Category: All

When the Dragon Visits Your Den

People sometimes ask me, what gives me the drive to get up every morning and take on the world, the answer is days like this.

It’s what I live for as an entrepreneur, the exhilarating experience of translating a chance encounter into, insha’Allah (God Willing), a lasting, fruitful partnership bringing together the best of the business and philanthropic worlds.

Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart famously once said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it!” Although he’s not solo-piloting a plane around the world, I couldn’t help but think of these words having hosted James Caan, a pioneer of different sorts, in our Wakefield HQ last week.

After our last meeting in Monaco, James showed a keen interest in the SingleMuslim and Penny Appeal journey and true to his word a few short weeks later I was waiting to receive him and two of his trusted senior aides at our Wakefield train station.

Following a whistle stop tour of our offices, James and I, alongside a handful of our colleagues locked heads exploring potential collaboration. We started with a blank slate and high hopes and we finished with a mission, a plan and by the end of the meeting already trawling through LinkedIn for potential recruits (we’re looking for a solid investment manager based in the North of England, is that you??)

James came to my den but he reminded us he was the real dragon. Watching the cogs turn in his head was like watching a magician, it’s no surprise he’s built all that he has. His style was collaborative, open and reflective, inviting his own ideas to be challenged, scrutinised and built upon. He spoke back and forth with his colleagues as partners, not subordinates. He quickly and brilliantly digested all the stories and figures we threw at him and synergised our vision with his passion for making a positive impact through the power of entrepreneurship.

The penny dropped (so to speak) when he looked up and casually remarked “Penny Appeal is on track to raise £22 million this year for those most vulnerable in the world… I think we can double that.” – I literally had goose bumps.

One of the gems I took from this interaction was how seamlessly James moved from planning to action. He didn’t waste time. Once we were all on board, he led us into execution mode, starting very intentionally with looking for the right people to hire, after all, team work makes the dream work!

Our new combined effort takes a whole new approach to transforming small change into a big difference. There literally isn’t anything like it in the humanitarian sector and the more our teams unpack its potential the more I’m so honoured to be on this journey with James and his colleagues.

I’m certain together we can be greater than the sum of our individual parts and I’m so excited about what we’re planning to launch – watch this space, we’re going to need your help!

Share this article:

To (South Africa,) infinity and beyond!

adeem younis

In a few short years Penny Appeal has grown from a small outfit raising a couple hundred thousand pounds to now a globally renowned award-winning humanitarian agency turning over, in the past 12 months alone, in excess of £22 million transforming lives in over 30 countries.

As we’ve grown from strength to strength it sometimes amazes even our own team to look back and appreciate all that has been accomplished. As Founder and Chairman one of the tasks I’m charged with is to rally the troops and keep motivation and morale high. One of the potential drawbacks of growing so quickly is not stopping to celebrate all the milestones we have achieved along the way.

adeem younis

When I started Penny Appeal, all those moons ago, I never thought our vision would resonate so powerfully with Muslim communities across the country, let alone across the planet. The reality of our inter-connected world today is that I, as a British Muslim, have more in common with fellow young Muslims in Sydney, San Francisco or even Sarajevo than I do with my parents’ generation of Muslims or even my local imam. Migration patterns along with technological advancements have led to the emergence of what many call the ‘Global Urban Muslim’ identity.

adeem younis

Global Urban Muslims share commonalities across geographies and view their faith and cultural fusion as source of inspiration and value, not as a liability or crutch. This community is the very reason Penny Appeal has been so successful across the world. It’s an exciting time for Penny Appeal as we see more and more communities across the world connecting with our vision, the most recent being in South Africa.

With a hope, a prayer, a few phone calls and a handful of emails I was on a plane to the tip of Africa, a country that has witnessed incredible transformation in our lifetimes. Our team spent a whirlwind week connecting with movers and shakers across the country and we are very excited about our burgeoning South African team who have taken the Penny Appeal vision by the horns and are already working to make it their own.

With so much doom and gloom in the world, not least in the work we do tackling extreme poverty, our new South Africa office gives us pause to celebrate. As Penny Appeal continues to grow it’s easy to gloss over the small wins. It’s not just another office, another country, another team; rather it’s a leap into a new world of opportunities to learn and to share and help transform small change into an even bigger difference.

