Friday, 24 March 2017

Reflections on the The Westminster Attack

I have been mulling over the awful attack this week outside Parliament and on Westminster Bridge. I can't imagine the pain of those who have lost family members and the terror of those that were injured. My thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones and who have been hurt: I pray that they find the strength to bear what they have been tested with and find some measure of peace in time.

My baby sister has put it better than me:

"...the horrible attacks on people in London has led to an emotional couple of days – anger, worry, heartbreak and fear. I really hate that as soon as something like this happens, so many of my friends, family and I all brace for the inevitable backlash against Muslims, the same fear that we will be grouped with this tragic violence and that we are tarred with the same brush that puts us with something that we don’t believe in.

So this is me, saying this is not my faith. We have said this before and we’ll say it again. Islam doesn’t work like this and we don’t believe or condone any form of terror attacks like this. We are with London, and will remain strong, united and unafraid. London is our home. This is the city where I have had the honour to meet the most diverse and vibrant people from all walks of life and communities, and have found that unity is always better despite coming from different backgrounds."

I have written before along similar lines, about how this is not my faith:

"I can’t explain why they do the cruel things they do and really why would I be able to? This is not the faith I was raised in and embraced. The Muslim people I know don’t think or behave like this.

So before the calls of “Muslims need to speak up” and “Muslims need to get their house in order” – start up as they always do (cause over one billion Muslims are a homogenous group that can be controlled and organised in a tidy manner), I’d like to be clear that the bombings, the civilians deaths, the murder of children, the intolerance of other faiths, the forced veiling of women: this is not my faith. This is not my Islam.

My Islam demands that we speak up when we see something wrong, we try to put it right, we defend our homes and our families and those weaker than us, we seek justice but favour mercy. My faith offers intelligent and peaceful ways to do this. My Islam condemns the slaughter of children and civilians, it orders against the destruction of land, crops and building even in times of war and it encourages us to seek peaceful means of resolving a matter if there is an alternative to conflict."

I will leave it at that, when such horrible events come to my doorstep, the last thing I feel the need to do is justify or explain anything.  It's my city, I am just as angry as anyone about the loss of life, people who have been hurt, the poor tourists who were our guests here and the general disruption.

I note that all of the usual anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and racist trolls have come out to say how London is overrun with Muslims and immigrants and what else could we expect. Of course I disagree, I have written before about how much I love this city:

"It’s a city with such great strength of spirit. The 7/7 attacks happened in London on a Thursday and the city was back on its feet and back to work on the same tube system on Monday. No whinging, no shutting the place down, two-finger salute to the perpetrators and back to business. The Blitz Spirit was alive and well and I felt so proud that Monday.

The city of my childhood; walking down to Green Street Market with my mum where the traders wouldn’t let you touch and the West Ham Football Club supporters marching by in their Doc Martins and bald heads in the 80’s. Going to Oxford Circus nine to a car to see the Christmas lights, getting your pictures taken by the lions in Trafalgar Square, seeing Ginger the mummified man in the British Museum and getting into Tower of London free as under-fives because we were such midgets (we were 8, 7 and 5)"

My family live and work across the city, including very close to where the incident happened, I have a cousin that works in parliament, my lovely sister-in-law works five minutes away and was told to stay in her office at the time.  They will all be back at work on Monday and the city will carry on regardless.


View across central London, photo courtesy of Shutterbug Sister who is forever in the City taking pictures.

Picture of the Day 22.03.17 - Hide all the Pens!

We recently refurbished the first floor of our home and added a second floor by making bedrooms in the loft. It is the most work we have had done since we moved to this home 14 years ago and it has been an utter pleasure having clean rooms with freshly painted walls and flooring instead of carpets.

Of course what looks clean to me, clearly seems to look like a blank canvas to others and Darling took the opportunity to take a permanent black Sharpie to the wall and the bannister that my husband spent three days stripping, polishing and varnishing. I eventually managed to convince her gently to stop blaming Baby and own up. Of course Baby will take any opportunity to practice her calligraphy on any surface she can find as well, including floors, sofas, my diary or the other children’s homework.
 Baby posing next to the scribbles it turned out she didn't do.

So alongside trying to explain repeatedly why we can’t write on walls I took the opportunity to find every pen, pencil and piece of stationary in the house and stash it out of reach.  This is part of what I gathered:



I had no idea that we had managed to accumulate so much stationary, this doesn't include a bucket of pens and random things like ink cartridges, bulldog clips and post-its.

