Here We Start – Issue # 34 & Happy New Year!

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dear Sail Readers,

As we publish our 34th issue, we are entering a new year, year 2013. A new page of our lives, new dreams, new goals and hopefully a new set of achievements. On behalf of Sail team, we wish you a happy new year and a great year ahead.

Joining our team from this issue is Fatma AlFalasi. Fatma is a young Emirati writer who reflects on social issues that relate to the youth. She writes for the “Gulf News”. Passionate about giving back to the community, works at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children as a CSR & Resource Development Coordinator. She is a Zayed University graduate with bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Sciences. Part of the Women’s Museum UAE team. She joins us through her column “Young Social Eyes” in which she aims to share her social experiences as a young Emirati and reflect her generation’s views.

We would also like to invite you to 2 solo exhibitions by our team:

  • The first exhibition is for our “Modern Philosophies” columnist Khaled Bin Hamad: The first Emirati Sci-Fi graphic novel titled as “Nasser’s Secrets”. The exhibition will be opening on Monday the 14th of January, 2013 in The Cartoon Art Gallery in AlQouz.

invitation-Nasser's Diaries_ for KBH

  • The second exhibition is for our Head of Creative team Fatma AlHashemi: “6 PM in Dubai”. The exhibition will be opening on Tuesday the 15th of January 2013 in Momentum, DIFC, Gate 3.

Fatma AlHashemi's invite of 6pm

Here is our content’s listing for January 2013 – Issue #34:

We hope you enjoy the reads and don’t forget to check out our illustrations by Fatma AlHashemi & Dana AlAttar.

Wishing you a blessed new year!

Warm regards,

Iman Ben Chaibah
Editor in Chief

The Little Voice in Your Head

Hamda Al Hashemi (@Hamda_alhashemi)

Column: Art of Living 101. Previously as: Living Through The Eyes of Art
Hamda AlHashemi is a 20 something year old interior design graduate, and an SZHP employee. She appreciates art, food, psychology and culture. For her, Arabic calligraphy is music for the eyes; beautiful and calming. She thrives to become an entrepreneur of her own furniture line and aims to get her Phd on the long run. Hamda’s articles revolve around how our psychological thoughts influence our actions, and how to use them to our advantage.

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Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

The Roman Philosopher Lucius Seneca once said, “Every guilty person is his own hangman, ” and his choice of wording was spot-on. The thing that maintains our humanity and morality is our sense of righteousness and our ability to know the difference between right and wrong. It is that little voice in our head that keeps us on track, and even if we tend to ignore it a lot, the fact that we can still hear it means that our humanity is still intact.

Some psychologists tend to refer to people who suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorders as “Sociopaths.” Those are the people who have a condition of a missing conscience. It happens at a time we lose the feeling of guilt when we hurt someone, the feeling of remorse when we commit a crime, or the feeling of sympathy when someone dies; which is when we have then reached a dangerous place where we can no longer hear that little voice in our head.

“Every man is guilty of the good he did not do,” (Voltaire). Believe it or not, there are murderers who can still access their conscience, they show remorse in the way they kill their victims; either by covering the victims’ eyes, or positioning them in a certain way after their death, burying them, or closing their eye-lids. Yes! It is shocking that someone who is capable of taking a life can still be called “humane”. Instead of giving up on those people, psychologists found out that they can still be saved from themselves.

“A guilty conscience needs to confess, a work of art is a confession,” (Albert Camus, French philosopher). Artists tend to express their guilt in their own way; many drawings, sculptures, paintings, and movies turn out to be a confession by the artist. The same thing can be said about poems and novels. We all commit crimes, some bigger than others, and for most of us, we feel so guilty that we need to let it out before that guilt explodes within us.

Confession Drawing - Confession Fine Art Print - Ulysses Albert III

Confession Drawing – Confession Fine Art Print – Ulysses Albert III

The next time we are about to do something and we hear that voice that tells us to do otherwise, we should probably give it more of our attention because believe it or not, it is always right. Every time we choose to ignore it, our moral compass loses balance. Today, I’ll find some cash and won’t try to find the owner, tomorrow I’ll borrow some money and not give back, the next day I’ll steal a few bucks from here and a few from there; our actions develop and escalate depending on how we direct them.

