Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Thank You Cards for Teachers

Today is the last day of school for my children.  They all had fantastic teachers this year (though they might not agree) and all grew so much.

I think it's important to take the time to thank people and show your gratitude, so every year at the end of the school year, the kids take a small gift and a card for their teachers.

Little Ladies teacher had a tough time this year with her class of pre-teens, including 20 boys, some of which seemed to be real horrors.  Not to mention the fact that 11 year old's might not officially be teenagers, but these days it seems as if they might as well be.

This year her teacher guided her through 11+ exams, SAT tests, the process of being selected for a high school which can be extremely stressful for both child and parent and the process of saying goodbye to her primary school and friends - who of course she is adamant will always be her best friends even if they are going to different schools.

This card was made using paper from American Crafts Amy Tangerine Sketchbook 12x12 book of papers which looks like old, stained notebook paper, American Crafts foam lettering called thickers and embellishments from Jolee's Boutique.  I used the graduation themes stickers because Little Lady had a graduation assembly at the end of the school year.  I wasn't convinced of the need for a graduation at the end of primary school, but it turned out to be a really inspiring ceremony encouraging the children to be positive about moving forward and to walk their own path  - a really nice message.

Little Man's teacher is everyone's favourite, she previously taught Little Lady and she has always stood out for how kind and affectionate she is towards her children.  She is leaving the school this year and we are all sad to see her go.  Little Man had a period of playing up towards the end of the school year at the same time as home - not listening, getting angry and not doing his work/chores.  I noticed him getting more cocky as he got older and his confidence grew.  We worked together to convince him that he could do so much better and he seems to be back to his old self.  I was impressed by his teachers caring, gentle approach in dealing with him.

I think Gorgeous' teacher might have had the most challenging job out of my three children. We had to deal with some boisterous behaviour from him when she took over from his previous teacher.  We had to tag team to get him to be on his best behaviour in class. Thankfully he doesn't behave in class in the same way he does at home (like an argumentative, bookworm, football hooligan with serious entitlement issues - "I'm better than anyone less").

I look forward to the holidays with the children, this will be the first time since they started school that I will be spending pretty much all of the time at home with them.  It will be interesting with a new baby, me not being able to get out as much at first and all of them wanting to do things.  I suspect I might change my tune by the end of the summer holidays and be grateful when they go back.

Monday, 21 July 2014

How Do We Discuss World Events With Our Children?

The world is watching the horrific events unfold in Palestine at the moment – the death toll reported today has passed 500 with thousands leaving their home to seek refuge from Israel’s ground offensive. Muslim’s and non-Muslim’s have joined in protest, prayers, activism and charity work.

As we receive news of what is happening and discuss amongst ourselves the injustice we are witnessing, there is one more group who is interested in these events – our children. They see glimpses of the news, they overhear our discussions and they pick up parts of what is happening. Some parents will find they are asked discussions, others will hear their children talking to each other and trying to make sense what is going on.

As children, my generation could afford to be innocent and politically unaware. Although we grew up with glimpses of world events – the Sri Lankan Civil War, the later part of the IRA’s years of the Troubles, the Gulf War, the First Palestinian Intifada and the war in Bosnia, we didn't discuss these with adult and we certainly didn't understand them properly. That doesn't mean we were completely oblivious. In my school, every year we would get a number of students from whichever part of the world was imploding – Somali children in Year 7 (1990) who came via Kenya after their civil government collapsed, Bosnian children in Year 9 (1992) as civil war took hold, Sri Lankan children in Year 10 (1994) as war raged between the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

We made friends with these children, we were surprised when we realised they liked the same things as - the same music and movies, and worried about the same things – boys, parents, spots. It gave us a sense of how same we are. I also remember thinking that if the Bosnian Muslims were so very like the non-Muslim’s in that country and still faced genocide, what about us who were so different to the people in this country?

