MY Voice Volume 9 Issue 4 Calm, Cool, & Connected

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VOL 09 ISS 04


Calm, Cool, & Connected


Dear Reader, Assalamualaikum!

We live in a small world. Many of us are familiar with this old phrase and come across it quite often. Well, social networking has made our small world even smaller. It provides us with endless opportunities to connect with all kinds of individuals right at our fingertips. So, how do we build lasting and valuable connections from behind our screens? How do we go about making friends without assigned seating and school projects to bind us together? How do we effectively maintain our connections and why are they so important to us as humans? In this issue, our devoted writers stay Calm, Cool, & Connected, as they seek the answers to these questions and reflect on the value of connection. As members of the online world, it is important for us to explore these ideas and learn how to safely build relationships with people who we may or may not meet in person. In the same vein, whether it be friends or family, it is beneficial for us to reflect on all of the different connections we find in our lives and learn how we can grow with them. Our Feature gives some helpful tips on how to go about forming real connections in a digital world. Hear Me Out reflects on the bittersweet

Editor-in-Chief: Hareem Syed Head Editor: Saleha Bakht Assistant Editor: Haleema Ahmed Section Editors: Aamna Idrees, Firdose Khan, Isra Iqbal, Nura Rasoul, Yasmin Said, Zaina Khan Head Designer: Ahmed Saleem Designers: Ahmed Javed, Aqsa Rehman, Asma Surangiwala, Noora Sahib, Saif Khan, Vania Amer

surprises we may find in our relationships. Learn how to become an effective communicator in our An Apple A Day piece. Our Under the Microscope article looks at the role technological advancement plays in modern-day friendships. As social creatures, we tend to fill our small world with many different types of connections. It is our hope that this issue inspires readers to see the value of such relationships and learn how to build them through both screens and face-to-face interactions. Remember to always stay calm, cool, and connected! Until next time,

Hareem Syed Editor-in-Chief

CONTENTS CONTENTS 6 8 10 12 18 22

Quran & Hadith Gems: The Attitude of Gratitude

Under the Microscope: Friendship Through a Screen

Creative Writing: Together from Afar

Feature: Real Connections in a Digital World

Hear Me Out: Half Your Deen: Saying "Qabool Hai" to the Right Person

An Apple a Day: Anxiety: The Invisible Monster and How to Cope





Questions answered by: Omar Zia, B.Sc., B.ED., M.Ed., OCT, High School Principal


1. I take on too many projects/goals, but when I cut down on them, I feel like I am not doing enough with my life. How do I find a balance where I can do enough quality work without experiencing burnout?

Of the elements that define a Muslim, “Sadaqa” or “Giving” is a cornerstone. We perform selfless acts of kindness and goodness while making a difference in the lives of others and enhancing our own lives. Sadaqa can be addictive, and so, in this pursuit, it is easy to have an “overflowing plate” that can hinder the completion of projects, cause feelings of stress, and, eventually, lead to burnout. In the Qur’an, we are taught “And give full measure when you measure and weigh with an even balance. That is the best way to produce the 1 most advantageous result.” This verse reminds us that in our pursuit to achieve the most, we must be just to ourselves and those around us. By taking on too much, we will not be just in fulfilling our goals.

Now, the question is, “how?” First, choose a framework for goal setting, such as school, work, family, Islam, and community. Then, stick to a maximum of 1 goal or project per area at any given time. Second, prioritize them in order of what is essential—what is needed, rather than wanted. Third, assign a timeline to the completion of these goals and do not engage in others until the previous has been achieved. Rather than keeping an open plate that can easily overflow, keep a portioned plate. 2

Let us be mindful of what the Prophet (PBUH ) advised us: “Do good deeds properly, sincerely, and moderately and know that the most beloved 3 deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.”

