Thursday 29 September 2011

InCulture Parent: The Dangers of Consumerism and the Muslim Child

The latest edition of the wonderful and always fascinating InCulture Parent is now out and includes my column "The Dangers of Consumerism and the Muslim Child"  There is an excerpt below.  Please do go and visit and leave a comment, I would be very happy to hear your thoughts.

I suspect those who celebrate Christmas will be familiar with the way I felt a day or so after last Eid. Having received numerous toys, the kids took a cursory look at each and then left them to one side, forgotten. A few days after, I got a lecture from both my mother and my mother-in-law who had tag-teamed to advise me that I was spoiling my children, in particular my daughter, by buying them too many toys and gifts.

While I am good at ignoring parenting advice, when it comes from both my mum and mother-in-law, I knew there had to be something to it.

I questioned whether I was buying them off with material possessions because of some kind of working mother guilt–toys instead of time and attention. I decided this isn’t the case, because I am quite good at saying no when they ask for things. The usual working mother discourse/guilt trip doesn’t quite fit for me because I work almost the same hours that my kids are at school.

Most of the things I buy them are what I think are appropriate and not what they want—educational toys, sports equipment, arts and crafts materials (although I do have a weakness for pretty, girly things for my daughter). I have always tried to provide an enriched environment for my children through their toys and possessions and then allow them to get on with their play and learning rather than tutor or steer them too strongly (I’m probably too lazy to do this as well).

Despite this, I was left wondering whether buying them lots of toys and clothes was spoiling my children. To find some answers, I had to dig deeper. People often shop when they are anxious. People my age have been raised on a diet of advertising and marketing. We are told that if we buy one more product we will be beautiful, happy, and young and that all of our problems will be solved. Shopping has become a kind of therapy for us–the right shoes will make our work problems go away, the right cream will make us young and we won’t have to think about our self-image or confidence issues. This kind of thinking has become almost second nature for us. As Dave Ramsey (The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness) said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Supporting a Sister through a Bereavement

One of the greatest tests anybody could ever face in their lives is the loss of a child. There is nothing that can prepare us for it. Which mother does not live in fear of something happening to her child, constantly worrying about the child that is out of sight and inflating every little danger in her mind?

What do we do when one of those things become real and someone we know loses a child? How can we help and console them knowing we cannot take the pain away? I could be accused of being a bit of a fraud for writing on this topic as I have never experienced this loss. But I have been a bystander to this devastating experience and I have wished I knew better how to help the people who were suffering.

This week a family member in Pakistan lost their disabled four year old child. My father-in-law raced over to help in whatever way he could. Alhamdulillah, I have learnt so much about the right thing to do at different time of happiness or loss from my in-laws. My father-in-law is a lesson in the practical things you can do when there is a death – drive everyone around, take people to and from the hospital and getting the body released, contacting the masjid to make arrangements for the funeral.

My mother-in-law and mum have taught me how we can support sisters emotionally and spiritually. I have seen the women in our community gather together at difficult times. They will share out mealtimes between them and then bring food for the family for the first week or two. One sister will bring prayer books for everyone, another will take the other children home during the day to keep them occupied.

The women will gather around the grieving parents and hold them and encourage them to cry. Reminders will be given on the rewards for those who show patience in times of suffering. Often you hear sisters recounting personal experiences of similar losses. Everyone will recall their various experiences of the person who has died – good things they said or dead.

Last week one of my close friends had to fly out to Pakistan on hearing that her fifteen year old brother had suffered a brain haemorrhage and was in a coma. She had recently visited Pakistan after ten years here and come back so happy, saying her little brother was so big now. A month later, she had to take the first available flight back. Dad-in-law was tasked with visiting the hospital and offering food or accommodation as Lahore is not her native city. She refused to leave the hospital, spending all night in the waiting room crying. The doctors have told her there is no hope of recovery, although life and health is in the hands of Allah (SWT) only.

I am wondering now how best to support her when she returns, what words could possibly be of any use or comfort to her. Please do remember her and her brother and their family in your dua’s insh’Allah.

Update - I wrote this yesterday.  I got a call today to say her brother had passed away this morning.  Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un.  We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.  I know she will be utterly devastated.  Please do remember her in your dua's insh'Allah.