Another example of where our school life intersected with events further afield was when we all had oral tests for English where we had to present a short talk on any subject. I did a spoken review of Beam Stokers Dracula, which was one of my favourite books. Some of the boys got in trouble for making up silly stories and not being very serious. One Somali girl took a deep breath and told us about the time she had hid in a wardrobe and watch soldiers burst into her house and drag her elder sister out from under a bed and rape her. You could have heard a pin drop in that class. No one knew how to react. So we dealt with the information in the only way we knew how – filing the story away in a recess of our brain for a time when we could better understand it.

The media also left its impact. The only image I have of Palestine as a child was of the first intifada – not that I knew what that was. It was a scene from a news report and showed a young man flanked by soldiers, being dragged along, with blood pouring down his face. I didn't know what happened to him afterwards or if he was seriously hurt, but the image stayed in my mind and upset me for many years.

A few years later the news was full of nothing but the Gulf war and our parents were engrossed in every bit of news they could get. None of it made sense except a general sense of injustice against Muslims which seemed to be rumbling back and forth in adult conversations and which along with the war in Bosnia and Chechnya seemed to colour the world-view of the Muslim boys I was at school with.

Over the years, the world seems to have shrunk with internet, social media, instant communication and picture and video sharing and increasing international travel. When something happens it’s everywhere instantly and we seem to be oblivious sometimes about the extent to which our children are taking these events in.

When the 3 year old British girl Madeline McCann went missing on holiday in Portugal, Little Lady was also three and was a little unnerved that Madeline had disappeared. She often asked if she had been found and I could see it bothered her. In recent years, even moreso the children are picking up on world events and asking questions – why did someone shoot Malala? Why did they kidnap school children in Nigeria (the Boko Haram)? Most difficult of all – why are they killing people in Gaza? 

In this country death is very much a sanitised process – we are often protected from the pain and horror of death by hospitals that manage the pain, morgues that deal with the processing of bodies and funerals where we are presented with a body that has been tidied up as best as possible for a funeral. This makes it harder for us to deal with when we witness it whether personally or second hand and it makes it even more important than when our children see war and atrocities in the news and hear about it through the discussions happening around them that we don’t ignore the effect on them or the questions that might be on their mind.

My children occasionally watch a BBC news programme called Newsround aimed at children during their school day . It presents a simplified, somewhat sanitised version of the news to help children understand what is happening in the world (the report here on Gaza is very basic and doesn't mention any deaths or the destruction of Gaza, makes Palestinians look like aggressors and focuses on the effect on Towns in Israel). I'm not impressed with the BBC’s treatment of the Gaza crisis at the moment, but some exposure to what is happening on a child-friendly level means that when I discuss these matters with my children, they have some understanding already.

The children also often ask if anything interesting is happening in the news and we have made it a morning ritual to share and discuss a news story at breakfast with me explaining what has happened and choosing what I consider to be appropriate pictures on my phone for them to see and the children asking questions. This means they are not stuck with difficult questions which never get resolved but which leave an impression on them for a long time.

I also believe in sharing these things with my children because I want them to grow up with a feeling that they can do something to make a difference. I believe that Muslim’s by nature should be activists:

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (ra) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say, “Whoso-ever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” ~ Muslim.

I want my children to be Muslims who speak up for others, who try to help the weak and vulnerable and who adhere to the Quranic injunction that states: “And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong, and these it is that shall be successful.” (Quran 3:104).

Most recently the Gaza offensive has caught my children’s attention and they have been trying to understand what is happening. My teenage neighbour who is very close to my daughter is fundraising, everyone is discussing what is happening and family members and friends have been attending protests in the city centre. The Gaza issue is not one that is easy to explain and creates such powerful feeling and emotion that it is hard to explain to children in a rational and fair way. There is a risk of people resorting to intolerant or racist views that discourage children from thinking for themselves of taking a compassionate or peaceful approach. There is also the question of how you share the horror and carnage of the situation without traumatising them. There isn't an easy answer to this except that parents know best what their own children can handle and what might be too much information based on a child’s sensitivity, past experience and reaction.

I came across the following video about the Palestinian conflict which I shared with my children:

I felt that it stuck to the facts, tried to avoid being inflammatory and was fairly simple. It inspired anger in Little Lady and Gorgeous, but it was Little Man's reaction that surprised me. He had tears in his eyes. No dead bodies or injured children, no destroyed hospitals or orchards. The basic facts alone were enough to move him so deeply.

