Thoughts, Uncategorized

Hijama & My First 1.5 Years as a Muslim

It has been a little under 2 years since I became Muslim, subhan’Allah. I can hardly believe it has already been that long and how much has happened. I am so grateful for what life has been like since then. The only thing I would maybe change would be to revert sooner, but then my life experiences before this stage are just as important to my development as this has been. There was so much I had to process and cleanse out of myself mentally during this time. That’s the thing about personal growth and life change, it’s never really smooth sailing. When you stay in the same place, physically or mentally, everything seems pretty great and sometimes it’s hard to see a reason for why we should change if it will be too much trouble. The more I learned about Islam and the more I adapted my life to my beliefs, the more work on myself I realised needed to get done.

Embracing Islam and diving into this trans-formative journey really brought out a lot of inner demons and muck that I had stuffed way way down over time. I couldn’t understand why I was an emotional wreck, why I felt so anxious and depressed, why I felt so messed up. There was so much dissatisfaction and shame with who I was, who my family was, what my life had been so far. So many insecurities and doubts and a general feeling of being stuck in a deep pit of failure that I was so unsure of how to climb back out. Very similar to deep cleaning your room after who knows how long. It makes you want to give up after the first 30 minutes, doesn’t it?

But I had to get this stuff all cleaned out and dealt with or it would eat me alive. I had to come to peace with so much that I was allowing to be a big deal when it was just part of reality. I had to let go of bad habits and damaging, self-sabotaging behaviour that, until I opened the closet door, had stayed hidden away under the surface always influencing but never showing itself completely. My first real relief from it all came with hijama.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure.” {Saheeh Muslim (5706)}

You know how you hear people raving about something and you think to yourself, “It can’t be that good”, then you try it out for yourself and realise, it really is that good? That was what hijama was like for me. I went into that clinic thinking that I’d just have a fun experience and probably wouldn’t do it again to walking out on air. I’m trying not to sound over-dramatic but I was literally transformed. Burdens and obsessive thoughts and feelings that I hadn’t been able to shake for years had just fallen away completely. I felt so free. I felt so normal and level-headed, that was the best part. This is something I would highly recommend doing for all new Muslims and Muslims who have never tried it. She only did my sunnah points and hormonal point but what a drastically wonderful difference it made.

And it’s lasted. With so much of the big stuff cleared out of my mind, I’m able to finally put in effective work on my relationships with those around me and myself, my deen, my goals, my interests, my health. So many passions have come back to light up my life after being bogged down. I feel like the woman who I’ve been trying to become for so long. It’s a job I have to do everyday, I don’t get to sit back and relax while perfection just rains down on me. I’m still finding things about myself that I will tweak and I’m still having to stay mindful of my thoughts and actions towards myself and others. It’s all a process but I’m finally making some progress. Of course, I have so much more to do and learn but I’m really happy right now with where I find myself.

I believe that if you really want to see transformation. you have to go through a little bit of chaos for a minute. They say it always gets worse before it gets better which I found to be so true. So don’t get discouraged if your first year as a Muslim finds you in the midst of all kinds of trials. Becoming a better person is not in the interest of shaytaan or your old self. You’ll fight yourself, you’ll face obstacles, you’ll feel like a crazy person. You never felt this way before because you weren’t trying to disturb the beast. But you have now and it’s rearing it’s ugly heard for you to get a good look at. Don’t run away from it though because it’s so much simpler to conquer than it seems. You just need to be persistent, stick to your deen, and place all of the control and trust in Allah (SWT). And go get cupping done, seriously.

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Halal & Haram

We see these two words a lot online and in books but what do they mean exactly? For all of my new Muslims who aren’t familiar, it’s pretty straight forward. Halal means permissible and haram means forbidden. Doing something haram is committing a sin while doing something halal or more commonly referred to as fard (obligatory) or sunnah (recommended) is doing what we’re allowed or required to do. If something is fard it is basically the standard and what is required of us, so we don’t necessarily get any extra rewards for doing it. Doing something that is Sunnah or mustahabb is doing something that is highly recommended and you can receive reward for it.

