18 life lessons you taught me daddy

It’s been eighteen years since you passed daddy. And though we miss you more than words can do justice to, you live on in more ways than one.

Every time they ask me my name, every time I sign Nebila Abdulmelik, I’m reminded whose daughter I am. You live in our memories, our dreams, our prayers, our thoughts, our poems. You live on in us and the munchkins who have your blood running through them – one who took your name as well as your ears and your countenance.

You live on in our mannerisms, the way we talk and walk – in our characters that seem to mimic yours.

You live on in the way we live our lives and who we are and who we’ve become – because of all the lessons you and Mommy have instilled in us. Here are eighteen in honor of the eighteen years you’ve been away.

1. Humility – that it doesn’t matter how high I get in school or wealth or status, you taught me to keep my feet on the ground, stay humble and never look down on others

2. ‎To look up. To see the stars. To appreciate the workings and magic of the Almighty.

3. ‎To be good to others – to be kind. That ultimately that’s what we’ll be judged on. Not how much money we have or how many degrees or how many acres but how we treat others.

4. ‎Not to be afraid of the dark. And in doing so, to allow our own lights to take shape.

5. ‎To be comfortable with silence.

6. ‎To fear nothing and no one but the Almighty. That ultimately it would just be Him and me

7. ‎To give the best of ourselves and the best of what we have to others.

8. ‎To love and devour fruits, in all their various shapes and sizes. To become a fruitaholic.

9. ‎There was nothing I couldn’t do because I was a girl. You kept reiterating that I was anbessa, ye anbessa lej. Perhaps my first lessons in Feminism.

10. ‎To be a father was to be present.

11. ‎That love could start in the womb. That a parent could love a child even before it was born.

12. ‎ Kelam faregh. That sometimes words are not enough.

13. ‎That you can’t always get what you want. That you must sometimes wait till Alghefra zezelema sa.

14. ‎That our prayers are not about the words we utter but rather our intentions

15. ‎What true, meaningful and deep friendships look like

16. ‎That there’s such a thing as more than a whole. More than 100%. Gobez we nus.

17. ‎That children can be confided in too. To spend time with both young and old.

18. ‎To be generous – with time and money – and quietly so. To make sure the left hand doesn’t know what the right is giving.

Thank you for raising us to be strong, grounded women, the daughters of lions. For these lessons and more, for all the love you showered us with, we’re forever indebted. Rest in paradise daddy.


17 Reflections of 2017

It’s been a whirlwind of a year. Two family weddings, complete career shift, travels to new destinations as well as seeing previous ones with new eyes, birth of the first boy in the family, namesake of daddy, conscious investment in creative parts of me, including my first photo exhibition and photography residency, lots of reading and learning and growing as well as saying goodbye to someone I’d never met…

Some of what I’ve learnt this year:

1. There’s no such thing as tomorrow. We don’t live forever. Do the things that you have wanted to, aspire to, plan to – today – it is all we have. Be with and see and spend time with the people that you cherish. Don’t put off the important things – there may never come a time again.

2. Take that leap of faith – if it works, well and good. If it doesn’t, dust it off and try again. You’ll be surprised at how the universe conspires to ensure providence. When you take steps in a certain direction, the Almighty makes sure those doors and windows along the path are wide open, awaiting you.

3. Point of life is not to be fearless but rather to acknowledge your fears and work to overcome them – sometimes over and over again. Appreciate the many work(s) in progress.

4. ‘Pluck a feather from every passing goose, but follow none absolutely’. Like this Chinese proverb suggests, listen to what others have to say, weigh their words and advice carefully but ultimately make and own your decisions in life. Don’t worry about what appears to be crazy or irrational as long as you are at peace with it.

5. Don’t be enslaved by a paycheck. There are lots of things money can buy – don’t ever let your sanity or your dignity be something someone can put a price on. Gibran’s words ring so true here: ‘they deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold. I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.’

6. Keep growing. Or stay hungry as a friend says. As long as we’re alive, we should strive for growth. When we think we’re all grown, that’s when we have the most growing up to do.

7. Believe in second and third impressions. Give a person and/or a place a chance beyond your initial or first impressions of them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how wrong or off you are sometimes. Perhaps the benefit of hindsight or the rewards of digging deeper.

8. Be comfortable in not knowing. Be curious and open to find out and be surprised by whatever you learn or find out. Life is about discovering everyday.

9. There is power in beginning things. Begin today. As the African proverb goes, ‘the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.’

10. Your body is your first and most permanent home. Treat it right. Respect it. Be good to it. Care for it. Don’t litter. Same goes for the streets.

11. Document. To allow the coming generations to have a little bit of an idea of the kind of lives we led and the cities and communities we inhabited and were a part of. For posterity.

