8 Amazing Muslim Women That We Are Inspired By

By Asma Abu-Khater (@asmaabuk) / Digital Marketing Intern Spring 2018

In celebration of International Women’s Day we put together a list of some amazing Hijabis that are breaking barriers and battling stereotypes.

Malika Bilal (@mmbilal)

@mmbilal/ via Instagram: @mmbial

Malika Bilal is an Al Jazeera English journalist, and is breaking many barriers and stereotypes being one of the first Muslim African-American hijab wearing women on a news show

Zehra Allibhai (@zallibhai)

@zallibhai/ via Instagram: @zallibhai

Bilal is a mother of two and is a certified trainer in Toronto, ON. She pursues her passion for athletics and brings awareness to how modesty does not limit a person in sports.

Hoda Katebi (@hodakatebi)

@hodakatebi/ via Instagram: @hodakatebi

Chicago based political fashion blogger Hoda Katebi is on the mission to use her platform to bring awareness to many important issues, including immigration. She is currently working on bringing together immigrant seamstresses and small fashion businesses to work jointly.

Halima Aden (@halima)

@halima/ via Instagram:@halima

Halima Aden is the first muslim Hijabi model to be signed to IMG, a modeling agency that signed Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. She is bringing awareness to Muslim fashion and has walked many fashion shows including, Kanye West’s Yeezy NYFW show, all while refusing to remove her hijab, becoming an inspiration to many.

Tahera Rahman (@taheratv)

@taheratv/ via Instagram:@taheratv

Tahera Rahman is a reporter who was often faced with the request that she remove her Hijab upon being hired. Yet, she persevered and is now a local reporter for Fox 18 KLJB in Quad Cities. She recently became the first full time Hijabi reporter for CBS news.

Amanda Saab (@amandasplate)

@amandasplate/ via instagram:@amandasplate

You may remember Amanda Saab on MasterChef in 2015. She is the first Hijabi on the show and currently has a food blog filled with many amazing recipes called Amanda’s Plate (amandasplate.com)

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir (@qis_mo)

@qis_mo/ via instagram:@qis_mo

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is a Muslim basketball player for the University of Memphis. She is outspoken on her opposition of the FIBA’s ban on hijabs. The FIBA claims that the Hijab may cause injury, but, Abdul-Qaadir continues to fight hard and is changing the views on muslim women athletes.

Eman Idil (@emanidil)

@emanidil/ via instagram: @emanidil

Eman Idil is a muslim fashion blogger and journalist at CBC and Teen vogue. She is also a yoga instructor, writer for allure, and a fashion designer.

Life is delicate, how do you show yourself love?

                                                         photo by @jana_akkari

We focus our energy on others. We care for them, nurture them, sometimes we even help others get back on their feet – this is what we do because we love. While our relationships are important, it’s difficult to care for others if we neglect ourselves. Have you shown yourself, love, recently?

Sometimes, Self-Love is associated with narcissism or being selfish. On the contrary,  according to Google, Self-Love, by definition, is the “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).” This post will explore 5 different ways to practice self-love that can be used in everyday life.

  1. Self-Care

Self-care is key to a good relationship with oneself and others. Self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept, in theory, it’s something we very often overlook”. Think about it this way, for a professor to teach their students, they first learn the subject so they could, in turn, benefit others. In the same light, how can we expect to take care of our loved ones, if we ourselves are not in good health? Try this – keep track of your progress

  1. Think Positive

People with a positive attitude are happier, more resilient, better decision-makers, and perform at a higher level than those with a negative attitude (and even live longer). Have you ever heard the phrase “you’re your own worst critic”? Honestly, truer words have never been said. We always tend to put ourselves down and focus on our flaws and imperfections, but here’s a news flash to everyone out there: no one is perfect. Situations are out of your control, but your attitude isn’t. Try this – have you smiled at someone today?   

