Wednesday 30 November 2011

Finding your Spouse - Sheikh Alaa Elsayed

I attended Sheikh Alaa Elsayed’s seminar on marriage at the Twins of Faith conference and it gave me lots of food for thought. The seminar was engaging and very funny and I came away with some clear information. The seminar listed things that men and women should look for in a spouse and what things they can do to help them make a decision once they have met someone.

For men, the hadith that was quoted was:

The Prophet (Peace be upon him ) said: “A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage (family status), her beauty or her religious commitment; Choose the one who is religious and you will prosper.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 62, Hadith Number 27)

The Sheikh explained that the first right of a child was to have a pious mother. So brothers were encouraged to look for a woman who had strong faith. He advised that it made sense for brothers to look for a women they could be attracted to as the world is full of temptation and a good women acts as a mitigation for these temptations. However to find a woman of faith and then reject her on the basis of her looks would be cruel, so it is better to find someone you are attracted to and then enquire after how religious she is.

Another piece of advice given to brothers was find a woman who will be good friends with your mother. I can wholeheartedly support that one!

For women, the following hadith was presented:

“If there comes to you one whose religious commitment and attitude pleases you, then marry [your female relative who is under your care] to him, for if you do not do that, there will be tribulation on earth and much corruption.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 1084).

So we are encouraged to look at a brother’s good character and religiousness, although it felt to me that the first was emphasised more strongly as the second can change over the course of a life, whereas the first one impacts on every aspect of a persons conduct throughout his life.

Once we have found someone that appears suitable, Sheikh Ala outlined four things we can do to help us make our decision. The first is “Istihaarah” or research about the person. Belonging to the South Asian community, I am well aware of this one! This usually consists of discreetly asking around about the person (or in my dad-in-law’s case on one occasion heading down to a prospective young mans neighbourhood and interviewing neighbours, shopkeepers and passersby, maybe not the best approach?)

The second is “Istikhaarah” or asking Allah (SWT) for guidance (method and dua for doing this here). Most people expect to be told what to do in a dream and Sheikh Ala suggested this was not entirely correct (the sheikh suggested that our dreams can be related to our daily life and what preoccupies us, so are not always meant to be signs – I was impressed and surprised at a sheikh that admits this). The correct way is to pray two rakaats of nafl and then proceed with what you intend to do. If it goes smoothly then the istikharah was positive, if there are obstacles and difficulties from the outset then in the words of the sheikh “run, run, run Forrest run”)

The third thing we should do after we have done our istihaarah and istikharah is act accordingly, although we should look for a sign. Fourthly if everything has fallen into place and we have committed ourselves then we should place out trust in Allah (SWT) regarding the matter and not hesitate.

It’s a curious situation where so many brothers and sisters are clearly looking to marry, so many well meaning people have set up websites or services to assist them and still there seem to be so many people who are having trouble finding a spouse.

I know a dozen or so people in my family and amongst my friends who are currently looking to marry and it seems really tough to find the right person (the variation in ages and requirements means that none of them match despite my trying). For some there are standards they cannot come below (height and education seem to be too common ones) which means they are not willing to consider a whole swathe of really good people. Some seem frightened of marriage and commitment and are turning away good people. In more than one instance I have seen a young woman reject a man and then as time goes by (five, eight, ten years) and there are fewer option with less to offer, the early ones seem like excellent opportunities that have been missed. The other big obstacle seems to be prospective spouse’s families – too different, too demanding, too religious, not religious enough and so on.

After eleven years of marriage and seeing the examples of others around me, good and bad, more and more I am coming to the conclusion that in making a marriage work, more than the qualities of the spouse, a persons own good qualities are what make the difference. These are not the exciting things: a nice house, a good job, good looks or a charming personality, but the less sexy ones: patience, gentleness, kindness, the ability to forgive and forget. a willingness to make small sacrifices. When the wedding is concluded and the party is over, these are the things on a daily basis which keep a marriage going. Some of these qualities will be in one partner and some in the other, so the questions to ask might be, not “what can you offer me?” but rather “Which of these things can I cultivate?”

I make dua that all of those brothers and sisters with good intentions for marriage find their way to each other insh’Allah

You can watch a video of the seminar here or below.

