Islamic Society of Britain
To teach or not to teach; that is the question Career Development
Palestinian heritage food in the UK Thereâ€™s an underlying but overwhelming theme of uncertainty that touches every corner of this story.
MY SISTER'S KEEPER
Assalamu alaykum! Welcome to the first edition of Ayah, the new online magazine of the Islamic Society of Britain. Ayah is a reflection of the rich British Muslim lifestyle, culture and conversations. Ayah will reflect the diversity of the British Muslim community and hold dear to the values of the Islamic Society of Britain. It will hold Islamic teachings at its core, as well as the notion of reaching out to wider society whilst contributing towards a just and caring Britain. The Islamic Society of Britain welcomes British Muslims from across the country. We have a rich contribution to the history of Islam in Britain over the last three decades. Join us as we help navigate such socially and politically turbulent times. Help us to write; help us to contribute to the tapestry that will help define our society in the future. If you would like to write to us with comments or suggestions, please contact us through: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your brother, Dr Khalid Anis (MBE) Editor-in-Chief 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.
By Mariam Alfarra
Palestinian Heritage Food Like many other immigrants, I use food to teach my three young children about their Palestinian heritage and to embed customs and traditions in their multicultural upbringing in the UK. One of our signature Palestinian dishes is called maqluba (also known as maqlouba or makluba). It is widely considered to be among the most iconic national dishes of Palestine. Most families will gather over a maqluba and often share it with extended family and friends. Whilst there are many different versions of this dish, the basic principle is in its name - ‘maqluba’ literally means upside down. The dish is cooked in one pot with layers of rice, roasted or shallow-fried vegetables, and with or without meat (chicken or lamb). These are slow-cooked using meat or vegetable stock and then flipped over once ready. It can be made with a variety of vegetables including cauliflower, aubergines and tomatoes. It is often served with green salad and a side of yogurt and cucumber (similar to tzatziki). Preparing maqluba might seem like a long process, but it is relatively easy to make and certainly well worth the time and effort.
Maqluba is one of the dishes which reminds me of my family, especially my mum! She always cooked maqluba with a great deal of love and attention to detail.
The last time I had her maqluba was in 2013! I have not been able to visit my home or see my family since then due to the brutal siege imposed on Gaza and the uncertainty and dangers involved in travelling to and from the area. My mum studied in Egypt in the late sixties before moving to Kuwait for her first job as a school teacher. She got married to my dad in the seventies and then moved to live and work in Saudi Arabia. It may seem like she has moved around quite a lot, however it is actually quite typical of many Palestinians as they are often forced to move abroad in search of education, employment and stability given their long struggle for freedom and the right to selfdetermination at home. Whilst working abroad, most Palestinians continue to support family members living back in Palestine. In 1994, my family moved back to Palestine following the signing of the Oslo ‘Peace’ Accord. Between 1994 and 1999, my mum’s maqluba tasted of stability, and was flavoured with hope. Sadly, this did not last for long: the political situation in Palestine deteriorated as a result of Israeli injustice, which led to the eruption of the Palestinian Intifada in the year 2000.
The Israeli fighter jets attacked and bombed civilians on many occasions and my mumâ€™s maqluba tasted of fear and insecurity. Having survived a brutal and scary few years, I got married and moved to Switzerland in 2006 before settling in the UK in 2008. I am now a teacher of Arabic and Quran and a mother of three beautiful children; I always talk to them about my Palestinian heritage and often find food a tasty way of connecting them to my home!
MY SISTER'S KEEPER By Zaina Cassam
My Sister’s Keeper was an emotional read. The novel is about a young girl named Anna Fitzgerald who was born to save the life of her sister, Kate. Kate Fitzgerald has acute promyelocytic leukaemia, and Anna is her allogeneic donor – she is a perfect sibling match. Whenever Kate relapses or is sick, and she needs bone marrow, cells, or anything to recover, Anna provides them. This was the case for thirteen years until Anna was asked to donate a kidney. She didn’t feel able to go forward with the procedure, so she decides to sue her parents for the rights to her own body, a decision that no child could ever make easily.
