Mediah visits the Inclusive Mosque
Ever since my spiritual crisis during Ramadan, due to all the political and personal issues, which were getting me down, I discovered the Inclusive Mosque Initiative (IMI), which restored my faith. I first came across IMI in an article in the Independent about Britain’s first ever female imam). I felt it was about time! I mean, I had read about the first openly gay imam in America so why not a female imam! I decided to look further into IMI. I was immediately drawn to events and Jummahs organised by IMI, which people like Amina Wadud have attended. So I immediately wanted to volunteer.
Jummah[ref]Jummah is a congregational prayer held on Friday, just afternoon.[/ref]
I attended my first ever IMI Jummah. It was the most amazing experience. Firstly, I experienced the Adhan (call to prayer) in British Sign Language – I got a lump in my throat. The Friday sermon was about Ramadan. I loved how Allah was referred to as She not He. In my head decided I was going to adopt this when I am reading the text in future.
Then the reading in congregation, which had no segregation just, felt so comfortable. In my head I was thinking we are all here together equal in front of God, this felt just right – unlike my local mosque where even being in close proximity of the other sex is so awkward; where I am made to feel like I am a disease. And I was thinking that although there is no segregation, it doesn’t automatically end in an orgy that people are made to believe – that sexual attraction only occurs in non-segregated events! Er, I went to a single sex school and it definitely did not prevent the girls and boys mixing, that’s for sure.
After the prayer we had a little zikr session (chanting). It was very soothing and calming. Then lastly, we held a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shootings. This was exactly what I needed to do – it was a way of being part of the mourning process. We read the names of victims and their ages. It was very cathartic. Just from my first Jummah I had this feeling of community that I immediately warmed to, and felt connected to. We ended with an announcement saying if there was anything else we wanted to talk about, this was a safe space. This is what my Islam is all about. This is the Islam I believe in.
Iftar and Taraweeh
IMI organised an iftar (breaking fast meal during Ramadan) and taraweeh (prayers during Ramadan) over two days. One night was an odd night signifying it might be Laila tul Qadr – the night of Power – the night the Quran was revealed. So I joined for Maghrib prayer, which was being held at the Wesley Hotel known for its ethical facilities. I went straight after work and then went to N16 Kitchen for a buffet iftar. It was just lovely that I was surrounded with amazing people and delicious food. We then went back to the hotel to do an all-nighter until 4am. We all sat in a circle and just reflected on anything we wanted to. We read poetry, listened to Mahsa Vahdat, and had everyone crying to her Hafez song. We also did zikr (chanting/meditation using Allah’s names repetitively) and then had suhoor and then the early morning prayer. I travelled home using the night bus but watched the sunrise as people were going home from being out all night on a Friday night. I myself, was going home after a spiritual all-nighter.
I managed to go home and get a bit of sleep, go to work and then do the same thing again. I think I pushed myself to the maximum limit – but it was worth it. It restored my faith in humanity. It reminded me that global events didn’t necessarily overpower the goodness in people. The second all-nighter involved zikr-cise – involving sufi style movement to the chanting.
I did manage to recover from the fatigue with a well deserved lie-in on Sunday.
Eid ul Fitr
I ditched my family to partake in the IMI Eid-ul-Fitr. The turn-out was amazing. We had a packed room in the Westminster Quaker House. We had a daff (a hand held drum) and just really felt like we were celebrating one of the hardest Ramadans we had experienced, not only in terms of the length of the fasts, but in terms of finding spirituality and re-connecting with God – at least in my case. This was reflected in the sermon given by Halima. It was so good being able to relate to what was being said, instead of a whole lot of Urdu said by the imam which I couldn’t even understand half the time in my local mosque. The thing which I took away from the Eid sermon was that the Arabic word for Satan, Iblees, stems from the word balasa meaing to despair. So Satan wants us to despair, and give up hope in Allah. I had a ‘ting’ moment where it made sense to me why I had my spiritual crisis. I had given up hope in Allah.
This, and other sermons can be accessed on the IMI website.
Celebrations continued with food, music and dancing. Henna was also being applied, so I obviously got a pattern done.
IMI Feminist Brunch – Anarchic Feminism
I got to listen to a chat show style interview with Soofiya Chaudhry, an Anarcha-feminist, whilst having brunch. I came in early to help with the making of brunch and there were eggs, halloumi and buttered bread as well as orange juice, vegan biscuits and chocolate fingers.
Soofiya talked about her journey through anarchist and feminist groups, and her feeling that there was still something missing. Finding her faith through IMI had helped her discover the parallels and overlaps between anarcha-feminism and Islam. She believed that they’re both anti-authority and that Islam, especially the Sufi sect, encourages self-governance. This talk really opened my eyes and I definitely wanted to know more. The Q&A was very interesting, where lots of people opened up about their personal stories and difficulties they have encountered whether in families and friends or at the workplace.
Overall, I feel that IMI provides a safe and non-judgmental space and I like it. I feel comfortable. I love the variety in events and I can’t wait to attend the Reconnecting with Islam event.