Category Archives: Volunteering, Careers and Aspirations

Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

Before I begin I want to tell you a little about my journey…

When I was a teenager, I went on a school trip to Westminster. I was in awe of what I saw so from that moment on, I decided that when I grew up, I would be back here to work and rub shoulders with some of the most powerful people in the world…and do dawa to them.

A degree in Economics, 200 job application forms, a 4 hr interview and beating 4000 other candidates, I achieved my childhood dream. I worked in Westminster, I rubbed shoulders with some of the most powerful people in the world, and I did do dawa to them.

Slowly in my spare time, I began to work with some of the most prominent Muslim speakers and organisations and began organising VIP Islamic awareness events in some of the most prestigious locations in British history, surely this would be my happy ever after? Wrong. After a couple of years, I was miserable and became deeply depressed because something was missing.

From the beginning, my intention had always been to make a difference. But all I was doing was laying on 5* catering and entertainment to an elite group of people who just wanted a free meal and soon forgot what the event was all about. In truth, I really wasn’t making any difference.

By a twist of fate, I resigned and left it all behind and moved to bonny Scotland where overnight I became a ‘nobody’. No one knew my name, where I had just come from or what I was capable of. And it was here, I tried from scratch to achieve my original dream. But this time, rather then working with leaders, I worked with the people at the grassroots, and I was happy to finally be making a difference.

Maybe I don’t have a big brand name or big organisation to boast about, but I’m fine with that. Because I don’t measure my success based BIG, I measure it by adding up all the small differences, especially the ones that have a domino effect. Due to my passion with food, I was able to teach people how to cook and eat healthily. Because of my passion to teach, people who didn’t know how to speak English could now communicate more confidently. Because of my passion for justice, after launching a humanitarian campaign, more people found out about what is happening to the children in Palestine. Because of my interest in motherhood, I set up a Muslim mums network using Facebook to get mums in the same area talking and meeting. Because of my passion to write and give dawa, I was able to set up my blog and get ideas and messages out to the world about Islam. These are just a few examples of how you can take something your passionate about and make it useful for others.

After 15 years of doing this, I can tell you that everyone has the potential to take one of their passions and turn it into an action. Very briefly I’m gonna run you through what I found works and what doesn’t from my experience.

No.1: Passion.

The first thing you need to identify is what you are passionate about? I’m not talking about hobbies or spare time; I’m talking what makes your blood boil, tears flow and gets you excited and creative? Take a piece of paper and write down the first things that come to mind?

To be honest, it’s actually this passion that will decide how successful your project is. And this passion is what will convince others and win you support for your idea.

No 2. Intention.

You know what your passionate about, and you want to do something about it, now ask yourself WHY? Is it to be famous? win awards? Be well known? Have status? Get praise? Or is it because you can’t sleep easy at night knowing you could’ve done something to help? Is it because you want to be rewarded by Allah? Or just simply to help others? Make sure your intention is everything BUT showing off, and then you’ll see the blessings in your work. To be honest, in my experience this is the make or break of your project. And even if things are sincere at the beginning, you could get sidetracked in the middle or end. Constantly ask yourself why are you doing this project especially when things are going good, as that’s the prime time for egos to grow and insincerity to breed. Be very careful of yours and all those who are involved in the projects intentions. Don’t go looking for attention, it will come to find you.

No 3. Keeping things Small and Simple

I do get very irritated that we keeping hearing only about the end results of success stories of multi-millionaire business and well funded and well branded organisations. Everyone wants to be Steve Jobs, however, no one ever really pays much attention to the fact that all these stories had very humble beginnings and suffered many failures. Its only once these small ideas got their foundations and formulas right, they were naturally able to expand, it never happened overnight. That is why it is important to start off small. I remember advising someone who wasn’t doing any exercise to start of a hobbie, when they chose their sport, they were already talking about competiting in the Olympics! Damn! Slow down! Thinking small helps projects to last longer than the Olympic ones which tend to cause immense pressure and make you feel overwhelmed until you abandon the project altogether. Doing small things in a simple and easy to understand kind of way, helps people feel able to join in, and you will get support much faster and quicker that way.

There are a lot of unsung hero amongst us who are in every sense of the word, successful, even if their projects are small. There is nothing wrong with that. Big doesn’t always mean successful and vice versa. Plus you should only be as big as you can manage, especially when we have to manage our several other responsibilities in life like health, marriage and family, job etc, we must have moderation in all things.

No 4. Use what you already have.

Don’t need to feel like you need special qualifications just to start up a project. Don’t underestimate yourself. If your a wife or a mum, you pretty much already have 99% of the skills you need to set up. Just cause you have certain certificates, doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to get going. But if there are part time courses available or training opportunities, then go for it as this will earn you more credibility and you can learn something new.

When I first arrived to Edinburgh I did a teaching qualification. When I was 9 months pregnant I was on a child care course. When my son was 2 yrs old, I did food hygiene and nutritional courses. All these came into use once my son went into school.

No 5. Do local, not global.

When you want to start up a project, do it in your local area, with local people and organisations that you already know. Don’t even attempt to branch out until you got your local project up and running and most importantly WORKING.

No 6. Open your work up to all.

Don’t pigeon hole your work, be willing to engage people outside your own religious groups/community. This is actually a very Islamic concept especially in the field of charity and in the name of justice.

No 7. Feed into projects, work and organisations already existing.

