Inspirational People

Inspirational Women Throughout History – Fatima Al Fihri

This post is about Fatima al Fihri who built the world’s first university.

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Fatima Al Fihri was born in Tunisia and then migrated with her family to Morocco. She came from a wealthy family and when her father passed away he left her a big fortune. Not much is known about her early life but her and her sister were well educated and deeply religious. She used the money her father left her to invest in and build a mosque and educational institute for her community.

Initially it was a smaller place of education with a courtyard, prayer hall, libraries and classrooms. At first the courses which were offered were religious studies and Quranic studies. When she thought about making a place for a higher level of learning she expanded on the institute. People would come from all over the world to study and it was expanded and built upon until it was made into a university.

The university was named the University of al-Qarawiyyin, named after Fatima’s birthplace, Qayrawan in Tunisia. It was established in 859 and was the first degree granting institute in the world. There was a wide range of areas of study available to study from, astronomy, maths to sciences, medicine, languages and more. Even Fatima studied there too. Notable scholars from all over the world studied there and it was considered a place of a major intellectual centre in the medieval times.

The university is still running now and there are also other places which are part of the university which you can visit too including the library which is one of the world’s oldest libraries! There are over 4000 manuscripts there and you can even see Fatima’s diploma on display there on a wooden board!

She has such an amazing lasting legacy that a woman was the first to build and establish a university where everyone was welcome to come and study at. As a result of her building this higher education institute it paved way for other places to be built including University of Oxford and helped advance opportunities for higher learning all over Europe.

You can read the previous posts in this series here:

Khadijah al Khuwaylid

Nusaybah bint Ka’ab

2019 Round Up, Friday Favourites

Friday Favourites – My Favourite (Non-Fiction) Reads of 2019

This is hosted by Something of the Book who created this tag out of a love for lists. There are different topics for us all to be able to take part and you can find the prompts here.  There isn’t a specific number of favourites so it’s entirely up to you how many you share.

I’m going to be sharing my top 10 non fiction reads of the year. I have read so many amazing books so I thought I would split the books between fiction and non fiction.

All of the books I’m sharing on here are one’s that not only were they interesting and insightful but have impacted my life this past year. Some have reignited my passions for speaking up about female empowerment. Some have helped me with my faith. And some have made me, a brown Muslim woman in a hijab, feel seen and heard. So they all mean a lot to me.

So in no particular order, here are my top 10 non-fiction reads of 2019:

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It’s Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan – I loved this book so much! I hope we see more of these type of books being published. You can read my review here

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Prayers of the Pious by Omar Suleiman – Imam Omar is one of my favourite Islamic teachers and so I knew I had to read his book and it was phenomenal. This is a book I will come back to time and time again. You can read my review here

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The Hormone Diaries by Hannah Witton – There was so many things I learnt from reading this book! It’s easy to read and one that you can read different sections at different times depending on what’s relevant for you at the time.

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Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford – I had been meaning to read this for a long time and I’m so glad I finally did. It was a really great read and had me pumped! You can read my review here

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I Will Not Be Erased by Gal-Dem – I loved the essays in this book! It made me realise that I wasn’t alone in feeling not quite like I belonged at times growing up. You can read my review here

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Yes I’m Hot in This by Huda Fahmy – I love her comics that she shares on Instagram so when I saw she was releasing a book I knew I had to buy it. It was absolutely hilarious and so relatable! I love flicking through different pages.

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A History of Islam in 21 Women by Hossein Kamaly – I was so excited to see a book filled with Muslim women and their amazing achievements! I really loved reading through it. You can read my review here

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Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford – After reading Fight Like A Girl I knew I had to read this book. It deals with toxic masculinity and the patriarchy and how it is damaging to both women and men. It is a really great book and one that is much needed. You can read my review here

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Love and Happiness by Yasmin Mogahed – One of my favourite Islamic teachers, who’s teachings and books have helped me through some really difficult times. I highly recommend this book and her other book, Reclaim Your Heart, to just read a few pages at a time as it’s full of short words of wisdom.

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Light Upon Light by Nur Fadhilah Wahid – I really enjoyed reading through her short reflections and found most of them very relatable. You can read my review here

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So these are my favourite non-fiction books. What was your favourite non-fiction books? What type of non-fiction do you enjoy reading?

Fiction Books, YA Books

No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter – ARC Review

I picked this ARC up at Northern YA Literature Festival and I’m so glad I did because I really loved this book!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Meet Emily Daly, a stylish, cute, intelligent and hilarious seventeen-year-old about to start her last year at school. Emily is also fat. She likes herself and her body. When she meets Joe at a house party, he instantly becomes The Crush of Her Life. Everything changes. At first he seems perfect. But as they spend more time together, doubts start to creep in.
With her mum trying new fad diets every week, and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to stay strong, be her true self and not change for anyone.

I am so glad books like this are being released which not only have a character where the character is not the typical perfectly skinny and flawless teenage girl but she is also happy within herself and what her body looks like. Can we please have more of these books please!

This book is about self-acceptance, about being comfortable in your own skin and loving yourself. It is about body positivity and I really loved it! It also deals with how others can create self-doubt and how others perception of you can be the thing that actually holds you back. It can cause low self-esteem and even result in them suffering from mental health issues.

“It’s not my body that’s holding me back. I think it’s more of a problem that people tell me my body should hold me back.”

