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Lubnah Abdulhalim

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Photo Courtesy: http://www.khilafah.com

People who know me very well know two truths about me. One is that food and I don’t get along. Truth number two, food and I can’t really stay apart. We tend to have this love-hate relationship that never ends. You know, like Tom and Jerry? So most of the times it would roll out like this.

Me: “Aarghh, I’m starviingg” or “Yeepyyy can’t wait to have my delicious food!”

Two minutes into eating: “Really food? Really? All that joy, excitement, tears, anticipation and blood sacrifice yet this is all you offer?!! You and I are soo done!”

Also me: (every two hours) “I need you food 🙁 ” (There should have been the kermit meme image over here lol)

So automatically, truth number three is that fasting is my hardest ibadah.

Just the other day (4th of Ramadhan) I was walking in town headed home from work with a tiny flower between my fingers. So I was swirling it playfully, my mind so far deep in thoughts it took me time to realize there was an elderly man looking at me right ahead. He was in his traditional Swahili clothing of kikoi, shirt and kofia and he was looking into my face with such scrunity. I thought perhaps he is mistaking me for someone else so I went ahead and said the salam.
“Saumu inkushika?” He said, still giving me a concerned look. I just laughed it off and went on walking but I could still hear his voice behind me, “Saumu inkushika eh?! Nakuona…nakuona vile inkushika” *Face palm* I know right? And I just happen to be this frequent victim of having awkward embarrassing moments with strangers. But that’s a story for another day. Back to fasting…

Due to how much fasting drains me, at work and even at home, I always get comments like, “Can you walk? Lest you fall on the way.”
“Can you do this? Can you carry this?”
So every Ramadhan I’m subconsciously fully prepared to such teasing. Yet Ramadhan is still the best time for me.

You know, you walk around and see Muslims and you can greet each other, smile with that look like, ‘We know each other’s ‘suffering’ (not per say, but you know what I mean :p ) or like we are one people, we are partners in crime, something of the sort. The Ramadhan ambiance is special and it does feel so. Food stalls all over the streets during the evenings, people sending the kids to take a plate of goodies to the other neighbour and the other neighbour takes to the other and when known to be an awful cook, your food just seems to go in circles; forever trying to get a ‘mstiri’. Taraweh, tahajjud…the list is endless.

It’s that time where our mango trees produce in abundance. My mum would fill the bucket with mangoes and ask my brother to take to our neighbours. I would hear my dad get excited, reminding my brother of which neighbours to NOT miss. I would be standing there half-thrilled half-sorry that I am not the one to do that. You know, introvert problems? Mum would ensure to spice it up; ‘Ukigonga kila mlango, give them the mangoes then say Ramadhan kareem’ 😀 My brother puts on his kofia and sets out to knock doors. Then with a sigh and a smile, “I wish all year was Ramadhan.”

Muslims walking around just before Maghrib, sharing dates and water to fellow Muslims on the way. Some stranger passing dates to you to the back seat of a public vehicle so you can break your fast. I mean, any other random day we would probably pass by one another and I would mumble salaam and I wouldn’t even get a response or perhaps you’d mumble back or vice versa. But then Ramadhan, we have something making all of us familiar to one another such that we can strike random conversations with strangers on the way.

I am super delighted of how humanity is at its peak. We remember the orphans, the old, the sick…we remember to pray, to be more gentle, to read qur’an a lot, to hold back our insults, to donate, to forgive and most importantly, work on ourselves.

For me, besides it being the time for more Ibadah, Ramadhan is a time for me to work on my inner self. Get the peace of mind. Submit totally to Allah. And this is something many take for granted; our inner health. How composed are we to life? How much at peace are we with our fate? How much do we actually and sincerely talk to Allah? This is the time. It is my time to unleash my heart to Allah. It is my time to be a better human being not just for this month but for the rest of the year.

And as much as fasting is hard for me, Ramadhan has meant progress for me. I remember a time I would really admire people who could fast Monday and Thursday, Ayamil bayth or sitta min shawwal simply because I couldn’t do it. But then with every coming of Ramadhan, I tried more sunnah fasts and I keep trying over and over again. My biggest push has always been the thought that ‘If this is hard for me, then the rewards will definitely be more’ and that remains my motto as I keep trying.

Ramadhan means a lot of things to me; it means kindness, love and compassion. It means submission, forgiveness and willpower. It means struggle, endurance and success. Ramadhan means a lot to me. What about you? What does it mean to you??


 

On another note, my partner and I are embarking on another business journey, the branding of strokes of my pen. So alhamdulilah we have the first bunch of shirts out. We kindly ask for your support. Besides that, 10% of each shirt goes to Ahmad, a young boy who is undergoing kidney dialysis treatment yet he has a large outstanding balance at Pandya hospital to pay. If not the shirt then you can always mpesa their family directly (no. shown in image).Remember your reward is multiplied in this month so don’t hesitate to support in any little way in shaa Allah.

 

For the shirts, they come in colours of black, white, blue, grey and yellow. For more info: contact us via this no: 0734 201 665 or view our page: https://www.facebook.com/simplex.styles/. More is to come biidhnillah!

P.S. Please remember me in your duas! Whatever you pray for me, may you get just that a thousand more times. Ameen! Ramadhan Mubarak!

Photo Courtesy: https://s22.postimg.org

Warning: This is going to be a long one 😉

Everyone can agree that Madrasas make up almost the biggest part of our great childhood memories or perhaps the worst. This is where we got shaped and molded into the characters we are today. How we were shaped however, is a different story. They say, the end justifies the means… or does it? If anything, Madrasas are the best example of this phrase.

Back down the memory lane, most families had neglected the Madrasas. Secular education was given the priority giving minimal time for the children to adopt Madrasa teachings. This in turn made the children consider Madrasa as ‘not-so-serious’ a place. It was like the damp spot where parents would take them on weekends so that they don’t bother people back home.

If you ask anyone about their Madrasa days they’ll mention a lot of punishments where students were subjected to individually or as a group. First mistake would always be ‘getting late’ because hey! It’s weekend! The entire family is going for a wedding somewhere and you spent an entire hour crying why you are being left behind while they’ll be enjoying some good biryani with roasted chicken. So you get to the gate, eyes red and swollen and you find a whole group standing aside while the assembly is going on. You become a bit relieved that you are not alone. However, once the assembly is over and the teacher on duty confronts you, he surprises you all by checking the uniform instead or whether your nails are clipped. So you end up with double punishment. But it never ends there does it? You somehow end up in the noisemakers list in class and the ustadh gives you ‘THAT look’ of ‘Too many mistakes in one morning young boy’!

There was always a lot of fun associated with all the mischief which involved incomplete assignments and ending up doing the assignment at the corridor, making fun of other students or rhythmic and loud reading during classes; which more often than not irritated the teachers, a lot of skiving where one or a collective group would go out for lunch break and decide not to come back because you decided that your family will not go for that wedding without you, a lot of ‘tell your parent to come tomorrow’ because let’s face it the teachers were having up to their necks dealing with stubborn kids.

Coming back to class late was a norm because you got caught up in the games you were playing or were waiting in line for your potatoes and other snacks to be prepared; and so when you reach the class you know what’s waiting inside so you all stand by the door deciding who was bold enough to ask for permission to get in. Then there were those days we’d be sent home because we had applied henna on Eid day despite it being against madrasa rules or for the lack of payment of fees on time…yeah the list is endless!

In attempt to change the ‘relaxed-mode’ children had on madrasa, the teachers always opted to cane the naughty children, especially with the famous kikoto (A local type of cane commonly made in Coastal region by use of Reeds.)


