Islamic archery revived in Surrey mosque

Ambar Rachad, 16, practising archery Ambar Rachad enjoys the element of competition with historical significance

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The ancient sport of horseback archery is being revived at a mosque in Surrey.

As an activity recommended by the Prophet Muhammad in accounts of his life, instructors say it is an attractive sport for young Muslims.

Archery classes are being held weekly at the Woking's Shah Jahan Mosque, with riding classes at local stables.

The students are currently learning the two skills separately and will combine them this summer.

The sport is having something of a revival in the UK with the establishment of the British Horseback Archery Association in 2007.

Coach Jehad Shamis, of organisation Archery for All, has competed in horseback archery competitions all over the world.

He gives weekly archery lessons in a hall at the mosque as well as overseeing the students' riding lessons.

Students are given riding lessons Beginners are taught riding and archery separately, before combining the skills

"Archery is one of those sports that the Prophet Muhammad specifically recommended that we do, likewise horse riding, and it also helps you to overcome certain fears as well," he said.

"British Asians and Muslims in general are not that good with animals either and it's something that we really need to overcome."

Ambar Rachad, 16, is learning both skills and is pointed out as "the best" by her mostly female fellow students.

She said she was nervous at first, and initially did not realise the significance of archery in Islam.

"When we first started our lessons we went back into the history of archery," says Ambar.

"Basically it's a 'Sunnah' (a practice of the Prophet Muhammad) which is recommended. We've done competitions which are really fun, but every lesson is a competition because we try and beat each other."

During the lessons, Mr Shamis reads out a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, a Hadith, in which archery or horse riding is mentioned.

Pupils being coached in archery target practice Pupils learn the standard finger release and "Mongolian" thumb draw method of archery

Pupils are learning the standard finger release method of archery but also the more eastern or "Mongolian" thumb draw.

"Initially when people learn archery we teach them with the finger release," he said.

"It's very similar to what you'll see in the Olympics. But then with those that are wishing to do traditional archery we do the thumb draw.

"Although there is disagreement over this, it lends itself to horseback archery because it's a little bit more efficient and easier to release."

Sajida Rehman has gained a qualification as an instructor and is teaching her daughter as well as other students.

"More than anything else I think in our community we never had these facilities before. People can come and pray in the mosque but also there are other activities on offer." she said.

You can hear more on this story on Asian Network Reports on the BBC Asian Network

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