Monday 26 November 2007

Islam Channel’s Global Peace and Unity event.

I did say I would write about Islam Channel’s Global Peace and Unity event, which took place this weekend, if I got to go. Well I did, and I am not sure I am the best-placed person to write about it. I went to the first one two years ago and loved the buzz, the gathering of my brothers and sisters, the high quality of speakers and acts and the bazaar. I also attended the event last year. Again the atmosphere was lovely, I met a number of people from work, university and my neighbourhood and some of the speakers were brilliant. Most notable were Imam Yusuf Estes, Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad, the former prime minister of Mauritius and Abdul Wahid Pederson of Denmark. However, one of the things that riled quite a few people was the use of music in the segments performed by Yusuf Islam and I vaguely recall another young group from Canada. My husband was one of the ones who sat stony-faced through these performances. I was a little disappointed as one of the reasons I had been keen on these events was that they were an Islamic, halal alternative to other media or events that are out there. Also, the best speakers were kept till the end (8pm) by which time people, especially those with children, were tired and just wanted to go home. Last year this included 90 minutes of the organisers displaying an orgy of backslapping as they awarded each other prizes and bored the audience to death. In 2005 this meant keeping the excellent Dr Zakir Naik till the end, bringing him on 45 minutes late and then trying to get him off stage mid-flow as the show had to end. Keeping in mind the music, prize-ceremony and the exorbitant prices in the bazaar (pushed up by ridiculous stall-hire prices) I decided not to buy tickets this year. My husband had other plans.
He booked a job doing the deliveries and pick and drop for one of the food stalls, which also happened to be doing the catering for the after-show VIP dinner. Mother-in-law is adamant that despite being too ill to walk much, that no-one goes anywhere fun or interesting without her (a trait I admire and plan to emulate). So on mention of free tickets from the catering boss we were all bundled in turns into hubby’s truck and delivered into the event via the service entrance.
Once there, mother-in-law got tired and wanted to go home, so we didn’t get to see any of the speakers. Visited the bazaar (expensive), the black cloth of the Kaaba (kiswa), which was there last year and met some friends and bought a hijab pin (woo-hoo big spender). Best thing though was that hubby bought home tons of good food which included some rather rubbery chunks of spiced meat. Dad-in-law confirmed that these were chunks of camel - first time for everything I suppose. Anyway, got to sit in hubby’s truck, which was fun.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Happy Mama Blues

Haven’t written in a little while due to not being my happy self for a few days. Have been in a bit of a funk due to a mix of nasty cold virus, kids having colds, mother-in-law being out of action (she has Hep C and some days it catches up with her), an annoying person at work pestering me, nerves at starting a new job in a weeks time and just general, no-reason irritableness. Get a bit scared when I feel like this as it reminds me of when I had a rather nasty dose of the baby blues after Gorgeous was born and couldn’t see any way out of it.

So decided today to try and find a way to feel better. Started off by finding something decent to wear (bright red with hole near the hem where the iron took off a bit, but the embroidery hides it) and sorting my hair – instant fix. What also helped was learning a line of a surah. My father helped me memorise the last ten surah’s of the Quran when I was a child. As a teenager I was neglectful and forgot some of them so I am trying to remember them again. The other thing that helped (perhaps the most), was finding something to do. I cleaned, washed and tidied and now feel miles better. Looks like hard work is good for the soul. Writing this has helped me to feel upbeat too.
Will write something interesting tomorrow, maybe about Islam Channels GPU Show (if hubby takes me). In the meantime am off to wash dishes and cook. Smile everyone. Alhamdulillah.

Friday 16 November 2007

Ooooh, Milton Keynes

Back at work after a week off. This involved trying to undertake the glamorous task of potty-training Little Man (half-way there), planning an impromptu weekend for me and hubby to Brussels (couldn’t get tickets) and visiting Milton Keynes instead (who needs Eurostar when you can have a kip down the M1!). Had a lovely lunch with friends in Milton Keynes though - although Little Man broke a china model dog and Little Lady shoved Little Man during the meal and he landed feet-first into the lamb curry. Was just relieved Gorgeous slept through most of the day.
Was nice dropping Little Lady to school despite the early morning protestations about not wanting to go and it was good to give mum-in-law a bit of a break as I feel guilty about how much she does for us. Also felt good to put my garden in order and bring in my potato harvest (one whole basket-full - there might be more down there, but I got tired of digging. Will have to try and get better half to have a go).
Have finally given my notice in at work so three weeks to go, will just have to keep marching around the office with bits of paper looking important till the end of the month.

