Wednesday 28 December 2011

Impossible Dreams

I don’t usually discuss politics on this blog, there are too many brothers and sisters out there far more eloquent and knowledgeable than me who are able to do that. However, I have been watching Pakistan’s Imran Khan and his Tahreek-e-Insaaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) party with interest. Here is finally someone from amongst the endless parade of thugs and thieves (I’m being kind) in Pakistani politics who appears to be honest and genuine have Pakistan’s interests at heart and who might finally bring some change to a country that seems to be going through a never-ending nightmare. I was watching footage of his campaign event in Karachi and something he said made me sit up. The video is below and the part of the speech that captured my interest from 8.35 minutes onwards. Unfortunately it is in Urdu so not accessible to everyone , but what he basically says is:

“When I was nine, I wanted to be a test cricketer, people told me I couldn’t become one, it’s impossible, you don’t have the talent.

When I became a cricketer, I wanted to become the world’s best all-rounder, people told me I couldn’t become one, it’s impossible.

When I became captain, I wanted to make the Pakistani cricket team into the best team in the world. People said this was not possible, the cricket system is not good enough for the Pakistan team to become the best [Pakistan went on to win the Cricket World Cup under Imran Khan’s leadership].

When I wanted to create a hospital that offered free cancer treatment for the poorest. People said it could not be done. I invited 20 Doctors, 19 said such a hospital could not be built.
(Khan established the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore which offers free Cancer treatment).

I wanted to establish a university in a rural area. There is no private sector university in the rural areas of Pakistan. People said it could not be done, it’s impossible. Today Pakistan has its first private university in a rural area, where international level education is offered and where 90% of students are on scholarships.

When I entered politics, people said “Khan-ji, leave it, you know nothing about politics, you are too straightforward, you tell the truth and in politics you can’t tell the truth” I was ridiculed as were my colleagues. We were ridiculed for a long time, but we didn’t let go of our dream. My dream is now for Pakistan, for Pakistan to become the country it should have become and can become: a free, just country where every Pakistani citizen is equal. Where there is justice, but also education, where the poor have access to the same level of education as the rich. Allah has made all of my dreams come true and insh’Allah will make this one come true too.

Tell me, did I select the best team to play cricket for Pakistan? The Shaukhat Khanum team is second to none. The Namal College team is the best. For Pakistan to become a just, Islamic, country I will pull together a team the likes of which has never been seen in Pakistan – one whose membership is based on merit”

Much of what he was saying was familiar to me – the need to dream big, the need to follow through, to have a good team, to be tenacious and not give up, but treat failure as a learning curve. Lots of this is what you will find in self-help books and books about positive thinking. But to hear it said by someone who has lived what the books write about blew me away. There are so many lessons in the two or three minutes of the speech I have translated above:

Dream – have a vision, be very clear about what you want to achieve and what that looks like.
Don’t listen to the naysayers – there will always be those who can’t envision what you want to achieve and therefore can’t imagine how you would achieve it also. Sometimes it’s good to have these people around you to point out faults and problems, use them to make your plans better, not give up.
Don’t give up – keep at it. Every time something goes wrong, try another way, go over, under or through your obstacles if you have to, but don’t give up.
Have a great team around you
Trust in Allah (SWT) to help you make things happen – the power of dua (supplication).

I make dua that Imran Khan’s dream of a just and fair Pakistan becomes a reality and that Pakistan’s situation improves for the better insh’Allah.

Whinging for Health

As one of my 40-day challenges, I previously listed not complaining for 40 days. The lovely Sister Umm Travis has also mentioned this as something to try on her blog (can't find it now). I don’t like to complain and try to be positive, but I have to say, sometimes holding it all in is not the most productive thing.

I have been feeling down for a couple of days. A mixture of being stuck inside, it being too cold to go anywhere outside, trying to avoid the sales and being cooped up in the house with mum-in-law who is not very well at all. I found myself feeling grumpy, then very down and then alarmingly passive aggressive, which is not something I usually do. If something is bothering me I will either say, or do something about it. It wasn’t long before I started to feel ashamed at making petty childish comments and pulling faces – it’s just not me and I was conscious that it is just cowardly and mean-spirited. Mum-in-law is going back to Pakistan for a few months in two weeks time and I don’t want her to go with a bad taste in her mouth at her daughter-in-laws behaviour after six good months under the same roof.

