Channel: Fatima Barkatulla
Sr. Lauren Booth interviews Ustadha Fatima Barkatulla
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Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh. Welcome to holistic heroes here on Scilab. My special guest today is system about his sister Fatima Baraka Tila. She is an author and an NHS chaplain and a budding scholar, Mashallah.
And we've known each other a few years when it comes to lamb. Yes, yeah. We keep bumping into each other. And I feel like we've always wanted to chat. But we've never quite had the chance to have the sort of chat we probably should have had a long time ago. You are so right. I think we've got a good two hour session over over tea and cakes. We're going to do some of it today, hopefully.
Because we, you know, we've met a few times I get the feeling didn't I meet you with the eye arrow and I was on a course. when my kids were small.
From what I remember, we've met at copies big women's Yeah, right. Yeah. And I was sitting with your daughters. And I remember that we've met at a wedding as well. To remember Yeah, of course. Yes. Yeah.
Yeah. So we are pods have crossed the times. And actually, we grew up in the same part of North London, because I could actually go, yes. We do remember being under factious Britain. Yeah. I've actually met Margaret Thatcher. Really, as a as a child. Yeah. I met her we she had left. She was not the Prime Minister anymore.
She's still an MP, I believe. And she came to visit our some thing that we were doing at school, and she actually sat next to me, and I was making a birdhouse would work, right. And she sat next to me. And then she just said something for the camera. And, you know, yes, I actually met her. I met Margaret Thatcher when I was in my 30s. And it was during the general election on a boat hired by ITV I think, for the general channel for the election results kind of evening, and she will pass and I always promised myself I'd kick up the backside.
But you know what, she was so old. And I thought you can't, I thought just for the minors, and I thought, you
know, I wasn't really aware of her politics, to be honest, I, I just grew up seeing her on the television all the time. And I actually used to think used to get mixed up between her and the queen. I just remember that. And then, you know, as I got older and more conscious of that, I started noticing the differences between the different parties and different areas of London, because actually, I grew up in Hackney before financially, okay, which is like the opposite, right? Because how can he was very much a labor kind of place? The diverse, Yeah, super diverse. Our teachers used to like sing free, and then Nelson Mandela. I remember that distinctly, you know, when
he when he was released, and we literally had an infectious song, with people with the teachers dancing, like,
these are the sort of people we grew up with, until I was about 11.
And then we moved to eventually, yeah. And that was, like, completely different for me.
Because Hackney was a place where there's a lot of diversity, where I've never really thought twice about being a Muslim. Yeah, well, I had, but not, it wasn't really out of place to be a Muslim and acne and, you know, to grow up in that environment, and our teachers were very supportive. You know, there wasn't that kind of, there might have been racism on the streets. But I didn't experience racism from my teachers a tool. They were so like, encouraging, supportive, and sort of celebrating of our cultures back in the day, the dreamy days, but then when we moved to financially, and I was 11.
I was like, there were hardly any people of color, you know, even in, in our area, and in our school. And that's not not a not an issue, but except that because of that, I think I like really stood out. And then I did start experiencing some, you know, racism at school. What kind of things? Well, I just distinctly remember, What year are we talking about? Like we're talking year six,
and year 1999 1990, I think, around 1990 Yeah. And so I just distinctly remember it taken quite a long time for people to want to talk to me.
And I remember like the early play times in my primary school, and eventually, a Jewish girl came and sat next to me in the playground. And she said, Hi, do you mind if I sit with you? And I said, No, of course not.
And she she said, you know,
she just, she kind of conveyed to me that she really appreciated that I was from a different religion and she said, You know when she first came to the school,
She was also like, treated differently, you know?
But believe it or not within a matter of days or weeks, once people get to know you and see that you're a normal person, you're funny. I was wearing the hijab, I should add. Yeah. So I was wearing Hijab from like maybe the age of nine or 10. So what's interesting about that, I think, is that his job was a kind of marker of difference, even though it just it wasn't like a beanie. Kids naturally reacted strangely to it, because it wouldn't have been about Islam necessarily in the 19 1990. Would it? Was it just another way of being different? I think it was different. I remember, like in secondary school, I went to Queen Elizabeth gold school. Oh, boo, North London thing now it's okay.
Which I loved. I loved my school. But I do remember once, one of the girls in my class when I visited her her house,
or we were passing by, and we popped in. And she said to me privately, you know, our mom told me I shouldn't hang out with people like you. Yeah.
Because you're troubled or something like that. And I just thought, God, you know, that's like, it was a bit of a shock to me that somebody would obviously do it in a few minutes have have made a decision about me. Right. But having said that, most of my friends I'm talking about white girls, right? Isn't Yeah, most people in bonnet white at that time.
Most of them, their moms were so happy if they knew I was going out with them. Because they knew there would be no alcohol. There'd be no boys. There would be no, you know, messing around, it would be good. Clean. Fun. Right? So. So there's both sides. So you what the friend the mums wanted? Yeah, and the girls didn't? The girls did. They actually loved being with me, I'm telling you, because I think what was happening is for teenage girls, I think often they were propelled into certain things. Before they were really ready to be, you know, and they will finalize on them is then it was like a sort of showing off. I remember we had a girl called Katie was in high school, and she was
going out with guys with flash cars at 15. And everybody wanted to be her. But no.
And also, I think what happened was, you know, it was like that transition between childhood and adulthood. And there's a part of you that wants to keep that fun, innocence and, you know, without the complication of the, the boys and the whatever, right? in them. I mean, and and I think they express that with me, you know? So like one of my friends I remember, at school, she would kind of, and a few of them, actually, they would sort of see me as the person who they could come to, when things in that culture were not doing hence. Yeah. So when they were, for example, being made fun of for the way they they looked, believe it or not, you know, like,
I don't I don't know, I don't want to be like, I think I can be open with you, or you can. So we're just having a chat. So
for example, you know, one of my friends, she was being made fun of for being flat chested. Yeah, right. Another friend, you know, because she wasn't willing to go past a certain point with boys. She was called frigid.
