‘Today I Wanted to End My Life’. An Account on Having Hope

As part of our Mind Your Mind Mental Health Campaign we will be submitting stories that you send in to us about your experiences with mental health. We hope that this will help to destigmatise mental health and increase conversation.

If you would like to submit a story you can do so anonymously by following the link below:

https://goo.gl/forms/KaV1jtQtMB0oLHfq2

**Content warning: This article contains discussion of suicidal thoughts.**

For now, have a read of this week’s story:

Today, I wanted to end my life.
No, not my life, rather the pain inside of me.
The pain was excruciating. It tore me to pieces. I held my stomach tight so that the tears would stop, but they didn’t. I swallowed back my tears so that no-one would notice.
Everything hurt. Every part of me, hurt.

To breathe, hurt.

To move, hurt.

The thought of surviving in the presence of such pain, hurt.

I saw darkness and with no escape.
I wanted to go, just so that the darkness would leave. Just so, it would stop eating away at me. Just so, everything could stop. The pain would stop. The heartache would stop. The sadness would stop. The emptiness inside of me, would stop. The darkness, a force so strong, it overtook every reason apparent to live. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live with the darkness surrounding my very existence. The pain, so deeply excruciating, that there only seems to be one way out, to let go. Let go of my very own being, my existence, to close my eyes, one last time.

But… knowing that it is forbidden, is a strong deterrent. See, even though the darkness makes everything so difficult, my faith means a lot to me. My Lord, of whom sometimes I am distant from, is my everything. So, it matters to me, what He allows and on the contrary, forbids.

So, I spoke to my Lord and I told Him about the pain, the darkness and the difficulty in taking each step. He showed me the light and assured my heart, that light is a force that will always overcome darkness. He showed me the path and assured me that it was okay, that I should just take it one step at a time. He told me that I would always be enough, accepts me as I am, loves and cares for me and that I will never be alone. He told me to hold tight to His rope and how even if I let go, His presence will forever remain. He told me that He knows my pain. He knows the deep sadness that lingers within. He promised, that with every call of help, He is near and He responds. I was too important to Him, to give up on myself. He wanted me to try my best and every time I felt like I couldn’t go on, to
remember Him and be with Him.

The darkness is a force that is weak, in comparison to the greatness of the light that surrounds my very being. It is in fact a struggle that I go through, which makes my acts, in attaining closeness to Allah, more meaningful and special. Allah knows and the help of Allah in fighting the darkness, in trusting His light, in struggling in His path makes the
journey even more beautiful.

So, I chose to live, to survive, to trust in the light and to flourish.
Light will always overcome darkness.
Always.

I want you to remember this. You, reading this…
Whatever struggle it is that you face, whatever darkness surrounds you, I want you to know that:
You are worthy.
You are important.
You matter.

I know that it’s difficult. I want you to take it one step at a time. The most important thing is, to be kind to yourself.
Know that light is the greatest force, over and above darkness. So, if you promise that you’ll strive to survive, to flourish, there will be light. It’ll be the most beautiful light to exist, because it came as a result of the struggle that you endured. I want you to know that it’s okay, it’s okay to slip up, to struggle, to fall back. Allah knows the struggle within. He knows that it’s difficult. I want you to try and if you fall, seek the help of Allah and He’ll grant you strength to rise.

Never give up on yourself.
No matter how difficult it becomes, no matter how excruciating the pain is, never give up on yourself.
Your presence in this world matters. You matter.
With a heart as soft as yours, with potential as great as yours, with a character as beautiful as yours, you have so much to offer the world. Stay close to your Lord and I promise He’ll look after you.

So, when the pain gets too much and you want to escape the darkness, seek an escape in sujood (prostration), in the company of your Lord. Turn away from the world it’s just you and your Lord. Seek solace here and spend as much time as you need. Gather the strength that Allah provides, go out and achieve the greatness that you were destined
for.

Allah knows that your struggle makes it so much harder to go on, never mind flourish. But, He also knows that you are one of His most beautiful creations, destined to flourish spread light in a world, where darkness resides. He loves you. He cares for you. He’s with you. He’s your light. He’s your reason. He believes in you and who knows you better than He?

In a lot of cases, poor mental health can lead to suicide, like above. No matter the gravity of the situation, know that it’s okay to seek help if you need it. This can be through counselling, support of family/loved ones, meditation and prayer, kindness to oneself, medication if effective etc. Don’t suffer in silence. You matter. Other self-help can include: small manageable goals to get through each day, a support network is super important, keeping a diary (or other modes of expressing your emotions), communication and socialising with the right company (even if all you want to do is isolate yourself), taking care of yourself step by step, (physical, mental and emotional health), doing things you enjoy again (step by step), allowing yourself step up and step down options for your goals for the day (step down: if things get too much and you need to go easy, that’s okay or step up: if you want to challenge yourself)
and any other healthy means of helping yourself.

There are different variations of ill mental health and so your treatment shall be according to your specific need, whether it be depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders.

The main purpose of this blog post was to remind you that you are special, you are important  you can get through this. It was to remind you, that there is light. Your greatest source of help is Allah, so ask from Him. Wallahi, He shall never fail you.

The Ummah of Muhammad (PBUH) is one body. When one part is in pain, the whole body is in pain.

Let us not neglect a subject so prudent to address.
You are not alone.

Mental Illness Is Not A Personal Failure

As part of our Mind Your Mind Mental Health Campaign we will be submitting stories that you send in to us about your experiences with mental health. We hope that this will help to destigmatise mental health and increase conversation.

