The Lady of Heaven

~ سلام We’re at the start of June and it’s my first blogpost of 2022 😅 If you’re new here, I used to post regularly but writing about the topics I want to cover exhausts my emotional energy. Does anyone else also think this years gone by really fast? Life moves quickly sometimes. I have been busy and in short I’m occupied with Corporate; Charity and Creative work. There’s a lot I’ve wanted to say about the Charity work in particular so if you’re interested or have specific topics in mind, leave a comment or get in touch 💚

Today I’m sharing my reflections on The Lady of Heaven, what is described as an “epic historical drama film”. The film interweaves a story focusing on the holy personality of Bibi Fatima s.a, the daughter of Prophet Muhammedﷺ, with contemporary brutality of ISIS terrorists against Shia Muslims. The events of the film set in modern day Baghdad cleverly mirror the oppression faced by the Prophet ﷺ’s Shia following his death. It also overtly pays tribute to the suffering faced by Bibi Fatima s.a, as the start of the film hauntingly shows the murder of a mother named Fatima who was killed for being Shia. Ironically the actions of some Sunnis today now mirror the oppression and aggression showed in the film as they have been physically and verbally assaulting Shias and others who choose to support or watch it.

Faces One of the primary causes of tension for the film is that it “shows the face of the Prophetﷺ”. I have a few points to make on this. I counted that a disclaimer specifying that holy faces were not physically shown came up on screen four or five times in total at the start and end of the screening. Refer to the 4th picture in the slideshow above that I captured whilst watching the film in cinema. For most of the scenes with the Prophetﷺ present, his face was angled away from the camera or there was light flowing from his face thus hiding his physical features. In some scenes a face was visible and this was achieved through CGI. A viral petition has been asserting that an actor was hired to play the Prophetﷺ, but this is false. Some have even said that the face of Bibi Fatima s.a was shown in the film, but this is another false claim. Her face was never shown as her headscarf included a veil similar to a niqab. I’m certain that the people spreading these lies have not even seen the film. That being said I personally prefer for faces of holy figures to solely be represented through light and was a bit surprised when I saw the face of the Prophetﷺ and Imam Ali a.s. shown, albeit through visual effects. I recall a Shia who watched the film when it first screened in America saying a similar thing but that it wasn’t their biggest issue (we’ll get onto that). Something else worth considering is that paintings of holy figures and religious personalities is accepted in some cultures. Showing the face of the Prophetﷺ seems to be an agreed ‘no go’ across the Western world (🇫🇷🙅🏽‍♀️); however this is not the unanimous norm across the Middle East. In Iraq for example –where the film was set– it is common for religious personalities to be honoured through artistic depictions such as paintings. This does in fact include the Prophetﷺ. Take a look at the 7th photo above of an Iraqi painting of Imam Ali a.s for reference. In sum, the argument of the face is an issue of differing cultural norms and thus its understandable why it has been unsettling for some in the UK market. As someone who has actually seen the film, I would add that the difference between how the Prophetﷺ was portrayed here compared to what we have seen in the past in France for example comes down to respect. In France, Prophet Muhammedﷺ was literally illustrated as a caricature; whereas in the Lady of Heaven his face is only visible for a few brief moments and there is always glowing light present to symbolise his holy status.

Racism The next point I thought was important to bring up was racism. My initial hesitation towards watching this film came from accusations of racism and because of this I lowered my expectations going in. Several of the antagonist’s including Abu Bakr and Aisha (who are father and daughter and thus share the same skin colour) were played by black actors which is where I believe the criticisms of racism stem from. My view now is that I don’t think the film is racist because there were other ‘villains’ who were not played by black actors and there were positive and side characters who were also played by black actors. If it was revealed that the casting choices of the few antagonists who were played by black actors was indeed a conscious choice (*like in a typical Bollywood movie*) to evoke further negative feelings from the audience, then I would agree that the film is racist. The reason I am currently not siding with this view is because I lack the historical knowledge of whether or not Abu Bakr for example was actually black. If you do have this information then please pass it on and I’d be happy to make an edit and include it. Edit: Thank you to one reader who sent me a link evidencing that these figures were considered to be “black or very dark skinned” (photo 5). Someone else also told me that it would be unsurprising if they were black due to hijra (emigration).

The cloak I watched the film on its opening day with my mother by mere chance (photo 3) and some of my family watched it separately later the same day. Most of the rest of my (Sunni) family on the other hand are signing the petition to have the film removed. Those who watched it on June 3rd all agreed that one of the stand out scenes was of Hadith e Kisa. The story of the cloak was illustrated with simplicity and respect. Our highlight was the blue and white illuminated animation of angels in heaven who were shown to be looking down upon the household of the Prophetﷺ (with their faces not visible).

Terrorism Another pro of the film is its exposure of ISIS. ISIS doesn’t need exposure in the sense of clout, we know who they are (if you don’t, it must be nice inside that bubble you’re in 😳). Terrorism is a running theme in both time periods explored. In terms of ISIS, we witness their inhumanness up close and are exposed to things we may typically be sheltered from seeing. i.e. the cage of Shia men being burned to death. The film certificate does come with warnings for gore, and blood is shown but more so in the historical action scenes. I urge Sunnis to watch the beginning till when Fatima is murdered at least just to feel something about Shia deaths. In these six months alone far too many Shia lives have been lost to different terrorist attacks across the globe. Fatima could have been me; or my mother, and I’m sure other Shia viewers saw this too. We have absorbed so much grief that seeing it on screen was shattering and I think other people need to feel that as well. A different angle on exposure that was taken (minor spoiler warning) is when a little boy is forced to wear a suicide vest and bomb a mosque of Shias who were commemorating the martyrdom of Bibi Fatima s.a. This moving scene brings the helplessness of a little boy to the forefront. It highlighted that a lack of companionship is what may lead people to fall victim to ISIS as he laments that his friend “left” him the last time they met. Laith offers the boy a hug and he saves the worshippers. Laith later shares in a News interview that he hopes more people would learn the story of Lady Fatima s.a. I agree.

Acting Some people have said that the acting in the film was not too great. I thought it was generally fine but there was room for improvements. Laith (the son of Fatima who was murdered) for example was a bit stiff at times yet cute, but he’s only young so I’d say that’s fair. The pronunciation of certain names was a bit funny to me but I suppose it was intentional.

Everything Everywhere All at Once Allow me to make a digression for the sake of comparison and change of pace. ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (henceforth referred to as EEAO) is a film that came out last month but is only now dying down from its hype. It received high praise from movies goers and I saw many people say they were “sobbing” whilst watching the movie. I enjoyed the film, but I wouldn’t be as eager to rewatch because there was too much going on visually for my liking. The film offered wonderful representation for the East Asian community and covered important themes such as acceptance for who you are, which is why I think it performed so well. The Lady of Heaven isn’t a film made for ‘Shia representation’, however it offers that as a byproduct of the characters and themes. I did not shed a tear during EEAO, perhaps because I did not directly relate to it. My eyes did water at several points of The Lady of Heaven though. When the character Fatima was murdered and when Bibi Fatima s.a was physically attacked were notable moments. I brought up EEAO to say that it is a shame that Shia’s can’t have an ounce of the same representation and experience because people who dislike the film want to cause issues for those who don’t.

Demographics With the previous point in mind, I am super curious to know the audience demographics. I was almost tempted to move to the stage when everything ended to take a quick survey and find out how many Shia/Sunni/non Muslims were in attendance. The screening I was in had five visibly presenting Muslims that I could see, besides myself and my mum. The majority of the crowd were middle aged white people who may or may not have been Muslim. The aura of the room felt respectful as heck and accepting. EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE ROOM STAYED TILL THE CREDITS FINISHED. That’s something out of the ordinary to me and we joked that people thought it was a Marvel film. Something else that struck me about this viewing was that people clapped at the end! I joined in out of confusion but it was quite sweet.

