Islamic Society of Britain
The Olive of Al-Andalus 7 Things in Lockdown to be appreciative for and reflective
Ramadan Recipes! The story of our friend: The Fasts of Ramadan
Assalamu alaykum! Dear Sisters and Brothers, Ramadan Kareem! May this month bring you the greatest of blessings. InshAllah. This Edition of the Ayah magazine comes at a time of trial and tribulation for many communities. Ukraine has been at the forefront of much of the news and its historical significance to Muslim heritage cannot be overstated. Historically Ukraine was the heart of European Islam. We pray for peace and justice to prevail in this blessed month. The Universal emblem of Peace is a white dove bearing an olive branch, Symbolic of the story of Prophet Nuh, who sent a dove to find dry land which thus returned with a branch of this blessed tree. We have articles about the olive trees of Andalusia, recipes from Palestine featuring olives and an insight into Surah At-TIn which mentions the olive tree as a symbol of Allah’s dominion. . The light from an olive oil lamp is symbolic of God’s light in the Quran and inshallah you will find the articles in this edition illuminating. The values of the Islamic Society of Britain have always been at the forefront of our endeavours as a collective, but in these unprecedented times of personal loss and global urgency, there has been a greater need for us to come together as a group of active believers, so that the work we do is not only impactful but also beneficial to our own journey.
Inshallah we hope you will enjoy this edition and will seek to join us and become part of a dynamic group which continues to endeavour to leave a lasting legacy for all people to benefit from. Your Sister, Farah Morley Editor Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the ISB. The views expressed by writers are their own, and the publication of their articles in this magazine does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.
The Olive of Al-Andalus Medina Tenour Whiteman “Agriculture is the basis of civilisation, and upon it depend all of life and its principle advantages.” – Ibn Abdun, 12th Century almotacén (official in charge of checking weights in Andalusi markets)
Here’s a riddle for you: what can live for over a thousand years, endure drought and still bear fruit, yet today is often forced to produce beyond its natural capacity, harvested by damaging heavy machinery, and irrigated to an early death at barely 14? It's the olive tree. Perhaps it’s a bit depressing to begin with such a tragedy, but here’s another – albeit one that had a happy ending. In the early 7th century CE, a terrible drought raged for seven years across the southern Iberian Peninsula, drying up rivers and springs, and killing trees – including olives, which had been planted here by the Romans. Centuries would go by, during which the ruling Visigoths – Romanised central Europeans who were hardly experts in Mediterranean agriculture – did nothing to restore these ancient groves. (We might well ask what they did do in Iberia, apart from expelling the Byzantines.) But at some point, probably in the 10th century, Muslim agronomists undertook the astonishing task of bringing a fleet of boats across the sea from Ifriqiyya, modern-day Tunisia, carrying saplings of olive cultivars that could tolerate scorching, dry summers and would also bear fruit early, before the winter cold of Granada’s mountains had a chance to damage them. According to the Andalusi chronicler Al-Tignari, these agronomists began their ambitious planting project in Íllora, northwest of Granada – a three-day ride for a mule caravan from the nearest port. From this town, all of the olive groves of Al-Andalus would eventually be restored. What’s even more amazing is that some of these magnificent trees are still standing, their silvery, sculptural trunks over 3 metres in diameter, witnesses to a millennium of history. Olives of this venerable age are even sometimes uprooted and replanted, and will go back into production.
Medina Tenour Whiteman is the author of the collection of poetry Love is a Traveller and We Are its Path, Huma’s Travel Guide to Islamic Spain, and most recently the travelogue-memoir The Invisible Muslim: Journeys through Whiteness and Islam. She lives near Granada, Spain, with her husband and three children.
The Arab Green Revolution of the Middle Ages synthesised knowledge of agriculture from the Greeks, Romans, Indians, Egyptians, and Persians, together with their own observations, in a highly detailed system that took into account soil health, water management, seed saving, the development of new cultivars, companion planting, pest control, and plenty more in a circular flow that continuously returned fertility to the soil. You could call it an innately Islamic spiritual ecology, a classical blueprint for sacred sustainability.
The scientific study of botany was a particular area of interest, especially as it related to another field of expertise in the Islamic world: medicine. Much of this science was built upon the work of Dioscorides and Galen, who subscribed to the idea that food should be the primary source of medicine. Indeed, it’s thought that the Spanish Muslim diet probably made a strong contribution to what we know as the ‘Mediterranean diet’ today. Polymaths like Seville’s Abu’l Khayr al-Ishbili and Ibn al-Awwam, and the Malagan botanist Abu’l Abbas An-Nabati developing an empirical and experimental approach that laid the groundwork for the field of pharmacology. AnNabati’s student Ibn al-Baytar systematically recorded some 300-400 additions to the science of medicine made by Islamic physicians of the Middle Ages. In fact, the medieval corpus of Islamic agricultural texts are completely unique for their genre.
The Alhambra Gardens, Spain, Credit: Pelayo Arbués
The burial place of Omar Khayyam, Nishapur, Iran. Credit: Mousavi
Works of Al-Dinawari (d.895 CE), Andalusian botanist
However, all of this intellectual flourishing grew from a spiritual viewpoint, best summarised in the Qur’an statement – repeated several times in different wordings – “All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah”. While stopping short of a pantheistic philosophy that literally sees God in all things, from the Islamic perspective, Creation is full of ayat, signs pointing to the Creator. “Living in harmony with the natural world,” writes Reza Shah Kazemi in his booklet Seeing God Everywhere, “presupposes a sense both of the holiness of the cosmos and what one might call today ‘environmental ethics’.” Instead of exhortations to visit great mosques and marvel at the artistry of their craftsmen, there are countless enjoinders in the Qur’an to marvel at the natural world, from the mountains to the seas, and to the germination of embryos and seeds. There are as many as 22 plants mentioned specifically in the Holy Book, including of course the trees of Paradise – the fig, the date palm, the pomegranate...and the olive. “It is He who sends down rain from the sky, and with it We bring forth vegetation of all kinds, and out of it We bring forth thick clustered grain. And out of the date palm and its spate come clusters of dates hanging low and near, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranates each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety and taste). Look at their fruits when then begin to bear, and the ripeness thereof.” (6:99) The Islamic view of the natural world simultaneously places our own selves as an integral part of it, while giving humans the responsibility of its stewardship (khulafa’) over it. This is quite different from dominion over it; the latter is the attitude espoused by medieval European Christian theology, which explicitly legitimised the domination of natural – and human – resources that would come to be distinctive features of European colonial expansion. That isn’t to say that Muslims were not imperialists; however, the philosophies underpinning the two historical trajectories were widely divergent, and this impacted the way in which the two civilisations approached land use in particular. The Romans in Spain had divided the land up into latifundias, large tracts of land owned by a handful of landed gentry and worked by slaves. After seizing control in in the 5th century CE, the Visigoths perpetuated this system of land ownership – as well as the much-hated Roman system of taxation. After the fall of the Visigoths in 711 CE, the new Muslim rulers divided up many of these estates and gave them to the local tenants. As for the slaves, most were manumitted, either through embracing Islam or gradually buying their own freedom – something that had not been possible under Visigothic laws.
