To counteract prevalent stereotypes about Muslimahs around the world and in particular Philadelphia, PHKI wants to promote Muslim women doing positive things in their chosen career or business. Today we highlight the beautiful, Noorah Islam!

PHKI: Assalaamu Alaikum Noorah! I’m really excited to do this interview with you for many reasons, first I have known you for a few years now and never knew that you could sing! 

Secondly, your cd is nothing short of amazing, and I’m looking forward to doing a full review of it! With that being said, tell us when you knew you wanted to be a singer?

Noorah Islam: Walaiki salaam warahma tullahi wa barakatuhu! Jazakillah hu khair for all of the wonderful compliments, I truly appreciate your support! Not many people in the Muslim community were aware that I am a Singer/Songwriter or Performance Artist, until now. But I have been singing since the age of 5, and even younger than that. I was about 8 years old when I decided I wanted to be a singer, and I would write songs about my mother and remix songs from the radio.

PHKI: Wow, that's awesome that you recognized and cultivated your talent so early on. When did you convert and how did Islam play a role in your singing aspirations early on?

Noorah Islam: Actually, my family is Muslim and I was raised in a Muslim household. However, things were alot different back then. My mother was a convert and she was finding her way in a new city, new religion and over time our practices got tighter & tighter Alhamdulillah. I have some talented singers in my family and I always loved to sing. It was my first love.

PHKI: Oh wow, see, I should never assume. Since I know you through your birth name, I always thought you were a convert like me! MashaAllah! What made you decide to return to singing and use your voice as a vehicle to worship Allah?

Noorah Islam: This is a loaded question! I always loved music, singing and performing. I was always asked to sing lead in choir since grade school as well as perform at weddings, funerals and any other gathering you could think of. However, I always felt out of place, like I just didn’t fit in. Something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Super-long story short, I went through several different phases as a vocalist/songwriter. I sang backgrounds, arranged vocals, wrote songs, recorded reference tracks for musicians and played the background, in the name of being a Muslim singer. I did this until I could no longer justify it to myself...and then I quit. That was a decade ago.

PHKI: Interesting! So, what inspired your first CD Heart of a Muslim Volume I and how difficult was it to see the project through to completion?

Noorah Islam: Well, there was a hole, one that needed to be filled. I needed to sing! I began writing inspirational Islamic songs, without instrumentation. I used just vocals because music has always been a fitna for me. I wanted to provide to others a source of halal entertainment that calls to Islam, brings to mind remembrance of Allah Subhannahu wa ta’ala, and focuses on the the ups and downs that the striving Muslim encounters. The album, at times, gets very personal and it is very human. Heart of a Muslim Volume 1, the album was something very different for me. It is done entirely acapella and was tricky to record. By nature, I am a procrastinator so the entire project took a few years to complete, all while being a mother, wife & working full time then. Volume 2 will not take as long, in’sha Allah!

PHKI: InshaAllah, we'll be anxiously waiting! In general, how does your religion inspire you when writing and arranging your songs? Where else do you look for inspiration?

Noorah Islam: Islam is my life and I am a Muslim. Islam teaches tolerance, sensitivity, empathy and understanding and these are all major contributors to my writing process. For spiritual inspiration, my love for The Creator and Rasulullah Salullahu alayhi wasalaam outweigh my love for anything else, and so Alhamdulillah that part is easy. For musical inspiration, I gather sounds from the atmosphere, in general. Music, for me, starts with a feeling inside and I am never sure of what it will mean until it meets the air around me.

PHKI: MashaAllah, beautifully stated! Okay...so we both know that Music can be a touchy subject in Islam. What are your thoughts and how do you navigate that discussion?

Noorah Islam: Agreed! I do not believe music is haram. I believe that there are haram instruments which we are forbidden to play or listen to as well as haram lyrical content. I write & perform using halal lyrics only and never use haram instruments. I also only perform for women. There are Sahih hadiths narrating instances where Rasulullah SAAWS allowed his wives to partake in such, however I am not a qualified scholar of Islam, so everyone should do the research on their own.

PHKI:  MashaAllah, I my stance on Music tends to fall in line with your beliefs as well! I also understand that you actually went to school for the vocal arts? How did your professional training help you  to produce, write, and arrange an album on your own?