Recipe: Chikor Paratha

I love paratha’s – unleavened bread cooked on a flat pan and smothered in ghee (clarified butter) as does my husband. He always used to look a little disappointed with my attempts though and prefer to make his own. That was until a friend taught me to make what she called a chikor or “basket” paratha. If I can it, anyone can. A warning though – this recipe is not for the fainthearted or high of cholesterol, I make this only a very few times a year for myself, although more regularly for the kids (this is one occasion where I don’t mind eating their leftovers).

Dough for Paratha’s:
3 cups chappati flour
Enough water to make firm dough

To make Paratha:
1 cup chappati flour
Small bowl of clarified butter (as required)

Knead the three cups of flour with just enough water to make a firm dough (the more practised you are, the looser you can leave the dough and the paratha’s will be quicker to roll out and softer). Set the dough aside for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes take the dough and roll chunks into medium sized balls (a bit smaller than a tennis ball). Sprinkle flour onto your work surface and then roll out one of the balls into a circle.

Take some of the ghee and spread it over the paratha's surface.  Sprinkle some of the dry flour sparingly on top of this (This is the trick that makes the paratha fluff up)

Fold the top of the paratha over and spread some more ghee and sprinkle some more flour.

Fold the bottom over also.

Fold the side over and spread some more ghee and sprinkle a little more flour

Fold the last side over.  You will now have a small square. 

Dip this in the dry flour gently to stop it sticking and carefully roll back out into a square (or thereabouts!)

Carefully place the squared paratha onto a flat pan or "tawa" on a medium to low heat

Turn over regularly to prevent burning (I use metal tongs)

When the paratha is lightly cooked on both sides, gently lift the edges and slip some more ghee underneath

This will give the paraatha it's golden brown colour and distinctive taste.  Cook on a low heat until both sides are golden.

Place on a tissue to soak up any excess ghee.

We serve for breakfast with Indian omelettes.

Simple Moments

I am currently working on developing an equalities consultation plan and in my research I came across a consultation on the Olympic Park site where the facilitators had run a workshop session with school children ( ). One of the quotes from the children seemed rather poignant to me:

‘I want a park near to houses. School should be near to mum and dad’s work, so they can look out of the window and see me at school, and then after they can take me to the park.’

I thought about how small the things are that make children happy: being close to their parents, being visible to their parents, spending time together and going to the park together. We jump through so many hoops sometimes to get the things that make our children happy. We run around shopping malls, spend money, take them to places far away, spend hours preparing for the perfect party, when in reality they just want to be near us and have a small part of our attention focussed on them.

I recall when we took a family trip to Scotland. We took the kids to Edinburgh Castle, Arthurs Seat, on a speedboat ride and to various restaurants. When asked what their favourite memory of the trip was, they unanimously agreed it was our stroll along Loch Lomond’s shore. I remember this was the moment when we stopped trying to show them stuff or get them to do things and just slowed down and were able to focus on the present for a while. We looked for pretty stones and bits of sea glass (or lake glass?) whilst the kids dad tried to feed ice-cream to a very aggressive swan

Another lovely memory from the trip was our stroll through the village by the lake to some shady woodland. We sat on a bridge over a small stream and watched for tiny fish. The mixture of the magical setting lit by dappled sunshine, the peaceful moment and being together and present in the moment has meant that we will always cherish that memory.

The kids reply about their favourite memory was a lesson to me. It reminded me to calm down, slow down and try to do less if I wanted the time I spent with them to mean more. It reminded me I should turn my full focus on them, take in everything they are saying and doing. In doing so I would make them feel valued, important and cared for.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

The Importance of Faith in Raising our Children

I have lost count of the number of times I have been told by people that I am too strict, that I am too religious, that my children will dress modestly or pray when they are older. This is usually directed at my lack of a TV, my encouraging my daughter to pray with me, my not having computer games in the house and by my encouraging my children to dress modestly (the basic principles of covering upper arms and legs).

It’s a little disheartening that you try your best, which still leaves a lot to be desired and you are still discouraged in your efforts. Some of the things I try to do in raising my children may seem a little extreme to some people, but it is my view that you can’t tell your children at fourteen that they are adults now and must comply with their faith if they have never heard anything from you about their faith before this. "Tarbiyyah", or correct upbringing, begins at birth for a Muslim child (or according to some at the parents choice of partner for marriage). The character of and example set by the parents is the first set of lessons for the child. But so are the habits we encourage: remembering Allah (SWT) before we eat, shaking our shoes out before we put them on, saying salaam when we enter the house. Then there are the regular activities we build into our childrens lives such as encouraging them to stand with the grown ups in prayer, Quran lessons and “taleem” or study circles in the home.

