Ayman

Ayman, Pharmacist

Location: Gaza City

Interests and Hobbies: I’m mainly interested in reading books on philosophy and the fundamentals of Islam. As a pharmacist, I find myself reading medical articles, latest new scientific discoveries and modern types of medicine.

My chosen Ayah or Hadith: The Hadith that always comes to my mind is when the Prophet (PBUH) said: “All creatures are sons of Allah, and the dearest to you to Allah are the ones who are the most beneficial to their sons”. This Hadith is an invitation for all human beings to work for humanity without any discrimination, or restrictions regardless of the sector the ideology and overlooking the minor differences that some extremists use to divide our Ummah.

I am a pharmacist and I have previously worked as a pharmaceutical salesperson. Due to my long experience, I could easily notice the degradation of the general economic situation and how it directly affected every aspect of life here in Gaza, particularly the medical sector. The siege negatively impacted our jobs, sales, etc.

However, when I recall the story of the prophet during the siege of Taif, and how he and his people were living in very bad conditions, yet with their faithful and patient; “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is a relief” (94:5). Since the prophet is my role model, I believe eventually, we will reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

The siege did not only affect our jobs but also affected our daily life directly to the point that the grief of losing souls became a daily basic affair. Shortage of necessary medical supplies, medical equipment, food supplies, and electrical power are some of the factors that contributed to our grief.

What motivates me to keep going on is my belief that everything happens for a reason, and if Allah put you through a difficulty, then it’s only because he knows you’re able to get through it inshAllah.

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Awatef

Awatef, Artist.

Location: Gaza City

Hobbies and interests: I’m mainly interested in drawing, painting, and arts and crafts. I love reading literature in all its forms. I’m interested in sports as well, swimming in particular.

My chosen Ayah: I live by the Ayah that says: “And mankind has not been given of knowledge except a little.” (17:85). This Ayah is a great reminder for me that whatever level of knowledge I reach can never be the end. I should never stop chasing any learning opportunities for you can learn from anyone and from anything. You can learn something from a story, from a little kid, form your peers, and even from just meditating on your own. Only Allah has the full knowledge of everything.

I have been gifted with the talent of drawing. I have always been into creative art, especially visual art, whose products are to be appreciated primarily for their imaginative, aesthetic content. I now work as an art teacher but I always seek developing myself and talent. Thus, I participated in a great number of art exhibitions both locally and internationally.

My latest local exhibit was hosted in the French Consulate in Gaza, it was my very first sole exhibition and it was a great challenge yet I was welcomed by the great numbers of people who visited and supported me. It was an exceptional experience. As for my international exhibitions, my works were presented in Jordan, Canada, Britain, and others. My work traveled to these places without me, I dream of standing next to my work, explaining it and seeing the appreciation in the eyes of the visitors. However, I’m deprived of this right as traveling out is extremely complicated and restricted.

In my work, I mostly focus on changing the theme and not sticking to one idea as to have an international view and appeal. Generally, in my work, I focus on the Palestinian woman, on how strong yet fragile she can be how much she suffered, and how much she endured. The Palestinian woman is one with great patience and mercy, with immense power; and I try my best to illustrate that in my work, to show her journey, and to demonstrate the hardships she goes through.

What motivates me is my faith in Allah. He gives me hope; the hope to travel accompanying my work whether internationally or in my own country.

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Amira

Amira: Writer

Location: Gaza City

Hobbies and interests: I’m interested in reading, coloring, and writing. I’m keen on the idea of changing the whole educational system design in the Middle East. At the same time, I’m an advocate for Cancer, health and educational rights. I believe in being the voice for the voiceless.

My chosen Ayah: I really love Al-Kursi verse which says: “Allah. There is no god but He – the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Highest, the Supreme (in glory).

This Ayah makes me feel safe, especially when I first got diagnosed with an immune system dysfunction. It made feel fearless and I felt like it was my shield from everything. I really love it; it makes me feel at ease.

One of my passions is helping people; anywhere and anyone. I started as a story-teller for cancer patient kids, and now I plan cancer awareness campaigns. I used to be super active during university. I mostly helped freshmen. I used to participate in many events, I believe in “Do the best of this life to be of use”. Every few months, I travel for my medical check-up, and when people know I’m from Gaza they would be surprised since the media portrays a certain image of us but I portray the opposite of that image. I gave them a very positive image of us; that we hold on life no matter what we go through.

