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This Run Club Is Creating Space for Muslim Women

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 21st October, 2019

We spoke to founder of the Asra the run club based in Wimbledon, the club is specifically for Muslim Women. We centred the interview around the founder Sahra-Isha’s vision for the club and her motivations.

Is Asra more than a run club?

Definitely ASRA is a safe space, it’s a community. We all come together because we have an interest in running. Exercise in general is something that I wanted to explore, so during Ramadan, we held yoga sessions. We had a section during the sessions just discussing things such as how to keep our Iman high, tips on how not to miss your prayers outside of the house and healthy eating during the holy month. Those discussions were something that I want to expand on through panel discussions and workshops as we need to have conversations about our body, mental health, exercise and how religion plays into them.

Run clubs for women exists, some would ask why one specifically for Muslim Women?

It’s about catering for us by us. No Muslim woman is the same, hence my aim has always been to ensure that one does not have to compromise on her Iman/faith. That way, by it being exclusively booked for us, in a safe environment, Muslim women who may not want to run on the roads or want to take their hijabs off if they wear one, don’t have to worry about any of those external issues. By going to those lengths makes it a safe space and if it is one for a Muslim woman then it is a safe space for all Women. Therefore, it is not about sheltering us but making sure that no one feels left out.

What’s the age and background of your typical runner? Why do they come to Asra? (Would be great to ask 3-4 attendees their why’s)

The ages range from 13-30 coming to ASRA, but the track is massive, it’s open to all Muslim women (and it’s free)

Suleka: 26, Somali

“ASRA has given me a space where I feel comfortable and welcome to exercise with women who are like me. It removes some of the obstacles which I face when exercising in a mixed environment e.g. having to worry about what I’m wearing. Exercising with a group of Muslim women is so empowering and motivating and I’m so grateful that it exists. It’s been great having shared fitness goals & training alongside supportive individuals to achieve them. I’m excited to see where our running takes us!”

Hamdi 23, Somali

“I enjoy running but wouldn’t call myself a runner. I train with ASRA because it is a safe space for Muslim women. Running is often an outdoors sport which can be difficult for Muslim women who observe dressing modestly and therefore the private space ASRA provides is unmatched. The run club is a sisterhood, from the group stretches to the encouragements whilst running, ASRA is empowering! As a result, I am planning to run my second 5k after 4 weeks of training and hoping to cut down on the time of my first 5k.”

Fatima, 25

“Asra is a safe space to run with fellow Muslim women, get fit and connect on a personal level too. I’ve tried to join running clubs in the past and never felt really included or that I fit in, with Asra I do. Alhamdullilah”

Siham 17, Somali

“I came to Asra because I used to love running growing up however I stopped due to the lack of Muslim women running clubs, as the others running clubs don’t cater to my needs as a Muslim woman. This is when I stumbled across Asra and decided to come to the sessions and since then I haven’t missed one. I come to Asra because as I am at a stressful part of my life (due to studies) I need a place to destress and forget about studies and school.”

“I want to exercise but don’t have a space just for Muslim women to do it in my area” was one of the first things you shared about the reason for the run club, what personally sparks you into action? Many of us see challenges but to take the step to find a solution is brave.

This quote was from a sister who I spoke to when I was thinking of starting ASRA. The reason why I spoke to Muslim women first was that I wanted the input from the community, every Muslim woman is different so I had to take that into consideration. The lack of spaces for us was something that just kept coming up, so I went on a search for suitable tracks that would help overcome the obstacles. To receive so many responses from women regarding the reason they love to exercise but the barriers that they were facing, really chimed into my own experience with running and exercise especially after taking a long break from it. It made me realise that I was not alone in these thoughts and pushed me more to actually start it. Honestly, by having community involvement was essential to start ASRA as I couldn’t have done it alone otherwise it wouldn’t have reflected Muslim women from different backgrounds to me.

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Missing St Moritz, such an amazing experience!

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How do you seek to be motivated in your life? How does running contribute to this?

By achieving my goals, the main one being creating and supporting spaces for people in my community and seeing that it benefits them is definitely something that motivates me in life. I always aim to do things with a purpose. Running helps me focus and stay disciplined by doing it consistently. Also focusing on a goal whilst training. Before each run we all recite positive affirmations to put us in the right mindset, these are life hacks that you can take outside of running which I definitely do, especially when I feel the need to feel uplifted.

Your share that exercise is a sunnah, can you elaborate on this and how further does islam affect your exercise or vice versa.

The Qu’ran and hadith touch a lot on the importance of wellbeing and having a healthy diet and lifestyle. Exercise is embedded in our daily routines as Muslims, for example, performing salah is a form of exercise. Spiritually Islam is beneficial to our wellbeing and plays an integral role in how we view sports.

What effects has a run club especially one for Muslim Women had on other areas of your life if any?

I have met some amazing women, they are like my sisters. ASRA has helped me gain some structure and made me love running again. When you run by yourself, it’s great but it can be isolating if you do so every week, but when you are running with your community it makes the purpose of running a lot more meaningful.

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Selina Bakkar

Selina Bakkar

I'm a simply striving to be better and improve in different areas of my life through more self awareness, experiences and learning more about the deen. You'll find me talking about community, connection, planting & growing, seeking the truth in an age of propaganda and misinformation. This year I want to document more to do with food heritage and history so watch this space or reach out. Have a listen to the Amaliah Voices podcast where I talk passionately about Islam, nature, motherhooding and back home. Link in bio peeps. To join the Amaliah Writer Community email me at IG: SelinaBakkar