Event Report: Author Evening with Na'ima B. Robert – Show Up

IHRC held an author evening with Na’ima B Robert on Monday, 8 March for her book Show Up: A Motivational Message for Muslim Women, hosted by Samira Umm Maryam.


Samira Umm Maryam first asked about how the book came about.

Na’ima B Robert: The teachings I share in Show Up, the strategies and lessons are really the tools that I learnt in this later chapter of my life. This chapter started with the passing of my husband of 15 years and I talk about this event in the book. I feel like I have been on a journey of growth ever since that time because it was a huge disruption to my whole world for many reasons. 

Obviously my best friend was no more. The father of my children, my husband. All of a sudden, I was on my own. I’m a single mum and helping my children go through the process of grief. My husband also left a company behind of about 300 people and it was decided that I would become the CEO of the company, which was a huge step outside my comfort zone. To go from this protected, kept woman, mashaAllah tabarakAllah, to being a CEO and a leader, it was a huge disruption to everything I knew.

When you are faced with loss of any kind, it is disruptive. The lesson I learnt is that when you are faced with a test, you have one of two choices: you can either take it on as a test and a trial that you didn’t ask for, didn’t prepare for, not sure that you can really get through, and sit in victimhood, or you can choose to show up as the hero of this life story you are living right now and bring your full self to the task at hand. The book is not about me, the book is about the reality of this life being a place of tests. The way to get through this place of test and continue to become better versions of ourselves, is to take control of the things we can control. One of them is the choices we make every single day and the choice I am inviting everyone to make through this book is to show up for your life, authentically mindfully, be present and live this life like you really mean it. 

Samira Umm Maryam: Self-care and personal development is such a saturated industry, but with this book, as much as it is advice, it was your journey and your lived experience. So you have a roadmap in the book and 6 steps to ‘show up’. Who is this book for?

Na’ima B Robert: Based on the interactions I have had with people since the book came out, it really is for everyone. My primary audience is Muslim women; I want to say it is Muslim women of a certain age, but I know it has been resonating with teenagers, students, with mums, grandmothers, CEOs, stay-at-home mothers, alhamdullah. I feel the advice is universal to the point that brothers are also reading it. It is an easy read and it really is like a workbook because I am inviting the reader to engage with the concepts and ask yourself the questions.

A sister I spoke to recently made a dua for this book to be in every Muslim household, all over the world, and I’ll say ameen to that! I was not thinking on that level but she said this because understanding how much your own thoughts and perspectives can literally change your lived experience; this is like gold, everyone should know this. It allows you to take back control in a world where a lot of the time, we don’t have that much control. How can we make sense of our existence, how can we still thrive, how can we fulfil our potential? It all starts in the mind. 

The mind that can synthesise information, switch perspectives and that paradigm shift is our superpower from Allah. Animals don’t have that; animals act on instinct and they are programmed to respond in a certain way. Humans are not biologically programmed to respond to the things happening around us. We may be programmed socially and culturally, but not biologically. We can change our programming. So, this is really a revolutionary call to say take back control of your mindset and headspace and start living your life like you mean it. 

Samira Umm Maryam: one of the themes you speak about is not to be defined by your tests, for example if you don’t have children, don’t define yourself as childless. I think this is a very powerful thing because it is an embodiment of what you say and you are focusing on what you don’t have. Another part in the book you speak about blooming where you are planted. There has been some discussions on social media recently around masculinity and femininity and many people are equating piety to motherhood and marriage for women for example. But this is not the case for every woman. Not every woman is a wife or a mother.

‘Bloom where you are planted’ – this section of the book is a message to any woman in any stage of her life in that Allah has given us a very unique set of challenges and we should be grabbing those challenges by the horn and running with them and doing the best we possibly can. Can uou tell me about this part of the book? What message do you have for women who may not be mothers or may not be wives, in showing up?

Na’ima B Robert: The reality is Allah swt has chosen your roles for you very intentionally. Whatever role He has cast you in, you have the faculties and capabilities to perform well in that role. Allah swt promises He does not burden a soul more than it can bear. Whatever role we are asked to play is Allah’s call, because there many people out there who want to get married but it has not happened for them yet and there are many people who want to make 6 figures a year, but can’t or it hasn’t happened yet. The ‘bloom where you are planted’ is really a case of looking at where you are right now and making that decision to live this season of life to the fullest, to worship Allah, to grow, to thrive in this moment and not put it off until I get married, until I have children, until my children leave home or whatever. It is a case of embracing your life as it is, attending to your current responsibilities and fulfilling that role to the fullest for the sake of Allah swt. This [current] role we are in will not last forever. Just as the seasons turn, our roles will change. None of these roles we are playing now are forever because everything we have is on loan and Allah can take back His loan any time He wishes and He does.