If you would like to submit a story you can do so anonymously by following the link below:

https://goo.gl/forms/KaV1jtQtMB0oLHfq2

For now, have a read of this week’s story:

If you were to ask me this time one year ago to write about my mental health, I would have denied that I had depression. Today, I write this having suffered depression for almost two years now, but feel brave enough to talk about it (anonymously, anyway).

People with mental health issues often complain about the stigma that surrounds the illness. Truth be told, it is substantially worse amongst the Muslim community. You would think that some of their ways and traditions would have changed upon moving to the Western world, but the views on mental health illnesses are still very much the same.

“Stop crying, get over yourself. Where’s your Imaan? We’re Muslims – we don’t get depressed. Fear Allah – what are you going to say on the Day of Judgement for being so ungrateful?”

Ask anyone to describe me in one phrase and they will reply – “infectious positivity!”. Although this is true of the picture I’ve created myself on the surface, I’ve done it to avoid the questions. There is the automatic assumption that your Imaan is weak. That if you prayed more, read the Quran more, then you wouldn’t be ‘depressed’. This made me question myself. Am I not religious enough? Do I need to increase my faith? Is God angry with me? Am I being punished?

It is true that Allah has created us in the perfect form, but like everything else that could go physically wrong in the human body – a mental illness is just as likely. When someone comes out of a surgery, they are showered with flowers & “Get Well Soon!” cards. But if they are admitted onto a psychiatric ward, they are called ‘crazy’, weak, and doomed to hell. Why is this?

Although you can’t see the emotional pain and agony behind depression – I am here to tell you, it is real. It is trying to stay afloat, only with an anchor tied around your ankles that continuously pull you down. Your strengths become your weaknesses. You see, depression lies to you. It tells you that you’re worthless and that there is no future. That you’re not smart enough, not religious enough, or worse yet – a burden to your family and friends.

I am not ungrateful. I am thankful for all the blessings Allah has bestowed upon me. But depression is more than gratitude. It is an ever-lingering constant sadness, even when everything in your life is going well. It is a real illness; a chemical imbalance in the brain. An illness that can’t be resolved by solely strengthening your Imaan. The solution isn’t clear cut & straightforward. It is a battle that tests you to the limit, and even the most pious will struggle. Just because you have a strong relationship with Allah doesn’t mean that you will be immune to life obstacles and heartache that comes along your way.  

I don’t pity myself, and I don’t want you to pity me either. It’s difficult to explain my dark, twisty thoughts to people – so I keep it between myself and Allah. The pain and sadness I cannot put down in words, I pray for salvation from it. I express my guilt to Him at feeling this way. I seek refuge from the disappointment of people’s responses to my depression, because I know that He is there for me when others can’t be. A safe space, where I can be completely vulnerable and shatter down in tears at the end of the day. Because in His eyes, I pray that He still sees me worthy despite my insecurities.

I was surprised to learn that there were many tales of sadness depicted in our Quran. This has been specifically sent down from Allah to provide us with solace when we are struggling. Maryam (as) gave birth all alone, lacking parental support and feeling judged by her entire community, wishing Allah had taken her life instead & spared her from despair. Prophet Yaqub (as) cried so much at the pain of separation from his son Yusuf (as), that he lost his eyesight. Even our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who had the strongest relationship with Allah, there was a ‘Year of Sorrow’ in his Seerah. He grieved the loss of his loved ones, such as his wife Khadija, and uncle Abu Talib (as both). He also became depressed during the time he was a target of physical attacks from the people of Mecca, who refused to accept his message of Islam, and when he hadn’t heard from Allah for a while after the first revelation. Despite this, Allah provided a way out for all them, and there was Hikmah behind everything. He didn’t belittle their challenges, but encouraged them to have hope in His plans, and not their pain.

But sometimes –the stories from the Quran, rushing to Salah and being a virtuous Muslim isn’t enough. For whatever reason that it is –there is no shame in seeking professional help. Whether it’s counselling, therapy, or – wait for it – being prescribed a course of antidepressants, why is it any different from taking antibiotics? We have a right and duty as Muslims, but also as human beings, to take care of our bodies and put our health (physical and mental) first. And if the treatment is available, we have been asked to make use of it.

“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He has also created its treatment”.

For so long, I thought that asking for help makes you weak (and most of the time I still feel that way), but I now realise that pretending that you don’t need help is the real weakness. Having said that, I think that as Muslims we have the best of both worlds. Not only can we seek help externally, but we can also utilise our faith as a life vest to keep us from drowning. Hence why therapy/treatment is only one aspect of the solution. Maybe the reason why Allah allows us to feel the heaviness in our hearts is because He wants to remind us that He can also give rest. Maybe He is allowing to experience days where we feel empty to make us realise that He alone can make us feel whole. Maybe it is about Sabr (patience) –when you dream about roses, but walk on thorns.

Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, illness, anxiety, grief, or mental worry, or even the pricking of a thorn; but Allah will expiate his sins account of his patience”.

I ask you to take notice of the person who isn’t as cheerful as they usually are. Behavioural changes aren’t drastic –they take place over time. Don’t let our “Yeah, I’m just tired” or fake smile distract you. Help someone, Brother or Sister, who is suffering, even if it’s for reasons that don’t make sense to you. Understand that the fog of depression causes us to make bad decisions and say things we wish we never had. Continue to be there for us, even if we’ve been emotionally unstable for weeks on end –this is the noblest thing that you can do, as “Allah will not forget the eye which was about to cry but you made it laugh”.

