Category Archives: Fair Share

Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

I have been doing a lot of reaching out lately.

Alhamdulillah it is good to be supporting others, using my creativity to nurture others, and to feel like I am fulfilling my purpose. It is good when I am balanced.

“You need to learn to say no.”

“Make sure you take time for yourself.”

“Gosh, you’re busy.”

With hindsight comments like these were warnings that I had let things get out of control.

Instead of scheduling in activities within achievable time frames I decided I would neglect sleep and selectively ignore projects in order to finish the activities that I felt were needed most. That is how it started. But then I became focussed on the projects that provoked the most immediate feedback. It took me weeks to realise I was running on adrenaline more than any other sustenance.

Projects that had started slowly with istikhara (specific decision-making prayer) and, “Bismillah, ” became hurried; when salah (ritual prayer) times began I finished my work before turning to my prayer just in time – a complete reversal of my former strategy. My altered priorities were evident in the way I handled my time but I didn’t want to recognise the truth.

I didn’t want to admit that my intentions had shifted. I didn’t want to have slipped into a negative pattern of reaching outwards into the dunya (life of this world) to satisfy my needs. I didn’t want to have effectively pursued failings.

I found my productivity satisfying and I was reluctant to let go of it. I wanted to cling to feeling that my work was necessary and could not be compromised. I had been sucked into product-focussed activity and I was comfortable. I encouraged myself to keep growing projects with self-talk like, “Well, I made istikhara at the start of this so I’ll go ahead and say yes to more.” I enjoyed moving swiftly.

Alhamdulillah for a body that needs to slow down and sleep. Alhamdulillah for a spiritual inner soul that cannot withstand neglect. And alhamdulillah for a depression that has provoked positive change.

I have remembered and accepted that I need to be balanced within myself, and within my family, in order to be able to sustain a supportive role for others in my community.

I have remembered that my action-by-action processes are my priority. That every small behaviour, utterance, and “Bismillah” is significant to Allah SWT. That it is His judgement, His perception of my productivity, that affords true value to what I do. That I need to please Allah SWT and I can be more certain of that than of any of my perceptions and projections about others’ needs.

So insha’Allah I am looking ahead to slow and simple changes in my responses to opportunities to support others’ needs. Insha’Allah I plan to maintain a schedule within which I can balance fulfilling my personal needs with supporting others’ needs. Insha’Allah I hope that being open about my struggles will support you in your struggles to depend upon Allah SWT, the Sustainer, the Satisfier of All Needs, the Witness.

Insha’Allah I’ll report back in February.

[He is] the cleaver of daybreak and has made the night for rest and the sun and moon for calculation. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing.

The Qur’an, Surah An-’An’aam (Chapter of the cattle) 6:96

Maria Limehouse is an aspiring novelist who likes to write cathartic posts on her blog. She has recently been through a period of depression alhamdulillah.

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Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

Let’s distinguish between copying as plagiarism and copying as copywriting.

“Read this and write it out in your own words.”

Were you ever given these instruction by a teacher? One of the purposes of these instructions is to help writers to avoid plagiarism when utilising knowledge they have learned from the written work of others. If you followed the above instructions you probably noticed that the process of writing out sentences and passages in our own words is a useful way of consolidating learning of facts from reading non-fiction.

Is it a technique I believe is appropriate to use to write articles, poetry and fiction?

Can I decide I like the words of an article so much that I’ll re-order the paragraphs and the sentences, add in some extra sentences and quotes, and then call the new article my own work?

Can I decide I want to produce poetry like somebody else’s and so re-structure their poems and then call them my own?

Can I decide that I love the structure of somebody’s novel and so use it as an exact template to write the sentences, paragraphs and chapters of my own novel?

Absolutely no. Those techniques will help me to avoid plagiarism by its definition but not by its spirit. Those techniques are directly and intentionally served to copy another writer’s work, and copying another’s work and then crediting yourself as its author is plagiarism.

When I read the Qur’an to learn it, don’t I do so to try and please Allah SWT with my recitation of it? Afterwards I may re-phrase His words when talking with somebody about what is written in the Qur’an and I may enjoy the way I have structured my words. However I would not claim authorship over such re-phrasing.

Allah SWT is the witness of all my words.

If I want to learn from others’ writing styles directly I can spend time copywriting. I can copy out other writers’ works so that I observe closely and remember their techniques. Masha’Allah many great writers have spent sessions of time copywriting; they have been influenced greatly by the works they have copywritten from and developed rich styles of their own.

Great writers have not plagiarised others’ work. They have not included what they copied in their own work (unless they have been transparently interacting with another’s work). People who copy the work of others, or restructure the work of others, and then claim authorship over it, will never be great writers; they will only be copiers and liars. Allah will hold them to account on a Day when they cannot copy anyone’s else answers.

As a developing writer, your writing exercises of choice may or not not include copywriting. You can choose exercises that suit you and that will help you to improve and develop your own style for expressing your own words … and, with practice, perhaps you will find that in amongst all the hard work, you will become a great writer masha’Allah.

Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah (Chapter of the cow) 2:110

Umm Hamza is a freelance writer who has written articles for SISTERS Magazine​.​ She used to copywrite verses from scripture in her teens and early twenties; she is contemplating taking up copywriting from authors of classic fiction to learn new techniques and to improve her memory inshaAllah. In the summer she missed the Counter Counterfeiting webinars co-facilitated by YMM Islamic Editor Nadia Leona Yunis and subsequently hopes to be able to attend one in future insha’Allah. 

 

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Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

If the world was without mirrors, what would we see? If there were no means to capture reflections how would the world be perceived?

If there was no critical eye, how would we portray ourselves? If there was no room for scrutiny, how much would we love ourselves?

If there were no trends, what would be the norm? If there was no competition, would we be perpetually bored?

If we were self-embracing, would there be more love? Or is there a need for less hatred to survive without self-constructed clubs?

If there was no noise, would we find comfort in silence? If peace didn’t exist, would we inherently shun violence?

If we were all from one mould, would we know there can be a difference? Or are all these constructions innate in our very existence?

So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people.

The Qur’an, Surah Ar-Rum (Chapter of the Romans) 30:30

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 where this was first published: http://FromTuesday.wordpress.com

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Ayesha Yahya raspberries

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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Zeshan 1 balance

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.

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Zeshan 2 different coloured pencils point to one spot

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.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 224 user reviews.