When are you at your happiest?
I’m actually happiest all the time, because I view life in a very different way to other people. I view life as 24 hours each day and so I choose to be happy, as a choice, and so I’m happy every day, all the time, unless I’m sad…
What’s something that you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about life, just everything. Particularly love and spreading love. Religion is another thing that’s really important to me.
Life would sum that up, there’s a lot of things I’m passionate about but life would be one of the things I’m most passionate about, and making a difference in the world.
What is a significant achievement of yours?
There’s so many, that’s what makes it hard for me to choose… As a child finishing school was the biggest thing. And at school, finishing university was another great thing. At each point in my life there was some massive thing that took a lot from me to push through to get to the other side. But I guess the biggest achievement I see is my kids, because I have grown into the person that I am now by having them, and that is amazing.
Who is your role model?
My role model, I’ve not particularly had one person, I’ve had a few people. My mum and my dad have been the key role models in my life, they’re both amazing. When I haven’t been able to draw strength from them and the values they’ve instilled in me, I’ve always looked to Islam and the Prophet, peace be upon him, the Prophet Muhammad. So to sum that up it would be my mum, my dad, and the Prophet Muhammad.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I was raised very poor, but I don’t know that would be a surprise to anyone.
I couldn’t see in school, and because my parents were so poor I didn’t want to burden them with the responsibility of buying me glasses. So I listened through my schooling from the age of 10. Because I couldn’t see the blackboard at all, I basically had to condition my brain to learn via listening.
What might be more surprising was I negotiated doing people’s exams if they wrote me the questions, because I couldn’t see them. So when the questions were written on the blackboard I would negotiate finishing my exam in 10 minutes, and swapping with someone, so I could write the answers on their paper, just so I could get the questions.
You’re looking at changing the way children are taught religion? Can you tell us about that?
What I’m passionate about is actually making a difference in the world. And given where we are today, I see that difference to be made in the leaders of tomorrow, which is our children. So I have this vision that I would like to transform the way Muslim children are taught Islam. I’d like to open up an Islamic school, or create transformation in the way that Muslim children are educated.
I believe that stories are the way of the mind, and what creates the world, and how we view our life. If you can tell a story in a way that creates power and empowerment and love, then that’s what children learn.
What is the greatest risk you’ve taken?
Leaving my ex-husband when my children were so young. My youngest daughter was 18 months and I still loved him at that point in time. And I left him knowing that I loved him, but that was for the best for myself and my children, that could have been the highest risk I’ve ever taken. I had no understanding of what my future would look like when I did that.
What’s something that has changed your life?
I had two beautiful kids and that changed my life.
What’s your best advice to give to other people?
There’s a simple way that I live my life. My dad said this to me when I was very young, that each day you are given 24 hours, and you have to live that 24 hours as if that’s all you have. Live today like you’re going to die today, but plan for eternity. So I make the most of my 24 hours, make your 24 hours count because you don’t know if there is a tomorrow.
What role do your beliefs play in your life?
I grew up drawing strength in god when I didn’t have anyone else. Being Muslim to me means always having god in my life.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to see a world where we can all see each other as the same. We’re not a skin colour, we’re not a gender, we’re not a race, and that if we can all stand in that together, of just being people, the world will be a better place.