These things present a lot of work, but for Muslims this is an investment. It mean that when your child reaches puberty and is seen as an adult, you are not suddenly faced with a young person who has a number of responsibilities that they have never performed before and now find too cumbersome. Instead, for a child whose parents have encouraged Islam to be woven into every element of their lives, picking up those responsibilities is second nature.

I attended a lecture this weekend where the lady speaking was telling us that she met a sister in the masjid who was crying over her children. Someone had told her fifteen years ago to make faith a part of their lives and she had replied with “They can do that when they are adults”. Now she was literally wringing her hands at her mistake and warning others.

Muslims also believe that this world is temporary – a brief stop on a much longer journey. The material things we hold so dear will be dust one day. The exception is those things we have used or spent in the path of Allah (SWT):

By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc., it means here Allah's Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah's Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. (Quran- 3:93)

This got me thinking. What are the things that are most precious to us? Will we waste or hoard these things until a time they are no longer of any use to us? Or will we employ them in the path of Allah (SWT) thus preserving them forever and being reunited with them in the next life?

Most precious for me are my husband, my children, my parents and my brother and sisters. I also value my time, my health, my intellect and my ability to reach out and connect with people through my writing and the things I say. Would I not love to preserve these things by using them in the path of Allah (SWT)?

I hope that this will be the case for me. By supporting my husband to spend time in the masjid and in giving dawah, by trying to raise my children as good Muslims, by calling my wider family towards acting on the teachings of Islam, by using my time, health and abilities in sharing this faith, albeit in a very flawed way, I am reassured that I will find what I love returned to me in abundance insh’Allah.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Homework - Happy Muslim Mama Style

Homework is often a fraught affair in our home.  I started telling Little Lady to do it on Saturday morning and we are still working on the same page by Sunday evening.  This weekend though we had fun with homework and broke some of the usual rules:

Stay off mum's bed (they never took any notice of that one anyway): 

Stick to A4:

In fact homework should always be inside an exercise book:

Little Lady had to draw two place value diagrams for her homework.  She drew her inspiration from the bunting we make for special occasions, letting loose with my guillotine and the fabulous coloured paper a friend sent me from America.  For the smaller version she used ricrac for a washing line and clothes from a paper dolls book to represent the tens, units, hundreds etc (the handbag in the first picture and the flower in the second are the decimal points).

It never fails to amaze me how entirely different my kid are.  Little Lady is creative and loves to read and write, whereas maths is her mortal enemy and we have to work extra hard at it, with her getting annoyed and wanting to be left alone.  Little Man loves homework and will complete the whole lot in one go with minimal explanation or help, but lots of encouragement.  He finds the maths homework easy and picks things up first time round, but when asked to do a creative exercise often finds himself totally stumped.

These guys have taught me so much about being flexible and adapting to childrens different learning styles to get the best out of them whether that be finding a physical element to the task (Gorgeous), turning it into play and through stories (Little Lady) or working through methodically and in all seriousness (Little Man)

Cousin T and the Blogosphere

My little cousin T has been blogging on and off for a little while, but looks like his blogging has really taken off.  I finally got the chance to work my way through my e-mailss and found a few from him with links to his blogs and videos that he had made (that really impressed me):

The Islamic World

A Muslim World

Islamic TV and Media

Islam and the Universe Youtube Channel

Well done T in adding your voice to the blogosphere and offering another Muslim perspective.

Getting your Groove Back Post-Pregnancy

I remember during my first pregnancy that despite the glowing skin and thicker hair, I couldn’t wait to have the baby and then get back to my size eight dress size again. A few days after I had had my daughter, a friend who had a little boy commented on how funny one your body looked for a few days after you had a baby. I smiled, but thought, it wasn’t very funny at all. I had felt terrible – I still looked pregnant.

When I got home, I complained to my mum that even after I had the baby I still weighed much more than I did before. She laughed saying “What did you think, that the extra two stone was the baby?” Over time I managed to bring my weight down to a level that I could live with, but I still didn’t look the same as I did before, almost as if someone had taken me apart and re-arranged me I used to think.

After three children, born over the course of four years , I started to feel plump, unattractive, and frumpy. I didn’t think I could lose the excess weight I had gained and I knew I could not afford a whole new stylish wardrobe. Inspiration came eventually when I was on maternity leave with my youngest son. I spent the first three months with a nasty case of the baby blues, as this lifted my thoughts started to turn to the way I looked and dressed and getting my act together for when I would go back to work.

