At ProductiveMuslimah, we believe the ultimate secret to a successful Muslimah is that she strives with sincere intentions and uses all the resources around her to achieve the highest stations in Paradise. We are always looking for the ‘secrets to productivity’ and wanted to explore how some of the Muslim women today manage time effectively and perform the best in all the roles they hold being a mother, wife, daughter, professional, activist and more! So we decided to get some of the ‘Productive Muslimahs’ of our time in the hot seat to find out their top tips and secrets to become a Productive Muslimah!
We are very excited to be joined in this first part of a series of interviews by Sister Na’ima Robert, a best selling international author, mother of five, public speaker, and Chief Editor for SISTERS Magazine for fabulous women, in our ProductiveMuslimah hot seat so we asked her to tell us her secrets on how she manages to stay productive while juggling her family, her work and her writing!
1) We’re very excited to have you share your Secrets as a Productive Muslimah! First, tell us who inspires you to be a Productive Muslimah?
Well, I don’t know about the term ‘Productive Muslimah’; I often feel I am more of an obsessed, driven Muslimah :).
For a long time in my early life as a Muslim, I didn’t do very much outside of the home and my immediate environment. This was due to a combination of factors: women were never really encouraged to get involved in activities that could possibly compete with the demands of the family; I also didn’t see examples around me of other sisters being active or dynamic. When they were, they were often shut down and support was withheld by the wider community. There was a culture of inertia among the sisters, a feeling that, as women, we were somehow incapable of balancing multiple roles and that, really, it didn’t matter what talents we may have, there was no room for us in the public space.
My first champion in those days was my husband: he was the one who encouraged me to shake off that kind of thinking and pushed me to send my picture book manuscripts off to publishers, to try to build a career as a children’s writer. After my first book, ‘The Swirling Hijaab’ was published, I realised that there was a niche in the market and I threw myself into learning all about being a children’s book author, writing manuscripts, query letters and proposals. I started writing more stories and getting more books published, alhamdulillah. I was onto something.
However, it was writing From My Sisters’ Lips that changed everything for me. Along with the publicity when the book was launched came the opportunity to address a much wider audience, to take part in discussion and debate that reached a national audience, to influence the discourse on Muslim women. That was when I was going on BBC Radio, morning TV, writing for The Guardian, trying to share the stories of Muslim women, to counteract the misinformation that was flooding the media.
I began to feel that I was actually doing something significant, something that was touching lives, that could be a force for good, bi’idhnillah. I knew I had to honour the opportunities I was being blessed with so I decided to take to heart something I had heard many years before: Achieve something great for the deen of Allah.
After that intense period, SISTERS Magazine was born, alhamdulillah, not without significant sacrifice and hardship I might add! But we believed it was worth it to have a magazine that Muslim women would be proud to claim, to draw strength, knowledge and inspiration from. Alhamdulillah, 8 years and we’re still here, stronger than ever, with a really fantastic team of editors, writers and lovely readers all over the world.
So, if anything inspires me, it is this: to work for the sake of Allah, for the Muslims, for humanity, to inspire others, to leave a positive legacy and be part of beneficial, blessed work. And that is what I am striving to do, now more than ever.
2) You are a busy Mum, writer and founder of SISTERS Magazine – we don’t know how you manage it all! Where do you find time as a Muslimah to get a balance in all these areas of your life?
I’m going to depart from the accepted script here and say this: balance is the hardest thing to achieve. Often, you’ll get it wrong. Things will slide: it could be the housework, your professional performance, your time with the kids or your husband, or taking care of yourself, or your relationship with Allah. It is the extremely rare individual that manages to keep a balance between all these areas all of the time. That’s why it’s important to go into your projects with your eyes open, with realistic expectations. Super Muslimah exists, but she is the exception, not the rule. The rest of us are simply trying to make sure that our priorities are right, in the dunyah and for our akhirah. Some things are non negotiable. Some things can wait. Some things don’t matter that much in the big scheme of things.
