Wednesday 30 January 2013

Remembering Death but Living in the Moment

Modern life seems to move at such a fast pace and as busy people no matter how much we do it never seems to be enough.  As parents, spouses, home-makers and employees we have a mass of responsibilities and as Muslims we try to fulfil them in the best way possible.  No matter what the role, we have so many hopes and goals. 

As parents we want to afford our children the best education and provide excellent tarbiyyah (upbringing and manners).  As spouses we want to be fun and attractive - dressed well and interesting.  As home-makers we want our food to taste amazing and our home to look spotless and stylish.  As individuals we dream about finding ways to make enough money to achieve all of our dreams – to travel, to write that novel, to start that amazing business.

There is nothing wrong with these things, after all life is to be lived and Allah (SWT) says “And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah , and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” (Quran 62:10) and after all working hard for many of these things is part of our faith.

Like everyone else I have my hopes and dreams.  I think day and night about how I can educate my children in the best way and improve their manners, the perfect recipe that would please everyone, the next blog post or article to write, the next craft to attempt, how I can organise my home better, how I can develop myself further to achieve some of the projects I have daydreamed about.  They often overwhelm my mind, all demanding my attention and vying for focus.  I have been trying my best to work on all of these and also praying to Allah (SWT) for help in doing a good job of them.

Yet something I read recently stopped me in my tracks: 

“Extensive hopes (about this worldly life) give rise to lethargy when it comes to acts of obedience, procrastinating with repentance, desire for worldly things, forgetfulness of the hereafter and hardness of the heart; because the softness of the heart and its purity only comes about by remembering death, the grave, reward and punishment, and the horrors of the hereafter…for if one remembers death, he strives to do acts of obedience, his worries decrease and he is satisfied with less.” (Sheikh Tawfique Choudhry)

We work so hard, we run around and yet often we achieve so little.  The quote above indicates that the reason for this is that great hopes for this life lead to laziness when it comes to our relationship with Allah (SWT) and obeying his commandments.  This is not to say that our work and effort in this world is not necessary, but it reminded me that this should not be our only focus.  It made me think of how often our dua’s are filled with requests for help in worldly things and how the thoughts of the next life are pushed out.

It also made me mindful of how overwhelming all of the demands of modern life can be and how often we are trying to do so many things at once or are already thinking about the next task or role even as we are in the middle of the current one.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all of these thoughts, a particular quote often comes to mind “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” (Oprah Winfrey). 

This way of thinking makes me take a step back and think about what is the best thing I could be doing right in this moment?  There are many times when I have asked this questions and it has benefited me: when I want to spend the afternoon watching movies, but decided the best thing I could do in the moment is practise my Arabic or make dhikr or read to the kids or cook something wholesome for my family.   This question helps me to step back from the multitude of demands the to-do list in my mind is making and pick one and concentrate on it fully. 

Stepping away from all of the noise helps me to be present in the moment and focus on what I am doing, to find benefit and pleasure in it and to do a better job because I am concentrating rather than rushing.  Doing things mindfully and a bit more slowly and thoroughly also helps to make time to do the action in a way that is more beneficial - whether doing it in the sunnah way, engaging in dhikr whilst I do it, or correcting my intention as to why I am doing it.

As we begin the new year and I am inundated with ideas and products for achieving new dreams and goals, both in the shops and in my mailbox, thinking of the next life and being mindful of what I am doing in this minute are both having a calming effect on me and helping to undertake the right actions one at a time, rather than feeling stressed about all of them at once.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Picture of the Day - 26-01-13: Mendhi Cake

Fashionista came to visit this weekend and brought along a treat.  As well as a cheesecake she made, she brought along this lovely Victoria Sponge she baked and then covered in icing and created henna designs on (with hot pink icing, not henna!).

I thought it looked great, it tasted good too (you can see what she did here).

Saturday 26 January 2013

A Happy Friday

Now and again you have those really difficult, challenging or plain unproductive days.  But rarer still are those days when everything is just good.  Today was one of those days (or yesterday now as it is just past midnight).

