Ramadhan and the Yemeni community in Birmingham, UK [Archives:2003/679/Culture]

October 23 2003

Although it could be said that the Holly month of Ramadhan in only felt and experienced by the Muslim community in all the major cities of the United Kingdom, this may not hold true for the city of Birmingham.
Birmingham is the second largest city in the United Kingdom and is situated at the heart of England, this beautiful city with its canals, parks, traditional and modern buildings in addition to other land marks such as the Bournvild village, the origin of chocolate manufacturing, make it an attractive city for tourists.
Birmingham is also unique for its mixed racial inhabitants. Out of the 1 million total inhabitants, 20% are of Asian origin, with Islam being their main religion.
The Yemeni community constitutes the second largest Asian community with approximate 10,000 members. The Muslim community as a whole has played and continues to play a very active role in the life of the city. Their presence is felt by the presence of the many different Mosques that decorate the city.
Beautiful Mosques of different shape and sizes are found throughout the city and parallel those found in Islamic cities. These Mosques play important roles in the life of the Muslim community, particularly during the month of Ramadhan.
The Yemeni community is found concentrated mainly in three different districts, namely Basal Health, sparkttil/ spark brock and at Sandwell. Although Yemeni in Birmingham originate from different parts of the Yemen, the majority comes from Taiz and are largely found in the Basal Health district of the city.
The smallest parts of the Yemeni community reside at Sandwell district and because of the distance, has its own community center.
It is managed by Mr. Seid Ben Seid, a very pleasant and friendly chaps who strives continuous in the looking after the welfare of the community.
The major part of the community lives at Basal Health and has along history dating back to the late Sheik Alshokani. Basal Health is well known due to the presence of the Zawiy.
This famous and historic place dates back to Al-Showkani era has and continuous to play an active role in the life of the Yemeni community. Presently, it is headed by Sheik Bakiel and provides various services to the community as well as being used as a Mosque for daily prayers and undoubtedly plays a major role in the life of the community during the month of Ramadan.
The history of the Yemeni community not only in Birmingham, but in the whole of the United Kingdom, is established with the history of the Zawiy and greater effort should be made is looking after this historic place. Although the Yemeni community is one of the oldest community.
Birmingham, its success has remained limited. Unlike other communities which have excelled in education producing prolexuials in all walks of life (teachers, doctors, layers, journalists, scientists etc) and participated fully and effectively; society, the Yemeni community has lagged behind and its future is in question with the continual threat of factories closure.
The only option forward is to focus seriously in education. However, they would need external advice, motivation of continual support in order to succeed in this area. The Amanah, Muath Welfare trusts, which was founded with the financial help of the lot Haz Hail S. Anam, has come to play the major role in the life of the Yemeni community in Birmingham. The center in talking some of the problems faced by the community and provides education, social support as well as acting as a gathering place for the community.
The center has a small mosque used for daily prayers. During tiredly prayers, the mosque tills and over flow with worshipers to fill all the major Halls to the center. The center also plays a vital role in the community life during the Holly month of Ramadan.
Ramadan in the United Kingdom has considered with shortest days of the winter timing. Fasting starts at six o’clock in the morning and continues until just after 4 o’clock in the evening. Iftar and dinner is provided by the Amanah center not only for the Yemeni community but also members of the Muslim community.
Tarweeh is also held at the center everyday from 7 o’clock onward and is attended by whole families. The mosque fills with worshipers and like Friday prayers, over flow to fill the rest of the Halls in the center. Attendance of whole families in facilitated by the Amanah provision of a necessary for infants and young children and a youth club run by Ali Alrwani, which caters for the youth, during Tarweeh prayer.
In this manner parents induct their worship in peace while their young enjoy themselves and the youth club. Iftar consists of dates, khoha (Yemeni coffee) in addition to samosa, Bugia and porridge.
The main meal course to similar that consumed by Yemeni families in Yemen and consists of Murak (soap) salta, aseed, rice prepared in different varieties complemented by vegetables especially important from Yemen and include Karath, spring onion, garlic etc. with the exception of Karth, the rest of the vegetable are plentiful, however, there from Yemen are preferred and people are welling to buy them at together prices.
There is a huge market for Yemeni products including vegetables and particularly during the month of Ramadan. However, such opportunity has not seen exploited effectively thus for only Businessmen both here or in Yemen.
Therefore the limited supply of Yemeni products that arrives in Birmingham is sold instantly and in many occasions has to be rational by shopkeepers. The Yemeni community continuos to live in hope that one day they would be able to buy all their needs of Yemeni products from their local shops like the rest of other communities in Birmingham.
Sahoor, which is taken at 5 o’clock in the morning, consist of chappati (Boor) with traditional Yemeni ghee with or without Yemeni hmey. Other tried include serial, toast etc. during the last ten days of Ramadan, Tahjod is done at the Amina’s mosque and Sahoor is provided they’re as well, by generous charitable individuals. Ramadan is lived and felt directly and indirectly by the whole community in Birmingham.
Many changes and accommodations are made to meet the need of Muslims, by many institutions including schools and work places. Since many school children observe fasting, even at early ages, schools with predominantly Muslim children’s close half an hour early in order for the children to go home in time for Iftar with their parents.
In addition, schools encourage parents to take their fasting children home for an hour at Midding to rest before resumption of the afternoon sessions. Similar arrangement are made in many work places where workers are allowed to start work early and go home early in time for Iftar.
Although prayer rooms are found in many work places, additional prayer rooms are made available for Muslim during the month of Ramadan. While Taraweeh is concluded in every mosques in the city during the month of Ramadan, Eid prayer is conducted collectively by the whole Muslim community at the central Mosque.
Although the Mosque is large. It can not accommodate the whole community at once. Instead the Eid prayer is conducted 6 or more times in order for all to pray. Following Eid prayer the Yemeni community gathers at the Amanah to celebrate the rest of the Eid day. Food and drinks are provided and parents are given to all children and the whole family gets the chance to spend a very enjoyable day.