Alia Youssef

“Tea meditation leads to contemplation for me. Anything can be a dialogue with the divine when you transform it from the mundane to the sacred.“

Aalya is a 27 year old Pakistani-Canadian who identifies as a  Nizari Ismaili Shi’i Muslim. She described her identity to me as being a minority within a minority within a minority.  When I asked her how she would like to be perceived, Aalya told me, “I want to be perceived as that person whose thoughts, words, and actions reflect the Islamic ethos by helping those who exist on the periphery of society and its norms.” Being informed about her identity and faith itself is important to Aalya, she is completing her masters degree in both education of Islamic societies and civilizations and teaching. She is also a secondary religious educator. Aalya told me what’s most important to her is “being an inclusive ally for others and seeking consent, always. The safety, wellbeing, and happiness of my loved ones are also very important to me.” Aalya appeared to me as very thoughtful, conversational, and spiritual, she admits that she believes she is perceived as “a spiritually rooted happy-go-lucky camper who thinks and talks excessively.” She mentions often that she is always thinking; her favourite place to find herself is when she is lost in her own head. “I have a vivid imagination and possess a reflective nature. Getting lost in one’s thoughts can be a dangerous habit. So it is just as important to find myself. The only time in her life she can recall not being flooded with thoughts is when she was skydiving 7 years ago, “but after the free fall, thoughts began to float back into my mind,” she told me.

“Here shows just how far I’ve come. I have a limited background in farming, but I pursued it via course work and practical training because I wanted it. Sure, it does not totally align with my degree but it totally aligns with my interests in sustainability.”

Saba is a 22-year-old commerce student who works as the Data Coordinator at the Ryerson Urban Farm. When she isn’t flexing her economic or sustainability muscles, she’s sharing her wealth of information on fitness, health, wellness, and food with her personal blog. Saba loves sharing information, but even more so she loves learning it, which is a quality she loves most about herself. She told me, “Knowing your options about everything (and I mean everything) is power. It’s very empowering to the self to be aware of choice.” Saba continues to stress how important this is to her in relation to Muslim women stereotypes. She commented, “If anything could be improved upon, it would be others awareness that we are independent. The decisions we make are our own. Our religion, our culture, and our families impact our decisions, just as your religion (or non religious affiliation), your culture, and your families affect yours. Ultimately though, we make our own decisions, just as you make your own.”

“My yoga centre is my OM away from OM.  It is my sanctuary, it is the place I have created for others to feel connected to themselves and each other.” Salimah is a 46-year-old entrepreneur, yoga centre owner, and yoga therapist. She is of Indian origin, was born in Nairobi, Kenya and immigrated to Canada when she was 4. She absolutely loves walking, especially if it’s to a place she has never been before. Being in new situations with new people is actually the quality she loves the most about herself. It’s one of the reasons ‘saying yes’ is so important to her, it allows her to continually shift perspective, and find herself connecting and laughing with others. The person she laughs the hardest with though is her son who Salimah told me has “spontaneous answers to just about anything.” Salimah has such a positive and beautiful outlook on things, she told me that she believes “in the magic of life, in giving up what’s good for what is even better, in a higher power, and in acting on intuition.” When I asked Salimah how she thinks she’s perceived she responded: “Lesbian, Yogi, Brown, Muslim aka Human” but she would prefer to just be perceived as human.