Today, minifundios or smallholdings form the majority of farms all over the world. In Islamic societies, these were planted according to the principle of polyculture, i.e. mixing different varieties of plants to support one another, provide for a varied diet, and to protect against hunger should one crop fail. In short, the arch-nemesis of monoculture. We could also see in this a mimicry of the abundance of the Gardens of Jannah according to Islamic scripture, and a recognition that this abundance ultimately comes from the Most Generous. The act of farming was not just a way to feed oneself, but a practical, daily way of bringing the heavens down to earth, in a sense. According to Virgilio Martínez Enamorado, a prominent Spanish arabist and scholar of Medieval history, “Beyond the literary cliché that the poets of the era referred to so assiduously, which portrayed the lands under Muslim power in the Iberian Peninsula as a sort of earthly paradise, what is certain is that al-Andalus was essentially a land of peasant farmers.” Contemporary Spanish Olive Farming
Spain is the world’s biggest producer of olive oil, at around 1.79 million metric tons a year. The annual value of olive oil exports has been rising steadily in recent years, peaking in 2017 at almost €4bn. And where these kinds of stakes are involved, you don’t need a spoiler alert to know what’s going to happen. A growing quantity of Spanish olive oil comes from superintensive plantations, which force young olive trees that go into production very early to grow close together in rows, in a kind of hedge which can be machine-harvested with minimal labour costs. Even the planting is laser-guided and mechanised, at the phenomenal rate of up to 9000 plants per day. Talk about fast food. In contemporary times, the ever-growing demands of a globalised food economy mean that farmers must force unprecedented quantities of products from their land – and even then, they often find themselves being offered prices by supermarkets that are below the costs of production.
Taking of salinity, the salt in this already gaping wound is the turnaround of the trees: forced to come into production at a younger age, at around 2-3 years instead of the usual 15-25, their trunks vibrated by machine harvesters, by the time these olive trees have been milked for all the oil they’re worth, they’re useless after an average of only 12-14 years. Entire plantations are uprooted and replanted to start the whole process over again. You’re probably familiar with the problems of chemical pesticides for biodiversity, but there’s also the issue of herbicide – colloquially known in Andalusia as “veneno” – literally, poison. For tree crops, like olives, the soil of the orchard is traditionally covered by a “green manure”, plants such as broad beans, alfalfa or vetch, which fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, provide fodder for livestock, reduce erosion and prevent soil transpiration.
To achieve these near-impossible goals, conventional farming involves the use of synthetic fertilisers, usually made from byproducts of the petroleum industry, which can destroy beneficial microbes in the soil and easily be over-applied, burning plant roots and leading to toxic concentrations of salts. They also generate huge quantities of nitrogen: a third of all human-generated greenhouse gases come from the agriculture sector. These high-density plantations are heavily irrigated in order to push them to produce more oil. However, this is causing nearby rivers and springs to dry up, such as the only oasis in continental Europe, the Los Molinos spring in Almeria’s Tabernas-Sorbas basin. Heavily irrigating olive trees also leads to a considerably lower content in phenols in the oil, the natural antioxidants that olives produce as a response to climatic stress. It’s these nutrients, among others, that are empirically proven to combat inflammation, cancer, and even Alzheimers. Irrigation in superintensive olive plantations has even been shown to increase salinity in soils.
Olive trees are now fashionable in restaurants and Cafes, including the Uk . Image from Cafe Kothel, Glasgow
However, weedkillers destroy this protective layer, and the soil is exposed the the sun’s harsh rays, leaving it poor in nutrients and so dry and powdery that flood irrigation or heavy rain washes the topsoil away. Those synthetic fertilisers then end up in rivers and lakes, prompting an overgrowth of algae that throws aquatic ecosystems completely out of balance. You might say this is merely the age-old dilemma of quantity versus quality, but I feel this is a symptom of a deeper spiritual ailment, one for which the olive tree might be a kind of totem. When we no longer value the production of the very food we eat. 21st century high-quality olive oil
Many artisanal producers of high-quality olive oil bemoan the fact that olive oil has become a commodity; indeed, there is a price index that changes constantly, like for energy or steel. But there are still many specialty producers, olive oilcrazed devotees whose typically small groves can be recognised for the greenness of their ground, the natural compost around the bases of their trunks, the teams of labourers harvesting by hand, the wild flowers – some of which are new to science – and the bees and birds. It’s a world apart from the manicured rows of hedgerow olive trees, awaiting their annual stripping by machine harvesters.
Olive tree planted in a court yard in Montserrat, Spain near Madrid, Image by Misssu
This was not just parsimony born of poverty, but a direct Islamic command not to be wasteful: “And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.” (Qur’an 7:31)
Islamic agricultural heritage lives on
The Islamic agricultural heritage in the Iberian Peninsula is incalculable. All over the province of Granada, especially in the steeper topographies, you can still see terraces – bancales, possibly from the Hispanic Arabic manqála – painstakingly dug as much as a thousand years ago to create flat, plantable areas where rainfall would soak into the soil and erosion would be reduced. About 2,000 words of Arabic origin are still to be found in the Spanish language, and a great many of them relate to food and farming. So we have arroz (from ar-ruz, rice), azafrán (az-za’faran, saffron), aceituna (az-zaytun, olive), aceite (az-zayt, oil), limón (laymun, lemon), sandia (sindiyyah, watermelon), azúcar (as-sukkar, sugar), and many more – including several that came through Arabic from Persian, such as berengena (bademjan, aubergine) and naranja (narenj, orange). One of the characteristics of Andalusi culture was thriftiness, especially in cooking. Dishes such as gachas (a kind of porridge) and migas (literally, crumbs – somewhat like couscous) were made of old pounded bread, while paella – from the Arabic baqiyya, ‘leftovers’ – was a way to use up scraps of food on a Thursday night before the Friday feast.