Share our story and vision with potential partners on the ground in South Africa has revitalised our drive and reminded us of how much more work there is to do. We have connected with some incredible organisations and leaders and are already incorporating our learnings from the trip across the length and breadth of the organisation.

At Penny Appeal, we aspire to create a sustainable world through empowered people and strong communities. Our work started above a pizza shop in Yorkshire is now fast spreading across the world. I’m so grateful to all who have believed in our vision and helped us grow from strength to strength. Our South Africa team brings decades of experience, wisdom and insight to our work. Where next? Allah knows, but for us it’s onwards and upwards.

Bismillah.

Adeem Younis

Founder of the UK’s largest Muslim website SingleMuslim.com and chairman of Britain’s fastest growing Muslim-led charity Penny Appeal, award-winning entrepreneur and humanitarian making a difference around the world.

Share this article:

A lifetime of wisdom – 7 sound bites from Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool

The word ‘legend’ is often thrown around rather carelessly, but the word is hardly enough to describe the giant of a character who I have had the fortunate pleasure of hosting recently. Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool’s reputation precedes himself. The former premiere of the Western Cape and later South African Ambassador to the Obama Administration, spent time in prison (for all the right reasons) with revolutionary freedom fighter Nelson Mandela who praised his efforts for galvanising the Muslim community in the struggle against apartheid. With deep roots in his faith, he has dedicated his life to translating the vision and values of Islam into the world to make a lasting positive impact.

Fresh off a flight from literally the other side of the world, Ambassador Rasool shows no signs of slowing down as he thrusted himself into a world wind tour of Penny Appeal’s offices in Wakefield, sharing priceless feedback and advice from a lifetime of wisdom and empowered activism.

We scribbled down some of those gems to share with you all. Have included a little personal reflection for each one, I hope you find them as beneficial as we did, let us know thoughts and do share with someone that might benefit from them too!

1. “We need to become warriors of the grey”         

Ambassador Rasool spoke about the need to not just move beyond simplistic black and white thinking, but rather master the nuance needed to navigate our work, politics, relationships and beyond. Yes, it’s easier said than done but remember we don’t grow in our comfort zones!

2. “Sometimes spiritual purity is an excuse to do nothing”          

We spoke candidly about the idea of ‘spiritual evasion’ – using religion as an excuse not to do anything. Sometimes our zeal for staying on the straight and narrow translates to a reluctance to act and get our hands a little dirty, remember it only takes for good men to stand aside for evil to prevail (see point above.)

3. “We have to dramatise the middle ground”

Being balanced, middle-grounded, reasonable and so on just isn’t attractive these days. What attracts young people? What feeds media headlines? How do we grab attention and sell our vision? Being in the middle often means being boring but it doesn’t have to be that way, we just have to be inventive and purposeful when competing with the easily-sensationalised margins.

4. “We cannot fight the siblings of bigotry separately, we must fight bigotry as a whole”

The Ambassador challenged us as to how much we do for marginalised communities in our societies in beyond. It was an uncomfortable but crucial conversation. We’re ever ready to demand the rights due to us and our communities, but how often do we see Muslims on the front line defending the rights of others? It’s easy to give an example or two, but if we are honest these are the exception to the rule. We have a long way to go to shift this culture of entitlement and it begins in our own organisations and institutions.

5. “No one ever cleaned the world without finding himself in the mud”

We’ve got to roll our sleeves up and get into the muck of it all. It’s not enough to sit on the margins and mull over what needs to be done in our socities. There’s plenty of armchair critics and keyboard warriors, what the world needs, what our communities need, what our oranisations need is individuals not afraid to sweat it out in the heat of it all. The sweetness is in the struggle.

6. “We must master the art of the gesture; not just grandstanding”       

This particular statement from the Ambassador really struck me, as did the anecdotes he shared to emphasise the point. There is so much beauty and brilliance brimming in British Muslim communities, however as much as we do good, we have to be seen to being doing that good too. We shouldn’t confuse the admirable spiritual value of humility with failing to choreograph the contributions the movements we belong to make day in and day out, especially when Muslims have such a tarnished reputation.

7. “We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to the lowest common denominator but rather call to the highest common factor”

I loved this little mathematical nugget of wisdom from Ambassador Rasool. When talking about bringing opposing ideas or groups of people together we often hear the phrase, let’s reach the ‘lowest common denominator.’ But why reduce our collective potential, when we could leverage what makes us different to maximise our output? All that’s required is some inventive thinking and a little faith in the greater good, and I’m certain there’s plenty of that to go around.

