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Ramadan Karim :)

In sha’ Allah (God willing) there are 12 days left to the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is the month of the Islamic calendar when the Holy Quran was revealed to our prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy be upon him) through angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) over 1400 years ago. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in an effort to abstain from worldly and material matters and focus on our spiritual growth and well-being. It’s the month of mercy, where we are asked to be even more charitable, generous, kind, loving and spread joy than on other days. It’s the month of less is more when it comes to worldly things and more is better when it comes to spiritual things! To me, it’s the most beautiful, festive, peaceful month of the entire year! If you, my dear followers, are interested in learning about this beautiful month, please check out this amazing resource. Later this week I will be posting pictures of our decorations and post more about how we celebrate the holy month in our family.

Ramadan Karim (Happy Ramadan) :)

Ramadan Karim (Happy Ramadan) 🙂

Today’s post is really an email message that I sent out last week to all my Muslim friends and acquaintances. I am accustomed to sending out season’s greetings every year and I usually keep the email nice and short. This year, however, I decided to send out a word of advice and a plea, hoping that everyone I sent the email out to will be on board and both, them and I, can benefit from the outcome. I got such wonderful feedback, al hamdulillah (Thank God), and so I decided to share it with you since it carries a message that ALL religions agree upon!

Al Salam Aleikom Everyone,

Our little family wishes you all a blessed and prosperous Ramadan, in sha’ Allah 🙂

May the holy month of the revelation of the Quran usher upon you and your loved ones peace, happiness and prosperity. May you be granted peace of heart and mind, forgiveness and guidance.

This year, please allow me to emphasize two points. The first concerns preparing for Ramadan and the second is more of a personal appeal …

Preparing for the Holy Month of Ramadan is not about getting your 30-day meal plan together, looking up “new” recipes nor stockpiling the ingredients you’ll most likely need! It’s not about counting how many hours remain till iftar (breaking our fast) nor thinking about what you will be having for dessert that night. Preparing for the Holy Month of Ramadan is more of a spiritual preparation. You need to have the right mindset, have your heart in the right place and your priorities straight before the Holy Month arrives. It’s about making sure you pray on time, spend time with your kids no matter how drained you feel, read as much Quran as you can and spend your time wisely. It’s about lending those less fortunate than you a helping hand, making du’a (prayers) for those who are having hardships and forgiving those you never thought you will be able to forgive. It’s about spreading joy, being kind and becoming generous. It’s about you and Allah (God), your connection, your relationship and your exchange of dua’ for peace, forgiveness and mercy. It’s about being the best Muslim you can be, even if it’s for a single month! If you are able to achieve all that, you will come out of Ramadan feeling like a completely new person and will be able to carry whatever you started on for the rest of the year and every year until it’s your time to leave. Let us all try to make this Ramadan different, don’t let it slip away like those before it. Set goals and stick to them, no matter how small 🙂

The personal appeal I’d like to make, and in which I hope you will participate, is to make one of your goals for this Ramadan to forgive all those who ever did you wrong! I know it may be a random thing to ask of you but I truly believe it is one of the BEST things I have ever done for myself in all my years in this life. I used to take that step on an individual basis but last April I made a pact with myself to forgive every single soul that has ever hurt or wronged me, regardless who the person is or why they did what they did … regardless even whether they deserve my forgiveness or not (I believe everyone deserves our forgiveness, it’s our ego that prevents us from forgiving others at times). On the day I made that decision I published this post on my blog, I sincerely hope you will find time to read it. This excerpt, in particular, is one I would like to share with you:

“I have decided to start with something that will bring me more peace than I probably ever had. It’s also one of the most beautiful lessons that my wonderful religion, Islam, teaches us but is shared by all religions as well. Forgive whenever you get the chance so that Allah (God) forgives you too. Over the past few months, I’ve received several correspondences from people who have wronged me gravely in the past. I am highly intrigued by the timing, since not all those people know each other, but I believe that it’s the timing chosen by God and I am grateful for it. Some wronged me through actions, some through backbiting and others through rumors. I, generally, forgave most of those people long ago, primarily to find peace within myself and be able to move on. Today, in appreciation for them having the courage and humility to reach out to me, admit their shortcomings, accept full responsibility for them and ask for my forgiveness, I would like to renew my forgiveness and assure everyone, whether they apologized or not, whether they are still in my life or not, whether I know of their wrongdoings or not, that I fully and wholeheartedly forgive them! I published the following statement on my Facebook page last night and I mean every single word, God is my witness:

I bear witness that I, wholeheartedly, forgive every single person who has ever wronged me whether knowingly or unknowingly! I forgive every backbite, every lie, every rumor, every heartache, every imposition and every other wrongful emotion, thought or action against me. Those sorts of actions served as lessons more than anything, teaching me about myself as well as others. So, thank you to all who wronged me, you helped me become a better person and helped me appreciate the good people I have in my life … a special thank you goes to those who had it in them to apologize for their shortcomings. I hope everyone I’ve ever come across can find it in their hearts to forgive me for anything intentional or unintentional I may have committed against them as well. May Allah forgive all of our transgressions. — Hebatallah Azmy

I also asked all my friends to forward/share my message so that it may reach as many people as possible. As a result, it reached people I had fallen out of touch with and now, I forgive them and they forgive me as well! Today, I ask you to do the same thing please. Forward/share this message, even if it’s to people I do not know, and then know you forgive them, have them forgive you … and, if by any chance, they do happen to know me then the same applies to me.

“Just as it is important to believe in the mercy and forgiveness of Allah, it is also necessary to base human relations on forgiveness. We cannot expect Allah’s forgiveness unless we also forgive those who do wrong to us. Forgiving each other, even forgiving one’s enemies is one of the most important Islamic teaching. In the Qur’an Allah has described the Believers as “those who avoid major sins and acts of indecencies and when they are angry they forgive.” (al-Shura 42:37) Later in the same Surah Allah says, “The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah.” (al-Shura 42:40) In another place the Qur’an says, “If you punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, indeed it is better for the patient. Endure you patiently. Your patience is not except through the help of Allah (al-Nahl 16:126-127)

In one Hadith the Prophet -peace be upon him- said that Allah has commanded him about nine things. One of them he mentioned was “that I forgive those who do wrong to me.”” (source: http://islamawareness.net/Salvation/forgiveness.html)

Finally, I encourage each and every one of you to read this short but beautiful, beautiful article … it is truly life-changing!

I’d also like to remind everyone not to hurt others on purpose. Be it with a phrase, look or even a thought. You do not know what the other person is going through in the their life, no matter how close you are to them, you do not know as much as you think you do! It’s really simple, if you break a vase and then manage to glue the pieces back together as best as you could, the vase will still never really be the same … it’ll be different to the sight and touch and may possibly never be usable as a vase again because it’ll be too fragile. You do not want to be the cause of the equivalent of those cracks to another human being … so please, be kind to one another, give each other the benefit of the doubt, don’t jump to conclusions based on hearsay and don’t let your prejudices and ego cloud your judgment. If you have negative feelings towards someone, simply walk away … do it gently and kindly but do not do something you will regret in this life and even more in the next one. It really isn’t worth it.

May Allah forgive us all and turn our saye2at (bad deeds) into 7asanat (good deeds). May Allah fill our hearts and minds with nothing but love for Him, his prophet and all others. May we fall under Allah’s mercy and grace rather than his anger and reprimand. May we be granted clear vision and  help guide each other to the right path 🙂

Ameen (Amen)

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30 Days Till 30 … Day 29: Farewell My Twenties…

Alas, the moment is near. In a little over 24 hours my twenties will be over, forever! It’s an event I face with mixed emotions. I am overly excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Excited to start a new, more mature and, potentially, more exhilarating phase of my life. Overwhelmed with the feeling that I am turning the page on my twenties, which have been much more eventful than I had ever imagined them to be. It feels like leaving behind a very close friend or companion, knowing for a fact that you will never, ever see them again! I am not sad, heartbroken or depressed like I’ve heard occurs with many at this point. If anything, I am humbled, thankful and grateful … on many levels.

My twenties were rough and tough but were also gentle and kind. They were eventful yet quiet. They were heartbreaking yet heartwarming. They were full of tears and smiles. They included the lowest points of my life so far and the greatest. During my twenties I lost some of the people closest to my heart to illness, death and life yet I also met some of the people who will forever remain in my heart no matter what. I have lost some people who I thought were friends yet I made the best real, lifelong friends. The tides of my twenties were high and rough when they came down crashing upon me, yet when they settled, the waters were calm and glistened beautifully in the sunlight!

I come out of this decade stronger, disciplined, well-taught, independent, confident, intellectual, knowledgeable, firm, responsible, mature, willing, optimistic, with a clearer vision of who I am and what I want and, most importantly to me, with my feet planted firm on the ground and my head held up high! During numerous points I thought my twenties were going to break me. I even had points where I had not even the slightest hope of seeing my thirties! However, God chose to keep and protect me. He chose to give me a second, third and fourth chance at life. Time and time again He would come to my aid, lift me up and give me a reason to start over.

The most beautiful outcome of this decade is my beautiful children, without the slightest doubt. I love them more than anything in this world and would do anything to see them happy and well. I intend to spend the rest of my life living up to their expectations of me, being there for them, supporting them and being the stepping stone they need towards leading their own lives. I intend to do everything I can to give them everything my parents gave me and much more. I intend to do my best to see them better than I ever even aspired to be! My children are my life from day one and nothing on this Earth can change that.

I am thankful for every illness I had, every mishap that occurred, every bad relationship I had, every friend that betrayed me, every person that stood in my way, every obstacle I faced and every person who tried to bring me down, for all those circumstances made me stronger and taught me lessons I could have never learned otherwise in life. I am thankful for every healthy day, every right decision I made, every successful relationship I had, every friend that stood by my side, every person who helped me advance in life one way or another, every obstacle I overcame and every person who has ever encouraged me, for all those circumstances made me realize how blessed and loved I truly am.

To every person who has had a major impact on my life, thank you for being part of it. To all my school colleagues, friends and teachers. To all my university colleagues, friends and professors. To all my professional colleagues, friends and managers. To all my entrepreneurial clients, collaborators and supporters. To all the doctors and nurses who have helped me in the past and continue to do so today. To all my friends, family and neighbors. And of course, to all my blog followers who return day after day to encourage me. I love you all and thank you for being such wonderful individuals. I am humbled by the experience of meeting you and learning so much from each and every one of you.

I do not want to start naming names because the list will soon grow so huge and I am bound to forget mentioning someone and that’s the last thing I want to do. But to all my sisters out there, the women who support me every day and show me their love every way they can. To the women who have always held me up high and never once lost faith in me. To the women who love me from the bottom of their hearts just as much I love them. To the women who sacrifice every single day for the sake of their families and loved ones. You, ladies, are my rock! Without you, I would not be the woman I am today. No one has had as great an impact on my personal growth as you wonderful women. I am sure you know who you are and I pray to God, every single day, that He protects and keeps you and your families and loved ones. I pray that God grants you all your wishes and deepest desires, that He helps you out of your calamities and that He rewards you greatly for instilling happiness in my heart as well as those of others I am sure. You are all fabulous and I know that you will all receive your hearts’ desire, whether in this life or the next, because you deserve it.

