Category Archives: Younger Muslimah

Inner And Ouer Me Cover 2

Whispers Of The Dawn

Since childhood, I was a loving person. I was always willing to help others, be it with kind gestures or a smiling face; yet, no matter how much I tried to please the people I loved, I felt ignored and misunderstood by them. This emptiness within me was devastating. I wasn’t at peace with myself!

I spent countless nights – sleepless – trying to put my mind to rest, but in vain. Sometimes, my cheeks would be warm because of seemingly meaningless tears wetting my pillow. My days would be filled with misery and pain, afflicted by thoughts of dejection and self-pity.

The reason of this restlessness and dissatisfaction was unknown, until I ruminated over all aspects of my life. Soon, reality struck me hard that my religious life was that of a hypocrite!

I used to pray, but never with my heart. I would hastily perform wudu’ (ablution) and complete my salah, my dialogue with Allah, in a mere ten minutes. I would recite the Qur’an but it was without any understanding and without the beauty of tajweed (correct pronunciation). I used to fast but the intention was seldom pertaining to the pleasure of Allah SWT. Sleeping through most of the day during my fasts, I focussed more on the menu for cooking rather than getting my ibaadah (worship) correct.

I was so self-engrossed in pleasing the dunya (life of this world) that I had totally lost the tranquillity and happiness that only true remembrance of Allah SWT could bring into my life.

Having been failed by the dunya incessantly, I started talking to Allah SWT in solitude. I felt lighter and less miserable after each of my one-way communications with Him. I was discovering firsthand the beauty of the transformation one undergoes when the gap between the Creator and His slave is bridged. It was then that I started my pursuit of knowledge. Serenity overtook me. The light was guiding me.

“And He found you lost and guided [you].”

The Qur’an, Surah Ad-Duhaa (Chapter of the morning hours) 93:7

I started reading the Qur’an with increased involvement and enthusiasm. I began praying with greater concentration and regularity. I made a resolve that since salah(ritual prayer) was my means of communication with Allah SWT, I should try and beautify it to the best of my capability. I started revising all the long-forgotten, short surahs that I had learned when I was a child. Soon, a halo of peace began surrounding me.

The more I read the Qur’an with its meaning the more I became aware of the love and mercy of my Creator for me.

“And We have already created man … and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.”

The Qur’an, Surah Qaaf (Chapter of the letter ‘qaaf’) 50:16

In the past, sadness would overpower me to the extent that sometimes I would feel resentment towards Allah SWT – A’udhubillah (I seek refuge in Allah) – for testing me time and again. Gradually, I started to recognize that these trials were indeed a blessing of Allah SWT.

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.”

(The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah/Chapter of the cow 2:155)

 

My understanding of the deen (religious path) deepened with the sayings of the Prophet SAW:

Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”

Sahîh al-Bukhârî, Book 70, Hadith 545

Certainly, up until this time I was drowning in ignorance. I had worldly knowledge, but I had never strived to gain the more important knowledge – that of the Holy Quran – which is an obligation upon me, by virtue of me being a Muslim.

I started to mix with friends who were more God-fearing and practicing Muslims, than me. Their company, thoughts and actions continue to keep me on track even now. I have never in my life received more beautiful gifts than an abaya (long-sleeve full-length dress), a Holy Qur’an with translation, and a book on the Biography of the Holy Prophet SAW. Let alone the countless du’as and kind wishes that I have received in times of illness or anxiety, from all my well-wishers, some of whom I have not even met in person.

SubhanAllah for the selfless sincerity and overwhelming love that Allah SWT fills your life with, once you choose to spend your life His way.

Now, I may not be in the best state of physical health; however, my mind is at peace and my soul at rest. My heart is full of gratitude for the countless blessings that have been showered upon me. I am overwhelmed with my new found love – the only love which is truly reciprocated in this dunya and the next: the love of Allah SWT. Alhamdulillah.

“And We have already created man … and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.”
(The Qur’an, Surah Qaaf/ Chapter of the letter ‘qaaf’ 50:16)

And as each day ends now and I lay in my bed, tears still roll down my cheeks, wetting my pillow; however, they no longer feel purposeless. Every tear that I shed now shouts for Allah’s mercy and begs for His forgiveness over my past and future sins. And as the dawn whispers in my ears:

“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah . Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.”

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

 

I wake up to lay the prayer mat to perform my salah with extreme gratitude and utmost indulgence, ALHAMDULILLAH!

Dear Readers: Let the whispers of the dawn immerse into your soul completely. Undoubtedly, it is Allah SWT who is the exclusive source of peaceful happiness in one’s life. Establish your relationship with Him. Talk to Him in salah. Acknowledge His speech in the Qur’an. Remember Him through consistent dhikr and solemn repentance.

He listens to words unspoken and responds to emotions unexpressed. He feels your intensified pain and answers silent tears. He understands your unexplainable anguish, frustrating helplessness, and tormenting anger. He rewards your patience and resolves your problems in the wink of an eye, but only if you trust Him entirely.

Submit sincerely to His grandeur. Appreciate His benevolent generosity in the most cherished moments of your life, and recognize His magnificent mercy in the most heart-wrenching hours. Believe me, in no time, you can see your life transform completely – bi’idhnillah (by Allah’s will).

Khudaija Nagaria is a teacher by profession, an MBA by degree, and a student of the Deen (alhamdulillah). She has found refuge and happiness in her writing. A few of her articles have been published in Pakistan’s prestigious Dawn newspaper’s magazine section. Currently, Khudaija has dedicated herself to serving her deen, using her passion of writing. She is extremely humbled to be a free lance writer and Contributing Editor for Muslimaat Magazine where this was first published, and a regular guest author of another Islamic magazine called Aaila Magazine. She also writes for a website called Gems of Islam, where she prefers to use her newly adopted pen name, after her parent’s name.

Was Daniju 1 no croissants

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

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

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

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

They have been for as long as I can remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Qur’an 65:7

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

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

Wasi Daniju 2 thumb-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 7)

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

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

Ayesha Yahya handset and receiver phone

To Talk or Not to talk?

Ayesha Yahya says talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Abudawud Book 9, Hadith 1668)

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

Maria Limehouse heart sunset

Ramadan Detox: Thoughts of an Addict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Abudawoud Book 41, Hadith 4815)

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

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

For tips on quitting smoking click here

Elizabeth Lymer sorry repeated

I Love Manners: Untitled Apology

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

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

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

Here is the untitled poem I sent:

Just a matter of hours ago

You and I were connected

By words of harmony

That bridge religions.

Just a matter of hours ago

You and I stood together

In the face of religion-inspired bullying

In our childhoods –

Yours far worse than mine.

Just a matter of hours ago

We shared a page.

But then a matter of words

Came between us.

New words piled on top of

Our old ones.

Breaking, crushing, splitting

Our words of harmony and connection

And our hearts.

I threw the first new

And unwanted word.

Let me try to

Mend our brokenness.

Let me tell you again

That I’m sorry I hurt you,

Hurried over you,

Pressed your words

With new ones

To breaking point.

I’m sorry I didn’t even

Take the time to keep

Sensitive to your vulnerability

Around your words,

Your poem, your past,

That I hurried over you,

And pressed your words

To breaking point.

I’m sorry.

A matter of broken words and hearts may

Not be fixable with words,

But my heart longs to try,

And age-old words of sorry are all I have

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

xxx

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

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

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