As I wore abayah, I felt that my options for looking smart or professional were limited. I also couldn’t afford lots of expensive designer shoes or bags. I came across a modest fashion website (Precious Modesty, now called We Love Hijab) one of the earlier hijab sites and one that made me re-think my perspective on the way I dressed. I remember in one post the sister who ran the site called an abaya our version of the LBD or “Little Black Dress” – versatile, easy to dress up or down and perfect for any occasion.

That got me thinking. With my simple abaya’s, stitched by my mother, as a blank canvas, I could create a new look every day with the things I already had. Black trainers and a small square hijab for the weekend when I was on the go with the kids, kitten heels and a silk scarf when I went out for dinner with hubby, smart shoes and a patterned scarf for work and fun florals and pretty pumps when meeting friends or going visiting. I started to enjoy putting my outfits together and it showed in my confidence and the compliments from other women.

Over time though I have come to the realisation that getting your groove back is not about spending money or being thin. It is about learning to like yourself regardless of the way you look, being grateful for what you have and making the most of it. All of the abaya’s scarves and accessories in the world are not a replacement for genuine self-confidence or self-worth.

‘It is God who made the earth a fixed place for you, and heaven a building, and He formed you, made your forms beautiful, and provided you with pleasant things’ - Al-Quran(40:64)

“He created the heavens and earth with Truth, formed you and made your forms beautiful and to Him is the homecoming" - Al-Quran (64:3)

“He made beautiful everything He created” - Quran (32:7)

“Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” - Sahīh Muslim (911)

Saturday 24 September 2011

Gratitude Journal 24.09.11 - Little Helping Hands

I returned from the supermarket and asked Gorgeous to take the loo roll upstairs.

I came up to find this:

When asked what he had been thinking, he replied he had a very good idea, which was to empty the new pack into the almost empty old pack.   Yep, definitely a good idea.  Made me smile anyway.

Saturday 17 September 2011

That Shrinking Feeling

I am currently thinking about trying to retain some of the benefits of Ramadan both spiritually and in my routine. However a peripheral benefit has been the impact of this sacred month on my diet and eating patterns.

The days were long during this Ramadan and with so many hours of not eating and certainly no grazing in between meals, I found that the sugar has dropped out of my diet. This is no mean feat for someone who loves coffee, coke, chocolate, jelly sweets, cream cakes…you get the picture. Having had an abundance of these things in my diet in the past, I found the first week of Ramadan physically extremely demanding. I was barely awake, extremely exhausted and physically in quite a lot of muscular pain for most of the first week. I was struggling to understand what was happening to me, especially the pain, but looking back I am convinced it was my body reacting to the sudden loss of a sugar high which had been steadily maintained for a good 15-20 years.

After the first week, this became easier and I didn’t miss the sugar much or crave it. I had a bit of mithai (Indian sweet) on Eid and that was it. The effect has been drastic. I have lost over a stone and my weight is still very slightly dropping. My skin is also much clearer as I have stopped getting spots. I feel ever so GOOD. My old clothes fit again, I am not self-conscious of how my clothes look and I feel happy in my self at the moment.

It brought home to me how much sugar can creep into our diets through the day without us realising and the damage it does.

However as the days of Ramadan recede, I am starting to find my appetite coming back and I am trying to be more disciplined. I am trying to surround myself with fruit and veg and healthy options, I am trying to recognise and manage my trigger points and time (when I get back from work at 4.30 I am so hungry I am past caring and will eat anything). I am trying to set a good example for my children by avoiding any ideas of dieting and moving the focus to long-term healthy eating habits (particularly after Gorgeous’ announcement of “No thank you mum, I don’t eat vegetables”). Not easy with a traditional Punjabi diet and a love of eating out!

I’m also trying to build some exercise into my routine. I am hubby used to be prolific walkers, but he is so busy at the mosque that we don’t seem to be bale to do any walking. Mum-in-law can’t walk very fast, but I might ask her if she wants to be a walking partner (an hour after work whilst the kids are at madrassah?).
What advice would sisters give about trying to keep their diet healthy and trying to work some exercise into their day?

Friday 16 September 2011

Gratefulness and Complaining

I was speaking with a colleague and a good friend this morning about our situation and being satisfied with it and it made me think of a number of things in my past which really impacted on me and my attitude.

