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!

Commuting

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:
bismillah.

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.”

[17:24]

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:

https://goo.gl/forms/KaV1jtQtMB0oLHfq2

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.
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!