My favourite time of the day at the moment each day is 9am.  Every morning I start the day with fajr (the dawn prayer) and then rush through my other morning ibaadat (worship) trying to feed the baby at the same time.  Then it’s time to get the kids up, drag them out of bed, hand then their uniform, get into the kitchen to make breakfast, pack lunches, shout up the stairs at everyone to get down.  Then it’s back up the stairs to get dressed, feed the baby if there is time and shout down the stairs at everyone to get their coats and bags.  This is followed by the walk to school, complete with squabbling  and me telling everyone to hurry.  Every morning we get to the school early and end up waiting in the playground in the freezing cold.  Little Lady rushes off to the corner her friends hang out in without even turning back to say bye and the boys argue and moan about whose line I am going to stand next to (usually Little Man until the whistle blows to line up and then to Gorgeous’ line, to which he complains every day that I just don’t care about him).

As I leave the school, I see the late parents running to the gates (including children in school uniform still in prams!) only to be told they have to report to the office and explain why they are late).  I saunter home and get through the door at exactly 9am.  The perfect moment – just in from the cold, the house still warm and completely silent, just me and Darling for the next six and a half hours.  All those possibilities for how I could use that time.

Today I used the time to clean the house from top to bottom – laundry, hoover, clean kitchen and bathroom.  I even had time to wash my hair during daylight hours (I usually have to wait till the kids are asleep before I have a rushed shower).  All whilst the baby slept for two hours.  My lovely friend H dropped in for the afternoon and stayed for the evening.  We went for a walk and she treated me to a lovely lunch (chicken jalfrezi and lovely fresh naan bread) and then she played with the kids after school.  The easy, adult company was ever so nice, as was hearing nice things about my children from her.

This evening also Little Lady finished reading Quran mash’Allah.  I am ever so pleased and have promised to let her choose a gift of her choice.  But more so, I am happy with her recitation as I think she has a really good, strong voice.  More and more I have been thinking about what I want for my children and what role the Quran plays in our aspirations for our children.  Insh’Allah, I hope and pray that this is the start of a lifelong journey to study, read, recite beautifully, memorise, understand and act upon the Quran insh’Allah.

Also today Little Man turned eight mash’Allah.  We don’t celebrate birthdays in our home as it is not a part of our faith, but I always feel a little sentimental at their birthdays at the thought they are another year older already.  We spoke about looking back over the year and thinking about what we did well and what could be improved upon (Muslims are encouraged to review their actions and how they spend their time regularly).  Mash’Allah last year Little Man finished Quaidah and started Quran, he helped me immensely and was very sympathetic when I was pregnant (unlike Gorgeous who one day announced “No one is sick that long mum!”) and he became a doting big brother to Darling which surprised and heartened me.  Now that he is eight we discussed how he could work on reading and possibly finishing Quran, starting to pray regularly and maybe being kinder and more patient with Gorgeous as he is with Darling. 

As the day ended we decided to have a midnight feast (three hours between midnight) with peanuts, Bombay mix, leftover chapatti from breakfast and some really stinky gum Little Man magicked up from somewhere and watch cartoons on the internet.  Not a terrible way to end a good day I think.

Thursday 24 January 2013

My Little Sisters Hijab Story

Everyone who wears hijab has a story of how they came to do so, whether through long introspection and spiritual growth or whether they just decided one day to start covering their hair. My youngest sister Kooky has written about hers recently at her blog Harlequin Tea Set:

"My turning point came after three years at university, which made me feel a little disillusioned about being a young teenaged Muslim. It was easy to say that I was young, that there was plenty of time to enjoy myself; that I should look great, feel great, measure myself by how good-looking or girly other people thought I was. The feminist in me was fed up of it, and so was the Muslim. I’d been taught for years, that a precious thing like a woman should be covered, that if I wanted respect then I should stop looking for it with skinny jeans and fitted tops, and that perhaps I’d need a bit more than extravagant eyeliner.

By the time I had my 21st birthday, I’d made my mind up. I remember having a realisation that one could not tell I was a Muslim by looking at me – I could have been Sikh, Christian, Muslim or Hindu or Jedi and no one would be any wiser just from looking at me. I’d always meant to wear hijab, but now it was more than just covering my head – it was an act of symbolism for me. Sounds cheesy, but it really is genuine. Also, in my little Emo way, I was a little fed-up of the (what I saw as) hypocritical behaviour of my peers around me, and decided to act on my feelings. True, I did celebrate by having a massive fancy dress party in a hired penthouse in true-blowout style, but at least I can say that I ended my hair-years with a bang.