  1. Acceptance

Embrace the imperfections of life. Whether it be that frustrating adult acne or those annoying pounds that just won’t shed, everyone has some sort of “flaw” that they’re dealing with. But at the end of the day, everything that is a part of you is what makes you who you are. We create unnecessary anxiety the more we fight and resist the things that happen to us. Part of giving self-love takes an enormous amount of courage to love and accept yourself for who you are. Try this – ask yourself “am I the person that I want to be?”

  1. Turn Comparisons into Compari-donts

Comparing yourself to others is never a smart idea. We’re always going to want other things and look like this person or that person. We get so caught up in the idea of other people and their accomplishments, that we forget our own worth and end up being saddened because we’re not like the others. But at the end of the day, no one knows what the next person is struggling with. Try this – Make a list of everything good you have in your life, and literally count your blessings

  1. Take a Mental Break

Take time out for yourself; it is okay to take a break, especially during times when you feel mentally overwhelmed. Take a minute to examine habits that make you feel more anxious or unproductive and take a mental break from that. How many times have you been saddened because your photo didn’t get as many likes as you thought? How many times have you been upset because you saw snaps of your friends hanging out without you? Social media has been associated with low moods and depression, and while technology advances our lives, try not to jump to social media as a way to alleviate boredom. So I challenge you: take a break. Opt for a book in bed or maybe walk around or do an exercise if you’re at your desk all day.

At the end of the day, the path to self-love takes time, but we owe it to ourselves.

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.”

– Diane Von Furstenberg

Tell us what YOU do to show self-love! And don’t forget to enter our Self-Love Giveaway

How to Create a Study Guide that Works for You

Processed with VSCO with se3 presetBy Deena Farrukh

With finals a month away from us college students, high school students & middle school students alike, I thought it would be appropriate to write about what we all seem to struggle with the most: stuDYING. Personally, if you want to become successful in school, you have to have a study plan. It doesn’t have to be just for exams either. If I have to host a meeting, I organize my thoughts about the meeting & how the meeting will go. If I’m going on a trip, I create a list of what I need to pack (the wants come later, hehe). I even organize my day if I have plans later in the evening with my friends. No matter what the task, I know I’ve performed my hardest work if I had a steady plan ahead.

Today, I’m going to [try to] answer all the questions that have swarmed your brains and caused you to panic randomly at 3AM.

When should I start studying? 

From the start of the semester. I know this might sound foreign to most of you. It’s okay, it did to me too. I used to be that person that waited until a few weeks before my finals to start studying all the material from the start of the semester to the finish. But the work of taking one or two hours of your week to organize your professor/teacher’s lecture notes into a Word document doesn’t even compare to the amount of time it will take you a few weeks from your exam date. TRUST ME. Been there, done that.

How do I create my own study guide?

Creating a study guide is a little bit different from simply writing your own notes from class. Study guides focus on what will show up on your exam, more than organizing and summarizing what your professor/teacher told you in class. Here are some things you should emphasize on when creating your study guide:

1. Type out all the topics from your syllabus/any topics your professor/teacher has claimed will be on the exam onto a Word document.

2. It’s important to have everything that will be on your exam in your study guide, but try eliminating any topics that will be useless or are irrelevant to you.

What sources do I use to start creating my study guide(s)?

Sources will be different for college students versus high school/middle school students, so I thought it would be easier to divide them up and explain the sources individually.

College Students: 

As a college student, lecture notes/videos would be the first thing to look at when creating a study guide. For example, my professors would not only upload the lecture slides for us to follow along, but their lectures would be recorded and uploaded to us as an extra study tool.

Lecture notes are a good foundation for your study guide, but for the more in-depth material, skim your books. This is a great way to balance what you are studying, and it’s an extra tool to look at the material from a different point of view.

Last but not least, look at old exams (if you have them). This is an excellent addition to your study guide because it will remind you how your professor structures his questions. Now, I know some professors don’t allow their exams to be taken out of the exam room. No problem. Go into your professor’s office hours and ask him/her how to create an attack plan or what they believe is a structure for a good answer on their exams.