Sara Fitzgerald (Anna and Kate’s mother) narrates alongside Anna and a few other characters. Her point of view made my heart hurt a little every time. I kept imagining the depth of her love as a mother, which was needed in order for her to brave the trials that she had to face. It is more than oceandeep, to say the least. You follow her through her journey from the very first hospital visit with Kate’s diagnosis, to the courtroom where her other daughter is testifying against her. Let’s just say, it’s not the kind of roller coaster that is possible for you to enjoy. Neither is that of Jesse Fitzgerald, who is Anna and Kate’s brother. Being the eldest sibling, he experiences a whirlwind of trials of his own. Picoult delves deep into the impact of childhood neglect, giving Jesse a rebellious and angry personality which quite literally manifests itself in raging fires.
The book begins with Anna’s musings about babies, but not about how they are born, rather about why they are born. This is a perfect example of the impact on a young child of them witnessing the destruction that can be caused by cancer. Picoult explores Anna’s philosophical questions; being her sister’s lifesaver from the moment she was born, she has quite a few. What curiosities you may develop if you had to see pain and suffering almost every day. If you found yourself and your family in a life or death crisis often enough. If you had to give part of yourself away every now and then to help your sister survive. If you had to go through numerous operations, hospital visits, injections, and drug prescriptions. Constantly surrounded by the frailty of life, when you’ve barely lived more than a decade yourself. If you had to build your entire life around your sister, constantly making sure you stay healthy and nearby, just in case. Anna’s situation is filled with confusing and conflicting emotions and responsibilities. She loves her sister endlessly and, of course, would do anything for her. A sister’s love is infinite. But the effect of being her sister’s keeper seems unavoidable.
There’s an underlying, but overwhelming, theme of uncertainty that touches every corner of this story. The way it explores the reality of making difficult choices in life, the kind that really make you question your own morality and intentions, is eye-opening. You realise the true gravity you carry in your hands when you have to make these lifechanging decisions, knowing that it won’t just affect you, but everyone that you love too. Even if you believe you have thought everything through, no one can ever know what will happen, or whether you have made the right choice or a big mistake. Picoult doesn’t hesitate to make you, as the reader, feel the gravity of those choices. It lies within the conversations had between characters, like a heavy weight hanging in the air, waiting for the right moment. Brian (Anna and Kate’s father) spent Kate’s college savings without the permission of his wife, Sara. “Sara, she’s not going to live long enough to use that money for college”, he had said. The weight of sentences like those drops instantly; the book physically begins to feel ten times heavier in your hands.
How ironic (and painful) it is for Brian, who is himself a firefighter, to have a son who commits arson. You can imagine the charred father-son relationship that they share (pun intended). Another heated relationship explored in this novel is that of Mr Campbell, Anna’s lawyer, and Julia Romano, who is Anna’s Guardian ad litem and Mr Campbell’s high school girlfriend. Their story is complicated: they are brought back into each other’s lives once again, tricky though it may be to work with an ex-lover. It is romantic and heartfelt in its own way, nonetheless. This is definitely not a light read. In between chapters, a sense of fondness for the Fitzgerald family is developed. Even when there’s undeniable tension and despair in the atmosphere, you can still feel the love that the characters have for each other. I can say that the ending to this novel is nothing short of flawless: it remains true to the frailty of life in every sense of the word. And you’ll find that a sister’s love truly is infinite.
REISE | PAGE 2
َ ُ َ ﻫ َﻮ َﻣ َﻌﻜُ ْﻢ أ ْﻳ ﻦ َﻣﺎ ﻛ ْﻨ ُﺘ ْﻢ ُ َو AND HE IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU ARE
I’m pretty proud of it; my background, my heritage. I’m a proud British Muslim.