Numerous words relating to water management have clear Arabic origins, too. The irrigation channels, acequias, the veins of these otherwise arid landscapes, is derived from as- saqiyya, while the waterwheels that drew from rivers such as the Guadalquivir (you guessed it – Wad alKabir) carry the name norias, from na‘urah. The underground tank that stored this water was known as an aljibe, from al-jubb, and an open-air reservoir is called an alberca, from the al-birka – itself rather poetically derived from b-r-k, ‘to kneel’, as of an animal drinking at a watering hole, or of a person in prayer. One of these etymologies brings us back to the olive grove. The broad bean’s name in Spanish, haba, has been preserved from the Classical Arabic habba, or seed. This type of nitrogen-fixing “green manure” is now widely recognised as an excellent way of preserving soil health long-term, and is a familiar face in organic farming. The scholar of Andalusi agriculture Carmen Trillo San José writes: “In al-Andalus olives rarely appeared on their own, but formed part of the polyculture characteristic of irrigation agriculture...”. She adds that “Spanish Muslims advised irrigating [olive trees], not excessively, but precisely.” This can still be seen in smallholdings in Andalusia, where olive groves are traditionally intercropped with oranges, as the taller olives offer the more sensitive citrus trees shade, which in turn shelter ground crops and root crops. This type of “oasis planting” or “3-storey planting” has been practised in Yemen and Persia for millennia, as an efficient way to reduce transpiration and protect the soil.
When we bear in mind that as many as 50% of the Muslim populace are thought to have remained in Spain after the fall of Al-Andalus, as nominal converts to Christianity – the Moriscos, or “little Moors” – it should come as no surprise that today’s cottage gardeners should have inherited their knowledge of working the land, carrying it forward all the way to the present time. We’ve even heard of local Spanish farmers instruct their Muslim neighbours to plant potatoes facing Mecca! In The Book of Agriculture, the prolific Andalusi agronomist Ibn al-Awwam describes numerous techniques for sustainable farming such as periodically leaving land fallow, keeping livestock and bees to enhance the orchard’s ecosystem, composting, and companion planting (which he describes as “plant sympathies”). There are also ecological gems in these treatises that are only now being scientifically studied and developed, such as references to azaderach or the Neem tree, whose seeds contain a chemical that is toxic to all animals except birds, yet are poisonous to insects. Azaderachtin is currently under study as a natural, bird-friendly insecticide. Some of the methods described in Andalusi agricultural texts do seem a little on the wacky side now, such as staging a conversation around a tree that doesn’t fruit, threatening to cut it down if it hasn’t fruited in a year, or shaping model birds from ground herbs, dust from a graveyard, and camel urine, to hang in trees to deter them! However, these treatises also testify to a sensitivity to climate, geology, moon phases, and even astrological phases, meshing their agricultural practise with a holistic and sacred view of the world. There is information about which trees like which types of manure, how to decide where to dig a well, what time of year to sow or prune different plants, and simply aesthetic techniques such as how to tinge a rose’s petals yellow by stuffing ground saffron into an incision made in the stem or root of the bush. It’s clear that this knowledge was not developed from a laboratory – that the authors embodied it. In tending to the soil as the living beings who inhabited it, Andalusi farmers carried out farming as a spiritual practise, filaha: this Arabic term for agriculture comes from the same morphological root as falah, or success. One theme that stands out in their agricultural texts is a respect for water; Ibn al-Awwam views the best water for all kinds of plants as rain water, it “being as a blessing to them”. This is advice is bittersweet, especially in the Mediterranean Basin, where temperatures are forecast to rise by as much as 8o by 2100. Over 100,000 hectares of olive trees are currently planted in the agronomical equivalent of golf courses, and the trend shows no signs of stopping. And yet a rising interest in specialty olive oil could stem the tide of this agricultural disaster, as consumers awaken to the importance of knowing the source of their food and investing in sustainable farming. Amid the turmoil of climate change, the olive is a living monument to quiet resilience in the face of drought, climate extremes, the rise and fall of kingdoms, even genocide. From their resuscitation in Al-Andalus by way of ships travelling from Tunisia, to the threat of overconsumption and desertification we face now, they’ve come an amazingly long way for plants that can stand a thousand years and still bear fruit. Now it’s up to us to value their legacy, and the beautiful earth with which we have been entrusted.
“Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose.” (3:191) Medina Tenour Whiteman is the author of the collection of poetry Love is a Traveller and We Are its Path, Huma’s Travel Guide to Islamic Spain, and most recently the travelogue-memoir The Invisible Muslim: Journeys through Whiteness and Islam. For further reading on filaha, see www.filaha.org With thanks to Juan Antonio Rodríguez Martínez of Casería de la Virgen for his input about the historic replanting of olives from Tunisia. For further reading on this see www.caseria.org, and to see the thousand-year-old trees and the milling process, see www.youtube.com/watch? v=f12U76uZhtc
The story of our friend: The Fasts of Ramadan Adam Marikar
As Allah tells us, the month of Ramadan was when the Qur'an was revealed to guide mankind (2:184). But how and when did it ‘reveal’, and why did it coincide with the pre-Islamic month of Ramadan? Before our cherished Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was declared a ‘prophet’, it was his meditative practice to retire to a cave called Hira, set in the Mountain of the Light (Jabal al-Nour) with his family, just over 5 miles from the Kaaba. They would do this annually for a month, and their chosen month was Ramadan. Ramadan derives from the word ‘Ramad’, which means dryness of the mouth. On an infamous night we all know, the Prophet Muhammed received a trembling revelation from the angel Gabriel called ‘the Clot’, Quran 96:1-8, after commanding him to ‘read!’ or ‘Iqra!’. And the rest, they say is history. But fasting was not a ‘thing’ in the early years of his Prophethood. Although Muslims could optionally fast on Mondays and Thursdays (just as the Jews did and still currently do) it was on the 10th day of Muharram, the 1st month of the ancient Arabian lunar calendar, where fasting was initially made compulsory (all the other faiths followed this calendar too). Muharram is one of only four holy months mentioned in the Quran, although Ramadan is not one of them. It was compulsory to fast on the 10th day of Muharram, called Ashura, as it symbolised the day that Moses and the Israelites crossed the Sea to escape from the tyrant Pharaoh of Egypt and the reward for fasting according to hadith is that the past two years will be forgiven. This understandably is also called 'day of atonement', Yom Kippur by the Jewish tradition. The Prophet Muhammad would also fast the day before Ashura and the day after it too to have an ‘edge’ over the Jewish traditional fast. Later the Quran would be revealed to Prophet Muhammed always through the angel Gabriel, through different modes of communication. Sometimes as the dramatic ringing of the bell, sometimes in his sleep, and on occasions, Khadija, his wife, had to wrap him in a veil as his forehead was bathed in sweat. It was by no means an easy duty. Memorising the revelations and well as writing them down on parchments, palm leaves, bones and slates was a task. And the legacy of these early Muslims is the Quran we have today may Allah bless them, the criterion of right and wrong, Alhamdulillah. So let’s celebrate Ramadan by changing our rhythm of life regarding our food, relationships, work and our spiritual mindset to develop a more God-focused life and top it off with Eid al Fitr. Amen! References: • Image: view from Jabal al-Nour, Anadolou Agency • Holy Months: Quran 9:36, Translation/explanation of the Quran by Mamaduke Picktall, • Muslims fasting Ashura: Sahih al-Bukhari 1893, Sahih al-Bukhari 4502; • Ashura’s Reward: Jami` at-Tirmidhi 752, Imam from Blackpool Mosque Khutbah • Jews and Ashura: Torah Leviticus 16:29-30, Sahih al-Bukhari 4680 and 2005, • Similarities of Jews and Muslims fasts: Alfred Guillaume, Islam, 1954. • Fasting Monday/Thursday: Sunan Abi Dawud 2436, Riyad as-Salihin 1257
Nine. ISLAMIC INSPIRED BUILDINGS IN BRITAIN TO VISIT Adam Marikar
Here are some of the very best Islamic style architecture in Britain for you to visit but aren’t mosques (that will be in a later issue). All these buildings were constructed in the 1800s when, according to the British Museum, the study and practice of Orientalism was most popular amongst Europeans. Orientalism is the study of culture and people of North Africa and Asian, with their interests ranging from paintings, ceramics, glassmaking, literature and of course architecture.