In the end what helped was a good, long, hearty, all-out WHINGE to my hubby. I finally cornered him when he came to see what the long face was for. Men are usually not the best for venting on – where women listen, they try to solve everything and keep offering solutions. But hubby just listened this time. I complained about feeling trapped, about feeling unappreciated, about feeling like I couldn’t always do the things I wanted. I conceded most of the time this was in my head and I set up walls and boundaries for myself (“I know she must think that I am a spendthrift”...”I bet he thinks I am wasting my time”). I realised that he supported me in my choices as long as they were within the boundaries set by Islam – and this is more than enough for me.

Once I had the whinging out of the way, I could put my anxieties aside for a while and we could discuss the future – the kids education, downsizing our home, cutting down my hours, returning to education, travelling, learning to drive, deciding not to learn to drive after all.

We agreed on some things and I ended up much clearer on others. I feel sooooo much better, as if my cloudy headedness has gone, so much lighter too. I feel like I can get back to working out my plans without all of the nonsense that was going round in my mind.

I think I might not ban complaining altogether. I might even book a once every three-month slot with hubby to have a moan. Alhamdulillah for my easy-going husband.

Monday 26 December 2011

Planning for the REALLY Long-term

Most people think about planning their goals and activities in the context of a month, a year or even five years. There are a few people who like to think about the longer picture and plan the course of their career to retirement or even what they want to achieve over the course of a lifetime. But what is different about Muslims is that our real planning is for after this life is over. We are taught to prepare for another, eternal life, through our actions in this one.

So you can manage your time for a day or week, you can project plan for a month, but imagine planning the biggest, most important project of your (after)life? Alhamdulillah, we have the Quran and the Sunnah (life and traditions) of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to guide us on how to live the life to achieve the best prospects in the afterlife.

This has got me thinking. Our days and our weeks pass so quickly. We have so many plans, both for things we want to do in this world (the big house, the new car, the degree course) and the things we want to do to benefit us in the next life (“one day I will start that Islamic that mosque...start that charity”). Those that we can see the benefits of immediately, such as a degree, we plan in detail, work out the logistics and work hard to achieve. Those where the benefits are not immediate, we put off and are vague about and never seem to start – so we have plans to wear hijab, or start praying tahajjud (the night prayer) or memorise the Quran but never seem to get round to it.

I am starting to come to the realisation that these are the best years of my life and they will pass me by in the blink of an eye, I may achieve some short-term goals – a promotion, a degree, but the long-term ones will remain pipe dreams and the ones that really count, i.e. in the next life will go to the grave with me as half-baked good intentions.

So insh’Allah, I am thinking about planning for the long-term and asking the question – what do I need to do to achieve those things that might help me succeed in the akhirah (after-life)? None of us is promised a hundred years of life to achieve everything they wish to; in fact we have no guarantee that we will see the end of this day, or even this hour:

Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased, who said, "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: The usual life span in my Ummah is between sixty and seventy years, and only a few pass this age.'' (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, in the Book of Zuhd of his Sunan).

But I believe we can make sincere intentions and work towards them, so that even if we die before we achieve them, we will be rewarded for them. How will we know our intentions are sincere and not just pipe-dreams? We allocate time to them, even if its 30 minutes a day. We step outside of our comfort zone and do something that helps us towards our goal which makes us uncomfortable or frightens us, but we do it anyway. We do the research required to find the best way of doing something and avoid the mistakes of others and we plan our time and resources so that we can take one manageable step at a time towards achieving our goal.

Insh’Allah, in order to benefit from our actions in the next life, we make sure that everything we do is for the sake of pleasing Allah (SWT):

On the authority of Omar bin Al-Khattab, who said : I heard the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: "Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. Thus he whose migration was for Allah and His messenger, his migration was for Allah and His messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated." (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)

We check out intentions throughout the deed to ensure that no other reason has crept in (to impress people, to benefit financially) and we ask Allah (SWT) for forgiveness if it has.

