Unforgettable Turkey: Cappadocia - Dancing Dervishes & Ihlara Valley (Part 4)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dervishes in motion.

Travelling to a place like Cappadocia was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. I may be in my twenties but I am an 'old soul' and the older I get the more obvious it is or the more intense it feels. Now, it could be due to the fact that I may have a case of the golden age fallacy (something I recently became aware of thanks to a movie called 'Midnight in Paris') I can't help but be in awe of iconic places, achievements or events in the past and admire figures like Rabiatul Adawiyyah, Jalaludin Rumi, Ibn Arabi, Socrates and the like.

If you're an old soul like me it's likely that you'll love being immersed in a place that delights in pure nostalgia and history and not to mention, spirituality. After our hotel check-in and a bit of sightseeing at the Göreme Open Air Museum  we attended a whirling dervishes ceremony at the Sarıhan Kervansarayı which was built in 1249. I paid close attention to every step because it was my first time witnessing such a ceremony in person. We weren't allowed to take photos of the prayer session but I can tell you that verses of the Qur'an were recited melodiously before the actual whirling took place. The acoustics were amazing. I could hear the sound of Turkish classical instruments such as the ney (reed flute) and the  more familiar daf (frame drum) very clearly in the high-ceilinged caravanserai.  Dancing and whirling is not practiced by all Sufis but it is a peaceful way of expressing one's love for God which is quintessential Sufism. It was a new experience for me and I'm always open to learning about the different ways people practice their faith.

Unforgettable Turkey: Cappadocia - Of Cave Hotels & Cave Churches (Part 3)

Friday, December 19, 2014

View of Göreme town centre from Cave Hotel Saksagan.

A whirlwind of events have taken place in the past few months but I'm happy to say things are finally settling down and this blog post is being written by yours truly from the bustling capital city of New Zealand - Wellington. YES, what a dream come true, alhamdulillah! And now I'm finally in the right state of mind to write again and continue my blog series on my trip to Turkey last August.  I love Turkey and I'm completely smitten with it. It's a land I feel very connected to so I'm always happy to talk or write about it. By the way, don't forget to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the 'Unforgettable Turkey' series if you haven't already.

We adjourned to the region of Cappadocia or Kapadokya ("the land of beautiful horses") in Central Anatolia after spending 3 days in Istanbul. It was a must-see for us as in Cappadocia lies a UNESCO World Heritage site, Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia. This region is famous for its fairy chimneys, hot air balloon rides, cave homes and cave churches. We flew with Turkish Airlines and the flight lasted around 2 hours. We landed in the province of Kayseri where a shuttle bus arranged by our hotel (at the price of USD $10 per person, if I recall correctly) picked us up from the airport to take us to Cappadocia which is about an hour's drive from Kayseri.

Life with Breast Cancer (In Conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I hope it's not too late for me to write about this but October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and having personally known young and otherwise healthy individuals who are/were affected by cancer I wanted to do the least that I could to help PRIDE Foundation in their mission to raise awareness about breast cancer. My friend Ami Schaheera passed away from leukemia earlier this year (may Allah bless her soul and reward her patience with Paradise) so I understand the importance of creating awareness and having a good support network. When I read her interview in EH! Magazine I had no idea she was going through so much while being such a sweet and cheerful fashionista at the same time. She reminded me of Kris Carr, a Stage 4 cancer patient who has documented her life and battle with so much spirit and strength ever since she received the diagnosis.

I'd like you to spare some time to watch Cheryl's personal account of her battle with breast cancer in the video above. One of the things that struck me while listening to her was that she found a lump while performing a monthly self-examination. It's scary to think about how cancer develops. One month ago the lump wasn't there and then there it was. Another thing about cancer is that it can happen to anyone (yes, even men can get breast cancer!) so it's important that we educate ourselves about some key facts on breast cancer:

Unforgettable Turkey: Dolmabahçe Palace & Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul (Part 2)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dolmabahçe Palace,  Istanbul

Well, who knew 2 weeks would fly by so fast! My first post on Turkey was indeed published 2 weeks ago but I'm back and roaring to tell you more about this fascinating city called Istanbul. In my first post I mentioned that we joined 2 tour sessions by She Tours. This post covers the second tour which was a full-day one. After a discount from Mehmet, our hotel manager at The Sultanahmet Suite Life, the tour costed us 55 Euros per person. The original price was 70 Euros per person, if I'm not mistaken. We were taken to Dolmabahçe Palace, Yildiz Park and Pierre Lotti Hill which were on the European side of Istanbul. We also went on the 1-hour Bosphorus Strait Cruise and had lunch at Omar Restaurant, Sultanahmet Square.

Dolmabahçe (Dolma-bah-chay) Palace was constructed between 1843 and 1856 by the Ottoman Empire's 31st sultan, Abdülmecid I, and it was the residence of his 5 successors as well. Yes, right until the end of the Caliphate in 1924. I would say this palace is a must-see because a) it's interior is stunning and b) it's symbolic of the Ottoman Empire's downfall and decline - the love of dunya (the worldly life) and the desire to emulate European ideals while its commitment to Islamic leadership waned, among other things.