Afzal Khan Labour MP for Manchester Gorton
Afzal Khan is currently the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton. He is the first person from a BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background to represent a Manchester constituency in Parliament. He is also the only Muslim to have served in both the European and UK Parliaments. Mr. Khan was awarded the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam, Pakistan’s highest civilian honour, in recognition of his contribution to the well-being of the people of Pakistan. He has a long history of campaigning against racism and is a founding member of the groups ‘Hope not Hate’ and ‘Unite Against Fascism’. He is currently the Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. We have interviewed Mr. Khan on his experiences as such a prominent Muslim in politics and the media.
Assalaamu alaykum Afzal, could you talk to me about where you come from and your background? I’m from Pakistan, I was born there. I was adopted and brought to the UK at the age of 11. The early years were difficult as I had been uprooted - a different language, culture, family and friends. I left school - I didn’t do that well actually; I didn’t sit exams. So I started my life as a working mill labourer [and then as] a taxi driver. I [later] joined the police, and then from there I went and studied Law, qualified as a solicitor and from there I went into politics. It's impressive how you built yourself up. What role did your identity as a Pakistani Muslim play in your life growing up?
I suppose your identity is being shaped all the time. I think the 11 years I spent in Pakistan is a good length of time to get a feel for who you are and what you are. And then when you move countries and you develop [there], you grow and pick up things here as well. I’ve gone through different phases where I’ve not been too sure about myself and what I’m doing and where I’m going, and then afterwards becoming surer and carrying on. That part of my identity, being a Pakistani I’m pretty proud of it; my background, my heritage: I’m a proud British Muslim. What drew you to a career in politics?
I would say that my local area and my concern about what is going on in my area and around the world: I was involved with a lot of work in Bosnia and [so] the refugees, the Iraq War and all that played a part. If you don’t get involved, then others will make decisions for you. It’s important, if you value yourself, if you value your ideas and decisions then you need to be engaged! You can’t complain! And if you complain and you don’t do anything about it then what’s the issue? Why are you complaining? So being engaged allows you to help yourself and to help others. Was there anyone you looked up to when you were pursuing your political career?
There have been amazing people in history some of them very local and some further afield. There used to be a man around here who picked up litter. I found that inspirational: this commitment, this dedication [he had] to the community. Then there were people like Nelson Mandela who spent most of his life in prison and still stood by his principles and what he thought was right. He saw the discrimination and was willing to pay that price to make a change. He didn’t compromise, he didn’t waver, and he kept with that and he won! On the faith side, you have the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Incredible, If you look at the scarce resources he had and what he was able to achieve! He transformed a faith into one where billions of people follow and feel proud of what he’s done and what he stood for, the messages
he brought. An amazing achievement! From where he started, the difficulties he had - his father died, then his mother died soon after, then his grandfather when he was still a child. He didn’t go to school, but you can see what he did; how he transformed that whole society, and that impact is still being felt now. I think there are so many great people there and they are an inspiration to all of us.
So, would you say in that sense, being a Muslim has aided your career? I think being a Muslim has certainly helped me. For me, if you look at the example of the Prophet (pbuh), he said,
The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people Subhanallah! Such a way to inspire you and also to give you direction! Another hadith I come back to is, ‘He whose two days are equal is a loser’. This idea is transformational. If you say, ‘well my two days aren’t the same’, then you’re going to do a hell of a lot of growing then, aren’t you?’ The things you’d be able to do and achieve will be phenomenal. Do you have any advice or tips for young people who want to get involved in political issues and how they can help? I’d tell them to find out how the media works. How do they get the news made? What’s the other side of the news? How do the courts and trade unions work? My team and I take them [young people] to Parliament, to the Supreme Court and to meet the shadow ministers where they can talk about these issues. It helps them understand and gives them confidence. For some of them, it will give them a career as well. They think, ‘Yeah, this is something that I want’, and for others, it will open different doors.
To add to all the amazing work you’ve done, you were also the first Asian Muslim Lord Mayor of Manchester - did you feel any pressure to represent your people in a positive light?