Hope your enjoyed these reflections, do let me know your thoughts and be sure to share with your networks too.

Share this article:

Top 10 Lessons learnt after meeting James Caan

A couple weeks ago I had the genuine pleasure to spend some time in Monaco with the inspirational business tycoon James Caan, an individual I’ve looked up to for many years. Cruising along the French Riviera, James generously hosted my wife and I in his stunning private yacht, sharing a lifetime of lessons over a hearty lunch.

Having dipped into his autobiography, witnessed his unique charm on screen (and at a variety of community events) and now finally enjoyed quality 1-2-1 time with James in his own environment, I have listed below 10 lessons I have taken to heart from his incredible journey.

1.    “Different, not better”

It was humbling to hear James praise the strong team of leaders he has assembled around him. He rejoices in fact that each of them out-skill him in their areas of expertise. As the leader he doesn’t feel the need to be better than everyone else, rather each of them are the best in their fields and each offer something different. James provides the unique vision that holds them all together and his career is a testament to the success of this.

2.    “Success in Failure”

It’s been said before, and it can’t be said enough. Too often, especially amongst Asian communities, we’re taught failure is a terrible thing, but James is clear it doesn’t have to be that way. Failing does not make you a failure. You learn in failure lessons you can never learn in success. James has taken each of his failings as moments for him to introspect, learn and anchor himself ready to launch again. My time with James has moved me to better accept mistakes as an essential part of one’s journey.

3.    “Keep it simple and stay focused”

James reflected on some of the most successful businesses in recent times; Uber is not a complicated or confusing thing. It’s a taxi service. Likewise, AirBnB has a simple business model and yet these companies are worth billions. Sometimes we get caught up in complexity, when more than not simplicity and ease win the day. As entrepreneurs, we need to be careful not to fall for fluffy words and complex business plans that in reality can hinder your success

4.    “Quality time”

The quantity of our time is limited, but the quality is something we can work to improve. James attributes much of his success on making good decisions and you will make your best decisions when you are in your best form. Physically, emotionally, spiritually – James has always struck me as an incredibly composed and centred individual. He surrounds himself with quality people, in quality environments. He oozes confidence and never strikes you as an individual on edge or imbalanced. James reminded me to not forget to enjoy life, celebrate the small things, value family time and remember that success in your professional life should go hand in hand with success in your personal life too.

5.    “Something from nothing”

As entrepreneurs it’s in our DNA to see something when others don’t, to create connections where others can’t, to bring into life that which doesn’t yet exist. To many people that doesn’t make sense but this is a gift that entrepreneurs have, an instinct. My time with James has inspired me to trust that feeling, to feed that vision, to dare to try, take risks and crucially, buck the trend (See point 9!)

6.    “Know you limits”

No one person can do everything. Whilst an entrepreneur’s skill may lie in envisioning and creating something from nothing, more often than not it’s our egos that stop us from taking our companies to the next level. We have to know our limits and our strengths. James conceded he’s strongest in establishing companies but to see them mature into their fullest potential he knew there are other people who can do that better than he ever could and he hired the best in the business to take his companies to the next level.

7.    “Share the rewards”

James works with people who are passionate and believe in his vision as he does. One of the ways he encourages this is incentivising other people’s work, so they will reap the fruits of their hard work not just James. I was moved by how James believes in, trusts and empowers others. It’s hard to do this at first, your business is your baby and it can be difficult to trust others with looking after it but a smaller slice of a bigger pie is always worth more than a big slice of a small pie.

8.    “Find your Passion”

People will make excuses not to work but passion is what keeps the dream alive. If you love what you do you will find the sweetness in the struggle. The sleepless nights, burning the midnight oil, squeezing every drop that you have in you; that’s where the magic happens. Sometimes it can take a while to discover what really drives you. James is a man of passion and it’s infectious. It inspires others and draws them to you. If you have passion, you’ll always make the time. Don’t have the time? You don’t have the passion.

9.    “Against the grain”

Buck the trend. This is one of James’ secrets. You might find success doing what other people are doing, but there’s almost certainly someone who can do it better than you. His advice, inspired by his father, is to innovate and master your own space. For real success, you have to believe that you can be successful and thus craft businesses that have a wide reach and scalability. This doesn’t mean doing something different just for the sake of it, but rather finding the gaps in the market and offering something unique.

