At ProductiveMuslimah, we all 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 the first part of a series of interviews with Sister Maryam Amirebrahimi, a regular author on suhaibwebb.com, a Tae Kwon Do second degree black belt, student of knowledge and hafidha of the Qur’an! She is in our ProductiveMuslimah hot seat today so we asked her to tell us her secrets on how she manages to stay productive while juggling her studies, writing and family life!
1) We’re very excited to have you share your Secrets as a Productive Muslimah so thank you for joining us! First, tell us who inspires you to be a Productive Muslimah?
It’s an honor to be with you!
Amongst my inspirations are Kunta Kinte, Noor al-Din, Esmet al-Din, Asad al-Din and SalahuDin, may Allah have mercy on them all.
In contemporary times, my husband. Beyond a spouse, he’s a mentor, a role model, and the example of who I want to be. Not everyone has that relationship with their spouse and I recognize that I am very blessed.
Beyond him, my parents and his parents, my brother and my husband’s siblings. And my relatives in general, may God be pleased with them. Each one of them have incredibly unique qualities that I glean wisdom from whenever I am in their presence and interactions with each one of them drive me to want to become a better person and more sincere activist.
2) You are currently studying for your second BA in Islamic Studies mashaAllah! You are a black belt in Tae Kwon Do – we don’t know how you manage it all! How do you manage your time effectively to ensure you succeed in all these areas of your life?
Correction, I’m actually a second degree black belt in tae kwon do…That’s a level higher and requires more training and testing!
The best way for me to manage my time is by having a schedule and goals. I write out my daily, short and long term goals, and then come up with a system on how to approach attaining them through prioritizing what needs to be accomplished by the particular times. I often have to revisit that list and extend the time I need to complete a particular goal or readjust my goals in general based on what comes up in life. However, there are some things that remain constant, but just change in their scope (ie: It used to be memorizing the Qur’an. Once I was blessed with completing my memorization, it is now reviewing it with precision).
Anything Allah has blessed me with completing took lots of duaa, a lot of time, a lot of support from others, and a lot of dealing with changes.
How I Came to Study Arabic and Islamic Studies
I knew I wanted to do a degree in Islamic Studies when I was 16. It literally took 10 years for me to be able to embark on that journey. I had to study the basics- beginning with Qur’an and Arabic. I’m not Arab, have no background in the Arabic language, and starting to understand the Qur’an, read it and eventually begin memorizing it, was a nine year path that will continue for a lifetime, God willing.
I started learning Arabic when I was in college, taking classes with local instructors. By the time I was blessed with going to study Arabic in Egypt four years later, I had the basic functional reading skills but I was super slow, could only read with tashkil and had no idea what I was reading.
After studying Arabic in Cairo for a year, it then took me an additional three years practicing reading until I was literate enough to study Islamic texts completely in Arabic. Yes, I had wanted this degree when I was 16. But there were so many steps and levels I had to complete before fully embarking on this journey.
Even though it was not the way I envisioned it, nor was it in the timeline I had wished it, Allah had the better plan. Now, with a master’s in Social Justice Education and having memorized the Qur’an, all praise to the Lord, I can approach my Islamic Studies degree with a critical mind trained in intense academic research, with a focus on understanding what I am learning with the backdrop of Quranic literacy and with an understanding of how Islam’s thematic social justice applies to our lives in the west.
I am mentioning this example only to explain that some of us want to change the world, or accomplish something specific, and kind of expect it to just happen. It doesn’t “just happen.” It isn’t luck, it isn’t being special. It’s knocking like crazy on doors to open and breaking them down when they do not. And they won’t always break down. So then what? Regroup. Prioritize. Figure out what you can do where you are, even if you feel you are physically, mentally and spiritually stuck.
Additionally, different goals took place at different times in my life, and benefited me in different ways in different stages. For example, I completed my second degree black belt degree when I was younger. However, the skills and outlook I gained through the training continue to affect my self-awareness now.
Finally, I know I will burn out if I don’t have some special time for me. I schedule “me” time in- including working out, just vegging out and watching something, reading fiction or going out in nature. I also carve out relationship time, whether with my husband, family or friends, and those interactions always help give me grounding and center me.