2. I try my hardest not to hurt people but I somehow end up doing so with my words. What should I do to change? How can I control it? What emanates from our tongues can be helpful— and harmful. Thank you for taking the first step to recognize this. In a hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) advises his companion to be careful of his speech because it is our speech that paves the path to an unsuccessful end. 4 He also teaches us to speak 5 only good words or to be silent. As such, we need to think before we speak and ask ourselves “is what I want to say harmful or helpful?” Allah commands us to be mindful of our duty to Him, and when we speak, we must speak in a manner that is respectful, upholds the integrity of others, encourages others, brings out the best in the person we are speaking with—that we should be known as people who speak goodness to others, even in admonishment. 4 | JUST ASK

We should reflect on our words and conversations. We can ask, “If someone spoke to me in this manner, how would I feel?” If we are in the habit of causing upset through our words, then perhaps writing them down before speaking would be helpful. We could also practice being silent rather than speaking reactively and regretting it. The central principle is practicing patience; being patient towards others by remaining silent and not overly critical, by choosing to not argue or debate, by validating a person rather than constantly being in opposition, and by thinking quietly about a kind response before speaking. 1 Chapter 17, Verse 35 2 Pbuh: peace be upon him 3 Sahih Bukhari

4 Sunan at-Tirmidhi 5 Sahih Bukhari

About the interviewee: Khadija Bounekhla is a trailblazer in the field of Pediatric Occupational Therapy. She currently works at ErinOakKids to support students across 15 schools. Here, she gives us a fresh take on resiliency and the rehabilitation sciences. Q: Tell us about your journey into Occupational Therapy. Like many people coming out of high school, I thought ‘Oh, med school,’ and I went into the Life Sciences program at UofT. In undergrad, I became interested in other things, so I majored in Physiology and Psychology. I was introduced to the field through my now husband. His sisters were in SpeechLanguage Pathology and Physiotherapy, and another sister was applying to Occupational Therapy (OT). It was perchance that I heard about the rehab sciences. Going into fourth year, I thought, “why not try the rehabilitation sciences?” But I did not know exactly which program I wanted to do. I was lost. I applied to all the programs, and one of the places I applied to was OT school. I did not get in, but I did get admission into a Master’s in Developmental Psychology. Halfway through this program, I applied again to OT school, and this time, I got in.

Q: What does your day look like as an Occupational Therapist? I work at ErinOakKids, which is the largest children’s treatment centre, as a school-based therapist. Any kid that needs OT support gets referred to me. Some kids need wheelchairs, or the staff needs training to transfer kids to the washroom or change tables. If a child has low muscle tone due to cerebral palsy and the class is doing circle time, I prescribe equipment for them. The school board pays for that. There are also behavioural referrals or sensory referrals. For example, for kids with autism, I might prescribe a chair that provides dynamic movement so they can get the activity they need. Another need is fine motor skills if kids have difficulty writing. The goal is to give kids access to classrooms.

Q: How do you balance the personal and professional? I had my son, Ilyas, while I was in OT school because I thought I would take a break from school until the baby was grown up. But it worked out because Covid hit and everything became virtual. It was hard, but I had a lot of family support. My mom was my neighbour and she could take care of Ilyas while I was doing my placement. In OT school, you can work in private practice and have a flexible schedule. You can choose your hours and the number of kids you see. Because it is private practice, you get paid more per hour. After some time, I felt the need for more mentorship than independent work, so, I applied to ErinOaks.

Q: Do you have any advice for students? The year before applying, I became more involved in the OT department through a work-study. I started speaking to some professors and making more connections. I also made a list of all the programs related to medicine and the pros and cons of each profession. It was also helpful to know people in the field. I think the biggest motivator was that my husband’s sisters could have kids and also work. If I could go back, I would tell myself: “Don’t be afraid to take a year off to volunteer, research, or work in a related field instead of doing a Master’s program you’re not sure about. Figure out what you want to do.” Interviewer: Saamiyah Ali-Mohammed HBSc, MPH, MSW(c) Community Health & Education Specialist, CAMH THE CAREER CHRONICLES | 5

THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE Inaya Faraz, 13 When a child first learns to speak, they are taught the magical phrase “Thank you.”Today, I realized that our Creator taught us this word even before our parents did. In the Holy Quran, Allah1 says, “If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more.”2 We all need more. More health, wealth, happiness— more of everything good.

Be it your family, friends, neighbours, or colleagues, if there is one thing that connects everyone and brings people closer in their hearts, it is gratitude.

