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Drink Your Greens!

Published in  Sisters Magazine, September 2013 issue

Drink Your Greens!

Have you always been told to eat your greens? Or maybe you keep on finding your little one’s veggies in strange places, like under the sofa? We all know about the amazing health benefits of fruits and veggies, yet most of us, big or little, just don’t eat enough of them. A trend that is on the increase, though, is juicing your greens. Sounds like a good alternative to chewing away your lettuce, broccoli and cucumbers? In fact, juicing has become a quite popular way of boosting your health. From raw health gurus going on a rigorous 60-day juice fast, to a suburban mum juicing some carrots and oranges for a healthful breakfast-on-the-go. You may have seen a documentary about it, or maybe you even know some juicing sisters. So, what’s this juice craze all about, and why should you try?

Juicing for health

Essentially, juicing is the quickest and easiest way to dramatically increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Freshly extracted, raw juice is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and phytonutrients (nutrients only found in plants, which play a key role in preventing many serious diseases, subhanAllah). Juicing supplies your body with all these wonderful nutrients in a concentrated, easily absorbed form. Not surprisingly, the blessings for your health are numerous. One of the first things you may notice when you start juicing is better skin and more energy. Other than that, juicing stabilises blood pressure, boosts your immune system, relieves PMS symptoms, and helps your body get rid of toxins. And did I mention losing weight? Going on a juice fast, a period in which you only consume fresh juice and water and no food, is an excellent way to detoxify your body, but it’s not for everyone. When you have never juiced before, it’s a better idea to start out with a cup of fresh juice a day.

For pregnant or breastfeeding mums, a juice fast is also not advisable, but supplementing your diet with juice might give you just the boost you need! And if you’re on medication, please consult your doctor first.

The basics

The first thing you’ll need is a juicer. Or maybe you’ve already had one for years, hidden safely in your kitchen cupboard? Be careful to get a juice extractor, which is not the same as a blender. A blender will work for making smoothies, but does not get the juice out of your greens. There are many types available and you may want to do some research first to decide which one is best for you.

You should wash (or peel if need be) the fruits and veggies and cut them up in small pieces to fit the feeding tube of your juicer. Use organic produce when you can, but if not, just wash your greens extra carefully (you can use a small amount of soap, just rinse very well), or remove the peel. Churn the pieces in the juicer, and enjoy watching the juice come out in the most sparkling, vibrant colours. It’s probably best to start with fruits and vegetables that you’re already comfortable with. Carrots, apples, cucumbers and oranges are usually good choices. You can gradually introduce new fruits and veggies and start experimenting with combinations along the way.

Remember, the fresher you drink your juice, the better. Fresh juice and freshly cut produce start oxidising right away, which leads to a loss of nutrients. Cut the fruits and vegetables right before you use them and then drink the juice straight away. When you’re busy, and you do need to prepare the juice beforehand, store it in a (preferably dark) glass bottle or stainless steel thermos in the refrigerator, and consume within 24-48 hours. You can also store the already cut fruits and veggies in the fridge so they’re ready to go into the juicer the next morning: add a few drops of lemon juice and store in a container.

For the kids

Fresh juice is nature’s liquid fuel for growing bodies. Children will love helping you and seeing how their favourite fruits and veggies are turned into a colourful juice. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn about the importance of veggies and fruits and you can have fun with creating new combinations and coming up with names for them, like Jamilah’s Jungle Juice. And even your pickiest eater will like a popsicle made with fresh juice. Children can do with smaller amounts of juice than adults, depending on their age. Start out with a quarter of a cup diluted with one part water and build up from there.

Power up your juice

There are plenty of things you can do to power up your juice concoctions and make them even tastier and healthier:

Spices are a great way to boost your juice and your health too, as they are very high in antioxidants. Cinnamon and ginger (root or powder) add great flavour to most concoctions. You also might want to try turmeric, cayenne pepper, curry powder, saffron, or even a clove of garlic, depending on your taste or the recipe.

Alternatively, you can make a smoothie and add soft fruits or live yogurt to your juice. Avocados and bananas are great for this purpose. Or combine coconut milk and shredded coconut with pineapple, papaya or mango juice to make a delicious, tropical healthy cocktail.

