America Is Beautiful Coca Cola Ad

Coca Cola Hijabi

New Coca Cola Ad Features a Hijabi

Unless you have been living underneath a rock, I am sure that you have seen the latest Coca Cola commercial that aired during SuperBowl Sunday that featured a diverse group of Americans including a woman who wore a headscarf while singing the classic American song “America The Beautiful.” As an American who does indeed wear a headscarf (also known as a hijab), I almost had tears in my eyes. Why is that? I think it is the first time ever that I have seen a hijabi (woman who wears a headscarf) in a way that does not illustrate her as something “other” or “oppressed.” In fact, I teared up because for the first time, I felt like a commercial was able to capture me as I am: an American. I am not an oppressed foreign woman with no voice of my own. I am a woman who was born and raised in the United States. I am educated and I have the same sentiment for my country as everyone else does.

In fact, I am surprised it has not come sooner. It is sad that it takes market segmentation for companies to realize that there should be more inclusion. Why can’t popular culture be the first to embrace hijabis? Why did it have to be corporate need for profits among immigrants to make the shift? However I am not going to complain because in the end while Coca Cola was inclusive in order to resonate with my demographic to sell soda, it has also blazed the trail for other hijabis to enter the public popular culture sphere. We are women who want to dress modestly, but we also want to be heard and included in the public dialogue. Especially about ourselves. For so long, Americans have had a dialogue about Muslim women without asking Muslim women to participate. That was not only paternalistic, but it was also misleading to the American public. Muslim women in America are here, and we do want a say in what is portrayed about who we are in the media. So thank you Coca Cola for opening that Pandora’s Box. For while it may have brought out the ugly racists and bigots, it has also brought out one last thing: Hope.

Giving Back: Fashion Fighting Famine SF

20140112-235128.jpgOne of the main reasons that I started blogging about modest fashion was because I wanted it to be something more meaningful than fashion as know it. I wanted it to be more inclusive of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I wanted it to inspire and empower us as Muslim women. I wanted it to give back something to our greater community.

That is why I am so eternally grateful to have had the chance to volunteer with Fashion Fighting Famine for their San Francisco show because that is exactly what they stand for. Not only does the organization raise money for local charities within our communities, it does it while inspiring generations of women that modest fashion can be beautiful inside and out.

From the executive members of the organization, all the way to the models, there was a collaborative spirit throughout. If someone needed help unloading a car, there were helping hands. If someone fainted, there was a sister to pick her back up. If there was work to be done, sisters would pitch in. As someone who has seen tradition fashion shows from the behind the scenes, there was no diva behavior at FFFSF and I truly believe it is because the beauty of the Adab (etiquette of Islam) of the Prophet (saws).

Seeing this beauty behind the scenes gave me my own courage to face the crowd and be able to MC the show. What a wonderful experience that was! To see a crowd of beautiful women of all ages smiling back at me made me realize that Allah (swt) made us all beautiful alh.

By the grace and mercy of God, I felt like after the first few minutes of being nervous that all my fears went away and I was able to not only enjoy the show, but feel honored to help a wonderful charity like the North American Islamic Shelter for the Abused.

So often, the Muslim community ignores domestic violence as an issue. Thanks to the amazing volunteers and the guests of this fashion show, we are able to give these voiceless women a voice in our community.

I sincerely hope that all of my readers reflect on how just one person can make a huge impact by way of example of this show. Anum, one of the executive members of Fashion Fighting Famine, pushed the group to have a second show based in San Francisco. Thanks to her, she motivated hundreds of women to travel from Dubai, LA, and all over to help our community! So never feel defeated to give back my readers. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

PS: Major thank you to Rahat for glamming me up. And thank to all of you awesome ladies for showing up to the show!

Meet the Brand: Numi Tea

Reem from Numi Tea

Reem from Numi Tea enjoying her beverage of choice

Salaams my lovelies! It is my favorite season of all: Fall. Fall is a time where we all snuggle a little closer, enjoy sweater weather, and of course, sip tea. When I reach for tea, I invariably return again and again to my favorite tea brand of all, Numi Tea. Numi Tea is a local Bay area company that blends artisanal teas that are based on global tea flavors around the world. If you have not tried them, please take some time and try them out. I promise they will transport you to far flung places like Morocco, dusty plains of central Africa, or the lush verdant gardens of India without you having to even step out of your pjs. The power of tea is as transformative as it is nourishing to the soul.

