Sandcastles and Snowmen COVER

Sandcastles and Snowmen

I find it interesting when I hear people refer negatively to interested Auntie figures in the Muslim community because I wanted and craved a religiously concerned Aunt when I was a teenager. Someone who would take the time to care about how I was managing with the various issues related to practising faith in the face of all the complexities of my contemporary climate … including all of the unkind rhetorical questions people threw at me to knock me, a believer, down.

But I suppose not every Auntie is as ideal as the figment in my imagination because day to day we humans are all susceptible to swaying somewhat from ideal intentions when we reach out to try and guide others. And I remember from my teenage experience being very susceptible to emotional wounds from contentious topics that I felt were in any way entangled with my pulled, pushed, and confused emerging identity.

Sandcastles and Snowmen COVERSometimes a written guide is much more fitting, reliable, and helpful to begin processing issues from the macro level of society that impact us personally. Since we know a book has a beginning, middle, and end, its invitation to self-improve along a journey is more attractive than an invitation to talk to a community elder whose constancy in faith emits an illusion of inaccessible status quo. As a general rule community members do not uncover their sins and pitfalls, which is good practice, but it can mean we look at ourselves – in knowledge of our own shortcomings – and feel inadequate to approach someone or unable to open up.

In Sandcastles and Snowmen Sahar El-Nadi is open about her journey to rediscovering Islam. She discusses a long list of topics related to being Muslim and getting on with being so today.

For example, her topics include: The Culture of Instant Gratification; What Makes a Person a Practising Muslim?; Pigs, Dogs, Fashion and Sex; Diversity Vs. Conformity; Why Some Muslims Don’t Shake Hands; Define Gender Equality?; First Islamic Universities; Cultural Dilemma of New Muslims and Immigrants; and Art: A Tool for Conflict Resolution.

Saha El-Nadi is a public speaker and her easy-to-read spoken flow comes through in her writing – I felt I sensed her smiling to me in some passages.

With so many topics covered, Sandcastles and Snowmen is the kind of book I like to dip into every now and again – much in the way I like to approach peers and elders every so often to learn and to process various issues. I still haven’t finished the whole book, but I think it will take me years insha’Allah, and you may have missed out on finding it this year if I waited until then to write my review. And I wouldn’t like to deny you anything that can help you stand up as a Muslimah and yourself.

Find-ability is my concern about the book. Although the title is fitting for the book, as it is explained in its introductory pages, the name of the book may be an obstacle to discovery by potential readers. Also the gendered snowmen irritates me a little.

So, based upon my experience of the book, and directly using text from page seventeen, I like to refer to the book as Let’s Shift Illusions and Talk Islam: Saha El-Nadi Shares Joys, Pains, and Discoveries Like the Auntie You Always Wanted. What fond title will you give to Sandcastles and Snowmen when you start reading it?

{Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children  like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.}

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Hadeed (the iron) 57:20

Elizabeth Lymer is the Editor for Young Muslimah Magazine. Alhamdulillah she is in the habit of frequently making time for the processes of reading and writing, even if her visible achievements are few. You can find all of her writing sites via http://www.elizabethlymer.co.uk. She is on Twitter @elizabethlymer.

She Wore Red Trainers COVER

She Wore Red Trainers

Prior to reading Naima B Robert’s latest young adult fiction She Wore Red Trainers I hadn’t really read much Islamic fiction. But the mere fact that it was a Muslim romance story – the preview of which I had earlier read – increased my thirst to savour the sweetness of its magical lines till the last full stop.

Reading it was like being in a different world. It was a complete page turner and, masha’Allah, from the time the curtain was raised to when it was drawn, I was filled with pleasure and inner joy for reading a story as beautiful as this authored by a Muslimah.

She Wore Red Trainers COVERShe Wore Red Trainers tells the story of two teenagers who fall in love, Ali and Ameerah; the both of them from two entirely different, far-from-perfect backgrounds. Ameerah, who had vowed never to get married as a result of her mother’s experience with the wrong choices of husbands, suddenly meets Ali. And Ali is battling with a lot of things such as his maintenance of recently recommenced religious practices, the reality of the loss of his mum, and the difficulties of adapting to a new environment he had just moved into with his family.