Harrogate Turkish Baths
Arab Room at Cardiff Castle Sat in the capital of Wales, the castle is a relief from the jostling of the city. The castle sits on the reused site of a Roman fort then, after being a castle, it became a palace, with several fantastically styled rooms being added by architect, William Burges. In 1881 one of them was the Arab room, from 1881 containing an opulent carved wood muqarnas ceiling, which can often be seen in Mosques and Persian palaces, covered in 22 carat gold. Visit: Open to the public for tours.
Arab Hall, Leighton House Museum, London The art studio of Frederic Leighton is not only decorated with calligraphy from surah Rahman and Baqarah in the Quran but has a magnificent dome sparkling with a thousand gems which reflects into the square basin below. The Arab hall was commission in 1877 by Leighton after travelling extensively to mosques in Algeria, Turkey, Egypt and Syria. Leightons large collection of Islamic tiles are now part of the British Museum. Visit: Open to the public for tours.
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Senzicote and gardens, Gloucester It is impossible to divorce this Indian manner house from the gardens, and vice versa set in 3,500 acres containing streams, an Indian bridge as well as a temple pond. The style was taken from the Mughals who were the Muslim rulers of India. The estate originally belonged to John Cockerell who prospered from the East India Company, and was designed by T. Daniell who lived in India as a painter. Interestingly, the building even inspired Prince George IV to alter his Brighton Pavilion (see part 2). Visit: garden and house tours available. Easiest to travel by Car.
Harrogate Turkish Baths While the city of Bath maybe known for its Roman baths, Harrogate in Yorkshire is known for its Turkish baths and mineral water. A Turkish bath consists of three rooms each air heated to different temperatures and a plunge pool. Although a Turkish bath still in working order (even visited by Charles Dickens), it embraces horseshoe Moorish arches, cream and ruby painted ceilings and Italian terrazzo floors. The first Turkish bath in England dates back to 1679 by Muslim Turkish merchants on Newgate Street, London but was popularised by David Urquhart, a British consulate to Constantinople to help ill-health as well as to show the Ottoman Empire were not frightening. Visit: Gender segregation spar sessions are available as are 45 minutes tours.
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London Turkish Bathhouse In the shadow of Norman Foster’s Gherkin skyscraper lays a gleaming, ornate Turkish Bath. Originally built in 1895 by G Harold Elphick, it’s decorated with Islamic arches, with a plump minaret topped with an onion dome. The interior downstairs is markedly different from the original, but tries to recapture some Islamic, or even Mughal style. Visit: Book in advance as it’s an events venue, 7-8 bishopsgate churchyard, London.
Royal Pavilion, Museum and Dome, Brighton Brighton is known for its seaside and pavilion. The former farmhouse was refashioned by J. Nash, from Prince George IV orders, to make an Indian Mughal style retreat as a nod to India as part of the British empire. The rising minarets and spires are fretted with variety. The estate was later used as a military hospital by injured Indian soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War, hoping the ambiance would make them feel at home. The south gate Mughal arch commemorates this, but on the north side lays the museum, and the Dome (concert hall), in similar Mughal imposing style, which only few people mention. Visit: Free.
St Paul’s House, Leeds Overlooking Park Square in Leeds lies the fiberglass fiveminaret boasting Moorish-Venetian office. Originally a warehouse and cloth cutting works designed by Thomas Ambler built for John Barron, who is credited in Leeds for founding mass production of readymade clothing. Visit: Free to visit the exterior of the building.
Templeton on the Green, Glasgow Besides Glasgow’s Green Park is the 1892 gothic-venetian ex-carpet factory designed by Glaswegian Sir William Leiper on behalf of James Templeton. Inspired by the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, one source says ‘The flamboyant glazed brick, vitreous enamel tiles, red brick and terracotta of the facade evokes the Oriental-influenced patterns of the carpets produced” as well as screening the sewing machines behind. Visit: Free to visit the park, exterior of the building and the local museum.
Durham Cathedral This magnificent cathedral was built by the Normans who conquered vast areas of Europe (Willian the Conqueror was Norman), including Italy and took part in the Crusades. Durham cathedral has three features stemming distantly from Islamic architecture which could be due to transfer of craftsmen and through the bishops. The first is its rose window which has a link to the rosettes and octagon windows of the 8th Century Umayyad Palace Khirbat, Jordan; the second is the intersecting arches in the cathedral nave from the Great Mosque of Cordoba; 3rd being the Norman Romanesque arches in the Galilee Chapel said to be inspired again by the arches of the Great Cordoba Mosque.
SHarrogarte Turkish Bat Sources: 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World by AlHassani. Official Websites from Cardiff Castle, Leighton House Museum, Senzicote and gardens, Harrogate Turkish Baths, It's No Game, Art Fund UK, Clyde Water Front, Emphyrio, Billy Wilson, Durham Cathedral,
Happiness THROUGH SPIRITUALITY CULTIVATING
It is not presumptuous of me to say that everyone wants to be happy. It is also not presumptuous of me to say it’s easier said than done. The search for happiness is one that consumes people’s lives and is the ultimate focus of so many modern institutions and brand promises. However Islam teaches us to find this happiness through the eyes of God. We will examined the role of happiness in Islam and its teachings and most importantly how we can achieve it through being pious Muslims. In this article I will exploring the main points raised in a presentation by Dr Rizwan Syed, offering advice on how to be happy. Happiness can be defined through its synonyms of contentment and peace of mind or an absence of negative thoughts. Aside from the obvious feel-good aspect of the emotion it is also beneficial to your physical health, boosting your immune system, lowering blood pressure and of course bettering mental health. In a religion where even a smile is considered charity, being a happy and positive person who is compassionate about others is key to our identities as Muslims. The question of fostering happiness is one that predates Islam and has been at the heart of philosophical debate since its origins. Aristotle defined happiness as ‘the exercise of virtue’ in the early 4th Century BC. Virtue in the Ancient Greek context was a characteristic considered a mark of personal morality and social integrity. Even from its initiation the question of happiness has been intrinsically tied to spiritual wellbeing perhaps due to the simple fact that doing good for others makes us feel good about ourselves. Eminent voices in later Islamic philosophy also sought to tackle the question of how to be happy, as Imam Ghazali asserted ‘he who knows himself, is truly happy’. In these and many other philosophical systems, seeking happiness seems to be as much of an introspective venture as it is outward-looking, aspects which are balanced in Islam through increased spirituality.
