The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) held its first-ever iftar in the Long Room at the Lord’s Cricket Ground on Thursday, April 21.
This event, which can be described as historic, brought together British Muslims and people of other faiths to celebrate and help build bridges amongst the communities that make up the fabric of our nation.
The evening’s host. Aatif Nawaz, a comedian, writer, presenter, and cricket commentator, spent the evening glowing, basking in the excitement of the event.
It wasn’t just about keeping us entertained throughout the night, leading up to the call to prayer (adhan) and beyond, but also helping the audience connect.
Explaining the spirit of Ramadan, Qari Asim shared that the month often pushes many to tears, as it is not just about abstaining from food and drink, but also about doing that little bit more to connect with God.
Chief Executive of the ECB, Tom Harris, said it was wonderful to host a diverse group of people, saying that compassion and understanding remind us that we all belong, adding, that we must be humble enough to say that we want to learn more (about one another) and that Ramadan is one way for us to do so.
As the time for the adhan arrived, the melodious voice of Hassen Rasool captivated the audience. Asking the non-Muslim guests sitting alongside me if they had heard an adhan before, they said only on holiday.
Translating it for them, they understood the spiritual connection the words deliver and the emotion; something compared to an opera where the singer’s voice resonates with deep passion, but unless you know the language, you cannot understand the fuller meaning of the words sung.
The evening’s meal was a delicious section of vegetarian options catering to a varied audience, something rare for the meat-eating South Asian audience. And as Guy Lavender, the MCC’s CEO, quipped, “There is nothing more British than a curry,” much to everyone’s delight.
Cricket legends on the evening included Graham Gooch, who had captained England 34 times, and Eoin Morgan, the Captain of the England team, who in 2019 won the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Eoin captured the spirit of diversity when playing New Zealand in 2019, when he was asked if he thought he had the luck of an Irishman to get England over the line. He responded, “We had Allah with us as well,” a mark of respect to his Muslim teammates.
The ECB iftar was the inspiration of and only made possible by the hard work of Tameena Hussain, a passionate cricket player in her own right.
Spearheading a new initiative with such success, the event was one of the best iftars enjoyed, striking the right balance of faith, inspiration, entertainment, and engagement.