The Dawn of Islam in West Africa

West Africa, often an overlooked part of the Muslim world, is a place with a rich, and lengthy Islamic history. Islam first appeared here during the early 8th century and has had a strong influence ever since.

But how much do we know about this history? 

How often do we even hear about the 135 million Muslims living there today?

We wish to give you an insight into how Islam went from being the religion of the passing Arab traders to becoming the major state religion of various empires in the region – now practised by 54% of those living there today.

By learning more about the history of this area, we can give our West African brothers and sisters in Islam the recognition they deserve and begin to appreciate to what extent Islam belongs to all people of all colours.

The coming of Islam

Islam first came to West Africa in the 8th century. From there it spread slowly over hundreds of years in a peaceful process involving missionaries, traders, and scholars.

By this point, Islam was already widespread in neighbouring North Africa after the area was conquered by the Umayyad dynasty of Syria in the mid-7th century.

The Amazigh (also known as Berbers), the native inhabitants of North Africa, played an important part  in its spread via trade routes that crossed south through the Sahara and deep into West Africa.

Islam and trade

Early Islam was limited to communities living near the trans-Saharan trade route. Visiting Arabs and Amazigh built settlements along these routes, as mentioned by the Arab-Andalusian scholar Al-Bakri.

The great empires of West Africa were famous for their trade in salt and gold; the two largest and most valuable commodities being exported. Dates, camels, horses, timber, and local foods were also traded along the network spanning from north to south of the Sahara Desert and below it.

Although the local people of Ghana did not accept Islam, they were tolerant of it and allowed Muslim traders to settle in their lands. The king of Ghana also allowed Muslims to live in Kumbi (a great market town of the Ghana Empire) where they built 12 mosques and even had their own imam.


Although modern-day Sudan is the name of a country in the northeast of Africa (all the way on the other side of the continent), historically Sudan has been used to refer to a different part of Africa.

The word Sudan comes from Bilad-al-Sudan literally ‘Land of the Blacks’ – a term used by the earliest Arabs who came into contact with the lands of the black people living below the Sahara.

In this context, West Sudan refers to a large portion of West Africa where multiple empires inhabited, the three biggest empires, and most important in the spread of Islam, were:

  • Kingdom of Ghana (6th to 13th century)
  • Kingdom of Mali (1240-1645)
  • Kingdom of Songhai (1460-1591)

See the source image
Fun Fact: The Ghana Empire we mentioned is different to modern day Ghana, they’re in different locations, but modern day Ghana actually named itself in tribute to the old Empire!

The Kingdom of Ghana under The Almoravids

The Almoravids (from al-Murabit literally meaning “one who is trying”) were a Muslim Amazigh dynasty centred in Morocco. 

During the 11th century, they conquered the Ghana Empire to the south and imposed a ‘fundamentalist’ version of Islam on the local populations in an attempt to purify their beliefs.

Their conquest of the kingdom gave the conversion process new energy – under them the Islamic practices and laws of the population of Ghana became outwardly more uniform with a shift from Islam being mixed with traditional beliefs, to what the Almoravids believed to be true Islam.

However, they didn’t hold power in the region for long. Their rule over the Ghana Empire soon weakened and they eventually pushed the people of Ghana over the edge through excessive taxing and political agitation. The Ghana empire eventually collapsed into smaller tribal groups, losing its position of power by 1100.

Mansa Musa and the Rise of the Mali Empire

Towards the south, while the Ghana Empire was still thriving, the Mande (a collection of ethnic groups in the region) had also accepted Islam. During this time the religious climate was relatively open. The fact Muslims were tolerant towards the traditional spiritual beliefs of West Africans allowed Islam to spread more easily. Rulers became the first to accept Islam and blended it with the traditional beliefs of the region, and over time the local population followed in their footsteps.

After accepting Islam, the Mande went on to conquer Kumbi (the large market town of the Ghana Empire mentioned earlier) and took control of trade routes in the area. Kumbi was the last of the capitals of the Kingdom of Ghana before the Empire crumbled.

Out of the ruins of the Ghana Empire rose a new superpower in the region – the Mali Empire. 

While the founder of this empire wasn’t Muslim, by the year 1300 its rulers most definitely were. The most famous ruler of the Mali Empire was Mansa Musa, and under him, Islam took on a new status within the kingdom.

Mansa Musa made Islam the state religion of Mali – encouraging merchants, traders, and scholars from Egypt and North Africa to come to Mali to both trade and settle. Islam also introduced the skill of literacy to what had previously been a largely oral society, allowing scholars to now record traditions and history in books.

Mansa Musa gave the Mali Empire fame when he went to Hajj in 1324. 

He travelled more than 3000 miles to Makkah, with as many as 80,000 people accompanying him there. On his way, he stopped at Cairo after travelling for 8 months, along with his caravan of 200 camels carrying 30,000 pounds of gold, along with food, clothing, and supplies.

In Egypt, his donations and spending were so generous that he caused a recession from which it took the economy 10 years to recover.

When word began to spread in Makkah and Madinah that the king of Mali was coming, people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of him. Mansa Musa paid in gold for every single good and service he received during his Hajj and gave lavish gifts to his hosts. Similarly to his time in Egypt, he spent so much gold that the value of it in the economies of the two holy cities plunged.

