By Annisa Essack
Twenty-two years ago, at age 17, Imran Hameed lost his mother. She never let anyone go hungry nor would she allow someone in need to be turned away without help. Even when she returned home to Pakistan, it wasn’t to visit her family, but instead, she visited hospitals where she listened to the patients’ concerns. Her legacy spurred Imran to establish the UK’s only 24/7 food bank in her name, as sadaqaah jariyah (a form of giving that extends past a person’s lifetime and helps those in the future.)
His inspiration came on the 27th night of Ramadaan in 2016. In the three years since his inspiration, Salma Food Bank has delivered more than 40 000 food parcels to doorsteps and donated 420 tonnes of food in the areas surrounding Birmingham.
Hameeds' motivation is the hadith that is emblazoned on a banner outside the food bank: “The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said he is not a Muslim who goes to bed satisfied while his neighbour goes hungry."
During Ramadaan, the Salma Food Bank is busy and Imraan doesn’t only serve Muslims. About 95% of his food parcels recipients are non-Muslims living in the area. With his 150 volunteer drivers, 80% of whom are non-Muslim, he is ready to respond at any given time of the day or night.
Proudly Muslim and British, Hameed is adamant that charity begins at home. He says: “Allah put us here in Britain and gave us good fortune here for a reason, and thereafter gave us people in need for a reason. He is the bigger planner. I’m all for people giving money away across the world but look at home first. And for me, home is here in Britain.”
In total, a fifth of the UK’s population lives in poverty. More than 4 million people live in poverty in Britain despite being employed whilst 1.5 million cannot afford basic essentials. Food banks have seen a 19 per cent increase in the past year with the need being greater in Ramadaan as Muslims begin fasting.
And this is where the Bearded Broz, as Hameed’s crew is called, step in to help the needy.
Wearing high-visibility vests and up working when others would be sleeping at noon while fasting, Hameed and his volunteers toil away at packing special Ramadan food parcels containing everything from cooking oil and ghee to chickpeas and flour – the essentials of any iftaar. These food parcels are packed into vans, ready for the Bearded Broz team to deliver a round of food parcels packed with beans, rice, flour, cooking oil and a bag of rice big enough for a family.
According to Hameed, many recipients are victims of a revised welfare system, known as universal credit, which has left families and individuals unable to manage on monthly payments that used to be given fortnightly.
Hameed and his team are on the front line, often called by police and local authorities as the last resort to tackle social inequality.