Today I find myself in a place I would’ve never imagined being in a couple of months ago. When I’m doing something wrong, I feel guilty every single second, but that sense of guilt fades away when I become used to doing the wrong thing. So my advice to myself and to you dear reader is to listen to that voice; you hear it in your head but it comes from your heart. It’s a gift to have it on our side and let’s hope none of us ever lose it.

Your X Factor Moment

AlAnoud AlMadhi (@aam_alanoud )

Column: Beyond Inspiration
Founder of @BetweenTheSips -a social media initiative that moderates social conversations. Alanoud’s passion is public speaking and designing infographics, reading and researching.
Through “Beyond Inspiration”, Alanoud aims to share personal experiences, struggles, and aha moments that can spark a flame within the reader to reach their full potential.

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Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

On my first article to Sail eMagazine, I chose to write about a personal life-changing experience that I rarely shared with anyone. It was about the moment I suddenly transformed from a shy timid girl into a confident and brave one. Specifically, when I truly found my best talent -or “x factor”- and had the courage to show that to others.

The description of a great moment differs from one person to another, but people would rarely argue that an overwhelmingly wonderful moment is that in which you’re doing what you love and believe in, which makes you feel confident, focused, energetic, happy, and blinded of all distractions. It is that second when you feel your spirit lifted up, your weight suddenly lightened; that magical little while that makes you believe you’re not only strong, but also invincible.

This moment of sudden development and transformation has not only been a fascination of mine alone; as several experts have already generously tapped on it, each giving it a different term. Namely, The “Educationalist” Sir Ken Robinson calls it “The Element”, the life coach Tony Robbins calls it “The Ultimate Edge”, and author Malcolm Gladwell famously describes it as “The Tipping Point”. In this article, however, I give it a name of my own; “The X Factor Moment”.

Conveniently enough, the best way to describe my X Factor Moment term, and explain how to reach it, is through diving into some aspects of the top-notch music competition series “The X Factor”.

While many watch such TV shows for mere entertainment – which is completely fine–, they may overlook the inspirational part of it, which could be a huge boost for anyone’s morale.

Amongst shows like The X Factor, American Idol, Project Runway, or even Top American Model, the common obvious objective is to find the best performer of their “talent”. By the same token, in the process of reaching the end result, the stories of struggle, determination, love, and morality are also presented.

As I pondered on the stories I watched, the performances I enjoyed, and the end results I had anticipated, I came to a philosophical conclusion. That is, a good life is a story broken down into 3 chapters: Inspiration, Audition, and Value; the middle chapter being the most significant as it includes our “X Factor Moment”.

Many of us begin our lives with struggle or support, both of which inspire us to become stronger and survive in this world. It is also in the Inspiration chapter where we find our talents and know our strengths.

When all that is set, we are then meant to show – or audition – our talents to the world, knowing we have a purpose and realizing that having a talent is as much a responsibility as it is a gift. We keep auditioning until we reach our X Factor Moment, the one that exhibits the best of who we are and what we do, after which we dedicate ourselves to adding value to the world around us through re-living that moment every day of our lives.

The secret is to live through these chapters of your life masterfully and this includes being able to reach your X Factor Moment and live it continuously. This is achieved by having a positive attitude towards your talent.

While Philip Philips of American Idol and Anya of Project Runway are great examples of positive attitudes towards talent, I will also choose to share a few more from the X Factor show auditions.

Several contestants were modest -or ignorant- about how great their talent was but their attitude was to audition regardless of that thought, and then their transformation to their great talented selves shook the X Factor theatre; as Cher Lloyd, Jazzlyn Little, Christopher Maloney, and Amelia Lily did. Another example of a positive attitude is continuing to be genuine and modest regardless of how far your talent has taken you. This can be seen in Leona Lewis and James Arthur, both remain down to earth while their eyes focused on adding value through their talents.

