Qurbani: An Anti-Hunger Program With An Islamic Flavor
September 4, 2018
By Syed M. Hassan, Islamic Relief USA
It was a time when we looked out for the less fortunate, a period during which we’re reminded that widespread food insecurity still exists in much of the world.
While Islamic Relief USA, a humanitarian and advocacy organization based in Alexandria, Va., strives to reduce world hunger day in and day out, it can’t do it alone. The participation of the greater community is what ultimately makes a world of difference.
An example in which supporters stood up was during the weeks leading up to Eid-al-Adha, which took place on Aug. 21. This is a festival that marks the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham.
One of the most common ways Muslims commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice is by giving Qurbani, an Islamic tradition in which people purchase meat to send to families in need. This past year, donors contributed millions of dollars toward purchasing meat derived from various animals —cows, goats, buffalo, bull, and sheep.
Ever since Islamic Relief USA started the program more than 20 years ago, millions of people have been fed through Qurbani. In 2016, more than 1 million beneficiaries in 29 countries received Qurbani. In 2014, it was nearly 1.3 million in 27 nations. In the United States alone, the number of beneficiaries each year has ranged between 13,000 and 70,000.
In most countries, only certain animals were offered. Still, for a donation as little as $65, families would receive several pounds of meat. In many cases, this is a luxury, as access to meat is extremely slim.
Complicating the food insecurity issue is the fact that many of these families live in countries that are inundated with other major problems. Some countries suffer from famine or famine-like conditions, like Chad, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Other nations are outright conflict zones: Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Myanmar. Other countries have had to deal with large refugee populations, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Bangladesh, and Macedonia.
In the United States, there are more than 40 million people living in poverty or relying on government subsidies to purchase food. Usually, it’s not enough, as many families run out of funds before the end of the month.
By giving Qurbani, people in these countries, among others, had access to fresh, flavorful meat that’s been slaughtered according to Islamic principles, or halal. Donors no doubt felt some contentment, knowing that their contributions made such meaningful impact in reducing hunger, even if it is for a short period of time. Best part of all, an important tradition of the Islamic faith remains alive and well.
It is estimated that some 3 million children under age 5 die each year due to malnutrition. That is an alarming figure, no matter which way you look at it. Qurbani, among other anti-hunger programs, can help that number from growing even more. But just the fact that millions are still being negatively impacted shows that the fight is far from over.