If it is of any use to anyone, Sheikh Alaa Elsayed also mentioned Mercy Mission World's Pure Matrimony website for those looking for a spouse.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Motherhood and Intentions

I received an e-mail recently from a sister who I have a lot of time for. She wanted to share a piece of advice that had helped her. It really helped me to think about how consciously I do things and I wanted to share her advice (with her permission)as it benefitted me so much:

As mothers, we all have good days and bad days. I was having a difficult day with my children and struggling to juggle everything. My husband reminded me that with the right intentions this is ibadah and will be rewarded as such. It is easy to wake up every morning and do the normal chores of motherhood - feed children, bath, nappy changes, cleaning, cooking etc. I think most of us can even do it with our eyes closed! It’s also easy to forget to make intentions EVERY SINGLE DAY. Otherwise everything we do for our children day in day out is just a "chore".

I now have a piece of paper stuck on the door of my wardrobe which I read every morning. Here are some of my intentions: 
  • To attain the Pleasure of Allah and to draw closer to Allah and RasulAllah salAllahu alaihi wasallam
  • To fulfill the huqooq (rights) of my family
  • To acquire qualities of sabr
  • To raise my children to worship Allah in the best possible way
  • To follow the Sunnah in raising my family
  • To follow in the footsteps of Sayyida Fatima and Sayyida Khadija
If we wake up and think of Allah throughout the day, He subhanahu wa ta'ala will think of us and our children.

Remember BIG intentions = BIG rewards.

Subhan’Allah, we know that raising our children in the best manner we can is an act of worship for Muslims, but how often do we make the conscious intention to do so for the pleasure of Allah (SWT)?

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The reward of deeds depend upon the intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” - 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, Vol. 8, Book 78, Number 680

How much of a difference would it make to make the intention every day? Big intentions at that? I love this reminder, I hope it will benefit others insh’Allah.

Please do make dua for the sister and her children insh’Allah, that Allah (SWT) rewards her according to her intentions and helps her raise her children to be the best of Muslims.

What are your intentions?  How can you make them even bigger?

Monday 28 November 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 16 - Rain Stick

I saw this and it reminded me of a very noisy rain stick we used to have, although the design on this is aboriginal-influenced I think.  I wonder where it went...

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 15 - Designs on Glass

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 15 - The Aliens are Landing!

Who can guess what this is and why it is there?

Thursday 24 November 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 14 - Sabotage

Did I mention recently I like cola bottles?  I'm sure hubby loves me really, he also knows I just cannot resist...

Wednesday 23 November 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 13 - View From My Window

This is what it looked like from my window at work this morning, could not see a thing.  All a bit spooky (reminded me of James Herbert's "The Fog"). 

40 Day Photo Challenge - Day 13: Gift from Little Man

Pots and Pots of Love

Every child brings home a mishappen pot made in a class pottery lesson at some point.  So I have been waiting with eagerness for mine.  Little Lady finally bought home this which she made as part of her ancient Greece topic.

I have to say its better than the wonky, lumpy attempts my younger sisters used to bring home...Its even nice and round.  Its currently got pride of place on my bedside table and will house my bits and pieces treasures.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 12 - Chatpatti Things

Definition: This word is used to describe dishes that have a hot-and-sour flavour. It gave rise to words like chaat (a hot-sour-sweet snack flavoured with chutneys) and spice mixes like chaat masala (source). 

When your mum-in-law says she fancies something sweet, what better excuse to drag hubby out gallavanting at night go for a long walk and come back with some sweets (brown Habshi halwa and carrot halwa) and a spicy snack to eat on a cold night.

This is channa-chaat, a favourite South Asiaan street food.  I was convinced no-one does this like the Lahori's until I found a tiny little shop tucked away that serves this perfect spicy and sour version for £1 a box.  Now most of our evening walks seem to end somewhere near this little shop.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 11 - Green

There are a few things which have made me consistently happy since childhood (cola bottles, kindness, books, sparkly things) and certainly the colour green is one of them.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 10 - View from Excel Centre

Friday 18 November 2011

Colourful Jummah, Wonderful Weekend and the Twins of Faith Event

I am looking forward to today and this weekend.   I have a half day at work, then lunch with girlfriends and then have to be a home to pick the kids up from school as hubby and mum-in-law will be away for the weekend.  I plan to spend the evening lounging at mums enjoying her comfort food and then have the kids in bed with me eating junk and watching an old movie.

I have picked out something fun and colourful to wear to meet the girls (I love this scarf from my mum, reminds me of her as she loves to wear bright colours) and the ring is my favourite.

