I Met My Doppelganger And Her Name Is Umm Salihah Ahmed
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm
the world.” ~Desmond Tutu
I met my doppelganger recently. I kid you not. My children have always insisted that each one of us has one but I can’t say that I was ever truly convinced...till now, that is. My doppelganger - who goes by the name of Umm Salihah Ahmed - is “me”, all surface differences aside.
She’s a devoted mother to five children. She’s faith-filled and unapologetic for it. She’s both entrepreneurial and business-minded. She’s taken the ‘road less traveled’ and has adopted a worldview. She’s a happy personality who rebukes stereotypes. She’s living in agreement with her beliefs and values. She’s committed to teaching, promoting, and demonstrating greater understanding and global peace. And she is a blogger.
“How is this woman not my doppelganger?” For all intensive purposes, she is and those are the purposes that really count -- the ones that will help bridge our corners of the world and the many people who live in and around them.
Meeting her was a wonderful chance opportunity. Sharing her with all of you through the interview below, is an even better one.
What is your full name?
Umm Salihah Ahmed
What is your personal mantra?
Do the best you can in each moment. Be kind to yourself and others.
Tell us about your life, including where you live, number of children and anything else you would like to share.
I am a mother five of children, ages 14 to 2, living in one of the most wonderful cities in the world -- London. I work in local government delivering projects, change management and organizational design in one of the most diverse parts of Britain. I am a Muslim and that influences every part of my life. I have a passion for life and everything good in it: delicious food, family gatherings, great parties, books, writing, journaling, traveling, the countryside, beaches and nature. I love crafts and creative endeavours such as card making, paper crafts and jewelry-making. I just wish I had more time to spend on all of these things.
Do you believe you have a “life’s purpose?” If so, share it.
I believe that each of us is here to serve: ourselves, our families, our communities and those in need. As a person of faith, I think, we are also here to worship and serve our Creator. I think we all have innate qualities and strengths that we can put in the service of others, even if, sometimes, we are unable to see it ourselves. For me, that purpose would include nurturing and inspiring my family, acting as a coach and activist in my community and hoping to motivate and inspire others to live a beautiful and balanced life through my blog and e-books.
Finish this sentence, “The best part about being a mom is _____.”
The awe of seeing your children grow and the amazing potential unfold in each one; the good qualities and the flaws that make them unique and human; and the things that just surprise you.
What is the name of your blog? When was it launched?
My blog is called Happy Muslim Mama and was launched in 2007. I started writing during a period of time when my career had stalled and I was feeling thoroughly bored and needed a creative outlet. I also yearned to share my experience and connect with others as I felt a little isolated at the time.
The name Happy Muslim Mama came about because I wanted to challenge the stereotype of the oppressed, miserable Muslim woman and because I am, generally, a happy soul! Mum was very English; Mom, an American term; and Mother, a bit formal. Mama seemed to transcend nations and cultures and, I felt, would help to connect to a wider audience.
What is the primary focus of your blog and what do you hope to accomplish through it?
I started blogging because I did not know anyone else who was a working Muslim mother. People my age were not married with children at the time. Muslim mothers my age that had children did not work. I felt caught up in a unique situation, with no one to share the journey with. Being a working Muslim mama brought challenges, learning, and growth that I wanted to share with the world and see if anyone else shared my experiences.
I was also very disheartened by the way Muslims were portrayed over the internet and couldn’t relate to these portrayals at all. I wanted to share that we were a family like any other with hopes, dreams and aspirations as well as challenges. Being Muslim just means we have this amazing guidance, Islam, to help us through life’s challenges in the most beautiful, loving and wise way.
With these things in mind, I write about my journey as a mother of young children, my experience as a working Muslim woman and about all of the wonderful things in life that bring me so much pleasure: books, travel, food, faith and crafts. I also like to rant now and again about the things I care deeply about, such as racism or domestic violence.
I hope my blog encourages other Muslim women to balance the different parts of their lives effectively and to share their stories so that we can all benefit and learn from one another. I hope also, that people can see that a good life doesn’t have to be a perfect “instagrammable” life, but that a good life can be one that is messy and full of mistakes and tears. This is why it is so important to me to honest and real in what I write.
List any awards you have won.
