Seek & You Shall Find: How I Found My Element and My Tribe

Saturday, August 27, 2016


"Connecting with people who share the same passions affirms that you're not alone; that there are others like you and that, while many might not understand your passion, some do... Finding your tribe brings the luxury of talking shop, bouncing ideas around, of sharing and comparing techniques, and indulging your enthusiasms and hostilities for the same things." - Ken Robinson

Ever since I was young I was a little different from my classmates and those my age, in general. Being the youngest in my family and having siblings who are more than ten years older than me might have something to do with it. On the outside I dressed and talked like my peers and we even shared the same interests but my values were slightly different. While girls my age were into designer bags and clothes I was more interested in the creativity that went into making them. I was curious about why certain types of beauty were featured in fashion and lifestyle magazines and others weren't. When I was 15-years-old I wrote a long email to Eh! magazine and asked them why they only featured women with straight hair as the ideal representation of Malaysian beauty. I didn't know anyone else in my social circle who would do such a thing that's why I was so happy to see these young women on television a few months ago. I hope other young girls will look at them and know it's okay to be smart, inquisitive and different.

Varsity life was a lot more enlightening for me because my friends were more diverse in terms of age, religion and ethnicity. Today, the university environment is probably still one of the few places I feel I can be myself but have my intellectual abilities challenged at the same time. Perhaps that's why I felt a strong urge to return to school and pursue my Master's degree. But another reason was because I was in search of my 'tribe'.

Why You Should Drop Everything, Move to a Different City and Start a New Life

Thursday, July 28, 2016


 "Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death." - Betty Bender

If you were intrigued by the title of this post it's because it appealed to a desire within you to change or get away from a particular situation in your life, be it a job or career path, the place you live, a relationship or lack thereof. Like you, I wanted change and I had always intended to pursue my Master's degree. Hence, off I went to Wellington, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with two large suitcases, to live by myself for the first time. This post isn't really about why I think you should quit your job or leave your partner and pack your bags to start a new life. It's about why facing your fears, going into the unknown and taking risks isn't only necessary but also inevitable if you want  a meaningful and fulfilling life. It's not that you shouldn't be grateful for what you already have. In fact, having more is rarely the solution. What I'm saying is, I understand the desire to do and be better.

Fearless. Confident. High-spirited. These words are often associated with extroverts like me. There's truth in it but we also have moments of self-doubt and we face a set of challenges unbeknownst to people around us. In the midst of writing my thesis I often thought to myself, "What did I get myself into? Can I really do this? I've invested so much time and money. Maybe I should have just stayed in KL." But being a big believer in not waiting for things to happen to me and trying my best to embrace challenges instead of running away from them is why I can say I have few regrets in life, if any at all (not because I don't make mistakes but I don't like to dwell on them).

My willingness to take risks is why I can reflect on the last 20 months of my life in Wellington and my postgraduate journey and take heed from the important lessons I've learned about myself and others. It's also the reason I can say I've discussed the Israeli government's rhetoric with prominent Palestinian activist Ali AbuNimah, rubbed shoulders with Oddisee (literally) and had Sonny Bill Williams take a selfie with my phone ;) In all seriousness, without risks, challenges and mistakes we might not get hurt, have regrets or endure hardships but we would also never grow as individuals as we would be missing out on life-changing and rewarding experiences and relationships. Maybe instead of thinking of what you want to do as something that is risky, why not perceive it as an opportunity of a lifetime?

Not convinced? Totally understandable! This is why I've compiled a list of things I hope you'll consider before making a bold decision.

Faith Friday: The Grateful Slave

Friday, June 17, 2016



When I moved to Wellington in late 2014, one of the first places my friends Chloe and Ali took me to was a second-hand bookstore called 'Pegasus' on Cuba Street. Time has passed and now, Chloe and Ali are in Jordan where they are both studying Arabic and Chloe is running her Etsy store selling Islamic art-inspired digital art prints, colouring pages, and craft projects.


The cutest couple I know, Ali and Chloe (تبارک اللہ)

Anyway, when I was with them at the bookstore I purchased a book called 'The Conference of the Birds' by Farid ud-Din Attar (translated by C.S. Nott) which was neatly tucked away in the Sufi section. The book contains many gems of wisdom that I refer to from time to time when I'm not caught up with my research. As we are in the middle of the blessed month of Ramadan and today is Friday, a most noble day, I'd like to share one of the stories within the book that taught me a lesson about gratitude.

My Muslim Identity Crisis (Part II)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wellington Botanic Gardens, May 2016

Four years ago, I published a post entitled 'My Muslim Identity Crisis' and the response I received was beyond my expectations. Looking back, I can see how much I've grown, although if I were to be completely honest, I am still trying to make sense of my Muslim/Malay/Kiwi identity today. What I know for sure is not knowing the answers all the time is part of being human and quite possibly the reason why life is beautiful.