And they would confide in me and cry to me in private, right? So I feel like I've seen a side of Britain, right, that people don't usually get to see, and people assume doesn't exist. Now, that's interesting, because that because I'm presuming what you're talking about here is actually the vulnerability of young women, which is no longer allowed. Because, again, you know, this idea of freedom is you want that freedom, you've got that freedom go for that freedom, but what about the insecurity? What about the being preyed upon? What about the need to just be be discovered themselves as as young people and be left alone at that awkward period of life? And you experienced
that from the other side, where girls would come and express that to you? Yeah. And in fact, a few of them, you know, would say to me that, you know, we really love being able to have you as a friend, you know, because I knew that I wasn't part of that culture fully. Although I was, you know, obviously, I was into the similar things to them in other way in other ways, but okay, some of the things like Duran Duran, no, yeah.
Oh, wow. rude. In our times, it was more like, I don't really want to see you too. So. So it was oasis. Right. Always take that. Yeah, you know, good. So, you know, those are the sorts of things that my friends were into. And I would say I just being a teenager, I was kind of certain things I would pay a lot I would go along with or, but really, I was a very studious person. And I was really I had great friendships with my teachers. Believe it or not.
I loved my teachers. And that probably
He made me. You know, I was called a SWAT and stuff like that, obviously. But
at the same time, I actually didn't care because I loved
I would say I had a great childhood. I grew up loving Britain, loving being in Britain and feeling very British. I didn't feel anything else, you know,
the Why have you rejected it by putting on niqab? Ah, seriously? Why have you let everybody die?
I feel like the hijab and just dressing and being a Muslim woman was something that the message I was always given by my teachers, and by my, you know, the environments that I grew up in, was that be yourself, right? Be yourself. And it's okay to be you. In Britain. It's okay to be you. In Britain, we celebrate you, you know. So if anything, I would say that the freedom I felt to explore my religion, which I did, you know, as a teenager, I was studying all the different subjects. I wasn't like a star student, right? straight A student, and I'm not the sort of person who's just gonna accept something. Right. I literally had questions my dad would be, do you actually see that?
Do you think that the teachers who are saying go and explore everything actually meant go and explore faith because I think there is a, you know, like, my, I took my daughter to Bristol to have a look around a couple of weeks ago, Bristol uni. And the minute My back was turned, the professor turned to my daughter and said, You know, this, this college, this university is all about doing what you want, and not letting your parents know. And she was like, literally, I'm in her job here a person of faith. My mom is over there. And you're telling me basically come and get drunk with me and the students? I mean, what are you doing? So go and explore that, but don't. But we're not being
encouraged. Is there a I mean, I guess what I'm saying is, is is there a parameter that you felt like, that's not where we meant you to go? Or do you still feel the same about Britain today?
I think there are different types of people, right. So I remember once I went up to sciency, I really wanted to be an astronaut. Okay. As a child, as a teenager, and I was very serious about it. I'm actually not joking. You know, it's not knowing you, I believe you could have done it. Yeah, I joined the RPF. Haha, cadets, right. I look them up in the Yellow Page, literally. Right. And that's the sort of person I was and my dad, my dad, I think this this is also important. My dad was not the sort of person who shuts you down. You know, he, even though he's a scholar, he's from India. He's a scholar from studied in dibond, which is a very traditional Seminary in India. And he's a Mufti.
His style of parenting was, throw them in the deep end, and let them swim, and let them find their path. And trust in God. He really had that kind of philosophy, I'd say. And so I remember when I, when I said to him, I want to join the RPF cadets. He said, Okay, look into it, then, you know, and he, that's the sort of person he was, whereas I know, other people would have just shut that down.
But even my, the reason why I joined the RAF cadets was my science teacher told me that that's how you become an astronaut. So well, you know, most astronauts are actually scientists, and, but they were also pilots. You know, usually they're pilots and they, you know, so my teachers, and then my home life was never shutting down. Anything that I was interested in pursuing. Do you see
I really never felt that there was a point, like when I was about to get married. So as I got married when I was 19, and I had gone into my school to visit my team. This is how friendly I was with my teachers that even when I left, I went in, I took them copies of the Quran. And Mr. Jobson I remember my favorite one of my favorite teachers, Business Studies, he said to me, Fatima, don't you want to be free? You know, when I told him I'm getting married. And that was I was really surprised at that. Because for me, and for a Muslim girl who's grown up in a, you know, religious way and has not had a relationship with boys, etc, etc. Marriage represented freedom. Hmm. You see, it was the
freedom to man basically, first time and to be, you know, to explore a side of myself that hadn't.