12. Don’t seek validation. Be comfortable with disagreement. Learn to stand your ground even if contrary to popular belief. Trust your instincts. Don’t second guess yourself. 

13. Don’t put your life in other people’s hands. 

14. Step outside of your head often. Test your assumptions. Challenge your conclusions. 

15. Be proud. Be humble. 

16. Don’t give up your power by believing you don’t have any. We often hand over our power – consciously or sub-consciously. We must reclaim it. 

17. Remember that this too, shall pass.


Today, on the 31st, I turn 31.

Following 30 lessons over 30 years posted this time last year, here are thirty-one lessons learned over the years and reminders for the years to come insha’Allah:

1. Put the Almighty first, always.

2. Don’t dignify nonsense. Regardless of its source.

3. It’s scary. Jump still. Headfirst.

4. Some things can be bought with money. Don’t let your dignity be one of those. Or your sanity.

5. You’ll be surprised at how unimportant something is when it doesn’t happen and the world doesn’t crumble. Don’t sweat it. 

6. Your capacity to come back after being beat down is much more than you imagine. Believe in it. 

7. Don’t allow your worth to be measured by others. Something so important shouldn’t be at the whim of anyone other than you.

8. Be kind. Most of all to yourself.

9. That thing you think is undoable…go and make it happen. It’s possible.

10. Master your mind. It’s more important than any other organ in and out of your body.

11. Bring all of you. Every part. Even when you think it’s not appropriate. No entity or person is worth only pieces of you.

12. Failure is good. It keeps us humble and grounded. Keep at it.

13. Games are essential. Play them often.

14. Laughter keeps you young and fresh. Laugh and do so out loud. Unapologetically. 

15. Exercise not only your body but your mind. Linked to #10.

16. Be present. Wherever you are, with whoever you are, be there and nowhere else. Multitasking is an overrated skill. The true skill we must master is the skill of presence.

17. Know your limits. Don’t compare your limits to others. Our bodies are built in a way that we know when enough is enough. Respect that.

18. Appreciate that everyone has differing value systems, ways of thinking about and understanding the world. A hareri saying goes: an kut khunu baytee, jenam khunu bayteenta. Asking for people to be like you is asking them to be crazy. Require of no-one to be crazy.

19. Allow people to be who they are. Expect of them and yourself nothing more or less.

20. Listen. Even to words unspoken.

21. Chase the sun. Sunrises and sunsets are daily miracles that most of us miss, either because we’re asleep or because we’re not alive to the beauty around us.

22. Seek storytellers. Travel is also possible through their tales.

23. Stop making excuses. Stop hiding behind the pretence of ignorance or bewilderment. Own your actions.

24. Declutter. Constantly and consciously. Our homes, our offices, our lives and most importantly our minds.

25. Use the best of what you have today. It’s only now that we own. Everything else that we get beyond now is extra. 

26. Find and breathe beauty. Even in the most mundane.

27. Fear none but the Almighty. Ultimately it’ll be just you and Him.

28. Devour knowledge voraciously. Read. Listen. Absorb. Share. 

29. Document as a way of preserving culture, history… Recipes. Duaas. People. Places. Moments. Keep #16 in mind as you do this.

30. Make time for the things and people that matter. Be both selfish and generous with your time. Discern carefully how and with who you spend precious time you’ll never get back.

31. Love wholeheartedly. Yourself first.


Happiness-Quotable Quotes

1. Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself – George Bernard Shaw.

2. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover – Mark Twain.

3. Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant – Robert Louis Stevenson.

4. We don’t see things the way they are. We see them the way WE are – Talmud.

5. I have found that if you love life, life will love you back – Arthur Rubinstein.

6. The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be – Marcel Pagnol.

7. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu.

8. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive – Howard Thurman.

9. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

10. Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like – Will Rogers.

11. I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been – Wayne Gretzky.

12. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional – Anony-mouse.

13. Every man dies. Not every man really lives – William Ross Wallace.

14. Life isn’t a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘Woohoo WHAT A RIDE’!

15. There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle – Albert Einstein.

16. Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security – John Allen Paulos.

17. You are not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor should you feel the world must live up to yours – F Perl.

18. How you do one thing, is how you do everything. Be aware.

19. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing – Helen Keller.

20. Life is not about kissing a**, it’s about kicking a**!



by Max Ehrmann, 1927

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. 


Raise Your Words




Infinite Possibilities


I am creating the possibility of being.
The possibility of being authentic.
The possibility of being a person of integrity.
The possibility of being an extraordinary person.