Rushed For what is quite a lengthy film my family pointed out that some bits felt a bit rushed. More context could have been given to certain events or personalities e.g. Aisha’s relationship with the Prophetﷺ. I would have appreciated more time spent on the life of Bibi Fatima s.a. as the plot does of course cover chapters of her life, but the emphasis was more on her legacy and the application of the lessons from her life and death, rather a dedication to recounting her life story.

Protests Saved the best till last (pls I’m kidding). Opposers of the film said it was made to cause disunity amongst muslims, but thats not true. The film did not mention Shia and Sunni, what it did was depict an account of history that some Muslims hold to be accurate. There is a petition circulating to have the film banned from the UK and it gained 84,000 signatures in a day. ✨Coincidentally✨ some cinemas in Birmingham have already removed the film from their listings and it’s possible that others will follow suit. What I have seen in the two days since this film has been released is that it’s actually Sunni Muslims who have been causing divisions. Petitioning to remove a film because you dislike it is one thing, but chanting “Shia kafir” (kafir = infidel) outside cinemas screening the film does not bode well with the camp of unity. A clip of a protester directly threatening the writer Yasser Al-Habib by name and saying that they will get the film banned in the UK was reacted to by Al-Habib himself and I can’t say he seems fazed. From my observation, those boycotting and protesting the film have caused more sectarian division than the film itself. Take a look at photos 8 & 9 in the commencing slideshow of a protest in Bradford, captured and kindly shared by a friend. My resounding thought after initially watching the film has been that the people protesting are those who should watch it. It really is so ironic that these “peaceful” but not at all peaceful protests are taking place given the subject matter of the film. The universal message of Islam and any religion is of love and spreading peace is actually mentioned more than once in the film. In the speech given by Bilal at the request of the Prophetﷺ in Madina, the says that “everyone is free to practice their religion”. The Quran states that “there is no compulsion in religion” which is at odds with the actions of these protestors who mimic the extremist ‘my way or death’ sentiment. It is again a shame that people who are checking up to hear each others verdicts of the film have to also ask if they were safe or ran into problems at the hands of protestors. Edit: Imam Qari Asim, Deputy Chair of the UK Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, has been stripped of his government positions due to his “support for a campaign to limit free expression” as he publicly showed support for the protests. The letter linked above makes direct reference to “anti-Shia hatred” which is a step in the right direction to expose the reality of anti-Shia discrimination in the UK.

[Edit It’s been a week since I published this post and I’ve had some new reflections I wanted to include. I planned to add this in sooner, but as you may guess from what I said at the start, I have not had the energy for it. I have added in more photos to the slideshow as well as a few additional comments to ‘Face’; ‘Racism’ and ‘Protests’. The rest of my thoughts will be merged into this paragraph. Let’s begin by rewinding to the last line of the second paragraph in this post. The irony I mentioned is beyond ironic at this point. I’m deeply concerned by some of the things I have witnessed this past week. From open threats of murder against Shias (photo 12), to Sunnis refusing to take action in protecting Shias by taking a minute to report such heinous threats. The photo I just referenced is unfortunately one of many. As a Shia myself, I am not at all surprised at seeing such disgusting comments, however I decided to bring it to light on my Instagram for those who would be. I encouraged my followers to report people such as the boy in photo 12 because whilst Shias may be used to digesting prejudice on extreme levels, we can and need to change our reaction. ‘Allies’ also need to step up because this is extremely draining for us to tackle alone. Although this example may have come from an immature boy who is hiding behind a keyboard, I personally cannot take the chance that he will not enact his threats. We cannot afford to not take this seriously. I will not become numb to Shias being killed by terrorists, and it alarms me that we live in a society where closet terrorists safely coexist amongst us. This is not a stretch as some people have actually been bringing photos of ISIS members along with them to protests. The police have made no arrests and I fail to understand why that is. I urge the police to investigate those making death threats against people who watch the film, or simply hold differing views to them. I also urge them to investigate the people who support these threats i.e. the people ‘liking’, and ‘retweeting’ comments such as those shown in photo 12; which has since been removed from Twitter due to violating the website’s terms. It also saddens me that many Sunnis have chosen not to accept a basic call out to report potential terrorists. The link I had been sharing took the same amount of time to fill in as a the petition to ban the film. Hence why I am disappointed that I had to resort to convincing some of my own family members to file a report by stating that if we do not take action against such extremists today, they may claim my life tomorrow (photo 13). Call me an idealist, but I think the energy of those protesting would be better placed in calling out real oppression faced by the ummah. Or is it the case that the Shia portion of the ummah does not qualify for sympathy? Islam states that we are all equal but some still think they are ‘more equal’ than others. Civilians in Afghanistan are facing daily persecution under Taliban rule, particularly Hazaras who are majority Shia. If more people speak about this we may be able to achieve some form of positive change. Something else I wanted to touch on is ‘Shia akhlaq’ because of a comment by a Shia Hazara I saw early last week. The comment suggested that Shias supporting the film have poor akhlaq; I disagree. If there are Shias who are showing support for the film by violently threatening those who oppose it (similar to the actions of some Sunnis) then I would definitely say that those groups have poor manners. Showing support in and of itself has nothing to do with akhlaq in my opinion. The film’s writer is a controversial figure (who I have no allegiance to) but supporting his film does not equate to supporting his personal views; if that is the angle implied in the person’s comment. If we talk about the film contents only as I have mostly focused on, Shias do hold the account of history given in this film to be true. That being the case, what is impolite about being in favour of a cinematic depiction of our version of history? Why are we trying to be respected by our oppressor? I will not water down my faith to appease the majority. Someone else told me that I cannot expect Sunnis to maintain positive relations with Shias as a consequence of this film being aired. Why? This film has just brought our religious differences to the big screen, I don’t think that validates the urge to be unpleasant towards those who do not share your view. Moreover I constantly witness slander against Shias and yet I’m able to maintain positive relations with Sunni Muslims. Yesterday happened to be the date of the latest protest in London. In the same way that I happened to watch the film on its release date due to being in the right place at the right time, I was also present at the location of yesterday’s protest when it was set to take place. When I was reminded of the protest (that ultimately seemed to have been cancelled) whilst I was already at its location, I decided to give a short interview for a Bengali News channel. This will be released if the channel decides to cover further developments surrounding the film as they had already covered a protest for it last week. The reporter initially tried to dissuade me from giving an interview as she explained that publicly sharing a view that opposes the overwhelming majority of the Bengali UK community would lead to my ostracisation. She advised me to be careful with this in mind and to stick to writing this blogpost which hides my face. I responded by telling her that I’m not scared of expressing my views because of potential bullies and I asked her to take a photo of me which I have now included in the slideshow (photo 18 👋🏽). Before the reporter arrived I decided to visit the cinema to confirm whether the film was actually being screened. It was not. I asked one of the staff members for the reason for it being removed and they said it had “done its rounds” at that location. A typical film can stay in theatres for up to six weeks so I find it hard to believe that a film had run its course in just under one week. I followed up by asking if the protests had anything to do with it and they ‘could not comment’. Lastly I asked if the police who were present (photo 19) had anything to do with it and they confirmed that there “may be a protest”. On a different note related to cinemas, it turns out that the Executive Director of the film was present at the screening I attended. My mother and I noticed that he stood out because he was in a suit and socialised with some attendees, but I didn’t recognise him until now after having seen several of his recent interviews. He has been participating in News interviews and debates (the relevant portion in the linked video begins from the 23:12 timestamp) supporting the right of the UK public to watch this film. Since this film has been released in the UK, it quickly became a talking point across the country and was one of the trending topics on the internet (photo 10 & 11). The main point of discussion is surrounding freedom of speech as many non-Muslims have been saying that the actions of those getting a film banned (photo 14) because it offends them infringes on the rights of those who do wish to watch it (photo 15). Within a few days we went from people not being able to see the film because it was removed as a result of protests; to it being sold out in the remaining cinemas screening it (photo 16), and now it looks like the film is fully banned. After reading my blogpost a Sunni friend of mine wanted to watch the film with me, except I cannot find any available listings. Just this morning a friend of a friend went to watch the film in one of its remaining locations and hours later when I tried to plan a trip for my friends, I found that there were no viewings available (photo 17). It’s possible that no viewings were showing up as it was sold out, however it is far more likely that they were also removed due to protests. If it becomes possible then I will try to take them to watch the film. Let’s end this segment with some positivity. In Ramadhan I led an initiative to promote UK based Shia businesses on my social media through Instagram Guides. I’ve grown fed up of only hearing of Shias when they have been killed and wanted to use my small platform to uplift a minority group. If you would like to show your support then take a browse through the various businesses I have showcased thus far and feel free to submit recommendations.]

