By Tracie Mooneyham
The Sustainable Communities Programme held an open exchange seeking to unite youth under the theme of values during the recent event titled ‘Ramadan – A Youth Perspective’. Though the event coincided with the beginning of Ramadan, April is a month that many religions, including the Christian and the Jewish faith, host important celebrations.
The space was hosted by Faith-Rose, a Christian from Malawi and Ghana, who is the founder of Youth Empowerment Organisation. As someone who is passionate about inclusion, she provided a thoughtful introduction and set the tone for what proved to be a compassionate learning session on Ramadan and its meaning to the young speakers.
‘Quite a lot of us have probably come into contact with someone who maybe is of a Muslim faith or maybe who isn’t. And maybe there might be different levels of understanding. So, we thought that it would be interesting during this time just to focus on the Muslim faith and Ramadan, as it’s not always the youth perspective that you get,’ she stated. This paved the way for Faith to introduce three young, Muslim speakers to answer questions about their faith and values.
Adeel grew up in Nottingham, though he’s originally from Pakistan. He’s a director in the health and social care sector, and also actively engaged in the voluntary sector with local charities and grassroots community organizations. As a part of the Sustainable Communities Programme team, Adeel spoke on how the absolute moral values of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love weave into the month of Ramadan.
‘Islam will teach us about the honesty of intention. So even though somebody might not know what we’re thinking or how we’re dealing with a situation on the inside, it is still important to act or speak from a place of honest intention,’ he told the group. The values of purity and unselfishness are intricately linked to Islam as well, he went on to add, since physical purity (washing) is a part of prayer and unselfishness is connected to charity and helping the less fortunate.
Nargis is a 15-year-old practicing Muslim, born in Nottingham, and originally from Afghanistan. She loves her faith and is currently in secondary school. When asked to share how Ramadan has helped her to grow both spiritually or morally, she replied with a connection to unselfishness; ‘You have more time to yourself because you’re not eating or drinking water, and in that time, you can think of what you can do better. Like helping others, through charity or doing something that’s more productive than just sitting and procrastinating.’
During Ramadan, charity can feel more challenging since fasting occurs from sunrise to sunset. Yet, as a young person in school, her perspective on celebrating Ramadan during lockdown gave a glimmer of hope for what could be a difficult situation. ‘Last year, it was actually quite fortunate because I was able to have my school routine incorporated with my Ramadan routine, because I didn’t have to go to school. So, I could just do it at the time I wanted to, which made things so much easier.’
Ali is an 18-year-old, British-born Muslim originally from Hong Kong and Pakistan, whose love and passion for his faith has inspired him to write poetry. Currently, he is in college studying to become an optician. During the event, participants learned about nasheed, which is music that is either sung a cappella or with instruments, according to a particular style or tradition within Islam. The lyrics of a nasheed usually refer to Islamic beliefs, history, and religion, as well as current events.
Ali performed his own nasheed during the gathering, which went as follows:
Give thanks to Allah
For the moon and the stars
Prays in all day full
What is and what was
Take hold of your imam
Don’t give in to shaitan
Oh, you who believe please give thanks to Allah
Allahu Ghefor Allahu Rahim Allahu yuhibo el Mohsinin
Hua Khalikhone hua Razikhone whahoa ala kolli sheiin khadir
Allah is Ghefor Allah is Rahim Allah is the one who loves the Mohsinin
He is a creator; he is a sustainer and he is the one who has power over all
All three of the young speakers also participated in a question-and-answer session, where participants had the opportunity to ask more general questions about Islam. Questions like ‘what is the difference between Ramadan and Eid?’, ‘what does the Hajj have to do with Ramadan?’, and ‘what do you learn from the Quran?’ came up, and were answered by Adeel, Nargis, and/or Ali in turn. With the Head of Sustainable Communities Programme, Amina Khalid also present, participants gained a more comprehensive understanding of Islam from the variety of perspectives. This is essential to building cooperation and understanding in communities.
Conversation with the purpose of connecting with others who are passionate about community engagement and service helped to create an honest and authentic sharing, where regardless of faith, a sense of community and mutual understanding was fostered.
Islam, as well as other religions, teaches that giving charity is a chance for the faithful to extend their hand and help the underprivileged. The Sustainable Communities Programme is raising £5,000 to distribute food and other essentials to families who have been struggling to make ends meet due to COVID-19. Contribute today to help them reach their goal!