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The One Thing I Get Asked On A Daily Basis (And Am Really Happy To Answer!)

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When we came back to Singapore this time round, there were a few things that really striked me. One of them was the constant fascination and emphasis placed on our jobs or what is it that we do for a living. For example, when my husband and I were introduced to new acquaintances, the second thing they will ask after “what’s your name” is “soooooooo, what do you do, Aida/Karim?” As opposed to Morocco, where they would ask you “How are you? How’s your family back home, Aida? Are they well? What about your Sisters?” etc etc. To be honest, the “what’s your job” question stumped me a little as I never really cared to put a label or a title to what is it I really do, I just do it because I love doing what I do.

In the beginning, my answer to them would be, “I run my own business”, which should really be said as matter-of-factly and proudly as possible but I would always find myself hesitating to give that answer (and at times, was really close to just answering “oh, Im a housewife”). There would be two types of reaction following this: it’s either “oh. how do you survive/ can you even make any money out of it????” or “Wow! Tell me more! I’ve always wanted to start my own business but have no idea where to begin!”

Don’t get me wrong, the assumptions that the first group of people hold are very legit and justified (I was also part of this group for a very long time) but the question I get from the latter is really the one that makes me all excited, and alive, and beaming, and passionate and it is the question that I am really happy to answer! And Ma Sha Allah, I get this on a daily basis, be it via emails, or fb messages and in person which really made me realise that there are plenty of girls who do want to have something they can call their own and who do want to work for themselves and are willing to take the path less travelled to be successful and more importantly, to try to be the best version of themselves by investing on and working on themselves, and not for other people.

And if you are one of them, then I am just like you. I want all that for myself too. Because I know what it feels like to wake up every morning, dragging yourself to work, and I know how bad the commute to the work place is that it just takes all the energy out that you don’t even feel motivated to do anything when you reach work. I know how it’s like counting down to 6pm or to the week-end or to the next get-away and the daily routine of doing the same thing, in and out – oh how the routine breaks me! But complaints and moanings will never change anything so I salute all of you who recognises that this is not the life you want to live and that you do want to change things and do something about it.

I did and if I can do it, you can do it, better.


Rasulullah (peace be upon him) said, “Trade, because rizq has 10 portions, of which trade consists of 9 portions.” -Ahyaul-Uloom.


 

My gut instinct (tip #1, always listen to your gut instinct!) tells me that this is the best time to develop and launch a new and one-time only course called For Heroes & Lovers: An 8-week, Interactive Video Course on ‘How To Start An Online Business From Scratch & Do The Work You Love For A Living‘. It is a BETA version, and I will only open it to 30 girls as I would like to work closely with each Sister, In Sha Allah.

I fully believe that every one of us should be given equal opportunity to learn about things that matter (and this include everything and anything, not just about business) and because of this I decided to make the 8 week course as affordable as possible, at a one time payment of SGD39, which only makes it to be less than $5 a week. I also wanted it to be flexible and not cumbersome or boring, so short videos are the perfect medium for this - you can watch it at your own time and at your own pace, reflecting and digesting all the information that I will be sharing comfortably.

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The curriculum and schedule is as follows:

Week 1 / September 1st: The Foundation – Knowing Yourself

Week 2 / September 8th: Finding Your “Why” And Telling Your Story – Your Big Idea and The Different Business Models

Week 3 / September 15th: Validating Your Idea

Week 4 / September 22nd: Building Your Brand And Finding Your Community

End of Week 4: Q&A + Individual 20 Mins Skype Call to Each Participant (at her convenience)

Week 5 / 29th Semptember:  Let’s Talk About The Website

Week 6 / 6 October: Growing Your Audience And Getting Yourself Heard

Week 7 / 13 October: Creating Awesome Products And Hitting Financial Targets

Week 8 / 20 October: Genuine, Authentic Marketing

End of Week 8: Q&A + Individual 20 Mins Skype Call to Each Participant (at her convenience)

You will also receive weekly PDF Workbooks that will be complimentary to the video courses. You will also be part of on an exclusive online community on FB with other fellow participants and aspiring women-preneurs where we can share, encourage, inspire and ask for help so no one has to feel that they are in this all alone!

