two-browngirls

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👊  HYBRID VIEWS 👊  Every week, a badass woman of color will take over my snapchat channel to share who she is/what she does, her day to day, answer any questions you may have, and share insights/expertise in her respective industries. I want Hybrid Hues to always be a safe & inclusive space to empower others. The goal is to

1) Build an INTL community
2) Perpetually inspire & be inspired
3) Discover other dope WOC

👻  hybridhues - FIRST TAKEOVER THIS SUNDAY JULY 31 WITH @two-browngirls all the way from London!!!

photo by my favorite @jpedestrian & necklace by @sayran 

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 TBG X NEEDLE TOWN 

When ideas are born it seems as if they appear from nowhere. But look closer and you’ll see a carefully woven combination of elements that invite their arrival.

Marium Ullah’s simple, bold yet intricately embroidered designs are a perfect example of just this. Her newly created venture “Needle Town” was born from the deep connection with her Pakistani heritage and cultural background.

Growing up in Manchester and studying in London, she wanted to bridge the gap between the worlds that she inhibited through her designs and accessories. 

 “The name ‘Needle Town’ is a literal translation of the name of the village that my family are from in Pakistan which is known for it’s seamstresses and garment work.” 

Marium would visit annually and began to realise the lack of infrastructure and access to education that was available to women and young girls.

From starting the designs as a hobby, more and more of Marium’s friends began to ask to buy pieces of her work. With a father experienced in international business and her sisters into fashion and design, Marium began to take her venture more seriously after graduating. 

Always staying close to her roots, she is now working on making Needle Town into a social enterprise back in her hometown in Pakistan, employing women under fair trade values, and helping them to make a living and afford education for their families.


Marium also makes custom designs, like the one Seetal sports above. 

“My advice to any girl who wants to pursue their passion and creative ideas is to Think about how it can make a positive difference to others and how you can give back." 

 Follow Marium’s incredible work here on Instagram! 

 - Aaminah & Seetal

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DIVINE LOVE: 

One night, desperate Majnun prayed tearfully,
‘O Lord of mine who has abandoned me,
Why have you “Majnun” called me? 
Why have you made a lover of Leila out of me?
You have made me a pillow of wild thorns,
Made me roam day and night without a home.
What do you want from my imprisonment?
O Lord of mine, listen to my plea!’

The Lord replied, 'O lost man,
With Leila’s love I have your heart filled;
Your love of Leila is my will.
The beauty of Leila that you see
Is just another reflection of me.' 

- Nizami

Image 1: Layla Standing in the Palm Grove, page from a Manuscript of the Khamsa of Nizami

Image 2: Layla & Majnun from Hyderabad, 1770 

 

RAMADAN READING RECOMMENDATIONS

We’ve received so many questions the past week about Islamic book recommendations so I figured it’d be easier to do a post for all of you who are interested! Below is a short breakdown of some good reads that would be good to get in your library this Ramadan! They’re all pretty much ‘entry level’ books; none of them deal with complex Islamic topics, and most of them are very easy to read! Here we go:

Qur’an Translation:

The Qur’an by M.A.S Abdel Haleem: Not only was he fantastic as my MA tutor (biased, much?), but Abdel Haleem’s translation is modern and contextualised and stays true to the arabic of the original Qur’an. One of the best translations out there. The introduction is really good, too. 

Qur’an Studies: 

Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Style by M.A.S Abdel Haleem: Okay, if you’re looking for a book that’ll help you grasp Qur’anic style, or you’ve never read the Qur’an before, read this! This book is an excellent introduction into the style and themes of the Qur’an. If i’m honest, I wouldn’t recommend someone from another faith (or no faith - gotta be all PC here don’t we!), to just pick up an english translation of the Qur’an and begin their search into Islam that way. I would most definitely recommend they read this book first to understand the way the Qur’an is written, some of the prominent topics that occur throughout, and how it tackles these themes. 

General Islamic Books:

Muhammad by Martin Lings: Ranked as one of the best biographies written on the prophet, this book is a comprehensive yet easy to read start into learning about the Prophet Muhammad’s life and journey. I’m going to re-read it this Ramadan. It’s one of my favourites. Martin Lings is pretty epic too.

