Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crowning Moments-Sonia Audhali



Welcome to the first addition to the "Queens of Islam-Crowning Moments" collection.  The reason I have titled this blog "Queens of Islam" is because I feel that all believing women who follow Islam and apply it's guidance to their daily lives are true "Queens". "Queens" are royalty, guarded and valuable, just like our Muslimahs.  Whenever another Muslimah makes the decision to apply Islam in all aspects of her life, she is crowned a "Queen of Islam" and joins the ranks of pious, strong, and successful women.  


I would like to highlight different stories in this collection that share the beauty of truly living with God as the center of your world, and still enjoying life as God intended.  These are stories to inspire and motivate the "Queen" in all of us!




British Fashion Photographer Sonia Audhali talks fashion, life, and her growing relationship with Allah.
Nicole Queen
November 17, 2010


"Don't ever be afraid to do anything that you strongly believe in!"-Sonia Audhali






So tell us about yourself!  Where is our first newly crowned "Queen of Islam" from?
I am Sonia Audhali, 21 years old, born and brought up in Warwickshire, UK. My father owns a halal abattoir, so I grew up on the farm and would never want to change that for the world, as life was just a big adventure growing up. I still dread to think that one day I may have to end up living in a city. I love the fact that out here we learnt to drive on our land before having lessons on the road! We grew up playing in the fields, hide and seek behind hay bails and playing on quad bikes. We had all kinds of animals on the farm, lambs, cattle, goats, chickens, rabbits, horses, etc! My hobbies as a child grew to be horse riding, trampolining, badminton and fishing. It's lovely growing up in the beautiful British countryside, even if it is miserable weather in the winter!

My parents are Yemeni but my mother is half Omani as well. I head over to the countries as often as possible as i hold strong family values and I also find the culture fascinating. I love traveling and photographing culture that is different to what I'm used to seeing everyday.



I know your a professional photographer, how does a farmer's daughter go into such an artistic field of work?


I realized I wanted to be a photographer when I was 16 and worked in a studio. I helped out on wedding shoots and in the lab, developing film. As I was growing up, I was always the one with the camera! My parents would get really angry with the amount of film they would have to get developed, especially after holidays, and not one family member would be in the images! It would almost always be landscape photography!



I aspired to be a wedding photographer, but soon found that my passion swayed towards fashion photography. Within the fashion industry, I made a lot of connections through social networking sites and worked along side a modeling agency. I worked with some amazing people within the 4 years and I thank everyone who has been a part of it.  I now intend to expand into documentary photography, taking my developed skills to provide a scenic stage to what is happening around the world. 




I found that the fashion industry made me care about looks more than anything else. I'd walk down the street judging people on their looks and whether or not they would work well on a shoot! Don't get me wrong, being a fashion photographer is an amazing career to pursue. You get the opportunity to create photographic pieces based on complete fantasy scenarios, ending up with images revolved around your imagination! However, I felt the industry can be too ruthless for my personal preference. 



You have really grown closer to God, Islamically. Can you tell us about your relationship with God, as a Muslim, and how you decided to publically display your love for God by wearing Hijab?


I was brought up as a Muslim, although I wouldn't say I practiced the religion as much as I should have. I was pretty westernized with my thoughts and was extremely lazy when it came to religion. I was never forced to wear a headscarf and if the conversation was ever brought up my parents would just say, "Wear it when you feel you are ready."


Just before Ramadhan this year I started feeling I needed to be closer to Islam. I started praying Salat Al Istikhara for something that would have been a huge mistake if I had gone through with it. The way things panned out was amazing, SubhanAllah, as I was doing it for about a month. It made me realise that God is watching us and no matter what, He will guide us if we ask Him for help. I felt the magnitude of the saying, "one step taken in the sake of God will give you two steps in return from God."



Sonia crowned in hijab!