I did get a few negative comments here and there, and surprisingly they were from a few young Muslim girls and a couple of Muslim men. It was also strange that the non-Muslim friends understood why I wanted to wear hijab, and the idea of wanting to do something meaningful, as I’d expected a lot of questions from them. From the small group of Asian girls who were slightly disparaging (“But it looks ugly”, “But you don’t even NEED to”, and best of all the clichéd “So what, you’ve become religious now?’) I wasn’t put off, although slightly surprised. I assume their negativity was due to their own feelings of guilt or insecurity, or perhaps it was just something they didn’t understand."

You can read the full post here.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Snowy Days

The last few days has seen us coping/enjoying with lots of snow.  London usually gets less than the rest of the country, but we got a fair amount this time.

I usually don't like the cold and snow for me means colds, damp clothes, slipping and sliding all over the place and freezing hands.  So when the kids kept praying for snow, I kept telling them not to.  Little Man has been asking me when its going to snow since November, so at least that was one less question from him.

I grumbled when it started to snow, but there is something so enchanting about falling snow, especially the big fluffy type that just floats down around you, that every time I stepped out I was captivated by it.

I have been keeping the kids wrapped in layers, especially Darling who is now three month (baby boots courtesy of Aunty Fashionista)

It's strange having the weather change from warm for this time of year to cold so suddenly.  I think the plants and animals are quite confused as well.

These buds are from my mum's Camellia plant which yields beautiful flowers, I hope they don't flower too early and all die too soon.

My little garden is a mess at the moment with a fallen fence and overturned furniture which I haven't gotten round to sorting out, so we headed over to my mum's to make a snowman.  I can't believe ho long it took everyone to make this little one.

I'm surprised my kids didn't eat the minstrels that we used for eyes (more snow pics here)

Fashionista's one was much better (more pics here):

The snow also meant that the kids school was shut for the day, which meant I didn't have to do the school run in the snow and could go back to sleep.  It also meant they spent the whole day squabbling.

Little Lady helped by hosting a painting master class (which was inspired by Kooky Little Sister).  This lasted all of fifteen minutes (LL is bossy and the boys are getting old enough to argue back now).

Then I found a quiet moment in the middle of the day, which made me stop and think - "What an earth are they doing downstairs while I am feeding the baby?"

Evidently they had found a new use for the snooker table.

They snuck all of the cushions, blankets and soft toys they could find to make a den.  They even made gorgeous a picnic:

I was so pleased they found a way to keep themselves busy while I made dinner, they even took Darling out of her bouncer and babysat her under the table.

Friday 18 January 2013

The Waiting Game – Love and Sabr

One of the biggest challenges in my life has been my lack of patience.  It is something I have worked hard to improve in myself over the last decade so that I can become a kinder and gentler wife and mother and to please Allah (SWT) who says:

“And be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are patient.”  – Al-Quran (8:46)

Aisha (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “O Aisha, Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness, and He rewards for gentleness what is not granted for harshness; and He does not reward anything else like it.” - Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6273

So these last few days have been ever so hard for me.  Hubby has been in South Africa for two months visiting his sheikh and doing dawah (missionary) work in Johannesburg and Cape Town.  He flew back to the UK on Wednesday and had to go straight to the north to Dewsbury where the dawah organisation is based to give an update on what had been happening.  He called me from there and told me he’d be back home the following day (a six hour drive home).

I made sure the house was spotless and the kids were clean and nicely dressed.  I found something nice to wear and cooked his favourite food.  I was stoked he was coming home a day earlier than planned and as I had told people the original return date, we would have him to ourselves for a whole day.  Then I waited and waited some more.  I got a call yesterday that the elders in the dawah organisation had asked him to stop by till the evening.  We were not sure why, whether it was to welcome other groups of people travelling to the UK for dawah works (there was one group due from Bangladesh yesterday), to give more information about his trip or whether they were going to ask to spend another two months in the path of Allah (SWT).

He asked me what he should say if they ask him to spend two more months.  I could not say no.  We will never have another chance like this.  I am on maternity leave on full pay and can cover our costs of living, once I go back to work, he will be with the kids for part of the day and there won’t be another chance for him for a long time.  I told him if he feels the need to go, I will support him.  That moment yesterday was so excruciating, perhaps one of the hardest I can remember and I know it was very, very hard for him too.