10. “Role Model”

Reflecting on my times with James I was touched by his genuine generosity of spirit. He offered up his time, invited me into his space, listened to me and imparted honest sincere advice, all without asking for anything in return. It was humbling to witness and reminded me to always make time for others. The truth is, whatever I have managed to achieve with SingleMuslim.com and Penny Appeal; the dozens of countries we work in, the hundreds of staff, tens of thousands of marriages we’ve helped set up, the millions of pounds raised for the neediest, it pales in comparison to the impact James has achieved in his career. A true role model inspires you to do more and be more and I can’t be more grateful to James for reigniting the spark of possibility within me.

Share this article:

Penny Appeal Staff Celebration Dinner 2017

It’s become Penny Appeal tradition to host a staff celebration dinner after Ramadan. We take stock of the year gone by over a hearty meal, share stories of inspiration and success and this year we launched the inaugural Penny Appeal Extra Mile awards for particularly dedicated staff and volunteers.

Below is the speech that I had prepared – I didn’t quite stick to script nonetheless I hope you enjoy these words I offered to the Penny Appeal family (that includes all of you now) last week!

“Small Change – Big Difference” this is one of the most commonly heard phrases in our organisation. Whether you’re in our call centre in Wakefield, watching the Big Charity Show on British Muslim TV, in our new offices in the US, Australia and South Africa or across any one of the 30+ countries we work in, time and time again you will hear “Small Change, Big Difference”

This is what Penny Appeal is all about and today I want to reflect with you a little on what that means: small change, big difference.

You see, when you think about all the crises and challenges that face the world, it’s easy to feel disheartened and even depressed. You may feel like you can’t make a difference. You’re just one person. What can you do? When you read the statistics; billions hungry, millions dying, thousands of diseases and on going wars, it just all seems impossible to overcome. What can we really do?

The truth is the work that needs to be done is not only impossible for us to achieve, but perhaps impossible for us to even conceive. We all dream about saving the world but the reality is we can’t even imagine the true scale of what needs to be done. Now, you can take that piece of information and you can feel sad and disempowered or you can do something amazing, you can choose to be liberated.

You see, you are not asked to save the world. You are not asked to end world hunger or stop every war from happening. No one is going to hold you to task for not saving every life that could have been saved – so you can relax. You’re free from that! You don’t have to fix everything because put simply, you can’t fix everything, no one can. That is the work of God. What we are asked to do is simple: do that which you can do, do it well and leave the rest in Allah’s Hands. This is the meaning of small change, big difference.

At Penny Appeal we seek to empower each and every one of us small changes in our lives and in doing so, create a big difference. If we all are able to do our little bit, it adds up to a big difference. We all can push ourselves to donate that little bit extra, spend that little bit more time working for the those who need our help, (especially you Bilal!) put in that little bit more effort. If we can push ourselves a little bit further, we can be the change that we want to see in the world.

As my business SingleMuslim.com was growing from strength to strength I decided to spend some holiday time visiting family in Pakistan. Having lost my father at a young age I wanted to visit the village where he was from and perhaps offer something back as a way of thanks to my ancestral home. It was there when I first met people living in genuine poverty. I thought about how much I had been blessed with at home and promised myself I would do something to help transform the lives of the people we saw. We met with families and heard their stories. We paid off debt for people who were struggling for decades, we built wells and fed scores of people from the village.

But the reality of it all only really hit me when I got home. I landed in Manchester airport and pulled up at the nearest petrol station before I drove back to Wakefield. The fuel gauge stopped at £90. Before my trip I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at the cost of filling up my car but I remembered my conversation with Ali. All the people you can see in the picture here, Ali looks after them on his school teacher salary of just £30 a month. What it cost to fill up my car could have supported Ali’s family for three whole months. The thought sent shivers down my spine. £30 is just about a meal for two for us here but for Ali that £30 is his monthly lifeline.

A week or so later I was recounting the story to one of my clients, Dave, I was a little embarrassed at first comparing my holiday in Pakistan to Dave’s family trip to Disneyland, but Dave was moved. So much so that he took out his cheque book and made the first donation I had ever received. I felt an immense sense of responsibility in that moment, I shared Ali’s story and here, someone in Britain who had never met him or even seen his picture gave some of his small change to help make a big difference in Ali’s life. This is how Penny Appeal was born.