The Alchemy of Happiness by Ghazali: A nice intro to get you all into Ghazali, one of the greatest Islamic thinkers of all time. Easy to read, and super short too! 

The Vision of Islam by William Chittick & Sachiko Murata: A perfect introduction to Islam written by husband-wife power duo. It’s a little long (make it your target to finish it this Ramadan, maybe?) but includes all the core teachings of Islam and their purposes in the faith. Structured around the three levels of faith, Islam, Iman & Ihsan, it starts by discussing the outer level of faith, namely the rituals and practices, and then gradually delves into the inner dimensions of Islam, worship and gnosis. 

Islam and the Destiny of Man by Gai Eaton: Another fantastic introductory book, leaning more towards an intellectual approach to Islam. Whilst it’s focused on giving people who are not Muslim an understanding of the faith, it’s still a very valued source for us Muslims too. If you think it’s too long, check out Reflections by Gai Eaton instead. 

The Tao of Islam by Sachiko Murata: I was a bit hesitant to put this in here, as a) I haven’t finished it and b) it’s a little ‘deep’ for some readers. Nevertheless, it’s a good book to have in your library to dip in and out of. Murata has some very unique, thought-provoking and interesting discussions in here ranging from the creation of man, nature of Satan, basis of marriage etc. The chapter on The Womb is really insightful. 

What is Sufism? by Martin Lings: Jus gonna throw this one in here! Check it out. What a nice book to end on :) 

Let me know how you all get on! Hope your Ramadan is going well. 

- A x 

Have you read any of the above? What did you think?

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TBG TRAVELS: ESFAHAN

We arrive at the 300 year old Abbasi hotel bright and early after our journey from Shiraz. The hotel is stunning and steeped in history, adorned with stooping chandeliers, elaborate ceilings and traditional art work on display. These persians sure weren’t minimalists!

After a quick pick-me-up cup of chai, we head straight to Naqsh-e-Jahan square passing by several art shops that double up as the artists’ studios. From miniature paintings, to rug weavers to toureutics workshops, they all corner the magnificent courtyard which looks out onto some of Esfahan’s most beautiful mosques. 

We visit the ancient Ali Qasr palace and walking through the archways of Sheikh Lotfullah mosque, we make a friend, Ali, who shows us around Jolfa, the armenian quarter. Along our stroll we see a beautiful church lit up by the setting sun, dainty bazaar squares with fountains and loads of local hipster smoothie and coffee bars before we head to an artisan restaurant nearby (cleverly named Hermes) for dinner. Ali tells us some incredible stories about his travels, and also gives us an insight into Iranian culture and politics.

The evening isn’t over yet, as we move on for sherbet and dessert up in the mountains of Esfahan. As we witnessed in Shiraz and Tehran, Iran comes to life at night, and families, couples and young people all head high up after sunset for an evening of good food, strong tea and good company until the early hours of the morning. 

It’s our last night in Iran and we reminisce over the rich, unexpected and beautiful memories this country has given us. The generous hospitality, mouth-watering food and magnificent architecture has us yearning to come back for more. 

Esfahan is Art.

- A x

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TBG TRAVELS :: TEHRAN 

I’d dreamt of visiting Iran for years. Seeing images of its magnificent mosques, beautiful parks and narrow bazaar alleyways lined with carpet weavers and rug shops always made me yearn to visit, so when I heard the UN sanctions were lifted earlier this year and that travel as an independent couple (and not part of a tour group) might be slightly more easier, I was in that Iranian embassy quicker than you can say CHELLO KEBAB.


We landed in Tehran in the early hours, just as Fajr began, and on the ride to the hotel we saw the city waking up. Getting closer to our hotel in midtown Tehran, shutters were opening, the streets became busier (Tehran traffic is a thing people – it’s worse than Mumbai), and sunlight began to illuminate the grand mountains surrounding the metropolis that were previously only a daunting shadow. 


There is so much to see and experience in Tehran; from the magnificent royal palaces, to holy shrines adorned with marble and mosaic and the huge parks blooming with flowers and citrus trees, to the dusty streets filled with rich aromas of lamb kebabs and naan, and the artsy and hipster pockets of the city sprinkled with museums and exhibitions. Come Maghrib (sunset prayer) and the city begins to light up, with families, couples and groups heading north towards Tajrish and the Darband mountains for a long night of food, music and nargile in restaurants carved high up into the rocks.