Mansa Musa (and his unlimited gold) put Mali on the map – literally; by 1375 Mansa Musa appeared on European maps holding a nugget of gold. He is believed to be the richest man to have ever lived.

When returning from Hajj, he brought the architect al-Sahili back with him and embarked on a large building program, erecting mosques and madrasas in the cities Timbuktu and Gao of Mali. 

Around the same time, several Muslim societies were developing further east, including the Hausa city-states and the Kingdom of Kanem in modern Northern Nigeria.

Songhai Empire 

One of the groups within the Mali Empire was the Songhai. The warrior Sonni Ali became their ruler in 1460. He built a powerful army allowing the Songhai to break away from the Mali empire and then eventually conquer it. 

Songhai ruled over a diverse and multi-ethnic empire.

Although Islam was the state religion, many blended it with traditional belief systems, and Sonni Ali was known to persecute Muslim scholars, especially those who criticised pagan beliefs.

Later rulers of the Songhai Empire supported Islamic institutions and sponsored mosques, libraries, and public buildings. By the 16th century, the city of Timbuktu was thriving commercially and became a world-leading centre of ‘ilm, attracting scholars from across the Muslim world. For the people of Timbuktu, literacy and books were symbols of barakah, power, and wealth. The prominence of Timbuktu as a centre of learning meant that the activity, and education of scholars in this city had wide-reaching effects which spread to reach the Ummah across the globe.

The fall of the Songhai Empire in 1591 marked the decline of the big empires in West Africa. Merchant scholars in Timbuktu and other centres of ‘ilm dispersed, sharing what they had learnt to the more rural populations.

Final words

In this post, we’ve only encompassed a drop in the ocean that is the Islamic history of West Africa. We hope by giving you a glimpse into this history, we will all be able to better value the diversity of our Ummah and be inspired to learn more about our origins. We encourage you to make the most of this Black History Month, and as always stay tuned as we try to help you achieve this, insha’Allah!

Note: one resource we’re loving this Black History Month (and we’re sure you’ll love too) is the History Nights ‘Inspiring Stories about Black Muslims in History’ series by ilmfeed with Mustafa Briggs. You can find the previous week’s lectures on ilmfeed’s YouTube channel and make sure to tune in live for the upcoming ones! 

The Legacy of Sumayyah Bint Khayyat

Another remarkable woman with great significance in early Islam is Sumayyyah bint Khayyat. She played an important role in early Islam by exhibiting strength in the face of persecution and being the first martyr in Islam.

Her Beginnings

Before embracing Islam, Sumayyah RA, a Black Abysinian (modern day Ethiopia) woman, was a slave in Makkah who was owned by Abu Hudhaifah ibn al-Mughirah, from the tribe of Makhzum. The tribe of Makhzum was one of the most powerful in Makkah and later became one of the most resistant tribes to both Islam and the clan of Banu Hashim (the clan of the Prophet SAW). Abu Hudhaifah ibn al-Mughirah gave Summayah in marriage to Yasir ibn Amir, a man from Yemen, and they had a son called Ammar ibn Yasir who was born in the same year as the Prophet SAW, the year of the elephant. Sumayyah RA’s family lived in Makkah in service to the entire tribe of Makhzum. She was one of the first 7 people to embrace Islam as a 60-year-old woman, along with her son Ammar. Her husband Yasir RA also embraced Islam soon after, making her whole family amongst the earliest to embrace Islam.

Her Persecution by the Quraysh

When the Prophet SAW began to preach Islam publicly, it resulted in the active persecution of the small Muslim community, and due to the societal disadvantage of the family of Yasir, they were left vulnerable to persecution. This family was not rich nor powerful, they had no protection, and were therefore at the mercy of the tribe. Those without protection were often targets for the cruelty of the Quraysh, and Abu Jahal (one of the leaders of the tribe) was one of the strongest opponents against Islam often gave the worst punishments and torture to harm the followers of the Prophet. He did not have any mercy on the old age of Sumayyah and Yasir, but instead used many forms of pressure, threats and torture to get them to renounce their faith. The Prophet SAW was troubled by the persecution of the Muslims, especially the family of Yasir, but he was not able to do anything to protect them. The only thing he could do was to comfort them by saying “Patience O family of Yasir! For you are destined for paradise” (Sahih al-Tirmidhi). It was this promise of paradise which strengthened them to be steadfast in their faith and to be patient with the trials they faced in this world. They were beaten and humiliated in public under the hot sun with no one to defend them, but they chose the reward of the hereafter and stayed true and never went back on ‘La ilahaillAllah Muhammad ur-rasulullah’.

Her Death

Despite their conviction and faith, Abu Jahal especially would not give up on targeting Summayah and her family, as he wished to send a message to the Muslims of Makkah that they would either need to renounce their faith or die. But, each time Sumayyah RA was tortured, she would respond with strength and conviction in Allah SWT and his messenger. This powerful man could not fathom how the faith of this old woman could not be shaken, which only enraged him further and on one occasion he took the violence to an extreme length, more than anything that had been seen before Islam. The entire family of Yasir were each tied to trees and tortured and beaten in front of one another so they would renounce their faith and curse the Prophet SAW. But, as physical torture increased, their perseverance and conviction would increase. Then, Sumayyah RA, weak from torture, used the remnants of her energy to spit at Abu Jahal from her position and humiliate him. A humiliation which would enrage him so far that that he took a spear and pierced her through her midsection, killing her and sending her to Allah SWT. Her husband Yasir RA also died soon after she did.