I could never have imagined the incredible journey that that first donation would take us on. Transforming millions of lives, helping generations of people escape the vicious cycle of poverty, working in over 30 countries, hosted by prime ministers, recognised by presidents, winning countless awards, raising millions of pounds, employing hundreds of staff – all from a small change.

Many of you have not been able to see all the work we do with your own eyes but rest assured every mouse click, every letter typed and every phone call is helping to literally save lives around the world. On behalf of all our beneficiaries, just like Ali and his family, I want to thank you for from the bottom of my heart for all the incredible work you do.

What’s next for Penny Appeal? More than you or I could possibly imagine. Our mission continues to inspire people to make a small change in their lives, to pray a little more, to care a little more, to give a little more.

Penny Appeal is transforming your small change into a BIG difference.

As Chairman, I want to say thanks for being part of our journey and for your continued generous support. You are making a world of difference to millions out there and I couldn’t be more proud.

Adeem Younis

Founder of the UK’s largest Muslim website SingleMuslim.com and chairman of Britain’s fastest growing Muslim-led charity Penny Appeal, award-winning entrepreneur and humanitarian making a difference around the world.

Share this article:

Eid at Number 10 – on the menu or at the table?

Adeem

A lot has been said about the increasingly infamous Eid reception hosted by the Prime Minister last week. While some have stated the contributions of British Muslims should be recognised and celebrated at the highest of levels, others are quick to point out the long list of failures our government is responsible for and the need to call our leadership to account. In any case, given we’re fresh out of the month of Ramadan I’d like to offer this three-pronged spiritually infused reflection for us all to consider.

adeem

Firstly, an external perspective.

British Muslims make up an incredibly diverse mosaic of communities, ethnically, culturally, geographically and professionally spread. We are far from a homogenous group of people, with no one person or group truly able to speak on behalf of ‘the Muslims.’ Crucially, all the research indicates the overwhelming majority of us have no qualms in reconciling our ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’ identities.

Now, having set up the most popular Muslim-run website in the UK and Britain’s fastest growing Muslim charity I have been afforded a direct window into the inner-workings of Muslim communities in Britain. Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and pressures, from openly-Islamophobic politicians and an incessantly hostile right wing press to socio-economic struggles and failed security policies, British Muslims can be found contributing unapologetically at every level of society and across every industry too.

In recent months our nation has been rocked by four terrorist attacks, endured a gruesome snap election, witnessed one of the deadliest fires of our history and amongst all of this, once again, British Muslims have found themselves in the spotlight. Yet in the wake of it all, British Muslims continue to build, bind and inspire and I have been truly blown away by the incredible array of responses we have witnessed across the country.

British Muslims choose to engage in as many ways as we are diverse and this diversity is an incredible strength. Each of us have different passions and skills and we each have unique gifts to offer. Our unity is not in uniformity but rather by each of us engaging the world and its machinery in whatever way we know best.

Notwithstanding all of that, secondly, is an internal reflection.

Whilst externally British Muslims each choose to contribute in their own ways and pick the passions they battle with, internally the conversation should always be, how can we do more? How can we improve? How can we be better? Like any business, the success of SingleMuslim.com has been in solving a problem; fulfilling a gap in the market. We know there’s no shortage of problems out there and we as British Muslims need to continually strive to offer solutions through whatever outlets we can.

It is in this internal space that I am strong advocate for the need to collaborate more. Our rich diversity is one our greatest strengths. We have so much to offer each other and when we can maturely and sensitively leverage the variety of perspectives, insights and experiences amongst us, we will truly be a force to reckon with.

Remember, no one group or individual can solve all the crises that face our country, however, together we can achieve amazing things. We need British Muslims working with those of all faiths and none, protesting on the streets, signing petitions and demanding accountability of our leadership but we also need British Muslims, ever-conscious of the institutional corruption and injustices of our political structures, to be advocating inside the corridors of power, working the long-game for the most vulnerable in society and yes, even attending Eid receptions. Critically we all need to be talking to each other.