If you were unaware or couldn’t tell by now, yes I am Shia (or trying to be because its an honour I don’t really deserve). You might be thinking its easy for me to say what I just said because of where I’m positioned in this situation. So lets switch the story. Let’s say that a film on the same topic was made by a Sunni production team (which, anyone is welcome to go ahead and do by the way) and it portrayed scenes that are at odds with my beliefs. What would I do? Well, I certainly wouldn’t make egregious statements describing the contents of the film before I have even seen it myself. I even refrained from commenting on this film until I saw it for myself as well so thats so I’d say thats standard procedure. After watching the film I probably would share my thoughts in personal or public circles, but would I viciously attack people who agree with the film with my words and actions? No. That goes against the Prophetﷺ’s sunnah. As much as I might feel discomfort at watching a portrayal of things that contrast my personal beliefs in a film; I’m sure I would appreciate seeing a visual summary of events from the other side so I can better understand Sunni hadith. I invite Sunni Muslims to watch this film and take it as a starting point into understanding another view of history. You might learn something valuable in the process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I have said this before but please watch the film for yourself and form your own judgements, or take it as a chance to learn something new. This post is not an invitation to debate with me on politics/history/religion so respect both of our time and avoid trying.

If you want to watch a film without getting harassed, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela.

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله علي ولي الله وخليفة رسول الله

Save Bricklane

Last weekend I attended a protest to #savebricklane I want to share a few thoughts; as well as some photos you can’t find on my Instagram; and a link to a short video I made covering the protest. We good to go? 🙂

For context on what this post is about, see the letter below which I think summarises it pretty well:

I had always thought that in the grand scheme of things, a shopping mall in the centre of a cultural hub isn’t the biggest issue. It’s not, but it is still a valid issue. We also have to recognise the fact that not all the business owners in the area are concerned by the new site plans. Some local business owners are even against the campaign to ‘save Bricklane’. My point for raising this is that we have to be mindful of the fact that this is a multifaceted issue. I can’t be screaming ‘save Bricklane’ if not all the people affected want to be ‘saved’. This campaign isn’t representative of everyone it aims to support, so let’s avoid white saviour tropes.

Secondly, realistically speaking, this motion will go ahead. This doesn’t mean we accept defeat and stop making a fuss. Carry on sending those emails and using your power, but recognise that the issue we’re fighting does not start and end with Bricklane. I see this campaign as a symbolic cause.

My reasons for protesting are twofold. I see that this motion has both direct and symbolic consequences against the Bengali community of Bricklane. On the one hand, the *further* gentrification directly impacts the hard earned income of small business owners in the area. On the other hand, many including myself would consider Bricklane to be a cultural heritage site. Thus the redevelopment site is an act of erasure of a culture that helped to build this country. What was the UKs ‘National dish’ again?🤔

To anyone with South Asian parents who spent part of their life in the UK, don’t bother asking them whether or not they were ever called ‘paki’ or a similar racial slurs, rather ask them how many times they were called those words. 60% of the independent business owners in Bricklane are Bengali. The UK has been cruel to Bengali and other migrant workers and we need to show that we care about their voices. Not only is this motion symbolic of erasing their contribution to British society, it viciously meddles with the livelihoods of real people. That’s my motivation for supporting the campaign to #savebricklane but support shouldn’t end here. If this campaign fails, accept it and work to sustainably support the community, because this cause doesn’t speak for them all anyway.

Originally I was going to make a promotional video for one of the event organisers, but let’s just say that was an ‘interesting’ exchange that I don’t recommend lol 🙃. Instead you can take a look at a short video I made recapping the protest on my YouTube channel:

I also want to use this as a chance to share a post I wrote for my Charity Shop (the one that’s Bengali owned and a small independent business that I run with my dad). I mentioned our support for the cause and how we can relate.

Lastly and as promised, here’s some bonus photos:

If you want to speak up against gentrification, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela.

Find my other sites in here:

Hijab ban 🇫🇷🧕🚫

Update: If you would prefer to access this post through audio, I have just uploaded a reading (with some commentary) on my podcast ➡️

Hello dear reader! It’s been a while (like 5 months oops) and as I may have said in the past, theres been loads I wanted to write about but it can be overwhelming when I have to plan out my thought process on heavy topics. I’m not one to force myself to do something at the detriment of my mental health, but I have been discussing some of these ‘heavy’ topics across my socials. If you have missed me (😉), I’ve been pretty active on my Instagram and post regularly on my YouTube channel!~

“Hands off my hijab”

As I explained in a previous post, the ‘hijab’ is a spiritual concept; whereas the headscarf is the physical covering a Muslim woman wears on her head. The hijab applies to all genders but for ease of understanding, I’ll use the term hijab in place of headscarf seeing as though that’s how this story has been covered.

In March the French Senate passed an amendment to ban girls from wearing the hijab in public if they’re under the age of 18. The bill would also prevent mothers in hijab from participating in school trips; officially ban the burqini (a full body swim suit) in public swimming pools, and another amendment even proposes to ban hijabs in televised sports.

When the news first broke I posted a short caption to my Instagram story, which was almost immediately removed without any warning or explanation. What’s more, the same thing happened to my friend Ibzmo. All I had said in my caption was that Islamophobia in France is nothing new, along with a short personal anecdote. It made me wonder, what happened to freedom of speech? In response to this strange occurrence I expanded on my point in an Instagram post. I will share the photo and caption below.

*About a week ago* I shared a post about France to my story and wrote that the #Islamophobia in #France is nothing new. This got taken down without any clarification, and it alarms me to see that this happened to someone else too. Since then I disengaged with the topic completely, but I now reminded myself that that’s not me and I’ll speak if I want to. 

The first time I went to France was with my dad when I was aged 10. My parents worried that I might be treated badly for wearing a headscarf and so I didn’t wear it for my trip. When I shared this anecdote on my story, someone asked why I was even wearing it at a young age. Simple; because I chose to. Sure I was younger, but it was a choice then and it’s a choice now. The current situation in France is a continuation of the movement to suppress the right to choose. ALL women should have the right to choose how they dress. I CHOSE to wear a headscarf from a young age. I remember constantly asking my mum if I was allowed to wear my scarf when I was little and when she eventually said yes, I felt happy. Each Muslim has their own relationship with hijab and as time goes by this continues to develop for me. Yes I chose to wear a scarf when I was little, but I came to truly appreciate it when I turned Shia and learned more about it’s value. For instance, I heard of how Bibi Zainab s.a was humiliated when her scarf was taken from her and she was paraded through the streets without it. It emphasised the fact that this cloth; this flag; this crown, it can’t be taken lightly. If Bibi Zainab s.a was so distraught that her scarf was taken from her, how could I take mine for granted? 1400 years later and this same scarf is being taken away from women who feel empowered to wear it. It’s not okay.

Not long after posting this, a friend I met from a creative programme forwarded a photography opportunity to me. I then participated in a photography project to amplify Muslim voices and share thoughts on the situation in France. The shoot was organised by Noor, a Muslim photographer from London who has been sharing the photographs along with a caption by the subject of the shot. The photo at the start of this post is one that she had taken of me and I will share some more below. You can find clearer versions of these photos in my latest instagram upload paired with this post.