And why not add those blessed foods from the Qur’an and Sunnah? Honey has magnificent healing properties and mixing in a teaspoon works wonders to disguise the taste of those super healthy, but bitter-tasting greens (like cabbage). You can also try black seed or olive oil, two other examples of Sunnah Super Foods.

Budget-friendly juicing

Juicing is for everyone and doesn’t need to be expensive. A lot depends on the type of produce, how often you juice, and for how many people. When you’re on a budget, or when you’re, say, juicing for a family of eight, there are several things you can do to keep the cost down:

Buy in bulk. The more you buy, the less you pay. Look out for offers, or ask for a bulk discount at your regular shop.

Buy from market stalls. A wonderful place to get great deals, especially towards the end of the day.

Buy what’s in-season. While it might be tempting to sip fresh raspberry or pineapple juice in the middle of winter, it’s better to stick to what’s in season if you want to keep the cost down.

Grow your own. Some fruits and veggies are easy to grow, for example tomatoes, cucumbers, or strawberries. It saves money and you don’t need to worry about buying organic anymore.

Now head over to the Lifestyle section for some of Maryam’s delicious juicing recipes!

 

Juicing: Get Started!

Maryam Mujahid’s recipes to get some juice into your system.

Mean Green

A classic with a bite, featured in the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. Absolutely great for beginners!

• 1 cucumber

• 1 bunch of kale

• 4 celery stalks

• ½ a lemon (with rind)

• ½ inch (or less) ginger root

• 2 Granny Smith apples

Mums’ revitalising cocktail

Beetroots are known to build up blood cells and boost iron levels; exactly what you need during pregnancy or after childbirth. Together with ginger, they also soothe menstrual cramps. The cranberries are helpful in preventing urinary tract infections.

• 1 bulb of beetroot, peeled

• 1 cup of cranberries

• 2 apples

• 2 carrots

• ½ inch (or less) ginger root

Kids’ Green Power Juice

Leafy greens, delicious fruits and funky colours! Both you and your kids will love this one.

• 1 handful of Swiss chard, kale, spinach or a combination

• 1 pear

• 1 cup strawberries

• ½ lemon, peeled

• 1 apple

 

Maryam Mujahid is a psychology graduate who loves to write about things that inspire, encourage and motivate Muslim women to lead positive lives. She is passionate about natural health, and a juicing enthusiast herself.

 

 

It’s Hard to Be Out Tere (Part 2): Let’s Beat Bullying

Published at: www.productivemuslim.com

This is the second part of a series of three articles about how young  Muslims can develop strength, courage and resilience in the face of peer  pressure and bullying. Part 1 dealt with the impact of peer  pressure and how you can stay firm. This part provides you with  practical tips on how to deal with bullying.

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but  it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” [Michael J.  Fox]

Talking about bullying is not easy. The thought of someone innocent being  mocked, ridiculed and belittled, a friend or classmate, a sibling, maybe  yourself, fills our hearts with rage and indignation, and makes it hard to  distinguish facts from emotions. Above all, we want bullying to stop, but  despite decades of anti-bullying programs and laws, the phenomenon has only  increased, up to a point that one in four school children now report  being bullied regularly.

The reality is that bullying has always been around, and will  continue to do so. The early history of Islam has witnessed some  of the toughest and most cruel bullies! Remember Abu  Jahl, Abu Lahab and their wives? What the believers had in common is  that they stayed calm and patient, didn’t lose their courage and  repelled evil deeds with good ones and forgiveness. The dunya will  never see perfection and people will continue to hurt one another as long as  they’re in this world. At the same time, people who have hurt one another at  some point, can end up becoming friends:

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel evil with which  is better, then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, will become as  though he was a close friend. But none is granted this, except those who are  patient, and none is granted it except the owner of the great  portion.”  [Qur’an: Chapter 41, Verses 34-35]

This eternal wisdom should be our first clue in looking for solutions to  bullying. Real empowerment comes with patiently doing what’s right. Finding  solutions to bullying is not a matter of one-size-fits-all , but In sha Allah,  the tips and advice below may help you to deal with bullying wisely:

Power to You!

Even when others try to assault your dignity, you should know  that you are the one who owns it and it cannot be surrendered unless you give it  away. Know that you have choices. Know that you have the power and  courage to deal with bullying wisely and do what’s right.