There is something wondrous about how this woman never saw bliss in this world and experienced only hardship, but with the first strike of Abu Jahal she was able to see the promise of the Prophet SAW, the promise of paradise. “And then that person from amongst the persons of the world be brought who had led the most miserable life (in the world) from amongst the inmates of Paradise. and he would be made to dip once in Paradise, and it would be said to him. 0, son of Adam, did you face any hardship? Or had any distress fallen to your lot? And he would say: By Allah, no,0 my Lord, never did I face any hardship or experience any distress.” [Sahih Muslim 2807].

So as the first mayr of Islam, although she did not see the glory days of the Islam, she preceded everyone from our Ummah to experience the promise of Allah SWT.

The Legacy of Lineage

In speaking about the legacy of Sumayyah RA we also speak of her son, Ammar ibn Yasir. He was a noble companion who faced a lot of persecution like his parents. However, on the occasion that he was tied to the tree, he was tortured until he had a moment of weakness and so maligned the Prophet SAW. Because of this, his life was spared by Abu Jahal. However, he recognised that he had erred and immediately went to the Prophet SAW and confessed. But the Prophet SAW asked ‘How did you find your heart?’, and Ammar RA replied that he was still a muslim in his heart so the Prophet SAW comforted him with the verses “Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief… except for one who is forced [to renounce his religion] while his heart is secure in faith. But those who [willingly] open their breasts to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah, and for them is a great punishment.” (16.106). After this, Ammar RA continued as a companion of the Prophet SAW and he helped build the first mosque in Islam. He participated in many battles and many years after the death of his parents, during the Battle of Badr, the Prophet SAW came to him and revealed “Allah has killed your mother’s killer”, to help alleviate Ammar’s anguish of seeing his parents’ killer roam Makkah for years without consequence. Ammar ibn Yasir was a strong warrior and years later, in the Battle of Siffin, he was also martyred. Thereby gaining the title of a martyr like his parents before him and making theirs a family of martyrs who gave their lives to protect and spread the message of Islam.

Her Legacy

The life of Sumayyah bint Khayyat was not one of ease before her death, again, she did not get to experience the ease in the glory days of Islam. Her life was one that was full of hardship, and as an old woman who was amongst the first to embrace Islam, she was persecuted, and her life became harder ever since. But her death is one of immense importance in Islamic history. Her death did not send the message of weakness which Abu Jahal had intended, but it sent one of strength and unshakeable faith. The significance of the fact that Sumayyah RA, an old Black Abyssinian woman, was willing to stand with her truth, and not just accept the torture but do what she could to fight back, and as a result lost her life, is the ultimate strength. She became a symbol of strength, courage, bravery and faith to all Muslims. The Prophet SAW himself assured her that her destination is paradise and she is an example that there is nothing more important than devotion to Allah SWT and standing strong in the face of adversity. She gave the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Allah SWT, and Allah honoured her sacrifice and exalted her status to being the first shaheeda of Islam. Allah SWT does not know the distinctions of this world, he just elevated her position because of her faith, and she was honoured in the best way.


We have only touched upon a portion of the lives of these remarkable muslims. There is a lot more to be learnt when you uncover their histories, as well as the stories of many other figures in the history of Islam. We encourage you to do your best to learn more, and also stay tuned for our next blog post which will help you on your journey!

The Legacy of Umm Ayman

The early history of Islam is marked by many remarkable black individuals who played an important role in the life of the Prophet SAW and the beginnings of Islam. We wish to give you an insight into one of these women and her legacy in the muslim ummah.


The early history of Islam would not be done justice without honouring Umm Ayman, a woman truly like no other. The only one who can be said to have been with the Prophet SAW from the moment of his birth to the moment that he died. She is one of the few Muslims the Prophet SAW assured of paradise, and is a woman whom the Prophet honoured with the status of “mother after my own mother”.

Her Life

Barakah bint Tha’labah, later known as Umm Ayman was a young Abysinnian girl brought to Makkah and sold as a slave. She was fortunate enough to be brought into the household of a noble and gentle man, Abdullah ibn Muttalib, the father of the Prophet SAW. She took care of his affairs as well as his wife Aminah bint Wahb, the mother of the Prophet SAW. It was Barakah who comforted Amina whilst her husband left on a long journey and it was Barakah who conveyed the news of his death to her too. 

Whilst her husband was on the trip, Aminah fell ill and had a dream where she saw “lights coming from my abdomen lighting up the mountains, the hills and the valleys around Makkah” and it was Barakah who interpreted this to mean that she would “give birth to a blessed child who will bring goodness”. The young girl stood by Aminah’s side throughout her entire pregnancy and was also the only person present during the delivery of the Prophet SAW, where she was the first to hold him, bathe him, and care for him his entire life.