My caption for her project is as follows: “The situation in France is a farce. It’s hypocritical, but unfortunately not surprising. Why is it that a woman will be penalised for choosing to wear a headscarf as a religious piece of clothing; yet another woman can wear the same headscarf in the name of fashion with no problems? Muslim women are not being relieved from oppression (as if to say that is the true intention behind this), rather this bill enforces oppression by removing the right to choose how women dress. To the onlookers who may not recognise the gravity of the situation, just consider the ripple effects of this proposed legislation. France has a rich history of Islamophobia and if the government passes this bill it will only embolden more right wing people to openly carry out out their Islamophobic abuse and hate crimes.”

Funnily enough, as soon as I sent over my caption for Noor’s project, a different friend told me my first post had inspired her to speak on the issue and invited me to take part in a different project. So the chances are, this will not be end of my public involvement in this dialogue. I’m humbled, but more than that I hope this makes an impact. What are we raising awareness for? I heard people say that in this day and age we’re well past the ‘awareness’ phase of social issues. It’s mostly true. In a lot of cases people choose to stay ignorant on issues, because it’s so easy to find information in the age of the internet. Instead, I hope that part of the impact of the trending #handsoffmyhijab tag is that posts such as these will reach Muslims in France (and other places in the world where its difficult to wear the hijab) and help them to feel less alone. I saw a Tiktok video in which a 17 year old Muslim in France partially removed her hijab on camera and instead put on the hood from her hoody. Do you see how that makes no sense? This was her coping strategy to maintain some form of physical hijab; but if she had kept on her scarf, that cloth would have caused an issue. I hope this conversation continues and does not end with France.

Again when it comes to coincidence of timing, the day that I took part in Noor’s shoot, I also received the completed piece for an International Women’s Day project I participated in. The ‘Celebrate Women’ initiative is run by an Asian American who wanted to share diverse stories of women empowerment. For this project I did a self portrait and by chance decided to focus on the hijab for my accompanying caption. If you want to browse the full project and see other women who were involved as well as my own photo, you can view it here. See below for two images I did not submit to be used for the initiative and find my final photo on the site (note that my skin tone came out quite orange after the colours were touched up for the album). My caption can also be found below.

I have always been a Creative by nature. I thrive when making things; taking something from one form and turning it into something else. Part of this shines through in the way that I dress, as my love for art is often reflected in my outfits. As a Muslim woman, I have dealt with comments where people have commended me for my bright outfits because it strays from the ‘norm’ of how a Muslim woman should dress. I’m here to say that people should never dictate any woman’s choice of clothing or expression. There is no standard ‘Muslim style’. Black or pink or any other colour are fine. I’m bold, I’m bright, and I’m not changing for anyone but myself.

As you can see, the timing at which I received the final ver seemed ironic because what I spoke about weeks prior in preparation for International Women’s Day also tied into the current conversation regarding France. All women should be given the freedom to choose how they wish to dress. Speaking of how Muslims are perceived though, the norm for any group of people is largely determined by the media that we consume. Wouldn’t it be great if Muslims could be cast in more mainstream media projects? Oh and it would be superb if the narratives of those projects steer away from the characters’ overt ‘Muslimness’; feeling at odds with their religion and cultural values; something to do with terrorism? How about a non-cringey show which champions minority people for just being people without exasperating their stereotypes and tired tropes? Perhaps this is a post for another day but before I close this thought for now, let me share something that may either make you chuckle or reflect, perhaps depending on where you sit.

Not too long ago I attended an online talk by a man who works in VFX (visual effects used in video production). He began by sharing a group photo of his company and from my small phone screen I wasn’t sure if all I saw really was a sea of white. Later on he shared some video reels of projects he had worked on. One video had black actors and the background music had a loud refrain of “melanin”. I raised a question in the chat box asking how many people of colour worked for the company as the videos sparked my curiosity. My question was missed amidst the presentation so I asked it orally at the end. I commended the man on his achievements (he gave an overview of his resume at the start) and indeed for the reels. I then asked how diverse the company was as I noticed some of the casting choices and use of language in the materials shown, and that I see great strength in allowing people of colour to craft their own stories by putting them in positions of power. It was then that the man began to fumble. It was sad but somewhat amusing to watch how a white man could not give me a straight answer to a simple question on ‘diversity’. He couldn’t even tell me whether they had a brown person in the team to fill a quota. What he did eventually say though was that its a notoriously difficult industry for representation and he thinks thats terrible. -And also that he’s part of a diversity scheme. I was impressed at least by his honesty and read into the scheme in my own time. I then emailed him to find out more about it directly and sent my CV for any casual opportunities. Although VFX isn’t my main field of interest, he had mentioned that he’s keen to hear from people and all applications go straight to him. As you may have guessed, I still have not heard back.

To bring things back to the topic at hand I want to end on a recent post by Jada Pinkett Smith. In the two selfies linked in her name, Jada is seen posing in a light peach (looks cream to me) hijab. The post’s caption is “I really think the color peach in the Middle East … suits me✨”. I saw a different photo of her in another hijab before seeing this Instagram post. I had just explained the France bill to a non Muslim friend and a day or so later he tagged me in Jada’s new Facebook upload. Let me share a screenshot of how the tag looked and the upload itself before I explain why I’m bringing this up.

The reason I’m critical of her in this instance is because she has a large and thriving platform where she discusses contemporary social issues. That is to say, she is socially and politically aware and makes efforts to share thoughts on pressing topics. But in this case these photos came across as tone deaf, to me personally and at least to another friend I saw speak on this. I feel that she really missed the chance to do something with her platform as it could have been a powerful statement of solidarity for her to have worn the hijab under the backdrop of such global tension. She wore it like an accessory and all she had to say was that she looked good in the colour peach. With her influence she could have worn it as a symbol to speak about the situation in France. Of course we have to respect her choice to not speak on this and focus on her ‘non glamor glory’. The thing is I wouldn’t normally bash posts like this, but for someone who makes the effort to get entangled in important social issues, it seems privileged and inconsiderate to wear the hijab so casually and choose to make vanity the focus given the current climate.

As I said initially, the Islamophobia in France is nothing new. In 2011 France banned the niqab (face covering) and burqa (long dress). What’s strange is that a Muslim woman in France who chooses to wear a niqab will be met with a fine, but will also receive a fine if she does not wear a face mask due to Covid-19 protocols. A mask and niqab essentially cover the same portion of ones face. A few years later in 2016, several beaches in France banned the burqini from public beaches. I remember there was minor uproar from my personal circles when I spoke about the news back then. “A women should have the right to choose how she dresses”. I agree. So where are my fellow feminists now? I implore you to speak on issues such as this even if they do not affect you personally. If the fact that we’re discussing a piece of cloth is too much, I get it. But think of the violence this could allow. In the same way that the then President Trump called Covid-19 the ‘China Virus’ which caused mass violence and discrimination to East and South East Asians across the globe; the French government merely suggesting such an Islamophobic bill certainly paves the way for another rise of unnecessary violence towards Muslims, across the globe.

The bill in France is not anti-separatist, its Islamophobic.

If you’re a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the headscarf, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela.

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On Visibility

This is my third consecutive post focusing on Shia identity, I guess it means that much to me. The following piece is taken from my latest Instagram post which I thought would be beneficial to share here too. There’s a few points I could elaborate on another time so please do let me know if you would be interested.

I wish I posted this when the words were on the tip of my tongue, but here we are 2 months later. Today I want to talk briefly about visibility. 