High School & Middle School Students: 

If you are in middle school or high school, I believe textbooks and your teachers are the best way to tackle making a study guide. Unlike college, your teachers are much more available to you since you see them every day, so use them as a study tool. And more often than not, everything that’s in your syllabus for the year you can find in your textbook.

For the most part, I know that in high school & middle school your past exams are given back to you, so again, look over those. Familiarize yourself with your teacher’s exam format and question method.

How exactly do I organize my study guide?

Now onto the nitty gritty stuff. I would start my study guide off with making an overview of what each chapter entails. This is sort of like a “table of contents” page: it shows you what topics you specifically have to study & a brief synopsis of what each chapter is about. I personally would create this in an outline format, but whatever works for you, go for it!

Let’s get into how to organize all the facts and concepts into your study guide. The beauty of making your own study guide, and not using your teacher’s or anyone else’s is that it’s yours. There’s not just one type of note-taking technique. Here are a several that work for me:

  • Flowcharts
  • Diagrams
  • Symbols
  • Charts
  • Color-coding [which helps me the most!!!]

Like I said before, this study guide is not about taking notes but actually retaining the information that you are studying. An excellent technique to understand and memorize the material is I rewrite my notes in my own words.

Aside from that, I also watch YouTube videos and Google concepts & ideas to better comprehend the material if my professor’s explanation isn’t clicking for me. This is a really good study technique because you yourself ventured out to figure out what you weren’t understanding.

To sum up your notes for your study guide, skim your textbook’s chapter summaries. Although it won’t have every fact you’ll need, it comes in handy to sort out the important information of that chapter.

My note-taking technique for my study guides is as follows:

  • Red star: the concepts that I need to stress most on
  • Box: to categorize sub-topics in a chapter
  • Green highlight: keywords & definitions
  • Yellow highlight: main ideas
  • Pink highlight: pronouns that I need to remember
  • Purple highlight: examples to help comprehend the material better

At the end of each chapter, I like to add a few sample exam questions that coincide with that chapter as a mini quiz. Studying can sometimes immerse you in all the facts and concepts that you can sometimes forget why you are really going over it all: to test yourself.

I really hope this helped you out because I know that these techniques my entire outlook on studying for exams. Good luck & happy studying!

Thanks for reading,


Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 12.56.56 AM

Re-published from original blog post here: https://flightfoodfashion.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/how-to-create-a-study-guide-that-works-for-you/ 


No Damsel in Distress Here: Taking Action in Trump America

Not even 24 hours after Trump winning U.S. elections, the level of open racism, reports of sexual assault and violence towards disenfranchised and minority groups escalated to a disgraceful level for 2016 standards.

If you’re still in shock, grieving, or angry over these results. It’s OK.

Let yourself heal. But after that, be a boss. Empower yourself to take action.

If you’re wondering what in the world could you possibly do anything about something that feels out of your hands or have no control over – we’ve collected some valuable insights from our favorite Muslimah leaders, shakers and movers and made an action list just for you:

  1. First – stay calm, get educated, be connected. We’ve technically been dealing with terrible decision making by our government for many years (wall street bailout, wars, etc), but we will stay resilient and informed. Don’t panic and be depressed forever either. Take this energy and channel it into action that comes from an authentic place. Not to overwhelm or overburden yourself, take action that will let you be YOU – to who you are and why you care so much. Rest assured, this man has made a whole bunch of “promises” he cannot keep. –  Van Jones.
  2. Be unapologetically Muslim. Do not let people tell you or let you feel less worthy because of your beliefs. Even if you disagree with the outcome of the election, you can protest anything you want. Do it safely and respectfully, but if you feel strongly about it – just do it! – Linda Sarsour.
  3. Don’t hesitate to take precautions. If it makes you feel any more empowered – purchase pepper spray or take self-defense classes. See this list of 47 Safety Tips of Muslimahs.
  4. If you experience any form of harassment or assault, please please report it to the police, ACLU and CAIR. File that police report in person. If you think it’s a waste of time or useless, it at least provides real data and a quantitative basis for analyzing hate crimes that have been occurring. Then file hate crimes with ACLU and CAIR – they are there to support and represent you.
  5. Boycott racists businesses. It doesn’t cost you a thing – literally. Don’t take or bring your money to establishments that degrade you or any other human. Call out any racist remarks or harassment – especially on review pages like Yelp or BBB  – The Love Life of an Asian Guy.
  6. Ignore bullies, they want a reaction. If you see or hear harassment in the streets – ignore the perpetrator but engage the victim with a conversation. Call out hate speech when you hear it… in your living room, at work, with friends, in public.
  7. Increase your activism, civic engagement or simply stay informed. Almost half of America did not turn out to vote this election season. Important propositions (like in California – the death penalty, rising drug costs and legalization of marijuana) and worthy Senate and House of Representatives (like Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American woman legislator in the US) were being decided by voters and your vote counts more towards these issues!
  8. And last but not least, if you find out someone has made the decision to remove their headscarf during this time, make duaa and support each other. We know first hand how hard it is to be visibly Muslim during this time. There’s no reason why you should believe to be better or more righteous than the person who chooses to do it.

“The work of unmaking violence begins with us—when we confront the violence, fear, and hatred in our midst. Even small acts can remake the world” (PreemptiveLove.org). 

Do you have any thoughts/action ideas to add to this list?

Textures This Fall

Style a textured look this fall with some of the pieces we’ve curated for you!

The Beige Black Side Split Cardi exudes a fresh look with minimal effort.


For a Neutral look: 

  • Black loose-fit or skinny jeans
  • Black top
  • Flat D’Orsay Shoes like these from Zara


  • Drawstring Bucket Bag from Zara


  • Ahfif White Edge Cotton Scarf in Linen



When dressing a statement piece, minimize accessories.

Casual look…

  • Girlfriend Jeans from H&M


  • White Short-sleeved top from H&M


  • Leather Chelsea Boots in Black or Brown from Zara

5605102040_2_1_1           5605102100_2_5_1

  • Soft City Hand Bag from Zara


  • Ahfif Taupe Premium Cotton-Wool Scarf


S H O P  N O W 

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 


Combatting Sexual Violence

(featured image taken from www.georgiahanias.com)

By Raeesa Ashique, Blog Contributor 

The summer before I moved for university, my parents warned me repeatedly about walking home after dark, and told me to never walk alone. Now, let’s be honest: if I wanted to act on this advice, I’d have to skip class to get home before dark. Not to mention I’d never study, as I work best on campus. But they had a right to worry – we’ve heard too many horror stories about campuses, and it has instilled a sense of caution.

Alhamdulillah, I have always felt safe at my school, but the terrible truth is that campuses have become associated with violence and assault, sexual assault in particular. Let’s just take a moment to absorb this. Sexual assault cases are common at a place of opportunity and education, of personal and academic growth. How is this acceptable at an institutional level? How are students supposed to learn if they don’t feel safe?

Emma Watson, actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, addressed these issues in her speech to the UN last month where she was introducing HeForShe’s Impact 10x10x10 plan. This initiative will include ten heads of state, ten global CEOs, and ten university presidents in the goal of erasing sexual violence from university campuses. She pointed out that inequality definitely exists in post-secondary institutions, although they should be a “place of refuge that takes action against all forms of violence”. She then questions the current culture on many campuses which send “the message that sexual violence isn’t actually a form of violence”.

I am very passionate about this topic, which is how I found myself sitting in a presentation a couple weeks ago on the topic of sexual violence, social justice, and compassion. I would like to share the story I heard, and a few words of wisdom.

Dr. Rachel Alicia Griffin is a survivor. She is now an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at South Illinois University, cross-appointed in Africana Studies, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is the recipient of several awards, and has published in several journals. She travels the US doing keynotes and workshops on sexual assault, and has come to Canada several times as well.