It was actully quite therapeutic sorting them into buckets: colouring pencils, watercolour pencils, Sharpie markers and brush pens, watercolour and paint equipment, painting box for the babies (collective term in our home for Baby and Darling), drawing supplies (pencils, charcoal pencils and erasers etc) and a box of pens of every description.  

I have stashed it behind the little desk my husband bought me to work from.  Hopefully they won't notice them there.  It makes it harder for me to get to, but I am pleased they are in one place and right behind where I use my laptop, serving as a reminder to take them out and practice watercolours and drawing insh'Allah.

P.S. does anyone know what the red bucket bag near the top of the  the picture is called and where I can get hold of similar or bigger ones?

Picture of the Day 22.03.17 - Little Man's Chocolate Cakes

Little Man was nominated this week by his teacher to help at his school bake sale.  The day before the bake school he called me on the way home from school in a bit of a panic. He had to do his homework and go to the masjid for his Quran class, when could he make cakes?

I told him that I would buy cakes and he could decorate them after masjid and the homework.  He suggested I wake him up at 5am and he would make the cakes fresh.  We argued back and forth with him trying to get out of masjid and his morning hifz (Quran memorisation) class.  I told him the oven was unreliable and he couldn’t bake cakes in the morning, because he needed time for them to cool before he decorated them.

I checked the ready-made cakes in the supermarket and none of them were suitable for nut-allergy sufferers - a requirement of the school bake sale.  Eventually after arguing back and forth with both of us getting louder and people in the supermarket looking at me, we agreed that he could make the cakes fresh after masjid and homework and Little Lady and I would help him.

This was the end result:


Little Lady helped him find a recipe and spoon the batter into the cake cases without making too much mess and I helped spoon out chocolate icing, and by washing up the piles of dishes and bowls they managed to use.

He stacked them in two little wooden fruit crates that I usually put my recycling in, to take to school.  He reported that all of the cakes had sold and his class had really liked them, his teacher having bought the last four.

I like that he is such a foodie, we both have a sharp sense of taste and smell and we both love food, I hope he never sees cooking and baking as girly and is something that he continues to enjoy.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Managing Your Time: The Benefits of Unscheduled Days

My trusty little Filofax is one of my most useful tools to manage my time. I have been more laid back in how I used it in the past, when I started to get fed up of being sensible and keeping track of everything by myself. This resulted in my dropping a few balls with appointments and important school dates. So in the end, with work, five kids, mum and mum-in-laws appointments, I started monitoring my time more closely and using my Filofax a bit more to make sure I don’t miss things.

One of the ways that I overcame the feeling of being constrained and time-managed to the minute, was to have unscheduled time in my diary. Another reason was because my days off from work would be used for blogging, catching up with chores or working my way through my to-do list. So I wasn’t getting much rest. I had come across the idea a few times that doing nothing was good for creativity, stepping away and resting, reading, socialising or spending time in nature allows your mind the space to bring forth its best ideas.

The final reason was because I liked the idea of being open to what the day brought. It might be more chores or just getting lost in a book, or it might be an unexpected guest, a surprising opportunity or the unplanned chance to do a good deed.

I usually pick a Friday or my busiest day for housework, Sunday and just block out one day per week, or every two weeks:



There are a number of ways you can use an unscheduled day:

Worship – It’s nice to be able to undertake worship in a peaceful, unhurried way, particularly on Fridays, it is good to have time to read the lengthier Surah Kahf which is recommended on Fridays:

It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khduri that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever reads Soorat al-Kahf on Friday, he will be illuminated with light between the two Fridays.” (Narrated by al-Haakim; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 836)

Rest – How often do we get to do nothing? Modern life is certainly not conducive to doing nothing. We must always be planning, doing and achieving. This incredible drive to be moving forward in our lives all of the time, leaves us anxious and sometimes overwhelmed. Working more hours than others and yet still feeling less satisfied than ever. Even holidays and weekends are about cramming in as much as possible, ticking off checklists of the places we must eat and the sights we have to see so we can tell everyone about it. Doing nothing is the perfect antidote to the fast paced madness of the world around us. We also owe it to our health.

Fun – I love to use my unscheduled day for things I enjoy: jewellery-making, crafts, organising (I know I am a saddo, I like to organise things), blogging and most of all reading. Recently I spent a whole morning having a very leisurely breakfast and reading because builders were working downstairs and had knocked out our Wi-Fi, so I was stuck in my room with no internet. I can’t even remember the time I have had the luxury of reading for hours, I think I need to do it more often.



