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8 Muslim Influencers You Should Be Following Right Now

From travel to health tips, Muslim influencers have taken the world by a storm. Although everyone's heard of the likes of many fashion and beauty influencers like Dina Tokio or Huda Kattan, other categories have gone a bit under the radar. There are so many brilliant Muslim storytellers in the online sphere which we wanted to shine a light on!

Nadir Nahdi  

Born and brought up in London, Nadir's creativity has really taken off in 2019. His breakout documentary 'Finding Nenek' explores issues of identity, culture and family as he goes on a journey to find out who his Grandmother was and essentially where he comes from. As a captivating storyteller, Nadir helps bring to light the issues around not knowing our roots which a lot of us have faced at some point.

I'm not Western enough to be Western, Eastern enough to be Eastern. I grew up yearning for a sense of belonging, searching for somewhere to feel home.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

As a true disrupter, Suhaiymah (also known as The Brown Hijabi) isn't afraid to call out the islamaphobia and racism that is still present in our society. After graduating from Cambridge, Suhaiymah regularly writes and speaks about topics ranging from Islamophobia, racism, feminism and poetry. Her work has been featured in the likes of Al Jazeera, ITV and the Islam Channel; her most recent accomplishment is the launch of her debut poetry collection 'Postcolonial Banter' which is available this month! She's dedicated, fierce and nothing's going to stop her from standing up for what she believes in ♥️

Halima Aden

No doubt, Halima Aden is the most influential on this influencer list, but she's arguably also one of the most inspiring. Born to Somali parents, Halima was brought up in a Kenyan refugee camp until the age of six after the family home in Somalia was tragically burned down. After settling in Minnesota in the US, Halima was the first to do many things... The first Somali American to be crowned homecoming queen in her high school. The first woman to wear a hijab in a US beauty pageant. The first woman to wear a headscarf and burkini on the swimsuit cover of Sports Illustrated. As a woman and a Muslim she's breaking down barriers wherever she goes, meaning she's definitely one to watch.

That's the thing, the stereotype is that Muslims want to come to this country and they want to change the rules, they want to change everything. That's the opposite of what I want. I just want to participate.

@BeardedPashtun

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Imagine children going to the mosque with their parents for Jummah and seeing the Imam turn up in a cool sports car whilst wearing the nicest clothes in that entire room. Imagine them seeing the Imam being the most popular guy there but still he knows every child’s name and works with them on a regular basis. How many of those children would be inspired and want to follow in his footsteps? One of the reasons I believe Muslims in the UK are not reaching their potential is because our leaders are not putting in the work that they should be. And you know what? I don’t blame them. Why would you put in so much effort and work tirelessly for a community who doesn’t care about you but still expects you to work 7 days a week, 365 days a year for £14,000. Start having these conversations at your mosque. Turn that 14k into 140k so the work carried out for us reflects such a salary. And don’t tell me that we haven’t got the funds for it. If we can pay £100k for a chandelier then we have money to train our Imams and increase their salaries. I recently visited a community of Muslims in the USA. When I visited their mosque, I asked the Imam why there wasn’t a dome or a minaret because the building (although huge) didn’t look like a mosque. I was told that the community worked out that a dome would have cost around $40k so instead of spending that money on something that wouldn’t have much use, they decided to build a gym with showers and locker rooms in the mosque for the youth instead. That is the mentality we MUST adopt! Muslims in the UK have the money. We just don’t know how to use it efficiently and the entire community suffers as a result. Start having these conversations, people. We need to change.

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Currently at 4414 followers on Instagram, Fahd, the man behind @beardedpashtun is growing rapidly. Aside from an epic handle name, Fahd's aim is to ultimately 'create posts that start conversations exploring potential solutions for issues that we face as young Muslims living in the West'. He's taken this initiative to the real world as well with monthly gatherings in Birmingham where young Muslims can freely talk and build a community that many of us yearn for.

Don’t learn about Christianity from the Imam and Islam from the priest. Be fair and just.