Neither protagonist can stop thinking about the other. Things become a little confusing for the young love birds as they both face their difficulties and obstacles in making the right decisions, in terms of Islam, family, and community. A lot of complications set in. Such as the over-protectiveness of Ameerah’s brother Zayd, who had also gone through a lot in shaping his sister to becoming the woman she was. And, for Ali, the high expectations from his father who wanted his son to pursue a degree in law.

The two love birds continue with their individual struggles enveloped by secret feelings of strong love for each other.

As my eyes travelled down the beautiful destination led by the powerful assembly of words into a breathtaking storyline, I became more curious to know how everything unfolds in the end.

Would there be any spine-freezing dates, awkward romantic conversations, enchanting eye contacts, and would they get to hold hands in the end, have their first kiss, first romance and what not? I kept imagining as I personally got butterflies all over me. It was full of suspense.

The central characters were strong and portrayed the beauty of Islam. The character Zayd portrayed both both good and not-so-good sides, playing both protagonist and antagonist in his own unique way.

I absolutely loved the fact that Ameerah’s mother – the weakest character – was able to grow enough nerves to get her irresponsible husband kicked out of their lives while standing up for her daughter. It had me smiling, giggling and of course, it had my heart in my throat.

I must confess that I totally enjoyed reading the book and I absolutely recommend it for all those who love to read. It is indeed a must read for every teenager and parent, especially considering the fact that, as Muslims, love can be very delicate as it is surrounded by so many boundaries which we are expected not to cross.

{And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah . But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah . And if only they who have wronged would consider [that] when they see the punishment, [they will be certain] that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is severe in punishment.}

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (the cow) 2:165

Wardah Abbas is a twenty-something year old self-proclaimed eco–Muslimah based in Nigeria. She is a state attorney and a passionate writer who particularly loves to share lessons from her personal experiences. When Wardah is not writing, volunteering at an event or hanging out with friends, she can be found at the kitchen table whipping up edible ingredients into skin beauty regimens. She is the Earth Care staff writer for Young Muslimah Magazine. Catch up with her on therosespen.wordpress.com.

writers and artists yearbook 2015 COVER

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

Learn how to navigate your pathway as a writer with the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

Allah gifts each of us with talents and skills, creative flow, and inspiration. However, it is our responsibility to ground these potentials and cut paths with our beginnings in the physical world. Is it enough to hold a gift, or creative talent, if our writing never finds a way out into the world?

It is wise to seek help, wisdom, and guidance as early on as possible and to avoid proceeding ahead blindly. I have found that attending a writing course encouraged my gift and shaped my editing before I launched my writing out into the world.

writers and artists yearbook 2015 COVERI also highly recommend The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook as the best definitive collation of contacts that lights the way to sharing your work.

The large tome contains advice from many highly respected and successful authors, including William Boyd, Terry Pratchett, and J.K.Rowling. Every author that we may aspire to emulate had to start somewhere, following their initial inspiration and reams of writing.

How does Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook help you launch your writing from the desk out into the wide world? Let’s take a look.…

Firstly, the guide is divided up into the various areas of writing, commencing with newspapers, magazines, books, and poetry through to television, film, radio, theatre, art, and illustration. Secondly, you can find out about literary agents, societies, prizes, festivals, digital,and self-publishing resources for writers, copyright and libel, and finish with finance for writers and artists. With so much to learn, whichever area you focus on, the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook can save you many hours of research. You can use the guide to ensure you are clearly focussed and enabled to follow your dreams in an orderly manner.

Its advice is shared concisely and openly, and is full of wisdom from writers with years of experience. I have read much advice for potential authors in the past, but found Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook arrives at the points quickly and succinctly. You almost feel that you were there, too, gaining the experience directly! As the name implies, the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is updated yearly with any new and amended contact details and new gems. For 2015,  you can discover articles on creative writing courses, writing your first novel, woman’s fiction, changing voices, comic writing, submitting your TV, film, or radio script, and getting hooked out of the slush pile.

There is more guidance for writers in the 2015 edition than previously, making this a great year to purchase if you are beginning your career as a writer.

The information on literary agents and the writers’ resources are particularly useful. In the latter, you can find everything from proof reading symbols to writers’ retreats and courses. From ISBN numbers to copyrights, all essential information for writers is covered.

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is published by Bloomsbury and priced at £19.99. Also available is Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. The yearbook is available in paperback or kindle formats. The kindle version is great for following links on the internet, whilst the paperback is great to read quietly whilst absorbing the immense wealth of information.