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When it came to the need for students to learn, caning only brought fear into them making them memorize things they don’t understand in the least bit. My mother tells me of how when they were young, they’d go to madrasa sit in straight lines and start singing what they’ve been taught, swinging themselves frontward and backward. How they’d put small pieces of kashatas between the mashaf pages then come back and start eating them piece by piece while the ustadh is not looking. They’d then quickly go back to chorusing with the rest, turning their oily mashaf pages. It seemed all merry when the whole class was chorusing like that…but now many years later, she confesses that then, she, and many others did not even know what they were saying. The caning only prompted them to cram something so that whenever the teacher asks a question, they had an answer. Nonetheless, the caning was fruitful when it came to hifdhul qur’an (memorization of the holy qur’an).

So basically, punishments differed on 3 factors: The teacher himself, the personality of the student and the kind of mistake done.

We all had some experience with the ‘bad news’ ustadh who you’d carefully avoid on the way even if you’ve done nothing wrong. He is always ready to cane; always ready to strike; always armed with his kikoto. Yet others would go for other less violent kind of punishments like making the students kneel, making them stand the whole session, pinching, sweeping, squatting, washing the washrooms, cleaning corridors, extra assignments, calling of the parent or being detained from going to tea/lunch break.

This however also differed according to the child in question. For some children just the mere mention of ‘I’ll cane you’ is enough to scare them and make them do the right thing. They’d weep like no one’s business if you even jokingly mention that you’ll summon the parent. Yet another child is so used to the canning that it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s routine now and thus, doesn’t mould them in anyway. Sometimes, it even made the students become more rebellious and beating them was as useless as screaming on their faces. But this same naughty child if detained from going to have lunch, he tends to settle down. A lazy child would detest being given extra assignment and that would be the perfect punishment for him/her.

When it comes to collective mistake i.e. the whole class making noise, or late comers, the teacher would ask them to sweep the classroom or wash the loos for the older students. For some children, telling them to go out of the class as punishment acts as the best thing for them. It turns out to be ‘free-class-to-have-fun’ oh yeah, and to make more mischief. So the child’s personal character always factored in the kind of punishment.

How the child/children are punished depended on the kind of mistake too. For a mistake like late-coming, the punishment would be lesser than the ones who got into a fight. Or noise-makers compared to the ones skiving classes.

The teachers would always use the small punishment methods and only when things really escalated is when the parent is summoned.


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It’s no secret that Madrasa punishment is better than school (before the anti-punishment law came in). Yet still, there were/are parents who still go to complain once their children are canned or in the least, touched at all. The parents would sometimes respond to complaints from the Madrasa by transferring their child to another institution which ends up making the child always half-baked with information and sometimes in character too.

We all have experienced or at least witnessed the dramatic parents who are always so protective and just at the slightest caning of their child, they’d appear at the institution and start shouting to whoever they can throw words to, threatening to report to the police if their children are canned again yet they are in the first place responsible for the negligence the children have on Madrasa. If the parents showed the children how important Madrasa is, the mischief would be less and they’d be more serious on Madrasa education.

Punishment systems have changed over the years. This could be because the teachers realized that they are using the wrong approach in the desperate need of making students prioritize Madrasa studies. Nowadays, there is less caning. We can’t say it has stopped completely but teachers are more and more adopting the alternative punishment systems like giving them extra assignments or sweeping classes and corridors amongst other methods. Different Madrasas have also tried different ways to make Madrasa more interesting for children i.e. including extra-curricular activities and trips too. They also involve the parents a lot more than before on the issues of their children.

The best move Madrasa systems have taken, however, is ensuring that their teachers undergo teachers’ training before stepping into class. This is unlike before whereby anyone with the knowledge could teach regardless of whether they knew how to handle the mentality of children or not. Some Madrasas would let the older kids teach the younger ones just because they had a little more knowledge than the little ones, or the smarter kids would teach the other kids when a teacher was not around. So now we have better teachers who have studied psychology of the children and are able to deal with them in the right way.

The punishments have been the better evil for many of us. Apart from the notorious students whom we’d tell ‘haskii la mwadhini wala mteka maji mskitini’ to, many owe their good discipline to the Madrasa teachers who ensured they behave. Many of us wouldn’t even know how to recite Surat Fatiha if not for the canning. The punishments done in Madrasa have mostly been moderate apart from a few cases and they seem necessary in order to straighten the children up.

Apart from that, we got the many memories from these days; the days we did mistakes and cried even before the teacher raised the cane, or the days we knelt down until our knees ached, or when we were late and were sent back home; half happy half miserable, or those days when someone stole and we’d have soot applied on his face (someone mentioned this and couldn’t help but imagine and laugh). As much as we as a community have undermined the Madrasa for so long, we have to admit that we learnt good lessons and became better people from what we learnt back then.

I know some really hate the memories they have of back then or of the entire madrasa system, and some would enthusiastically want to debate this whole punishment issue, nonetheless, I guess at the end of the day it is only each one of us who can judge and perceive those days as they will. Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all.

In my opinion, there is improvement and gradual process in the Madrasa systems which hopefully will make more students serious on the deen education which has been comprised for so long. As for the punishments (the moderate reasonable ones that is), I hope they still stay in the system until the later generations. In the current dark world, we need a system that will still humble us and mold us to be better individuals.

Read part 1 at: http://lubnah.me.ke/my-other-half/

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

It’s been exactly…wait, lemme count…from February 10th, 2015 to date; 11th of May 2017, how many days are those? 1,2,3…Ah too bad I am terrible with math. Anyway, it’s been all those many days since I first wrote to you. Ages right? I knowww! I almost forgot you ‘somehow exist’. Lol, i’m kidding. *silly grin* I’ve mostly been pursuing my dreams; both the daydreams and the literal ones 😀 But I’ve been planning to get back to you..and *drums rolling* here I am!

There’s just been something in my mind lately and I thought of talking it to you. By the way, talking to you almost seems like monologue or like me talking to the wall or some ghost in the room because your existence at the moment is delusional but we can always talk about that when you become a reality right? in shaa Allah 😉

So back to our topic, oh wait, speech alert: This is going to be a long monologue :p

A friend of mine posted this a few days ago:
{“The thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only way to go is up.” I’m having a slight problem with this statement. Okay yeah sure maybe, but what if rock bottom is as wide as the Sahara and before you go up you’re gonna spend a heck of a long time moving sideways? Some people hit rock bottom, and stay rock bottom, and move sideways for the rest of their lives. How miserable.} Those are the ramblings of an insomniac and well what do you expect from an insomniac than a critical out-of-the-world thinking?! But then ever since I came across this, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

For a matter of fact, I do know several people who hit rock bottom, stayed there for as long as the memory lane can go down and died just right there; at the bottom. Now for a perfectionist and an empath with anxiety, hitting the rock bottom is beyond normal. It is a norm. And as much as it scares me that I might stay down there forever, it scares me more that I might never live up to the expectations of coming right back up.

You know, there are just some days you can’t really be the hero or someone anymore and you just need to survive. And survival is what all of us are working for. But also, survival has always been for the fittest, and sometimes, being in the least bit fit let alone being the fittest is totally out of the dictionary. There are days you wake up you can barely breathe, your heart is heavy, all aspects of failure are rubbing on your face but mostly, its like sand paper being scrubbed on your fragile beaten-up heart. They say the scrub only makes you shine brighter but in the meanwhile, it hurts, and it will hurt a lot more.