What to do next?

If you think this course will help you and is for you (and In Sha Allah, it will and it is!) you can register for it by clicking on the button below. Registration closes by Friday, 12PM Singapore time, and is only open to 30 ladies. Once you have registered, we will be emailing you shortly with a confirmation and more information regarding the course! If you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me at forheroesandloversacademy@gmail.com, I’ll be happy to answer any of your queries/questions or to hear any suggestions from you! And if you have someone in mind that may benefit from this course, do share it with them as well!

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Looking forward to meeting all of you potential women-preneurs soon!

PS: If you do not have a PayPal Account, fret not, you can always email us to make payment via iBanking!

UPDATE: Registrations are now closed and all slots are now full! Alhamdulillah :)

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(Might Be A Tad Strange But) What The FIFA World Cup Has Taught Me

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My dad is (yes, is, even at 52 years of age) a footballer, so I grew up with soccer largely embedded into my DNA. When I was a baby, every single Sunday would be spent on the pitch, and for the whole 90 minutes of the game, I would be passed around and would be in the arms of different footballers’ wives. I honestly have no recollection of that memory but my parents swore by it. I asked if I ever cried when another stranger would pick me up, my mother said “oh no, actually, you are one of the easiest baby to care for!” (oh yeah! I was so cool and flexible even when I was a kid, heh!)

My dad is a Goalkeeper – he never played any other positions. I always thought (but never had the courage to tell him) that being the Goalkeeper is like the worst position ever. I mean, doesn’t every one aim to be the forward/striker? Anyways, I thought that being the Goalkeeper has no special merit – if the team won, no credit will be given to the Goalie (only to the scorers); and if the team lost, everyone would blame the Keeper. And that sucks. But when I saw, at the end of every single game how each and every one of the players would go to my dad and give him a big (manly) hug and a high-5 and the respect that they give to him (plus he’s the Captain of the team), I realised it’s really not so much about your ‘position’ in the team, but how much of a team-player you are and how much value you can bring to the game.

After a while I realised, although being a Goalkeeper is not as glamorous as being a Striker, the team cannot play without a Goalie and the game cannot go on without the Keeper as well.

Now, on to what the World Cup Has Taught Me About Life:

Champions Don’t Always Stay Champions; Losers Don’t Always Stay Losers.

The only constant thing in this life is change and the teams playing for the World Cup can definitely testify to this. France won the World Cup in 1998, but at the next World Cup (2002), they were eliminated at the preliminary group stage. So did Italy (champions of the 2006 World Cup, eliminated at the 2010 preliminary stage) and more recently Spain (champions at the 2010 World Cup, eliminated at the 2014 preliminary stage)! This proves that it doesn’t mean you were once a winner, you will always stay at the top.

Additionally, more and more Underdog teams have made it to the next round of the World Cup. This year, we saw Costa Rica, Algeria, USA and Nigeria, all beating the likes of Spain, Portugal, Italy and England to make it to the Round of 16. And they deserved to be in the next round as they all played well, it wasn’t just by sheer luck or chance.

It made me realise that life is fair. Very fair. If you work hard, you succeed. Its very simple. It might take days to see this “success”, it might take months, and in the case of the World Cup, 4 years, but if you work and train hard, and you hustle, you will succeed. If you are complacent, smug, self-satisfied and you lack humility, you will be trampled by other much, much deserving individuals/team.

Don’t Just Keep Chasing Balls, You Have To Score Goals.

In every match, teams have 90 minutes to score as many goals as they can within that period to win the game. It doesn’t matter if your team has the higher possession rate or if your players can kick the ball at a much further distance; the main aim of the game is to score goals. Life is similar. We do not have an infinite amount of time in this world, so we have to stop chasing unnecessary things and instead focus on “scoring goals”.