{And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record.}

The Qur’an, Surah An-’An’aam (the cattle) 6:59

Sarah Rehmatullah writes for health publications, including Get Fresh Magazine, Yoga Magazine and SISTERS Magazine. Sarah reverted to Islam in 2013 and lives with her husband, a born Muslim, in England. Sarah and her husband are writing a cookery book, sharing their passion for delicious Asian Cuisine.

South Asian Culture and Islam cover

South Asian Culture and Islam

Uzma Hussain tackles the difficulties of truly practising Islam in contemporary South Asian culture by guiding her readers on a joyful discovery of Allah-given rights from a woman’s perspective.

Through looking at the figure of the South Asian Muslim woman and her relationships, namely as a daughter-in-law, as a wife and as a mother, author Uzma Hussain examples scenarios and trends that are prevalent in South Asian culture today which deny Muslim women their Islamic rights. She contrasts these un-Islamic cultural trends with numerous references from the Qur’an and examples from the Sunnah to guide the reader to various options [means] to overcome oppressive traditions and replace them with correct Islamic conduct. For all Muslim readers, the book is packed with useful reminders of Islamic teachings, and warnings, against condoning or perpetrating oppression due to acting out of ignorance, neglect, or in deliberate conflict with the rights and responsibilities due to one another in Islam.

South Asian Culture and Islam coverRegarding how she hopes the book will be useful, Hussain said that, “Ideally I think it is better to read this book when first thinking about marriage. However, it can be read at any time during a person’s life as it covers many different issues including those where there is blurring between the lines such as the South Asian joint family culture, inheritance, mahr, and others. I think this book helps to clear up some of these confused areas.” Other important issues discussed in the book include our Islamic responsibilities to our parents and our spouse’s parents, the sunnah etiquettes of respecting and protecting each other’s privacy, and a woman’s rights to education and maintaining her own identity.

Since it discusses South Asian cultural problems and explores Islamic solutions, the book is, of course, particularly valuable to South Asian Muslim families. Unstopped, oppressive practices may continue to hurt and frustrate South Asian Muslim women, and women married into South Asian families, and therefore entire families, communities and societies. Reading Hussain’s book, I learned a lot about oppressive practices in South Asian culture.

I couldn’t put the book down. As I read, I was frustrated by the current realities Hussain lays bear, but I was also encouraged by the tactical solutions she offers. Thanks to Hussain’s references to the reliable sources of the Qur’an and sunnah, and her clear, contextual judgements of how we can choose to behave in relationships in accordance with Islam, I was overwhelmingly inspired to hope that Muslims who are currently allowing these oppressions to occur may be stimulated, equipped and guided to change their actions and attitudes.

Hussain identifies three main messages of the book:

• To understand your rights

• Speak up against oppression, if possible, as this will help to eliminate it, insha’Allah

• To love Islam

Unstopped, oppressive practices may continue to hurt and frustrate South Asian Muslim women, and women married into South Asian families, and therefore entire families, communities and societies.

The whole book is written in a matter-of-fact and easy-to-read manner, and its chapters can be read in any order. Those with little or no connection to South Asian culture may like to begin their reading with a chapter towards the end of the book, “The Value of Time.” Here, Hussain references many Qur’anic ayat and ahadith that encourage and remind us, as Muslims, to focus on journeying to the Day of Judgement with a sound heart. Masha’Allah, Hussain’s compassion and Muslim fellowship for women and all Muslims on this journey seems clear. Her earnestness, for me, is a trusty invitation to use her book to derive insights for effecting positive change in any and all cultures and circumstances.

As I read, I was frustrated by the current realities Hussain lays bare, but I was also encouraged by the tactical solutions she offers.

I often benefit from companionship on my problem-solving journeys, and through her book Hussain has become a good companion. Her solution-finding method is like the supportive problem-sharing conversations I like to engage in with friends, in which I feel I am party to counselling, learning and guidance, helping me to deal with my emotions, and in which I guard against backbiting and corruptions of the heart. Hussain focuses her attention on examples of oppression without judgement or condemnation of anyone. With compassion, she uses these examples of oppression to encourage readers to understand cultural problems. She finds contextual Islamic knowledge through research of the Qur’an and Hadith, and through guidance from scholars, in particular the editor, Sheikh Ismail Mahgoub. Finally, she reflects upon this knowledge to build informed insights as to how to facilitate and effect positive change for the sake of Allah.

