Najma Saleh


Photo by Julien Bachelet from Pexels

We always talk about motivation, success, and leading a phenomenal life. Social media, movies, books are full of content that says you gotta get up and prove yourself or else succumb to leading a mediocre life.
So what, may I ask, is a mediocre life?

By today’s definition of a successful life, our parents’ lives and their parents’ lives before them would be considered mediocre.

My father was a highly successful man by today’s standards until he wasn’t. The highly successful life gave him health problems, many frenemies, and stole from him much that I cannot mention here.

When he lived a life that many would now consider unsuccessful he was happier -and his health improved. He balanced his priorities, got closer to Allah, and lived simply.

My mother raised seven of us against almost unfair odds but here we are. Someone asked my sister what work my Mum was involved in before she “retired”. The lady was shocked that my mum had never “worked” outside the house. Yet you cannot dismiss the energy, dedication, patience, and perseverance it takes to raise seven kids. She sewed all our clothes herself, cooked everything from scratch, and had neither blender nor vacuum cleaner- and most crucially- no disposable diapers to lighten her load.

Our grandparents and parents never felt the urge to prove themselves to anyone. If they fed, clothed, and educated their kids or more importantly raised their kids to have good morals and an honorable character they considered themselves successful.

They were happy with the little they had, led simple lives, and the highlights of their days were their prayers; the highlight of their week was Friday, and the highlight of their year was the two Eids. The highlight of their lives was when and if they were blessed to visit the Holy House in Makkah.
Their families were central and they made a point to reach out whenever they could.

Fast forward to today and all am seeing is PROVE YOURSELF! See, I believe that the only person you have to prove yourself to- if you must prove yourself at all- is yourself.

I abhor the messages being portrayed that in order to be successful you must sacrifice: a good night’s sleep; you must hustle until your signature becomes an autograph, that on your way to greatness, you must trust no one and certainly depend on no-one.

You will almost always end up missing your kids’ most important events when you adopt this mindset and you begin to see sleep and rest as something only for the weak.

I am appalled at the messages being bombarded at our young ones. Especially from this brutal education system that places more emphasis on grades than skills, on working ‘hard’ instead of working smart. A system that has no consideration for our children’s mental health.

That play, rest, and balance are for those who live in Miami, Florida (Trust me, I have been there and those guys know when to take a break) and not for Kenyans. This is why there are no P. E. lessons or Drama Clubs or variety shows or in our schools anymore C-19 aside.

Life is all about balance. It is about being present to appreciate whatever moment you are in.

What have we been sold to?

Mediocrity is when you exchange your wellbeing, your health and time spent with those you love in pursuit of being ‘king’. Worse still it is exchanging your time with your Lord to connect with Him for your hustle.

We must review our goals and renew our intentions.
What are we running around for?
What will make us feel satisfied at the end of our life?
There is also this ridiculous statement that you should do each day as if it was the end of your life. If it were the end of my life today I would not spend it chasing accolades, in front of a computer or stuck with people or a job I don’t particularly like just so to be seen that I am not living a mediocre life.

No, I would call my loved ones, ask for their duas and forgiveness and then I would never leave my prayer mat.

It would not matter that I have a PhD or make a bazillion dollars- it wouldn’t.

So why should it matter now?

Getting the PhD should not be an end in itself and neither should be making seven or eight figures. Not when it means I have no time for connection, God or my health.

Motivation, self help and all that is helpful there can be no doubt.
But let us be honest with ourselves and see what it is we are calling our youths – and ourselves- to get up and be.
Not upright citizens, not hufadhdul Quran not exemplary Muslims.

Don’t believe me? Just log into social media and see what I mean.

You are worthy because Allah created you. Because you are one of His creatures.
Because He knows your name.

As human beings we sometimes struggle with our feelings of worthiness and perceptions of our own value.

We see someone who has ‘more’ than us and we feel less. We look at his big house, his four wheel drive and his gadgets and we feel less.
We see someone who has ‘accomplished’ more than us and we feel less.
We are awed by his multiple university degrees, or his lofty job title or the powerful people he knows and we feel less.

A lucrative career does not make someone worthier and neither do excellent grades or being multilingual or being “gorgeous.”

Just know that you are worthy just by being you.

Ladies, take note- you do not have to look a certain way or look like someone else or take off your hijab to be worthy.

You do not have to torture yourself with toxic chemicals because you desire to keep up with the Khateebs or the Alwis. You do not have to be a certain weight or a certain skin tone. You do not have to impress anyone to feel valuable.

You are priceless just the way you are.

