“There are no days during which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these days (first ten days of Dhul- Hijjah).” [Ibn Majah]
Even better than Ramadan?
Yes. The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are even better than the days of Ramadan. Just as we make sure to take full advantage of Ramadan, here’s another opportunity to maximize rewards.
10 ways to make the most of these 10 days
There’s nothing more powerful than intention to elevate your worship and rewards.
“Indeed actions are by their intentions.” [Bukhari/Muslim]
To supercharge your intentions, stack them. Have multiple intentions for the same deed. For example: to follow the sunnah of the prophet (saw); to get closer to Allah (swt); to set a good example for your family; etc.
Dhikr is like a secret weapon in your box of deeds. A little goes a long way and it’s easy. You can do it anywhere and there’s so much variety. Here’s a super simple one to add.
“There are two statements that are light on the tongue and heavy on the scales: SubhanAllahi wa bihamdihi subhanAllahil adheem.” [Bukhari/Muslim]
So while you’re waiting, sitting around, cooking or doing something else that doesn’t require your complete focus: add some dhikr.
3. Start a good habit
Habits are super important in our daily lives. The right habit can really boost our productivity in the long run. Pick one habit that you want to add to your daily routine and commit to it in these ten days. In sha Allah it’ll become a part of your day going forward too!
4. Get rid of a bad habit
Just as important as starting good habits, is getting rid of some bad ones. Identify and commit to phasing out one habit that you find unproductive in your life.
Charity is one of the most beneficial acts of worship you can do for others. This year, try picking a cause that you haven’t considered giving to before.
8. Get kids/family involved by doing 10 charitable acts for each of the ten days
Make a list of 10 good deeds to do together as a family and do one each day. These can include things like cleaning up a local park, or even calling up relatives to see how they’re doing.
9. Reach out to neighbours
Eid is a great time to spread the cheer and share food and treats with your neighbours. Bake some cookies or buy some treats, keep it simple so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Dua is the essence of worship. When we turn to Allah (swt) with our needs and desires, we recognize that He is indeed the One who is in control, the One who is the source of everything. Make a list of your top duas and make them daily.
These are just some of the many ways you can make the most of these ten best days. No matter how much or how little you do, the most important part is to seek Allah through your actions.
The word “qurbani” means sacrifice in many languages, and the word “udhiya,” in Arabic, refers to the specific animal that is sacrificed on Eid ul-Adha. This sacrifice is made by the head of the household on behalf of the family. It can either be a sheep, goat, a portion of a camel or a portion of a cow. The animal must be healthy (young, not sick or disabled) and must be taken care of properly before Eid.
“Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (to Him only).” [al-Kawthar 108:2]
Is there anything else I should do as part of the rites of Qurbani?
(Can I cut my nails? My hair?)
This sacrifice is closely linked to Hajj. Those performing Hajj will also be making this sacrifice. So the person who intends to sacrifice an animal takes on some of the practices and prohibitions that come with performing Hajj. One such recommended act is to avoid cutting your hair and nails in Dhul’Hijjah, during the days leading up to Eid, until after the sacrifice is made. There’s no problem with washing or bathing, and if a nail breaks there’s no issue with removing it. If one does want to cut their hair or nails, they would not be sinful and there is no effect on their udhiya offering. They would, however, miss out on the rewards of drawing near to participating in the Hajj and honouring its rites. Keep in mind, these restrictions don’t apply to everyone, only the person offering the sacrifice (ie. the head of the household.)
“When you see the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah, if any one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him not take anything from his hair or nails until he has offered the sacrifice.” [Sahih Muslim]
What's the purpose?
As is the case with many acts of worship, this act of sacrifice serves a greater purpose. A communal purpose. This sacrifice is intended to be shared with those less fortunate as an act of charity. Just as Zakat ul-Fitr ensures that people have food to eat on Eid ul-Fitr, the sacrifice and distribution of meat on Eid ul-Adha ensures the same for this holiday and time of celebration.
For most families facing food insecurity and malnutrition, meat is a luxury. The important proteins and nutrients that come from meat are something they’re deprived of until this one special occasion. This is especially important for children who may face multiple nutrient deficiencies. With your help we can provide these families with the vital nutrients needed for improved health and growing children.
