Ramadan and Beyond white

Editor’s Welcome

Living My Faith – Ramadan and Beyond

Assalaam alaykum/Peace be with you,

Ramadan and Beyond blackWelcome to our first issue of Young Muslimah Magazine (YMM), the free online magazine for aspiring Muslimah readers aged thirteen and over, and for aspiring writers – YMM is designed to provide a career ground for new writers as well as to provide spiritual turf for readers insha’Allah (if Allah wills).

Alamdulillah it is an honour to be first to publish the work of new writers, to support aspiring writers, and to share articles from established writers and professionals who have taken the time to use their writing to reach out to young Muslimahs. The structure of the magazine has been inspired by permaculture ethics of people care, earth care, and fair share, and has been organised in response to the needs of young Muslimahs to access the wisdom of others’ experiential knowledge and support. In this issue I am delighted to share articles specifically written to support readers to live our faith – Islam – during Ramadan and beyond.

I hope every reader will find support and solidarity from the writers of our articles and that your reading of the magazine will be a catalyst for realising the potential of your aspirations insha’Allah. MashaAllah, Young Muslimah Magazine is endorsed by our Islamic Editor, Nadia Leona Yunis – those of you in search of Islamic personal coaching can reach her via her website.

For those among you who aspire to become writers, you are invited to join the YMM Facebook group and/or the YMM Aspiring Writers Email List (please email your request to join to editor@youngmuslimahmagazine.com) so you can keep informed about the Editors’ Lists of content suggestions for each issue; please also refer to the pages about submissions and writers’ guidelines on this site. (I also recommend you consider joining the beautiful support network that is the Muslimah Writers Alliance, take a look at the invaluable mentoring and editing help available through LY’s Writing Service, and discover more about permaculture and Islam via Wisdom in Nature.)

Subscribe and get a free PDF of LaYinka Sanni's 'On Writing For Newbies'
Subscribe and get a free PDF of LaYinka Sanni’s ‘On Writing For Newbies’

Readers (and writers) are invited to subscribe to our YMM Email List to receive news of each issue and to be first to know about any exciting developments.

If you would like to ask any questions about the magazine please email me at editor@youngmuslimahmagazine.com

I pray that you and your families will succeed in your aspirations to please Allah (SWT – glorified and exalted be He) this Ramadan and that He will grant you inconceivable blessings during Ramadan and beyond.

Ma salaama,

Elizabeth Lymer (Editor)

Nadia Yunis Quran Kabah

Your Ultimate Self-Help Book

Our Islamic Editor Nadia Leona Yunis shares insights into overcoming sad feelings when Ramadan comes towards its end – you may want to save this one for Ramadan’s last ten days or prepare in advance and read it now

This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (Chapter of the cow) 2:2

As another Ramadan draws to an end we may suddenly fall into the ‘Post-Ramadan-Blues’. We have barely broken our final fast before we start to moan: “Oh I feel sad and upset.”

But isn’t Eid a gift from Allah? And should we not be grateful to Allah for this day? And should we not look forward to the celebration?

Nadia Yunis cresent moonWe seem to give more weight and precedence to other celebrations in our lives – whether they be a birthday, wedding, new born, graduation, or new job, new house (insert the special moment you like to celebrate) – and yet as soon as maghrib (sunset ritual prayer) adhan (call to worship) is called on the final fast we seem to get the ‘Blues’.

Our religion Islam is not about getting the blues or being in a negative state! Yes, things happen, we fall, cry, make up, break up, and cry a little more – but does life end here? Maybe you have been through some of the above struggles so you can relate – because I sure have been through a good few of those myself.

You may be feeling blue because you feel you didn’t do enough – and you feel you should have done more.

When we get into a negative rhetorical we fall downwards and downwards

Listen, you did as much as you could in your circumstance and honestly instead of worrying about how little you did now – as Ramadan is over – make continuous du’a (supplication) that Allah accepts the little you did. I pray that Allah accepts it from you and me.

You may be wondering how I can sound so cold or be so direct about it. You may be thinking, “Does she think she is better than the rest and all her deeds are accepted?” and the answer to your wonderings is, Absolutely NO!

I too am sad that Ramadan is leaving and I too wish I could do more – however when we get into this type of negative rhetorical we fall downwards and downwards. We just got blessed with such a beautiful month and we are already being ungrateful for that by being blue? I mean, we can at least read some voluntary nafl (optional prayer) for gratefulness, right? Or even some voluntary nafl to ask Allah to accept our deeds and allow us to continue, right?

Here’s the thing.

Well, two things.

Firstly, we get hooked on the blues. We listen to and read about what everyone else is saying (think social media – the F word!) and then we may feel we have to feel the same way – so we put ourselves into that state and we become blue and start talking blue.

It’s all in the mind – we are the ones who are thinking what we are thinking.

Nadia Yunis moonsThe Lord of Ramadan is still our Lord outside of Ramadan and how many more opportunities does He (SWT – glorified and exalted be He) bless us with throughout the year which also have extra reward?

Exactly! (Get pen and paper and list them please.)

Secondly, once we get ourselves onto the blue-downward-ride we seem to go round and round. We keep thinking we didn’t do enough – we keep thinking we should have done more – we keep thinking everything is over.

But here’s the deal (halaal/permissible deal) – it’s not over! It’s not over until we are nine feet under!

So do yourselves a favour right now and snap out of it! I’ll be right here when you’re ready to continue and please only five minutes OK? Good!

……….waiting

Back?

Awesome!

I am as My servant’s opinion of Me.”

(Bukhari Book 93, Hadith 502)

Think good of Allah as He is our Creator and He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Seriously, if we think negative, negative will happen.

We need to watch what we say to ourselves.

We need to purify our intention and sincerity.

Energy flows where intention goes.

Grab your Qur’an and be thankful to Allah

Think positive of Allah – there is no need whatsoever to think negative of Him. I mean, this is a whole topic in and of itself, however just for now know that if you are reading this then, #1 you are alive, #2 you are more blessed that those in places such as Syria and Palestine right now and, #3 There is ALWAYS hope – ALWAYS!

So take a deep breath in – hold – release and say: “THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE.”

And now, let me ask you – and this is purely for reflection, for you as it is for me – if Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an then how much did you and I read, recite and study the tafseer (exegesis/interpretation)?

And before you slip to the blues again – think RED (it’s my favourite colour).

Nadia Yunis mosqueYou know by now that I’m all about self-help (i.e. as Allah says He will not change our condition until we first take that step, right) and I’m a personal development junkie. And if you’re reading this right now then that means you are someone who wants to make positive changes in your life starting right now and prepare for your best akhirah (afterlife) insha’Allah.

See, Ramadan may have left us but we shouldn’t leave it or our ibaadah (worship) from this month.

*Re-read that sentence and reflect on it for a moment.*

This is what the blues does to us – it makes us lose hope!

Did you know that the Qur’an and the Bible are known to be the #1 self-help books?

Shocked?

And you thought that the dude or dudess who got onto the New York #1 bestseller list had all the answers for you. Nope!

And just before I continue, yes I do read self-help and personal development books,and I write on personal development.

However my message is primarily based upon firstly the Qur’an and Sunnah and then everyday life.

Now what this means for us is that Ramadan may have left us for another year – and may Allah bless us with another Ramadan insha’Allah (ameen!) – however it has left you and I with a gift … the gift that it came to remind us about … the gift that we’ve already got on our shelves … the Qur’an.

If you are someone who wants to live a life upon the deen (religious path) and prepare for your best akhirah then, right now, know that Ramadan came to remind you of a gift you already have which you may not connect with very often around the year. Now, dearest soul, is the time to hold on tightly to this gift! Do not fall into the Shaytaan (Satan) trap of the blues.

Listen – it is OK to miss Ramadan and the unity it brings, and the tarawih prayers and the sisterhood/brotherhood – I get it. But don’t let it leave now. It leaves when we hit the downward.

So grab your Qur’an and be thankful to Allah that you have the best and #1 self-help book right with you. In fact it is your ULTIMATE self-help book and with it in your life you can never go wrong.

We make a du’a in Surah Fatihah in which we ask Allah (SWT) to guide us on the ‘Straight Path’ and subhan’Allah (glory be to Allah) – look at the power of our du’a – Allah (SWT) answers it instantaneously in the following Surah where He (SWT) says that THIS BOOK (the Qur’an) is a GUIDANCE for those who are conscious of Allah – aware of Him – fear Him – love Him – want His forgiveness and mercy – this book has the answers!

I invite you to embrace it and promise to read, study, and live by it insha’Allah. I’ll show you how in the tips and action points below. But just before I get there I want to say a big phat EID MABROOK to you and your family from me and my family – taqabbal Allahu minna wa minkum – may Allah accept it from you and us – ameen!

You may not understand everything the Qur’an is saying at the moment – but that is OK because that will change – remember ‘Hope’. Also the thing is that because we are so accustomed to getting advice and help from elsewhere (friends, social media, etc.) we can’t seem to connect to the concept that the Qur’an has all the answers for us.

Nadia Yunis bookBut all we need to do is look at the Seerah of Rasool Allah (biography of the Messenger of Allah) and we will come to know that, yes, the Qur’an does have all the answers for me as Aisha (RA) said that Rasool Allah was the ‘walking Qur’an’ – he was the Qur’an translated into action.

Tips and Action Points:

1. Believe!

- Believe in Allah’s mercy, in His forgiveness – believe that when you ask Him to guide you and straighten your affairs He (SWT) will. Nothing is more powerful in life than belief – and nothing is more powerful than believing that Allah (SWT) will make it alright and He (SWT) will show you the way.

- If you’re having doubts then firstly know it is waswasa from Shaytaan (whispers from Satan) and his job is to lead us off course, and secondly think of all the times that Allah helped you (specifically where something major was happening and you called out to Him – we’ve all had that moment in our lives).

- Purify your intention and sincerity – these two points are really important for us in all that we do, so let’s make it a habit to purify them at each step insha’Allah.

2. Make a Qur’an Plan

- Just like making a ‘To-Do’ list or scheduling your diary make a plan for your Qur’an. So, in this plan you will write how much you will recite each day, what times, for how long and when will you study the tafseer, attend Qur’an courses (including hifz/memorisation and tajweed/elocution), and what resources you will use. Some of the resources you could use are online YouTube videos (Like Qur’an Weekly Ramadan Gems – if you haven’t already then I highly recommend you watch them all: 30 short 5 to 10 min videos), books, and teachers (maybe private teachers). There are a lot of resources available to us – you have to be curious enough to do your own research – that is your study part, you can’t expect anyone to do it for you. Also in this plan you could include Family Qur’an Time – especially if you have younger siblings or children; this is the best self-help start you can give your family insha’Allah.

3. Your Dream Team

- Who is in your world? I.e. Who are your friends? Time for a friend check-up!

- You want a team who will help you realise not only your potential as a human and what you’re capable of achieving but also a team who loves the Qur’an just as you do – for there is nothing worse than having those in your life who don’t share the same passions and who don’t love and appreciate the Qur’an and its message!

- In this dream team you have your supporters, mentors and coaches. And you can fulfil one of these roles in someone else’s dream team.

We all need A* players in our world – on our side. Allah created us social beings and it is in social settings we thrive and excel.

Your dream team will be there to support you through all your ups and downs and will encourage you to excel. This special team is called your ‘Qur’an Dream Team’. Go create yours right now insha’Allah.

The Qur’an creates a special kind of connection with our Rabb (Lord) Allah – He is speaking to us through the Qur’an and we need to make it our #1 Book in our life insha’Allah.

I do hope and pray that this post today does help you in one way or another. Please leave me your comments and let me know what three things you will do right now to keep the Ramadan spirit alive and connecting with your very own #1 self-help book – the Qur’an! : )

Nadia Leona Yunis is the Islamic Editor for Young Muslimah Magazine and is a personal coach in Islamic personal and spiritual development at We Be Inspired on whose site this article was first published: http://www.webeinspired.com/blog/archives/08-2013

Was Daniju 1 no croissants

On Struggling to Love My Body: Part One – Reflecting – Looking Back

Wasi Daniju reflects upon her negative relationship with food and her body which began during her teenage years

I’ve been putting it off for months, writing this. Thinking about it for all that time, but never coming close to putting words down. Not wanting to have to look too directly at the way I feel about the way I look. And even now as I try to write it, all my words come stilted, my language seems to have deserted me for a while, and I feel myself somehow keeping a distance from what I’m relating.