1. Cool is Not Enough

Stay ice-cold! A bully tries to establish a superior  position by putting others down. Boys and girls may bully in different ways, but  the goal is the same: making you feel inferior. Now how does  a bully know that he or she was even a little bit successful in putting you  down? Right: anger, tears, frustration, defensiveness, and many other things,  big or small, that show your emotions are triggered. You are upset, and they’re  having fun. Stay ice-cold, ignore the bullying and shrug it off  by  realizing that people can say what they want and this doesn’t affect the truth  one bit. You can’t control their words and actions, but you can refuse  to give them an audience. This sounds very straight-forward, but  putting it into practice – consistently – requires a lot of patience and  self-control. What can help you to keep your cool and stay  empowered?

No JADE-ing! Do you remember this one from the previous part? JADE-ing (justify, argue,  defend, explain), even when done in a calm way, lets the bully know  that he/she has triggered something, which is exactly what they’re looking for.  For example, when people mock you, call you gay because you don’t date  girls, it sounds much more powerful to say: “You can believe what you  want about me”, than: “That’s not true, you know I’m Muslim and so I don’t  date”, even when you say it in a calm way.

Throw in some humor.  Learn to look at yourself and life’s circumstances  with humor. It’s a big stress-reliever and can work well in tense  situations. Seeing the humor in things doesn’t mean that you  belittle yourself or your problems, but rather it enables you to diffuse the  stress and hurt that come with bullying. Say something funny when others insult  you, not in a mocking way, but in a playful, jesting way, it also lets bullies  know that they haven’t upset you and will take the wind out of their sails.

Use kindness as a weapon. Maybe the last  thing you want to do is be nice to someone who torments and harasses you, but,  like in the Qur’anic verse above, kindness may change the bully’s  attitude and take the enmity out of your relationship. And it shows  them that you are not brought down by their words and actions. Also remember  here to stay cool, don’t be enthusiastic in trying to please a bully, but calmly  and coolly return their bad words or actions with something good. Tell your  classmate that you like her new hair style when she calls you a rag  head. Warning: Using kindness as a weapon does not mean that you  should give in to the bully’s demands, like giving them money. Never do  this!

2. Connect with People and Protect Your Vulnerability

The ones who are most vulnerable to the effects of bullying are the ones who  care the most about relationships with their peers. Try to establish meaningful, healthy connections with a  variety of people, including adults. The more positive relationships  you have, the less you will be affected by bullying.  

3. Snitches and Tattletales: When to Call for Adult Intervention?

As a general rule, don’t tell on a bully when there’s no serious harm or  threat. It will get the bully into trouble, and although that may seem  just what he or she deserves, it will continue the cycle of bullying because it  will feed the bully’s anger and frustrations and make him/her more determined to  get back at you.  But, make no mistake about  it, when someone seriously wants to harm you, you should get adult  authorities involved right away. No one has the right to harm you  and this should be reported immediately. When bullies threaten to harm  you,  make a safety plan together with an adult you trust.

The Bystander: How Can You Help?

Just like the one being bullied, bystanders shouldn’t give  bullies any audience at all. Don’t become angry or upset. Does  that mean that you shouldn’t do anything? No, but your focus should  be on the victim. You can help by talking to the one being  bullied, keep him/her company or help them to calmly walk away from the  scene. Don’t be afraid that by doing this you will be the bully’s next  victim, it’s exactly this fear that keeps the bully in the dominant  position.

No Escape from Cyber Bullying?

An increasing portion of bullying takes place online, perhaps making you feel  that there’s no escape from the harassment. But just as with other forms of  bullying, you have choices and you have power. The tips for the  ice-cold approach will go a long way here too. Other than that,  there are a couple of things to keep in mind for your safety:

  • Never give out any information that might lead to stealing your online  identity
  • Never, ever agree to meet a person who contacted you over the  internet!

The next and last part of this series will focus on what parents can do  to help their kids and teens to stay strong, courageous and resilient.  Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you’ve tried the tips I’ve shared so far and how  they’ve helped you!

 

 

It’s Hard To Be Out There (Part 1) How To Deal Effectively With Peer Pressure

Published at http://www.productivemuslim.com

 

This is the first part of a series of three articles about how young Muslims can develop strength, courage and resilience in the face of peer pressure and bullying. In this part you will read about the impact of peer pressure and how you can stay firm.

