Fatema Zahra wins Children’s Excellence Award

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence, launched in 2000, is a landmark event acknowledged as the standard bearer for recognising and promoting excellence within the Muslim community in the UK. Every year, it receives numerous nominations for those who are excelling in the various awards categories, which include excellence in media, STEM, community relations, enterprise, community development, sport, the arts, health, good citizenship, education and more.

I was nominated for the Children’s Award for Excellence by a member of our community who is an acclaimed author, poet and inspirational Qur’an teacher, and who has known me since I was a toddler at nursery! In November 2019 (I was 10 years old then) she approached my mum with her intention to nominate me, and subsequently submitted a detailed summary of my achievements and aspirations in qur’an memorisation, creative writing, poetry and art, amongst others, to the Muslim News.

I was so shocked and delighted to then receive notification from the editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, that I had actually been shortlisted for the 2020 Awards! The ceremony was due to be held in March 2020, but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the pandemic – and so, it is after a hiatus of 2 years that the awards were held once again on 1 July 2022!

It was an unforgettable evening with rousing speeches by keynote speaker and guest of honour Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP: Speaker of the House of Commons, Yvette Cooper MP: Shadow Home Secretary, Ahmed Versi: Host of the Muslim News and many others.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP lauded the muslim community in the UK for its stellar contributions to British society, and urged for further representation in politics and parliament, especially by women. Yvette Cooper MP stated that it was inspiring to note that, out of the 16 awards categories this year, 10 went to women!

I was honoured, humbled and privileged to meet and be included amongst so many illustrious individuals, such as award-winning British-Somali novelist Nadifa Mohamed who’s latest novel The Fortune Men was recently shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and who won the Alhambra Award for Excellence in the Arts on the night. Another absolute highlight of my evening was to be introduced to Dr Sagida Bibi, a senior scientist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, who played a crucial role in the development of the Oxford Covid Vaccine as an integral member of the core team. She received the Exceptional Covid Response Award.

It made me so proud to see how members of my faith and community were at the very forefront of their fields, giving back to society and making a real difference, and I loved how so much care had gone into every detail of the event, in order to showcase the beauty of the Islamic faith. Even the award that I received for having won the Children’s Award for Excellence was beautifully designed in the shape of an astrolabe, a centuries-old instrument developed by Muslim scientists that could determine the altitude of stars, the sun, moon and other planets in much the same way as the sextant or quadrant. Some were also used to tell the time, measure the heights of mountains and the depth of wells. In addition to their scientific value, astrolabes remain outstanding examples of Islamic art.

My award has an inscription on it that reads, ‘Allah loves those who excel in every task’, and I am now even more motivated and determined to continue to strive and do my best.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing support, guidance and encouragement that I have received at every step of my learning journey from my parents and my wonderful teachers at NWC, all the way from Reception until Year 8! Thank you!

Fatema Zahra, Year 8