What I got to learn is that you can never really be prepared enough to face anything or armed enough for a war. They’ll always be a lesson to be learnt in between the cracks of your heart. You can protect yourself all you can but the day you let down your guard for one single second is the day world war 3 happens; when all hell breaks loose and when you have to fight for your own survival. This kind of reminds me the story of Nabii Musa and Firaun. See how God downplays the best twists?! Firaun demands all male children to be killed after being foretold that a boy will be born and takeover his kingdom. But when his wife Asiya (R.A.A) picks Nabii Musa (A.S) from the river, she is able to convince Firaun that the boy could be beneficial and a son to them. Yet he turns out to be the one to takeover the kingdom. He protected himself from every boy he considered a threat, yet he welcomed the threat with his own two hands. Yes…fate. You can do all you want in this world; you can build walls around yourself, you can be vigilant and firm, you can be superman for all you wish, yet if you are meant to hit the rock bottom, you’ll just go right down there; for as many times as it’s written for you. But the thing is, everyone hits rock bottom, and the real test is how everyone finds their own way to get back up or stay below forever. People will put the blame on you for taking up the wrong choices, for making mistakes, for not working hard enough…yet they forget, it only happens for a reason.


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I’m still finding my way up and i’ll tell you this, it’s tough and really rough. Plus being a millennial only makes it harder. Sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong Century for not relating to my peers. They say i’m an old soul. And when you are an introvert you just have no option but to turn to books and tv, to get out of your world. Some friends the other day were joking that people like us, ‘the outcasts’ should start a group and call it ‘chama cha wanyonge’ 😀 😀 Idiots! or I know someone else who would call it ‘chama cha washokaji’ Not wachokaji, WASHOKAJI. Hilarious how the world views us; the introverts, the artists, the weird, the empaths…right? But maybe i’ll one day really start the group, but of course with a fancy name dah! Or maybe it could be a movement, and we could help people move from rock bottom 😀 Or maybe that’s where i’ll meet you who knows 😛

I’m not sure if you really do exist or maybe you don’t. They say soulmates don’t always occur in this life, maybe in the next…but if you don’t, I have a plan B of going to live up the cave. I would say I will be with my 60 cats like its always the assumption with people but pets scare me (The introverts will disown me for this). So maybe I will be with my scarier dolls like Chucky from Child’s play or Annabelle from The Conjuring filling up the entire house. Plus I got this brilliant idea from a meme of writing it on the wall outside: COME SEE MY DOLLS..and that’s how the horror movie begins *silly grin*

Well, I said what I needed to say. Thank you for being a wonderful listener. Plus please do remember to pray for me; to rise like the phoenix from the ashes. Ameen? I really don’t want to stay rock bottom, who wants anyway?!

P.S. You are the hope i’m waiting for 🙂

Until God decides our fate, take care.


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Photo Courtesy: http://www.lamupaintersfestival.org

Just like any other place, the Coast too has it’s good, bad and ugly. Sure enough, what’s below is only part of the story and not the full picture. There are several other personalities and several other perceptions. So kindly read this without being judgmental. There’s always another side of the coin 😉

1. The man rich in culture: He is the typical ‘Coasterian’ from head to toe. He is proud of his culture and traditions and would never trade it for anything else. He is always in a kanzu and kofia or otherwise a kikoi and shirt. His shoes would always be the makubadhi just like his coffee would never be espresso, latte or cappuccino. He would even ask, with eyebrows raised, “Why on earth would I drink that when there is kahawa tungu?” (In Kiswahili of course). So nah, the sugarcoating of these fancy names don’t move him in the least bit. You wouldn’t miss him in traditional events like the lamu cultural festival or mawlid and zefe. His house preference would always be the Swahili traditional homes so definitely, his wife choice would be a woman who knows enough about udi and asmini and a lot about samaki wa kupaka, mkate wa mofa and matobosha. He probably works as a fisherman or in the traditional businesses that have been existence since his forefathers. In the evenings he’d be seated at the baraza with friends chit-chatting or playing backgammon. His accent is not ‘Westernized’ so the ‘T’ in Fatma comes out mildly as it should be. If you are a visitor at the Coast, this is the guy you meet and see ‘the Coast’ all over him.

2. The Maalim: The man with the longest beard? 😀 His clothe of choice would always be the white sparkling kanzu. He is the sheikh; the ustadh. People trust him and value his opinions. He holds some knowledge in religion and preaches. The community treats him like the village elder and thus, involve him in many of their problems. He is respected and honoured. He is definitely the man to go to when in trouble.

3. The Mganga? Before you meet him, you will come across his poster or a piece of wood on an electricity pole advertising his ‘skills.’ Oh, he promises a lot of things; to cure your ailment, to get you a good job, to know if your wife is cheating. The only thing he won’t promise you is heaven. You’d find his home in a dark town in a dark village in the darkest spot of the mtaa. Creepy? I thought so too.

4. The lazy bone: He has no idea what is happening in his life or those around him. He is pretty much non-existent. He is jobless and is not ready to look for one. His wife/mother/woman of the house ends up spoon-feeding him because he’ll never bother provide or bring something to the table. In the evenings you’d find him at the baraza with his two kilos of miraa. He is so comfy and you’d wonder how they can be that relaxed without a penny.

5. The shy guy: He is genuinely shy. Not the social media guys who claim to be shy because this one definitely is. He is raised with high Islamic and traditional morals, he’d blush if a girl said hi. He is more often than not a loner or with few selected friends. You never have to worry about his behaviour in front of your parents because he knows his limits.

6. The sea-lover: It would be so wrong to be born at the Coast and not love the sea right? He cherishes the sea than anything else. It’s the place he goes to early in the morning for a jog, or at lunch hour to eat or when is stressed, when happy, when he is bored, when everything and nothing happens…you’d find him there. The sea is his home.

7. The odds beater: He is the man who proves against the stereotype that Coast folks only await for the mangoes to drop. He is ambitious and passionate in whatever field he has taken. He may be very well educated but he may also be not. However he is still very successful.


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8. The slippy mouth: He knows all the insults in the world. Everything in his conversations and talks must include an insult even when it’s totally out of context. Doesn’t matter if he is joking, laughing, greeting, teasing a friend,angry or frustrated; an insult will definitely appear somewhere in his sentences. Most probably he grew up with the habit or adopted it. He doesn’t care what you’ll think of it but you better be prepared when talking to him; your ears will beg for mercy. Oh and by the way, he’s also very loud in his speech so you’ll hear the insult even when miles apart.

9. Mommy’s boy: Most of the times, a boy like him comes from the upper class but sometimes from the lower class too. He’s been pampered all his life and been given all he ever needed. He barely knows how to survive on his own and depends highly on his mum/parents to sort things out for him. He loves his mum genuinely though, we can’t argue about that.

10. The gentleman: He may be similar to the shy guy but not necessarily. He is charming, a man of his words and most of all, humble and gentle to the people around him. He is a principled man and knows how to deal with people. Husband material? Most often than not.

11. The man of four wives: He will say he has a big heart which is spacious enough to accommodate four ladies 😀 Cliche much 😀 Never debate polygamy with him because you’ll fail miserably. He finds solace in his women and is proud of himself. Wonder all you want, he still made it through with his wives 😀 or maybe he didn’t but he still doesn’t regret his ‘venture’ into polygamy.

12. The pious one: Born in a family with good morals, raised well enough, ventured into religious education and has succeeded in being a scholar. In other scenarios, he pushed himself single-handedly into piety-hood. May be young but holds an ocean of knowledge in him. May be a hafidh too (memorizer of the qur’an) and people around him value his wisdom. He may or may not be a preacher but his opinions are still highly respected due to his level of piety.