The Prophet (PBUH3) said: “He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allah.”4 In today’s chaotic world, where people are very busy, so much must be done in so little time. It becomes difficult to maintain connections, and social distancing in the pandemic only made this more difficult. Within our own homes, the constant engagement with electronic devices makes it even harder to maintain healthy relationships.

mama and baba5!” Being grateful to your parents is equivalent to Hajj6 and with that, my point is proven.7 Teachers play a huge role in our lives. They guide us, shape our personalities, and open our minds. Everything you do in your life, even reading this article, is a result of something that a teacher taught you. So, how can we be grateful to our teachers? We can remember them in every accomplishment or give them gifts. Our Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever is offered a sweet-smelling flower should accept it, and not reject it because it is a very ordinary thing. Its fragrance is a thing of joy.”8 Gratitude is a form of worship. There are many duas to show our gratitude to Allah. Just put your hands together, and pour your heart out. I bet you cannot count how many things you have to say thank you for but even recognizing this abundance is worship. Thankfulness is a very powerful thing and a key to positive thinking—a way to live a successful life. It can work like oxygen for people. It makes them feel uplifted and happy.

Allah: “God” in Arabic Surah Ibrahim Verse 7 3. PBUH: peace be upon him 4. Sunan Abi Dawud 4811, Book 43, Hadith 39 5. Mama and baba: mom and dad 6. Hajj: annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca 7. Human Appeal. (2020). 7 good deeds that have the same reward as Hajj. 8. Sahih Muslim 1.

Be it your family, friends, neighbours, or colleagues, if there is one thing that connects everyone and brings people closer in their hearts, it is gratitude. I remember, back in the lockdown days, our neighbours used to take turns buying groceries for everyone and dropping them at each other’s doorsteps. This act brought the entire street closer together despite the social distancing. When someone shares a useful link for our homework or simply gives us a listening ear, these are opportunities to show gratitude. If someone does even the smallest favour for us, we need to be thankful to them. It is a feeling that keeps your heart clean and humble. Let us not forget the fact that Allah appreciates humbleness and humility.





e M a k il Ahmed, 27 Allah1 has created mankind in two parts. Men and women. Creating in this way depends on the wisdom and knowledge of Allah alone. He may bless someone with only a daughter and someone else with only a son. He can also give someone both. This distribution is also based on the special wisdom of Allah. He indicates His distribution of males and females in the Qur’an: “He gives daughters to whom He wills, and He gives sons to whom He wills. Or He bestows both males and females, and barren whom He wills.”2 Allah bestows whatever He sees fit for each individual. Both sons and daughters are Allah's blessings, yet when we look at our society, we see that they are not always treated equally. Many Muslims are overjoyed to have a son. They proudly tell friends and family about the baby’s gender. Sweets are cheerfully distributed. The aqeeqah3 is planned with a lot of pomp. ‘Being a boy’ is discussed everywhere, and his upbringing is given special consideration. Those who are unhappy with the birth of a daughter do not express joy when a daughter is born. The birth of a girl is not shared with anyone. If someone asks about the gender, an answer is not given, or is it said in hushed tones with complete helplessness, ‘I have a daughter.’ Spouses may become dissatisfied with one another over the newborn’s gender. However, what people need to understand is that the birth of any child is not according to human will, but rather, it is from Allah's wisdom and goodness. He is the Almighty.

her death taking place six months after the death of the Prophet (SAW). Whenever the Prophet (SAW) left for a journey, he would first make sure to meet his beloved Fatima (RA), and would do the same upon his return. Hazrat Abu Saeed Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said, ”That person has three daughters or three sisters. And he treated them well and did not consider them a disgrace to himself. He will surely enter Paradise.”6

Both sons and daughters are Allah's blessings, yet when we look at our society, we see that they are not always treated equally. The Prophet (SAW) set an unparalleled example of respect, affection, and love for a daughter through his deeds. By following our Prophet (SAW)’s example, we should treat our own daughters as he has treated his daughters. Allah: “God” in Arabic Al-Quran, surah Ash-Shura, verse 49-50 3. Aqeeqah: Islamic tradition of animal sacrifice on occasion of a child’s birth 4. Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam (peace be upon him) 5. Radhi Allahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him/her) 6. Jame Tirmidhi, Hadith 191 1.