The two months preceding were not as tough as this, I sent him on his way knowing that we were in Allah (SWT)’s care and with plans of how to use the time productively while he was away.  But the excitement of his return and then the possibility of not seeing him for another two months was a whole different feeling.  I am waiting to hear today if he is coming back.  I know he would not return without calling me first (as it is the sunnah to send a message before you return from a trip), but al day every time a car drove past the house, I would rush to the window to see who it is.

I once found out through my husband that a wonderful friend of mine once gave all of her gold jewellery to the local masjid which was being built at the time.  If you know Pakistani women and their emotional and cultural attachment to gold (and the fact that gold is now too expensive for ordinary people to buy), then you know what a big thing this is.  I wondered how she had gotten the nerve to let it all go (may Allah (SWT) reward her abundantly insh’Allah).  Now I realise that it is not always the most expensive thing you should give away but the thing that is most valuable and precious to you.  For me these are my children and my husband.

I believe that what you spend or give away in the path of Allah (SWT) is what will be preserved for you with Allah (SWT) in the next life for all eternity.  There is nothing more precious to me than my relationship with my dear, kind, selfless husband.  The sacrifice of two more months without him is nothing to the thought of earning a forever right next to him in return.

At the same time, these last two months have been a lesson in miracles for me.  It was as if Allah (SWT) eased the feeling of loneliness that I so feared.  I made new friends with local sisters who are strong in their faith, I saw how protective and caring my family are (including my extended family) towards me and the children.  I found the Arabic course I have longed to do for years, sitting right at home, learning whilst the kids are safe in bed and the baby plays nearby.  More than once my heart has yearned for something and I have seen it appear in front of me – a cousin call to chat when I felt lonely, a friend appearing at the door with food when I was sick of eating my own cooking (that kept happening – Allah (SWT) knows I love food!), a neighbour drop by with her children when the house felt too quiet.

I feel like this is a time of dua’s to be accepted.  In the days before he was due back I remember thinking mostly everything I have prayed for is being accepted.  I was anxious that hubby would be back so soon and that there must be so many more things to ask Allah (SWT) for that I had not thought of whilst he was out in the path of Allah (SWT).  Maybe now I will get some more time to ask for everything I need and wish and desire.

If he does stay away for two more months, I don’t expect anyone to understand, certainly his parents will not be happy and mine will be very angry.  I don’t expect my family or friends to understand and I suspect I will have to do a lot of explaining and convincing and answer lots of angry questions.

I am okay with that.  My nice clothes are back on a hanger and I am in my cosy warm casuals, the food I cooked is in the fridge.  As I type this every time I hear a car go past my house my attention is immediately drawn to the window and my heart skips a beat, I have been listening out for the phone to ring all morning.  The snow has been falling non-stop since this morning; will school close early and the kids have to come home?  Will Gorgeous end up stuck somewhere on his school trip?  Will hubby come home today?   I am playing a waiting game.  Strangely though, I am at peace.  I have never felt as contented, at peace and grateful as I have these last two months. So whatever Allah (SWT) chooses for us, we are grateful and I feel incredibly blessed.

(O Muslims) You are the best of the peoples, you have been sent towards mankind, to enjoin good and forbid evil – Al-Quran (Al-‘Imran:110)

“And strive hard in Allah’s cause, as you ought to strive” (Al-Hajj: 78)

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Word for 2013: Discipline

I came across an idea called “word for the year”.  The concept behind this is to pick a word that encapsulates what you hope to achieve this year and use it to inspire you (there is a good explanation for this idea from Sandra Pawula here).  My word for 2011 was “courage”.  I felt as if I needed to break out of my everyday routines and try new things.  I also had so many ideas for things I wanted to try and needed the nerve to start trying some of them.  I didn't have a word for 2012, but the word that would have been best for me last year was “patience” – being pregnant for most of the year meant that I was struggling to get along rather than rush to try new things (with two new babies in the family, a third due and my sister’s wedding, maybe “celebrate” could have been a good word too for last year).

My word for this year is “discipline”.  I have lots of willpower and can be good at getting things done, but I often lack the mindfulness to stick to good routines and habits.  I have also realised you can be good at something, but if you don’t have the discipline to stick with it, or even start it, you are not going to be very successful in anything you attempt.

