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Dear Family

Never discuss religion or politics.

How many times have you heard that one? The Golden Rule. They are probably the two most divisive topics of conversation, so it makes sense to avoid them. Doesn’t it?

Sometimes, things just need to be said and, as a family, I don’t think we’ve ever been too eager to follow ‘the rules’.

So, while my brother has politics covered, it’s high time I tackle the other taboo.

The Why

As difficult as it is to accept a new religion and learn all you need to know, it is much harder on a convert’s family. When you raise your child, you do so in the way you feel is best. So when they seemingly denounce everything you taught them and start a new way of life, it must be disconcerting to say the least.

But much of this worry surely comes from fear of the unknown? Or, worse, incorrect understanding perpetuated by the media.

For a number of years now, we’ve skirted around the topic of my chosen religion. It’s not an easy thing to talk about on either side; often subjects seem too awkward or too sensitive. For me, the main issue has always been not knowing where to start.

In 2018, I intend to harness the power of the internet to start conversations with all of my family, north and south, east and west, to introduce you to my daily life and show you that it’s not as alien as you may think. At the end of the year, I will have been successful if I can say, hand on heart, that:

  1. My family knows me better and understands my choices; and
  2. We are able to talk freely about the religious aspects of my life.

I hope you will see that Muslims are normal people, with pretty ordinary lives. That, despite some changes to my lifestyle, I’m still your Emma.

The What

The open, honest, and sometimes emotional letters below are addressed to all corners of my family, but I welcome every reader with an interest in following my thoughts. In fact, I hope it will be useful for those who maybe have a Muslim convert in their family, or are thinking of converting themselves.

It’s not always plain sailing, but you only have one family, and Islam teaches us never to break ties with our relations. This is my way of reaching out.

The How

Before we get started, just a quick note on how to use the blog. If you’re visiting for the first time, take a few minutes to read about My Journey to Islam, which will give you some background.

After that, you can read the letters in any order, and don’t forget to hit the follow button in the bottom right corner to receive updates via email. I will be posting a new entry each fortnight, and occasional special features throughout the year. Comments are welcomed on every post, or you can contact me privately.

Whenever I use a word or phrase which you may not be familiar with, or the meaning of which is often misunderstood, I will link directly to the Glossary. There you will find them all in alphabetical order, and I will continue to populate this with each new letter.

That’s it! Now, grab a drink, make yourself comfortable and let’s see where the year takes us.

Asalaamu alaikum

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Real Muslim Women Talk About Hijab

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First of all, apologies for the delay in posting this – since my last entry, at the end of Ramadan, things have been rather hectic. (Who said moving house is stressful?!)  Anyway, we’re finally settling in now and it seems like the perfect time to return to the blogosphere.

You will no doubt have seen the news reports recently concerning Tory MP, Boris Johnson. For those who haven’t, the former Foreign Secretary publicly likened the image of veiled Muslim women to ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’.

The fact he holds this opinion is not overly surprising, and everyone has the right to their own views. What I find inexcusable, is the language he used to voice his. I don’t personally cover my face, but surely we all have the right to dress the way we want to, without facing ridicule? I strongly believe statements like these not only stem from ignorance, but breed further ignorance too.

Has Boris spoken to any Muslim women about their decision to cover? I highly doubt it. And yet, his statement, and many like it, inevitably lead to hijab becoming a symbol of oppression. Let me tell you, in the vast majority of cases, and certainly in the teaching of Islam, it is far from that.

And so, I’ve decided to do what Boris hasn’t, and ask real Muslim women to share their reasons for covering. This is a long piece, but definitely worth the read.

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Ramadan Series: Day 30

Well, that’s it folks, Ramadan is over for another year – the new moon was sighted last night and Eid celebrations took place in the U.K. today.

We should take a few moments here to reflect on the past month. I’ve learnt a lot this Ramadan. Although the virtues and rewards of motherhood have been a great comfort, in many ways a simple change of routine would have made it possible to do more. I hope our impending house move and promise of more space will soon solve these problems, Insha’Allah. My experience this month has also helped develop a deeper understanding of Islam as a ‘middle path’ – I am reminded that consistency in one or two small acts of worship is better than burning out on unrealistic goals. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) loves steadfastness.

And so, for the final post in this series, we will explore life after Ramadan, and how Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated across the globe.

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Ramadan Series: Day 20

Welcome back, readers. Thank you to those who are still with me through this four-part series! If you haven’t yet read the previous posts, take a look at Day 1 and Day 10 before continuing. They give some much-needed background to the practicalities of fasting and the spiritual aspects of the month.

We will soon be entering the last 10 days of Ramadan – a period of unequalled reward for sincere worship and good deeds. Today, I will explain the significance of the last 10 days, and how we spend them.

As things haven’t gone completely to plan for me this year, the last 10 days offer a chance for a renewed effort, a redoubled effort, to maximise the spiritual benefits of Ramadan.

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Ramadan Series: Day 10

We are now one third of the way through Ramadan – every year I am surprised by how fast it goes. Tomorrow morning will mark the beginning of the tenth fast of the month.

To recap, on Day 1, I talked about the practicalities of fasting – please do read that if you haven’t already. Today, we will visit the spiritual aspects of the month, and the kinds of goals Muslims set themselves ahead of Ramadan.

So far, this month has been more difficult for me than in previous years. I decided to fast despite nursing a one-year-old, simply because he is now old enough that I don’t need to worry so much about nutrition and milk supply. I knew it was going to be hard on me though – thirst and hunger are amplified every time I feed him. As a result, I have missed three of the fasts up to this point, but am pleased to have at least managed the majority. My spiritual goals, however, have required a little readjustment to make them realistic.

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Ramadan Series: Day 1

This evening marks the start of Ramadan!

As most of you are probably aware, Ramadan is the Islamic month during which Muslims fast everyday, from dawn until sunset. But what does fasting actually entail? Are there further obligations throughout the month? And what does Ramadan truly mean to Muslims?

Over the next 30 days or so, I plan to publish a journal of sorts. Each week, I will share with you how Ramadan is going for our family, and talk you through the important aspects of the month. These four posts will broadly cover the following:

  1. Rules of fasting
  2. Spiritual goals
  3. Last 10 days
  4. Eid ul-Fitr

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An Open Invitation

This post has been on my mind for a while – it’s something which, I think, needs to be said, but I haven’t been sure how to approach it. After taking a few online courses recently, I hope I now have a better understanding of the issue.

Muslims around the world, and Islam as a whole, are currently under a lot of scrutiny. On an almost daily basis, there is some form of negative news coverage featuring a Muslim, or Muslims. As a Muslim myself, I can condemn and reject the actions of these people until I am blue in the face – but the media is far more powerful. And so, like many millions of Muslims across the globe, and especially in the West, I carry on about my business. But inside, my heart is breaking a little bit more every time I hear or read yet another misconception about our religion.

Today, I am inviting you to challenge the growing negativity around Islam, simply by asking questions.

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Surf ‘n’ Turf

Today’s topic is in response to my first reader request! The question posed is one which often crops up, understandably, so I am sure the answer will be interesting for the wider audience as well.

What are the practical differences between halal and non-halal meat, and what are the religious reasons for doing it that way?

First of all, I will explain what the word ‘halal’ actually means, and then I will go on to discuss the criteria for halal meat.

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