And if we break that down,
Who I am is the possibility of
Being Powerful
Being Present
Living Outside My Head
Living in Reality
A Changemaker
A Person of Action and Results
Being Transformed
Being Transformative
An Extraordinary Mother, Sister, Friend, Wife, Daughter

Being Constant
Being Unstoppable
Being Persistent
Being BIG

The purpose of declaring and sharing is that I create as I say (Abracadabra), and for the rest of my days, I must be big enough to live these possibilities.

And I need your help to keep me accountable.


Chronicles of OK


One exceptional man who goes by OK kept cracking up me and my good friend in the streets of NYC – wanted to share some of his wise words with you….

“In a relationship, you must open the door.
If it doesn’t work, you get out!”

“If there was love in marriage, I would buy her that.”

“That’s the beauty of the African touch.
You won’t get anyone else taking you around.
They’d rather just give you a map!”

“Don’t worry too much about my theories.
They exist. They have been tried and tested.”

“I haven’t yet mastered your name.”

“I’m wearing a serious face.”

“I want uncolonized food!”

“If you’re not Kenyan or Ethiopian, you must not cross the road when a car is approaching!”

“At some point I wanted to open my mouth.
I couldn’t because of the cold.”

“I’ll be looking at them and wondering,
Are they dancing to the same tune?”


Anger Management

“The strong is not the one who is physically powerful, but indeed, the one who controls himself when angry.” [Bukhari]

1. He who angers you controls you.

2. If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size.

3. Anger is a momentary madness, it is only one letter short of danger.

4. Anger begins with folly, and ends with regret — how much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.

5. Consider how much more you suffer from your anger and grief, than from those things for which you are angry and grieved.

6. Speak when you are angry — and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

7. For every minute you remain angry you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.

8. No man can think when his fists are clenched.

9. Anger is a killing thing — it kills the angry man, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before it, it takes something from him.

10. Holding to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing at someone else — imagine what it will do to the person’s hand who is holding it.

11. Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit.

12. Anger blows out the lamp of mind — thus an angry man is again angry with himself when he returns to reason.

13. When a man is wrong and won’t admit it, he always gets angry.

14. Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

15. Anyone can become angry — that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — is something we all need to practice.

16. The best remedy for anger is delay.

SOURCE: Mrs. Iffath Hasan (mrsiffathhasan@aol.com)



‘He who has nothing has ALLAH, and he who has ALLAH, has everything.”

“His alms are vain who does not know that his need of the reward for giving is greater than the poor man’s need of the gift.”

Quran 33:37 …you did fear the people, but it is more fitting that you should fear Allah…

Do not waste a drop of water, even before a flowing river.
-Prophet Muhammed PBUH

“Whoever amongst you sees anything objectionable, change it with your hand, if you are not able, then with your tongue, and if you are not even able to do so, then with your heart, and the latter is the weakest form of faith.” – Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

Be not so consumed by this fleeting world for there are more permanent things awaiting in the next

The greatest Jihad is within me, myself & I. Fight that battle before any other.

‘The ALMIGHTY places the heaviest burdens on those who can carry the weight.’

Greet with ‘assalam u alaikum’ and mean it. Who doesn’t need salutations of peace?

A true Muslim is the one who does not defame or abuse others; but the truly righteous becomes a refuge for humankind, their lives and their properties.
-Hadith The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as narrated by Abd’Allah bin Amr

Knowledge is supposed to make one humble, not arrogant, if the husk is full of wheat, it is lowered.
-Shaykh Muhammad Bin Yahya Al Husayni An Ninowy

You can only do to me, what the Almighty has already decided for me.
-Omar Mukhtar

“…the ALMIGHTY demands of people only that which is within the possibilities of each of them.”

‘Don’t ask the ALMIGHTY to guide your steps, when you’re not willing to move your feet.’

“don’t be afraid for God is with us always, and God never lets down people who have faith and patience. We are righteous, and right will always prevail against injustice and wrong doers.”
-Thaer Halahleh, Palestinian imprisoned and undergoing a hunger strike, 75 days & counting

Those who are quick to judge others, must remember that a day will come when they too will be judged. And it may be that their deeds are far worse than that of those they judge.

Respect your children and cultivate in them the best of manners -Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

Those who give of their wealth in the way of God are like grain that sprouts 7 ears with 100 kernels in each ear. -Quran 2:261

‘He is not a true believer until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.’

Take one step towards ALLAH and He will take two steps towards you.

If it’s not meant to be, it will be. If it’s mine, nothing and no-one can take it. If it’s not, nothing and no-one can make it.

Proof, time and again that the plans of the ALMIGHTY are not in the hands of men and women though they may seem so.

Futile to resist truth. With the ALMIGHTY for us, who then can be against us and succeed? None.


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