About

  • They say that there is a glass ceiling for me because (as Michael Moore would put it) I am not a stupid white man. Another they says I should temper my passions and desires, my dreams and ambitions because I am not a brown be-turbaned man. Some Theys say that I should fight my oppression, that I should rout it and defy it. Some say I face no oppression, that I should be happy that I am blessed and should accept my fortunate and happy lot. If you are not with us, they say, you are with the others, and they are wrong.

    Spirit21 is a space to bring colour to this monochromatic world. I don’t believe that black or white are the only options. Why not pinks, blues, yellows or browns? I am not us, nor am I Other.

    I am me.

33 Comments

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  • F. Baasleim

    March 28, 2010

    Assalamu alaikum
    Dear sister Zahra,
    I am not even sure why I am leaving a comment here :) I got to your website through an article in The National, the one about pink and black, and I just had this wish to express my opinion.Hope you read it to the end.
    You do have a good blog here though, mashaAllah! The best part of it being that it’s not discriminatory to anybody much. Very diplomatic style of writing too. That’s really good, hope you’ll always continue in the same vein.
    I myself had this desire to start a blog, tired after leaving comments here and there. After going through your blog though I’m having second thoughts now. I have a long way to go and am not anywhere near this good.
    After reading your and another’s comment on Muslim women who dress in black which kind of made me feel I was doing something not right, I felt the need to share my viewpoint as to being dressed in black head-to-toe veils,gloves and all. I know you haven’t asked for it but I would be happy if you read my viewpoint :)
    My clothing is not my identity, but is a part of who I am.
    I started with the abaya(full body cloak) and head covering just because I felt that it was right.Next was the face veil and that happened one day as part of my desire to know Allah’s words to me,when I read in the Holy Qur’an where Allah says ” Do not display your beauty except that which is apparent…”(Holy Qur’an 24:31). Because of the lack of a even single Saheeh hadeeth (even though there are many Hassan ones), I would never enforce this on anyone. But for me the fact that the face is the most beautiful part of a female was enough to be convinced that I was taking the right step. I covered my hands too as I do have beautiful hands. Even though I had donned the abaya earlier on, as I previously said, it was later I found about Allah’s commandment to a woman to cover herself with a full body cloak when she ventures outside her home so that she may be seen as modest (Holy Qur’an,33:59).
    I reflected upon the very purpose behind covering my beauty from men who aren’t my mehrem and summarized Allah’s orders in this regard –
    Do not dress, gaze, behave or converse in a way to attract non-mehrem men.
    Do not display your beauty except to women and your mehrem (there’s therefore a limit here too, except with the husband).
    Dress modestly when you leave your homes with an outer garment (Jalabeeb, plural of Jilbab -that’s the word Allah used) that covers all of you (your regular clothing).
    That’s not oppression, that’s safeguarding my beauty from stranger eyes and being modest.Its also creating a safer healthier society by helping avoid unhealthy relationships and abuse.
    Now, I choose to wear black because it is an unattractive color. In fact black and white are not colors (I still remember those Physics lessons on Light:) ). I do not wear couture abayas either. Nor do I destroy the purpose of modest dressing and simplicity by embellishment and ornamentation on the abaya and head veil. I needn’t be wearing the cloak then do I, as I have lovely clothes and jewellery on my self beneath, just put that on display! I am not criticizing but proving my viewpoint to be ‘a’ right one.The bottom-line for me is – a cloak that garners the least attraction. For me and many others, that’s a pure black cloth with no add-ons.
    I wish all those who think women in black, hijab or face veil to be oppressed, ask these very women if it is really oppressing them or being forced upon them.They should be surprised by the answers they’d get!
    I should have the right to dress the way I like especially when I am not removing clothes but covering up!
    Being a liberated woman to me doesn’t mean being able to dress freely to feel the cool breeze caresses my semi-nude body. Being liberated to me means being educated, respected and being let to chose the way I dress, black or white, face-veil or not.