Shame and embarrassment are the overriding feelings that I carry about my body.

They have been for as long as I can remember.

Those are not really the kind of feelings you want to get too close to if you can possibly help it. Even if you’re the one feeling them.

Wasi Daniju 1 mirrorSo for the most part, despite actions of mine in the past that have, by their very nature or at least intention, announced these feelings about myself quite clearly, I don’t look at them so much – don’t allow myself to dwell on them at all. Perhaps the same way I don’t look too closely at myself in a mirror if there’s anyone else around. The way I rarely look at photos of myself (and very few exist to be looked at – ever since I started taking photos, I have been adept at being the one to remain behind the camera).

And when I do look, it is always with intense scrutiny and it is always alone. Perhaps I worry that if others catch me looking, I’ll maybe draw attention to my body. Attention which, of course, could only ever be negative, or at best, tolerant. I can never imagine that it could be anything else from others.

And when I do look, it tends to be with disappointment or despair or desperation or disgust – searching for ‘me’ under the increasing rolls and bulges, because obviously, they couldn’t possibly be a part of myself. I find myself living in a body of which I often refuse to accept ownership.

Covering up has been my natural tendency from the time I hit puberty – switching from skinny ten year old to tubby to fat teen. No headscarf back then, but revelling in baggy, hoping perhaps my shape would be less discernible, my form less apparent, my appearance less displeasing to the eye. Seemed like I bloomed, but then forgot how to stop growing, ballooned to an alarming degree, so attempted to cover the results as thoroughly as possible.

For years, I never really acknowledged my feelings of shame around my body and my eating. I managed to house within me the belief that I was fine with the way I looked alongside a constant desire to lose weight, to look different, to become acceptable or not be seen. I truly believed that I truly believed that I was OK with what felt like non-stop eating and that it was as simple as just ‘liking to eat’, even though I sometimes hated myself for doing so. I was both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ at the same time, as I cleared my plate/the pack/the cupboard, and was disgusted by my greed. Eating biscuits and sweets in tears of shame, food as a comfort, food as a demonstration of my self-loathing.

I look back through old diaries, their weeks broken up by scattered entries of ‘current and target weights’, lists of rewards I could have if I was ‘good’ and hit my targets, forfeited if I ‘failed’. So many prizes left unclaimed.

Was Daniju wireI remember being on holiday in Nigeria once. I was maybe thirteen. My cousin, older than me by a few years, had a friend who considered herself too fat. She had her teeth wired together. At the time, I didn’t think too much of it. I saw her, this friend, with the holes drilled through molars, and the wires making her look like some b-grade James Bond villain. She said she cried from the pain, but I didn’t think too much of it – she said it was worth it. I wondered if perhaps it could be a solution for me.

I remember, also, walking into the common room of the large shared house in my second year at uni. I was on an Erasmus year and about 30 of us lived together. The room was empty – one of those late mornings after one of those late nights that made up our time there. And on the board, the boys had made a list of all the girls, and given each girl two separate marks out of ten: one for appearance, and one for personality. I got a 10 for personality, and a dash in place of a score for appearance. I’m not sure if it made it better or worse that they thought they were being ‘kinder’ by choosing not to score me at all.

I remember, years later, being asked by the newly-met, visiting mother of a house mate if I had a thyroid problem because,”you know – the way your eyes bulge, and your weight.”

Wasi Daniju 1 cabbageI remember cabbage soup, and elimination diets, and physical exertion, and tears.

One thing I don’t ever remember is being content with how I looked, feeling comfortable in my own skin, or feeling safe around food. I needed to find a way for this to change.

Allah does not lay on any soul a burden except to the extent to which He has granted it; Allah brings about ease after difficulty.

The Qur’an 65:7

This article continues here: On Struggling to Love my Body: Part Two

Wasi Daniju is a counsellor, photographer, and sometimes blogger. Her photos have appeared in numerous publications including The Occupied Times and Time Out.

Wasi Daniju 2 thumb-up

On Struggling to Love My Body: Part Two – Reflecting – Moving Forward

Wasi Daniju relates how she accomplished a shift in her relationship with food and introduces certain sources of support in her continuing quest for a positive body image

The first shift in my self-image came about 18 months back – a few months after the end of a 50 week period in which I attempted to lose 50lb. It was partly for charity, partly one of those ‘now I’ll set myself a challenge and sort myself out once and for all’ things…. As if I hadn’t been doing that over and over since I first grew in thighs, belly and backside.

Congratulations and compliments became standard as the weight disappeared, and I developed a new confidence in my body, a belief that perhaps I was somebody worthy of being seen. Tellingly, a fair few photos exist of me from around this time …

Wasi Daniju 1 weighing scalesBut once the 50 weeks were over, once I stepped off the cross-trainer, out of my dancing shoes, away from the green smoothies, the inevitable occurred. The weight began its comeback performance, and I lacked the energy to resist – I simply reverted to feeling like a failure once again.

In my desperate search to find a solution that would be longer lasting and less painful, I came across the work of Judith Matz and Elizabeth Frankel, and bought their book, The Diet Survivor’s Handbook. It was a revelation, and my first step to building a positive relationship with food and eating.

The shift continued with reading about intuitive eating, including Susie Orbach’s On Eating, and Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size, as well as being supported by personal therapy and the counselling course I was taking at the time. [The premise of intuitive eating – i.e. trusting and listening to your body’s needs and desires rather than external regulation – is something that needs its own piece.]


The result of all of this was a massive shift around my feelings towards food and eating. It dissolved much of the shame that for me used to be associated with how I fed myself. In this time, I have gradually found myself closer and closer to a place where I eat without policing myself as much. Where I no longer feel out of control around food, or as though I cannot be trusted around it. Now my wariness comes more from worrying what those around me think when I eat in public – but that is perhaps linked to my ongoing issues with my appearance.

Rumi: ‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’

I wish I had as positive an ending to relate with regards my feelings around my body, but that remains a difficult, sometimes impossible feeling – a challenging work in progress.

Wasi Daniju 2 rainbow tickI’ve found some solace in groups such as I Shape Beauty and the Body Narratives, which have given me different answers to the question of body image and ‘acceptable’ appearance to the negative ones I grew up with. Blogs, poems and other art and articles by fat activists and body positive women have all played an essential part in providing me with a different ruler by which to measure myself. I think the most important part of these latter influences has been seeing bodies that look much closer to mine than any I ever see in mainstream media and marketing, whereas the former sources have presented me with insights into other women of colour experiencing many of the same insecurities as I always have. They have helped me feel a modicum of normality in a world that continues to insist I do not fit the ‘normal’ mould.

I’m still at a stage of transition, though, with constantly battling parts of myself – still struggling with feelings that my current shape is unacceptable versus (theoretically, at least) knowing that being fat is not wrong or bad or undesirable. I hear and accept the calls to be body positive, to love my body, to acknowledge the beauty of every body shape. But a lifetime of a very different story being told, of physical self-hate as standard, and of continuing to face society’s warped ideals of physical beauty, ‘normality’ and acceptability will not simply disperse due to these new discoveries. Not yet, anyway. So I keep on working on it – trying to find the way to a reflection of myself that I can dwell on more comfortably.

Abu Hurairah (radhiAllahu anhu – may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: Messenger of Allah (sallaAllahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts [and deeds].”

(Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 7)

This first part of this article is here: On Struggling to Love my Body: Part One

Wasi Daniju is a counsellor, photographer, and sometimes blogger. Her photos have appeared in numerous publications including The Occupied Times and Time Out.

Ayesha Yahya handset and receiver phone

To Talk or Not to talk?

Ayesha Yahya says talk

Have you ever felt like you want to talk to some one but no one will understand? You have parents but they’re too busy or they won’t see your side of things. You have friends but they have their own issues or they’re always on Facebook, or on their phones, so much that sitting and having a twenty minute convo feels old fashioned?

It’s not cool any more to sit and talk. Now we have to ‘txt’ or write everything in a message where we can only have 120 characters so we abbreviate the abbreviations and before you know it we lose the whole meaning of what we are trying to say.

I always found that it helped to talk to my friends as we were all going through the same transition in life

Ayesha Yahya phoneI know there have been many times I have felt I can’t talk to my mum or my sisters. But the truth is that most of the time they’re really not that busy and would love for me to talk to them. Issues that affect us in our teenage lives, such as making an identity for ourselves, such as wearing hijab and how it will affect our looks, that time of the month, our exams, what we are going to do with our lives once school and university are over … these topics can be daunting but if we take a step back we can realise that we are not alone in our journey and that we have a support system already in place where we can find people to talk to, whether it’s our parents, siblings or teachers. I always found that it helped to talk to my friends as we were all going through the same transition in life.

However I do appreciate that not everyone has family or friends to talk to and I strongly feel that we are lucky to live in a place where there are charities with helplines set up to give the youth an ear – to listen to, and help work through, their problems.

Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) and ChildLine are two out of the many that are available to offer a helping hand by giving a friendly ear or practical advice.

MYH was founded in 2001 by the youth and supports people through a number of channels such as phone, Facebook and email.

Ayesha Yahya head-setChildLine has been around for a lot longer dating back as early as 1987. Therefore ChildLine has had a lot more publicity, and currently ChildLine has 12 counselling centres around the UK, staffed largely by volunteers. The bases are located in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Manchester and London supported by the online only centres in Leeds and Cardiff. According to the website as many as 4,500 children phone ChildLine every day. Since the merger with the NSPCC the service has expanded, and depends on public generosity to pay for the children’s phone calls. The intention is to always keep calls confidential.

Therefore if you ever need to talk never think you are alone, help is always there. Talk.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If anyone seeks protection in Allah’s name, grant him protection; if anyone begs in Allah’s name, give him something; if anyone gives you an invitation, accept it; and if anyone does you a kindness, recompense him; but if you have not the means to do so, pray for him until you feel that you have compensated him.

(Abudawud Book 9, Hadith 1668)

Ayesha Yahya studied a community development degree at university, has worked for the council in social care, and is hoping to go back in to education and study to be a midwife.

Maria Limehouse heart sunset

Ramadan Detox: Thoughts of an Addict

Maria Limehouse sat outside before maghrib salah (evening ritual prayer) and remembered. With tea and chocolate in hand, she looked around at the beautiful green leaves of summer, inhaled their smell deeply, and relaxed. She used to sit outside at this time of day regularly

When I was learning about Islam I was saddened by the prospect of having to give up sitting outside at sunset. I must have thought salah (ritual prayer) was a lengthy affair. I certainly hadn’t considered that an eagerness and yearning to make salah would both fit into the best of my good practice and supercede my preoccupations and longings to be in the midst of my bad habit.

Maria Limehouse sunsetI had never meant to to become an addict. I thought I could pick and choose the times I would do what I did. Preoccupation crept up on me slowly and it wasn’t until I had completely given up practising self-pollution that I truly saw that I had partly missed experiences and had neglected relationships because of a constant state of planning, counting down, and looking forward to when I would next find a good spot to inhale.

When I started looking into Islam I soon adopted a head covering and became shy about my public behaviour in case anyone mistook me for a Muslim and misjudged Muslims because of me. Alhamdulillah (all praises to Allah), this was the beginning of change. Almost two years later, I had weaned myself down to four daily pollutions when I realised two things that granted me the impetus to really change: I was enslaved to my habit yet really I should only serve Allah; there were five times prescribed for salah each day so I could, perhaps, plan for, count down to, and look forward to making salah and this would be enough to get me through quitting. I hoped so and finally took the risk alhamdulillah, thanks to the gentle prompt of a serious but non-judgemental invitation to watch a performance of salah and the following day participate with the group – my inviter knew I had just finished learning how to make salah but hadn’t used my knowledge.