Everyone’s skipping class tomorrow, you’re such a nerd to go, and you’ll be the only one there anyway!”

 

Everywhere in this world people interact, and form groups and communities. Hence, wherever there are groups, small or big, there is pressure to conform to the accepted norm: whether it’s wearing skinny jeans, gossiping about your boss or teacher, asking for a mega dowry or being a silent witness to bullying or injustice. For a lot of our young brothers and sisters, standing up to peer pressure can be a relentless struggle in a period when you’re trying to establish yourself and your values. You can be pressured to conform by negative comments, ignoring, whispering behind your back, rolling eyes or giving you ‘the look’. But at the same time, peer pressure can often be very friendly, with encouraging remarks or well-meant advice to do something….. that you really don’t want to and shouldn’t do!

 

“And when it is said to them: “Do not cause corruption on the earth”, they say, “We are but reformers”. Unquestionably, it is they who are corrupters, but they perceive [it] not.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 11-12]

 

It’s natural for people to want to be liked and accepted by the people that matter to them. Yet in the end, each one of us is individually responsible for the successes and failures in this life, and when your peers pressure you to do or accept something that’s not right and goes against your values, you should stay firm and stand up to the pressure.

 

Well, that’s maybe easier said than done.

 

Fortunately there are facts, tips and tricks that you can equip yourself with to win the battle:

 

Know Your Dragons: the Ins and Outs of Peer Pressure

 

You’re more likely to fall for peer pressure in new or unclear situations. Think about going to a new school, starting college or a job. In situations like this, when you’re out of your comfort zone, it’s likely that you rely more on others for information and clues on what’s accepted to do. These are times when you should take extra care to guard yourself against negative peer pressure.

 

Peer pressure increases when being different has important consequences.  What if your decision not to participate in an activity would mean that you will be ridiculed forever? Or if your speaking up about something will cost you your friends?  Remember that you should do what’s right, even when the stakes are high. 

 

Conquer Your Dragons: Stay Away from the Negative and Value a Good Companion

 

The Qur’an offers beautiful advice and guidance that you can apply when you are faced with negative influence from the people around you, and by the same token, you are also warned about the ‘follow the herd mentality’.

 

“And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.” [Qur’an: Chapter 73, Verse 10]

 

“When it is said to them: “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say: “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing”. Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 170]

 

“Take what is given freely, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant.” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse: 199]

 

It’s clear and simple. If you want to stay steadfast upon your deen (religion), live up to your values and be successful in this life and the hereafter: you should stay away from those people and situations that invite you to all the wrong things.You will probably know who and what they are when you come to think about it.

 

At the same time, you aren’t meant to be a hermit, living only for yourself. Islam recognizes the importance of the bonds between the members of the Ummah. And as much as you can experience negative pressure, when you hang out with the right crew, you can encourage and motivate each other to achieve your best. Peer pressure the positive way!

 

Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

 

“The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is I like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.” [Bukhari]

 

And remember the story of the people of the cave. They were young men who turned away from their corrupt society, and at the same time, stuck together for support.

 

“[Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.”” [Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verse 10]

 

Practical Tips to Overcome Peer Pressure

 

Tip #1: when you’re facing peer pressure, try to find someone older and more experienced in life to talk to about your problems, a mentor of some sorts. Someone who is willing to provide a listening ear and can advise and help you to stay strong and make the right decisions. A member of the Islamic community where you live, for example, or an older family friend – in any case, someone who you trust and who understands you.  

 

Tip #2: while it may be a bit impractical to retreat yourself in a cave if the situation becomes dire, you could try to create your own sanctuary. A spot just for you where you can retreat from the pressure and find yourself again.

 

Your Ultimate Weapons: Confidence, Courage and Steadfastness

 

How can you increase your confidence, courage and steadfastness when dealing with peer pressure?

