For Mobinah Ahmad, one of the hardest parts of Sydney’s lockdowns has been missing communal iftars. During Ramadan—the Islamic holy month—Muslims fast during the day, and come together for iftars at sunset to break the fast with dates and water. Traditionally, this is followed by a shared meal.
It is a time for families, socialising, and great joy.
“Fasting itself is not difficult, because it has purpose in faith,” Mobinah says. But Ramadan, and particularly the breaking of the fast, is meant to be a communal process—one that was rendered impossible during lockdown.
“An iftar is very special. It brings feelings of relief and redemption, and is best shared with others, but it’s not quite the same via Zoom.”
At 32, Mobinah works as the Executive Officer NSW for the Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, helping Australian businesses expand into the Middle East and facilitating two-way trade. She volunteers alongside her full-time job, and has completed her fourth degree, second Masters in Islamic Studies with a focus on digital communications and culture.
Like most of us, Mobinah has relied on digital communication to keep in touch during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I love people, so not being able to socialise or network face-to-face has been tough,” she says.
She began reaching out to people on Zoom, through callouts on LinkedIn. Eventually, she combined the two platforms by expanding her network and connecting others by organising LinkedIn Zoom events.”
Socially, she has been cooking with friends on Zoom and enjoying virtual dinner parties.
“The absence of friends has been hard. I’ve found that you have to be committed to catching up online.
“I had so many good intentions to be productive over lockdown, and then faltered. But I don’t really beat myself up about it,” she says.
Mobinah loves to talk about Islam and represent her faith.
As a Muslim, her spirituality goes up and down, as she finds herself juggling external practices versus inner faith.
“For me, spirituality is about navigating the varying gap between the internal and the external,” she explains.
She accepts that a lot of Australians have never met a Muslim or, if they have, have never engaged in candid conversation with them about their faith.
People should be encouraged to ask questions, she says, however ignorant they may sound. It is only through talking that they will develop an understanding of Islamic beliefs and practices.
Eleven years ago, Mobinah worked with the ABC on a television show highlighting the importance of Ramadan. Since then, she has appeared on a number of productions sharing her thoughts on religion and society, including the fear of Muslims in Australia, the impacts of the Christchurch massacre, how Muslims celebrate Ramadan in lockdown, and her experiences living with a Jewish family.
Another television experience focussed on her fascinating “friendship theory”. She developed it as a way to manage expectations surrounding friendships in the modern world, by categorising friends into six groups. This “friendship theory” first gained traction on the ABC, before going viral across the United States.
Looking to the future
A thrill seeker and adventurer by nature, Mobinah has a passion for food and loves traveling, meeting new people, and learning about different cultures, religions and lifestyles. She finds that this helps her reflect on her identity, and puts into perspective her experience as a person of privilege from the West.
While the lockdowns have been testing times for all of us, Mobinah has used the extra time to recalibrate and reflect.
“Before lockdown I was struggling. I was exhausted and saturated with work,” she says.
“This time has forced me to reflect on who I am and what I want to achieve. I want to change the way I live, and focus more on looking after myself.
“My faith gives me guidance and a framework to self-improvement, and my parents support me—but I also work hard to cultivate the type of woman I want to be.”
Mobinah is the Managing Editor of a community news organisation, the Australasian Muslim Times, that gives minority groups a platform and a voice, and she has dreams to develop this into a more powerful force.
“I love what I’m doing right now, but it’s not exactly where I want to be. I have a lot of goals I want to achieve, and I know I have the potential to achieve them.
“I’ve had a great education and the privilege of growing up in a stable family home, so I see no reason why I can’t make this happen."
“I really believe it’s important to get outside your comfort zone: everyone should try things they think they might fail at, or aim for things they don’t think they deserve.”
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