Top 25 Muslim Mom Blog’s in 2011 (no. 11)
Circle of Moms, top 25 European Mom blogs 2013 (no. 23)
Tots 100 UK Parenting blogs in 2014
Are you a Brand Ambassador and if so, for which companies?
Not at this time, but I am looking at one or two brands that I have been invited to be an ambassador for. If I feel my readers would be interested, I will sign up. The issue is that to benefit as a Brand Ambassador, it takes a lot of work in terms of promoting and incorporating the brand into your blog, so I have to weigh it to see if it is worth it.
Do you blog for other blogs or sites?
I blog for Aaila Muslim Parenting Magazine and in the past, I’ve written a column for InCulture Parent. I was also published by the New York Times Motherlode blog. As my blog matures, I am starting to look for opportunities to publish guest post on others blogs and also to find people to share their content on mine.
Which social media outlet do you find most useful?
I am currently on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and I am slowly growing an organic following in each of them. Of all of these, I came to Facebook fairly late in the day, but find that it generates the greatest traffic to my blog and also the most engagement in terms of comments and questions. I am also on Quora which is another good place to connect with both readers and writers, I just wish I had more time to write answers.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to those who may be interested in beginning a blog?
Get started! The sooner the better. I would say to begin by using a free platform, test the waters, and see how it feels to write and share. So many people start blogging and stop after a fairly short period of time, so it’s definitely something you want to try out to see if it works for you. Other than that, be honest, honor your own, unique voice and know that your experience is worth sharing. When you do this, you will eventually find that your words will resonate with people.
Share the 2-3 blogs that you follow.
There I so much content out there that I love and follow, but probably the ones I gravitate to are:
As a lover of books and new ideas Brain Pickings is a go to for inspiration and some deep thinking.
I only discovered Ninja Writers by Shaunta Grimes recently but have really enjoyed her writing and the encouragement and motivation she brings out to just write.
When I need something light hearted, I go to Curly Fries, my baby sister’s fashion blog. There is always something fabulous or beautiful to see there.
Are you an entrepreneur or professional beyond your blog (and outside of being a mom)? Please share.
I have worked for central and local government doing casework, performance management, project management and now, organizational transformation. I am interested in moving closer to the front lines of the local authority I work for now and understanding how I can do work that has a positive impact on the people in our communities, so this is something I am tentatively exploring right now.
I tested the waters for online commerce in 2012 with a small online shop selling handmade jewelry and cards. It was an awesome learning curve in terms of how to do business online, but with baby number five born in 2014, I found I just did not have the capacity any more to run a business. I did thoroughly enjoy the challenge and this year I hope to reopen my shop and see where it takes me.
Do you support – either formally or informally – a particular social cause?
I believe that every life is valuable and that every person deserves respect, so there are numerous social causes that have my support. As my children get older, I hope to be able to take a more hands-on role as a volunteer in the future.
As a Muslim, I believe that we are stewards of the earth and that we have a responsibility to take care of this planet and not be wasteful with its resources, so environmental causes are important to me and something I have actively tried to educate my children about through events like Earth Day. Also, I once read that “if children have not spent time in nature, how could they know the value and importance of what we are destroying?” So I try to make sure my children get the chance to see the beauty and majesty of forests, oceans, valleys and lakes whenever we can.
Muslims have to pay alms (or zakat) of 2.5% of their cashable wealth each year, so the National Zakat Foundation in the UK is one charity that I am happy to support as I think they do valuable work right on our doorstep.
Finally, I am trying to bring up my children with a strong social conscious and a clear message that each of us can make a difference in the lives of many others. I expect each of them to use their skills, time and resources to give back to others and I will strongly encourage them to volunteer and be active in their communities starting from their teenage years.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
As a happy, kind, helpful Muslim woman, who raised children that made a difference and who welcomed people into her home and was happy to feed them. As a loving wife and a good friend. As someone who trod lightly on the earth but left a big impact in many people’s hearts. Finally as a writer, creative, activist and entrepreneur.
As the entire world is navigating extremely challenging times, currently, I believe it is imperative that each of us be on the lookout for our own doppelgangers. The familiarity to be realized is one part of the key that will unlock the door to a more peace-filled planet. And with one part in place, it is easier to fit the rest. Isn’t that right Umm Salihah Ahmed? No doubt, she agrees. Afterall, she is my doppelganger, a new-found friend, and a sister of solidarity and harmony.