So, spread the joy of Eid. Share your Qurbani today.
Of all the acts and rituals that Muslims perform in Ramadan, perhaps none is less understood or appreciated than the giving of Zakat-ul Fitr.
While it is rightly understood as a prescribed part of Ramadan to be paid by the devout, it is easy to approach it as one would their taxes, as a matter of duty and obligation as the days of fasting and nights of prayer come to a close, and sometimes, as a last minute task not to be forgotten.
Folded into the last days and minutes of the month, the significance of this seemingly minor act can get lost.
Meaning in Action
Zakat-ul-Fitr connects the personal and spiritual life of a Muslim with history, community and culture. As an obligation prescribed by God (Allah ) it connects one’s faith with ones actions, and one’s life with the lives of others. Zakat-al-Fitr is sometimes also called Fitrana or Fitrah, related to the Arabic word iftaar, which means breaking a fast, as is done daily in Ramadan. Zakat-ul Fitr thus refers to what is to be given when the month of fasting comes to an end. Fitrah, can also refer to the “natural way”, as mentioned in the Qur’an:
… the natural way that God has instilled in all people … (30:30)
Looked at through this larger context, Zakat ul Fitr, like any act of giving to others, reflects a natural part of who we are, an innate part of us, and therefore an essential way we fulfill our own humanity and connect with others in a respectful and meaningful way.
Similarly, the word zakat comes from the same Arabic verbal root as tazkiyya, which literally means purification. In relation to other religious acts in the Islamic tradition, fasting (sawm) during the month could be understood as a purification of body, heart, and mind, while prayer (salah) a purification of one’s soul and our time spent, just as the various forms of zakat refer to the purification of ones’ wealth and actions. So while it may be a “religious tax” in the formal sense, both zakat in general and Zakat-ul Fitr specifically, are meaningful acts that extend beyond obligation, connecting to the faith of a Muslim through gratitude and recognition of God (Allah ) as the Sustainer and Provider, with a rightful claim over our wealth.
The practical benefit of Zakat-ul Fitr, for oneself and in connection to others, is best expressed through prophetic clarity:
“God’s Messenger , ordained Zakat-ul Fitr to purify the fasting person from indecent words or actions, and to provide food for the needy. [Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah]
Giving during Ramadan as an act of faith, Zakat-ul Fitr is a ‘special’ kind of charity because it purifies the fasting person of the shortcomings in his or her observance of fasting during the month. No one’s fast is perfect. We all say things or do things that we should not do, or could do better. We may speak ill of another person during the course of the month, look at something we are not supposed to, or not mindfully connect our actions in the month with intention and meaning.
Community Care and the Wisdom of Giving
As a tradition rooted in the first community of Muslims and exemplified by the Prophet , Zakat-ul Fitr is a not only an obligatory act of individual faith, but a living tradition meant to instill kindness and compassion for others while cultivating the habit of giving within the entire community. Received by those in need on the day of Eid, it gives them a sense of belonging within the larger community by including them in the festive spirit of Eid. No one should have to spend this day hungry, nor feel deprived or left out due to material circumstance. The joy of completing Ramadan and celebrating on Eid is not only an individual accomplishment but also one shared and experienced with others.
In paying Zakat-ul Fitr and continuing to give beyond Ramadan, we strengthen a sense of unity with the marginalized while also alleviating their hunger and suffering. In their well-being is our own, and in giving we may actually find we receive more than we give. Whether it is the blessings we see in our life, the smiles of an orphaned child or widowed mother, the duas made for us by those who receive our giving, or the practical benefit we all receive when suffering in the world is eased and its causes alleviated, giving charity builds all of our lives.
Witness the Fruits of Your Giving
To see how your Zakat-ul Fitr builds lives, strengthens families, transforms communities, and supports a nation, witness the multiple benefits your giving has to those who receive it.
For a number of years IDRF has been dedicated to giving Zakat-ul Fitr to some of the poorest Palestinian families in Gaza, including widows, orphans and children.