 

  1. Check your motivation: Ask yourself what really motivates you to want to do something, or leave something. If you want to be confident and steadfast in your actions, this is where it starts. Why do you want to wear hijab or avoid listening to gangsta rap? If you feel you lack genuine motivation, read up about the issue or talk about it until you feel more confident in your stance about it. It will strengthen your decisions in times when your values are put to the test.
  2. Be clear, don’t  JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain): There are situations in which you can get into a discussion about your values, but when you’re dealing with peer pressure, be short and sweet about what you want and don’t want. For example, when you’re pressured to eat or drink something that you don’t want, you could just say: “No thanks, I decide what goes into my body”. Or, when friends push you to stop reading and go partying with them instead: “It’s up to me how I spend my free time”. JADE-ing will give people a foot in the door when you really need to have that door closed.
  3. Have something ready to say: Avoid being swept away by the insecurity of the moment, not knowing what to say or how to react. Write down some useful phrases and practice them too. You’ll probably have to find out along the way which phrases work best in which situation, but make sure you have some ready to use.
  4. Lead an active and productive life: Being busy with work, study, volunteering, being active in the community and seeking knowledge will boost your confidence and steadfastness. Stay busy, and as you start to see results and achieve your goals, this will make you confident and courageous enough to continue on the path you carved out for yourself, no matter what others will say.

 

In the next part of the series, we will take a closer look at bullying, and how we as Muslims can deal with it

The YouTube Culture and Your Productivity (Part 1)

Published at http://www.productivemuslim.com

 

In the first part of this series, you will read about the YouTube generation, information overload, and what you can do to manage the incessant stream of information and stay focused and productive.

Generation YouTube

In case you still had any doubt about it, YouTube has conquered the Internet, our lives and our time, in a matter of what seemed to be just a few years. At the same time, it has also given a whole new dimension to sharing information in general, and information about our deen in particular. Getting basic know-how or deeper knowledge about Islam has never been easier or faster. There are literally thousands of videos being uploaded every minute all around the world, from recorded lectures of well-known sheikhs, to enthusiastic individuals vlogging their two cents into cyberspace.

In many ways, the abundance and accessibility of video lectures is positive, but could there be too much of a good thing? What do we actually do with all that information, and how does it affect our deeds and our productivity? We are encouraged, in both Qur’an and Hadith to seek knowledge and understanding, but with the rise of generation YouTube, we should be careful not to become mere mass consumers of information. It’s the benefit you and others derive from it and the deeds that affirm it, that really count.

It’s an Information Jungle. Are You Overloaded?

On top of the enormous amount of not-to-be-missed YouTube videos, the sheer quantity of information that is at our fingertips, is overwhelming. Ideally, with all this knowledge available, we should all be SuperProductive Muslims by now. But in reality, there are some ways in which this information jungle can actually miss its mark and even be counterproductive. It’s very easy to become overloaded with information, and this can affect us negatively in a few areas:

Memory: Maybe you notice that details often slip your mind. What was the hadith again that the sheikh mentioned? What was the point again that the brother or sister was making in the first part of the video? We all forget things, but information overload can make us especially prone to memory difficulties.

Attention span and patience: You may find it difficult to focus or concentrate for longer periods of time. You could find that you switch off when the information is presented slower than you’re used to. It’s quick and easy to watch a couple of videos on YouTube about a topic that interests you, but after some time, you could discover that you can no longer bring up the attention to read a book about the same topic, or be patient enough to keep on looking and asking when information is not instantly available.

Distraction and procrastination: There’s so much interesting stuff out there, and your thoughts flit from one thing to another. But projects and tasks are difficult to finish when you continue getting distracted. Procrastination is distraction’s nasty little brother. You delay working on what you should, and instead keep yourself busy with other things less relevant. Or it could be that you are simply so overloaded with information that you freeze and don’t know where to start to take action.

Do you recognize some things? If you do, then maybe it’s time to take more control of the amount of information you take in, in order to stay focused and productive.

How Can You Manage?

The key to managing the constant stream of information is filtering. That means, however many beneficial videos are competing for your attention, you should be selective about what you watch and the amount of time you spend watching, as this will help you get the most out of them. Here are a few tips to help you in the process:

1. Make an inventory

Often, people don´t even realize how much information they consume, and this goes for YouTube as well. For one week, keep a record of all the Islamic videos you watch, including the topic and the time spent. Look at your list at the end of the week and ask yourself what you remember of the information and which videos you benefited most from, especially in terms of action taken. This should give you a good idea about where to start filtering.