Noorah Islam: Yes, I auditioned and was accepted into several music programs. I settled on the Music Magnet Program at Overbrook H.S., as they had an outstanding concert choir, orchestra and band. I have an extensive background in vocal performance and music theory. I played a few instruments as a young adult, but we will not get into that. I did not attend a formal university, so the rest of my music knowledge and performance skills actually come from stage and studio work. Finding the time to complete projects is the most difficult of tasks!

Water permeable nail polish has become all the rage over the past few years! 

Its popularity? 

Spurred by fashion loving Muslim women who love to paint their nails bright colors to match their outfits. These women, myself included, always felt restricted to only donning nail art while unable to make Wudu and Salat during the prescribed times. 

So what’s the big deal you ask?

Muslim women are required to make salat five times a day but are given reprieve from this commandment when menstruating. However, once menstruation is over, a ghusl (step by step purifying cleanse with water) must be performed, while a wudu has to be done for every salat if the first one should become invalidated. In order for a woman or man to make an acceptable ghusl or wudu, it has been generally accepted by most scholars (some differ) that no polish/paint can be on the skin, nails, hands, that must be washed. In performing a ghusl, this is the whole body, with performing wudu; feet, hands (thus nails), face, hair, ears.

For many Muslim women, wearing polish while being able to perform salat is tricky. As I stated during this interview with Philly City Paper, when going to events, I paint my nails after performing wudu and as soon as I returned home, I removed with nail polish remover and went on to offer the next salat. Clearly, this work around method was/is annoying so when I learned about water permeating nail polish in early 2013, I was ecstatic as were most Muslim women.

In addition, it’s not just about fashion but also health because regular nail polish often contains known carcinogens and these fumes can be harmful to the body. As someone who takes my health seriously (I’m a Whole Foods/Trader Joes Momma), it’s important that I pay attention to what goes in and on the body as well. Many of these water permeable polishes are odorless, contain none of the harmful fumes listed in the above linked NYT article, and have the added benefit of being worn during wudu.

I’ve shown you my results for the brand that started all the hoopla, Inglot (slightly different than other brands because it allows water vapors through) here. This brand is slightly different than full water permeability but they are also still doing research.

In the meantime, Tuesday In Love, a Canadian based company has an offering that I became acquainted with after reading this article arguing the religious permissibility of water permeable nail polish posted on Imam Shuhaib Webb’s website. After I received three samples in the mail along with directions for permeability testing, as well as their support of Because I Am A Girl initiative, I became super excited about reviewing this product! The two actual colors included were called Hot Rod and Starfish, there was also a Topcoat as well.

Helwatu Qalbi means "Sweetheart" in Arabic and Sister Aidah can indeed be described as such! She was one of the vendors who traveled from Singapore to Hershey, PA for the now defunct IMFW. 

Sister Aidah has contracted a space with Hershey Lodge to showcase her wares and try to sell as much merchandise as she can before returning home! If you live near Hershey, PA and are able, please come out and purchase!

She specializes in Children's clothes and nothing will be over $30. There is no event entrance fee and she is also welcoming other vendors and such still staying at Hershey's Lodge to participate. Please spread the word and share!

Showcase is Today!

Where: Hershey's Lodge 
Room: Wild Rose A Located at the Convention Hall Lower Level
Time: 6-8pm
Date: March 23, 2014

If you can't make it out, considering purchasing from her website http://helwatuqalbi.com/.

Let's make the best of a bad situation and welcome Nadira037 to Philly! 

We'll be meeting up at the Shops at Liberty Place to chat and host giveaways including an M'Squared Clothing Website Sweatshirt courtesy of M'Squared Fashunz and beautiful new hijab! Lets show Nadira a great time Philly Muslimahs!

For more details, see below!

We'll be gathering at the Food Court of Shops at Liberty Place tomorrow Sunday March 23, 2014! We'll be around from 3 - 5pm so if you are in the area or can stop by, feel free to do so!

Salaams and Hello Everyone,

*Update 3* Facebook event Help the Sisters from the Hershey Fashion Show That Was Affected has been arranging rides to the airport on Monday, as well as spending time with those still in Hershey and keeping them in good spirits. If you live close by, please visit this page and see how you can help for those who have been so willing!

I write this post with a heavy heart for several reasons so this will be lengthy. Right now there are a lot of things floating around and I wanted to make sure I meant and could back up everything I wrote. I arrived home around 10:30pm. I write this in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to be able to calm down and get some sleep.

Let me start from the beginning. We left Philly at around 2:30pm. Before leaving, I messaged Shea and told her we were leaving and asked her to call me just to correlate details. There was no response but she continued to post on FB. I figured she was busy.