Alhamdulillah, I took up the habit of practising salah from that prayer on. I did make the mistake of tasting my old habit a couple of times: it made me sick – alhamdulillah. The month of Ramadan soon arrived giving me the opportunity to embrace a detox from my general pollution that is the forgetfulness to remember Allah constantly. The habit of salah, along with other regular acts of worship, helped me to be successful over my forgetfulness, alhamdulillah

I am acutely aware that hope was not enough for me to change and gain strength in maintaining my change. I hoped to give up self-pollution for a long time before I did it, and even years later as a practising Muslim I have to keep checking my habits to see if I am inadvertently allowing small treats or temporary necessities to creep into becoming overly frequent or detrimental habits, or if I am neglecting opportunities for good habits.

Maria Limehouse sunriseWhen exam/work deadline times are over do I remember to re-adjust my snacky eating habits and schedule ibadah (worship) back into my day? When the cold months are over can I make an effort to drink less tea? After guests have departed can I continue as good habits some of the helpful things I did for their visit? Who within my company can help me?

It seems there is a foulness about exchanging a bad habit for the good habit of making salah – to swap one addiction for another – and it is foul to have polluted myself and disrespected my body in the way I did. I learned the hard way that I am designed to be an addict. But alhamdulillah, I grateful to have learned and to have been guided to the very best habits of all, those for which we have all be designed: acts of worshipping Allah (subhana wa ta’ala – glorified and exalted be He).

With my bad habit, I was not in control of how much I practised my habitual act – I was always wanting more which led to slowly increasing my practice. Now that worship is my habit, am I always wanting more and looking for another opportunity to praise Him thereby inadvertently increasing my habit? I hope not. I know He is in control and I hope that I am encouraging the habit of worshipping on purpose. But, as I said, I know hope is not enough. Alhamdulillah, Ramadan is almost here again to help me put detox at the forefront of my intentions within a community of Muslims I can support and be supported by. I have learned that I need other people to succeed in my good habits and I do not want to neglect my relationships and connections in the Ummah (community of Islam).

It makes me happy to know that you are in this work with me of planning, counting down, looking forward to and then practising good deeds (inshaAllah). Let’s put down the tea and chocolate a minute, imagine the fragrance of Jannah (Paradise) as we breathe, make du’a for each other, and then look out for ourselves and each other as we navigate our deen (religious path) together .

Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.

(Abudawoud Book 41, Hadith 4815)

Maria Limehouse knows personally that bad experiences often trigger bad habits and this compassionate empathy is one of the driving forces behind her healing stories and poetry on her blog

You can read Ayesha Yahya’s article about the Muslim Youth Helpline and ChildLine here

For tips on quitting smoking click here

Shabana water bottle

A Very British Ramadan

As a young Muslimah born and bred in the West, Shabana Diouri soon came to realise that her ideals of the perfect Islamic lifestyle could sometimes be challenged by the demands of British life

My experience of the basic foundations of Islam was quite different from the way experiences were portrayed in the Islamic books I had read. This was particularly the case for fasting during the month of Ramadan.

More often than not, rather then enjoying the Ramadan experience of iftars (meals to break/open the fast after sunset) with the whole family gathered around the kitchen table, iftars were instead opened with friends, fellow students, or work colleagues outside the home.

Shabana dish datesI would give anything to have had that ideal scenario of the traditional family focussed Ramadan with three dates in each of our hands, asking each other whether the fast was now open. But in reality it was just simply not possible or practical to achieve this – especially during weekdays.

Life gets busy. We have to revise for exams. We must meet work deadlines. We need to be in so many different places at specific times in hectic life schedules. Gathering our siblings, and in many cases our parents too, everyday for a month at a specified time for iftar tends to get more and more difficult especially when iftar happens early in the winter months. Therefore, being British Muslimahs can eventually compel us to go in search of a life-faith balance that can make us feel like we are progressing on both dunya and akhirah bases.

Instead of feeling short-changed, I found it best to make the most of these special times. I utilised various ways to make the most of the baraqah (blessings) that could be earned in these blessed four weeks.

One of the most effective ways to balance Ramadan with a British lifestyle was being well prepared and super organised

Plan In Advance

Firstly, I found it useful to plan in advance exactly where and with who I would be breaking the fast. I did this every day, a quick text or phone call in the morning would suffice. I would come into work early so that I could then leave early. Sometimes there would be a mad dash home to open it with family members, or I would arrange to go to a childhood friend’s house, or have a restaurant meal with fellow colleagues if I was studying or working. I just felt it was very important to have company at iftar, even if it wasn’t always with family.

Carry Maghrib Essentials

Shabana water bottleSecondly, I always carried a packet of dates and a bottle of water with me just in case Maghrib time came whilst I was in transit to where I would be having my meal, or if I was running late – at least I would open my fast on time. I would also carry a pocket size Qur’an and mini prayer mat to keep up with my prayers and Qur’an connection as Ramadan is the month of Qur’an, but now we can also download apps to our phones for Adhan reminders and the Qur’an with translation or tafseer (exegesis). I would use my travelling time on the tube or bus to fit in this dhikr (remembrance of Allah) – especially when the journey would normally take an hour.

Narrated Salman ibn Amir: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates; but if he cannot get any, then (he should break his fast) with water, for water is purifying.

(Sunan Abu Dawood Book 13, Hadith 2348)

Give Quietly and Loudly

Thirdly, I would not pass up the opportunity to give da’wah. Both quietly and loudly. Quietly, in the sense that, regardless of my fasting it was business as usual. I didn’t ask for any special treatment or make a big fuss that I was fasting, I just got on with it and did not allow my standards to slip. This seemed to be the best da’wah of all; colleagues were fascinated and asked more questions about how I was managing to stay on the ball and be self disciplined despite the demands of fasting all day, especially without water(!). And also loudly in the sense that at work, with fellow Muslims, we organised an iftar event for non-Muslim colleagues and invited a well respected guest speaker to explain more about what Ramadan is and what it meant to Muslims. Once, we even invited colleagues to fast for the day and it was a great way to go on to share delicious food at the opening of the fast.

Organise Well, Including Sleep Time

Shabana fruit saladFinally, one of the most effective ways to balance Ramadan with a British lifestyle was being well prepared and super organised. This meant planning the day around prayer times, especially Fajr and Maghrib, and setting multiple alarms accordingly. Also adjusting sleep patterns to ensure I didn’t burn out and maybe take up a post-Dhuhr power nap as the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam – may peace and blessings be upon him) used to do. Vitally, I spent some time after ‘Isha’ prayer to plan what I would be having for suhoor (the meal before a fast begins) and placing items out on the kitchen worktop so that I could easily get into gear when I woke up in the early hours. And then doing the same for iftar.

It helped hugely to keep meals simple and healthy. Considering how much the stomach shrinks, there is no need for elaborate dishes or large portions especially when food is not the focus of Ramadan.

In many ways, not having the traditional ideals of Ramadan I imprinted on my lifestyle actually aided me in discovering and unlocking the true meaning and potential of Ramadan….

Whilst many people were rushing around like crazy organising a daily banquet for iftar, I was quietly able to make du’a at that often ignored time just before Maghrib when the du’a of the fasting person is more likely to be answered. Because I was blessed with the freedom to make Ramadan the way I wanted it to be – I was free from pressures to follow a status quo – I was able to find the spiritual high that I was in pursuit of. Shabana plateOverall, I also found that surviving Ramadan in the West had more to do with the company I kept during my thirty day journey and furthermore had far more to do with the ‘feeding’ of the soul rather then the feeding of the stomach.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: Marwan ibn Salim al-Muqaffa’ said: I saw Ibn Umar holding his bread with his hand and cutting what exceeded the handful of it. He (Ibn Umar) told that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said when he broke his fast: thirst has gone, the arteries are moist, and the reward is sure, if Allah wills. (Sunan Abu Dawood Book 13, Hadith 2350)

Shabana Diouri is an aspiring writer and poet with a strong affinity toward the issues of women in Islam and spiritual needs of the heart. She is a qualified Economist and Statistician whose career began in Whitehall. Currently she spends her time in Edinburgh as a freelance writer and engages in outreach work with the University of Edinburgh to encourage a deeper understanding of Islam and Muslim culture. She currently manages ‘Muslimah Uninterrupted’, her personal blog:http://muslimahuninterrupted.wordpress.com

Anna Reich dumbbells

Exercising Differences

In June 2013 Anna Reich got the best personal training job she could have wished for when three young girls from Jeddah in Saudi winged their way over to London to see the sights – and sweat buckets

I was contacted by the family’s assistant asking me to pitch ideas that would keep three girls active and entertained for five hours a day, five days per week. It sounds excessive, but it’s not really when you think about what our bodies were designed for, which is to run, swim, and jump from dusk till dawn. In addition, there’s a vast array of exercises to choose from (most of which don’t feel like a workout), so along with a good diet and plenty of snacks, I thought it was a very doable proposition. And, being a personal trainer, hopped to it.

Anna Reich womanThe girls’ father had become increasingly concerned about his girls’ weight gain and inactivity. Obesity among adolescents is a public health problem in Saudi Arabia, he told me, and particularly prevalent among girls.

Obesity is life restricting enough in its own right but it can lead to fatal illnesses such as diabetes, coronary problems and cancer too. I admired the father’s conviction to essentially fight this grim truth in such a dramatic and determined way.

I booked tennis courts, trampolining, zumba, wall climbing and pedalos as well as planned for exercising them in their home gym and in the park – equipping them with lifelong know how of how to stay fit and healthy no matter the financial or spacial constraints. That’s the wonderful thing about getting into training, making it a part of your life – it’s a life changing, life enhancing, everlasting education.

Anna Reich woman stretchingTo be honest, I was expecting to make a few faux pas as I wasn’t very au fait with their Muslim faith at the time. But I shouldn’t have been worried. The girls were sisters, like any other sisters – bickering constantly, ‘borrowing’ each other’s designer gear, and talking about One Direction, pretty much incessantly. As a sister myself, I understood! We discovered we had a lot in common, in fact. We loved the new Shakira song, preferred Nike as a sports brand and loved to sleep!

The elder’s sister’s attitude to sweating under the scarf was, “Well, I’ve worked harder than you guys!”

The one challenge we faced was that the elder sister was a lot more observant than the other girls and chose to wear a hijab, so when we would attend a fitness class, her headscarf would ‘make her head bake’ and when we would go for a run, we would stop frequently to retie the scarf (everyone was secretly grateful of this!). But we all had a giggle about it and took turns to create sound designs that could probably withstand a bungee jump – her sister secured it so tightly I’m sure it actually made the poor girl more aerodynamic! The elder’s sister’s attitude to sweating under the scarf was, “Well, I’ve worked harder than you guys!” Lovely, lovely girls.

Since the girls have left I have opened my own personal training studio in the heart of the City of London. It’s a beautiful space – red, black and silver … Brand new with second to none equipment.

In honour of these sweet, intelligent, thoughtful girls, wholly committed to friends, family and their faith, The Anna Reich Personal Training Studio in the City of London (EC4R 2SU) will be introducing a body conditioning class purely for Muslim women who would like to keep fit in an environment that honours their Islamic faith and their personal traditions of modesty.

Anna Reich stretchingFrom 2-3pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, I will work on all aspects of fitness from cardiovascular to strength and flexibility. The classes will be for an intimate six, costing £30 per head. The studio will be closed to all other persons during these hours and once the workout is done, there are individual private shower and changing room facilities available.

There is enough time and space in the world to allow people to maintain their differences (which keeps the world interesting), well, there is at my Studio anyway.

It is narrated on the authority of Anas that the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) observed: By Him in whose Hand is my life, no bondsman (truly) believes till he likes for his neighbour, or he (the Holy Prophet) said: for his brother, whatever he likes for himself.

Sahih Muslim Book 1, Hadith 73

Anna Reich can be contacted by readers who are interested in attending any of her classes via info@annareichpt.co.uk; her website is www.annareichpt.co.uk

Elizabeth Lymer sorry repeated

I Love Manners: Untitled Apology

When Elizabeth Lymer was young she often wrote sorry notes, either in place of, or as openings for, giving verbal apologies. Recently she found herself compelled to use this method of apology again, in an email to someone she was working with on a project but had never met

Elizabeth Lymer lettersI wrote my apology poem at night, unable to contemplate sleep until I had tried to follow my mistakes with an attempt at doing something good. I had inadvertently offended my sister in Islam. My intentions had been good – Allah knows best – but I had not taken good care over my actions: I had rushed and therefore had neither spent long enough in my sister’s shoes to understand her position nor very long on forming my own words into a thoughtful enquiry about what I didn’t understand.