Allah, after Himself, talks about parents. Our parents do so much for us and we do not even realize it. They keep us alive and they provide us with unconditional love. When was the last time you said, “Thank you for letting me live in your home,


The daughter should not be dissatisfied in any way. The Prophet (SAW4) taught us that having a daughter is a blessing from Allah. The Prophet (SAW) had four daughters: Fatima, Zaynab, Ruqayya, and Umm Kulsum—may Allah be pleased with them all. Hazrat Fatima (RA5) lived thelongest,



Firdose Khan, 15


Mixed Berry Muffins


with a Lemon Glaze

Safa Khan, 13 Technology has advanced to the point where we can now easily make connections and friendships with people all over the world. I think there are two opinions when it comes to the online world and friendship. One maintains that the online world has allowed us to let go of overdue friendships and create more meaningful connections. On the other hand, it is said that the online world exists to create shallow, meaningless friendships. It is important to remember that the digital space can serve us in both ways.

list can see. It effectively blends traditional messaging and the content sharing aspect. Snapchat also provides an incentive to keep 'talking' through sending photos (snaps) and traditional chats. In a way, we get to 'see' our friends every

essence—that it is free–flowing and grows with us. Tying our self-worth to these numbers is also detrimental. And besides, do we really need to be in constant communication to be close? Just because technology allows us to interact easily, does not mean we have to or should. Having a meaningful conversation when the time is right is better than having superficial conversations every day. These daily conversations are comparable to real-life small talk. The aspect of obligation is one that should disappear when our proximity and need to fill time disappears—but it does not in the online world.

Technology may bring us joy by helping us build these connections, but the dark side appears when we base our friendships on the numbers beside our names, the dreaded follower count, or streaks.

Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are social media platforms primarily used to share content with one's followers or all app users. Other apps—like WhatsApp—may not have the same capability to mass share posts. Instead, you individually message people of your choosing. The former platforms do have direct messaging capabilities that work just like traditional ones, but they are not the main function of the app. Snapchat, however, also allows you to post stories that anyone on your 'friends'


day through the photos they send to keep up with 'streaks'. You may feel obliged to reply to keep the streak going, and while some people put effort into their pictures, most of my friends just send pictures of a wall or half of their faces. Snapchat is a way to have those meaningless, fun conversations. Technology may bring us joy by helping us build these connections, but the dark side appears when we base our friendships on the numbers beside our names, the dreaded follower count, or streaks. Assigning a numerical value to friendship goes against its very

The bottom line is that we cannot expect every conversation to be meaningful. But that should not stop us from creating and seeking meaningful friendships through a screen. If you feel like texting is ineffective, ask to call or FaceTime to feel more connected. And as our world opens up again, do not lose touch with those you connected with online.

These moist muffins are drizzled with a sunshiny lemon glaze for whenever you need a little taste of summer. Bursting with juicy berries, each bite is teeming with wonderful flavour. Their light, refreshing taste is perfect for backyard barbecues, picnics in the park, or simply for enjoying on your front porch.

TIPS! • Coat berries in flour before folding them into the batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of your muffin.

Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 30 minutes Total Time 40 minutes Serves 12 people Calories 340 Skill Level Easy

Ingredients Mixed Berry Muffins:

2 large eggs 1 cup granulated sugar 1 cup greek yogurt (or sour cream) ½ cup extra light olive oil (or coconut oil) 2 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 tsp sea salt 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1 1/2 cups mixed berries, frozen or fresh (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Lemon Glaze:

2 tbsp salted butter 5 tbsp granulated sugar 1 1/2 tsp milk Zest of 1/2 lemon Juice of 1/4 lemon 3/4

• No liners? No problem! Just butter and flour your muffin tin.



Line a 12-count muffin tin with cupcake liners and preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).


Using an electric mixer, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup granulated sugar on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and light in colour.


Add 1 cup greek yogurt, ½ cup oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat on low speed just until combined.


Add 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking powder and soda, and ½ teaspoon salt. Beat with wet ingredients on low for 1 minute. DO NOT OVERMIX, as this will result in dense muffins.


Fold in 1 ¾ cup mixed berries just until combined to get beautiful ribbons of colour in muffins. Overmixing will result in purple or gray muffins, as the colour of the berries will dye the batter.


Divide batter into a lined muffin tin, filling up to 3/4 of the liner. Place in the oven and bake at 400°F (205°C) for 20-35 minutes.


While baking, melt 2 tbsp butter, sugar, zest and juice of lemon. Mix until combined and add milk. Whip until creamy and a light yellow colour.