I was first intrigued by identity politics when I read Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim's theory of individualisation. The theory argues the quest to construct our individual identities is a paradoxical process because the more we try to liberate ourselves from social expectations and social constructs the more we become bounded by other ones. For example, the moment we think we are detaching ourselves from cultural and traditional notions and norms of gender roles we are actually ascribing to another culture's set of socially-constructed expectations.

When we shed one identity we are left with the task of creating or searching for another one. The very thing we think might liberate us, such as the freedom to be individuals and choose who we want to be and how we want to live our lives, might actually bind us even more to socially constructed ideas. Our desire to belong to a community of our choice means we are likely to adjust to that particular community's standards of what is normal and acceptable. This is not to say that there's something inherently wrong with the desire for individuality or a sense of belonging in a community but we must be critical of it and the process of individualisation.

Faith Friday: Make Islam Relevant Again

Friday, April 22, 2016

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of Trump. I just have an awkward sense of humour.

There are various reasons why many young Muslims today are asking themselves, "How is Islam relevant in my life?". The rise of secularism, terrorism, post-modernism, atheism, humanism and movements in relation to LGBT rights, women's rights and human rights are a few of those reasons. As Jeffrey Lang asserted, Muslims are having intellectual conflicts and without continuous review and critical analyses of Islamic scholarly texts and how they are applied in today's context the way Islam is interpreted and practiced can become detrimental and problematic. Muslims in the West, and in other parts of the world too, feel there is a clash between the culture they grew up in and the culture of Islam.

While the dissimilarity between Islamic culture and popular culture, for example, can be an argument for why Islam is appealing to many,  the essence of  Islam and its message align with 'Western' values, such as the equity and equality of women and the sanctity of human life. However,  when we don't focus on what is crucially needed in our communities the beauty of Islam is not translated into our actions and the reality we live in. Over the years I've learned Islam and Muslims are nuanced and diverse enough to address the concerns of many of the aforementioned movements. The broad-brush strokes with which the Muslim global community (ummah) has been painted with will only deepen and widen the crevasse that not only exists among Muslims but also between Muslims and non-Muslims. Before I continue, I'd like to clarify this is an opinion-piece I've written very quickly within an hour and I acknowledge it requires further deliberation and elaboration. But I have something to say and it's been a while since I've written a Faith Friday post.

A Woman's Worth: Challenging The Commoditisation of Women

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Women are not commodities": A subversive sticker message spotted on a Women's Day ad on Ghuznee Street, Wellington

I was walking to town when I noticed something different about a poster I had passed by before. It was an advertisement for a women's magazine called Woman's Day, a top-selling weekly tabloid publication in New Zealand. The tagline for this particular advertisement campaign "Take time for you. Nobody die." is a reference to the juggling act women often do in their daily lives. The campaign features a Zsa-Zsa Gabor-esque stereotypical middle or upper-class Eastern European housewife. I personally find the advertisement to be very tacky so I was amused to see that someone had placed a sticker on the lips of the woman posing seductively on the poster. The sticker bore the words: "Women are not commodities".

The New Medina

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Ideas are seeds of tangible change. With the proliferation of communication technologies there seems to be no shortage of good ideas expressed in the echo chambers we call social media. This is why I have a special appreciation for people who work hard to ensure awesome, ground-breaking ideas translate into tangible progress in communities. 


Social educator Mark Gonzales and cultural anthropologist Soraya Hosni (and their 18-month-old daughter, Sirat) are the beautiful people behind a grassroots project called 'The New Medina' which aims to revive hope and possibility in the Tunisian seaside town of Sousse. Not to be confused with the Prophet's city, medina means 'the old walled part of a North African town'. According to them, 'The New Medina' will be a "8000 square foot center for youth, creatives and entrepreneurs to cultivate a solution driven culture".

The Signature 'Sha' Scarf Style

Friday, January 29, 2016


From friends to random ladies at the supermarket, many women have asked me to do a tutorial for this scarf style. And so here it is. I personally believe a light and wide cotton scarf is most suitable for this style because it will look more voluminous and it won't slip off easily. I don't usually use an inner or under scarf, so this is important to me! I apologise for how soft my voice sounds in this video. I should have spoken louder but I was pretty tired. Hope you find the video helpful, anyway. By the way, I recommend wearing a loose top or cardigan when wearing this scarf style because the scarf doesn't cover the chest area :) 

Dolce & Gabbana Abayas: Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Energisation?

Saturday, January 16, 2016



There is debate among Muslims whether Dolce & Gabbana's recently released collection of luxury abayas is a form of cultural appropriation ('plundering') of the Muslim culture or a means of 'energising' it. We covered the issue of cultural appropriation when I was tutoring for an introductory paper on Media Studies last year and I think the Dolce & Gabbana abaya collection would make a great discussion for this topic.