Also, theres a million and one ways to net a goal: sometimes you have to take risks, sometimes you have to run harder for the ball, sometimes you have to use your head or your chest or your knees – whatever it is you need to do to score that goal, you do it. Similarly, when it comes to life, if there is something that needs to be done to achieve your aim or your dreams, do it. Just do it. Don’t just keep forming plans and schemes in your head without putting those ideas into actions!

Choose Your Best Players For The Team. No Ego-Personalities Please.

Like football, you need a solid, reliable and formidable team to win at life. So choose amazing, positive, like-minded friends and company. Choose the best spouse – a partner who can not only cheer you on but who can also shake you out of your ego when you are getting too conceited. Choose amazing collaborators and colleagues, work with the best craftsmen and artisans and study under the wisest teachers and leaders.

Every single individual that you allow in to your life has to add value to your being. And likewise, we should give to the people around us more than we receive. Avoid anyone who is too pessimistic, or calculative or self-absorbed – they will just drain all your energy!

(Notice that I did not include family. Our family members are special as God has chosen them to be our family for a reason. Cherish and serve our family more than anyone else in this world, especially our Parents!)

Stellar Sportsmanship + Consistency = True Champions

It doesn’t matter if you are the top footballer in the world and getting at least £20,000 / week and having $5 million in endorsements. If you play dirty, or spout vulgarities, or bite your opponents, you will be sent off or be banned from the game. How will you be a Champion when you can’t even play? Similarly, if our characteristic sucks and we are just plain mean to the people around us, it doesn’t matter if we make big bucks when at the end of the day we have no one we can share the joy and “success” with.

Consistency is another vital factor. Ive seen so many games where a team will be leading by 2-0 by the end of the first half, but because they got complacent, their opponentns can very easily turn the table and steal their lead by 3-2. Also, do you know that only if a team/country has won the World Cup thrice would they be able to keep the Cup for good? There has been 19 World Cups held so far, but there is only one World Cup Trophy (it belongs to Brazil) in the world! This shows that you not only have to win, but you have to win consistently to keep the prize, to be Champions!

In life, we got to be consistent too. Consistency is key. This always reminds me of my favourite Hadith where Rasulullah (peace be upn him) said: “The deeds most loved by Allah SWT are those done regularly, even if they are small”. (Bukhari/Muslim)

So here’s a quick re-cap: Change is the only constant so don’t be too complacent or too dejected. Stop chasing unnecessary things, aim to score at bigger, more important things in life instead. Always work and play hard, choose the best players to be on your team and be super nice and consistent!

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The Only Thing You Need To Be Happy

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This morning, I sat myself down by the window, slowly eating my breakfast. K was still sleeping and I was enjoying my space. The weather was beautiful, Summer has wrapped her arms around us here in Tangier and as we live really close to the beach, the whiff of seabreeze gently kissed my skin. My favourite instrumental was playing in the background and as I watched the birds circling around in the air, soaring, and lifting, I thought, “Ma Sha Allah, this quiet feels really nice. I’m at ease, I’m healthy and I’m happy.” I took out my pen and paper and decided to list down things that makes my soul and my being, happy:

  • When I pray Tahajjud in the mornings, when I feel closest to Allah.
  • When I read and learn about the wonderful miracles of the Quran.
  • When I pray. Persistently.
  • When I give back, to family and friends, to Sisters, to strangers.
  • When I pursue knowledge, when I create, when I write.
  • When I listen, when  I emphatise.
  • When I simplify and take a day at a time. Life is not complitcated. But we make it to be. 
  • When I am productive, and when I am of use to my family, to my community. 
  • When I do yoga and I take note of my breathing.
  • When I forgive. 

I remembered writing the exact same list a few years back on what were the things that made me happy, it was filled with material possessions, or jobs that I wanted to land, or places that I needed to travel, or people that I needed to impress.

I attatched my happiness to everyone and everything else other than myself and that was, to put it bluntly, stupid.

K always reminds me how we are not going to be on this world forever, so we should not even be too attached to each other. What if one of us leaves this world, would that mean the other should stop living? How unjust would that be. And if you truly love someone for Allah’s sake, you would want to see them happy, with or without you.

