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Easy, Breezy, Burkini!

Easy, Breezy, Burkini!

#wearwhatyouwant

Amidst all the cacophony against racism, sexism, bigotry and what not, you’d think people would stop writing about them to deduce the controversy; but we all know that doing so is a lost cause. So, if you are thinking, given the title, that this would be some fashion article, then I must ask you to look elsewhere. However, if you wanted a little enlightenment on what a burkini is and the issues concerning this ensemble, then this might just suit your fancy. Gear up!

A ‘Burkini’ is a not-so-subtle name for swimwear that is industriously engineered by a Lebanese-born Australian, Aheda Zanetti. Zanetti is now a trendsetting fashion designer, working specifically to cater to Muslim women’s taste. She transfigured this ensemble upon witnessing her niece having trouble getting into the netball team because she was wearing a hijab.

“She looked like a tomato she was so red and hot!” says Zanetti.

Talk about sweating it out! She then fished out some leftover garment, set the gears running, and voila! The Burkini was birthed, a wetsuit complete with an elastic hood that resembles the hijab in functionality and use, as well as bottoms made of lycra and polyester which makes it light enough to enable wading through water with ease. Genius!

Despite the good intentions behind the creation of burkini, some people are still finding it hard to respect others’ decision of wearing a burkini or even hijab in public.

I was 15 when I first started to put on the headscarf, and it was my family at first that questioned my decision. I always responded with the intention of being closer to God and besides, it’s my free will, right? If nuns can wear it, so can I! I have never looked back, and I can’t imagine my life without it. There was also the question about the beach situation where once I got stuck coming down the water tunnel slide whilst wearing my abaya and joggers but as the Burkini came out, my worries wafted away, and brilliance took over. When I took my children to Dubai, they loved seeing me swim with them or should I say not getting stuck on the water slide. What could go wrong, right? Well, this is exactly where I am wrong.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the debate concerning this beloved swimsuit.

Now let me tell you first that I love the UK as the people here allow me to practice my religion freely. I’m probably more British than not, and I feel at home here more than any other country. I have many friends from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, and they have never questioned why I choose to wear the headscarf. In fact, I get a lot more respect for wearing it and for believing in what I do. In France apparently, more than half of the country’s population voted to ban the wearing of the burkini as it is considered a sign of regression, oppression and backward thinking as if it supported the enslavement of women. Who are the oppressors, the people that choose to tell women what they should and shouldn’t wear?

But you see, some people believe that Muslim women are being forced into religious roles and behaviour rather than seeing these women as independent beings who give their consent where it is due. Contrary to popular belief, the burkini was made with the purpose to ease women’s plight where it did not compromise their faith. Muslim women are given freedom and are not slain to prejudice when they choose otherwise. I, myself, find the hijab very freeing and empowering as it liberates me from society’s expectation and I am not expected to conform to the latest fashion trends. If I chose to bathe in the sea sporting this hijab, it would be because I chose to do so and not because I would be the butt of scrutiny by my ethnic society if I didn’t.

With that being said, I would deeply appreciate it if Muslim women in France would be free to wear what they want to to the beach. Female scrutiny is getting old, guys! Let’s just move on, shall we? It’s all just letting people be free to do what they want to do. Not everything has to have a Shakesperian row! You do you, and I do me (respectfully, of course).

Islam and Depression

Islam and Depression

#combatdepression

Sakoon in conjunction with South Bank University is hosting an event to help individuals overcome depression and get an insight into it’s causes and symptoms.

This is a free of charge and spaces are limited so sign up now.

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Muslims can never be Depressed

Muslims can never be Depressed

Islam and depressionMuslims Can Never be Depressed   #combatdepression

Have you ever heard the sheikh or khateeb tell you, “We are Muslims.  We have Islam.  We have Allah.  How can we ever get depressed?  Only people who are far away from Allah can ever get depressed.” 

Chances are, if you are like me, this type of “reminder” might depress you even further.

Why are you depressed?

I remember a sheikh at our local masjid giving a talk, commenting about peace and tranquillity, and then mentioning, “Wallahi, there is no need for psychiatric institutes and psychological clinics.  How, when we have the book of Allah?” 

The director of my university in Medinah mentioned that the key to happiness is tawhid.  And he left it at that and I found this generally to be the case when we speak about these issues to some Imams and Sheikhs.

Well, it’s obvious that these people are extremely content with Islam as their religion, and that’s why they feel strongly about what they are saying.  But does that rule out the fact that Muslims cannot get depressed?  What’s going on here exactly?

Well I must tell you, that I have dealt with all the most severe mental disorders since I became a practicing Muslim.  The most severe OCD, waswaawis, scrupulosity, and most recently, the most severe depression I have ever experienced in my life.  And yes, I am a practicing Muslim, memorized Quran, going to the masjid for the prayers and pray five times day. I make dua, I say astaghfirullah (asking forgiveness from Allah) etc.  What is the source of my depression?  My relationship with the Quran, and not being able to connect to it in a healthy way.

What’s that?  The Quran is the source of my depression?  Well not really.  It’s not the Quran.  It’s not Islam.  It’s the baggage that I brought along with me into Islam that became exasperated through the religion.

People who are at higher risk for developing depression are those who have self esteem problems, being pessimistic, traumatic or stressful events, history of mental health disorders such as anxiety or post traumatic stress, medications such as sleeping pills or high blood pressure medications.