[Faith Friday] Putting Life in Perspective: Why Am I a Muslim?

Friday, October 03, 2014

"So whatever thing you have been given - it is but [for] enjoyment of the worldly life. But what is with Allah is better and more lasting for those who have believed and upon their Lord rely." (Surah Ash-Shuraa, 42:36)

I came across Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan's Friday sermon based on the above mentioned ayah while watching a video of Bayyinah Institute's visit to meet Robert Davila. If you haven't read about Davila's efforts to learn about Islam and the Quran despite the challenges he faces as a paraplegic, you should. Signs of His greatness are everywhere and I believe Davila is one of them. (May Allah subhana wa ta'ala will preserve his sincerity and steadfastness. Ameen.)

"What is your perspective on life?"

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Do you think your current perspective on life could be improved? In his sermon, Nouman Ali Khan said something I completely agree with: When life is in perspective, things become easier to deal with. 

This reminds me of an instance when a university classmate asked me, "Why are you Muslim? You should be a Buddhist. It's more fun!". I wasn't offended. In fact, I like it when non-Muslims ask me questions about my faith. But we were working on a group project at the time and I didn't really know how to respond to that half-joke. So I smiled and continued working on my part of the project. 

But I do think it is a good idea to ask ourselves why we chose Islam or choose to remain Muslim. And to my non-Muslim readers, for the record, if I were to leave Islam (na'udhubillah min zalik) I would not face capital punishment. Although, my family's reaction would probably be equivalent to it. Having said that, family disapproval hasn't stopped me from what I wanted to do in the past :) -  not that I'm encouraging you to upset your family. My point is, it's good to reflect on our choices. If I could go back in time, I would tell my classmate the following is why I'm Muslim:

Unforgettable Turkey: Sultanahmet, Istanbul (Part I)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A seagull overlooking the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul

Like my late father used to do, I would encourage anyone to travel. To see a different perspective. To experience other cultures as they could make you a better person while teaching you to appreciate the culture you grew up in. To humble yourself. Our 11-day trip to Turkey in August was not without drama but it was no doubt one of the most memorable holidays we have ever been on. It's safe to say I'm very much in love with Turkish food, architecture, Islamic heritage, culture and landscape. I love the fact that  traditional mosques are scattered everywhere around Istanbul. Some were obvious, others inconspicuous. 

Can I be honest? I have dreamt of visiting Hadramaut far more than I have of any city in Turkey. Why Hadramaut? I'm on a spiritual quest. I'm always on a spiritual quest and I believe people who lead simpler lives have better character. I want to learn from them and I need to restore my faith in the Muslim community. But God is the Best of Planners. Turkey is where He led me in the end and I couldn't be more thankful. Alhamdulillah.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

I have been a fan of Sufi Comics ever since I stumbled upon their website less than a year ago. I was more than happy to write a review of their previous books, 40 Sufi Comics and The Wise Fool of Baghdad, and now I'm pleased to introduce you to their new book entitled Rumi. It's a wonderfully crafted 142-paged compilation of a selection of Rumi's soulful poems in visual form. I adore the work that Sufi Comics does and I admire their talent, passion dedication, ma sha Allah.

Rumi (1207-1273) or Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi (rahimullah) was a poet, theologian and jurist from present-day Afghanistan. He is often quoted in books, movies and the social media for his poems on life, love and longing by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, although many might not be aware that when he writes about these things he does not mean them in a literal sense. In fact, here's an article explaining how Rumi's poems are often misappropriated:

The misappropriation of Sufi poetry can be seen as resulting of unfamiliarity with how Sufis made their indications. For example, the intoxication of wine refers to the loss of one's sense of rational self in the sea of Divine Love. The tavern is the experience of being overwhelmed from being surrounded by Divine Presence. Layla is an Arabic female name that linguistically refers to the darkest night of the month, and in Sufi poetry refers to the hidden realm that lies behind outward appearances of this world.

Sufi Comics, on the other hand, has captured the essence of Rumi's message in their latest book in which there are many thought-provoking reminders for us to reflect on. In the chapter titled 'False Thinking', we are reminded that sometimes the thing we are searching and pining for is right under our noses and we can be completely oblivious to it because we fail to immerse ourselves in the present reality and the blessings found within it.

"The whole of life is now, is today, is this eternal moment." — Rumi

Mantanani Island Holiday (Part II)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Before I blog about my trip to Turkey I need to do this. I promised you guys another post about Mantanani Island, Sabah so here it is. If you haven't read Part I, check it out because there's a video for you to get a gist of how our holiday went.

While the beauty of Mantanani Island is undeniable it saddens me to see the condition of the villagers and the way tourism and negligence will lead to the deterioration of the natural environment. As an island that was only recently made accessible to tourists around 6 years ago, its cleanliness is reflected in its pristine waters and white sandy beaches. On one side of the island, a few types of accommodations have been established to cater to the tourists. While I was there last year, they were in the midst of completing a five-star resort. This part of the island is pleasant and you will hardly find any litter or rubbish lying around. I was shocked to see the contrast between the side where I stayed and the other side — the village. 