Don’t need to start from scratch as this will save you the headache of all that boring paper work. Rather then setting up my own cooking classes, I volunteered with a community health project up the road from my house. This made it so much easier for me especially having a young child. Furthermore, when you feed into or volunteer into existing projects, you can request free childcare and training.

No 8. Being the boss, mean getting your hands dirty.

Time and time again I have come across people who just want to have the title of boss in the project, but when it comes to the hard graft, sacrificing time, money and energy – these dudes are nowhere to be seen. If you don’t want to do the hard graft, than don’t expect your project to get very far.

No 9. Expect problems and do your best to avoid them.

There maybe times where you may need to do your project on your lonesome (and it will be a test of your sincerity when this happenes, will you carryon regardless or give up? If your really passionate, numbers don’t really matter). You may need to problem solve, you may suffer criticism, people may even get jealousy or you and slander you, you may encounter failures after failures, you may even at one point have to walk away if its not working, this is all part of the learning process. Better to be prepared then shocked and paralyzed by these when they occur.

No 10. You need to know your stuff.

You may need to be outspoken, you may need to have strong opinions – in fact without these, you credibility will be cast into doubt. If people ask you questions, you need to know your project inside out to have the answers at the ready.

No 11. Don’t Give Up So Easily.

Once you start and do all the above, don’t give up unless there is a good reason to do so. These things are hard work but worthwhile. Because behind the scenes, you making connections, having beautiful thought and heart provoking conversations.

In conclusion, the most wonderful thing I found about converting an idea into an action was actually converting strangers into friends. And as much as I wanted to give out to make a difference. I got plenty in return that changed me for the better too.

Allah would not change a favour which He had bestowed upon a people until they change what is within themselves. And indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-’Anfaal (Chapter of the spoils of war) 8:53

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

 

 

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Did you grow up wishing for that ‘dream job’? How close are you to achieving it?

If I wish to achieve something, but progress no further than wishing, I can only look to myself for blame when nothing develops. So, rather than simply wishing, I consult with Allah SWT and His servants, and make decisions and take action to achieve my goals. My ultimate hope of reward is with Allah SWT. After I have ensured sufficient income for my responsibilities, does it matter whether I undertake paid or voluntary employment to work towards my aims?

Looking at my CV today, voluntary work constitutes the experience on which I am striving to build my chosen career path as a writer. At the times I took those voluntary positions, I had no idea that they would map a possible route to a particular career path. I didn’t imagine that they would uncover my deep-seated desire for a specific career.

I started volunteering as a teenager, and became more active as a university student. The Volunteers Officer offered a huge diversity of local jobs, and I felt compelled to respond to certain voluntary roles and the needs they addressed. Soon, not only did my time fill up, but so did my CV. I was even able to use some of my voluntary work for my final year research project. Allah SWT made my voluntary work relevant and valuable at the time, and has continued to do so since.

Now, as an unemployed mother of young children, voluntary work protects my CV from uncomfortably large gaps in employment. And, alhamdulillah, even though I returned to volunteering as a mother in response to others’ needs in the community, the work is proving to be intrinsic to my growing prospects of developing my chosen career.

I now know what I want to be doing, insha’Allah, and have remembered that I always wanted it. I wished for it as a child, and as a teenager and as a young adult, but I buried the desire over and over again. Compared to other people, I felt I already had too little experience practising my skills to sufficiently develop the talent I hoped I possessed. So I opted to refrain from even entering the competition. It was easier for me to focus my work on supporting other people in their achievements.

Alhamdulillah, it seems that through volunteering to meet others’ needs, I began feeling connected to the vocational purpose that I continue to feel Allah I demands of me.

Looking ahead at how much work I have to do, insha’Allah, I am usually inspired and motivated by the challenges. There are, however, despondent moments when I look around at others who already have the accomplishments on their CVs that I long for on mine. At those times, (after asking Allah SWT to bless and protect those people from the evil eye) I find it useful to look at how far I have come. If I removed my volunteering experience from the pages of my CV, I would still have so far to go. So far that I may not even have unearthed my childhood dream to be a writer, and may still be wondering what I “should” be doing.

Sometimes action does start with a wish. Our childhood hopes and dreams are not always fickle fantasies influenced by the attractions surrounding us, or by our desires to please our peers and guardians. Sometimes our childhood wishes may be Allah-given inspiration of the kind of work He has planned for us. In spite of us burying them, these wishes re-emerge when we are busy focusing on trying to please Allah SWT. Following them demands dedication, hard work, and working with and for the benefit of others. But every turn of the process offers occasions to thank Allah SWT and incites wonderful feelings of satisfaction.

When we are raised from our graves for the Day of Judgement, we will have to answer for the ways we used our talents, our time and our opportunities. I work in the hope of gaining satisfaction, in the next life as well as this, for acting voluntarily to make good wishes come true.

If you are interested in volunteering for a particular community or local voluntary organisation or charity, why not make polite enquiries directly by email, telephone, and in person?

Readers in the UK who are interested in volunteering may like to visit http://www.do-it.org.uk/ and to search opportunities on their local council websites.

And if any strive (with might and main), they do so for their own souls: for Allah is free of all needs from all creation.

The Qur’an, Surah Al-’Ankaboot (Chapter of the spider) 29:6

Umm Hamza is a pen name Maria Limehouse uses for non-fiction articles. She has volunteered for various organisations over many years. She aspires to use inspirational metaphors in her non-fiction writing and she sometimes writes for SISTERS Magazine where this article was first published.

 

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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.

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Sa'diyya path

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 Spirit,  pointed 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

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 293 user reviews.

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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.

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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

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(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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