Amina Oke is an author, a reader, freelance writer, and an after-schooling Crafty Mum from Lagos, Nigeria. Her blog Raising Mumeens is a hub for deliberate Islamic parenting. It is an archive of her opinions on this topic, as well as a place to share resources about how we can intentionally raise the next generation in light of the Qur’an, and Sunnah of the holy Prophet ﷺ . Amina has recently authored a weekly tarbiyyah planner to help Muslim parents organize themselves in educating their children. Today, she is with us to tell us more about her motivations, her struggles, and her journey through writing and publishing insha‘a Allah. You can read an article she wrote on how to make Qur’an and Hadith relatable to children here.
Papatia Feauxzar : Assalamu aleikum Amina, welcome to Hayati Magazine.Can you please tell us something we don’t know about you and how was your journey through publishing (self) and (traditional)?
Amina Oke: Wa alaykum salam wabarakatuhu, thank you so much for having me. It is honestly my pleasure to have this interview. JazaakumLLahu khayr.
Hmm, something you don’t know about me is that…I’ve always been a writer, long before I called myself one. I know all writers say that they’ve been writing from childhood, but yeah, that’s me. I had a higher education notebook (also called A4-sized notes) full of random poems and thought while I was in high school. This is also coupled with the fact that I have never failed an English language exam in my life. Oh, and of course, I studied English Language at the University. We can say that all of these were kind of leading me to my eventual career as a writer.
So far, I’d say that my journey through (self) publishing has been one of learning and growth. It’s been a journey of trying to have a go at publishing on my own, learning the basics of publishing (even paper types!), and everything that has to do with writing and marketing a book. The marketing part sometimes proved to be more work than writing, though.
For traditional publishing, this is something that I would have loved to pick over self-publishing, but for a variety of factors, I find myself choosing self-publishing instead. The highest on this “variety of factors” list is my need to retain artistic and content control over my books. As a Muslim writer, it is important to me that my books portray the values of Islam (even when the book does not have any religious undertone.) I want to be able to determine how my children’s books are illustrated, who the illustrator is, and how the edited story turns out.
PF: That’s understandable. Your variety of factors are also a reason why I became a small press publisher. Thank you for sharing. Now, is there a specific instance that led you to go down the path of Islamic homeschooling and parenting?
AO: Having kids led me down this path, I guess *laughs.* When my kids started preschool, I looked for an Islamic school that will offer both secular and Islamic education. Fortunately for us, there was an excellent one right at our doorstep. As they started learning stuff from school, I realised that even though I had found my ideal school, I also needed to take the task of teaching them myself a bit more seriously. The school can only do so much with the number of kids they have and the limited amount of time. As the parent, the Islamic education of the child is still my main responsibility and I can’t fully outsource that to anyone.
So, I started making deliberate efforts to firstly improve my own knowledge of the deen, then teach my children. This is what led to creating resources that help kids learn about Islam from childhood, and help parents with the knowledge that they need to raise their kids upon the deen, insha’a Allah.
PF: When did the idea to write this needed planner come to you? How did the inspiration hit you?
AO: The idea to create the planner came early this year (2020), and it was actually born out of my resolve to become more productive with our Islamic education. You see, it is easy to dream about having children who love and are raised upon the deen, who memorise the Qur’an at an early age and are generally God-conscious. It is a different thing however to bring that dream to life. To wake up every day committed to helping them memorise one more verse, learn how to pray or make dua.
It is easier when these kids are younger, but as they leave toddlerhood, you find that you need more structure for Islamic education. We had dreams but we I was slacking on many days, so we weren’t achieving as much as I had hoped.
So, I wanted something that will help me bring this dream out of my head, on paper, and keep me focused. I wanted something to help me be accountable, and that was when the idea of this planner came to life. I use planners often for my writing work, and they help me immensely. You know that when used effectively, planners help you organise your life in a way that you are more focused on your goal. With the planner, I am able to focus our learning on a weekly basis on the most important areas of learning and I can set specific and actionable goals for the kids and me.
For example, each planner sheet has a page for planning and a page for taking notes. With the planning page, there are six boxes for different areas to focus on. There is a box for Qur’an, adkhar, Islamic books, Qur’an stories, and two miscellaneous boxes for any other topic. What I do is pick a goal to achieve for each box. For Qur’an, our goal for the week could be to memorise five new verses and revise all previously memorised chapters, for example. This planning method helps us go into the week knowing what we want to achieve and what we need to do to achieve it, insha’a Allah.
PF: Great discipline. Masha‘Allah. May Allah always grant you tawfiq with it, aameen.
You are also the author of a freelance manual for writers who want to make money from their writing. How is the audience response to this endeavor? Are struggling writers finding it very helpful?
AO: Yes, I wrote How to Become a Freelance Writer as a way to help other new writers find their way out of the often-confusing sea of information about freelancing. As a Nigerian, I have come across many people with excellent writing skills who would benefit from making writing a career or a side business, but because they don’t know how to go about starting, they end up discouraged and think that freelance writing is not possible or profitable as a career especially if you live in Nigeria.
Alhamdulillah, the audience’s response has been great. And now that the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the trajectory of many jobs, I am considering a coaching service for Muslim women who want to become freelance writers and work from home or add an extra source of income. This is a skill that I have earned from for the last five years, with getting my own clients (without using job boards) and I fully believe that anyone can do the same. Insha’a Allah, I hope to be able to share more about the coaching service very soon.
PF: Great, Please do. Any other future writing projects on the back burner?
AO: Oh, loads! *Laughs.* A children’s book, a non-fiction book for adults, lots of blog posts with Islamic parenting tips and printable resources that Muslim parents can use to teach their kids about Islam at home, insha’a Allah. Make Allah make it easy, aameen.
PF: Allahumma aameen! Amina, thank you for being with us. The Team at Hayati Magazine wishes you much even more success with all your works, aameen!
AO: Thank you Team Hayati for having me. It’s truly been my pleasure. BaarakAllahu feekum!
PF: Wa feekum Barak’Allah!