The book is a much needed source of knowledge and inspiration for overcoming the oppression of South Asian women and a valuable guide to the sunnah of maintaining good relations for all Muslim women and men. Alhamdulillah, I have already benefited from engaging with Hussain’s quotations from Qur’anic ayah and hadith and her insightful suggestions of putting them into practice.

The book is available to buy at greenbirdbooks.com and amazon.co.uk.

South Asian Culture & Islam in Urdu translation is also available from Amazon UK.

{O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.}

The Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’ (the women) 4:19

Elizabeth Lymer is the children’s author of Islamic Nursery Rhymes by Greenbird Books, and Religious Rhyme Time by Mindworks Publishing. She is Editor for Young Muslimah Magazine and is on Twitter @elizabethlymer. This review was first published in SISTERS MagazineMasha’Allah Uzma Hussain has donated copies of her book to writers for Young Muslimah Magazine. An interview with Uzma Hussain will be published by Young Muslimah Magazine soon insha’Allah.

South Asian Culture and Islam cover

Normal Calm cover

Normal Calm

I stared at the title for a few minutes. Normal Calm. The title stirred all sorts of different questions in my mind.

What could the story be about? What surprise is in there for me?

I didn’t have a paperback copy to read the outline, so I shrugged my shoulders and cuddled myself in my bed. With an abnormally cold temperature outside, in the winter chill of Canada, I would benefit from a warm story to provide me with the right blend of emotions to keep me ‘normal’.

Normal Calm coverNormal Calm is author Hend Hegazi’s first novel. It is a story that actually hit me quite deeply. The speech is simple and the tone is effective. The novel moves at a fair pace and doesn’t let the reader bore. The characters are portrayed well, and each plays his or her role beautifully in the novel.

The main character, Amina, is shown to have been sent to university by her hesitant parents, who have otherwise never allowed her to stay away from home. Letting go is not easy for them. She visits family quite often, as the university into which she’s been accepted – a top one in the US – is only at a distance of about four hours drive. She moves ahead with caution and befriends Sahar and Layal, Rami and Tariq.

Hend Hegazi handles cultural morals very well in the book and quite interestingly so. One of my favourite parts of the story was the hospitality and love shown by Amina to her friends, who were studying with her, yet were very far away from their respective families. They are welcomed by Amina’s family every Eid. Hegazi portrays the celebration of Eid as a ‘family time’ in the mosque and park, and Amina’s parents get the opportunity of knowing who Amina is spending most time with at college.

My favourite character in the novel is Amina’s non-Muslim best friend Kayla, who stays with her through thick and thin. She seems to understand Amina more than anyone and is almost always the first person that she confides in.

After the rape, at the start of the novel, the first person that Amina speaks to, is Kayla, who drives to her immediately. Even though getting raped was not Amina’s own initiative, nor was it Amina’s fault, throughout the novel she’s seen to be dubious as a potential spouse and therefore for any decent prospective proposal. Such is the stigma associated with rape victims in our societies, no matter how liberal and broad minded one is.

At the end of the story, Normal Calm came across to me as the pursuit of normality and calmness in Amina’s life, after her rape. A sensitive, taboo topic, especially in the Muslim community, is handled bravely and confidently by the author.

Whether or not Amina finds the ‘normal calmness’ in life is up to the reader to find out. A female protagonist struck by tragedy, dealing with it in quite a pragmatic way and without much support from her parents, a prejudiced community and the potential suitors who see Amina’s plight in a different lens due to different cultural norms, is what Normal Calm entails.

I recommend this impactful read to everyone. It is not very often that we see such story lines being handled by Muslim authors. This book provides an insight on the struggles that abused raped victims face and may prove to work as a therapy for such victims. I would have loved to see religion play a more vital role in coping with some of the psychological after affects of this calamity; nevertheless, Normal Calm is an excellent read. And when I needed a warm story to provide me with the right blend of emotions to keep me ‘normal’, Normal Calm did just that!

Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour further away, the companion at your side, the traveller, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.

The Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’ (the women), 4:36

A teacher by profession, an MBA by degree and a student of religion, Khudaija A. Nagaria found refuge and happiness writing, using her passion for serving Islam. Being a freelancer she writes for different magazines and forums. So far her articles and poems have been published in prestigious magazines such as Dawn, Hiba, Aailaa and Young Muslimah Magazine, and websites such as Moments of Perfect Clarity, and Muslim Moms. Khudaija is a writer for Muslimaat Magazine and has served as their Marketing Manager and a Contributing Editor. She is an active member of Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA). She prays her writing be a means of Sadaqa e Jaariyah for her deceased parents.

Latifa Hameen cover

Teens/Young Adults How To – Not To Relationship Abuse Workbook

I often read books and articles for teenagers, and about supporting or raising teenagers, even though those years are long past for me and my children’s teenage periods are several years away.

I found my teenage and early twenties years to be intense periods of self-reflection and learning, and, while I rarely need to be as self-absorbed as I was during that time, I still benefit from admitting I want to develop maturity in several areas insha’Allah.

Latifa Hameen coverOften times, when I newly discover that I have allowed a negative behaviour cycle to undermine my character, I look into my teenage years and find a struggle to overcome the same behaviour was present there too. Sometimes this behaviour is a small habit like biting away dry skin on my lip, other times it is more serious, like emotionally self-abusing through condescending self-talk. Some of the skills I used as a teenager can be useful skills to conquer my detrimental behaviour – I just need a little time out to focus and remind myself that I can do it insha’Allah.

For me this book has facilitated a welcome period of reflection. Although I especially recommend it to teenage and twenty-something Muslimahs, I also recommend it to anyone older who is experiencing relationship troubles because its relationships analysis has life long relevance. This book isn’t just for teenagers or people in marital relationships.

Hameen takes the reader through important material about treating ourselves and others with responsible humanity. By answering her simple comprehension exercises at the end of each short chapter – even in your head – the reader can access awareness of how much of this information she has already learned, what is new knowledge, and any points she feels uncomfortable to admit. So the workbook process helps you know your strengths and weaknesses. And the content teaches you, plainly, that yes you do need to maintain self-awareness as well as awareness of what humanity looks, sounds, and acts like, in order to maintain good relationships.

Latifah Hameen is very clear about how to recognise abuse and its dangers and that a victim must strengthen herself with inner resolve to rise above helplessness and choose to end abusive cycles. This stopped me for a while. A shaky pause of temptation to regress from thriver to survivor to victim. I kept momentum, however, and read on and on, letting Hameen guide me to where I want to stand firm – a place of accepting full responsibility for my relationships alhamdulillah.

I asked my husband to join me using two tables from the book to review our relationship in terms of ‘equality’ and ‘abuse’. We discussed each point, voiced concerns, celebrated achievements, and made some solo and duo goals. We then brought the session to a close by agreeing to meet again for relationship discussions and by simply reading out the lists of dating rights and responsibilities to help us consolidate our good intentions.

I had thought I’d read this book, note it for later use with my teenage children insha’Allah, and then pass it on to someone else. I don’t like to hog things that others could use. And I have a weakness for keeping books. However, insha’Allah I plan to get a lot of use out of this book while my children are too young for it. So I’m just passing on a recommendation.

Masha’Allah, something great about the book is that its advice never judges the decision to have a relationship, since it is not targeted at Muslims. It is not only about ‘love’ relationships. So I think it would equally be an excellent gift for someone considering marriage as it would be a non-judgemental, ‘concerned’ gift to a young Muslimah in any stage of her iman journey. It would also make good learning material for someone who has experienced bullying, as the victim or the oppressor…. We all have the capacity to make abusive mistakes, and to overcome them insha’Allah.

If you are looking to avoid abuse, and to develop numerous life-long positive relationship skills insha’Allah, I can’t recommend Latifah Hameen’s Teens/Young Adults How To – Not  Relationship Abuse Workbook highly enough masha’Allah.

And [recall] when Moses prayed for water for his people, so We said, “Strike with your staff the stone.” And there gushed forth from it twelve springs, and every people knew its watering place. “Eat and drink from the provision of Allah , and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.”

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (the cow), 2:60

Maria Limehouse is an aspiring novelist, sometimes frequent-sometimes quiet blogger, and slow reader … probably in reverse order.

Dr Dogan Five pillars FRONT COVER

Five Pillars of Islam

A ‘MUST HAVE’ book for every Muslim family library!