Alhamdulillah, I was trying to find more information to help me plan better and I came across this video on Youtube by Productive Muslim. Brother Mohammed Faris talks about planning for the long-term including the akhirah and offers a template to do this. I have been using his table to help me plan and it has helped me immensely. In particular, it has raised the questions for me of whether my plans or intentions contribute in any way to my aakhirah, and if not, why am I doing these things?

How are you planning for success? What kinds of tools and methods do you use, what do you find helpful or a hindrance? Your advice and thoughts would be much appreciated.

Abdullah bin Abbas (Radiallau Anhu) reports that Rasulullah (peace be upon him) said “There are two bounties of Allah wherein most people are deceived, health and free time”.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God said, 'The offspring of Adam abuse time, (even though) I am Time.'"

Thursday 22 December 2011

My fist 40 Day Challenge – Evaluation

My first 40 Day challenge, which seemed too long, now seems if it was over ever so quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed it and surprisingly it taught me lots. I was very happy with some of the pictures and not impressed with others at all – it has encouraged me to be more thoughtful about method and technique (it took me two years to find the close-up option in my Nokia phone camera, so lets see how this iphone treats me. Okay, actually Kooks showed me the close-up feature on the Nokia). I also found that I spend too much time oblivious, going from one thing to another or lost in my thoughts to properly take in the beauty and interest in everything around me. Once I started looking, I started finding things to take pictures of everywhere, the scrap metal yard for instance was one of my favourites. Another fun one was this picture I took at Pimlico Station of an artist’s work, only to find her blog where she had challenged readers to find the artwork and take a picture.

This first challenge has whetted my appetite for trying a new one. Some of the ones I have come up with are:

Experiencing something new every day
Doing something outside of my comfort zone every day
Doing something new with my children every day
Writing a book review every day (have a great pile that I need to catch up with)
No coffee for 40 days (this is going to be a tough one for me)
Call one friend or family member every day (I am not great on the phone, so this would be an interesting one)
No complaining for 40 days
Memorise one ayah of the Quran every day
Write down everything I spend for 40 days (help me manage my finances)
Spend little/minimum money for 40 days (hmm…sales are coming)

As the kids are on holidays and I have a week or so off too, I am going to go with the “doing something new with my children every day” option I think. I am looking forward to this one!

Below are my favourite pictures from the 40 Day Photo Challenge. Are you thinking of trying a challenge? Do you think I should try a challenge that’s not on the list above? Do you think the whole thing is a terrible idea? Would love to hear your thoughts.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 40 – Sunset Challenge

For my last photo, I had a go at Kooky Little Sisters sunset challenge over at her Harlequin Tea Set blog. Except I woke on the last day of the challenge to find the sunrise painting the sky in the most beautiful colours, so my attempt at the sunset challenge is a picture of the sunrise. Both pictures are very flawed, but I think I managed to capture some of the colour.

Monday 19 December 2011

Breathing Space

Subhan’Allah, what a stressful week! After a year of being under review for job cuts, one month of consultations and a week of interviews, tests and waiting, I finally got told this week that I was keeping my job. It was a massive relief alhamdulillah.

I have desperately been trying to squeeze time in between work, family and guests (a lot of guests this week mash’Allah) to prepare for my interview and have not really been succeeding. My interview last week was one of my worst in years, I forgot to breathe and babbled who knows what non-stop (I figured if I keep talking, I might say something sensible – not usually a good idea to try talking yourself out of a hole, but seems to have worked in this instance). I came out thinking “Well done mate, you just lost your job!” I couldn’t really see the point of attempting the test that followed – two data analysis tasks, one on data interpretation, one about an equalities assessment and one on something called Statistics Package for the Social Sciences, which I last used at university about 13 years ago. I had a go anyway, and I am glad I did.

I have spent all week telling myself that rizq (sustenance) is from Allah (SWT) and not from a job or employer. I have been telling myself that my fate is determined by the will of Allah (SWT) and not by the decisions made by some people in an office. By the time the results were due to be announced I had decided that whatever the result would be, it would be a mercy from Allah (SWT). On the one hand I would have my income for the year and be paid whilst I decide what I would do next. On the other hand, I would downsize to a smaller home, support my husband in his business and return to education.