When Barakah RA was a young woman and the Prophet SAW was 6 years old, she accompanied him and his mother on a journey to Madinah, but on their return back to Makkah, Aminah fell seriously ill. She entrusted her son to Barakah and said “Be a mother to him, Barakah. And don’t ever leave him.” Aminah passed away at al-Abwa with Barakah and her son Muhammad SAW, so they buried her; Barakah then consoled the young boy and took him back to Makkah where they lived with the grandfather of the Prophet SAW, Abdul Muttalib. When the Prophet SAW was 9, his grandfather also died and Barakah was there to console him too. She stayed with the Prophet SAW throughout his life and although the Prophet inherited her from his father, he freed her. To him, she was his ‘mother after his mother’ and played a pivotal role.

The Marriages of Umm Ayman

Umm Ayman had devoted her youth to the Prophet SAW and remained unmarried, she lived to care for the young orphaned boy. However, as the Prophet SAW grew and got married to Khadijah RA at 25 years old, he encouraged her to get married too. He would say “Ya Ummah!” Now I am a married man, and you are still unmarried. What do you think if someone should come now and ask to marry you?” However, she would reply saying “I shall never leave you. Does a mother abandon her son?”. To which he would then say to his wife Khadijah RA “This is Barakah. This is my mother after my own mother. She is the rest of my family.” Khadijah RA said Barakah, you have sacrificed your youth for the sake of Muhammad. Now he wants to pay back some of his obligations to you. For my sake and his, agree to be married before old age overtakes you.” Barakah RA agreed and married Ubayd ibn Zayd from the Khazraj tribe of Yathrib (Madinah) and moved there. She gave birth to a son whom they called Ayman, and from then onwards she was known as “Umm Ayman”, the mother of Ayman. However, her marriage did not last very long as her husband passed away so she returned to Makkah as a widow with her son, and lived with Muhammad SAW in the house of the Khadijah RA.

Umm Ayman was one of the first to accept Islam as she lived in the Prophets household when he received revelation. She did not hesitate to believe in his message and Prophethood, and immediately submitted to the will of Allah SWT. She bravely endured the persecution of the Quraysh, and performed invaluable services for the cause. 

One night a few years after revelation, Umm Ayman risked her life to convey a message to the Prophet SAW by passing a blockade of disbelievers in Makkah to reach the House of Al-Arqam (where the Prophet SAW gathered his companions to teach about Islam). The Prophet SAW told her “you are blessed, Umm Ayman. Surely you have a place in Paradise.” And when she left he said to his companions: “should one of you desire to marry a woman of the people of paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman.” From them Zayd ibn al-Harithah, the Prophet SAW adopted son, said he would marry her because “By Allah, she is better than women who have grace and beauty”. From this marriage, despite her old age, she bore the child Usamah ibn Zaid, a boy whom the Prophet SAW loved like his own and people would say ‘he is the beloved son of the beloved’.

The Devotion of Umm Ayman

When the time of the Hijrah came, Umm Ayman, at the old age of about 70 years, also made the long and difficult journey on foot through the Arabian desert. She travelled through the intense heat and sandstorms and persisted in the way of Allah SWT fueled by her love for the Prophet SAW and his religion. On the journey she even found herself in a situation without any water. However, she believed in the mercy of her Lord, and Allah SWT sent down help. It was narrated that she saw a bucket tied with rope being lowered from the sky, it contained cold water for her to quench her thirst and cool her body. After this blessing she narrates that she ‘never felt thirsty after that, even when I fast on the hottest day’, what an honour. When she reached Madinah, her feet were swollen, her face covered with sand and dust, and upon seeing her the Prophet SAW wiped her face and eyes, massaged her feet and rubbed her shoulders, exclaiming: “”Yaa Umm Ayman! Ya Ummi! Indeed for you is a place in Paradise!”.

Even throughout history she witnessed every battle of the Prophet SAW, and accompanied him on expeditions such as to Khaybar and Hunayn. At the Battle of Uhud she distributed water to the thirsty and tended to the wounded. And when the Prophet was rumoured to have died and many muslims were running from the battlefield, she stood her ground along with some other muslim women to defend the Prophet SAW and the muslims. She would follow him everywhere as his protecting mother with a watchful eye.

Her Relationship with the Prophet SAW

Umm Ayman had been with the Prophet SAW throughout his life and he honored this relationship into his adulthood. She comforted him in times of hardship, treated him with care and affection, and he would do the same. They also shared a jovial relationship too, the Prophet SAW would laugh and joke with her and one such instance is when she came to the Prophet SAW said “O Messenger of Allah, may you give me an animal to ride.” The Prophet jokingly told her, I will give you the offspring of a she-camel to ride.” She said, “O Messenger of Allah, what will I do with the offspring of a she-camel? It would not be able to carry me.” The Prophet said: “Are riding-camels born except from she-camels?”. Their relationship contained light heartedness as well as full faith and conviction in the message of the Prophet SAW. On occasions he would ask how she was and she would reply “I am well, O Messenger of Allah, so long as Islaam is”. She had complete dedication to his cause and never forsook him or Islam despite the difficulties or persecution she may have faced, she never complained to the Prophet SAW about her hardships, but showed continual support.

The Death of the Prophet SAW

This woman’s entire purpose in life was defined by the moment she held the Prophet SAW and she had spent her entire life by his side. Therefore, after his death Abu Bakr RA and Umar RA would visit her, as they had seen the Prophet SAW do every day throughout his life, and would be there to comfort her.

