For Imran Hameed, his volunteer-led Bearded Broz group started with the Grenfell Tower tragedy on June 14, 2017.
“I was watching the Grenfell Tower tragedy unfold on TV from my sofa in Birmingham, and I knew I had to help,” Hameed told Positive News.
“I went down to London with some volunteer brothers and we all had beards, so the name Bearded Broz stuck. We just wanted to help, but it also challenged media narratives about bearded Muslim men all being terrorists. We were giving something back.”
A year earlier, he set up Salma Food Bank in June 2016, the food bank was set up in memory of his late mother Salma Parveen who died when he was only 17 years old.
“She was an immigrant in the UK, she couldn’t speak English and her best mate was a black, Catholic woman who cried for my mother after she passed away.”
Inspired by their friendship, he set up the food bank, which he believes to be the UK’s only daily emergency food bank with a 24-hour helpline.
Since 2016, ‘Salma Food Bank’ has delivered 40,000 food parcels to doorsteps and donated 420 tons of food across Birmingham’s areas as Britain’s ‘second city’.
Hameed doesn’t just serve Muslims as about 95% of his food parcel recipients are non-Muslims living in the local area. He has 150 volunteer drivers ready to respond at any given notice 24 hours of the day – and 80% of the food bank’s volunteers are non-Muslim.
“The Qur’an doesn’t say ‘feed the Muslim’, it says ‘feed the needy’,” says Hameed.
“So we deliver to people’s homes and help everybody who knocks on our door. In fact, 85 percent of the people we serve are non-Muslims, which is a much bigger message of humanity. That’s why we have tears and hugs on the doorsteps.”
The life of Hameed has not always been on volunteerism and helping others.
As an IT consultant who describes his background as very affluent, he used to be fixated on material things.
“If I had a Ferrari, there was still someone with a Lamborghini” – but events shifted his perspective.
First, he read the Qur’an in depth, and in English, for the first time. “I properly understood it then, rather than just inheriting its ideas,” he notes. “It taught me to look down to see who I could help, rather than always looking up and being dissatisfied.”
Over the past two years, the group has been promoting “Islamic values and how they go hand-in-hand with British values.”
“We have Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and men and women of all ages – beards or no beards! Mums join with their teenage children to teach them how to look after neighbors, and our oldest volunteer, Valerie, who was born and bred in Birmingham, is in her 70s.”
Along with helping needy, Bearded Broz tries to tackle local issues such as drugs, begging and prostitution
Hameed also runs a program called Meet a Muslim, inviting followers of far-right ideologies to spend a day chatting with him. “I met Tommy Robinson’s uncle one day,” he recalls.
He is “extremely proud” of being both British and Muslim and looks forward to expanding Bearded Broz to help even more people in the future.
“I believe in the people of Birmingham,” he says. “People here are fantastic. It’s the multicultural hub of Britain.”
As one of the five pillars of Islam, Zakat or ritual charity is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth. It’s a mandatory charitable contribution, the right of the poor to find relief from the rich, and is considered to be tax or obligatory alms.
Islamic Shari’ah also has another type of optional donation called Sadaqah. This term is used in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah for both Zakat and charity.
The exceptional word of the group has been previously highlighted by AboutIslam.net. Have a look at it.