Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Archive for Quora

Quora Question: What is it like to be raised by a Muslim?

I’m writing this in response to a gentleman that commented on one of my answers. I want to set the record straight, and talk candidly about why his perception of Muslim men doesn’t correlate with my own personal experiences with my father. I’m certain he’s not the only progressive moderate Muslim in the World.

Do I think Islamophobia exists? Yes.

Do I find extremism abhorrent? Yes.


Dear Anonymous,

Meet my parents.



“Rules to oppress and subjugate women, slaves and kafirs does not mean we have to believe that it is noble or good.”

I don’t disagree that there are extreme Muslims that treat women despicably. I condemn that wholeheartedly.

My father was born in India, his family were Muslim. Prior to the partition, his friends, the boys he grew up with were Hindus and Sikhs. The partition changed his perception of religion, as a young boy, he couldn’t reconcile in his mind why there were so many dead bodies along the path to the newly formed Pakistan. Abandoning the life he once knew, his friends, his home, all he wanted was for it to all end.

Later, my dad learnt that his childhood Sikh friend was killed by adult Muslims. He was horrified. “How can they say they know allah, when they can take an innocent boy’s life?,” he told me. My father still identified himself as a Muslim, but he didn’t feel the need to pray five times a day. It was how he lived his life that mattered.

My father never thought Islam was superior to any other religion. Always spoke highly of Hindus & Sikhs. He loved and respected Gandhi. He was to show me the film about his life as a young child, so that I learnt tolerance, forgiveness and empathy for others.

In contrast, I grew up in the Western world, but with no ethnic diversity. I was more interested in Mathematics than religion, it made more sense to me.

His philosophy was integration, that I was to respect the culture and traditions of the country I grew up in. Whilst other non Christian parents took their children out of school morning prayers, my father forbid it. He told me that the world didn’t revolve around me, that I needed to learn what’s important to others, and not feel like I’m different.


My dad bought me this dress especially for my school Christmas party. Would it surprise you to learn that I’ve always celebrated Christmas? That every 25th of December we have traditional roast dinner, crackers, hats, and rubbish Tv? That my father made me address our White Christian & Jehovah Witness neighbours as Aunty and Uncle as a mark of respect? Surely not Muslims, they have no regard for other religions?

My dad’s answer on who he supported in the cricket showed his fairness. Me: “Dad, when India & Pakistan play against each other, you’d naturally support Pakistan right?” Him; “Why do I have to choose. Prior to the partition, I was a happy Indian boy, those fond memories I cannot erase from my heart. In the spirit of sportsmanship, whoever is the better team. There’s nothing better than watching cricket with a bottle of beer in your hand.” What a Muslim that drinks alcohol? He did go to university in the UK, so it wasn’t surprising. In fact, my mum would moan if he had too many beers, but he’d hide the bottles under the sofa and remove it later. It was clear my mum wore the trousers in our household 🙂

But this will shock you further. Until my dad’s funeral, I never read the Quran or stepped into a mosque. My father taught me Mathematics at a very early age, he was highly educated (PhD) and believed there should be more women in the physical sciences and engineering. He was a big advocator of every child whether rich or poor being educated. Throughout his lifetime, he sent money to his local rural village school in Pakistan, he also sent money (we still do after his death) to a poor woman who lost her husband and couldn’t afford Hepatitis medication. What? But Muslim men oppress and subjugate women, I hear you say.

When I went to university my life changed for the better. I became friends with people that were ethnically diverse. My best friends are Indian, Chinese, Arab, English, Ghanan. In a lot of respects they live their life differently to me, because most of them have their faith and I don’t.

The thing is making generalisations about a group doesn’t work in the real world. Does inequality only exist in Islam? Let’s take a look shall we:


My neighbour of many years, Paul, is openly Gay. My mother was born and brought up in Pakistan, so I was expecting her to feel uncomfortable around him. This shows I was prejudicial towards my mum, expecting her to react unfavourably. I was happy to be proven wrong, she thinks he’s lovely and chats to him when she comes to visit. On the other hand, my other neighbour was brought up in the West, is a devout Christian, said she’s against racism, but if she could be God she would not have gay people. Where’s the humanity? Let me tell you, that’s the last time I’ve spoken to her.


Pope Francis:

“There is no problem for a woman — religious or lay — to preach in the Liturgy of the Word… But at the Eucharistic Celebration there is a liturgical-dogmatic problem, because it is one celebration — the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, there is unity between them — and He Who presides is Jesus Christ. The priest or bishop who presides does so in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a theological-liturgical reality. In that situation, since women are not ordained, they cannot preside.”