Common examples of something haram would be drinking alcohol, eating pork, gossip, and zina. Things that are fard would be eating halal-certified meat (meat slaughtered according to the will of Allah and in His name; more on that here), keeping one’s gaze down around the opposite sex, dressing modestly, praying five times a day and paying zakat.

Sunnah directly means “The way of the Prophet (SAW)”. So the things that he did consistently are considered sunnah such as praying the extra rakats of prayer or starting on the right side of the body when getting dressed. Sunnah actions can also be referred to as mustahabb or naafil. There is also another category called makrooh which means something is disliked and not encouraged. Eating shrimp is considered makrooh as well as giving to someone with your left hand. These are actions that are best left undone but if you do them, it’s not a sin.

When we take an even deeper look into each action that falls under these categories we can see why they have been allowed or forbidden. Alcohol is forbidden because it is toxic to our bodies and also causes us to lose our inhibitions, do bad things, and get ourselves into bad situations. Lowering one’s gaze around the opposite sex is obligatory because it keeps our minds from wandering and prevents us from potentially lusting after someone and acting on that feeling. This is good to keep in mind if we begin to miss doing certain things or if we question why we have to avoid these things. And remember that Allah has only forbidden what is harmful and what will lead us to wrongdoing. This means that there is so much more to a fun life that Islam allows us to explore!

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beauty, Series, Uncategorized

Organic Beauty: Food

Hey guys! I’m back with another instalment to the Organic Beauty series. Today’s topic: food. One of the most under appreciated topics in the beauty industry. Usually we just focus on food for weight-loss with crazy fad diets and broken dreams but it goes way beyond that. The foods we eat can also play a big role in our hair, skin, nails and mood.

We are what we eat. How many times have we heard this? Probably too many to count but it’s true. Whether the consequences are visible or in hiding, our diet plays a big role in our lives. One of the simplest ways to feel a little bit more beautiful is to focus the way we eat around what our bodies need. For example, eating a healthy source of omega fatty acids results not only in cognitive brain function but allegedly softer, smoother skin. Dark leafy greens are filled with vitamins A and C aiding in cellular turnover and a brighter complexion, also eye health.

The Prophet (SAW) actually encouraged us to make a habit to eat from necessity rather than pleasure. We are encouraged to eat as He (SAW) ate: 1/3 food 1/3 water and 1/3 air. While it’s fun to treat ourselves every now and then, doing it all of the time can end up with us feeling ill, bloated, irritable, and our skin a wreck. Even if you’re one of the blessed few that doesn’t see these effects now, they’ll show up eventually. Just like how smoking, drugs, alcohol, and lack of sleep eventually make themselves known, food has its own way of creeping up on people through premature ageing, weight gain, and medical issues.

The only diet that’s right for everyone is one that is balanced and governed by moderation. Everything else is individual so you have to figure out what works for you. From experience, I know that most meat besides seafood, tomatoes, and dairy don’t make me feel so beautiful and wreak havoc on my skin. So I stay away from those when there’s no pizza around and instead eat the things that my body does love which tends to include lots of green veggies, beans, olives, hummus, lentils, and chocolate (antioxidants and all that). This will look different for everyone so the easiest way to figure out what your body wants and needs is to pay attention to how you are feeling after you eat. Go with the foods and drinks that make you feel like your best self and don’t force yourself to eat things that you absolutely can’t stand. If you know you need to eat more vegetables, start with the vegetables you like. If you’re not the biggest fan of veggies, start with the most tolerable and eat them in small portions.

There are also so many fun foods and drinks that you can find recipes for on Pinterest that are packed with nutrients but also taste delicious. Eating doesn’t have to be boring but the more we see food as a tool, the closer we can get to feeling our best and most beautiful. I think this may also help us repair our relationship with food, insha’Allah. It’s not about extremes, it’s about balance and doing what is truly good for us. For more on this kind of topic, check out Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution. This book goes deep into food and how we can use it to our advantage.

So that’s all my rambling on food for today. I wish you happy and beautiful eating!

