14 Oct 2010

A Journey through the first event: Islamic Community Food Project

An hour before midday, after registering their arrival at Spitalfields City Farm, the eager looking, fresh-faced participants took part in a hands-on practical coordinated by the energetic Naomi Glass. Myself and Wasi also joined in.

One group concentrated energies on the meditative task of careful seed-sowing. Another group flexed their muscles to dig some manure into the earth.



Having developed a team-spirit through these joint efforts, we all reached for the delicious soup that Naomi had prepared only a few moments earlier using mostly ingredients from the farm itself. As we sipped and let the warmth down, we began to talk philosophy, food and much else.

After eating, and following an optional midday contemplative prayers (zuhr), it was time for the workshops. We gently touched down on a couple of introductory ice-breakers elegantly facilitated by Wasi, and then explored food, community, decision making through consultation (shura), and some of our own stories - what we bring to give a few examples. As a co-facilitator, I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic group of people. Some of the exercises were done as whole group, others in sub-groups. We had put quite alot of thought into how we would frame the workshop exercises - what would enable new participants to experientially and collectively get a sense of the idea of an Islamic community food project, whilst giving them space to think creatively and to be empowered? We felt our work paid off, and was supported by the creativity and humility that the participants brought.

One subgroup explored some of the qualities and types of activities associated with 'community'. The flip chart on the left captures some of their ideas. Another subgroup reflected on some key principles or values expressed through Islam around food. The photo on the right captures some of their ideas. (Clicking on the photos should enlarge them).
The final session of the day involved considering possibilities for our next steps. Where might we go next? Some ideas began to emerge, whilst others were yet to evolve into a more tangible form, a process that will be supported by time and further reflection.

The exciting journey we are travelling on together continues, and we look forward to welcoming newcomers who feel called to join us at follow-up events.

You may also like to read a personal perspective of the first event by participants, Saira Khan, and Ali Ajaz.

All Photos © Wisdom In Nature

Personal Story 2, by Ali Ajaz: Islamic Community Food Project at Spitalfields

"Disenchanted with biased globalised food system" check!
"Tired of seeing a new Tesco Express opening up 5 minutes from the old Tesco Express" check!
"Unhappy about seeing the old Tesco Express in the first place" –check!
"Interested in exploring alternatives" check!
"A community food initiative sounds good" check!

Having been aware of the important work that Wisdom in Nature have been involved with, I’d been meaning to be a part of this interesting movement for some time now. But events came and went as the toils of this world seemed to get the better of me and my ‘free’ time. However, upon hearing about an Islamic Community Food Project, I was determined to attend hoping to learn something tangible from this grassroots, progressive movement which was based upon the underpinnings of Islamic principles. What could sound better than this?

This first meeti
ng was held at Spitalfields City Farm and although I live less than a few miles away, I had no idea that it existed. Neatly tucked away amongst the urban hustle and bustle, it provided a very welcoming distraction to the all too familiar commotion of the Sunday market in East London. The day started off by helping out with a number of duties on the farm. Now this may sound somewhat daft but I experienced a hint of apprehension about doing something on a farm. I attributed this to my urbanised upbringing and limited connection/neglect of the natural environment around me. I was therefore surprised by the degree of tranquillity obtained from just pulling weeds on this cool Sunday morning. More of this was what I needed!

The afternoon session initially focused upon getting better acquainted with the other members of the group and it became apparent very quickly that there was a common enthusiasm shared by all. Individuals from various backgrounds, seemly united by a hope to be part of something exciting, something meaningful. The group dynamics were allowed to evolve naturally by the expert guidance from Muzammal and Wasi. Concepts of food and community in an Islamic context were explored by the group and by the end of the afternoon, I felt an optimistic vibe reverberating though the group, this despite the ever falling temperature. This Islamic Community Food Project has the potential to grow and bloom into something special and I am looking forward to being a part of it.

Ali Ajaz

All Photos © Wisdom In Nature

Personal Story 1, by Saira Khan: Islamic Community Food Project at Spitalfields

Food For Thought

The “Islamic Community Food Project”, my eyes glazed over a little bit as I read the b
riefing sheet on my way to Spitalfields City Farm. Hailing from the concrete jungle that is London I’m not sure I had ever set foot on a farm before. Yet on one particularly cold September day I found myself trudging through a farm, trawling through compost, planting seeds, and trying to stare down some uber cool geese strutting around me with what I am convinced was the theme to Saturday Night Fever in the background … I’m not sure I won that stare battle, I got the feeling that they kind of run the place, like some sort of bird Mafia. Not only did I never imagine I would be doing all of the above, but I found that I was actually thoroughly enjoying myself!

I must confess that it was with more than a pinch of trepidation that I volunteered to be part of this project. I wasn’t exactly clear on what it was all about, but this was actually a blessing in disguise because I found that the atmosphere of encouragement, empowerment and participation meant that as the day went on and as the group undertook various discussions and exercises, it became clear that on some level we already knew what we wanted to achieve and the project could in effect be what we collectively wanted it to be. Consequently in a kind of “wax on wax off” moment, the excellent facilitators, Muzammal and Wasi (of Wisdom In Nature) and Naomi (of Spitalfields City Farm), gently prodded our collective knowledge and experience in order to give us the realisation of what our objectives were in developing the project and how we could each contribute to it’s future development. It really is an exciting prospect and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

As for the people involved, I honestly can’t speaking highly enough of the facilitators and the attendees at the project. Each person came with their own story and a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. I felt that this group of like minded people who found themselves laughing, praying, meditating, conversing and eating delicious food together could really be part of something extraordinary.

So, to conclude, I’m glad to report that following our first meeting the Islamic Community Food Project is now up and running. They say that each journey begins with the first step, and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed making that step and look forward to the future leaps and bounds!

Saira Khan

All Photos
© Wisdom In Nature