This Saturday I will be at Mercy Mission's Twins of Faith conference at ExCel in east London which I am looking forward to immensely.  I am going crazy trying to work out which workshops and talks I want to attend.  Will be taking Shutterbug Sister and my camera with me, so should be lots of pictures, notes and motivation to come back with insh'Allah.  Are any of you going?

I love the questions the website asks: Amidst the pressures of everyday life, how can we remain sincere and serve this religion only for the Love of God? How can the communities that we live in appreciate us in the same way that the community of Madinah valued the Prophet and his Companions? If our presence in the UK ceased to exist, what – if anything - would this nation miss from our absence? On a personal level, what value have you added to it? Are you known as a caring, trustworthy and reliable person in your community? Are you the most diligent team member in your workplace? What will be your legacy?

Then Sunday the local sisters circle will be moving back to my house insh'Allah (it will make me clean the house of nothing else).  Hubby and mum-in-law will also be back on Sunday evening, so will be my day for cooking a special dinner for everyone.

have so much to write about - recipes, my school lunchbox journey, book reviews, so many posts and thoughts that have been going through my head, (redundancy, a littering project, new opportunities, a craft project prompted by Shutterbug Sister).  Just need a bit of time to write everything up! Would write more, but getting late for work now!

Have a wonderful Jummah day insh'Allah!!!

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 9 - Colour

Wednesday 16 November 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 8 - Henna Design

I manageed to sneak out this evening to celebrate pay window shopping.  Spotted this lovely henna design on a giant plate of all places.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 7 - A Quiet Moment

For day 7 of my first 40 day challenge, I thought of a quiet moment on the bus on the way home from work.  I usually get dropped off and picked up by hubby so have a few minutes between walking out the door from work and getting home and getting started with the second shift as I call it (change, feed kids, send off to madrassah, wudhu, pray, groceries, kitchen, cook, clean, blog...). 

Today though I came home by myself and savoured the train journey (only three changes) with my book (Rumi's Daughter by Muriel Maufroy) and the bus ride home (doing nothing).  Not a great picture but it shows all the junk I carry round - two big bags with my lunch, diary, book, spare flat shoes, glasses, purse and who knows what else.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 6 - Things To Do When You Are Bored

For day 6 of my first 40 day challenge, this scene caught my eye.  The kids go off to madrassah after school and Gorgeous gets left behind.  Usually we keep each other company or he goes off to bother his grandmother, but o this occasion when he realised I wasn't going to let him on the computer or near my mobile phone, he found something to keep himself occupied.  Maybe I should hide the phone more often!

Of course it didn't last long.  Soon after this picture his gran had to try and stop him from hoovering up every sock he could find and stop trying to stick his mouth on the pipe.

Monday 14 November 2011

Winter Gardening

My idea of winter gardening is locking the garden door mid-September so the kids can't get out and venturing out in May to see of anything is happening out there.  My mum and mother-in-law are hardier sorts, so have cleared the garden of weeds, dead plants and junk and pruned back the Camellia and grapevine.

Mum-in-law took mum's suggestion and planted some garlic in the garden which has sprouted in about two weeks (take apart garlic bulb ensuring skin stays on cloves and push in to ground with the point upwards).  I'm looking forward to having fresh garlic from the garden to add to our curries.

Hubby has brought home three of these absolutely wonderful planters and a garden seat and table home from one of his jobs.  I just love these and hope to clean them and cover them up for the winter, ready for next summer's barbeque's.  Almost enough for me to venture out during the winter and keep my little garden in check - almost...

40 Day Challenge - Photo 5: Winter Surprise in the Garden

For day five of the 40 day photo challenge I took a trip to the garden and found this beautiful purple in full bloom.  Although winter is here it has so far been far milder than November usually is.  The plant that bears this flower has been bare all year.  I was tempted to pull it out last month when I thought it was a chili plant that hadn't borne anything.  In the end I decided to leave it alone.  In return I was gifted with this lovely flower.  I have tried to find out what this flower is but no luck so far.  Does anyone know?

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

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

Sunday 13 November 2011

40 Day Challenge - Photo 4 - Colours and Textures

Day four of the 40 day challenge was great fun - it helped to have a theme, I picked "spectrum" and they just popped up everywhere.

Book Review: Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

A book on economics? A book by an economist and a New York Times journalist? A book about random subjects with no specific theme that connects them all? Who would read a book like that?