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Halal Food

Salaam, everyone!

Today I want to talk about what halal means.

If you live in America and did not grow up in a Muslim community or know any Muslims personally, the word “halal” may be completely foreign to you. If you grew up anywhere else in the world, you may be slightly more familiar with the term. Halal is the certification of food that is fit for Muslims to consume. It’s like the kosher label for the Jewish. Pretty simple. So what makes a food halal? Eating halal goes beyond abstaining from pork and alcohol. Most people have a misconception that as long as what a Muslim eats is not those two things, they’re all good. But it’s more than that. We are forbidden to consume any meat or byproduct of meat that is not certified as halal. Halal meat means that the animal was killed in the name of Allah by a cut to the throat and the blood completely drained. This way the animal is killed instantly rather than having to suffer through the process and it is said that the meat is safer to eat because of the absence of blood. Halal food regulators say the animals should be healthy and treated well before they are killed. For example, “the animal must never see another animal being slaughtered nor must it ever see the blade being sharpened,” according to The Halal Catering Company.

Halal also means that there is no alcohol or any intoxicating substance present in food or drink either. So jello, gummy bears, bacon, and Bailey’s are off the table. But that doesn’t mean that we have any less fun with our food. There are so many things we can eat so we aren’t missing out. In fact, the things we are forbidden to eat are forbidden because they are dangerous to our health. Anything that risks our health is wrong to eat or drink like eating too much and only eating junk food. Islam calls for us to eat in moderation, without greed and to eat things that benefit us because we are supposed to eat for nutrition not pleasure.

There are a lot of people out there who try to paint halal meat as unethical. But when it’s a process that specifically calls for animals to be treated well and to reduce the pain and suffering they experience during slaughter, I think it is the most humane way to go. Certainly much better than the mainstream meat industry which chooses to prolong the death of these animals by shocking them before hand. This way the animal is forced to go through a long and painful process before they are blessed with death. Not to mention many of the animals raised for our consumption are mistreated their entire lives. And also (I don’t even want to glorify this crazy claim with a response, but…) there are so many people who believe that the halal meat industry funds terrorism. You guys, we are not obsessed with terrorizing the entire word like certain news outlets wants you to believe. We just want to eat. The halal meat industry is a business like everything else and it doesn’t fund terrorism, that’s a malicious rumour started by scared people.

So, that’s it, that’s all the halal certification is. I hope this explanation was helpful and please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions!

Nahlah

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

It's Been Awhile…

Salaam, everyone!

Wow, what a long break it’s been. I didn’t even mean to take one, but it seems like there were other things I needed to focus on since I’ve been gone. I realized the other day that it has been over a year since I became a Muslim, alhamdulillah. So much has happened in one year that it feels like it’s been a lot longer. I’m so grateful.

My first full year of being Muslim and my first full year of being married has been crazy. So much newness was going on that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I didn’t have the best attitude at times and there were plenty of pity parties and tears. I was so glad my husband wasn’t around to see the worst of it. See, long distances has its perks sometimes! As beautiful as this year has been on the outside, there were a lot of growing pains on the inside. So much mental struggle and adjustment to my new life that I honestly wasn’t prepared for. But it was a part of growing up and completely normal. I’m sitting here today at peace and truly happy with where I am at. I know that I have so much more growing to do and my life circumstances are not ideal but right now, I am really happy to be where I am. Something happened over the past couple of months. It all started with a hijama session (more on that later!) and then culminated this past week when I undertook a mini challenge to be more mindful.

Ever since then my head and heart have been so clear and so calm. So much mental and physical clutter has been thrown out or reorganized and it feels really good. Instead of approaching my life and myself with negativity, I’ve been shown by the mercy of Allah all the things to be grateful for. I’ve stopped trying to control when He has always had control and always will and I’m trying to focus on my deen and my relationships. These are the things I make dua for every day, that Allah will constantly remind me of my place and all the wonderful things He has done for me so far. I don’t know what the future holds right now but I am ready for it and insha’Allah, I will continue to grow in my deen.

