Category Archives: Columns

Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

One of the most beautiful, freeing elements of writing is that our options are endless. We can write about ourselves, or people we know very well. We can write about others, people we’ve never met, living lives we’ve only envisioned. We can write to shed light, open eyes to see new things, some positive and uplifting, others negative. We can tell stories of the pious, or the sinner. Our imaginations know no limits!

For example, I’m currently in the middle of a story that’s so juicy, it’ll have my audience dreaming of what may happen next! It’s about the son of a Native American tribal chief who suffers from kleptomania – he robs all the members of his tribe late at night. When a member of the neighbouring tribe exposes him, the Chief is put in a difficult position about how to deal with the scandal.

You may be thinking, “Interesting topic. Are you familiar with Native American tribes and their systems of laws and penalties?”

And I’ll say, “Well, I did some research: I read some books, looked up some info on the internet, and I even managed to interview one Native American chief.”

Upon learning that, you’re undoubtedly thinking one of two things. Either you’re of the opinion that, “As long as you’ve done your research and portray that information in your story, then go for it.” Or you’re shouting out, “Learning about it through books and interviews does not make you an expert and you may find that you misrepresent, even unintentionally.” So which side is right? Just because we CAN write about anything, does that give us the RIGHT to? As someone who is not at all familiar with the Native American way of life, should I be writing about them, highlighting shortcomings in a scenario which I’ve completely made up? My personal opinion, is that it all depends on our intentions and the manner in which we fulfil them.

Being a mindful reader will lead you to be a more conscious writer.

As we are, first and foremost, Muslims, then our intention upon beginning any task, should be that it is for the sake of Allah SWT. You can undoubtedly have more than one intention: I want to write this to increase non-Muslim awareness/understanding of Islam AND I want to make people laugh, because laughter leads to happiness. I want to increase Muslim faith AND I want to reach a wider audience, I want to get reactions for my writing. I want to show support for my sisters and brothers in humanity, in hopes that perhaps one day they will be my sisters and brothers in Islam. I want to expose the crimes against humanity by the enemies of Islam so that societies will recognise that they are enemies to all of humankind. By making sure your main intention is for Allah SWT you will be more aware of how others will interpret it.

So what does that mean for me, in my story? I wanted to write about the Native Americans because so much of their daily lives coincide with our beliefs as Muslims; to be kind not only to one-another, but also to the earth. I wanted to highlight some of the similarities and, maybe by focussing on them as my audience, I could increase their awareness of Islam. Can I do that in the story I’ve outlined?

If I focus on laws which have been broken and strict consequences which must be applied, and depict my characters as an austere people, then I will probably fail all of my intentions. If I highlight them as heretics who only find God when an outsider comes to them, then I will surely lose them as an audience. But maybe, if I focus on the responsibilities all humans have to fulfil ramifications for their actions, understanding our own shortcomings through repentance and forgiveness, then maybe I can pull off an entertaining story that fulfils its purpose.

Just as you must be aware of your intentions and your message as a writer, you must be equally vigilant as a reader. Most stories, even fiction, require you to read between the lines to get to the author’s intentions. Just as you would keep questioning yourself as you write, as you read you should also keep asking, “Why is the author writing this? Why is so-and-so the hero and not the other character? What is the author’s purpose? Does she fulfill it? Do I agree with it?” Being a mindful reader will lead you to be a more conscious writer.

Always be aware that a story is never just a story; there will always be a message that you illustrate, probably more than one. By making your intention first and foremost for the sake of Allah SWT, He will bless your words so that the outcome of your piece will provide benefit both for you and your readers.

“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 is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in magazines such as Azizah and SISTERS. She was born and raised in Attleboro, Massachusetts and graduated from Smith College with a degree in biology. Her first novel, Normal Calm, was published in January 2014 by FB Publishing. Hend currently resides in Alexandria, Egypt with her husband and four children. You can catch her blogging at hendhegazi.wordpress.com.

 

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Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

Every day as I walk home from school, I pass a group of men and, if I’m unlucky that day, I will have the pleasure of hearing all sorts of profanities hurled at me, and I will do what I usually do which is play the excellent art of ignoring them and I will be okay with what just happened.