I’m a proud fibro-warrior and a mental-illness advocate. When I was first diagnosed, my faith was shaken. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I’ve always been good with helping people, yet I didn’t know how to help myself. I felt like I was alone. Until I heard the Kursi- verse in my dream. When I woke up, I didn’t feel alone anymore, I could feel that Allah granted me this Ayah as a reminder that He’s always protecting me.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. “Malcolm X. Believe in yourself, fight for what you love and always help others.

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Zayoon

Zayoon, a lawyer to be.

Location: Gaza City

Hobbies & interests: I’m a human rights activist, and I’m extremely passionate when it comes to seeking justice for those who need it, that’s why I majored in and graduated from the College of Law. Plus, I like watching different videos, listening to music, watching series, and writing. I’m really into participating in voluntary work events and helping to positively affect people’s lives and truly change them for the better.

My chosen Ayah: “Allah does not change what is in a nation unless they change what is in themselves.” (Al-Raad:11).I always put this Ayah in front of me as it’s a perfect reminder for the person that he is the only one who has enough power whether to improve himself or to destroy himself and that he should not be sitting waiting for change to happen and not taking the initiative to change from within. And our condition in the world as Muslims is never going to change unless we change the way we treat our brothers, sisters, families, and communities.

What my motivation and enthusiasm lately led me to participate in was a camp for the young freshmen; I was a leader in this project and I gave these freshmen everything I believe I needed to have when I was a freshman myself. The youth here in Gaza are living in the worst conditions a person can ever imagine, they are full of negative, depressing and bleak emotions; as they believe they’re being trapped in this big prison that kills their hopes and dreams without any warnings. Therefore, the aim of this camp was to give these young people a ray of hope, and a place to let off steam, a new community in which they can make new friends and connections, and just a new way to have fun!

As a fresh graduate from Gaza, like many others, I dream of studying for a master degree outside of Gaza. Unfortunately, we are living in a state of despair where there is no hope, no stable political situation, nor a good general situation of the country; needless to mention the economic situation; and all these circumstances combined to kill the aspirations and the dreams of the young people and force them to look for opportunities outside of their hometowns. Keeping in mind that traveling out of here is almost impossible for the majority of people due to the suffocating siege. Moreover, what adds salt to the injury is being looked at by the Western societies as the bad guys and the terrorists. Of course, it’s all because of the media which leaves aside the good work that Muslims do and only focus on the bad things. I feel like there is this big international conspiracy to make Islam look bad. However, personally, I believe that the image of Islam has a little bit improved that it used to be, and I hope it only gets better, and I hope that people stop ruining the images of any religion with their actions.

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Safaa

Safaa, a Psychology student.

Location: Gaza City.

Hobbies and interests: I like reading stories on mental illnesses and psychopathy, I usually tend to follow the development of some patients and their treatment sessions. I’m also interested in watching psychology related T.V. shows and series. I like reading and writing motivational stories. I’m interested in photography as well.

My chosen Ayah: The closest Ayah to my heart is: “When My worshipers ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the supplications of the suppliant when he calls to Me; therefore, let them respond to Me and let them believe in Me, in order that they will be righteous” ( Al –Baqarah- 1:186). This Ayah is my favorite for it always reminds me of how much significant my Duaa and prayers are, and how much prayers can change one’s life. It reminds me how good Allah has been with us and how much he blesses us every day and that we have to thank Him by making Duaa.

“Unlike the secular approach, the Islamic viewpoint does not differentiate between scientific knowledge and religion, but rather believes they work hand in hand”. Since I majored in Psychology, I had realized how important emotions and feelings are, and the enormous effect they have on people’s success in life. One of the main reasons that urged me to choose this field was to help the traumatized people of Gaza, especially the children, who have been through three devastating wars, different strikes, unstable political situations, and the suffocating siege. Being a survivor in these kinds of situations was a blessing and a curse, but Allah asked us to be patient and so we tried. The last war was right after I finished high school, so when it was the time to choose my major, it wasn’t hard to decide what I wanted to do. I wanted to be the person that people go to in order to feel lighter after letting it all out, I wanted to be the well of secrets where they feel no shame, no embarrassment, no judgmental looks. So alhamdulillah I fulfilled my ambitions and became the person I wanted to be, I helped so many people who now meet me with a smile on their faces and a Duaa from their hearts.

