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  • Sumaiyah Mohamed

What lights you up is not a waste of time...

Written by Sumaiyah Mohamed

I am a mental health advocate.

I also adore creating/ making nice things (poetry, art journal pages, zines, quilts).

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Anxiety was beginning to course through me, familiar doubts in the way I was spending my free time. Oh, you are here, free time paralysis. Was I wasting time? I sought refuge in seeking reassurance from my trusted wise counsels. From a sister on the creative path, a spiritual guide, a “Sister's Fillah" WhatsApp group huddle, and a reference to an old message from a counsellor colleague. They each sang the same tune…  

Having meaningful hobbies is not at odds with the religion of Islam. For me to spend beautiful moments just me, my fabrics and my needle, or on my journal, blessings on my pen, yes, that time could be spent doing explicitly religious things (yay, yes! to Quran recitation, prayers, listening to or reading Islamic content, undoubtedly, always). But I can do both these types of seemingly distinct things (are they, though?) God-willing, possibly with more energy and zest, when I spend time nurturing my creative spirit. It nourishes my mental well-being too, allowing me to calm, to focus, to let uncomfortable thoughts and feelings pass, as I invite excitement and enthusiasm back in.  

I live in the aftermath of a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Mental illness once damaged my sense of self-confidence. I sometimes have trouble expressing myself, experiencing strange brain fogs, and I am naturally quiet; I prefer to listen. It’s beautiful to notice, to be enchanted, at times bewildered, but mostly curious. I must notice a painful pattern of mine, to feel as if I was half a person, where my opinions, feelings, or even presence is worth less than others.   

Writing poetry was my first outlet to express how I really felt inside. It felt incredibly powerful to make beauty out of discomfort and painful experiences.

I can choose  

I can move lightly, the energy of the oud-perfumed air  

guides my attention, back to this book of awesome  

I refuse to sleep through life, when it smells this sweet  

I can remind my mind that there is a gorgeous hope worth holding tight to  

when things seem beyond my grasp, I am too inadequate right?  

I can call our companion, kindness, with her infectiously loud laugh  

she always adds flowers that colour the space with grace  

oh my, I can nourish myself with delicious Teh Tarik, what thoughtfulness  

I can enjoy my to-do list today and tick tasks off with limbs that spin to the nasyeed I select to sing from my humbled, expansive heart.  

I started to art journal later too, and I felt joy multiplying in putting together a quirky and cool mess of colours, where I could be myself and create beautifully mediocre art. Come as you are to your art journal that welcomes you to wonder and  just be. 


Then, I started to create zines out of the mix of poems and art journal pages, and I felt like my soul was singing. It mattered not even that I had no following or a wide readership. It was my gift to myself, an intention to also give light to anyone with similar experiences and dreams.  

Your voice, your story, your message, your very  soul - it all matters deeply; allow the energy you  feel inside from these creative expressions to bring you joy and also, bring shine and sparkle to the world; it needs your originality, especially in bleak times.   

So narrate (these) narratives that possibly they  would meditate. [Al Quran, 7:176]  

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may  Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If the Final Hour comes while you have a shoot of a  plant in your hands and it is possible to plant it  before the Hour comes, you should plant it."  

What is your unique, signature, be-you-tiful creative strength that you are gifting yourself and the world today? 




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