There are a number of areas in my life I feel the need to bring this word:

Spending - I have been thinking lots about what we consider necessities and what actually are necessary.  I have a strong urge to live more simply, buy less, consume less and teach my children to be less materialistic and wasteful.  I need to be stronger in the face of the impulse to buy something just because i feel like it and think through purchases.

Diet  - I don’t believe in short spurts of dieting, but I do believe in making incremental, permanent changes to our diets as we move towards healthier diets which are more consistent with the sunnah (tradition) of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him):

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.” - Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah

I love food too much and I eat too much, I also eat too many of the wrong types of food: chocolate, fizzy drinks, pizza, burgers, kebab rolls, which I think you can get away with when you are 18, but not so much when you are 33.  So I need to be mindful every time I make the decision to put something into my mouth and try to eat less but healthier food.  So far I have made the switch from sugar to natural sweetener.  Next step is cutting down meat consumption.

Health – I was close to the ideal weight I wanted to be before I was expecting Darling.  Now I am quite a lot heavier.  I have had a few people say it suits me in the face and I don’t mind being a bit bigger, but my sore knees don’t like it and I would prefer to be stronger and fitter.  Hopefully now that hubby is back tomorrow insh’Allah, we can go walking together or I can leave the baby with him and go power-walking with my little sister.

Children – I have been working to try and get mealtimes, bedtime routines, homework times and Quran lessons to set times.  This is coming along well.  Now I am working with Little Lady to come up with a plan to prepare for 11+ exams later this year and agree parameters around computer usage with the kids as this causes endless squabbling.

Time – I am starting my Arabic course tomorrow and with four children, I will have to keep an eye on how i use my time and avoid activities which eat up time unnecessarily such as too much time on the internet or in the shopping mall.

Discipline around the kids will be the easiest as this is the most important for me, discipline around spending a little more challenging and around bad eating habits even more so.

“Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.” – Charles Duhigg

“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” - Abraham Joshua Heschel

What would your word for 2013 be?

Little Lady and Poetry

I have always loved books and literature since childhood; historical, sci-fi (dystopian literature is my favourite), books from around the world, conspiracy theory type books, ghost stories and pulp-horror to name a few genres.  The one area I never quite had patience with was poetry.  As an adult, I have found much more that poetry calls to me and certain voices in particular (Maya Angelou, Grace Nichols, Michael Rosen, Muhammad Iqbal, Wassi Shah), but I have never had the confidence or talent to write myself.

Probably because of that I love that Little Lady loves writing poetry and is always writing for me.  The poem that she wrote today really surprised me.  I read the first few lines with a smirk and then came to the last line and had the smirk wiped off.  

I asked her what made her think of the last line and she said it was a conversation we had some weeks ago about cancer.It made me think that LL is growing up faster than I think:

Just Think

Think of the Princess of China, Mulan
Walking around in her golden garments and splendid silk

Think of Sleeping Beauty,
Asleep for a hundred years in her beauty

Think about Rapunzel with magical hair,
With healing powers that every person longs to find.

Think about Cinderella, from ripped rags,
To silk robes and dresses

But think of the beautiful lady with cancer.
Longing for a cure, staying strong for her family,
Struggling on, she stays brave.

My Little Girls Aqeeqah

I realised that I never got round to posting the pictures from Darling's Aqeeqah (sacrifice of an animal for the baby).  We did this when she was about 10 days old and with such sort notice it was chaotic and great fun.

We decided to do it here instead of sending the money to Pakistan this year as I wanted my children to know about it and to share the meat with family and friends.

My sisters help me set up a simple dessert table and find as many pink thinks as they could to stick up/blow up/set out.  I didn't get many pictures as I was running around trying to get the meal served.  We kept it very simple with the meat from the sacrificed lamb being cooked as a curry (by a local restaurant) and served with nan bread and salad.  Being fresh, it tasted amazing.  I also made a few trays of tandoori chicken to complement the meal.

We invited the women to our home and there ended up being about 40 women and probably about 20 or more children (they all seemed to be under 5) and it was very noisy and got very hot.  The men were served at the local masjid.

I was worried there would not be enough food, but there was plenty at home and the masjid. Hubby told me lots of people visiting the masjid joined in the meal which was nice.