Break from tech – Sometimes I use an unscheduled Sunday to stay away from my laptop, ignore my phone and just generally stay offline. I usually end up spending the day outside with the kids or just throwing myself into the work of the day (childcare and house work). It’s good to do these thing without rushing on to the next so I can make time to blog or catch up with my inbox, I find myself spending my day a lot more mindfully and in the moment when I don’t have my face in a screen.

Change – Sundays in my home are usually all about preparing to go back to school and work and catching up with chores: cleaning the house from top to bottom, piles of laundry, ironing uniforms, extra cooking to see you through the start of the working week and for packed lunches, packing bags and getting school homework done. By the end of the day on Sundays sometimes I feel fed up and exhausted. So every now and again I pencil in an unscheduled day on a Sunday that allows me to banish as much of the house work as possible. I usually have to try and do as much in advance as I can (such as school bags and uniforms on Saturday) and relegate the rest to the following week. I find this is a much more pleasurable way to end the week and a more rested way to start the new one.

Do you have unscheduled time? Is it something you do consciously or does it feel like too much of a luxury?


Picture of the Day 17.03.17 - Spring Blossom

The weather here has been very mild and sunny for March, I love seeing everything bloom, and the trees all along the roads here are full of pink and white blossoms.  This picture is from the leisurely stroll back from the morning school run, the sight just cheered me up and lifted my morning.



Saturday, 11 March 2017

Muslim and Feminist

International Women’s Day took place during this week.  Little Lady went on a school trip to a war ship with a female captain and got to talk to some of the female sailors. I jokingly asked her at some point if she was a feminist and she replied with an incredulous no. That was it. I had one of these moments:




I took the opportunity to lecture her on the rights of women, or the lack thereof and the effects of this on women today.

I’ve noticed a trend today to reject feminism for a number of reasons, whether because it’s considered to be anti-men, go against Islamic thinking, seen to be focussed on first world problems or just generally not cool. I think sometimes Muslim’s reject feminism because they see it as trying to blur the lines between men and women, whereas Islam accepts that there are differences between men and women that are to be respected.

I think people also reject feminism because they perceive it as being about women trying to outdo men, demand more than their fair share or because they can come across in some instances as hating men. After all, men don’t want to be treated as villains by default. If nothing else, they have gained a reputation for being po-faced killjoys.

But my take on feminism is not about man-hating or getting indignant because someone offered me their seat on the train. It is much more basic than that and based on something much more personal.  My maternal grandmother died in childbirth over 50 years ago. She lost her child and died herself a few days later. I have never been quite clear about what caused her death (may Allah SWT bless her with the highest ranks in paradise insh’Allah), but the effects have reverberated through generations.

The loss of a woman effects everyone around her, the loss of a mother has an effect that it seems can never be alleviated. The loss of my nan meant that my mum dropped out of school and as an adult could not read or write. She grew up caring for her step-siblings, always feeling unloved and second best. She married at 15 sooner than she wanted to and into a family that could not adequately care for her when she joined her husband here at 18. Not being able to read or right meant that she could not write to her family back in Pakistan without help and would have to ask friends to read the responses that came back. 

But the effects of losing her mother in childbirth went deeper than that. She never knew how to love us as children. It was only as adults that we encouraged her to hug and kiss us, but it meant that all of us siblings were quite reserved and cold. 

There were so many things that a mother teaches her daughter that she had to learn herself – things like social conventions. When we went to ask for my lovely sister-in-law’s hand in marriage for my brother, mum had no clue what to do. I had to step in with my motor-mouth and ask sis-in-law’s mum what she thought.

I remember getting upset at something my mum said one day – she is very blunt. On seeing my face drop, she regretted what she had said and acknowledged that not having a mum had made her hard in some ways. She thought it had made both her and her older brother cold and a little selfish.

I see my mum with Little Lady, they are best friends and she loves to spoil my oldest daughter. I wonder if my nan would have spoiled me in such a way. I am blessed with every single relationship: parents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunties on both sides. I have spent varying amounts of time with my other three grandparents and even met their (now very elderly) siblings, my great uncles and aunts. I know how lucky I am and I value and nurture these relationships. But it’s funny, it seems you miss and long for the one relationship that you have never had.