The Wonderful Mma Ramotswe

Have just finished reading the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of books written by Alexander McCall Smith and I enjoyed them immensely. Mma Ramotswe is an absolute dream: strong, thoughtful, kind, happy with her “traditional build” and just downright good. A protagonist that is easy to root for. It’s often hard to believe that the writer is not a woman so effectively has he caught Precious Ramotswe’s voice.

The novels portray a people who are proud of their country and traditions and touches on themes such as domestic violence, poverty, marital infidelity and AIDS. Despite this the books never lose their air of cheerfulness. The prose is clean and witty and the book easy to read in a sitting. The central characters become real. Mma Ramotswe’s intelligent and hardworking assistant, Mma Makutse, particularly caught my imagination, with her thoughtless remarks, “difficult complexion” and penchant for pretty shoes.

These are not epic convoluted whodunits but rather gentle tales, of mysteries solved because of Mma Ramotswe’s gentle probing, her willingness to listen and her habit of patient observation. Most often it is the events in the characters lives and the relationships between them that take centre stage in the books and these are portrayed in a way which is humorous and sympathetic.
The people and place (Botswana) in these books stay with the reader long after the story has ended making the reader yearn for the places the writer describes.

My praise has got three other ladies at work reading the books (I had four and another of the ladies had the other two, so we are passing them around) and the two Mma’s have become real objects of affection for us.

Monday 5 November 2007

Making Jewellery

I love making my own jewellery and these are some of the things I have made. I tend to take apart old jewellery and spent a few Sundays last summer hunting for glass and metal jewellery at boot fairs where it usually costs a few pence (I’m not a fan of plastic as it doesn’t have anywhere near the same look or feel.

I love these because they go with anything beige or brown or when I wear my black abaya and leopard-print scarf.
I made these with a mix of glass beads whose colours, shapes and textures appealed to me. They feel a bit heavy sometimes but are nice to cheer up a plain black abaya.

These are just some fun little bracelets that I made for my little girl and my baby niece in Pakistan. The beads felt a little tacky for adult pieces, but seemed fine for kids stuff.

Ajwa tree (I wish)

This is my fruit-tree collection. I have been sticking fruit stones into pots on my window-sill not really thinking they would grow. So far I have an avocado plant and a lychee which is very pretty. My pride and joy though is my little ajwa plant. Ajwa is a very special kind of date and the most expensive variety you can get. (I recently saw a small 1 ½ pound box for £10). Short and almost round and a purple-black colour, it is sweet but not too sweet. People who go for hajj try to bring a little back for their families, believing it to be blessed. It is believed that the first plant was planted by the beloved Prophet (saws) himself and grew and bore fruit within a year rather than the twelve years it normally takes for a date tree to grow and bear fruit. Eating an odd number of the dates is thought to keep away shaytan. As far as I know the fruit is only found in Madinah.

As for my tree, I don’t expect it to bear fruit anytime soon and would be over the moon if it just managed to survive, but imagine if I did manage to grow my own ajwa dates, would be amazing. (link regarding the story of Hadhrat Salman-al-Farsi (RA) and the origin of the Ajwa).

Sa'd, radiya Allahu anhu, narrates that the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said: Whoever awakens to eat 7 dates of the 'Ajwa variety, will not be harmed by poison or black magic. (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

'Aisha, radiya Allahu anha, narrated that the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said: A household with dates will never go hungry. (Reported by Ad-Darimi)

Ibn Umar, radiya Allahu anhuma, (may Allah be pleased with them) narrates that the Prophet, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, asked: There is a tree whose leaves do not shed and it is similar to a Muslim, so tell me about it. We were silent and I thought it was the date palm but I was to shy too speak, so we said, "tell us what it is". He, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, said: It is the date palm. (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree: she cried (in her anguish) "Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!" But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm tree): "Grieve not! For thy Lord has provided a rivulet beneath you; And shake towards you the trunk of the palm tree; it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool (your) eye. And if you see any man, say, 'I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being'". (Maryam: 23-26)