Parents, take note….your child does not have to bring home straight A’s or win academic awards for you to be proud of him. He is deserving of it just the way he is. Your child does not have to bend over backwards or reinvent the wheel or come out at the top of his respective class for him to be worthy of your love. Put no conditions on your love.
Love him for who he is.

Young people take note. You do not have to smoke, do drugs, skip school to be worthy of your ‘friends’ or to fit in.

You deserve friends who will hang out with you for who you really are.
Gentlemen, take note. You do not have to compete with others to be worthy. You do not have to waste the precious hours of your life trying to prove that you can be more than , have more than or be just like that man you envy and admire.

You are worthy whatever salary you make, whatever you use for transportation, however old your electronics are and even if she is the only wife you have.
You are worthy.

For those of us who are so very abundantly blessed, you can have all that you are blessed to have without believing somebody else deserves it more.
You can learn to be grateful for Allah’s gifts and blessings on you without feeling guilty for having them.

Can you not see that in itself is disbelief and a lack of faith?
It might be a challenging feat learning and accepting that we are worthy. Allah loves us and blesses us in so many ways and that in itself should teach us that we are worthy.

Our worthiness is not defined by age or beauty or net worth or achievements. The more we place emphasis on these things the more people will fall into self loathing and a sense of not fitting in.

You are worthy, dear reader. You are worthy. You have been worthy since the day you were born and your father gave you your name. You are worthy.
You are worthy of all that is good and safe and blessed. You are worthy of great health and prosperity. You have no need to apologise for yourself or your uniqueness which the Almighty bestowed on you. You are worthy. You are worthy.

Say it with me. I AM WORTHY.

From the time they get the slap on their backside babies have known how to express their needs. New parents know that rest will not be forthcoming for them unless they meet those needs.

Children are unashamed and unabashed when it comes to being themselves. As toddlers they are curious and full of wonderment. They are also very self-aware. They know when to lay down and give relief to their tired limbs and when to keep going. They know no shame or guilt, they know no filters.

As they grow they start to realise that certain things are no nos. They see that some of their antics are being met with disapproval and that is when they start to hold back.

We are taught from an early age that we must not succumb to any emotion or action that might be perceived as weak.

We must not admit to tiredness or feeling sick or needing a shoulder to cry on. Men, especially, have been programmed or have had it instilled into them that they can be no tears for them (“big boys don’t cry”)

They must show control at all times – except perhaps when they knock their fingers while using a hammer. Perhaps then they are allowed a yowl of pain and an expletive or two.

If you are sick you must soldier on nevertheless because, well, to stop and take some rest would be a fault; a sign of not being able to cope.

You must not admit to being overwhelmed or panicked.

If you are a student – in spite of what our teachers would tell us to the contrary- you confess to not understanding concepts at your own risk. You must be well acquainted with all the formulas and all the names and all the dates. You do not want your school mates knowing that you are struggling even if they are struggling themselves. You do not want to be perceived as weak. You do not want the label “average “, “slow learner” to apply to you.

You must not let on, if you are a parent, that your kids are proving a handful and that you need help. You must do most everything yourself- from scratch if needs be- because well, how else will you measure up?

The standards we set and place for ourselves are ridiculous and inhumane.

Setting worthy and lofty goals is admirable but to pretend to have super human capabilities, to suppress our inherent needs, to be unforgiving of anything less than “perfection” that is the road to depression and anxiety.

To always wear a face of control and an attitude of “having it all together” is to set a precedent for our kids that they must- no matter what- always have their wits about them and their lives be picture perfect.

Why are we telling them this? Why are we growing a generation afraid to show vulnerability, terrified of being themselves?

Perhaps we feel if we ask for help, or show a less than put together ‘in -control- of my- life” person- we will fall in other people’s estimation of us or worse in our own estimation of ourselves.

Perhaps we feel if we admit to not knowing or of being unaware of something we will be judged for it or even taken advantage of because we are so clearly uninformed.

Perhaps we think if we show our true selves and not what the world will have us pretend to be then we will not have the connection we seem to so desperately need. Even at the expense of our own authenticity and uniqueness.

But we humans are ‘weak’. We fall sick, we forget, we lose things and we make mistakes. Owning up to being less than perfect, of needing others, of not having all the answers well, that adds to our beauty as people.

If authenticity, being true to yourself, feeling and showing emotion, needing others, admitting overwhelm , accepting your humanness is a sign of being less than, a sign of ‘being average’ then, my dear friends, I believe it is the time for weakness.


In my years as administrator I have received my fair share of badly written and just as badly presented CVs, resumes and cover letters.

Candidates might have all the skills and talents required for a position but because they do not take measures to ensure their paperwork is in order or because they make little preparation for the interview, they lose out on the opportunity to land what could be their dream job.