  • Roshni Hafeez

    April 7, 2010

    I am a disabled revert Muslim who is a massive fan of your work! Mashallah you are the only educated and liberated voice of the silent Muslim majority, the only female non-wahabi voice we have and I love and respect you for it my sister!
    Since its publication, I have been so desperate to read ‘love in a headscarf, but as a visually impaired woman, I am unable to access it as no audio version has been released! This is an appeal to you, on behalf of the disabled Muslim community and in particular blind Muslims like myself, those who are rarely heard, considered and valued and have little access to literature. We love you and your work and pray you will take steps to releasing an audio version soon. The RNIB can help with this, as can your publishers, or alternatively, contact my organisation: http://www.kitaba.org for more info on this.
    Keep up the good work: you rock!
    WS,
    Roshni.

  • umi kulsum

    July 14, 2010

    assalamu’alaikum. Dear sister, I am Umi. I come from Indonesia. I have read your book (on indonesian version :D). It is a wonderful book. I like the way you present your idea about your religion. It is smart! Your book insoires me to ‘think deeply’ about my choises: my jilbab, my position as wife and mother.. Thank you.
    Wassalamu’alaikum.

  • shelina

    July 15, 2010

    salam alaikum to you as well – all the way to Indonesia. Your country is gorgeous and I hope to be able to return to it in the future sometime.
    I’m so pleased to hear from you and delighted that you enjoyed the book,
    my warmest wishes
    shelina

  • Sarah

    August 21, 2010

    SAWW,
    Hello Zahra,
    My name is Sarah, and I am a muslim woman. I am half-Egyptian, half-Dutch. I saw your book in the library in Dutch, and I booked it. While I was on the internet I decided to search for it on the web, and found out it’s originally English. The I found this site. I read your last 2 articles, and especially the one about making a change is very inspiring to me. Let me just say, I want to become what you are (a writer who makes a change), and you had the courage to do it, so that inspires me.
    The article spoke to me as well because you talked about being three people in one. I have the that issue as well, but in another form. I am a half-blood and I currently live in Egypt, but I come to the Netherlands for vacations. So I have to be Egyptian, Dutch and Muslim, just like you have to be English, Asian and Muslim. It gets so confusing sometimes. I don’t even know who or what I am anymore. I hope you figured it out, because that would mean there is hope for me.
    Last but certainly not least, this page, the “about page”, is WONDERFUL! I want to be a colour! I believe you think exactly the right way! We should all be and stay different, how else can any one of us be unique?
    I REALLY look forward to reading your book! Except now, I think I will read it in English!
    I hope you are well and have a happy life,
    Gazak Allah 5yran for the changed I believe and hope you will make.
    With much respect,
    Sarah.

  • miriam

    August 27, 2010

    Salam aleikum,
    Dear Shelina,

    I enjoyed your book very much.
    I learned new things, I recognized things and it was humerous.
    ( and I am an 51 year old ,married (3 sons) teacher and a christian)
    It matters how you behave towards other people and if you love people!
    I hope also many not moslim people read your book.
    They will be much more relaxed towards the Islam, and they will see that we all have much in common.

    Many good wishes,
    Miriam

  • shelina

    August 31, 2010

    Miriam – how wonderful to hear that my story can reach out to all sorts of people. And if I’m right – you’ve picked this up in the Netherlands? I think you’re absolutely right that these ‘ordinary’ stories can help us break the political challenges we all face, and I share your hopes that people will see that we all have much in common. Thanks for your kind words Miriam.

  • shelina

    August 31, 2010

    Sarah, what a wonderful message! I hope you manage to get hold of a copy of the book soon – either in English or in Dutch (or even the soon-to-be-published Arabic!). I’m glad to hear my story resonated with you, but the most important thing when reading other stories (IMHO) is to realise that the best thing that you can be is YOU.

  • Nafees Mahmud

    October 19, 2010

    Salaam,

    I found your blog to be very inspiring. I enjoy reading how people people discover meaning in what many perceive to be run of the mill everyday life experiences (e.g. as you wrote about shopping). There is a lot going on around us if we simply observe and learn.
    Keep up the good work.
    Nafees

  • shelina

    October 20, 2010

    Thanks Nafees, glad to have you as a reader. Keep up your own good work writing!