Not too long ago a friend ‘found out’ that I was Shia. All due to some confusion over a post they shared online, we got to talking and so my religious sect was revealed. They told me that they “never knew I was Shia”. I think I laughed as I said, it just never came up. I’ve told people in the past that I don’t see the point in bringing up the fact that I’m Shia when introducing myself to others, but if it comes up in conversation I’m not the type to shy away from it. That’s what happened here. So yes, I explained to my friend that ‘it never came up’, but I know people personally who would avoid the topic if it did. These same people praised me in the past for ‘being brave’ for speaking about being Shia. And then it hit me and I was struck with a kind of sadness* that prevented me from writing this caption sooner. One night before sleeping, I reflected on the conversation with that friend and my somber feeling poured out in the form of eloquent yet silent self dialogue. The reason my friend didn’t know I was Shia, was because of Sunni privilege.

Shia Muslims often have to make themselves palatable to the Sunni majority out of fear of mistreatment. My own mother once told me to conceal my identity for fear of prejudice. I was born Sunni and indeed my family is 98% Sunni so I know all too well what it’s like to have to bend to the will of the majority. To blend in and be quiet. For a lot of Shias its not safe to openly practise ones faith. Why is this the case? Honestly I think it comes to ignorance which stems from choosing to stay poorly informed. If you want me to expand on that point another time I can. As a result of this fear of safety, Shias concealing their faith is more common than you’d think. And so of course my friend wouldn’t know that I was Shia. Our Muslim communities are built primarily to serve Sunnis and the majority will just assume that you’re Sunni too. I have deep respect for my friend by the way, I just wanted to share what came up from our conversation. 

The most recent and notable example of violence that some Muslims face for being Shia which comes to mind are the anti-Shia rallies that took place in Karachi, Pakistan. Thousands of Sunni Muslims (mostly extremists I’d guess) took to the streets to violently protest against the existence of Shias. None of this was reported on by popular media. One of the rally dates was shared by the ‘aurat march’ (a women’s rights protest) and it was only the women’s march that was deserving of address by Prime Minister Imran Khan, despite it being notably smaller in size. To be clear, particularly as a women who can relate to the issues raised by the women’s march; I am with those who protested, but I’m also disgusted by the lack of accountability for Shia deaths in a country that was in fact founded by a Shia man. 

I of course can’t speak for all Shias, but I have experienced and observed too much to not speak about this. *Tbh since writing the blogpost on Aya Hachem (a few days before the resurgence of BLM) I’ve felt everything from sad, frustrated to disappointed re: the nature of injustice towards Shias. I’m tired of diluting my identity and I hope to be less camouflaged now. We know that ‘#representation matters’ and I know that I can do better. We deserve to be visible. At the very least I hope that my openness will continue to make people confront their biases and inspire dialogues for us to learn together.

If you consciously choose to be more visible, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela.

YouTube: https:/



What is a تربة?

I was thinking about it and in my opinion, the تربة‎ is the greatest symbol of Shia Islam.

A turbah/sajdagah/mohr, is a clay stone made from the sands of Karbala. This is the land in which Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) grandson Hussain (a.s) was killed on the 10th Muharram. As a Shia Muslim I believe that we should not prostrate onto a man made material and so I use this stone when I pray namaz.

They come in different shapes and sizes, which could be symbolic in itself; but beyond that they visually remind me that the way we pray is slightly different to our Sunni counterparts. More importantly, they represent the persecution Shia Muslims face.

This small stone (which does come in bigger sizes) is used by Shias every day multiple times a day when they pray. In many situations, I think that represents resilience. This stone makes us a target to hate because it points out that we are Shia. When praying in a Sunni congregation we have to make the choice to be semi ‘Sunni passing’ (which could be an interesting topic for another day) and pray without the stone, or be bold and see what happens if we go ahead and use it. There are so many Shias that have been scared to practice their faith even when performing Hajj* as Sunni patrols have walked past people praying and intentionally kicked away the stones from their mats.

Recently I went to pray in a Sunni masjid and the women’s section was empty. It was kind of a relief for me because it meant that I could pray freely and without judgement of onlookers who would be looking mainly at the stone in front of me. Before I even got to the room though I had to secretly get hold of the turbah from a bag I left in my Sunni dad’s car boot.

I’m not talking about this because I’ve suddenly become a preacher, nor is it because I want you to pity us. The state of the ummah makes me sad and I know that some basic effort can help to fix it. I will end on the point that if your name is Hussain*, this would be a good time to really learn about who you’re named after.

*Hajj is a wajib (compulsory) pilgrimage for all Muslims to undertake once in their lifetime so long as they can financially afford it.

*Hussain or any other member of the Ahlulbayt (Prophet Muhammad’s pbuh household); E.g. Hassan, Ali, Zainab etc

If you pray with a تربة, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela.

YouTube: https:/



Aya Hachem🌹

Let’s begin this post with a positive thought for Aya Hachem, please recite a Surah Fatiha if you can.IMG_1789

[Tw: Death, shooting.] A short summary: Aya Hachem was a 19 yr old Lebanese Muslim woman who was recently shot in Blackburn, UK (17th May 2020). She was on her way to Lidl (a chain supermarket) to buy groceries for her family when someone drove by and shot her. Following her death, and in the spirit of the holy month of Ramadhan in which zakat (charity) is encouraged, Muslims online launched fundraisers to build Mosques and wells in Aya’s name. A few days later it was made public that Aya was a Shia Muslim which caused a large number of Sunni Muslims online to denounce and retract the fundraisers for Aya due to her being Shia.

I intend to write this post to inform you of the news concerning the death of Aya Hachem and hopefully not stretch too far beyond that. The details have been confusing to follow and so I hope to share all the relevant details for you on one page. The incidents that have transpired over the past few days have deeply upset me. It took me two days to try and write this because I found it so sad, particularly as a Shia Muslim. There is one point however that I’d like to begin with. Aya died at what Muslim’s would believe is one the holiest times of the year, Ramadhan. Not to mention it was two days after the death anniversary of Imam Ali (a.s) and around the date of Laylat al-Qadr. I want to try my best to preserve the sanctity of her death, given the religious significance of its timing. One day I shall try to share more about my personal reflections on the treatment of Shias; however for now I urge that we stick to the facts and the story when speaking of Aya, and out of respect try not to use her death as a point of political discussion.

The story:

Aya was a second year student at the University of Salford, and Vice-president of its law society. Her dream was to work in international law and she was also a young trustee for the Children’s Society. She and her family came to Britain approx 10 years ago to flee from conflict in Lebanon. As mentioned above, she was shot whilst on her way to the supermarket. The BBC has reported that ‘eight people have been arrested on suspicion of murder while a further three suspects have been held on suspicion of assisting an offender. The suspects, who are aged 19 to 39, remain in police custody.’

The story has been lacking in mainstream media coverage, but as news had passed around (through social media channels at least), some people started fundraisers in Aya’s name for various charitable causes, such as building mosques, and wells. A few days later when it was revealed and spread that Aya was a Shia Muslim, many Sunni donors sought to withdraw their donations and remove their fundraisers. One social media account on Twitter (who I will avoid referring to directly as I do not plan to give them free advertisement) openly declared that they would be taking down a fundraiser they had started as they “did not know she was Shia”, and would offer refunds to the donors. This account seems to be what caused the issue to become part of wider public knowledge as it sparked outrage and debate from mostly Shia online users. I’ll note that at present with the story getting more recognition online, there are of course a number of Sunni Muslims who are condemning the acts of the other groups.

It was only when I saw a Shia friend of mine share a screenshot of this person’s initial Tweets (in which they said they would be taking down the fundraiser due to finding out Aya was Shia) onto her Instagram story that I found out Aya was Shia. Did it matter that Aya was Shia? No. A person was shot, that’s really all that matters. Before then sharing it onto my own story, I did some research and found the Twitter account of the person in question. I observed that they were under a lot of pressure and vented that “Shias and feminists” were coming for them and sharing screenshots of their Tweets “for clout“. It appeared that within a matter of hours they had put the fundraiser back up and also deleted their first Tweets. The following day I read an article in which an apology by this person was shared. If you want to read it for yourself, click here. I will refrain on commenting on the apology as I think it’s between Allah, the person and Aya’s family.