To 'plunder' or culturally appropriate artefacts from their originating culture is to "strip away local meanings and introduce these goods into an alternative regime of value dominated by commercial interests" (Jenkins et. al 270). In other words, to use someone else's culture to make monetary gain from it. To 'energise' a culture, on the other hand, is to respectfully create visibility and awareness about a culture by educating others about it. 

Dolce & Gabbana's line of abayas was without a doubt a calculated business decision. The Muslimah fashion industry generates billions of dollars let alone the luxury and high-end industry in Muslim countries. Fortune reported that Muslims spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013 and according to Sporazine the sale of personal luxury goods in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries amounted to $8.7 billion in 2015. Dolce & Gabbana would be crazy not to try and tap into the Muslim market because their goal is after all profit maximisation. Let's not forget DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger released their respective Ramadan collections in 2014 because research reveals Muslims spend more during Ramadan than any other time of the year.

Aleppo's Oldest Bookseller

Monday, December 28, 2015

I don't know much about this man except that he is a bookseller. I will probably never meet him but this elderly Syrian man gave me the hope and inspiration I needed to be resilient. I came across his photos via Mustafa Sultan's Twitter account a few days ago. 

The caption read:
أقدم بائع كتب في حلب يستمر في عملها بعد قصف منزله ومكتبته..
 #حلب #Aleppo

"Aleppo's oldest bookseller continues to work after the bombing of his house and library."


Faith Friday: Rumi on Purposeful & Meaningful Work

Friday, December 18, 2015


Two inspiring Muslims, Muhammad Ali and Peter Sanders, from two very different career fields. (source: Peter Sanders Photography)

The Amir said: “Night and day my heart and Soul are intent upon serving God, but because of my responsibilities with Mongol affairs I have no time for such service.” Rumi answered: Those works too are work done for God, since they are the means of providing peace and security for your country. You sacrifice yourself, your possessions, your time, so the hearts of a few will be lifted to peacefully obeying God’s will. So this too is a good work. God has inclined you towards such good work, and your great love for what you do is proof of God’s blessing. However, if your love of work were to weaken, this would be a sign of grace denied, for God leads only those who are worthy into those right attitudes that will earn spiritual rewards.  
Take the case of a hot bath. Its heat comes from the fuel that is burned, such as dry hay, firewood, dung and the like. In the same way, God uses what to outward appearance looks evil and nasty, yet in reality is the means to cleanliness and purity. Like the bath, the man or woman fired by the efforts of work becomes purified and a benefit to all people. - Jalaludin Rumi, 'Fihi Ma Fihi'

When I was working in the fashion world I enjoyed myself and learned a lot but I also felt that I wasn't fulfilling my purpose. That troubled me, perhaps because of my aspirations and responsibilities as a Muslim. I began asking Muslims of various professions and from numerous industries how they reconciled faith with their work. Many of them said, "I wish I was doing something more meaningful." I could relate to that a lot. At the same time, I also thought, "Hang on, we can't all be imams, sheikhs, teachers, doctors, scientists, counsellors, etc. Muslims can and should make a difference in many industries. We can't all make hijrah to an Islamic country or volunteer in a developing country. If we can, we should try to make a difference and benefit others wherever we are."

Be Unapologetically Muslim: Dealing with Islamophobia & Racism

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

(Listen to the full speech here)

"I always hear people say Islam is a religion of peace. But I always tell people what's more important to me about Islam is that it's a religion of justice. If we don't talk about and don't show that Islam is a religion of justice, it's hard for us to talk about Islam being a religion of peace." — Linda Sarsour 

There is an intense climate of fear surrounding Islam and Muslims that began on 9/11 and it has gradually increased since then. Unfortunately, often times this is due to the acts of people who claim to be committing violence in the name of God and Islam. As a Muslim, I cannot think of anything more blasphemous than to selfishly take the lives of innocent people, Muslim and non-Muslim, in the name of God. How will this create peace in our communities? As a human being, I am sickened by these heartless acts. Overall, I am disturbed by the lack of the use of intellect amongst people who apparently share my faith and those who discriminate against Muslims without considering the complexity of the politics of violence and terrorism. Professor Hamid Dabashi says in his latest Al Jazeera article 'Trump is a Symptom not the Disease', "Today, Muslims around the world face not one but two dangerous fronts: One internal, the other external."

This is why I truly appreciate Linda Sarsour's keynote speech at the 2015 UMMA Benefit Gala on upholding justice and dignity and serving others while being unapologetically Muslim. If I could add to it, I would say:

Yes, we should serve others regardless of their faith but if we, as Muslims, aren't willing to take care of our communities and uphold the rights of our brothers and sisters don't expect others to do the same for us. If you have any consciousness within you, I implore you to reflect on yourself. Being unapologetically Muslim doesn't only mean a resistance towards practicing Islam in a way that appeases non-Muslims but to also practice Islam in a way that pleases Allah and to uphold justice among non-Muslims and also Muslims, regardless of the differences in terms of our skin colour, social status, school of thought, and nuances in our practices.