2. Prioritize

Now that you know where you benefit most from, use this knowledge to prioritize. Select the topics and speakers that really help you gain understanding and push you towards action. Prioritizing also includes putting the most essential branches of knowledge first. For example, do you know all the ins and outs of the appearance of the Dajjal, but you barely know enough Qur’an to make it through your five prayers? That should give you a hint about where to start.

3. Disconnect

Sometimes you need to put a halt to the input. Take some time regularly to disconnect from the Internet and ponder and reflect upon the things you’ve heard and learned, and evaluate yourself. If you continue taking in new information, without pausing to digest, you won’t get all the nutrients out of it.

In the second part of this series, you will read more about how to select video lectures and what you can do to bridge the productivity gap and maximize your benefit.

Creative Thinking for Productive Muslims (Part 2)

Published at http://www.productivemuslim.com

In this second and last part of the series about creative thinking, you’ll read more about habits that get in the way of your creativity, and more practical tips about developing your creative thinking skills.

Road blocks on the path to creative thinking

Creative thinking can be a positive, productive and rewarding habit. It’s a potential as well as a responsibility that we have been given by our Creator, one that we should use with the well-being and progress of the Ummah in mind:

“It is He Who has made you (His) vicegerents, inheritors of the earth: He has raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He has given you: for your Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 6:165)

But as with building most positive habits, there can be thoughts or attitudes that get in your way. You can experience these blocks individually, but unfortunately some of them have also climbed the career ladder up high in our Ummah. Let’s look at some major road blocks:

Negative attitude towards creativity. Some people feel that creative thinking opposes logic by default. Or that it’s just a waste of time, like daydreaming. Often, even the way education is approached, kills creativity, natural curiosity and innovation. I hope the previous part helped clear some of these misunderstandings about creative thinking and highlighted its benefits.

Imitation. Doing something because others do it. It feels safe to be part of a herd, but if there ever was an antithesis to creative thinking, it would be imitation. Why are you afraid of what others think when you don’t conform? Remember that in the end, all that matters is the satisfaction of Allah, not that of the people.

Not paying attention. Being continually busy can prevent you from noticing what happens around us, or being genuinely involved in your activities. You can’t be innovative and productive when you simply go through the motions of our everyday lives like a robot. Take some time everyday to slow down and reflect.

Fear of failure. What if your ideas turn out to be a total flop? Nothing and nobody is perfect, except your Creator. Failures are to be expected and accepted in life, and as long as your intentions are sincere, they can be taken as an opportunity to learn and be humble, patient and grateful.

Some more ideas and techniques to keep you going

You’ve already looked at some tips to get started in the first part of this article, and here are some more ideas and techniques on how to keep up the habit of creative thinking:

1. Recognize your road blocks. Analyze yourself and be honest. Which of the blocks that I described earlier keep you from thinking creatively? Write it down, or, even better, use the mind mapping technique that I described in the first part to come up with solutions.

2. Make time and space in your life for creative thinking. Make a small ‘creativity corner’ somewhere in your home or office. Stock it with books and resources that inspire you. Or dedicate a specific time to creative thinking, a time without disturbances or distractions. Use your space and/or time for reading, scribbling, doodling or just playing around with you ideas. Don’t expect too much, the idea is to let your creativity flow and see where it gets you.

3. Have a notebook ready. Ideas, thoughts and observations don’t always come to you at your desk. Make sure you carry a small notebook with you and use it to write them down wherever you are.

4. Do some creative thinking games. There are a lot of fun games or exercises for creative thinking that don’t have to take a lot of time. For example this one: Pick a random word and try to come up with at least ten ways of how this word relates to your life. Or play a board game and change the rules. You could try to invent a new secret code and use it to write a message. Optical illusions, word puzzles and brain teasers are also great and there are a lot of them available, online or in newspapers or magazines.

5. Unplug. We’re all guilty of it: spending a lot of time behind a screen, whether it’s a computer screen, TV screen, or your iPad. At its best, this habit distracts you, and, at its worst, it clutters and dulls your mind to such an extent that creative and innovative thoughts are blocked. Pull out the plugs regularly for a couple of hours and see your creativity and productivity flourish.

6. Go outside. Being outside in nature is not only a great Iman-booster and stress-reliever, it is also linked to increased creative thinking and problem solving skills. So, take a walk in the woods or in the park, spend some time at the beach or any other place in nature, and feel relaxed, refreshed and inspired!