I really loved the discussion around family and friends who may not even realise that telling someone they need to lose weight to look better is not okay, even if they say they are only saying this because they love that person. It still hurts regardless of “how they meant it” and can cause people to become distant from each other. Like in the book Emily has a difficult relationship with her mum because of how her mum always tries to get her diet, and even tricking her to attend weight loss meetings, saying she only does it because she loves her.

But it was also important to show how these doubts that make us feel less, that make girls feel like they aren’t pretty enough or skinny enough can affect them so much in adulthood too. Like Emily’s mum who constantly worries about her weight.

It was also interesting to see how something as simple as trying on clothes in the shops can be frustrating and stressful for someone who is fat and not many people will understand that stress, especially if they don’t experience something like this themselves.

Emily’s friendships were so wonderful to see, it felt real and relatable. She has a wonderful group of friends who support each other. Her best friend loses a lot of weight over the summer so Emily has to deal with a whole range of emotions from feeling jealous to feeling pressured to lose weight and also being happy for her. And it does cause some tension between them but I was glad to see that they worked through it.

As the story progressed and we see more of Emily’s and Joe’s relationship and how he treats her I was totally rooting for her to go with her gut instincts and I’m so glad she did. I love how the author showed that we shouldn’t be okay with anyone making us feel less than who we are or be with someone who is embarrassed about how we look. Though I do wish the author had spent more time on this part of the story

The ending is the only part I wish we got more of. The middle part of the story felt too long and the ending felt rushed and I would have loved to see more of Emily realising she deserves so much more.

Overall I really enjoyed this story and I hope to see more books that deal with body positivity being released.

Musings of a Muslimah

People Of The Cave (Surah Kahf) – Quranic Reflections

One of the things I do is to open the translation of the Quran on a random page and read the surah (chapter) that it ends up on and try to reflect and gain some insight into those verse I have read.

I often find that although I open the page randomly, I end up reading exactly what I needed to read at that moment in my life. Allah truly knows what we need to hear and it never fails to amaze me!

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The most recent one I opened up to chapter 18 of the Quran. Surah Kahf which is a surah that I read every Friday and is filled with so much wisdom. I started reading and one ayah struck me, it talks about the youth who slept for 300 years in the cave, which is where they sought refuge when they were being persecuted.

The ayah is:

“And We turned them to the right and to the left” Quran (18:18)

As both me and my husband are physiotherapists we deal with people with different levels of mobility, some who are even bed bound. And one thing that a bed bound patient needs on a regular basis is to be turned on their right and left, to ensure they don’t get pressure sores. Exactly the way the ayah describes that Allah turned them while they slept. And even though this is something that is part of modern medicine, it was written in the Quran over 1400 years ago.

Every time I read something like this in the Quran, things that we have only recently discovered, it blows my mind. That something as simple as that ayah can cause so much reflection and be so awe-inspiring. It reminds me of the magnificence of Allah, that only He knows all things and that the Quran is filled with so much wisdom and truly will teach us so much, if only we would pay attention.

I am hoping to write more of these as it’s something I do regularly and I wasn’t to share my reflections with you all. And please so share your reflections with me too!

Non Fiction Books

Fight Like A Girl By Clementine Ford – Book Review

I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and then I received an ARC of her new book coming out in July so it finally gave me the push to read it. And wow did I love this book so much!

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Personal and fearless – a call to arms for feminists new, old and as yet unrealised by one of our most outspoken feminist writers.
Online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere, Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary debut Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat.
Fight Like A Girl will make you laugh, cry and scream. But above all it will make you demand and fight for a world in which women have real equality and not merely the illusion of it.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library and the narrator was Clementine herself. Her narration was so engaging, witty and sarcastic that I just didn’t want to pause the audiobook! She speaks about a lot of things that I related to and I was glad to hear her speak about cross sectional feminism and including everyone and not just white feminism.

Honestly, this book had me pumped and raging and I just wanted to tear down the patriarchy! It reignited my passion for speaking up about female empowerment and injustices done against women. It was empowering to listen to her and also heart breaking at times to hear the statistics and encounters of what so many women are faced with on a daily basis.

One of the benefits of reading it as an audiobook was that my husband also heard it when I played it in the evenings, and this led to lots of healthy discussions (and lots of me ranting). And I think it’s a book that can create lots of engagement and discussion. You don’t have to agree with everything she says but it’s important to listen to other perspectives too.

“We fight like girls. This is how we prevail, and this is why we’re still standing.”

This book gave voice to so many things I could not express myself, I found myself nodding along and gasping in horror and laughing my head off at her sarcasm and sass! She is actually hilarious, and I think that helped when dealing with so many heavy and intense topics. She was serious and light-hearted and balanced both really well so you don’t feel overwhelmed by everything.

One of things I do want to mention is how she spoke about having a girl gang. How having a really great group of female friends who are truly there for you and you for them is so important in battling the patriarchy. The system is set up against us and it can be exhausting constantly fighting against it but your girls can support and empower you. I adore my girl gang and I have no idea where I would be without them. They have been there for me through everything.

She also spoke about how women can never win no matter what they do in this system. We are either too feminine or not feminine enough and it’s men who decide this for us. There are so many issues so deeply ingrained into our society that most people, especially me, don’t even see that a problem exists but we need to start speaking up and making a change.

This book is unapologetic, it’s empowering and I absolutely loved it. I highly recommend you all read this and if you enjoy audiobooks do listen, it’s really great!