13. The drug-addict: The most unfortunate scenarios of them all. He probably started early with small stuff like sheesha and miraa before graduating to marijuana and the likes. He may be from a broken family or is a neglected kid and sometimes, he is just a spoilt brat. He met other birds with the same colours and now they flock together terrorizing the community around them. This kind of story most often than not ends miserably or terribly except if he is lucky enough and got a hand to pull him out and into rehabilitation. May God protect us from such scenarios.

Oh well, we still love the Coast don’t we? With everything in it and every kind of personality we still love it here more because no place will ever feel like home more. Hey Coastal men, found yourself up there? 😀

 


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Photo Courtesy: https://olsenartnews.files.wordpress.com

We all know ‘those days’. We all have them, we all bump into them, we all have to deal with them. Those tough rough days. Those days when everything comes crashing on you like an avalanche, when your shadow overcasts you, when the sun is less brighter, when the storm is too harsh too rough. When those days come, I want you to know, it’s going to be alright.

It just doesn’t seem alright at the moment. You are about to give up. Nothing is working out. Too much to think about. A lot of stress eating up your head. You wanna quit. You just wanna lay in bed…for eternity…and just stare at the fan move in circles. You feel like you are about to drown. The water is pulling you down. You are losing yourself to the storm. Letting yourself go…into darkness…eyes closed…NOTHING.

It’s too dark in there. It’s like your soul is separating from your body; slow death. You feel yourself detach from yourself. You wanna cry. You wanna scream. Yet you wanna stop all that noise in your head. You want the silence. You need the quiet. You yearn for the solace. But you have to stand up to get to that. You will have to pull yourself from drowning. Stand up from the mud and dust yourself off. You will need to try see the positive side of it all. It’s always there. There is nothing like an entire dark day or dark hole or a dark trap. There’s always a positive thing for you. Find that now. As much as the cave is too dark, light up your own fire, the bats will hover around you for a while but you will have to shake them off. Keep moving, holding the fire on one hand and move further into the dark cave…you will see light on the end of the tunnel. I promise you you will.


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It’s too much for you now, but it won’t be tomorrow. Things will straighten up. Your plans may have failed but you can always come up with other ones. Your wishes may have crashed but there’s always something else in store for you. It’s there. It’s coming. Just hold on a little bit more. Keep walking. The fire is still in your hand. Use it to look at the beauty of the cave; how amusing and amazing that place can still be despite the situation. Have faith that God won’t and will never abandon you. Keep anticipating your arrival at the destination; getting to the light at the end of the tunnel. However slow your steps are, you still will get there. I can see the light getting closer, can you??

When those days come, do know that it’s going to be better. That YOU are going to get better. That someday, you will remember these dark days, smile and thank God for the lessons. When those days come, don’t fall apart; STAND TALL.

Photo Courtesy: Unknown

The only thing I constantly dream and anticipate of my future, is to be a mother. Not just any kind of a mother; a very dedicated one. I live for that. And I hope that God makes it come true. Ameen. I don’t know what it feels like to lose a child or to be in marriage and await for children, but I can only imagine and pray that God doesn’t test me with that and to grant those who are still having faith and praying for a miracle, a good offspring.

This is a rather special post for me because here, I narrate two different stories of two different individuals who lost their children. This gave me a heart ache but I do realize the need for people to hear other people’s stories; to appreciate their own journeys and to be patient in whatever they are going through. It is not going to be an easy read. Take heart and know that if you are/were in this same journey, you are never alone.

***A PREVIOUS NARRATION BY A DAD WHO LOST HIS FOUR UNBORN BABIES***

“Not many have the courage to speak about their disappointments in life, it hurts to lose people you love but it hurts more to lose people you expect and they don’t materialize. As we celebrate my 29th birthday, so do we celebrate the lose of our four unborn kids that never even had a chance to have a breadth of life through miscarriages. It’s the most devastating and disappointing event that has ever met our lives, and the worst of it all, the doctors can’t explain the cause of the miscarriages even after spending chunks of bills for tests and medication.

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg posted his experience with miscarriages and now expecting a baby girl, this is reassuring that there’s calm after storm. The comments and replies the post received were amazing, I came to learn that as I find it difficult having lost four babies, many other families have lost more than ten before they finally got a baby or more thereafter. And the least pleasing fact is that a huge number of couples have not even had the experience of the miscarriage itself let alone having a baby and passes on after successful birth.

Allah SW provides to His subjects what they need and not what they want, for what they want may not be beneficial to them or rather harmful in their lives and religion. For as much as we don’t know is in store for us by destiny, we shouldn’t stop trying and exploring available halaal ways of finding solutions to this problem. Allah has given mankind brains and resources to find solutions for such medical conditions, and the best of the mankind are those that are patient and those who depend on Allah for their lives and their hereafter.

The miscarriages issue has come with it many disappointing and devastating events. Young couples divorcing, wrangles in families and lack of happiness in homes. Yet the problem may be a medical condition that is treatable or may be chromosomal that is not, but in the long run, couples must remember it’s Allah SW who decides who gets what and when and in what form, so it’s not upon you to question the deity. The best of your response should be to thank and remember Allah SW during all moments. Allah tests His subjects both in hardship and pleasure, so the have are no better than the have not. Children come with responsibilities, so for the one who have, it’s also a great challenge for them too since the responsibility comes even harder for who they become is a reflection of what their parents are!. Lastly, as I pay tributes to the gone babies of ours, we missed you though we never had the chance to hold you in our arms, perhaps the right time hasn’t come. Or may be, better babies are yet to come. We shall always remember you and cherish the feeling of your few weeks with us. You gave us a lot of hope and joy but Allah Has the better plans for them and the many that have gone before and after you.”

***A NARRATION BY A MOTHER WHO LOST HER SON***

“Two months into my marriage, I was already pregnant. There was excitement in the house. It’s every woman’s dream; any couple’s dream and mine was finally going to come true. I was happy and counting down of the nine months began. Then one day we went out with my husband to a hotel at Diani and I hit myself at the abdomen with the swimming pool slide. The complications started right after that. My abdomen started aching and all the hospitals I went to, I was told nothing is wrong, the baby was fine but I should have bed rest. My scans were clear too.

By then I had already resigned from my workplace so as to take care of my health. Nonetheless, I got better and I applied for another job of which I was accepted. On the same day that I reported to work, I started feeling unwell and had to ask for permission to go see the doctor. By the time I got to the ferry, all I was seeing was black. I went and held a pole nearby to support myself as I tried to regain my strength. Two ladies came to me and asked if everything was okay. When they noticed I was pregnant and helpless, each of them held one arm and helped me board the ferry. I was still feeling nauseated and I started throwing up. The two ladies noticed I was vomiting red they thought it was blood although it was because I was from eating watermelons. That worried them and a nurse came to their rescue. I couldn’t clarify it wasn’t blood because I could barely open my mouth. So the lady nurse came to us and decided to carry me. Since they considered it an emergency case, the ferry immediately left to take me to the other side where my husband was waiting for me.

After the three ladies got me to my husband, I went for check-up, the doctor insisted that this time round I should have a bed rest for one whole month. As such, my husband had to go to my new workplace and inform them that I can’t make it.

My grandma decided to take me with her, to ease it for my husband since he has to go to work. But then one day, the pain revisited my body, this time more painful than ever. Nearby, there was a mid-wife so we went to her and she gave me a massage. I was told that the baby was leaning on my abdomen and thus the pain. But the massage was like adding charcoal to the fire. I had to be rushed to the nearest hospital which was Coast General and was told that my baby’s path was already open. I was about to give birth. At six months.