Happiness, I learned, is a form of courage. Happiness happens when we are brave enough to choose ourselves, to fight for ourselves, to strive to be the best version of ourselves. When I looked at my “happy list” that I wrote this morning, I realised a common thread running through, one recurrent factor that I needed, and that integral element, was me. I do not need anyone or anything else, just me and Allah and that realisation, that affirmation, just made me all the more happier.

Alhamdulillah.

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Go The Extra Mile, It’s Never Crowded There

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There has been a lot written about how one can make money easily just by (insert any random online gimmick) or how one can enjoy a no-sweat, 4 hour work-week, and still afford a lavish lifestyle. And every time I come across these articles/stories, I cringe. Even if these tales of success are remotely true, and you do get immensely rich, I see no joy in reaching success if these friends of mine – “hard work”, “commitment”, “discipline”, “faith” and “patience” - are not present. Because you can never really taste the sweetness, the satisfaction, of success if you have not had the honour to be in the company of these five friends I mentioned earlier.

Argue with me all you want, but great things take time. Take Nature for example: we needed 9 months of nurturing in our mother’s womb to be ready to take on the world. A tree that shades the land and its inhabitants takes an average time of 10 years to grow to its full stature. An ocean was definitely not created in a day and the fresh fruits and vegatables that you get to enjoy had to be grown and harvested, with some only growing during certain seasons. It’s not easy, but Allah created this world so beautifully and everything works so seamlessly, that sometimes we take this clockwork efficiency for granted rather nonchalantly.

Great things take time and to live a life that is extraordinary, a life that you are proud to leave a legacy behind, and a life that truly reflect the principles and values that our Deen is strongly centred on, you have to go the extra mile. And not many are willing to commit, to sacrifice, to put in the time and effort, so if we actually do, we will be the special ones. Why choose mediocrity if you can be magnificent? Why follow the crowd who hides behind normalcy, when Allah has chosen you to be Ambassadors of Islam – meaning to excel in your field of expertise, to be the best, kindest, fairest, most generous, and most charitable among people?

Granted, that’s hard work but there is no rest in this Dunia. We only, truly, fully rest in Jannah – and that is the ultimate destination, the ultimate success.

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Steady: Everything You Go Through, Grows You

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“If my life is a mountain, what will be my peak?” 
“Jannah” – I knew my answer. And in the rare occassion that my soul and my mind agreed with one another, I said it more firmly this time, “Jannah”.

There is a principle that we all have to learn, especially if we are on the path of self-betterment and that is the principle of gradualism. To understand that things, or we, for that matter, cannot change in an instance. Steady. Unhurried. Consistent. With time.

I remember, always having to rush. For something, for someone. Datelines. Plans. Demands. So much chaos, mistaken for being productive. It was embedded in my head that “fast” is the way to go. Until I decided to find Allah.

For a long while, I knew something was missing. No matter how bright the lights were flashing, and no matter how many people I was surrounded with, there was a big, gaping hole in my heart that I just cannot fill. Something was not right. And that feeling was nagging at me, louder during the night, as I toss and turn in bed, screaming to me, “What is your purpose in this life, Aida?”

Allah.

I found Him, but it did not take me a few days. It did not take me weeks, it took me a long while. But I was consistent. I was steady. And I had a lot of faith, and a lot of guidance from Him. I realised, as long as I am making progress, as long as I am taking a step forward, even if it’s just a millimeter each day, I am on my way. I am closer.

Do not frustrate yourself on the quest to seek Allah, because He never asked for perfection, He asked for our best. Be firm with your intentions to change, and comfort yourself with the fact that everything you go through, good or bad, grows you. And go easy on yourself, no rush. No one said you have to be perfect in a day – remember, Allah Himself brought down the Quran, bit by bit, and it took 24 years for Jibril to bring down the Revelations to our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah did not do it in a day, and we all know He can, but He did not.