One day my siblings and I decided to venture into the village on the other side of the island with a hotel staff cum tourist guide. We wanted to meet the locals, especially me, as it was my first time in Sabah. Of course, I knew they would be different from the urbanites who lived in Kota Kinabalu and I was looking forward to this new experience. While they weren't from the Bajau Laut tribe (sea gypsies) they led a somewhat similar way of life in the sense that their lifestyle revolved around the sea.

Remembering Ramadan: A Collection of Photographs from Around the World

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Do you ever find yourself missing Ramadan during random moments throughout the year? When this happens to me I browse through International Ramadan Photography Competition's photo albums on Facebook. Isn't it amazing that we can have a glimpse of how Ramadan and Eid was celebrated around the world? 

Here are some of the photos that were submitted this year. I took the liberty of captioning them. Although these pictures can never replace actual experiences I hope you find inspiration in them, nonetheless. It is nice to be reminded that despite our differences we are one Ummah and we  are all seeking His love and forgiveness. 

Age is not a barrier to knowledge. (Sanaa, Yemen by Abdul Wahab Ahmed al-Banaa)

Allah listens to our every prayer even though we are like a grain of sand in the vastness of this universe. 
(New Mexico, by Lisa M Vogl)

[Faith Friday] How Do We Fix a Broken World?: Reflections on the "Global Tawbah" lecture by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]." (30:41)

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is a contemporary American Muslim scholar who has inspired many people, particularly Western (or Westernised) Muslims who can relate to the issues highlighted in his books, classes and speeches. I attended one of his events in Kuala Lumpur last night. It was a lecture entitled "Global Tawbah" and he addressed several concerns in relation to the modern Muslim world and ummah.

I have come across individuals who say that religion is the root of evil because it has caused many wars and atrocious acts. I admit a lot of terrible things have happened in the name of God and religion but a lot of wonderful things have happened in the name of God and religion too. Do they not count for something? We cannot make a blanket statement like that without considering the other side of the argument and which one makes more sense. And what about agnostics or atheists who commit crime and violence? What would be their reason?

The act of tawbah, repentance or turning to God, is one of the most integral aspects of being Muslim. As humans we are driven by our ego, lusts and emotions. Yes, Allah (swt) created us with these qualities but He also created us with intellectual capabilities so we may we able to practice self-control.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Assalamualaykum and merhaba everyone! I'm back from Turkey and I had a phenomenal time, alhamdulillah. I wanted to blog about this before leaving but things didn't work out that way. I was featured in Hijab Fesyen's August 2014 edition issue under their "Blogger Sukses" (Successful Blogger)  section. It was kind of them to feature me, honestly. I don't think I have achieved much but God willing, I hope to fulfill more of my goals and aspirations so I can help the community in any way I can.

If you don't live in Malaysia and/or you don't read Bahasa Malaysia, I'll briefly describe what the article was all about - from blogging to my online business. Most bloggers attain fame and popularity by sharing all the fun things they get up to and I love reading about them but I personally feel it would be misleading for me to portray my life that way.  I started blogging because I wanted to change people's perception about Muslim women in the West and also to help Muslim women who can relate to me and my thoughts and struggles as a Muslim and a woman. Over the years I have made many acquaintances and friends through my blog and it's been an eye-opening experience getting to know them. I feel blessed to have a blog!

Eid #OOTD + Trip to Turkey (I want to meet you!)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Salaam everyone! A belated Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers :) The last 2 weeks have been really busy for me  because a) it was Ramadan and b) I'm planning a trip to Turkey, inshaAllah, hence the lack of posts. Today I'd like to share some pictures of my Eid ensembles from the upcoming ShaElaiza Galleria collection. If you follow me on Instagram (@shaelaiza) you would have already seen them there but if you don't, here they are. 

Wearing the intricately embellished Elissa blouse in white and grey

Presenting the stunning Valentina scarf in dusty pastel green

Technically, Eid is over but Malaysians do like it to celebrate it for a month so Selamat Hari Raya to those who are doing so :) Anyway, YES, I'm planning a trip to Turkey, inshaAllah, and it would be absolutely lovely to meet with any sisters who are living in Istanbul. If that's you or someone you know, do get in touch with me at shahirahelaiza(at)gmail(dot)com

How to Have Hope & Deal with Anxiety

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"If anyone removes one of the anxieties of a distressed person in this world, Allah will remove one of the anxieties of the hereafter from him. If anyone conceals a fault of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in the hereafter. Allah keeps helping a man (or woman), so long as he (or she) keeps helping his (or her) brother (or sister)." - Prophet Muhammad, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him (Musnad Ahmad)

Last year I had the opportunity to ask Shaykh Yahya Rhodus how to deal with anxiety from witnessing wars, cruelties and catastrophes, and not being able to do as much as we want to help those in need. The Syrian civil war escalated last year and the news was filled with pictures of dead bodies and of children being mutilated and murdered. I witnessed a level of evil that was unfathomable to me.

This year, the list of catastrophes keeps getting longer. The kidnapping of 200 Nigerian school girls. The siege on Gaza. The mystery of the missing MH370 and the crash of MH17. The persecution of Syrians, Iraqis and the Rohingya. The trials and hardship faced by our brothers and sisters in faith and humanity seem to continue.