Moreover, being confident is essential and I could not see this worn better than on the 13-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclare who rocked the stage and blew our minds with her performance. Finally, you need to realize that your talent can also be a way to vent out the strong emotions you have as a result of struggle or overwhelming experiences. So be strong and brave enough to express those emotions and share your message with others just as Jillian Jenson had done in her heartfelt audition.

It is important to know that your X Factor Moment does not necessarily show the person you are normally perceived to be; because that moment calls your best self into action to an extent that others would think you were suddenly “possessed”. This is seen in many auditions where you hear the judges say things like “What happened?” or “That’s not really you”.

In the end, a positive attitude towards your talent mainly means having belief in your talent, focusing on your ultimate goal, and remaining modest and gracious as you grow more successful.

So: Get inspired. Audition. Add value.

May your life be a long X Factor Moment from which you remain focused, gracious, and unwavering.

Choosing Fashion Over Tradition

Ahmad Al Gergawi (@A_AlGergawi)

Ex-Column: Emirati Dimensions

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Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Nobody likes change, whether it is good or bad. We will always question what is foreign to us and rather than explore it, we avoid it to be on the safe side. Do we take the risk to adapt to what is foreign and get to know if it was worth it? Taking a risk in knowing someone, ceasing an opportunity, or eating a delicacy, all are things that we are not familiar with. Two people taking the same risk will have different end results. What matters in the end is that they took the risk.

Fashion Designers over the years defied what is odd and made it the norm. It seems, in order for them to make it into the industry, they had to depend on shock-value. The risk fashion designers take is to go against what society accepts and make them believe it’s worth buying. The cycle the fashion industry adapts is one that repeats itself, where you ask yourself who would wear this? But the next season everyone is wearing it. Is it peer pressure or is it the idea of fitting in to be part of the elite trendsetters? It seems shoppers transcend the peculiar and foreign message for the sake of standing out whether they agree with its elements or not.

The Emirati women’s national dress has witnessed an evolution. Over the past decade, the ‘Abaya’ has become the subject of international conversations. Emirati women designers have found their calling in expressing themselves through the ‘Abaya’ in distinctive designs. They re-defined the ‘Abaya’ while keeping it within traditional measures. However, not all your apples are alike; there is an emergence of designers that strip the Abaya from its true purpose such as covering up and guarding the body in front of God and prying eyes. National dress is a symbolism of culture and tradition, its history lives with us everyday and makes us find our individuality.

Some designers have created ‘Abayas’ that are sheer, tight, and extenuate a woman’s body eliminating the whole purpose. These newly designed ‘Abayas’ are influenced by pop culture and imported European fashion trends. The ‘Abaya’ is losing its value more and more everyday and young girls are investing into these ‘Abaya’ trends not knowing they hurt their culture and identity. Designers as well have dabbled into the ‘kandora’ or ‘disdashah’ (Emirati men’s national dress) by using new funky colors and modernizing it. While design is a school within itself, the focus on risking tradition and culture for the sake of what’s in fashion now isolates and strips you from your national identity.

There are many influential designers that inspire and complement the ‘Abaya’ and ‘Kandora’. Design makes sense and is more beautiful when you play with details rather than create something elaborate. Tradition is not untouchable, but it’s the persona of a nation that can’t be abused, retouched, excluded, or insulted.

An individual that is aware and is playing a key role in society must know and understand that every mannerism, word, and item of clothing is a reflective of his cultural and national identity. It was called a “national” dress for a reason; one should defy all odds and modern day influences to preserve tradition as it is the soul of a nation. Fashion and Tradition lay at an intersection where they can easily collide. The approach in reinventing national dress design has taken a wrong turn, it seems the motive has become commercial success defeating traditional and religious purposes. The risk of this trend is successful to the designer, not the naive consumer.