Regrettably, the relationship between the Western countries and Israel is quite strong and that added some points to the advantage of Israel and gave it a great help in ruining the image of Islam and Muslims, especially the Muslims of Palestine. Israel is now promoting the image of Palestinian as terrorists using their propaganda and media to convey false and one-sided stories to the naïve people who believe everything they see on T.V. Therefore, one of my wishes is for the world to see the real Muslim Palestinians with their true colors.

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Rania

Rania – working mum

Location: Gaza City

Interests and hobbies: Drawing is what I do in my free time, next to embroidery. Very soon I’ll be announcing my own exhibition in which I will introduce my paintings & drawings. In General, I’m interested in the field of my study, I’m currently preparing my proposal to proceed what I began within my Master’s thesis which is about searching for causes of water pollution with parasites; I have sent to several donors to adapt my research.

My chosen Ayah: The Ayah that I’m living by and for is:” Your Lord has ordered you to worship none except Him, and to be good to your parents. If either or both of them attain old age with you, do not say: “Fie on you”, nor rebuke them, but speak to them with words of respect”. (Al – Isra 17:23). My mother and my father are everything in my life. I always seek whatever makes them happy and comfortable, sacrificing my own comfort for their sake. I follow this Ayah in every aspect of my life, and it isn’t because I’m so religious or whatsoever, but because I strive to be one of these people who have their parents’ blessings in their journey of life.

Gaza is such a beautiful city, every detail of it is absolutely stunning. The only thing that it misses is some “calmness”, for this city is crowded with the noises of people mourning or cries for help. Anyone who visits this city talked about how different it is compared to what they heard or what they imagined Gaza would be. I haven’t lived here since I was born, I came to Gaza when I was 18 years old, I completed my university studies. I live like any individual in this community, I have my job, my four kids to whom I focus on giving the best educational opportunities possible and I aspire that they get to the highest places in life. I’m a person who does not like to stay in their place and wait for destiny to do its job because that’s not what my religion has taught me, thus, I prepared myself for my Master degree, 15 years after my B.H. degree, and now I have registered for a Ph.D. in my field.

Personally, I do not actually care about the way the Western world views Islam or Muslims, for Islam doesn’t wait for anyone to give their opinion on it. And I’m pretty sure if the West really knew what Islam is and what it’s all about, they would have respected it and they would have realized that it’s the only religion that actually acknowledged and granted women their rights and that everything that has been promoted against it is incorrect and unfair.

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Nazek

Nazek – Photographer

Location: Gaza City.

Hobbies and interests: I’m mainly interested in photography, leadership-related events, caricature, human development sessions.

My chosen Ayah: The Ayah that affects my life the most is: “You do not know, perhaps after that Allah will bring a new event” (Al-Talaq 65:1). This Ayah is the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I feel down. When I feel like all the doors are closed, when there’s no hope in changing what has been done, no way to undo mistakes. This Ayah comforts me in my worst times, it tells me that everything happens for a reason, and you never know what’s good for you and what’s not, only Allah has this knowledge and He’ll only give us what we can bear.

In my point of view, living as a Muslim is kind of challenging these days. People, including Muslims themselves, misinterpret the instructions of Islam and they miss the actual point of it and the core of Islam. When I want to practice my hobby which is photography, I’m usually met with the strangest looks form passersby. They find it weird that a girl like me is out there doing what she wants, they think that Islam deprives the woman her freedom, and they confuse between what is Halal and what used to be socially unaccepted, with a great focus on the word (used to be). Basically, this is one of my main struggles, so in case I wanted to make some photo sessions, I tend to go too far places or in the very early mornings; which can be highly dangerous for girls in this society, so it’s a great risk to take. Therefore, I wish people really dig into what is right and wrong in Islam and stop using the horrible traditions that were once normal, but now they’re extremely unfair and sexist.

Regarding the Western view on Islam & Muslims, I believe it is generated from movies, T.V. shows, and series; It’s always a Muslim with a beard and an Arabic name who’s behind all the terror and crimes in the Western countries so people are brainwashed to link terror attacks and crimes with Muslims.