She delivered a powerful, emotional, and compelling presentation, sharing her story of being raped in her own bedroom as a high school student by a boy she liked. She stayed silent for years, doing everything she could to feel better. She tried to be the best, the brightest, and the prettiest, but nothing could take away her feelings of worthlessness.

Seven years later, she finally told a peer support advocate at her university. The girl responded with, “I believe you. What happened to you was not your fault.”

Now imagine if, after years and years of silence when she finally built up the courage to open up, this girl had doubted her. If she had instead responded with “Are you sure?” or “I don’t believe that.” Dr. Griffin says this girl saved her. The woman with the PhD who travels the country to speak, the woman who has made something of herself and learned to live with her past, would not exist if not for this girl’s response.

So remember this, if you are ever in the situation of the peer support member. Be supportive, and keep your doubts to yourself. Dr. Griffin says that, as humans, it’s perfectly fine to doubt a person’s story, but that isn’t our place to vocalize. Never question whether they’re telling the truth. You don’t understand the damage you may unintentionally do.

Remember this as well, if you are ever (God forbid) on the other side of the table. It’s not your fault that something terrible was done to you. It is not your shame, and it should not be your shame.

Which brings me to the next key point from the presentation: compassion. Dr. Griffin says, “Survivors are people just like me and you. We have hopes, dreams, and fears… Survivors can be anyone and can be anything.” It’s never okay to blame survivors because of what was done to them. Remember that they are people too, and deserve the same treatment and respect.

She talks about how perpetrators are also human, and therefore also deserve compassion. A lot of perpetrators feel scared and alone after realizing what they have done, and therefore should not be demonized. Dealing with the situation should be left up to the law.

Finally, campuses need to make an effort to actively prevent sexual violence, because without this effort, they are effectively condoning it.

However, this is not only a campus problem, and we need to promote the conversation in all settings. It’s an uncomfortable and touchy topic, but it needs to be addressed much more than it is. We need everyone aware if we ever want to see real change. As Dr. Griffin says, “This is an all-hands-on-deck journey.”

As a society, we need to make sure that survivors feel safe coming forward and saying, “I am hurt. I need help.” We should all do our part in building this accepting and positive environment.

At Ahfif, we host sales that give part or all of the proceeds to organizations that advocate for human rights, such as our recent Warehouse Sale that donated one new clothing item for every order to the Grateful Garment Poject. This organization’s mission is to make sure every victim of a sexual crime is provided with whatever they need such as clothing, toiletries, snacks, etc.

S H O P  N O W 

Follow Raeesa on Instagram at @raeesashique

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

How to Love Your Body

By Raeesa Ashique, Blog Contributor 

I follow several female trainers on social media because they provide inspiration and motivation in terms of how and why I go to the gym, and I read just about every training-related article on my newsfeed simply because one of these trainers posted it. Also, I love fangirling over successful women from all areas, whether they are athletes, human rights activists, politicians, or my fellow bloggers.

One article I read this summer was on body types, and it felt like a revelation. The three basic body types are ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. The first has a slim build and fast metabolism. These people find it difficult to gain weight, so bulking up is particularly difficult. The second is the opposite: they have a slower metabolism, and can gain both fat and muscle relatively easily, but find it difficult to shift weight. The third type is basically a happy medium: they have a naturally athletic build, and can gain or lose weight easily. Of course, most people don’t fit neatly into one category, but are some combination.

Okay, I’ll admit: the article wasn’t actually ground-breaking, but the information was tangible and scientific and provided some interesting perspective. First, it encouraged me to consider the most efficient eating and exercise habits for my body type in order to maximize my result, and second, it put a spin on the body image discussion. I realize I’m risking sounding like a broken record here, but I will add my two cents anyway.

The model build has created an unrealistic and unreasonable standard of beauty, which inherently makes no sense. How can there be a “standard” body type? But people believe it, because the media promotes it.