So, I take it that a woman will never become a pope in the future?


My father brought me up to believe I was no better than a beggar on the street. That the colour of your skin doesn’t matter. There is only one race, the human race. So, why have some got a higher social standing than others? Why did Gandhi have to highlight the plight of the “untouchables”, and how come they still convert to Islam & Christianity to this day?

My point if it’s not bleeding obvious! There are “good” and “bad” people in every religion. Oppression of certain groups happens in all faiths. I have a lot of respect for my Christian, Muslim & Hindu friends, because I judge them by their moral compass and not stereotype them with every Tom, Dick & Harry that follow their religion, as you do.

Now on to the current issue of Islamophobia:

Islam faces many challenges. There has been a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes, I’ve seen first-hand how vile people have been taunting and threatening women that were entering and leaving the mosque at my dad’s funeral.

I always think it’s important to be fair in life. There are women that are forced to wear the hijab and burka, but my friend Haleema isn’t, to her it’s part of her identity as a Muslim. Whatever your beliefs, no man should tell a woman what they can and cannot wear. I have no problem with a woman wearing one if its of her own volition.

In the States, women were punched in the face and their head scarves removed. Over here, a woman was kicked in the stomach, she lost her baby. Totally unprovoked attacks. Haleema doesn’t like it, but I tell her not to wear her hijab if she’s leaving her shift at the hospital late at night. She’s a paediatrician, helping save children’s lives irrespective of their faiths, yet all bigots care about is what’s she’s wearing, and not the person she is inside. Is that right?

This picture of a Muslim woman on a French beach. On one hand it’s a sensitive time and it’s best not to antagonise people, on the other, she is wearing a head scarf, her face is still visible. Elderly women wore head scarves in the old days. Would a nun be threatened with gas if she was there? Are we now dictating what women can wear? Are they hurting anyone? Behaving like this and trying to kid yourselves it’s right! A civilised nation?

Muslims are worried for their safety, as well as wanting to make others feel safe around them. How can they overcome this hurdle? Should they sacrifice their religious freedom because of prejudices of others?

It would be remiss of me if I weren’t to admit that l do make prejudicial judgements. I’m human like everybody else. We are not born prejudiced. We pick up prejudice from various sources during our life: newspapers, movies, politicians, social media, family and friends.

Your comment:

“There is no logical reason for Islam to even exist. Those people that follow the religion are all the same”

You’re entitled to your opinion, but your reasoning is illogical, the truth is that statement is false. Muslims differ based on how they were raised, their life experiences, their education, exposure to different cultural groups, their personality. You cannot judge a whole religion by judging small groups of people. There are many good people also who truly and in the right sense follow the religion.

Acknowledging that prejudice is part of our human nature, a way of us understanding the world, is the first step. We may not be able to change the inherent way others think, but we can challenge them to reduce their prejudice.

What is foreign to our own beliefs can often appear threatening at times. Despite not identifying with a particular faith and it’s rituals, I still celebrate Eid, Christmas & Diwali with my friends, tolerance is part of my nature, as it should be for anyone. There is no need to erase differences in perspectives, and we should not abuse or belittle people that try to find meaning in their life (provided they are peaceful) through faith. I sometimes ponder whether the mathematical beauty of nature is suggestive of a non-physical being of consciousness and intelligence or it’s just random coincidence, but in the meantime, I won’t lose sight of what’s important, my moral compass.

Kind regards,

Liberal minded woman who believes in equality for all regardless of gender/sexuality/status raised by a Muslim man. How the f*** did I turn out like this 😉 Sorry, to disprove your perception!




Quora Question: What do you fear the most? 

I imagine most people fear death – pain/suffering, non existence. It is human nature to want to understand and make sense of the world around us, but death can never be fully understood by anyone. It’s the greatest unknown.

But that’s not mine. There’s something worse than that:

“The fear of losing my mind is my greatest fear”

There was an elderly married couple I knew through work. They’d come and see me every month for the past eight years. She was from Belgium, him British. Always well dressed, old school money, lived in Knightsbridge. The wife wore the trousers, super smart (spoke several languages), meticulous, her memory was superb. Although we were from different worlds, she was never snooty. Refreshingly, very down to earth, direct at times, but I admired her head strong nature.