Other thoughts:

I can say with some certainty that if you don’t have at least one Shia person in your social circle, you probably wouldn’t have heard about Aya’s fundraisers being taken down when it had occurred two days ago. With each passing day I have become more patient and less anxious about this story. As I observe how things have been spreading on social media, it was only today that I saw several non-Shia Muslims whom I follow online share details of this case. I found it somewhat annoying in the past when people would express their anger for the lack of solidarity for a certain cause/people, as other issues pertaining to ‘more privileged’ groups received far greater support only a short while prior. It was annoying because of all the noise, yet valid and true. Even though I have supported and related to a lot of the causes I thought about when writing the last two lines, I now have truly felt what it means to experience that lack of solidarity. It really shouldn’t be so easy to think of examples of recent atrocities, but lets just think about Arbery, or even Sudan. Where did all the noise go since then? What happened to the solidarity?

There is no evidence to suggest that the shooting was a racially motivated attack, (indeed the detectives working on the case are also of this thinking) and I doubt the killer(s) knew Aya was Shia. That is not what this post is implying at all. It is the case however that once her Shia background was revealed after her death, people took to online platforms to attack her and other Shias, and those who defend Shias.

One online user had this to say in response to the person receiving backlashing for retracting their fundraiser: “Hey bro you have nothing to worry about. If she was a Shi’a, she deserves to het shot. Shi’a are not Muslim, they are enemies of Islam…”. This sentiment was not limited to this user but was in fact shared by many others who chose to publicly raise their disturbing views. Is it not ISIS mentality? The majority of ISIS victims are Shia Muslims by the way. This story is highlighting the very unfortunate state we are in. It’s so unfair that Shia people receive these levels of hate, but for the sake of this post I can’t say more than that.

What really perplexes me is that its Ramadhan. By now I’m sure you know what it is or understand its significance for Muslims. For the Muslim readers especially, I’m sure you’ve heard all the mighty talk of the tenets of a pious person whilst growing up. So of all the times of the year, why would those people choose now as the time to expose their hatred for Shia’s in this way. Where did the sunnah go? What happened to akhlaq? Yesterday I even saw someone share that violent and aggressive anti-Ahmediyya (another Muslim sect) hashtags have been trending on Twitter all the while it has been Ramdhan. I can’t speak further on this as it’s not something that I have researched myself as I do not wish to see those violent threads, but having supremacy over other sects surely is not in line with the teachings of the Prophet.

Only a week ago, a maternity ward in Afghanistan was under attack and amongst the deaths and casualties, babies that had only been alive for a few hours were killed. Again, people found out that the victims were Shia (they were targeted in a Shia district) a few days after the initial news had spread. To my knowledge this did not cause hate, but it felt like some people had lost interest in the story once this fact was revealed. Moreover few people chose to highlight that the victims were Shia once it was revealed. In this case as well, it’s not important that the victims were Shia. They were innocent people that were brutally killed. However in adding on the fact that they were Shia, we are able to highlight the injustices that Shia minorities do face. On a lighter note, since that attack many mothers have been offering to breastfeed and adopt the babies who were made motherless.

*A message from Aya’s father, Ismail Hachem:

Al Fatiha. “Indeed we belong to God, and unto God is our ultimate return. With great sorrow and heavy hearts, we present our lamentations to the Master of Our Time, Imam Mahdi (atfs), and to the Prophet of Islam, the Prophet of Mercy and Peace, Mohammed (pbuh) and His Progeny. My precious and compassionate daughter is sacrificed in your way. She is the martyr of science and knowledge, and being estranged from home. She is the martyr of hope, dreams, and the struggle for success. She is the martyr of fasting the Holy Month of Ramadhan, and yet she died oppressed and wronged. Killed by a hail of bullets fired from the gun of betrayal, exiting with wounds of frustration that bleed from our hearts. My strong daughter. A lawyer in the making. Aya. Ismail. Hachem. May God’s Mercy enshroud your pure soul. Oh you who broke your fathers back with your untimely departure, you were my every dream, the embodiment of love for knowledge and the pursuit of highest of morals and etiquette. You leave behind a mother who carried and delivered you into this world, patient despite all the difficulties of child birth. A mother so pure, always in the state of remembering The Almighty, always patient in times of difficulty, eternally placing her trust in whatever The Lord writes for us of trials and tribulations in this life. You left behind your elder brother Ibraheem whom you’ve always known to be righteous unto his parents, always compassionate towards his siblings. Your younger sister Aseel misses you dearly, the bright and promising one who followed in your footsteps. And you left behind an infant brother, Amir. Amir whom you showered with your love, compassion and warmth. Oh Allah, give us patience in this difficult time, and give my daughter a place in the companionship of the Righteous ones in the company of Mohammed (pbuh) and His Family. Amen.”

(*Apologies, I found this in an article online but have lost the original link for crediting)

I wanted to explain the difference between Sunnis and Shias and explore the conversation of, “We’re all Muslim, I wish there were no sects and we could just get along”, but I want to stick to my commencing intention of straying from ‘politics’ etc. If you would like me to discuss these things another time then let me know. In short though, [some] people have and will always antagonise that which they do not understand or find different to themselves. Rather than going about things in this way (i.e. regarding sectarian divide), I hope more people can show that it is possible to peacefully coexist despite having differences.

If you would like to donate to a fundraiser to build a school in the name of Aya Hachem, please follow this link.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I would like to end by sharing a nasheed I used to listen to as a child as I think it’s very relevant to this discussion. Click here to listen to “My Ummah” by Sami Yusuf.

Eid Mubarak in advance and good luck 世界。

此致敬礼 – From Nabeela.

YouTube: https:/



Comparing Quran Translations

Salam~ Peace be onto you.

I just posted a photo a lengthy-ish caption to go alongside it onto my Instagram page so I decided to share it on here too. I need to then quickly have a shower and get ready to break my fast!

I will share the text from the post below and link the original post at the end of this blogpost:

The other night I was comparing four different English translations of the Quran. I noticed that even within the first few sentences alone, each translation had a minor variation. One prioritised an anglicised flow (I.e all words were English with no Arabic terms in italics, and instead of a line by line translation, it was written in short paragraphs). Another offered further elucidation for specific Arabic terms in brackets etc. 

For example, in the four books, the translation of ‘Al Muttaqun’ at the start of Surah Baqarah (Chapter of the Cow) had varied from: ‘Pious believers/Those who are mindful of God/Those who guard against evil/Pious’. 

A lot of the variation will reflect the preferences and style choices on the part of the translator. In some cases it just comes down to synonyms. E.g. the word ‘punishment’ versus ‘chastisement’. In other cases I noticed that certain translations are longer as they fill in the gap of expected knowledge. For instance in one book the line “…spend out of what We have provided for them” is followed by a short explanation of Zakat (charity) as the that is what the verse is inferring to. 

Overall with the four English translations of the Qurans that I compared, I would generalise my observations into two categories. Two of the books focused directly on the translation alone (either line by line or in paragraphs), whilst the other two offered the same form of translations but with an additional explanation. The explanations were either in the form of footnotes, or a small translation of specific terms immediately after the line, and then a further explanation following the end of the passage. This was really reminding me of a linguistics essay I did on Korean literature :)) -only I’m more engaged now.

If you look into the difference in translation (for any piece of text really) you can choose what to read based on what you’re needs are. This exercise reminded me that some translations are simple and concise, whereas some are more story like, and others informative and educational. 

I was speaking to my mum about the politics a of translation a little while ago which was also really interesting, but I’ll leave for another time. If there was a takeaway point however I guess it would be that we should still be mindful of what we read. I.e the words of the Quran cannot be altered but the choice is words and elucidation can benefit certain purposes a writer may have. This again applies to any text.