Dr Recep Dogan has done an excellent job in taking the fundamental pillars of Islam and breaking them down into one concise and easy to read book.

Dr Dogan Five pillars FRONT COVERI thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it to ALL Muslims and especially new Muslims because when they first become Muslim they search for information and usually the first place we go to research is Google.

Although there is a wealth of knowledge on the internet it can also be very confusing and sometimes misleading.

Dr Recep delves deeply into the five pillars of Islam and provides references from the Qur’an, Sunnah and from the four scholars of the major schools of Islamic thought.

This book will help Muslims who follow different madhabs – schools of thought – as evidence is provided from all the scholars and the most authentic ahaadith and rulings are provided.

It is an excellent practical book to read and study as a family and teach our children as well as to use within study circles.

The book is also an excellent read for researchers on Islam and Jurisprudence.

I personally read this book to help me with my PhD thesis however as a fiqh student and teacher it has also helped me a lot and I know my students will benefit from it immensely.

I’m really looking forward to reading Dr Recep Dogan’s further publications.

I give this book a 5* plus rating!

Narrated Abu Huraira: One day while the Prophet was sitting in the company of some people, (The angel) Gabriel came and asked, “What is faith?” Allah’s Apostle replied, ‘Faith is to believe in Allah, His angels, (the) meeting with Him, His Apostles, and to believe in Resurrection.” Then he further asked, “What is islam?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat) and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan.” Then he further asked, “What is Ihsan (perfection)?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “To worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion then you must consider that He is looking at you.” Then he further asked, “When will the Hour be established?” Allah’s Apostle replied, “The answerer has no better knowledge than the questioner. But I will inform you about its portents. 1. When a slave (lady) gives birth to her master. 2. When the shepherds of black camels start boasting and competing with others in the construction of higher buildings. And the Hour is one of five things which nobody knows except Allah. The Prophet then recited: “Verily, with Allah (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour–.” (31. 34) Then that man (Gabriel) left and the Prophet asked his companions to call him back, but they could not see him. Then the Prophet said, “That was Gabriel who came to teach the people their religion.” Abu ‘Abdullah said: He (the Prophet) considered all that as a part of faith.

Bukhari Book 2, Hadith 47

Nadia Leona Yunis is a mentor and coach of Islamic personal and spiritual development for her organisation We Be Inspired. She is also the Islamic Editor for Young Muslimah Magazine.

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Interview with Brooke Alam, Creative Etsy Shopkeeper

Masha’Allah you are an Etsy shopkeeper. Please tell us about your shop.

My shop name is inspireDeen.  It’s a play on words, similar to ‘inspiring’, but inspireDeen – to inspire ‘faith’. My name is Brooke Alam. I made inspireDeen as a place for me to display and sell my works of art. At this time I do not have a set styling or product that I make or sell. Anything and everything I make I put on Etsy to see what responses I get. This has helped me learn what products people are looking for and are interested in. I do tend to work mostly with acrylics. My favorite projects so far are custom requests from buyers. I don’t want to limit myself with a set style.

20140829_095115Why did you start painting and what or who inspired you to open your Etsy shop?

I was actually encouraged to start painting again by my husband. I had initially been an Art Major in college, but had changed my career direction to Nursing. Since my schooling years I had not given time to my painting or my creative side. I have practised as a nurse since 2006 and truly love it, but have always kept the knack for painting and sketching in the back of my mind – never making the time to practice. In January of 2012 my husband and I were blessed with our first child, alhamdulillah.  Since his birth I returned to my job (after leave) on a part time/as needed status, once a week.

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to spend all my other time caring for my son, masha’Allah. When he was between the age of one and two years, after testing and such, we were made aware of some issues involving his sensory system. He was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) which is a form of autism. I think it is normal for many parents to feel quite responsible or guilty when a problem arises with their child. But we also know that, alhamduliliah, Allah has reasons everything.

Still, the diagnosis was devastating at first for our family, but we quickly found that with therapy he can and has shown so much improvement, alhamdulillah! How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to get him the therapy he needs. This point in my life resulted in my having so much stress. I found though, if I took the times he napped to draw or sketch or paint, it was very therapeutic for me. After eight years I picked up a paint brush and it felt so good, alhamdulillah! With my husband’s encouragement I made the step to open an Etsy shop. Why not see what my craft could blossom into!!?! Alhamdulillah I have had a fair amount of interest and I am so very thankful, masha’Allah.