I am grateful that coincidence has led my parents here on birthday and they will be celebrating this important milestone with me. I could not have asked for better parents. They have always been there for us, supported us and held our hands until my brother and I crossed to safety. My dad is the hardest working man I know and may possibly ever know! He has done everything he can to give us the life he never had. My mother has the tenderest heart and has always been my best friend and adviser and I hers. She sacrificed so much, much more than I could ever iterate, for our happiness as a family. She is truly a remarkable woman and my only regret is that I am thousands of miles away from her and cannot give back a tiny portion of what she has given us all her life. I wish my brother were here. I wish my deceased loved ones were here. I wish my lovely friends were here. But all those people are in my heart and I know that they will make my day special no matter where they are. I love them all with all my heart and I wish the living happiness, peace of mind, lots of love, success and everything else their hearts desire. I wish the dead peace, forgiveness and that their graves are pieces of heaven that they are enjoying right now.

Like I said, I wish if some people who are no longer present in my life were here to wish me happiness on the days to come. But it is God’s wisdom that he has either taken them out of my life or out of life as we know it altogether. To my maternal grandparents, I love you and I miss you every day. My children will grow to know how much you meant to me, to us all. I hope you are resting in peace. To my paternal grandparents, I miss you although I have never met grandpa and hope that you are resting in peace. To uncle Hamdy and my dear cousin Karim, your deaths cut me deep and I miss your humor, kindness and sweetness. My children would have loved to meet you. I hope you are resting in peace. To oncle Mohamed, I only saw you a few times but you mean so much to my husband and thus to me, you are missed. To each and every person who has ever meant something to me one day, I wish you all the happiness and success in this world and the next.

Finally, I’d like to thank my husband for stealing me away for the better half of my twenties. Our family is a beautiful one, one that is unique and cannot be replaced nor replicated. Thank you for working so hard to provide for us. Thank you for being someone our children can look up to. And thank you for always trying your best.

My dear twenties, you have been such a loyal companion and we have been through so much together … I shall never forget you! I now leave you behind but the memories we have, the lessons learned, the experiences we had shall live on forever. With time, I promise to hold on to your highlights and let go of anything else. I could not have asked for a better companion the past decade and can only wish that my thirties will learn something from you. You will be missed but remembered fondly. I pass you on to someone else, knowing in my heart and mind that you will help them the way you did me. Thank you for taking me in years ago as a fragile, shy little girl and now letting me out a much, much better version of myself … a strong, confident woman. I love you and always will, my loyalest of friends 🙂

Bring it on thirties … I am armed and ready 😀

Courtesy: Google Images!

Courtesy: Google Images!

30 Days Till 30 … Day 28: If You Are In Your Twenties …

In 72 hours, I will finally be 30 years old. As I leave my twenties behind, I am excited to begin a new phase of my life. However, I take it upon myself to always let others learn from my own experience in life, no matter how small it is. Everything that happens in one’s life happens for a reason and I don’t believe that the reason is always private, on the contrary, I believe that most of the time whatever happens is meant to help you help someone else as well! So, if you are in your twenties, here is what I would have to say to you:

  • Don’t be afraid to live life! All too often we are worried about what others would think, what others would do, what others would say … don’t! Live your life to the fullest and don’t be scared to try new things. You don’t want to just exist, you want to live and there is no better age to do so. I wish I wasn’t so shy for the most part of my twenties, but I intend to fully rectify that in my 30s, it’s never too late 😉

  • Better late than never but never late is better! Always be punctual. Always be there for others when they need you not when it best suits you. Always apologize when you are supposed to. Always be supportive when your shoulder is needed. Always be at the front lines, no matter where you are going or what you are doing, get there on time and be there till the end.
  • Be kind. Always, always be kind. Even if the person on the receiving end doesn’t deserve it in your opinion, be kind.
  • Forgive. I am one who is unable to forget, I find it important to learn from all the experiences where I was hurt or wronged, but I do forgive even if I find it close to impossible. The trick is to do it for yourself, not for the person in question. One day, you will need God to forgive you for all your sins so it is a good idea to pay it forward and forgive others first.

  • Be charitable. Yes, you are young and you have your life ahead of you. But only God knows how long that life will be! Make a difference in someone’s life, alleviate someone’s pain, help educate or feed someone. You will not only feel great, but your act of kindness may change someone’s life completely.
  • Spend time with your family, not just your friends. Our parents do so much for us, throughout their lives. Spending time with them when they know you have other alternatives close to your heart will make a world of a difference to them. Be kind to them, respect them and don’t make fun of them. No matter how hard they are to deal with, no matter how “uncool” you feel they are, you wouldn’t be here if it were not for them and, most likely, the life you have and the friends you have and the income you have wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for them … whether directly or indirectly.
  • Be frugal. Don’t be cheap, but plan your spending. Even if you have a wonderful job that pays you well. Markets fall and rise, jobs are lost every day, a medical emergency can happen any time … there are a multitude of reasons to encourage you to be smart with regards to your spending. The smarter you are with your money when you are younger, the more likely you’ll live comfortably and have money to spare when you get older.
  • Have fun whenever you can! It doesn’t have to be by going on a cruise (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you can afford it) but make sure you have fun every chance you get. It can be by watching a fun movie, spending time with new and exciting people, visiting exotic lands or just doodling something. I don’t care what it is, try to make fun an integral part of your life, not only is it uplifting, it’s also necessary for surviving the ups and downs of this life.
  • Fall in love. Like head over heals, crazy, blind love! I truly believe that it is better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all. Sure, in that case it will hurt like hell, every single time you think about it … but if you have never loved, truly, deeply, madly loved then you have not lived. Life is completely different when you are in love and we all deserve to feel that way once in a lifetime. If you end up with the love of your life, hold on dearly to them and never ever let them go, that kind of love only happens once in a lifetime so don’t blow it.
  • Graduate from university or college. If you can help it, DO NOT, under any circumstance, drop out of school. Even if you are not big on studying, think about the future rewards of taking such a step. A good education is your weapon in this life! If you want to become a better person, have a great career, have prospects in life, have doors open for you, have the confidence to walk through life, have the strength not to let life break you, have the power to hold your head up high … it’s all attainable through education. If you have to drop out of school for any reason, read, read, read.
  • Read! Reading broadens your horizons, increases your knowledge, strengthens your language, enriches your imagination, fortifies your self-development and changes your world. Reading is the one and only activity I would encourage you to make happen even if you are the laziest person to walk this Earth.
  • Take care of your health. No, I don’t mean go on a fad diet once you gain two pounds, I mean be healthy in general. Eat healthy, breathe healthy, sleep healthy, think healthy and talk healthy! Your figure isn’t all that matters about you, your overall health is mega important and it influences your emotional and psychological well-being so be as healthy as you can. And remember, being too thin is just as bad as being obese.
  • Love yourself. Forget about what society tells you you should look, behave, smell and dress like. You are bigger than that and you aren’t a copy of every other boy or girl walking on the street. You are a unique being and you should love yourself as such. Do not let society and the media make you a copy when you were born an original.
  • Work on your self-confidence. The teens and twenties are a ship wreck when it comes to self-esteem and self-confidence. However, if you do your best to accept yourself the way you are and stop trying to change everything about you to please others or conform to society, you will be the happiest person in the world. Not only will you be content, you will learn to love yourself and that will project on everything you do and say. Thus, drawing back positive energy and leading others to see you as the awesome being  you really are.
  • Do not regret your mistakes! I know this is a tough one but it’s one of the greatest services you can do for yourself. As badly as many mistakes hurt and as deep and painful as some scars they leave behind are, you wouldn’t be the wonderful person you are if it weren’t for your mistakes. You may have fallen in love with that heartless person but you came out of the relationship stronger and more alive because you have awoken those beautiful, beautiful feelings in the process. You may have turned down that fantastic job but you gained your self-respect in the process. Your friends may have turned their backs on you but you now know who your true friends are. No matter what the mistake was, no matter how serious, no matter how big, no matter how deep the cut is, you learned something, something that you could not have learned as clearly or directly from another experience. So never regret your mistakes, learn from them and be thankful you made them.
  • Don’t trust to easily. Your trust is a gift that needs to be earned, no one is entitled to it! Whether it’s a family member, a friend or a loved one. Just because you feel a certain way about someone doesn’t mean they automatically deserve your trust. In fact, the more important someone is to you, the harder they should work to earn your trust because the more likely it is that if they betray your trust you will be deeply cut.
  • Quality not quantity. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, it’s how supportive and true the ones you do have are. It doesn’t matter how much you make at that job, it’s how much self-development and use it is to others that matters. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket, it’s how you use it to make yourself and those less fortunate happy. It doesn’t matter what gadgets you have, it’s how you use them to be able to spend more quality time with the people you love that matters.
  • Use the right criteria to select a partner for life. His good looks and muscles don’t make him a great husband nor exceptional father. Hell, they aren’t even there to stay!