A Few Favourites From the International Ramadan Photography Competition

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've been trying to take some photos myself but they are no where close to these stunning images. I'll continue trying though, inshaAllah! Ramadan is a beautiful time of the year and it is an honour to be able to share it with the world. Perhaps through this initiative more people will see the humanity in Islam and Muslims and begin to support the plight of the Palestinians, Syrians, Rohingya, Africans, and so on. 

It's not too late the participate in the competition, be a part of this movement and get a chance to win USD $1500. Please visit Spirit of Ramadan for more details. For now, here are some of my favourites from the International Ramadan Photography Competition Facebook page so far. 


Faith Friday Vlog: Feeling Demotivated During Ramadan?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Assalamualaykum, here's a little something I made for those who are feeling a little demotivated during Ramadan. Sorry for the poor lighting and quality. I filmed it on my MacBook in a rush but I hope I got the message across.

Here's a list of 25 ways to enter Paradise. Watch the video and you'll know why I've shared this link. I also want you to watch Imam Omar Suleiman's video on how we can attain Paradise, inshaAllah.

Jumaah Mubarak!


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

This is an urgent appeal from Viva Palestina Malaysia (website / Facebook). If you are not in Malaysia, please contact your local Islamic Relief centre or any other authorised organisation that is doing something similar. Israel has mercilessly launched another attack on Gaza and martyred at least 25 people so far, including elderly people and children. We are praying Operation Protective Edge will not have an aftermath worse than that of Operation Pillar of Cloud which took place during Ramadan in 2012 whereby 170 Palestinians died and over 1000 were injured. Almost half of them were women and  children.

The recent attack has left hundreds of Gazans injured and according to my friends who have been to Gaza, the hospitals have very limited medical supplies and equipments. Below you will find the names and ages of some of those who have been martyred in the last few days. Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

Two Best Times for Dua in Ramadan

Monday, July 07, 2014

Salaam beautiful people. I came across this video yesterday and I really want you to see it. We are given a multitude of opportunities for us to seek Allah's help and guidance through dua (supplication) and sadly, we let them slip away. 

"Qadr is always fighting with dua."

Dua has helped me get through some of the most challenging times but it has also tested my patience and sincerity. What I've learned is that we have to be certain that Allah will answer our duas but it will be at a time when He deems best and it will not always be in the way or form that we expect. 

I really, really want to emphasise on this: Never give up on your dreams and your duas. So let's use these amazing opportunities to make dua for ourselves, our loved ones and those who are going through hardship and loss. Please remember our brothers and sisters in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Myanmar and many, many more around the world who are facing oppression and difficulties. The more we make dua for others, the more Allah will have mercy on us too, inshaAllah

International Ramadan Photography Competition 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

What does this remind you of? The story of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and al-Buraq's night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back, yes? This photo is fantastic on so many levels! 

I've always loved photography. I'm not a professional photographer but I do admire good art and photography. Some photos have a way of making you look at them again and again, some bring out feelings of wanderlust and others invoke thoughts and inspire you to take action. 

This is one of the reasons why the International Ramadan Photography Competition - Capture the Spirit of Ramadan was launched by StudioBasel. Apart from encouraging amateur and professional photographers from all over the world to use their creativity and passion to strengthen the spirit of Ramadan within themselves and others, it's a great way to counter negative images of Islam and Muslims with positive ones. There are 3 categories - architecture, spirituality and culture - and you are welcome to submit a maximum of 3 photos a day. Here is an extra incentive: the first prize is USD $1500. 

I will be sharing more of my favourite photos from last year's IRPC in the course of the week, inshaAllah.

Drama Before Ramadhan: Learning to be Pleased with Allah in Times of Hardship

Sunday, June 29, 2014

illustration by Sarina Iskandar 

SubhanaAllah, how fast time flies and how lucky we are to welcome this blessed month of Ramadhan into our lives once again. Alhamdulillah - all praise belongs to Allah - for another precious opportunity to become closer to Allah, our Creator and Sustainer, and to earn His pleasure through acts of worship, kindness and generosity. I'd like to wish you a fruitful Ramadhan in which you'll reap the rewards in this life and in Jannah. Ameen. I also want to share with you a story about an incident that happened to my family and I two days ago and what I learned from it, alhamdulillah.

Lessons From My Father and His Death

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Abah and I in Perth, a place he often referred to as his second home

If my father was still alive today would have been his birthday. My father passed away seven years ago but every 23rd of June I still think of him and say, "Today's Abah's birthday!". Being the youngest in the family and a true blue daddy's girl I sometimes still don't know what to make of his passing. I had lost family members prior to that but I never seriously thought about my Dad not being around anymore until it happened one summer's day in New Zealand.

One day I came home from varsity and found that my Abah had passed away in his sleep. Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. He wasn't at the peak of his health but he wasn't chronically ill either. I still remember that day very vividly. It was the 28th of February and the weather was perfect as the sun shone like I had never seen before in the typically gloomy Dunedin. I even remember thinking to myself, "Today is such a beautiful day! Nothing could possibly go wrong today."