Here are a few Dos and Don’ts to help you put your foot through the door as it were:


1.Research the company or establishment you are applying to. Even if you believe you know all there is to know about them make the extra effort of finding out more about their history, their achievements and their rating in the industry.

Look up their website or blog or their social media presence to update yourself with any latest information regarding them.

2.Make the effort of getting the spelling of their name right!

Do not write their name with an “I” if it is spelled with double ‘ee’. If it is Jameel Cosmetics then do not write “Jamil’ Cosmetics in your cover letter.

It shows, at the very least, a lack of respect for the establishment if you could not be bothered to get their name right!

3.Keep the cover letter short and concise. Prospective employers and/or human resource managers have no time to read three handwritten A4 pages! Make your handwriting is clear and legible and avoid cancelling out a word or writing over it.

If you are sending your testimonials via the internet then the cover letter should be in a serious, practical and professional font. A cover letter is not the place to use flowery or bleeding type.

4.DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE A PROPERLY LAID OUT RESUME OR CV with your testimonials If you have no clue how to design an eye catching curriculum vitae, ask for help from someone who does or you can search for ideas online.

It bears repeating that you should not send your testimonials, copies of your certificate of degrees or diplomas without an accompanying CV or a cover letter. Unless you include your birth certificate with the rest of your documents (do not do this, please, unless asked) no one will take time off their busy schedule to figure out from your certificates how old you are or that you went to the local university or that you worked at the rival company for many years.

When planned properly, CVs take the headache out of finding your personal details and professional experience so take extra care with it.Use decent writing paper for both your CV and cover letter. Do not, ever, under any circumstances, tear out a page from an exercise book for your cover letter. Invest in good quality materials and you will be glad that you did when you get the job.

5.Use decent writing paper for both your CV and cover letter. Do not, ever, under any circumstances, tear out a page from an exercise book for your cover letter. Invest in good quality materials and you will be glad that you did when you get the job.

6.Write the cover letter yourself. There is no harm in seeking help by searching online or consulting a friend. Just make sure it is a not a copy paste job. It is easy to tell when the letter is fresh and when it has been ‘borrowed’ if you cannot explain any of the points you included in it.


1.Dress the part: if you have done your homework well then you are probably informed about the company dress code. Be decently dressed, smart and relevant. Do not show up to an interview looking like someone you would not want your little sister associating with. Many candidates cheat themselves out of lucrative jobs just by putting on inappropriate clothes.

2.Have all the required documents with you on the interview (even if you have submitted copies of them prior to it). It shows a sense of focus and precision on your part when certain papers are called for and you are able to produce them on demand.

3.Show up for the interview at least a quarter of an hour before the scheduled time. This will give you a few minutes to catch your breath and calm your nerves. It will also show your interviewers that you are an organised person who schedules her time well. Many a promising interviewee fails before she has even started by showing up late.

4.Smile! No matter how nervous you are, just smile! You do not have to show your teeth or give a big goofy grin. It will not seem ingratiating if you put your best foot forward by having a cheerful countenance.

5.Shake hands with a firm grip. Be aware of people’s religious affiliations and err on the side of discretion. Shake hands with only the members of your own gender if you are unsure how to handle greetings.

6.Do not sit until you are asked to and for Allah’s sake do not help yourself to anything on the interview table until you are asked to. Sometimes interviews have to be paused briefly (each establishment has its own protocol) but that is not a license for you to use your phone or poke around. One very promising interviewee lost the vote of one member of the interview panel when she picked up a random document from the table and proceeded to have a look at it during a pause in the interview.

7.Again no matter how nervous you are, inject some confidence into your voice, sit up straight and give clear audible answers. Mumbling does not help you get the job.

8.Show the company or institution what you can do for them, how you can add value to their product or service and not the other way round. Do not declare that you want to advance your skills without adding how those skills will be useful to them.

9.Once they have indicated that the interview is complete, thank them for their time. You may also take the opportunity to inquire when you should expect to hear about the outcome of your application.


Finally, once the interview is done let go and let the Almighty take over. If it is to be then He will make it happen. You can take comfort from the fact that you gave it your best.However, that does not mean there is nothing you can do in the meantime.

1. Usually, the interviewers will let you know when you can expect to hear from them even if you did not inquire about it. Again depending on the length of time they take to respond to their candidates (their website should be able to furnish you with the details) they will let you know accordingly.

2.However, if the duration given expires and you still have not heard from them you can send them a follow up email inquiring about their decision. This shows you are still interested in the position. The email itself should be polite and to the point. It is also a good decision to thank them for giving you the opportunity to interview with them.