Thank you so much to those of you still reading (may only be two of you but that’s ok :)) and insha’Allah I will have so much more content for you in the near future.

Nahlah

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beauty, Uncategorized

Modest Shopping Hacks

While I am all for a conscious and ethical approach to our purchases, sometimes we can’t find what we’re looking for. Most of the ethical companies that I used to love don’t carry clothes that I would choose to wear now that I dress more modestly. So, I’ve resorted to searching elsewhere for clothing and learning to take care of the items I buy so that I can get the most use out of them. Today, I want to highlight some of the hacks that have allowed me to find inexpensive, modest clothing that is still stylish.

  1. Boohoo/Pretty Little Thing/Fashion Nova: Okay, here me out. I know that these retailers are the last one to come to mind when one thinks about modesty but they have some hidden gems. They have quite a few basics such as long sleeved jersey maxi dresses that can be layered up. They have plenty of longer, tunic-like shirts, especially in the button up category. And they have a hefty selection of kimonos that come at a much more affordable price than most abayas. They also carry a number of gorgeous skirts that can either be worn alone or layered over leggings. They frequently hold sales with the most recent one being 50% off the entire site!
  2. Shop XL+: So many “regular” sizes still fit tight even if they are larger than your size. Shopping in the plus size department for items such as dresses, tops, and jackets allows you to find pieces that fit loosely and are long enough to cover all the necessary areas.
  3. Check out thrift stores: Modesty was a little more popular back in the day so on a good day, you may score big at a vintage or thrift shop!
  4. Buy mini dresses: This one didn’t occur to me until later on but there are so many mini dresses out there that make perfect modest shirts! Seriously, how did I not realize this before? Most of my tops are marketed as dresses but I tend to buy them a few sizes up if they are fitted so that I can have a basic, modest top. It works out perfectly!
  5. Marshall’s/TJ Maxx: These are two of my favourite stores to buy clothes from. They’re super affordable and when you go at the right time, they have some of the cutest styles available. I’ve found that if you go right before the season starts (I went at the beginning of September right before Autumn officially began), you get your pick of all the new arrivals.
  6. Amazon: Hijabs and maxi dresses galore! While the site can’t beat Southall prices for scarves, it’s decent for the styles and materials that can’t be found in American stores. They also have quite the selection of long-sleeved casual maxi dresses that are perfect for travel and lounging around.
  7. Modanisa: A crowd favourite for their affordable, hijabi-friendly fashion and countless different styles to choose from; Modanisa is the online center for modest fashion. They also guarantee the fastest, most efficient shipping no matter where you are in the world at no extra cost. However, I must warn you that their customer service can be a little tiresome to deal with and getting a refund can take awhile after a return. I suggest only ordering hijabs and more affordable things from them just in case you are in need of making a return and to stay on their case about receiving your money back.

These are only some of the many modest fashion hacks out there. As I stated above, I know that some of these options, like the fast fashions sites, are not ideal especially when it comes to their treatment of factory workers and their impact on the environment. Where you shop is up to your discretion. For me personally, I only order from these sites if they are the last place for me to find what I’m looking for which is usually a basic piece. Alhamdulillah, I’ve been able to build up a wardrobe from many vintage and thrift store pieces as well as bits and bobs from TJ Maxx. I’ve also finally graduated to that stage of adulthood where you realize how to wash and dry your clothes properly so you don’t destroy them (insert feeling of worth and accomplishment here). This was mainly out of financial necessity and heartbreak over losing some of my favourite pieces. But seriously, if you love your clothes look into how to wash them to preserve them and consider line drying instead of using a dryer. This prolongs the life of some of your favourite outfits and keeps you from having to spend more money than you want to on a new wardrobe.

What are your hacks for finding modest clothes? I’d love to hear about them!

Thank you,

Nahlah

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beauty, Series, Uncategorized

Organic Beauty: Sleep

A lot of talk surrounding inner beauty solely focuses on personality and values. While these aspects are very important, beauty from the inside also heavily relies on health, meaning diet and lifestyle. It is no coincidence that the most redundant beauty advice tells us to drink lots of water, cut down on junk food, and go to bed on time. It’s called beauty sleep for a reason.

