Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Picture of the Day 19.05.18: He's Home

My better half came home the night before Eid (Chand raat) after six weeks of doing dawah work in California.  As always there was relief and tears on my part and the sweetness of coming home to your loved ones on his.  But always as always there were the small recriminations tucked away in my heart.  Of being left to deal with it all by myself, of unruly boys and little ones and in-laws to look after.  Of the barbed comments from people about his leaving that I have had to endure so many times. Of feeling like my life is on hold every time he goes away.  Of feeling stronger every time, but resenting having to be so strong.

He dropped off his bags, we broke fast together and then took me shopping at 1am despite my protestations that I have something to wear for Eid.  As it was chand raat the shops were all open and there was a really celebratory vibe everywhere.  I found something I really liked and then he insiste we find a scarf to match it.

We had a beautiful Eid alhamdulilah and as always when he returns, he has been at his kindest and most understanding, waiting for the complaints to subside and helping me as much as he can.  Knowing I am tired, he gently reminds me that he could not do what he does, if we did not do what we do, and what he does is so important to us.

On my part I have to remember the importance of his dawah work, the value of it in the sight of Allah (SWT) and the benefits.  He tells me the people he met in California were soft hearted and listened to him, many were concerned for the iman (faith) and upbringing of their children and were thinking about how they could ensure faith remained a part of their lives.

In any case, I am glad to have him home and I am thinking about how I can reward myself with a break of some kind, if not physical, then mental at least.

Chocs from America, I look forward to taste testing these :)

Monday, 28 May 2018

Risk Assessment for a Nap

I have been managing to keep well through Ramadan and wake for suhoor and then again in the morning for the school run and work, mainly thanks to my daily short nap after I get home for work.  Usually this is about thirty to forty minutes and the kids are allowed internet access to do homework to keep them busy.  I get both of the youngest to lie down with me so that they are not causing havoc and we get some cuddle time (which is as comforting and soothing for me as it is for them).

This week I hosted an iftar for my family and found myself utterly exhausted.  I decided to give myself the luxury of a longer afternoon sleep.  Usually this means I have to carry out a little cost-benefit analysis of whether the potential mischief that will happen will I am unconscious and the work that it will create afterwards, is worth the bit of extra sleep and rest.  Yesterday I came to the conclusion I was tired enough and had earned it to the risk.  A very nice sleep it was too, despite the heat.

I woke to find the cost of my little nap:
The front door was open
Darling had decided to hold onto the washing while she used her brothers skateboard and broke the washing line – with the slightly damp washing still on it
Dad-in-law had ended up on Netflix log in page and was looking at the screen wondering where he was (I suspect the kids were trying to find a way to get in)
The sink was full of dishes and the kitchen counter full of bread crumbs and chocolate spread smears (Darling again)

I think the kids were shocked that I hadn’t lost my temper at them.  It’s a wonder what a good nap can do for your mood.

Explaining Niqab Badly

I have to say that I have heard some pretty awful explanations of hijab and niqab in the past, including by the Muslim women that wear them.  I especially cringe when words like rape figure in any such conversation.

I think part of the problem is that sometimes people are not good at articulating themselves or feel uncomfortable discussing this type of topic.  Other times, I think people have a clear thinking about hijab but are taken by surprise by a question and don’t quite have a short, clear “elevator pitch” ready and explain it badly or say the wrong thing.

I found myself in an interesting situation a few weeks back during some Unconscious Bias training at work.  One of the sections of the training analysed different religions and their approach to diet, dress and prayer.  The trainer mentioned that Muslim women wear a hijab and a thing on their face called a…hijab?  I told the trainer it was called a niqab.

At this point someone asked why women wore it. I remember the tone of the question rather than the question itself.  The whole training had been not good enough in my view, so this was one more thing that got me going.  I explained the difference between hijab and niqab and acknowledged that it was an emotive subject for people.  I also explained that it wasn’t about hiding away, protecting yourself from assault or being better than anyone else.  It was about your relationship with your Creator and about your interpretation of a command to be modest and present yourself to the world in a way that you are judged on your good deeds and good character and not your face or body.  I explained that there was a multiplicity of ways Muslim women interpreted the injunction and wore hijab and that what was really important was talking to them to understand why rather than assume why.

I think I probably went on a bit too long and slightly embarrassed myself.  But as I said to someone at a Diversity workshop in the city recently: I have held my tongue too often and that means that young women that will follow me will have to deal with the same ignorance I have.  I have never actually held my tongue before and will talk your ears off at any opportunity that Islam is mentioned, but it sounded more dramatic 😊

Perhaps the answer is to have a clear elevator pitch (a concise, clear explanation) about why you wear hijab or niqab and share it with others. It doesn’t have to be a “right answer” but just one that is true to you.  Certainly, I think niqab is misunderstood and wrongly maligned, I feel very protective of my niqab-wearing sisters because quiet a number of my friends wear it and I get an insight into what amazing, beautiful people they are, but also how much abuse they face because of it.  In any case, I love it when people ask questions because I feel it’s a million times better to ask a question and expand your thinking than to make your mind up and refuse to consider a different person’s position.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Picture of the Day 19.05.18: Soul Food Iftar

We wait all year for my mum’s amazing iftar food, especially her soft, over-stuffed samosa’s.  The minute the hot pot opens there is a mad grab and she has to intervene and portion out the food, adding more after everyone has said enough.