Personally, on the local level, when I’m applying for scholarships, it’s almost impossible to get accepted; some people don’t get accepted because they’re from Gazaothers get accepted but could not make it through and travel abroad, and it’s all due to the siege that I wholeheartedly wish to vanish as soon as possible so people can move on and live like the rest of the world.

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Kahder

Khader – Pharmacy student.

Location: Gaza City.

Hobbies & interests: I’m interested in doing voluntary work, and reading fiction and non- fiction books. I’m deeply interested in science-related books, videos, YouTube channels, etc.

My chosen Ayah: “Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” – (Al-Hujurat 49: 13). I chose this Ayah for it clearly shows that Islam pays no attention to differences in color, gender, origins, or social status. All people belong to the same origin; Adam and Adam were created from dust. Rather, people are different from each other by their faith and piety, and that’s the only difference that Islam cares about. Therefore, we can see that Islam is in no way based on racism or sexism.

As a Muslim living in Gaza, and seeing the horrible economic situation increasing, I had to fulfill my part in doing the good deeds. And since Islam taught me to help those in need, I decided to start a voluntary team, consisting of me and my colleagues- the RBCs team; referring to Red Blood Cells which mainly help in the process of recovery of the human body, and we wanted to be the real-life representation of them. We were motivated by Thawab (spiritual merit) and the prayers of the people to whom we gave our helping hands. The beginning was tough, but so are all beginnings. We were blessed to have supporters and other seekers of goodness. Now, our team is well-established and well-known in the community. If I had the chance, I would not hesitate to widen our work and to include more Palestinian cities or to have a network of communication with other college students in the West Bank. However, unfortunately, we are unable to do that due to the siege that Gaza has been under for more than a decade. It deeply affects us, as young people, the way Western societies view us. It actually puts more burden on our shoulders. We are viewed as terrorists, delusional, untrustworthy, etc. And most likely, one would find these kinds of views in someone who had never interacted with a Muslim and had never had the chance to know what Islam really is. Therefore, one of my wishes is for people to actually dig into the roots of Islam, the real Islam, not the Islam conveyed by the media that strives on making Muslims look bad for mere political purposes. Islam is all about peace, forgiveness, and patience. And I believe that Muslims worldwide should all work together in better understanding to their own religion so that they can help to convey the true message of Islam, and have people accept us as the people we are. These false images on Islam made by the minority of Muslims; they’re even less than minorities, may I say- who have radical perspectives should never represent the millions and millions of Muslims around the globe.

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Basma

Basma – Make-up artist, fashion designer.

Location: Gaza

Hobbies & interests: My hobbies are drawing, fashion-related activities, designing, and reading. I like reading about the history of religions, especially Islam and about the biography (seerah) of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). I also enjoy tennis and volleyball.

My chosen Ayah: I like the Ayah in which Allah speaks to the Muslims and says “It is not by your fancies, nor by the fancies of the People of the Book. Whosoever does evil shall be recompensed for it” (Al-Nisa-4: 123). This Ayah shows that the majority of people have the same way of thinking and the way of extremism but their beliefs differ, and eventually, as I personally believe, no society has the absolute truth; however, the truth is approached by some people in different societies.

Generally, the way the Western societies view Muslims and Islam is kind of discriminative in my opinion. As there are no conversations between the involved parties, it’s only extremism, radicalism, blame-shifting and there’s hardly any interactive discussions or conversations amongst the people involved. And on the other hand, the injustice the Palestinians are suffering from whether at home or in the diaspora weighs more burned on this nation.

The Muslims of Gaza are trying their best to live like the rest of the world. We love life, we love fashion, we love following and interacting with other cultures and countries via social media and international websites whether in Europe, India, or the States. We love to experience, to learn, to travel, to follow the latest fashion trends, and to make mistakes and learn from them. We’re just like any other people but with the siege surrounding every aspect of our lives, denying us our rights and dreams, but it can in no way stop us from striving to live the life we deserve.

As a mum of three kids, I wish that my kids grow up to be the Muslims this country needs, I wish that Allah always guides them to what is best for them. I always teach them about Islam, about their hometown, I teach them to never judge people based on to their appearances for appearances are so deceiving and that’s what Islam taught me.

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