From personal experience, I’ve come to believe that sleep is the start of it all. We are nothing without energy to go about our day and practice good habits. Our bodies need sleep in order to rejuvenate, detox, and function. This is the time that our cells get to work repairing and strengthening our bodies in ways that we often take for granted. If we discipline ourselves to get at least 8 hours a day, we ensure that we start off our days right, mentally, and physically. Keep this in mind, when our bodies are tired, they begin to shift their priorities towards the most necessary bodily functions while normal functions like appetite, sex drive, and short-term memory begin to lag behind a bit. Without proper sleep, I don’t have the energy to workout or stick to my skincare routine. My diet also tends to center around whatever is most convenient, which is rarely healthy.

So, what is ideal when it comes to sleep? Yes, 8 hours is the recommended amount to achieve ultimate rest, but the time at which we fall asleep is incredibly important as well. I’ve found that I can sleep for 10 hours straight if I go to bed past midnight but do I feel refreshed the next morning? Absolutely not. However, I can only sleep for 7 hours if I go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am feeling ready to conquer the world. This can be explained by our body’s natural circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.” Most of us have a circadian rhythm that responds to light which explains why we naturally begin to feel sleepy once the sun sets and why many of us can wake up naturally at the same time every day.

And last, but most certainly not least, how do we get enough sleep during the summer with prayer times starting so early and ending so late? My method is this: I finish all of my errands and physical activities before Maghrib as well as finish getting ready for bed (shower, skincare, teeth). That way when Isha rolls around, I can pray and fall right to sleep. I use the hour in between Maghrib and Isha to wind down for the night so that I may drift off to sleep in a peaceful state of mind. Winding down for me typically looks like reading a good book, journaling or writing drafts for blog posts (in a notebook instead of computer), and studying Quran. Now, in the morning for fajr I’ve developed the habit by the grace of Allah (SWT) of staying awake afterwards and getting my day started. I understand that this doesn’t work for everyone so by all means, go back to sleep so you can get adequate rest. But, I will say that forcing myself into becoming a morning person has been so beneficial for me in having productive and fulfilling days. I enjoy the early morning quiet that I get to myself where I can savour my tea and reflect on things before going for a good workout. It sets the mood for the rest of my day and I find that I accomplish so much more when I get started early.

Thank you so much for reading the first installment of our new Organic Beauty series! I hope that this brought something new to the table, so let me know what you think in the comments below! Also, what are your favourite ways to relax at night?

Wishing you all dewy skin and a full night’s sleep,

Nahlah

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beauty, Series, Uncategorized

Organic Beauty: Intro

With my own personal experience with beauty and working every day in a salon, I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to be beautiful. And today I want to introduce a new series on the topic of true, organic beauty. I don’t mean organic as in a label that guarantees the health of your products, I mean a beauty that radiates from every fiber of your being. A beauty that upholds integrity and health, that invites people in and embraces them in warmth and love, a beauty that is intoxicating because it is pure and kind-hearted. It is you through and through, no fakery, no homogeneity, just you. So, how do you achieve this kind of beauty?

Like all true beauty, it starts from the heart and mind. Sticking to the 5 pillars of Islam, studying Quran, improving upon oneself, fostering strong and healthy relationships with friends and family, practicing gratitude, controlling your response to your own emotions, seeking knowledge, practicing kindness and compassion, etc. etc. etc. Did you know that it has been said that waking up to pray Fajr on time contributes to a glowing, healthy complexion? Creating strong mental/emotional habits, as well as physical ones that aid in mental/emotional stability and harmony is key to achieving inner beauty that shines through the exterior. For example, I know that getting enough sleep is crucial for me to avoid under eye bags and dull skin, but it is also necessary for a bright and cheery mood and a heart that feels excitement and passion for my life and the people in it. When I compromise on sleep, I turn into a negative and apathetic person with emotions that run rampant.