Anas reported that after the death of Allah’s Messenger () Abu Bakr said to ‘Umar:

Let us visit Umm Aiman as Allah’s Messenger () used to visit her. As we came to her, she wept. They (Abu Bakr and Umar) said to her: What makes you weep? What is in store (in the next world) for Allah’s-Messenger () is better than (this worldly life). She said: I weep not because I am ignorant of the fact that what is in store for Allah’s Messenger () (in the next world) is better than (this world), but I weep because the revelation which came from the Heaven has ceased to come. This moved both of them to tears and they began to weep along with her. [Sahih Muslim 2454]

The Legacy of LineageThe legacy of Umm Ayman also lies in the greatness of her children

Ayman ibn Ubaid embraced Islam in Makkah and made the hijra to Madinah where he was a shepard and was entrusted to look after the goats of the Prophet SAW. He was a faithful companion of the Prophet and was also a participant in campaigns to defend Islam. At the battle of Hunayn when many of the muslims fled from the battleground because they were panic stricken; he was one of the 8 people who stood steadfast with the Prophet SAW. Ayman RA ended up being martyred at this battle, but the muslims were successful in their campaign. After his martyrdom, Al-Abbas RA, the uncle of the Prophet SAW composed a poem praising the steadfastness and bravery of Ayman ibn ‘Ubaid.

Usamah ibn Zaid, known as “The Beloved Son of the Beloved” having been born to parents the Prophet SAW considered as his own family, he was also loved immensely by the Prophet SAW. He cared for him and, as one of those who were born into Islam, was taught from an early age. He showed signs of great leadership in his early teens and attempted to join the muslims in the battles such as Uhud (although the Prophet SAW did not permit him) as well as the battle of the Trench where he fought bravely. He also participated in the battle of Mu’tah against the Byzantine alongside his father, Zayd ibn Harithah who was appointed head of the expedition but was later martyred in this battle. Usamah RA had the opportunity to encounter the Byzantines again as part of the last mission the Prophet SAW. The Prophet sent the muslims to face them and put the eighteen year old Usamah as their commander in chief. A young, yet intelligent, capable and accomplished fighter who was able to return to Madinah with his army and “people saw no army that was safer and richer in booty than Usamah’s army”. Usamah RA was a mighty warrior for the muslims and was greatly loved and respected.

Her Legacy

By the time Umm Ayman RA died, she had witnessed the death of both of her husbands, both of her children, and the death of the Prophet SAW. She also outlived Abu Bakr RA and saw the assassination of Umar ibn al-Khattab. She experienced hardships in her life yet lived through the lives of almost everyone who was a part of hers. She died with honour as she was devoted to the Prophet SAW and as such, he elevated her status to that of his mother. He honoured this woman despite her lack of tribe, her skin colour, gender and poverty; he held her in such high regard which made society honour her as a mother after the Prophet’s mother. The life of Umm Ayman was unique as the only one who lived so closely to the Prophet SAW from birth till death, and the Prophet himself said that she is a woman of Jannah. She is an example of sincerity and piety to the entire muslim ummah because of her love for the Prophet SAW, her commitment to Islam, her sacrifice and her service – all to please Allah SWT. She embodied her statement “I am good as long as Islam is good” and lived each day caring for the message and Prophet she knew to be true.

Best Places To Eat In Manchester

If you’re familiar with eating out and experimenting then you’ll know that the price of food doesn’t always dictate it’s quality nor does it guarantee good taste. We know how easy it is to stick to ordering from that one place that you know is a safe bet, especially as a broke student, you don’t want to take a risk and pay for something that turns out to be disappointing. 

If this sounds like you, we’ve got you covered! We’ve done the hard work of trialling and reviewing food and compiled a list of the best food spots in Manchester: from cheap takeaways to fancier restaurants where you can treat yourself (without breaking the bank). 

We’ve included a variety of cuisines too (Japanese, Italian and Caribbean – just to name a few) so you can trust that there will definitely be something to suit your palate! And of course, it goes without saying that ALL these places are halal, and many have vegetarian/vegan menu options too!

Curry Mile/Oxford Road

Go Falafel – Falafel & Juice Bar (Vegan)

The perfect place to grab a warm and healthy falafel wrap for lunch whilst on campus. You can customise your wrap with sauces and other options such as hummus, pickles, salad, and seasoned potatoes. 

Note: their ‘healthy juices’ are a bit of a misleading name because they’re just smoothies i.e blended fruit, they don’t actually juice anything! Also, be aware that there’s no space to eat in.

Our recommendation is the standard medium falafel wrap – £3.50

Keep an eye out for their freshers student BARGAIN of £1 wraps around September/October!

Today Fresh Shawarama

By far one of the most popular takeaways on the curry mile. Like the name says – fresh, beautifully spiced shawarma at a competitively cheap price is their main selling point and we admit it’s hard to beat these prices and quality (shawarma + naan from £2.50). In particular, we have to give a special mention to our personal favourite: shawarma in their fresh samoon bread. This tasty choice has earned itself quite the reputation – once you’ve tasted it no other shawarma will make the cut (ask for the number 1 meal option). They also do some addictive pizzas and fatayer from just £2.00! The bottom line is that this is the best shout for a tasty meal at the cheapest price. 

The one downside to Today restaurant is that it can get quite hectic during peak hours and the chaotic queuing system means you might be in for a long wait. 

Afghans Cuisine

If you’re starving and in need of mighty portion sizes then look no further.

