Hannah MitchellBASE Digital Writer Hannah is a Lake District-based journalist and all-round outdoor lass with a particular fondness for rock faces.
Known as the Holy Month, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to strengthen their faith and connect with God, often through nature and time spent outdoors. During this spiritual lunar month, Muslims abstain from tangible pleasures including food and drink by fasting between sunrise and sunset, in order to become more empathetic to those less fortunate.
This year, The Wanderlust Women invited the wider outdoor community to join them in a day of Ramadan, celebrating community, diversity and mindfulness in the mountains.
Afternoon prayer is held with Helvellyn in the background.
The Wanderlust Women is a hiking and outdoor activity group for Muslim women that aims to empower and enable people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures to access the outdoors through group hikes and events, harnessing the power of representation and education to diversify the face of adventure. On Sunday the 10th of April, the second weekend of Ramadan, the group invited Muslims and non-Muslims alike to celebrate this special period in the Islamic calendar, sharing culture, belief and community together in the Lake District.
Beneath Helvellyn, perhaps the region’s most popular mountain, the village of Glenridding served as base camp for the event, which began with introductions in the village hall, a short talk about the significance of the period to Muslims and the intrinsic connection between faith and nature, followed by an opportunity to ask questions.
Organisers and founding members Amira Patel and Aysha Sharif talked openly about their experiences of relocating to an area of the country infamous for its lack of diversity, the importance of understanding and celebrating differences and the bonds that can be formed through a mutual love of the outdoors.
Friends old and new enjoy a gentle hike in the Lake District.
When we sit here together, we’re sisters and brothers
‘Amira and I have seen both positivity and negativity attached to our being here, in being outside and doing what we do,’ said Aysha. ‘And that’s part of why we’re here today, because we really wanted to share our experiences with the wider community, to bring communities together in this place we call home. When we sit here together, we’re sisters and brothers.’
A low-level hike along the beck from Glenridding to the Helvellyn viewpoint allowed for the group to talk and take in the beauty of the surrounds at a gentle pace. The walk itself was planned to incorporate a number of rest stops for those who were fasting, and participants were encouraged to disconnect from the outer world and to connect with their inner-selves with group meditation and prayers for those who wished to do so.
Whilst the idea of hiking on an empty stomach might seem like an uncomfortable one, many Muslims find themselves able to overcome their thirst and hunger through mindfulness and by focussing on the higher purpose of their fasting.
‘It’s a little bit of mind over matter, because you know why you’re doing it, because it’s prescribed by your faith and you feel the blessings and the peace that this time brings upon you. You can overcome that discomfort, and you come out of it feeling purified and energised’, explains Aysha.
Ramadan – a time to connect.
Preparing for prayer.
On the return journey, those observing Ramadan carried out the ritual of Wudu (the washing of the face, hands, feet and arms) in the chilly waters of Roten Beck, and afternoon prayers known as Asr were performed, overlooked by a still-snowcapped Helvellyn. Those not praying sat quietly in reflection, taking the opportunity to enjoy the serenity of the valley.
‘During the prayers, a sort-of peace just fell upon the valley,’ recalls Amy, a participant from the local area. ‘Even for those of us who weren’t praying, it became so apparent that whether religious or not, everyone there felt this really strong connection to the landscape, to being outdoors and through that, to one another.’
‘When it comes to nature, we all come for the same purpose but connect to it in different ways,’ says Amira. ‘We were all sat there in that moment, taking in what we love – the outdoors, the mountains, and exploring how that makes us feel.’
After the walk, attendees enjoyed some time exploring the village and shores of nearby Ullswater at sunset, before returning to the village hall for evening prayers, Maghrib, and the opening of the fast, Iftar, as darkness descended.
Whether religious or not, everyone there felt this really strong connection to the landscape
For Muslims, faith and nature are deeply connected.
‘This was the first event of this kind that we had held and we were quite nervous,’ Amira continues. ‘It was quite overwhelming that so many people wanted to come and experience Ramadan with us, both Muslim and non-Muslim as well. It was a really beautiful day, to see everyone together, and for people who don’t celebrate Ramadan to understand it better and be in that special moment with us. For me, it really opened my eyes to how important it is for us to keep doing what we’re doing, to keep educating and sharing and getting that positive message out there.’
‘The fact that we were able to share our prayers, and to feel the cohesion amongst us. Everyone was really receptive, asking questions and willing to learn about each other, that was really beautiful,’ Aysha concludes.
As a feast of traditional food was enjoyed, the hall filled with the chatter of old and new friends alike, discussing the day’s events, expressing common interests and mutual passions for the mountains and lakes that surrounded them.
Want to know more about The Wanderlust Women and the incredible work that they do? BASE Collective member Hannah Bailey interviews Aysha in the upcoming Issue 07 of BASE. Make sure you don’t miss it by subscribing to BASE for free here.
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