organization—remain at the four-star level. Although our financial numbers may show a reduction in growth, we reassure you that we have grown in our impact. We have grown in volunteer participation and in our ability to respond to natural disasters across the United States. We continue to grow in the number, variety, and size of grants we award to assist those in dire need both domestically and around the world.
Can I use my donations as a tax deduction?
We have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Our tax ID number is 95-4453134. It is best to consult with your tax adviser to learn how you may be able to use your donation as a tax-deduction.
How can I be sure my donation will go to the country/fund I have requested?
Islamic Relief USA tracks contributions by various restrictions. The first restriction is usually by country. The second level of restriction is usually a project category such as education, emergency relief, food, orphans, etc. Islamic Relief USA records contributions according to donor specifications. As an example, if you specify Palestine in the contribution, your donation would go toward our Palestine General Fund. However, it would not be limited to a specific project category unless you request otherwise (such as emergency relief, food, orphans, etc., as mentioned above). We ask our donors to indicate, such as by writing it on the check or money order, which country they would like their contribution to benefit.
Our funds can basically be divided into three groups:
- Restricted: To be used for a specific purpose only. Example: Udhiyah/Qurbani, specific country, orphans.
- Non-Restricted: This type of fund gives the organization the right to use the money where ever it is most needed. Example: General Fund.
- Semi-Restricted: This type of fund requires us to follow certain guidelines. Example: Zakah.
I want to give money to wherever it is most needed. Which fund should I choose?
You may donate to the General Fund. Money from this fund may be used for any project.
Do you accept jewelry given as charity?
Yes. However, we don’t encourage it because it is very difficult to sell jewelry at a reasonable price.
How does Islamic Relief define an orphan?
Islamic Relief defines an orphan as a child younger than 18, without one or both parents, or whose financially-dominant parent has abandoned the child for a minimum of four years. The orphan may be of any gender, religion or race.
How is an orphan selected for sponsorship?
Orphans are selected based on four main criteria: financial need, family size, housing conditions and health. The families with the greatest need—such as larger families with dire financial situations—receive priority for sponsorship.
How is the sponsorship money spent?
Sponsorship money is paid to the orphan’s guardian every quarter. Orphans are monitored to ensure that they are receiving the full benefits of sponsorship. This may include health checks and education for school-aged children.
How long will the sponsorship continue?
You can sponsor a child as long as you wish, up to the age of 18. If you choose to continue sponsorship after the child reaches 18, you are free to do so. We require a minimum sponsorship time of one year because this allows us to plan ahead and maintain a consistent level of service to the orphan. However, in case of any difficulty, the sponsor may cancel at any time with advanced notice.
Can I write a letter to my orphan?
Yes. The sponsor and orphan are free to exchange correspondence via the Islamic Relief office in the USA. Sponsors may mail or email the correspondence to the Islamic Relief office in Alexandria, VA.
Can I visit my orphan?
Visits are arranged at sponsor’s expense and must be facilitated by an Islamic Relief representative. Sponsors must arrange the visit one month prior to leaving for travel. Your orphan visit will take place at an Islamic Relief office. In addition, the visit will be supervised at all times by the Orphans Welfare Officer at the country field office. The Islamic Relief child protection policies are in place to ensure the safety and welfare of vulnerable orphans and their families.
I have not heard about my orphan. When will I be updated?
All sponsors receive a biography (biodata) on the child upon confirmation of the first donation payment. The biodata is mailed to sponsors typically six to eight weeks after initiating sponsorship. Thereafter, progress reports are mailed to sponsors once a year. You may contact the Orphan Support team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not receive updates.
Do you offer a specific fund to donate money to if a family member is unable to fast?
According to Islamic tradition, when a Muslim is unable to fast during Ramadan and cannot make up the fasting days afterwards, he or she can pay fidya or kaffara in compensation. Learn more via our Fidya / Kaffara page, or call 855-447-1001.
Do you have a specific fund to feed hungry people during Ramadan?
Yes, you may donate to the Ramadan Food Package fund. There are both general and country-specific options.
How much does it cost to feed one person for one day?
This varies according to your personal living standard. It is calculated by the cost of food for one day according to your preference and consumption.
When should I celebrate Eid?
We recommend that you consult your local masjid or Islamic center.
How can I donate my Zakat al-Fitr?
Islamic Relief USA has specific funds for Zakah and Zakat al-Fitr. Visit IRUSA.org/Zakah to learn more and donate.
Which animals are used for IRUSA's Udhiyah/Qurbani program?
What kind of meat does the Udhiyah/Qurbani program use?
Our program uses 100% halal meat. Meat is sourced locally whenever possible, to support the local economy. It is distributed fresh whenever possible, though in difficult situations like conflict zones, we may send frozen or canned meat so it can arrive to the recipients in good condition. All logistics—from sacrifice to transportation—are handled in accordance with shariah law, and with the best hygienic practices possible.
Who receives Islamic Relief USA’s Udhiyah/Qurbani program meat?
Beneficiaries selected to receive meat include widows, orphans, the destitute, the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees and disaster-affected populations—generally, people who cannot afford to buy meat often and whose diets are lacking in calories and nutrition. Many of the recipients of Udhiyah/Qurbani donations live in remote areas which are typically inaccessible—Islamic Relief makes every effort to reach them in order to provide aid to some of the most vulnerable community members.
Does the sacrifice occur on the allotted days?
Yes, Islamic Relief performs the Udhiyah/Qurbani during the day of Eid al-Adha and the ensuing three days of Tashreek. However, under extreme circumstances, there may be exceptions due to factors such as the abundant number of Udhiyah/Qurbani or the volatile conditions on the ground in a particular country. In these cases, the Qurbani may be done after the fourth day of Eid. Scholars have approved this practice.