But when did it become okay to insult someone?

I have realised there are a lot of things that are ‘okay’ that are NOT! So I’m going to highlight small things that I think we should be doing without being told so:

POLITE IS RIGHT

We have completely forgotten what politeness means. We have to return to our courteous ways: politeness in speech, in action, and in behaviour.

Don’t be the person that’s shoving everyone at the busy mall, seriously, what’s with the shoving these days? Is there a shoving competition I don’t know about? Manners is what differentiates us from other animals so start being polite in the slightest things.

THE ART OF SPEAKING ONLY GOOD

We need this more than we can imagine. Keep quiet when we have nothing good to say especially when it comes to friends. Give your friends a pass when something they said or did hurt you, don’t go around being vengeful with your tongue, why do you have to be a catalyst? You don’t even like chemistry! Rather, quell explosive situations by keeping quiet when you have nothing good to say.

FAMILY COMES FIRST

This needs a whole extensive article because the institute of what family means has been shattered. People have two personalities, Moses to the rest of the world but Pharaoh to their own blood. My cousin once told me, “Family is home.” It’s cliché, I know, but when you’ve been shoved the whole day at the mall, nothing feels better than to be home with people who actually listen to you whine about the shoving at the mall.

WHAT IS YOURS IS MINE

You’ve heard it many times, “Treat people as you would like to be treated.” This goes for property too; take care not to damage people’s property especially when you borrow it and please return it. Some of you take ‘Goods once taken, not returned’ literally, to some new levels!

CONSEQUENCES OF ACTIONS

Let’s just put the religious part of it out. As a person, you need to feel bad when you know an action of yours is going to hurt someone else. Once you start drowning that voice that’s at the back of your mind when you’re doing something wrong, you open yourself to more atrocious acts. All over the news there are unimaginably horrible things happening and you wonder what kind of people would be capable of that, people who turned off the voice of reason. Take control of your actions!

JUST REPLY!

My best friend was going to kill me if I didn’t include this one: replying to people’s messages. I personally do find it annoying as well when you put in effort to text somebody and no reply! So the only sensible thing I can say about this is JUST REPLY! You all know the drill, someone spends time to type that email or message, the least you could do is take some of your time and reply. JUST REPLY!

Are you being the best you can be to those around you? ALLAH SAYS IN THE QU’RAN,

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature.”

Surah At-Tin (Chapter of the fig) 95:5

So the big question is where is this human being? Let it be you.

Fatima Abdulrazak will return with the next instalment of her new rant column in February insha’Allah.

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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.

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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

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Hend Hegazi Ideas thoughts and ideas flow

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

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Forgotton Empty box

Forgotton Empty box

When it is past time to sleep and Hend Hegazi’s mind begins rushing with ideas to write about, she consults her memory to decide what to do

Why is it that all of the ideas I get come to me when I’m just about to fall asleep?

I spend hours tossing and turning, then, just as sleep begins to tug at my eyelids, the ideas start racing through my mind. I’m caught between giving myself up to slumber, or taking the one step it would take for me to get to my notebook and pen. Yes, it’s just one step … but it’s one step too many at 2:30 am.

So I say to my brain, “Brain … Can you please remember this for tomorrow?”

And she answers, “Of course.”

“Brain, ” I stress, “you cannot forget. Are you sure you can do that? Are you sure you’ll remember?”

“Yes, yes…of course. You can count on me, ” she replies confidently.

So I give in to sleep. Some time the following day, while I’m performing a mundane task like washing the dishes, it occurs to me that I had an epiphany just before I fell asleep the night before.

“Brain! What were you supposed to remember from last night?” I call.

No answer.

“Brain! Brain! What ideas came to me yesterday?”

She replies through a yawn: “Huh … What? Did you say something?”

Hend Hegazi is the author of the novel ‘Normal Calm’. InshaAllah this article is just the beginning of her column for YMM

[Gabriel said], “And we [angels] descend not except by the order of your Lord. To Him belongs that before us and that behind us and what is in between. And never is your Lord forgetful -

Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them – so worship Him and have patience for His worship. Do you know of any similarity to Him?”} The Qur’an 19:64-65

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