Most importantly, if you feel like any of this has resonated with you –please take it as a cue to speak to someone. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up. The first step is always the hardest, but it is so worth it. It doesn’t take a day to transition into a mental illness, so don’t expect yourself to recover overnight. What matters is that you remain determined to keep ploughing on, and that “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah, do hearts find rest” (13:28)

‘I Didn’t Realise I Had Mental Health Issues Until This Year’

As part of our Mind Your Mind Mental Health Campaign we will be submitting stories that you send in to us about your experiences with mental health. We hope that this will help to destigmatise mental health and increase conversation.

If you would like to submit a story you can do so anonymously by following the link below:

https://goo.gl/forms/KaV1jtQtMB0oLHfq2

For now, have a read of this week’s story:

I didn’t realize I had mental health issues until this year.

1st of Jan rolls around and I’m a mess. I can’t stop crying in the bathroom, whilst holding a good face as soon as I open my bedroom door. I remember one whole night where my emotions felt like a sea of ebbing and flowing emotions. I would sit and cry, whilst the negative thoughts, tears and pain just. Wouldnt. Stop.  I kept blaming it on my hormones – but no. This was actually a panic attack.

Only after reflection do I realise that this has been happening for some years. I lock myself in the bathroom and do not want to look in the mirror, for fear of hating myself more. I’ll cry from anger, wondering what’s wrong with me when I find myself in social situations, clenching my fists to abate the anxiety, or not being able to force a smile when I can’t think straight; I’ll beat myself up and say, why am I like this? Why am i different – why can’t I be like everyone else?

We aren’t taught from a young age to spot the signs. And if we do see them – it’s branded as ‘abnormal’ or ‘a phase’. That’s the first pitfall (which I hope, In Sha Allah, we can start to overcome with the next generation). Up until now, there had been a distinctive barrier between my personal, and professional life. Work was work – life was life. It was only when the holidays were over and work re-started, that the barrier began to melt and one thing snowballed into another until I’d be coming home past midnight because I didn’t want to  cry into a towel at 1am, even though that’s what I would end up doing nonetheless. And it’s funny, because at the time, there was no one at home to see me cry, yet I’d lock myself in the bathroom anyway. It’s some kind of delusional self-contempt  that has built up over the years that makes me so ashamed to even look in the mirror.

Stigma comes from the outside but we don’t realise that it also plants a seed within our self,  spawning off of negative feelings and growing self hatred inside. It took me a few weeks of  recognising the perpetually negative cycle I was torturing myself with – I wanted to talk to someone, but I just couldn’t – not because there was no one there for me, but because I was just so ashamed of myself, for having failed at having something that, culturally speaking, does not exist.

I’m learning to deal with it, and the first step was to tell myself that stigma is just a cultural ignorance which has to be pushed aside. Your health always comes first. For those of you struggling like I am – know that you have support. Even if it’s not from the people you’d want, or the people you’d think – there’s always someone there. Just bite the bullet and go tell someone, whether that’s night-line, Samaritans, Uni counsellors, chaplains or someone you know.

Know that your problems are valid.

Know that crying is cathartic and exists for a reason.

Know that your health is more important than anything, mental and physical.

“Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear.”

As a dear friend reminded me; to get you through the times when you have lost self confidence – know that Allah hasn’t. Support won’t fix your problems, or make them go away – but it will, eventually, help you to cope so that you can peacefully live with yourself, In Sha Allah. You just have to take the first step.

Share Your Story: Story 1

As part of our ‘Mind Your Mind’ Mental Health Campaign we asked you to share your stories. Our aim is to create a space to discuss mental health so that people can share their experiences to help raise awareness and support others struggling with their mental health. We hope that others will benefit from this exchange of stories; be it by allowing them to draw parallels to their own experiences, or by creating an understanding of how people can suffer – often behind closed doors.

If you would like to submit a story you can do so anonymously by following the link below:

https://goo.gl/forms/KaV1jtQtMB0oLHfq2

For now, here’s our first story!

I didn’t realise the extent to which she was suffering until I sought her advice on how to help someone going through anxiety and depression since I knew she had battled it before.

“I think with depression, you feel very isolated and that you’ve got no-one to talk to and if people do try and reach out to you, I feel like when you’re in that headspace, you just sort of, I don’t know, ignore them, but it’s very comforting to know someone’s there if you need them, so I’d just say let them know that you’re there if they want to talk, even if they don’t talk to you, just knowing that you’re there to talk is so much help.”

Her words were a reminder that something which may seem so simple to us, could mean everything to someone else so it’s always important not to overlook the small things. I continued listening as she spoke about the importance of asking questions wholeheartedly. How often do we use “How are you?” as a conversation starter as opposed to a way to genuinely show interest in someone’s well being?

“Keep asking them how they are, that’s the most important. That’s the biggest thing honestly. Because I know I felt like I was bothering people, so I never said anything. So it’s important to ask someone how they are.”

“Also I think if they’ve openly told you themselves, they know that you know and I think it’s important they know you’re there for them. I’d say ask them openly “What can I do for you? How can I be there for you? What is best for you?” because obviously, when someone’s feeling like that, they don’t want to bother you, they’re not going to tell you how’s best to approach them, it’s best if you ask them that kind of thing because it will be so different for everyone.”

Our conversation was a reiteration of the importance of being a source of strength and support to one another. A reminder of the fact that every single one of us are struggling with something and often, it’s so easy to get consumed in our own struggles that we forget others are also struggling.

Mental health affects all of us directly or indirectly and it’s important to understand that first and foremost. So pay attention to every little detail. Listen attentively to each conversation, every word, every expression and don’t trivialise anything. Make people feel loved, valued, appreciated and respected – we’re all capable. And don’t underestimate the power of a listening ear. You don’t always need to know exactly what to say, sometimes people just want to be heard. And that’s more than enough. And finally, be genuine. Always. And don’t let the day someone tells you “I honestly think you are the reason I am alive” be the day you wake up to the reality of the impact your actions can have on another.