Over time we became close, she would always ask about my family, worry that I was looking too thin, and would tell me that I looked beautiful when I didn’t try too hard. I found her to be very caring. Despite her privileged life, there was great sadness in her heart. As her confidence in me grew, she told me that she had a son but they hadn’t spoken in years, he lived abroad with his wife and children. The quarrel was over money, he stole a substantial amount from them, and scarpered. She tried to reach out to him, but she felt that they were missing the mother-son relationship, because he was raised by a nanny.

The nicest thing she ever said to me was that she wished I was her daughter. A couple of months after my dad died, her husband died too. At the time, I was grieving, I didn’t see it, but in hindsight the signs were there, her mind was gradually deteriorating. Her behaviour was odd, she started to miss things that she would never have done before. She’d open her bag lots of times, take things out then put back in. There was a lot of cash in her bag, when I asked her why she carried thousands of pounds, her answer was that she lost trust in the bank. I feared her getting mugged.

At first, I assumed she had dementia, but it progressed to paranoia when she thought that everybody in her life was trying to kill her. That included her neighbours, her doctor, my colleagues, the only person she trusted bizarrely was me. I listened to her and became increasingly disturbed. How could someone who was one of the brightest women I’d ever met change so drastically?

Everyone dismissed her as a crazy woman, but I had known the ‘real’ her for years. I didn’t like her being referred to as such. Alarm bells rang when I could see bruises on her frail skeletal body. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten. After seeing her I had tears running down my cheeks, people told me to not get affected, because she was old (late 70’s) and it was just a part of life that she would die.

I didn’t sleep well that night. Her husband had gone, her son abandoned her, and she had no other family she spoke of. She was all alone. It played heavily on my conscience, how could I turn my back on her? Just because she was old didn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed dignity and respect like everyone else. I took the next day off work, and went to see her. Her paranoia was so bad that she thought the people that were trying to kill her bugged her mobile & landline.

I waited for sometime before she eventually answered the door to me. Over the next couple of weeks, I would help with her shopping, take her for coffee. I was convinced if I tried hard enough, I could get through to her, somewhere deep down, she would talk to me in the way she once did. Sadly, she kept talking about things that made no sense. There was a brief moment when she recalled my nephew’s age. Her memory was still there locked away deep inside.

I pleaded with her to get a carer or go to a private care home, although she valued her independence, stubborningly so, it was clear she wasn’t well enough to look after herself. If she had an accident, I wasn’t there to check on her. The thought of her suffering in silence scared me. I was to betray her wishes, but it wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be to get someone sectioned. I tried but to no avail.

She died not long after. It was heartbreaking to watch her decline into someone almost unrecognisable. I confided in no one that I went to check on her. I take some comfort in knowing that although she may have felt alone in her mind, there was someone that shed tears in her memory…

Love you Nella.


Abi xxx

You see without my mind, I have lost my self-identity, losing connection with everyone & everything around me. That for me means ‘Abi’ has already gone.

Quora Question: How do I move on after four years of waiting?

I was in a longterm relationship, but she left me over four years ago for another man. They are now married and have a child. I can’t get up from under the bedcovers, and don’t want to delete her number from my phone.

My Answer:

Dear Anonymous,

Four years! I think this lack of acceptance and unwillingness to move on is emotionally holding you back.

In the past, I used to dwell on missed opportunities and failed relationships, but a culmination of growing older and the death of two important people in my life has made me more pragmatic.

Whether you wish to believe this or not, the truth is that each and every one of us share this in common: we’re born alone and we’ll die alone. There’s ultimately only a limited time we have to fulfil our goals in life. However morbid this sounds, without question, I know in X time in the future, my fate will be realised, and I will be in some box underground.

The journey between birth and death is all about taking risks that only you can choose. Those people you welcome to join you along that path may cause heartache, disappointment and sadness, but there is also the opportunity for friendship, passion, commitment and happiness.

I’m afraid there’s no way of predicting which direction your relationship takes, that’s the uncertainty of life. Failures we learn from: I’m never going out with someone that has a,b,c instead the next one will have x,y,z. Overtime, you’ll recognise within a short period of meeting someone whether they’re right or not, a skill that comes with age old wisdom (making mistakes + learning from them).

The problem with ruminating over your ex is that it has led to depression, your ‘hiding under the bed covers’ tells me this. Your behaviour is understandable. You are alone in your comfort zone. It all stems from our childhood, being put to bed at night by our parents, given special attention and kisses, and our duvet cover tucked in tight around us. We feel safe. You can see nobody else, and on a subconscious level you think nobody that might want to harm you, can see you either. In reality, all you’re doing is burying your head in the sand.

