By Dalia Al-Khooly
Being an Egyptian-Canadian Muslim affects how I identify myself and my practices and has a large influence on my views of philanthropy. Studying social work practice within a Canadian context, I can easily differentiate Western philanthropy with the type of philanthropy I learned in my up bringing.
In Egypt, Muslim’s traditionally celebrate a birth by an animal sacrifice. A week after the birth of the child, parents usually buy a goat or a sheep, have a religious sacrifice, then cook it. The way in which this traditional practice relates to philanthropy is illustrated in how the goat/sheep is divided. One third of the animal is split amongst the family for them to enjoy, another third is shared with friends of the family. Finally the last portion of the goat is given to those less fortunate who other wise could not afford such a meal.
Buying a goat/sheep in Egypt to perform this ceremony is quite expensive, therefore it is usually only done by the wealthier class. Because of this reason, no child in my family received a ceremony (my parents were not able to afford it at the time). However, it is encouraged that you perform this sacrifice once you feel that you are financially able to do so.
Similar to many types of Western philanthropy, this tradition stems from religion. Not only does it relate to the story of Ibrahim and his sacrifice, but it also enforces the idea of community and the notion of sharing. Muslim’s are taught to always help those that are in need. There are many types of ways a one can fulfill their obligation to help those that are less fortunate. This is one of the many ways in which Muslim’s are taught to care for one another and to build a strong community.
The reason this type of philanthropy is more popular in Egypt than it is in the Western world is because of the difference in living conditions. Of course there is homelessness and famine in Canada, however the amount of people living in these condition is far greater and more severe in Egypt. Providing a meal for someone- whether family, friend, or stranger- shows generosity. This will ultimately build a strong community where a child can flourish.
This type of sacrifice is seen as a blessing for the child. It puts forth the parent’s wish for that child to be a humble, and giving person. Through this ceremony, it is believed that these values are embedded within the child and they can grow up to care for their community.
Hassan Al-khooly and Magda Abulatta, Egyptian-Canadians; and parents
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