As for me, I know I have chosen a more complicated life than that of a stay-at-home mum whose only concern is for her family and her home. Believe me, I envy her sometimes, masha Allah! But that is not for me. I have made peace with that fact. I have made peace with the fact that I will never be a homeschooler. I have made peace with the fact that I may never be a hafidhah. I have made peace with the fact that my life will constantly be a balancing act, that I will always be juggling. It must be so because I know what is important to me and what I am not prepared to compromise: my deen, my husband and family, and honouring the opportunities that Allah ta’ala has blessed me with. And that means being active, being creative, being a force for change in any way I can, by the grace of Allah ta’ala.
Our predecessors, the women of the Muhajireen and the Ansar, were amazing, strong, dedicated women of faith. I hope to go some way towards honouring their legacy through my work with SISTERS and the other phenomenal Muslim women I have been blessed to work with.
3) You’ve written some wonderful novels with inspiring messages and themes, what advice can you offer our readers or sisters who may be aspiring writers?
Alhamdulillah, there is a wealth of advice on becoming a writer available online. Much of what I learned in terms of technique and industry knowledge came from online sources. So Google it and take some time out to read the blogs, articles and newsletters. They really do give you an excellent grounding in the many aspects of becoming a writer.
My own advice is very simple: Read loads of books, write every day, in lots of different styles, about things you care about. Share your writing with others whose opinions you respect and learn to take constructive criticism without getting upset. And always take a break from anything you write and then come back to it with fresh eyes to edit it – all the best writers edit their own work and make many, many revisions before their manuscript is ready to be sent to an agent or publisher.
Nowadays, there are so many ways to share your work with others: blogs, websites like Productive Muslimah, writing contests, online publications, articles in magazines like SISTERS or Discover, as well as books, either self-published or with a traditional publisher. If you are sincere and have something valuable to say (and I’m sure we all do!), work on finding your ‘voice’ and honing your technique, you will find your readership, insha Allah.
4) What’s your favourite book (or books!) that you would recommend for a Productive Muslimah?
The Qur’an – because it keeps you grounded!
In terms of productivity, I would recommend 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey & 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. And I also recommend SISTERS Magazine because I learn something new every single month, alhamdulillah.
And I’m waiting for the Productive Muslimah book to come out now…
5) Finally, what’s the key secret to being a successful ProductiveMuslimah?
A sincere intention – if it’s for less than noble aims, don’t expect the barakah
A clear vision – you need to be able to see what you are trying to do and be constantly refining and redefining your mission and your purpose
A support structure – a supportive husband, friends and family, a good routine for the kids, home help wherever you can get it, alarms, reminder and diaries, good nutrition and sleep, time to relax and recharge and a healthy spiritual life will keep you grounded while helping you reach your potential
A lot of hard work – just don’t expect it to be easy. It is tough but, when you see the fruits of your hard work, masha Allah, there’s nothing like that sense of gratitude and accomplishment.
I pray that Allah ta’ala blesses us with success in this life and the Next, Ameen.
Well thank you to Nai’ma for the wonderful advice and practical tips, there you have it sisters! Let us know your thoughts and comment below, and don’t forget to look out for our next instalment of ‘Secrets of a Productive Muslimah’!
About the Author:
Na’ima B. Robert is author of the Muslimah classic, ‘From my Sisters’ Lips’ and founding editor of SISTERS, the magazine for Muslim women, and DISCOVER, the magazine for curious Muslim kids.
She has written over 10 multicultural children’s books, including ‘The Swirling Hijaab’, ‘Going to Mecca’ and ‘Ramadan Moon’.
Her multicultural novels for teens have won several awards, including a Muslim Writers Award, and include ‘From Somalia, with Love’, ‘Boy vs. Girl’ and ‘Far from Home’. Her new book, ‘She Wore Red Trainers’, is a ‘halal love’ story set in South London. To download the first 4 chapters of Na’ima’s new book, ‘She Wore Red Trainers’, go to www.muslimlovestory.com
For more information, visit www.naimabrobert.co.uk
Link up with her on Facebook, Twitter (@NaimaBRobert) , Instagram and YouTube