I became very conscious of this when I met Martha Hunt, the Victoria’s Secret model, this summer. She came to Toronto Eaton Centre to launch a new collection, and I got an autograph, which is slightly embarrassing to admit. (But come on, she’s gorgeous.) She was sitting behind a table signing photos, and my first impression – no exaggeration – was shock at how small her arms were. I’d become so accustomed to a certain image on ads and posters that it now seems like the norm, so I never consciously realized how ridiculously skinny models are.

I can tell you from experience that skinny should not be everyone’s goal. I won’t pretend to have body image issues, because it feels disrespectful to those with legitimate insecurities, but I used to hate being a twig as much as I hated when people pointed it out. I think it’s key for girls to understand this: skinny does not necessarily mean healthy, and being underweight is not desirable by those who are. Don’t aim to be skinny for its sake alone.

I’m still built like a thirteen-year-old, because I was tall for my age in eighth grade and haven’t grown in either direction since, but I don’t mind anymore. I wish I could say I had a transition moment, but the truth is that I didn’t – I just became accustomed to how I looked and developed my own sense of style, and that was that.

I would love for other girls to reach this point as well, so here is my advice: don’t subscribe to this idea that there is a standard body type. It is unreasonable and discouraging. For example, I could yearn to look like Kim Kardashian (I don’t, by the way), but I know I could squat every day for a year and never look like her. I’m just built differently. It’s the same idea for all these girls who want to be stick-thin.

Just remember that the grass may seem greener on the other side, but everyone has their own problems. Wanting to look like someone else is never the solution.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want abs like Kayla Itsines, because I would love to achieve her level of fitness. But don’t let this be the “be all end all” of your body image. Don’t hate yourself because you don’t look like Gisele. Don’t idolize the images that the media throws at us every day.

The only way to be happy is to accept your body the way it is, and move forward from there. Exercise, establish your own sense of style, wear clothes and makeup that make you happy. Don’t worry about impressing people, and don’t wait to “look good” to feel good. There is no single definition for attractiveness, and once you understand this, it all gets easier.

Follow Raessa on Instagram at @raeesashique

S H O P  N O W 

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

Let’s Pop Some Tags

Thrift store: Blue Polka Dot Blazer-$5

Thrift store: Black Undershirt-$3

Hollister Jeans-$25

Windsor: Cream Heels-$20

By Ola Abuelhassan (from olaabu.com), Blog Contributor 

I’ll try to refrain from making anymore references from Macklemore’s Thrift Shop throughout this post, you’re welcome.

I sat here for a good five minutes trying to remember when the first time I went thrift shopping was and I honestly couldn’t. I can’t remember how, why, or what got me to that thrift store but I am eternally grateful (I hope you read that in the voices of the little aliens from Toy Story).

I’ve been thrift shopping for as long as I can remember and I grow to love it even more everyday. Not only am I paying pretty much nothing, but I’m actually getting quality stuff for it. I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they ask where I got a really nice article of clothing from and I respond with “Oh I thrifted it for like 6 bucks”. I recently bought a Nike windbreaker for about $12 and that was sort of on the pricey side if I do say so myself. $12 is on the pricey side like just think about that for a second. I often find myself browsing through Forever 21 and saying “Uhm no thanks I can get that at the thrift store for like $3” and many of the friends I’ve turned towards thrift shopping now say the same thing.

Many people might be thrown off by the fact that everything is used but honestly that’s the part I love the most. Everything has a story behind it and every time I say that to one of my friends, I get the same response: “Okay Phoebe Buffay”. I’m not really complaining though, you can’t not love Phoebe. These pieces could have been passed down for years or bought just last year and only been worn once, either way it’s the unknown part that intrigues me. Just give the clothes a little wash and you’re good to go.

The best part however is that there is so much more than just clothes. I have little knick knacks around my room that are totally weird and random but hey they’re cute and were only like 50 cents. I’ve gotten back into reading a lot lately and the little library in my room is stocked up with books I got at the thrift store. 50 cents to a dollar for a book that normally retails for about $13 at Barnes & Noble? I think yes. It also opens me up to so many new books. I’m not losing much if I never do pick up that book again but it’ll still look real cute sitting there on my shelf.