  • Don’t have children if you are not ready. Most people love children and it is one of their dreams to have their own. But unless you yourself are mature and responsible enough and willing to start sacrificing a lot for your child’s sake, don’t have children just yet. Children aren’t a doll that you’ll just throw in a nanny’s or daycare’s arms once you are bored with them … they are real, live human beings who love and need you more than anything else in the world. If you are going to let them down, don’t have them just yet.
  • Be alone! Another weird one, but if you are like myself then you need emotion to live. Such a character can lead to you being involved with someone for the sake of love, you want to love and be loved and simply and truly cannot live without such passion. You need to learn to be happy as an individual before you commit to a relationship! That’s the only way your relationship will work and will help you both grow as a couple and as individuals, otherwise, your partner will override you and that’s surely not what you want to end up happening.
  • If you can, travel. It doesn’t have to be on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be planned. It doesn’t have to have a purpose. Just travel, have fun, experience new things and live! Traveling is fabulous, it’s an experience like no other especially if you plan it your own way.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. It doesn’t matter how young you are, as long as you have something useful to say, say it. A 20-year-old can be more mature, experienced or even knowledgeable than a 50-year-old! You have the right, just like everyone else around you, to speak your mind.
  • Take risks. Whether it be by bungee-jumping or taking that semester abroad. When you take risks, the most beautiful things happen. You also break through your fears, which is something I highly encourage.
  • Start up your own little project or business. I don’t care whether it’s a lemonade stand or a full-blown consulting company. Try being your own boss, doing something you love and putting your dreams into action. I ran my own business for four years and they were very exciting, instructive and highly self-developmental. Planting your feet in the ground and standing firm even when others try to take you down yields a fantastic feeling of inner-strength. Helping others and making a difference in their lives yields a terrific feeling of contentment.
  • Don’t be prejudiced. You don’t know much about the world, really. And if you are prejudiced against others I guarantee you that others will be prejudiced against you as well even if you never know it. We are all so different yet so similar at the same time. Treat others the way you would like to be treated and you will see the same happen to you.
  • Be silly! Don’t be too shy to be silly sometimes. Be sure you are being silly rather than stupid though! Being stupid is something that should never, ever happen. But being silly and care-free is sometimes what one needs to feel free and alive.
  • Try and try again. You are at the age where anything is possible. You can achieve anything you want … just be diligent and don’t give up just yet.
  • Work hard, really hard. The harder you work when you are young, the faster you will learn and grow. That will help your future old self more than you can ever imagine.
  • Know what you want in life. Don’t let others tell you what you should want, have your own dreams and goals and make them happen.
  • Don’t let others bring you down. Whether it’s that fake friend, that bitter woman whose husband you once rejected, that poisonous partner or that hateful relative … don’t let anyone have so much control over you and your feelings as to dictate your well-being and self-worth.
  • Don’t relinquish control of your life. No matter who it is you are in love with, how important that person is, how strong the tie between you is … your life is yours and yours alone and you are in full control when it comes to it. Never, ever give anyone the keys to your well-being.
  • Make yourself happy. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a relationship or not, you are your number one supporter. Even if you have the most wonderful partner in the world, it’s unhealthy to have your happiness depend on him/her. People who let that happen almost always end up with a broken heart and/or a broken spirit.
  • Fight your own battles, don’t ever let anyone else do so for you.
  • Always have hope, the best is yet to come.
  • If it happened, it happened for a reason. Whether or not you know the wisdom behind it, have faith in God and know that it was best for you to happen.

  • Stand strong and keep your head held up high. You matter, you are doing your best and you will prevail.
  • Care about the things and people that matter … the rest is just trash that should not have any impact on you.
  • What people do and say reflects upon their own character, it says nothing about you.
  • If someone insults you on purpose, it’s either because they are jealous, haven’t been raised well or have failed to be like you.
  • Don’t badmouth anyone, no matter what they did to you. Sometimes people grow apart for one reason or another but it doesn’t give us license to forget what we once had.
  • Do things that matter. Don’t spend your twenties having fun and playing. Do things that count and matter from time to time, you’ll thank  yourself later.
  • Play sports … or just move!
  • The TV, video games and other gadgets are only your friends if you use them right. Otherwise, they are bad as weed, crack and cocaine!
  • Pleasing everyone is impossible, so stop trying!
  • Showing others the exit door to your life is OK, in fact, it’s encouraged. Don’t be obsessed about keeping relationships and don’t feel guilty for changing the dynamics of a once strong relationship. Sometimes, people are meant to be a lesson that you move on from … it’s OK.

  • If you have a significant other and/or children, treat them right. You never know if you will wake up tomorrow or not to show them how much you love and appreciate them.
  • Be spiritual. It’s not uncool, it’s not silly, it’s anything but! Having a connection with God will always help you in more ways than one. If you do not connect with the higher being that is God, you will always feel lost.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 26: Islam

One of the first things Prophet Muhammad said to the Companions was:

“Spread peace, feed the hungry, keep strong the family tie, pray when other people are sleeping, and you will enter Paradise safely” (Al-Tirmidhi). This has been interpreted to be a general exhortation, not just to Muslims.*

Prophet Muhammad had a Jewish neighbor who detested him and so used to throw his garbage at the doorstep of the Prophet’s home. The Prophet would then pick it up silently and throw it in the disposal area along with his personal trash. One morning the Prophet didn’t see any garbage at his doorstep but didn’t think much of it. The next morning he noticed the same thing. This went on for week, an entire week had passed without any garbage being thrown at the Prophet’s doorstep. So Prophet Muhammad got concerned and went to his neighbor to pay him a visit and check on him. As it turns out, the neighbor was sick and confined to bed. Our Prophet then started taking care of and checking on his neighbor until he fully recovered. The Jew, not long afterwards, embraced Islam because of our beloved Prophet’s high morals.

It is narrated by Abu Shurayh (R.A.) that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said; “Whoever believes in Allah and the final day (Day of Judgment) it is essential that he does not harm his neighbors and whoever believes in Allah and the final Day it is essential for him to entertain his guest with kindness and generosity and whoever believes in Allah and the Final Day it is essential that he speak what is good or otherwise remain silent.” **

In the Quran (Surat El-Nissa 4:36) it says: “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet) and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious.” **

There is a hadith (saying) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, which goes as follows.
“Do you know what the rights of neighbors are?” asked the noble Prophet. And he went on to give a list:
• Help him if he asks for your help
• Give him relief if he seeks your relief
• Lend him if he needs a loan
• Show him concern if he is distressed
• Nurse him when he is ill
• Attend his funeral when he dies
• Congratulate him if he meets any good
• Sympathize with him if any calamity befalls him
• Do not block his air by raising your building high without his permission
• Harass him not
• Give him a share when you buy fruits, and if you do not give him, bring what you buy quietly and let not your children take them out to excite the jealousy of his children.”**

Given that I am a proud Muslim, I could not have possibly concluded my “30 Days Till 30” posts without talking about my beautiful religion! I am aware that some will disagree with this post and it may spark a series of hateful, negative comments but to tell you the truth, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, my religion is way more important to me than anything else to be left out of this series. I am also aware that the majority of people reading this are open-minded enough to at least listen and be respectful in their comments, if any, especially if they have been coming back to my blog for a while now and have got to know me and my thoughts a little.

It is no secret that Islam is being equated to terrorism these days. Between the behavior of Islamist extremists (notice that I chose to use Islamist rather than Muslim) and the ever-so-eager, and may I add highly selective, media I understand why that may be the case. However, I do hold all those who believe so accountable for their unreasonable view! It is every individual’s responsibility to educate themselves on issues that matter. If you have educated yourself, really educated yourself, through diverse, credible sources and that remains to be your view then I respect it and respect you for taking it up on yourself to do your own research. However, if no such research was done then allow me to point this out to you; if we all listen to some of the most influential forces around us, such as the media and politicians, we’d believe much more than Islam being a terrorist religion! We’d believe that all Hispanics are drug dealers, all African-Americans are thugs and murderers, all Asians are rice pickers who can’t speak “proper” English, all Eastern Europeans are drunkards, all English are stuck-up, all Australians are descendants of criminals, all Canadians are cowards, all Mormons are cult-like, all Christians are judgmental and all Jews are cheap!

I, for one, do not believe any of the above. And why so? Because I was raised not to judge, not to repeat what I hear without verifying, not to hurt other people’s feelings, not to assume, to research, to ask, to look for the good in others and to be fair. In other words, I was raised on Islam!

There is a HUGE difference between Muslims and Islamists. Muslims are everyday people like myself, who have embraced the beautiful, peaceful religion of Islam and who are trying to live their lives just like everybody else around them. Islamists, on the other hand, are not what the dictionary would tell you … supporters and advocators of Islamic fundamentalism … but rather those whose Islam is just a word describing the name of a religion they belong to on paper, not a way of life or a light in their hearts! If they really did support Islamic fundamentalism, they’d be the kindest, most understanding, most supportive, non-judgmental, peace-loving beings to walk this Earth. All radicals and extremists are Islamists, not Muslims. And I, as a Muslim, condemn each and every act of cowardice, hatred, assassination and terrorism they commit! Not just that, even any radical thought or idea is one I and my religion condemn!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Religion is very easy, and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” Bukhari:V1N38 ##

Every era has its terrorists and Islamists happen to be those of the one we live now. Think back centuries and decades ago. Were Christians not considered the terrorists of their time during the Crusades which took course over an entire century? Were Communists not considered the terrorists of their time during Marx, Lenin and Stalin’s rules? Were Nazis (and thus Germans) not considered the terrorists of their time during Hitler’s rule? Were Japanese Pan-Asians not considered the terrorists of their time pre-World War II? How about the African Americans who were the terrorists of the past few decades? How about Christians who kill others? How about Jews who kill others? It’s all relative, relative to when and where you live!

The act of an individual, a group, or a whole bunch of individuals or groups doesn’t make me generalize about others belonging to that same group. Every race, religion, ethnicity, nationality and color has criminal individuals. That’s a fact. Whatever those people commit is on their shoulders, not on those of all who belong to that identifying group. If we all generalized then we would all hate each other! Christians and Jews kill Muslims. Americans and Europeans kill Muslims. Even Muslims kill Muslims. And I can guarantee you that if I do the research I’ll find at least one person from every other religion and country in this world has killed a Muslim someday. So I, as a devoted Muslim, would have an obligation in that case to hate and prosecute every single person I meet, including Muslims like myself, because they are surely responsible for some heinous crime or another against a brother or sister of mine! And the opposite is true as well. Does that sound reasonable? I don’t think so.

The bottom line is, there are good people and there are bad people and both can belong to any faith, nationality or other identifier! I believe good people outweigh bad ones. I believe that a person’s actions speak louder than anything else. I believe that who you are as an individual does not reflect on all those who carry the same identifier as you do, even if you are good. I believe that we are capable of living in peace, it’s really not that hard, but we don’t want to.

“Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein, and whoever recommends and helps an evil cause shares in its burdens” Qur’an:4:85 ##

Concerning Islam, there are Muslim dictators just like there are dictators of other religions. There are Muslim terrorists just like there are terrorists of other religions. There are Muslim bigots just like there are bigots of other religions. There are Muslim radicals just like there are radicals of other religions. There are Muslim abusers just like there are abusers of other religions. It’s true, I am not saying they don’t exist, what I am saying is that not all of us are that way. Real Muslims do not condone violence, Islam does not condone violence. I repeat, real Muslims do not condone violence and Islam does not condone violence!

A friend of a friend, Amy Khan of Derby, Kansas, posted the following on her Facebook page two days ago with regards to the Boston perpetrators and it speaks my mind and heart exactly;

“I want to make something VERY CLEAR to everyone on my friend’s list whether I’ve met you in real life or not. I am a practicing Muslim. I have raised my children to be practicing Muslims. We are just as horrified as you are about what has happened and is currently in Boston. What these people have done is not representative of our religious beliefs and is NOT condoned in our religion. MANY Muslim organizations are speaking out against what has happened. Just because you don’t see it on the media does not mean that area Muslims or Islamic Associations are not speaking against it. Anyone that wishes to read those statements of commendation should feel free to ask me but I am not going to post every one I find on my wall because I do not feel responsible for the actions of these individuals nor do I feel I should because they have NOTHING to do with me, my family, or our beliefs. I will not apologize for them but I do want you to know that I do not agree with them and I want to see them prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I love each and every one of you and hope you feel the same about me.”