Al-Kitab Club: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcom X is such a well-known figure across the world, but how much do we really know about his life?

“I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda… I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
― Malcolm XThe Autobiography of Malcolm X

This month’s book selection is ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’, written by Malcom X and the journalist Alex Haley.

In our troubled times, we often look to others for inspiration. Malcom X is one such inspirational individual and has been hailed as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. From his tragic and troubled youth, to his role as one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam, and finally to his reversion to Sunni Islam and his striving for equality and peace, his life carries a multitude of lessons within it for us all to learn from. Join Al Kitab Club in our reading of ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’ and don’t forget to share your thoughts with us at the end of the month!

Happy reading!

Oh the Places You’ll Pray!

Most of us often find ourselves praying between the masjid, university prayers rooms or in our homes but on occasion, when we can’t find anywhere to pray, we find ourselves having to improvise and offer salah in places you often wouldn’t think to!

The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“The entire earth has been made a masjid except for the graveyard and the bathroom.” [Jami At-Tirmidhi 317]

Prayer can be performed almost anywhere so we wanted to find out the most interesting places you have prayed! Here’s what you had to say:

  1. On the Grand Canyon Alhamdulillah

“It is a ‘wonder of the world’ as labelled by mankind. Despite this being a popular attraction for tourists, there are some immensely tranquil areas to be at one with your Lord and nature itself. It reminds you once again of the beauty Allah has surrounded us with, Subhanallah. It’s amazing how the closer you are to the ground, i.e. during prostration, the closer you are to Allah (in that moment at least).

  1. Golden Gate Bridge
  2. Baitull Mukarram

“A huge mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It seemed like such a plain and simple mosque and in it’s simplicity was it’s beauty.”

  1. Outside the Harry Potter Studio Tour Centre in London

“It was very a spontaneous decision after we realised there were no prayer rooms inside, so we did Jamaat on the grass directly outside. It was interesting because it was the first time I learned not to care so much about others observing our worship.”

  1. On Barcelona beach

“[It was interesting] because EVERYONE there was in bikinis and sunbathing etc as you tend to expect on a beach.”

  1. On the beach in Tobago
  2. In Trafford Centre outside Selfridges

“It was Maghreb time so we just put our coats on the floor, outside the entrance, and prayed.”

  1. In a Hollister changing room

“Not legit though because of the huge gap, so people see you making sajdah.”

  1. The changing rooms in Superdry

“Luckily they don’t light them very well, so strange shadows when moving didn’t draw any attention.”

  1. 30,000ft up in the air on an aeroplane next to the emergency exit door…
  2. On an 8 hour plane journey to Dubai

“Me and my mum usually go to the back of the plane where there’s space to stand up and put out a prayer mat and pray together. The air stewardess and stewards are always polite and considerate making sure everyone stays quiet and nobody interferes. But the feeling is just amazing to be so high up in the sky praying, especially because flying itself is scary and you want to pray and make dua until you land, but it feels like you’re closer to Allah up in the sky as you put your head down in sujood.”

  1. In the airport!!

“It was strange and interesting, because it was a wide open space, everyone walking by saw us! It made me proud to be a Muslim and represent my faith so openly Alhamdulillah. Although, I’m not going to lie, it was a bit nerve racking, but may God accept it. Ameen.”

  1. Alderley Edge

“Top of a sandstone cliff with the skyline of the city way down below, surrounded by super tall trees. Really windy but such a freeing experience to be praying to Him whilst being surrounded by His creation.”

  1. Manchester ISoc Mount Snowdon Challenge around 7 years ago

  1. Mount Snowdon

 

“We were on our way down from the summit and we needed to pray so we lay down a scarf to pray in Jammat. That was the first time I’d had to perform Tayammum (wudu using the earth when there isn’t any water). It was so quiet when we prayed Subhanallah. When we went into sujood and placed our foreheads in the snow, it was literally pin drop silence, it felt like it was just you and Allah. I wanted to stay in sujood for so much longer.”

  1. On holiday in France

“I was on holiday in France in 2013 with my mum and we visited the palace of Versailles for a day. It was around lunchtime and we had decided to grab a jacket potato from this little French stand in a square that was opposite the château du Petit Trianon. We needed to pray first but couldn’t find anywhere indoors, so we chose a patch of grass not far from the potato stand. The funny thing is, when we returned for a visit two years later, we prayed in that exact same spot! It holds sentimental value for me now.”

  1. During a sponsored silence

“I once found myself trying to find a place to pray whilst doing my sponsored silence. To cut the long story short, I ended up in the University Staff Room and that was an interesting experience to say the least.”

  1. On an assembly stage

“In secondary school we used to pray on the assembly stage behind the curtains during lunch time. We used a back entrance directly onto the stage and it was hard to tell if there was an assembly/speech going on at the time, so sometimes we’d awkwardly walk into and back out of the stage in the middle of something.”

  1. Hyde park

“Luckily it’s full of Arabs so if anyone had a problem with it during the prayer, they’d probably step in.”

  1. A random alleyway in London 

“It was very dodgy, but there was nowhere else and time was running out so my friend and I just laid down our jackets and prayed there.”

21. On a volcano 

“I prayed Maghrib on a volcano- near the top where the lava was. The view was breathtaking Subhanllah.”

 

Thank you for all your submissions! Do you have an interesting place you’ve prayed? Share it in the comments! 

 

Al-Kitab Club: Our Thoughts on This Month’s Book

If you’ve ever wanted to delve into the Seerah of the Prophet but didn’t know where to start, this book is for you!