As narrated in Surah Hajj:
‘O believers! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, worship your Lord, and do good deeds so that you may be successful.’ (22:77). The word ‘successful’ in this context could have manifold interpretations, however is likely in reference to the ultimate victory for Muslims which is entering the gates of Paradise to which all other worldly successes pale in comparison, a reminder for Muslims in a global culture obsessed with material gain. The detrimental affects of such a mindset have been the focus of American psychologist Martin Seligman, an eminent voice in the research of happiness and how to foster it. Through vast and varying studies Seligman has found that attributes such as not being materialistic, being in a stable marriage and being sociable all contribute to making a person happy. Whilst these traits may be somewhat dependent on individual personality, they can however be learnt through practices and cultivating traits such as gratefulness, empathy for others and making an effort to control one’s anger. Having a specific religious doctrine has also been proven to foster happiness, which on a basic level, may attribute to having a stable community and a set of principles to fall back on. In truth it is much more complex and personal. As examined by another America psychologist Barry Schwartz our current social climate may actually impede our paths towards contentment and fulfilment. He examines how comparing oneself to others and feelings of regret lead to unhappiness, something he labels as upwards comparison. We compare ourselves to others in terms of intelligence, possessions or beauty because we assimilate happiness with tangible belongings. This kind of comparison with people who appear to be happy, healthy and more successful than us serves only to foster feelings of jealousy and stress resulting in low self-esteem. As Muslims we can see these aims for what they are, symptoms of a temporary life that presents aesthetic achievements as tantamount to goodness and trustworthiness. We are lucky to have the awareness that in the end, spiritual wellbeing will always be more important both for this life and the next. We are even encouraged as Muslims to avoid such kinds of personal comparison. In a Hadith reported by Abu Huraira we are reminded to ‘Look at those below you and do not look at those above you, for it is the best way not to belittle the favours of God’ (Muslim 2963).
This verse is also applicable to the way we treat ourselves. Success in Islam is not measured through any material goods or perfect grades, but in how well you take care of yourself spiritually which is both the key to Islam and ultimately happiness. The way Muslims can achieve this is through following the teachings of their ‘spiritual code’ which is mentioned repeatedly in the Quran as the 'right path’ or ‘the way’. This is achieved through following the commandments of God and living our lives in way that would be deemed beautiful to him, as God is the only fair judge. Being God-conscious, honest and hardworking all foster gratitude for personal blessings and wonder at the universe we inhabit. Instead of big houses and toned bodies Muslims are promised Paradise through motivation and optimism. The main tenets of this kind of success come from fulfilling the principles of a believer as one who strives for iman (spirituality), ibadah (personal relationship with God), ahkam (obeying commandments), birr (piety and good character) and khidma (acts of service). These five principles combined not only to produce a fulfilled and likeable individual, but also a good Muslim. Wherein self-worth and belief work in conjunction with each other to achieve peace of mind. All these qualities represent practical solutions to low mood and are easy to implicate in our daily lives. A simple call to your family encompasses at least three of these essential attributes and is a simple step towards becoming a better Muslim and a happier person. Islam at its core, encourages prosocial behaviour. A term used in psychology defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘relating to, or denoting behaviour which is positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship’. Our best examples for this behaviour were set by our Prophets (pbut) who were as individuals, concerned with the wellbeing of their communities and were actively involved in their bettering. During times of personal trial or illness they set the example of resilience and turned to their Creator. Amongst his illustrious names God offers assurance. Titles such as Al Qadir (the Determiner) reinforce the belief of Fate, which, if you are able to resign to it fully, removes stress about what the future may hold. Others such as Al Latif (as Subtle in his Kindness) encourages believers to observe their lives a bit close in order to identify the small things they should be gracious for, something which we should all endeavour to do more. The ability to step back and look at our lives objectively (although easier said than done) removes the stress of worldly aspirations, because all we have to do to be seen truly successful in the eyes of God, is to be a good, generous and a spiritual person. By redefining what we consider successful, we can ultimately redefine how we measure our happiness and improve our lives along with our Islam.
SURAH AT TIN - SURAH OF THE OLIVE. 18
Surah At Tin Chapter 96 - was one of the first surahs to have been revealed. One of the amazing aspects of the Quran is the ease by which the Quran is memorised. There is not a single practising Muslim on the face of the earth except that they would have memorised some portion of the Quran, verbatim. And the short surahs, which are easier to learn, summarise many deep and important lessons. The Oaths The surah begins with a series of oaths. (As human beings, we only swear an oath by Allah, but Allah can swear by His creation). The essence of an oath is honouring and venerating that which is sworn upon, the muqsam bihi (object of the oath), either due to its virtue or its benefit. And the oaths themselves are used to draw attention to a fundamental point being made, the muqsam ‘alayh (the subject of the oath). (1-3) “By the fig, and the olive, and Mount Sinai, and this blessed city.” The Quran contains layers of meanings and scholars of the Quran can use their personal reasoning (ijtihad) to give an interpretation of the meanings of the ayahs. In this surah, at one level, the Quran is referring to the fig and the olive themselves, which contain many blessings and medical benefits. However, in the same way the fig and the olive contain blessings, so too does the tree from which these foods come and the land on which these trees are known to grow. In the case of the fig and the olive, the land is interpreted as that surrounding Jerusalem. The second land is Mount Sinai, from where the Prophet Moses, upon whom be peace, spoke with Allah. The third land is Makkah, yet it is described in a very special way; a land which is safe and gives security, as Prophet Ibrahim, upon whom be peace, had prayed to make this city one of peace and security (Surah Ibrahim, 14:35). So, the oaths move from one noble place, to another more noble place, then to a place that is more noble than both of them. Another interpretation is that “the fig” represents the place where the Ark of Noah, upon whom be peace, finally came to rest (on Mount Judi), and “the olive” represents Palestine, the land of Jesus, upon whom be peace. So, these oaths can also be seen as a reference to the five major prophets, who lived in these three lands - Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., and peace be upon them all.