Since then we have discussed the situation daily. I have tried to explain that there are things that you can do and that Muslims must never feel hopeless. My brother was at a protest for Palestine and has been posting video’s of the event which I have been showing them. My sister-in-law has been promoting one of the various Gaza appeals which send you cake for your donation. The kids have had some of the cake and an explanation of why it was ordered. At iftar time, they make dua for an end to the difficulties faced by their brothers and sisters.

Our next door neighbour has been promoting her friends fund-raising attempts through Eastern Relief Foundation for Medical Aid for Palestine (both links will let you make a donation). Little Lady has been inspired by her to make loom band bracelets in the colours of the Palestinian flag to sell and has her brothers, my cousin and her classmates making them too to sell for £1 each. They are selling faster than she can get them made.

I would love to hear how other parents have been discussing (or not) these kinds of serious issues with their children, in particular what is happening in Gaza.

Book Review: Omar Khawaja - Ilyas and Duck Search for Allah

I like to see new books for Muslims for two reasons - one because I think we need to ensure that in the multitude of narratives about Muslims, some of the voices need to come from Muslim's themselves - particularly Muslim's that might not ordinarily get heard - such as women. The second reason is that it is good to see the needs of Muslim’s fulfilled through products and services tailored to us.

This is why I like to support independent Muslim publishers such as Green Bird Books, Gentle Breeze Books, FB Publishing and now Little Big Kids Books. So when the latter asked me if I wanted to review their book, I was interested.

The book is aimed at ages 3-6 years old and inspired by the Quranic ayah:

"Verily, in the heavens and the earth are signs for the believers.  And in your creation, and what He scattered (through the earth) of moving (living) creatures are signs for people who have Faith with certainty." ~ Quran 45:3-4

The book follows 5-year old Ilyas who asks the big question “Where is Allah?” Accompanied by his best friend Duck, Ilyas sets out on a journey to try and find out where Allah is.

It follows the two friends through a range of landscapes asking the animals that inhabit them allowing the answer to be revealed a little at a time.

The thing I liked the most about this book is the second reason I gave at the beginning of this post - it answers a need.  I remember when Gorgeous was very small he would ask me endless questions about the nature of Allah (SWT): Where He was, how He made everyone, where He came from, how He could be if no one made Him.  I tried my best to answer those questions, but often struggled.  This book is a nice attempt at answering those kinds of questions that lots of Muslim parents will get asked.

The drawings are also bright and attractive and the bright book cover caught my children's attention.  There is a glossary at the end with facts about each animal, explaining how to pronounce it's name and pointing out why it is so special.

I'm looking forward to sharing this book with Darling when she is a little older and has big questions of her own.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Picture of the Day: 18.07.14 - Thunderstorms

The weather here has been very odd, yesterday was the hottest day of the year but the night before we had thunderstorms, lightning and torrential rain.  It was so loud it woke me up at 3am and then again at 5am when a massive thunderclap sounded from what seemed right above the house.

Last night the thunder and lightning started up again, the kids had slept through the previous nights drama, so I let them stay up after iftar and watch the lightning through the living room's glass doors.

They look so chilled out here, but five minutes earlier they had been fighting with each other.

"And the thunder exalts [ Allah ] with praise of Him - and the angels [as well] from fear of Him - and He sends thunderbolts and strikes therewith whom He wills while they dispute about Allah ; and He is severe in assault." ~ Quran 13:13

Picture of the Day: 17.07.14 - Exactly What You Need

This week I had to take Little Lady to meet her new teacher after work and ended up running late to prepare iftar.  I rushed home to realise that I had forgot to pick up some dates.  I felt bad because mum-in-law struggles with fasting, but she still fasts and always opens her fasts with a date.

I was too tired to go out again, so just got on with preparing the rest of the food.  Just before iftar time, someone knocked on the door asked them how they were and handed them two plates of food:

Plaited chicken bread, fruit salad, some very sweet melon and two dates - one for me and one for mum-in-law.