I have witnessed an immense talent in the UAE that beautifies an element without dismissing its past, that appreciates the gold because it’s old, and embeds roots within risk.

Sugar-Coating Faliure

Budoor Al Yousuf (@BAlYousuf)

Budoor Al Yousuf (@BAlYousuf)

Budoor takes a unique look at the world around her. She applies a sense of the mystical to everyday happenstance and turns it on its head. The result is her column: “Mental Pondering”.
With a background in communications, her passion for writing is driven by the need to voice her thoughts. Budoor also hold an eMBA in innovation and Entrepreneurship, other than writing, her interests include reading and traveling.
Budoor Al Yousuf (@BAlYousuf)

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Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

Throughout time, people have become increasingly creative in ways to make not so good things look good; make them more acceptable and turn them into legends. One of the best and most famous examples of this sugar-coating process is the saying ‘Failure Motivates’.

The saying suggests that the failure itself is a motive for people’s success. What people don’t understand is failure wasn’t the reason behind their success; rather, the reason behind their success was the decision they took after. The decision to fight their failure or drown in it.

One of the reasons why ‘Sugar-Coating Failure’ was possible is because the fighters are far less than the ones who drown. Some people believe it is more difficult to stand up and fight your failure than to simply accept it and drown in it. If you think about it, they are equally difficult.

The second and more important reason ‘Sugar-Coating Failure’ was possible is that some of the fighters became arrogant and used their failures as the reason for their success. Why? Because Humans love Drama! They dramatized the failure into it being the lowest place in their life, into it being the sole reason they wanted to fight and eventually into the reason behind their success. The result: they become the world-famous motivational speakers or celebrities. In all fairness, it is amazing they were able to stand on their feet after going through something as dramatic, however, it is incorrect to say the failure was their motive.

If we look at failure as an element in life, we realize it is experienced at very early stages. We all fall before we walk. However, accepting failure becomes extra difficult as we grow up. We simply stop believing in ourselves and we stop believing we can make it. We stop fighting. The people who do decide to fight eventually win not because they failed, but because they chose not to drown.

To better explain the contradiction in the saying ‘Failure Motivates’, consider the following scenarios and reactions:

Scenario 1: Person A fails in an exam, their reaction according to the saying ‘Failure Motivates’: “this is awesome!! It is exactly what I need to do better in my next exam!!”

Scenario 2: Person B was kicked out of university, their reaction according to the saying ‘Failure Motivates’: “omg omg omg I was kicked out of Uni!! I can’t wait to apply to another university and make my life a success”

Although the above scenarios are sarcastic, they are truly what ‘Failure Motivates’ means.

The only way ‘Sugar-Coating Failure’ can be good is when you are trying to make a bad situation better; not using it as a motivation, but using it to make the failure look less horrible and support yourself in standing up on your feet to fight again.

In the end, failure is just one of the things that helps shape us and make us who we are, the more we embrace it and decide to fight after it, the more we will be able to succeed in life.

Happiness is a State of Mind

Khaled Bin Hamad (@KBinHamad)

Khaled Bin Hamad (@KBinHamad)

Khaled holds a Masters degree in marketing from Japan, and studied manga arts in Japan while doing so. He is the creator of the upcoming graphic novel Naser’s secrets (writing & drawing) coming on the 13th of January, 2013. Former writer in Al-Mijhar medical magazine about health and fitness and many other articles online. Artist in oil painting, pastel, charcoal, iPad arts and digital arts since the age of 16. Heavy reader in psychology, philosophy, history and literature. Khaled is currently dedicated to working on the graphic novel and starting his own business.
He explores in his column history, self development and enlightenment.
Khaled Bin Hamad (@KBinHamad)

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Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Living in the UAE and especially the metropolitan areas such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, words like fashion, style and shopping are getting more popular by the day. For some, it’s as simple as looking good and eating delicious food but for many others it’s a hobby, passion, obsession and a way of life. There is no harm in shopping and looking good, but when did owning things turn into a skill or source of happiness, and how did it become that way?