Numi Tea is kosher certified as well as organic and offer consumers a sustainable way to enjoy tea.

Here is an interview I had with Reem Rahim, one of the co founders of Numi Tea:

Q: Let me start by saying I love your tea. What made you so passionate about tea that you wanted to start a tea company?

A:Thank you. I’m glad you enjoy our tea. Coming from Iraq, my family has always drunk tea as the hot beverage of choice. So I grew up with black tea all my life. We had also always drunk a Dry desert Lime called Numi Basrah. That was the inspiration for the starting the company. Ahmed had owned and operated teahouses in Prague. During that time, he was exposed to many varieties of tea – green, white, oolong, Pu-erh and many herbal teas. He taught me about all the varieties and nuances of teas and I have fallen in love with the beverage.

Q: Who serves as your main inspiration for new tea flavors? How do you go about product development?
A: This is developed though travelling and trying all sorts of new things. Keeping one’s ear to the ground in terms of trends and what’s new helps as well. Ahmed develops the new tea products and we work as a team to come up with the formulas and taste until they are finalized.

Q: If you have a great business idea, what is the first you need to do to get started?
A: Research the market to see what’s out there. Then refine your idea, who you’re marketing to, what is the problem, the need and the solution. Create a one-page synopsis of your concept.

Q: As a Muslim entrepreneur, what is the most important piece of advice would you give someone starting out?
A; Firstly, I don’t consider myself a Muslim entrepreneur. I am an entrepreneur and keep my religious practices personal and private. I wouldn’t recommend combining one’s religion with their professional life. That will only get in the way and cloud one’s work; and not allow you the freedom to pursue your capabilities. That said, one’s background and personal life always informs their beliefs, principles and ethics. Having grown up in an Arab, Muslim background, generosity, family, fairness and giving back has always been in our culture and is infused into our daily business practices.

Q: When you are not working on Numi Tea as a business what do you do for fun?
A: I spend time with my family – my husband and 5-year-old step-son. I like to be outside and work in the garden or go for walks. I also am an artist and paint when I can. I also love to travel.

Q: What do you hope resonates with consumers about the Numi tea brand?
A: I hope that people firstly taste the difference in quality of our teas and really enjoy those moments of tea sipping. We put a lot of care into making our teas and I hope that care is felt. I also hope that our brand sets an example of a new paradigm in business where you can sell a product and do good at the same time.

Q: In your tea instructions, you add little tidbits like setting water to boil while humming. Who was the inspiration behind that?
A: I’m not sure who the inspiration was. This was something we came up with when we first started to make the experience of unwrapping our packaging fun. We wanted to take the customer through a story and a meaningful experience rather than just drinking tea.

Q: Thank you for taking the time out for answering questions for my Hijabi Life readers. Is there one special tea house you would recommend our readers to visit here in the Bay Area?
A: Samovar in the Castro!

Hijabi Obsession: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter

Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter is so delicious, there is a purchase limit of two per customer!

Salaams my lovelies! I hope you had a fabulous week inshallah. Okay, so if you are regular reader, you know I try to avoid refined sugar and sugar laden food products. One of my favorite healthy snacks is a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter topped with blueberries (try it, its delicious). While I was shopping for peanut butter at Trader Joe’s, I happened to notice an item called Cookie Butter. I also noticed there was a mob of people around the display of all ages trying to get a jar. I don’t know about you, but when I see a mob of people, it makes me even MORE curious. Why were all of these people clamoring for this mysterious cookie butter?

I bought a jar and took it home. When it was time for my typically healthy snack, I replaced my usual peanut butter for cookie butter. WHOA. Cookie butter tastes like a spreadable version of the cookie known as biscoff. While I am sure that it is not as healthy as my peanut butter is, I have to tell you that I may have to eat this cookie butter as my “treat” item instead of my typical short salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks. The Hubster even said that he liked it better than Nutella! I don’t know if I personally like it better than Nutella, but its pretty darn good.

Next time you are in Trader Joe’s, make sure to try it and let me know what you think! PS: Expect some more foodie posts coming your way along with some exciting news inshallah!

Scary Trend: Mean Girls With Hijab

Salaams my lovelies! I hope you have all had a wonderful week inshallah. Typically, I do a fun Follow Friday post, but today, I wanted to share something personal with you. I recently stopped blogging for a bit because of something I have had to grapple with. I have noticed a scary new trend that I would like to call “mean girls with hijab.” Just so you know, I am a hijabi and I always try to love and support all of my fellow hijabis, but with the advent of texting, email, and social media, it seems that some of these fellow hijabis are not quite into sisterhood like I am.

I am going to share one of my own personal experiences with this. Obviously, I have left off names, but the interaction with this mother of two really jarred me. Recently a hijabi sister reached out in a mass message letting a group know she will be going to Hajj and asking for us to forgive her if she ever hurt anyone intentionally or unintentionally.  She supplied her personal email address so we can reach out to her directly if we needed to. Well I made the mistake to actually reach out and ask her why she had removed me from her friend list on Facebook to begin with. If I were to go back in time, I would have never emailed this sister because the response I actually got back was so disturbing that I really regret reaching out. Here is what I had  initially sent:

 Mabruk on going to Hajj this year! I wanted to let you know I never had any ill will or hard feelings toward you, but can you tell me why you had defriended me on Facebook?
At the time it had hurt my feelings as I didn’t know you very well. But if you feel bad because of things someone else told you, I wish you would let me know.
Good luck on the most blessed of journeys!

Granted, I should not have assumed she was being told anything about me, but here is what I was sent back (edited since it was  lengthy):

I make my friends based on people which I find would be a good company for me and would be a good surrounding for my kids. 
 
The first time I met u u came across to me as some one who was very materialistic who wanted people to know that she had a (I have deleted the brand name here) diamond ring.  There was no conversation about any type of jewelry between you and I and then all of a sudden you were (i feel) bragging about ur ring which turned me off soooooo much.  I like to make friends with people who show no care about the wordly things and i’m sorry if I came across to u as someone who cared about this. 
I personally was really surprised by this email and just wished her a wonderful trip to Allah’s house, but I did not call her. However, I was left feeling worse off than before I emailed her. I was sent this email earlier in the week, and I wondered all week if I should share it because I did not want to share something so personal. However, I felt if I was getting emails like this, than all of my readers must have encountered something like this. A situation where a fellow hijabi is hiding behind technology to write something mean to you. A situation where a fellow hijabi would never personally utter the words to another hijabi in person, but can be mean via text, email or social media.
The reason I ultimately decided to show you this email is two fold. To show you that first we must be introspective. The instance she mentioned? Maybe I was showing and I need to be mindful of first impressions. Perhaps I need to work on myself. While this email wasn’t worded the best way, it did highlight something that I need to work on with myself. The other reason I shared this email is that I wanted to actually take these hateful words out of the “hidden” world of technology. Now that these words are on my blog, do these words still seem appropriate?
Let’s all be mindful of the sunnah and think before we type or speak. I know I definitely will.

Dark Is Beautiful (Too) Campaign

Nandita Das

Indian actress Nandita Das is trying educate others about how all skintones are beautiful

As a child of Bangladeshi parents who are enlightened, I was fortunate enough to avoid ugly moments of shadism (when ethnic groups prefer individuals with a specific shade of skin color). While some of you may laugh, in the Indian subcontinent, it is almost second nature. I hear comments that I try to shield my daughter from such as: “Oh no! She is getting dark from the sun, don’t let her lay ouside!” “Wow mashallah, she is getting fairer and fairer every day.” These comments break my heart, but even I am not immune. I remember how when I first got engaged, there was so much commentary on how I was not “fosha” (Bengali term for fair) compared to my mother in law and sister in law. You can imagine how hearing those comments not only broke my heart (What about the fact that I tried to be a good person, or that I just passed the bar exam to be an attorney?), but I somehow let it seep into my subconscious. I am guilty of using lighter filters on Instagram to appear lighter. I am guilty of using a few shades lighter of foundation too.

While it is embarrassing to admit these things to you readers, I want to let you know that I am human too. When we hear things over and over again, you start to believe it even if it is not true. That is why it is important for us to break this cycle NOW. I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking that her only value in life is attached to her skin color or even how she looks. I want her to understand that how her SOUL is will truly be the test of true beauty inshallah.

While I commend Nandita Das for her Dark Is Beautiful campaign, I also want to point out that the opposite is true too. In the United States, tan is considered the ideal. Why else do you see so many women going tanning or spending so much money on bronzers and sunless tanners? So we have to be mindful not to make fair skinned folks feel less than pretty too. Why can’t we all be considered beautiful? It was funny this topic popped up on Fashion Fighting Famine’s Instagram page because last night I posted a picture of myself without any makeup after a yoga class. I have to admit, it was really scary to share it, but I wanted my followers to know what I really look like versus what can be stylized images.

We are all human at the end of the day. So let’s try to be beautiful in our humanness together inshallah.

5 Things I Won’t Miss About Ramadan

Ramadan Breath

Yes, we have all been there!

Now that Ramadan is coming to a close, I am actually getting a really sad. When else do so many Muslims collectively get together, overlook shortcomings, are generous, and just have a sense of community like we do in Ramadan? This morning at fajr, I actually wept over the fact that there are only a handful of days of this sacred month left. So I did what any girl with a broken heart does….I tried to think of things I won’t miss in Ramadan to fight back the sadness. Here are my top 5 reasons on why I won’t miss Ramadan (at least this is what I tell myself):

Ramadan Breath

Admit it, you avoid talking to your work colleagues at all costs when you are fasting. You talk to your toddler only to have your toddler scrunch up her face and say “ewww Mommy!” You pretend to turn your head to peruse magazines when you ask a cashier a question. Yep, you have kung fu fighting Ramadan breath. And while you know that it smells sweeter than musk in theory, you also know that you would prefer not to have to speak with anyone in the practical sense. I will not be missing my Hubs’ Ramadan breath as he asks me when Iftar will be ready! Sorry Hubsy. I still love you, Just at a distance.

Lax Bedtimes

Perhaps it is because of my toddler, But I am not a fan of how my toddler insists on staying up with me while I did my tarawih and Quran recitation at night. I am also no spring chicken, so going to bed late only to wake up a few hours later did not give me a “Ramadan glow,” but more like Ramadan bags under my eyes. Trust me, at my age, staying up late definitely is apparent. But was it worth it to get closer to Allah (swt) in my own way? Definitely yes. But for the sake of the kids at my daughter’s preschool, I am glad I won’t be scaring them with my zombie appearance any more.

Fatty Foods

Okay, so this one is totally my fault. In my parents’ native Bangladesh, we welcome Ramadan with deep fried goodies like beguni (eggplant fritters), samosas, and piyaji (lentil fritters). I could have said no to making these fatty fried items, but it just didn’t feel like Ramadan to me without them. So I am glad to bounce back to my clean eating ways. And I am making a Ramadan Resolution to fight against the urges to serve fatty dishes during Ramadan next year inshallah. Pray for me, since this one will be a toughie!

Lack of Exercise

I am going to be real: it is near impossible to exercise during Ramadan. Yes, I know some of you fitness buffs can do it, but us regular mortals need to find the time between iftar and suhoor (which means sacrificing precious time from tarawih and extra worship such as tahajjud or Quran recitation). Yes, our body is an amanah (trust from God), but will Allah (swt) really ask me about my triceps (no, so I choose the extra worship hands down). That being said, I definitely need to get back to shape after Eid inshallah. No more fried foods!

Fighting Over the Moon Sighting

Okay, this is more about Eid, but I will be happy to see those masjid goers who love to fight at the masjid take a chill pill. This one always gets me because we all know that the real reason we don’t know when Laylatul Qadr (Night of Power) is was because there were Muslims arguing! So why are we not learning that important lesson of NOT fighting?

This list is silly, but really, no matter what I say, I will miss Ramadan. You never know if this will be our last Ramadan, so please make the most of these last days. And make sure to pop a mint after you eat Iftar!

Keeping Up With the Khans

Showing off is one of the diseases of the heart that every Muslim should try to avoid.

Showing off is one of the diseases of the heart that every Muslim should try to avoid.

**Disclaimer: The last name in the title is not a specific family, it is just a common Muslim name used to illustrate a point (it was also close to Kardashians which is why I selected it).**

It is the last ten days of Ramadan and I am terrified. Why is that? There is the strong possibility that even though I strove very hard to commit good deeds during Ramadan, there is a disease of the heart that could essentially wipe those good deeds away. Now what can possibly be so harmful that is can obliterate a whole month’s of hard earned good deeds?

It is called ar riyaa. For those of you who don’t know this term, it is an Arabic word that means to be a show-off. Specifically, it is someone who does something in order to gain the praise of others.  In this day of social media, it is easier than ever to fall into this without even realizing it. In fact, in American society, we are encouraged to step with our best foot forward. Just take a look at what rappers say and you can get the gist of what ar riyaa at a superficial level is. It is all about their swag, their game, how many people of the opposite sex want them, etc. However, this post is not about rappers. This post is about American Muslims. Muslims who strive to be better people and may not even realize when they are showing off. Sometimes, we Muslim Americans can overdo even good deeds and fall into the trap of showing off.

Now what does Islam say about showing off? Why is it so bad for us?

According to a lecture by Suhaib Webb, the Prophet Muhammed ﷺ said, “The one who prays and wants people to see them has committed shirk. The one who fasted and they want the people to know about their fasting has committed shirk. The one who gave sadaqah (charity) and wants people to know about their charity has committed shirk.”

The Prophet ﷺ even said that  it’s so dangerous that it’s like the black ant on the black rock in the night with no moon.

If you question why showing off is harmful, just think about how you feel when you see someone else showing off. Yes, you are happy for that brother or sister, but doesn’t a part of you think to yourself with an eyeroll, “yeah okay hot shot.”? How does that promote the sisterhood or brotherhood that Islam wants to foster in our community? Even non Muslim communities are not really too kind about people who show off. There are terms like “keeping up with the Joneses” and countless stories of regular people eyeballs in debt just to show people they have a fancy house, car, clothes, etc. This disease of the heart transcends time. It was present in ancient times as well as present day. In fact, even the ancient Greeks created stories of tragic heroes whose downfall was hubris (pride) which is one of the rooted causes of showing off.

So this is why I get scared, I am human and I like to share snippets of my life with all of you. I like praise too, However, do I like that enough to literally wash away all of my good deeds? Not really. I don’t want to be the next Kardashian in the sense that I want people to emulate what I do unless it is for the sake of Allah (swt)’s pleasure. So this Ramadan, please pray for me and for yourself that we don’t trip ourselves up with this very human flaw.

Forgiveness In Islam

Forgiveness

Forgive others in this life like you want God to forgive you in the next life.

I have a terrible confession to make: I hold grudges too long. I don’t know why, but even as a child I remember thinking about different ways I had been hurt by people and writing them off quickly. In fact, my childhood best friend nicknamed me The Grudge! It was only recently I realized just how self destructive this flaw can be. I am writing this post to tell you lovelies that holding grudges; no matter how justified you are, is not good for your mind, body and soul. I hope that the way I dealt with my flaw will help you too.

Let’s start with dealing with hurtful people. While you are right to feel hurt, if you hold a grudge against the person who has hurt you, you only hurt yourself. There is a popular saying that: “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies.” I can attest to that fact. Every time you revisit what a person has done to hurt you, you allow that person to hurt you over and over. Does it really feel better to discuss that pain over and over again? For me, it only made me sad and upset. The other thing to note is that by allowing this person to hurt you after the fact, you are indeed allowing them the pleasure of hurting you more. You are better than that. Don’t give hurtful people that much power over you.

Forgiveness is not a weakness, it is empowering. This is why the best of Creation, Muhammed (saws) forgave those who hurt him in his life. He forgave Hind (ra) for being ruthless after his beloved uncle Hamza (ra) was killed, he forgave the Quraysh even after their boycott lead to the death of Khadija (ra), etc. When you forgive, you actually free yourself from the hurt that the other person caused you. That same childhood best friend (she is a very wise lady mA) told me that when you forgive someone, it is like setting a prisoner free and realizing that prisoner was you. You will find yourself at peace after you forgive someone.

So now that we spoke about forgiving someone, how do you do it? If you can, let that person know you forgive them whether it is in person, a call, or even text. Say that life is too short and that you forgive them and that you also hope they forgive you. One thing to note is that you should not have expectations from this person to respond. In fact, if they have hurt you, they may very well continue in their campaign to be hurtful. But you can be rest assured that you did everything you could so that you can meet God on your terms. In Islam, the way you treat others in this life is how God will treat you in the next. What better way to meet God than as a forgiving person? We all want God’s mercy, but how can you expect his mercy if you are not merciful with his Creation?

Lastly, it helps to focus on the bigger picture and help others. Volunteer, give to charity, or even spend time with your family. It helps puts things into perspective. What are your tips on forgiveness this Ramadan? Share them with me in the comments below!