Elizabeth Lymer sorryAlhamdulillah after receiving my poem the sister forgave me and Allah granted me a learning experience through my mistakes, in addition to the enormous blessing of being guided to tearful, heartfelt repentance to Him in salah.

Here is the untitled poem I sent:

Just a matter of hours ago

You and I were connected

By words of harmony

That bridge religions.

Just a matter of hours ago

You and I stood together

In the face of religion-inspired bullying

In our childhoods –

Yours far worse than mine.

Just a matter of hours ago

We shared a page.

But then a matter of words

Came between us.

New words piled on top of

Our old ones.

Breaking, crushing, splitting

Our words of harmony and connection

And our hearts.

I threw the first new

And unwanted word.

Let me try to

Mend our brokenness.

Let me tell you again

That I’m sorry I hurt you,

Hurried over you,

Pressed your words

With new ones

To breaking point.

I’m sorry I didn’t even

Take the time to keep

Sensitive to your vulnerability

Around your words,

Your poem, your past,

That I hurried over you,

And pressed your words

To breaking point.

I’m sorry.

A matter of broken words and hearts may

Not be fixable with words,

But my heart longs to try,

And age-old words of sorry are all I have

To give you to ask to take my new words away.

xxx

Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is Free of need and Forbearing.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (Chapter of the cow) 2:263

Elizabeth Lymer is author of Islamic Nursery Rhymes and regularly shares rhyming poetry for young families on her blog, including rhymes for saying sorry. She is Editor of Young Muslimah Magazine and is looking forward to receiving submissions for the ‘I Love Manners’ series inshaAllah http://www.youngmuslimahmagazine.com/submissions

flower-meadow-260301_150

Green-Up Your Summer Activities

Summer can be a really perfect time to reconnect with nature. Wardah Abbas provides tips for a fun-filled holiday during this season in the greenest ways

It’s summer! No more School assignments for now, so we’ve got enough time for our premier league on play station.”

I saw the excitement on the face of my fourteen year-old cousin as he accompanied his friends who had come visiting, down the stairs. Having listened attentively to their conversation, I couldn’t help but conclude that as the world grows older, the more technologically advanced we become but unfortunately, it further widens the gap between nature and us.

I remember my days as a kid and also in my early adolescent years when, even though we had no idea of what eco-consciousness meant, our summer activities revolved around nature. We engaged ourselves in summer camps, picnics, sporting activities and lots more. We spent quality time running around at the beach barefoot and care free, building sand castles, catching fire flies and climbing trees. This reminiscence comes with a sweet nostalgia that makes me conscious of the sharp contrast between then and now when teenagers spend more time wrapped up in video games, social networking and computer programs. I must say it’s time for a big change.Wardah Abbas sea

Apart from the fact that when we green up our summer activities, we bring ourselves closer to nature which could earn us rewards from Allah (SWT) with the right intentions, it also boosts our physical and mental wellness. Here are just a few tips for enjoying a green summer:

1. ORGANISE REGULAR ACTIVE OUTINGS

bike-213691_150You can initiate active outings with your family or a group of friends. This could either be a weekend picnic on a beach or in a park or a camping trip. You may also go on sensory walks, horse riding, hiking trips or make neighbourhood bike rides as well as explore some of the wildlife habitats around you. While doing this, you may seize the opportunity to make environmental videos, especially if you’re the type that cannot stand the thought of leaving your gadgets at home. This is a fun activity that puts your creativity, organisation and research skills to test. You may then edit the video and share with your family and friends.

2. ORGANISE NATURE HUNTS earth-158838_150

While you’re out camping with your family and friends either in the woods or in a park, it would be fun to organise a treasure hunt by searching for some rare natural things and exploring more about nature. Prepare a checklist of insects, plants, birds, trees or flowers that you’ve hardly come across to keep you focussed. To make it more competitive, contribute to buying a gift for whoever amongst you wins the treasure hunt. Before you set out on this adventure, be sure to pack along sun glasses, water bottles, bug spray, video cameras as well as a small first-aid kit. Trust me, this can really make your summer more memorable than you’ve ever imagined.

3. ORGANISE FUN-FILLED OUTDOOR GAMES WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS

Wardash Abbas ballIn case you do not get the opportunity to go on weekend camping or any other summer holiday activity of your choice, you still have outdoors as an option. Look out for a spacious field in your neighbourhood and invite your neighbours on a weekend for outdoor games organised by you. Try out activities such as skipping, table-tennis, freeze tags or shadow tags, base balls or kick balls, hide and seek, four square, kite flying and lots more. You may also inculcate environmental quizzes into this activity to add an intellectual flavour to it. Make a video of this and get it across to your neighbours. This will sure make you feel like a kid once again and you are not just going to enjoy it, it will also help strengthen the relationship between you and your neighbours.

4. CREATE A NATURE FOCUSSED BOOK CLUB

Wardah Abbas bookYou may take advantage of the summer to encourage a love for reading and nature amongst your family or friends by organising a nature focussed book club. Visit your local library to find books on renewable energy, climate change, wildlife and a host of other topics. Hold weekly meetings outdoors in a park or in a garden and spend time discussing what you have read and how to inculcate the ideas into your lifestyles. If possible, consider taking field trips to natural sites that you came across in the books. This would boost your environmental consciousness and mental health as well as create a stronger bond between you and your family or friends.

Wardah Abbas footprints sandSummer comes only once in a year, so don’t lose out on the fun by staying indoors on the couch, playing video games, or sitting in front of your computer screen all through. Set out, run around, have fun and fall head over heels in love with nature. The experience can keep you motivated for the rest of the year.

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination.

The Qur’an, Surah An-Noor (Chapter of the light) 24:42

Wardah Abbas is a twenty something year old Eco-Muslimah who is quick to express her feelings. She gives priority to creating a friendly environment and likes to enjoy herself to the fullest. When Wardah is not writing, volunteering at an event or hanging out with friends, she can be found in front of the mirror trying out new make-up techniques. Find her blogging on therosespen.wordpress.com


Wardah A beauty

Secrets of a Green Beautician: ACV

Wardah Abbas has been having fun ever since she launched her appearance into the green world. She loves beautiful things and beautiful people too

ACV’S BEAUTY MAGIC WAND

As much as I have always wanted to look extraordinary on my own part, it had always been trial and error with body lotions, body scrubs, cleansers, hair shampoos and conditioners, facial masks, body oils and a host of other skin beauty products. Until I discovered that I can achieve the best results if I do it the green way. And guess what, it has been fantastic. Realising that it will be selfish of me to keep these secrets to myself, I have decided to share them with you – and in this issue, I’m starting with apple cider vinegar.

Wardah A bathtubApple cider vinegar is my latest green beauty obsession. I have multiple jars of it all around the house so that it’s always within my reach whenever I need it. The wonderful thing about it is that it is very affordable; it serves so many functions and comes in handy even in unimaginable circumstances. Before I get started, let me emphasise that in order to gain the full benefits of this therapy, you need to get Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar as opposed to clear vinegar which has been processed. Here are the magical beauty transformations you can get from apple cider vinegar (ACV):

1. FACIAL SKIN

Wardah A womanAs a dark skinned person, my facial skin gets most sensitive during the hot weather. The more I get exposed to the sun, the darker my skin gets. So, ACV is just perfect for this. Apply a few drops of ACV to a cotton ball and rub on your therapy zone which can be any part of your body. Wash it off after thirty minutes. This prevents breakouts, minimizes blemishes and even tones your skin, giving it a brighter colour. ACV also helps to moisturize your skin especially for those of us who have dry, flaky skin.

For those of us who have oily skin, this is a great solution against acne. ACV kills bacteria and balances skin’s pH level as well because it absorbs excessive oil from the skin which is a leading cause of acne. Mix a cap of vinegar to ¼ glass of water, apply directly to your face with clean cotton pad and leave it there for about fifteen minutes, and then rinse. Repeat this two times a day. For excessive cases of acne, you can leave it overnight without rinsing.

Many of us get exposed to direct sunlight which causes skin redness for fair skinned people and blackness for dark skinned people. In this situation, ACV comes in to do a magical rescue by relieving the pain of a sun burn and minimizing peeling. Do this by applying a wash cloth soaked in a mixture of ACV and water to the burned area.

As a remedy for age spots, ACV contains sulphur that fights the effects of ageing. Just dab a cotton pad soaked in ACV to the age spot and leave overnight without rinsing until the next morning. If this causes you to feel a stinging sensation, dilute with water.

Lastly, the next time you get ready to slip into a warm bath, add one to two capfuls of ACV. It draws toxins out of the body and leaves behind toned and moisturised skin.

2. HAIR RINSE

Wardah A woman whiteMy hair catches the attention of a lot of my girlfriends and they just can’t stop asking me what my secret is. The truth is I have a lot of green hair secrets and ACV is just one of them. ACV balances hair’s pH level, removes build ups from conditioners, strengthens the hair shaft and leaves you with soft shiny strands. The acetic acid present in ACV also helps to eliminate dandruff in the air. Use ACV on your hair by diluting a cup of ACV in five cups of warm water and pour over your hair after shampooing. Leave it for about forty-five seconds before rinsing your hair with cold water to seal the hair shaft and create more shine.

3. TEETH WHITENER

A great smile is an asset for every woman and this is enhanced when you have healthy gums and shiny white teeth. As a lover of chocolates and sweets, I don’t part with my ACV when it comes to my oral therapy. ACV helps to remove stains, whiten teeth and kill bacteria in your mouth and gums. Do this by gargling with a mixture of ACV and water in the morning before brushing your mouth. Then brush as usual after you gargle.

BONUS: ACV is also very effective as an antiperspirant as it absorbs and neutralizes odours. Most commercial deodourants and underarm sprays block your ability to sweat which is dangerous to your health because sweat is one of your body’s natural means of detoxification. Rub in a bit of ACV under your arms. The smell of vinegar dissipates once it dries.

I really hope that you have benefited from this green and wonderful DIY beauty therapy. Expect more green secrets to come in the next issues of YMM Insha’Allah.

‘A’isha, the wife of Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him), reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beautyand it is not withdrawn from anything but it makes it defective.

(Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Hadith 6274)

Wardah Abbas is the Earth Care writer for Young Muslimah Magazine, she writes for SISTERS Magazine, and she celebrates Islam and highlights issues affecting women on her blog: http://therosespen.wordpress.com/

Wardah A laurel bow

The Eco-Queen’s Diaries: How I Got My ‘Eco-Weirdo’ Title

HOW I GOT MY “ECO–WEIRDO” TITLE

When Wardah Abbas looks back at some of the things that have happened on her journey into being green, she can’t help but let out a giggle while she forges ahead. The distance that has brought her here was not covered without encountering some ups and downs, highs and lows, and whatnot

Right now, as I stare at the keyboard in front of me, I remember how many of my colleagues at school looked at me askance with their lips curved downwards and called me an eco-weirdo with a spark of eco-madness. I guess you want to know what I did to earn that title. Trust me, it never bugged me. Instead, I called myself an eco-queen.


Wardah A laurelAs a matter of fact, I guess it is part of me to always want to totally embrace any way of life I adopt for myself. This explains my lifestyle. Knowing fully well what being totally green entails, I gave myself up for it. In all aspects of my life, I strive to be green. Water usage, food preservation, waste management, healthy lifestyle, fashion and beauty, and what have you.

So, it didn’t surprise me that the many times in a restaurant when I ate a plate of food without leaving a grain left, I attracted people’s attention to myself. Or that the many times I went shopping with my sister queens and I rejected their purchase suggestions because I was carefully looking out for eco-friendly substitutes, I got loud sighs as reactions. The many times I sat in the shade at the school to relax with a pack of chocolates and found myself handpicking the dirt and food wraps that littered the ground, I always had someone ask me if I had just been employed as a gardener.