As I got the job, the first off the above two options apply, but the second one still resonates with me. I feel as if I have bought myself some time to think through some big choices. I have to make sure I’m not complacent. This will happen again and again in the next few years as local authorities try to make savings. Next time I would like to be in a place where I can take it or leave it. That will mean making the effort to budget my money and being more thoughtful about what I spend on, looking at alternative income streams and trying to find ways to “downsize” my lifestyle.

After I had got my results, one of the managers on the panel, who was a manager of mine a few years ago, called to congratulate me and ask me how I felt. She also gave me some feedback; she said mine was one of the best and most confident interviews, I had lots of good things to say and that I was her first choice to fill the vacancy in her team. My current manager had insisting on keeping me, so I wasn’t going anywhere, but it was gratifying to be appreciated. She also said that my name was being mentioned because of my good work on or two very awkward projects. It made me think that perhaps we should be positive and not try and second-guess for the worst. A lot of people being interviewed as part of the same process felt they had done badly in their interviews, including one or two who were having panic attacks or going blank (partly because one of the panellists was extremely rude and off-putting).

Her feedback made me feel positive and encouraged me to try harder for better things and not sell myself short or doubt myself. This month and the week off work I have coming will be about planning for the future, setting goals and making good intentions insh’Allah.

On another note, I found this Boots advert that was filmed at my office. The desk the lady is sitting on is next to the one I sit facing. Except we don't have the poles with the red lights. Those funny chairs are ours though.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 39 - Light and Shade

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 38 - Light

Thursday 15 December 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 37 – Little Lady and Happiness

What makes you happy?

Going to visit my nan’s
Having sleepovers at my cousins
Reading books
Getting to be door monitor at madrassah
Wordsearches and puzzles
Going different places like Cornwall and Bournemouth

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 36 – Little Man and Happiness

What makes you happy?

Making friends
Playing with my friends
Being looked after by my parents
Speed cars (any old car with a spoiler at the back)
Speed shoes (trainers)

This drawing was by Little Man a year or two ago. He is meticulous and will spend ages on his drawings getting every finger, toe, eye brow and detail into his picture. I couldn't find his picture of a cactus and camel, but it had me in stitches for days. I love that he took the time to draw everyone into the picture. Little Lady wasn't very impressed with her likeness though.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 35 - Mr Gorgeous and Happiness

What makes you happy?

Lots and lots of food
Playing games on mum’s phone all day long
My superman t-shirt
thomas the tank engine

I cannot tell you how hard it is to get a picture of this child that is not a blur!

Tuesday 13 December 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 34 - A Romantic Getaway

I treasure the few minutes I have on the way home from work to catch up with my husband (he picks mee up) before I get home and everyone (kids, guests, mum-in-law, house, dinner) start vying for attention.

Today he took a different route and I was pleasantly surprised at the detour to the local scrap metal yard where he needed to pick up some money for some metal he dropped off the day before. He kindly parkeed the car in the middle of the yard and went off to the office. I was a little worried by all of the machines and crunching and scraping noise going on around me, even moreso, when one of the workers peered into the car and then started yelling for hubby to come over:

"You can't park here, it's dangerous, what if we squashed the car?"
"You can see its not scrap!"
"You've got a girl in there - aren't you bothered?"
"No go ahead and squash it!"

Charming! Well beggars can't be choosers and with three boisterous kids, an ill mum-in-law, an endless stream of guests, blogging, working and who knows what else, even a trip to the scrap metal yard is good enough for me if it's with hubby (even if he did try to get me squashed!).

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 33 - The Lighted Lady

We drive by this installation very often, it's called the Lighted Lady of Barking (by Joost Van Santen). When she was tiny, Little Lady was convinced that mermaids lived in the sculpture and I never disabused her of the idea. I've been trying to get a decent picture for days and this is the best I have manaaged so far.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 31 - A Healthy Diet

So much for the idea of going without sugar for 40 days...I really, really need to get a grip...right after I finish these...

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 30 - Domestic Diva

I really do need to get a bit more domesticated. Or at least remember to empty the pockets of my husbands trousers and take the belt out before I put them in the wash next time...