I'm not sure who the person was who dropped off the food, but the boys recognised him as a friend of their dads from the masjid.  Alhamdulillah, Allah (SWT) sent him at just the right time with exactly what we needed.

"And whosoever is conscious of Allah, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Indeed Allah has sent a measure for all things." ~ Quran: 65/2-3

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Fasting During Ramadan for Older Children

My children are just coming to that age when fasting will soon become obligatory for them, particularly Little Lady. All three of the older ones are also in the age range (7-14) that I call the age of “tarbiyah” or correct upbringing when I feel that it is most important to start seriously establishing the habits that will be part of the rest of their life - such as salah (prayer), modesty in dress for both girls and boys and fasting during Ramadan.

Hubby and I both started fasting as children (from about age 7-8) and the days were fairly long then, but I remember being very keen to do it. With my own children, I have allowed them to keep a few each year during weekends when I can watch them and with the proviso that if they should start to feel too thirsty or unwell, they must have something to eat.

This year I have had an ongoing discussion with Little Lady who I worry about because she is a little low in Vitamin D. When I suggested that perhaps she shouldn't keep all of her fasts, she rounded on me with “Well if you don’t let me, then YOU will have to answer for that on the Day of Judgement”. Sounds like I got told.

This year their school sent letters home saying that no children would be allowed to fast due to the long day (just over 17 hours) and hot weather as this would mean they are not sleeping enough and would not be able to concentrate on their learning. The head-teacher had consulted with a local imam (not sure who) who agreed that primary school children do not need to fast. Quite a few of the girls in Year 6 have reached puberty meaning that it becomes a duty for then to fast (unless it would impact their healthy adversely to do so).  I think maybe this imam might have been a bit na├»ve about how quickly young girls are reaching puberty in this generation.

Some of the mum’s tried to reason with the head-teacher, so that the older children (10 and 11 year old's) could fast, but she was not willing to move from her position on the matter. Some of the kids are still insisting on fasting, even taking their packed lunch to school as required and bringing it back uneaten. Some of the mothers have gotten us to sign a petition to make the head-teacher reconsider.

I haven’t really had to deal with this issue properly yet because Little Lady has been taking medication and we will need to ensure she stays hydrated. But I did discuss with her doctor and he advised that it was fine for her to fast once her treatment was completed as long as we managed her nutrition properly during the time she wasn't fasting. He particularly recommended dates as a good source of nutrition and reminded us that she would still have to try and fit in eight glasses of water a day.

So I have said that the children can fast at the weekend and they have done so over two weekends with me asking every little while how they are feeling. I have spent lots of time trying to stop them playing football, running around and getting hot and wrestling and asking them to rest and sleep – so far all of the physical activity seems to have no effect, in particular Little Man who is a big foodie and could eat for a living and is forever hungry, keeps saying he is fine and doesn't even feel hungry.

I have also made clear that there is no point in fasting if they do not pray their salat (five daily prayers). Little Lady prays all five prayers now (albeit still needs reminders), but the boys will try and make excuses, so this has been a useful way to encourage them in the intervening days between fasts.

The big question now is how to get them out of bed and get them to eat and drink enough at 2am to get them through the day. At the moment I am bribing them with mango juice if they eat enough, but this weekend I fell asleep as they ate and woke up suddenly near the end of fajr (dawn prayer) time to find they had left their mostly uneaten food and were all asleep back in bed.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

App Review: Arabic with Taha and Maryam - Alphabet

When I was asked to review the Arabic with Taha and Maryam App by Arrabee, one thing stood out. The company was founded by two sisters , one of whom is a speech and language therapist with two children.  This made me curious as to how this app might bee different or specifically tailored to the way children learn languages.

The app is made up of a game in the style of a board game, so was easily recognisable to my children.  The board and the characters on it are attractive and colourful and the sound effects clear but not distracting or irritating.  My first impression of the game was that it was easy to understand and play.

You can choose from up to four characters - two boys and two girls which was perfect for my four children.  One of the girls wears hijab and the other doesn't, one of the boys wears a kufi (hat) and the other doesn't, the characters are also of different skin tones.