To add to all the amazing work you’ve done, you were also the first Asian Muslim Lord Mayor of Manchester - did you feel any pressure to represent your people in a positive light? Of course. I think it’s a huge responsibility, and the higher up you go there are different responsibilities and more pressure. And then when you’re the first in anything, that has its own added pressure. Being the first Asian Muslim Mayor of Manchester - it’s an amazing city, world-class - it was an honour and privilege to be the Mayor of such a wonderful place. When you were travelling to different parts of the Muslim world, did you ever feel that the problem was much bigger than yourself? A feeling of powerlessness as the problem is on such a large scale? Good question. I suppose I don’t look at it like that. I always look at it as [if] the problem may be big, but any big problem can be dealt with if you divide it up into small pieces. Concerning my faith, I’m only responsible for what I can do. That frame of mind helps you. I’m only accountable for what I have power over. Hopefully, it allows you to sleep peacefully and get up and do what you can the next day.
The result is in the hands of Allah, not in your hands. The effort is in your hands. You’re doing your bit. So whatever the issue is, make sure you do your bit. Remaining silent and saying ‘this is too big’ - that’s not good enough. You try: and the rest, leave it to Allah. There’s a tendency in the media for the actions of particular groups of Muslims or a singular Muslim’s actions to be portrayed as indicative of Islam as a whole. Have you had instances of that happen to yourself and how have you dealt with that? Parts of the media do publish distorted and sometimes inaccurate stories about Muslims and Islam. These distortions and inaccuracies can and should be challenged. Of course, there are actions of individual Muslims which must be condemned in the strongest terms, but the actions and beliefs of these individuals are in no way indicative of those of the wider Muslim community, or of the teachings of Islam. Sweeping generalisations of a group in this way achieve nothing positive. More of us should be involved with the media and challenging it when they do wrong things so that next time they will learn too. There’s a lot we need to do and they need to as well.
'THE OBJECT OF ART IS TO GIVE LIFE A SHAPE'
William Shakespeare PAGE TEN
TO TEACH OR NOT TO TEACH WITH ANJ CHOUDHURY
‘The Millennial Educators’, as they are known on Instagram, are a group of four secondary school teachers based in the UK. They set out to ‘share [their] highlights, challenges and thoughts as [they] navigate through [their] journey in the [teaching] profession’. And, as admirably stated in their introduction, they ‘most importantly hope to have a positive impact on the lives of the students [that they] teach’. Even more admirably, the quartet are also Muslim women. Always seeking someone in the education industry who I could identify with, it was refreshing to discover these women - and I am sure that many will feel the same. I am honoured to have the chance to interview them to gain an insight into what it is like to be a female Muslim teacher in the 21st century.
Anj: Assalamu alaykum guys! Firstly, it's so exciting to have this opportunity to be able to speak to you under these very unusual circumstances. For the whole world, it appears that the life we used to live has been challenged. How have you guys adapted to the postCOVID world as teachers?
Miss A: It has not been easy; it has taken the most enjoyable part of teaching away - interacting with the pupils on a daily basis - and has left us with all the admin work (Zoom meetings and an excessive amount of emails). We now communicate with pupils virtually via email and set homework online.
Miss M: Adapting to this new way of life has certainly not been easy, especially as teachers. Our daily jobs function on the basis of face to face communication and interaction with colleagues and the students we teach. My first day working from home was exceptionally strange! In a matter of days, teaching as we knew it was no longer. Remote learning definitely has its own sets of challenges. For me, it was essential that my students knew [that] ‘completing the work’ wasn’t my biggest priority. Their well-being and mental health was at the forefront of my mind. Miss G: Adjusting to the situation was initially challenging. As teachers, you are always so busy and so tired that when it gets to Friday you just want to relax! Initially, I really did not think we would be off for such a long time, however that changed very quickly. It has made me realise how much I miss being in the classroom with my students! Adapting to the use of digital learning has been different, as a big part of the job is interacting with our students, which is obviously very hard online. Miss C: It took quite a long while to adjust to the circumstances, as it was one that we have never experienced as a school. We had to figure out what exactly working from home was for us as teachers, how we would do so, what it would entail etc. Until this was understood, it was all up in the air for us whilst we tried to find what our new normal was. Once we got to that point, we were able to somewhat carry out our duty as teachers, albeit in a very limited capacity. Find the full interview here
PHOTOGRAPHY ZAID AHMED
"I took this photograph in Badshahi Mosque, a masterpiece of Mughal architecture which sits now as a pre-colonial remnant of what it was. Although the prayer space is quite dark, it is naturally backlit from the courtyard behind, making it incredibly atmospheric. I have always been drawn to capturing moments of intimacy in worship. In this majestic space dedicated to prayer, this man sat in solitude with his lord. I once shared it with the following quote from Khalil Jibran’s ‘The Vision’ that I believe really sums it up: ‘Yesterday, we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only before truth, follow only beauty and obey only love’.
