by Blessed Ummi
The name Umm Anissa may ring a bell especially if you have been a regular follower of the Islamic parenting Facebook page Muslim Kid Genius. You would have also appreciated Umm Anissa’s profound and spot-on reflections on motherhood, parenting and raising children. Umm Anissa is also a doctoral student at the National Institute of Education specialising in Learning and Motivation, which explains her passion to inspire and encourage parents to be active participants in their children’s lives. Read more about this umm to four children as she shares with us how she marries her passion for education and community-building in her journey as a parent.
“Our children are trusts from Him, and we are their temporary custodians while on this earth. They are a beautiful loan from Him. Raising them is part of His Mercy upon us. He is giving us, parents, a chance we shouldn’t waste. No child will be born without His Plan.” – Umm Anissa
Tell us more about yourself!
Currently I am a teacher and in my final year undertaking the NIE Doctor of Education (EdD) specializing in Learning and Motivation, under the Psychological Studies Branch. On the sidelines, I conduct deen-based art enrichment classes for children under a small enterprise (Artique Visuelle Sg). I am also an active member of Ummi at Play, an organic online group of Muslim mothers who collaborate to encourage playful learning through joint playdates and related activities. I also run a parenting Facebook page, ‘Muslim Kid Genius’. I’m a certified Reality Therapist from the William Glasser Institute, and also trained in Art Education from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. I am a trained Environment Education Advisor certified by NEA. I also participate in a daily Qur’an challenge in a private group under the One-Day-One-Juz (ODOJ) movement.
Wow! It seems that despite being a parent to four children, working and studying, you are very heavily involved in community building. What is your vision for education and children that has led you to build this niche in your personal and official capacities?
Our children are trusts from Him, and we are their temporary custodians while on this earth. They are a beautiful loan from Him. Raising them is part of His Mercy upon us. He is giving us, parents, a chance we shouldn’t waste. No child will be born without His Plan. No education is complete without knowing the purpose of our existence in life. Our purpose in life is to serve Him and raising kids is a way of serving Him. They are such innocent souls; children are a blessing and a test as well. My vision is simple: to raise the next God-loving generation who spread Peace, Love and Mercy on Earth.
Muslim Kid Genius has about 42k followers! How did it all begin and how has it evolved since the time of its conception?
Initially I started MKG to share fun learning ideas with my friends. I really didn’t expect to gain many followers within a few years. I would usually conduct these fun learning activities with my own children and post them there. But over time, it has evolved to include parental well-being. I feel that if parents’ spiritual well-being is not being taken care of, they cannot raise their kids the best they want. Parents have needs too.
That’s very true! We hear that you are also a teacher and also taking a PhD in education. How is this aligned with your personal goals, if it does?
I wouldn’t call it a personal goal, as it sounds really inward-looking. Taking my EdD is Fardhu Kifayah (any field of knowledge required by the Muslim community), and there are less than five Muslims in Singapore who actually are interested to go through this path. I always believe that we are where we are the way He planned it. When I was taking my NIE Masters in Education, I gave birth to my first three children. Then in my 2nd year of EdD, I gave birth to my 4th one. Alhamdulillah, He made it possible. During pregnancy it was tough to travel to NIE weekly on the bus and MRT. Somehow, I drew strength from Him. I’ve always been interested in Educational Psychology. Intake was highly competitive as there is a small number accepted for NIE EdD every year, but there are many applicants. So before I applied, I set my intention right, for Allah, for the community and for the good of mankind.
MasyaAllah! We hear that you are also involved heavily in other projects like Hifdz Club SG, artiquevisuelle.sg and other playdate initiatives. Could you tell us more about these?
The Hifdz Club SG was started out as a way to support mothers who want to raise little huffaz (a person who memorises the Qur’an). The mothers in the group have the same vision: ‘To raise a generation of huffaz’. Insya-Allah through the sharing of tips and future Quran parties, it will ease the journey. It is currently not really an active group as currently we are just sharing tips only as we know mothers are also juggling multiple roles.
ODOJ (One Day One Juz) is a Whatsapp group of Muslimahs who wish to complete (khatam) reading the Quran every month. There are 7 ODOJ groups in Singapore. Every day, we read one juz that is assigned to us. Then we report to the group after we’ve completed our individual readings. We would collectively complete reading the Quran every day. As we would individually read different Juz in the order assigned to us, we get to khatam every month. I find this a good initiative as it teaches me discipline to get my daily spiritual boost through reading His Words.