I got my older three to try out the app and they found it easy to navigate.  At 7, 9 and 11 they are too old for this app as they are already reading Quran fluently.  They still enjoyed playing around with it and competing against each other.  As you move around the board, for each turn you see a letter and then hear it being sounded out, players then then have to identify the letter from a selection five that are displayed.

One aspect of the app that I liked was that it lets parents check their children's progress for each letter and they have to get to know certain letters before they move onto new ones.

The creators highlight the following features of their app:
  • No other app uses a board game to teach the Arabic alphabet
  • Up to four children of different ages can play at one time
  • 3 levels make the learning process simple and easy
  • Learning is at the pace of each individual child
  • Artificial intelligence is used so new letters are only added when your child has learnt the preceding letters
  • Letters are taught in a specially designed order taking into account normal speech-sound development and visual features of individual letters
  • Flashcards with audio allow the look and sound of letters to be learnt
  • Progress page graphically shows show well your child is doing
  • Progress for up to 30 children can be saved
  • Safe environment with no advertising, in-app purchases or collection of personal information
Personally, I thought that this was a really nice app for the right age range.  It's aimed at 5 and under, which is about the age that many children start learning Arabic.  I would try this with Darling when she is older (and knows to stop deleting everything off my phone).

The app usually costs $1.99 at a promotional price, but is currently free for the month of Ramadan, I would say definitely give it a try whilst it is free to see if it is for you. 

It is currently available in the iTunes store here.
The Arrabee website is here.  It is worth checking out for the blog which has additional resources such as colouring pages.
Their Facebook page is here and their Twitter is here.

Ramadan and Pregnancy – Respecting a Womans’ Choice

I am part of the Facebook group for Multi-Cultural Kids Blogs, where there are lots of pointers to useful resources, people asking interesting questions and conducting research amongst the member bloggers and lots of debate and discussion. Recently someone posted a link to this article on the very popular Babycentre website which discusses fasting during pregnancy. The article didn’t particularly bother me (although some of the people posting on the thread were a little annoyed at the focus of the article). What really interested me was the comments that followed the article. This was for two reasons – one that many of the comments were from Muslim women and I often find that when it comes to issues that affect Muslim women, everyone has an opinion but often the view of a range of Muslim women is just not represented. The second reason was the diversity of the comments – from both women who have fasted in pregnancy and those who have decided not to and the different reasoning behind both.

I am currently seven and a half months pregnant and have tried fasting for a day and realised that it is not the best choice for me and my baby this Ramadan. I am deficient in iron, vitamin D and B12 and so have to manage my nutrition through the day to combat exhaustion and make sure I and baby are well.

That doesn’t mean that I think there should be a blanket ban on all pregnant women fasting. I fasted with my three older children, for all whom Ramadan fell between the sixth and eight month of pregnancy. I also happened to be 10 years younger and a lot fitter and Ramadan fell in the winter months. This meant a healthy breakfast and lunch a few hours later than usual (in winter the fast is 8-9 hours and breaks at about 4pm in the UK, in contrast to the 17 hour summer fasts).

With Darling I fasted a few days and found myself feeling too tired, so fasted intermittently. This time round, the one day I fasted, meant it took me the whole of the following day to recover from exhaustion. The decision not to fast was not taken lightly but seemed the most sensible thing to do within the guidance and mercy of my faith which allows pregnant women to abstain from fasting and make the fasts up later when it might be more manageable.

The thing that really surprised me, although it shouldn’t by now, was the amount of people who thought they knew best on my behalf. I had a number of work colleagues ask if I was fasting and when I said no responded with “good!”, which rather irritated me. Then I had a number of sisters from the local community that surrounds our masjid and from the school run asking me if I was fasting and encouraging me to try. I am by nature a contrary woman (my husband has come to realise this), I don’t like to be told to do things and the quickest way to make me want to do something is to be ordered not to do it.