[Faith Friday] Al-Munfarija: The Reliever with Imam Suhaib Webb

Friday, June 20, 2014

"Why do bad things happen?"

"Allahu'alam," Imam Suhaib Webb said. 

We won't always get the answers we want but if we continue to listen or look carefully, we'll know in due time. This is what I've learned in the one-day course "al-Munfarija" (The Reliever) by Ella Collins  Institute and Muslim Professionals Forum last week. Nobody has the perfect life and we're all bound to face hardship and challenges in some or another. What makes things worse is when we compare our lives to someone else's. 

But what if these "bad things" aren't necessarily bad? What if they're a means to better things and a better you? I know, it's hard to see it this way when you're under a lot of pressure and you can't seem  to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've been there and all I can say is, it's not a pretty place to be but if you just hang on a little bit more when you're about to give up, things do get better, God willing.

I Met a Mountain Today: A Day with Peter Sanders

Monday, June 16, 2014

I met a mountain today.

He was not intimidating but I was in awe as he stood dignified, strong and unperturbed as he spoke about art and spirituality with a level of wisdom incomparable to anyone else I know. This "mountain" was none other than Peter Sanders, a renowned British photographer "who happens to be Muslim" [his own words].

Sanders is currently in Malaysia in conjunction with IRPC's exhibition launch at the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia. Today he conducted a workshop and represented IRPC's panel of jury for their "Capture the Spirit of Ramadan" photography competition that will run during Ramadan this year, inshaAllah. Sanders was also a guest speaker at today's symposium featuring  Basel al-Misshal and Lina Ali of Studio Basel, the organiser of IRPC's photography competition which is open to all budding and talented amateur photographers and professional photographers. All you have to do is submit a maximum of 3 photos per day during Ramadan and the panel of jury includes the likes of Peter Sanders and Steve McCurry (the man behind the famous Time magazine's "Afghan girl" photo). Selected photos will be featured on their social media platforms and the winners' photos will be part of IRPC's photography book and exhibition.

source: IRPC's Facebook page

Anyway, Sanders began his speech at the symposium by sharing his experience at the Malaysian immigration upon arriving the country. The officers curiously asked him if he was an imam. "Absolutely not," he replied, "I'm a jury for a photography competition. I'm here to see if Malaysia's got talent!" he joked.

[Faith Friday] Be Like the Bee: Sincerity in the Age of Social Media

Friday, June 13, 2014

After reading David Coolidge's post on sincerity, I thought about the things that have affected or can affect my sincerity. One of it is the pressure to fulfill people's expectations of who I should be as a Muslim. I briefly touched on this issue in My Muslim Identity Crisis. I think people don't realise that guilt-shaming others doesn't inspire them to do good for the sake of Allah but to appease the public instead.

It crossed my mind that this challenge with sincerity could be a common problem among social media users and public figures. It ultimately boils down to this: when we lose sight of our true purpose in life we tend to use publicity to seek validation and to feel important in a world where it's easy for us and our voices to drown in a sea of people vying for attention for whatever reason it may be. Our addiction and obsession with social media (or anything worldly, for that matter) is a sign that we are looking for God and/or love in all the wrong places. This clouds our judgement and compels us to do things we know aren't right for us.

SHAELAIZA GALLERIA UPDATE: Get 20% discount and donate to Carefugees

Saturday, June 07, 2014

I'm wearing the ravishing red Adinda blouse from ShaElaiza Galleria

Hello, hello June and Sha'aban! Phewh, you sure know how to make us busy. For Malaysians, the month of June means there will be weddings held every weekend, especially when Ramadan is just around the corner and it also means the month of Sha'aban has arrived, alhamdulillah. To welcome this auspicious time of the year ShaElaizaGalleria.com has decided to give a 20% discount storewide from 7th to 9th of June 2014.

And that's not all. When I found out about Carefugees' awesome project a thought crossed my mind. Hey, why not pledge 10% of our sales towards Carefugees' "Feed a Family" campaign until the end of Ramadan? If you haven't heard about Carefugees, the gist of what they do is support Malaysian-based refugee communities from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Syria. The "Feed a Family" campaign aims to provide food for our refugee brothers and sisters during Ramadan.

"Allah (subhanahu wa taala) boasts to His angels about a generous person who feeds others."  Imam al- Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him)

Faith Friday: Why Isn't God on My Side?

Friday, May 30, 2014

'How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be' by Jack Canfield

I have always been an avid reader - thanks to my parents who instilled a love for reading in me by buying me books as birthday presents as a child.  From the moment I could read, books have been my staple soul food. I'm also a soul-searcher and I know my soul searching brothers and sisters can relate when I say this: books are our go-to source for solace and solutions. Self-help books, especially. When I was studying at varsity I had no time for non-academic books so I relished in my newfound freedom when I came back to Malaysia two years ago. I've read and collected various inspiring and resourceful self-help books about achieving inner peace, passion and success in life.

Here's why. 

I know I'm fortunate in many ways, alhamdulillah, but I'm not here to pretend my life is perfect. Setbacks? I've come across aplenty. Self-doubt? All the time, baby. Fear? It seems like the older I get the more of it I seem to have. Disappointments? Boy, I can't even...  So much so, I've asked, "Why isn't God on my side?".