As this is the end of the series about creative thinking and how you, as a Productive Muslim can benefit from it, I hope you feel inspired enough to start applying the tips in your life from now inshallah.

Creative Thinking for Productive Muslims (Part 1)

Published at http://www.productivemuslim.com

Why you as a productive Muslim can benefit from creative thinking and how to develop your creative potential.

In the first part of this series, you will read about the background and the benefits of creative thinking as well as some tips about how you can start tapping into your creativity.

Your creative potential

Many people link creativity to art. It’s true that artistic expression is one form of creativity, but there’s so much more to creativity than painting, sculpture, or writing poetry. We as humans have been given the gift of thinking and understanding, something which Allah often mentions in the Qur’an.

And your Lord inspired the bee, saying, ‘take your habitations in the mountains and in the trees, and in what they erect.’. Then eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy, there comes forth from within their bellies a drink of varying color, wherein is healing for men. Verily in this is a sign for people who think” (16: 68- 69).

“Thus Allah makes clear His Ayat to you, in order that you may understand” (2: 242).

Using this God-given gift of thinking in a creative way means to use our faculties and skills to come to something original and beneficial, whether it is a solution to a problem, an idea or theory, or a way of doing something. Everyone has the capacity to be creative, in one way or another. When we think creatively, we are open to new ideas and information and we try to see things from different perspectives.

Creative thinking benefits you in many ways. It boosts your problem solving skills and can help you to be more productive and build good habits. It gives self-confidence and, as it deepens your understanding of the world around you, it can also deepen your connection to the ultimate Creator.

Our creative legacy

The history of Islam is full of beautiful examples of creative thinking. In fact, great things have been achieved by means of people’s willingness to be creative and innovative and carve out new paths. Many of these Muslim pioneers still hold a very special place in our hearts. Think about Imam Malik. Think about Ibn Sina and Ibn al Haitham. And when we look at the seerah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad we will find examples too. At one time, the Prophet (saws) came up with a very creative solution when he was called to mediate between the different tribe leaders who were rebuilding the Ka’aba and arguing about who should put the black stone in its place. He settled the matter by letting all four leaders hold a corner of the cloak on which he had placed the black stone. And then his readiness to accept Salman al Farsi’s suggestion to dig trenches when they were besieged by their enemies, a strategy unknown to the Arabs, also shows us our Prophet’s openness to new ideas and solutions.

Where to start: tips to get you on the road

Where can you start when you feel that your creative thinking skills are buried under thick layers of dust? Here are some simple steps to help you reconnect with your creative thinking potential:

1. Be confident that you have the capacity to think creatively. This is a very important first step. There are many people who think that creativity is something for geniuses or truly inspired people. Or that creativity isn’t something you can develop; you either have it or you don’t. Be confident in the fact that it’s a potential with which all human beings are blessed, including you.

2. Read about creative thinking and creative people. Knowledge often works inspiring and reading about creative thinking may get you inspired and increase your confidence at the same time. Some experts who have authored multiple books about creative thinking are, for example, Edward de Bono, Michael Michalko, and Roger Von Oech. These books focus on how creative thinking works, what types of creative thinking there are, and how you can cultivate your skills to benefit you:

“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and, where appropriate, profits.” (Edward de Bono)

3. Mind mapping. A great technique to start with because generating ideas and making associations are at the base of creative thinking. Mind mapping is a free-association technique that can be used for ideas, making a plan or solving a problem. You place an image, which represents the subject, in the middle of a piece of paper. Then draw thick branches flowing out from the picture for the main associations, smaller sub-branches for further associations, and so forth. Make it as visual as possible, using vivid colors and pictures. Don’t add more than one or two words per branch, because the more words you use for description, the more you limit your associations

4. Break your routine. Sometimes it can be helpful to change your routine to get a fresh perspective on things. Take a completely different route to work or college, for example. Buy your food at a different supermarket, or why not go to the market instead? Start your meal with the dessert, or browse a different section of the library. There are many opportunities to do some of your routines differently and let a fresh wind blow through your day.

In the second part of this series, I will talk about habits and thought patterns that block you from thinking creatively, and, of course, more practical tips to keep you going.

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