Everything happens at its own pace, at its own time, when Allah deems fit, because Allah knows best. So, be steady. There is nothing to rush for, because Allah has always been there. We just have to want to see Him, to speak to Him, to listen to Him. He has never left, it was us that did.

“I’m trekking. And I’m steady. My strength, my stamina, my air, my health, my ability to navigate, the rope I’m holding firmly to – they are all from Allah. And every day I will take one step forward towards the top, and with every step, I remember my purpose, my end, my peak: Jannah.

Breathe. I’m trekking. And I’m steady. Alhamdulillah.”

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The Wound Is Where The Light Enters You

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With the arrival of June officially marking the start of the second phase of the year, I cannot help but take a little time to take stock of what has transpired this first half of the year. I remember starting 2014 with a certain sense of calm, and still finding myself pleasantly surprised that I am now married and living in Morocco. Its a huge blessing to be alive, to have a better half to depend on, to be living in one of the most picturesque country in the world but I cannot deny that sometimes life can throw really hard punches at you.

I realised that often times we get too preoccupied with finding a solution; to get the answers as quickly as possible and how we rush to find a quick way out of our predicaments. But I urge you, do not make haste, for the remedy to the problem might actually be found in the process of healing itself. I know pain is uncomfortable and grief can overwhelm, but when you really take the time to mend yourself, to heal, to get better, and most importantly, to go back to Allah, you will shine brighter than before. Because like Rumi said, “the wound is where the Light enters you”.

But. I also believe that we have to choose our battles. We don’t have to fight every single one of them. Life is simply too short and there are just some things in life that are not worthy of your time, of your attention, of your energy. So let go. That doesn’t mean you are giving up, it just means you are acknowledging and embracing the fact that your time deserves to be spent on something better, something meaningful, something more worthy of you.

So slow down, magnificent one. Take a deep breath, take a moment to step back, and always remember, “Allah, I am exactly where I am at this moment because You have willed for it and if I can’t, I trust fully that You can”.

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Let’s Be Our Own Heroes & Lovers

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For the longest time, I’ve always thought that “love” has to be strong, passionate, and fierce – you either love fully, or you do not love at all. So I wanted to love everybody and I give and I give and I loved relentlessly. For a while, it felt really good. I thought I was being selfless, magananimous. But I began to tire, and people started to leave, and thus it began, the whirlwind of emotions: self-doubt, unworthiness, hopelessness. Feelings I pray that nobody will ever have to experience; emotions that I wish never exist.

And then I started to carve out more time for silence, for reflection, for myself. And I actually enjoyed my own company. With the solitude, I could hear Allah. There was no more noise, no more distractions. I had clarity. I started getting to know more about myself. I breathed easy. I learned to be patient, and the best thing was, I forgot how it felt like to be disappointed. Nobody had the opportunity to let me down anymore, simply because I relied solely on Allah, and I depended on myself.

The day I started falling in love with myself, I started to fall in love with Islam. I felt the peacefulness that the Deen brings to my heart, I saw how my body was comforted by prayers, I tasted the sweetness of being in constant remembrance of Allah. For the first time in my life, I knew why my heart is beating, and I knew who my heart is for.

The day I started falling in love with myself, I gave myself a chance. I saved myself, and for that I am my own hero. Never wait for someone else to rescue you, to give you love, to give you purpose, because Allah has blessed us with that special capability ourselves. So find it in you, and use it.

And only after your heart has been immersed with the beauty of Allah’s love, illuminated by His light, and guarded by His Mercy, will you know what love is. And only after you have built a solid foundation in your own little heart to love yourself first, you will then realise how much more love you have that you can give to the people around you.

But start with being your own hero, and being your own lover. For the day we start falling in love with ourselves will be the very day that beautiful, magnificent things will start rolling in into our lives. The day you start falling in love with yourself will be the day you realised that you are worthy and if you know you are worthy, ain’t nobody can do anything to take that away from you.

And with Allah in your heart always, you will be invincible. In Sha Allah.