I love the green experience. It has made me a better person and a better Muslim too

I remember a day I had to hold on to some biscuit wraps till I got to a hostel because I couldn’t get a waste bin on the way. My room mate asked me if I had suddenly gone nuts. My friends also discovered that I insisted on using my own plates and cutleries because I did not want to use the disposables which were used to serve our meals at restaurants and they just couldn’t comprehend the whole thing even after I had explained it to them. So, they embarked on a journey to honour me with a ‘befitting’ title.

I have decided to share my eco-experiences because I know that it may not be that easy for some of us to adapt quickly to the changes the world needs, more so that some people may make fun of us and cause us to change our minds. It’s first about loving what we do. I called myself an eco-queen because I love the green experience. It has made me a better person and a better Muslim too. So, I don’t really care about the stumbling blocks any more.

Wardah A natural decorationI am not saying that fun moments you will very much cherish won’t come your way. Of course, eco-living is fun-filled. But I want to just make you bear in mind that you will come across people who will criticise your new lifestyle. And isn’t that always expected especially when you are doing the right thing? Bear in mind that there is strength in standing out from the crowd for what is right. So, if tomorrow, someone decides to call you an eco-miser, don’t hesitate to change it to a more positive name that will boost your confidence.

If trying to build myself a mini garden in my backyard when everyone else concrete over their own, and trying to eat fresh raw foods and meats while everyone else prefers the processed ones, makes me stand out as an eco-weirdo, then I gladly embrace the title. So, the bottom line is that even in the down moments, there is fun and I won’t hesitate to share every bit of it with you in this series In the subsequent issues of YMM. In the end, I’m proud to be an eco-weirdo because I’m weird for what is right and that is what makes me an eco-queen.

Indeed, this Qur’an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-’Israa’ (Chapter of the night journey) 17:9

Wardah Abbas is the Earth Care writer for Young Muslimah Magazine, she writes for SISTERS Magazine, and she celebrates Islam and highlights issues affecting women on her blog: http://therosespen.wordpress.com/

Ayesha Yahya raspberries

Opening the Fast with Open Arms

Ayesha Yahya reflects on the loss of vital ingredients for barakah (blessings) in her local iftars (meals for opening the fast) over recent years and offers a recipe for improving the situation

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious the Most Merciful.

Ayesha Yahya quran

So the month of Ramadan is just around the corner alhamdulillah and I can feel butterflies in my stomach. The thought of reciting the beautiful Qur’an, and of trying to perfect my tajweed (elocution of the Qur’an). The countless hours of praying during the night and generally changing myself for the better through my actions and speech.

Hold up a second: the butterflies are fading. Now I’m feeling apprehensive at the thought of all the samosas, kebabs and chicken rolls I have been preparing for two months in advance. Will there be enough food or will I have to make some more?

It feels like Ramadan has become a competition about who can serve the best food

You see, the number of people I call for iftar is vast and is getting bigger now that my husband calls his friends over. Please do not take this the wrong way, I love visitors, especially for iftar. It’s amazing opening the fasts, having family and friends over to eat and accumulating all the blessings. But what I have noticed is, over the past few years, it feels like Ramadan has become a competition about who can serve the best food.

Ayesha Yahya raspberries

As we know, the Prophet (peace be upon him) never bad-mouthed food; he would eat and never complain. Surely this is the way we should be.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (may peace be upon him) never criticised any food (he was invited to) but he used to eat if he liked the food, and leave it if he disliked.

Sahih Bukhari, Book 65, Hadith 320

Good, healthy food is a must, especially during Ramadan, as we can easily become constipated or bloated by not eating the right foods. Also important is the need to make an effort in the local community to inform others of the benefits of Ramadan. My favourite way to share the blessings of Ramadan is most definitely by sharing food with my neighbours. This way we build love and understanding between each other.

It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed: He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either utter good words or better keep silence; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should treat his neighbour with kindness and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest.

Sahih Muslim Book 1, Hadith 75

Ayesha Yahya black- bookOne of the best times I had in Ramadan was whilst studying at university. I met many sisters from different parts of the world. Needless to say we had very interesting iftars with lots of beautiful food. These iftars gave me opportunities to not only meet new sisters but learn how to cook all kinds of food. So if you’re at university and feeling lonely and missing your mum’s food during Ramadan then check out the Islamic society who always have something going on in Ramadan. It probably won’t beat the feeling of home but it will give you a sense of love and of the family that we are all a part of: the Ummah (community of Islam). Be first to welcome other sisters who are studying away from home – if you see them on their own invite them to iftar, as no one likes to eat on their own.

Why not make some cupcakes and deliver them to your neighbours?

If you are spending Ramadan in a family environment, try to be involved and get the younger children involved with the food preparations even if it’s setting the table or taking out the seeds from the dates before iftar. Make it a family affair so that everyone appreciates how much effort goes in to preparing the Ramadan food. Telling children to get involved can fall on deaf ears especially when children have been fasting all day – to help with this, ask them to choose the surahs to listen to whilst working or even ask them to recite the Qur’an whilst you prepare the food. My teenage niece loved setting the table and soon her mum did not need to tell her what jobs to undertake; she would do everything from setting the table to making decorations out of the napkins mashaAllah.

I have to admit a pet peeve I have is seeing people hand out food two doors down and leaving out the house in the middle due to reasons such as, “Oh they’re not Muslim,” or, “They never give us food.” Seriously, it’s Ramadan. Let’s give food equally and not leave people out. Alienating neighbours has a lasting effect on the community. Especially during such a blessed month, isn’t this not only insensitive but also defeating the purpose of Ramadan?

Ayesha Yahya muffinAnd to the ladies who feel like they have no say in where the food goes because their mum, aunt, or grandma does all the cooking, why not make some cupcakes and deliver them to your neighbours? I’m sure they will be appreciated.

Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas told Ibn az-Zubayr (Allah be pleased with him): “I heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘A man is not a believer who fills his stomach while his neighbour is hungry.’”

Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhar, IV 61, 112

I love the above hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him): simple, but at the same time an example of a true believer.

Ayesha Yahya quranSo whilst we are busy preparing food, let’s remember why we are doing so. To help keep your intentions present, how about having the Qur’an recited in the kitchen whilst you’re cooking and preparing food? We can memorise ayahs or hadiths and educate ourselves in Islam as we work. (Women excel at multi-tasking.) We are Muslim women who need to make a change for the better and be recognised by our Islamic character not by how well we cook.

Ayesha Yahya is a mother of two who has studied a community development degree at university, and worked for the council in social care. Her best jobs were her voluntary ones including teaching children who were visually impaired to read Arabic Braille. She is hoping to go back into education to study to be a midwife insha’Allah.

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When Somebody Believes in You – Part One

For some time, Zeshan Akhter had wanted to find out more about early pioneers from other lands who had travelled to Scotland and made their homes there. So when she heard about a Black History Month talk that was taking place at Edinburgh University Chaplaincy, she dropped everything to attend because it seemed like a perfect opportunity to fill in some of the blanks

The air that October evening seemed undeterred by clothing and the cold sent pangs of pain into my bones. So, it was with relief that I stepped into the warmth of the Chaplaincy building.

Zeshan 1 frozenAs I saw the main auditorium where the talk was taking place, a feeling of comfort came over me. I knew I was supposed to be there at that time. It felt right.

Through the open doors I could see a semi-circle of people seated around a middle aged man of African looks and dappled greying hair. He was standing at the front of the room, a flip chart beside him. A young East Asian looking woman, clearly the event’s Chair, was sitting beside him. There was an air of hushed absorption in the room that made me rush to take a seat, all the while tuning into what the speaker was saying. I was anxious to not miss another word.

The speaker was Emeritus Professor Geoff Palmer of Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh. His research specialism is cereals and grains. He was wearing a dark coloured suit with a shirt open at the collar and no tie which gave him a relaxed look. My immediate overriding impression was that he was a man of kindness and gentleness. His humour became evident as his talk progressed.

There was no animosity in the Professor’s demeanour whilst recounting to us the abuses that he and others had suffered

He pointed to the flip chart and explained that he wasn’t going to use it much except to put up three dates on it.

Zeshan 1 flip chartThe first was 1940. This was the date of his birth. The second was 1955 when he left Jamaica, where he was born, in order to travel to the United Kingdom to join his mother for the chance of a better life. He explained that his mother had left Jamaica when he was a very young child and that when he was fourteen she had sent for him. Up until then, he said that he had not travelled further than five miles from his home in Jamaica. The entire trip from Jamaica to England in those days had cost his mother eighty six pounds. First he took a plane to New York from where boarded a ship to England. He was travelling in February/ March time, he said, and he hadn’t realized how cold it would be in England. Thankfully, he had an aunt in New York who had met him and arranged for him to have a coat.

He recalled embarking on the ship and seeing a white man with a gun enforcing segregation … black people could not board side by side with white people. He said that segregation was also enforced on the ship for the duration of the journey to England.

There was no animosity in the Professor’s demeanour whilst relating this story. In fact, he smiled often during his talk, whilst recounting to us even the abuses that he and others had suffered in their early days in Britain and in their careers.

He told us without a hint of self-consciousness that when he first arrived in Britain he could not read or write. I remember feeling shocked and also inspired by the journey the Professor had been on. The Professor caught our – the audience’s reaction – and explained that he worked and also went to night school and gradually gained more and more education. He said, “I didn’t kill myself but I worked.”

Zeshan 1 LAWThe third date the Professor wrote on the flip chart was 1976. This was the date that the first piece of race relations legislation came into force in Britain. He said that he was disappointed when this happened.

What?!” I could hear the unspoken question in the audience members’ minds explode in the room! “Why?” we all wondered. Bewildered looks were exchanged amongst us … our confusion uniting us across the divide of not necessarily knowing each other.

The Professor looked us keenly…. Of course, he knew his statement would elicit the reaction that it had. And suddenly not smiling, but seriously and earnestly, he asked us:

Zeshan 1 balanceDo you know why laws are made?”

The Professor had my deepest attention.

There was a shuffling in the room whilst brains were engaged…. Then the Professor explained that laws are made when a society is not automatically and naturally behaving in the right way. When a society’s attitude is not naturally correct, then the government or leadership will step in to rectify the situation and put laws into place. So effectively, the people are being told, do this and if you do not, then you will suffer the consequences under law.

So when a law is put into place it’s actually an occasion for sadness because something fundamental has gone wrong in society.

The Professor explained that the reason the race relations act was created in 1976 was that in the years leading up to that time, a great deal of unrest had taken place in Britain. There had been racist incidents, attacks, and claims that ethnic immigrants were taking British jobs and preventing natural born white British people from being able to work.

In the Professor’s opinion, racism is more hidden in Britain compared to in the States where it has been blatant. A person of colour could encounter racism in Britain without ever knowing it.

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah , witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Ma’idah (Chapter of the table spread) 5:8

Zeshan has a degree in Zoology from Cardiff University and works with a government agency on national nature conservation policy in Scotland. Outside of her official work, Zeshan’s interests include a wide range of humanitarian issues that are challenging the world today. Zeshan is a woman of faith and believes that our purpose in life is to use our hands and feet to do the work that our soul would have us to since this is the part that is our true essence: eternal and from the Divine.

Zeshan 2 different coloured pencils point to one spot

When Somebody Believes in You – Part Two

For some time, Zeshan Akhter had wanted to find out more about early pioneers from other lands who had travelled to Scotland and made their homes there. So when she heard about a Black History Month talk that was taking place at Edinburgh University Chaplaincy, she dropped everything to attend because it seemed like a perfect opportunity to fill in some of the blanks

Emeritus Professor Geoff Palmer explained that the reason the race relations act was created in 1976 was that. in the years leading up to that time, a great deal of unrest had taken place in Britain. There had been racist incidents, attacks, and claims that ethnic immigrants were taking British jobs and preventing natural born white British people from being able to work.

In the Professor’s opinion, racism is more hidden in Britain compared to in the States where it has been blatant. A person of colour could encounter racism in Britain without ever knowing it.