“God does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither fought against your faith nor driven you out of your homes. In fact God loves the equitable.” Qur’an:60:8 ##

Every word is true. The media is quick to show how horrible all Muslims are but fails to be as diligent when it comes to our condemnation of such behavior or how involved we are in our communities or how much we help all those around us! It’s not just the media, so many other agencies out there do us injustice deliberately. How many times have you heard or read about the number of soldiers or Israelis who were killed in some Middle Eastern country or another? Many times. OK, and how many times have you heard or read about the number of Muslims who were killed in those very same countries or incidents even?

Allow me to tell you a few facts about Islam, and please feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding any of them or anything else. I will do my best to answer you and provide sources alongside my response as well:

  • The word “Islam” in Arabic means submission (to God) and it’s derived from the word “Salam” which means peace!
  • You are not a true Muslim unless you believe in Jesus and his original message, Moses and his original message and all preceding prophets and messengers.
  • God is merciful; it is stated in the Quran that mercy is 100 parts, one of which is distributed here on Earth and the other 99 parts are in God’s hands to bestow upon us in the hereafter.
  • In Islam, it is clearly stated that we are not to judge others and if someone wrongs us we should think of 73 excuses for them to behave the way they did.
  • In the Quran; it is clearly stated that we, humans, were created as tribes and nations and that we are instructed to live together in peace and learn and benefit from each other.
  • Yes, women in Islam are to wear the Hijab once they hit puberty. It is meant to promote modesty and protect women from being perceived as sexual objects of interest. Hijab is not oppressive, it is extremely liberating. By wearing Hijab a woman has full-power over her body and her sexuality. It is she who decides who to show her body to and who doesn’t deserve such an honor. The Virgin Mary is depicted veiled in all her pictures. Nuns cover their hair. Christianity states that a woman should cover her hair or shave bald. Hijab is not the only veil out there.
  • No, we do not wear the Hijab at home with our husbands! We wear what most women wear outside their homes.
  • No, not every Muslim man is, or wants to be, married to four women. The whole point why Islam allows polygamy is that widows, older women, younger women and any woman who seeks a partner or protection can find such a partner rather than be left to fend for herself. It’s not a must, it’s a can-do to ease the suffering of others.
  • Yes, we use birth control too, the same kinds as everyone else!
  • No, Women in Islam are not oppressed or abused. Even during the time of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) women were warriors, entrepreneurs (his own first wife was his employer), nurses, writers and much more.
  • No, we don’t believe that all Christians, Jews or whoever are going to Hell! In fact, the Quran teaches us that such knowledge belongs to God and only God and so whoever utters such words has done himself a grave disservice.

    A funeral procession once passed in front of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and he stood up out of respect. When he was told the person in the coffin was Jewish and not Muslim, he said: “Was it not a living (soul)?” Bukhari:V2N399##

    Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, who so believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”

    In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.

    When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

    Quran 5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”

    So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.***

  • Even at times of war, Muslims weren’t allowed to wreak havoc as they wish! There were certain rules and guidelines to be followed.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once saw the corpse of a woman who had been killed in a military action, and he disapproved of it and forbade the killing of women and children.Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad and his successor as head of the Muslim community, advised one of his military commanders: “Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place.” Al-Muwatta:V21N9-10 ##

  • Islam is a merciful religion, even the smallest acts of kindness are encouraged.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “(God) will (question a person) on the Day of Resurrection (saying)): ‘O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me.’ The person will say: ‘O my Lord, how could I visit Thee when Thou art the Lord of the worlds?’ Thereupon (God) will say: ‘Didn’t you know that a servant of Mine was sick but you did not visit him, and were you not aware that if you had visited him, you would have found Me by him?’(God will then say) ‘O son of Adam, I asked you for food but you did not feed Me.’ The person will say: ‘My Lord, how could I feed Thee when Thou art the Lord of the worlds?’ (God) will say: ‘Didn’t you know that a servant of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him, and were you not aware that if you had fed him you would have found him by My side?’ Muslim:1172##

  • True Jihad has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with what extremists are doing these days! Speaking up against injustice and something called Jihad Al Nafs (i.e. jihad against oneself), where you continuously try to battle the bad inside you and have the good overcome it, are what Islamic Jihad are about.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The best (Jihad) is (to speak) word of justice to an oppressive ruler.” Sunan of Abu-Dawood:2040##

  • Charity is emphasized in Islam, again and again! In the Quran alone it was mentioned 150 times in total. Even a smile is considered a form of charity.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” Narrated ‘Aisha [prophet Mohammed’s wife] -may Allah be pleased with her- : “I never saw the Prophet laughing to an extent that one could see his palate, but he always used to smile”.#

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “(Each one) of you should save himself from the fire by giving even half of a date (in charity). And if you do not find a half date, then (you can do it through saying) a pleasant word (to your brethren).” Bukhari:V2N394##

  • Prophet Moses is the prophet whose name was mentioned most in the Quran. Not Prophet Muhammad!.

I could go on and on citing examples from Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and doings and from the Quran to prove my point but I believe that I was able to convey it in the most concise and direct way I could. To sum up, Islam and true Muslims do not condone violence and terrorism in any way, shape or form. Islam and true Muslims have nothing against anyone embracing any other faith, especially Christians and Jews. Islam and true Muslims believe that we are in no position to prosecute others on this Earth, our judgment – all of us, Muslims included – is in God’s hands in the hereafter. Me, as Heba, if I love you then I love you as an individual for your actions and feelings towards me, nothing else. And if I dislike you then I dislike you as an individual for your actions and feelings towards me, nothing else. Some of my closest and most loyal friends are Christians. Some are Arabs like myself and others are Europeans. I am Muslim and Islam is the religion of peace!

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* Source: http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=RA1001-4060

** Source: http://www.turntoislam.com/threads/social-impact-of-islam-on-neighborhoods.74550

*** Source: http://www.juancole.com/2006/03/bigotry-toward-muslims-and-anti-arab.html

# Source: http://islamgreatreligion.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/even-a-smile-is-charity-prophet-muhammad-pbuh/

## Source: http://islamgreatreligion.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/quotes-and-wise-sayings-from-quran-islam-a-message-of-peace/

30 Days Till 30 … Day 23: Shout-Out — Part I

Today I would like to take the opportunity to thank all my new and existing followers for their tremendous support and encouragement. Your beautiful comments and emails put a huge smile on my face every single day.

Today and tomorrow’s posts are dedicated to all of you. I have not had the chance to check out everyone’s blog as thoroughly as I’d like but plan to make time to do so after I am done with my “30 Days Till 30” posts. Please allow me to introduce you to each other and let the world know about your fascinating blogs. I am blessed to have followers from all walks of life, with so many diverse interests and passions. You are all amazing!

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My number one fan: Charlotte Wise

This blog belongs to the BEST photographer in the United Kingdom! Seriously, if you don’t believe me then go check out her website (http://www.soulimages.co.uk) or find her on Facebook. Not only is she a talented photographer, she has passion and fine artistic taste. Charlotte loves what she does and sacrificed a lot to make her business happen and that’s what distinguishes here from many others. She gets 100% positive feedback, all her customers are more than satisfied. She’s such a sweet soul in real life too who loves and cares for all her friends and family. If I could be half the woman she is, I’d be more than happy!

Here’s what she had to say about herself and her venture; “I’ve always loved to take pictures, and at long last am able to turn this into something I can now offer to others. Nothing makes my heart soar more than capturing the essence of something, either a person in a portrait session or the beauty and feel of an event such as a wedding. I am always on the lookout for that special moment, and at the ready with my trusty camera to capture it and hold it down long enough to transform into a memory, a window into your life that you can keep and treasure forever. Less is more in my world, and the more natural and quirkier the environment the better. We’ll create informal, natural, sweet, crazy and wonderful images to carry through the years! I am reaching the big 3-0 soon and live in Harrogate ‘oop north’ with my gorgeous husband and truly scrumptious baby girl. I love to travel and so would happily roam the country (and beyond!) to capture these memories for you. Please contact me for a chat or search through the galleries to get a feel of the type of thing I do. There is also my blog which details both professional and personal escapades, as well as my facebook business page to have a roam through. I can’t wait to hear from you soon!”

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Daniel Gonzalez

In his own words, Daniel introduces himself to us; ” Hey! I’m an entrepreneurial, inspirational, and dancing kinda guy. Gonzo is my nickname…My real name is Daniel Gonzalez <- Make the connection? I strongly believe that everyone deserves a dose of inspiration in their lives. Wouldn’t you agree? My inspiration is in motivational quotes. I also get inspired when I dance. Did I mention that I dance? Yea I dance… =D One of my dreams is to be able to travel the world and teach all kinds of dancing in multiple countries! I also aspire to inspire at least one person (like yourself) everyday to be a better YOU!”. There’s more to his story. You can find his inspirational blog here.

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BreakRoomStories

In their own words, BRS founders introduce themselves to us; “Break Room Stories (BRS) bringing you waiter stories and more since 2012. More specifically our site is a waiter blog intended to give anyone in the food service industry the opportunity to share the most ridiculous story you have. Funny, gross, horrible, embarrassing  it’s all fair game. We post stories about everything from the most intense waiter rants and bartender pet peeves to a little staff on staff action and host nightmares. The more unique, hilarious, shocking, or ridiculous the better. BRS was founded by a notorious group of individuals who have worked or currently work in the food service industry. We all come from various walks of life but the one thing we have in common … was the tendency to get a little chatty in the Break Room of our respective establishments. If it happened to one of us we all heard about it. It was after years of abuse and story after story that we decided to get the rest of the serving community together to see what trouble other servers were getting themselves into.” There’s much more on there about their mission. You can find their hilarious blog here.

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TheGirl

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “I created The Reporter and The Girl blog to journey among life’s most uncertain and abysmal path when forming love-lust-hate relationships. I’m in my mid–twenties and have moved back to New York City after 6 years of term papers, tailgate parties, and three day weekends, on all 4 corners of the United States and abroad. Now that I am semi-permanently stationed in the Empire State and in my white-collar/blue jeans career; I thought that I could venture out and make a romantic connection.” She uses her own life to write a chapter based story and post it for all of us to follow, learn from and comment on. You can find her artistic blog here.

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thomasmaxwell12

In his own words, he introduces himself to us; “Hey! I’m a pretty outgoing and spontaneous kinda guy, one of the reason I got my nickname “Simple Tom”. My real name is Thomas Maxwell though :P I’m a firm believer that you can be anything and everything that you want to be. I believe that you should have the opportunity and ability to be able to achieve those things in your life. I absolutely love helping people in anyway that I can. Whether is sponsoring kids in Africa, or buying someone a coffee. My goal is to make you smile or even inspire you in anyway I can :P  And one of my BIGGEST DREAMS is to build a well in every single country in Africa. I have a huge passion for children and Africa! Its something that rocks me to the core every time I think about building these wells and then visiting them :)“. There’s much more on there about him and what he does, he also happens to be Daniel Gonzalez’s (above) mentor! You can find his blog here.

