All of what I do advocates the value of time spent with those you love.
Who are you?
My name is Metra Azar-Salem. I was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to the United States as a 2 year old. I am the second born of 4. I have two brothers, a younger sister, and an amazing set of parents. Currently I am married with three young boys aged 13, 10, and 7.
My story is unique in that I got married very soon after I graduated high school. I am an alumni of UCI and my husband and I lived in married housing for our first years of married life. For the next 10 years after we married, I had three beautiful boys and continued to pursue my educational aspirations. I was a stay at home mom by day and a student by night. I received my Bachelor’s in English Literature and had my first son, Hamza in my senior year. Graduated 3 years later with a Master’s in Marriage and family therapy with my second son, Yusuf. Five years later, I graduated with my Doctorate in Psychology with my last born, Zayd. Was it easy? No!!! Did I feel like quitting at times? Yes!! For ten years I was organizing our family life, meals, laundry, homework, school activities, and then putting the kids down at 8pm and starting my own studies. What got me through was passion, discipline, dedication, a drive to serve others, and of course God. He brought me up when others told me to quit, He gave me energy when I was exhausted, He opened up doors and made me finish, when so many along the way thought I would not!
Currently, I am a therapist, adjunct professor, and a brand new owner of a Montessori School. What I love to teach my clients and myself constantly is how to have a meaningful life of balance. You don’t have to do a lot but just do one thing very well. Out of all that I do in my busy yet short school day hours, I enjoy the most, being a wife, mom, sister, daughter, etc….Family means a lot to me. All of what I do advocates the value of time spent with those you love.
My favorite time is spent with my husband on a date night, on the soccer field cheering on my boys, or visiting my parents. Serving others, teaching, and reading keep me growing spiritually and keep me excited about life!
Give us your favorite quote and tell us why it means so much to you:
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.—Helen Keller
I love this quote! It really resonates with me, and my outlook on life. I have always believed that we can all contribute something, some energy, some time, or just some idea. I have never let the idea that I cannot do it all keep me from doing something. This quote really relates the concept of always taking big goals and breaking them up into small pieces. Sometimes there are problems in the world we cannot solve but even a simple prayer is something….there is always something we can do….and that’s why I love this quote!
What Ayah of the Quran do you hold close to your heart? Why?
Surah 50. Qaf, Ayah 16 We created man, We know the prompting of his soul, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein.
This is my favorite ayah from the Quran. In my every day life whether it be small items or large prayers I always consult, pray, and talk out my problems with God. I know that no matter what I am going through, what I am experiencing, or what I need, God will always be with me. I know if I place Him at the focal point of all that I do, I will be ok. This is the primary way I feel solace and comfort in all that I do.
What Hadith do you wish more non-Muslims knew about? Why?
Hadith Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “There is a Sadaqa to be given for every joint of the human body; and for every day on which the sun rises there is a reward of a Sadaqa (i.e. charitable gift) for the one who establishes justice among people.”
I strongly believe in social justice and believe that Islam is a religion that brings equality and social justice to all. I try and teach this to my kids, participate in it within our community, and always advocate for marginalized populations. Some have wealth to give in charity but many have time. Teaching this to the next generation is vital! Giving of your own personal time is really something that can promote social justice and be very rewarding in return.
1. What is your favorite book?
My favorite book of all time was a book I read in the second grade. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This book taught me that anyone can dream big, taught me sympathy for the poor, and gave me the belief that even rich people have compassion. I used to sneak and read it over and over again while I should have been sleeping! Love those memories!
2. Who inspired you?
My father. He really was the rock and foundation of all my dreams. He believed in me and when I wasn’t doing what all the other girls were doing he inspired me to stay true to myself. He never refused to buy me a book, even when I would find random ones from grocery stores, he always said yes to my insatiable desire to read.
3. What is the best lesson your mother taught you?
My mother taught me how to be the best mother and wife I could be. Besides being a strong role model she always told me “I Can”. This is priceless.
4. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
I was a book worm and would tell my 13 year old self to play a little more, take it easy, and not worry so much about my grades!
5. What are your hopes for your sons?
My hopes for my sons are to always be God conscious individuals, good men to their families, and involved in their communities. Most of all I really hope they are men that my daughter in laws can come back and compliment to me about their cooking abilities, yes I am teaching them culinary skills!
6. What is the biggest trial you have gone through and what has it taught you?
When I was 13, my father was mugged, beat, and held at gun point. Alhamdullilah, he made it though and that time in my life really made me the leader I am today. I was really responsible and helped everyone heal and get over the horrible incident. I also learned to be a survivor and not a victim from my parents endurance!
7. Any regrets?
I have recently started exercising regularly. I wished I had made this a habit earlier on in life. I have not put my body first always busy with other things so I hope to develop healthy exercise habits now!
8. How do you stay grounded in your work? Spirituality?
Each client in therapy grounds me. I am so honored that people share their deepest problems with me. I pray for each individual that entrusts me and I ask Allah to guide me to help him or her.
9. How do you bring about real change?
Change happens by taking action. We can plan all we want in life but nothing changes unless you just jump into it. I have learned that small leaps of action bring about long lasting life changes. Sometimes the big picture is too overwhelming so just changing things that you can one step at a time can be really effective.
10. What do you hope to be remembered for?
I hope to be remembered for how I served God, by serving my family, raising good children, changing perceptions of Islam, and leaving published work about mental health issues and American Muslims. I want our community to receive the best culturally competent mental health services, and my dissertation and current research will help this happen, inshallah.
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