Aida Azlin

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Thought: Found these photos that were taken a year ago, in a back alley in Seoul. K was telling me “Aida, look! Pastel walls! Your favourite!” But this is not about why I’m attracted to walls (or pastels for that matter), it’s more about acknowledging the blessing that there’s someone else in this world who is mindful about your preferences, and your likes and dislikes. It’s about being grateful for having someone else who cares about the little things that makes you, you. - Love can be in the big things, but it can also be about the small things too. When you find someone who catches and remembers even the smallest details of you, perhaps that might be “the start of something beautiful”.

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Singapore born Aida Azlin has grown a solid community of Muslim women over the years through her beautiful love letters every Tuesday where she discusses topical issues, her thoughts and reflections of today's society. With 100s of testimonials for her letters on her website, it's clear that she connects with others on a seriously deeper level; such as one woman professing "I want to read Aida's letters over & over as it reminds me of who I am. I’m Allah’s."

Aïcha Sebaa

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Rx: a quote + cup of tea to cool off both internal and external heat = relaxed heart from self awareness + chrysanthemum mint⁣ tea 👌💦⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 💌 Share this daily reminder quote with anyone who could use it:⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ "If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself you should say:⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ‘He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned'."⁣⁣⁣ ~ Epictetus⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Life is too short.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ What else would you tell your younger self?⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 👭 ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣🔥⁣⁣ #laheat #oceanbreeze #tea #pinkiesup #mint #herbalist #stoic #sunnah #quotd #bewell #selfawareness #selfhealers #bekind #sundayfunday #motherhood #mood #healthtips #reminders #renewal #newday #drsebaanotes #acusanctuary #peace ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣

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As a board licensed acupuncturist and clinical herbalist, Aïcha helps women in all phases of their life starting from acne issues as a teenager to menopausal conditions when women get older. Aïcha's childhood love of nature led her to a career in natural and East Asian medicine as she believes that the human body is self healing and capable of much more than we tend to give credit to. Follow along on her social media as she instills her knowledge of all things health and wellness.

Despite the challenges that we all go through, fortunately, the human body is brilliant and has its own resilient self healing capacity that we just need to recognize and tap into.

Elena Nikolova

Ever wanted to find out how to do Ummrah for a lower price, or find more Muslim friendly travel destinations? Elena Nikolova is the answer to your questions. Her travel blog has grown to become the largest website covering Muslim and Halal travel.  As seen in the likes of BBC, Islam Channel, Business Traveller Middle East, Thomson Reuters and others, she's definitely making her mark. She's even written a book all about travel hacks on how to make your Ummrah experience under £300 if you really want!

Abdul Aziz

We end our fabulous list of influential Muslims on a light hearted note because Abdul Aziz aka Bin Baz is probably the funniest guy in the Middle East. He's best known for his short few second videos about his everyday life in Dubai. Whether he's pranking his friends or teaching Logan Paul Arab traditions, he's always having a laugh and will definitely make you smile.

1 day ago

The Struggles of Halal Dating

If you’re twenty something, single and not living under a rock then you’ve probably tried meeting someone online. Now this can be a struggle for everyone. But when you’re twenty something, single and Muslim, it gets hard. As if being a Muslim in this day and age wasn’t hard enough you know?!

Young Muslims normally grow up in fairly traditional households, with their parents, aunties, uncles, neighbours and random people on the street asking them when they’re going to be getting married. I mean, you grow up with your parents telling you off for even talking about the opposite sex, let alone speaking to them. You grow up with dating being such a taboo subject and the words boyfriend or girlfriend were just never in your vocab. But then one day, you turn 21, have just finished uni, and suddenly your mum turns around and is like, “so when are you going to bring home someone suitable to marry?”. Don’t worry, we’ve all experienced the whiplash you get when someone goes from 0 to 100 and its annoying AF.

Alas, with technology and apps, young Muslims have found a way around this and the threat of having to settle for marrying their cousin that’s 3,000 miles away. Known as ‘halal dating’ Muslims can now with a simple click of an app find someone they think might be the one (and someone who hopefully thinks the same). They can get to know them whilst sticking to their Islamic values. When Muslim men and women date one another, it is with the intention of marrying one another or deciding against marrying. But in a world where most dating apps are still predominantly western, the struggle to maintain the halal in halal dating is hard work.

