Birmingham Muslims celebrate start of Ramadan

Muslims from across Birmingham have come together to mark the beginning of Ramadan at a celebration event in the city’s Sparkbrook ward.

Welcoming the holy month, which is expected to begin on the evening of Sunday 10 March, community members joined the festive gathering for Qur’anic recitation, speeches, poetry, charity activities, socialising and an array of South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

According to Saudi Arabian authorities, the first day of fasting for the ninth month in the Islamic calendar will be Monday 11 or Tuesday 12 March, depending on the sighting of the new moon, although the start date sometimes varies from country to country.

During the month, Muslims across the world will be fasting during daylight hours, focusing on spiritual introspection, prayer and abstinence.

Organised by humanitarian charity ISRA-UK, the Ramadan launch was held at the Women’s Enterprise and Community Hub in Ladypool Road and was attended by prominent British-Yemeni poet Amerah Saleh and young Qur’an reciter Adnane Majid, who both performed during the event.

Guests from different faiths including local Muslim and Christian groups wrote messages of peace to be delivered to orphans and families in Palestine, Pakistan, Uganda, Yemen and Sudan; before enjoying cross-continental culinary delights including quiches and pies, potato fritters and chicken wings, baklava, north African Basbousa, Daal, Biryani and a selection of curries.

“Today’s event was to launch the beginning of Ramadan 2024 here at ISRA-UK, certainly in the city of Birmingham where we’re based and where there’s a high population of Muslims, around 340,000 of us, so it’s a very important time for the community,” said Saraya Hussain, director of ISRA-UK.

“Traditionally, it’s known as the ‘month of mercy’, it’s also the month that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and it’s also a month to allow people to become a little bit more spiritual, connect with their creator, become a little bit more disciplined because obviously it involves giving up food, drink and abstaining from worldly desires from dawn ‘til dusk, so it’s a moment to become really introspective.”

This year, the charity is also recognising its 40th year committed to global welfare projects, and so a stunning anniversary cake was donated to the Ramadan reception by local dessert specialists La Vie Bake.

The Hump Group was also on hand providing sample shots of camel’s milk and cups of tea made using the dairy beverage, while Morrisons supermarket’s community champion attended as part of a continuing fundraising relationship with ISRA-UK.

Charity operations manager Habib Mohammed said: “We’re welcoming Ramadan and also celebrating ISRA-UK’s 40th anniversary. Ramadan gives us time to reflect and give a thought to those suffering all around the world. We experience hunger, we experience patience and it’s all about spirituality and all about giving.

“Charity within Ramadan is more important for Muslims because the reward is more but also because we’re more prepared in our being to give more generously. There is an obligation for Zakat that Muslim have to give and it is important to share the wealth that Allah has given us.”

Community cohesion is a cornerstone of Ramadan, during which special Iftar meals are held each night to break the fast. These are hosted by families at home and for wider society in mosques, street celebrations, community centres and local public venues.

Refugee and migrant worker Selbin Kabote joined the event and feels it’s important for people of different faiths to share in common practices.

“Ramadan means a lot to me because I have many friends from the Muslim community. To me, Ramadan is similar to the Christian fasting as it’s a time of reflection and it’s a time of thinking about the needs of other people,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people who can’t even have three square meals a day, so during Ramadan I feel it’s not only a spiritual experience but it’s also a valuable and significant occasion. As a Christian, I’m very much impressed by the work that ISRA-UK is doing and it’s one of those small charities that might not be as well known as bigger organisations, but they are doing lots of good work in areas like Türkiye, Uganda in Africa and so I’m very impressed by what they are able to achieve.”

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