The service here is fast and your food is usually accompanied by dips and salad. The staff are friendly and helpful and there’s plenty of room to eat-in with nicer seating upstairs.

We recommend their kobeda wrap (£3.85) or their mixed kebab (£6.75). Pay an extra £1 to get it on Qabili rice – trust us, it’s worth it!

Pizza Co

Reasonable prices, decently spaced seating on both floors, and a very smiley owner – Pizza co is where to go for a solid pizza with a vast range of topping options. The sheer range of their menu and selection choices is the trump card here.

Located just a few steps down Oxford Road from campus, this is the place to go if you’re craving a bite of pizza in between lectures!

Al Jazeera

Famous for one dish and one dish only: Qabili Pilau – succulent carrot and sultana rice mixed with gorgeous tender lamb. We declare with full, unwavering confidence that this is the best place for rice in Manchester, bar none. It is no exaggeration to say they’ve got the basics down to a fine art. 

New York Krispy

Fried chicken is an unsurpassable takeaway item that always hits the spot. Get a taste of the timeless crispy breading and tender, succulent chicken which New York Krispy does best by simply getting some wings (£2.20) or their Megabox Meal (£6.99) if you want to go all in with a burger, chicken strip, wings, fries and a drink.

Toro’s Steakhouse

Alright, we might’ve lied when we said you wouldn’t break the bank in any of these places because the first thing you’ll see on the menu in Toro’s SteakHouse is £££. But for a steak?  We can’t really argue on the price. 

With hearty portions of tender, sizzling steak, and a respectable selection of sides (the mash is a different level of creamy) Toro’s is worth every penny spent.

Manchester City Centre

Tampopo (vegan menu options included)

Hands down the champion franchise for southeast Asian food (beats Wagamama by a mile). If you want your east Asian food authentic and done justice then rest assured you’re in safe hands with Tampopo. Our favourites are the katsu curry (£11.25) and pad thai (£11.95). They also do 20% student discount on weekdays so make sure to bring your student card too! We recommend the branch in Exchange Quay for the warm lantern lighting, pleasant atmosphere, and great interior decor.

Vapiano (vegan menu options included)

The home of fresh handmade pasta, pizza, and Mediterranean salads – distinctly italiano. At Vapiano, flexibility is their unofficial forte so it’s quite easy to ask for specific menu changes and even speak to the chef. If you’re craving Italian, think Vapiano.

Jerk Shak (vegan menu options included)

Not many people know that this place is halal so it’s about time we shared the secret. Fried chicken, jerk chicken, mutton curry, oxtail, as well as peas and rice are Caribbean classics that you’ll find are made at an elite level here at Jerk Shak, all served rustically on enamel plates and with big boy portions. It’s hard to miss with its bright Caribbean themed colour scheme and shack-like exterior right next to Market Street tram stop! 

Habesha (vegan menu options included)

This little gem is one of the best-kept secrets on the food scene in Manchester. Hidden away on busy Sackville street, it may be hard to notice at first but get past the fact it’s above a takeaway and you’re in for food so authentic you’ll feel transported to Ethiopia itself. With its homely atmosphere yet professional service, Habesha has a loyal crowd of customers and overwhelming popularity that makes it packed on weekend evenings. 

Although the menu is small, they’ve certainly perfected the dishes on offer. All food is served alongside a traditional, freshly-made sour flatbread called injera. We recommend the Yebeg Wot (fragrant, tender lamb cubes slow-cooked with onions, garlic, and ginger) but the meat-free dishes on offer taste just as good if not better. The Yetsom Beyaynetu is a mouthwatering, lentil-based stew that packs a punch and will leave you seeing vegan food in a new light!

That’s it for our top picks of places to eat in Manchester,  now it’s over to you to get some mates together and head out to try these food spots for yourself! 

Bon appetit!

Living At Home During University

Starting university can be a daunting experience. For many it’s their first time living away from home, taking care of their own finances, and being completely independent.

But what about if you decide to live at home? 

You may have made this decision for various reasons: financially it might make sense, living close to uni makes commuting a realistic option, or perhaps you don’t feel ready to move out just yet.

Whatever the reason, living at home raises its own questions and concerns among freshers so we’ll be giving you 10 tips today to address the most common ones!


The commute is often an aspect of living at home that people dread. Synonymous with images of crowded buses, delayed trains, and early morning starts it can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to change that:

Disclaimer: since most students commute via some form of public transport these tips are aimed at them.

  1. Use the morning commute as a time to study

Having a tablet, laptop or even your phone makes studying on your commute only a few clicks away and cuts out the faff of having to haul around heavy books and messy pages of notes. 

If you’re one of the many who like to pre-read slides for their lectures, the commute is the perfect time to do that! If you’re a medic you could review some anatomy with your Anki flashcards or read up on the week’s case and answer a few quick questions from the agenda.

Or if studying on the train sounds like a nightmare, how about listening to that Mufti Menk lecture you’ve been meaning to, or some peaceful Quran to start your day off with an Iman boost? 

  1. Use the commute back as a chance to rest

A common challenge for commuting students is feeling too tired to study by the time you get home. Combat this by considering the commute back home as an opportunity to rest in itself rather than a means to an end. As long as you don’t miss your stop, why not have a quick power nap or just take the time to sit back and relax? If you find that this still doesn’t help – maybe because your journey involves a long walk, then recognise this early on and be realistic. Don’t expect yourself to get straight to work when you come home, make it a priority to set aside some time to rest and get your energy back first.

