What is World Orphans Day?
World Orphans Day is a newly established holiday set to occur every 15th day of Ramadan in the Islamic world. It is a day that the Turkish organization İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri, The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, decided to create with the aid and agreement of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs of Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The two groups announced this new holiday last December at the fifth International Civil Society Organizations of the Islamic World Conference, whose theme was titled the “Rising Role of Civil Society Organizations in the Islamic World.”
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, the daylight hours of which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, and taking part in other physical needs so as to sanctify the soul, draw nearer to God, and ultimately practice self-sacrifice, using the time to reflect on their lives and measure it according to the standard of Islamic guidance. It is a time for Muslims to right the wrongs they have made against other people, strengthen relationships with family and loved ones, break away from bad habits, and ultimately restore themselves into better people more fit to wear the name of Islam and offer worship to God.
Therefore on the 15th day, now officially a holiday, the objective and ideology is that Muslims will come together to care for, provide for, and support orphans who cannot otherwise help themselves, and that this culture of civic unity and interdependence will spread to those on the outside for the greater good of mankind. This movement follows suit with the example set by the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace be upon him, who said, “Whoever caresses the head of an orphan (in affection), solely for the sake of Allah, a good deed will be written to his account for every hair over which he passed his hand.”
The Status Quo
The number of orphans worldwide reached an all-time high of 153,000,000 last year. In fact, in sub-Saharan Africa, over the course of just 15 years from 1990 to 2005, the number of orphans shot up by 50 percent, according to reports by UNICEF and USAID.
Without any aid or attention, these children can only continue in the painful and hopeless cycle of poverty, disease, exploitation, sex trafficking, prostitution, and slavery that besets so many of them around the world today.
The Response: Joining Hands
For this reason, the IHH began to negotiate regarding this issue six months prior to the annual conference, settling the account at the fourth Council Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Geneva. The decision was made to promote orphan aid every 15th day of Ramadan, and its details were sent to all civil society institutions under the Organization of Islamic Cooperation thereafter. The subsidiary institutions were advised to add the holiday to their agendas and treat it with official holiday observance, in memoriam of parentless children and to join hands to help the cause.
Additionally, campaigns like Islamic Relief USA have been working to alleviate the orphan endemic along with Muslims for Humanity and others. The campaigns support particular programs that provide education, vocational training, food, water, clothing, school supplies, and other basic livelihood needs.
Imam Khalid Latif, the Executive Director and Chaplain at the Islamic Center at New York University, began blogging his self-reflections during Ramadan each year for the past three years, his articles posting daily on HuffPost Religion, which is the religion and spirituality section of The Huffington Post online publication. On the 18th day he wrote about “adoption, foster care and the world’s forgotten children.”
He said, “Sometimes when I look at my daughter’s face, my mind takes me to those young children, some only a day old, who are left to take on the challenges of this world on their own. I look at her and how she is surrounded by people who love her, mashallah, and feel a deep affinity for those who are without their own parents, regardless of how that reality came to pass.”
Muhammad a Role Model
The appearance of Islamic orphan relief organizations, the attention drawn to these destitute children, and even the basic acts of bettering oneself according to the statutes of Ramadan all stem from the example that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be unto him, set for his followers as their leader. The prophet an orphan himself, the sentiment he held in his heart was of person experience, and as it grew into a creed and a way of life for Muslims, it simultaneously paved a way to life for each recipient of the Muslims’ hands-on compassion.
The work that takes place today is conduct that begins with the betterment of oneself and grows into the restoration of every person around the world, healing one soul at a time, ultimately so that all people, both followers and those recipients, namely orphans, can be granted entry into the promised paradise of Islam scriptures.
Holding his index and middle fingers together upright, the prophet said, “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him will be in paradise like this.”