What do these oaths point to? (4) “Truly We created mankind in the most beautiful stature” This is one of the most emphatic affirmations of humanity’s exalted status, before which the angels were ordered, “Prostrate unto Adam” (Surah al Baqarah, 2:34). Allah says in the Quran of Adam, “I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit” (Surah Saad, 38:72). “Taqweem” comes from a root word that denotes something “upright” and “in the best shape” and it also connotes a balanced creation. On one level, human beings have been created in a remarkable physical shape; with agile limbs, living in a dignified manner, with faculties of speech. Then there are the exceptional gifts of intellect, of abstract thought, the ability to reason. On a third level, the human being has been created, from birth, with a conscience, an innate ability to sense right from wrong and the free will to act in accordance with reason and conscience. Thus both outwardly and inwardly, on the physical, mental and spiritual levels, the human being is above much of creation. As Allah says in the Quran: “And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference” (Surah al Isra, 17:70). But after this emphatic truth, there comes a warning: (5) “Then We return them to the lowest of the low” Thus, the tragedy is that a person who refuses to use their faculties of hearing, vision, reason and conscience, a human being who is merely a slave to their desires, proves themselves to be of a stature that is lower than the angels and even lower than the animals. If we continue on that lower path, then our final destination in the Hereafter can also be described as “the lowest of the low”. “The lowest of the low” in the previous ayah has also been interpreted to mean old age, such that the faculties are diminished.
(6) “Except those who believe and do good—they will have a never-ending reward” 18
In the Quran, warning is always accompanied by good news. Those human beings that use their God-given faculties in the right way maintain their status and will earn a continuous reward in this life and in the life hereafter. Of course, as always, the Quran reminds us that our inner and outer states should match, that is, our faith and good deeds must go together, because knowledge without action is hypocrisy and action without knowledge is misguidance. (7) “What then makes you deny the Judgement?” “Deen” in this ayah refers to the Day of Judgement, the Resurrection and other aspects of Religion. In the Quran we are often being challenged to reflect on the world around us. So in this ayah we are being asked to reflect: Does our exceptional creation not make us consider the purpose of our being? How can we deny the resurrection when we are witnesses to the growth of human beings from a drop of fluid, rising into a noble stature? And how can we deny the coming judgement when human beings choose to follow such different paths in life?
Lister Park, Bradford
((8) “Is God not the most Just of all judges?” The final ayah reminds us that we will be judged for the choices we make, but it reminds us too that God’s judgement is the Most Just and the Most Wise, and this is because His “Mercy embraces all things” (Surah Al ‘A’raaf, 7:156). No soul on that day will feel that they have been wronged, as Allah says in the Quran: “And guard yourselves against a day in which you shall be returned to God; then every soul shall be paid back in full what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly” (Surah al Baqarah, 2:281). Concluding remarks This is an amazing surah. It is a powerful summary of the main pillars of belief: God, prophethood and life after death. It is a reminder of the blessings that we have, of food, of safety, of being given prophets and revelation. It is a reminder too of our extraordinary creation. And just as the human being is a balanced creation, physically, mentally and spiritually, the message of Islam is also a balance of teachings for the body, mind and soul. It is reported that the Prophet, s.a.w., said that when we recite this surah and reach the last ayah, then we should respond (outside the prayer), “Bala, wa ana ‘ala dhalika min-ash-shahidin - Yes, and I am of those who bear witness to it”
Things in Lockdown to be appreciative for and reflective Adam Marikar
If someone told you that from 2020 everybody would be affected by a disease, isolating neighbours, countries, Hajj and forcing mosques to close - would you believe them? Few would. But, since these last two years with the ebbing and flowing of coronavirus restrictions, occasionally controversial, they allowed us to appreciate certain moments. And here are some of them.
Muslims at the forefront of healthcare in Britain Written in the history books is that the first doctors in the British Isles to die of COVID-19 were Muslims. It was 55-year-old Amged ElHawrani, an ENT specialist in Burton. His death was then followed by Adil El Tayar, a transplant surgeon and then by many others. Although a startling 95% of the affected doctors were from Black, Asian and minority backgrounds, the legacy of their work and other health workers has not been forgotten by their patients, with colleague Chris Whitty being deeply moved by their departure from this world. We too, shouldn’t forget this and should make as proud as Muslims that we have selfless people in our community.
Mosques become healthcare centres Currently, according to the NHS statistics, over 40 million people now have had the second dose of the vaccine, many being at mosques. Several councils decided to use mosques as vaccine centres with anticipation. The first being Abbas Mosque in Birmingham in January 2021. I personally had my booster injection at Glasgow Central Mosque which saw ques of Glaswegians getting jabbed by NHS staff, of all faith and none. Moreover, it helps remove anxiety about vaccines amongst Muslims. The initiative reinforces the notion that mosques help develop not just prayer, but community action and is a wonderful way to invite non-Muslims to Islam, as encouraged by the Prophet Muhammed when he invited Christian delegates to his Medina Mosque.
Appreciate Islamic fabrics through prayer mats to avoid the potentially covid-19 contaminated snot from noses meeting our face we had to bring individual prayer mats to the mosque, and I was so amazed by the diversity of the designs and colours of mat made in Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, and China and many more, highlighting that manufacturing prayer mats is big business too.
Muslims go digital and the call to prayer is made public mosque committees and Islamic charities took the initiative to hold online classes for Quran, Friday sermons and other lectures to maintain the sense of spiritual togetherness and many have maintained this habit. Islamic art events such as MACFEST were able to receive audiences worldwide online from Manchester. Several mosques too could publicly call the athan during Ramadan, particularly in Newham, London. But did you know since 1985 the East London Mosque has been broadcasting the athan from noon-twilight through public speakers.
Quiet Ramadan Many believed that COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions were a test. Many struggled, losing their jobs, staying in homes and missing iftar and congregational prayers (and if there were prayers we had to book a ticket). But it was important to have a positive mindset. My mother said “fasting was much easier as I didn’t have to go to work, being a teaching assistant. We prayed at home, and it allowed me to cook slightly later in the day without being tired’’. Families were able to develop stronger bonds, and many learnt new Quran chapters, with online charity giving ever more important.
Images from: British Medical Association, Glasgow Dental Prayer room, ISB zoom lecture from Feb 2022 and ISB brothers/sisters circle, Glasgow University Muslim Association Manchester Muslim Heritage Centre homeless support, Ben Garratt, Cambridge Central Mosque. Background images: Brighton Indian Pavilion, Bradford Grand Mosque
Instilled love to see the community again Once you lose something, and regain it, the moment is blissful. And this was exactly how we felt when we could the socialise and attend mosques with our Muslim brothers and sisters again (sometimes with elbow bumps rather than handshakes). However, one well known controversy was in Manchester, the day before Eid, when a local lockdown was introduced, meaning that Eid gatherings were put on hold. But thankfully that was a thing of the past, Insha’Allah.
The Wudu routine and handwashing similarity According to the NHS, the most effective measure against catching most microorganism infections, including the Coronavirus are to wash our hands, and it is a 1400 and even older than that religious tradition as its the first step in wudu, Subhan Allah!