You see, so I realized at that point that our You see, our framing of freedom is different
because of our outlook and a bit of a misconception that I suppose that that like in old time Christianity are being passed from the Father to the husband as a good son chattel. I guess that's where it comes from. I mean, I think they knew me well enough to know that
You know, I was not the sort of person who, you know, I question things I explored I, I used to have religious discussions with my teachers, you know, so they knew that I wasn't the sort of person who was just being married off if you like, do you know where so it was so honored at Salaam to have you on the podcast and there is so much to, to talk about because you are you're on the on the way to scholarship now. And and you represent, you know, kind of down to earth honest seeking of knowledge in the in the context of being here now with an approachability. And I think that that's, that's so important that we can just wish we could just package you up and just keep you here all the time. I
want to talk a little bit about your books, though. And and had deja, for example. Yeah. So the moment I've
had one book that's been published, and that's Khadija Mother of history's greatest nation, published by learning reads. And it's a book that was written for, I would say, children, but it was kind of older children with older children in mind. However, you know, I'm saying that a lot of adults are reading it as well. So it's written in a unique style. You know, as a child, my dad would buy me books about the great women of Islam. And often they were so dry and quite depressing. I would say, that's the way I describe it, you know, for us, because all growing up, and because I guess it was all about sacrifice those those were the big bits that were focused on. It's just the
puzzle of sacrifice, sadness as well, because obviously, there were tough times. Yeah. But actually, it wasn't really just that I think, what it was, is that, you know, as an author, now, I'm very conscious of this. I think authors have the ability to present things in a certain way and to kind of take care of the emotional journey of the reader. Right? And I don't think maybe authors back in the day, or maybe because some of those books were just translations, you know,
we're very conscious of that. You see, so So for me, writing Khadija was about taking, and I knew that the majority of people reading the book would be girls, taking them on a emotional journey as well. So yeah, there is the sacrifice. Yes, there are the tough times, but how are we, as people growing up in the West? And, you know, in the 21st century? How are we supposed to benefit? And look at that, you know, and how is it that actually, in the end, looking at the bigger picture of their lives, they were successful? You know, I think I am, I have to credit system name and be Robert Roberts for this, for pointing out that, for example, Khadija, if you want to play the victim card,
she lost several children, and all of her sons, they died before they reach two or three years old. She had a husband who was poor
admission that used up all of her wealth, ended up living in effectively a refugee camp.
You know what that could have been the life of a victim. And yet, she's a hero. She's a hero. And her mind her vision mindset. vision was never limited to this to her own life. You see, like we, me, and you, sitting here in London today are part of her legacy. Do you know what I mean? Like that is so that is wow. Right? Yeah, that is well. And so for her, she never got to see the the fruits, the full fruits of her vision or of the thing that she was working towards within her lifetime. Right? She never got to see that. She didn't even get to see Islam spread to to Makkah right to Medina, sorry. She has literally she passed away just after the boycott period ended. However,
everything that happened afterwards, was part of a legacy. She literally bankrolled the dour, right. So I think it's really like important for. And I think, having been a young girl growing up in the West, I was conscious of the type of female role models are constantly put to us as the role models, and how when little girls are picking up my book,
they're looking for a role model. They're looking for a way of being in a way of looking at the world. So I hope I've tried to, you know, put that in there. But I've tried to do it in a very literary style. So when you're reading it reads like a fiction book. It's kind of like what Martin lings did with His Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him on the book that he wrote Martin lings. Have you read that? By the way, I haven't read it in Italy.
Beautiful addition parts of it because he wrote it, you know, it's writing it in the novel form but sticking true true to what is is a story, a story and then letting us connecting with it. Yeah, yeah. So that was really important. And now I'm working on the book about Arusha. delana. So, you know, looking forward to that, because she's another, you know, when we're talking about Khadija radi Allahu, and we're also talking about holding ourselves up to a higher standard. As Muslim women, you know, we all have we all get up in the morning and we go on the underground and we get to work and then we have our daily lives and then we're at home or we're doing our daily lives at home
with our families. You know, it's a busy life, right?
But when we are Muslims as well, we do you understand that some, some sisters, for example, might just feel exhausted by Islam, that it does it sometimes become like another job to do or another fulfillment externally. I'll give you an example. A sister rang me via Instagram. She said, I'm in trouble. Can you help me and I spoke to her and she said, You know what, I'm 49 years old and taken off my job. She said, I'm sick of it. I can't do it another day. You know that it's another layer of difficulty. What What do you think about that about upping our game?
the external, right, so the way we're dressed the way our Islam presents itself externally, is a is a is a
is the sorry. Can you say that again? Can we do that? So I'm thinking about this, this idea of
you know, Muslim women sometimes finding that Islam is another layer of expectation put upon us like we're constantly told to up our game, whether it's in beauty, or parenting, or you know, there's so many ways we can get things wrong. Do you understand the aspect when some sisters might feel exhausted by Oh, well, Islam as well?
Just in a form of expectation. So for example, even with Khadija radi Allahu Allah, she's so beautiful and so full of strength and energy, what about our weekdays? How do we cope with those weekdays, I think life is full of struggles. And if we buy into this narrative, that life is supposed to be fun and happy, and, you know, stick a smile on it all the time, then we're going to be very sorely disappointed. So for me,
it's really important to take care of the internal, the internal. So, you know, for example, just raising a daughter, raising children myself now, I'm very conscious that Islam is not just about telling them what to do and what not to do. It's not about how have you prayed? Have you done? Are you going too fast, you have to fast you have to do this, you have to do that, you know, it's not about that. It's about slowly, over a period of time nurturing faith within our children and within ourselves. Right. So. So I think sometimes, you know, when we feel like giving up or when, when the when we're having a crisis that is very visible externally, it's actually a symptom of something
that's happening internally. Right. So the the nourishment, or the, the effort that needs to be put in is actually internal.
So often, you know, there'll be sisters that come to me as well, right? Well, who I meet, and they'll express things like that, you know, finding certain things too difficult, etc. But then, when we sit down and talk about it, actually, it's other things non unrelated to Islam, that are causing them to have those reactions, right. And then it comes comes out as a, as a kind of discontent with our faith because it's making our mom low. Absolutely. And actually, with this with this, with with the younger generation now.
We can't underestimate the negative effects of constantly being online, you know, and constantly being connected virtually, but disconnected with with real human beings. So I went out with a with
a girl the other day, who's having problems and you know, she's been through depression. And so I'm a chaplain as well, you know, so I've been doing chaplaincy work in that way. And
it occurred to me that the real issue that she had, right when we dug a bit deeper, the reason why she felt low self esteem, very kind of negative about her appearance, all of these things and we know you know that women are constantly bombarded with you know, all these images, all these, the pressure to constantly change ourselves to be a certain way to fit a perfect to look at us
sells in the mirror and feel negative and deceptive? Yes, exactly. Right. But we are all victims of that, right? We've all been pressured into that. They've been books written about it, right, the beauty myth. And there's so many books about these kinds of things.