20141227_103535What is your favourite activity to nourish your creativity and why?

I love to go to flea markets if time and my son allow. Even looking at other artists’ work can spark ideas in my mind. I find ideas just come from the most random moments in life. Maybe when I’m just starting to fall asleep an idea will come and I have to put a note in my phone to remind me of this idea. My sketch book is full of random little sayings or colour schemes and things to help jog my memory later.

Does anything hinder your creativity? What is your top tip for recovery from such hindrances?

I would say being tired is my largest hindrance to creativity. I actually find I have so many ideas running through my head alhamdulillah, but never enough time to get them all put down on paper or canvas.

Who’s work has inspired your style?

I think I have a problem in that I LOVE so many different art mediums and styles! If you take a look at my shop you will see that I have many different styles going on. What I like is what I do and try. I hope that in the future I can settle into a style that I am best at insha’Allah. I adore work by Amira Rahim, a contemporary artist out of Dubai. Masha’Allah, she has a beautiful style and eye for colours and light. I so greatly admire her work. As far as Etsy shops go, Hafsa Taher is tops!!!!!! Her shop is a beautiful one with such a variety and scope of products. I have no idea where she finds the time!  Another artist I love to follow is Hafsa Khizer.  She has awesome Islamic Calligraphy that is very contemporary. And I have to mention Farrah Azam as being one of the first artists I found on instagram. MashaAllah her ‘Bespokehenna‘ henna designs and style are so unique and beautiful. All of these sisters can be found on Facebook and Instagram. I wouldn’t say my style is like any other theirs. I’m running in my own lane, but I find that their colours and movement, and love for what they do, does resonate through their work to me.

20141206_104531What advice would you give to aspiring Etsy shopkeepers?

Top thing is to listen to advice you are given from other fellow shopkeepers! I have found that the Etsy community itself is such a helpful group of people alhamdulillah!   Countless times I have been messaged with advice from random shopkeepers just wanting to add a bit of advice and encouragement. Listen to them and take heed of what they say; some are expert at this business. I found advice has always been helpful. I too am willing to help anyone needing a bit of advice! insha’Allah I too have much to still learn, as everyone is always growing and improving at their craft.

Young Muslimah Magazine loves to highlight good reads. What book have you read that you would you recommend to our readers and why?

It’s embarrassing to say, but since my son has been born my reading time has greatly reduced unfortunately. I find a bit of time before sleep to read Qur’an and that has been my routine for a while. I will say though that my husband and I have found another way to engage in Islamic lessons as a family including our son. We really enjoy watching Islamic lectures on YouTube. Omar Suleiman and Nouman Ali Khan are our favourites at this moment. Masha’Allah such well rounded speakers that really reach out to the younger population with words that engage present day problems and issues. So I would recommend giving them a listen. Their lectures always leave us with much to discuss and think about, as well as actions to apply in our lives. May Allah reward them in their efforts to aid our Ummah to find balance in our lives.

20141226_115431What new projects can readers look forward to from you and where is the best place for readers to find out about it?

I have many ideas literally running through my head and not nearly enough time or energy to put them into action. Insha’Allah I will accomplish some of them like more mixed media pieces including melted wax, crayon, and acrylics. I have really been inspired by the look it produces and I have not seen it in the art world in great numbers.  I also want to add more pieces of large watercolour pieces. For a while now I have been wanting to add an idea including cork board material with special custom messages put on it, Islamic in nature.

I think overall I want my shop to exude positivity and appeal to the Muslim and non-Muslim populations. I find that many non-Muslim people are drawn to sayings the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, and the actions he made his sunnah. Masha’Allah there is a bridge that can be made and used to teach our non-Muslim brothers and sisters and I want to help make that happen, insha’Allah.

I believe art, all arts, can convey these messages and build relationships and understanding between different peoples. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to make connections with all people, bonding our common humanity.

My Etsy shop is found at inspireDeen.etsy.com. My instagram is called inspireDeen and my email is inspireDeen@gmail.com. And I can be found on Facebook at InspireDeen Art and Islamic Art by inspireDeen.

Thank you for your time and support to our readers; jazakillahkhayr.

Thank you, jazakAllah khayr.

 Reclaim Your Heart Poster