Title:

Muhammad (PBUH): his life based on the earliest sources

Author:

Martin Lings

Rating:

5/5

Quick summary

This book details the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), starting from before he was born until his death in 632 AD. As stated in the title, it covers the story of his life by referring to the ‘earliest sources’ and presents an accurate and authentic picture of his life course. Beginning with context of Makkah and the tribes residing there, the book proceeds to cover all of the fascinating components of the prophet’s life, including: his birth in Makkah (570 AD), the descent of revelation when he reached the age of 40 (601 AD); the hijra (emigration) to Medina (622 AD), battles such as Badr (623 AD) and Uhud (625 AD), the conquest of Makkah (629 AD), and finishing off with the death of the Prophet (632 AD) and his succession.

Comments on the style

The book skilfully utilises dialogue, causing it to be engaging and appear to present a very realistic portrayal of events. The level of detail and realistic description is brilliant and allows the reader to almost feel as if they are living the experiences as they read them. The book utilises short chapters, with descriptive titles which help to signpost to important events in the Prophet’s (PBUH) life, allowing the book to be clear to follow at all times (e.g. ‘The Year of Sadness’, ‘The Entry into Medina’). The fact that the chapters are very short, although there are a lot of them, adds to the ease of reading the book as the reader does not feel overwhelmed by lengthy chapters filled with historical information. The author’s writing is captivating and is effective at drawing the reader into a story that, to its incredible credit, is entirely based on records of real events.

Personal insights

Reading about the Prophet (PBUH)’s life and his interactions with the people in it, highlighted aspects of his character which acted to increase my love and admiration for him. He treated everyone in his life with the utmost respect and kindness and was a constant calming influence on those around him. He was an entirely devoted and charitable member of society, and everything that he did was done with excellence. He touched the hearts of so many people, to the extent that those in distant lands would simply hear of him and instantly wish to be around him. Furthermore, I was able to gain a greater appreciation of the love of the companions for the Prophet (PBUH) – seeing the way that those who actually knew him and interacted with him would revere him and hold him in such high esteem was enlightening. As described in the book:

“those who were with him were always loath to leave him. Nor could they have been blamed if they stayed, for when he spoke to anyone he would turn to him so fully and make him so amply the object of his attention that the man might well imagine himself to be privileged enough for liberties which others dared not take” (page 214).

Final thoughts

Martin Lings was able, using his various sources, to package and present the magnificent story of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in an easy to read, detailed and engaging book. Anyone can read and learn from it, and it is a perfect introduction to the life of one of the most important figures in Islam. It will leave the reader with a greater appreciation for the Prophet’s (PBUH) life and story, and ultimately leave them wanting to find out more.

Let us know what you thought of the book in the comments below!

Coping with Injustice: Strike Your Stick Like Musa (AS)

Every time we turn on the news, scroll down our Facebook feeds or listen to the radio it seems as though all we hear about are stories of oppression, war, crimes, poverty and disease. When one crisis is over, another one emerges. News nowadays seems to be just that…bad news.
For many of us, the more aware we are of all the injustice going on, the more we find ourselves struggling with our faith. So how do we remain hopeful when there is so much global injustice?

We’ve all been asked the question by a non-Muslim. How can you believe in a God who allows people to suffer? The answer is by allowing ourselves to see a different perspective, that injustice is a means to deepen faith, not make us question it.

If we reflect on the creation of heavens and the earth, we have day and night, summer and winter. Allah has built balance into the universe. He says balance exists in everything.
When shaken, the system shifts towards balance again.

This ‘balance’ exists within everything but there seems to be no balance at all in human affairs, there is an inconsistency.

Everything else has a cyclical balance however all the injustice in this world seems to be unbalanced, there’s always all this ‘bad’. Always.

Unlike a storm which is followed by the calm or a harsh winter which is followed by summer. If all the injustice in the world was to become balanced, imagine what it would take for example, for the oppressed to no longer be oppressed, the poor to longer be poor and for the ill to regain their health. It would take a corrective phenomenon for us to achieve the same balance that exists within our universe.
So, therefore, how can anyone not believe in the Akhirah when there is so much injustice? We have to believe that this balance is in the Akhirah.

How do you live otherwise?
How can you not believe that there will be justice, when there are so many tyrants getting away with doing horrible things?
It is not logical to not believe.
Let this deepen our faith, the fact that there is an Akhirah where we are all held accountable for our actions. Subhanallah.

We are servants of Allah and we are Khalifas. We are told to ‘stand firm as witnesses to justice’. Ignite in your heart a passion for Akhirah.

On a smaller scale, the same goes for the way we react to outcomes in our life. We depend on our means, we want results straight away but we are told in the Qur’an to ‘work for justice’. The Qur’an does not tell us to bring about justice. We are not held accountable for outcomes, can you imagine if we were? Allah is the Most Just and the Most Merciful. We are only held accountable for that which we can control, which is our intentions and our actions.
So, do not worry about what may happen or that which we cannot control. Let injustice in this world deepen faith.
Let’s strive to not marry ourselves to means and outcomes because the sooner we realise we do not have any control, maintaining hope becomes so much easier.

We can look at Musa (AS) for example. When Musa reached the Red Sea, the tyrant army were in pursuit and his people were being unhelpful.
But how did Musa respond when the odds were against him? When he was faced by this sea with an army in pursuit and his people, who he was trying to save, were being unhelpful and growing impatient?

Did he doubt Allah in that situation? Did he once doubt Allah?
He said, ‘I have my Lord, He will not forsake me’.