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Jordan Latour

In his own words, Jordan introduces himself to us; “Hey there, thanks for checking out my blog! Now, what can I tell you about myself..Well, I am a IT Professional by trade, now earning an residual income online. I’m from the small city of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada; which is frequently called “The center of the great lakes” – because of it’s geographical location directly in the middle of the great lakes. It’s a great place to grow up, and it’s still a place I call home. I took Computer Networking in College and got a job in as Network Specialist at a local government agency. When I’m not working with technology, you can find me playing musical instruments like the guitar (primarily), drums, and keyboards. I love educating myself about what is going on in the world, and tend to ask big questions about the universe, time, and reality.” Jordan’s blog is very interesting and full of useful tips. You can find it here.

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Alex

In his own words, Alex introduces himself to us; “I have been practicing meditation for five months now and I am also trying to evolve spiritually. With that in mind. I am hoping I can teach other people how to do it and how to understand what it is you would like to do with your life. I am currently 21 years young. My birth country is Latvia. I have one sister, uncle, grandmother and my mom. I grew up without a father and was always surrounded by girls, which I sometimes believe is the reason of my emotional state. I grew up as a very gifted child, ever since my childhood I never really fit in anywhere, mostly because of my own mistakes and stupidity, and as the years went by that stupidity only seemed to grow bigger and bigger. At the age of 13, I already knew what it is like to get drunk, what it’s like to search for scraps around the town and turn them in for money so me and my friends could buy junk food and alcohol. It’s very common for children that age to start drinking and smoking in my country. I put a lot of stress on my whole family during that time, at the age of 14 I was continuing to drink and party but I also dropped out of school to be with my computer all the time. I will never forget the day when I clicked on a link inside of an old-school chat program called “mIRC”, it was a link that lead to a website dedicated to hackers, but it was very much new and only in the early stages, but for some reason I instantly got attached to it and for the next 4 years I spent most of my time online learning how to hack, learning English and getting to know the internet in a way that most people don’t. But what is funny about this story is that, I very much believe if I didn’t look at the chat program at the time I did, this blog, nor my past would exist. It was a 1 in a 1000000 chance, and I took it.” Alex’s blog is very emotional and he speaks a great deal about his struggles in life and how he overcame them. The blog is called “Blissful Blog”, you can find it here.

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H!

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “Me… most of the time I think I come from another planet and I was send here to do something GREAT… I don’t know exactly what yet, as I lost the instructions, but I promise when I find out you will all KNOW!!! This blog is about why everything I believe and do is great….at least for me and my cats! I love cats, I love running, I love being fit, living well, and have lots of fun! Nothing strange … so far !!!” Her blog is called “Fun Girls Live Better” and it is, well, fun to read! You can find her blog here.

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Matt George

In his own words, Matt introduces himself to us; “My name is Matthew George. I have had a life long love of photography since I was twelve years old. My father built me a black and white darkroom in the basement of our house when I was in high school. From that I was able to experiment and hone my photography skills. I use traditional film and digital Nikons. Two unique pieces of camera equipment I have  used to photograph is an Apple iPhone and Polaroid SX-70 camera. Most of my photography consists of photojournalism and nature genres. I have an Associates degree of Applied Science in Photography from Antonelli Institute of Art & Photography, as well as a BA and MA in Business from American InterContinental University. I hold a single subject Visual Arts teaching credential from National University to teach in high school as well as a multiple subject teaching credential to teach elementary school. Here are some of the content standards for teaching Visual Arts in California. I currently am employed by JUSD as a photography and art teacher at Rubidoux High School. I am married to the most beautiful woman, have a wonderful son and precious daughter, and blessed to enjoy lots of quality time with my family.” Matt’s photography is absolutely beautiful. You can find out more about him and his talent here and here.

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Valeriu D.G. Barbu

In his own words, he introduces himself to us; “Valeriu DG Barbu, poet, writer, playwright Romanian origin, settled in Rome, Italy about he… can speak others, not himself … Literary Blog created by Ms. MARIANA FULGER, while it was impossible to send own the posts. Public express a thank alive. The blog contains a part of my literary workshop, posts and articles an extraordinary man, Valeriu Cuşner, who has closely followed my writing. Gratitude to my books editor, Mr. Constantin Lămureanu by “Anxiety Metaphysical Publishing House” Constantza, that published my six volumes. Gratitude to all those who was with me in various ways. unto you all good reading, lasting joy and be healthy …” His blog can be found here.

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Jun E Caniel

“Jun E Caniel is a line of limited edition apparel and accessories made from eco-friendly and/or recycled materials. High quality products feature designs inspired by the original artwork of Tiya and Jay Caniel. Jun E Caniel was created to encourage artistic expression and social activism, under the belief that global change can be brought about by altering others thoughts through key words and phrases. Uplifting and positive phrases and graphics are featured as a means of inspiration to others.” They have a wide selection of eco-friendly fashion items. You can find their website here.

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jseeber

In his own words, Joe introduces himself to us; “My name is Joe, and I am currently 27 years old, living in Whistler, BC, Canada,  for snowboarding.  My whole life I’ve been drawn to excitement and adventure.  I go where ever my heart leads and don’t think twice about it.  I have this habit of once I find my calling, I become obsessed with it, and I’ll follow it to wherever it may lead. I’m originally from a small town called Elliot Lake, Ontario but moved to a bigger town called Sault Ste Marie, Ontario in my early teens. My whole family is from the Soo and it’s where I call my other home. When I’m not snowboarding you can find me in the gym working out or at the local martial arts facility practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I love reading, I mostly read personal development books, I’m on a strict regiment of always improving myself as a person and offering as much value to the world … JoeSeeber.com is a website about winning at life so that you can win at life. The majority of my posts will be based on being Physically, Mentally and Finacially Wealthy because I believe you need to have a healthy balance of all 3 in order to truly succeed at life.”

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katy

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “hullo. I’m Katy. that’s Katy with a Y. my middle name is Anne. that’s Anne with an E. I am 16 years old. I have mouse brown hair and coffee colored eyes. I am 5″3. or something. I have a birthmark on the right side of my face that I named Ivan when I was little. my shoe size is 7 1/2 to 8. I play music of all kinds, and too many instruments to name. but I named them all anyway. I’m fairly certain you could classify me as ADD. doctor who makes me heart happy. so does hot tea, ballet slippers, books, and soggy chalk. sometimes I like to pretend I’m a vegetarian. I write music for anything from solo piano to full symphony. some people call me an introvert. but it’s debatable, I suppose. it’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I don’t like being around them 50% of the time. don’t take it personally. one time I had a goldfish that died the day after I got it, and I gave it a funeral anyway because I like to think that I’m caring. I’m in a one-man-band (thus consisting of only me) called Paper Theory, and if you check it out, I really will love you forever and always. if I had to dye my hair, I’d dye it red. I do love red hair. I really love fluffy animals, and just animals in general, but specifically hedgehogs. I plan to befriend one before I die. this is where I came from. I love Jesus more than anything else in the whole wide world. also, I like to sing to myself. A lot. so that’s me. Katy Anne Maisano. [KAY-tee ANN my-ZAHN-oh]” Katy’s blog is so charming and fun. You can find it here.

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chrisman2college

In their own words, they introduce themselves to us; “We are a group of (mostly) college students who all graduated from the class of 2011 at William Chrisman High School. We have decided we’re going to stay in touch throughout college/life, as most high school friendships crumble at the sight of a new chapter of life. This is our brave attempt at avoiding this norm.” There is so much on there about each of the friends and what they are trying to do is simply fantastic! You can find their blog here.

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lesleycarter

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “Traveling and adventure have encompassed my life; from white-water rafting, skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping, rock climbing, biplane flying, dog sledding, base jumping, kayaking, surfing, boogie boarding, rappelling, and caving, I’ve tried every “bucketlist” item I could imagine. Rock climbing and a trapeze act were even part of my wedding day in Jamaica. I’ve been to 34 countries and I envision 100 more. Following my dreams of traveling and experiencing life to the fullest has taught me that the world is full of endless possibilities. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Advanced English, a Bachelor of Education degree in Secondary Education, a Masters in Literacy, 8 years of teaching, and a vast imagination, I  decided to put my writing and editing skills to the test. Bucket List Publications is the accumulation of all of my wildest dreams come true. If you’re an online travel agency, airline, in-flight magazine, destination magazine, tourism board, or any of the like, then I would love to speak with you. Please send me an email about who you are and what you’re looking for and I will be happy to talk with you more about how we can work together.” You can check out Lesley’s super adventurous blog here.

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메간

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “I struggle daily with myself.  It seems a constant battle just finding the courage to go about another day, in hopes that my anxiety and fears will be minimal at best.  I don’t know how it began or even if there ever was a beginning.  In some ways, I know that it has always been a part of me.  It was only until recently that this monster was given a name and I was finally able to breathe, knowing that there is something legitimately wrong with me.  For those of you who also struggle with this monster, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is no small matter and finding some validation is relief at last.” The blog is so touching, emotional and courageous just like its author. You can find it here.

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Dave Hunter – Reaching Utopia

In his own words, he introduces himself to us: “My name is David W. Hunter born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in 1988. I am experienced in web development, digital advertising, visual effects, recording/producing/composing/creating music and technology in general. I’ve lived in many different towns and cities in both Ontario and British Columbia and currently reside back in the Sault. I took computer programming in college and worked with various companies involving web development, IT and digital advertising. To be honest, working these standard 9-5 jobs was a great learning experience and I am glad to have done it. They taught me that I certainly don’t want to grind at a 9-5 just to build up a pension and finally relax. Why should I have to devote all my valuable time and energy into making someone else rich and giving up 8 hours every single day of the week. Why should I have to stay in town because I have to go to an office building monday through friday? The reason is because that’s what we are trained to believe. We are told that we HAVE to go to college/university to get a good job and work there until we’re 60 years old so that we can have enough money to live afterwards. Personally I want to wake up at whichever time I choose and do or go wherever I decide. I want to travel and enjoy any opportunity that interests me without being held back financially or by a responsibility to my J.O.B. The most important thing though, is that I want to do this NOW, not later when I’m 60+ and might not want to or am not capable of doing everything anymore.” There is so much more on there about Dave and his diverse posts are very captivating. You can find his blog here.

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Inside My Glitching Mind

The author doesn’t tell us much about himself except for the fact that his name is Alexey Markovich, he’s 35 and lives in Belgorod, Russia. His blog is about “Philosophy, Psychology, Memetics, Photography, Surrealism”. I have read several of his posts and I find them very artistic and insightful. You can find his blog here.