My name is Jenan and I’m a recipe developer and food writer at JenanLand.com. It’s a website dedicated to making eating as enjoyable as possible. I create seasonal recipes that are simple and easy to follow, but incredibly delicious. Many of the recipes I share are inspired by my Palestinian heritage, and allow me to discover new aspects of eating and my own food culture. Jenan Land also includes inspirations from Wales where I have spent most of my life, and my studies in Spain.
Olive & Cheddar Roles With just 3 ingredients and a few simple steps, it’s one of the simplest recipes you can add to your Ramadan repertoire. Crisp and flaky pastry, filled with sharp cheddar and briny and bold kalamata olives. This simple appetiser is a total crowd pleaser.
TIME: 30 MIN
INGREDIENTS 1 Package Ready Rolled Puff Pastry (approx. 320g) 125g Kalamata Olives (Pitted) 150g Cheddar Cheese
METHOD 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan/200°C/Gas Mark 7 2. Finely chop the pitted olives into pea sized pieces and set aside, then grate the cheddar cheese 3. Unroll the puff pastry, and sprinkle over the cheese in an even layer, then evenly scatter the olives 4. Tightly roll the pastry into a log, starting at the longest edge 5. Use a sharp knife to slice the log into 12 pieces. Start by slicing in half, then half again, then slice each ¼ into 3 pieces 6. Transfer the slices onto 2 lined baking sheets, and bake for 18-20mins, or until golden
White Fish, Tomato & Olive Bake This Bake consists of delicate slices of fish, gently poached in a sweet yet piquant tomato sauce. It's scattered with parsley and green olives that add both freshness and vibrance. Though it begins on the stove, the magic happens once transferred to the oven. The tomatoes caramelise, the briney, nutty flavour of the olives becomes one with the sauce, and fish draws it all in. It pairs perfectly with rice, warm pita & company.
TIME: 45 MIN
METHOD 1. Preheat oven to 220°C Fan/240°C/Gas Mark 8
350g White Fish (I used
2. Prepare the fish by slicing into 5-6 pieces & set aside
3. Dice the onions, roughly chop the garlic, halve about ¾
50g Green Olives of choice 5 tbsp Olive Oil 1 Medium Onion 6 Cloves Garlic 600g Cherry Tomatoes 1 Large Handful Parsley 1 tsp Chilli Flakes ½ tsp Salt ½ tsp pepper ¼ cup water
of the tomatoes, roughly chop the parsley & set aside 4. In an oven-proof pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat, then add the onions (you can also do this in a non oven proof pan, then transfer to a baking dish later) 5. Once the onions are translucent (about 10 mins), add in the garlic and stir. Cook for 3 mins, or until the garlic is slightly golden 6. Add in the tomatoes (both halved and whole), and sauté for approx. 10 mins until the juices have all been released, and a sauce has formed 7. Add in the salt, pepper, chilli flakes & parsley (reserving some parsley for garnish) 8. Add in the water, and cook for another 2 mins then turn of the heat 9. Place the pieces of fish into the sauce, submerging about half way, and scatter in the olives (if transferring to a baking dish, this is the time to do so) 10. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 mins, until the fish has cooked all the way through, and the tomato sauce has caramelised around the edges Serve with rice or pita
Lemon and Olive Oil Cakelets These cakelets are perfect for sharing and gifting. They're easily transportable and look so impressive that your loved ones will hardly believe they’re homemade. They’re light, moist & fluffy mini cakes made with fruity olive oil and perfumey lemon zest. Neither flavour is overpowering, but they are complementary. Even the tart icing is slightly mellowed by the earthiness of the olive oil in the sponge, which makes every bite a multilayered and delightful experience.
TIME: 1 HOUR
METHOD 1. Preheat the oven to 160°C Fan/180°C/Gas Mark 4
2. Grease and flour 2 deep cupcake trays/muffin trays
175ml/140g Olive Oil
3. Into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and zest of both
Zest and Juice of 2 Large Lemons (approx. 50g zest & 100ml juice) 3 Eggs 1 tsp Vanilla Extract 175g Self Raising Flour 1 tsp Baking Powder Pinch of Salt 250g Icing Sugar
lemons, and mix well to release the oils from the zest 4. Add in the olive oil and whisk well 5. Add in the eggs and vanilla and whisk until slightly bubbly (about 2 mins) 6. Add in the juice of 1 lemon (50ml), and mix 7. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir into the batter with a wooden spoon until just combined 8. Divide the batter into the prepared trays, and fill each cup about halfway 9. Bake for 20-25 mins, or until slightly golden and the cakes spring back when pressed in the centre 10. As the cakes cool, prepare the icing by adding the remaining lemon juice to a bowl 11. Then add the icing sugar and whisk until smooth 12. Loosen the cakes from the trays using a butter knife 13. Once fully cooled, gently dip the bottoms of the cakes into the icing & place on a serving plate (inverted so that the bottoms are now the tops, and so the icing drips a little) 14. Add garnish of choice (I like to use sliced lemon zest)
The Oak Tree Adam Marikar
...And the good land - its vegetation emerges by permission of its Lord (Quran 7:58) And the stars and trees prostrate (56:52).
Since the theme for this article focuses on Islamic gardens and olive trees, it is suitable to note some of the trees that surround us where we live. Trees play a role in providing habitats for creatures, contributing to beauty, and producing oxygen and food, such as hazels, walnuts and of course fruits. A tree that is said to represent the nation is the oak tree and has been called the king of the forest, providing habitat for more wildlife species than any other tree. There are two native oak species in the UK and can grow over 30.5 metres (as tall as 7 elephants) and can live for 800 years. If you see acorns, it means the oak trees are over 50 years old. The oak has been used for ship building, for example Henry VIII’s warship ‘Mary Rose’, furniture, tanning leather, smoking food and a component in ink writing as it contains tannic acid. Traditional oak remedies including gripping a ripe acorn into a warm milk for curing diarrhoea or putting oak leaves in hot water to cure ringworm. Interestingly similarly to when the Prophet Muhammad and his Companion Abu Baker (peace and blessing upon them both) hid in a cave south of Mecca (Quran 9:40), King Charles II and his companion hid in the borough of an oak tree in Staffordshire when a parliament patrol passed by! On a spiritual side they too were held sacred by the Druids. So, there you have it, a brief history of the Oak tree.
LIFE LESSONS FROM LEBANON Zakiyah Fitzsimon
Different experiences in life teach us lessons. Travel can be one such educational experience. I have just arrived back from Lebanon where I distributed aid, with Human Appeal, to Syrian refugees. I went there to help our Syrian brothers and sisters; I learnt so much from them. But where is Lebanon. To be honest I knew very little about Lebanon before I went there. Lebanon is a multi-religious country in the Middle East bordered by Syria and Palestine. As a result, there are both Syrian and Palestinian refugees there. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been there since the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. Whilst the Syrian refugees are there as a result of the more recent civil war which started in 2011. Lebanon itself also has a long history of conflict including acts of terrorism. The people I spoke to said that they feel unsafe and would like to leave the country. We have all heard about refugees in the news. However, do we know the hardship they face in their daily lives? Yet amazingly, so many have a positive out-look. I witnessed this during my four-day trip visiting Syrian refugees both in Beirut (the capital city) and ten refugee camps.