Whilst we may disagree on how one may choose to ‘externally’ engage the world, ‘internally’ we have to realise we are on the same side. I know sometimes, working in our silos, it can be hard to see this and hence why we need to invest in infrastructures and platforms that forge collaborations, networking and trust-building. Social media really isn’t the place for this. The Qur’anic injunction is clear: “Hold fast to the rope of Allah, all together, and be not disunited” (3:103) – we are tasked to work together and it is upon a firm foundation of faith that we can come to realise our angelic potential to serve all of society.

The truth is we can all do a little better in this regard; help each other up, assume the best of one another, hold our tongues (and fingers) from passing ill-informed jugements, share opportunities and so on. At Penny Appeal our internship programme seeks to do just that; thrust young people into the working world, empowering them to be positive change agents in society; confident in their faith identity, comfortable in their British identity and proudly serving all.

Finally, is the hidden dimension.

It helps, now and then, to take a step back and appreciate what we might accomplish in a lifetime is but a fraction of Allah’s magnificent work. We come to realise that in the eyes of the universe our lives are less than a blink, all we can hope to achieve is not just beyond our reach, but perhaps even beyond our imagination.

This realisation need not lead us to resignation but rather to a liberation. We plant with our hands the seeds for fruit that we may never see, just as the fruit we behold came from seeds planted by hands we never saw.

And just like a seed, we grow where we’re planted; whatever life might throw at us, it’s in our DNA to grow towards the light and you cannot block out the sun. In one of the most foundational teachings of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him, said, “Our actions are judged by intentions and everyone will get what was intended”

It was with high intentions that I attended the Eid reception at Downing Street, right now I’m called to be at the proverbial Eid-table and I refuse to be on anyone’s menu. I can’t speak for everyone who attended that day, however what I will say is that you shouldn’t confuse one’s chosen method of ‘external’ engagement as an indictment against their ‘internal’ understandings of the challenges that our communities face or what needs to be done.

In parting, remember, we are always better when we can listen, learn and work together and I pray Allah plants the secret of this deep in our heart of hearts.

 

Share this article:

A British Muslim Eid!

If you type in “Eid” into google image search, you’ll find a blend of eastern-themed cartoon caricatures and panoramic pictures of people in prayer; neither of which particularly speak to the Eid that I and so many others experience in the UK. The reality is that as British Muslims find themselves more and more rooted in Britain, Eid is fast becoming a truly British holiday and that should be a reason to celebrate.

This Ramadan has been the best yet for our award winning international humanitarian charity, Penny Appeal. We’ve reached more people online and offline and raised more funds, transforming more lives than ever before. At the same time, Ramadan has been a particularly difficult month with the snap election taking place, fatal attacks on our streets and the Grenfell Tower fire which tragically took so many lives.

Desperately needing to have our spirits lifted, Eid couldn’t have come at a better time and our Ramadan activities culminated with Penny Appeal being chosen as the headline partner for the Mayor of London’s annual open-air Eid Festival in Trafalgar Square. Celebrating the best of British Muslim lifestyle, culture, food and entertainment, the festival saw tens of thousands of Muslims celebrate Eid alongside people of all faiths and backgrounds you could imagine. Sadiq Khan, a proud British Muslim, gave a rousing speech praising the rich diversity of our country, where people from all walks of life have been welcomed and are proud to call Britain home.

I looked around Trafalgar Square at the moment and felt a deep sense of pride as I saw Muslims and non-Muslims of every description smiling and celebrating Eid together in the heart of London. Could there be a stronger image of what makes Britain great?

I was equally proud knowing that we have become an integral part of that story; donning my SingleMuslim.com t-shirt, having Penny Appeals iconic orange logo on screen, seeing British Muslim TV’s Nadia Hussein co-hosting and watching Yusuf Islam’s on stage talking about how profits of his new book will be supporting Penny Appeal’s OrphanKind programme – perhaps next year when I search for “Eid” on Google, these are the images that will tell the story of Eid we have come to know today.

 

Share this article:

“Are British Muslims doing enough?”

It’s the perennial question on the tongues of journalists, politicians and even civil society leaders, not least in the wake of turbulent times.

So, are we? Are British Muslims doing enough?

Given we’re in the blessed month of Ramadan and given it seems to be such an ever-present, loaded, question, I’d like to offer a three-pronged reflection; the external dimension, the internal dimension and the hidden.

Firstly, an external perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the ignorance, prejudice and broad-based assumptions that lace such a subtle yet subversive question, nevertheless, indulge me.