One happened when I was eighteen and visited Pakistan. I met a girl in my grandfathers village who I became friendly with. She asked me what I studied and how I could afford it. I told her my fees were paid by the government and that I received a grant to cover my costs. She told me she wanted to study but couldn’t afford to so was waiting at home until she was married. It made me question why I deserved better than her – I didn’t, I was just very lucky to be blessed with opportunities that others would never be.

The other incident that always comes to my mind was during y third pregnancy. I was commuting into the city into work (something I don’t miss). I was nauseous, tired and fed up. I was almost in tears from self pity, asking myself why I had to struggle into work when other women sat at home with their feet up.

I opened the free paper that you get at the station and came across an article about pregnant women in South Africa that were suffering from AIDS. They were queuing up at a hospital to get drugs in the hope that they would prevent the virus passing to their child.

One women was given the drug just before she went into labour in a packed waiting room. She vomited the drug and could not get another dose in time. She was waiting to find out if her child had contracted the virus, knowing she would become too ill to look after the child anyway.

I got off the train almost in tears. I can’t tell you how ashamed I was. It was another reminder that I had the world at my feet and that I and my children had every ease and convenience thanks to the mercy of Allah (SWT). I never felt grieved about being a working mother again.

Those of us who live in the Western world, really are amongst the most lucky people in the world. Most people in the world would go to great lengths to be in our place to have a fraction of what we take for granted – enough food to get fat on, comfortable homes, healthcare when we need it, free education (okay so maybe we pay through our taxes, but if you saw how extremely bad a teacher my Aunty P in Pakistan was, you wouldn’t mind paying for what we get here).

I came across something on Umm Travis’s blog Tea Break Thoughts (can't find it now) a while back about a no complaining experiment where you try not to complains about anything for 40 days. I thought it was a great idea, but when I tried it, I lasted barely a day. I think I am going to try again and see how long I can last this time. Would you like to join me?

Thursday 15 September 2011

Imam Shafi's Advice

I came across this “nasiha” or advice at the Habibi Halaqa’s website. It is taken from Imam Shafi’s “Dīwān ash-Shāfiýī”. There was so much that spoke to me in this, particularly the words about covering your flaws with generosity and forgiveness hiding faults, that I wanted to share:

Let time pass by, and do as it wishes;
Be strong when the decreed is delivered to you.
Wail not for your afflictions in the night
For, worldly miseries are not everlasting
When calamity strikes, face up like a man
And let your traits be that of forgiveness and fidelity
If your flaws are plenty and are manifest
And your wish is that they be concealed Know, that forgiveness hides every fault
And how many flaws are veiled by generosity!
Neither does agony abide, nor happiness
And neither bad-times nor times of joy and comfort
Never should you seek to humiliate your enemies
Because the desire to disgrace them is in itself a malady
Do not expect forgiveness from a miser,
The parched do not quench their thirst from fire
Your sustenance will not diminish by neglect,
And it will not increase by exertion or by more toil
When you have a heart that is satisfied, content -
You will be like the one who owns the whole world
And those who have entered the sphere of death
The earth cannot hide them nor heavens
Surely, the land of Allāh is vast, but -
When misfortune strikes, the air becomes stifling
Let the world betray and deceive every moment -
No matter what; there is no escape from death.

From Dīwān ash-Shāfiýī p.111; Khazānatu’l Adab 2/426; Jawāhiru’l Adab p.665

Tuesday 13 September 2011

You, Me & Religion Interview

I did an interview for You, Me & Religion months ago and then forgot all about it until this week when the blog contacted me to let me know that the interview had been published.  An excerpt is below and you can read the full interview here, including the very interesting comments.  Would love you to visit and leave a comment.

Interview Excerpt: 

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
 I was raised by religious Muslim parents, but I believe that being born into Islam doesn’t necessarily make you a Muslim, it’s a conscious decision that requires living in a very conscientious, measured way. I think every Muslim, whether born or not has their moment when they decide this is the faith for them and this is their “conversion” in a way.

3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?

I think people like to label Muslims as moderate, traditional, extreme and this goes against the grain of what Islam is about. To call one a moderate Muslim is to assume the others are intolerant, to say one is mainstream, is to say the views of another are “fringe” or not as relevant in some way. I believe that it is a characteristic of Islam to have balance in all things and to follow what we call the “middle way.”

I am also not keen on the labels of “practising” or “not practising”. By definition, to be a Muslim is to practice the faith. I don’t feel that my faith is abstract or something that is put aside and then brought out to philosophise about sometimes. It is a practical guide to living – from the time we wake in the morning and get dressed to the time we sleep, we infuse every act with thoughtfulness and aim to make it an act of worship, even something like putting on our shoes! The same with the milestones in our life – birth, marriage, death, business, for each of them we have guidance from our faith about the best way. So for me, to be a Muslim, you have to be practising. You may not be able to include every element in your life – hijab, diet etc, but you will still aspire to.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?