If you did not inquire and they did not tell you when to expect a response from them and there is nothing on their website about it give it five working days and then email them or you can:

3.  Call. You can also follow up on the results of your interview by calling their offices after the appropriate length of time. State why you are calling and be gracious whatever the response is.

4. If you have been accepted (congratulations!) then the company/institution will instruct you on what to do next. The same care you have taken during the interview and application process should be put towards starting your new job and beyond.

5. If they felt you were not a good match for them some companies will let you know why they have rejected your application while others will just thank you for the interest you have shown in them without giving the reasons why.If you feel you need to know be prepared to hear what they have to tell you and do not take it personally. The worst thing you could do is insult them.6. If after sending an email or calling, you still do not receive any feedback from them after two working days close that chapter and apply elsewhere.

It is only a matter of time before you land the job of your dreams!

All through our lives there are certain individuals that we look up to and aspire to be like. For some these people might be close family members, a beloved school teacher, or even the friend your brother brings home. For many, though, our role models, increasingly, are television and sports personalities or even film stars whose only claim for fame is that they are on the big screen.

Growing up I had my fair share of people I admired: from the aspiring lady architect who inspired me to bury my head in studies so that I could attend university; to a school mate who seemed to have it all together at such a young age and then there was Oprah. 

But as I studied my deen more there was my dearest Ustadha whose reading of the Qur’aan , impeccable command of the Arabic language and sweet disposition made me long to be like her.

Different outlook

Because we are human our needs and aspirations change as we grow older, as we pass through different stages of life, and as we discard old, outdated and sometimes incorrect beliefs.

From time to time I have found myself  pondering what it is I consistently admire in people that I would want as qualities for myself.

The answer came to me as I was looking through the guest list for an event I was attending. On the honour list there were people I would not necessarily admire because- like the film stars – they had nothing they were famous for except for being rich and famous. I wondered what it was that we were teaching our children- that someone was only guest of honor worthy if they worked at big money institutions or were related to society’s ‘big people’?

My Kind of People

I did not realize that the people I am about to mention were the source of my admiration until they became synonymous with the qualities I wanted to embody in my own life. I want to live life with enthusiasm and cheer no matter what destiny brings my way. I want to serve others and find contentment in doing that. I want to be fully, uniquely, unapologetically me. I want to be a symbol of thankfulness and gratitude and I want to create, grow, contribute and make use of my time so that when my time comes I will have no regrets.

In no particular order here are the people who consistently make me want to improve myself:

My neighborhood’s garbage collector: this man whistles and sings as he works. He pushes around his ‘mkokoteni’ full of waste and detritus with the same pride someone driving a Maserati would. He is polite and courteous to all and the neighborhood children love to imitate his call of ‘takataka’

The stench from the garbage does not faze him and from the enthusiasm he shows for his work it is obvious that he knows how important his job is. Unlike his counterparts who would charge you for the size of your trash, he takes the same paltry amount no matter the heaviness of your garbage.

Salame: a collective name I have given to all those ladies out there- and I am privileged to know quite a few- who go out to care and earn for their families inspite of terrible odds. They have health issues of different kinds, they have financial challenges, they are single mothers or they have deadbeat husbands and yet that does not change their personalities or temperaments. They smile widely, they are genuinely grateful for all they have which to some might not look like much. They push on even when they feel like giving up and calling it quits. They do not hand over their responsibilities to someone else even when they could use the rest.

To them I would like to say you inspire me.

I met a lady a decade ago who I will call the champion of the orphans. She works tirelessly to save, serve and educate the orphans of her community in beyond. She is almost destitute herself but her orphans come first. She has had to endure many an ordeal but she forges ahead by the grace of God. In my book she is guest of honor material.

Hababa: My maternal grandmother who passed on in 2016 at the age of 85. Hababa taught us the meaning of good old fashioned hard work and the beauty of the work of your own two hands. She taught us that waking up at 4am is not only possible but pleasurable. She taught us the beauty and integrity in hijab at a time when everyone was embracing ‘modernity’. She taught us generosity, the importance of taking pride in yourself and your home, the responsibility that comes with being someone’s neighbor and why you must always speak your truth. Hababa deserves a whole book in her name May Allah have mercy on her soul. Ameen.

Finally, I admire that one unique, special individual who always dances to the beat of her own tambourine. She who follows the dictates of her conscience no matter what those around her would urge her to do. She who is not swayed by the latest fashion, not awed by what’s trending and is not concerned what people will think of her as she goes about her life. She is the role model I point out to my children.

If we open our eyes and look around we will find heroes and superstars from everyday people that we would otherwise miss. People who make the world a better place by their good character, generous spirit and selfless actions even though they may go unnoticed and uncelebrated. It is them that we should model ourselves after.