'My Eid combines the best of British and Asian culture, more unites us than divides us'

Ilyas Muhammad converted to Islam ten years ago -Credit:Katielee Arrowsmith SWNS (right) Ilyas Muhammad (left)
Ilyas Muhammad converted to Islam ten years ago -Credit:Katielee Arrowsmith SWNS (right) Ilyas Muhammad (left)

Eid is global celebration, yet we always picture Desi celebrations when thinking of the Islamic festival. This could be due to Birmingham's large South Asian population where Eid is full of delicious biriyani, glittering salwar kameez and Brit Asian tunes booming in the air.

But what is Eid like for different ethnic groups? A convert to Islam shares his unique Eid that combines South Asian and rural English traditions, Ilyas Muhammad was born in North Shropshire to a loving, rural family of farmers.

His love for philosophy and questions about life led him to convert to Islam and marry his Pakistani wife. Although Eid is still coloured with South Asian traditions through his marriage, his farming roots sometimes play a part in the religious festival.

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Ilyas shares his unique Eid experience as a Muslim convert from a family of farmers. Ilyas said: "I reverted in 2014 and married a Pakistani woman around three years ago, so my life is Desi orientated.

"I was studying philosophy at university and was doing a PHD in metaphysics. I came across Islamic scholars of the past which set me on a discovery path, I then started reading up on the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which grabbed me at the heart.

Ilyas Muhammad before his conversion -Credit:Ilyas Muhammad
Ilyas Muhammad before his conversion -Credit:Ilyas Muhammad

"Sufiism is a big part of my life as well as poetry, I discovered the beauty of the Deen (faith) and being a good human being. I came from a conservative, rural farming background and didn't face any difficulties from my family when I reverted.

"They are very open minded and were very accepting, I have actually faced more phobia in the city than rural areas."

Ilyas claimed his new life was isolating especially during Eid prayers for fellow reverts, but found mentors and support in the Muslim community. He regularly works with Islamic organisation Dawat-e-Islami and enjoys Itikaf, the act of secluding yourself in a Mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan.

On his first impressions of Eid, Ilyas said: "I thought of it like Christmas. I wake up early to pray and meet everyone, then enjoy a breakfast of halwa puri.

"I like to visit my family in Shropshire where they buy Eid cards for us. My mum does a vegetarian meal for us and always checks the labels on packaged food for gelatine for example.

"We will have a vegetable lasagne or roast dinner where I bring my own chicken, a proper English Sunday Roast. They will also provide a lota for me in the bathroom."

A lota is a plastic, water jug used to wash yourself after using the toilet, essential for Muslims to maintain hygiene according to the faith. Back in Stechford he and his wife often decorate the house with lights and get out 'Ramadan Mubarak' frames.

They enjoy South Asian dinners of okra curry, roti, dhal, biriyani, spring rolls, samosas and kebabs, all homemade. Ilyas said it is no different to his farming background where they also sat around the dinner table for home cooked food.

They receive gifts of perfume, attar, food, clothes and prayer beads. They also enjoy shopping at Alum Rock or Stratford Road, havens of Desi retail.

He said: "My grandmother was a matriarch and we are still close knit, so it is the same with my wife and her family. More unites us than divides us.

Ramadan wrapping paper -Credit:Etsy
Ramadan wrapping paper -Credit:Etsy

"British born Pakistanis are similar to me so I don't feel I have lost anything but rather added to my life. I take the best of British and Asian culture. I like to practice silent dawah (invitation to God) and convey my faith through actions not words. I always strive to do good."

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