What occurred to me is that this girl, she was constantly on Instagram, right?
Now I know that sounds like, Oh, is that right? But really, the human brain, right? If we, if you were, I can imagine if I was like, a couple of decades, maybe a decade earlier, right? When I was a teenager,
and hamdulillah internet came later, right? So so I was past my, you know, I was in my 20s when the internet was there. So I'm a bit more mature. But I can imagine as a teenager, if I had been looking at images of all these girls and women online, right, and looking at people's lives, and that was my connection with other human beings. Of course, you'd feel rubbish, you'd feel worthless, you know? So true. I mean, we had Whitney Houston. And that was bad enough. But she was one person. She wasn't everybody in the girl next door using right and you know, amazing switch. Tell him to take an action. Yeah. And you probably had like, your two hours of television a day or something. Right.
That's what we had. And it wasn't like, all, it wasn't there all the time, even though it was there. You know, it was bad enough, basically. But can you imagine in your hand, a lot of girls, and a lot of young people are living online now. And so they're judging their lives by the airbrushed and edited version of somebody else's life, right. I mean, I'm on Instagram, you don't get to see, you know, like, the day when, you know, I'm having a really bad day when, you know, my house is a mess. And you know, my food got burned, right? Why did I do that? I'm having a bad day to day.
Yeah. Do you burn food? Yeah, I do. Okay, are you? Are you a good cook? Yeah, I know. I'm jumping around here. But I want to humanize this because I mean, that's exactly what
we do burn food sometimes. Yeah. Yeah. Usually when I'm trying to do two things at once, which you should never do. Yeah. Oh, that's interesting. So you're into mono tasking, not multitasking, because I'm looking for, let's get some tips from you. Because you know, what we are looking at a new generation insha Allah in this country of, you know, homegrown scheffers scholars, from here, sisters rising through the
tears to to enable us to understand our life here better in this both engineering and actually in this conceptual age. And I want to talk a little bit about your journey to becoming a scholar, because when I think oh, you know, because we all I think as Muslims a nice day dreamers, if, you know, I want more ilmiah I do want to get more knowledge, and then we do a little bit and then we go, Yeah, got bit hard. That bit busy now. Yeah. Is that a thing?
Yeah, it is. I mean, is this something you experience? I think, I think it's to become a scholar is not for everybody, right? It's not and not everybody is required to do that. Right? So I would say, at the very least all of us should learn about the fundamentals. We should know about our five pillars of Islam, for example, and the details of the five pillars you know, like how to give Zakat how to pray and make will do and those things right, so for everyday living, those are the kind of things that all of us should know about. And I would say I would put in there, learning the life of the Prophet sallallahu Sallam studying a Sierra Sierra is the life of the Prophet sallallahu Sallam
course, or, you know, studying properly from beginning to end, I would say is a must, in our times, because there's so much in there.
You know, what do you think? I mean, check. Yes, accardi, for example, he has a brilliant seer of the Prophet peace be upon him online, and I'm working my way through it is is that is that is that an acknowledged form of as long as you're focused on it, you know, if you're cooking and listening to it, how much are you taking? And can you see you've done a course on that, Sierra? If you've completed a course like that, that happens to be online that he's delivered to classrooms? Yeah, I mean, all of us are different. I mean, if you're gonna, there's certain tasks that we do that are quite automatic, right? When you're doing those tasks, definitely listen to stuff. You know, I do
that all the time. I have learned so much. I learned so much Arabic When I had a newborn baby, and I was literally breastfeeding for hours and hours. Yeah. And I would listen to Arabic lectures. Right. I would listen to familiar Arabic lectures like so the stories of the prophets because I knew them already. Now listening to them in Arabic. It was helping me
My Arabic, and I literally spent hours and hours learning in those times when I couldn't go to classes, right? When I was a young mother,
I would literally learn through that way. So, I mean, definitely, there's so many ways, you know, open to us if we're willing to take them. But obviously, the path to scholarship is, is a more intense path, right?
We do need some people in every community, right, I would, I would actually say, maybe a person in every family, even, right? who's willing to, to really study Islam properly, you know, in a lot of detail, and become a scholar, because, you know, the, I come from a family where my father is a scholar, right. And I can see, I always saw growing up, how, even though he wasn't the eldest brother, he was the, the, the anchor of the family, you know, because he was knowledgeable, and wise, you know, and he was able to help
everyone in his community, you know, just by being because he was a Scotland and because of his personality, and I could really see the benefit of that, you know, because a lot of the time when people squabble a lot of the time when things go wrong, it's because of lack of knowledge. It's because people,
people have gotten have moved away from Islam have, you know, maybe adopted certain cultural things, or justice is not being done, right. And for me, whenever I saw my parents in any community, and we moved quite a lot as children, they represented To me, the household where people could come for justice to get the issues resolved, you know, as mediators, and that's how I've always seen them. And so, for me, I know, and I know, it's because my dad, he's literally got libraries full of books. And he likes books more than human beings, I think, you know, as you just said, you know, it's better for a child to face some turbulence that is then resolved, in terms of of character strength,
and to have had it just it just easy. And of course, the worst option is for a household where there is turbulence and and that is unresolved, because it gives them a blueprint for their our resolve unresolvable conflicts rather than a blueprint for there is resolution and this is how you work towards it. Yeah, I get that. What Why did you mention that? Sorry, I was just because I was thinking about how your father was, you know, someone who would resolve squabbles in your household using Elementor daily place. I mean, like with the wider relatives, yeah. And also just random people because he was this Mufti. Right. So people literally phoned by household leads to come turn
up, you know, to have the issues resolved. And, and, and so seeing that, and also, he's a scholar on the Sharia councils. And one of the great things I've experienced recently is studying with him, right? Because even though I grew up with him, so I probably through osmosis have, you know, taken in so much from him, I never actually sat in a class where he was teaching a text to me, right?