The nurses injected me and prepared me for birth. It was going to be a pre-mature birth and chances of survival was 50-50. But we were hopeful and I had faith. All my relatives were told to wait outside the ward. I still had some time before I could give birth, so the nurse left me alone. But then the bone-breaking pain came and I was confused. It was my first time, with absolutely no idea how things work. I just pulled off my hijab, kept it under my thighs and started pushing and pushing…extreme pain, sweat…then black…

“Ah! She has given birth already!” I could hear the nurses calling out from afar. “Ma’am, ma’am…do you know that you have already given birth?’

I didn’t know,but I just nodded. I checked the time, it was almost 1 hour 45 minutes later since I started giving birth and lost my consciousness. There was frantic movement for some time. Then cleaning me up, then cutting of the umbilical cord. One nurse then came to me, ‘Ma’am, you gave birth to a baby boy…but i’m sorry, he passed…Do you want to see him?”

I said no. I requested for my family instead. My aunt who raised me came in with my mother in law. They found me crying. I could now feel the emptiness in me; in my heart, in my stomach.

“Have you seen your son?” My aunt asked as she went on consoling me. When I said no, she insisted I should, “This is your son and you are never going to see him again. So take heart and hold him and kiss him. Be strong.”

And I bid farewell to my son; my only child, my only flesh. For a long time, I was never going to forget that moment.

Almost two weeks after giving birth, the abdomen pain struck again. It was too painful. I went to see my gynecologist and after yet another scan, they noticed a leakage, though they couldn’t tell where it was from until I was operated on. The assumption was that it was bacterial infection from the post-birth. So the next morning, first thing I was taken for the surgery. After being cut, is when my gyno, another general doctor and a nurse realized that my appendix had ruptured. There was a lot of pus inside and the baby had been drinking that. But my situation freaked them out. They had never handled such a case so they called another fellow doctor who directed them what to do. When they were done, four hours later, they called in for another nurse to take me to my room and they disappeared through the back door.

My family followed me to the room with worry, but the doctors were nowhere to be seen. One hour later is when my gyno appeared. Upon being asked where he was he said, “In my entire 20 years in this career, i’ve never seen such a thing and i’ve never had such a surgery.” They had removed 3 liters of pus from the leakage and some pus was still left. While I was about to leave the hospital, my nurse asked to have a private word with me and said, “My dear, if you ever feel the need to cry, then cry. No one should tell you you have to be strong. Let it out. Scream, shout, do whatever will make you feel better but don’t let it eat you up inside.” And that was it. Weeks after that I was still going to the hospital to have some more pus removed. You can’t imagine the pain. Both the physical and mostly the emotional torment.

Months later, I went for my final check-up and I met my gyno and he said, “Has anyone ever told you that God is great? That was a very risky operation, I have never been that scared in my life. I never even imagined you’d get up and be well again…Your baby saved you. He was drinking the pus which was poisonous all along. Hadn’t you given birth to him, we wouldn’t have known of the leakage…” He then quickly summoned for the other doctor who had operated on me to come into the office.

“You remember this lady?” My gyno asked his fellow doctor.
“How can I forget this girl…” Looking at me, “When we did your operation, I asked doctor here, can I just cry for this girl? I went home that evening and told my children, ‘before you sleep, there is a special patient at my hospital, we have to pray for her condition. You are a very strong lady!”I just nodded with a smile.

It was such a rough time. For months after that, I cried. I had a difficult time whenever i’d see relatives and friends with their children. My husband and I had to move to a different house to avoid the questions and the despair. For years after that we were still praying and hoping for another baby…but nothing happened. It got to a point I told my husband he can marry another woman if he willed. I was broken. But he was supportive and still is. I remember when I told him about marrying another woman he said, “Say audhubillah. Go take ablution and pray two rakaats to your Lord…” It’s been five years since we got married. We still don’t have a child. It may be a hard test but as my husband always reminds me, “God doesn’t give you except what you can handle…and maybe, He is preventing some harm into our lives by all this.” When you ask my husband about our gone son he would say, “I did not only have a son, but an angel who saved the life of my wife and gave up his own. He was our hero!”

I have faith in God and I still pray for what is best for us. Yet I have this beautiful memory of my son for I gave birth to him, I felt him and I experienced labour pain.”

****

All I know about this life is that it wasn’t meant to be heaven. You will be tested; in one way or another. He will give you wealth but test you with lack of health. He will give you children but test you with a difficult spouse. He will give you health but with lack of children. He will give you wealth but you will be tested with early death of parents. Everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE, is fighting some kind of battle. Even those happy people you see spending money and acting all classy like they got it all…they also have something missing in their lives. It’s pretty much difficult for everyone in this life, but we need to pass these tests. We need to believe that God knows what is best for us, He knows the answers to your questions, He knows why He gave you this instead of that…We need to be patient and strong. We need to have faith that God only gives us what we can absolutely conquer. So whatever you are going through right now, soldier on.

I pray that Allah grants children to all those who’ve been waiting; a good, pious, healthy offspring that will be close to Allah. May Allah grant you higher reward for your patience and grant you strength in all stages of life. Ameen!

Photo courtesy: https://historiamolim6000.files.wordpress.com

Just before Gulf African Bank hosted their women empowerment event at Whitesands in Mombasa, I came across a comment in one of the posts and someone was saying something like, ‘Why would Gulf take such an event to Mombasa instead of Nairobi where people will surely attend?’ My jaw almost dropped. Excuse me? Really now? Are you even for real??! LOL Don’t Mombasa women deserve a chance to learn, network and get empowered too?!!

For so long we’ve been hearing of how Mombasa people are always waiting for Manna from the sky, or of how the women have nothing better they can do than get married early, adorn themselves all the time and attend weddings in a fashion-competitive way. For so long we’ve been undermined, underestimated and under-rated…but not anymore. We are not going to accept it anymore! Now we say, Enough is Enough!!

Okay maybe it is true. Maybe our grandmas sat at home and never ventured enough into tapping into their talents and areas of expertise. Maybe they weren’t as educated as we are, maybe they had different priorities than we do, maybe they failed in some places, maybe they lacked focus at some point…But still, this is not exactly true. Since way back, Mombasa women have been bringing on the table way more than ‘the man of the house’ in many houses. Go to these areas heavily populated with original Swahili women and the Mombasa folks, look at them, ask about them. You will see mothers waking up at the crack of dawn, cooking mahamri or uji or whatever it is, to sell and earn money. You will witness single mothers educating their children at the cost of not just their sweat but happiness too. You will find women whose husbands left a long time ago with no return. You will find women sacrificing all they have to provide for their children because their father hasn’t yet brought money from Suudiya, or is a drug addict or is unemployed. You will see them going door to door to sell you whatever business they could get hold of at that moment. You will know of women who belong to rich families yet decided to follow their path and make their own money. For someone else, it is easy to undermine her effort but she is doing something isn’t she? She is cooking, she is sewing, she is mending…just because she isn’t a degree holder swinging around her chair in an office, does that make her lazy? Despicable? Unwanted? A by-the-way woman?? Just because she doesn’t hold a fancy name to her business, just because she is doing it with her own hands instead of importing from Dubai and Malaysia…just because that is the only knowledge they have of, does that make her effort, any less??

So on Wednesday and Thursday, I was at the Gulf Bank women empowerment workshop and I was amazed, or rather, the event was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I was there doing what I do best; observing people, and I realized how much this perception of Mombasa women and Mombasa folks generally is really under-rating our efforts, talents and intelligence.

There I was with over a hundred women from Mombasa; talking of empowerment, of business, of goals, of rise and fall. Here were women, each one having a story to tell. And yes, they are from Mombasa. Successful business ladies who people never bother to acknowledge their efforts, their passion and determination. Here were women with registered and unregistered businesses. Here were women making a difference.