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To be continued tomorrow …

30 Days Till 30 … Day 21: The Past

We all have a past. Some of us have one that is dark while other may have a more colorful one. Some have had to deal with traumatic events, tragedies or the loss of loved ones while others were cheer leaders, team captains and prima donnas. No two pasts are identical, similar maybe but not identical. Yet we all have this universal understanding that the past needs to be put behind us and forgotten! I never managed to figure out why until recently. I finally had to accept the answer I was trying so hard not to accept … because we were taught to!

If we had a rough past, we were advised to put it behind us because it will spoil our present and prevent us from looking forward to the much better days that lay ahead. If we had a happy past, we were advised to put it behind us because no matter what happened back then there is no guarantee that life will continue down the same path, so we should not raise our expectations and hopes too high. It’s like there is no way we and our past can coexist in peace. Either it will destroy any prospect of happiness for us or we need to bury it deep. I cannot disagree more!

Your past is an integral part of who you are. It doesn’t define you but it did help shape you. Everything that you are is, directly or indirectly, an outcome of your past. Your past experiences shape your personality and character. Even the choices you make today are based on the lessons you learned in the past. So how can we detach ourselves from it and behave as if it never happened? There’s a proverb which is well-known back home that I wholeheartedly believe in; “whoever leaves their past behind gets lost”. That means that we cannot find our way in life without coming to terms with our past. Furthermore, no matter how hard you try, your past will shine through, one way or another, there’s no running away from it really. What we should do, in my humble opinion, is learn to make peace with it and realize that it has already gone. We moved past that point in time and there is no going back. If it was painful then it can’t hurt us any more and if it was happy then we have those wonderful memories to forever cherish.

Making peace with your past is extremely important. Your past is a reality, not a figment of your imagination, and so you cannot truly behave like it never happened because deep down inside you will always know that it did. If you do not make peace with your past it can haunt you, possible for as long as you live! If you are blessed with a strong memory like mine, you will remember everything from your past including how you felt at the exact moment something happened, what was going through your mind and every other detail that has to do with it no matter how small. Why would you want to agonize yourself every time you remember something unpleasant or feel hopeless every time you remember something amazing and think to yourself that it can never happen again? Making peace with your past is the only way you will be free of it! When you take that step, you will essentially relinquish its hold on you and set yourself free.

Many can argue that it’s easier said than done, and I agree completely! Coming to terms with your past, especially if it was dark or traumatic, can prove to be extremely challenging. More often than not we do not have all the answers. Why did that happen? Why me? Could I have prevented it? Was it something I did? Was being punished for doing something bad? Was I being rewarded for something good? How could God let this happen? And many, many more unanswered questions that race through our minds giving us an overwhelming sense of overburden. The trick is to be OK with not having the answers! How many things around us do we not have an explanation for yet we manage to function normally on a daily basis? It’s the same thing, whatever happened, good or bad, know that it was God’s will and He did it for a reason that either you will come to comprehend and appreciate or will remain unknown but He knows it was the best thing for you at the time. From my own experience, when you stop looking for answers they come running right to you!

My past was full of ups and downs. As a child I was generally happy, especially that I knew that the privileged life that my parents had given us was something that not many enjoyed. However, changing schools every 3-4 years was tough. I had to leave behind people who I grew to love from the bottom of my heart and it was never easy. Facebook and other social media didn’t exist so I knew that once I left that was it. I was a very shy child and didn’t adjust easily so starting a new school was a complete nightmare for me. I also felt detached from my extended family back home. We Arabs maintain really close relationships with our families, even the extended family, so being away all the time made me feel like a stranger amongst them when I would go back home on vacation. There were a few bullying incidents, a couple of times that I was accused of doing things that I didn’t do but was punished anyway and I was going to drown twice during swimming at school. Those were the main highlights of my childhood.

My teen years were calmer, I was focused on my studies so they were not that eventful. I was adamant on not taking any private lessons and on making my Arabic (written in particular) stronger. I also wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career so when it was time for my I.G.C.S.Es I went ahead and took 13 subjects instead of the recommended 8 just to keep my options open! I had a lot on my plate but it all had to do with academics. Then came the day I made the decision to wear my Hijab (the veil) and that was when my life turned up side down. I found an influx of support from strangers or friends that I had just made at university but it was met with an equally strong sentiment of rejection and disdain from those closer to me. I found myself facing an emotional and psychological battle waged at me from those closest to my heart. I persevered until I rode out the waves of their negative emotions and temperaments but to say that it was easy on me would be the biggest lie of my life! I still maintain my position regarding my decision and the only regret I have is not taking that step much sooner than I actually did.

Then came the most recent phase of my life, my twenties. To say that my twentieth birthday was disappointing would be an understatement. I was so excited about turning twenty that I blew it up in my head but it seemed that others didn’t see that coming except for my wonderful university friends. My academic studies went extremely well and I made the best of friends, the lifelong kind, at my beloved university. I could not have had better education, met more wonderful people or developed myself any further than I did at The American University in Cairo. I love that place with all my heart and am so grateful that my father was able to send me there and I am so proud of myself for keeping my scholarship going all 4 years.

I believe that I learned the most in my twenties. I met all sorts of people and had all sorts of experiences, good and bad. I made friends with lovely people who are always there for me and made friends with people who stabbed me in the back later on; which taught me how to differentiate between both early on in the relationship. I made a commitment to my wonderful husband and made prior commitments to a person who had no personality whatsoever and was completely different on the inside than how people perceived him and to another who had an unfounded ego the size of the galaxy and didn’t know what it takes to be in a committed relationship and how to respect others outside of himself; which taught me how to tell what people’s characters are like early on in a relationship. I grew closer to many of my family members and was trampled upon by others when my life didn’t go as they had planned; which taught me who really cares about me and who doesn’t. I had managers who cheered me on in my career and others who were biased and tried to stop my career from advancing; which taught me who has work ethic and who doesn’t. I lost all my grandparents and a beloved cousin and uncle; which taught me a lot about pain, loss and the fact that this life is not worth a mosquito’s wing, just like the Quran states! I had to make major life decisions on my own; which taught me my own strength. I survived a lot of things that no one my age is supposed to go through; which taught me about myself and my capabilities. I survived a fatal Pulmonary Embolism when I was 25; which taught me to be humble, thankful and not take anything in life for granted. I gave birth to my beautiful children who taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Overall, I’d say that my twenties were heartbreaking since the true colors of so many people who I trusted blindly showed and most of them were horrible, horrible beings on the inside. However, I would not have it any other way! I learned a lot, was spared a lot and grew a lot. If I had had a smooth-sailing decade I would have probably not advanced much in my life. I would have not been as wise, mature or knowledgeable. I now go into my thirties with a lot more confidence and optimism. I know myself much better now, including my capabilities and strength. I know others much better now, how to identify those worth my trust, time and devotion and those who are not. I know what I want in life and am not scared to let people in if I want to and show them the exit if I need to. I am not as naive as I used to be nor am I as caring about what others think.

So, due to my past … the good, the bad and the ugly … I am stronger, wiser, independent, more self-confident, self-sufficient and happier! I do not need any outside validation, do not care what others think of my beliefs or actions and know that as long as I am not doing anything to displease God, hurt others or cause any kind of harm then I can do as I please. I know that my family is the only entity that I would willingly give up my life for and that surrounding myself with those who love me and support me is key to my well-being. I know that anything material is a plus, but is not important in itself, inner peace and the well-being of my family are the only things that matter. I know that my past does not define me, it empowers me!

 

30 Days Till 30 … Day 17: Great Women in History

I’m not a feminist or anything, although I do believe that women and men should be treated as equals unless there is a divine reason not to have that happen. I do, however, have the utmost respect for women and I do see them as one of the strongest beings to ever roam this earth!

Both, men and women, face numerous challenges on a daily basis throughout their lives. But women have the added burdens of bearing children for 9 months, giving birth, lactating and being in charge of all the sleepless nights. They are also challenged by society daily, always seen as the weaker, less smart and less capable gender. Women always have to prove themselves. Furthermore, no matter whether the woman works or not, she ends up being in charge of the housework, for the most part at least. Men are expected to succeed, work and provide. Women are expected to fail, stay at home and take care of their children. And even when a woman conforms to society’s views of her, whether by choice or otherwise, she’s still scrutinized for how well she does her job in the home while men can get away with, pretty much, everything as long as they put in the hours and bring home the bacon! You may say I am biased, and maybe I am, but this is my honest view of how society perceives women in this day and age. Many people are trying to change this reality and I can only hope that, one day, they’ll succeed.

Throughout history, however, there were many strong, courageous women who stood out and challenged the status quo. I can only iterate the achievements of so many in one post, I wish I could do them all justice and include them. Those women served as role models to all other women that came to exist after them, no matter during which age they themselves lived, and there are those who followed closely in their footsteps and became role models themselves.

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Jane Addams

Jane Addams was born on September 6, 1860, in the small town of Cedarville, Illinois, one of eight children. Her mother died when she was only three years old. In 1877, Jane attended the Rockville Female Seminary where she learned to write and speak with authority, traits that would come in handy during her later years. When she graduated from the seminary in 1881, she found herself ill and depressed, and became more so after her father died that same year when she was only 21.

In 1887, she traveled to Europe with a group of friends. When she traveled to London, England, Addams found herself amazed at the huge amount of poverty that England’s industrialization had caused. She also saw a settlement house called Toynbee Hall, used in order to teach workmen, from which sprouted her interest in social reform.

When Jane returned to the United States, she traveled to Chicago and turned an old mansion there into a settlement house called Hull House which she used in order to care for children, give medical care, and try to clean up the disease-causing waste on the city streets. While in Chicago, she also managed to enlighten and educate the poor and spoke often at church groups and women’s clubs and also talked to college students.

In 1898, Jane began to become known throughout the nation for her speeches and was even recommended to meet with President Woodrow Wilson by a close friend of his, Charles R. Crane, who had heard her speak. She even tried to stop World War I from coming, even though it was inevitable. She also encouraged meditation and became an officer of the Progressive party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, of which she became president in 1915. She was even offered a job by the Red Cross, but she refused because it was run by the military and hence, supported war.

In 1931, Jane received the Nobel Prize for all she had done, including her help with the worldwide disarmament after World War I, Hull House, and many other accomplishments. She died on May 21, 1935, having written many books on prostitution, women’s rights, juvenile delinquency, and militarism, and trying to achieve her dream of making every child happy.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/addams.html)

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Nusayba Bint Ka’b Al-Ansariyah

Nusayba was of one of the first advocates for the rights of Muslim women. Notably, she asked the Prophet Muhammad, “Why does God only address men (in the Quran)?” Soon after this exchange, the Prophet received a revelation in Chapter 33, Verse 35 that mentions women can attain every quality to which men have access. The verse also conclusively settled that women stand on the same spiritual level as men. She was viewed as a visionary who transcended her own generation.

The journals of the early believers do not rave about the beauty of her hair or the colour of her eyes or the smoothness of her skin. Instead many words have been written about the true values of womanhood which shone from her. Her glory was her courage and honour. The Prophet held this dear Woman of Distinction in such high esteem that he compared her piety and devotion to that of the greatest of his companions.