So when I was like, 16, he took me to Egypt, he really inspired me to want to be a scholar.
I remember the conversation, you know, he said to me, so what what are you going to do? And I was like, I want to be a surgeon. I wanted to be everything, right? As you can tell. So I wanted to be a surgeon, I was about to go into do my A Levels and, you know, do all the sciences. And my dad said to me, yeah, that's an option. You know, if you want to do that,
I want you to explore that. I want to tell you about other options, you know, just as a parent would. And one option he told me was, How about going to Egypt and studying Islamic Studies studying Arabic because he knew I was into that as well. Right? And he said, because, you know, there are lots of doctors of people's physical hearts. But there aren't many doctors of people spiritual hearts. And I remember that, like really, like, struck a chord with me, right? Because I never really had thought of it like that. So our household was a household where scholarship and serious study and service to like to the community was was seen as the highest thing, right? That's how my
mom brought us up and and this isn't that an important thing to put into practice in our lives in that
if we can take away one thing from our chat today I'll take away that Islam is not for Friday's it is not a Juma thing it is it is something to show rather than to speak even though that you spend so much of your time Mashallah you know, we study books, yeah, for the sake of studying books, but for the sake of sharing and what does sharing mean?
It's not just talking. It's it's the doing. Yeah. And another thing my dad really made clear to me was
knowledge is there to fix you up.
It's not there for you to fix the world up, please say that again. I love that knowledge, when you seek knowledge of the dean, when you seek knowledge about Islam, about God about, about the world about, you know,
the treasure of the Prophet, because that's what we are learning when, as Islamic scholars, we are studying the inheritance of the Prophet because, you know, we know the prophets of the last time he never left behind money, he left behind knowledge, that was his inheritance, right? That was his thing that he left behind. And so that's why the scholars are known as the heirs of the prophets. So what that means is, a lot of people, you know, they'll go into wanting to be a scholar, and they'll think, Okay, I'm going to fix the world, I'm going to fix up this and that. But one of the things my dad made clear to us was, knowledge is there first and foremost, to fix you up, right? You've got to
use it, to fix yourself, you've got to act upon it, you've got to, you know, it's no good, being the one who's trying to fix the world, when you haven't sorted yourself out, you know. So that was a really important element. I remember
coming to Islam. And day one, I told a friend of mine called and so I just took my Shahada the day before, I said, Islam isn't going to change me. And she kind of looked at me strangely. And I remember that look, as I went on my journey, and I remember fit. And the meaning of that look, was if it doesn't change you, what's the point? Yeah, because, you know, we must not sit. I think there's a lack of confidence Now sometimes in ourselves in, in having something good to offer the world. And we have, we have the best product with the worst sales force, you know, and Islam is there to to to change us. And, you know, if I'm not bettered, I met an old friend called Clive
yesterday. And the reason that I met him is because I know he's had a tough time. And I cut all of my friends and colleagues off when I came to Islam. And then I've been speaking about about the love of the Prophet peace upon him to strangers. And I forgot, I forgot the people who cared about me. So I wanted to see him and share that. Now, if he hadn't said you've changed a bit, or at least some I would have felt that I'd failed Islam, Islam has not failed me. I failed if I haven't changed. So let it change us. I guess that's,
yeah, absolutely. Because you see, being constantly being like being an activist. And being there's nothing wrong with that, obviously, there's, there's, we should be activists in one way. But only being an activist and only being that sort of person who's constantly trying to externalize problems, means that you actually doing the easy work, you know, because he is killing me now. It's, it's, so it's easy to it is easy to preach is easy to talk, it's easy to, for some people, you know, it's like really easy, and
it's easy to look at the world and, and the people around us as well. And think that the reason why there are problems in your life is because of them because of external causes, right? My parents, my, this, my that my husband is not this, or my wife is not that or that happened to me when I was a child and you know, etc, etc.
Not that those things don't have an effect. Of course, they could have an effect. However, you know, it's easy to externalize. The thing that we've got power over is ourselves, the thing that we've and the very fact that if you're going through a test, the very fact that you're going through that test, as Muslims, we know that Allah will not allow you to experience that test, if you didn't have the strength, and you didn't have the ability within you, you know, you might have to muster it up, might have to work on it, but you have it within you to overcome that test. Otherwise, you wouldn't be experiencing that. So
I think when we look at the world in that way, and when we ask ourselves whenever something is happening, and all of us struggle with something, you know, it's not even people who look like they have perfect lives, they're struggling with something. When we look at the world in the way that Okay, I've got this struggle, I've got this
maybe a calamity, maybe you know something very, very difficult. But
Allah loves me, Allah wants good for me, I'm and we talk to Allah constantly, right?
Then we should be 100% sure that Allah will give us the strength and the ability to
become stronger to grow in some way, you know, in order to be able to overcome that.