We continued on our trip and arrived at around 4:30pm. I knew something was very wrong because of the response of the greeter. As we pulled up, she said "There has been changes to the event, please see registration for more information". Registration confirmed what by then I figured out...the event was canceled. I stood there shocked but can I say I was surprised? No.

Last year, I attended Show Me How To Cover (SMH2C). I decided not to blog about the event because it was not very well put together. Then mug shots began to be circulated and it came to light that this sister had been arrested pre conversion. There were also sister's who vended who were upset and said they had not been given all the services they were suppose to be provided.

Things died down. I decided to distance myself from anything she did in the future. Then Shea announced IMFW. I was not eager to join knowing what I knew about her last event. Here are the reasons why I came around in the end:

1) The arrest was made pre-Islam and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.

2) She produced receipts to a mutual acquaintance that seemed to support her claims that she hadn't made any money off the previous event.

3) She apologized profusely for that event and said she'd genuinely learned from her mistakes.

4) She claimed she'd taken out $150,000 worth of insurance to cover the show.

5) Since the show was being held at Hershey's Lodge I figured two things, the first being they would not enter into a contract with her without a sizable deposit and insurance contract proof. Two, that all of the issues with SMH2C that dealt with logistics of temperature control, venue etc which was some of the biggest complaints from guest would be a non-factor because the event would be occurring at a legitimate hotel used to producing these types of productions.

8) As a mother, the story of her sick son (who is a minor and will not be named) tugged at me. I felt pity for her when I found out he'd been diagnosed with cancer. While the manner in which she chose to share her story was not a route in which I would take, I felt that every mother can and should be allowed to handle such a life altering affliction of a child any way they so chose.

My instincts were right but I went with my heart because I honestly felt bad for her situation and felt that maybe she'd change. Hindsight is always 20/20.

There are sisters among us who can not admit their mistakes so here I am apologizing to those who trust me and my integrity for dropping the ball. There are sisters among us gloating, calling people for more juicy info, and relishing this moment right now because they had all of the above information and only chose not to participate because the price wasn't right. Yet they knew, and said nothing and continue to say and do nothing publicly. Behind the scenes they say I told you so!

Even still, there are bloggers who say that they didn't know about the mugshot but really did and want to hide that as well. Admitting that you knew but wanted to give her another chance is OKAY. It won't make what happened to us any less wrong, I promise.

To those who did not attend nor witness the heartbreak, shock, anger and disbelief in that hotel lobby yesterday, please stop and think about this. There were people in that lobby who came from Indonesia, the UK, South Carolina, Texas, Egypt, etc. Most of us bloggers had an all expense paid contract. Which means when Shea canceled this event, they were immediately evicted from their rooms! Some had less than an hour to repack!

In addition, plane tickets were non transferable or changeable. That means that if they were scheduled to leave on Monday they have to stay in America, in Hershey, in PA UNTIL MONDAY. They now have to find a way to pay for rooming and food. Some vendors just lost thousands of dollars! They will lose thousands more on bringing all of their merchandise back through customs!

This is a tragedy.

Salaams and Hello PHKIer's,

So here's another preggo OOTD for you courtesy of Date Night with the hubby. Today, I decided to go the extra mile and paint both my toes and feet...man was that a mistake. I have a whole new appreciation for completing the simplest of tasks sans pregnancy. 

Trying to paint toes while playing tug of war with a gut full of sixth month fetus is not for the faint of heart! Let's just say my nails looked like a 4 year old nail technician did it the first time and I needed lots of polish remover plus cotton balls to get her done!

In addition to partaking in the nail painting Olympics, I had to put together something nice to wear which I had difficulty doing because I felt big in EVERYTHING, lol. I am pretty sure I am temporarily suffering from body dysmorphic disorder considering the large gaining of weight in such a short span of time, so when I read these words right before getting dress, it couldn't have been more timely:

"Repeat after me: I am not fat, I am growing a baby. After a lifetime of watching your weight, it can be unnerving (and sometimes depressing) to watch it go up, up, up. Whenever you feel bummed about your expanding girth (and your expanding bum), remind yourself that there's a beautiful reason your body is changing."

Yep, just what I needed to get back on track! So I beat my face, twisted and pinned my scarf, threw on my 5inch open toes, and headed out the door! Your mind allows you to see only what you want to see. So if you want to see a whale when looking into the mirror, that will be what's reflected.