I am a strong believer that everything in this life happens for a reason, good or bad! I also love the fact that no matter what we do in life, God is merciful and will forgive us, inshAllah. Around this time was when my cousin Mustafa showed me some links on Youtube about Nicole Queen. I found her story really inspirational. This was also the time I felt I needed to get out of the fashion industry and start helping people with my talent. As a couple of months before that I started feeling really unmotivated when it came to my photographic work. I needed a different type of satisfaction and to figure out what this life is actually about!



A girl I grew up with, decided to wear the hijab and I was so proud of her for not caring about what people thought by just doing it. She has known me since I was born and we grew up like sisters. Also, two sisters, who are my best friends started wearing a headscarf before that. I wanted to, but never thought I would have had the guts. I live in an extremely English area, no ethnic minorities really. When my friend wore it, I felt if I don't do it now, I will never do it and at least we can support each other.

Sonia & her Mother

 They all gave me so much confidence and were extremely supportive! Before hand, I was worried that I could give a bad example of Islam if I wore one as I'd have to watch everything I do and be careful with what I say when speaking about Islam. But in reality wearing a headscarf makes you more peaceful as I do have to watch what I do, but in a good way, as I want people to see Islam for the peaceful religion that it is! No one is perfect and in Islam we believe no one can judge except Allah, right? But obviously we have to try our best to spread true Islam. The media make us out to be women with no say, men ruling our worlds, and that all Muslims are extremists. We need to be the true examples, showing the real meaning of Islam. We all know the actual meaning of Islam is Peace! If I am totally honest, I mostly feared my siblings and what they would say. Wearing a headscarf, the public won't really say anything, but family will say exactly what they think. Some hiccups did occur, but once they passed I felt much happier as I was doing what I believed was right.


When I put the headscarf on, I automatically felt protected. Anyone who approaches me actually wants to get to know me for me, my mind, not for how I look! Anyone who judges you for it clearly is ignorant and not worth knowing! I actually get a whole different level of respect wearing a headscarf. People who know me, know that I could never be forced to wear it, so clearly it is something I strongly believe in and I am not oppressed like some people think Muslim women are! I have had really thankful support from my Muslim friends, along with non-Muslim friends. I love the fact that when wearing a headscarf people say they see nour (light) in my face. And even non-Muslim friends have said the new me clearly has meaning to life and that I seem like a much better person. Obviously, no one is perfect and I have so much I still need to improve on. Alhamdulillah I am so happy wearing it and haven't really experienced any trouble. Obviously, with the media and, for example, the 'Muslims Burning the Poppy' stories, people ask or say hurtful things against the whole Islamic religion. But with the people who I actually know, when they say things, I explain to them what Islam is really about and on a few occasions they have actually turned and started sticking up for the true Muslims out there!
Sonia & Family
One of my closest friends altered her religion about a month ago. She has been there constantly supporting me through all the changes I have made. She was actually one of the people I never thought would ever change her religion. She is a very strong minded woman and surprised us all with her change. MashAllah, it shows that if you educate yourself with Islam, in the way it is supposed to be studied, then you will believe, even if there are certain parts of Islam that hold you back, usually if you read about it, those points aren't usually Islam but tend to be culture! I truly thank her for all her support and I am so proud of her for doing what she believes in, no one told her anything, she educated herself! Knowledge truly is power and following what you believe in is even more powerful! 


Sonia & Friends\Family


My cousins daughter is only 15 and she is a huge inspiration to young girls. (She is in one of the images, wearing blue/purple/leopard print scarves, in between me and another girl who recently started wearing a headscarf.) She has worn a hijab, by her own choice, since the age of 11 or 12 and hasn't let it stop anything she wants to do in life. She is a youth politician, head girl of her school and loves sports such as basketball. She is also part of Muslim Scouts so travels to all sorts of countries. I am very proud of her! She, her Mother, and Uncle, have supported me so much and I am truly grateful to have a loving family motivating me so much into doing what I believe is right.

The only frustrating thing about putting on a headscarf is that I had a lot of images online from interviews and behind the scenes videos of shoots, which i had to discard. Such as the animal shoot and shoots that I had done with a modeling agency. I felt that changing from fashion would be a good move Islamically, as everyone knows within that kind of industry, sex sells. This seemed like the right change as coincidentally I was becoming less motivated towards the work anyway. Changing to documentary actually became exciting as I want to help people and teach people what is happening in this world. I basically changed fantasy to reality.