Zeshan 2 reading whiteIt might be a job interview after which a person is told they didn’t have enough experience in some key area of expertise or that somebody else had more … but a racist motive, if it existed, would be hidden. Whereas, in the States, although racism has resulted in unspeakable acts of violence and barbarism against black people, especially in the Southern States, it has also been possible for people like Colin Powell to be Secretary of State in the government and for a black man to be President of the most powerful country in the world. In contrast, the Professor conjectured that if Colin Powell had been born and brought up in the UK he would be a colonel in the army; his rise through the ranks would not have been possible. He also predicted that it would be a very long time indeed before a black person might be Prime Minister of Britain.

He recalled an incident in his own career. His boss had spoken to him one day and told him that a client had made a complaint against him. The Professor had realised instantly that the complaint was completely untrue. The person who had made the complaint was a brewery director whom the Professor knew well. What the Professor recounted next made me admire him. He had called the director and asked him how long it would take him to get from where he was to the Professor’s office in Edinburgh. “One and a half hours,” replied the man. “You’ve got one and half hours to get to my office here on Chambers Street,” had replied the Professor. The director came. When he did so, the Professor said he asked him a simple question: “Why did you do that?” The man had shrugged. The Professor had tried again: “No, really. I do a lot of work in race relations and I want to understand – why did you do that?” The man paused a second and then he replied, “I don’t like black people. I had a meeting with your boss – alone. I thought to myself: I have a chance here to make a complaint against you and then I wouldn’t have to work with you. So I did it”.

Zeshan 2 reading blackThe Professor was again smiling as he related this tale. “Some people,” he said gently, “are just not OK with difference. When you live in a place in which you are aware that you are in some way different, it’s better not to be naïve about it. It’s better to be prepared so that if it happens to you, you can deal with it.”

What changed things was that people began to write about their experiences

He recounted another occasion in Edinburgh when a senior manager at a major brewery contacted him for help. The manager wanted the Professor to recommend able students who would be able to carry out research in a particular area. The manager asked that he not be sent any ‘blue noses’. This term apparently, is used to denote Protestant Christians. The manager wanted only students who were Catholics. The Professor said he was astonished at this flagrant expression of prejudice especially since the manager knew that the Professor actively defended his students from discrimination. The Professor did not comply with the manager’s prejudiced request and instead sent him details of both Protestant and Catholic students who he felt had the right level of skills and knowledge required to carry out the research.

Surprisingly, the manager appointed a Protestant student. Perhaps he did this because he realised that the Professor now knew of his prejudicial religious preference and would not be likely to keep silent if a Catholic student was appointed from a Catholic only list of candidates. The Professor was sad in recounting this story. He ended by wondering how often prejudice had prevented able people from progressing in their careers and lives – instances when nobody had known that prejudice was at work or where nobody felt able to stand up to the discrimination.

Zeshan 2 writeIn America, said the Professor, what changed things was that people began to write about their experiences.

Think about Martin Luther King’s speech: ‘I have a dream’,” said the Professor. “It’s famous the world over.”

He told the assembled group, which was made up of many university students, to write about their experiences. “Start a student magazine,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be good! But write.” The Professor was very intense now.

Then he asked us to think about Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. “If you really want to change society write a Hamlet.”

What was so powerful and moving about this was that the Professor truly believed in the people present. It is nourishing at the deepest core levels to feel somebody’s belief in you. It’s much like coming into the light and warmth of a safe room after the stinging cold of a frosty environment.

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Ma’idah (Chapter of the table spread) 5:8

Zeshan has a degree in Zoology from Cardiff University and works with a government agency on national nature conservation policy in Scotland. Outside of her official work, Zeshan’s interests include a wide range of humanitarian issues that are challenging the world today. Zeshan is a woman of faith and believes that our purpose in life is to use our hands and feet to do the work that our soul would have us to since this is the part that is our true essence: eternal and from the Divine.

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Turning Hurdles into Higher Aims and Successes

Sa’diyya Nesar reflects on transformation processes in nature and perceives opportunities for achievement within seeming obstacles

It cannot be denied that we all face hurdles in life. We are all bound to come across obstacles when walking on the path that we call life. One of us may be going through more hurdles than the other, with some of them being illnesses, the loss of life, poverty or even an emotional distress within the self – within our souls.

There will always be an uphill battle, slope, or mountain for us to climb on the paths of success. Our struggles do not mean that we are doomed to fall and stumble downhill but rather they may begin an increasing chance, hope and potential for us to come out stronger and achieve higher aims and successes in life.

Sa'diyya drawn roseEach thorn and prick on the stems of life’s journey might in actuality cause a more vibrant petal for my soul where it then forms into a flower to not only blossom but bloom – bloom into the achieved destination of higher aims and successes in life. Therefore every difficulty is a chance for me to change it into an opportunity where I can grow, flourish and climb to the path of success.

Use the hurdles as stepping-stones

The path of success with its hurdles is as if we are climbing a mountain where we come across rocks – instead of looking at them as hurdles that would doom us to climb, we can look at them as gifted stepping-stones for us to use to climb towards higher aims and successes. The rocks may at first be hard to climb. They may scratch our skin and cause us to suffer but at such times I try to keep in mind that the process of the rock-climbing path is essential for me to reach even greater heights than imagined. An example could be the like of a cocoon for the caterpillar from the world below. The cocoon is there for the caterpillar to struggle and break free into a butterfly reaching greater heights than previously possible.

Sa'diyya yellow roseI try to recognize that, like the caterpillar, one has to go through the struggles to grow into a more developed individual with higher forms of successes. One has to use the hurdles as stepping-stones. I, myself, should not become an obstacle by refusing to climb due to a pitiful nature and negative attitude. This negative attitude would cause me to either not get anywhere or result in me stumbling down off my road to success onto the path of failure. I thus try to realise the reality of the mountain of life where I am bound to come across rocks that may cause me to struggle. I am bound to somewhat suffer but at such times I know that the rocks are there to help me climb into a brighter tomorrow.

There are those that are successful despite having a lot of hurdles and not having much given to them in life. They are successful because of their determined nature and positive attitude. They look at everything as a means to move forward while focussing on what they have to help them push into reaching their maximum potential. An example is one of those with physical ‘disabilities’. Some of those facing physical challenges focus on what they can do instead of being negative. Some might not be able to exercise at all but they might have the ability to slightly move their body and do influential things like writing.

Sa'diyya pink roseI personally developed a physical disability during my childhood where there was, at times, no hope for me. Instead of focussing on the hopelessness of my condition I tried to focus on what I could do; the result of which gave me hope. I was unable to climb steps but my focus was on my ability to walk even though it was slow. I was unable to exercise fully but my focus was on my ability to move to some extent and exercise my mind – even through writing. Realisation and acceptance that life is a struggle and that I have hurdles made me even more determined to overcome the obstacles in ways I could. I realised that we all have our individual mountain paths with our individual rocky hurdles – it’s just a matter of changing our hurdles to stepping-stones to reach our higher aims and successes.

The path towards Jannah consists of tests from the One above

You may start to look at your obstacles as stepping-stones to help you climb upon the mount of success but that does not mean there are not those who may try to pull you down. There might be people who tell you that your hurdles are unfortunate but do not get discouraged by what they say – they are just unaware of how you are able to turn your hurdles into things that may bring forth fortunes.

Sa'diyya white roseSuch people are not only unaware of your ability to change your misfortunes into fortunes but rather they are unaware of the reality of life – what constitutes the path to Jannah (Heaven). The path towards Jannah consists of tests from the One above. Therefore be consoled when coming across hurdles in life because the path to jannah is the ultimate success; its path is bound to have its twists and turns with stepping stones for you to climb on.

I try to tell myself that my will should be stronger than whatever skills or aims I have in life when climbing life’s mountain because it is my will and trust in Allah that will ultimately help me fulfil my aims which will then help me climb uphill to the path of success (if Allah wills). Therefore, realise the reality of life, accept its hurdles, turn them into stepping-stones, and have the will to climb – before you know it, you could be blooming on the mountain’s peak with higher aims and successes in life than imagined.

For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.

The Qur’an, Surah ash-Sharh (Chapter of the relief) 94:5

Sa'diyya's photoSa’diyya Nesar lives a life with physical ‘disabilities’, where she strives to help others cultivate and focus on their abilities. She writes both prose and poetry for magazines hoping to uplift souls into living a better tomorrow.

Sa'diyya path

Unexpected Path in Starting My Journey as an Aspiring Poetess

A year ago, if someone told Sa’diyya Nesar that she would now be frequently writing poetry and would have had some of her poems published in an anthology alongside other poetesses then she would have laughed – she would have laughed because of not believing them

I never once thought I would be writing poems let alone finding myself in the process of writing poetry. I was, and still am, the sort of person who enjoys painting out every detail in the form of prose at great length. I had never felt satisfied to express what I wanted to say in a few words. I felt it mandatory to pour out every word that I felt for readers to soak in and later swim in as if they were in the sea within my head – within my soul.

Sa'diyya sea sunriseThis was until sister Janette Isahah Grant, a sister who also happened to become one of the editors of the poetry anthology The Muslimah Speaks: Her Voice, Her Spiritpointed out when reading my prose that I may have a poetic touch and she therefore asked if I had written poetry or would consider giving it a try. I told her that I didn’t write poems, nor had I tried, and was not even sure if I ever could. However she encouraged me to give it a go, seeing that my pieces of prose had the underlying flow effect of poetic prose.

I remember how for months I was scared to even try – whenever I would begin to consider trying I would stop. Sa'diyya waves 1I did not even know where to begin or how to try and the thought of even trying began to slowly disappear from my mind until one night. Until one night when I could not seem to figure out what I was feeling and had the need to discover, unravel and pour out my soul to begin to understand what I felt – begin to understand myself.

I thought that whatever I would write to help me discover myself would be prose. However before I knew it there appeared verses in the form of couplets that would soon be continued with more couplets that would eventually be presented in the form of a poem.

Every line helped me understand what I felt where the more I dug the more I would unravel and the more I unraveled the more I poured. It was as if I pricked a scab – the wounds of my heart and soul – so that there would be a flow of words streaming out to form meaning, understanding, and growth. Growth to heal with a scab left stronger – unable to hurt or prick again.

No, it was more than that.
It was as if I dug beneath the dry Earth and a gush of water poured forth followed by a stream of verses for me to swim, soak and quench in the blessings. It was as if I dug deep beneath the mines and discovered a patch of gold waiting to be held and shown. It was as if I dived within the sea of my soul and returned to shore with gems and pearls waiting to be unlocked and held – waiting to be known.

Sa'diyya splashOnce I began to write poetry I was unable to stop and I would at times write six poems per day as if the cage within my soul was unlocked with the ocean of words that poured. Most of my poetry would start off displaying the conflicts of my soul and the ending of the poem would provide solutions and the overcoming of conflicts. Conflicts that would include drowning within the seas of life but with the poem then showing how to swim, or, the poem would start off showing the soul not being able to trust or regain strength but as the poem would proceed my soul would show me how to trust and regain strength again. My poems would not only help me discover but also cope – cope with my life with physical disabilities – or with any struggles faced in life. Whenever I would have a burst I would decide to share what I wrote on Facebook in the hope it might help others too.

I was able to find answers and express what I wanted to say both in detail but in a few words in the form of a poem. However if I tried to write in prose my focus lay in the detail rather than the discovery. The more I wrote poems the more my prose tended to develop a poetic sense. There would be, at times, a burst of poetic prose and every other line of paragraphs would rhyme with the next with matters that would either be deep or random like the struggles of the soul or the joy of drinking scented tea.

Janette MP TMS coverAt once, when I had written my first poem, I rushed to tell Sister Janette how through Allah’s (subhana wa ta’ala) Mercy I was able to write poetry – a form of writing I thought I would never do and an unexpected path I never thought I would take. Sister Janette then selected four of my poems to be published in the poetry anthology The Muslimah Speaks: Her Voice, Her Spirit alongside other more established poetesses. I felt incredibly blessed, humbly honoured and truly grateful to have been encouraged and included by Sister Janette and also guided by both editors of the anthology: Sister Janette and Sister Elizabeth. If it were not for their encouragement and support I would not have had the courage to continue writing especially in the form of poetry.

