On Saturday 5th September alongside 70 people, I took part in the 2nd Tour de Salah, Europe’s largest organised Muslim bike ride. We rode over 100 km stopping at 5 mosques throughout the day for prayer and as advertised it really was “a physical and spiritual challenge like no other”.
We took in a vast array of London’s sights and abundance of green spaces from the Big Ben to deer-filled Richmond Park (Sadly, for me , anyway, there is a planned cull of Deer populations, Oh Deer!). Our route then snaked up the tortuous hills of Swains Lane and Alexandra Palace. To the astonishment of the flabbergasted, yellow lycra-clad brigade atop their shiny bicycles, I ascended these hills on my fixed-gear bike (which I affectionately call the ‘granny’) faster than them! It is not always the bike that you use but the intention of the person on it and the love and emotional investment put into that bike. This realisation imparted a profound wisdom; we should strive for excellence and achieve our goals regardless of the tools or circumstances we are given. It is therefore our desire to win, no matter the obstacle that distinguishes us.
For me, the entire initiative marked a visible communal commitment of undertaking lifestyle changes to tackle climate change and other forms of environmental and social injustice. It perfectly embodied MADE’s Green-up campaign which encourages mosques and community members to live up to Islam’s lofty environmental standards, especially in our divinely-appointed role as stewards on the earth.
Entire committees at London Muslim Centre, Palmers Green and Kingston mosques kindly hosted us at their mosques providing us with abundant food and drink. Being a young person, I am often confronted with mosque committees’, often dominated by a cabal of elderly men and lack of engagement with the youth. It was refreshing to witness these mosques’ willingness to embrace change and their role as disseminators of Islam’s pristine environmental message. The Tour de Salah initiative therefore represented a positive alternative for mosques’ future communal and environmental engagement.
The sheer camaraderie and support set the tone for such a glorious day of cycling. I strongly felt that MADE’s staff and volunteers and Ibn Battuta were with us at every step of the way, from the abundant supplies of food to the professional support given by the cycling instructors. This all fostered an atmosphere of support and encouragement that in turn generated miracles. For instance, I spoke to one lady that managed to cycle the entire 100 kilometres despite only having little previous experience of continuous cycling, 10 minutes to be exact. Further, MADE opened the floor for the participation of other charities such as Islamic Relief, Human Appeal and Penny Appeal. It was at this instance, Sarah Javaid, MADE’s Executive Director captured the moment and the vision of the future. I share her vision that Tour de Salah will become a blueprint of institutional and sectarian unity, what we can achieve together when we are united in a vision to tackle environmental and social injustice once and for all.
Personally, my participation in Tour de Salah marked a defining moment in my life journey. It illustrated the culmination of 6 months of cycling. Despite originally being a decision to save money, cycling’s environmental and physical benefits quickly became apparent. I must thank Amy, Usman and Zinia for press-ganging me into signing up for Tour de Salah. Previously, I was only accustomed to cycling 25 miles in a day, the challenge required 60 miles. Sometimes, I guess one never truly knows what wondrous feats they are capable of until they are thrown (unceremoniously if need be) into the deep end. I owe it to the aforementioned three for recognising my potential to reach greater heights.
Finally, I thoroughly look forward to next year’s Tour de Salah, which God willing, will be bigger and better. We are making great strides as a community with regards to recognising climate change, from the Eco fair in mid-August, to the Istanbul Islamic Declaration on Climate Change and of course last week’s launch of the Muslim Climate Action coalition at the Houses of Parliament. I pray that we can embark successfully on these tides of change.
Salahuddin Mahzary, 2015 Tour De Salah Participant