I look at Banu Khan from UN women; with all her positive energy, her vigor, her charm, her confidence my God, she could move mountains in you. Then I look at Tahia Tajdin as she talks about audits and how to be tax compliant. And she goes a step ahead to explain critical elements we always assume and ignore. And she was there, so good at the math I was marveled. We ended up calling her ‘Madam Tax’ 😀 I listen to Zeinab Sheikh of Zeiruq Agency giving her journey to success; her very inspiring story from zero to millions almost got me to tears. I listen to how much she repeats the words, ‘Prayers…I just had prayers’…before ending it with; ‘God has a purpose for your pain, a reason for your struggle and a gift for your faithfulness’ and it hit me so hard! This woman is a believer (God bless her soul) and in her words was so much to contemplate about. And hey! These women are from Mombasa!! Why doesn’t anyone acknowledge that? Why doesn’t anyone acknowledge ‘mama Makuti’ who started a business of selling mangoes with only 300/= until now she runs her own construction business which awards her tenders worth millions? Or of these aggressive upcoming young ladies doing a lot for themselves and for the community too? Why aren’t we remembered for producing inspiring ladies like Ms Nawal Mohammed, first female board member of Gulf, or of the two female branch managers of Gulf out of 5 branches in Mombasa? Why doesn’t anyone give us a pat on the back for women like Laila of Soul Sisters Network, or of Fatma Mazrui of Nitume Online or Jamila El-Jabry of Life in Mombasa, of Nafisa Khanbhai of Dear Diary Initiative, of the ladies running ‘Inshape fitness’, of all these ladies participating in community events at Mombasa Toa Donge Lako and many other groups, of Binti Naji; the lady with an ocean of wisdom and intellect I never get enough of her…of Waridi and her magnificent aura of confidence running her business ‘Waridi fashions’? I mean, if I continue writing these names, will I ever end it today? In a crowd of over 100 women, almost ALL were running businesses of their own. Of all kinds and shapes. Women of different tribes and religions. And there are MANY MANY more out there. Trying. Building their dreams one at a time silently. Of course not; not a day, not two days will be enough.

I work with ladies who are constantly researching about business markets, they have dreams and goals. I have lived with such women. I have interacted with them. I have seen them. I am one of them.

These ladies need a genuine round of applause; a heavy one with confetti to cream it up; for being go-getters, for striving too hard, for so much sacrifice, for so much dedication…and for persevering a bad attitude on Mombasa women; yet they have proved everyone wrong.

I remember when I first attended the Gulf event, I wasn’t even speaking to the person next to me until she started teasing me for my ‘introvertism’. By the time we had the breaks where people were networking, my colleague Rahma was the one busy telling people about my blog and praising it too much, telling everyone you can advertise on my blog and about my writing services, I almost thought it was hers instead of mine. 😀 The next moment I was in a round table with some four ladies when this topic on undermining Mombasa ladies came up, I was barely participating until I jumped in, ‘You guys just gave me an idea to write about!’ Then it all started, ‘Ohh you are a blogger?!’ etc etc and the next moment another lady joined us,one of the four by the name of Faiza was introducing me. She had her tone upright and straight, ‘Do you know she was nominated for BAKE awards? Aha!’ and she said it too well I almost asked for some attitude and confidence tips from her 😀 Trust me, by the time the event was ending, these ladies had given me enough inspiration to talk about myself and the little much I do. I was exchanging numbers, noting down names, sending links of my blog…and it still got me thinking, perhaps this is what we have always lacked; the push. The previous generations of Mombasa women lacked education (majority of them), they lacked opportunities, but importantly, they lacked empowerment…yet they still did great in whatever small businesses they ventured in. Let’s give credit where it is due. They may have had issues with fear of taking risks and of exploring opportunities, but we have to agree that they did try. We are trying right now and we are changing!…For the better.

So from today henceforth, Mombasa women where are you? Let us put up an oath that we are never allowing anyone from anywhere to criticize, undermine or sabotage our image. The next time someone talks of how lazy and dependent we are, talk of the great Mombasa women you know. I am sure your own mother is one of them. Let us not allow ourselves be treated like women of no focus because we are not that. We are women of substance, women ready to make changes, ready to defend our reputation…women of VIGOR!!

I don’t know if Gulf African Bank personnel and UN women too can ever realize how much they have impacted women’s lives, not just by the 2-day workshop, but by empowering women always. Very lovely ladies like Najma Jabri, Muumina Bonaya, Wanjiru Gathira, Beatrice, the beautiful ladies of Gulf, together with the MD, Mr Abdulkhalik, the other staff & speakers mentioned above and the man of the event, Peter Pasaka… May God bless their souls for such a wonderful workshop!!

I may not be able to mention all the wonderful women who are beating all odds to get to their goals but i’ll just make this shout out for everyone: To all the Mombasa women creating a difference and working very hard, I salute you!


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So there’s this new local Islamic TV station coming up and it just got me all excited. I mean, if you are a ‘90s baby or prior that, then you will totally relate to all those times you were asked to switch off the TV because ‘there is nothing for you to watch’ or you’d be pushed to go sleep early even when you are having some chronic insomnia. You will even be thoroughly encouraged to go play outside even when the heat is about to unleash its superpowers, just to avoid you from watching something inappropriate. And even as we grew up, there was so much monotony in the stations because if it isn’t ‘Soledad’ in one station then it is ‘the day of our lives’ in the next. Too much misery in the news. Too much stereotype in the real world. Finally, the Muslims have a voice.

Horizon TV it is. It is the first locally oriented Islamic television channel in the country; a project of Tamaz Communications Limited, a company fully owned by Jamia Mosque Committee, Nairobi. With a lot of Islamophobia growing around the world, including our own country, this is a great blessing indeed. This is a wonderful platform for the non-Muslims to learn more about Islam; the true Islam and not the stereotyped one. This is the place where Muslims can acquire further knowledge. This is where we can allow our children to stay tuned to 24/7 because it is simply worth it. This is where hard issues are discussed and challenges are faced. This is where a better understanding of what Islam really is, is brought out. This is where we talk of societal issues that are yet to be talked about; the untold stories, the voices that need to be heard.

We are living in such a negative world at the moment and we really need some source of mega-positivity and inspiration. We need Islamic role models and mentors. We need to acquire knowledge in interesting ways that won’t make the students sleep in boredom. We need to move alongside the rest of the world. And technology is the answer. These visuals actually do have a greater impact than we ever think of it. And this is exactly what Horizon TV aims at: Make a positive difference in our society!

The objectives of the TV station are:
• To provide and support Da’awah activities
• To provide the Muslim community with a platform to articulate their issues and agenda
• To provide a platform where the masses will learn the true picture of Islam and Islamic values
• To educate, inform and entertain the targeted audiences (primary and secondary) within Sharia parameters.
• To produce and broadcast a variety of community programs for di’erent segments of society e.g. women,
children, youth, within the purview with Islamic shariah.
• To facilitate broadcast of other programs whose goals and objectives are in conformity with Horizon TV.

As we approach the D-day of the launch, 24th March, we pray that this becomes a successful project that will help Muslims come together in good terms and to educate both the Muslims and Non-Muslims as well. Horizon will be hosted on Star Times, GoTv, Signet and Bamba. The TV station will cover Nairobi region for starters before expanding biidhnillah.

Ready for great things ahead in shaa Allah!!

Photo Courtesy: http://www.npr.org

Dear Reader,

Did you know that effective communication is very effective?