There’s an underlying atmosphere of wonder and curiosity now that the political climate is changing. You can feel it in the markets, from the falooda stands to the rug bazaars, in the glazed shopping malls and the conversations in restaurants and cafes. Will business boom? Will the economy improve? What changes will Iran see? What lies ahead?


Tehran is ambition.

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- A x 

RAMADAN :: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO PREPARE

It’s here, people! The holy month of Ramadan - and trust me to put this post up one day before the first fast. Aren’t I super organised :)   For those of you who don’t know what/who/where Ramadan is, click here for the lowdown. 

I just wanna keep it real with you guys and basically say that, I’m always the late one when it comes to preparing for this month. I don’t get excited, I don’t eagerly post Ramadhan countdowns weeks in advance - I just wait for my dad’s text saying ‘IT’S TOMORROW!’ and then I run around in a frantic circle internalising that IT’S TOMORROW and I haven’t even stocked up on samosas. And I know I’m not alone! If you’re not one of those ‘ive-prepared-2-months-in-advance’ type of Muslims (props to you if you are though!), don’t fear! It’s never too late to start setting yourself some Ramadan goals.

Now I’m a simple gal (even though Seet will tell you otherwise -_-). I have always believed in pretty much anything and everything that I do, that quality is better than quantity. There are some people who are fortunate enough to have planned and set themselves some incredible goals…I’m not one of them, but here are are my three simple goals this Ramadan that are always effective:

Read

Almost everyone around me aims to finish the Qur’an at light speed this month. But like I mentioned before guys, quality over quantity. What’s the point finishing the Qur’an if you’re not going to understand what you’re reading, or reflect on the teachings you’re skimming past? I’m going to focus on reading some Qur’an everyday. Whether it’s a page, a juz or a surah, this month should be about connecting with the Qur’an (after all, it’s during this month that the Qur’an was first revealed). If you can’t understand the Qur’an in the Arabic, then sit with an translation and for every section you read, look over the English. It’s better for you to read 10 lines of the Qur’an and understand them, than it is to read 50 pages and not understand what’s going on. For those of you looking for a little extra reading on the Qur’an and it’s style, check out this book. It’s fantastic! 

Ask

Ramadhan is also a month about repenting (coz we all human ya’ll) and making duaa (supplicating/asking God/calling out to God). As ‘technical’ as this sounds, make a duaa list for all the things you want to pray about/people you want to pray for so you don’t miss anything. I have my list in my notes on my iPhone. Read from it every night, or whenever you remember.

Stop Complaining

I reckon because we’re so used to hearing ‘OH MY GOD IT’S A 19 HOUR FAST!’ the majority of us are going to spend most of our day complaining about how hungry we are, and how long the fast is. Suck it up! Striving for your faith isn’t supposed to be easy! It’s totally doable, and thats coming from someone who needs a snack every 10-15 minutes. Make this your core goal: don’t complain at all during this month. And if you do end up having a groan, vow to give a fiver to a charity for each time you catch yourself. Trust me - it works. 

There you have it. 3 short tips for us last minute Muslims! Make sure you remember both Seet and I and our families in your prayers. Wishing you all a month filled with love, blessings & light. <3 

 - A x 

p.s Holla at me if you guys want recommendations for some interesting Islamic books to read! 

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TBG TRAVELS :: INDIA

Yes guys, I’m back in the fatherland! This time we headed down South (for the first time!) to Madurai for my friend’s engagement, and now are currently high up in Munnar, Kerala soaking up the stunning views and eating lots of dosa! 

Be sure to follow us on Snapchat (two-browngirls) so you don’t miss out on the madness!

Now…who wants to see some India vlogs?! :) 

- A x

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‘WE NEED AS MANY ARTISTS AS WE NEED DOCTORS’ - SALVIN CHAHAL - SPOKEN WORD ARTIST

Many of you may recognise Salvin from this dope video by MadTatter Films from artist Inkquisitive’s ‘Souled Out’ Tour but apart from spitting with incredible flow over hip-hop beats (“forbidden from reading the scriptures, prisons are feeding the richer…”), Salvin is a powerful spoken word poet with a passion for activism through art. 