And Allah responded. But did He just fix the problem? No, He commanded Musa to strike his stick.
And what happened? Subhanallah, when Musa struck his stick, the sea parted and they could cross to safety.

But why did Allah ask that? Allah did not need Musa to actually strike his stick  in order for the sea to part. The stick is not what caused the sea to part, Allah did not need any help.
Rather, it was an order from Allah to His servant. All Musa had to do was have faith in Allah and strike his stick. And Musa did, without question.
In the same way, you and I are servants of Allah.
We are told to work hard and do our best.
We all have to strike our stick and know that whatever the outcome is, it is from Allah.
We do it because we obey Him. That is all we are asked.

Strike your stick.

Just do your best, believe the best in Allah and forget about the outcomes because we are only held accountable for that which we can control.

And the sooner we realise this, that’s when we can maintain hope when things are difficult and when things don’t go our way. We don’t lose hope. We realise that it is all in Allah’s control. Allah sees the injustice.

“Whether you conceal what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allah knows it. And He knows that which is in the heavens and that which is on the earth. And Allah is over all things competent.” Surah al-Imran [3:29].

Revert stories: The only Muslim in the village

This week we got the opportunity to interview Sherrie, an MA Translation and Interpreting Studies student from Malpas, who reverted to Islam. The interview was wonderfully insightful and it really gave us a much better understanding of the life of reverts to Islam!

Please do read this interview right up to the end, because trust us, it’ll really enlighten you on so many things!

How old were you when you accepted Islam?

I had just turned 26, it was around 2015 time and I said it with a couple of friends of mine. I was in Saudi, Riyadh. We went out for a dinner and I told them that I was considering converting. I was at that point where I was ready. One of them, she was so excited (this was like in Eid ul Adha time), and she was like you know, you should say it these days, it’s really good! You should say it now! And yeah, so she walked me through it and I said my shahada then.

How did you become interested in Islam?

Well I think it’s hard to attribute the sort of catalyst for my interest in Islam to one particular cause. You know my conversion story isn’t one of those dramatic, you know, I was a wild child then I stumbled across it one day? No, it’s not like that, rather it’s like multiple moments of significance along the way have sort of culminated into a well thought out conviction.

So firstly, I had been a practising Christian for basically all of my childhood although my family isn’t practicing Christian per se. I also had this desire to become close to my creator. I’ve always wondered about why we’re here, why the world is how it is, you know?

I’ve always had these questions about creation and I always accepted that there was one god, so from a young age and growing up in a very sort of white British village, the way that was available, to sort of explore religion, was by going to church.

But then when I was around 19 I went to Morocco. One of the girls on the course was a Moroccan Muslim and she was a very good ambassador for her country and her religion. She was very hospitable and [always] inviting me to stay with her and her family and I guess I had a sort of exotic experience, hands on, of a Muslim country and a Muslim family and I found it quite alluring. So yeah maybe that was kind of the most tangible catalyst if you will.

And following on from that, I lived in Spain for another period of time. One particular Muslim I ended up getting engaged to and I guess when I was in a relationship with him I thought, right if I’m gonna marry this guy I need to know what he properly believes in and what his expectations are because y’know, I’d just heard people warning me like, be careful, Muslims [etcetera], so I was like lemme go find out about what it is he believes in, what it is that his religion says, because I just didn’t buy into the idea that Muslim [equals] bad, like the rhetoric.

And then fast forward a little bit, I went to Egypt and made friends with an Egyptian girl, she was such a good ambassador for her religion. I never liked the idea that we were different because at that time I was very much practicing the Christian faith. I had been baptised actually in that year and I was very fervent in my practices so praying in the morning and reading bible [etc] but then I saw her praying 5 times a day and I just found that dedication really inspiring and encouraging and I guess it sort of lured me in, that commitment.

I ended up getting a job in Saudi Arabia. Seeing the dedication and seeing that people’s lives would stop in the day just to worship god and to pray and to give thanks, I wanted a piece of that you know? And again, Allah placed another crucial figure in my path, who is still to this day my closest friend. [Through her], I saw how there were other ideas in Islam that I also found favourable. I can’t exactly think of the exact ones right now. But yeah, I guess I just found that through discussion with her and through learning more about Islam, where Christianity had questions that were left unanswered, Islam had them.

And then fast forward a little bit more, I went to Cambodia. I think its important that at that time I was like on my own, I didn’t have any influences from people at church, people back home or the church group that I used to attend in Saudi. I didn’t have influences from Muslim friends, or the Muslim culture that I was living in in Saudi. I was in a Buddhist secular country, on my own, with no influences from outsiders so yeah.

I was also spiritually feeling like the ways that I was trying to reach to god and get that closeness weren’t working. And actually, I remember I was thinking about how Muslims pray and how they get down into the position, at the time I didn’t know what it was called, sujood, and just bowing. I had known from reading the bible that Jesus himself, peace be upon him, had also prayed like this. And I just thought, maybe this is what I need to do to humble myself, to get myself into that position of prostration. And yeah so, I was actually praying, making dua, in the way that I knew how at that time, and then I got down into prostration and yeah like, I guess the feeling of humility and connection was even present then.

And then fast forward a little bit more, I had applied for another position working in Saudi Arabia. And when you apply for another job in Saudi Arabia, you need to get a work visa and, on the application, you have to state your religion. Um I left that box on the form unticked for like 3 days because I was like I’m not technically yet Muslim but I feel like I’m becoming Muslim, but I don’t wanna put on the form that I’m Christian but then I also haven’t made that change yet officially. So, I guess yeah I could sense that I was coming to Islam and I had read and heard sufficient information about the practice and the beliefs, to make that step but there was still something holding me back.

