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.



Picture of the Day 12.05.18: Hosting Dinner

Fashionista Sister came to stay this weekend with a bit of pestering from the rest of us, so we managed to get some time with all four of us sisters together.  Usually my mum cooks when we are all together and we all look forward to her cooking. This time I thought I would give her a break and host.

That meant that all of my housework and cooking got done in one day with lots of help from the kids and my dad-in-law who is proving handy with a hoover and likes to feel useful. 


I ended up making lamb curry, pea pilau rice, chickpea and potato salad (channa chaat), saucy baked chicken (from this recipe), green chutney, raita and a salad.  Mum didn’t end up resting her knees and went shopping instead.






It was lovely having my parents over and after they had left the four of us stayed behind and joked and laughed to tears.  We told stories about the various occasions we had managed to scare our husbands, so we clearly all have a really mature sense of humour.  My brother and sister-in-law were missed, she is good natured company, plus she is an easy target to tease too.


Its time like this I am grateful for my family, my awesome sisters and all of our precious little ones, may Allah SWT keep them safe and always a part of my life insh’Allah.



Monday, 7 May 2018

Book Review: Yan’s Hajj, The Journey of a Lifetime by Fawzia Gilani


I like to keep an eye out for Islamic books for children for a number of reasons: increasing their Islamic knowledge, a means of normalising Islamic language, behaviours and dress, creating positive role models and teaching about good deeds.


Yan’sHajj falls into the last two categories.  Yan is a poor farmer who works hard to save money to go to Hajj.  Every time he sets out he finds someone on the way who is more in need of the money than himself and uses it to help.  Each time he saves the money, he is a little older and finds it a little harder to save enough.  By the end of the book he has helped build a school, helped build a masjid and rescued and raised an orphan.  By this time he is also too old to earn enough to ever get to Makkah to perform his hajj – will he ever get to the house of Allah (SWT)?



In the book, Yan’s good deeds came back to help him on his way in one last attempt at this special journey of a lifetime, which has actually taken a lifetime.

This is a clearly written book, with the goodness of Yan and his love of Allah (SWT) evident on every page.  The drawings are simple, but I enjoyed seeing how Yan aged through each event in the book.

What stood out though was the beautiful message of the book.  I loved how Yan put the needs of others before himself at every turn. He loved Allah (SWT) and longed to visit his house, but he could not see others in difficulty and walk away to the extent that he was ready to sacrifice his precious dream to helps others.

This is probably one of the best children’s books I have come across.  The story is wonderful and I choked up as I read it to my children, struggling to keep my voice level by the time I got to the end.  It’s one I would read to my little ones again and again.  I know there are good people like Yan in this world and I hope that this book inspires my children to be amongst them. 


Picture of the Day 06.05.18: Beading Fun

The bank holiday meant that I had an extra day off and some extra time and head space to do something a bit more relaxing.  I took my box of beads out from under my bed where it has (literally) been gathering dust for some time and slowly unpacked what I had.  I always find that jewellery making takes a lot of time sorting my beads out and seeing what I have and how they might work together and a short time stringing the price of jewellery together.

As always, the Babies saw the beads and refused to leave me in peace. We ended up with beads everywhere.  Little Lady came to the rescue and found her old box of beads for them to play with. She took some of mine to create a delicate, pretty bracelet of sparkly clear glass crystal beads and blue crystal spacer beads that she has been wearing ever since.






I tested out my new bead board, which ended up being used to hold beads rather than plan out a piece.



I ended up with a few new pieces to match with various scarves.  I have just sealed the knots in the bracelets with nail varnish and I am waiting for them to dry before I try them on.

Unconscious Bias Training


I recently attended unconscious bias training at work.  This training aims to help you to become aware of your own internal biases for or against any group and understand how this may affect the way you treat others at work.  The training was for managers, particularly those that recruit staff.  I attended because I advise on equalities issues for my organisation and I wanted to see how beneficial the training would be.  I also love the conversations and stories that sometimes arise in this kind of situation.

The training turned out to be not quite what I expected and felt like a bit of a missed opportunity in developing the thinking of some of the attendees.  Lots of PowerPoint slides and information on equalities legislation and not enough detail on what unconscious bias is and how we can recognise and mitigate against out own.  There were a few mistakes about Islam when religious custom was discussed, which set me off and I corrected the trainer a few times.  I don’t think this endeared me to anyone, especially the trainer, but I couldn’t help myself.  Worse of all the trainers own unconscious bias was showing – big time.  We all have these biases, but I am of the mind that if you are a trainer, then you should be a bit more aware of your own.