I’m also involved in Ummi at Play, a grounds-up organic initiative, which organizes playdates and fundraising initiatives, on top of sharing ideas for learning and play. Ummi at Play is a community of mothers who believe in play, bonding with children and raising the next generation of ummah in a loving manner. Over time, I have known such wonderful mothers with beautiful souls and Insya-Allah, may we become lifelong friends.
Artique Visuelle Sg was started due to many special requests from friends who want their children to learn Art from me. I don’t charge much for my art enrichments and part of the money is used to sponsor needy children to attend Art lessons for free. I believe Art can help to nurture creativity and align the soul to beauty of His Creations on Earth (nature, landscapes and architecture).
I’m also trying to be more involved in farming and green initiatives. I bring my children to the nearby local farm, Kampung Kampus, for their community work during the holidays too. Being in touch with nature also helps one to be in touch with the soul. I wish to teach the virtues of appreciating the food that comes to our table, so as not be wasteful, because growing them is not as easy as we think.
How has your involvement in these amazing projects impacted your parenting? What have you gained through it all?
Humility. During my younger days before I was married and had kids, I was actively involved in Pergas, Darul Arqam and Masjid Darul Makmur as a volunteer. I would spend my days in the masjid and madrasahs, studying for my Certificate in Islamic Studies. But after I got married and had children, I had to stop volunteering. While it is good to serve the community, my children also need my time, presence and attention. So, I started looking for ways in which I can get involved in the community and also spend time with my own children too.
I learnt humility as I know I not perfect as there are many amazing mothers out there. Everyone has a different inspirational story. I take comfort in knowing that Allah sees our efforts. I am truly humbled by these mothers, who despite their busy schedule and challenges, are ready to give a helping hand to others, to spread goodness. I am still learning a lot from them.
Tell us about a typical day. How do you juggle it all with a toddler and older children? Share with us some tips you would have for working mothers with young children like yourself.
I start my day purposefully, setting my intentions right. I would start with ODOJ, breastfeeding my toddler, and at times, try to solat tahjjud (night prayer) if I can. As I am working part-time, I make sure I return home just in time when my children return home from school as well. I ensure they have proper lunch, pray, and we would go through homework and send them to their enrichment classes such as Tahfiz, Arabic or Tae Kwon Do. Other days we would do art and craft, go to the library, swim or just let them exercise at the playground. Those days when I am not home, I assign tasks for them so they know what to expect from me. Simple tasks include reading or drawing, nothing fancy.
I don’t really have many tips. Each day, my heart would pray non-stop, do’a and dzikir (remembrance) to survive the day. Without His Guidance, every day would be a challenge, with 1001 things to do.
Having a routine helps, because children feel more secure with parents who observe routine. My husband is a highly involved parent, so I always remind myself that partnership with the spouse is really important.
I believe in leaving work at work. It is not easy because teachers tend to bring work home. But I learnt not to do my work in front of them, as it makes children feel they are lesser priority.
In a few words, share with us your thoughts on how mothers can empower themselves despite their situations/conditions
Set our intentions right. Most importantly is du’a, du’a and du’a. The weight of a mother’s dua is heavy in the Eyes of Allah. We should not underestimate our du’a for our children. I tell myself that we are here just the way Allah planned us to be. Life is a journey, which doesn’t last. In the face of fatigue and burnout, remember that this world is a place for us to strive, and the final rest is actually in the Hereafter.
Blessed Ummi feels truly grateful to Allah SWT for allowing us to interview Umm Anissa and we have you feel as inspired as we have in learning more about her story. It is a strong reminder to us that the role of the mother does not restrict us, but opens up new avenues for dakwah and sadaqah of time, energy and talents. To honour Umm Anissa, we are glad to launch the first of our ‘Eid Dress, the Umm Anissa Brocade Dress in her name!
The Umm Anissa Brocade Dress marries fine Indian brocade with elegant silk and comes in 8 wonderful combinations (selling fast!). With a zip-nursing access and friendly to both pregnant and non-pregnant ladies, this dress is your perfect companion for comfortable Eid visiting.
We hope you will make a prayer too for Umm Anissa and her family, and may Allah recognise her intentions, reward them and her energy she has invested, and grant her and her family maghfirah (forgiveness) in the Hereafter. Ameen!