…One of my dreams is to be a video game storyboard writer. I am a huge believer in the power of storytelling, and believe it or not, the best video games have extremely well-written stories.
Who are you?
I was born in Singapore in 1983 and moved to Sydney, Australia, when I was 12. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved reading, writing and painting/sketching. My favourite genres of books range from detective fiction, the classics, to fantasy.
I graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2005 with a BSc (Psychology) and BA (English). A really rough patch in my life coincided with two years of medical school. It culminated in my decision to stop my medical studies and seek refuge in the desert.
I lived in Jordan from 2009-2011 and studied the Islamic sciences, worked as a marketing copywriter and travelled around the Middle East. I had found what I was looking for – a realisation that inner peace isn’t bound by geography, but is contingent upon the state of my heart – and I really missed my family, so I returned to Sydney at the cusp of the Arab spring.
While working as a freelance writer, I’m studying to a become a counsellor, am an independent consultant for doTERRA essential oils, and I teach Shafi’i fiqh.
My writing has been published in The Feminist Wire, Love, InshaAllah, Daily Life, Lip Mag, Bitmob and MuslimVillage. My double-featured debut novel, Finding Jamilah and the Story of Yusuf, will be published by MyLegacy Publications in early 2014, and my poetry will be featured in an upcoming publication by the Islamic Museum of Australia – Australian Muslim Artists.
Travel-wise, my husband and I have recently moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I’m looking forward to exploring the next chapter of my life. The food here is incredible.
My current projects include a young adult fantasy novel and poetry about faith, culture and dislocation. I’m a keen advocate for holistic health, especially TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and I practice yoga, reiki, and ba gua zhang.
Little known fact about me – one of my dreams is to be a video game storyboard writer. I am a huge believer in the power of storytelling, and believe it or not, the best video games have extremely well-written stories. By participating in the storyboard of video games, I’ll be able to influence the discourse which teaches our youth about how to view men, as well as women. Violence and subjugation of women in movies, books and video games is not ok, and I want to be part of that change.
Give us your favorite quote and tell us why it means so much to you:
“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” – Dr. Brené Brown
This quote means so much to me because this is essentially the story of my life. We are all imperfect, and that’s what makes us human!
What Ayah of the Quran do you hold close to your heart? Why?
The Ayah of the Quran which I hold close to my heart is, “And truly, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [Quran, 13:28] This ayah, whether consciously or not, has been the salve for my heart throughout all the turbulence in my life.
What Hadith do you wish more non-Muslims knew about? Why?
The Hadith I wish more non-Muslims knew about is the beautiful one on mercy.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The ones who are merciful, The Most Merciful will be merciful to them. Be merciful to those who are on the earth; the One Who is in Heaven will show mercy to you.” (Tirmidhi)
This hadith makes my heart ache, because it shows the immense mercy of Our Creator. What’s is beautiful is this command to ‘be merciful to those on earth’ doesn’t only include other Muslims – it includes everything in creation from rocks, to plants, and to all other human beings.
1. What is your favorite book?
This is a really hard question. You’re asking a notorious bookophile to pick only one book! I’d have to pick A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. That book showed me the power of the human spirit, and our capacity for self-sacrifice for a higher purpose.
2. Who inspires/inspired you?
Brene Brown inspires me. I watched her TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability, and I was blown away.
3. What is the best lesson your mother/mother figure taught you?
My mother taught me how important it is to just keep going in the face of hardship, to keep praying no matter how hard things are, and to keep being good to others even when others aren’t so good to you. She is my hero, and she has been the rock that held my family together. I love you, Mak! If there’s one word that would sum up the best lesson she taught me, it would be this – patience. She’s taught me that patience is a verb – it’s a deep, purposeful decision to keep going in the face of insurmountable hardship.
4. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
I’d also tell the younger me that I’m already enough as I am, and being kind to myself is a good idea, especially when I make mistakes. If Allah wanted me to be perfect, He would have created me as an angel and He sure didn’t. I’d also tell my 13 year old self that life has a lot of ups and downs, and the one thing that will keep everything bearable is a living, thriving connection with God.
5. What are your hopes for your daughter(s) and/or son(s)?
I hope that my daughters and sons are will be kind, caring people. I also hope they’ll have a sense of humour and use that to bounce back. When they run into trouble, I hope they’ll reach out me and my husband. And if they don’t, I sure hope they’ve got other level-headed folk they can go to!
6. What is the biggest trial you went through in your life and how has that changed you?
Choosing to leave medical school was hard. It overlapped with an awful patch in my life where my parents split up after an unhappy 30 year marriage. I got really, really sick and had to stop and reassess where my life was going, because my current trajectory wasn’t looking very good. My father really wanted me to me a doctor, as many South-East Asian parents do, so asserting my agency by choosing a different path was equally terrifying and so, so freeing.
7. Any regrets? What’s something that you wish you’d thought about more before you did it?
I regret not reconnecting to my faith earlier. My life turned around for the better the minute I put God first. That being said, I also know that everything happened for a reason, and all that heartache had to go down for me to be where I am today.
8. How do you stay grounded in your work and/or spiritually grounded?
I stay grounded in my work by slowing down, reflecting on my intention behind doing things, and by making a lot of blessings upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). My husband has experienced my ‘tunnel-vision’ many times now, and he can testify that slowing down is actually hard for me to do!
9. How do you bring about real change?
In my experience, I bring about real change by having a solid intention linked to seeking the pleasure of Allah Most High, measurable goals, and then by carrying out small, sustainable acts.
10. What do you hope to be remembered for?
I hope to be remembered as being a catalyst for change, and a connector of hearts to the Beloved Prophet (may Allah grant him and bring him peace) and Allah Most High.
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