And so I'm really keen on, on us taking on that approach, you know, to life, because God knows what things are lying ahead, right? In any of our lives in for Muslims in the UK for an aspect of, you know, the, the whole topic of
holding ourselves up to a higher standard. You know, Allah, Allah, Allah told us that we are the best nation that he extracted for the sake of mankind. Why? Because we enjoyed the good forbid the evil and we, and we believe in Allah, and all that that means, right? If we are to be the best nation, that means that we've got to be the best women, right? We've got to be the women who strengthen ourselves so much, right? internally, I mean, you know, that then we can go out and be of use and, and be able to strengthen and bring the rest of humanity on board right onto the right path. Now, if we are going to be victims, and if we're going to be weak, and if we're going to fall
down at the first sign of struggle. And and the reason why I say that is that, you know, my mom growing up in the 80s, that was struggle, you know, as as a as a brown person who wore hijab, my mom was like, the only Punjabi that we knew, literally. So when she walked on the streets, any person who walked past her any white person, right, at that time,
you knew that there was going to be some racist remark. And the good thing was, my mom didn't understand English. So, so half the time she didn't know what they were saying, right. But as kids we knew, right, when you were very aware of that.
We had racist neighbors, sometimes, you know, who'd do all sorts of things that people wrote things on our front door, right? People threw things through our letterbox these sorts of things happened, right? That's hard. Yeah. Yeah, growing up in an Instagram culture, where I'm not saying it's not hard for some people, but let's put it into perspective. You know, like, the pressures of wanting to wear makeup and look good and,
and because of that, you're like, finding our to wear hijab, that's like, you really need to reframe that you need really need to look at what real hardship is, you know, because our moms didn't go through what they went through in the 80s. Right? For then our generation to just fall apart at the first sign of struggle, then there's so so let's talk, you know, little bit briefly about this idea of authenticity, which has come up via some vloggers and some fashion YouTubers out there. One in particular, recently removed her jaw hijab, and there's this idea that if you in order to be authentic, so for example, somebody who's having a bad day, they don't feel very good on their
prayers, or they're no good, they don't feel any spiritual connection to Allah to Allah. So they're not being authentic themselves by wearing hijab. They're being phony, and they're being hypocritical. So better to take it off and show people who they are.
And be honest, authentic. The thing is, there's there's two aspects to that one is
living your life online. Right? So that comes with its own baggage, right. So people who are trying to live their lives online, whether they admit it or not, they're living for the likes the living for the people, you know, and
it's an unhealthy way of living, because I think in 1020 years time, they'll look back. And they'll really regret a lot of the stuff that, you know, they've been putting out there. And the sort of very much kind of self imposed glare of, you know, the lights and the cameras and that they've put because it's easy, it's like everybody trying to create a celebrity persona around themselves. And I come from that world anyway, anyway, and I can tell you, that it's highly addictive, right, hard to get out of, it's like another narcotic with no real time reward. Right And also, it makes you a needy, clingy. So life is hard and to have to live that out. You know, in so publicly, yeah, that's,
it can't be good for you. Because you can't be authentic. Authenticity comes from a place of stillness, right? A place of meditation, stillness when you can when you can focus on yourself and, and your relationship with Allah doesn't come from switching the camera on. So here, I'm going to ask us to go into specifics here because I know that that you, you know, I know you're clued up and you're savvy on social media networks because
You have, you know, your own podcast, for example, Mashallah, on with Muslim Central? And do you have things that that you need to share as a scholar, and I know that you're, you're aware of those, have you ever felt a moment, for example, when you're like, I'm not posting that, because that was not authentically me. And because I find myself anyway, checking my intentions, but more than that going, that was phony. Or if I feel myself kind of slipping into, I'm seeing this as a post, rather than a real situation, I'll take myself away for a few hours, because I know I'm getting sick.
While at the moment, I'm reading a book called Deep work by Cal Newport, right? And it's about what is going to be the really valuable, what are going to be the really valuable skills and the really valuable work that we can produce as human beings,
you know, in the next decades or centuries, and he's talking about getting off social media. And that might sound a bit radical to some people. And some people might, social media might be part of their work, whatever. But I've actually taken his advice. And I've taken a hiatus from social media recently. And it's been the best thing that I did. So first of all, yeah, you're right. Like, I started noticing that, I started asking myself, why do I want to share that? Yeah, with people? am I showing off? Because I think there's a part of that, you know, that is a part of it sometimes. Right? Am I trying to inspire But okay, but you know, this fire to what to you? Or to really
Exactly, yeah, to my son? Hmm. Am I trying to draw attention to myself and as a Muslim woman? There's problems with that as well, you know, because at the end of the day, you know, we do want to preserve a certain level of privacy, and dignity, right.
But also, like,
you know, am I getting all the kicks that I want in life, right, through these social media posts. And I think that's one of the big problems that's happening, right, is that every time we post something online, we get a dopamine hit, right? We get a high, and we're feeling those highs from that. And because of that, we're kind of going through life in that shallow place, right? Because most of what we post online is kind of shallow, right? And we don't have time to do and we don't have the focus and attention now to do the deep work. So you've written a book, right? That that's deep work. You can't write a book, a good book, right? It's about getting into the flow, it's about
the flow, right? And your focus, you can't constantly be checking things and then do it. No, you need to focus you need to sort of become a bit like a hermit for a bit, right? And what I'd say, you know, would you say this, I mean, I have an app on my phone, for example, that grows trees, when you take time off. So you get certain amount of points. And in real time a tree is a tree is planted, I love it, you know, find find it, it's amazing. So I will go two hours, you know, you know, and then it's normally like, I will check the phone, I want to be able to go to four but I know that there are sisters out there and brothers out there who would do five to 10 minutes is quite painful. Yes,
I think the thing is, we are the first generation that's experiencing this social media, we don't know the full effects of its craziness, you know, on our on our lives, and we're probably going to look back and be able to identify it at some point.
But I think, you know, some of these books, like deep work, for example, and also there's a book called The one thing, which really talks about focusing on one thing, you know, and these sorts of books are really trying to draw us away from this.
This need for constant hits, right from highs that we get from from social media, and developing the ability to get down and do work that requires a high level of intellectual and mental focus. And I'm writing research papers, you know, I've like, I've just ordered like this many books, a pile of books this high from Egypt, I need to read them. There's no way I'm going to be able to read those books and write a really good dissertation.