British Muslims make up an incredibly diverse mosaic of communities; ethnically, culturally, geographically and professionally spread. We are far from a homogenous group of people, even our representative bodies hesitate to speak on behalf of ‘the Muslims.’ Crucially, the overwhelming majority of us have no qualms in reconciling our ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’ identities. (1) – It’s also worth noting British Muslims contribute an estimated £31+ billion to the UK economy with over a third of small-to-medium enterprises in London being owned by Muslims. (2)Finally, despite almost half of the British Muslim population living in the most deprived areas of the UK, remarkably British Muslims still give more money to charity per-head than any other group. (3)

Running a multi-million-pound tech company and founding a faith-led award-winning humanitarian charity has given me a direct window into the complex, albeit fragile, inner machineries of Muslim communities in Britain. In recent months, our nation has been rocked by three horrific terrorist attacks and once again British Muslims have found themselves in the spotlight. The truth is, I have been blown away by the incredible responses of British Muslims across the country. From taxi drivers who offered free rides to those stranded following the Manchester attack to hundreds of Imams coming together to boldly reject evil acts done in the name of their faith. (4) Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised by Muslim charities and we have seen a host of moving statements, inspiring events and heartfelt gatherings.

Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and pressures, from an Islamophobic President of the United States and an incessantly hostile right wing press to socio-economic struggles and failed security policies, British Muslims continue to build, bind and inspire. In summary, from this perspective, anyone who thinks “Muslims” aren’t doing “enough” quite frankly, hasn’t heard of Google.

Notwithstanding all of that, secondly is an internal reflection. Whilst externally British Muslims each choose to engage in their own ways and pick the passions they battle with, internally the conversation will always be, how can we do more? How can we improve? How can we be better? Like any business, the success of SingleMuslim.com has been in solving a problem and fulfilling a gap in the market. There’s no shortage of problems out there and we as British Muslims need to continually strive to offer inspired solutions through a robust British Muslim civil society engaging our faith institutions, businesses, politics and our incredible charity sector.

It in this internal space that I am a strong advocate for the need to collaborate more with each other and across faith lines. The rich diversity of Britain is one our greatest strengths. We have so much to offer each other and when we can maturely and sensitively leverage the variety of perspectives, insights and experiences amongst all those striving for a better society, we will truly be on to something great. No one group or individual can solve all the crises that face our communities, however, together we can achieve amazing things. We need folks protesting on the streets, for example, whilst others are advocating inside the corridors of power, critically we all need to be talking to each other.

Whilst we may disagree on how we choose to ‘externally’ engage the world, ‘internally’ we have to realise we are on the same side. I know sometimes, working in our silos, it can be hard to see this and hence why we need to invest in infrastructures and platforms that forge collaborations, networking and trust-building. The Qur’anic injunction is clear: “Hold fast to the rope of Allah, all together, and be not disunited” (3:103) – we are doubly tasked to work together and it is upon a firm foundation of faith that we can come to realise our angelic potential to serve all of society.

The truth is we can all do a little better in this regard; help each other up, assume the best of one another, share opportunities and so on. At Penny Appeal our internship programme and TeamOrange seeks to do just that; thrust young people into the working world, empowering them to be positive change agents in society; confident in their faith identity, comfortable in their British identity and proudly serving all, regardless of their backgrounds.

So, if you ask me from this internal perspective, are British Muslims doing enough? I’d tell you, we still have a lot to work to do.

Finally, is the hidden dimension. It helps now and then to take a step back and appreciate what we might accomplish in a lifetime is but a fraction of God’s magnificent work. Through perspective we come to realise in the eyes of the universe our lives are less than a blink. All we can hope to achieve is not just beyond our reach, but perhaps even beyond our imagination.

But this realisation need not lead us to resignation but rather to a liberation. We plant with our hands the seeds for fruit that we may never see, just as the fruit we behold came from seeds planted by hands we never saw.

And just like a seed, we grow where we’re planted; whatever life might throw at us, it’s in our DNA to grow towards the light and you cannot block out the sun. Even in the fleeting moments of darkness our roots still grow; with the courage to crack through the hardest of rocks and draw goodness from even the most begrimed of soils.

In one of the most cardinal teachings of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said, “Our actions are judged by intentions and everyone will get what was intended”

We were meant for great and lofty accomplishments and we win as soon as we begin. Our work will never be complete, but we work nonetheless and we leave our space a little better than we found it grateful that perhaps God has chosen us to be conduits of his Merciful and Wise plan.