I think these people need to:

  • Not assume that the choices they make or would make are best for everyone else.
  • Allow women to monitor their own health and make choices based on what they know about their own bodies.
  • Consider that women should be respected enough to make their own informed decisions regarding matters that effect them.
Another thing that caught my attention was how everyone seemed to be confident about the religious position on pregnancy and fasting – declaring I must not fast or I must fast. My understanding I as follows:

“With regard to the pregnant woman: it is permissible for her not to fast if she fears some harm which she thinks will most likely affect her and/or her baby.”

This is based the Quranic injunction not to harm ourselves alongside the following:

Ibn ‘Abbas said: This is a concession allowed to old men and women, who can only fast with difficulty; they are allowed to break the fast and to feed one poor person for each day of fasting missed. This also applies to pregnant and nursing women, if they are afraid.” Abu Dawood said: “i.e., if they are afraid for their children, they may break the fast.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1947; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Irwa’, 4/18, 25).
So for me it is not a clear ban on fasting if you are pregnant, but rather for the pregnant women to assess whether it is safe and manageable for her and her baby and to make a sensible choice.

Another aspect that has influenced my decision to fast in the past is my strong belief that if you do something for the sake of Allah (SWT) He will make it easy and place barakah in it for you. He may ask you to make a sacrifice or undergo something challenging for Him, but he will not necessarily exact it from you (think of Ibrahim AS being asked to slaughter his son, but not actually having to). Hence the fact that it seems easier to fast in the middle of summer for Ramadan when Allah’s (SWT) help and mercy is with you, than make up fasts outside of winter even in the short cool days. With my older children I fasted with the intention that I would make abundant dua (supplication) for my babies whilst fasting with greater confidence that they were being accepted.

At the moment I also have the added factor of my children starting to fast. Watching them fast but not doing so myself feels very strange. I have tried to be discreet, but now I have the boys asking me every few days why I am not fasting – I have told them it’s because I am not well and need injections from the doctor (B12) so cannot. Little Lady and I had a running joke to see how long before the boys clocked we were expecting another blessing. We never thought it would last this long, but now at almost seven and a half months they still haven’t realised (Gorgeous just isn’t very impressed that I have gotten fat). So now we have decided not to tell them and see how they react when a new baby comes home – I had no idea they would be so oblivious.

Not being able to fast means that I have been looking for other ways to make the most of this month and not miss out on it’s rewards, this has been difficult because I find it hard to pray salat because of my bulk and exhaustion. Instead I have been trying to make more dhikr, share food at iftar time and encourage the children to do more good deeds (Gorgeous likes the idea of a good deed list and Little Man is looking for one good deed that will give him an enormous reward).

I would love to hear suggestions from other sisters about what they do at this time for spiritual fulfilment and reward if they are missing out on fasting, whether due to pregnancy, illness or menstruation.

I pray for my sisters who are fasting and for those who simply could not and ask for your dua’s for all of us and for Allah (SWT) to accept whatever little we can manage during this blessed month.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Middle of Ramadan, Bailiffs, Sickness and Death

I hope everyone's Ramadan is going well and they are managing to get rest, appropriate nutrition and make times for lots of worship insh'Allah. Despite my best intentions, I haven’t been able to blog for a number of reasons. We are just about half way through Ramadan and it has passed in a blur. For all the fears of a long day and the summer heat, Allah (SWT) has made it bearable and the days have passed so quickly, with the summer heat breaking with days of rain and cloud (my fave kind of weather).

I am also writing a little less because I am so uncomfortable, this means everything take so much longer and at the end of the day I am left with no time (it’s usually midnight by the time I am done) and seemingly everything still to do around the house. I also find it hard to sit comfortably at all by this time, so typing is out of the question and I just need to shove a cushion under my bump and lie down. Roll on the weekend when I manage to find some time earlier in the day for myself.

This last week has also been difficult, because it has quite simply been a ridiculous week. Gorgeous has had chicken pox and has been at home all week. This means that he is his normal crazy self but just covered in spots, rather than actually slowed down in any way. Strangely Darling hasn’t caught them, she still has time for them to appear as the incubation period is 7-21 days, but I would have thought she would have them by now.

