Much to the detest of the British brown skin haters, I was born on a Saturday evening in a hospital in Worcestershire which makes me, in part, like them: British.
My parents emigrated to the UK from Bangladesh which means when faced with a list of ethnicities, I tick the little box next to Bangladeshi.
But what do these labels mean to me?
They mean a lot because my childhood is very much influenced by both. Bengali was my first language and Bengali food nourished me. British schools educated me and British teachers encouraged my creativity.
But being British & Bangladeshi shaped my past. What’s shaping me now is the belief that I am a citizen of the world.
I was at a ‘stay & play’ session a few months ago when a fellow mum asked me, “What do you do?” “Nothing,” was my immediate answer. But then my feisty spirit stood up and I heard me correct myself, “Actually no, not nothing! I’m a mom so that’s a full time job. And I’m a publisher.” I’m a publisher.
I don’t know why I was in denial despite my publishing business existing for a year already. Maybe it was because what I’m doing is something I’m passionate about, it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. So why not just stick to writing & let other established publishers do the publishing? Simple answer: because I have entrepreneurial spirit!
I took a look at one existing publisher’s Submission process and when I learned it could take them 6 months just to respond I thought I’ll do it myself thank you very much! Plus self-publishing would give me 100% creative control.
So with a Bismillah (remembering God) I began.
I sourced and worked with an illustrator to bring my books to life. I sourced & learnt a lot from the printing company in China. I waited in the driveway on a winter’s day to receive the truck delivering my books in print. What an amazing moment THAT was!! The journey hasn’t been a smooth sail but it’s been a passionate & fun one, and still continues. My second book arrived recently and the third is in the illustration stage. I’ve got 8-9 more children’s books written. Once they’ve been printed I’m aiming to open the door & welcome other writers to submit their ideas. But I promise not to take as long as 6 months to reply!
In the meantime, I’m encouraging anyone out there who has a dream of holding their own book in their hands to reach out & ask me or anyone for advice…because I did it. And you can do it too!
I still remember the first time I ever took notice of the word ‘entrepeneur’. I was twenty years old, training to be a psychiatric nurse, and was out in the car with my mentor. We were doing a round of home visits. I was telling him about a business idea I had: to sell meals & snacks in workplaces which didn’t have nearby places to buy lunch. “You’re an entrepreneur in the making!” he said.
So what are the characteristics of an entrepreneur & how do I stack up against them?
MOTIVATED TO SUCCEED: CHECK!
PASSIONATE: Bucketloads & More!
CREATIVITY: Just Can’t Help It, CHECK!
FLEXIBILITY & VERSATILITY: Heck YES -I’m a MUMpreneur!
RISK TOLERANCE: CHECK!
COLLABORATION: Ready & Willing To Be Like A Bee!
PERSUASIVENESS: Working On It!
On the whole, I’m positive & driven. If there’s a problem I think about solutions & try them out. I’m not afraid of change or taking a risk.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit has led me to try different things…some of them became businesses. Over the next few weeks I’ll be reflecting on them and sharing them with you…stay tuned!
I wanted to focus on the first part of this ayah…about dressing well for prayer.
When I was a little girl, I used to watch mum change into her ‘prayer clothes’ after wudhu. When I became of age she had a set of prayer clothes stitched for me and advised me to change into them for every salah. I remember doing just that but as I became older and rebellious (and lazy) I stopped doing it.
A few years ago I decided to invest in a dedicated prayer jilbab because it was simpler to wear it over whatever I had on. But wasn’t until I came across this ayah that I put much more thought into it.
“It will please Allah if I dress well for prayer!”
I reflected with guilt how I put great thought and care into dressing for an outing/special event but not for the most important meeting of all: with my Lord.
After reflecting on this ayah I happened to be travelling for Umrah. Whilst there I took my time in selecting two prayer outfits and it has helped me achieve a little more khushu alhamdulillah.
The act of performing wudhu then changing into beautiful perfumed clothes calms me, helps me to disconnect from the frenzy of life and makes me happier as I take a moment to breathe deep and think: ‘I’m about to pray to Allah.’
Just like my mother, I will be encouraging my children to dress well for salah -in shaa Allah.
[Little girl reading Qur’an illustrated by Amir Al Zubi, taken from my book Good Deeds: Just To Please Allah]
One of the best things about having children?
They have the ability to make you smile, laugh or melt your heart even when they’re not around – subhaanAllah!
These up-lifting moments are usually charted in my Instagram Story feed. You can follow them here.
You have to laugh right?
Despite motherhood being exhausting physically and mentally, my day is broken up by the little moments of laughter. Usually it’s something the boys have done or said. Sometimes it’s my own imagination, stretching out a real moment. Occasionally it’s a funny exchange with other moms (I say ‘occasionally’ because I don’t have a social life anymore!). And rarely, it’s a funny exchange between hubby and I (I say ‘rarely’ because kids don’t let us talk to each other if they’re around. When they’re asleep, we’re usually knocked out too!)
These funnies are usually charted in my Instagram Story feed. You can follow them here.
I thought I had experienced some challenging jobs, but nothing prepared me for the toughest role to date: motherhood!
The sleep deprivation. The neglect of self-care whilst the kids look like catalogue models. The lack of nutritious meals. The body image issues. The hunt for and never finding any ‘me-time’. The whole new level of multitasking. The disappearance of a social life. The having to take shortcuts or giving-in. The crying. The CRYING! The feeding issues. The…
Then they smile at you, raising your heart to the sky and back. Alhamdulillah.
And the cycle begins again…
Rayyan is now two and a half, Ridhwan just turned one. I think it’s safe to say I got through the worst. I know that as they grow there will be different needs, dynamics and challenges to face. But I’m now able to sleep a bit better and can dedicate some time to ‘me’ which makes the world of a difference to my performance as a mother.
I was born a Muslim, and like so many of my generation and background, I was taught by elders and blindly followed. Didn’t stop to question or dig deeper. The only thing that seemed untouched and unaffected by what others said, the thing that was unshakeable, was my sense that there was a God.
9/11 marks a horror. And the opening up of my mind. What exactly IS Islam? What is a Muslim? Like so many, I began questioning. Apprehensively at first. I could read the Qur’an but had only been taught to read in Arabic, not to understand the meaning. Accessing the Qur’an and Hadith in the English language was the key to my search for answers. One sentence led to another.
My journey isn’t over but the more I learn, the more I feel that this religion is right for me.
I was born this way and I made a CHOICE to remain this way.
My name is Rabia and I am a Muslim.
Fly away fingers
Racing with my thoughts
Fly away fingers
To capture what is caught
I felt compelled to write – to express myself through pen (and now keyboard) – ever since I was a little girl.
One of my earliest memories is of my primary school teacher smiling and telling me that no other student she had ever taught did what I did. What did I do? Whenever she left a comment or feedback in the margins of my workbooks, I used to write back to her!
I guess that was a sign of what would come later in the form of poetry, short stories, blog posts, a novel and now children’s books.
I never once stopped to think ‘I want to be a writer’. I just was one. Naturally.
I didn’t choose to write, writing chose me.
And now I’m here, choosing to share my pieces, past and current, with my children when they’re older…and you.
My name is Rabia and I am a writer. Pleased to meet you…