The source of human behavior usually comes down to feeling good and seeking happiness. People work hard to gain money to buy what they want to feel happy. They buy a fancy car to impress others, they impress others to get acceptance, when they get the acceptance the happiness comes. People buy expensive jewelry to look good, they look good to feel valued by others and when they feel valued the happiness comes again. Happiness has become associated with money and belongings. Some people lie and persuade themselves that the things they buy are necessities to their daily lives.

The media is the best tool for programming humans. It shows what is acceptable and unacceptable in the society. That screen in the corner of the room tells the viewers what to like and what not to like. These media channels make money out of commercials and programs that promotes fashion, makeup, cars, and gadgets.

Television programs, movies, video games, songs and music videos always shows what the average person doesn’t have and subconsciously displays that everlasting happiness comes from owning fancy and expensive products. The question that everyone should ask is: do we really feel the happiness we seek after owning things that we don’t really need?

This article is not about living a simple life in the woods or moving to a farm in the desert. It’s not about throwing away everything you own and wear torn clothes to show that materialistic things mean nothing to you. It’s about that happiness we always seek. That pure joy we get every once in a while and we wish it lasted longer.

One of the experts of happiness was the Arabic philosopher Ibn Taymiya. He was a writer, philosopher, religious teacher, consultant and one of the brightest minds in Arabian history. He became a teacher at the age of 11 to students older than him and he was called “The Renovator of the Century”.

Ibn Taymiya faced great affliction and was imprisoned for years alone in solitary confinement. One day the prison guard came to his cell and said: “I am sorry you are here. You don’t deserve to be this miserable alone in prison.” Ibn Taymiya replied with a smile in his face: “I am not miserable, they can take away my freedom but my heaven is in my heart and no one can take that away from me.”

After Ibn Taymiya was released from prison, he became more knowledgeable than ever. He studied and wrote his best books when he was in prison. He even wrote on scraps of papers and the prison walls.

How does someone reach that level of happiness even during the hardest of times? Happiness is a state of mind; the more you think of happy thoughts the more they grow and multiply. Happy people are just positive people who focus on the good in their lives rather than the bad.

The secret to fighting depression comes from appreciation. If you felt sad and wanted to be happy then try this; everyday think of one new thing that you’re thankful for. You can start with something as simple as the pillow you sleep on, the nice clothes you wear, a part of your body or your face that you like, the friends and family who love you. Think about that thing while looking in the mirror and say from your heart, “thank you, I am very happy that you’re part of my life.”

This daily practice might appear silly but the second you look at yourself in the mirror, you will notice your smile gets wider and your heart beats louder with joy. That simple exercise as silly as it might appear, will do miracles to your life. Some might think, “I don’t have time” or “this is silly”. If you don’t have 5 minutes a day for your happiness, then you’re leaving the diamond you have already to work hard all your life for simple coins.

I Want to Live

Rawan Albina (@RawanAlbina)

Rawan, CPCC, ACC, is a Professional Certified Coach, owner of Leap Coaching & Training whose life’s mission is to help women achieve their dreams.
Her strongly positive nature and calm demeanor enables her to gently draw out a person’s full potential as she helps them get in touch with their passions, find their purpose and LEAP into a truly fulfilling and extraordinary life.
Women who are at a crossroads in life, young women ‘Entreprenettes’ and teenagers have all found a strong guide in Rawan who has helped them discover the life skills needed to begin the new phases in their life with confidence.

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Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

When I was 16, I auditioned for a musical play and was chosen to represent my country in the performance that was going to be held in the UK, back in 1992, so you do the math. It was the first time I ever left my family and travelled on my own and although it was tough at first, it definitely was an experience I will never forget! Some of the friends I made back then are still my friends today.

Working hard to put a play together and rehearse it, being together through the tough times but most importantly creating something we love together is what brought us closer. These friends shared with me what I consider today to be one of the greatest moments of my life, at a time where I felt I was on top of the world; I was so connected to my purpose and felt absolutely alive! Nothing could stand in my way. This became my point of reference.