This week has also been characterised with tussles with hubby’s friends. My husband is a trustee at the local masjid alongside a few other brothers and whilst he is in Germany they are supposed to be dealing with masjid business. Instead I got a warrant delivered by someone whilst I was out, authorising bailiffs to remove goods to the value of ten thousand pounds. I am terrified of debt so have never taken out a loan or bought anything on instalments. On further investigation I found it was for outstanding business rates owed by the masjid for a period when they hadn’t even been using the masjid building, which all of the trustees were being chased for. Easily resolved if someone sensible called up the local authorities, explained and took steps to provide evidence. Except the bailiffs wouldn’t listen to me, the local authority would not deal with me and the other trustees would not take me seriously.

Their advice was not to open the door if the bailiffs came. We spend all day going in and out to drop the kids to school and Arabic classes, coming and going to work, picking up groceries and having visitors and family popping by virtually every day. So hiding behind the sofa and not opening the door seems like the best option....NOT. Another one advised I prayed to Allah (SWT) to resolve the matter. That one really wound me up, so after some stern words from my mum-in-law, then me, then some blunt text exchanges, we were reassured it was being dealt with.

Except that day I got a call at work from the kids just as I was leaving. Little Lady quite calmly explained that Gorgeous had flooded the bathroom and caused the living room ceiling to leak at the same time as the bailiff started knocking on the door. This was at the exact time that mum-in-law was planning to leave to pick up the kids from school. If we pick them up late, the school fines us per child. So you can imagine she was in a bit of a panic, I’m just grateful she is good in moments of stress.

In actual fact it might have been a blessing in disguise. If Gorgeous hadn’t been busy holed up in the loo singing at the top of his voice whilst he blocked the toilet, he would have answered the door to the bailiff. I have told him a million times not to open the front door, but the message just never gets through. Not that we have £10,000 worth of goods to confiscate. Just the tired family computer, the sofa’s and the fridge at a stretch. I hid my laptop anyway, as it’s the only thing of value I keep in the house despite the keys that Darling managed to pick off (the backward slash key and one that says Fn – I can live without those). Thankfully mum-in-law made it in time to pick up the kids after the bailiff left.

I have had further words with the trustees and they assure me it is being dealt with, I still don’t believe them as I know how these things work and it’s not how they are describing it. So we will have to be a family of curtain-twitchers and just not open the door until hubby gets back and sorts this out.

This week also saw a public servants strike and the kids were home all Thursday. I still went to work, worrying the whole time I would have to walk through a picket line, only to find no one seemed that bothered to create one and most staff were at work.

All of this nonsense was thrown in to perspective when we got a call from Pakistan, telling us that my sister-in-law was very, very sick. She is my husband’s older sister and the only sister of six brothers. She has been ill for years and is quite vulnerable. Unfortunately her husband’s family have never taken proper care of her and every time she gets sick send her home for my mum- and dad-in-law to care for and pay for medical treatment. She adores her husband and returns every time she is well. This time they went too far and sent her back almost dead – malnourished, confused, unable to sit or speak, with severe bed sores and minus her two little ones. My in-laws are focussing on getting her medical treatment and trying to find her children. My poor mum-in-law has been in pieces and we have all been praying, but expecting the worse. The police and doctors keep asking the same questions – what on earth did you do to her? Thankfully, she has started to pull through but is still very, very ill. Thankfully also, the police in Pakistan can be very effective if you know the right people, so we will have the kids with her soon insh'Allah (and her in-laws might live to regret their behaviour).

We were still worrying about her, when I found out a very sweet, beloved friend of mine who has seen a lot of hardship in recent years, just lost her brother. He was blind and a hafiz of the Quran (someone who memorises our holy book ). She was in a lot of pain as he had been her favourite little brother and he was in Pakistan whilst she is here trying to resolve her immigration status, so cannot go back.

Subhan’Allah, our faith gives us so much strength in times like these:

"Whoever professes La ilaha illah (there is no god besides Allah) seeking the pleasure of Allah and happens to pass away in that state, he will enter paradise. Whoever fasts a day seeking the pleasure of Allah and happens to pass away in that state, he will enter paradise." (Ahmad)

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “When the month of Ramadan comes, the Gates of Heaven are thrown open, and the Gates of Hell are shut” - Bukhari and Muslim.

