Article

Bloom: The Inter-Mingling of Beauty And Purpose

bloom

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.

Leave A Comment
Article

Use What You Have, Use What Allah Gave You.

mmuuumuuuuu

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.”

Leave A Comment
Article

Why I Do What I Do And What Entrepreneurship Means To Me

aaentrep.

5 years ago in University, I went to UK for an exchange program. I made the acquaintance of this young man, a British-Moroccan, who was slightly strange but extremely passionate. I have never seen such passion in my life. He told me how he would never sell his soul to a corporation, how he know in his hearts of heart that he will be a millionaire by doing things he love, and how he strongly believes that everyone should just go out there, hustle for themselves and only work on the things that they are extremely passionate about.

I just shrugged it all off and quietly murmured, “he’s crazy”. I mean, I had a plan! I was going to finish my BFA, graduate with my Honours, get a good job in Singapore that will help me pay back my 24k loan from tution fees, go for the occassional shopping spree and holidays and then yeah, get married, buy a house and have kids. At 22, I thought I had it all figured out.

But life has her own special way of working and if you just let go a little and let her do her magic, magnificent things can happen.

I ended up marrying him.

And just as beautifully strange as how I ended marrying him, I am also now an entrepreneur. An accidental entrepreneur.

Growing up in Singapore, I have always had the impression that being an entrepreneur requires you to be somewhat well-off, with some money to spare, mid 30s (because I always thought that you have to at least work in an establishment for 10 years before actually setting up something on your own) and have traded stocks in the market or be an IT wiz or something. Thus, I never thought I would ever become one.

Boy, was I wrong. On all levels.

We moved to Morocco a year ago from Dubai and with this new environment, it transformed and brought change to how I see “entrepreneurship”. Having your own business is surprisingly, the norm here. Almost everyone I know have their own small cafe, garage, school, clothing store, bookstore and many more! I personally know women who are their own bosses, providing tailoring and embroidery services from home, or have their own little “babysitting” companies. It was, inspiring. They taught me that you do not need a huge amount of capital, that you do not even need Facebook or a Website to create noise about what you are doing. That all you need is the intention to begin, lots of hard work, a bit of courage and a whole lot of gratitude, perseverance and patience.

In the beginning, when I started to put myself out there, slowly laying out the building blocks of my first business, I tried to avoid calling myself an entrepreneur. I felt somewhat undeserving of that title, probably because of the initial assumption that I used to hold. But when I see my husband, my father in law (who is one awesome entrepreneur), and the Moroccan people going out there, proudly doing their own work, I sit up a little and told myself that I am capable of making change, of serving people and providing value to the world.

I told myself that I am worthy of being an entrepreneur. And that I am one. And I do what I do because I know that my purpose in this world is to serve, help and build a support-system for women through my brands and I will do it every day for the rest of my life even if it is tough, bone-breaking, and full of obstacles. Because being an entreprenuer is about giving. It is about asking “What can I give you” instead of “What can I get from you?”. It is about being present and showing up, even if the day/week/month has been full of crap. It is about pivoting yourself, and constantly finding ways to be a better person. Being an entrepreneur, for me, also means to constantly seek knowledge, to collaborate, to ask questions, to ask for help. To be vulnerable.

I now run 3 small businesses, of which I am proud to be working with some fantastic ladies, whom I love and admire greatly, both in Morocco and in Singapore. I get to connect with women from all over the world through my work, all of us supporting and rooting each other to be better individuals. Everyday, I am granted the opportunity to help a fellow Sister, and that to me is a huge blessing.

Entrepreneurship is humbling. You think you are helping people, but really, it’s the people that are helping you. They are your driving force, they are your motivation. Entrepreneurship teaches me that kindness really does go a long way, it teaches me that everyone has a voice and everyone deserves to be heard. It teaches me that every single one of us matter. It teaches me that sincerity is King; that people are smart and discerning and if I am not sincere about my craft, my brand, my products, my customers, then no one will care.

So why do I do what I do? Having the freedom to work from wherever I am, at whatever time I want, with whoever I want (without any worry of office politics) is fantastic. But I do what I do because I have never cared, connected, laughed, cried and felt these million and one feelings as much as I have now. I am an entrepreneur, and I do what I do, because it makes me, human.

Leave A Comment
Article

Slow Down: Sushi + Savour + Syukur

13546

For the past one year we have been married, we have not taken a break nor a holiday. K and I have been working non-stop and it is a decision we have not regretted because we know how tough it is to work for ourselves without the safety net of a stable income. Sometimes we even work all through weekend, but because we love what we do, we never grumble or make a huge fuss about it.

But. We do get tired. It’s human. And since my passport was expiring soon, we decided to take the opportunity to take a break and fly to London (as there isn’t a Singapore Embassy here in Morocco, and of course, our Baba was there). This was our first break ever since we got married 14 months ago.

