Forget fictional characters. True stories featuring inspiring characters are all around us. Amenakin introduces us to one.
And she wears the hijab.
Heather Sandouga is one of those women who constantly defy the stereotype of the so-called ‘oppressed’ Muslim woman – an image we have all grown to expect from mainstream media. Of course, like most Muslim women, Heather doesn’t live her day-to-day life for the purpose of deliberately dispelling misconceptions; her blog posts, YouTube videos and social media content do this effortlessly.
Heather’s highest-viewed YouTube video is titled Why I Chose Islam. It is a sincere account of her life prior to reverting to Islam, and the brief snippets of information that she gives about this time – of her teenage pregnancy and decision to give the baby up for adoption – give the sense of a woman who has persevered through much difficulty and heartache. But Heather’s story isn’t told with a tone of pity or of sorrow or even regret. Instead, she takes the past in her stride and appears to have strengthened her soul with it.
Alongside her YouTube channel, Heather also manages her blog, Delusional Mom, which she regularly updates. It is one of my favorite blogs and always manages to make me laugh, nod in agreement, or feel inspired. Her posts are personable and witty, with a ‘Delusional Mom’ writing style and tone that has readers hooked. From her musings on everyday life events to her son Adam’s hilarious antics, Heather covers topics realistically and candidly. She’s a mum, a writer and a daycare provider, juggling enough to warrant a ‘Supermum’ title!
I ask Heather (an inspiring woman herself) who inspires her in her day-to-day life. To me, the most beautiful part of her response is that the first person she mentions is someone who inspires love for her faith:
‘My mother in law,’ she says, ‘manages to keep her heart bursting with Islam day in and day out – teaching my kids Qur’an as she cooks and cleans.’ Then, in her own, endearing story-telling style, she mentions others:
‘I could then move on to my own mother, who is able to take what most people would consider junk and turn it into something of beauty. Her ability to look beyond the rusted and dusty exteriors of people, places and things – to see their beautiful possibilities – is something I strive for.’
After mentioning her close friends, Heather next moves on to a point that brings a smile to my face as I read her heart-warming words:
‘Of course, there are my children. Those I’ve born of my own body and those I take care of daily. They inspire me with the everlasting wonder of a child at seeing the dew in the morning or watching a butterfly as it flutters past. My daughter, who’s becoming more and more of a woman every day, reminds me that I am her example and to live my life accordingly. My middle son, who has a quiet presence, reminds me to take a moment to just be and not be constantly on the run. And who could forget my Adam! This child reminds me daily that no amount of planning really matters in the end. The excitement, the energy, the pure curiosity that lives in this child gives me ample inspiration for my blog.
‘Finally, there’s my husband. He is my rock, my pillar of strength when I most need it. Without him, I don’t know where I would be. Those long days of Ramadan when I just want to zone out and watch some TV, I’ll come into my living room and see him quietly reading Qur’an – inspiring me to do the same. Or when I hear him wake in the early morning hours to offer his Fajr prayer, inspiring me to do the same. His devotion to his family is infallible – and I admire that. Being with him makes me a better person.’
Whilst it’s always a joy to be moved by characters in books, often we find individuals who are just as inspiring (if not more) in our real lives.