This unexpected path in starting my journey as an aspiring poetess has led me into the process of publishing my first book inshaAllah. I often post some of my poems on Facebook for a taste of what to expect and also in the hope of encouraging souls to discover and grow as my soul does so too.

Readers may join my unexpected path in starting my journey as an aspiring poetess by following me and receiving updates on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/sn.hk.9 

The Most Merciful

Taught the Qur’an,

Created man,

[And] taught him eloquence.

The Qur’an, Surah Ar-Rahman (Chapter of the Most Merciful) 55:1–4

Sa’diyya Nesar lives a life with physical ‘disabilities’, where she strives to help others cultivate and focus on their abilities. She writes both prose and poetry for magazines hoping to uplift souls into living a better tomorrowHer Tumblr is: sadiyyanesar.tumblr.com

Janette MWP Logo

Why Publishing?

Janette Grant, Owner of Mindworks Publishing, tells us why she became a publisher

Janette MP Book cover 3Writing has been a love of mine since discovering Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books in elementary school but I had never considered getting into the publishing business. It wasn’t until my son began reading that the thought crossed my mind and only because of the difficulty I encountered when trying to find books that he would be interested in. There weren’t many books that spoke to the experiences of boys of colour and there were even fewer books that explored the concepts and principles of Islam.

Janette Grant Book cover 1As a firm believer in the saying, ‘You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution’, I decided to do what I could to be part of a solution in my community by establishing a desktop publishing company that produced works reflecting the experiences of the people around us. Mindworks Publishing is the fruit of my intention and it has been almost seven years in the making.

Truth breeds knowledge; knowledge creates unity; unity builds community; community yields Islam.

Janette MP Book cover 1Our company mission is to contribute to development of human potential through inspiring and informing people with the written word as it aligns with the principles of Islam; it is our intention to produce books that enlighten, encourage and spread joy. We also look to provide resources that support creativity within the community and among aspiring authors in their personal pursuit of their dreams. We believe that all growth starts with discovering truth which in turn leads to acquiring knowledge and the promotion of a unified community locally and abroad. Our motto is: truth breeds knowledge; knowledge creates unity; unity builds community; community yields Islam.

Janette I Love My Hijab faceless cover
(Facial details covered by YMM)


By the grace of Allah (SWT), I came across a website link to The Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) soon after my light-bulb moment concerning Mindworks and, since then, I have been blessed to have received the encouragement, support and advice of Aishah Schwartz, the Founder and Director of MWA. Interacting with like-minded Muslim women writers and authors from the group has been an inspirational experience that has helped to propel me forward in striving for my dream.Janette MP TMS cover In addition, it was through MWA that I first came into contact with Creative Education and Publishing, the publisher of the first children’s book that I had ever written – having one of my stories accepted and applauded by someone outside of my family helped to give me the courage to try even harder.

The Holy Qur’an reads in Surah al-Hajj (Chapter of the pilgrimage) 22:78:

Strive in the Way of Allah as you ought to strive with sincerity and discipline

Janette Grant Hannah Book cover eyeless
(Eyes covered by YMM)

Ayahs such as this have been instrumental to my work and are a constant reminder and strength as I work to build Mindworks Publishing into an effective resource. I have learned much that I am grateful for during this endeavour despite the fact that book publishing has not been the easiest industry to break into. Throughout the few years that I have been actively pursuing the establishment of my business I have witnessed an encouraging shift as more readers are seeking electronic books and reading more online. As a result, more independent publishers and small scale publishing houses are able to produce a greater variety of books that can target a larger segment of people, subhanAllah.

 

(Eye covered by YMM)
(Eye covered by YMM)

The blessings that I have received from this process have been numerous and the challenges that I have faced have brought me closer to Allah (SWT). I have been permitted to meet and form friendships with many kind, intelligent, driven and exceptionally generous Muslims which has increased my faith in, and my love for, the beautiful religion of Islam. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing the joy reflected in the eyes of children who are excited to receive books that they can directly relate to.

 

(Facial features covered by YMM)
(Facial features covered by YMM)

With a total of seven books independently published by Mindworks Publishing, we are truly in the very early stages of production, but with the help and blessing of Allah (SWT) we will be able to contribute to the human family by producing good works that enlighten, inspire and encourage others to be their best self.

Janette Grant makes her publications available via createspace on the Mindworks Publishing website and on Amazon in the US and UK

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Why She Inspires Me: Safiyyah bint Abdul-Muttalib

LaYinka Sanni looks to Safiyyah bint Abdul-Muttalib in her first instalment of a series about inspirational Muslim women

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I raised my fists, one in front of the other; my legs were bent and my gaze focussed intently on my opponent. Jabs and thrusts were blocked, kicks sidestepped, and a secret smile was tucked beneath my stern demeanour.

This isn’t the typical image of a Muslim woman – women who are so often solely attributed to flowery, pretty things – I had shed my earrings and flowing dress, wrapped up my hair, and donned my pristine karate attire. My mind was switched off from chores, bills, and cooking, and zoned on my next move against the person before me.

LaYinka image5

I had a very specific goal when I started karate classes: to get fit and strong. If I were to come into harm’s way I wanted to be able to stand up and defend myself with the vivacity of Safiyyah bint Abdul-Muttalib, whose fierceness and determination inspires me. So often we think of the women around the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as being solely under the instruction of men, yet Safiyyah was proof that women are not pushovers, because she most certainly wasn’t.

She demonstrated this perfectly during the Battle of the Trench, where the womenfolk were protected within fortresses guarded by designated companions. A Jewish man climbed the fortress where women in the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) family were being safeguarded, and gained access so he could see them. Hassan ibn Thabit was assigned to guard and protect the women, yet refused to kill the intruder as Safiyyah demanded. What is a woman to do in such a situation? Perhaps go with the women to seek shelter from a possible attack? Not Safiyyah – the matter had become a personal concern she had to deal with.

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Safiyyah rose and slammed a plank of wood over the intruder’s head until he fell dead. She chopped off his head to be taken to the Jews so they were fully aware that they had picked the wrong fortress to mess with, however Hassan refused to drag the head back to the enemy stationed at the bottom of the fort. So what is a woman to do in such circumstances? Perhaps dust her hands, shrug her shoulders, and join the rest of the womenfolk? Not Safiyyah – she bent and dragged the severed head and threw it to his comrades.

The Jews turned back saying, “We knew that this man (the Prophet [Peace be upon him]) would not leave his family without someone to look after them,” not knowing that the person they were referring to was in fact Safiyyah bint Abdul-Muttalib, not a mighty male warrior.

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Safiyyah was a woman of physical stamina, yet this didn’t make her any less of a woman. It was only due to the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) love for her as his aunt that he commanded her son to remove her from the battlefield during the fierce battle of Uhud. She was deep within the throngs of battle, with a spear in hand as she attacked the faces of polytheists.

It wasn’t due to her ‘weakness’ as a woman that he (Peace be upon him) called for her removal, otherwise she wouldn’t have been amongst the male soldiers in battle. This very fact fuels my personal pursuit of physical strength in the footsteps of Safiyyah, because physical weakness is not a trait of womanhood.

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.

The Qur’an, Surah At-Tawbah (Chapter of the repentance) 9:71

LaYinka Sanni has been writing for longer than she can count on two hands, and has had her works of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry published in various publications online and in print. Aside from being an EFL lecturer based in London, LaYinka is also a freelance editor, proofreader, and writing mentor. Her writing can be found on her blog: http://FromTuesday.wordpress.com

Hend Hegazi Ideas thoughts and ideas flow

Gum Knocks Out Facebook in Round One

Writing Woes and Wows: Hend Hegazi shares a peak inside her writer’s world and some valuable tips for keeping focussed within yours

All great writing starts with a thought, an idea, an epiphany. Mostly these ideas come to me as I’m drifting off into sleep. (Apparently my brain doesn’t realize that sleep means ‘to rest,’ not ‘to work’!) They may come to you as you’re sitting at the computer checking your email, or maybe while you’re doing your homework. Some writers’ minds go into overdrive while they’re in the shower, or during their run. Ideas can hit you at anytime, but because those bright ideas may lead you to become the next Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, or Maya Angelou, you must make sure you capture them as soon as possible.

Hend Hegazi notebook

I have a notebook which I fill with ideas. I also have a file in my computer titled ‘Ideas.’ It doesn’t make a difference where I write them, it only matters that I get them down as quickly as they come to me. If for any reason I put off recording them, I find that the idea loses its eloquence, or is missing that one perfect example which had occurred to me. I simply cannot recall it. Capturing that idea right away is essential.

Hend Hegazi Cloud

Once I have that thought, that idea that keeps swimming in my head, the one that keeps me company everywhere I go, I must begin to feed it. This includes, of course, the actual writing, but even before I write, I spend time just thinking, brainstorming, planning the road that my idea might take. It may become an editorial, or a short story, or even a novel. Nothing is set in stone, and the path it takes continues to alter its course. But that’s normal … that’s my imagination at work. None of that hinders me … I simply keep nurturing my growing idea with time and effort. I sit at my computer and write. I grab a pen and notebook, and write. Click click click click … tap tap tap. Pause. Click click click. Tap tap tap. Tap tap. Click. Pause.

Sometimes my pauses are to re-read, re-word. Sometimes they are dedicated to more brainstorming. But at the end of my writing sessions, I look down at my hands and realize that those pauses have also included something physically painful, and I’ve actually managed to draw blood on occasion. (Gross, I know.) I admit to having the ugly, subconscious habit of biting my fingernails, and unfortunately, the surrounding skin is never spared either. I do it without even realizing, and I do it ALL THE TIME when I write. So, what’s the solution? A pack of gum. A pack of gum in my laptop bag, right near where I write. A pack of gum near the notebook by my bed, where I might decide to write. A pack of gum saves my fingernails. Busying my teeth with something other than my own nails protects me from a painful habit. During Ramadan I can’t use that crutch, of course. But I can try to schedule my writing after iftar, so no need to worry.

Hend Hegazi keyboard

So now I’m sitting at my computer writing … writing and chewing my gum. Click click click. Tap tap tap. Pause (chew chew chew). Click click. Tap. Everything’s going along smoothly, then I hear it – that too good to resist sound: ding! Facebook is telling me I have a notification! So exciting, right?!

So I check it. And I read all the new posts on the news feed. (There’s a great webinar I can’t wait to attend!) And I chat for a few minutes with my brother. It was his message that I’d received the notification for. (He just told me how his son describes him as being ‘the donut man.’ Isn’t that so funny?) I check my email while I’m at it. (My best friend wrote to me! I haven’t seen her in a while so I miss her so much; I just had to respond to her message right away.) Okay, okay … I’m all done. That was only twenty minutes … time to get back to work.

Hend Hegazi black thought cloud

I click back to the document. And I start to–… okay, first I have to remember where I was. Let’s see. Okay, I think I was here. Yes, definitely. Or … no? Where was I??!??!

Do you see what happened here, my friends? I got sucked into the internet trap. If you do not resist that urge to check Facebook and email and Twitter and all the other social networks, you will lose your train of thought and your momentum. You’ll waste precious time that you’ve set aside specifically to hone your talent, to develop the idea which may lead YOU to become the next Nobel Prize winner. (Yes, it could happen.)

Hend Hegazi Laptop

Now I’m trying … trying to exhibit discipline in my craft, trying to avoid the attractive distractions which will only impede my progress. I have a browser page open to an online dictionary/thesaurus, and another to a grammar site which I sometimes check. I tell myself I can check my Facebook and email when I finish with a specific piece. It’s going to take practice … but I’m trying.

Sticking to my gum, avoiding Facebook, and here I am … click click click. Tap tap tap. Chew chew chew.

And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in rank that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-’An’aam (Chapter of the cattle) 6:165

Hend Hegazi was born and raised in Massachusetts (USA) and graduated from Smith College with a degree in biology. She currently lives in Egypt with her husband and four children. Hend’s first novel, Normal Calm, is now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can catch her blogging at hendhegazi.wordpress.com

Saira Anwar lighthouse

The Guiding Light

Saira Anwar expresses her dependence upon Allah through poetry

Saira Anwar sea lights

The Guiding Light

You’re the one that guided me.
When I was lost in the darkness of light.
When I was adrift on a sea of doubt and lost in hope.
You were my strength.