My nan died a long time ago, deaths in the Western world from childbirth are rarer now. Despite this the World Health Organisation’s latest statistics still tell us that 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. In 2015 that was roughly 303,000 women. Most of these were preventable, but happened due to lack of adequate care and resources.

For me feminism is not about competing with men or trying to prove ourselves superior. It is about basic fairness. For women to have an adequate share of resources to be able to access enough food and medical care for themselves and their children to stay healthy. It is about safety from violence (1 in 3 women have experienced violence in their lifetime from a partner). It is about women having access to at least enough education that they can confidently help themselves and their children.

I have always felt that Islam empowered me as a women. I had to fight my family to access higher education, but I knew that my faith encourages the education of women. I married someone my family were not crazy about, but they and I knew I had the right to choose who I marry (best choice I ever made alhamdulillah). I choose to work and it gives me independence and the freedom to make choices in my life and to help and support others.

Islam honours us and empowers us with amazing women role models: warriors, scholars, philanthropists, rulers and wives, daughters and mothers who have changed the course of history through the way they supported and nurtured the people in their lives.

So I am proud to call myself a feminist – someone who believes in fairness and that treating our womenfolk with kindness and respect creates the foundation for happy families and healthy communities. I hope one day my sons and daughters are proud to consider themselves as people who support and empower women too.

"Fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (revere) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah Ever watches over you." (Quran 4:1)

"And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women." (Quran 2:228)

“Whatever men earn, they have a share of that and whatever women earn, they have a share in that.” (Quran 4:32]

"O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them - except when they have become guilty of open lewdness. On the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something and Allah will bring about through it a great deal of good." (Quran 4:19)

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (Ahmad and An-Nasa ‘i) 


A man came to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?' The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?' The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?' The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).

Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” (Abu Dawud)




Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Picture of the Day 08.03.17 - Dress Up

I found my two youngest girls playing with their hair bands earlier.  Darling tells me they are playing "make-up fashion girls".  It reminded me of Little Lady when she was younger, except she was always alone.  These two are lucky to have each other to play and squabble with.  They remind me intensely of my two youngest sisters, Harlequin and Fashionista, especially in the way they argue, fall out and then play together.

It made me think of what a great time I had doing things with my older children: midnight feasts, indoor picnics, dress up box for Little Lady, nature baskets, making dens, gardening and sand pits in our garden (never again on that one!).  

It was the perfect age I think, old enough to be out of nappies and feed themselves but still young enough to be in awe of the world (pre crazy teen hormones kick in).  That time went by so fast and now my older three are getting too old for these kinds of things and have lost interest.  But seeing these two today reminded me I will have another go at it insh'Allah, I hope I don't lose my enthusiasm for doing fun things together, travelling with them and getting to see the world through young eyes again.

I'm looking forward to making them a dress up box and creating a picnic trunk. 



Saturday, 4 March 2017

Thrifty Haul March 2017

I had an urge for some retail therapy this morning and not wanting to waste too much money, I decided to take a trip to the charity shops.  Gorgeous wakes up early like me and is the only one that will tolerate going anywhere near a charity shop, even the babies moan at me if I go into one, so I took him along with me.

I managed to find everyone something without wasting too much money.





















The bag of little girl’s toys and the bag of balls cost 99p each, prompting Gorgeous to sing "Balls! Balls! Balls! Balls!" until I asked him to stop.  The acrylic paints were for Little Lady and cost £2, when I checked the Wilko website, I realised they cost that much anyway.

The two little dishes are to use for soap trays.  Both I and Little Lady have been using Shea Moisture Black Soap and the bars of soap are quite big and can get a little messy.  Normal soap trays are too small, so these will contain larger bars of soap.  Both together cost £2.

The two toiletry bags were £2 for both, the large one is a really good size to store stationary or make-up, but in the end I put small toys in it for the girls to play with when we go to my mum’s house 

The little kid’s books were 2 for 99p, with the Hungry Caterpillar for Baby.  The little green notebook was 50p and has dots inside.  It's perfect for a dots and boxes game I like to play with the boys, otherwise I will use it for taking rough notes.















I was looking for some engrossing fiction to get lost in, but the shelves full of chick-lit and supermarket thrillers didn't really appeal.  In the end, I picked three books which cost £5 altogether.  I really, really like the look of all three alhamdulillah.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Book Review: The Divine Reality: God, Islam & The Mirage of Atheism By Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

The writer begins with sharing his own journey to Islam and the drivers that motivated him to search for truth. He describes the greatest of these as being the contemplation of death. This serves as a background for how the author came to grapple with this question and also a disclosure of any bias on his part.

