In 2009, NPR put out a call for essays. They wanted to know more about Muslim identity in America. What could I possibly write about? I went from being a working professional in the pursuit of a dentistry career to taking care of a preschooler, toddler, and two aging parents.
That was who I was though: a stay-at-home mother and a daughter. So, I decided to write an essay about a day in my life. Before hitting the send button, I asked my husband why NPR would even care about this piece. There is nothing interesting about me or what I am doing as ‘just a stay-at-home mom.’
So you could imagine how happily surprised I was to find out that NPR published the piece. It was my first published piece, and it sparked my professional writing career. I was invited as a commentator on air, and I talked about my parents, Islam, Ramadan, and what it means to be a Muslim in America. My father passed away shortly thereafter, but that interview and essay has been shared countless times in the last thirteen years. My intention was to write and speak for Allah and to bring a positive image of Islam. I made the intention to use my words as a means of dawah. After all these years, I am still writing about the beauty and struggles of caring for my family as a homemaker from a God-centered perspective.
One of the hardest first steps of writing is having the guts to share it. Why are we like this? What stops us? Is it others? Is it us? As an introvert, I am naturally more private. It is hard to be vulnerable and feel exposed—opening a window into my life to who I truly am. I also worry about being judged. There is a very real thing called ‘imposter syndrome.’ Sometimes, I don’t feel like I am a writer. I am waiting for someone to tell me I do not belong in the writers’ club. And yet, I have numerous bylines under my belt—and I’m still going strong.
Writing is a tool that connects us to others, letting them know that they are not alone. It is a key to teaching empathy to ourselves and others. All my writing is based on personal experiences. Many times, other people are going through tough, complex, and beautiful times— just like us.
What should we write about? Our lives. We can be experts in our current seasons, because we are living it. It is the ‘basic’ that makes us relatable.
Allah asks us to worship Him and represent Him on this earth.
We can do both of those things with writing.
Make that your intention: I am writing for Allah.
Anse Shenaz Karim says it best,
“Write with Allah as your audience.” With the beneficial knowledge of what we leave behind through our writing, it will be a sadaqah jariyah for us as well.”
So what do we share? In an age of content consumption, we need to think of ourselves as ‘akhirah influencers’—a means to bring people to Allah. Ask yourself, ‘Which aspects of my life can people benefit from?’ For me, I am a Muslimah, mother, student, wife, and a daughter.
Write about the process of daily life, not just the goals or accomplishments. Ask yourself: how did I get here? We all can learn from someone else’s journey. It should include the beautiful moments, the failures, the successes, and many details to move your audience.
Think about inspiring others to see themselves in our lives and connect to our Creator through shared experiences. Our writing is a means of service. Ask yourself: how can I contribute to society through a literary lens? What can I offer to others? What talents and skills can I share? What do I love? Organization, time management, cooking, homeschooling, DIY’s, relationships, or health management? The options are endless.
Words for Allah Can be Healing
When my father passed away, I had a five year old child, a nursing baby, and a grieving mother to look after. My mother stopped driving, working, and socializing after her husband passed away. What healed me while wearing so many hats as a stay-at-home mom was living in writing like I live in my house. I was eating, sleeping, and dreaming in words for the sake of Allah. My oldest daughter is now 18 years old, and she is helping me deal with the loss of my mother.
I shared enough of myself for her to understand what I need now:
Words: words to express myself, words read, heard, and shared. Words to heal, and words to bring comfort.
And words to praise the One who tells us to ‘Read. Read in the Name of your Lord…’
Tayyaba Syed is a volunteer and Ribaat Student and a Graduate of the Ribaat Teacher Certification.