Each time I sit down to write my reflections of Muslimah Today 2017, I can't seem to get out what I want to say because I become so overwhelmed by my emotions.
In order for me to explain how much Muslimah Today has impacted me and our business, I think I need to give a brief background on my life and our current situation.
Our business, iloveza.com, is a fairly new initiative run by my husband and I after being rejected day after day, month after month, and year after year by companies or recruitment agents for employment. We are constantly being told that we’re overqualified, or under-experienced or not told anything at all, and sometimes we just receive an unsuccessful letter stating that they have already filled the position even after attending two rounds of interviews (in the case of the most recent rejection).
Previously, we managed to acquire work in positions that were nowhere close to the degrees that we've obtained; not using our knowledge or skills, and earned salaries that hardly covered our basic expenses. When we say basic, we really mean basic necessities, something that many in our age group or who had qualified with us, would not understand even if we tried to explain it to them. The entire narration seems unfathomable and it reached a point where we realised (more so my husband) that we need to take control of our situation in whatever way we can, however we can, and building a business together would be a good start.
One of the reasons that required us to "up our game" in our working sphere, was that we were blessed with a little boy (Alhamdulillah - All praise to the Almighty).This meant that our strategies had to change as well, since before his arrival I had the time to make baked goodies to sell, to earn an extra income to supplement our basic needs. Top this up with the fact that we did not have any domestic help (have not had since the time we've been married - that's 8 full years!) nor any other means to look after him (unable to afford a nanny or send him to a school), my time became limited in allowing me to make anything extra so we sought other ways to raise funds for our necessities.
We sourced a few local suppliers who would make products for us, together with our Bonsai trees that we were growing and we would sell these at markets over the weekend. It was at these markets where we discovered an array of talent and it was quite a shame that not many people could witness this as only the market-goers are able to see these products. The stall holders were also too busy during the week crafting their products for the weekend that they were not looking to expand their customer base outside of the markets. With our knowledge of marketing, media, business and technology, we decided to create a platform to showcase their talent as well as to make their products easily accessible to other South Africans and potential customers around the world. Being a new brand and a new business we needed a draw card to get customers to our site, especially since South Africans are very skeptical with purchasing anything online, it was at this point that we decided to develop what we coined, South Africa's Information Highway, where we curate information about South Africa from various sources and channel it through our website, weekly newsletter and social media accounts.
I could carry on writing about our business but I just wanted to give an overview, the rest of our story is available HERE
Back to the present day and Muslimah Today 2017:
Singer and Songwriter, Rashid Bhikha (whom we had the pleasure of meeting at an Islamic Relief event, through our work at iloveza.com) released a CD recently called Degrees of Separation, which is a play on the old saying, “6 Degrees of Separation”, and refers to the uncanny connection between every person on Earth. At first I had never realized it, but thinking about the people I've met on the journey that led me to Muslimah Today (a story for another time), I have realised that there is no such thing as a coincidence - that everything happens for a reason.
This meeting led to another event which allowed me to meet, unbeknownst to me at the time, one of the ladies who was to be a speaker at the Muslimah Today 2017 conference and what occurred after is only through The Almighty's planning.
Subsequently, one of the topics discussed at this year's two day conference held in Durban, was 'Recognising the Mercy and Blessings of ALLAH in every situation' and another was 'ALLAH is the Best of Planners.'
I was not only fortunate enough to be part of the media partners for the event via iloveza.com but also had the opportunity to attend the event and to assist with broadcasting the conference via social media to those who could not attend, which was such a rewarding experience.
In between posts, videoing, taking pictures, and streaming the conference live across multiple platforms and accounts, I tried to listen to the speakers and gained a lot from the knowledge that they had to impart with the audience. Each message that I managed to catch, felt as if it was meant for me to hear them as their words resonated with me and I knew that this was no coincidence – I was meant to be there.
