Tahera Akther is mother of four children aged between 2 to 14 yeas of age. She is the founder, head teacher and one of the directors of Olive Tree Study one of the top weekend Islamic school based in London with team of 60 staff members. In the past year she has been working on two developments – The Tajweed Nasheed Rhymes for children, and The Amazing Arabic Writing App, in which she played a key role as the songwriter and producer. Her latest venture, called the â€˜Super MusliMUM is an online course aimed primarily at Muslim mothers to give them a daily guide on how to make the most out of being an amazing mum and also how to reach ones full potential as a human being by finding a balance in achieving goals for the dunyah and akhirah.
Tell us a bit about Olive Tree Study and what was the inspiration?
Alhamdulilah, all the inspirational projects that I am working on all came from my passion for teaching children Quran. It really started when I was looking for an Islamic weekend school of my daughter 10 years ago. I didn’t find anything suitable of her because of the ‘tradition back home style teaching; she was use to learning through have fun, playing and singing at her full time nursery. This stressful situation led to an awaking inside me. I wanted to be the primary Quran teacher for my children so I started to learn the science of tajweed. Alhamdulilah, Allah made it easy for me and I was able to grasp the science quickly. I also had the amazing opportunity to visit Syria to attain my Ijazah (Certification) from one of the top noble sheikh named Mohi uddin Al-Qurdi (rahimullah).
Once I got back to UK, I started to teach my own children and a couple of children from my local neighborhood also joined in. The word spread like wild fire, and before I knew it, I had 10 children wrapped around my dinning room table. I didnt have the time or space to take on any more children. I realised the demand for female teachers and also my style of teaching. It was at this point, a seed was planted in my heart where I thought, here I am, limited to benefiting only 10 children, what if I could expand this service and benefit 100s of children? How amazing and rewarding would that be! So with that dream and vision in mind, I decided to open my own school. Mashallah, I started with a couple of students and over a period of few years , we now have 3 branches, over 600 students enrolled and a massive team of 60 staff members! All praise is to Allah.
Youre a wife, a mum, entrepreneur, teacher… how do you juggle it all?
There are a few habits that I have instilled in my life that is facilitating me to be able to express myself in what I am doing in all the areas of my life.
Number one is waking up early. I mean really early (5am). This time is the most precious time for me in the whole entire day as its the time where I work on developing myself which is really what nurtures my soul to be able to fulfill all my other roles. I focus on three crucial aspects in that morning time: spiritual, physical exercise and personal development. By knowing that I have taking care of myself first, it puts me in a positive mindset to start my day.
Number two is prioritising. This really helps me become organised. I tell myself, what is important and why? This really helps when I feel over whelmed with the daily chores. I ask myself, is it really important that my house is spanking clean or that my house is a place that is safe and nurturing for my children.
And number three : Begin constant in developing my mindset by listening and reading up on motivational topics. This is a key area in my life that is really helping me juggle all my roles. I really believe the way your feel and think about something, affects your behaviour towards that thing. So when I feel negative about something, I know I just have to work on my mindset about that thing and that will lead me to experience the reality in a more positive way.
What tips would you give other mums to stay productive and organized?
Tip one: Wake up early. I believe that this is the most important habit you can instill in your life. By waking up early you will be benefiting from the barakah of the early morning. Even the prophet (pbuh) mentioned it, in the hadith regarding the barakah of the morning. Use that time to develop yourself. By starting your day with fajr salah and Quran recitation, you will see the Baraka in the rest of your day.
Tip two: Write down your goals and look at them on a weekly basis. Ask your self if you are doing enough to reach your goals. What are the things that make you feel happy and fulfilled? Where do you want to be in 5 years time? Questions along that line will really help you stay productive.
Tip 3: Before going to sleep, write down a to-do list (in priority order) for the following day. This will help you become organized and give you direction.
Tip four: Learn to become a good delegator. Distribute chores and responsibility to others around you. If you can afford it, hire a cleaner and out source as much as possible. This will make you more productive by freeing up your time.
Whats your favourite thing to do with your kids?
I love bedtime with my boys. This is one of the most rare times in the day that I have their full attention. They listen attentively and its my moment to nurture their minds with stories and imaginative dialogue. They also love a good wrestle and tickle. I also love spending time with my 14 year old daughter by taking her out and bonding with her.
What do you find to be the most challenging thing about being parent?
The most challenging thing about being a parent for me is being able to give each of my children individual and quality time. Because my eldest daughter is 14 and my youngest son is 2, they all have different needs from physical to emotional. A typical scenario to demonstrate this is when my daughter (who is in her teens) comes home wanting to tell me everything thats happened in her school whilst am attending to the tantrum of my 2 year old.
Where do you see Olive Tree Study in 5 years?
In 5 years time, our vision is that Olive Tree Study will be pioneering and producing more engaging products, materials and content like the tajweed rhymes for the western Muslims.
Can you tell us a bit about the education Arabic products you are currently working on?
Alhamdulillah, there are two exciting products on is audio and one is an app. First is the â€˜The tajweed nasheed album for children that I have been working on for the past year. Nothing like this exists anywhere. This is basically an innovated idea to teaching children (particularly in the western part of the world) the tajweed rules by singing along with fun catchy tunes in English language. By them being introduced to the tajweed rules in this creative and fun way at a young age, it will form a solid foundation for them which will then help them to learn to recite the Quran later on. Its fun and great for adults to learn tajweed too.
The second product is â€˜The Amazing Arabic Writing App. This is a fantastic App for children to help them learn the pronouncing and formation of the Arabic alphabets. I have researched into the Arabic Apps that already exists, and frankly speaking, they are just not engaging enough for children. Our App is exceptional as it incorporates all aspects of the childs learning from the correct pronunciation sounds, finger motion of the formation of the letters to even short fun animation to make the experience fun and enjoyable all at the same time.
If you could only teach your kids one thing, what would it be?
If there was one thing I could only teach my children, then that would be to follow in the footstep of our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in every aspect of their lives. He was the perfect human being that modeled the perfect balance in life from all aspects of the dunyah and the striving for the akhirah.
What do you hope the future will hold for your kids and Muslim kids everywhere?
I really believe that if we can nurture well balanced children by demonstrating that balance in our own life as parents, then we will truly create a community of Muslim children who strive for success in the dunyah and their akhirah. I have great hope that inshaAllah my own children will become happy leaders in the areas of their life that they love and are passionate about. It is our role as parents to help them discover that passion and guide and nurture their journey along the way.