Did you know that it does not make you any less of the man/woman you are?

That speaking out doesn’t make your pizza any less tastier?

That opening up does not make you lose any body-part?

That talking honestly does not reduce the balance you have in your bank account?

Yet importantly, did you know, that most problems are caused by lack of communication?

That a lot of problems could be avoided if we actually, literally, realistically, honestly and frankly TALKED?

So my mother has always been preaching about communication, “C.O.M.M.U.N.I.C.A.T.E! What do you lose when you do?” She’d say. I can almost hear her voice echoing the words 😀 But then isn’t this something that we should actually think about more deeply?

How many ugly scenarios can we avoid if we actually talk, open up, communicate? Most of the divorces, friendship break-ups, job loss, strained family relationships are because of miscommunication, or the entire lack of it, or the failure to understand what is being communicated.

So here are several scenarios:

I have some urgent work that should be submitted by this afternoon.  I am not getting any close to finishing it by that time. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have it in time even if I had these supernatural powers of superman. But there is a client waiting for it. They will probably get mad for your lateness. They will probably blow your phone with insults. It doesn’t make it much better informing them that there will be a delay. But there will be one difference; you prepared them in advance. You will have given them room to find another solution or alternative ways to deal with the situation. They might even be understanding enough to grant you some more hours to finish up what is required of you.

Your friend has messed up. It could be a small one or a big one doesn’t matter. So you decide it is best to just shut them out of your life. No explanation. No goodbyes. Not even a ‘You betrayed me’ note lol. For real though, how do you expect someone to know how badly they’ve wronged you if you don’t tell them so? Well, some things may be obvious. It could be an open mistake but then once you speak it out to them, you give them room to justify themselves. Okay maybe sometimes it is not worth it, but sometimes it is. Perhaps listening to them will give you a fresh new point of view that you never thought about. Perhaps, it was just a humanly slip. Perhaps they deserve another chance from you. Perhaps you may even decide to forgive them…how will you know if you have let your ego possess you and right now no one is more right than you?

So we are working on something, it’s team work. Obviously at some point you and I will have different opinions or thoughts. You tell me your thoughts and I realize they are different from my own thoughts. Instead of discussing it through like adults, I decide to frown silently and just go mute. Hallo?? This is called TEAM work for a reason. Each individual is supposed to bring something on the table. Misunderstandings, differences are most probably going to happen. It’s almost an obvious thing. But do you discuss it out maturely or does each individual grump silently and let the work get messed up??

You heard something about me, or something I said about you. You heard ‘rumours’, you heard ‘grapevine’ as we call it but you never bother confirm the information with me. You never inquire if it is true, if it is accurate, if there is probably a sensible justification behind it.

These scenarios are too many, they could fill up my entire website. Main point is, always try to talk it out; in fact, it should be without any persuasion. You had a bad day and it ruined your mood? Tell your husband so. Don’t let him keep guessing what he did in the past twenty four hours that could have ruined your moods. You don’t like what I am saying? Tell me so, in a kind way. Tell me your thoughts. We don’t always have to have the ‘right answer’ or the ‘winner’. We can still be friends with different opinions. Can’t make it to the event or you just don’t want to attend? Stop beating about the bush and be honest. You don’t like someone’s behaviour? Advise them, in a good way. You can’t pay up the debt in time? Excuse yourself before your time is due instead of switching off your phone and ignoring someone’s texts.Will be absent at work? Call at work early enough and avoid any inconveniences.

I mean, don’t people understand the value of words. How when used kindly and appropriately, we could be a better world right now? Imagine if we opted for peace reconciliations rather than war? If we opted for what-went-wrong discussions rather than divorce? If we decided to be honest about what we feel about someone or their actions or their words? Just think about it. What if you decided to go sit with your mother, whom you are always in a fight with, and directly ask her what doesn’t she like in you or what could possibly be so wrong in your behaviour? Or what if you approached your cousin and cleared the air from the grudge you two have been holding for years on?? What if you were honest that you are still in bed rather than lie to someone who’s been waiting for you for two hours already? Don’t you think telling them in advance would save them some heat and maybe they’d find a place to use their time more effectively while waiting for you? (Hallo there late-comers 😀 )

It’s true that sometimes talking it out may not bring out any results but maybe it is worth the try?? Don’t allow your ego to stop you from reaching out to other people and straightening things with them. Just give it a try…after that, whatever happens, will not be upon you anymore for you’d have played your part.

Speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean blurting your thoughts out like diarrhea or being rude and arrogant. It just means you need to be straight forward; about your thoughts, feelings, opinions…you never have to make anyone keep guessing because they already know, if so and so had a problem with me, they’d have approached me about it. It keeps you on the clear. It keeps you away from avoidable misunderstandings and grudges. It makes you honest. It grants you a peace of mind. Sooo…talk it out maybe??

Photo Courtesy: https://c1.staticflickr.com

Tell me your dreams,
Tell me what makes you tick.
Tell me what makes you stay awake late at night,
Tell me what takes you to cloud nine and what makes the stars shine a bit brighter.
Tell me your dreams…I will show you people who’ve mastered the art of dreaming

Perhaps the best thing about my career is meeting new people. But then this is quite ironic for an introvert because meeting people is such a struggle for me. I have to contemplate the whole thing a million times before I finally make up my mind to meet the person i’m to meet. Yet when I think of it, coming out of my shell and my comfort zone has rarely ever made me regret. All I ever had to do was filter their objectives, my objectives, their agenda, my agenda and for those I did eventually meet, I learnt a lot. My perspective has really changed a great deal from listening to people, to their stories, to their dreams…oh, their dreams, you see the spark in their eyes as they tell you their goals and it is just amazing. I met such a lady yesterday and not even my words, can explain the enthusiasm in her voice as she narrates her dreams.

Amina Yusuf is the typical Nairobi Muslim lady; learned, focused, super-ambitious, determined and brave. While she was leading a comfortable life in Nairobi with her three children and husband, in her own home, with a good career, she decided to leave it all to come to Mombasa. The main aim of the migration was to get her children into tahfidhul qur’an and give her children an ideal childhood in Islamic neighbourhood. Upon arriving here, she joined madrasa for one year and up’d her education. It was while she was in madrasa that she noticed how the girl child in the neighbourhood were being left behind; uneducated, child labour, poverty issues, family issues, neglected orphans…and she decided she must make a move.

Without over-thinking, she decided to start an education centre by the name Al Reyhan girls education centre with the little amount she had. She went for shopping and started buying the basic necessities she would need for herself and the girls. She had a special target on which girls she needed to join her centre so she would personally move from one house to another, interacting with family members, befriending them without anyone knowing her intention. It was only after weighing each family’s situation is when she’d recruit the girls; orphaned girls, neglected girls, girls from very needy families who can’t afford to take their children to school, girls who live with their old grandparents with no one to take care of their education needs…until the number of girls got to 97, 52 of which are boarders.

The school system is such that, the entire morning the girls are taught tahfidh and basic Islamic knowledge then in the afternoon, they have the secular subjects. Amina wasn’t going to let her girls feel any less than fellow girls in academies. She would fish for money in her own ways and buy them books, stationary, colours, pads for the older girls, she’d cover the books herself, ensure they eat good food with a fruit at least each day and meat once a week. She’d take them to outings occasionally, give them pep talks, go play with them at the beach early mornings, interact with them and at these times, she says, is when you get to know of the deepest secrets of the children.

 

“I want to mould and shape these girls into ambitious educated women. I want it that some day, the girls at my centre can have quality education such that there is no difference between them and the students at Light Academy. I even told my thirteen year old daughter about my dream and my goal; that if I die like right now, I want her to continue with my legacy because this is the legacy I want to leave behind,” Amina says.