She was one of only two women who traveled with seventy-three ansar men to Makkah before the Hijrah to Madinah. They gave him the oath to support him and sacrifice for him with their wealth, souls and families once he comes to them in Madinah.

She was one of the most distinguished women who took part in the battle of Uhud, if not the most distinguished of them. Nusayba went forward, with her sword unsheathed and her bow in her hand, to join the small group who were standing firm with the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), acting as a human shield to protect him from the arrows of the mushrikin. She tied her belt around her waist so that she would not trip, brandishing a sword at times and throwing arrows at others, she cut through the ranks of the enemy and took sides with the Prophet. Nusayba got her sword and her quiver of arrows and started shooting. The battle was fierce, for the Muslims were on foot fighting for their lives against mounted soldiers. The Prophet noticed that she had no shield, and so said to one of the retreating men: “Give your shield to the one who is fighting.” So he handed her the shield, and she defended the Prophet of Allah with it, using also the bow and arrow along with a sword. She was attacked by horsemen, but never wavered nor felt fear. She later boldly claimed, “If they had been on foot as we were, we would have trounced them, Allah willing.” She fought fiercely that day, striking fatal blows to her opponents until she suffered many wounds. She was wounded thirteen times in the battle of Uhud. She fought in other battles later on as well.

(sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fazeela-siddiqui/10-muslim-women-you-should-know_b_1348903.html#s794716&title=Nusayba_bint_Kab and http://www.siddiqi.org/nusayba/nusayba_bint_kaab.html)

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Saint Joan of Arc

Also called Jeanne d’Arc and Jeanne la Pucelle, Joan of Arc was born in France, near the border of Burgundy, on January 6, 1412. At first, Joan seemed like a normal child, but then at age 13, she began to hear voices that she believed were St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret of Antioch. The voices told her that her mission was to save France, and at their bidding, Joan went to the castle of the Dauphin Charles of France at Chinan and told him what the voices told her.

Soon, Joan was sent with an army to Orleans and succeeded in raising the English seige on May 8, 1429. After that, Joan began to win many more battles against the English, taking France back piece by piece. This included the battle of Paris, but Joan and her army failed because they had not been supplied adequately enough. On July 17, 1429, Joan escorted the Dauphin to be crowned as King Charles VII in Raims Cathedral. This never would have happened if not for Joan.

However, in May 1430, she was captured during a battle and sold to an Englishman named John of Luxembourg for 10,000 crowns. Then, she was put on trial for sorcery and heresy. The Dauphin made no attempt to save her, although it is thought that the English would have taken a ransom. Instead, she was convicted by the Inquisition and burned at the stake in the St. Rouen churchyard on May 30, 1431, when she was less than twenty years old. Jean Massieu, who witnessed her death says, “The pious woman asked, requested, and begged me, as I was near her at her end, that I would go to the near-by church and fetch the cross to hold it raised before her eyes to the threshold of her death, that the cross with God hung upon be continually before her eyes in her lifetime.”

In 1456, Charles VII anulled Joan’s conviction in order that he not owe his reign to one of the Devil’s pawns. In 1904, she was considered Venerable, in 1908, was recognized as Blessed, and finally, in May 1920, she was canonized by the Pope and became a Saint. She even has her own holiday, a French national holiday on a specified Sunday.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/joan.html)

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Cleopatra

Cleopatra, actually known as Cleopatra VII, was born in Egypt in 69 B.C. In 58 B.C., her father Ptolemy XII was expelled from power, so Cleopatra helped him regain his power. However, her father died in 51 B.C., and Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII took the throne. In 48 B.C., Cleopatra was exiled by her brother, who had taken control as supreme Pharaoh. So, Cleopatra created an army in Syria and joined forces with Roman Julius Caesar, who became her lover and supported her cause. With his help, Ptolemy XIII was killed in 47 B.C. and Caesar pronounced Cleopatra as queen of Egypt.

As it was a custom, Cleopatra married her younger brother, 11 year old Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra also had a child whom she named Caesarian and later became Ptolemy XV. He was thought to be Caesar’s child, not Ptolemy XIV’s. Then, Caesar was assassinated and her husband, Ptolemy XIV, was poisoned and died.

After knowing him for a few years, Cleopatra married Mark Antony around 35 B.C., even though he was also married to a woman named Octavia. Together, they had a pair of twins who they named Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, and also another child who was named Ptolemy XVI. In 32 B.C., war was declared upon Egypt from Octavius, the brother of Mark Antony’s other wife, because Antony had left Octavia for Cleopatra. Antony and Octavia soon divorced, but Cleopatra still was forced into war.

Sadly, Cleopatra’s army was defeated in the Battle of Actium, and many sorrowful events followed. Mark Antony heard that Cleopatra had died, so he fell on his own sword in 31 B.C., effectively committing suicide. Cleopatra built a temple in Antony’s honor called the Caesarium, which had the two small obelisks called “Cleopatra’s Needles” in it. These obelisks were later given to America and Britain as gift in the 1800’s. One is now in the Embankment in London, and the other is in Central Park in New York City.

Saddened by Antony’s death, Cleopatra killed herself in 31 B.C., although it is much disputed over whether she simply poisoned herself or let her asp (a type of snake) complete her death. Although her life has ended, her fame continues. She has been the basis for many works of literature, including Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, John Dryden’s All for Love, and George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra. She has also had many movies titled and made about her, including ones in 1914, 1934, and 1963, among others.

(Source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/cleopatra.html)

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in 1945 in Yangon, Myanmar, what was formerly recognized as Rangoon. She was educated in India and England, where she attended the University of Oxford. In 1988, Aung returned to Myanmar, sharing her new revelations about democracy inspired by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi. Also in that year, she created the National League for Democracy (also known as NLD).

In July 1989, Aung was put under house arrest by the military government for appearing at and creating mass gatherings about democracy. While still under house arrest, in May 1990, 80% of the seats in Parliament were elected to the NDL. However, the government refused to allow the seats to be taken.

On July 10, 1995, Aung was released from house arrest, yet she refused to leave the country because if she left, she could never return again. She continued spreading the thoughts of democracy because she thought Myanmar needed democracy to survive. In 1990, Aung won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and also the Nobel Prize in 1991. In 1996, Aung was once more put under virtual house arrest, although she still received her doctor of laws degree in Washington D.C. at the American University in 1997 and wrote a book titled Freedom from Fear and Other Writings about her father and Myanmar.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/aung.html)

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Fatima Al-Fihri

Fatima was an immigrant from Kairouan, Tunisia to Fes in Morocco. She was the founder of the oldest degree-granting university in the world (pictured). After inheriting a large fortune, she wanted to devote her money to pious work that would benefit the community. Thus, with her wealth she built the Al Qarawiyyin mosque. From the 10th to 12th century, the mosque developed into a university — Al Qarawiyyin University.

Today, the Guinness Book of World Records and UNESCO recognize this university to be the oldest continuously operating institution of higher education in the world.

Fatima Al-Fihri was certainly a lady of foresightedness for the location of the university within the compounds of the mosque attracted scholars from far and wide. Fes, being the most influential cities in the Muslim world has been renowned for centuries as the centre for religion and culture. The university produced great thinkers such as Abu Al-Abbas al-Zwawi, Abu Madhab Al-Fasi, a leading theorist of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence and Leo Africanus, a renowed traveler and writer.

Today, Fatima Al-Fihri is highly respected and looked upon by Moroccan women for her wisdom, perserverances and kind heartedness. It was her personal sacrifice that has made her to be an inspiration to all women. Even today, young Moroccan ladies speak greatly of their foremother who not only brought fame to Fes but has carved a name for being the only Muslimah who has built the oldest university which is still running today.

(sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fazeela-siddiqui/10-muslim-women-you-should-know_b_1348903.html#s789572&title=Fatima_alFihri_Morocco and http://theurbanmuslimwomen.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/fatima-al-fihri-founder-of-the-oldest-university-in-the-world/)

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Rachel Carson 

Rachel Carson was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1907 and grew up in her birthtown of Springdale. She graduated from Chatham College (formerly known as the Pennsylvania College for Women) in 1929, then studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. In 1932, Rachel received her Master of Arts in zoology from John Hopkins University. During the Great Depression, she wrote radio scripts for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and also wrote natural history articles in the Baltimore Sun for the payments.

In 1936, Rachel became a scientist and editor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and later became Editor-in-Chief. In 1937, she wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly called “Undersea” in lyric prose and also wrote the book Under the Sea-Wind in 1941. In 1952, she resigned from service to the government and began to concentrate on her writing. She wrote The Sea Around Us in 1952 and The Edge of the Sea in 1955. Both of these books made her famous as a naturalist and a writer.

Courtesy: http://www.angelfire.com

Courtesy: http://www.angelfire.com
Personal Note: Ms Carson looks a great deal like my maternal grandmother, God rest her soul.

During World War II, she changed her interest from marine biology and the seas to pesticides, feeling as if the use of synthetic chemical pesticides in the war was wrong. In 1962, she published her most well-known work called Silent Spring. This book challenged the government and agricultural scientists and also called for a change in humankind’s attitude towards the natural world. This book caused her to be attacked verbally by the government and the chemical industry. In 1963, Rachel testified before Congress for new pesticide policies.

She died in Silver Spring, Maryland on April 14, 1964 after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. She was an influencial writer, scientist, and ecologist.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/carson.html)

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Marie Curie

Marie Curie was born as Maria Skladowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. At age 16, she won a gold medal for graduating from secondary school and then started working as a teacher to help support her family. When she was 18, she worked as a governess and financed her sister through medical school with the money she received.

In 1891, Marie went to Paris and worked at a laboratory of the physicist Gabriel Lippman. There, in 1894, she met Pierre Curie, and they were married on July 25, 1895. In the summer of 1898, Marie and Piere discovered the element Polonium. A few months later, she and Pierre also discovered Radium. Marie also obtained pure metallic radium with A. Debierne and in 1903, she won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with her husband and another scientist. She became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics.

Marie then introduced a different teaching method at Sevres, a school for girls, that was based on demonstrations of experiments. She was made chief assistant of the laboratory at Sevres in 1904. On April 19, 1906, Marie’s husband, Pierre, died, but she was still able to continue her scientific work. She became the first female head of Laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1906 and also received another Nobel Prize, this one in Chemistry, in 1911. She was the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes. In 1922, Marie became a member of the Academy of Medicine.