Most people, seeing the figure in the traditional Moroccan thobe facing away from them, assume wrongly that it is a man. It is, in fact, a woman moving towards the stone block to sit in the long shadow of the tree. It was taken using a technique involving meditative patience which I had learnt from Sidi Peter during a workshop. This technique involves finding a stage of interest, setting up stage left, here framed by the tree, and then stage right, which in this case was the collection of benches that have since had their planks removed. It is then simply a case of sitting patiently until the subjects enter the stage and the image unfolds.
I saw this scene from across the courtyard of a mosque in Fatih and rushed across to capture the moment before either of the men came out of their meditation. I loved the contrast of the image, the light and shadow, the black and white, the two men so distant in their thoughts, on different planes within the image. I do like to imagine though that in their minds and thoughts, they had arrived at the same place.
On a street in Banjul, three boys were taking out some rubbish when they saw me with my camera from down the road. They immediately dropped their bags where they were and ran across to me, pulling funny faces and wanting to have their photo taken. As soon as I lifted my camera and took a few images, they became cheekily shy and two of them ran to the side. The third boy, who had been pulling the funniest faces, struck this pose trying to hide his smile. As much as I love the whole sequence of images, what I love most is that although he tried to hide his smile in this image, he couldnâ€™t hide the smile in his eyes.
In late 2018, I was asked to be an assistant on a photographic project in the Arabian Desert that was to form part of an ongoing research book. Only in Medina for a night before we began our expedition, I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours until Fajr uninterrupted within the Rawdah (a special part of the Prophet's Mosque). As we left, I saw this image in my mind and was determined to take it. I didnâ€™t then know that the following morning, before we set off for the desert, we would be granted official passes to bring our cameras into the Sacred Mosque. Despite having both the passes, as well as people from the ministry with us, the guards almost aggressively stopped me as I went to the side in order to get close enough to take this picture: I am glad that I persevered. Having been given the permission to do so, I am also grateful for that moment, those circumstances, the lens and the sensor which was able to capture what I saw.