We walked quite a bit when we were there, and half-way through the day, we chanced upon this quaint little grab-and-go Sushi place. So we stopped and rested our feet while we savoured the food. K and I are huge fans of Sushi and we don’t really get the chance to have them here in Tangier, so we ate in silence, chewing ever so slowly, trying to enjoy every second of the California Roll: how the avocado, the sesame seeds and the rice danced ever so beautifully with a dash of wasabi.

And with our mouths full of Sushi; K and I looked at each other and we grinned like two little kids.

At that very moment, I was happiest. Not because it was the fanciest Sushi I’ve ever tasted nor was it even the most expensive. We weren’t even in a super authentic Japanese Sushi place, but I was happiest because I was with my best friend, the love of my life and the silence that we shared was not horrifying nor awkward, it was beautifully comfortable.

Almost instinctively, my heart whispered, “Alhamdulillah”.

I realised that you do not need loud proclamations of love, that you do not need to throw a huge party to have the time of your life, that no matter how driven you are on your life’s purpose, you still have to take care of yourself and slow down a little. But most of all, to be the happiest of people, we have to be the people of “Alhamdulillah”.

May Allah let us slow down when we need to, savour when we have to. And to have Syukur, for being able to be grateful no matter the circumstances, is a huge blessing in itself.

Leave A Comment
Article

The Envy Game & How No One Is Winning

aaaa

 

The lady next to me in this picture is a ball of awesome. Zainab is a writer, a musician, a film-maker, and a dreamer-warrior. But what I love most about her is her honesty and in this time where social “air-kisses” and insincere gushing of compliments runs rampant, a generous slice of truth is refeshing and definitely much needed.

I love sitting across her, just listening and absorbing her thoughts on issues that were very relevant to what we young women are facing in this world. One of the things we spoke about was how easy it was to envy a particular somebody for her success in her field of work, or the blissful marriage that she is in or even her awesome wardrobe. And we both agreed how perfectly normal this is. That we are not bad people for merely having these feelings. But we also realised that Allah is fair, and that really, there’s enough cake to go around.

What is not helpful though, is the crazy amount of petty, insensitive judging that goes on behind feigned smiles and insincere “You look amazing, darling!” compliments. I think its incredible to make a fellow Sister smile by sending her good wishes and positive vibes, but it’s not cool when we start faking it.

At the end of the day, it’s a choice that we all have to make. To choose honesty, sincerity and solidarity before it reaches a point in time where our younger sisters and daughters do not know what it actually feels like to have a support system of girlfriends to rely and depend on. I for one am extremely blessed to have that support system and I would not be where I am without the women in my life, and I pray that every girl in this world would have that as well, In Sha Allah.

But first we have to realise how we are pulling oursevles carelessly to participate in this toxic match of envy, and to recognise that in this game, no one ever wins.

We are all ultimately, created by Allah, with specific but different strengths and for everybody to win, let’s all support each other’s causes, be each other’s cheerleaders and work together. With utmost sincerity, I want to let you know that you are incredible, you are beautiful and you are worthy. And that I am ever-ready to hear you out as much as I know that you are ever-ready to be there for me too.

Leave A Comment
Article

The Most Expensive Thing That I Own

aa

This morning I woke up to see a flurry of movement outside our home here in the UK. Back in Tangier, I don’t really see much of a morning rush. Plus she has always been known to be nonchalant and extremely laid back – Tangier to me, is the ultimate epitome of cool. Being in London reminded me slightly of Singapore. And as I watched how the kids were rushing for school and the small army of working adults scrambling through rush-hour traffic, I looked over to K and said, “Aren’t we super lucky?”

Today, I am extremely thankful. And especially grateful for this one particular thing that I own. The most expensive, the most precious, the most treasured of all: my freedom.

Granted, we do not have the comfort of getting a regular paycheck monthly but I will not trade this freedom for any amount of money. Working for ourselves have taught K and I the importance of hard work, the significance of being kind and the momentous impact of having sheer faith in Allah.

We should all realise that whatever it is we choose to do on a day to day basis, that, will be our legacy. What kind of impact do we want to make for our community and for the world? What kind of stories do we want to share when we are older? We should remind each other that our jobs are more than just having stability. Jobs are our means of living, and if it’s our living, we must make it count. Make it feel good. Make it matter.

Leave A Comment
Article

The Checklist

aa_dailyreminder

I miss writing. When I started today, I wasn’t my best. Allah tested me today, and I failed miserably. Following the circumstances that ensued, I was forced to carve out a few good hours to sit in silence. I needed it. And He knew I needed it.

