back to top

Here's The Story Behind The Muslim Choir Whose Stunning Grenfell Tribute Got Praise From Prince Harry

"Prince Harry apparently looked over at the girls and mouthed 'well done'," said the teacher who conducted the moving tribute.

Posted on

You may remember seeing an all-girl Muslim choir singing at St Paul's Cathedral at the Grenfell memorial earlier this month.

BBC/ Screengrab

The touching performance was part of an hour-long national memorial service where more than 1,500 people gathered below the cathedral's iconic dome to remember those who died in the tower block fire in June.

Gareth Fuller / AFP / Getty Images

The 28 singers were part of the Al-Sadiq and Al-Zahra Schools girls' choir from Brent in west London, made up of pupils from years 5 and 6.

BBC/ Screengrab

They sang "Insha Allah", a song about hope by Swedish singer-songwriter Maher Zain. A lot of people were incredibly moved by the performance, which formed part of the interfaith service marking six months since the tragedy.

BBC/ Screengrab

The Archbishop of Canterbury's official account tweeted coverage of the performance.

A moving part of a service marking the #Grenfell tragedy which affected so many. These children were welcome contri… https://t.co/A1VAJF9h4Y

Some people said it reduced them to tears.

This choir singing the Inshallah song reduces me to tears. #Grenfell

And said they immediately stopped what they were doing to listen.

For the #grenfell memorial at St Paul's Cathedral, a choir of Muslim girls sing. And it stops everyone in their tra… https://t.co/gMIbcLxd4t

The teacher who conducted the choir is Rasheedah Haneef. She told BuzzFeed News she has since received supportive messages about the clip from around the world.

BBC/ Screengrab

"Before we left St Paul's, my friend in Pakistan was sending me pictures [of the choir] while we were still in the cathedral," said Haneef.

"Right after the service, I was able to show the girls pictures of themselves performing, even before we got outside."

She added that friends of her adult children, who live in Toronto in Canada, also shared the clip. "They had to tell their friends, 'Look, that's my mum.'

"It has touched the hearts of people everywhere."

BBC/ Screengrab

The response was a huge achievement for the pupils, Haneef said, adding how the girls were surprised at the reaction from one member of the audience in particular: "The royal family got up to leave – Prince Harry apparently looked over at the girls and mouthed 'well done'.

"So that was the first bit of congratulations that they experienced and they felt really happy and touched by that."

Prince Harry at the Grenfell Tower memorial service.
Wpa Pool / Getty Images

Prince Harry at the Grenfell Tower memorial service.

Haneef said that as the girls left St Paul's Cathedral, people recognised them and went out of their way to pass on praise. "A lot of people came up and said 'thank you so very much, we really loved your participation'. When they were on the train going back to school, so many people said to us: 'Were you that choir at St Paul's just now?'

"And I guess it was easy to recognise the girls because the way they were dressed, and the white hijab and everything else."

Haneef has also received a few letters from parents, who said they were proud to see Muslim girls participate in the interfaith service, as Grenfell has affected the lives of so many people in the city.

Gareth Fuller / PA Wire/PA Images

Haneef, who comes from a musical family herself, was active in her church before she converted to Islam. She started the choir group during lunch breaks at the Islamic school last year, which proved very popular with the girls.

BBC/ Screengrab

She said: "I'm just a primary teacher and we don't really have a music programme [at the school], you know.

"The girls had a love of singing and participation in assemblies and so on that it's just brought us together, really."

Tthe girls had practised the song every day for two weeks before the service, said Haneef, who had rewritten some of the verses to fit with the purpose of the memorial.

"The song is 'Insha Allah', which means 'God willing' but also hope, a lot of hope.

"It's about situations where you feel mostly down and out – whatever situation has happened in your life, you feel hopeless, full of despair – and when you want to recover from that, emerge from that.

"The whole idea of 'Insha Allah' is you will be able to stand again, and be able to emerge from this situation, and be able to do better in future in life," she said.

Wpa Pool / Getty Images

Aliya Azam, a teacher and interfaith coordinator, said colleagues at Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools had been on the ground the morning after the Grenfell Tower fire, helping with the relief effort.

Azam said the schools have a relationship with the local churches, and had assistance from St Paul's in preparing the choir and were able to practise at the cathedral the day before.

"You need to look at the words of the song: It's more about being hopeful. You've gone through this tragedy but God is with you and there is hope, you know," Azam said.

"It's about giving hope. There will be hope, inshallah."

You can watch the whole clip here.

The Girls choir of Al-Sadiq and Al-Zahra schools perform at #GrenfellTower fire memorial service in London… https://t.co/O2ldqWGel1

Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Aisha Gani at aisha.gani@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.