“I really enjoy writing; it helps me express myself. You can communicate through words.” Mariam Khan, YMWA Writer of the Year 2022
British Muslims gathered Saturday for the first Young Muslim Writers Awards since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the initiative run by the charity Muslim Hands with the support of the Institute of English Studies.
This year’s program saw 53 writers in 13 categories, with 35 judges searching for the best of the best.
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After opening to the recitation of the Qur’an, Shahid Bashir from Muslim Hands expressed joy for seeing young writers, adding it is not enough that we read and write as we ought to read and write well.
Receiving their awards, the young winners read some of the work on stage, giving attendants a taste of their creativity.
The host and venue for the day, Professor Clare Lees from the Institute of English Studies, reminded us that words can make us cry, and laugh and help us communicate, adding “words carry stories, histories, cultures, and faith.”
Project Manager Zainab Chohan, without whom the initiative would not have taken place, shared that Muslim Hands support this initiative as it allows us to empower children to share their thoughts and ideas.
Before the program began, we were all blessed with a stunning performance by Eleanor Martin from the Khayaal Theatre Company. Engaging and inspiring, this set the stage for the children as they came up to collect their awards.
Before the winners came up, each of the four judges present on the day shared some of their wisdom.
Judge Amira Atiq said that often, people think you may have the skill and can write magically, but even for the best writers, it is a process.
Judge Sufiya Ahmed commented on the transition of stories, where in the early years, many stories were based on non-Muslim characters, which is fine. But over the years, she has noticed a transition to include Muslim characters, adding that this is extremely important as it allows ‘us’ to see ‘ourselves’ as heroes in our stories.
Judge Yasmin Khatun said that the children present, either winners or finalists, are blessed, telling the stories that people read for years to come.
The most profound for me was Judge Annum Salman shared an anecdote from her childhood. Then, she told her grandmother that she wanted to be a painter and a writer, to which she said that painters and writers don’t make much money. Annum responded: “I want to be rich in people’s hearts. If the value is reduced to economic output alone, humanity would truly be at a loss.”
Indeed it is no coincidence that the first verse of the Qur’an revealed to Prophet Muhammad began with the word Iqra, meaning read, recite.
The way God wished to express direction to the Prophet was through language. That should be a reminder and a celebration that learning is never about force or oppression. It is something understood as means of communication.
Gratitude is to Muslim Hands for investing in and supporting the children and their creativity here in the UK. More British Muslim charities should be allocating their resources to improving the lives of British Muslims.
Moreover, the professionally organized YMWA event shows what can be done and sets the standard for other Muslim organizations. And, of course, it paves the way for the next generation of young writers, one by one, enriching all of our lives.
Writer of the Year 2022: Mariam Khan
Yahya Yasmin, Winner Key Stage 1 Poetry
Thalia SA, Winner Key Stage 2 Poetry
Mariam Khan, Winner Key Stage 3 Poetry
Sumayyah Qureshi, Winner Key Stage 4 Poetry
Eliza Miah, Winner Key Stage 1 Short Story
Thalia SA, Winner, Key Stage 2 Short Story
Maryam Abdalla, Winner Key Stage 4 Short Story
Faatima Lambart, Winner Key Stage 3 Journalism
Maryam Abdalla, Winner Key Stage 4 Journalism
Neda Aryan, Winner Key Stage 3 Screenplay
Ameera Ebrahim and Zoya Vindhani, Winners, Key Stage 3 Playscript
Numa Tasneem Nayeem Karnachi, Winner Key Stage 4 Playscript