Unfortunately, I seem to have given my husband the impression that my answer to cleaning the cooker or fridge is "maybe we should throw it away and get a new one?"

I can't remember saying that exactly...

Monday 12 December 2011

Guest Post at Curly Fries

I have been having great fun messing around with MS Paint, Google images and some old pictures from my blog. Kooks has asked me to do a guest post for her pretty blog which I am slightly addicted to (that blog and Aaina Bridal are my two sources for indulging in eye candy):

"Anyway, she got me to think about my style inspiration and what floats my boat aesthetically and garb-wise (as Juan Williams might put it). This led to lots of messing around on Pinterest and Polyvore and creating an utter mess on my MS Paint. My wardrobe staple is my abaya, or as I once heard it called “our version of the little black dress”. I treat this as my blank canvas and dress up or dress down to suit the occasion. This has allowed me to create a capsule wardrobe which is easy to manage and lets my plan my work wardrobe for the week very easily."

You can read the full guest post (and leave comments if you fancy) here.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Sweets and Sweet Words

I was in rather a foul mood a few days ago and shouted at the kids, something I hardly ever do anymore. Not long after this got slipped around the door and there was the sound of giggles and a horde of imps running away.

Those are sweets on top of the paper.

These kids know how to get me where I can't resist:

I had to call them all back and give them a hug and kiss and tell them their apology was accepted.
They even salvaged a slightly melty bit of chocolate to put inside the card). I like how she signed it "Salihah and the others" where she ran out of space.

After a horrid, stinky, stressful week, the kids apology really helped me to put things in perspective and think about whats important.

Counting Our Blessings

Subhan’Allah I heard it again this morning:

“My sister-in-law had her baby, it was a girl”
“Never mind, it’s from Allah”
“Three girls”
“Oh well, it’s what Allah has decided, what can we do”

This from two good, pious, believing women. One educated, young and modern, the other an older woman, a mother herself who I thought had grown enough as a person to stop thinking and speaking in this way. That child is not a liability, she is a gift from Allah (SWT), a blessing, bringing an increase in rizq (income/sustenance) and a soul with the potential to change the world or at least bring some goodness and beauty into it.

The parents were hoping for a son so that they could stop having any more children. I know it’s easy for me to say, having two sons and with a daughter in a country where it is easier to be a women than most. It’s tough for parents of daughters in Pakistan. People worry about marrying their daughters and the costs of this (with dowry’s etc). People worry about how vulnerable women are, how easy it is to impugn a women’s honour and therefore the whole family or clan’s. They worry about the fact that even after their daughters are married, they are dependent on their husband and his family and therefore vulnerable.

I accept all of the above, but this is one thing I won’t be moved on. We need to start treating our daughters and sisters like the blessings they are. We need to educate and empower them through the teachings and history of Islam. We need to remind each other again and again of the stories of the women of the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet PBUH). The first Muslim – Lady Khadijah (RA) the noblewoman, Saffiyah bint Abdul Mutallib (RA) the matron and warrior, Sumaiyah (RA) the martyr, Hafsa (RA), the archivist and safe-keeper of the Quran, Zainab (RA) the philanthropist they called “Mother of the Poor”, Aisha (RA) one of the greatest scholars of Islam. These are a very few of the galaxy of amazing women who were at the fore front of Islam.

We need to keep going back to their stories, to keep telling our daughters, but also our mothers that women hold value, that daughters are precious and important, not second best or a consolation prize.
This is not a new topic for me, but it is one that I cannot let go of, I have to keep returning to it. I spoke to the sister who gave us the news of the new baby on the phone and we had a very long conversation about how lucky we are to have daughters, how blessed and undeserving we are. I made sure it was within earshot of the other sister who was commiserating. I think the parents of the new baby might be getting some positive reminders from this sister about how lucky they are.

May Allah (SWT) give us the sense to be grateful for what he gives us, to recognise the blessings and to learn from the lives of the great women who came before us insh’Allah, ameen.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 29 - TLC and Woolly Hats

This little one has been off school with a nasty cold and temperature. Little Man is a foodie like me (okay, just plain greedy) and is the only other person I have met who doesn't lose their appetite when they are sick. I spent the whole day finding him things to eat, including the packed lunch I made for him so that he could have the same things to eat as his siblings took to school.