As a woman, my emotions play a big role in my everyday life and my interactions with others. I have been learning recently how important it is to exercise control over my responses to emotional stimulation. Emotions are not always what they seem; I may feel upset at my husband for something quite menial but if I withhold from reacting and take time to analyze what’s really going on in my mind, I can usually find that that particular emotion is stemming from something entirely different (like hunger, lack of sleep, personal insecurity, etc). When I am disciplined and make myself go to bed early, I am at my best. My mind is clear, my heart is happy, and I have energy to focus on my iman, my work, my health, and my relationships.

This is only an insight to what I would like to talk about in this series. I have so many thoughts on this topic that I cannot possibly force them all into one article. I know you may even be wondering how this has anything to do with Islam. Organic beauty is actually based on many Islamic practices. This isn’t vanity, this isn’t solely focused on the outward appearance and gaining attention for it. This is a philosophy aimed at bettering ourselves and our lives in a way that worships Allah (SWT) and fosters beautiful relationships with ourselves and others. It is the only type of beauty that matters and lasts for the rest of our lives. I can sit here and talk to you about anti-ageing and the best way to apply eyeliner, but we all age eventually and the eyeliner always comes off at the end of the day. These things do nothing for our health, happiness, or character. So, please join me in a journey to learn about achieving a beauty that actually does.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Happily Ever After

Last night, my husband and I attended our first wedding together. It was a beautiful event and my first experience at an Asian wedding. There were so many little moments that took me back to the night of our own nikkah ceremony. We didn’t even have much of a wedding really; it was simple, held at his cousin’s house and only family were present. But it was perfect. I just remember the feeling of sitting beside the love of my life and feeling such excitement and love for him. The love that emanated from both of us was the best part of the entire thing. Seeing the love and happiness that radiated from the beautiful couple last night reminded me of that.

Once we had sat down at our table and had a chance to take in the atmosphere, my husband asked me if I would have an event similar to this one if I could go back and change what we did. It was such a beautiful venue, the decorations were tasteful, the bride’s outfit was stunning. It would be such a fun (even if it was stressful) experience but the work and money involved are a big factor that would turn me away from that kind of celebration (call it laziness if you want). I can honestly say that I would still choose to recreate every single detail from our original wedding. It was by no means extravagant, I wasn’t wearing my dream dress, my husband ordered his suit off of ASOS, my family couldn’t be there, and we didn’t have a grand banquet and loads of guests but it was perfect. And in all reality it reflected who we are and our values. Just as our friend’s wedding last night was perfect for them and reflected their personalities. We didn’t really set out to plan something simple, we just wanted to get married. At the time, I was in school and we were living 4,000 miles away from each other. I was unable to work and so had very little money at the time to put towards a ceremony. But the result was something really beautiful to both of us. It was like that feeling of getting your first tiny apartment and eating cold pasta on top of a cardboard box because you have no furniture. It’s not something you think you want but it ends up being one of your fondest memories.

I loved that the night was somewhat relaxed and that we actually got to enjoy ourselves. I loved that my husbands cousins love him enough and were so generous to not only offer their house for the venue, but to also plan out the entire night and provide food and gifts. I loved the 4 hour hour ordeal that was finding my dress only the day before. Traipsing through Southall for an entire afternoon trying to find a decently pretty dress for under 100 pound makes for one of my favourite stories from that trip. Keep in mind that this was my first time in London, I had never haggled before in my life, and my husband wasn’t accustomed to purchasing women’s suits so he wasn’t too practiced in haggling either. Needless to say, my mother-in-law still thought the 60 pound we paid was too much and took it upon herself to come with us when we went shopping for the dress for my walimah.