3) We all love a bit of “me-time” here at Productive Muslimah! You’ve authored some great articles on suhaibwebb.com. What tips can you offer our readers or sisters who may be aspiring writers?
Speak to people all the time! Learn from other people’s experiences and their life stories. Understand that anyone can be your teacher and that you have no idea who truly are those close to God and who He has blessed in secret. Regardless of their spiritual connection or religious affiliation, you can benefit from everyone. If someone doesn’t help you become a better person or have a renewed perspective, they will at least help you realize what qualities you should not cultivate and who you should protect yourself from becoming.
Realize that your personal hardships and sometimes greatest tests in life are tailored to you specifically by the Most Loving Lord just so that you could come out and help others through your personal narrative.
And the more you practice, the more feedback you take in and use to help create your style, the more progress you’ll find yourself making, God willing.
4) Seeking knowledge clearly has an important position in the life of a Productive Muslimah. Why do you think reviving female scholarship is important and how can we use it to become more productive as an Ummah?
Women in Education and Scholarship
Did you know there are over 9,000 female hadith scholars in our Islamic history, as discussed by Dr Akram Nadwi in his book, “Al-Muhadithaat”? And that’s just in the science of hadith. Some of the greatest scholars of certain time periods were women and their students were some of the greatest male scholars whose names we praise often and know well. When women are involved in circles of knowledge, what do you think happens? Of course, an Islamic literacy revolution! Women provide a unique insight and perspective of the world that we deeply need for our communities once again.
Young women, as well as young men, frequently ask me about issues they have with a misunderstanding of a hadith or an ayah, or doubts of faith or Islam’s relevance when having heard something from who they think is a scholar but who does not seem to embody or espouse the most empowering understanding of Islam.
How We Can Embody the Great Female Scholars
The best way to help liberate ourselves and others from the confusion and doubts in faith that we or others experience, is though knowledge and skilled mentorship. Through both of those avenues, inshaAllah we will begin to see a rise in young people who are Islamically literate and confident in Islamic texts, teachings, and applications for living an Islamically relevant life.
With this understanding, our outlook on life; our community work, our social justice work in society, our interactions in frustration and our responses in hardship should propel us to make every interaction and mundane situations an act of worship and closeness to God, an act of benefiting ourselves and those around us, simply through our consistent awareness of our intentions.
Additionally, I have authored an article explaining my personal, painful journey as a woman who sought to be a student of knowledge. It reflects the experiences many women have told me they have personally had, where they have been told or inadvertently taught that their personalities, their style, their sense of being, is antithetical to Islam. Because of this, they begin to change the very core of who they are, sometimes experience depression, and eventually, often leave Islam or the community because they simply cannot handle the messages of being told that they are a temptation and constantly in the wrong for simply existing.
I hope this article, which outlines both my journey and steps towards a solution, will inshaAllah help shed light on why this path is essential for more women to embark upon.
Well, we’ve got some great tips there from Sister Maryam, and a unique insight into how she strives to be a productive Muslimah! Join us next month for the second part of Sister Maryam Amirebrahimi’s interview, where she gives us advice of Qur’an memorisation, taking an active role within the community and tells us what you’d most likely catch her reading!
Read Part 2 of this interview.
About the Author:
Maryam Amirebrahimi received her master’s in Social Justice Education from UCLA, where her research focused on the effects of mentorship rooted in Critical Race Theory for urban high school students of color. She holds a bachelor’s in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University, where she served as the President of the Muslim Student Association for two consecutive years. Currently, she is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies through Al Azhar University’s distance learning program. Maryam spent a year studying the Arabic language and Qur’an in Cairo, Egypt, and has memorized the Qur’an. She has been presented the Student of the Year award by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Maryam frequently travels to speak and work with different communities to address a variety of spiritual topics and social issues. She writes about topics related to social realities, women’s studies and spiritual connections on the popular online blog, www.suhaibwebb.com. Maryam is a dynamic and outspoken proponent for social justice and women’s rights.