You were one who heard
my cry for help when
my words were held within.
You were the one who
calmed me when my world came crashing in.

You are the one I talked
to when no-one understood.
You’re the one that walked
with me in my darkest times.

You held my trembling hand.

You are the one who heard
and saw my pain and lifted
me up in my weakest
and painful times.

You made me who I am today.
Your blessings carved me
into a person with
a towering strength.

Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.

The Qur’an, Surah Ar-Ra’d (Chapter of the thunder) 13:28

Saira Anwar shoreSaira Anwar is from Manchester, England and is trained and qualified as a nursery nurse, childminder/centre worker. She is also a recognised creative poet and author. Dedicating her time to writing and sharing inspirational content online, through her service ‘Saira Anwar Inspired Poetry’. She continues to inspire many people everyday. She has had several poems recognised for creativity, originality, imagery and expression  as a result she has had many published works to date.

http://www.sairaanwar.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/inspiredpoetry

 

 

Sabeeha mountains

In His Praise

Sabeeha Parack uses poetry to reflect upon her relationship with Allah subhana wa ta’ala (glorified and exalted be He)

Sabeeha sunset

In His Praise

My closest confidant are you,
A power deep within.
Oh Allah, In your praise,
Where shall I possibly begin?

You know what thought runs in my mind,
You know what I shall be.
You know me more than I could know,
My every breath do you see.

In sickness do you stand by me,
You bless me more in health.
You care for me when no one’s around,
It only increases when people are there.

For a loving father have you blessed me with,
My mother’s love a fraction of yours.
Brothers and sisters who stay by me,
To whom can I my heart pour.

Like a shadow do you accompany me,
A constant reminder inside.
There’s no denying your presence around.
Where could I from myself hide?

I see you in the morning light,
I see you in the eve.
I see you all throughout the day
I see you as I sleep.

You’re present in the sound of the wind,
You’re present as I write,
Watching as I submit my will,
In prayer shall I abide.

Your kindness is exemplary,
Your full might I shan’t know.
Your guidance helps me through my life,
Seeds of hope do you sow.

You believe the best of me always,
You teach me how to forgive.
Your love for me knows no bound,
Beyond this life that I live.

For in the afterlife you’ve said,
For those who shan’t sin.
Shall catch a little glimpse of me,
If my heart shall you win.

Sabeeha mosque

[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Fatihah (Chapter of the opening) 1:2

Sabeeha Parack blogs at: http://midnightscribbless.blogspot.in/

Maria Limehouse Charity earring

Fiction – Charity

Maria Limehouse shares an excerpt from a YA novel she is currently drafting

Charity

Sister, if you want to break into the market, you should do reclaimed stuff. I’m only buying this ’cause it’s for charity.” Her bracelets chink together as she rummages around in her pink sequinned bag. I check my display of handmade jewellery. Except for the necklace clasps, everything I’ve used is reclaimed – the metal, the jewels, the beads. But she didn’t ask me and I can’t advertise this fact because people will question my source.

She finds her purse: a tired pink leather that clashes with her hemp bag. “So, how much goes to charity, anyway?” she asks, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head down to me over her money.

All of it.” I answer, trying not to look at the protruding bank notes.

This charity?”

Half to this one, and half to another,” I answer. She slightly closes her purse.

Not some terrorist organisation!” She laughs at her own awful joke. I put on a smile, lips twitching at the edges with the nervous demands I’ve embodied from train travellers wanting to know the contents of my bag.

To a sister in need,” I reply, “in the community.” I look around the hall at the clusters of sisters standing above the other stallholders. Lots of black abayas topped with gaudy, glittery scarves that can incite a migraine like over-pungent cheese. Gosh, where’s my kindness? I am a part of this interwoven spiral of souls, clothed by a diversity of interpretations, modesty and tastes – a mere flavour of our personal spectrums of earnestness and privileges. That’s a bit better.

The pink sister pays me and moves to the next stall that sells children’s books. “My toddler group would love these,” I hear her remark. I hate my own thinking, stare at the floor and defocus the marble effect into heavy clouds that could maybe rain me kind. Astaghfirallah.

Tasneem knows I’ve already done ‘Isha’ so I can’t ask for a prayer break to go and make more repentance. I shunt some pairs of earrings along the black velvet display cloth to fill the gap. Should I get more earrings out of my rucksack? No. Don’t get stressed again about what to display. None of my jewels match the hijab colours in here.

I concentrate on the entrance where the head scarves are most congested and try to change my focus to blend the different colours into something earthy.

Er-salaam alaykum,” someone blurts, a little high pitched, and I sweep my display as I turn to look. “Er,” she says again. Her scarf matches the purple beads in the unfinished necklace on my desk at home. Like me, she’s wearing a baggy patterned dress and long cardigan. Her dark brown eyes looked grounded.

Wa alaykum salaam,” I say quickly. “Can I help you?” Then I distract myself with the earrings.

Are you Asma Deen?” she asks. I look straight back up.

What can I do for you?”

Oh, umm. I’m in your college. I …” She stops talking but holds her gaze. Unusual. People mostly avert their eyes when they falter over their words of condolence. Embarrassed of my mechanical sales-assistant question, I resist saying it for her: Innaa lillahi wa innaa ilayhi raji’oon. I gratefully accept her soft, moist, dark brown recognition of sorrow and connection. I can’t help but smile into her glow. Be my neighbour in Jannah, I want to scream. She smiles back.

Tasneem pulls my sleeve. “My brother just texted me.” Standing up, with her phone in hand, she flashes me a playful grin. “See if you can sell one of my bags while I’m gone.”

Yeah, right, they never sell,” I reply.

Never say never!” she calls behind her, and chuckles. “Ma salaama.”

Ma salaam.” Her black scarf is easy to watch in the crowd but I feel the girl waiting. Infused with a little playfulness, I turn. “So, what’s your name?”

Oh, umm –” she starts. But a sister who I have seen around college stops her with a smack on her shoulders with her hands.

Come on,” she cajoles. “Talk’s starting.” She flings herself over her friend’s purple scarf, laughs and turns her away.

The purple sister’s glow remains in my mind’s eye as she joins the tide of sisters exiting.

I’m alone at the stall table in a hall with only a handful of seated stallholders. A hanger crashes to the floor on the other side of a rail of black abayas. I flinch.

I replay the purple sister leaving and realise she flinched too – when her friend arrived suddenly. Is she scared like me? I imagine skipping across the hall after her to get her number while I sit motionless in my seat.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was the most generous of people in charity, but he was generous to the utmost in the month of Ramadan. Gabriel (peace be upon him) would meet him every year during the month of Ramadan until it ended, and Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) recited to him the Qur’an; and when Gabriel met him Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was most generous in giving charity like the blowing wind.

(Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Hadith 5718)

Maria Limehouse is working on a YA novel and is an active blogger

Review Saira Inspired Poetry

Review of Death of a Beautiful Dream by Saira Anwar

Elizabeth Lymer reviews her own experience of being a teenager to evaluate Saira Anwar’s first book, Death of a Beautiful Dream

I got into reading and writing poetry when I was a teenager but I didn’t really comprehend that I was surrounded by living, breathing, working poets. As is not uncommon for a teenager, I assumed that no one else could really understand my experiences, and that no one had experienced similar things to me. I wrongly assumed that valuable poetry was written by poets who were either dead (like Elizabeth Barratt Browning) or somehow institutionalised within their writing canon so as to make them unreachable.

I was a teenager in the days before the internet took off with all its social media tools that authors can use to connect with their readers.

Review Saira roseSaira Anwar established her Inspired Poetry Facebook page when she self-published her first book in January. From there she posts snippets of poetry, warm words, and positive quotations several times a day. So, from her page, she endears potential readers with flavours of her book and gifts extras to her established readership who know and want to engage with her work and with her.

Reading The Death of a Beautiful Dream I tried to imagine receiving a copy of the book back when I was a teenager…. Did I know the common metaphors for women that are used repeatedly in the book? As a girl who was awkwardly growing into womanhood, did I need to be spoken to about my feminine beauty, and delicate strength and value, in the way that Saira speaks to her readers? Would I have been inspired by this book?

Well, as I have said, my perception of my experiences as common among my peers was a limited, almost non-existent, perception during my teenage years. My common knowledge was also limited, and my limits were exacerbated by my decided unwillingness to include myself in any beautiful generalisations that I discovered about females, let alone contemplate myself as being like a valuable jewel or a flower. Like many teenage girls I felt I was hurting and breaking and struggling to keep going. Teenage years are not easy and it is hard to bear them out. I think I would have benefited very much from Saira’s positive messages and pretty imagery about women.

Review diamondI think I would have been inspired to use my pain to drive my writing, as she has done, and to dare to maybe rediscover beauty through this process. Saira speaks openly about having started to compile her book after experiencing a marriage breakdown. I imagine that, from my place of pain, I would have gratefully connected to her words grown out of her pain – and I hope that her repeated metaphors would have made their way through to me.

I do not for one second think that the teenage me, or early twenties me, would be alone in benefiting from Saira’s book.

Elizabeth Lymer is Editor of Young Muslimah Magazine and hopes to facilitate many new female writers to publish and reach out to others through their writing; she is author of Islamic Nursery Rhymes and co-Editor of The Muslimah Speaks: Her Voice Her Spirit.

Wardah Abbas book

Wardah Abbas’ Top Three Nature Focussed Books for the Summer

Summer evenings are great for reading – Wardas Abbas shares the books on her shelf this year

1. GREEN DEEN: WHAT ISLAM TEACHES ABOUT PROTECTING THE PLANET – BY IBRAHIM ABDUL–MATIN

Wardah Green DeenThis book, divided into four parts, is a very informative and educational tool for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. In the first part of the book, the author talks about waste by posing a thought-provoking question: ‘How do you relate to trash, to waste and to consumption?’ He also talks about the industrial practices that stripped the environment of its natural resources and suggests other renewable sources of energy like solar and water. The author also tells us about how toxic our water is and how to conserve water while practising our deen (religious path). Solutions on how to pick our food and stay halal are also proffered. I highly encourage reading this book

2. WILD PLAY: PARENTING ADVENTURES IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS – BY DAVID SOBEL

Wardah Wild PlayIn this book, David Sobel shares his experiences with his children and nature. While preparing for fatherhood, he knew he wanted to accomplish two goals: to be a good dad and to build his children a bridge to the natural world. This book focusses on how to use nature to help children grow and to teach children that bonding with the earth and creating a natural relationship with the world is an imperative part of life. The book speaks to readers of all ages – Sobel describes ‘play’ in childhood as necessary for adulthood. Playing with natural things such as the trees and the grass prepares the child for playing with ideas in the workplace when they enter adulthood. Sobel gets his passion from exploring the outdoors. He describes his many eco-experiences with humour, affection, dedication and an extraordinary knowledge of nature.

3. CABIN FEVER: A SURBURBAN FATHER’S SEARCH FOR THE WILD – BY TOM MONTGOMERY FATE

Wardah Cabin FeverThis is an adventure about how a man built a cabin in the wilds of south west Michigan and then began a search for balance and a closer connection to nature. Fate recounts his experiences in delightful personal essays. Inspired by awareness of the most powerful things: a backyard bird feeder, a bowl of lake glass and the death of the family cat, each essay explores some parts of human experience. The author watches children lost in play and wonders when he lost his own faith in the present moment. With each foray into his busy world, Fate comes closer to understanding how he might use nature to achieve balance in his hectic modern life.

The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam – may peace and blessings be upon him) so much bonded with his environment. His entire life in the deserts of Arabia and his years of meditation in the caves and mountains of Makkah are indications of a perfect example of eco love which was so evident when he said concerning the mountain of Uhud that:

“This is a mountain that loves us and is loved by us.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 52, Hadith 139)

Wardah Abbas is the Earth Care writer for Young Muslimah Magazine, she writes for SISTERS Magazine, and she celebrates Islam and highlights issues affecting women on her blog: http://therosespen.wordpress.com/