A part of a comprehensive project in Gaza, IDRF purchases food from over a hundred small-scale farmers, whom we also support with training and land rehabilitation, thus ensuring their livelihoods while also helping to sustain and stabilize the local economic market and infrastructure. Not only are meals distributed to those in need on the day of Eid, but food for over 6000 people is provided throughout the entire month of Ramadan, providing 5 weeks’ worth of food in total, and an Eid Gift for families and their children. With nearly 70% of recipients children, and a quarter of them under 5 years old, your generous donations are vital to improving and building their lives.
This year like any other, their Eid should be as ours – a time of joy, a time of celebration, a day for feasting and wearing new clothes, for laughing with their loved ones, and knowing that they belong to a global community that has not forgotten about them. This year and in the future, may we remember that paying our Zakat-ul Fitr is much more than obligation, it is a means to divine mercy, to our peace and happiness and someone else’s, bringing meaning and many benefits not only to others but to ourselves.
Access to fresh water means so much more to vulnerable communities than having something to drink. Clean water has the power to transform how people live their lives.
In Tharparkar, Pakistan, one of the most drought-impacted regions of the world – IDRF has brought clean water to people’s doorsteps. Women no longer have to walk 4 or 5 hours each day to fetch water, freeing them up to earn money for their family and for girls to go to school.
In Turkey, Internally Displaced Persons camps for Syrians who have fled the decade-long civil war, ensuring that clean water is available has prevented the outbreak of communicable disease in places where some families live with over 10 people in one tent.
In the Rohingya Refugee camps in Bangladesh, the availability of water across Cox’s Bazar protects women and girls from assault and other violent crimes, as they no longer need to venture into dangerous areas without adequate lighting and security.
In Gaza’s schools, the 10 clean water tankers that deliver fresh water daily ensure children learn in a safe environment and gives their parents a sense of peace and optimism.
In Yemen, clean water and hydration provide a path to recovery for patients suffering from the worst cholera outbreak in human history in a country already hurting from famine, conflict and a massive economic crisis.
Having access to clean and safe water necessitates so many other aspects of life that we take for granted.The world’s 65 million refugees that have been forcibly displaced, by either civil war or disaster often have to choose between their own safety and their family’s survival.
Many of the camps I’ve visited have neither wells nor community water points. Their ability to gather water depends on how able-bodied different members of their family are and if they have the capability to carry the water on their journey back.
When you support IDRF’s clean water initiatives, you enable families to overcome these challenges. Mothers with children who are suffering from a disease outbreak see water not as a substance, but as a vessel – a potential to move past their current circumstances and have a future. You can help brighten that future.
Farook Yusoof is a Program Manager who has worked with IDRF for the past two years. His portfolio mainly consists of responses to protracted conflicts or natural disasters. In his time here, he has managed programming in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, , Gaza and many others. Farook also oversees some of IDRF’s education initiatives in Pakistan and Gaza. Prior to this, Farook worked within the humanitarian and development network, deploying to various complex emergency and disaster settings, including; Philippines, Nepal, Ukraine, Haiti and Ecuador.
Access to education is vital to create sustainable, strong and resilient communities prepared to thrive in even the most challenging circumstances. Despite being an inherent human right, millions of children around the world are denied access to quality education. Even in emergencies, the need for education is a priority as it creates opportunities for children and youth to develop. Children displaced from their homes living in refugee camps and settlements due to conflict, environmental stressors and political instability are particularly vulnerable. They are at high risk for violence, child labor, child marriages, prostitution, child trafficking and recruitment as child soldiers. Education can often provide protection against such abuses.
IDRF implements educational programming in countries where it is largely inaccessible. Through strong partnerships with local grassroots organizations, our work in education is diverse, innovative and meets the most immediate needs of each community.
In Turkey, we operate schools for 200 Syrian refugees that escaped an unending civil war. In Gaza, IDRF supports one of the largest educational centers in the country, providing over 12,500 children and youth with programming in visual arts, science, technology and literacy. In Pakistan, we reformed one of Karachi’s largest all girls’ schools, transforming the lives of 900 young girls with access to academic and co-curricular programming. In India, IDRF is operating an all-boys school and boarding facility providing 300 orphaned and homeless boys with an education, meals and boarding.
