By Rahmat

Today, I can wrap a scarf around my head with ease and I like it. It makes me happy and proud - Rahmat, Live-in at L'Arche London

As I write, Ramadan is coming to an end. For Muslims, this is a holy month, a time of fasting and abstinence from sunrise to sunset. And this year, I am spending Ramadan in L’Arche.

As a Muslim who takes my religion seriously, I had mixed feelings before joining L’Arche a few years ago. The goal of Islam is that people should co-exist peacefully, irrespective of their background, culture, education, abilities or disabilities. That is L’Arche’s goal too.

A strong driving force for me is the Islamic principle of Zakat, which means “charity”. According to Islam, rendering the utmost care and support to people with disabilities and other members of the community is a source of unlimited blessing. I believe this, and it is a source of strength and motivation for me.

Before joining L'Arche, however, I sensed it would be challenging being part of a community where the majority of people seem to be Christian. As an assistant, I knew I might have to support people to go to church; to serve food that is forbidden in Islam, even alcohol. And so, I asked more experienced Muslims whether being an assistant would clash with my faith. They reassured me, saying it was OK, because doing all this was part of my work. 

From the time I arrived in L’Arche, I was made to feel welcome. But I was the only Muslim in our team, so I also felt lonely and unsettled. One day, however, while I was supporting someone to go to church, I spotted a woman from another L’Arche house being supported by a woman in a headscarf. I suddenly realised I'm not the only Muslim working in L’Arche and bringing people to church. At the end of the service, I greeted her and told her I'm a Muslim.

Today, I can wrap a scarf around my head with ease and I like it. It makes me happy and proud.

Another issue I have faced is Salat, the prayer we are expected to perform five times a day. I don’t want to impose my faith on others, so if I'm occupied, I pray at the end of the day, as the Quran allows. But the house I work in is often busy, so it is hard to find a quiet place. 

One evening after bedtime, I was praying in the living room. Suddenly, I felt someone trying to climb onto my back while I was on my knees in prayer. It was Amy (pictured with me above)! I think she was curious about what I was doing, and started copying me. She probably thought it was some kind of exercise routine, and found it unfamiliar and amusing.

Being part of L’Arche is an exciting adventure, and I have learned a lot about other people’s beliefs on my journey. What gives me joy is gathering with others and seeing how people are supported. And I also admire the people I support.

One woman I support, Carmel, is a Catholic who prays in a beautiful way, from her heart. As Muslims, we read in Arabic before we pray, and have rules and practices that are different from Christianity. But whether you are Muslim or Christian, prayer is really about getting closer to God. And when Carmel prays, I see how she brings her family before God in her heart.

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