  • Nelleke/Neda

    October 29, 2010

    Hello Shelina,
    With joy I’ve read your book in the Dutch version. It deserves a lot of readers, Muslim and non-Muslim. It is a pity that fascists like the Dutch politician Geert Wilders wouldn’t read this book. He is telling so much nonsense about Islam and the Koran and it’s scaring to see that he gets so many followers these days. But people like them are not open to different opinions then their own near sightedness. How can we chance them?
    I am a Dutch woman, brought up Christian and since more then 20 years married to an Iranian husband. WE live in Holland. I’ve met my family in law, who all live in Iran, a lot of times and I can tell that they are lovely, they are not prejucided towards me. I tell my Dutch relations about my positive experiences in Iran in order to create more understanding for people with other cultures and religions and try to take away a little of the intolerance that exists so much in this world.

  • shelina

    November 14, 2010

    What a lovely story from your own life! Thank you for sharing it with the world. Congratulations on your marriage and the wonderful relationship between your families. I hope your wishes come true.

    And yes, what a great idea for Geert Wilders to read the book :-)

  • zarine mohideen

    November 21, 2010

    As salam alaikum. I’m a 21 year old Engineering student from India and I just finished reading your book. I had heard a lot about the book but I think it just released in India a while back. I finished reading your book in three hours straight! As a woman on the cusp of proposals and being bombared by aunties the book offered me a lot of insight and made me think a lot about my life and the society here. We find it very difficult to diffetentiate our culture from our religion. That is something I see happenning all around me. When I finished school I wanted to study to become a journalist but I was suggested to do otherwise. People said I wouldn’t get married, “there is no one in our community like that”, “muslim boys don’t marry journalists”. I was naive then and hence studied something else.
    But the saddest part is I have a family friend who is a journalist ’cause her folks are “broad-minded”. Her parents have been groom hunting for three years and none of the guys/families are ok with her profession. Now she is 25 and that is considered “old”.
    I find it funny how its always the girl who has to adjust or reduce her expectations and be ok with three out of six while the guy can be fat, rude, unkempt and such a mommas boy yet gets what he wants!
    I hope I find The One through an eventful, yet fruitfull journey too! Do pray for me on that one and keep up the good work :)

  • Page Inman

    November 24, 2010

    I received a copy of your book from Library Thing for review and I’m enjoying it. I’ll let you know when I post my review.

  • shelina

    November 24, 2010

    I look forward to it!

  • shelina

    December 1, 2010

    I’m sure you will find what you are looking for, if you remain true to yourself. When Aunties and people used to say “if you get educated nobody will marry you because you are too clever” I used to think to myself, whether I am educated or not I am still me. An education doesn’t fundamentally change who you are – it just makes you more of what you are. And so if I’m not suited with an education, and I’m not suited without one anyway. Either way, if he’s that small minded, he’s not for me!

  • a buchori

    December 6, 2010

    assalamu’alaikum warahmatullohi wabarakatuh
    selamat tahun baru ISLAM 1 Muharram 1432 H
    moga di tahun ini ukhti she lina lebih berkah selalu sehat n dalam Lindungan ALLOH SWT
    salam semangat untuk muslimah di English n belahan dunia
    wassalam

  • Yurda

    December 15, 2010

    Dear Shelina,
    I have read your book. I leave in the Netherland. I am Turkisch, Duch, Muslim women., 37 jears old, I have tree childerens. Your book was a plasure too read. I hope my dochter will be like jou, an educated moslim who makes the richt choses abouth she’s life and education.
    I hope you will write moore books like this.
    whassalamu alaikum,
    Yurda

  • shelina

    December 16, 2010

    Yurda, thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the book, and I wish you blessings and happiness for your children

  • shelina

    December 19, 2010

    Salam and thank you for your kind wishes from Indonesia

  • radia

    January 4, 2011

    hi im radia from algeria im 19 i really liked the 8 permitted pages of your book (coz i cant buy it hhhhh( but i looooved it so much .when i saw you in mbc morningshow i felt like i know you for years .i have so many troubles with my scarf but when i saw you . you gave me the perfect image of the muslim succesful woman . i hope that one day i would actually read your book and other works .wish you all the best and i hope to get your e-mail coz i really really need to talk to you