If I'm on social media, so it's I think it's it's just important to share that maybe a couple of months. You were finding that you were doing a bit and then dipping out we finding that Yeah, so calling when I started Yeah, writing my book. Yeah. I would be so like, exasperated, I'll be like, I've just spent a day in the library, right? Yeah, I don't really have much to show for it. And I realized it was because of that, right? Because of the constant checking in, you know, or even just having another window open, right, like in the back a tab open, where you could just casually look at Facebook. You see every time you're doing that what's happening is
Your, your attention gets
refocused to something else. But also there's something called attention residue, right? Which is that the last task that you just did.
And now that you're doing another task, don't think of that now you're 100% focused on that. Now there's a residue from. And social media is the worst, because everyone knows that, you know, you'd be on, you're on Twitter for like, a few minutes, and you get a little bit stressed, stressed afterwards, right? There's the stress goes up. There's something. There's some conversation that annoys you, right? Yeah, or some narrative that's being peddled. And no longer is producing that it's no longer a natural moment, right? related to where we're sitting on what we're doing. It's somebody else's stress, and something happened happening outside that yesterday, irrelevant, and
we're bringing that to our work. We're bringing it to our families. We're bringing it to our marriages sometimes, you know, so I really think it's been good for me to take a hiatus. And if somebody doesn't want to do that, at least at the very least have, you know, have breaks have breaks from this technology? Because
I think it's going to take about a decade for us to look back and say, Hmm,
that's the effect that had on my, this, that or the other, right. And it was only when I could literally put my phone in flight mode. Yeah, send messages to everyone, you know, to the important people, they look, I'm going to be off.
I'm not going to be contactable for a while, right? for an hour or even like for that for today. Right? for a few hours. I will do that. Put my phone in flight mode and start writing my book. Mashallah. And that's the only way I got through it. I'm guessing that there was a door you made when you did that. Is it good? is there is there a door door for increasing concentration that you'd recommend increasing concentration?
I think off the top of my head, the door that my parents are always my mom taught me was rubbish rally Saturday where sadly Emily Emery. Hello, Dr. Melissa Annie, if Gokhale. So the beginning of that dog particular, this is a dog that Musashi Salaam, said when he was about to meet the Pharaoh, right. But the beginning part is especially important that our lines expand for me, my chest. And what that kind of metaphorically means is this difficult thing I'm about to do.
Make it easy, make it feel easy, because most of the time the difficult things we're about to do, it's about a feeling isn't it?
So make this thing easy for me arbitrarily said that he
was city somebody and make and make this issue this affair in front of me easy.
And then it says while I'm in the sunny of go early, and
on time I can tie my tongue. Yeah. So that they understand what I'm saying. And actually, that's very relevant to writing a book, if you think about it, because you want a lot to untie your tongue on paper, right? And you want the, you want people to receive it the way you meant it, rather than in some other way. Right. So for me, that was very important.
Apart from that, you know, I just, I just felt like,
I think life is about constantly talking to Allah. If you spend your life talking to a lot more than you talk to people,
how can you go astray? You know, because Allah loves us to call on him. He loves us to talk to him, he loves us to call on him. So any area of life when we admit to Allah, we're weak, and we don't know what we're doing. And we need him and we need his, his help, and we need his guidance.
You know, of course, he will help us. And that's another important point, having herson Oven of Allah having a positive, positive thoughts and positive expectation from Allah. You see a lot of people when you meet them, and they are going through difficult times and or feeling very negative about the dean, etc. It's often because they've lost that. Let's talk about some of those some of the phrases that might be linked to that I can't see a way out of this. Things are always going wrong for me. Yeah. I don't believe things are going to get better mics, you know, I feel that this is going to go badly.
Yeah, exactly. But But
even beyond that, just like not being able to see beyond the thing that's in front of you, you know,
for me, I think,
I don't know if it was something that my mom instilled in me, or, you know, just something from Allah over time that developed
Thing difficult has happened.
And even when I look back at the negative things that I've experienced, right, really tough times, like, for example, when I was in Egypt, as a young student, you know, I was very lonely and very kind of away from my family. And there were some really tough times and times when I went off course, and
now that I look back at them, I feel like I have the ability to,
to think of them as things that built me. Right? And things that I learned from, or as things that will,
that I can use as an excuse for why I'm not what I think I should be, right? Why life isn't as I think it should be. So I think so those things are very important. So there's the two choices there. There's, there's the, this has built me and helped me, or I can't do this, because of this. It's holding that all everything else has led to me being held back in some areas, rather than everything is from Allah. And that means that it's built me. Absolutely. Like, I'll give you another example. Right? I don't know if this is relevant to people, but it's relevant to me.
I always wanted to be a scholar, when at when I since I went to Egypt. And then I came, it didn't work out in Egypt. I studied there for two years, which was great, but I had planned to live there, you know, and literally graduate from Eleazar. And I couldn't finish studying. So I had to come back. Yeah. And then I got married and had children. Now, I would see like other brothers, usually young brothers who wanted to be scholars jetting off to different countries go spend four years, you know, graduate, come back, right. And, and they were scholars and they were able to, you know, do their work, etc. For me, I had children, we tried to move abroad and things weren't working out. And
you know, there were there was a period of struggle, where I really want, I really felt like, Am I never going to be able to do this, right?
Literally because of my new responsibilities and a lack of resources in the UK. Right. So we couldn't move abroad at the time.
And I remember I used to, there was a part of me, I would say shaitan came to me and would put this thought in my mind, like, Why so difficult for you to achieve something that you set out for when you were young? You know, how come it's so easy for brothers, especially, you know, they've got families, they they're jetting off and doing their studies and coming back and chefs and so right.