Reminder: Be sure to say your adhkar while commuting to stay safe especially when travelling home alone at night! 

  1. Get to know fellow commuters

Manchester is a big university and an even bigger city, which means there’s almost always someone commuting by the same route as you! Don’t be afraid to ask people how they’re getting home, what bus they’re taking, or which way they’re headed. Often even people living in accommodation such as Fallowfield or Victoria take public transport or have a bit of a walk to get down Oxford road so it’s really easy to find people to share your journey with, even if it’s just for part of the way.

Having a commuting buddy will make the journey less tedious and can help you avoid FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to commute

Commuting comes hand-in-hand with delays and cancellations. So, make it a habit to always give yourself room for the unexpected in your morning journey. 

The “uni experience”

A common concern we hear is: ‘Will I miss out on the uni experience by commuting?’

It’s time to bust this long-standing myth. The truth is it’s completely up to you! Living at home is almost never the obstacle it seems to be when it comes to making close friends, going out for a meal, and attending the events and socials that you want to. 

  1. Get to know your course mates

Getting to know people on your course is always a good place to start. They may be the first people you meet at uni, so be open to chatting and spending extra time with them! Grabbing lunch, going to the library together on a study date, or even heading to a nearby park (if the Manchester weather lets you) is an easy way to become familiar with some new faces. This is also a great opportunity to incorporate socialising into your day since staying late for society events might not be an option for some commuters.

  1. Check out societies 

Come freshers week, everyone will be in a similar position and likely feeling a bit nervous. Approaching people out in public can be very daunting, so by attending society events meeting new people becomes a bit easier.

You may find it difficult to stay late for evening events so make the most of freshers when there will be more events running during the day. Some societies may be holding events online this year, which is perfect for commuters! And as a last port of call if there’s not much on and you’re bored or not sure where to find people, definitely head over to McDougall’s prayer hall at any time! This is the hub for Muslims on campus and you’ll meet plenty of welcoming brothers/sisters to chill and spend time with.

Side note: when it comes to societies, a special mention has to be given to ISoc; for Muslim students on campus, it opens the doors to a community from which you can benefit spiritually (insha’Allah) as well as a place to socialise and meet new people. Make sure to check our events out!

  1. Utilise social media

Facebook makes it really easy to connect with fellow freshers. There’s plenty of group chats out there. The fresher’s ones are a good place to start, however, we’d recommend checking out some society group chats too. That way, you can meet people with shared interests, which is more likely to lead to friendship. 

You can also message the @manchesterisoc insta page to be added to the ISoc Freshers 2020 (Sisters/Brothers) Whatsapp group chats too!

By joining these group chats, you can get to know people and can perhaps arrange some meet-ups, all before you even step foot on campus. 

How do I balance it all?

  1. The importance of seeking knowledge

Realise that seeking knowledge is a fardh. This applies to any kind of knowledge; be it worldly, academic, or Islamic. Most importantly, strive to seek Islam amongst your books. Even the animals and fish will seek forgiveness for this individual who studies. The significance of this is that the one who seeks knowledge learns about the rights of the Creator, the creation, and the world he resides in. He isn’t thrown by whatever he encounters but has self-assurance.

 Make the intention to study at least, you have to start somewhere.

  1. Work smarter not harder 

The key to being a successful student while commuting is learning to work efficiently. Everybody is different so there is no one way to go about this but experiment with different methods and routines to figure out what works best for you. For example, do you prefer to go home straight away and get all your work done in the comfort of your room? Or do you work more efficiently going to the library after class and being in that study environment? 

Consider your energy levels and what time of day you work best during. You’ll do yourself a huge favour figuring out early on in your degree how to get your work done in a few hours instead of it taking the whole day. 

Learn to prioritise important or urgent tasks over others – write a checklist or make a mental note of what you plan to get done before you set out to do it.

Above all, be flexible. Some days you’ll be on top of everything and others you’ll feel like you’re swamped. That’s fine! As students, we all have our good days and bad days, and this is part of the learning experience.

  1. Make time for life outside of university

Sometimes it might seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you want. To help fix this, we recommend setting time aside for your hobbies and interests, just as you set time aside for study. 

Allocate a specific portion of your time for life outside of studying. Dedicate this time to working on yourself spiritually, getting a workout in, or spending time with your family.

Final Words

You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again – university is what you make of it. These short few years are an opportunity to do so much more than earn just a diploma. Besides excelling academically, it’s an opportunity to move closer to Allah in these defining years, develop ourselves, and of course make life-long memories. We pray Allah makes this a journey of barakah for you and that our advice goes some way in helping you achieve what you set out to do. 

We start this journey, and end this piece with the best of words:

A Muslim’s Guide to Living on Campus

From our own experience, we know moving away from home for the first time to an unfamiliar city can be intimidating, especially as a Muslim student, so we’ve put together some of our top tips and advice to help you overcome any challenges and ease this transition!