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Bloom: The Inter-Mingling of Beauty And Purpose

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A few days ago, I asked a friend of mine to grab me some flowers for my studio. She was a little hesitant because she would not know if I would like her choices so I re-assured her saying, “Don’t worry. It is almost impossible to pick ugly flowers!” And now that I have some flowers cheering up my space, I was curious and began to wonder,

“Why are flowers so beautiful?”

I have always appreciated beauty, but I have never really questioned why things are created beautifully. I have never really thought if beauty has a greater purpose, if it is more than just a visual spectacle. But when I discovered that flowers are created beautiful because its survival depended on it, I began to ponder much more.

I believe that we should spend more time connecting a greater purpose to external attributes, and to make a conscious effort to create things that are not only beautiful on the surface, but also has a noble intention weighing its foundation. The flowers did not worry if their colourful, dancing petals are impressing by-standers like us, instead they use their beauty solely to focus on survival. And when that happens, inadvertently, their blooming beauty awes and transfixes us. But dazzling us was never their main intention.

As I welcome spring, I will try to take lessons from these beautiful creations of Allah and place more emphasis on finding greater value and purpose for my work and designs, instead of just focusing on beautiful fluff. I also remember a beautiful hadith where our Prophet Muhammaed (peace be upon him) said:

“Whoever seeks Allah’s Pleasure at the expense of men’s displeasure, will win Allah’s Pleasure and Allah will cause men to be pleased with him. And whoever seeks to please men at the expense of Allah’s Displeasure, will win the Displeasure of Allah and Allah will cause men to be displeased with him.”

Truly, our happiness does not depend on busying ourselves with beautifying our clothes in the purest of white and pleasing the masses, rather our bliss truly comes when we are completely committed to serving Allah and seeking only His Love and Mercy.

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Use What You Have, Use What Allah Gave You.

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When I was a kid, I would wonder, how I, Aida Azlin, a lone individual, can change the world? I mean, the world is such a vast, scary place with unknown terrains and twisted, weird people. Plus on top of memorising my spelling list and acing my mental sums excercises, I really do not think I had the luxury of time to be a superhero. So I stopped asking myself the question a long time ago because back then, I was positive, that it was impossible.

A few weeks ago, K and I became a proud Uncle + Aunt. We welcomed our first nephew, who is just a ball of awesome. I can spend hours, lost in his eyes, just gazing at his little pair of feet, at his cute-as-a-button chin, at his eyelashes. Everything. I was smitten and in awe. (He’s also partly the reason why I’ve been a little quiet on this space, I was too busy staring at his beauty and at one of Allah’s countless blessed creations.) I’m pretty sure he has no idea how his presence has brought such happiness to our lives and the people around him, and that, in turn, made me realise that our presence in this world can and does bring a positive change to the people around us as well. We simply just don’t know it… That someone out there will miss you if you are gone, because you went out of your way to make her feel comfortable on her first day at the job. That someone out there, is praying for you, because you took five minutes off your time to listen to her cry once. That a stranger out there is helping someone else in need, spreading a little kindness, because you decided to smile at her and made her day a little better.

Our presence and actions in this world causes ripples, sometimes so far and so wide, that it reaches the horizon. But we don’t realise this because we are too busy trying to form an ocean.

You know what else my little nephew taught me? He taught me to use what I have, to create and bring positive change to the world. My nephew cannot utter a single word, let alone express what he needs and wants. So he cries. And we listen. He used the little that he has, to bring attention to himself. To let us know that he’s here. Present. At this very moment. At two months old, my nephew doesn’t have much, yet he captivates almost every single individual who holds him, tranfixes everyone to coo and speak “babytalk”. I saw firsthand how his presence made a very solemn funeral, a little more bearable, a little more hopeful. And what does he has? Only what Allah has given him. Nothing more, nothing else.

If I could meet the little girl who asked herself how she, a lone individual can change the world, again, I will tell her, “You definitely, positively, undoubtedly, undeniably, can. Just use what you have, use what Allah gave you. Because that’s all you and I will ever need. Pinky Promise.”

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