When Shutterbug Sister recommended this to be, I had to give it a try as she has lent me a few very good books. The cover made me look twice – I wouldn’t have thought books about economics have rappers, glamorous-looking pregnant women or sumo wrestlers on them.

But Freakonomics perspective is different, rather than working with sources and sets of data that tell stories about crime, education or poverty, Levitt compares disparate, almost random seeming sets of data to see what they throw up. So crime figures are compared to abortion rates, the control of information to the rise and fall of the KKK and the names of babies are compared to people’s socioeconomic status.

Levitt starts out by asking a question – why do drug dealers live at home with their mothers if they earn so much? Does the way you raise your child have any impact on their chance of success in life? Dies the name you give have any impact on their chance of success in life?

The book is accessible and easy enough to understand. The narrative is disparate and varied, jumping from sumo’s to crack dealers to the KKK, but it always remains interesting and engaging. The exception is where the books start’s to discuss the authors methodology – how data sets were extracted and what was done to them to find trends and patterns. I suspect anyone without an interest in statistics or research methodology might start to lose patience at this point.

Regardless this is an interesting book that throws up some very surprising findings – most drug dealers don’t actually earn very much, sumo’s might be cheating (absolute blasphemy to the Japanese), the numerous things we break our back doing to raise our children to be successful might not actually make any difference (as a lazy mama, I was rather gleeful at the last one!).

Probably not one I would recommend to everybody, but if you like reading about issues that are current and if you want to read something that will make you sit up and argue (I wasn’t convinced by everything the authors were saying), then this might be for you.

You can see some of the content of the book and other similar topics the authors have explored at the Freakonomics blog here.

40 Day Challenge - Photo 3

Day 3 of the 40 day photo challenge I have set for myself and I'm still not paying attention to things I could take pictures of.  Having three rowdy kids and a busy house might have something to do with that. 

I took this picture at bed time.  This is what makes me feel like a child in a candy shop - BOOKS.  My only dilemma, where to start?!

Saturday 12 November 2011

40 Day Challenge - Photo 2

I spent day two of my 40 day challenge looking for something to take a picture of and not spotting anything.  It really made me question how much attention I pay to the world and how much time I appreciate the beauty and interesting in the everyday.

In the end I went for a walk and took the picture below much to hubby and a passerbys amusement.  I'm not very impressed, but I've got the next 38 days to do much better and to pay more attention. 

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah's Apostle said, "There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him." Sahih Bukhari (513)

Thursday 10 November 2011

Book Review: Paul Arden – Whatever You Think Think The Opposite.

I have been an avid reader of self-help books since my teenage years. Since then I have become a little more cynical about them and fewer convince me they are worth reading. Nevertheless, between the good ones (Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Barbara Sher, Lawrence Boldt) I have picked up enough good advice to stand me in good stead over the years.

After a day in which my mind has been going round in circles for hours and I needed a kick up the backside to get myself up and motivated, I thought I might find some peace in my local bookshop, especially with the book token that Fashionista Sister gave me. I headed straight for the self-help and after browsing and sneaking peeks for rather a long time, this striking little book caught my attention.

The book is short and very visual. It took me half an hour to read the 143 or so pages. The author is a former executive creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi, the famous advertising company and the book feels like a cross between lessons from a successful businessman and the anarchist’s handbook.

Its aim seems to be to make you think, to look at things from a different perspective and to question the accepted wisdom of what leads to success.

My first thought on finishing the book, was what a rip-off! I spent all that money on a book that’s very short and that’s just a series of things I have probably read in other books already. But it was probably worth the price for the one or two pieces of advice that stuck with me.

On the one hand, I didn’t agree with everything in the book. It seems to say that if you conform, if you work hard, if you toe the line and do the right thing then you are a loser, you are destined to fail. On the other hand it made me think; it reinforced that it’s okay to be different (a Muslimah, a hijabi, a geek, a nerd, a working mother) and it is right to stand up for that difference.

A word of warning the book contains a few of pictures of naked men (adding nothing to the book, but you know advertising types love the value of shock).

You can find a summary of the book’s messages here. Would be interested to know what reaction other people have to the book.

40 Day Challenge - Photo 1

In a previous post I set myself some 40 day challenges.  One of them was to take a picture every day for 40 days.  I hope to capture something that moves me, delights me, makes me think or is perhaps just eye candy.  The hope is that I get through this first challenge and then set more adventurous ones (I'm thinking the next one is to write every day - maybe write poetry every day?  Something I am very uncomfortable trying).