It’s Okay to Feel Homesick

We understand moving to a new city can leave you feeling lonely at times but you’ll quickly find your place in Manchester and build a support network to help you get through it. The University of Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK with students from a diverse range of backgrounds so have no doubt that you will eventually find your people! We recommend keeping yourself as busy as you can outside and around others in the first few weeks to minimise the amount of time you spend alone in your room. Freshers makes this super easy because there’s plenty of events being hosted daily! And as a last port of call when bored or not sure where to find people, definitely head over to McDougall’s prayer hall and you’ll meet plenty of welcoming muslims to chill and spend time or even go out with. Decorate and personalise your room by adding fairy/led lights, plants, posters and a throw for a homely touch so that any time you do spend there is a lot more comfortable. Especially with the covid situation, you might be spending more time in your room than you’d like. Make sure to call home frequently and make an effort to visit regularly on weekends to ease homesickness too. 

Check Up On Your Family

Expanding on the last point, we just want to reiterate the importance of checking up on your family to not only ease homesickness but to fulfil the obligation Allah has enjoined upon you. Silat ur-Rahm (maintaining family ties) is compulsory in Islam, particularly to your parents whose favours to you are innumerable. You may not live in the same city anymore but you should still uphold your duty to maintain contact with them by calling regularly and showing compassion.

“And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.”


Join Societies

We highly recommend joining a couple of societies during freshers as this is perhaps one of the easiest ways to make friends and meet like minded people at university. From faith societies like ISoc to cultural, sports, recreation and volunteering societies there’s something for everyone. Joining these societies will allow you to pursue hobbies outside of your course, and maybe even push you out of your comfort zone at times. ISoc offers a vast array of socials and events from Friday linkups to weekly classes, sunrise snowdon hikes and weekend retreats so do get involved! You can also join societies related to your course, this will help you meet more people on your course and pursue a niche area of your degree which could come in handy after graduating.

Befriend Your Flatmates

You might not be sharing your room with them but more often than not, you’ll be bumping into them in your communal kitchen. It’s not realistic to expect everyone to be best buds with each other but being on friendly terms with your flatmates will make those daily kitchen encounters a lot less awkward and living in halls much more enjoyable!

Plan Your Meals Ahead

It’s time to put those blissful days of coming home to a freshly cooked dinner by your parents behind you. Unless you’re someone who genuinely looks forward to cooking dinner after a long day at uni, meal planning is your best bet. Take some time out of your weekend to do some grocery shopping and schedule an hour or two each Sunday to batch cook meals for the next week. Youtube is the go-to place for simple, affordable and tasty meal plans geared towards students! Even if your cooking skills aren’t the finest, making a pasta mix takes little effort and it’s so easy to switch up the dishes with basics like cheese, tomato, sweetcorn, tuna or chicken. Whether you want to prep lunch or dinner for the week, grab yourself a few reusable, air-tight containers (to avoid saucy leakages in your bag) from Tesco or Poundland and put them in the fridge with your meals for the next few days. Lidl is best for cheap staples like pasta and rice but for spices and halal meat, Worldwide is the place to go.

Budgeting, Budgeting, Budgeting!

With the curry mile being within a walking distance, the temptation to go on a daily food crawl is real. However, this is not economical for the average student and expenses from eating out snowball rapidly. You don’t want to find yourself making that dreaded call to mama and baba in the middle of the semester to tell them you’ve run out of money, and speaking from experience, that hour-long lecture over the phone is not worth it! Give yourself a weekly budget and do not exceed it. Limit yourself to eating out at a restaurant once or twice a week. Hold yourself accountable by tracking your expenditure via a spreadsheet.

Find a Good Work-Life Balance

Your body has been entrusted to you by Allah (SWT) so it’s imperative you take care of it. Sleep early, wake up early and front load your work to maximise your productivity so you can have your evenings off to destress and focus on other things.  Avoid leaving your assignments to the last minute, we’re warning you now that an all-nighter in Ali G (Alan Gilbert learning commons) is never worth it, so don’t put your mind and body through that!

Cherish Your Time at University

At university, you’re blessed with an unprecedented amount of free time, make use of this to better yourself beyond academia. Also pursue a hobby, take up a sport, learn a language, explore the city, and just say yes to different opportunities, new experiences and everything in between. And perhaps most importantly, seek knowledge about your deen and develop yourself spiritually. The Prophet ﷺ advised us to:

“Take benefit of five before five: 

Your youth before your old age, 

your health before your sickness, 

your wealth before your poverty, 

your free time before you are preoccupied, 

and your life before your death”

Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim

Your years at university will fly by, so make sure to completely immerse yourself and you’ll never regret looking back!

Welcome Back!

From the eager freshers to the returning students, we warmly welcome you this September of 2020 to the University, ISoc, and most importantly, to our newly renovated blog.

We never thought the day would come. But here we are, announcing that the Blog is back! Bigger, better and bolder than ever. 

After our haunting 2 year absence we’ve gotten ourselves back up and running. In our break we’ve gathered up a team of writers and developed a new management strategy behind the scenes, which means you can expect regular weekly articles as well as campaigns for important causes across the year. The blog is for you students so if there’s anything you’d like to see or be addressed do tell us! And like always, any articles – whether it’s sharing a perspective, personal stories, educational pieces, or something about your degree – you’re more than welcome to send it in to be published! 

Be prepared for everything from Islamic pearls of wisdom to mouth-watering recipes and all that’s in between – coming your way from September 2020!

‘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:

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

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

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.

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

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:

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:

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.