Drizzle lemon glaze on warm muffins and let them cool, or serve warm. Enjoy! RECIPE | 9


TOGETHER FROM AFAR TOGETHER FROM AFAR Maha Iqbal, 17 TikTok; a social media platform where you can find your new reality. Through the many different ‘sides of TikTok,’ everyone can find a way to express themselves. This is where friendships and connections based on similar interests are built across the world. I have been on TikTok for almost a year, and on BookTok for a few months. *** 2020: A chorus of sighs rings throughout my school, but my voice does not add to the tune of sorrow. Unlike the majority of my peers, I would not have anybody to miss hanging out with; the extent of my friendships bound within the school walls. The only place I would miss, however, is the library; a place where this world did not exist and pages came to life.

Even though we are all from different parts of the world, it feels as though I have finally found what I have been looking for; a community in which I truly belong. The bell rings, and I say my farewells. I head home and go straight to my room to scroll through social media. I open TikTok and am bombarded with notifications. Well, this is unexpected, I think, seeing that they are from interactions with my comment under a video. That morning, I had commented under a book haul about one of my favourite authors who was featured. My comment had apparently garnered

lots of attention, amassing 5,000 likes and 10 replies, as well as a couple of followers. I scroll, coming upon a video from one of the users that followed me. She is talking about her favourite series, Shatter Me. It also happens to be mine. I decide to comment, and a few minutes later she replies back. Noor04: “I love Aaron so much <3” Aliza.Books: “OMG same! He and Juliette are EVERYTHING!!” We talk for a while, and I follow her back. Although I just “met” Aliza almost an hour ago, I feel like I have known her my whole life. She sends me a TikTok about the series and we talk back and forth about the author and her upcoming books. Aliza tells me that I should make book videos and post them. At first, I am against the idea, scared of what others may think, but she reassures me by saying that the BookTok community is nothing but supportive of each other’s opinions. I record a few videos and post them that night. I was initially not really into making TikToks, satisfied with staying on the sidelines and just watching. But something about the way I connected with Aliza made me want to reach out to others in the BookTok community. It is amazing and comforting to see so many people with the same interests as me. Even though we are all from different parts of the world, it feels as though I have finally found what I have been looking for; a community in which I truly belong. Although we are all isolated from each other, I feel as though we are all together. Together from afar.

It is the idea of being able to hold the door open for yourself before you do so for others. I was waiting for the city bus one morning when my eyes landed on some graffiti. Scrawled across the pavement, it said, love yourself before you love others. It was so simple, yet it spoke to me. I could not get it out of my head, and so, I began thinking… This common phrase is a gateway for us to explore the true beauty within ourselves. However, we often find ourselves opting out of that self-discovery by choosing to spend our time engrossed with others. While this brings temporary satisfaction, our ability to form lasting relationships is drained. How can one find a friendship with someone else before they find it with themselves? How can one form that bond within themselves first, and why is it important? I got on the bus, pulled out my laptop, and began typing. The first step to befriending yourself is to stop demanding that you always reach your highest potential and realize that, as humans, we are not only made to make mistakes but also to learn from them. Just as you would be kind to a friend when they are going through a hard time, it is crucial that you practice self-kindness for the effort you put in. Self-kindness is realizing that no one can love you the way you love yourself. This is not secluded to just happiness and joy, but is most important in times of anguish and despair.

A FRIEND A FRIEND IN ME IN ME Yasmin Said, 20 for others. This can be done by focusing on what makes you smile or decide that “today was a good day.” Whether that means going out for more walks or spending more time journaling, find that spark that makes you, you. Just like any relationship that grows over time, grow your knowledge of yourself in pieces, then collect them all and observe the complete puzzle. It takes time to gather all the pieces, so do not expect them to be handed to you all at once. Yet, that is the beauty in taking this journey, as you may find pieces that fit perfectly together and others that you are confused to find in your set. Realize that what you think should not “belong” is truly in its perfect place. No two sets will ever be the same, and in that uniqueness, you can see the beauty in not just each piece, but the whole puzzle of you. As you start building this connection with yourself, you will become more aware of the things you thought you liked but did not, and the things that you wish to pursue. Focus on watering your own garden before taking that hose elsewhere. Only then will you see your relationships with others blossom in a way they never have before. It was funny how such a simple phrase taught me such a valuable lesson. I got off the bus that day feeling more connected with myself than ever before.