Sometimes you need a proverbial kick up the backside. That’s what my close friends do, never sugar coat a situation to make me feel better, they offer advice that will benefit me in the longterm even if it hurts. When women have problems we talk about them. Men complain that women “always want to talk about things” – yeah, because it’s a healthy way to work through emotions! Half of my close friends are male, they probably feel more comfortable talking to me than another man. That’s what I’m going to do to you. Your ex girlfriend has moved on with her life, she’s married with a child, in years to come she may also have grandchildren, while you grow into a lonely old man, not letting anyone that has the potential to make you happy be part of your life. Don’t you think that would be a real shame? I don’t even know you, but I feel it would be.

Keeping her contact details. I’m sure many of us can relate to this. For me, it was about sentimentality. One day, I saw the dress I wore when I switched my dad’s life support off, it was in mint condition, but everytime I looked at it in my cupboard it made me sad. So, I put it in a bag with the rest of the clothes I’d never wear again and gave them to charity. My dad was gone, keeping hold of something I was never going to use again was pointless, instead I was giving it away to a new owner.

The same analogy applies to phone numbers. My phone has no trace of any past ex’s contact information, I delete anyone I know I won’t ever see again. I genuinely wish them health & happiness, but those doors of getting back together are firmly closed. In any new relationship I start, I don’t want to bring s*** to their doorstep. I think it’s important to always look forwards than to remain stuck in the past.

Despite leaving you, the memories will always be in your head & the love you felt for her will still remain in your heart. Your ex maybe gone but she’ll not be forgotten. I’m not cynical but a realist, I don’t believe there’s only one “soulmate” rather that there are a number of “companions” out there in the world that share the same aspirations as I do.

The “one that got away” is a myth that allows us to hang around feeling down on ourselves, instead of going forth into the world and meeting new people. Do yourself a favour, kick those covers off, place one foot in front of the other, and start living again… (think of those young innocent people who lost their lives in that horrendous Orlando gay club massacre. They had no idea that would be their end. You’re still alive with the world at your fingertips, don’t waste a second more wallowing in self-pity!).

“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again” – Alex Tan

Thanks for the A2A.

Best wishes,



Abida Ask’s Quora: How would you feel if your future wife kept her maiden name after marriage?

I’m interested to get the general consensus. When I asked male friends it seemed that it was a big “No” Their comments were, “if a woman expects half of what I own then she can’t expect to keep her maiden name.” I was told, “get used to a life not getting married if that’s your attitude” 🙂 Abi

Joel’s Answer:

When I was younger, my answer would have been a definite “no”. There was no way I would allow anyone who married me to keep their maiden name.

But over time, I came to realize that feeling, for me at least, came from a place of insecurity. I felt, for some reason, that having a woman take my name made her mine. As if I had some claim to ownership.

Once I saw that part of me, I didn’t like it. It’s rather an ugly sentiment. Don’t you think?

So, I set out to change my perspective. I reinforced my values that were built upon my desire for a partner who was a true equal to me, rather than someone who was a treated as a belonging of some sort.

It’s embarrassing for me to admit that I ever felt that way. I feel shame when I think about it. But I have changed. I no longer feel that way. Any partner of mine would be free to choose what they felt was right for them.

Jaidev’s Answer:

Changing the last name of a woman is an indication of the transference of ownership from her father to her husband.

If the man wants to “own” his woman, he probably will expect her to change her last name. Some men might expect the change to take place not due to any personal reasons, but from a wish to conform to social norms. 

There are some men who will see not changing the name as an affront to their ego. Those who see the marriage as a business transaction are probably the ones who expect the change as payment for ownership of half of what they own. If, however, he respects her and sees her as a person and not as property or a trophy, he will not force the issue.

A name is part of our identity. It is a marker of how we see ourselves; of what we see when we look in the mirror; the linchpin of our ability to say “I am”. Does marriage radically change a person’s identity overnight? I think not. Bottom line – no one owns you. Do exactly what you are comfortable with; no more, and no less. If something as trivial as a name can turn a man away, they are probably not the kind of person you want to be with.

 Shafiul’s Answer:

My wife has her maiden name. I’m married for nearly five years now. I personally don’t like it, I don’t see the need for her surname to be changed to mine. She didn’t bother either. My child carries my surname, that’s significant for me, since I carried my fathers.