I was going to call this post Healthy Soul Food Iftar as a joke, then thought better of it.  I don’t want to wrongly direct people to this post when they are looking for healthy options for iftar.  Clearly mum's iftar is amazingly yum, but anything other than healthy.

Ramadan Work Panel

I am sure I am not the only working Muslim that gets asked lots of questions about fasting as Ramadan approaches:
Why do you fast?
Can you not eat anything?
Not even drink water?
How many hours?!?

So this year I organised a staff questions and answer session open to everyone in my organisation to ask us questions about Ramadan.  I left a notice in the prayer room asking for panel members with different experiences of Ramadan – fasting, not fasting, can’t fast and spoke to the Muslims I knew.  Alhamdulillah I got a good response and ended up with a large panel.

On the day of the staff panel, the turn out included staff, managers and directors.  There were some really sensible questions:
How can we support you in the workplace?
Do you mind us eating in front of you?
Is it ok to offer Muslim clients water?
Is it wrong to book client appeals on Eid day?

I typed up all of the questions and shared them on the company message boards for people who couldn’t attend.  It was a lot of fun and a really nice chance to network with people.

Baby Iftar and Granddad Intervention

We had a bright idea on the first day of Ramadan of giving the babies an early iftar of their own and sending them to bed.  The rest of us could then eat in peace and I wouldn’t have two people hanging off me and harassing me through dinner after a long day of fasting.

We set them out a portion of our food and got them excited about their little picnic iftar.

Alhamdulillah it worked a treat and they went to bed happy.  Except they came back down at iftar time and caught us having our own “picnic”.  There was a lot of angry protestation, but everyone was quite firm that they must go back to bed.  If we had stuck to this then we would have been sorted for the rest of the month.  But everyone didn’t include dad-in-law who kept telling us to let them stay and that iftar was joyless without children.  The babies were marched back to bed and told to stay there.  Dad-in-law then proceeded to stand in their room looking sad and saying “poor girls”.

The next day we just let them stay and they have been joining us for iftar ever since.

Eating her grandfather’s pani puri.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Ramadan Crafts and a Helping Hand

I forgot all about Ramadan decorations this year, I was too busy being a headless chicken.  Luckily Little Lady reminded me and I encouraged her to take the lead on designing them. I picked colour schemes and she vetoed or approved them.  I cut the pennants for the banner and spray painted the letters and she assembled the banners.

The pretty paisley and flowers in the framed poster are not part of the print, but cut out carefully by Little Lady, I probably wouldn’t have had the patience.  She also found the pretty teal scarf Harlequin Sister bought me back from Turkey to use as a table cover and arranged the things on the table.

I really enjoyed having someone to share my crafting with: much less work, a useful second opinion and more and more I am finding it enjoyable to spend time with her.

Feedspots Top 20 Muslim Women Blogs and Websites

Rather nice news this morning, I have been included in Feedspots Top 20 Muslim Women Blogs and Websites To Follow in 2018 List alhumdulillah. Not sure if I am second or the list is not in any order and I just happen to be mentioned second, but happy either way.

It’s nice to be included but will also be good to visit and read the other blogs that have been included, some I am familiar with and others I am excited to find for the first time.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Prophet's (PBUH) Sermon on Ramadan

Alhamdulillah, every time I read the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) sermon on Ramadan I find something new and moving in it.  It never fails to inspire me, remind me how blessed Ramadan really is for us and take me back to why we fast and what we should be doing during this special month:

Baihaqi reported on the authority of Salman Al-Farsi (Radhi Allah ‘Anh) that Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) delivered a sermon on the last day of the month of Sha’ban. In it he (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) said,

“O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgivenesses. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days and the nights are the best among the nights and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honoured you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered.

Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in all earnestness with hearts free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fast, and to recite the Holy Qur’an. Indeed!, miserable is the o­ne who is deprived of Allah’s forgiveness in this great month. While fasting remember the hunger and thirst o­n the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from sounds that should not be heard.

Be kind to orphans so that if your children may become orphans they will also be treated with kindness. Do repent to Allah for your sins and supplicate with raised hands at the times of prayer as these are the best times, during which Allah Almighty looks at His servants with mercy. Allah Answers if they supplicate, Responds if they call, Grants if He is asked, and Accepts if they entreat. O people! you have made your conscience the slave of your desires.

Make it free by invoking Allah for forgiveness. Your back may break from the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate yourself before Allah for long intervals, and make this load lighter. Understand fully that Allah has promised in His Honour and Majesty that, people who perform salat and sajda (prostration) will be guarded from Hell-fire o­n the Day of Judgement.