This includes being attentive to your personal wants and needs. It is the idea of being able to hold the door open for yourself before you do so




Connections. How do we initiate and maintain meaningful connections in a digital era? Or, do we even need to? How do we set boundaries online and navigate varying or opposing cultural standards of netiquette? What is appropriate to post when we live in an increasingly individualistic world where free speech is used as a defence mechanism? How do we navigate ending connections when they personally do not serve us anymore or cause us harm? Is it as easy and seamless as removing or blocking a contact online? When in-person extracurricular activities and projects are unavailable or no longer the norm, adjusting the way we connect with others online becomes both a necessity and skill. Now you may be thinking you already know all of this. You may have hundreds of followers on social media with likes in the thousands. However, there are distinctions between reciprocating interactions with fellow social media users online versus taking the time to hone and grow authentic, meaningful, and lasting interactivity for a greater purpose. This may include networking with others for professional reasons and volunteer opportunities to simply forging friendships. Here are some ways you may use the virtual sphere in the absence of in-person opportunities to build valuable connections.


BE ENGAGED The plus side to attending school, work, or extracurricular activities from home is that you may be in your pajamas. The downside to attending school, work, or extracurricular activities from home is that you may be in your pajamas. Make an effort to dress up, groom your appearance, say some positive selfmotivating affirmations, and turn your camera and mic on. Engage with others, ask questions, and contribute to the conversation. Simply showing up and being respectfully engaged shows others—possibly mentors, lecturers, and professionals—that you value interpersonal connections and networking.

BE AUTHENTIC Interacting with friends, family, peers, or colleagues online is certainly not the same as being in-person. In-person it is easier to decipher unspoken nuances or subtleties in attitudes or shifts in tone through body language and hand gestures. It becomes more difficult online when most of what one sees is from the neck up. A good way to build meaningful interactivity is to be authentic. Smiling, laughing, and joking are great ways to display one's personality to others. When the opportunity to allow your personality to shine in-person is not there, find the confidence to do so online by showing up for yourself.


Conducting social events, business meetings, school, and more online has become the new norm. Whether or not one likes it is another question. However, just as it is important to hone and maintain in-person interactions, etiquette, and networking, so too is it equally necessary to build the same foundations online. Like any skill, it takes practice and experience. So, if you are reading this on your laptop, sit up, straighten your posture, relax your jaw, and make meaningful connections!

It can be a challenge to maintain enthusiasm when the content expressed online is uninteresting or opposes our belief system. Still, seize these moments as opportunities to practice empathy and patience for what is said by others. It is very easy to zone out online during a lecture or meeting that does not reflect our aspirations, yet it is important to continue being attentive and engaged as this is a practised skill that will be imperative in the workforce.

BE FIRM While non-verbal nuances, subtleties, and attitudes are near impossible to decipher online, as a consequence, they may have the ability to blur the lines of one's boundaries. Hence, whether in informal or formal settings, it is important to be clear with one's expected standard of treatment. This does not mean robotic or stern, but may include things such as being self-articulate or even accommodating to others. Such content and gestures have the power to convey to others what one will or will not accept.



14 | COMIC

COMIC | 15




Saying 'Qabool Hai' to the right person


Kulsoom Rehman Navigating a changed social life due to waves of lockdowns has made finding ‘the one' an even bigger rollercoaster (and not the fun kind)! Nowadays, there are thousands of online resources at our fingertips. Unfortunately, no amount of scrolling can replace the actual work of finding your future partner. So, how do you do it right?

Islam, you are allowed to say yes or no to proposals. On the Day of Judgement, that qabool hai3 is on you. You should be old and mature enough to make your own decisions, or else you should not be getting married!

Let's start with the Golden Rule. Never send, do or say anything that you do not want to. The slogan "no means no" is synonymous with dating and marriage for a reason. If you lose someone when you say no for the sake of your boundaries, that is a good thing. A bully is not a real potential spouse. What is worse is losing your chastity or overstepping a limit and losing the person anyways. I have heard of men who are tricked into paying for gifts by girls they barely know and women who are asked for hijab-less or inappropriate pictures by boys. Say it with me: "Thank you, next!"

Unfortunately, no amount of scrolling can replace the actual work of finding your future partner. So, how do you do it right?