  • shelina

    January 5, 2011

    thanks for your lovely email Radia, and it’s great to hear from you in Algeria. I pray for your success and to give you everything that you wish for. Keep up all your efforts!
    shelina

  • Farzana

    January 13, 2011

    Salaam Shelina
    Just finished reading your book. I could relate to so much of what you’ve written.
    You are very lucky to have an experience of Mosque where women were active. All the mosques I’ve know women are just not allowed or encouraged to be active. I know it is changing in big cities which is good.

    I don’t wear a headscarf and don’t feel the need to wear it. However, this didn’t stop a very beautiful white lady to spat at me following 9/11.
    Similarly it didn’t stop a man telling me to go back following 7/7. I am afraid I did stop to tell him that I was part of the furniture and he’ll just have to accept it.
    Great book. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Ahmed Helmi

    January 16, 2011

    Dear Shelina,
    At the first, I would like to thank you for your efforts in supporting Islam and I would be grateful if you could put more details about yourself as I would like to know more about your ideas,directions and plans as well as ur nationality ur age…etc. And I am so interested to support & distribute Islam everywhere on the earth, so how can we support your site to be a strong source for others.
    Sorry for my broken English.

    Regards,
    AH

  • Dalal

    August 24, 2011

    Salamu Aleikum,

    My name ist Dalal and I`m just read your book. To tell the truth, it is the first real book that I read.
    I do not want them making too many compliments, because I’m sure you get many.I want to tell you that your book has expanded my horizon. You did a graet job and of this reason I want to ask you, if you like to come to Berlin for a Book signing. Perhaps we can, then drink a coffee. For me a cappuccino without sugger … 😉

    wassalam Sis love you for Allah

  • shelina

    August 27, 2011

    Thanks Dalal. So pleased you enjoyed the book. I will respond to your email about Berlin separately.

  • Shaakira Ajam

    September 27, 2011

    Assalaamualaikum
    Dear Shelina

    Shukran for writing such an insightful novel. I am from South Africa, with a very diverse background. My dad is Indian and my mum is Cape Malay. Growing up I faced a lot of prejudice, especially being brought up in a staunch Indian community. My mum always answered my questions about culture, by reminding me that I am Muslim and that’s all that matters. Alhumdulillah by the mercy of Allah my sisters and I became successful business women, but unfortunately not married. I related completely to your novel and felt so touched by the stories. This type of writing is the missing link for young Muslim women and the everyday challenges that life throws us. Especially when it comes to finding the right partner. I am so proud of being a Muslim woman and wearing the head scarf .

    Please carry on the outstanding work and I will definitely recommend this book to everyone.

    May Allah bless you. Insha-Allah

    Shukran again for sharing with us your story, can’t wait for the next novel :-)

  • shelina

    October 1, 2011

    Thanks Shaakira for reading the novel and for coming by and leaving your comments. It’s great to hear that the writing has touched you – we’re all essentially the same underneath! Please send my love and prayers to everyone in South Africa – I’d love to visit one day in the distant future, I hear it is a gorgeous place.

  • Master Hameed

    November 24, 2011

    Assalamualaikkum w.b.t

    This wedsite is very good for all the Muslims, InsyaALLAH.

    wassalam.

    khasyammed@yahoo.com

  • shivani khati

    December 12, 2012

    hello, i just finished reading your book ” love in a headscarf” and am in love with it. I am just a 17yr old but i can relate so much to you. :) i especially like your humour a lot. I hope i do get to read more of your articles…for you definately have one more well-wisher on your list of fans. p.s. I know this is irrelevant but i really want to know your zodizc sign?

  • asmaa

    June 2, 2013

    Assalamu 3alaikom shelina…may Allah bless you sister….i am working on my phd thesis and iintend to workon your memoir insha2alah…i just wwant to ask are you originally british? if not what is your nationality?…

  • shelina

    June 13, 2013

    hello! I’m british…

  • Richard4Life

    April 1, 2014

    you make me sick