I enjoyed reading some of your suggestions in the previous post for things you might try for 30 days.  What challenges would you enjoy?  What would get you inspired and motivated?

Ibn Abbas said, "The Milky Way is one of the gates of the heavens. The rainbow is security from being destroyed by flood after the people of Nuh, peace be upon him." (Hadith 767 - Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari)

Ibn Abbas said, "The Milky Way is one of the gates of the heavens. The rainbow is security from being destroyed by flood after the people of Nuh, peace be upon him." (Hadith 767 - Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari)

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Try Something New For 30 days - Or Maybe 40?

I enjoy listening to TED talks when I am getting ready for work in the morning or cooking.  This one in particular caught my imagination:

I like the idea that you do something for just thirty days with no pressure to go beyond that period and once you have done something for thirty dyas, then you are more likely to carry on beyond the thirty days if you are inclined to do so.  As I was writing this I had a serious case of deja vu.  I realised that this was because I had written about this before (here) with the question about whether it was really thirty days or forty that were required to change a habit. (I am inclined to think the latter)

I liked the idea in the video of taking a picture every day for thrity (or forty) days, before going on to do things that are more adventurous.  I like the idea personally of doing one thing, however small, each day.  The other thing I want to do is to go without coffee for forty days.  I am likely to fall off that band wagon first thing in the morning, but dropping sugar from my diet during Ramadan did soo much good for my weight, skin and energy levels, so worth a try with the coffee to begin with.

What would you like to do for thirty (or forty) days?

Tuesday 8 November 2011

InCulture Parent: What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation

My latest column for InCulture Parent has now been published: "What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation" is my response after reading and thinking about another article in the same magazine by J. Claire K. Niala called "Mama, What Colour is Me? How My Child Defines Race":

My eight-year-old daughter did something a few weeks ago that surprised me. She asked me what “Asian” meant. In Britain, Asian is usually taken to describe people of South Asian origin—Pakistani, Bengali, Indian and Sri Lankan, unlike America where Asian generally denotes East Asians. People my age and older have been grouped into one of a few broad categories: white, black or Asian, with little ambiguity about this. It surprised me that my daughter did not identify herself with this label.

The way my children have always described people physically is not by their race as we always did, but by their physical, apparent characteristics. So for my kids, a person is either brown like us, dark brown (which could mean Sri Lankan or Ghanaian) or yellow haired. It struck me as strange that white children were not described by their skin colour, but by their hair colour, until I realised a small child wouldn’t have a word for the range of colours that can constitute what we call white. Perhaps a child wouldn’t think of calling that skin colour white, because it isn’t literally white.

Please do take a look, join the conversation and leave a comment, the full article is here.

Eid Al Adha 1432/2011 The Big, Loooong Cook-Up

For the second day of Eid we decide to invite everyone to our place (five families).  We decorated our house with green and silver balloons and fairy lights (I couldn't find where I had stashed my Eid banners)

Gorgeous decided everyone had to have presents and started filling bags up with every toy he could lay his hands on exclaiming "no time, there's no time left!".  I wonder where he might have picked that up from...

I pulled out one of my favourite outfits to wear and matched some bangles (I am in love with the mix of the dark lime green and sky blue).

Little Lady went with the philosophy that if you have a nice dress with a massively oversized bolero cardi from nan, then you must accessorise with everything you can lay your hands on (including the beaded necklaces she made for herself and my little cousin A who is her friend). 

As it was an evening meal I had the time to see off my guests who had come to stay for a few days and spend the rest of the day immersed in putting the house back in order and cooking. Pretty much everything Pakistani's traditionally like to cook on Eid takes no less than a few hours to cook.  I ended up making lamb curry, haleem and roasting chicken chunks and vegetables.

I did start taking pictures, but had to stop as I was supposed to be serving.  Also it's getting rather ridiculous with everyone being mad to stand still whilst I, Kooky and my cousin Tayyib all take pictures.

For dessert we had the five-hour kheer, home-made gulabjamuns (which just kept growing and growing once I had put them in the syrup) and Eid cake.

We also had a tin of sweets - you should have seen the scrum for those, my sisters and cousins were sending the little kids flying.

 Little lady and my cousin A were misbehaving so following numerous arguments, bouts of tears and "she's not being my friend!", were half-jokingly ordered to the washing up.  They actually listened and washed and dried all of the dishes (and properly too)!

Was a  nice way to end a loong, lovely day.