And now I can say that the thing that was holding me back was the fear of how I would be accepted by my family, by my friends, by my society, by those who knew me, whether or not they were close to me. And the fear of what are people going to say? What are people going to think? How am I going to be accepted by people? That was what held me back.

And so, for the time being, I selected Christian on the form. Then when I went back to Saudi as I mentioned before, I took the decision while I was with friends, made the shahada and alhamdulillah since then I haven’t looked back.

How did you tell your family about your conversion to Islam?

So, for a while I didn’t like ‘come out’ for want of a better term, to my family or my friends back home. I would say that it took a few months until I was able to come out to people back home.

And I guess one of the toughest things was dealing with my mum who was very ill towards the last couple of years of her life because she asked me one day. She came out with this, she said ‘Sherrie, are you Muslim?’

And because of the way that she had spoken before, I mean she’s not prejudiced per se but I guess it’s one thing being friendly and accepting of other people and other religions but it’s another thing when your child decides to, in her eyes, reject what she had been following all of her life and change to a different religion. So, I think my mum, she probably saw it as though I was turning away from everything. I obviously didn’t want to upset her because she was ill, but I also could not denounce my faith so I just kind of very diplomatically said that I think there are many things in Islam that we can embrace, that I embrace, and I went on to explain a couple of things because she was thinking that y’know it’s not safe for women and so I basically was sort of promoting some of the ideologies of Islam to my mum, by saying that I embrace them, so yeah, it was difficult to come out to my family.

How accepting was your family of your conversion?

So, one of my sisters, she’s very understanding and supportive. My Dad, he’s also pretty cool about everything. He knows like I only eat halal meat, he knows if I don’t answer him if he’s calling me and I’m upstairs, then he knows, oh she’s praying, so he’s understanding of that. My brother in law, he’s also lived in Saudi for a couple of years so he’s had experience with Muslims, and he’s also on the ball when it comes to the way Muslims are portrayed in media. My sister, the one who’s married to my brother in law, she’s relatively okay but like once or twice she’s come out with something. We’ve dealt with that but yeah that was difficult, and like my mum, she actually passed away before seeing me actively and visibly Muslim. So, I guess, who knows what she knows now?

On the New year’s vacation this year, we went to my other sister’s house and she’d gone to the effort of going to her supermarket and ordering halal beef. They don’t have halal meat there so they had to order it in, they went to the effort to do that. So, my family has been really supportive actually in those things.

I remember also on my first Ramadan, she got me a happy Eid card and she got my family to sign it. So yeah, they’re very supportive in those things so yeah.

But it’s more of the community, the village where I spent a lot of my teen years. Maybe because it’s a predominantly white British community. I am literally the only Muslim in the village, I think.

What’s it like being, perhaps, the only Muslim in the village?

When I visit home, I still wear hijab but like I wear turban style in a way that doesn’t look too ‘muslamic’ but inshallah this will also improve and my fears will dissipate as I sort of come out more visibly to people.

I don’t feel I can fully be myself when I go back to the village, I feel like I’m the elephant in the room. Even like wearing my funky turban style. I feel it’s just people being people isn’t it? Chit chatting, gossiping, maybe looking at you a bit skewwhiff.

Is there any particular hadith or ayah from the Quran which helps you in certain situations?

‘If you go to Allah walking, He’ll come to you running.’

(Sahih al-Bukhari)

Jazakallah khair for the interview! Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed every single bit of it! May Allah reward you for it!

Note: If any other readers want to be interviewed, please contact us through blog@manchesterisoc.com

 

Interview Corner: Reflections from the Refugee Camps

This week, we sat down with committee members from Manchester ISoc to hear what they had to say about their recent trip to Lebanon with Global Rahmah Foundation, where they delivered aid to those in need in refugee camps, using money raised from our charity week.

In a nutshell, how was the trip?

Abdurrahman: A few words would be eye opening, like you already know about the things beforehand but it just makes it a lot more personal. It really brought it home, the suffering that people had, you’re definitely able to empathise a lot more after the trip.

How were the donations used?

Zaidi: They were mainly used in the Winter Aid, so that was buying blankets, mattresses and food boxes for families in two refugee camps. Donations also went to an orphanage school, the Bee Academy, so that helped with orphan sponsorship and the upkeep of the school.

What is your most unforgettable memory from the trip?

Shamena: For me, it was when we went to the Palestinian slums. There was a woman there and she was with her daughter, her daughter was disabled. And she was speaking in Arabic and me and Alicya, we couldn’t understand what she was saying, but even though we couldn’t understand, we could feel her pain you know? When she started crying and when she was talking about her daughter you could just feel the emotion, you could just feel their struggle. That’s what was the most unforgettable part for me.

Alicya: Yeah being in the Palestinian refugee camp, that was the most memorable for me as well because there were just so many different experiences that happened on that day that it really hit you properly. It’s become like a slum now. It’s been established for so many years, I think since 1984 so that’s like their permanent home but obviously the facilities aren’t very good, there’s electricity wires hanging like everywhere, its really dangerous.

And I think one thing that hit me was that there’s a graveyard in the refugee camp and they were saying how they have no more space to bury the people that are dying. The government won’t let them bury them outside that particular graveyard, so they’re having to bury on top of each other.

And then there was this picture of a young guy, maybe our age, and they told us that he died while trying to fix the electricity wires because its not very safe, like they’re all exposed, he got electrocuted and passed away. So I think a lot of people die from that each year as well. So it’s just things like that, simple things that people are dying from, just because of the lack of infrastructure.