Beware of swindlers and scammers. Keep an eye out for anyone who seeks you solely for your family's money, status, citizenship, or to get physical outside of marriage! Entire online pages are dedicated to exposing scammers and social engineers. Identifying a scammer is easy: they lie, say they love you too quickly, promise unrealistically, change topics when you ask a direct question, request favours right away, are not interested in your ambitions or life but expect you to listen to theirs, make you feel guilty whenever you say no, or try to control you. Parents may not know everything -but neither do you. Trust your elders, and respect them. To balance things out and get perspective, turn to other trusted individuals or even the internet for naseeha.1 It is not ok to be pressured to marry someone in a month, accept a really low mahr,2 get into extreme debts with interest, or marry without paperwork. In




To prepare for what is next—read! You should learn about health, contraception and even family planning from a doctor. Also, read articles and attend courses about the duties you have as a spouse in Islam and as a parent. As always, trust Allah.4 Have faith in life's timing and seek His guidance. Istikharah5 is a popular prayer when considering a partner. No one is between you and Allah.

Naseeha; advice, recommendation, sincerity, good counsel (particularly in Islamic contexts) 2 Mahr: The obligation, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom, to the bride at the time of Islamic marriage 3 Qabool hai: "I accept" in Urdu 4 Allah: "God" in Arabic 5 Istikharah: the Decision-Making prayer 1

Hareem Syed, 20 Medium: acrylic on canvas, mixed media Dimensions: 16"x20" HEAR ME OUT | 19



CONNECTIONS Aleesha Merchant, 15 Someone who considers themselves to be very independent—such as myself—might stubbornly believe that they could not only live, but thrive without making connections. This, of course, is not only untrue, but also a genuinely terrible idea that I had the pleasure of experiencing during many of the wonderful lockdowns that have taken place in the past 2 years. I often find myself daydreaming about living and travelling on my own while completely disconnecting from the rest of the world. Occasionally—most of the time, actually—I view the world and its people as problems I do not want to deal with and connections I cannot find the will to put effort into making. However, once the first lockdown hit, I could quite literally silence these “problems” by ignoring all my texts, and as a result, ignoring my friends. The sudden disconnect was nice at first. I could daydream and no one would interrupt my thoughts for a meaningless conversation, and I could mute my class when they were being too loud. But then, the loneliness crept in. The feeling of being trapped and being both emotionally and physically drained even while sitting at a desk all day and not talking to anyone. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, you cannot ignore the fact that we, as humans, crave human connection to maintain a state of well-being throughout all the challenges we face.


If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it is that my self-worth, confidence, and physical wellbeing should take precedence over making others feel valued and confident. I used to think that it was better to let people demoralize me than to lose my “friends” over something that could dishearten me or cause me to become insecure. However, whether you realize it or not, it will, and does, affect how you perceive yourself. These types of friendships were still hard to let go of, but the weight of my self-worth eventually subsided the pain of loss. If I continue to struggle, however, it is in finding a balance between not losing myself, but also making meaningful connections in which I do not hurt others while trying to draw my own boundaries. Sometimes I think that these friendships and relationships are not worth the pain and struggle they can bring. Then, I realize that it is the little moments of joy and laughter with those close friends and family that fill your heart with joy and make life a little less hard than it was before. A funny story, uncontrollable laughter, memories of fun times, and tales of risky adventures—this is what makes connection so deeply needed in our lives.

About two years ago, who would have thought that we would be living in a world where we could not go to restaurants, offices, schools, or even parks? We never could have guessed that we would be modelling masks and practicing social distancing. That we would be prevented from interacting with our family and friends. Our lives have changed significantly over these past two years—especially socially. Everyone has had difficult experiences, whether it was because they were apart from each other or because someone they loved passed away. Although these restrictions grew tiresome, we still had to protect ourselves from the spread of the virus—and we continue to do so now.

my first year of attending a new school. I had to take my classes online, making it difficult for me to meet friends and talk to new people. When I started in-person the next school year, I had the opportunity to see my classmates in real life, which was a great relief. Some people would say that online school was better because you got to stay inside, did not need to rush to get to school, and could stay warm in your bed. Even though it means losing the option of staying cozy in my pajamas, I would rather attend school in person. I think that people who work day-to-day at offices had to deal with this as well. For many, working from home may have actually been harder than being at the office.

For me, school has been tough. The pandemic began during

While we did experience hardships before, we must

remember that Allah will continue to guide and help us. By His will, He will let all this pass with time. Remaining patient will allow us to overcome this difficulties, as it has in the past. We will look back in a couple of years and think about what a time we were in. Now, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as we can go out, play in parks, and go to work. We should keep praying for this pandemic to fully meet its end and for this virus to leave us. Surely, Allah will keep hearing our duas and we will be saved from this calamity. We must always remember that Allah is the Protector, the Healer, the One who helps us in the darkest times.