ISB are seeking British-based photographers who would like to showcase some of their photos We will be running a social media competition with a signed Peter Sanders book as a prize Please get in touch: email@example.com
TRUTHFULNESS Truthfulness is something which is important to cultivate until it becomes a habit for us to such a degree that the idea of being untruthful makes us feel guilty and affects our conscience. Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, mentioned the positive reciprocal effect of behaving truthfully with people in this worldly life: ‘Whoever does three things with regards to people, they will necessitate three things from them: whenever they speak to them they are truthful; whenever they entrust them with something they do not betray them; and whenever they promise them something they fulfil it. If they do this, their hearts will love them; their tongues will praise them; and they will come to each other’s aid’. As for the Hereafter, through God’s grace and mercy, the obedient ones - practitioners of truthfulness - will reach a station in paradise alongside those most fortunate of souls mentioned in the revelation: ‘Whosoever obeys God and God’s messenger will be in the company of those whom God has blessed: the prophets, the truthful ones, those who bear witness to the truth, and the righteous. And what excellent companions these are!’ Quran (4:69)
‘And mention in the Book, Ishmael: surely, he was a man true to his word, and he was a Messenger, a Prophet.’ Quran (19:54) ‘And mention in the Book, Enoch: surely he was a most truthful Prophet.’ Quran (19:56) We also read in the Quran how a man who had been incarcerated alongside Prophet Joseph addressed him with the words: ‘Joseph! O most truthful one!’ Quran (12:46) Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also declared truthful in the words of God: ‘The Messiah, son of Mary, was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a truthful one, a believer’. Quran (5:75) Hence, to tread the path of truthfulness is to tread the path of the most righteous of God’s creation. And as for ways and means to engender this most noble of virtues into our daily lives, we have been left many teachings from God’s final messenger to humanity, Prophet Muhammad, detailing and describing precisely what the injunction of truthfulness requires. One from among these vast and numerous sayings of God’s messenger is his advice:
Robert Louis Stevenson ‘Guarantee for me six things and I will guarantee
In fact, truthfulness is an essential attribute of every single prophet who graced the earth. We are told in the Quran about this many times; here are some examples: ‘And mention in the Book, Abraham: surely he was a most truthful Prophet’. Quran (19:41)
paradise for you: tell the truth when you speak, fulfil your promises, be faithful when you are trusted, safeguard your private parts, lower your gaze, and withhold your hands (from harming others)’. (Ahmed)
â€˜For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for patient men and women, for humble men and women, for charitable men and women, for fasting men and women, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Godâ€™s praise: for them has God prepared forgiveness and a great reward.â€™
Wisdom & Chai with Dr. Yasmin Anis
I loved being there to solve people's problems, just by holding someone's hand and by looking at their problems and finding a solution together. It never meant that it was writing a prescription. I loved my job...
Wisdom & Chai is one of ISB's newest projects, which aims to provide the younger generations with the opportunity to listen and learn to the older generations. This provides a means of gaining wisdom, knowledge and understanding of their experiences, and allows the younger generation to learn from those around them. The first Wisdom & Chai series features Dr. Yasmin Anis, a doctor whose experiences act as a means of inspiration to those around her. Find the full video interview here PAGE SEVENTEEN
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British Muslim youth exploring faith in a contemporary, friendly and spiritual way
The pandemic has changed much of the way we meet and support one another, yet Campus has tried to still offer services that are helpful and purposeful during these difficult times. In order to meet the educational, social and spiritual needs of our members, we have planned: 1. E-circles with Dr Rizwan Syed: Our syllabus is entitled ‘From Classical to Contemporary’ and takes participants on a journey to build an understanding of the fundamental tenets of Islam, as well as their application to life in Britain today. 2. Monthly Masterclasses on contemporary and interesting topics. The next one is on ‘Atheism and Islam: A Contemporary Dialogue’. 3. Regions: We are lucky to have three regional branches of Campus! Campus South, Campus Midlands and Campus North.
Campus regions are continually planning socials, circles and support for members in their regions. Please do join the region of your choice, especially as you may be moving to a new university or college campus! 4. Tajweed and Quranic Arabic classes: These have proven to be popular and opened up a wealth of new knowledge. 5. Online Leadership Training course which touches on: Teamwork Leadership Time management Conflict resolution and much more! 6. Campus also have very busy website, social media and videography teams - do please join us if you have energy and an interest to help. Watch this space for an exciting and spiritual 6 months Inshallah.
Our committee members have been busy keeping things in shipshape. We have five Campus members who sit on the National Shura for The Islamic Society of Britain. We are always looking for new talent and help! Do join us if you can. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
01 The Islamic Society of Britain is a community based charity and not-for-profit company. Established in 1990, the ISB was one of the first organisations that sought to evolve a uniquely British flavour to Islam. In order for this to happen we felt that Muslims would have to think seriously about understanding their faith in a British context. If you would like to become a member of ISB, please get in touch.
Rasheed Miladi / Ali Drabu / Rumaysa Bhimani / Khalid Anis / Anj Choudhury / Zaina Cassam /Sumayya Anis / Mariam Alfarra / Rahma Anis / Aliya Ismangil