Avoiding the players

Online dating is FULL of people just looking for a casual, one night only sort of relationship (if you can even call it that). Being Muslim and trying to date halal is hard when you go through the effort of chatting to someone for a while only to find out that they aren’t looking for anything long term (let alone marriage lol). Also don’t get girls started on the 2am’ers who come around asking ‘what’s up’ and if ‘we’re free’. Let’s just all be thankful to Allah that Muslim dating apps like muzmatch are a thing now or we’d all be single forever.

Trying to find the one

You know what’s hard? Trying to find that one Pakistani guy from the same region as your family who ticks your parents’ boxes but also ticks your boxes as well. Like finding someone who shares your sense of humour, you find attractive and not just looking to find a girl who wants to stay in the kitchen all day while singlehandedly taking care of the kids. Actually, you know what’s worse? Finding the one for you and it turns out he’s not Muslim…

Keeping those urges in check

Look, let’s not beat around the bush shall we, we all have urges and they’re not going away any time soon. It’s a struggle going on dates, trying to get to know the person you might potentially marry and having to jump ten feet apart if your hands happen to brush against theirs. Just remind yourself that it’ll be worth the wait.

Telling your parents that you met someone on the internet

To be honest, most Muslim parents have come a long way considering they grew up with entirely different backgrounds and social norms, but it will never be easy explaining to your dad how you met your future husband or wife on an online app. Or explaining how the whole ‘don’t talk to strangers on the internet’ mantra just isn’t really a thing anymore.

When they ask for pictures

This one is more applicable to the girls really but it can also happen to guys, I’m not here to discriminate. Sometimes you’ll be chatting away to someone and they suddenly ask if they can see some more of you. Now this can be as innocent as just asking for another picture of you out and about to see what you look like. Or it can be less innocent, if you get what I mean… at least it weeds out the ones who aren’t serious about you.

Finding someone right before Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is all about being mindful and carrying out one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s definitely not about getting to know the guy you just started talking to. Meaning that you’re basically out of commission for a month out of the year and the only date that’s going to be acceptable is the one you eat when you break your fast.

These struggles are only scrapping the barrel but you get the idea. Have fun #keepingithalal girls and boys and remember that your date might be hot, but Jahannam is hotter.

5 days ago

5 Things You Can Do To Help Change Mental Health Stigmas

Each year, October 10th marks World Mental Health Day where people around the globe raise awareness for mental health to try and help those who are suffering. But one of the major barriers to helping are the social stigma's that still encompass mental illnesses. Loads of people still question the very existence of mental illnesses, saying people are just 'looking for attention' which we need to help fight. Although people from all cultures and walks of life experience these unwanted stereotypes, there are a particular few that are less likely to ask for help.

In the UK alone, ethnic minorities such as South Asians are often the last to seek help for mental health issues despite the prevalence of depression and anxiety being higher in this community than others. Because in these communities it's often the case that if you aren't suffering from physical pain, why would you ever go to the doctor? In consequence this community are often the ones to suffer from lower life expectancy rates and general poor health outcomes. Whilst there are many contributing reasons to this phenomenon, such as language barriers or a general lack of awareness of available services, it is the cultural stigma surrounding mental health that is arguably one of the most prominent driving forces. And anyone who has suffered from mental illness can tell you that you can't get through it on your own.

Asian and Middle Eastern communities still suffer from a culture of shame and silence surrounding mental health, especially when it comes to their own families. Many fear that a family members diagnosis of a mental illness will bring shame upon the rest of the family and ruin their 'reputation', whilst others fear that no one will want to marry them if they're labelled as 'crazy'. But mental illness is unfortunately not something that one can just 'get over'.

Perceptions are slowly changing over time with more people feeling comfortable to report their sufferings. However cultural stigmas still somewhat linger in the fabric of our society. So in honour of World Mental Health Day, muzmatch have put together five ways you can help change mental health stigmas and make this world a bit of a better place. Share, discuss and educate, because the deafening silence around mental health is a slippery slope.

Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu 

Think Before You Speak

“I fight stigma by reminding people that their language matters. It is so easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and in my experience, most people are willing to replace their usage of it with something else if I explain why their language is problematic.” – Helmi Henkin

Often we'll hear that someone is feeling down, or experiencing anxiety and come back with 'just think about others who have it worse than you' and 'you'll get over it'. Although said with the best intentions (most of the time), these words can often make someone who is mentally ill just feel worse about themselves. Even though mental illnesses can be triggered by environmental causes, but these individuals are biologically predisposed to a certain disorder. No one chooses to be mentally ill, just like no one can change their disease with a click of a finger.  

Instead of saying things that may hinder someone's recovery process, it may be more helpful to let them know you're there to listen. Mental illness can be incredibly socially isolating and symptoms can be exacerbated by loneliness. Just ensuring your loved ones that you're there for them if they need to chat through whatever they're feeling is better than nothing.

Keep Educating Yourself

“I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn't matter where I am, if I over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean

Learning about mental health is essential to fighting against the stigma surrounding mental illness. Although having a day dedicated to raising awareness for mental health is amazing, the education should and needs to continue beyond this. Whether it's you suffering from a mental illness or a loved one, mental health effects us all to some extent.

Luckily, there are millions of resources out there now that are easily digestible and really informative. Documentaries such as Thin (eating disorders) or Don't Call Me Crazy (various illnesses) can be watched on Youtube or Netflix. TED talks can also be a powerful way to learn more about mental health. Guy Winch's talk on loneliness should be on your watch list, as well as Andrew Solomon's discussion on depression. Mind, the UK based charity is also an extremely useful source of information.

Check Your Biases

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all – Bill Clinton

Human beings are riddled with cognitive biases, prejudice and stereotypical thoughts; it's just in our nature. But being aware of these biases is the first step in helping change mental health stigmas. Research studies have demonstrated that often people will say what they think but unconsciously, actually believe something else entirely. For example, in one study, people said they thought that those who suffer with mental illnesses are helpless but not blameworthy, but their implicit beliefs suggested they thought these people were helpless and blameworthy. So basically, if you found out that your colleague at work had bipolar disorder, you'd probably say that you know it's not their fault and your opinion of them doesn't change. But, you may also find yourself unconsciously turning down lunch invitations with them.

These implicit biases are caused by many factors that just aren't in our control to change. But what we can change is our behaviour. Make a conscious effort to go to lunch with that colleague and fight against the implicit bias. In turn, you'll help fight the mental health stigma.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

“I fight stigma by not having stigma for myself—not hiding from this world in shame, but being a productive member of society. I volunteer at church, have friends, and I’m a peer mentor and a mom. I take my treatment seriously. I'm purpose driven and want to show others they can live a meaningful life even while battling [mental illness].” – Jamie Brown

If you yourself are suffering with a mental illness, then don't suffer in silence (as long as you feel safe doing so). Speaking out about your mental health can create a domino effect in allowing others to feel comfortable talking about themselves as well. Your mental illness does not make you weak, it is not your fault, and it is definitely okay to talk about it. Choose empowerment over shame because no one should dictate how you feel about your mental health.

Don't Confuse Mental Illness with Religion

I’ve lost count throughout my life how many times I’ve been told that any doubts and difficulties I encounter are due to a weakness in my faith.              – Rabbil Sidkar

Relating mental health to the supernatural has been an issue since the early 1900s when people with psychological problems would be labelled as 'possessed' by the spirits. Unfortunately, these assumptions have somewhat been carried on by some communities. Many South Asian families will often cry 'jinn' any time someone experiences symptoms associated with mental illness such as hallucinations. In Islam, jinn are supernatural creatures that are made of smokeless fire and can harm humans. These beliefs can interfere in the treatment of mental illnesses as many may choose to visit their religious leader instead of a medical professional. However, mental illness is something that is caused by factors separate from a supernatural world and also have cures that are separate from the supernatural.

As Muslims we often get told that any issues or ailments we face can simply be cured by the power of prayer. Moreover, actively discouraging people from seeking treatment and to 'leave it in Gods hands instead' is incredibly reckless (the Quran does not discourage seeking mental health treatments). Albeit this is slowly changing as people get more comfortable talking about mental health, but we've still got a ways to go.

For more information on mental illness visit The Mental Health Foundation, Muslim Youth Helpline, Sakoon Counselling and Inspirited Minds.

8 days ago