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Donation Funnel
Dr Many takes water from a well

Our history

Islamic Relief was founded in 1984 in Birmingham by medical student Hany El-Banna in response to the famine in East Africa.

He and a group of other young Muslim volunteers raised Islamic Relief’s first funds through collections at mosques, friends and family and other Islamic associations. The volunteers secured £135,000 and established three international projects in Islamic Relief’s first year of operation. These were two chicken farms in Sudan, a shipment of biscuits and vitamins also to Sudan and a shipment of wheat flour to Mauritania.

In 1985, Islamic Relief’s founders hired a small office in a Birmingham community centre. The office  was run by a growing group of committed volunteers who were known to work long into the night on project coordinating and fundraising.

The charity expanded rapidly. Over the next five years we started working in Mozambique, Iran, Pakistan, Malawi, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among others, responding to emergencies and distributing clothes, food, offering health support and beginning the long-term project that is now the one-to-one orphan sponsorship programme.

Image: Islamic Relief's 1987 Ramadan Appeal .

A leading humanitarian organisation

Today Islamic Relief Worldwide is among the world’s largest relief and development charities. With global headquarters in Birmingham, UK, it is the international office of the Islamic Relief federation, which operates in more than 40 countries. In 2022 alone, we ploughed over £193 million into emergency aid, long-term development, and campaigning for change that directly helped over 17.3 million people.

The high quality and impact of our work means it is among just a handful of UK-based charities to have been certified against the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS). As full members of the INGO Accountability Charter, Islamic Relief’s excellence in transparency, good governance and social responsibility is recognised.

Islamic Relief Worldwide is signatory to the Red Cross Code of Conduct, which sets ethical standards for organisations involved in humanitarian work and commits us  to the important principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence. We are also firmly committed to the People in Aid Code of Best Practice.

two boys in yemen arranging the food items they received in their food pack from islamic relief
Image: rightsholders in Yemen receive food packages from Islamic Relief.

Islamic Relief UK 

In 2006, Islamic Relief Worldwide appointed a director responsible for the United Kingdom division, now known as Islamic Relief UK. In the years since, Islamic Relief UK has led fundraising efforts in the UK, working with communities to raise incredible sums for ongoing projects and responding to humanitarian disasters. In 2016, Islamic Relief UK’s innovative Ramadan campaign – which included advertising on 500 buses – generated extensive media coverage and raised over £10 million. 

In 2021 Islamic Relief UK launched a new strategy to strengthen  our fundraising and advocacy work, and also included an ambitious aim to increase support for vulnerable communities in the UK. The following year we scooped Charity of the Year at the Third Sector Awards, and in 2023 won Charity of the Year at the Charity Times Awards. 

Since 1984, Islamic Relief has saved and transformed the lives of over 120 million people – including more than 17 million individuals in 2022 alone. Islamic Relief responds effectively to humanitarian emergencies, contributes significantly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and advocates for positive social change, empowering people to transform their lives and serving all communities without prejudice.

food pack preparations at cambridge central mosque by islamic relief staff and volunteers
Image: Islamic Relief UK partnered with Cambridge Central Mosque and prepared food packs to distribute to vulnerable families in Cambridge.

Some key milestones in our history


Islamic Relief is founded with its first 20p donation from nine-year-old Bassem – the nephew of Dr Hany El-Banna (founder of Islamic Relief)


We hire a small office in Moseley, Birmingham and, with the help of volunteers, we raise over £100,000 towards supporting those affected by the African famine


We begin a number of major programmes which continue to this day, including orphan sponsorship and Qurbani distribution, working in new countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malawi


Floods in Sudan create a turning point for Islamic Relief as we raise £200,000 – providing our largest relief operation to date


We are incorporated under the Companies Act and registered with the UK Charity Commission


We open new offices in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East


We’re supported by the UK-based newspaper Independent who raise £37,000 for our Bosnia Appeal


We become the first Muslim NGO to receive UK government funding (£180,000 for a training centre in North Kordofan, Sudan)


We sign the Red Cross Code of Conduct, an international set of standards which outline how to provide aid to people affected by emergencies in a non-biased manner


We begin to implement Waqf projects, reviving the great Islamic tradition of sustainable charitable giving


We supply emergency food packs and tents for 5,500 people affected by the devastating Gujarat earthquake in India. Following 9/11, we also advocate on behalf of the Muslim charity sector and set up the Humanitarian Forum


A Framework Partnership is signed with the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department, recognising Islamic Relief’s capacity to deliver aid to a high standard


We become first Muslim charity to join the UK’s Disaster Emergencies Committee (DEC) – an umbrella organisation which brings together 13 leading UK aid charities in times of crisis to simultaneously raise funds


We launch a £20 million appeal for Gaza throughout the devastating two-day war


Our guest of honour, HRH the Prince of Wales, join us to celebrate our 25th anniversary


We are at the forefront of providing emergency aid in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia in East Africa’s worst drought for 60 years, killing nearly a quarter of a million people


We gain access deep inside Syria, providing aid to families devastated by the conflict, as well as working with refugees in bordering Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan


As a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), we help to raise a staggering £90 million for the Philippines typhoon relief effort


We respond to the European refugee crisis by providing food packs in Macedonia, hygiene kits and blankets in Germany, advice and translation services for refugees arriving in Greece and Italy and short-term shelter and warm clothing in Sweden


Our Ramadan ‘SubhanAllah’ campaign features on over 500 buses across the UK generating almost 700 pieces of media coverage and raising over £10 million during the holy month


We launch our global rebrand of Islamic Relief: “Saving Lives since 1984” to bring greater awareness of our long-standing values and mission, celebrating what we do best!


Our groundbreaking ‘Honour Her’ campaign is launched as we call on the Muslim and global communities to stand up against violence against women and continue our work across the globe to socially, culturally and economically empower women – additionally launching our Women’s Protection Fund

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