It got me thinking about my own unconscious bias and the eye-opening, mind expanding moment in my life that laid my own prejudices bare.  This was during hajj with my husband twelve years ago.  In the convergence of Muslims from every corner of the earth I was exposed to the incorrect stereotypes that lay buried at the back of my mind: rich, regal Nigerian women with their broderie anglaise shawls, dripping with gold jewellery, tall Chinese Muslims in their long Mao coats, the smiling sweet-natured old Senegalese ladies, the Kurdish ladies with pretty tattoos on their faces, white Muslims from Bosnia.    I remember hearing an American accent while doing tawaf (circling the Kaaba) and doing a double take when I found an African American family following us around – it seemed strange because it was an accent I had only ever heard on TV and didn’t expect to hear it in the Haramain (sacred place).

On reflection I didn’t think I was a racist, but these stereotypes were ones I had internalised without even realising.  Hajj brought them out in the open where they were exposed to examination and ultimately rejection.  This is one of the things I love about my faith: the rejection of racism and prejudice and the acceptance of all those that look so different to you as inherently valuable.  I am more than aware that many (most?) Muslims are not bale to live up to this ideal, but it is certainly something I aspire to insh'Allah.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” ~ Quran 49:13

“O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no favour of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin, nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness.” ~ Musnad Aḥmad (22978)


Saturday, 5 May 2018

Picture of the Day 05.05.18: Geometry Practice

I love Islamic, geometric art and I used to love drawing geometric patterns as a child.  I have had good intentions about drawing, art, crafts, watercolour and learning Islamic watercolours for some time, so today I decided to pick up a pencil and have a go.  If this turns out well, I am hoping that to make I the theme for my Ramadan posts insh’Allah.  What do you think would make a god colour scheme?



Finding a Place of Strength and Gratitude


My better half has now left to visit America for six weeks.  He will be staying in Chicago and doing dawah work until the end of Ramadan and come home to us in time for Eid. This time last year he was in Pakistan and I came close to having a breakdown trying to manage unruly teens, an ill-mother in law, getting by with no money and travelling to work in Ramadan in the heat.

At the end of that I felt both worn down and very strong, knowing I had handled everything that had come my way but feeling slightly resentful that I should have to and resentful that I seemed to have aged ten years over the course of that summer (my ego is having trouble accepting this).

This year I felt in a better place.  The kids are still hard work, especially the teens but we have routines and I push them to help and pull their weight. I teach the boys Arabic at home because I got fed up of their teacher complaining they were not concentrating and wanted to take charge before they were too old to influence in this matter.

Work is intense and often mentally exhausting, I love my work and feel stretched and challenged most days, but I am having to learn to ration my energy so that it is not all spent in the office.  I am not good at this, so I rarely have the energy to do anything other than housework and dinner and bedtime routines after I get home.

With my husband away, my morning routine has had to be extended.  I make dad-in-law’s lunch and leave it in the hot pot and get the kid ready and leave them with breakfast before I leave for work. Then dad in law will do the school run for both nursery and school.  This worked fine the first day, but on the second day, he picked Baby up from nursery and forgot to pick the rest of the children at the end of the school day.  The school called him to say the children need to be collected from the office, but his phone battery had run down and he didn’t get the message.  It was only an hour later when I got home and asked where the kids are that I realised what happened and rushed to collect them.  They were not best pleased.  I’m still not sure why he never got round to pick them up…I am praying we don’t get a repeat, I would normally call home, but he can’t hear what you say on the phone very well, so I will have to think of another solution (maybe ask the neighbour to knock and remind him).

I get through the time with my better half away by filling it up with positive things as much as I can.  I am hoping to take the kids out a few times before Ramadan starts, spend more time blogging and crafting insh’Allah and trying to do more fun things with the kids.  I also have a stack of books to read, including two for the office book club which should keep me distracted in the evenings.

A lot of people questions why hubby goes away for forty days every year.  My family are super critical of him for going and of me for putting up with it. I find it harder with him not here, but I know it is much harder for him to be away from me.  We both do what we do because of our faith and our belief in the necessity of dawah:

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining Al-Ma’roof (Islamic monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (Polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are successful.” (Qur’an 3:104)

The above verse has always resonated with my powerfully and I pray that I and my family are raised in the ranks of those that it describes as succulent.

“Convey from me, even one verse.” (Bukhari)

“God, His angels and all those in the Heavens and on Earth, even ants in their ant-hills and fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct others in beneficial knowledge.” (Tirmidhi)

We believe that everything comes with a price and that for there to be positive change there must be sacrifice. That when we make the smallest of sacrifices or undergo the smallest of hardship for the sake of Allah (SWT), he blesses us with the greatest of rewards

“Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like the rewards of those who follow him, without that detracting from their reward in any way. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like the burden of those who follow him, without that detracting from their burden in any way.” (Muslim)

So I am trying to reframe my thinking and see the good: the promise of reward from Allah (SWT), the opportunity to support my husband and also to take care of his dad. The chance to grow into a stronger mother, believer and person.  And while hubby is away to blog in the evenings and read all night like a teenager (and maybe forget to do the housekeeping some days).  

Sabr (patience) and shukr (gratitude) calligraphy (source)