For five hours I was sitting in my space, just writing. And crying. And more writing. And more crying. I read. And I read some more. My soul was longing for Him, for some time alone, for a while now, but I was just too busy. “Later. Maybe tomorrow, In Sha Allah” – I have been tuning out my soul for too long, ignoring her pleas, and the promise of ‘tomorrow’ never came. She was slowly dying.

Until today. When He made me realised how selfish I had became, how ungrateful, how pompous.

Today, I made myself a checklist. From here on out, before I make a decision to do anything, I will ask myself these questions:

1) Will this make me closer to Allah?
2) Will this please Allah?
3) Will this champion Islam?
4) Will this provide value to the other party, to the world?
5) Will it benefit me in my Hereafter?

Today, Allah has again showed me how beautiful my religion is, how He is always looking out for us, how I am nothing without Him. I pray that this checklist will be my constant guide, for only Allah knows how much I need His guidance.

And as I continue to start writing again, I pray that Allah place a sense of responsibility in me to own my words, and to realise that what I write is a form of dua, above everything else.

PS: I am giving away the digital print of ‘The Checklist’ to anyone who has subscribed to my newsletter. If you would like a copy, just sign up here, and In Sha Allah, I will personally email you a download.

Leave A Comment
Article

How The 3 Hours Before Breakfast Changed My Life

b1
b2
b3

When I was living in Singapore, the idea of having breakfast, especially on a weekday, is super strange to me. Unless ‘breakfast’ means standing at the dining table for a minute, grabbing and stuffing some bread and gulping some tea as I shout “byeeeeeeeeee Ibu” to my mom, kissing her hurriedly as I went out to join the ever-famous morning crowd in Singapore.

The idea of having breakfast was still foreign to me when I got married, but K would not have this ‘one-minute breakfast’ thingy so for the first time in my life, at 25, I had a proper breakfast.

Fast forward a year later, I now not only have time to have breakfast, I actually have three magical, beautiful, peaceful hours to do anything I want. Anything. And when you are a stay at home wife who runs 4 businesses, those three hours are precious.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Countless of articles and books have been written on why successful people choose to wake up early. But I realised, way before it was discovered to be “cool” to wake up early, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has actually practiced this habit 1400 years ago. And this is why:

“Allah made the early hours blessed for my Ummah.”

Allah Himself has said that He has made it blessed, so there is no way am I going to lose out!

Of course I didn’t start out waking up at 5am, thats just humanly impossible. But I started sleeping earlier. I realised nothing good ever happens after 10:30pm anyways. I read 30 minutes before bed and switched off the Wifi on my phone. I dressed up for bed, have a nice little conversation with K, say our prayers, and try my best to remember to sleep on my right. And then waking up as early as 5am didn’t seem so impossible anymore.

But what really motivates me to keep waking up early is the positive difference I felt as a result of rising early. And I truly understand how blessed your day can be when you do wake up early.

I get to do all the things that are important to me, rather than rushing myself every morning to clear what is urgent. Some of us get confused about what is important vs what is urgent: for example, Islam and my Deen is important to me, replying work e-mail is urgent. And these 3 hours before breakfast is really the time for me to spend time with Allah, to work on my health, to focus on my thoughts. To reflect, to breathe, to smile, to play. I realised, I get to be the best version of Aida Azlin during these time. I mean, as compared to the 7pm Aida Azlin, the 7am Aida Azlin is much more patient, less snappy, and generally, waaaay nicer!

I really, really urge you all to try to wake up early. And when it’s 8AM, you will feel super charged that you can almost take on anything that life throws at you, In Sha Allah.

Leave A Comment
Article

DIY Scalloped Wall

aa_cover1

I originally wrote this DIY post for WICKET but I wanted to share it with you guys as well. Its tremendously easy and you can do it with your friends or family to jazz up any empty wall in your space. Here’s how:

aa_1_scallop

Obviously, you will need a blank wall. It doesn’t have to be particularly big, just wide enough for you to play around with.

aa_2_scallop

Get some coloured paper or card stocks in the colours of your choice. I chose soft pastels, probably because I’m actually 5 at heart!

aa_3_scallop

If you have a circle-cutter, this step would be a breeze for you. But if you are like me and you don’t own one, grab a jar or anything that has a circular base so that you can use it to trace the circles onto your paper. And cut as many circles as your hands can endure!

aa_4_scallop

Line your circles up and paste them on the wall. I used normal tape, you can use BlueTack, or anything really. Let each row or circles hang on top of the row below – this will create your scallops. You can also try doing the top row first, but I started doing the bottom row first, and making my way up.

aa_5_scallop

Continue doing step no 4 until you’ve filled up the space on your wall.

aa_6_scallop

And YAY! You now have no more plain, sad looking walls in your space!

Leave A Comment