All this to say that a wedding, especially an Islamic one, is about uniting with your life partner, the person you love most and following the sunnah. I love that my wedding was simple with no frills because the sole focus was on our love for each other and worshiping Allah (SWT) through this union. I definitely wasn’t marrying him just to have a big, special day so there were no blinders over my intentions, alhamdulillah. And even now, we’ve kept to our tradition of keeping things simple and we are so happy because of it. The Prophet (SAW) even said that the best weddings are those with the least expense and hassle. These events should be happy times for both the guests and the newlyweds. Everyone should get a chance to chat to each other, share stories, take photos, eat good food, and make wonderful memories. After it’s all said and done, what matters and what is real is your new marriage. Finding the perfect dress (one that you will only wear once) won’t matter, planning the perfect menu won’t matter, no one can really tell the difference between professional makeup and makeup you’ve done yourself, most of the guests only come for a free meal, and most of the pictures will stay hidden away in an album on your phone.

In this day of showing off for social media, it is so easy to get distracted from what is real and permanent. Instead, let’s focus on our significant others and focus on having a happy, healthy, and loving relationship. You can have a big wedding if you wish or you can have a small one. It’s about the two of you and what you value There’s no right or wrong way to do it as long as you you do it in a way that honours Allah (SWT). If you can look at one another with so much love and pure intention like the beautiful couple did last night, you’ll be just fine.

Thank you,

Nahlah

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Islam 101, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Learning to Read All Over Again

Assalamu Alaikum, everyone! One of the fundamental but perhaps most daunting tasks that all new reverts face is learning to read Qur’an. While most born Muslims are given the opportunity to learn while they are young and while their brains are still flexible, those who choose to convert to Islam may find their journey a little less simple. If you are a native English speaker or speaker of any of the Romantic languages, you may find learning to read and write Arabic quite difficult. The way this language is set up is completely different to how we are used to speaking. Aside from the obvious differences in alphabet, pronunciation is on a whole new level with sounds that I have never before had to make. This is what makes learning Arabic fun but also extremely challenging.

As my husband has so patiently told me, learning this language takes time and because the Qur’an has been spread all over the world, pronunciation will differ with everyone. An Arabic person will tell you how to pronounce a certain word much differently than how someone from Malaysia will teach you. And while the way a born Arabic speaker recites the Qur’an is typically the correct way, for almost everyone else in the world the language is so different from their own that it is a struggle to adopt the correct pronunciations for every word. You simply have to exercise patience, practice consistently, and try the best you can. The goal is to be able to ready the Holy Qur’an and to understand its teachings. And, if this offers any bit of comfort, learning to pronounce the letters once they are connected into words is much easier than learning to pronounce the letters individually.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I am having so much difficulty learning to read and pronounce Arabic. English is my first language with Spanish coming in at a close second. Spanish also happens to be in the same family of languages that I am familiar with and I began learning it when I was in elementary school so I have been able to pick it back up easily. Arabic is an entirely different ball game. I am having to learn a new alphabet, new ways of pronouncing things, and new sounds that don’t exist in English or Spanish. Combine all of this with the fact that my Qur’an teacher, who also happens to be my British husband, tends to pronounce th as f. His teaching is wonderful, he’s patient and thorough but even the cultural differences in how we pronounce certain letters has caused some confusion and frustration. He also happened to learn Qur’an the Urdu way which is slightly different. But, I think once we realized that we pronounce certain letters differently, it cleared everything up. I’m laughing right now remembering how seriously he looked at me as he pointed out thaa’ was pronounced with a th like “fhaa” and I couldn’t wrap my head around how that was possible.

It has been a challenge, and we are nowhere near finished but, alhamdulillah that we get to undertake this challenge together through the mercy and goodness of Allah (SWT). So, if you’re feeling stuck or extremely frustrated, just know that this is normal. Instead of giving in to the negative feelings, use them as motivation to conquer these obstacles. If you need to, slow it down and focus on perfecting one letter a day. And remember that there are plenty of free resources online, especially YouTube, that are fantastic (and free) which are perfect for if you are trying to teach yourself. If you can, try to find local classes or a generous brother or sister willing to help teach you. I find that practicing with someone who has gone through it themselves is so much more helpful than trying to carry on by yourself. I pray that Allah (SWT) will guide each and every one of you through this journey and that your hearts will be filled with love and praise for Him as you learn to read His words.

Thank you,

Nahlah

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