Ramadhan in the U.K.: Islam in the heart of Europe [Archives:2005/890/Reportage]

October 31 2005
Photo from archived article: photos/890/report1_1
Photo from archived article: photos/890/report1_1
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When mentioning Ramadhan, most attention is focused on Muslims of the Middle East or Southeast Asia. What is forgotten is how the millions of Muslims in the western world spend this holy month of Ramadhan. Here, we will put the light on Britain and the beauty of Islam during this precious month.

Brief history of Muslims in Britain

The major Muslim migration to Britain began from the mid-nineteenth century. Yemeni's were the first group of migrants who arrived in the ports of Cardiff, Liverpool, and London. At the beginning of the migration a language barrier existed and was a serious issue that Yemeni's faced. Therefore many misunderstandings between Yemeni and British citizens existed. Nowadays Muslims from over 75 countries live in Britain, most of which are from the sub-continent of India and Pakistan. Many places in Britain are also loaded with the presence of Muslims from Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and many other countries. The Muslim population is estimated to reach over 5 million in the present day. Cities with the biggest Muslim population are London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, and Bradford.

The fast growth of Muslims in Britain has created a greater chance for British people to learn more about Islam. In the early days of migration, Muslims had to call foreign Imams (Muslim scholars) to run local mosques, and teach their children basic Islamic education. These days native Muslims are replacing many foreign Imams for this post.

During the day in Ramadhan

To many Muslims in Britain, Ramadhan is not a difficult issue to cope with. Days are much shorter then that of the Middle East, and fits perfectly with everyday life. Fajr prayer is usually held at 5:30am which is a good time for many in Britain to have breakfast, while Iftaar (fast breaking) time is sometimes around 4:00pm in the afternoon, which is also a good lunch time. The pressures of Ramadhan, is less felt then that of other countries. But the negative aspect to this issue is that many people are forced to have iftaar at work while not having the opportunity to have it with friends or family at home. Unfortunately, the only available time to have iftaar with family is on weekends or holidays. ” You could never find time to enjoy iftaar with family during Ramadhan. We are always busy and work in this part of the world is much more different back home”, said Aman Qureshy, an Afghan Muslim residing in London. ” This is probably the only negative aspect of Ramadhan in Britain”.

For those at home or even at work during Ramadhan, they could at least enjoy the beautiful reciatation of the Quran on “Radio Ramadhan”. It is a special radio station, which offers a 24-hour service, giving lessons on Tafseer of the Quran, Hadith, Quranic recitation and many lectures during the length of the day. Many people have embraced Islam in Britain due to the listening of this radio station. It is seen as a door for people in Britain to get a better look at Islam and what it really stands for.

Learning more about Islam during Ramadhan

People from all age groups flock local mosques to learn more about Islam. Special classes for Quranic recitation are available in almost every mosque. Lessons in Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) are also given during the afternoon period of the day. For those who want to learn more about Arabic, classes are also available. Many mosques open their doors to Non-Muslims who would like to learn more about the beauty of Islam from within, and the love and brotherhood it calls for. Many British citizens embrace Islam during this great month of Ramadhan, for they see the reality of Islam and what it teaches. An estimated 16% of Muslims in Britain are English (native Britain's).

Arab tradition on Edgware Road

Most of Britain's Arabs live around Edgware Road, in the heart of London. This street is filled with Arab culture as many Arab restaurants and cafes are available. Most shops on this street are open 24hrs a day. When walking on this Arab culture rich street of London, you will feel that you are spending Ramadhan in a Middle Eastern country and not in Europe.

Ramadhan activities

English speaking scholars and lecturers from Asian and Arab countries are usually called to Britain as guest speakers in the holy month of Ramadhan. Their speeches are focused on the importance of Ramadhan and the necessity of brotherhood through all Muslims not looking at race or nationality. Special lessons on how to utilize Ramadhan to the best of ones ability are also given.

Another interesting issue is weekend camp. Families often attend these camps, as it is a chance for Muslim families to get together and learn more about Islam, while in the same time many games and activities are available for all age groups to have fun and enjoy. These camps usually occur on the weekends during the month of Ramadhan. The site for the camp is usually rented by a Muslim organization. The main priority for such camps are to get the people more active in practicing Islam, especially when living in a more open society like the one in Britain. ” Its very fun to enter these camps. We meet many new faces and build better relationships with Muslim families, while in the same time our children learn more about Islam and the beauty that Ramadhan holds within it”, said Ahmed Al-Saa'edi, an Egyptian engineer living in Britain. “Many non Muslims also attend these camps to learn more about Islam and Muslims”, he added.

Dishes from around the world

Before the call of Athaan, many people pass different varieties of food and dishes to neighbors and friends, Muslim or non-Muslim. Every house will definitely have something that was given by a friend. In the mosque free dates, snacks, fruits, and drinks are offered to everyone, while free meals are also given after the prayer to those who are students or not married, the mosque is home for all during the blessed month of Ramadhan, especially for those who have no family to cherish the month of Ramadhan with. In the London Mosque during Maghrib time, food from around the world is available for all people. It is usually a great opportunity for Muslims to get to know more of each other, while in the same time building a strong bond with Muslims in the society. This in return builds a good character in the people as it shows love, kindness and a giving heart.

Life after Ramadhan

Everything changes; life returns to normal. Many Islamic Centers decrease their religious activities, which not only attracted Muslims, but Non-Muslims as well. Muslims in Britain must continue to spread the beauty of Islam throughout the length of the year. In return, giving Islam an opportunity to continue its spread from the heart of Europe.