Thrift shopping really gets me out of my comfort zone which I think we all need to do once in awhile. So get on Yelp, look for nearby thrift stores and secondhand shops and just go. Get that grandpa sweater and that obnoxious 80s blouse if you’re feeling it, again you’re not losing much. Even if it just hangs in your closet untouched, as many of my thrifted clothes end up because I was just feeling bold in the moment I purchased them.

Follow Ola on Instagram at @ola.abu and Twitter at @Olerrss and her blog–olaabu.com

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to!

S H O P  N O W  

Diary of a Muslim Gym Junkie

By Raeesa Ashique, Blog Contributor 

My gym life has always had many ups and downs. Exams in April interfered with my regular routine, May was more off than on, and then Ramadan came. Fasting with a full-time job meant my free time was spent sleeping or catching up on Quran reading, and I justified continuing to skip the gym. But alhamdulillah I mustered up the discipline to get back into shape the last two months of summer.

I won’t mention all the physical and mental benefits of working out, since they are pretty obvious and can be found on any fitness site. Instead, I will offer some perspective and some advice. I’m no fitness guru, but I hope to encourage some of you to hit the gym.

Decide what you want to focus on – this can be mainly cardio, weight-training, or resistance exercises. I primarily do cardio, alternating between the treadmill, elliptical, and rowing machine, followed by core circuit training. Come up with some routines in advance, so indecision does not become an excuse to skip a workout.

My second piece of advice: be realistic. Having unreasonably high expectations will make achieving them difficult, and attempting to reach them intimidating. For example, say I decide to run five miles every day. I’ll probably quit after a week, since I would rather quit than fail. Make sure that you can realistically stick to your plan, and slowly increase your expectations as time passes.

Thirdly, make your intention! Allah has given us our bodies as an amaanah, or a trust, and we are supposed to take care of them. This means staying healthy, keeping in shape, and not exposing them to unhealthy or toxic substances. I think we’ve all heard the famous hadith “Actions are judged by their intentions”.  It is a beautiful thought, knowing that a simple intention can turn a workout into worship.

For my hijabi girls: I feel you. Actually, this is for any of you modest women. I won’t pretend it’s easy to cover – it’s hot under all those layers, but there is some consolation.

I always feel like covering at the gym is da’wah. Remember: you are making an impression on the people who see you, and you are racking up reward for this act of worship as well! Allah rewards us for our struggles, so make the double intention of staying healthy and being modest for His sake.

You also want to wear the right clothes. I can’t tell you what the right clothes are, since it depends on your own comfort level. Personally, I wear workout leggings (the ones from Pink are my favorite) with oversized men’s workout tops (which I “borrow” from my dad!) since they are super light material and fall to mid-thigh. I try to avoid cotton since it’s much less breathable, with my scarf being the only exception. I wear two-piece cotton scarves rather than maxi scarves, since it reduces the amount of material surrounding my face and sticking to my neck. I definitely prefer the voluminous scarf look for day-to-day wear, but this doesn’t matter at the gym: I’m there to get in shape, not to take selfies.

Finally, I would like to touch on body image (although I will save the extensive discussion for a future post). I know this will sound cliché, but I wouldn’t be saying this if I did not completely believe it. Don’t get obsessed with your weight. Focus on how you feel. If you feel stronger, if you feel satisfied with your progress, if your routine is encouraging healthier eating, if you generally feel good: your routine is working.

Weight is just a number, and does not necessarily correlate to progress. For example, my body type is such that my weight doesn’t fluctuate. I can do crazy amounts of cardio for two months, and my weight will stay the same. Instead, try to measure progress in terms of how long you can run for, how many squats you can do, or how your cardio has improved.

This may take a while to accept, but it is very true: if you don’t feel good, then no amount of weight loss or dieting will make you happy. And ultimately, feeling good and pleasing Allah are the goals.   

Follow Raessa on Instagram at @raeesashique

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