We all face stress. Without a doubt, with the emergence of COVID-19 in the last couple of years, depression and anxiety have increased. Here, I want to share what I personally learned from a psychotherapist on facing anxiety and techniques we can use to cope. Let’s talk about our brains! The prefrontal cortex is where reasoning, problemsolving, understanding, reflection, and solutions develop. This is your “adult brain.” Your amygdala or “emotion center” is where you process stress, anxiety, anger, fear, and disappointment. Both the amygdala and prefrontal cortex are critical to the way we function. With only your emotions activated, you will react impulsively or negatively. Therefore, we need to calm down enough to activate our adult brain. So, we can explore a few ideas on how to calm yourself down when anxious or stressed. Ask yourself: How do I feel? Why do I feel this way? What will make me feel better? Mindful breathing clears clouded thoughts. The physiological benefits are that your body and brain receive more oxygen. Psychologically, you get more control. Finally, emotionally you feel better able to access your decision-making.


Grounding yourself is a technique that releases body tension. Put your feet on the ground. Feel the floor against your feet or sit down. You are now connected to the earth. Sit up straight and drop into your lap. Let the heaviness release as you bend. Sit comfortably. You may rest your hands on your knees or feet. Ensure your breathing is slow—don’t hyperventilate! Three breaths in and three breaths out. The slow increase of oxygen in your body will make you relaxed and more positive. At times, our mind is too overwhelmed to sit still and do mindful breathing. If you need to catch your own attention, try the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Allow your eyes to focus on 5 items around you (5 things you see). Touch your skin, sleeve, table, or chair (4 things you touch). Listen for a car driving by, a heater buzzing, or a clock ticking (3 things you hear). Breathe in a whiff of your clothes, food, or even paper (2 things you smell). Remember the last thing you ate or drank (1 thing you taste). Once focused on your environment, ground yourself and breathe. Occasionally, we feel completely dazed. Extremely out of touch. Gently tap your fingers under your eyes. Tap, tap, tap. Keep taping. This allows your brain to shift focus to the tapping. Once your thoughts are disrupted, try the 5-4-3-2-1 method. As you feel more alert, ground yourself and breathe. Once you identify and understand your feelings, you can begin using these techniques, and now, you are ready to slay that invisible monster we call anxiety!

A personal connection is defined as, “a genuine bond formed between two people wherein each person feels seen, heard and known”.1 Interestingly, the very definition of a personal connection is what makes them so essential to our mental health and well-being: to feel seen, heard, and known. Communication is the key that encompasses it all. Humans cannot keep their emotions to themselves without trying to communicate them to someone else, even if they try very hard. This is due to the social norm of not wanting to burden others with one’s problems, and instead, hiding them deep within oneself. Contrary to popular belief, this does not actually work. You may think you are presenting yourself as someone who is calm, cool, and collected, but your actions and words can often deceive you. Communication is a way for humans to express their thoughts and emotions, which makes them feel supported and accepted for who they are. Being an introvert does not mean that you get a free pass on communicating. Extroverts, on the other hand, may struggle with trust issues and use their extraversion as a way to avoid communicating their feelings. Talking to others can also increase your dopamine levels and help produce positive outcomes while building healthy relationships.

"Effective communication is essential in building rapport and developing therapeutic relationships".2 When we say effective communication, do we know exactly what it entails? Effective communication is when the listener is actively listening while showing empathy and understanding towards the other person.3 They do not brush the person's feelings away but acknowledge them while showing no judgment. The person expressing themselves is honest, as they are ensured of a comfortable platform with someone they trust to keep the information confidential.4 Whether you are the individual opening up, or the one ready to offer a safe and understanding environment, communication will not only be beneficial to your relationships but to your mental health and overall well-being as well. Trusting one another with our biggest fears, flaws, and mistakes is what helps us grow and thrive in a world that is constantly trying to throw us over the edge. Not allowing it is what keeps us connected.

Smith, Dustin. Personal Connections in the Digital Age: How to Create Business Relationships That Last. 5 Mar. 2021, 2, 3 Ali, Moi. “Communication Key Ingredient in Mental Health Recovery.” MHT, 4 May 2018, www. 4 Singh, Anjali. “Communication and Mental Health: Why Is It the Key to Mental Wellness.” Calm Sage - Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-Being, 28 Oct. 2020, 1


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