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Report of the meeting on November 14th 2017

A talk by Hobbs Bashir on the Muslim Faith

Mr Hobbs Bashir was already known to us from his attendance at previous SAIF meetings and it was a pleasure to hear his story. Hobbs was born of Pakistani parents in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, which he described as very cosmopolitan, ‘not quite a ghetto’. As a child he learnt to decipher Arabic letters but the family was not religious and did not attend any of Birmingham’s numerous mosques. Ignoring the common Pakistani ambitions of becoming a doctor or an engineer he worked for the benefits agency, now the DWP, and was soon assigned to check fraudulent claims. He was deeply moved by one genuine but tragic claim from parents who presented a birth and a death certificate for the same child, who had lived for just a day. It was the first indication of a question-mark over all life. What was it for? Why were we here?

From that experience he was recruited to the Birmingham police and eventually the CID, since he had language skills in Urdu, Punjabi and Mirpuri (a Punjabi dialect). He now works for the Missing Persons section of the CID. His wife Shugufta has worked for some years in Stratford-upon-Avon, so the family decided to settle here.

Before this he had already begun to say the daily canonical prayers, urged by the message of a friend dying from leukemia to pray while he could. Again the question came: why am I here? He began to memorise texts from the Qur’an, and at first used YouTube to educate himself in the faith. But where to join others in prayer? For some time he travelled to Redditch, 23 minutes drive away, but then thought to gather other Muslims in Stratford at least for the Friday noon prayers. ‘Follow the food’ was the motto, though many of those he contacted in the restaurants and takeaways laughed at his proposal. In January 2015 congregational prayers began in Stratford, though he later discovered that there had been previous similar attempts to bring Muslims together at King Edward VI School and at Stratford College. Recently the congregation received the accolade of being included in the Muslims in Britain app used by visitors and tourists looking for the nearest mosque, and the regulars number some 20 families.

Our questions to Hobbs focussed on how any mosque is run, and on the divisions within Islam, as within any large religious community, on the role of women and on the person of Muhammad.

I think it is fair to say that few presentations to SAIF have been listened to with such close and sympathetic attention.

Christopher Lamb

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