DAY 1 In Beirut we visited three places connected to Syrian refugees: an educational centre, a shelter for widows and orphans, and a factory training/employing our Syrian sisters who are widows. The educational centre was for orphans and children of widows. The ground floor of this centre was still under construction, so we went upstairs. We had such an amazing welcome from the Muslim scouts, who were full of energy singing and dancing! It was truly a real joy to watch and partake in. We had the opportunity to explore the centre, which entailed of a nursery and different classrooms for learning. There was also a room upstairs which was designed for children to express their worries, although resources were very limited.
Later, we visited a shelter for widows and their children. As soon as we arrived, we could hear children playing in the yard. We then went inside the shelter which consisted of eight floors. Each floor had four rooms where families of four had to share a room. The rooms were very small and had curtains instead of doors. There was two toilets on each floor which looked very old and were in poor condition. In this building there was no lighting, therefore at night it is very difficult to see. There was one kitchen downstairs with damaged walls and empty cupboards. Upstairs they had a room which was used for prayers. We then headed outside to the beautiful sound of children with laughter, playing a ball game. Some volunteers and I joined in the game and I can definitely say it felt like a honour to play with these beautiful children! We then visited a sewing factory which provided a sewing course for refugee women. After completing this course these sisters receive a certificate and some would be offered jobs in the factory. It was amazing to see all the great work they have made; shoes, bags, clothes etc. During our visit, the electricity went off for most of the time - this is something that happens very often in Lebanon. The owners of the factory were very hospitable which is something I noticed from various people there throughout the whole trip.
DAY 2 The next day we drove to Beqaa to the Syrian refugee camps. As soon as we arrived, the children came running to say salaam and were so happy to see us. We visited three camps and distributed aid such as fuel (for heating), winter packs (clothing) and food packs. Arriving at the first refugee camp was very touching. The beautiful families were so grateful for the aid and kept making prayers for us. The children here were very happy to see us and we loved meeting them too. At the second camp, an elderly lady welcomed us into her home, a tent made of plastic sheets. She spoke about how her house in Syria was destroyed during the civil war and that she has been in this tent for ten years. Her son is disabled and therefore cannot work. She said she sometimes struggles for food and therefore has to borrow food from her neighbours in other tents.
Nevertheless, she kept praising God and was thankful to be alive. The hospitality was truly heartfelt as they offered us tea even though, they were struggling themselves for food. A huge lesson I took from this was to be grateful for everything you have as nothing is guaranteed. Also, to make a conscious intention to not waste food and finish everything on our dinner plates by following the sunnah of our beloved prophet as there are others who have to borrow food. As the day went on, we experienced the freezing conditions that our brothers and sisters live in, it was truly heart-breaking.
DAY 3 Next, we distributed aid to refugee camps in Arsal, beside the Syrian border. The children were full of joy and we had the opportunity to play games with them. In one of the camps, there was a school for children and some children knew English. However, this was not seen in other camps. An inspirational man invited us into his home to share his story. He said that he had been living in the tent for nine years with his wife and four young children. In Syria, after four months of being married, he was outside sitting on a bench when his left leg was severely injured in an air strike. As a result, the lower half of his left leg was amputated. He showed us an X-ray picture of his spine, showing how it has been damaged in a curve. He stated that he struggles to wear his artificial leg as it is painful, so he prefers to use a walking stick to help him get around. He also cannot work due to his condition and said he relies solely on donations to be able to provide for his family. It was difficult to see someone having to rely on donations for the basic needs to be able to eat and keep warm etc. However, again I have never met more glowing souls. He was still so grateful to be alive and was constantly was giving thanks.
DAY 4 The following day we travelled to refugee camps beside the Palestinian border. It felt so surreal seeing Palestine across the border and made me feel truly feel blessed. The camps here were different than the others. The previous camps we had visited were covered with small stones; however, these camps were on very muddy soil. It was pouring with rain and was hard not to slip. It was freezing and windy. I witnessed with my own eyes children shivering, wearing flip flops and one thin layer of clothing. Some children were more upset in these camps, understandably. However, people there were very grateful to have been receiving aid. My fingers could barely even move to lift the aid up because of how cold it was, and it made me wonder how these brothers and sisters live in this conditions daily. Throughout our trip, we supported 2000 familiesthanks to everyone’s donations. The whole experience taught me a lot. It taught me how we should be grateful for everything we have and not take anything for granted. It showed me the reality of where giving money in charity actually goes and the huge difference it makes to people’s lives. I would recommend going on one of these journeys as it has certainly changed the way I think and has left me with huge life lessons. Since I have been given the huge opportunity to meet these beautiful people, I feel it is now our responsibility to be their voice and raise awareness. I witnessed these humble families constantly make prayers for those helping them receive the emergency aid so all I will leave with is this; if we can give, we should give without hesitation as it really does go a long way, whether that’s through a prayer or making a donation. I truly believe we can all do more to make the world a better place! As our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said: “The most beloved of people to God are those who are most beneficial to others…” (AtTabarani) For reference, consent was given by these wonderful people to be taking videos and pictures shown to raise awareness.
ISB Campus Masterclass ON 5TH MARCH 2022 AROUND 50 YOUNG PEOPLE CAME TOGETHER AT THE HUB IN SOLIHULL, BIRMINGHAM TO DISCUSS THE IMPORTANCE OF DUA AND HOW IT ILLUMINATES OUR LIVES!
It’s been 2 years since our last ‘in person’ Masterclass and there was a palpable joy in being able to meet socially and enjoy diving into such an important topic. There were so many transformative discussions: Why is dua important? The mindset shift needed to understand why some duas do not appear to be answered straight away Scenario based conversations: why did I not pass my exams despite my duas? Why do I feel overwhelmed by world events and that my duas are just too small and insignificant? The need to ask for small things and big things and to just keep asking The nafs, the conscious mind, the unconscious mind and the aspirational mindhow do dua and positive affirmations help transform our state (from tongue to heart to behaviour) Dua through illness and vulnerability To just keep asking whether and whenever we can Some attendees said that reflecting on just one topic in depth was so important. So many reflected on how friendly and welcoming the Campus space is. This Masterclass was organised by a young team under the leadership of Hannah Ali and Alexandra Darby and was truly inspirational. It really was, in the coming together, that Divine mercy and light illuminated the room and our hearts! May the work we do be blessed and grow to touch others. May we see the hearts of attendees be inspired to grow firm in their relationships with Our Maker. May we see these young people be enriched by this deen to bring light, love and joy wherever they tred. I was one of the lucky mentors to enjoy yet another event in this blessed company.