The book outlines a definition of atheism, the different types of atheism and what the reasons for these to emerge could be. The writer cites historical examples showing that atheism has always existed in some form or other since the earliest days of Islam and that Islamic scholars have responded to it articulately and with confidence, something that we should retain today in the face of modern challenges to faith. There is a brief history of the rise of atheism in recent years including its growth in Muslim countries and Muslim populations in the Western world.

The writer then breaks down the implications of not believing in God, including the loss of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel and the loss of meaning for our struggles, pain and sacrifices. In contrast there is the hope that faith brings and the reminder from the Quran that those who do not believe in God will feel hopeless:

“Certainly no one despairs of God’s Mercy, except the people who disbelieve.”

The book explores fundamental questions like “what is our purpose?”, “what is true happiness?” and “where are we going?” underpinned with logical reasoning, examples to illustrate the writers thinking and including different viewpoints. The writer uses these questions to show that atheism cannot provide satisfactory answers to the big questions in life and because of this cannot lead to the peace and happiness that we seek through trying to answer these questions.

The book then explore the oft-presented argument that you can live a good life as an atheist and while accepting that you can, it cites research evidence of relationships between religion and greater charitable giving, greater levels of volunteering, lower risk of depression, drug abuse, fewer suicide attempts and greater wellbeing.

The writer takes to task naturalist and Darwinist thinking, challenging the belief that everything we do and believe in is geared to increase our chances of survival. He asserts that our existence is not just based on our will to survive, but to find the truth, giving examples of all of the dangerous things we are willing to do to get to it (like explore space or climb a mountain).

The book looks at the argument for the existence of God as opposed to the evidence for the absence of a Creator giving evidence from psychological, sociological and anthropological sources. It also suggests that belief is intuitive, citing the concept of “fitrah” or the innate disposition within each of us to recognise God. This departure is interesting, because the author has to step aside from rational arguments for the existence of God and consider something that is so hard to prove, so easy to reject when arguing about these things, but still so impossible to dismiss on a personal level. It’s that part of us that speaks to us when we look at the beauty of nature and the world around us and tells us that there is something greater than us and that everything that is happening to us is not just random. Tzortzis quotes Al-Ghazali to explain this point quite beautifully:

Al-Ghazali argues that the fitrah is a means that people use to acquire the truth of God’s existence and that He is entitled to our worship. He also maintained that knowledge of God is something “every human being has in the depths of his consciousness.” 

I enjoyed the books forays into descriptions of planets, energy forces and the laws of physics and how they prove some kind of intelligent design as well as the chapter on the divine authorship of the Quran. The latter cites a variety of Islamic and academic scholars. The chapter entitled the Messenger of God (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is also fascinating in its mention of his teachings, character and impact, but also the things he predicted would come in the future.

One thing I really liked about this book was that it doesn’t dismiss any alternative views out of hand as books written from one religious viewpoint can do. It has the courage to outline all of the alternative views and voices and then follow a line of logic that takes us to why belief in the Divine is the one that makes the most sense.

The book is well structured and aims to be logical as it reasons its way through interlinked elements of atheism. The writer unpacks the arguments in a systematic way. This subject can be a complex and extremely abstract area, difficult to get your head around, cloaked in academic language and sometimes just chasing its tail in circles. This book breaks down the different parts to think about when addressing or trying to understand atheism and provides examples to illustrate what the reasoning looks like. At the same time there were some parts of the book where the reasoning followed through to a conclusion quite effortlessly and there were other parts where the author took the argument to a conclusion in favour of theism rather than atheism, but it did not feel as conclusive. I think that this is because for some of the issues looked at, logic and reason can only take us so far and there is a point at which you have to come down on one side of the argument or other based on what you believe. 

The Divine Reality does not shy away from covering extensive research, multiple areas of study and complex arguments. There were parts of the book that required deeper thinking, re-reading or for me to take a step away and mull over them. This was not for me a book to be devoured in one sitting, but one that took careful reading and some clear thinking space to get through. Even being peripherally aware of the current debates around atheism and the history between the writer and atheist Richard Dawkins, the book introduced me to a very wide range of concepts I was unaware of (such as the “the hard problem of consciousness”).