Do you need the name of the people on whose behalf the sacrifice is being made?
No, because of the vast number of requests during this season, this practice becomes impossible. This is similar to the practice of offering sacrifice while on hajj. The scholars have approved the sacrifice without the names as long as the intention of the person was made. We suggest that you make the intention now.
Is it obligatory to give on Udhiyah/Qurbani for each member of my family?
Islamic Relief USA recognizes the various jurisprudence opinions (fiqhi) in the Islamic tradition, and welcomes all to fulfill their religious right as they see fit.
How late into the season can I submit my order for a sacrifice?
We accept orders up until the fourth day of Eid al-Adha. We prepurchase the animals and plan one year ahead of time. We also buy approximately 20% more animals, in order to fulfill all incoming requests.
What is zakah?
What is nisab?
Nisab is the minimum amount of wealth a Muslim must have—after calculating necessary expenses—to be eligible to contribute zakah. Nisab is equivalent to the value of 3 ounces of gold. The nisabwe’ve calculated for our zakah calculator is based on the most-recent report available to us (disclaimer: this number may change daily depending on fluctuations in the gold exchange rate).
What is hawl?
Hawl is defined as the completion period for a zakah asset, which is one lunar year. In other words, the wealth on which zakah should be paid must have been held for at least one full year. There are some forms of zakah that do not require hawl, such as for crops, when zakah should be paid at the time of the harvest. For clarification, it is recommended that you consult with your local imam or scholar.
Who is obligated to pay zakah?
Every adult Muslim who meets the requirements of nisab and hawl in a calendar year must pay zakahfor that year. There are some conditions that may require others, a wali (guardian) of a minor for instance, to pay zakah too. As always, it is best to consult with your local imam or scholar for clarification.
Must I have the intention to pay zakah for it to be accepted?
Yes. In Islam, intention is an essential part of any act of worship, including the payment of zakah. The intention must be made at the time the zakah is paid.
What kinds of wealth are included in the calculation of zakah?
For a detailed list of wealth to include, please see IRUSA’s zakah calculator.
These stipulations delineate the type of wealth that should be accounted for when calculating zakah:
- The wealth is yours and under your control. You do not need to include outstanding debts when calculating zakah.
- The wealth is subject to development and increasing.
- After calculating necessary expenses, the wealth meets the requirements of nisab.
- Personal belongings, such as clothes, primary homes, food, cars, are exempt from zakah.
When can I pay my zakah?
Zakah should be paid as soon as possible prior to or at the time that you’ve earned the requisite amount of nisab each lunar year, or one year after you last paid it. Tip: A good way to ensure zakah is made in a timely fashion is to pay your zakah during Ramadan.
Is it acceptable from a religious perspective to give zakah toward any of your funds, or does the fund have to specify zakah?
You may make your zakah contributions toward any of our funds or projects. It is your intention that counts in this case. However, if your contribution is specifically made to our zakah fund, then we will follow specific zakah guidelines.
Who can my zakah be given to?
According to the Holy Qur’an (9:60), there are eight categories of people who qualify to be beneficiaries of zakah:
- The poor
- The needy
- The collectors of zakah
- Those who hearts are to be won over
- A mediator or someone who pays from personal monies to fix or mediate problems among the people
- In the cause of Allah (swt)
Most scholars agree that the poor and needy are the most important categories of people to receive zakah. Given that, it is acceptable to give your entire zakah allotment to individuals who are in those groups.
Do I have to pay my zakah on my home?
One does not have to pay zakah on a primary place of residence. If the house qualifies as a secondary residence that sometimes get rented out, however, zakah is due on it after subtracting necessary expenses from the income generated.
Do I have to pay my zakah on jewelry?
Yes, on jewelry you do not regularly wear and that you own for investment purposes.
Do I have to pay my zakah on stocks?
Yes. You may use the current value on stocks.
What’s the difference between zakah and sadaqah?
In the language of the Holy Qur’an, zakah and sadaqah are the same. In practice, however, sadaqahis the term used to indicate voluntary charitable giving while zakah is obligatory.
What is the difference between zakah and Zakat al-Fitr?
Zakat al-Mal (commonly called “zakah“) is due when a person’s wealth reaches the nisab amount and can be paid anytime during the year. Zakat al-Fitr is paid by the head of the household for each member of the family, before Eid al-Fitr prayer. Zakat al-Fitr is about the price of one meal—estimated at $10 in 2014.
On whose behalf do I have to pay Zakat al-Fitr? What if I have young children?
Zakat al-Fitr should be paid on behalf of everyone in the family. There are some scholars that recommend that Zakat al-Fitr is also paid on behalf of unborn children after the 120th day of pregnancy, but do not view it as obligatory. Most scholars do agree, however, that Zakat al-Fitrshould be paid on behalf of the baby after his/her birth. Please do consult with your local imam or scholar for further clarification.
When should I pay my Zakat al-Fitr?
It should be paid before Eid prayer (or any day during Ramadan). There are some schools of thought that also allow for Zakat al-Fitr to be paid even before Ramadan. Consult with your local imam or scholar if you need additional information.
Do you need the name of the child for Aqiqa?
When will the animal sacrifice be done for my child?
Any time during the year.
How can I make a donation for this purpose?
Please call 1-855-447-1001 to donate to this fund.
Is it possible to request the sacrifice of an animal to be provided for food aid solely as an act of charity?
When will the actual sacrifice occur?
Any time during the year.