Zaidi: I think one thing that stuck out to me was on the first day at the Syrian refugee camp, there were loads of kids running around and at one point we brought out some toys and they all came running towards us and what hit me then was, they’re exactly the same as us.

There is no difference, like a few years ago they would’ve been living a normal life: going to school, having friends, toys, like all of that and its all been taken away from them and now they’re in subhuman conditions. Honestly like, the Syrian refugee camp was very similar to a farm with just some tents there and the thing is, the innocence of these kids was still protected, they were just running around, playing with you, they’d talk to you if you wanted to and they weren’t any different to family members that I have.

I think Dridi mentioned that one thing that hit us, was that we’ve been blessed to be born in a stable country, like our country has been stable throughout. They were born in a stable country, from what I understand, but then everything turned on its head in a couple of weeks and their whole lives have turned around since.

Abdurrahman: I’d say in a similar way to Zaidi I guess, but everyone takes from the experience something different. For me it was again in the Syrian refugee camp. There was someone I guess roughly our age. He wasn’t working and he had, I think, two children and he was married but he couldn’t actually provide for his family because his right arm was injured permanently during a bomb strike. His arm was fully injured and what hit me was just that simple one limb in that scenario is enough to, like there’s no chance.

Like in our society we’re lucky Alhamdulillah to be able to do work, even if you’re disabled you’ve got various other avenues, you can use your mind, your thinking because you’ve got so many different avenues. But in their situation, that’s really not available to them, they’re really limited to very specific physical labour and if you’re put in that situation, you really can’t do much, and just that he was our age you know?

For the rest of my life there’s going to be someone else in roughly the same situation, but unable to provide for himself and his family because of something that wasn’t down to him. That’s just something that really sticks with me.

Do you have any other stories from the trip that stand out that you’d like to share?

Zaidi: I think going back to the Palestinian refugee camp, this was something we witnessed. We were in Beirut city centre and everything was kind of modern and done up nicely and suddenly you enter these gates and it was like a third world country there. And we heard stories from people taking us around about how the gates were closed at one point. They had to eat dogs. They had to eat cats. They were literally starving in there. I think one thing we noticed was that inside they had like their own economy, they had goods that you couldn’t get outside, like they had to fend for themselves.

And just going back to what Alicya mentioned about the graveyard, one quote that hit me when they took us to the graveyard, was they said, we’re separated in life, and we’re separated in death. So like there’s nothing that unites the people, like usually, when death hits, usually like everything is forgotten, like the moment you hear, no matter what someone has done to you, the moment you hear that someone passed away in the family, or something’s afflicted them, like everything’s forgotten, you make amends for them but the fact that through death they continue to stay apart I think that just shows that they’re not treated like people should be treated.

Alicya: Yeah even their bodies, they’re outcasted, like they’re not allowed to be buried in proper graveyards, they have to keep building on top of those.

What did you learn from the trip?

Shamena: I think it was a very humbling experience, I think when I came back I realised that I spend my money on a lot of silly things, things like food, you really appreciate food after I think. Because you’ll go down to like Nando’s and spend like £15 without questioning it, but it can make such a difference to someone else’s life.

Alicya: I think it just sounds generic, but like you really feel grateful for everything that you have and you see how little things bring so much happiness to people and its really humbling and it makes you just think twice about things I think.

Abdurrahman: Yeah I think in terms of learning things, all of these are things that everyone’s heard a million times, but I think being able to actually experience it and see it for yourself, really brings it a lot closer to home, when you actually see it.

You’ve been there, you’ve spoken to the people, you’ve experienced the environment, you mentioned already, it makes you appreciate what you have, I mean personally that is the case, because you compare what you have, to what they have.

While we’re working, while we’re living we’re always trying to get more, accumulate more, and we always compare ourselves, at least with material wealth, to millionaires, billionaires, whatever. We say if we had what they had then we’d be so happy, we wouldn’t be spoiled [like them], if you look at their kids, you get jealous, we look at these rich people.

But then when you really compare yourself, what you have to what these people have, you realise that the situation is flipped completely, you’re now in that very luxurious position but you’re not as grateful as you thought you’d be or as happy as you thought you’d be, so it really brings it a lot closer to home, that we’ve really been given a lot a things.

Zaidi: I think for me personally, it’s quite motivating in the sense that, the first two days we were at refugee camps, they were very poor facilities, there were like seven families to a toilet, it was like bare minimum wasn’t even reached.

On the third day, we went to an orphanage, like a school, we mentioned before, the Bee Academy. And what motivated me particularity about that place, was that this school was built up probably better than any school I’ve been to. It had like 3D printers, it had proper laptops, it had like state of the art everything, and it was only for orphans. For me that kind of encapsulated the verse in Surah Al Fajr where it says “and honour the orphans”.

And I think for me, like usually when we think of giving clothes, we give clothes we don’t wear, we give money that we weren’t going to spend, like just spare change, we give food that we don’t eat, but in this place they took things that most people wouldn’t have had at home, the printers they wouldn’t have had at home, the computers they wouldn’t have had at home, things like that. But they went over and beyond for the orphans and inshaAllah that will give them like a good setting in life, so they can go on to achieve good things.

I think that’s the key at the end of the day. Like all this aid, it’s necessary in the sense that they need it to survive but to break that cycle of poverty, which we saw in the Palestinian refugee camp, you need to get out and you need to get jobs and education is the key to that, and for me Bee Academy just encapsulated that perfectly. It was honouring the orphans and it was trying to break the cycle.

This is only a snapshot into the lives of refugees at camps in Lebanon, whilst so many are displaced in different situations. 

If you would like to make a donation, follow the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lebanonrefugeecamp?newPage=True