What do you hope to contribute to Muslim women, by being a professional photographer?


I would like to show that Muslim women can be strong and influential, especially with their talents and personal beliefs. I want to show people who aren't Muslim that we are not oppressed and actually can follow our hearts, doing whatever career we choose to follow, and no one can stop us!

Being a Muslim woman gives me an automatic advantage amongst other photographers, as I understand that women should not be photographed if the imagery can be seen by the wrong people. I can definitely make sure that these women can enjoy themselves in front of a camera without headscarfs on, making them feel like a model, and assure them that the images will not be seen by anyone except myself and give them total control of their portraits!

I don't see myself helping just Muslim women, but inshAllah all people. I have done a little bit of volunteer work, helping organize images for Islamic Relief Worldwide, in Birmingham. This has made me more passionate about wanting to work alongside smaller charities, who will actually need help with publicity, needing creative imagery in order to get noticed. Whilst doing this I hope to inspire Muslim women to achieve their goals, just like I am aiming to achieve mine!

What advice can you give other Muslimahs who are afraid to commit to Hijab, because of their careers or other "worldly" concerns?


The decisions you may feel will effect your life drastically will almost certainly unravel themselves to be the simple steps towards spiritual wellbeing. You may get some hurtful comments thrown in your direction, but it is rare and you just have to take it as some people are truly ignorant, especially if they don't even want to understand what you strongly believe in. They are really not worth knowing. If it is someone close to you who throws the comment, sit them down and talk to them about why it is you believe in what you believe. With Islam we have the beauty of Quran and Hadith to back up everything we come across in life, so it actually makes life easier when discussing anything at all! Islam is a way of life which, if followed properly, makes us better people due to the respect we give others. It's a heartwarming feeling that no matter what, we always have direction in life! 

In Western society, we are given freedom to dress how we want. We as Muslims have a right to dress fashionably and in a way that will get us noticed as trendy Muslims, not oppressed women who never leave the house! If visiting Yemen I wear an abaya, but when in England, as I was a fashion photographer for 4 years, I do love fashion and love to wear hijabs to suit! What does intrigue me is the fact that women who do wear an ebaya or even a niqab actually care more about fashion and their looks underneath the black, than women in the West!

Sonia Style!
We have a right to dress how we want and how we feel comfortable. At the end of the day, if in your job, people are targeting you for wearing a hijab, you have a right to speak up for what you believe in, just bare that in mind! You can most definitely stand your ground. I have a friend who got treated differently in her place of work and she just covered up with hats and scarves, rather than a headscarf - that is an alternative. I also know a girl who was told to take off her headscarf by a teacher at school, she was humiliated in front of her class mates! I couldn't believe it! I am so proud of her for having the guts to wear one into school at the age of 13, but it was totally out of line for the teacher to humiliate her! The teacher was then asked to apologise and the headmaster actually told her she looked nice in a headscarf! She was then told to just wear headscarves that match the uniform, and asked to wear tight fitted ones for sport and practical science lessons, which is understandable! So there is always a way around everything, especially in this day and age. 









"Don't ever be afraid to do anything that you strongly believe in!"-Sonia Audhali


Congratulations Sonia!  

Your Crowned a "Queen of Islam"


Check out more of Sonia's work below!



You can follow more of Sonia's work at these links:
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5 comments:

  1. Former Detroiter11/17/10, 4:12 PM

    Nicole your feature stories are an inspiration and it is nice to see how other Queens break out of the mold and still maintain or even increase their dedication to Islam. Jazkallah Khair for this Queens' feature story.

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  2. Amazing story! How inspirational. Congrats Sonia on being a Super Hijabi!

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  3. Masha Allah! Very inspirational Sonia! I ask Allah to give you strength to reach out to the world and continue to make a positive impact.

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  4. Amazing ... I'll just keep reading =)

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  5. Thank you so much for the comments! Really appreciate the support!

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