“It’s been tough for us here. I run this place entirely by myself and by God’s grace. Sometimes I push family and friends to chip in but otherwise we have no other way of income. I have rented these two buildings; each having three rooms. I stay in one of the rooms with my three children too. We currently just have three beds, the rest we just lay mattresses in this one room and the girls sleep here. It gets too hot and stuffy sometimes, but what can we do…we need to survive here until we get a bigger place.”

One room being her own and for her three children, the other two being classrooms in one house. The other house which also has three rooms; one belongs to the caretaker and teachers who help around, the other room contains the three beds while the last room is the classroom during morning hours and the place to sleep in the night. I can’t even come to think of how these 52 girls fit into the two tiny rooms.

“We’ve had pretty bad days too. We once had a tv, we had to sell it at some point. There was a time we were all locked inside the house because we had really delayed with rent. The agents wouldn’t let us out. I had to frantically start calling friends and family for help, but alhamdulilah some good group of friends managed to raise the amount in good time and saved us. And sometimes, we have good Samaritans coming by to greet us or bring us some things; sometimes it is university student groups, sometimes just individuals or charity groups. We really appreciate it but then sometimes we have nowhere to store the things. Like someone may bring two cartons of milk and we have no freezer to store. Sometimes I go to neighbours and leave a few in different homes but then it gets to a point I feel burdened to ask that from them anymore. I can’t keep doing that forever. Sometimes people don’t say they are fed up but you can feel it yourself that you can’t ask for favours everyday. So I end up sharing it to the day scholars too so that the milk doesn’t spoil. Or sometimes someone brings a goat, we slaughter and have a feast for lunch and dinner, but since I fear that what remains may get bad, I choose the most needy of families and give them it.”

With all this, Amina still strives to make her centre better and greater.
“As much as I use 8-4-4 system to teach the girls, I decided to give them extra life skills that would help them when they grow up. We have cooking classes at least once a month, tailoring classes, sometimes we make juice, sometimes I come with my small laptop and show them how to use. We have very limited resources but with such a fast developing world, I wouldn’t want them to remain unaware of what is happening around them. I teach them how to be as ladies; the etiquette and manners. I discourage them from going outside past maghrib times (sunset) and sometimes parents come to complain why i’m making the girls be disobedient by refusing to go outside past sunset but I tell them about matters of time and how we need to protect them. I also teach them about women in Islam; the history and of modern world (like Yasmin Mogahed) because if European girls are empowered why not do that for ourselves too? So I give them history lessons of how Muslim women impacted the society. We even have our library we call it ‘maktabatul Aisha’ (Aisha’s library) since she is one of the most educated women in history. We call our sports section ‘Nusaiba’ since she was a brave warrior during the prophet’s time. We call our accounts section ‘khazinatu Khadija’ for she was a successful business woman. And the point of all this is for them to realize the power and importance of a woman in the society. They too can become these women.”

In both two buildings, only three rooms are used for studies. One is the class for toddlers and KG 1. The other room is for KG 2, 3 and class 1. The third room has class 2 to class 6. Every teacher hurdled in a corner with her numbered girls. It is hectic no doubt. Imagine having three teachers teaching different classes, all in the same room. And here, it is like ‘whatever will be will be’. They teach regardless of the limited space to comfortably talk to the girls or for them to bend down to take some notes.

“It’s been 9 months now and I thank God that we have survived until now. Sometimes I sit with these girls and just talk to them. I ask them what they want to become when they grow up and you’d hear one say, ‘I want to get married’. When you ask her ‘why so?’ She says, ‘My family already planned for me to get married to my cousin.’ And this is just a thirteen year old girl. She has no focus, no goals whatsoever because she, the girl child, wasn’t given the knowledge to understand what she is capable of. We have very young children nowadays, as young as 3 who will tell you that they want to be a doctor or a pilot or a teacher. Why then would some girls have such goals in life at such tender ages while other lack any goal at all?”

As we move around and Amina shows me the students of each class, I notice a big girl at KG 3. Immediately Amina says this is class one, I see her quickly sink down and bow her head not to be seen. She is ashamed, I notice.
“What’s her story?”
“Long story. She lives with her step-mum who’s been mistreating her. Sometimes she comes here and slaps her for maybe some minor she hasn’t done or something like that. She’s been neglected, with no education…and she’s been working as a house girl. I didn’t even know that that was her step-mum until lately. Currently, i’m trying to transfer her into our boarding here, so she can study well with a peace of mind. She is just 13 but talk to her and she sounds like 35. She speaks like an adult…”
“That’s what tough life does to you…”
“And there are more of these girls. They need help. They need somewhere safe to go to. There is this young girl here, she’s just four years old but she’s seen a lot. Her mother is a divorcee and a drug addict, she uses bogizi. The young girl has both asthma and sinus. She keeps getting the attacks regularly but the mother is never around or very high…so she stays here with me at boarding. All I want is for her and others like her to have a good life…But I can’t take any more here. I don’t have space for more. We need a bigger place and reach out to more girls.”

Most of the girls come from families with very huge baggage. 60% of the girls are orphans, 30% are needy, 10% are abled. The 10% are the only ones who pay fees which is 1700/= per month. But it is more than worth it because Amina feeds them and provide stationary for them too. We even have break time tea twice a week and porridge three times. Because the aim here isn’t business, it’s to give the students a chance like other children have. So from what the abled students pay is what helps in paying teachers and catering for other needs. By ‘abled’ we don’t mean ABLED. We just mean students who are a bit better than the rest.

I look at Amina and say to myself, ‘This human being right her; she is making a difference.’ I look at her eyes sparkle as she talks of how much she wants to do for the girls, of the sighs between her sentences like she is desperate to reach her goal, of the endless ‘Thank God’…I look at her and marvel. We have made idols and role models from people on social media who do nothing other than make noise, have aimless posts, put up many photos of themselves then call them ‘influential people’. But how did they really influence us? In what did they influence us? Was it ever something meaningful? I doubt. Then there are people like Amina, who’ve sacrificed their good peaceful lives where they could live happily without a worry just to make a difference and bring change in other people’s lives. These are the unsung heroes. The very few who do something great not so as to look great but to create some other great thing. And here now I call for your help to help Amina achieve her dream…

On the 2nd of April, Amina is organizing for a fundraiser food bazaar. She is calling for people to assist her in any way possible. You may donate some food that will be sold, or you may sell your own food on that day then share the profit, or you may just volunteer to help around making the event successful or even come sell any of your other businesses and agree on how to share the profit. The aim of the fundraising is to get money to buy a freezer which is quite necessary for them right now. But there are so many other needs for them.
The girls at boarding sometimes are to go home and they refuse with the say, “Ustadha, at home I can’t have pads. I will just be told to use a piece of clothe.”
So yes, these girls come from very desperate situations you don’t want to imagine. They also need a bigger space/home of their own to move to because that is what will ease a huge burden of rent and congestion. Donate with whatever you can. Volunteer. Or even share this post as widely as possible. Let us make her dream come true. Let us make a difference in these children’s’ lives. The event is also going to a fun day at the same time i.e. a food bazaar plus fun day for children. Entrance is free. Kindly avail yourselves and make this work in shaa Allah.

If you want to assist in any way and would like to talk to Amina, here’s her contact:0797641346/0733341574. God bless you!!

Special thanks to my best friend, Husna, for supporting me in all my projects. God bless your soul always 🙂

Tell me your dreams, I will show you people who have mastered the art of dreaming