In 2020, IDRF will launch Education in Emergencies, a campaign to assist thousands of refugee and internally displaced children and youth in Bangladesh, Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Many who benefit will be young women like Resham Harrison. Resham is one of 25 individuals from rural Tharparkar attending IDRF’s two-year midwifery training program in Karachi. She sent us a letter last year that outlined the pressure her family faced when she left home for Karachi to pursue an education. “Our relatives and neighbors used to question my mother and ask: What will you get from sending her to school, what work is she ever going to do? Make her stay at home.” In approximately one-year, Resham will graduate as a Certified Midwife through the Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC) and will provide care and perform deliveries to prospective mothers in a country with high maternal and infant mortality rates.
This pandemic has emptied classrooms, silenced gymnasiums, cancelled field trips and postponed graduation ceremonies. As sad as these images and realities are, they are temporary. However, the education young people will access lasts forever. By supporting one child, one teacher, or one after school program, you are supporting an entire community through the educational development of its people and instilling a collective optimism for families like Reshma Harrison’s.
Sabrina Natale is a Program Manager at the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF). Sabrina currently manages a diverse portfolio of sustainable development and humanitarian relief projects across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. During her time at IDRF, Sabrina has led a number of new initiatives including the design and implementation of targeted impact reporting assessments and designing IDRF’s education in emergencies programming in Somalia and Bangladesh. Prior to joining IDRF in 2018, Sabrina worked with the NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) as a junior researcher and with Doctors Without Borders within the programming unit.
It was March 2018, seven months after the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. Elyas Burney (IDRF Program Manager) and I were in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to distribute some emergency relief food parcels to refugee families and to try to figure out what else IDRF could do to help.
We started responding to the Rohingya refugee crisis in September 2017 after an ethnic cleansing campaign that shocked the world and forced over 1 million people to seek refuge in Bangladesh. When we arrived at the camps, it was clear that preventing malnutrition and securing safe shelters in a region prone to mudslides and heavy rains were top priority.
The number of unaccompanied minors (lone children) shocked us the most. Initial reports claimed that 60% of the Rohingya refugees were children. However, it felt more like 80%.
Kids would follow us around the camps and even chase our van hoping to get some extra food or money. This experience brought back memories of my time working in Somalia doing similar relief work. One memory that replays in my mind is the image of a father in Somalia who chased our van. He wanted to give us his son because he didn’t want to lose another child to starvation.
There are 800 million people who do not have enough food to live a healthy life. Yemen alone has over 20 million people that wake up every day with nothing to eat. My goal is not to sound cynical but to highlight the immense challenges that millions of people around the world face. Challenges that are now exacerbated by a global pandemic with no vaccine.
There are organizations around the world doing fantastic work to enhance food security and nutrition. At IDRF, our programs support over 250,000 people across the globe in complex emergencies and remote regions. Our food programs are designed to meet the essential needs of families while also considering long term community development to ensure people can recover but also become more resilient.
Not having access to essentials like food, water and healthcare can limit one’s ability to attend school, go to work and become self-sufficient. Our goal at IDRF is to ensure that communities in need have access to adequate gender-inclusive development and relief programming. We also believe that short-term development programs complement long term relief efforts. For instance, by ensuring a teenaged girl in Uganda has access to clean water, food, and feminine menstrual items, we can help her go to school regularly without having to walk three hours a day for water or miss school because she is menstruating.
Giving a family a food package provides relief in the short term. However, in the long run, when children achieve food security, parents can focus on their livelihoods, earn an income and prepare their children for a better future. The father I met in Somalia should be in a position to help his son reach his true potential instead of having to contemplate giving him away to a stranger so that he can survive.
Nabil Ali is the Director of Programs at the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF), where he leads humanitarian and sustainable development projects across several continents. He helped IDRF develop its domestic programs portfolio, which supports youth through job readiness training, educational support and women in tech across Canada.
Before joining IDRF, he worked in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia as a research consultant for UNICEF. During his time in East-Africa, he led UNICEF’s Rapid Education project, which evaluated the overall education infrastructure across 6,000 schools. Nabil holds a B.A. in International Development from York University and Post Graduate degree from the University of Toronto in International Project Management & Sustainability. He currently serves on the Board of Licensed to Learn and the OCIC.