The Power of a Woman's Love: My Inspiration for Life, Love and Learning

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Over the years I've been through some changes; a shift of priorities, a myriad of awakenings and a lifestyle overhaul. None of this has been easy on me. For every blessing there will be a trial and for every hardship there will be great hikma (wisdom) and triumph. I've drawn strength and inspiration from all my experiences and I'm slowly growing wiser, becoming more balanced and feeling more comfortable in my skin.

A Dedication to Teachers: The First Grader

Friday, May 16, 2014

I wrote this film review on the 5th of December 2011 but I never published it because I felt my words could not adequately express how much The First Grader moved me. In conjunction with Teacher's Day, I'd like to publish this review in hopes that it will inspire someone to watch the movie. It's available for free here. I think I'll re-watch movie again tonight and this time I'll have tissues prepared. Happy Teacher's Day to all dedicated teachers out there. Everyday should be Teacher's Day. S

If an 84 year old man were to tell you that he wanted to be a first grade student and attend school for the first time in his life, how would you react? Would you take him seriously or would you laugh at the idea of an old man learning alongside seven year olds?

Before you think of it as a crazy idea you should know that a primary school teacher in Kenya once faced this situation and a film was created out of this story - The First Grader.


You may or may not be aware of my latest project but if you're not this is the perfect time for me to tell you about it. I have launched my online boutique ShaElaiza Galleria TODAY! Yes, after months of planning and hard work this day has finally arrived. Alhamdulillah. We are on Facebook and Instagram as well.

I decided to launch ShaElaizaGalleria.com mainly with the Eid/Hari Raya collection. Feel free to browse what I have curated for you. Yes, we do deliver internationally. InshaAllah. Here is a preview of our Eid/Hari Raya collection:

VIDEO & BLOG POST: Mantanani Island Holiday (Part I)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ahhh... Mantanani Island. 

I hesitated to write about this trip for a long time because a) I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do justice to the island's beauty, b) I believe the precious moments we spend with our loved ones are sacred and it's not necessary for us to share them with everyone. But I also believe that there's a story to be told here. A story about living your life with gratitude and an open heart. A story about neglect, being oblivious to our blessings and what our future could look like if we don't prioritise education. This is how the story begins.

(Please note none of the photos in this post have been digitally enhanced.)

WWW: Sarah Pahman the Social Worker

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sarah believes work/life balance is one of the keys to a successful career as a social worker. 

Wonder Women at Work (WWW) is a series of interviews with women who aspire to make a difference through their roles and occupations. The aim of this series is to provide a personal insight into positions held by women in various fields of work to inspire young women to pursue meaningful careers and livelihoods. The goal is to also encourage girls and women to push social and cultural boundaries by exploring roles and jobs they believe can solve problems that are important to them.

This week's post features Sarah Pahman, an initial assessment social worker from Wisconsin, America. She is a licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker.  I "met" Sarah through our blogs many years ago and I have always admired her grit and positive attitude. You know the song "Brave" by Sara Bareilles? It reminds me of her. To add to her awesomeness, Sarah holds a Bachelors degree in social welfare, a Masters degree in social work and she is also a fitness aficionado.

What do you do?
I am an Initial Assessment Social Worker for my county government. The unit I work in is called Child Protection. My job is to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect within my county. I have 60 days to do my investigation and make a decision based on the information I gather. Sometimes we find that the allegations are false and we close the case. Sometimes we find that the family is in imminent threat of being neglectful or abusive and services need to be involved in order to educate the family and make sure the child is safe in their home.

Other times the abuse or neglect is a present danger and the child needs to be removed from the home immediately in order to protect their safety. When this happens we try to place the child with a protective family member, and if that is not achievable we place the child in a foster home. We have very strict laws and policies we have to follow when we do our investigations and make our decisions.

What to Do When Your Iman Decreases

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Have you ever experienced the sweetness of an iman boost and then felt the loss when your iman fluctuates? Sometimes it's because your schedule became busier and you have less time for additional acts of worship. Sometimes you get complacent and lazy. Sometimes you just don't feel it and you wonder what you're not doing right. 

But everything happens by Allah's will, so why would He make us go through these phases? In this video, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf explains this phenomenon and advised us to continue doing good deeds and not give up hope on God's generosity and mercy.

 "Allah does not weary of giving you reward until you weary of doing the right action. States change in the world... if you are happy all the time you wouldn't appreciate the state [of happiness]... if you are always satiated you wouldn't appreciate it... that's why Allah will distance you from Him. There are times when you will be distant from Allah, you won't be in that state when you're praying the way you should be praying, where you feel that present. There are reasons for that. Allah does that for a reason because if you were always in that state you would forget. And that's part of the nature of this world - forgetting and remembering." — Shaykh Hamza Yusuf  

The next time we feel discouraged or feel disappointed in ourselves, remember the words of Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalaam): "The best actions are continuous ones even if they are little..." (Sahih Muslim). Here are some tips for increasing our iman, inshaAllah:

Faith Friday: Sufi Comics

Friday, April 25, 2014

If you knew me prior to my life as a better practicing Muslim and a hijabi, you might have been one of those people who were surprised to see me all covered up and wearing a headscarf. It was a big step for me but a combination of many things had led me to that decision. It all began when my father passed away, I took a year off university and stumbled upon Moez Masoud's television shows called Parables in the Quran  and Stairway to Paradise. But what sealed the deal for me was when I went on the Umrah pilgrimage and received a gift from a very close family friend, a book called The Secrets of Secrets by the late Sufi scholar, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani.  She has since passed away from lung cancer (may Allah grant her the highest level of Paradise) and sadly, I never told her how that book changed my life, because it was when I discovered tasawwuf through Sufi scholarly books that I fell passionately in love with Islam. 