And you're having to study, like, literally like I'm nearly 40 now. And I'm, I'm about to graduate, right? So can you imagine, like, all of those years of study, and
but you know, what swana, like, like,
I realized Now, what I gained in all those years that a young graduate who just who's fresh out of uni, doesn't have, right. And that is I got to be part of that organization, one of the best organizations in the world and meet some of the great greatest days. And I would say visionary people, right. I got to raise four children. So I was like, literally in the trenches of life. Right. Yeah. Right. And so now when I'm studying my books, right, and so then during that time when my children became old enough, seminary started springing up in the in the UK, right. So like proper Islamic seminaries. Yeah. And it was, I realized, you know what, it's because I'm ready. And the
time is right, and Allah, Allah is not here. It's not there. He doesn't hear that what I want, right? He's been taking me on a journey all this time. But his journey, the journey he wanted me to take, and the way he wanted me to get there, not the way the sort of very easy and very slimmed down in a
way that I had envisaged as a teenager so so upon like, like, I really see the blessings and the benefits of
it not having gone according to my plan, but having gone according to plan was taller. I'm going to wrap up now with a few speedy I don't like quick fire questions, because I think that can raise the stress levels. Let's just call it a little bit. Some some of you have nice speedy answers. Sister, what are you proudest of?
I would have to say my, my family and my children. Yeah.
Because I think
family is a project. I think that's really important for us.
internalize, you know, family is a project and working on different projects, I realized that
there's nothing different about family, you know, you're managing different people, personalities, you're, you're having to plan things, you have to have a vision, you have to get through difficult times, you have to have debriefs, you have to have annual planning, you know, all of that kind of thing. And, and the reason why I would say, My children or family is that, you know, I think that's the work, especially as women that we do, that doesn't get seen, you know, it doesn't get the likes, doesn't get, it's not a very public thing, and especially when they're very young. There's a lot we put into our families and our children that
we see the fruits of later.
But nobody really knows that it was actually us who planted those seeds, right. So I think like recently, my son did his first quarterback.
Right, he's first what band led the Juma six, four. And
I know that that sounds weird, but for me, that was a very proud moment. To know that he did that by himself. Yeah.
how has your life been different than what you'd imagined? Obviously, you're not an astronaut. That's number one.
You never know. Yeah, not yet. I'm gonna say not yet. Virgin Galactic.
Yeah, so like, there are all these projects. Now, you know, for
your mind. This is
why do you want to go to space?
I love astronomy, right?
I'm planning on doing some astronomy courses at some point, you know, because I, that's a part of me. You know, I can't tell you like, I was obsessed with astronomy books and books about space. And I think what it is, is that when I read about the first time, Neil Armstrong saw that, and you know, when I, when you when you think about it, how amazing is that? Were like these little dots on this blue planet spinning in space, when you just think about that. Just think Wow. So panelists. I think it would give me a
That's impossible for us to have on this earth. Beautiful. How would you like to be remembered?
I haven't started yet.
I really don't feel like I've got started yet. So I don't want to say, okay, and I'm gonna ask you just for fun.
What's your favorite podcast? Honestly?
Okay, I've got two favorite podcasts at the moment. One is Russell Brand's podcast. Okay, it's okay. It's okay. I feel your pain? No. What I love about his podcast is he has authors, right? And academics. And yeah, just amazing people who actually I probably wouldn't ever read or come across, right. And you'll have a very kind of, like, a conversation with them that draws out their work. And for me, often, like, I found that often you learn the most when you're willing to go down alleyways that you weren't planning on going down, right. So I really get a lot from that from just exposing myself to ideas from people who, and also Jordan Peterson, I must say, Jordan Peterson as well.
Because, yeah, I haven't had that one. Okay, Professor Jordan Peterson. You know, he's like, recently gotten very popular. He's a psychologist from Canada. That's right, it is him. And what I like about his,
his work, and his podcast is that
he's actually in some ways, he's countering some of the very popular narratives, but he's doing it in a very nuanced way. So he'll talk about things like the importance of
developing yourself, right, like, this is amazing, quote, he has in his book 12 rules for life. He says, make yourself so strong, right? Like him, strengthen yourself from within, such that you are the most dependable person at your own father's funeral.
And he'll say things that and you're like, wow, you know, that's, that's strong. You know? And, and I think at the moment, there's plenty of voices telling us to be victims, and to protest and to be upset about what white people have done to us and the colonialists have done to us and, you know, everyone else has done to us. And although you know, that does have its place and maybe you know, some of those things need to be addressed.
I think it's much more empowering. When somebody says to you
strengthen yourself, because life is tough. And that's one of his key messages. So I'm really benefiting. I'd like to benefit from different people, you know. So even if I don't agree with everything that they say, so yeah, so those are two podcasts on final one, then what is an IRA of the quarter? And that is inspiring you right now. Because when we ask people, what's your favorite? I think that's really disingenuous, because then you disingenuous because you're asking to pluck something out of perfection, but is there something that is giving you strength right, right now that you'd like to share?
There isn't a one verse in the Quran that is coming to mind as, you know, the most inspiring but what what I tend to do is, I will open up the Quran, you know, often and just
read whatever, whichever suitor I opened up to, and I'll usually find something there, you know, that is relevant and important. For me there and then.
Yeah, so. So that's, that's really that's really how I'm relating to the grind at the moment. Mashallah, thank you, sister, Fatima. It's such an honor to have this chat finally. Exactly. And we had a little bit of cake before we came on. And you've had, you've got cold tea there, but we'll make you some more and we pray for you to continue on your path and to continue enlightening and sharing with others. May Allah bless you and your family and just Aquila hair. That's it. That's all for today and see you next time inshallah Samaniego