I love the idea that every single act I do can be an act of worship. They are things I have to do anyway – bathing, eating, raising my children, being my husbands soulmate, but done in the way my faith guides me, with the right intention and with a level of thought and care they become acts of worship. In this way no action in life has to be wasteful. You might be making dinner, but making it with care and attention, within the prescribed requirements of my faith and with a thought for the needs and preferences for my family, cooking becomes worship.

The other thing I love about Islam is the way that it gives every person their rights – in particular the vulnerable. Women have the right to an education, to work and own property or run a business. We have the right to choose who we marry and the right to divorce. Children have the right to be cared for and protected, the right to be educated and also to be loved and nurtured. Parents have the right to be respected and cared for in their old age. Neighbours have rights over each other as do the poor and orphaned in a community. At the same time we are encouraged to put the rights of others over our own and to fulfil our responsibilities towards all those around us.

Finally I love the closeness to my Creator. We are told in the Quran that “We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (Quran 5:16). We have no church, no hierarchy, no clergy, it is simply me and my Lord.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?

I believe that it should be a matter of choice. I wear the hijab and follow Islamic law where possible in my private Life (i.e. I don’t take interest on money, I eat halal food).

I think both things have been much maligned through lack of understanding. Shariah has been taken as a threat to existing law in both the US and the UK, when in actual fact it is mostly consistent with the law and practised voluntary. Shariah courts in the UK work in much the same as arbitration does and adherence to their rulings is voluntary and not enforceable by law. Shariah means a clear straight path, basically the easiest path to the resolution for a problem. Often a Shariah court is the only avenue for a woman to get a divorce or try to get some of the other rights she is due under Islam (i.e. alimony and child maintenance) when the man cannot be made to provide these under a countries law.
 Similarly hijab is often misunderstood. It is not just a piece of material, but a concept – the idea of being modest and undertaking your public duties from a position of purity – dealing with people on the basis of your intelligence and character and not the way you look. I don’t think it should be forced on any women, similarly I don’t believe it should be banned – both positions take the choice away from the woman and disempower her.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Eid Party

Something to wear (Kooks bought this for me and I haven't had the opportunity to wear it):

Somthing to wear with it (I went with the deep pink ones in the end):

More bling...

...and another outing for my fave shoes:

I was worried these wouldn't much (they were similar to the colour of the trousers), until I realised all of the "young" girls were turning up with mismatched heels (and then eyeing up and trying mine on).

Kooks helped with getting together a basket of bangles which we gave away at the end.  It was especially fun getting the little girls to try the small ones on.

Lots of prizes for games: pass-the parcel, musical statues with nasheeds, prize for best Quran recitation, prize for silliest face and best outfit.  The kids threw lots of sulks with Little Man in the lead walking out during the first game.

Kooks made colourful crackers with the kids ran off with as soon as they saw them.

We had great fun putting the dessert bar together with the kids helping.  We then had to try to keep them from demolishing it long enough for us to take pictures.  Shutterbug Sister provided the healthy option (the strawberries for delicious):

These rainbow lollies were from the 99p shop.  There were other lovely bright sweets, but the back of the packet said "Warning: These sweets may affect your childrens behaviour and concentration".  I decided against those.

Rainbow lollies, jelly tots, gourmet jelly beans, halal jelly sweets split by colour:

The 99p shop version of smarties and M&M's split by colour again (that kept the kids happy). I checked all of the ingredients, but kept packaging in a bag in the kitchen in case any parents asked:

The Eid Sweets banner I made earlier:

A friend brought along dates stuffed with nuts and rolled in chocolate and dessicated coconut:

Another seriously yum variation:

Fashionista Sisters chicken sandwiches disappeared in a shot:

Our pakora mountain:

Creamy chicken curry:

Chickpea and potato rice:

A friend brought along these gol gappa's - a favourite street food in Pakistan which involves popping a whole in the puffed up crispy balls  , filling with the chickpea and potato mixture and tamarind sauce and stuffing your face.  Also called pani puri in India I think:

My neighbour brought along jalebi:

Fashionista's friend could not come along but sent us cakes:

After enjoying the food, we had a go at playing with the henna.  This is the design I made on one of the girls hands: