My Experience at Intel ISEF

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed honoring the winners of Emirates Foundation's Think Science Competition

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed honoring the winners of Emirates Foundation’s Think Science Competition

We were like those who had climbed a mountain and reached the top. When we looked down we still wanted to go higher to realize our goals. Despite all the achievements, we still have an ambition for more. That is my way of looking at things. These aren’t my words; they are the words of the great leader, our father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan AlNahyan, may peace be upon him, that have actually inspired me all through the way and throughout our journey.

Noise filled the hall as the crowd cheered and applauded, praising many great scientific accomplishments. I suddenly heard Dubai’s name echo and rise amid the loud cheers and claps. I soon lost the sense of time and flew back two years ago where it had all started. Asking questions, solving problems, finding solutions and forming hypotheses regarding what was going on in our own backyard. That was the first lesson we learned, ‘The Scientific Method’. At the time we didn’t get it. We wondered why it was so important, why it had to be frequent and an everyday thing. Little did we know, without it we wouldn’t have come to where we are today.

When we first started to brainstorm we had no idea where this project would take us. By the time we’ve completed our Science Fair project we were satisfied with where we’ve reached, we hadn’t realized how much more we were capable of, how little we have had attained. We were our own enemy as we drew our limits, restrained our possibilities and chained the opportunities. The world was offering us so much more than we thought we were prepared to tolerate.

Our friends’ cheering, as we stood on stage alongside the rest of the winners, led my mind to be brought back to the present. The people we have experienced the journey with were standing, celebrating our success. I saw the joy and pride in their eyes, just like I once saw faith and support in the eyes of the very people that made the whole experience worthwhile. They are the ones that believed in us and saw the potential we didn’t know we held within. They are the ones that revealed to us the truth behind the limits we defined ourselves by.

Every time we were about to fall, every time we thought we couldn’t handle it anymore, they were there to help us regain our strength, stand up and continue the walk. Every time we considered giving up, every time we considered throwing it all away, they were there to reassure us that we have what it takes to keep moving, that we are capable, and that we are strong. They were always there to remind us of our passion and how it’s much stronger than all the obstacles we could ever face. Our loving friends and dear families, as well as our supportive mentor, were always there to remind us of our dream to achieve and our desire to succeed.

They are the ones who taught me that success isn’t what many people envision it to be. Instead, it is the bits and pieces you pick up along the way. It is the effort you put into something, the time you spend creating, and the skills you develop as you go. It is what inspires you and whom you inspire as you pass by. It is the long nights, restless days and the many trials that go wrong before they go right.

Every moment of the journey is an achievement. Yet the greatest of all achievements, I believe, is the moment we brought the United Arab Emirates the victory it deserves, as we received the second grand award in the category of Environmental Sciences in the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, the Intel ISEF. The moment we proved to the youth of our society that there is a place for them out there among global leaders and scientists, and the moment we proved to them that they can do it, because if we can, so can they.

The journey does not stop here; in fact, success is a never-ending journey, and to us it has just begun. It is our mission to inspire the youth and the younger generations to take the lead in achieving their goals and obtaining their dreams. It is our honor to be a part of the legacy of our incredible leader Sheikh Zayed AlNahyan, and to support and encourage our generation to carry on the march.

The Beauty Of Your World

A child describing his world:” in the morning I see the sun, the blue sky, mummy and daddy smile. During the day I love to run around and play with my siblings. Sometime I pretend to be a super hero, famous football player or doctor. Mum said if I do my homework right I could be a star, like the stars in the sky.”

Don’t you admire children’s pure soul?

A child may cry for a moment and with a little attempt from you to make him/her laugh, he/she would laugh and make your heart smile.

Have you ever wondered where do children get their positivity from? Do they think about yesterday’s problems or stress about tomorrow’s work? All they remember from yesterday is the new behaviour or skill they learnt. And they believe that if they live today doing things right, they will get the reward tomorrow from parents or school. Yesterday gives you a lesson, today a living moment and tomorrow a reward. How simple is life when you look at it from child’s perspective.

It seems like we were born with positive attitude, however, as we grow up we tend to go with our negative thoughts and fear of failure and judgment.

Some of you will be thinking now that this approach will be very difficult for an adult to adapt to with all the responsibilities he/she has, but believe me all it needs from you is to keep trying, try to find your inner peace. You might fail hundreds time but you will get there if you keep trying.

“You only run out of chances when you stop trying” Brian Tracy.

It is up to you; you could just live your life with all the stress, worry, and guilt and complain about it. Or you could take an action and try. You could be a follower of your inner fears or creator of your peaceful world.

An adult says: “believe me the universe is the cause of all my problems. Everything around me is the cause of my failure. My boss hates me. People always disappoint me. World is full with wars. I’m tired of life.” Blaming the universe attitude, did it work? Do you think it will help you solve your problems or overcome your fears?!

It only gets you into a stage where you lose hope and motivation and you decide to set down and stop trying. “Don’t die before you are really dead” Brian Tracy

Make a change today. First let’s say “thank god for giving us this life” and then think about a change you could make today. For example, greet everyone at work with a smile. Or study for your exam with a belief that success is your destiny. Or if you are worried about your responsibilities, make a list of it, write what you can do about it today, do it.

Live a life of beauty. In the morning, admire the sunrise, the blue sky and the smile of the people you love. In the evening, enjoy the sunset, the stars in the sky and a meal with who you love.

Your thoughts … make them positive

You choices … live them

Your decisions … never regret them

Your thoughts, your choices and your decisions reflect the beauty of your world.

Hope

Taken by Mohammed AlAhbabi at Wadi Baih November 1, 2013

Taken by Mohammed AlAhbabi at Wadi Baih November 1, 2013

For every day the sun rises, there is always an opportunity that is born for a person.

This opportunity might be the chance of correcting something,

being a better person by doing a deed, a new job, a new baby, and it goes on.

For every person, opportunity has a different definition,

whether it was success, love, or a lifetime decision.

For all of the opportunities and the chances out there,

what keeps these opportunities remain as a belief of happiness,

and why good always comes after taking them is simply: hope.

Hope is what fuels all of the dreams, and what keeps people going and always seek for the better.

Hope comes in different forms: love, humility, kindness, contentment, patience, and it goes on.

So never lose hope, because if you do, you lose your humanity with it.

When They Don’t Smile Back

I Smile At Strangers And Feel Awkward When They Don’t Smile Back

I always knew that a smile is generally an expression of positive emotions, which can uplift a soul, who in turn passes that energy to another.  Smile is like medicine that spreads quickly and heals the wandering soul. It’s contagious and acts like an antidote for the lost and unhappy. It’s a silent message of love. It’s a symbol of hope that there’s still good people around.  I like to smile and always make sure I greet someone with my smile. But I’m also guilty of being careful, protective and untrustworthy. I too have my days. But I realised when I keep my smiling face the problems or circumstances gradually fade away or solve themselves. Therefore, when I smile to someone who doesn’t smile back I think it’s kind of rude, but I usually tell myself if they don’t, then maybe they are just having a bad day. Unfortunately, people here do not like it when you smile; they take you for being mad. I got the general idea; I smiled and didn’t receive a smile back. I’ve noticed that a lot either while ordering a meal or being in a shop or even in the whole way when I smile or even talk with a smile people have this approach of looking down at me, not only directly, but indirectly as well.

What has happened to this nation (not friendly anymore)? Why don’t they smile? Yes, life is not always a bed of roses, it’s hard, full of burdens, but whose life is not?

Nowadays I don’t know whether to smile or not. It was said that our face is the mirror of our inner ego. I always smile and it’s not fake, it’s coming from my inner state. I like smiling and I think everything must be done with smile. However, when you smile people may be doubtful about it and they may assume strange things. To smile means to cheer up and never give up. It is hope. Even when you are in a bad mood or you are angry, smile, it makes you will feel the ease.

Smile as often as you can whenever you can. You don’t need special reason to smile. Just keep on smiling. Life is a camera, keep smiling and never give up!

Facing Change

Fog obscures my blurry vision

Haziness blinds my sense of sight

Absent thoughts cloud my understanding

Drifting from felicity to fright

It is a silent figure, approaching at a rate

Faster than the palpitations in my chest

The winged animals that would not abate

That refused to settle in their nest

It looms, it threatens, it lies overhead

Escalating my sense of dread

But when it arrives, will the fear have fled?

Will the worry have long been shed?

And when the time comes to renovate and rearrange

How will I face change?

I’d gotten used to the monotone

The hum of everyday routine

Then look back and see I’ve grown

A future I never had foreseen

The comfort of the familiar

Off it they try to make me wean

Terrified and anxious,

I lie somewhere in between

The apprehension of my approaching fate

Leaves me in a somber state

And through all this, I can’t help but debate

Will it be worth the wait?

When shifting tides and welcoming the strange

How will I face change?

Silently, it signals it is near

And although my view is far from clear

I am a warrior, forced to adhere

I reach inside of me, pull out that blade and spear

I am armed, I’ve got my gear.

Embedded in me, the second I was born

The gift of being lost and torn

Because how else will I attain myself

If not shredded and worn

If not lost, how can I be found?

How saved if not first drowned?

Spectrums shimmer after the clouds first weep

A dawn awakens when the darkness has gone to sleep

A universal law, it runs beyond deep

Moments last in memories, but nothing

is ours to keep

Moving is weary, but I’ll stay on my feet

He wouldn’t have created me

If I was to exist complete

If everything came easy

I’d never raise my palms

I’d never taste the sweetness of

prayer or the assurance of calm

I’d never feel the bliss of giving him my trust and certitude

Of sending my faith skies above

no matter the altitude

Perhaps fear is nonexistent, a result of attitude

Feverish proclamations we happen to conclude

The unknown is less terrifying

When you know it’s already been recorded

And I know now what I face

Is more valuable than any gift I’ve ever afforded..

So I thrust myself, gear and all

Into the tomorrow I was sure would make me fall

The shadowy figure has never seemed so small

With newfound confidence, I’ll leave it in his hands

He’ll know how to arrange

I know now how I’ll face

Coffee Making & Photocopying Skills

Every parent wants their child to rise and shine, to reach their full potential, to excel in everything they do, not so that they can take pride in their offspring but to see their heirs succeed knowing that they are well within their capabilities.

Even though we want to champion entrepreneurship and praise leaders who have the stamina to succeed by simply finishing, we neglect to see that the seeds of choice need to be sewn at an early age so as to foster a yearning to succeed. Yet we continue to do a disservice to the next generation to a level that is extraordinary and yet we want them to be top of the tree, how can this dichotomy be possible?

We are all students of life and as we continue to learn new skills and ways of doing things we become masters of some and casual observers of others, however there has to be a starting point. A point where the journey of discovery, takes learning outside of the classroom. So how do we foster a culture of learning and yearning to succeed? Internships; experience through exposure.

I had the fortunate experience of getting a part-time vocational education in a family business from when I was 11 years old and continued to receive it until I packed my bags for University. Did it steal my childhood; maybe, though it gave me such an insight and deep understanding through which, Alhamdulillah, I was armed and ready to enter the real world. The mentoring I received as my exposure grew was exponential and this created a portfolio of experience, which let me make choices. I could start choosing the things I wanted to do and the things I didn’t. I could tell my parents what my aspirations were and refrain from saying “I dunno”.

The UAE is a melting pot of cultures and this diversity is a fantastic opportunity for the next generation to become equipped to tackle tomorrow’s problems. Being an intern in a cosmopolitan working environment will educate you of the nuances, which you may never experience in your home country.

Internships are not about coffee making and photocopying skills, they’re about mentoring as well as skills acquisition.

Silenced Bitterness

It’s quite sad that I have to forcefully elbow myself out of my current state and towards a subterranean lair of deep blues, all for the hopes of bringing my despicable self to sit down, and write something. This time however, I decided to take advantage of my surprisingly dormant wraths, which recently decided to imitate a volcanic eruption.

Whilst I am aware that I undeniably do not have a place reserved within the written world, nor do I intend on getting a hold of one, I keep finding myself guided to a blank document. Truthfully, I think that subliminally, it’s me trying to remove myself from the veiled grief, if I may.

That being said, I don’t want to keep regurgitating the typical rants of the victimized teenager, even though that’s probably going to be the destination of this post.

For the past few months, I’ve adapted a method that drove me to ‘self-content’, or so I thought. I said maybe, just maybe, if I pretended to be this conforming, compliant individual, I might actually fool myself into acceptance.

I’d accept the unsolicited meddling that followed the loss of my parent, I’d accept the despairing looks that never failed to corner me, and I’d accept that the frameworks of my household would not align with your ‘typical’ family. I might even start to believe the idea that my household did, in fact, correspond with the norm.

Mariam, the nincompoop, expert at fabricating false facades, fails to smother the worn-out seed of woe that’s holding her back from self-satisfaction. Funny.

With every family gathering, I’m always left with this feeling of overwhelming, transcended exhaustion. I bite my tongue in the arc of conversations. “I have to keep mother happy,” I remind myself. If I say something, chances are, I prompt the domino effect of fury. Mother needs not to add more anxieties to her doubled list of worries. After all, considering the unfortunate circumstances that left her anchored to three kids, and forced her to take on the responsibility of both parents, I at least owe it to her.

In terms of myself, I’m bitter.

This metaphor of perfection, a leader in her workplace, the epitome of independence, an incentive to many, is constantly stifled and throttled when it comes to drawing a line with anything concerning her children.

Appalling is understating the fact that I’ve become accustomed to the scheduled frenzies after the Morning Prayer. It frustrates me so much. I see her removing herself from the emotional distress, and into her work she delves, assimilating it as the only companion that would offer her distraction from them. A painful truth that no one would ask for.

If that’s their attempt with filling the void of fatherhood, then it’s about time that someone reported back of their progress.

It has almost gotten to the point where I can taste the bitterness seeping from my sour reality.

But all that I can do at this very moment is play my infamous cassette of silence, and quench their neediness to meddle. I think I can safely say that my mother did a plausible job at raising all three of us with the help of no one but herself. People associate chivalry with knighthood, but just the mere thought of having no one to share the stress with, the inescapable pain, the restraining responsibility or even the bliss that parents encounter with raising their children, mother, I praise you for exhibiting the true meaning of chivalry.

 From here, I leave you with silence.

The Passengers

We, the human race, are passengers on this earth.

We came. We conquered. We enslaved. We killed.

We nourished. We built. We invented.

We abused. We eradicated. We flourished.

We, the human race, are monsters within our own humanity.

We, the human race, the passengers, are the cause of chaos and the cause of prosperity.

We are a phase. A passing moment. A drift.

We are a breeze caused by a butterfly that turns into a tornado some decades and continents later.

We are the creators, and the destroyers. We are compassionate, and we are cruel.

Amongst us lie the innocent and the devious.

Amongst us lie wrath, rage, love, and yearning.

Amongst us lie those who beg for something greater and those who want nothing at all.

Those who seek a purpose and those who beg for theirs to end.

Those who await answers and those who ask questions.

Those who thrive and those who fail.

We, as the human race, have done so much, yet done so little.

We tried to answer everything but came up with countless more questions.

We categorize and we disarrange.

The faults lie within our own errors, and virtues lie within our deeds.

We choose what to make with what we have.

We chose to give or to own.

To demolish or preserve. We have strength. We have power.

We are humans. We are the passengers. The powerful passengers.

 

Breakfast Memoir

A friend of mine sent me a picture that reminded me of this post I wrote 4 years ago, 2 years before my grandma passed away. So I thought of republishing it here in her memory, and because I miss her so much.

——

Written on April 20, 2010

I miss the days,, I miss the memories,,
I remember when we were kids; we used to travel to Bahrain on Eid Holidays to visit my mother’s side of the family. I remember the old neighborhood, the streets the family compound. I remember it all.

Neighborhood: Al Budaiya. Family compound: Habib Hussain Bushehri. The compound consisted of a main house for my grandparents, 3 houses for my uncles, a swimming pool, and a farm. I remember them all with every little detail.

I remember the yard area in the middle of the compound, where all of us, the grandchildren, would gather and play all kind of games. I remember the farm area, us exploring around the plantation and the water stream, feeding the goats, and making fun of the chicken. In fact, if I close my eyes I can remember the smell and the feel of it all.

I remember I used to stay at my grandparents house when I went for visits with my mother & siblings. I remember how grandpa & grandma would compete to be our favorite grandparent. Grandma used to get me the little gold rings and bracelets. Grandpa used to get for us all kind of toys, potato chips, chocolates, and juices. I remember it clearly that it brings tears to my eyes. They competed, but we always loved them both, and secretly used to laugh at their competition.

I remember our special breakfasts. No matter how early we woke up, my grandma was always awake before us, and the house would smell of freshly made tea and milk pots, and breakfast being prepared. The breakfast menu rarely changed, but we always craved for it and found it exciting. Looking back, I still crave for the days my grandma was healthy enough to prepare it for us.

I remember the wait until everyone is awake, the call to gather before serving the breakfast, the dining sheet being laid on the ground, the tray of tea & milk pots along with cups & sugar, and then us sitting around that dining sheet. The food would then be escorted in, dish by dish, smell by smell, and view after view. The delicious freshly made brown chapati (type of bread similar to pancakes only more flavorsome, originated from India), the tastiest plain omelets cooked with butter which you could smell from all over the house, the yummy Bajela (fried broad/horse beans), the juiciest Nekhy (boiled chic peas), and the undeniable craft spread cheese, which was an essential element of any breakfast back then.

I long for that breakfast, for the days when such breakfast brought us all together, when that breakfast was a pure source of joy. I long for that breakfast.

Artwork by Emily Wang (Instagram: @ emmkins)

Artwork by Emily Wang (Instagram: @ emmkins)

——

My grandmother passed away on the 26th November, 2011. I found out about it in one of the worst ways; When I woke up in the morning and started checking my blackberry and the BBM’s status updates, I found statues and statues being updated one after the other by my cousins mourning her passing away. I remember I screamed: no, no, no! But of course, that didn’t change the fact that she was gone.

You’re always in our hearts and on our minds, and we miss you every passing day. May God have mercy on the kindest soul that is yours.

In loving memory of Badriya Bushehri, this is my tribute to you.

Hello Sail By The Masses

As you all know, I’ve been running Sail eMagazine (I’ll refer to it hereafter as Sail) for 4 years now. We made a name out of that many aspire to be part of. Sail is an Emarati monthly online magazine (potentially soon to be bi-monthly). This meant few things:

  • Writers and illustrators have to be Emaratis
  • The writers, illustrators, editors, have to commit to monthly editorial cycles
  • Articles have to talk about the community, culture, or creativity

But with the growth of the magazine, more people were approaching us to join, whether Emaratis with different genres of writing, Emaratis who couldn’t exactly commit to monthly submissions, or even non-Emaratis with good content.

SAIL_ByTheMASSES_400 width

As the demand grew across time, we decided to expand to “Sail By The Masses”, which would be different in the following aspects:

  • The frequency of publishing will depend on the amount of articles submitted across time, it can be daily, weekly, or every few days. This keeps the readers on their toes to keep coming back and read what’s new
  • The sent articles will not go through the same thorough editorial process that Sail goes through, instead it will be published as is, except of course, if it crosses censorship limits of politics, religion, or sexual matters.
  • The publishing door will be open for any kind of writing genre.
  • No regular submission commitment is mandated, writers can submit as and when they wish.
  • Anyone can publish with us, regardless of nationality and country of residence.
  • In terms of illustration, the door is also opened for illustrators and graphic designers. If they read an article that they liked, they can email us to ask to illustrate it, and if we confirm that no other artist is already working on it, then they can reserve it to illustrate for it, and the resultant artwork will be added to the article along with the artist’s name.

As with Sail though, some commonalities still exist:

  • The readers can participate with their opinion commenting on the articles, and can suggest constructive feedback to the writer on the topic and style of writing
  • The piece published with By The Masses shouldn’t be published on another publication, with the exception of the writer’s personal blog if the writer wished to publish it there as well.

I truly believe in the power of writing! And I truly believe even more in the power of reading! So let’s make more of those two, and lets bring it to more than just me and you, let’s bring all the writing and reading to the world! Let’s read and write more!

Join us and send your contributions or queries to ByTheMasses.info@SailEMagazine.com

We can’t wait to hear from you!

What Is My Identity

If I were to be completely honest, I have spent my entire weekend thinking about what makes Maryam’s identity? What makes this little naïve seventeen years old’s wretched identity? And I found my answer, sourced in a single characteristic that has sort of rebelled against everything that I have been raised to believe was right.

So, as to begin, my name is Maryam Abdulaziz Bin Sougat Al Falasi. I come from a tribe, and a family, of poets and all kinds of lovers of the written word, like my late grandfather and my great uncle who are both poets. And it’s only wonderful when it’s not. See, this passion and love for words is absolutely spectacular, but something else tagged along with it, and it’s something I like to call: Extreme Conventionalism. And although being conventional is wonderful, it does come with its rough ends. Because with conventionalism comes traditionalism, evidently, and traditionalism carries a certain set of characteristics that are required in every individual. My family and my society carry these characteristics with pride. And here, is where my problem arises: I don’t carry these characteristics with pride. Because I am required to have so much pride I could blow up; to be so nationalistic I might as well turn into a flag; to be so in tune with my own culture that it becomes who I am. I cannot be any of these things. I don’t feel, in any manner, connected to my culture. And this is the honest truth. The reason behind this is sourced in the fact that I am an introvert. Now being an introvert (the rebelling characteristic that I have mentioned above.) means being an inward-thinker, and my society is forcing me to be an outward-thinker. I have tried so hard to be this Epitome of Perfection Extrovert, but it just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t who I am.

Through this, through trying to fit into a mold that was not crafted for me, I have understood that I was born to not fit into a mold at all. That I cannot be a part of my society the same way an atom is a part of a sea, but I can be a part of my society the same way the wind is part of the forest. It is not exactly directly relevant to the forest, but it is still a fracture of it. And even though people have regarded my introversion with distaste, and a thousand different people tried to ‘fix’ my innate habit, I am still fond of my introversion. My introversion, I have realized through this, is what made me who I am—what crafted my identity. It allowed me to look at my society wonderfully, because it has given me the same pride, the same nationalism, and the same understanding of my culture but in a different form that suits me best.

To further elaborate, even though my country’s language and its culture haven’t influenced me the same way it has influenced my peers, it still has its mark. This might sound awfully silly, but because both my parents have Bedouin relatives, and Bedouin carry their pride in their language, my parents’ accent has a touch of Bedouin, and so naturally, my accent has a touch of Bedouin as well. And even though it is rough and archaic, it does have its own flare—it is its own source of pride. Here is where I sourced mine, in our own unique language. It made me look at my country in an entirely different light. It made me feel that I can be a part of it, that this language serves as the connection between my society and I.

So I have come to the conclusion that an identity, to me, does not have to be a set of pre-constructed notions and characteristics based on other people’s ideas of who an individual must be, but a set of characteristics partially derived from a nation’s culture, and partially derived from the individual’s own journey into self-discovery and understanding.

Vulnerability: The Birthplace of Creativity

When you think of the word vulnerability, what runs through your mind? Fear, weakness and exposure. It is very rare to come across a person that is proud of their vulnerabilities. In my sixteen years of existence, I have met many who have concealed their thoughts and dreams because they would rather be accepted and meet society’s norms instead of being in a situation in which failure was a possibility.

Many are afraid to state their opinion, try something new or even be themselves because they would rather stay on the safe side of things. Were you ever put in a situation where you were asked to share your thoughts but didn’t because you thought you would sound stupid? Or have you visited a new place and avoided an activity because you thought it would be difficult and humiliating. Everybody has. Many crawl back into their shell and would try to avoid these situations. By constantly saying no to new opportunities, a habit is built; we begin to get comfortable, this is why they call it the “comfort zone”.

Countless people do not understand that our vulnerabilities are our opportunities for growth. By taking chances, making mistakes and admitting to them we learn something new. We then excel as a person, we become stronger and after awhile we turn invincible. Imagine if you took that job in the new city you always wanted to visit, but didn’t because you were afraid. Imagine if you went to that party you wanted to attend, but didn’t because you didn’t know anyone. Imagine if you gave that public speech about your million-dollar idea, but didn’t because you were shy.  These are the decisions that shape us and create us. Failure should never be feared; anyone who is now successful has once failed. Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Oprah Winfrey are all famous failures. Imagine the world without any of them and if they were too afraid to speak up and peruse their most outrageous dreams and ambitions.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of every positive emotion in our lives; if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we allow empathy and love to enter our lives. When we speak of our fears, we can access comfort and reassurance from the people we love. If a friend were to come and tell you about an embarrassing situation she experienced, instead of replaying with a bunch of “I told you so’s” be comforting and present, accept what he/she are saying. This will eliminate the shame with this feeling and make the person feel more accepted, she would be willing to continue on with whatever brought her this negative feeling.

It is important as parents, siblings, friends and spouses to support each other positively, especially when dealing with someone’s delicate thoughts or doubts. The last thing you would want to do is break the person’s self-confidence. Push them and comfort them, try and eliminate the feeling of fear.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, change and creativity. Without breaking out of the box there would be nothing new, life would be boring and repetitive. Next time you seem hesitant about making a decision, say yes before your mind creates a list of things that could go wrong. Even if you failed, it would be better than not trying.

I’m Amazing

I was in a palace full with all type of luxuries; everything I ever wanted was there. I thought it was heaven. I was so happy and excited, trying everything and enjoying everything. I was so busy doing everything I ever wanted that I did not notice if any of my family or friends were around. Then I started looking around me. I wanted to share all that luxury with someone, anyone, but there was no one to share with. I started to feel bored. Every day was the same for me. It became depressing. I decided that I will spend my day searching for people. I was shouting loudly: Mum, dad, family, friends… but no answer. I kept calling out names; no answer and suddenly; I opened my eyes and I saw my little sister laughing at me and she said: “it seems like you were having a bad dream”. Oh thank god it was just a bad dream.

Have you ever imagined a life without people? Without family, friends or strangers?

We all know that life is a journey, so I won’t talk about that, but I would like to talk about the people you meet through your journey. Be nice to them, because every single person will teach you valuable lessons in life. I want you to know that yes every single person is special, but what make you more special is the people around you.

The people you will meet in this journey will stay in your heart and mind forever, some you will remember their words or their helpful actions and others will challenge you to be a better you. All of them, Treat them well. Some people will be there the whole journey; some will be there a period of time to show you the path. Some will be there for a moment to give you inspiring moments. Some will have completely different view about life and will keep arguing with you. They will help you understand that different is not wrong. Accept every single person and be nice.

Can you count the number of lessons you learned from your parents. They accept you and love you unconditionally. Your siblings may tease you, argue with you, laugh at you and laugh with you and believe me they will wake up the hero in you. There are the people who you will call strangers and then end up as friends. You meet different kind of friends. A friend who Give you a shoulder to cry on, wipe your tears and then push you to continue your journey. A friend who will value your ambitious and teache you to slow down and enjoy the moments. A friend who tells you eventually everything will be fine. One will teach you that there is no limit for creativity. When you love your talent you learn to improve it and there is always time even when you have a busy life. A friend full with fun spirit will teach you that ambitious is not boring so dream big.

I’m sure you have met one or more of those people, and learned so many life lessons from them. So please say to them “thank you I appreciate you in my life. And …

If you think I’m amazing, look at the people around me. They are the one who makes me glow.”

Marriage; Every Girl’s Dream?

Marriage is an issue of great concern for many Arabs and almost an essential aspect of their life but marriage for a person living with disability represents a totally different concept.

As a woman born with physical disability, I felt there is a need to address certain points concerning the matter of marriage.

The main point that I feel should be addressed or made clear; is the difference between the teachings of Islam and the inherited cultural ideas and tradition.  It is important to recognise every individual in their own right, who whether they have a partner or not, will be questioned about their actions on their own on the Day of Judgement.

Marriage undoubtedly is a blessing, like anything that comes from Allah (SWT) such as wealth, health, children, job and so on. Many people dream of it happening, but not everyone, and some people go on to have a long and happy married life while others fail.

I have met people who left me with the notion that the Muslim world regards marriage as an essential element of one’s existence. However there are prerequisites including equality between the partners in physical ability/health, hence disabled people are excluded to a certain extent.

Marriage, like any other aspect of life, is an ‘option’ and should not define your personality or how religious you are. We should not support this cultural teaching by attaching an Islamic tone to it, instead we must seek to change attitudes, educate people about disability and raise awareness of what life with disability entails. After all, Islam is a religion that promotes knowledge, education and equality.

It is important to learn from historical facts to understand our present and develop our future, specifically where disability is concerned. During the high centuries of the Islamic civilisation a significant number of blind, deaf or physically disabled people played notable roles as philologists, transmitters of the law, teachers, poets, and social commentators. They included Abu’l Ala al-Ma’arri, Abu Uthman Amr bin Bahr (Al-Jahiz), Bashshar ibn Burd, Ibn-Sirin, Qatada ibn Di’ama al-Sadusi, Muwaffaq al-Din Muzaffar, and Thalab, and all were important contributors to our modern civilisation.

Atta Ibn Abi Rabah, who was black, could not fully walk and was partially paralysed, was known as the greatest Mufti in Mecca. Inclusion was offered to everyone regardless of their physical ability.

Later, at the Ottoman court in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, deaf servants taught sign language to courtiers and sultans when it became a recognized means of communication; this was during a period when Western Europeans were still debating whether deaf people were capable of learning anything or thinking as rational beings.

How did things change so dramatically within the years, and why does the idea of marriage for someone with disability cause more of a problem in an Islamic society than in the non-Muslim world?

I have grown up repeatedly hearing: ‘getting married is completing half of the deen (religion)’. I can’t verify the authenticity of this Hadith, however hearing this Hadith made me feel I am lacking half of my faith, because essentially that is the meaning behind it. Surely whatever comes from Allah is a blessing, and if it is not written for you then that should not reflect your devotion to Islam; simply it means Allah does not see it as beneficial for you.

Marriage is inherently a protective ‘tool’ that stops people from pursuing sexual desires outside of wedlock; committing a big sin in Islam.  Muslims are encouraged to marry in many ayat in the Quran, yet simultaneously there are ayat that warn people about marriage, their partner and of their children. ‘O you who believe! Verily, among your spouses and your children there are enemies for you; therefore beware of them’ (64:13).

I come from a family that does not see marriage as a necessity. In fact, I was brought up with aunts who have stayed single out of choice. I never viewed marriage as an essential element of life or a ‘dream’ that is out of reach.

Seeing many single and independent women around me erased any thought of being either different or deprived of an opportunity because marriage is not for everyone whether you are disabled or not.  Marriage, like any feature of this life, is a test, similar to staying single. The action of each individual is what really matters and plays the decisive role in marriage being a completion of ‘half the deen’ or a source of danger as the Qur’an warns: ‘Your wealth and your children are only a fitnah, whereas Allah! With Him is a great reward’ (64:14)

We can seek wealth, jobs, marriage or any other opportunities but we shall only get what Allah has planned for us. A believer should follow their heart and let it be their guide, as we can never judge and should not judge who is good or bad, simply because we will never know. It is logical to choose someone who has a similar way of thinking, personality and beliefs to ourselves. Again, the Qur’an does not state that we should marry people who are same as us; in fact it encourages us to mix with people of different social status. While it does not mention specifically people with disability but the idea still prevails, wealth, ability, appearance should not be the basis of our marriage choices, ‘They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor. GOD will enrich them from His grace. GOD is Bounteous, Knower.’ (24:32) It is society that dictates rules and unfortunately invokes the feeling of superiority in individuals, who view themselves as ‘better’ than some.   The Muslim world almost punishes people who are ‘different’; an act that goes against the principle teachings of Islam and certain individuals seem to almost condone and accept such attitudes, whereas we should reject and change it, through education.

I often hear people claiming to be following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) yet they are very selective as they forget that the Prophet married someone older than him, who was richer than him and had married before. In our current time and among our society this is rarely seen.

The Prophet’s behaviour towards disabled people is an example for us to follow, as well as the shinning record of Islamic history’s many examples of people who, while having some kind of disability, were included and had prominent status in society.

Such as the figure of Abdullah ibn umm Maktum, who was blind and was among the first to accept Islam and was devoted to the Prophet (PBUH).  Abdullah was appointed to be one of the muezzins. On several occasions, the Prophet placed Abdullah in charge of Medina in his absence. This is just one example of inclusion that shows how people with disabilities are looked upon and treated in Islam.  Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum’s being blind was not a hindrance in his ability to carry out his duties.

There are many cases of people getting married to a person of similar background and ability then go on to suffer from domestic violence and abuse, surely in such scenario staying single is a better option. Choosing someone similar to you does not guarantee happiness. Furthermore, to suggest that the best and practical way of introducing marriage to people with disability is for the ‘deaf to marry deaf and blind to marry blind because it would be difficult for a deaf to communicate with non-deaf person’ is just something that I can’t accept. If you love someone surely learning sign language should not be an issue? In fact you would do anything to enter their world.

As I write this article I am trying hard to think what would be my ideal husband, something I have never thought about before. I could not. No matter how hard I tried to envisage a figure, I am unable.  May be I shall find my soul mate with someone disabled and may be not, but I will not let it be a factor in my judgement.

I do recognise that tradition and culture make marriage, for disabled people, a difficult concept because of misled assumptions that a disabled person might not bear children and if they do the child might be disabled, forgetting that everything in life is a risk, who is to say that a person will bear a healthy child?

Another ‘cultural’ idea is; marriage relies on a provider and someone who takes care of the house etc. So people assume that whatever role you take, a disabled person might be limited in both. In marriage, people complete each other, who’s to say a disabled and a non-disabled person don’t complete each other. Where one may be strong physically the other is emotionally/mentally strong. Society needs to be taught to look beyond appearance and accept people who are of different ability.

The Prophet (PBUH) met a woman who complained that she suffered from epileptic fits. She expressed concern that her body would become exposed during such episodes. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) offered the woman two choices: he could either pray to God that she could have access to paradise if she patiently resigned herself to her condition, or he could ask God to heal her. She opted to continue to bear her condition with patience but also asked the Prophet to pray that her body might no longer become exposed to the view of strangers.

This story highlights three important points; first, it illustrates the value of forbearance on the part of the person with the disability. More importantly, it affirms the right of individuals to draw attention to their special needs and to speak out for their rights as a matter of social justice. Finally, the story points to the important role of advocacy and the support which the wider community is expected to provide to the individual.

We need to move away from cultural habits and views, leave prejudice and discrimination behind and focus on our own individual acts and collectively as a society to make the world better.  Ultimately reflecting on some of Islam’s teaching in seeking knowledge, promoting equality and showing compassion. ‘Men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember – Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (Quran surah al’ahzab 33:35)  This is what matters, what we do with the life we are given.

Education is the key that made Islamic civilisation one of the greatest but unfortunately it has fallen prey to prejudice, cultural and traditional teachings and misguided views. If every person should marry someone of similar situation then we should go back a few decades to the days of racial segregation! Where is the co-existence? Is this equality?

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Speak To Me

Speak to me,

Argue with every innate bit of reasoning you have left inside

Try and fail to convince me that the world around me has no purpose

No creator, no founder, no guide

Every artwork has a painter

Every book has an author

Every glacier is bigger on the inside

So what makes you think

That this world has something to hide?

If every object has a creator

How can you not surmise?

That we’re part of something greater

That lies in front of our eyes?

How does the sun know when to rise

Or when to put it’s light away

How does the moon know when to glow

And when to make the way for the day

How does the sky change it’s clothing

From grey to white to blue

And do the clouds alone release their sorrows with rain

Soaking the world through?

Do the winds decide which direction

They’d like to pursue

So the trees decide which leave to keep

And which to strew?

Does the weather have a change of mood

Every once in a while?

Does it turn hot then warm then chill

According to what’s in style?

Does the earth shake when it’s angry

Does the lightning strike when it’s mad?

Does the ocean spill its feelings

When it’s feeling kind of sad?

Who orders your cells to work together,

Or do they just decide to, alone?

How does your body change its shape

Do you wake up and find you’ve grown?

How does your heart contract and expand

Beating fresh blood to every part of your being

How do your legs know just when to move

How does your brain process what you’re seeing?

Did you think you came here for no purpose,

Given blessings you can never count,

Taught to feel, love, and give,

And feel emotions to an abundant amount,

Just here to live, then die once more,

Like a guest just at the door,

Created for nothing bigger, better, in store?

Look around, take a glance

At not the big, but just the small

Can this world have just existed,

For no reason at all?

Look inside, try to see

The potential meant to be

Try to figure out the deeper, stronger, meaning of “me.”