Please make dua for my sister-in-law to get well and for Allah (SWT) to place peace in my friends heart insh'Allah.  I am so grateful right now for this blessed month of supplications and Allah (SWT)'s mercy, which makes us hopeful and positive about life's challenges.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Chicken Pox

I got a missed call from the kids school yesterday afternoon. Usually any time the kids school call me I start panicking and wonder who has gotten hurt. Usually the teacher will reassure me everything is okay before I even ask with “don’t worry A’s mum, it’s nothing serious” (I think they must be very used to this reaction from parents.)

When I called back, it was Gorgeous’ teacher asking me to come and pick him up as he is covered in chicken pox. Except he’d already had it, all three of the older kids have. I didn't think you could get it twice, but looks like Gorgeous just got lucky. He had a very, very mild dose, with just a few spots whereas as his older siblings had a more serious bout.

At seven, he can tell me what is making him uncomfortable (his throat is sore) and he can agree when I ask him try his best not to itch the spots too much. But Darling is 21 months and has not had them yet. She trails around after her brother when she is not trying to push him around, so I have every expectation that she is going to get them too. My brothers daughter is three months younger and is just recovering from them and had a very tough week of being very miserable, uncomfortable, high temperatures and severe itching driving her crazy and keeping her awake all night. Both my poor brother and sister-in-law had a pretty nightmarish week off work losing sleep and stressing about her high temperature. So I am worried about her and keeping a close eye on her, but she is okay so far.

Aaila the Muslim Family Magazine – Ramadan 2014/1435 Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is now online.  Alhamdulillah as of last April the magazine has become monthly thanks to the help help and contribution of all its wonderful writers and volunteers. Some of the articles at the top of my to-read list this Ramadan include:

Managing Your Time Productively During Ramadan by Tasnim Nazir

Memorizing the Qur’an in Ramadan by Cordelia Gaffar

Prioritising during Ramadan by Umm Salihah (me!!)

Ramadanphobia ­ kiss your nafs goodbye by Aaliyah Umm Ibrahim

Ramadan Intentions by Aisha’tu S. Mohammed

As well as the magazines book club and series of product reviews. Please do take a look and if there is something you find beneficial, please do leave a comment to say, every comment or piece of feedback is very much appreciated. If you would like to contribute something for the next issue, please contact the editor Umm Imran at:

You can visit and follow the lively and engaged Aaila Facebook page here.

You can follow the magazine via this Bloglovin page (which is what I use to keep up with my favourite sites) here to make sure you catch new articles as they are published.

We would also love to hear from you if you have any expertise around marketing, advertising or photography. We are always looking for ways to make the magazine more beneficial and vibrant.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Support National Zakat Foundation this Ramadan

The National Zakat Foundation has launched it’s Ramadan campaign with a target of raising £1.5m for vulnerable and destitute Muslims in the UK. If you haven’t yet paid your zakat and are wondering where you should send it, NZF offer a solution that means UK Muslims can assist Muslims in their own country.

Their current projects include:

Shelters for Muslim women in London and Birmingham, with a new one just having opened in Manchester and currently taking referrals for sisters in difficulty.  The inspiration for setting up these shelters emerged from shocking stories about Muslim women sleeping rough on park benches or turning to prostitution to feed their children.
    Distribution of zakat to those in need – with £1,537,706 distributed so far since the charity began
      The opening of The Date Palm Project a new community partnership between St Mungo's Broadway (homelessness chariy), the National Zakat Foundation (NZF) and the Better Community Business Network (BCBN) to provide faith sensitive supported housing for young Muslim prison leavers who are at risk of homelessness.  The aim of the Date Palm Project is to provide a powerful combination of housing, employment and support for young Muslims leaving prison in order to reduce the chances of re-offending and transform their lives.

      The charities website also has a useful page which allows you to learn more about zakat and a zakat calculator.

      You can find out more about all of their projects at their website, via their Facebook page or their twitter account.