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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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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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Sources of Islam: Part 2

If you’re up-to-date with the blog, you will know the entry preceding this was the first of two-parts, looking at the original sources of instruction and guidance in Islam. I explained the history of the Qur’an and what it means to me personally. If you haven’t yet read this, please do so before continuing (Sources of Islam: Part 1).

This time, we are going to discuss the secondary source of the religion, the Sunnah. This is the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be upon him) practical application of the Qur’anic teachings to everyday life.

So, without further ado, let’s get started…

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Sources of Islam: Part 1

Today, I reach a blogging milestone – my tenth ever post! So far, these letters have given you a glimpse in to my everyday life as a Muslim, and I hope it’s been interesting. There are many more topics to explore but, before going on, I want to talk about where the practices I’ve mentioned actually originate from.

There are two sources of Islam:

  1. The Qur’an – the Muslim Holy Book; and
  2. The Sunnah – the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

If the Qur’an is the instruction manual for life on Earth, then Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was the instructor sent to give a practical demonstration.

Today’s entry will be the first of two parts, dealing with the two sources of Islam and what they mean to me on a day-to-day basis. We will start with the Qur’an as the primary source.

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Right or Left?

When it comes to table manners, I was taught well. Indeed, with Aunty Cath and Grandma guiding the way, I was taught by the best.

Wait until everyone has their food before you begin. Keep your elbows off the table. Don’t speak with your mouth full.

All very good advice that makes for a pleasant and civilised family dinner. One rule, though, has to be broken; fork in your left hand and knife in your right. And I’ll tell you for why…

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Aside

Celebrating Motherhood

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As every parent knows, having a child completely changes your life. There is no greater blessing in this world. The love we feel for our children far exceeds any previous human emotion, and we would do anything to help them grow in to happy, healthy adults.

As such, parents have a high status in Islam. Many times in the Qur’an, we are reminded to respect both of our parents and take good care of them. But the rights of mothers are mentioned specifically, and in detail, owing to the sacrifices and hardships endured during the bearing and rearing of children.

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.K., so it seems like the perfect time to discuss motherhood in Islam, and my own personal experience thus far.

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You’ve Got a Friend in Me

As a child, it’s easy to make friends – you just walk up to someone and ask them to play. But as we get older, we become more selective. Different interests and opinions make us who we are and, as we seek connections with our fellow humans, we tend to choose friends with whom we have things in common.

But if these are not the friends of our childhood, where do we meet new people, and how do they become true friends? This is something I’ve struggled with greatly over the years.

Lately though, my social life has started to improve, and I gather from past conversations that it’s something you would be interested in hearing about. So here goes.

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With a Cough and a Splutter

Last week, the dreaded common cold arrived on our doorstep for the third time this winter, quickly claiming its victims. But the bug had its uses, for a few days spent on the sofa allowed me some time to reflect.

I started this blog with a clear intention – to be more open with my family. Now, after only a handful of posts, I already feel more positive. And I hope you do too.

So, with my New Year’s Resolution still going strong, I thought it would be interesting to discuss self-improvement from an Islamic perspective.

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