I love the way this boy goes and gets his big, soft woolly hat when he is feeling unwell or cold and keeps it on day and night until he feels better. At the moment he is sleeping with it on. That coupled with mum-in-laws insistence that he should be wearing a sleeveless jumper under his clothes at all times, means he should be better soon insh'Allah.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 28 - Gift from Pakistan

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 27 - Acrobatics

I get the usual call of "Quick Mum, Look at thiiiis!!" and turn round to find Little Man in mid-air, hands on the sofa feet wedged against the fish tank.

This is about right considering the number of times I have had to coax him down from bookshelves and chairs-on-tables. My first reaction "Oh my God get down!", My second reaction: "Do it again, I'll take a picture"

Friday 9 December 2011

Gratitude Journal/40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 26 - Friendship

I love how tactile and physical my children are in expressing their emotion (except when they hug my hard enough to almost knock me over - Little Lady!). The youngest, Gorgeous is a very physical child and loves to put his arms around whoever is nearest to him, in the rare moments when he is not wrestling or rough-housing.

I love the way he looks up to his older brother who is a little shyer in expressing how he feels than the other two.

I took this on the way to visit a new baby. The boys were walking ahead discussing something of the utmost importance, probably Ben10 or sweets. I often get asked if they are twins, despite the two year age difference, dressing them the same probably doesn't help.

Monday 5 December 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 25 - Mosaic

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 24 - Sunny Side Up

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 23 (b) - Caroline Barby Art at Pimlico Station

Interestingly, when I went to visit the artists website, she had a picture of this artwork with a challenge to take a photo of it with yourself.

40 Day Photo Challenge - Day 23 - Paolozzi Sculpture Pimlico Station

This one had the kids totally stumped. It's Eduardo Paolozzi's Ventilation Tower sculpture outside Pimlico Tube Station.

Things To Do On The Weekend

Things to do on the Weekend:
Go on an adventure on the underground with the kids.
Go to Pimlico in the city to visit your best friend.
Swoon over her juicy gorgeous new baby.
Head off to a bazaar with said best friend.
Get the kids face-pianted and some balloon art.
Sneak out of a very boring puppet show both looking shame-faced .
Share pasta bolognaise with best friend whilst combined total of five kids made a big bolognaisy mess.

Things not to do on the weekend:
Take a wrong turn on the way home and get hopelessly lost in the dark.
End up walking and walking and walking round the city with three kids.
Ending up at Victoria station with no way to get into the station due to accessibility works.
Walk lots more, stop to ask lots of people, finally find your way into the station.

More things to do:

Take the train home from Victoria sttaion which the kids were well impressed with ("looks like Harry Potters train station!" - yes, but with lots of nice shops!)
Eat french fries and drink juice on the train on the way home.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 22 - Textured Ceramics

Saturday 3 December 2011

Mum and Muslim - November-December 2011 Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is out now.  Mash'Allah as always brothers and sisters have submitted some brilliant articles and columns.  Please head over and take a look and leave your comments (my contributions: columnn here, article here, another article here, recipe here and review here).

I'm also thrilled to see Shutterbug Sisters fabulous pictures used for this edition.

As always we welcome submissions, so if you love writing, are passionate about something you want to share or have some advice, a recipe or review that fits the theme of the magazine, please do get in touch with the editor Sister Sumaiyah Umm Imran at

Friday 2 December 2011

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 21 - Book Art and Surprising Reads

The difficult thing with this 40 day photo challenge is that by the time I get home from work (at 4.30) and remember to look for something to photograph, its dark outside already.  So I have to look around in the house for something that piques my interest.

I have a soft spot for over dramatic Urdu book covers (usually very dramatic, very sad, but apparently true stories).