There have been many moments in my life right up until the time just before I attended the Muslimah Today conference, where I felt "why me?" "Why are we going through things that cannot be explained? (it's not only the financial issue, there are other issues, unfortunately) "Why is this happening to us?" – but listening to each speaker relate their trials, tribulations and life experiences, made me realise that I am not alone.
Of course, people do not go through the exact same things as we do, and sometimes we feel that we are being tested more than others, but unless people actually share their struggles, we won't know what the next person is going through. Society also dictates that someone going through a "bad patch" needs it to be seen, as in if they are hospitalised or something similar, and empathy levels can only be obtained once someone actually goes through the same situation as you because until then - it will be un-relatable. With this in mind, we never really spoke of our troubles and throughout our lives (both Ziyaad and I) have never asked anyone for anything nor expected anything from absolutely anyone.
Thus, it was such an overwhelming experience and each person whom I met or interacted with before, during, and after the Muslimah Today 2017 conference, can only be described as beautiful souls. I had never spent time with (or met) any of them before the weekend of the event, yet each of them helped me in different ways and some would come up to me to say that what iloveza.com is doing, is inspirational and truly an innovation. Knowing that a lot of people do not understand or are not fully aware of all that we do, that statement that they've made, restored my faith in our business and it made me see that we really are doing something that's making an impact and a difference in peoples' lives. My mind had been clouded so much as being a new business, it had not brought in the income (as yet) that we really needed to be able to make sure that we have a roof over our head every month and the other worries that consume us as human beings.
I failed to remember why we began this particular business:
- To create employment in this unstable environment.
- To make sure that no one else goes through what we've been through.
- To leave a legacy for our child (children).
- To show others that there is a way out
- And there is a way to help others even if you are financially unable to do so.
There was such a strong bond of sisterhood which was present throughout the weekend of the conference that even if our paths may not cross again and we were meant to all meet just once – they have all made an immense impact on my life.
Just a few things that I took away from each speaker either while speaking to them before the conference or the messages that they had relayed during their session:
One of the speakers spoke of how when she was younger, she had questioned what her purpose was and what her skills were and this hit home, as throughout my life, even now in my thirties, I find myself in a similar situation. This was actually surprising to hear as it came from a women who had so many accolades to her name - I almost thought that maybe it can't be true for her, but in order to relate her point about self esteem, it was to pique MY attention. Her memories of her father also reminded me of my late father who used to be my number one fan and my support and by this point, I could not stop the tears from flowing down my face. No one criticised, no one judged, each member of the audience were already transfixed as you could see that each speaker had sent a message through to them as well.
Another speaker spoke to me on a personal level about my writing as a journalist and reiterated it as she spoke to the rest of the audience. "We should not be concerned by what others think, the only thing that should concern us is if Allah is happy with what we put out there. If whatever we write or post is going to benefit, educate or assist someone in any way, that will please our Creator and that is all that matters"
I was quite amazed that each speaker had topics that were intertwined and of course, that was no coincidence.
There were so many lessons learnt and even more knowledge gained, which I hope to impart with others as well. I cannot write them all here as it already looks like a lot to read!
"Verily in the remembrance of Allah do the hearts find rest" (Surah Ar-Ra'ad: 28)
Those who have Taqwa (Allah consciousness) will continue to remember Him and remember their duty to Him and their duty to mankind.
“And whoever has taqwa of Allah - He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect” (Surah Talaaq: 2-3).
The ultimate message that I believe everyone should know in order to develop one's self and to develop the society, is that we need to recognize the "Yusr in our Usr" and we need to "BE the Yusr to someone else's Usr". In English, the former means to find the ease in our difficulty and realize that a trial was given to us by the One who knows us and who created us all and He will not test us more than we can handle. The latter, means to try and be the ease and the comfort to someone else's difficulty, for in helping others, Allah will be pleased with you and in serving Allah, we do have a duty to help our fellow humankind.
We at iloveza.com, as well as the hosts of Muslimah Today, ILM-SA have tried our best to share as much of the two days, with the public as possible and most of the content is still available on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.