Before heading out the door I took one final peek in the mirror, this time thinking "I am a beautiful 6 month preggo momma of three, ain't nobody fly'er than me." Lol! Silly, yes, but it worked! The hubby (who always does this by the way) telling me I looked amazing also helped. 

So enough dramatics, here's what I wore tonight to P.F. Chang's! Outfit details below:
Dress: Vintage "Etsy"
Blazer: Arden B.
Jewelry: ChicNTrendy
Nails: Inglot

P.S. Words of Wisdom: 

If you're expecting, if you've gained weight recently or even a lot heavier than you used to be, own it! Get out of your head and relax, YOU are beautiful just the way you are, flaws and all.

Also...I'm super hype, 14 more weeks to go before the arrival of baby Cicero!!

Are you also struggling with accepting your expectant figure? What are some ways you deal with it? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
PictureDesigner: Tasha Madinah Styles
Salaams and Hello PHKIer's,

So I told you here a few days ago that I would be doing a blog on the International Modesty and Runway Show during Philly Fashion Week and here it is in all its glory!

First, it was great to be able to sit with other members of the press and experience the camaraderie and laughter that came so naturally though we were all complete strangers. The few seconds of down time between each set of designers went by so quickly because of our jovial interactions and the constant presence of Shea (COO of Muslimah Conventions) who wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time and things were running smoothly.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at this event because it didn't drag on forever as some Fashion Shows are known to do, it was very well organized, and finally, because the showcases all seemed to go off without a hitch! In addition, the bazaar area was very well organized and I immediately found myself spending money on another JannahNaima calligraphy clutch!

The first designer Yummy Cute Clothing Line showcased fashions for the pint sized fashionistas. Some of my favorite looks are featured below.

Salaams PHKIer's,

I'm counting down the days until I become a full time mommy of a newborn for the fourth time! 

In the meantime, I am enjoying dressing up the baby bump in maternity clothing that are not only stylish but also very modest! 

I recently ordered a gorgeous Annah Hariri gown that I will be wearing to IMFW as well as a few staple pieces from Asos.com. I look forward to sharing with you a few more OOTD's before I take a hiatus to welcome Baby Cicero into the world. The above look was for Philadelphia Fashion Week's - International Modesty and Runway Show.

Outfit Details
Dress: thepoplook.com
Hijab: Haute Hijab Commander in Chief Wrap
Blazer: Macy's
Necklace: Chic'NTrendy
Shoes: Shoe Republic

The part I dread about blogging is the picture editing...especially when I've taken over 200 of them! Nonetheless, I had a GREAT time at the Philadelphia Fashion Week - International Modesty Runway Show! Blog and pictures coming soon! Beautiful designs, great camaraderie with the other photographer's and press as well! Can't wait to share more pictures!

Designer: M'Squared Fashunz
Styling: Curio Styling Consultants 

PictureBride: Iman Photo Credit: Keziah R.
For many Muslim women who choose to cover, the wedding day is already stressful and is made even more so by the agonizing decision of foregoing hijab for the big day. 

Yet, beauty is beauty, whether one chooses to wear a scarf for modesty purposes or not! Unfortunately, some believe they are most beautiful when their face is crowned by a head full of beautiful curls or other elaborately arranged coifs for their wedding! 

It shouldn't have to be this way though! With the explosion of hijab and modest fashion, it's now more easier than ever for women to adhere to wearing hijab on their wedding day and still be fabulous if they so choose.

In addition to there being tons of elegant hijab designs that come in many colors, there are also a plethora of styles that your hijab can be manipulated into which will add pizzazz to your big day!

I've had the pleasure of attending four weddings over the past few months and all four brides who observed hijab made the decision to remain covered! They were no less stunning because they chose to be married in hijab, in fact, I feel the extra bling atop their crown set against a white back drop made them even more beautiful than they already were! 

Below I've listed a few tips to help you not only decide to keep it covered on the big day, but to also do it in style! The pictures that I've taken of the below brides are used to illustrate each tip and were styled/created by the bride. All other photos are clickable and will take you to the original sources.

The up-styled hijab seems to be the go to style of most hijabi brides and can be very glamorous. However, since it's not the most covering, the below tips will help ensure that the neck and other exposed areas are protected on the big day.

Tip 1: A turtleneck leotard.

Bride: Iman Photo Credit: Keziah R.
Bride: Iman Photo Credit: Keziah R.