Dileep’s Answer:

You can always ask her if she would like to change her name after marriage. But that’s it – that’s how far you can go with it. It is entirely up to her if she wants to do or not. If you are very particular about it, I would say clear that up before marriage. What seems unfair to you might seem fair to her. All these arguments depends on their perspective.

I personally believe if she really loves you, it would not matter if she changed her name after marriage or not. Also keep in mind that changing name does not ensure that she would be a great wife and Not changing her name will not make her unfaithful.

Again, can you say that I would be a good husband only if you agree to carry my family name? You can not. If you say you are just degrading yourself.

Having said that you can always tell her that you would like her to change her name after marriage. Leave the decision to her and save your dignity.

 Kyle’s Answer:

It depends on the guy of course, but think there are plenty like me who frankly do not care.

It is easier sharing the same name, frankly if my wife hadn’t taken mine I would have taken hers. Its not important to me which way it goes, merely that we become the same.

I know a few women who’s family’s name was significant in their industry so they keep it after marriage, the guys didn’t seem to care.

Quora: What is the nicest thing you, personally, have ever done for another person?

It was the week preceding Father’s Day. I usually find this a sad time reflecting on another year without mine.

The office cleaner is South American, and cannot speak much English. It was a Friday evening, and I was working late, it was about 8:30pm, and the cleaner arrived. He’s normally smiley, but he seemed off sorts. I was packing my stuff away, his phone vibrated with a message. He looked startled. I asked him what was wrong, and he showed me his mobile. His wife was in hospital, her waters broke, she was in labour.

Immediately, I told him to leave, but he said he can’t afford not to work. I asked if it was his last job, to which he said, “yes.” Me: “Throw me your gloves, I promise to clean the office, but please go be with your family (it was his first child).” Time was of the essence, so I used my account to get him an Uber to the hospital, a bus would have taken him ages.

By the time I finished cleaning, I got home around 10pm.

When people you love leave this earth, they take pieces of our heart and soul with them. Losing someone of such great importance, like a parent, changes us as a person. I’m a lot more humble. Although losing mine was painful for me, I recall the happy memories I had, and recognise the importance of those for others.

The next time I saw the cleaner he sat down with me and showed me pictures of his new born son. We didn’t need language to communicate, his face said it all. A proud father. I smiled intently at him, grateful that his son gets to make memories with the first man that has his heart. Priceless.

Somethings in life money can’t buy…


The most touching message I’ve ever received

Respecting the sender’s anonymity, I’ve edited out their name, but was genuinely taken aback by this young woman’s message to me:



Quora Question: How can I make my boyfriend more classy and modern?

Her: My boyfriend of 6 mth. comes from a lower middle-class family, but for the past 2 years has been earning a huge package at a big firm. Still, he has some irritating habits: making small talk with rickshaw, taxiwallas and waiters; roadside chai; no knowledge of brands and being fine with any outfit.

My answer:

“He makes small talks with rickshaw, taxi wallers, even waiters, has roadside chai, has no knowledge of brands & is fine with any outfit”

Good grief woman, when I read your predicament with your boyfriend, within a fraction of a second there was only one conclusion I made:

He’s awesome, will he marry me!

You are a very lucky woman. He has it all, I would be proud to have such a grounded boyfriend. Good manners and respect for others is priceless, no amount of money can buy you that. He’s gold dust!

Being successful does not give you the right to degrade others you feel are ‘less worthy’ of his respect. These rickshaw drivers, taxi wallers, waiters are human beings who are hard-working, their success isn’t measured by how much money they earn.

One of my neighbours is worth £50 million, he doesn’t wear labels, and chats to everyone, I must feel privileged that he takes his time to talk to ‘poor neighbour’ me, and even God forbid the cleaner. Next time I see him, I will tell him not to talk to me, because otherwise that would mean he’s not classy. He suffers from the same ‘flaw’ as your boyfriend; both being genuinely authentic.

May I ask, what is it that you do? While he’s working his way up the ladder, one day, he may decide that he wants to ‘trade’ up to a more beautiful, successful, kinder woman, befitting to his ever burgeoning ‘classy’ status. How do you feel about that?

“he comes from a ‘lower’ middle class family”: this is another problem with your attitude right here. I think he’s a credit to his family. Unless you can appreciate him for the gem of a guy he is, then do him a favour, don’t turn him into a snob. He already exudes class. I can bet your bottom dollar, he won’t be single for long!