It was this book that shocked me.  It's an Urdu translation of a Simone De Beauvoir book.  It's called "Aurat" or Woman, so I assume its a version of her book The Second Sex.  I had no idea my husband has read this.  I have the book, but never quite got round to reading it.  How many bearded, amamah (turban) and thobe wearing Beauvoir-reading Muslim men have you ever come across?  I'm seriously impressed.  I'm off to interview him and find out what other interesting things he does when I am not around.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Book Review: Jannah Jewels: The Treasure of Timbaktu by Umm Nura

I am always on the lookout for good books for my children, including interesting and inspiring Islamic children’s book. Jannah Jewels caught my eye because of the adventurous looking girls on the over and the idea of a group of young girls going through numerous adventures. I liked that the book cover shows that the girls are of different races and have different styles – one of the things I love about this ummah is its variety and diversity.

Jannah Jewels are four ordinary looking Muslims girls with some extraordinary qualities. Each excels in one of the sunnah sports (horse-riding, archery and swimming, okay so maybe not the one that likes skateboarding), each has a role (leader, artist, encyclopaedia, environmentalist), a superpower, and a special gadget as well as her own fear (spiders is one).

Before reviewing I passed the book to my daughter to read, because I felt that it was her opinion that counted. She read the book in one sitting and absolutely raved about it. When asked what she liked, she described some of the more adventurous scenes from the book. Her favourite character was Iman (my favourite too – she is the clever one).

Reading the book myself, the first thing that struck me was the breadth of Islamic knowledge and history which was touched on, often quite lightly or in passing: mention of Mansa Musa, the great Jingerber Masjid of Timbuktu, Ibn Battuta’s Rihla, the Maghribi script, the village griot. I suspect most adults wouldn’t know what or who all of these are at first glance. I am super keen to get my children interested in Islamic history and cultures, so if these mentions pique their curiosity I will be very happy. The book sneaks in lots of facts such as:

“It says here that the Quranic Sankore University, had almost 50,000 Quranic students at one point. It was built by Al-Sahili. He was from the Spanish city of Grenada.”

I liked that the Jannah Jewels have to say “Bismillah” (I begin in the name of Allah) before they do anything and that when they need help they have to ask Allah (SWT) sincerely. More than this I liked that the characters remember to thank Allah (SWT) when help comes, how many times does Superman remember to do this?

I loved that the book quotes a hadith very beloved to me, written on the hilt of the Prophet’s (PBUH) sword:

“Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you; and speak the truth although it be against yourself.”

The book touches on various issues such as the environment and sustainability, the history of Africa and the richness of Islamic history. I wondered if children would be able to fully appreciate the authors attempt to highlight the fact that history can be subjective, for instance the negative stereotypes around Africa common today in comparison to the rich and sophisticated Africa of the past. As Mansa Musa says to the girls “I have believed in Africa for a long time. I believe in its history and its academic and spiritual power.” Certainly a noble attempt and one I hope made my daughter think.

Probably the only criticism I might have with the book is that jumps very quickly from one scenario to another, but this is understandable when you consider how much is crammed into this little book its energetic pace.

Overall I am glad I got my hands on the book and I am looking forward to the next edition. I could really feel the love that went into this book – the characters, the places, the history, and the things that the author clearly strongly believes in and wants to share with our children and the wider world through her heroines.

My daughter’s verdict? “I would give the book a 10 out of 10 mum”

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 20 - Little Man's Heart

I'm half way through this 40 day challenge and I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying it.  It has certainly brought me out of my own little world and got me looking around.  My children are in on the act too and trying to get me to take pictures of anything and everything.

Little Man brought home from school today this heart made from salt dough and I loved it alongside the pot from Little Lady.  Gorgeous' turn next.  I get the idea it will be something yellow since everything he has ever brought home has been painted, coloured or coated in yellow.

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 19 - Ivy

by Charles Dickens

Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old!
Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold.
The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
To pleasure his dainty whim:
And the mouldering dust that years have made
Is a merry meal for him.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!
And slyly he traileth along the ground,
And his leaves he gently waves,
As he joyously hugs and crawleth round
The rich mould of dead men's graves.
Creeping where grim death hath been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

Whole ages have fled and their works decayed,
And nations have scattered been;
But the stout old Ivy shall never fade,
From its hale and hearty green.
The brave old plant, in its lonely days,
Shall fatten upon the past:
For the stateliest building man can raise
Is the Ivy's food at last.
Creeping on where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 18 - Walking by Water

40 Day Photo Challenge: Day 17 - On the Docks