One of the things in the book that had a powerful impact on me, was a quote from a different writer altogether:

“On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” ~ Richard Dawkins

I found this quote stopped in my tracks. It is so full of hopelessness and so depressing, especially in contrast to the books description of how empowering and uplifting the Islamic belief in a Creator can be.

The writer explains that he wrote the book to assist Muslim’s in having clarity for themselves and when engaging others, particularly at a time when atheism is increasing both in Muslim countries and non-Muslim. Particularly he notes there is an aggressive push to promote atheist ideology on university campuses. This book will serve as an accessible, useful tool in discussing faith and answering the very difficult questions we find ourselves faced with from people both critical of faith and those interested in it.


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Musimah Entrepreneur Interview with Allya of Mini Muslim Playground

This Entrepreneur Interview and Inspiring Ummah Interview posts will be a series of interviews with entrepreneurs and social campaigners who are making a difference in the world. I find that Muslim women are particularly interested in both of these areas: becoming entrepreneurs or doing work that benefits society, often both at the same time. These interviews will help to shine a light on the motivation and inspiration behind creating your own product, service, social outreach campaign or charity, how to get started and some of the challenges you may face.



As an introduction, can you please tell us about yourself, your background, and what lead you to create Mini Muslim Playground?
My name is Allya I’m 31 years old and happily married and also have a gorgeous cat called Patchy. I have been running various businesses for the past 10 years. My main back ground is Digital Marketing and selling Home Wares online. Me and my husband set-up and successfully run a digital marketing agency and we are also setting up a new online homewares business. However my happiness comes from working on the Mini Muslim Playground. It has been an idea of mine for around two years but other things got in the way and the idea had to be put on hold. Then in 2016 my niece and nephew were born and it just gave me the motivation to really push this idea and make it a reality. Islam is very close to mine and my husband’s heart and it’s a beautiful religion, and we just wanted to do something that made learning about Islam fun for both parents and children.

What made you choose to become an entrepreneur?
I always wanted to be my own boss ever since I was little. I’ve had jobs were I did the 9-5 but I was never happy and wanted more for myself. My parents were very supportive and encouraged my entrepreneurship. 15 years ago my dad had a stroke and seeing how he got himself better and how he came closer to Islam over the years inspired me to follow my heart. So I quit my job and took the plunge. I started my first business selling party favours, décor material, and other decorative pieces, the business was called Wedding Walkway. It was fun but it was also my first business. Soon after that I started my own homewares business where I learnt about digital marketing which I found really fun, I then went out and got a Google certification and started Pear Digital Marketing which is still going strong today Alhumdulillah. When I got married 2 years ago, my husband supported me and my crazy business ideas and he grew Pear Digital. Being an entrepreneur has its challenges but it is very rewarding especially when I see pictures of Muslim Children praying on the prayer mats I sent or reading books with their parents. It’s nice to see Islam entering into their hearts from such a young age.

What is the overall aim of Mini Muslim Playground? What problem are you setting out to solve and how?
I’m not setting out to solve any problems. I’m in fact hoping that through the Mini Muslim Playground I can supplement traditional methods of learning and teaching about Islam. When I was little I’d go to the madrassah and was told to learn the Quran, which I did but the imam never really explained the meaning or the reason behind a particular verse or Surah. I only started to learn the meanings recently, and looking back I wish I had the resources we have today so that I could appreciate our religion even more. There are so many wonderful books, toys and games available today at the Mini Muslim Playground that teach about Islam in a fun and inspiring way that were not available when I was a kid. So in short the aim of the Mini Muslim Playground is to help parents teach their kids about Islam though fun, interactive means that really sparks the child’s curiosity about Islam and Insha Allah nurtures a love for Islam from a young age.



What were some of the biggest challenges for you when you were starting your business?
 Everything. LOL. From the branding, to the logo, to what products we wanted right down to what platform the website should be. But being digital marketers and website developers we managed to get it right and then came the hard task of getting stock. My husband has to keep me grounded as I have a million ideas and want to do all of them all at once. There is so much I want to achieve and do with the Mini Muslim Playground but can’t find enough hours in the day to do everything I want. I’m launching the first of my own product range in a month or so InshaAllah and that in itself is very challenging as a lot of energy has gone into it and I don’t know if it will work or not. All I can do is make dua and carry on.