How and when did you first get into spoken word poetry?

I was always writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t get involved with writing poetry until I was in High School. It wasn’t until I heard Shihan and other artists on Def Poetry Jam that inspired me to pursue spoken word. My senior year in high school was the moment i decided to stick with writing. I’ve been performing, competing, and teaching literacy through poetry ever since.

What is the thought process behind your writing?

I really try to sit down and imagine hearing/visualizing the poem as someone that’s hearing/reading it for the first time. Whatever subject i’m writing about, I try to become that topic, or a specific person in that circumstance. The opportunity to get on the mic and say whatever you want is a blessing. Especially if you can make someone think or feel differently within a few minutes.

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What subjects do you mainly focus on in your poetry?

As a poet, you would want to create a diverse amount of material. Each piece is different, but many of my pieces are politically charged. I want people to learn something from my words, because sharing knowledge is essential. Many of my other pieces are stories that i’ve created from my own experiences or those that i’ve witnessed throughout my life which range from relationships to the rising rate of suicide in high school.

What are your dreams/ambitions for the future?

I hope to open or work with a community center such as Sol Collective, that emphasizes on art culture and activism in hopes to bring back art and music into the educational system. Every opportunity I get to spit or release more work I just want to be an example of expression. I believe expression is essential for human beings, even if it’s writing what’s on your mind or drawing something on a piece of paper. We need as many artists as we need doctors, and I just want to spark the creativity of those around me.

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What influence or input does your South Asian background have in your work and how is your culture important to you?

I love my South Asian background and I feel it’s necessary to somehow incorporate my culture with the work that I do. For example, Wisechild who is a producer, (We go by Native Children) plays the tabla while I spit my poems, which is creative and a great way to expose people to a small aspect of my culture. I am just a messenger, telling the stories of my environment, the omnipresent struggle and my culture. Culture is slowly diminishing, I just want to represent it through the art of poetry and music. 

Be sure to follow Salvin on Twitter and check out his Youtube channel where he’ll be posting great new videos of his live poetry very soon!

- S

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TBG TRAVELS : SHIRAZ

After a 14 hour journey from Tehran, we arrive in Shiraz shattered, but curious. As the home of Persian poets Hafiz and Saa'di, we notice that the city is beautifully adorned with their couplets on walls, buildings and shutters. 


At first glance, Shiraz’s streets are dusty, and in comparison to the bright & bustly vibe of Tehran, Shiraz seems tired. We visit the tombs of Hafez and Saa'di during the day and head to the mountains in the evening, like the majority of Shiraz’s residents, for an evening of good food and beautiful views. Once isha comes in (the night prayer) we decide to check out Shah -e-Cheragh (Farsi for King of Lights) - the masjid and tomb of the 7th Shia Imam’s sons.


The beautiful masjid grounds are lit up in bright colours, with crowds of people sitting, relaxing and praying - the vibe is akin to the lively atmosphere of Medina and Makkah in the late hours. Inside the mosque, the walls glitter with mosaics. The mosques in Shiraz are equally as magnificent. From the Masjid - e - Vakil which is grand in it’s minarets and prayer hall to the famous Nasr - e - Molk where light and glass dance together to create a serene & surreal experience for the worshipper.


Shiraz is poetry.

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- A x 

FEEDING THE HUNGRY - EQUALITY IN PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE

Many Sikhs, including myself, visit the Gurdwara (‘doorway of the Guru’) or Sikh Temple to welcome in the new year alongside their family and community while taking part in prayers and contemplating on life. As well as regular recitations and singing of the poetry in the Guru Granth Sahib, a key part of the Gurdwara is the sharing of 'langar’ or a communal meal.

This recent article in The Independent highlights how the idea of langar as a practice of equality and selfless service in the simplest way, is still playing a significant role in British society today. 

“The Sikh Federation UK estimates that around 5,000 meals are now served to non-Sikhs by Britain’s 250 gurdwaras each week. They say the meals have been a lifeline for homeless people and overseas students swamped in debt.”

So next time you visit the Gurdwara and dig into your delicious roti and dhaal, take a look around and feel blessed that you’re part of a living tradition with such an honourable initiative! :) 

- S