Depression is more than just being simply unhappy or fed up, it’s a real illness and real symptoms as well as physical symptoms. Let me tell you I feel alone, broken, empty inside, no motivation and tired.

It may be difficult to explain in a short article such as this one, but what happens is a person who has become depressed has fallen into complete despair over their soul for an extended period of time.  Whenever that happens, and they have given up on their own soul after ignoring it for a long enough period of time, they do things that push it away further, to push away the pain they may have experienced initially.  It is a common thing with people who suffer from PTSD.

People used to say to me get over it, read more Quran and I’m in a place where you don’t get much support which made me even more depressed. I eventually found Sakoon counselling services who offered sessions via Skype, It was like a relief that there were Muslims who understood what I was going through and helped. Depression is not sadness.  Spiritually, depression is a loss of vitality, an emotional death of the soul and spirit of a person, to where they become purposeless because of suppressing and despairing over their true selves.  Sadness and grief, if not dealt with for a long enough time, and not channelled in a healthy way can also lead to depression.

Physiologically, the nervous system of a person has become stressed for such a long period of time, that it becomes overstimulated, which causes the systems of stress and anxiety to start occurring.  Because the amygdala, which is emotional center of the brain is part of the nervous system, this too starts behaving erratically, thereby causing the symptoms of anxiety and stress which causes people to become further worried and continue the cycle.

Do I have any basis for what I’m saying here? 

Well, for starters, my personal experience in dealing with these issues for many years.  And secondly, there is an entire chapter in the Quran that is dedicated to dealing with self esteem issues and emotional issues.  There are healthy ways to deal with the emotions and unhealthy ways, which lead to depression, and other psychological disorders.

The article started by stating Muslims can never get depressed but it is the opposite, Muslims can get depressed and it has no association with your level of faith. What I can tell you that Muslims do suffer worse because there are more dynamics to consider which isn’t covered in mainstream counselling.  That’s why it’s important to work with a counsellor that understands your faith as well as applying Islamic counselling in the therapeutic process. #combatdepression

By Amir Yusuf edited by Ayesha Aslam

References: Surah Yusuf, Quran www.anxietycentre.com www.educatedanxiety.com www.helmyptsd.com Andrew Solomon, Depression, the Secret We Share. -Ted Talk

Couple Conflicts

Couple Conflicts

Conflict is natural and inevitable in marriages and Muslim couples are not immune. The question remains for both Muslim and non-Muslim couples: Why do we fight? A primary reason for all conflict is a dysfunction to ‘normal development’ in childhood referring to social relationships. The Muslim family often focuses on education and academic persistence; however, the children are not always taught life skills. This is where the problem arises – the individual is unsure of how to build a functional relationship with others resulting in couples conflict.

As a counsellor and working with Muslim couples I would say the most common sources of conflicts are communication, work, money, intimacy, parenting, extended family, culture and religion. Each one of these will be discussed in other follow up articles and I have kept this article brief. For more information please click  Muslim Marriage Counselling

“ And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy between your hearts”: (Quran 30:2)

  1. Unrealistic Perspectives of Marriage

Many couples believe that marriage is like the Cinderella fairy tale story and no change will take place and live happily ever after; unfortunately, this is entirely untrue. The majority of individuals in the 21st century, particularly children, base their expectations of relationships on the media or their experience at home. Many television shows now focus on social relationships and the development of the ‘ideal’ family; however, this depiction is rarely accurate. Unfortunately, children who have been reared on these television images and not provided instruction on realistic relationships are highly likely to experience couples conflict. The imitation of parental relationships can also lead to certain expectations which are seldom met.

  1. Role Confusion and Poor Communication

Society has evolved from nuclear family to different family systems and the partners should be open to communicating this and any expectations when entering into marriage. According to traditional cultural norms, the male would assume a dominant role in marriage; however, contemporary females are beginning to reduce the subservience of their long-established position in all types of romantic relationships by obtaining employment and increasing their position on previously male-dominated household matters (e.g. finances). This change in the classic marriage format and defiance of traditional views may cause a traditional husband to feel frustration and/or anger; furthermore, not communicating concerns may result in a division between the individuals.

Yet, you should not consider that the wife’s endeavour for independence is the basic tenet of role confusion conflict. In fact, many contemporary husbands who have less traditional views on cultural norms display a desire for their wives to play a larger role in the marriage and would denounce the typically dominant-subordinate position. If the wife has a conservative view of cultural norms and does not communicate this she may experience the same frustration and anger as discussed above.

  1. A Lack of Prior Information

Just as the lack of communication within the marriage can be damaging, a lack of communication before the marriage can also cause conflict. It is important to have an understanding of your partner’s opinion and expectation of various issues to avoid couples conflict. In addition, if personality differences are present regarding family and the format of the relationship, the couple can experience conflict.

Final Words on the Matter

Couples must look carefully at conflict management and how they tend to process anger. This should be covered prior to getting married or in pre-marital counselling.  For example before committing to marriage my partner and I agreed that no matter what the argument was about we would resolve the conflict before the day was out i.e. before going to sleep, not only do you get a better night sleep but Shaitan will no longer be putting thoughts in your head which makes the conflict deeper than it really is.

Marriage is a leap of faith,  a journey and in Islam it is a highly recommended deed (Sunnah); however, as can be seen above, there are different considerations to take into account before entering into marriage. By increasing an understanding and approach to various aspects associated with communication you will have less chance of facing marital discord or divorce.

If you need help to get your marriage back on track and to find out more click on Muslim marriage counselling  to see how we can help.