If you try to summarise your findings of comparing English translations of the Quran, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela.

YouTube: https:/



View this post on Instagram

📷: my mum. Fajr sunrise at the shrine of Masuma Qum (sa), sister of Imam Ridha (as). The other night I was comparing four different English translations of the Quran. I noticed that even within the first few sentences alone, each translation had a minor variation. One prioritised an anglicised flow (I.e all words were English with no Arabic terms in italics, and instead of a line by line translation, it was written in short paragraphs). Another offered further elucidation for specific Arabic terms in brackets etc. For example, in the four books, the translation of ‘Al Muttaqun’ at the start of Surah Baqarah (Chapter of the Cow) had varied from: ‘Pious believers/Those who are mindful of God/Those who guard against evil/Pious’. A lot of the variation will reflect the preferences and style choices on the part of the translator. In some cases it just comes down to synonyms. E.g. the word ‘punishment’ versus ‘chastisement’. In other cases I noticed that certain translations are longer as they fill in the gap of expected knowledge. For instance in one book the line “…spend out of what We have provided for them” is followed by a short explanation of Zakat (charity) as the that is what the verse is inferring to. • • Overall with the four English translations of the Qurans that I compared, I would generalise my observations into two categories. Two of the books focused directly on the translation alone (either line by line or in paragraphs), whilst the other two offered the same form of translations but with an additional explanation. The explanations were either in the form of footnotes, or a small translation of specific terms immediately after the line, and then a further explanation following the end of the passage. This was really reminding me of a linguistics essay I did on Korean literature :)) -only I’m more engaged now. If you look into the difference in translation (for any piece of text really) you can choose what to read based on what you’re needs are. This exercise reminded me that some translations are simple and concise, whereas some are more story like, and others informative and educational. 1/2.

A post shared by Nabeela Zaman | 欣妍 (@nabblo) on


Corona on your mind?

Tw: Corona virus, self-isolation. This is a UK and London focused post.

Screenshot 2020-03-26 at 21.00.18

The evening view from my bedroom window.

[There will be a handful of links embedded in this post. Click the words in blue font to follow the links if you want to]

Before we begin, fear not. This post is not intended for scare mongering. I’ve been seeing lists of ‘things you can do during quarantine/self-isolation’ as a means of getting through the weird Corona Virus times we’re infected by. From the few lists I took a look at, a lot of the advice is the same. I think this shows that the advice is worth listening to, and so I’ll repeat a few of those, but I also wanted to offer some more tangible(?) things! If you want a chill (fitting) song to listen to as you read, take a listen to Homebody by PH1. 

^TLDR: I’ve been seeing lists of how to manage self isolation due to the virus, and whilst they are super helpful, they’re also quite repetitive and abstract so I wanted to add on some tangible things to the mix!⚡️

Let’s begin with a basic overview of how you might want to be spending time! Following the general advice I’m about to share, I will also list some more helpful resources below. Hopefully altogether you will have something quite comprehensive to follow and help you get through isolation time.

Please practice social distancing!🙏 Listen to the advice of your government. Limit to your social media usage especially if you think it is harmful to mental Health. Try and do some exercise indoors. Take this as an opportunity to deep clean your house or to just de-clutter your space. Be mindful of your news intake and cautious of the validity of sources. Spend time focusing on yourself and understanding what your hobbies are. If you are religious, then this is a good time to pray and connect to your spiritual side. Be kind to yourself and patient to those around you and to the situation.

When the isolation period started, I saw a lot going around the Internet where people were urging others to use this time for productivity. Saying this could be the time that ‘you finally complete orders tasks that you’d been meaning to tend to’, etc. I agree that it would be worthwhile to use this time to be productive; however, I think we’ve been given such a great opportunity to recharge that we don’t need to be productive, all the time at least. So yes, my advice includes doing things that are practical and productive, however I’m also including self-care tips under productivity because I think its necessary. I think our focus shouldn’t always be fixated on trying to get things done as it harbours an unhealthy mindset that everything we do needs to have a specific outcome and amazing result. Sometimes we can just exist. Do things for the sake of it. Chill out, you know?~ So please consider all of the below a giant heap of some of the different forms of productivity🙏

Self Care:

  1. Try to stick to a routine, i.e. sleeping and waking up at a set time and not sleeping in.
  2. If you find it helpful, get out of your sleepwear and get dressed to spend your day at home/online meetings and classes.
  3. Reflect on how your year has been going so far and if there have been any changes in your personal growth since last year. Assess how your New Year’s resolution has been going if you made one and don’t be harsh on yourself if you’re still working towards it.
  4. Allow yourself to feel anxious if that’s how you feel about the situation.
  5. Cassey Ho wrote a short post on her blog about ‘How to Glow Up During Self Isolation’, basically a self care post.
  6. I know I’ve mentioned Rituals before in a less positive light, but they have a calming section of their website you might enjoy browsing!
  7. If you are working from home/attending classes, try to arrange a calming workspace for yourself.
  8. Set yourself a daily goal.
  9. Meditate.
  10. Talk to someone and reach out for help if the situation is having an adverse effect on your mental health. 



  1. I’ve been exercising a lot lately and I came across a YouTube channel the other day that posts short exercise routines to popular songs. 
  2. Chris Hemsworth has released a free 6-week trial for his online fitness programme.
  3. Blogilates (a brand by aforementioned Cassey Ho) is a great website and YouTube channelthat offers fun workout routines for a range of fitness levels. There are also free workout calendars and other fitness related thingson the website.



  1. Advice from HSBC bank 
  2. Advice from Monzo bank 
  3. Money Advice Service
  4. Theres a Coronavirus Small Business Helpline, but the line seems to always be busy. Try your luck if you wish at: 0300 456 3565. 
  5. You can claim a refund on your TFL (Transport for London) season tickets! I’ve gone and found the link for you, just check if it applies to the ticket you hold.


Helping the Community:

  1. If you wants to volunteer in some capacity to aid the NHS at the moment, you can register with Goodsam. All you’ll need is an in date DBS certificate
  2. This isn’t necessarily for the community, but I found a great site where you can bulk order fruit (which you could choose to distribute afterwards) from restertaunts that are unable to use them. 
  3. The ‘Nextdoor’ website/APP that allows you to connect with your (mostly immediate) community. i.e. By writing posts to share information with people in your neighbourhood.
  4. Look out for your neighbours. If there are elderly folk in your neighbourhood, try to reach out and offer your assistance (whilst maintaining a physical distance).
  5. Donate to local food banks if you are able to. 
  6. Researchers are trying to better understand the virus and you can help them if you wish to by providing daily health updates on this app.
  7. My borough is recruiting volunteers to transport food and talk to lonely people who are isolating over the phone, you can find out if your area is running a similar initiative.


Some ways to pass time:

  1. Try out some of thefree online classes offered by Harvard University.
  2. If the first point wasn’t enough, here’s 450 Ivy League courses you can take online for free.
  3. Watch YouTube videos! It’s free (like 90% of it) and there’s a so many genres of videos. Here’s a video I posted recently 👀 你订阅了么?
  4. Read a book! 
  5. An online page called the Corona Culture Festival 2020 has created a Google Doc has collated a collaborative list of things to do/read/watch etc
  6. Of course you need to be especially smart with your food resources at the moment, but if you can then consider trying out some new recipes. It’s been really satisfying to see some people post step by step cooking photos on their Instagram stories (…and then never actually following them😅🤷‍♀️). I’m thinking of baking a cake for my birthday next week!🎂🥳
  7. Learn a new skill, or practice an old one. There’s a ton of resources out there on the Internet! You could try learning sign language for example.
  8. I’ve been enjoying the Tonight Show Home Edition videos from time to time. They’re kind of endearing and I love for the dad jokes lol.
  9. Organise your wardrobe/phone gallery/internet tabs/laptop desktop/email inbox etc.
  10. Open your window!~
  11. Bond with your family (if you’re isolating with them or through phone calls).
  12. Go through the videos/posts you ‘saved for later’ (e.g. on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook).