Scholarly books can be quite intense and intimidating so when I came across SufiComics.com I was elated. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I won their giveaway and received 40 Sufi Comics and The Wise Fool of Baghdad in my mailbox. I was impressed by the Sufi Comics team's dedication because not only did every story and lesson touch my heart but the books themselves were creatively presented. They were  full of thought-provoking reminders of Allah's greatness and mercy. 

OOTD: The Vintage Silk Road-Inspired Dress

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Mum and I have many things in common and one of them is our interest in fashion. Although I didn't study Fashion Design like my mother did, I've always had a penchant for beautiful things, which included clothes and accessories, of course. Although I don't claim to be a stylish person I do enjoy putting together ensembles and experimenting with colours, prints and designs. It's like second nature to me.

While clearing out our wardrobes, Mum and I found a dress she bought when she was a fashion student in London. I tried it on and she couldn't stop grinning. I suppose she finds it amusing that her daughter is wearing something she used to wear in her twenties. 

Remembering Mon Amie, Ami Schaheera

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."

"Ami's gone."

Two separate events. Two pieces of devastating news. It has been a tough week. As the saying goes, "When it rains it pours." 

As a country, we are mourning. As a friend of Ami Schaheera, the cancer fighting fashion blogger with a beautiful soul, I am saddened by her recent passing. I didn't have a good feeling when her husband informed us that Ami had trouble breathing and sleeping due to a lung infection a week ago. I knew Ami had been in and out the hospital ever since she found out that she had leukemia three years ago. A month after her wedding, in fact. But this time, I really didn't have a good feeling about it.

The Travelling Moroccan Parisienne

Friday, March 21, 2014

One of the things I am most grateful for is the fact that God has sent people from all walks of life to be my friends and acquaintances. The lovely young woman standing next to me in the picture above is on a fascinating journey. I first met Jihane in Dunedin when she was an exchange student from Paris. She had long curly locks and walked around campus with an air of confidence and independence.

I don't recall how we met but it must've been through some mutual Arab friends. Jihane is Moroccan but she has lived in Paris for many years. I'll always remember that she taught me the one-word Moroccan saying, "B'saha". It's kind of like "Salut". You can say it to others before they eat or drink but she once said it to me after I went shopping. I guess it's sort of like "Congratulations or best wishes" or the Islamic expression "MashaAllah".

Oh yes, I mentioned that Jihane is on a fascinating journey. Let me tell you why. In France, after five years of working (I'm not sure if this is exclusive to her company or field), one is allowed to ask for a 9 month no-pay leave. She was lucky. She was granted the leave after four years and decided to go on a travelling journey. She began in South America where she didn't fancy the food but the people were very friendly. She loved Brazil and had a taste of poverty in Bolivia. Then she went to North America for a few weeks and attended the Burning Man Festival. Her exact words were, "It was crazy. Crazy."

Why Is Everyone So Angry At Abu Eesa Niamatullah?

Friday, March 14, 2014

As I was typing this blog post as part of my commentary on the #FireAbuEesa issue, my friend Ameera Begum posted the above message. For the record, I didn't jump into conclusions.  I did check if he said it as a joke and yes, it was recorded by students of the University of Nottingham (Malaysian campus). Please read Ameera's Facebook post if you want to know more about what happened.

This is exactly why people like Ameera and I reacted badly towards Shaykh Abu Eesa's recent statements on his social media accounts. While the likes of Abu Eesa would find these sort of comments funny, there are actual Muslim preachers out there who are indoctrinating the minds of Muslims with false teachings under the guise of Islam.

And there is nothing funny about that.

Pray for MH370

Sunday, March 09, 2014

I am sure you have heard the shocking and devastating news about the Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 which was scheduled to arrive Beijing at 6.30 am on 8th March 2013 after departing from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the same day. The local news networks and television channels have been providing regular updates and we are all kept on our toes. Unfortunately, various speculations and rumours have been spreading like wildfire via social media. Sadly, this incident has revealed the mental maturity or lack thereof of these irresponsible social media users. If you have made a mistake, let's move on and learn from it. 