So, are British Muslims doing enough?

Share this article:

Muslims are Britain’s top charity givers

adeem

Ramadan is almost here!

As we gear up for the busiest month of our personal and professional lives I’m reminded of research that tells us Muslims are Britain’s top charity givers. What’s even more amazing is that this is in spite of the fact that almost half of the British Muslim population live in bottom 10% of local authority districts for deprivation.

I want you to soak that in for a moment.

Despite belonging to poorest communities in the country (owing to migration patterns as well as being at the brunt of the highest rates of prejudice and discrimination) British Muslims are still the most generous of people. Having the honour to witness the sheer scale of this every Ramadan is truly one of the highlights of my year.

I’ve been blessed to be able to travel to the countries and communities where your generous donations are transforming lives. Whether it’s rural Pakistan or remote villages in the Gambia when I tell our beneficiaries that the aid they receive has come from their sisters and brothers in the UK I’m almost always met with the same universal sense of disbelief.

It’s inconceivable to them that thousands of miles away, in a far away (and very cold) land there are Muslims who care about their struggles and pain; it literally brings tears to their eyes. Most British Muslims will never see the faces of the people they help or even know their names. We give with open hearts as an expression of our faith and in doing so we are transformed by the very act of giving. Our teachers remind us that whilst the we may call the poor people we help our ‘beneficiaries’ in the next life the tables are turned as we will be grateful to have had the opportunity to have done good, in that sense, we, as donors, are the true beneficiaries.

Ramadan is the month where we starve ourselves of our physical pleasures and delight in the spiritual banquet on offer. Our faith asks us to do to the difficult task of thinking beyond of ourselves, when we’re able to put other people before ourselves it makes the world a better place. We all seek to fill our lives with happiness but did you know the very word ‘pleasure’ comes from the old French verb ‘plaisir’ which means ‘to please’ – in other words to please other people.

Our happiness doesn’t depend on what we have but rather on what we can do for others; when you get a critical mass of people thinking of others before themselves, as we experience in Ramadan, that’s how you build a little bit of heaven on earth.

I’m so grateful that year in, year out, through transforming your small chance into a big difference, here at Penny Appeal we play our part.

Come and join the movement, Bismillah.

Share this article:

British Muslim community struggle with faith and sense of identity.

It’s been almost a week since the dust has settled on Penny Appeal’s latest charity tour featuring one of Britain’s freshest talents, Harris J.

Each venue was sold out and we raised over hundred thousand pounds in aid of our Forgotten Children campaign, helping vulnerable and forgotten children off the streets, out of danger and into places of love and care. By all measures the tour is another success story for our award-winning charity, however, I wanted to reflect on the subtler successes that tours like this generate.

Our success at Penny Appeal is driven by the generosity of the British Muslim public who have trusted us to deliver their hard-earned donations. Endowed with that trust we also feel a sense of responsibility to invest back into the British Muslim community and one of the ways we are doing that is opening our platforms in support of British Muslim arts and culture.

In a time where we see the politics of hate and division turn communities against one another, it is our art that can bring hearts and minds together. Art is more than just entertainment it offers a space for us to imagine and reflect and perhaps, more importantly, generates conversation and community that can help us understand who we are, where we are going and even deepen our relationship with Allah.

Over 50% of the British Muslim community are under the age of 30 and our young people often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place; scapegoated and vilified by politicians and the media on one side and alienated in their own communities, struggling to find places to belong. In this context, it’s not hard to imagine why so many young Muslims struggle with their faith and sense of identity and it is for this reason why investing in the arts is so important.

Sitting in the crowd at Penny Appeal’s SALAM tour with Harris J I witnessed how art can be so healing. When our very own masjids become places where young people feel unwelcomed it truly warms my heart to see the Muslim community in all its rich diversity; young and old, sisters and brothers, people from all walks of life and backgrounds, come together, sing beautiful praises of our Lord and support great causes at the same time.

Success can be measured in many ways, but ultimate success can only be measured by Allah, we pray our efforts are accepted and we thank you, once again, for your constant love, generosity and support.

 

Share this article:

Adeem Younis

Adeem Younis

Founder of SingleMuslim.com and PennyAppeal.org