What do you wish you had known before you had started your business?
That’s a tricky one. Having run my own businesses before I know that setting up any business is hard, risky and comes with its own unique challenges. Some would say that they wish they had known how much effort is involved in running your own business or wish they did better market research etc. But hindsight is a beautiful thing and looking back the past month or so with Mini Muslim Playground I wouldn’t change a thing, and if there is one thing I would like to have known is how happy this business makes me so that I could have started it earlier.

What is the most satisfying aspect of running your own business?
Being your own boss is a dream come true. I work to my own schedule, I create my own ideas and launch them I sometimes work from my home. There are challenges of running your own business such as making sure you’re doing everything properly from paying invoices, to making sure your finances are in order and so on, and there are times where I do get a bit scared and think ‘am I doing the right thing’? But Alhamdulialh I have my level headed husband who helps look after Mini Muslim Playground whilst running his own business and he constantly motivates me and challenges me when I have a down day.  The most satisfying aspect of being your own boss is that no two days are the same. Your free to do whatever you want, when you want. Also seeing my customers leaving kind comments and posting their kids using our products on social media is a big boost to my confidence and always makes me really happy.



Where do you see your business in the future?
I hope to launch my own range of physical and digital products in the future and really make the Mini Muslim Playground the go to place for Islamic toys, books and games. A lot of people assume that you should grow your business into a global success and make millions (which is fine for some and work for some). My dreams for this business are humble and I don’t aim to become a global leader. As long as parents and kids want to learn about Islam, be inspired about Islam and have fun while doing it then the Mini Muslim Playground will always be around to help with that Insha Allah.

What words of wisdom would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who may be hesitant about taking the first steps towards starting their own business?
Just do it. It’s scary, there is a lot of hard work involved, long hours and sometimes you will feel like giving up. But if you stick at it and pray to Allah for guidance you will succeed. Make sure you get your branding and product choices right. Research your competition but be different from them. Drive traffic through your social media because that’s where your customers are and get your website right. If you don’t know about websites or social media get someone to help you. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Be open to constructive criticism as what you may think is a brilliant idea your target market may not agree. Usually the first year is the hardest but once you get past that you be will on the way to success. Keep a level head and complete one task at a time.


Previous Interview:

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Chicken Meatballs Recipe by Guest Blogger Amber from Recipes Pakistan

Amber is a blogger from Pakistan who blogs her amazing recipes at The Recipes Pakistan. Her website features a large array of delicious Pakistani and fusion recipes (from Arabic Chicken Shawarma to Chinese inspired Chicken Manchurian) from both her and famous chefs from Pakistan, recipes are listed by chef or by the course of meal they are usually found in (mains, dessert etc). The website also shares tips for the kitchen as well as beauty and weight loss tips.









Chicken Meatballs by Guest Blogger Amber from Recipes Pakistan

Meatballs are one of the most delicious dishes that can be made with ground meat. I mostly make this with red meat, but previously the Doctor has discouraged my mother from eating red meat, so I developed this recipe using chicken. It turned out really flavorsome. I would really encourage all of you to give a try this appetizing recipe for a pleasant change in your dining experience.

Ingredients 

For Meatballs ½ kg chicken boneless 
1 onion (sliced)
4 green chilies
To taste salt
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp coriander powder
1 egg

For Gravy 2 medium onions (sliced)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
To taste salt 
1 tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Yogurt 4 tsp
Garam masala powder 1 tsp
Oil ½ cup
Boiled eggs 4
Directions
Put chicken, onion, green chilies, salt, red chili powder and coriander powder in food processor and process until the ingredients and chicken are ground.
Take out ground meat in a bowl and mix in the egg.
Make small balls out of the mixture and assemble in a tray. Keep it in a fridge.

In the meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and brown the onion.
Add in ginger garlic paste, sauté, when it gives an aroma; add salt, red chili powder, turmeric and yogurt. Stir until oil comes on top.
Now add one and half glass of water. When it starts cooking add meatballs in gravy. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes then lower the heat. 
Cook until balls tender and water evaporates and oil comes on top.
Now add sufficient water to make your required consistency gravy. Cook for 5 minutes.

Dish out in a bowl, sprinkle garam masala powder, set boiled eggs in bowl and serve with flat bread.



Saturday, 25 February 2017

Picture of the Day 20.02.17 - Daffodils

I have started to see the daffodils growing, but I haven't managed to get a decent picture yet (you can see previous years ones here: 2016 and here, 2014, 2013. This jar full of them was sitting on my mum’s kitchen table. She has a knack for setting out things beautifully and making the most of space. I love the cheerful yellow blooms in the simple jar.