Since then I’ve known what it really means to be fully alive and claim joy, laughter, success and bliss. Of course, one cannot constantly be living at such a high but living this experience meant that I now know what it takes to get there again. Whenever I feel down, I know I have the power to pick myself up again and move forward.

Life is full of ups and downs, one day it’s sunny and the next the sky could be totally grey but it doesn’t matter! Grey skies make me miss the sunshine, push me to do something about it and bring that sunshine back. One of the songs I performed back in 1992 was entitled ‘I want to live’. I had a monologue first that introduced the song that I had written myself.

Being a child of the Lebanese civil war and the daughter of a man who lost his home and land in the Palestinian diaspora, pain was not a stranger to me and I could relay it to all those sitting in the audience through my words and my song. Here are some of the lyrics I sang:

I want to live, I want the chance to live my life, I want to search far and wide, have the chance to wonder why, I want to fly through the air like a bird in the sky, I want a chance to show the world what I am before I die…. I want to have and to hold a child of my own… I want to live I want to love… a chance to grow old…”

Now many years later, looking back I realize how much the words of this song affected my life and the way I look at things. I sang it and believed every word in it. The song somehow became my motto. I’ve been claiming the right to live my life every single day and today I do have a child of my own!

I usually write about New Year’s resolutions in January but New Year’s resolutions come and go, you might achieve them and you might not. My message this year is to encourage you to live your life and give it your best shot even on the greyest days.  Shout your right to live the life you want on mountaintops and never give up. Let this be your lifetime resolution. I leave you with this quote by Henry David Thoreau:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Islam & the Responsibility of Online Representation

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

Mohammed, an Emirati involved in healthcare business development, comes with a background in biomedical & clinical engineering, technology management, finance, and business setup related project management. Mohammed has a keen interest in relevant social, religious, economic, and cultural affairs.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.
Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)

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Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

Illustration by Fatma AlHashemi (@F_Fotography)

A few weeks ago, I was reminiscing with a friend about text messaging and how exciting it was when it all began. “SMS” was the new “thing” back when I was in high school.  I remember how we had to manually insert the messaging center number to activate the service. Little did we know of what was yet to come! The World Wide Web brought along the onset of sharing through social media and websites, which enhanced the ability for people to have an online presence. Suddenly, tremendous effort was put into “marketing” oneself through mirroring personalities on webpages, blogs, and the likes of Facebook, Twitter and more. As if that was not enough, mobile applications have made it even easier to have an interactive online presence on the go. There is no escape!  Now, people all around the world can have access to an individual’s life (or what he/she chooses to share with the world) with the click or tap of a button.

Concurrently, during this period of social interaction’s evolution, the unfortunate events of 9/11 and the aftermath leading to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had tainted the reputation of Islam severely. This led to a wave of curiosity amongst non-Muslims whose easiest access to Muslims became social media or Muslims’ online presence. As a result, many used these online profiles or interaction with online Muslims as a means to learn about Islam and judge the religion along with what it calls for.

In this context, a new responsibility arises which is the responsibility of proper representation of Islam by Muslims from around the world; not only the representation of oneself, but also the representation of our respective nations and more importantly Islam. Personally, this situation was an ideal incentive to dive deeper into our beautiful religion and implement its teachings in my online social interaction. I started by tweeting specific excerpts from the scripture then to shedding light on current affairs from a religious perspective.  I believe this responsibility is something we must all consciously think about and address seriously. In my opinion, proper representation is mandatory and obligatory on all Muslims and can be achieved by following a few simple steps.

First, understanding and recognizing that by exposing any of our thoughts, we are by default accountable for what messages we convey about ourselves, our nations, Muslims, and Islam specifically.

“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) – Sahih Al Bukhari

After understanding that representation is an obligation, the next logical step becomes leading by example. Special attention has to be given to good conduct. This includes kindness, honesty, loyalty, respect, and many more. By embracing good conduct, Muslims fulfill their religious obligation both vertically towards their creator and horizontally towards people of different faiths.

“Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the Scale of the believer than good manners. Allah hates one who utters foul or coarse language.” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) – Al-Tirmidhi

Not only does good conduct fulfill a religious obligation but also it is an essential prerequisite in the representation of and call to Islam which was practiced by all prophets and many of their disciples. In order to be characterized with such conduct it is essential to educate ourselves and be wary of others’ cultures, norms, family situations, religious affiliations, and general beliefs.

(Invite all to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious:…..) — The Holy Quran [16:125]

Finally, it is very important to clearly distinguish culture, personal opinions, and popular practices from what Islam really is. One way to do this is to promote what is in line with Islamic beliefs and to advise those who are against it. This may be a challenging task given that it requires a good understanding of Islam but allows for the ultimate association and hence representation.

 (… Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor…)– The Holy Quran [5:2]

In summary, most people in today’s world are involved in some kind of online presence. With the unfortunate and sad events of 9/11, more and more people are seeking to learn more about Islam from Muslims they find online. What this implies is that there is a significant responsibility that Muslims bear towards correctly representing Islam. I believe this correct representation can only be achieved if we realize that we are accountable for how we are perceived, embrace good conduct and manners in our daily interactions, and distinguish clearly between Islam and Culture by promoting those items that are “good” and avoid those that are “wrong”.

I see this as a great incentive to open the doors to learning more about Islam. I hope you do too.

The Youth Today: Great Potential But No Ambition

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Written by Fatma AlFalasi (@Fatmalfalasi)

Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Illustration by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Everyday I remind myself how blessed we are to be in a country so full of opportunities and, every once in a while, I admire the inspiring achievements by this generation’s individuals and the social initiatives created by the youth; such as, their efforts to give back to the community, and their ability to change individuals from shallow, self-centered people into contributing members of the society. These are the people who should be role models to younger generations.

While many of these groups are very active and are making a change, the majority of our youth is distracted with the shallowness of the modern day, and spend their years being unproductive until they’re at an age that forces them to deal with the realities of the job market.

The battle between the great potential and the lack of ambition is very tough. One might argue that if you lack ambition, you either kill your potential or have none to begin with, but I believe our youth has great potential and even better opportunities, but some are on a potential suicide mission because their ambitions are limited.

When I ask a young man where he sees himself in 5 years and he says “the owner of a sports car”, I worry. I worry because his response wasn’t “I want to be a successful engineer to build a better infrastructure for my country and along the way, afford buying my dream car.” He didn’t want to give back to his community, he didn’t want to work his way to it, he just wanted to cut to the chase and get there, effortlessly.

I’ve seen a young lady with a 4.0 GPA who dropped out of university during her senior year because she got married. I’m not sure who is to blame in her case, her family for encouraging that decision or her, for not putting up a fight.

The reason many of our youth lack ambition is because they take their blessings for granted and don’t realize the value of the rare opportunities in their grasp. They need to understand that a good education and a comfortable life are both blessings that their parents worked hard for. The responsibility of showing them lies solely on parents; a little challenge won’t hurt your children or make them feel less loved. Parents should rely on a reward system instead of just giving blindly at every plea. Encourage their dreams and support them, whether by investing in a few extra-curricular courses or a summer program, it will be worth it in the end.

As for the youth, surrounding themselves with inspiring and motivational people who are passionate about their own dreams is the starting point. Next, they should fight for their dream, whatever it may be and if they don’t have one yet, they should find one and they’ll find themselves. Then, they must appreciate their blessings, and realize that if they don’t work hard to maintain them, they’ll lose them. Also, focusing on self-development means that they’ll spend less time being unproductive. Furthermore, thinking of positive ways they can give back to their family, community and their country is the best way love is expressed. Finally, always as the words of our late father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan AlNahyan, “The real asset to any advanced nation is its people.”
Be a great asset to your country and be the pride to your family and most importantly believe in yourself and believe that you can achieve greatness by being you.