Screenshot 2020-03-26 at 21.55.52

Screenshot 2020-03-26 at 22.04.17




My latest YouTube video is a vlog as I go on a short trip to the Pharmacy to pick up my mum’s medication.I did this to be part of digital history👀🥳Take a look if you want to pass more time or if you want to see how things are in the UK right now!~


Have you ever wondered what a random person in the world may be doing? Have you ever stopped to think that someone out there is going about their day at the same time as you but neither of you have a clue of each others existence? As I typed that out it seemed like some old philosopher probably did think about it and wrote about it in a book somewhere, but I have thought about these things before. I just think its so cool that so much of the world is basically doing the same thing right now, even if it isn’t under the best circumstances. Even though everyone’s doing different things, a lot of us are connected right now, so many people in the world are literally stuck at home at the same time as you and me!! Separately we are still united in our isolation. Isn’t it crazy.

The chances are that if you’re reading this you’re in the privilege position of having at least the basic amenities of 21st-century life. You can quite literally kick your feet up and relax. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you do think there is something wrong with that, well it’s not completely your fault. We are the product of a capitalist society of which the metric system is based almost entirely on our outward utility. Our worth is calculated by our productivity. For our whole lives we have been told to produce, to work, to exert our energies into building and maintaining the market. It has not been ingrained in our nature to rest. So now that we have this opportunity, of course some more privileged than others, I hope you’ll take some time to rest. Another word for this of course is self-care. Self-care may be a keyword you’ve seen spring around the Internet a lot these days, but what does that actually entail? You probably figured it out through the list I wrote above, but in short, it involves you looking after your mental and physical well-being in whatever shape or form that may be productive to you. For example, for some self-care may be having a bath, reading a book, singing, meditating, playing a game you’ve been waiting to play. It can look like many things, so I hope you take this precious opportunity to explore it.

I didnt want this to be a downer of a post but I am thinking of those who are anxious over this situation. Students are facing all kinds of uncertainties and many people are facing intricate problems. Reach out to people lend a hand where you can. Try to spare a thought for those who may be suffering without help because of this situation. Homeless people, those with low incomes, people with small businesses, freelancers, victims of abuse, young parents, people who are lonely. There are places that you can donate money and food to those who may benefit, research what’s available in your area. There are also Facebook/WhatsApp support groups whereby you can plan to help people in your local neighbourhood. Search for ‘Covid-19 Mutual Support Group’ on Facebook and join a group based on your location. 

Btw the title was inspired by an old song I like, you can listen to it here 👀 Also it looks like my birthday will also be during isolation (1st April). I didn’t have much in mind for celebrating this year but I can’t say I’m pleased by this turn of events. I’m now thinking of filming a new birthday themed cooking video instead, so subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to see that mess when it comes out😂 I did capture cute moments from my birthday last year if you want to see that~

All in all I’d like to say that I believe this uneasy moment we’re going through will pass. People are finding this difficult for different reasons; some of us may have compromised immune systems or worry for loved ones who are suffering from the virus, others may be feeling anxious by the news or are finding that this situation is triggering their mental health issues. In this moment (similar to what I said earlier about the fact that so much of the world is isolating at the same time) I’m not too anxious over the current situation, I’d say its actually been improving my mental health slightly but I won’t go into the reasoning. I recognise that I’m in a privileged position to be able to say that I’m doing somewhat okay, but I hope you’ll be okay too. This will be over soon and I look forward to seeing you on the other side~ 💜

If you try to share tips to help ease self-isolation, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Nabeela. ❤ 




The end of an era, a decade

🎉Happy new year everyone~

Since last year, I began to kind of hate New Years. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask, well…I’m just not that positive about them. I have said in a lot of my posts that the glass is half full, -it still is. But, I wasn’t filled with brimming optimism at the end of 2018, nor am I now as the roaring 2020s is about to commence. And guess what, that’s okay. 

So blah blah blah, we just ended a decade [insert photo of me 10yrs ago versus now]. Well, post your photos if you want, they can be fun/good source of self-reflection/I’m sure some of us want to see the glow ups. Where was I actually going with this?😂 The sound of fireworks is distracting me

*I took a long break to watch fireworks outside my window (this was the most I’ve seen actually), and message my cousin about how to send Imessages😂, and watch the song I wait for every year😌😂 I keep getting distracting by things so I guess I need to wrap this up quickly.

A friend of mine posted online and asked people to share what they learned from the past year. I thought for a long time and couldn’t come up with anything as uplifting as the responses she was sharing. There were, of course, many great moments of 2019, after all its a whole 365 days so there’s bound to be. I graduated which is pretty cool, amongst other things. I made some videos that were quite impactful (in fact I got a long message from someone who watched my video on discrimination asking for advice regarding her Masters application as she fears she may be discriminated against). I don’t want to list my achievements for the past year. My point is that I recognise I had them, but what actually stands out to me is some of the people who made my year special, most of them would know who they are 💜

As we draw to the end of this post, here’s my final video of 2019:

In other news, I have been regularly updating my Music Playlist, take a look if you need some new music to start your year; Nabblo Music Playlist Link. I also have some new posts lined up that need writing, I swear we’ll get there🙏

Congrats on surviving last year, here’s to another🔥💜

If you try to write a blogpost whilst get distracted by a million stupid things, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍。- From Nabeela.





Nabblo’s Music Playlist 💜


I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I’m finally starting a music playlist😂🎉

Every now and then I do share songs on my public Facebook page that have meaningful or interesting narratives etc, but I also want to share music that is on my current playlist!

The reasons are two-fold… Firstly, I want to share different music with you. Secondly, I want to create a ‘sound diary’. I think memories can be trapped, or ‘saved’ within our senses. For me ‘smell’ and ‘sound’ are the most potent for triggering memories. My theory is that if I have a playlist of songs to look back on, I can remember certain memories from the periods of time I was listening to them in. Let’s trial this till the new year👀

I’m thinking this will be a weekly thing, unless I’m stuck listening to more or less the same songs, in which case it will be less frequent. I’ll aim for about 5 songs in each regular upload, and who knows, some songs that didn’t make it in one week will more than likely roll over to the next. Due to the 5 song limit I’ll be going for the songs I’ve been listening to the most, rather than the ones I just think are unique (I can share those separately, and actually I have a few lined up). Also, I will try to limit explicit language with the songs that make it to the playlist (not just in terms of swear words lol), or opt for ‘clean’ versions if I think you really gotta hear it. Lastly, in the probable case that I really am stuck on the same songs, I’ll probably add in a few that are ‘throwbacks’ to me because I rinsed them during a different period of the year, but will basically be new to the playlist✌️

The first upload will be a longer one to keep us going. I’m going to share some of the songs I’ve been listening to over the past few weeks, and in less chronological order then I’d usually hope for. Let’s see if I can make this a regular Sunday thing so you get time to possibly add some to your weekly playlist!

Follow this link for the first playlist!:

Also I’m debating whether I should simply add the songs to the playlist and share it to Facebook, or do the upload and separately give some points introducing the songs in a blogpost, like I have done in this post. I think due to tiredness I will probably do the former on a regular basis, and occasionally add a blog post for ‘stand out’ choices. What are your thoughts? 🤔

I just realised the title makes it seem like I’m finally debuting as an artist😝 AND I just reached 700 subscribers on YouTube😂🎉-a humble feat we can celebrate through music. I’d love to keep you all involved in this playlist process, so please feel free to send me songs you think I may like and maybe they’ll make it to the playlist one day~ 😉

I think my music variety may surprise you hehe. If you make a public playlist, good luck 世界!

此致敬礼,欣妍– From Nabeela.

Guess what, I kind of already know what will be in next week’s playlist lol