O people!, if anyone amongst you arranges for iftar (meal at sunset) for any believer, Allah will reward him as if he had freed a slave, and Allah will forgive him his sins. A companion asked: “but not all of us have the means to do so” The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasalaam) replied: Keep yourself away from Hell-fire though it may consist of half a date or even some water if you have nothing else.

O people!, anyone who during this month cultivates good manners, will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) o­n the day when feet will tend to slip. For anyone who during this month eases the workload of his servants, Allah will make easy his accounting, and for anyone who doesn’t hurt others during this month, Allah will safeguard him from His Wrath o­n the Day of Judgement. Anyone who respects and treats an orphan with kindness during this month, Allah shall look at him with kindness o­n that Day. Anyone who treats his kinsmen well during this month, Allah will bestow His Mercy o­n him o­n that Day, while anyone who mistreats his kinsmen during this month, Allah will keep away from His Mercy.

Whomever offers the recommended prayers during this month, Allah will save him from Hell, and whomever observes his obligations during this month, his reward will be seventy times the reward during other months. Whomever repeatedly invokes Allah’s blessings o­n me, Allah will keep his scale of good deeds heavy, while the scales of others will be tending to lightness. Whomever recites during this month an ayat (verse) of the Holy Qur’an, will get the reward of reciting the whole Qur’an in other months.

O people!, the gates of Paradise remain open during this month. Pray to your Lord that they may not be closed for you. While the gates of Hell are closed, pray to your Lord that they never open for you. Satan has been chained, invoke your Lord not to let him dominate you.”

Ramadan 2018/1439: Ramadan Kareem

Alhamdulillah, we are so blessed to find ourselves at the start of another Ramadan filled with blessings, forgiveness and mercy. A chance to get rid of bad habits, start good habits and have our duas’ (supplications) answered.

Even more, Allah (SWT) has blessed us with this opportunity to get closer to Him and to work on our relationship with Him. I pray we make the most of this opportunity to please Allah (SWT), find tranquillity and purify our hearts as well as our bodies insh’Allah.

May Allah (SWT) bless this Ummah during this month with an increase in iman, with forgiveness, mercy and with the acceptance of our dua’s. May He increase the rizq (sustenance) of the believers and make it easy for them and take away all of their hardships.

Please remember our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Burma, Palestine, Syria and across the world. Please don’t forget to make dua for those who are being persecuted for their faith, who are questioning their beliefs and who are alone because of their faith. Insh’Allah I hope some of us remember us reach out to reverts and those whose first Ramadan this is and to connect with those who are alone and isolated.

Please remember me and my family in your dua’s insh’Allah and please forgive me if I have ever said or written anything that hurt or upset you.

"Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" ~ Qur'an 2:183

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” ~ Bukhari - 31:123

The Prophet (peace be upon him) declared, 'Three men whose dua is never rejected (by Allah) are: the fasting person until he breaks his fast (in another narration, when he breaks fast), the just ruler and the one who is oppressed.' ~Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi – Hasan.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Dreaded Call

With my husband away, I have had a simple routine in place with everything finely (ish) tuned (or precariously balanced) to run smoothly. I have been praying everything stays that way and nothing goes wrong that throws my routine.  That means every time I get a call from one of the children’s schools my anxiety levels go through the roof.  Usually its to do with topping up dinner money or a reminder of some sort.  But yesterday I got a call at work to come and pick up Little Man as he had hurt his foot playing football.

I panicked a little and tried to work out if I should take the bus to his school, take my heavy laptop with me and log on from home or get someone to pick him up for me.  In the end, thankfully my dad picked him up and took him home.

I left work early hoping it was just a twisted ankle and called 111 to check what I should do.  They advised we should go to emergency.  At this point, I didn’t really want to go because it didn’t look too serious and I knew a trip to A&E would be hours long.  I thought it was better not to take a chance and ended up taking him, dad-in-law in tow as he wanted to help out.

As predicted we ended up spending about five hours sitting around waiting to be seen and finally got an x-ray, only to find that it wasn’t a sprain but a fracture.  Poor kid ended up needing a cast and crutches and will be off school for now.

My dad was awesome and picked us from the hospital and has offered to pick and drop him to and from school when he is ready to go back.  He is bored at home already, after one day.  I am due to take him to fracture clinic for kids in a week, on the same day as my dad-in-law’s hearing test helpfully, I might as make the most of my leave from work.

Picture of the Day 12.05.18: Ramadan Crafts Preparation

I was more than a little distracted at the moment so didn’t even think of Ramadan crafts until Little Lady suggested we do something.  She had been inspired by some of the images on Pinterest and was up for the idea of creating something.  So this year I supplied materials and some technical suggestions and she took the lead on colour schemes and what we should make.

We had a lot of fun, it was nice having someone to do the detailed stuff (she is a lot better at it than me) and a lot less work for me.  Can’t wait for her to put all of the parts together and see how it’s going to look insh’Allah.