On July 4, 1934, Marie died of leukemia, probably caused by her exposure to radiation during her experiments. She had been a woman who had contributed much to the study of radioactivity, among other things. In 1995, her ashes were enshrined under the dome of the Pantheon in Paris, the first woman to be laid there for her own merits. In 1996, a movie debuted about her and her husband called “Les Palmes de M. Schutz.” Marie has two craters named after her (one on the moon, one on Mars) as well as a NASA rover with her name. Her image is on many stamps and coins worldwide, though especially in Poland, her birth country.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/curie.html)

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Nana Asma’u

Nana was a Muslim Nigerian princess, poet and teacher. She lived from 1793 to 1864. She was fluent in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamacheq and well versed in Arabic, Greek and Latin classics. In 1830, she formed a group of female teachers who journeyed throughout the region to educate women in poor and rural regions. With the republication of her works, that underscore women’s education, she has become a rallying point for African women. Today, in northern Nigeria, Islamic women’s organizations, schools and meeting halls are frequently named in her honor.

(source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fazeela-siddiqui/10-muslim-women-you-should-know_b_1348903.html#s794557&title=Nana_Asmau_Nigeria)

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Dr. Edith Marie Flanigen

Edith Flanigen was born on January 28, 1929 in the city of Buffalo, New York. She graduated from D’Youville College in Buffalo as valedictorian and class president. In 1952, she gained her Masters from Syracuse University in Inorganic-Physical Chemistry. After her graduation, she began researching for the Union Carbide Corporation, as well as a joint venture of the AlliedSignal and the Union Carbide called the UOP.

In 1956, Edith started working with molecular sieves, “crystal compounds with molecular-sized pores” which were used as filters of mixtures as well as catalysts. Throughout her career, she invented over 200 different synthetic substances, including her most important called “zeolite Y.” “Zeolite Y” was used to refine petroleum, a catalyst used in converting crude oil into gasoline. She also co-invented a type of synthetic emerald that was used in jewelry for only five or ten years during the mid-1900’s.

In 1992, Edith received the Perkin Medal and decided to retire from her occupation in 1994. Her inventions have made gasoline production safer, cleaner, and greater. Her sieves are also used in environmental clean-up and water purification.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/flanigen.html)

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Rosa Parks

Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. At age 2, Rosa moved to Pine Level, Alabama, to live with her grandparents, and at age 11, attended a private school called Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. She then attended Alabama State Teachers College and married Raymond Parks. They settled down together in Montgomery, Alabama, and joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

On December 1, 1955, Rosa’s whole life changed when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. For violating Montgomery’s ordinance, she was arrested and fined. However, this act began the modern civil rights movement. In combination with Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa boycotted the city’s bus company for a duration of 382 days. This caused the Supreme Court to rule that the ordinance under which Rosa was fined was wrong. They also put out a law against racial segregation on public transportation. She also later received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.

In 1957, Rosa moved with her husband to Detroit, Michigan. There, she served as part of U.S. Representative John Conyers’ staff. The Rosa Parks Freedom Award was created in her honor by the Southern Christian Leadership Council as well. When her husband died, she created the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development which annually sponsors Pathways to Freedom, summer programs for teens where they tour the country and learn about the civil rights movement.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/parks.html)

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Pocahontas

Pocahontas was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, in March 1595. Her real Native American name, given by her father, Chief Powhatan, was Matoaka. Her pet name was Pocahontas, meaning “my favorite daughter” and “frolicsome.” In 1607, settlers came to the Chesapeake Bay area and a man named John Smith, the military leader of Jamestown, was taken prisoner by her people some years later. Pocahontas was the one who saved John Smith’s life, possibly having flung herself over him as he was about to be clubbed to death, but this has not been proven true. After saving him, she urged her Native American people that he be returned to Jamestown and her father, Chief Powhatan, honored her request.

From this point forward, Pocahontas began to visit Jamestown frequently, often bearing food for the hard-working settlers. It was her friendship that helped preserve the peace between the Native Americans and the settlers.

In 1609, John Smith returned to England and the friendship between the settlers and the Native Americans began to deteriorate. Then, in the spring of 1613, she was taken prisoner by Captain Samuel Argall, wanting to use her to create a permanent peace between the settlers and the Native Americans. She was not treated badly however and she was converted to Christianity and baptized as Lady Rebecca.

Once Chief Powhatan had paid the ransom for Pocahontas, Pocahontas was free to go back to her people. However, during her kidnapping, she had fallen in love with a settler named John Rolfe. Very soon after, Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married with the agreement of Chief Powhatan and Virginia’s governer, Sir Thomas Dale. In 1616, she and John Rolfe traveled to England and there, her image was worshiped throughout the country and she was even presented to King James I. But when she was planning to return to America, she came down with small pox and died in Gravesend, Kent, England, in March 1617.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/pocahontas.html)

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Sakajawea

Whether spelled Sakajawea, meaning “Boat Launcher”, or Sacagawea, meaning “Bird Woman”, Sakajawea played an important role in history. She rose the Native American woman to higher levels of admiration and respect, among other recognitions. She was most likely born in 1790 in Eastern Idaho, a Native American of the Shoshoni tribe. When she was just ten years old, she was kidnapped by the Hidatsa, another tribe, and was brought to the North Dakota border. There, she was eventually sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader. They were married and soon after, Sakajawea became pregnant.

Charbonneau was soon hired by the Corps of Discovery, the name of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. He was ordered to bring Sacajawea and their son, Jean Baptiste, for two reasons: one, to keep the party peaceful with the people they met on the expedition, and two, a Native American interpreter and guide was necessary.

As Charbonneau, Clark, Lewis, and Sacajawea and her son traveled, it was because of Sacajawea that they bypassed rough terrain. She also kept the horses and food fresh during the whole expedition because of her brother, chief Cameahwait, and scavenged for food when it was scarce. Clark wrote all about her in his journal, praising her repeatedly. It was he that offered that Jean Baptiste be taken to St. Louis, away from abusive Charbonneau. In the end, she did take Jean Baptiste to St. Louis and Jean Baptiste was raised as Clark’s own. It was also Clark who named a river Sacajawea in her tribute.

It is at this point that history becomes unclear. One story says that Sacajawea died of “putrid fever” on December 20, 1812. Clark’s accounts seem to confirm that she died. However, there is a second story. There was a Native American woman that married a few times, had more children, and was reunited with her son, Jean Baptiste. She was called Porvo and she knew inside facts on the expedition, spoke French, had a Jeff Medal around her neck, spoke politically, introduced the Shoshoni to the Sun Dance Ceremony, and advocated for the Shoshoni’s need of agriculture. Porvo died on April 9, 1884 and is buried at Fort Washakie in honor of the expedition. Historians and scientists today believe that Porvo was most likely Sacajawea.

Recently, the Golden Dollar coin was created in Sacajawea’s memory. The front shows Sacajawea with her son, Jean Baptiste, on her back, and the back shows an eagle, the United States of America’s symbol. This was done in tribute to Sacajawea, for the expedition never could have been successful without her, and it was very important to history and the settling of the west.

(source: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/sakajawea.html)

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Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi was born in Iran in 1947 and still lives on. In 2003, she became the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As a judge in Iran, she was the first woman to achieve Chief Justice status. However, she was dismissed from this position after the 1979 Revolution. As a lawyer, Shirin has taken on many controversial cases and in result, has been arrested numerous times. Her activism has been predicated on her view that, “An interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith. It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered.”
 
 
 
 
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Sojourner Truth

Isabella Baufree (Sojourner Truth’s real name) was born in a Dutch county called Ulster County in New York, one of thirteen children. She was born to slave parents, so in effect, she was a slave as well. She was sold to her first master at eleven years old, speaking only Dutch, but she quickly learned English in the company of her cruel master. Her third master, John Dumont, had Isabella marry Thomas, another of his slaves, and even though it was a kind of forced marriage, they had five children.

Dumont also promised Isabella freedom a year before the emancipation in New York in 1828. But Dumont went back on his word, and Isabella ran away from his control with her infant. Isabella then lived in New York City, working as a religious commune domestic. Then, in 1843, she received a spiritual vision and changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She traveled through Connecticut and Long Island, New York, lecturing on God as a savior.

Finally, Sojourner settled in Northampton, Massachusetts. There, she joined the Northampton Association for Education and Industry, working with Olive Gilbert, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglas for abolition of slavery. In 1850, Sojourner published The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave, and a year later, in Akron, Ohio, she spoke on women’s rights at a convention. After the Civil War, Sojourner worked towards aiding newly-freed southern slaves and even petitioned Congress to give some land in the “new West” to the former slaves. However, that petition failed.

Sojourner Truth died in Battle Creek, Michigan, in November 1883.

(sources: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/truth.html)

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Nefertiti

Nefertiti, whose name means “the beautiful one has come,” was the queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century B.C. She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun god, and promoted Egyptian artwork that was radically different from its predecessors. A bust of Nefertiti is one of the most iconic symbols of Egypt.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Little is known about the origins of Nefertiti, but her legacy of beauty and power continue to intrigue scholars today. Some evidence suggests that she hailed from the town Akhmim and is the daughter or niece of a high official named Ay.

The exact date when Nefertiti married Amenhotep III’s son, the future pharaoh Amenhotep IV, is unknown. It is believed she was 15 when they wed, which may have been before Akhenaten assumed the throne. They apparently ruled together from 1353 to 1336 B.C. and had six daughters, with speculation that they may have also had a son. Artwork from the day depicts the couple and their daughters in an unusually naturalistic and individualistic style, more so than from earlier eras. The king and his head queen seem to be inseparable in reliefs, often shown riding in chariots together and even kissing in public. It has been stated that the couple may have had a genuine romantic connection, a dynamic not generally seen in ancient pharaoh depictions.

Nefertiti and the pharaoh took an active role in establishing the Aten cult, a religious mythology which defined Aten, the sun, as the most important god and only one worthy of worship in Egypt’s polytheistic canon. Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten (also seen as “Akenhaten” in some references) to honor the deity. It is believed that the king and queen were priests and that only through them ordinary citizens obtained access to Aten. Nefertiti changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, meaning “beautiful are the beauties of Aten, a beautiful woman has come,” as a show of her absolutism for the new religion. The royal family resided in a constructed city meant to honor their god, also called Akhenaten in what is now known as el-Amarna. There were several open-air temples in the city, and at the center stood the palace.

Nefertiti was perhaps one of the most powerful women to have ever ruled. Her husband went to great lengths to display her as an equal counterpart. In several reliefs she is shown wearing the crown of a pharaoh or smiting her enemies in battle. Despite her great power, Nefertiti disappears from all depictions after 12 years. The reason for her disappearance is unknown. Some scholars believe she died, while others speculate she was elevated to the status of co-regent, equal in power to the pharaoh, and began to dress herself as a man. Some say she became known as Pharaoh Smenkhkare, ruling Egypt after her husband’s death. Others suggest she was exiled when the worship of the deity Amen-Ra came back into vogue. Her mummy has not been found.

(source: http://www.biography.com/people/nefertiti-9421166)

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Sayeda Khadija and Sayeda Aisha (wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)), Mother Theresa, Jane Austen, Amelia Earheart, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Thatcher and many more are amongst those who are also worth mentioning. I highly encourage my readers to find out more about those amazing women and many others whenever they get the chance.

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