I would just like to remind everyone to be careful about the information they share. Authorities and search and rescue teams from Malaysia and other countries like Thailand, China and Vietnam are doing their best to locate MH370. They are doing their jobs and we should do ours too, which is to continue praying for the passengers and cabin crew and not incite hatred or blame towards the pilot, Captain Zaharie Shah, Malaysian Airlines or the government because no one knows what truly happened at this stage. While we sit here in the comfort of our homes, the very same individuals and organisations you criticise are doing the best they can to save lives. Please don't become a victim of group think or group mentality -- think for yourself.

source: The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

Lupita Nyong'o on Beauty and Self-Compassion

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"You can't eat beauty. You can't rely on how you look to sustain you. What actually sustains us... what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion - for yourself and for those around you. — Lupita Nyong'o"

I'm really happy for Lupita Nyong'o. Not only for being an Oscar winner, but for her courage and determination to pursue her passion and to possess something I feel is extremely vital as a woman -- self-compassion. 

Modest Street Fashion K.L. x Langston Hues x Mizz Nina x Felixia Yeap x Natasha Hudson

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

source: Natasha Hudson's Instagram

Every now and then I am fortunate to be a part of unique events like Modest Street Fashion K.L. which was recently held on Sunday, 23rd February and hosted by Art Beat Consultants and Crescent Collective at the enchanting venue called Talent Lounge. I must admit, I was a tad nervous about being an emcee this time. So much so, I can barely remember the dialogue between Langston, Natasha, Felixia, Mizz Nina and myself. Thank God, the whole session was recorded and hopefully I get to watch it soon! I know, it sounds crazy but I was truly stressed out and by the end of the night, my brain was almost mush. All I know is, everyone had a good time and we all learned something new. Thank you to our hosts Art Beat and Crescent Collective and our sponsors Neng Geulis, Fashion Valet, Indahijabbe and Lawa Photography.

You can check out the video or the photos below. Or even better, both.

#OOTD x Modest Street Fashion K.L. x Langston Hues

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hello hello! Just a quick #OOTD post and a shout out for the upcoming event I will be emceeing this Sunday, inshaAllah - Modest Street Fashion K.L.! It will be a casual meet and greet with Langston Hues himself and our special guests, Mizz Nina, Felixia Yap and Natasha Hudson. To spice things up there will also be a fun discussion on a universal understanding of modesty, Islamic modesty, and the rise of modest street fashion around the world.

Hope to see you at the event! Don't forget to have a look at some of Hues' latest work on YouTube.

Style Sunday: It's Never Too Late to Wear Red

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Dresses are great,
But pants are so underrated, true?

Okay, I can be really cheesy like that. I couldn't help it ;) I wore this outfit to a meeting about an upcoming event I will be part of, inshaAllah, and what makes a monochrome ensemble a bit interesting? Red lipstick, of course.

Modest street fashion photographer and globetrotter from Detroit, Langston Hues, will be in Kuala Lumpur and we are hosting an event featuring the man himself, Natasha Hudson and Mizz Nina on 23rd February 2014. It will be held at 8 pm, Talent Lounge, Damansara Perdana.

Falling in Love with Him

Friday, February 14, 2014

I love that Valentine's Day fell on a Jumaah.

Regardless of what you think about its origins, it's definitely a day when people think about love. Whether you're for Valentine's Day or against it, the thought of love is inescapable on this day. Be it 14th February or not, love should be celebrated; especially His love for us and our love for Him. You won't see a Hollywood movie about it nor a series of novels either. I think that's a terrible shame because it's the kind of love that beautifies and amplifies any other type of love; the kind of love that helps us make sense of who we are and the importance of those in our lives who have entered, stayed or walked away. A love that gives a deeper meaning to the things we do. A love that heals when this world and everything in it, including ourselves, breaks us.

Who better to love than the Most Loving One and the Beloved (pbuh)? The One who continues to shower us with blessings despite our tendency to take His love and mercy for granted. The Beloved one who showed us how to love Him back.

Style Sunday: Midnight Aladdin

Monday, February 10, 2014

Can you guess why I named this post 'Midnight Aladdin'? Why, it's inspired by these pants, of course! And I don't know why but I have a special affinity for vampy shades of berry as of late. From clothes to make up, I see a pattern in the colours I tend to buy these days.  

Because Who is Perfect?: Accepting Imperfections & "Disability"

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

{source: Beautiful Decay}

What do you think of this advertisement campaign by Pro Infirmis

Personally, I think we see far too many images of "perfection" in the media. From billboard advertisements to television shows, the media seems to misrepresent reality and convey the message that anything less than "perfect" is somehow not normal and unacceptable. The only show I can think of that highlights "disabilities" or "disabled" people in a positive light is 'Switched at Birth'. 

The video features Miss Handicap 2010 Jasmin Rechsteiner, radio presenter and film critic Alex Oberholzer, track and field athlete Urs Kolly, blogger Nadja Schmid and actor Erwin Aljukic. I scrolled underneath the video on YouTube and loved this comment: "Because no one is a mannequin." However, I also saw comments by people who are not impressed and are quite critical of the short film. Perhaps they are against the romanticisation of the issue and when raising awareness about a marginalised group of people it's easy to get labelled as "privileged" (e.g. white privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege). How do we know when we have crossed the line? Either way, I think the campaign makes for a great a discussion. 

For more photos and details please read Pro Infirmis Raises Body Diversity Awareness over at Beautiful Decay