Little Lady and Darling wore matching dresses from Monsoon. (LL's nan bought hers, so I hunted down one for Darling, which was too big, but no-one noticed).

My sisters also turned up with a cake which was a nice touch.

The evening was quite crazy.  We had to get the guests to sit down on two sittings, but everyone enjoyed the food, Darling got so many gifts (I don't think I'll have to buy her any clothes this year) and it was so nice seeing all of my friends and introducing my little princess to them.

In the meantime, time has flown and she is three months today mash'Allah and I can't help feeling that she is growing so quickly alhamdulillah.

(There are a few pics here on Kooks blog).

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Making Biscuits with Aunty J

My younger sister Fashionista Sister came by to visit this week and brought along ingredients and cookie cutters to make biscuits with my children (brave soul).  Being a teacher she managed to keep them in line and get them to follow instructions.  Being their mum and knowing what they are like, I hid in the other room and waited for them to destroy something or start fighting.

There was a fight over the biggest cookie cutter.

The kids had great fun icing these, even though neither of the boys like icing (just making a mess).  They had so much fun and were so proud of their biscuits.  After asking everyone for about the fifth time, my dad had to tell them to stop pestering and put them away.

The shortcake biscuits tasted pretty good (more pics here on Fashionista's blog).

Tuesday 8 January 2013

MyMemories Scrap-booking Software Giveaway Winner!

Last months I hosted a give away for the making Memories Scrap-booking Software.  The MyMemories Suite Digital Scrap-booking Software is worth $39.95 (US) and can be used for photo-books  custom printing, banners, cards and printable templates as well as for scrap booking.

I am happy to announce that the winner is....Khadija/Mrs Gaye!
Sister - please e-mail me at umm_salihah@yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk to get the code and instructions for the give-away as soon as you can insh'Allah.

For anyone who is interested in trying out the software.  If you click through the image at the side or bottom of this blog with the MyMemories logo and use the following code: STMMMS22565 you will get a $10 discount off of the cost of the software (the code is good for MyMemories Suite v4).

If you do try the software out, I would love to hear about how you found it to use and what you used it for.

Jumping on the Bed in the Middle of the Night

You know those moments when you are excited?  So excited that you feel like jumping up and down and can’t sleep?  Well its 12.30am and I am having one of those moments.

Since the last few years I have really wanted to learn Arabic and understand the Quran better.  Not only did I not know where to start, but when I finally did find somewhere nearby which taught the basics and which was starting its course at the same time my maternity leave started, I realised there was no way I could sit for three hours at a time when I am nursing a newborn (and I suspected that the course instructor just would not let me sneak a baby in).

I was upset, but figured I would have to wait till next year and that this was what Allah (SWT) had willed for me.  About two weeks ago, my good friend Sister Sumaiya directed me towards a course she had signed up for which she thought I might be interested in.  May Allah (SWT) reward her abundantly for pointing me towards this at just the right time.

Abu Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "He who calls another to guidance will have a reward equal; to the reward of him who follows him without diminishing the reward of either of them." (Related by Muslim)

I enrolled in the course called Arabic through the Quran with trepidation and with the worry that I would not be able to get through the course with a newborn and a crazy five year old.  Today the course instructor (I am wondering what we should call her? Sister?  Ustadhah?) e-mailed us with the instructions to get signed up to the various online platforms we will be using to get through the course, it seemed a bit technical but turned out fairly easy.  Our first assignment was to post an introduction about ourselves in the student’s forum.

This was such a good way to start Alhamdulillah.  All of the sisters have responsibilities whether children, work or studies and yet they have committed themselves to this course to please Allah and to learn from his book.  Subhan’Allah, reading their intro’s was such an encouragement and helped put me at ease.

I am so excited about getting started.  I have ordered the book, started playing the learning game on memorize and start looking through the PDF for the course and the teachers blog.  I am going to have to stop myself now from spending all night on this or I won’t be able to get up for fajr prayers.  Subhan’Allah, how merciful is Allah (SWT).  We make an intention even thought we can’t see a way of making something happen and Allah (SWT) shows a path for us.

(image source)

Monday 7 January 2013

Recipe: Chickpea and Potato Pilau Rice

Both I and Little Man are the rice lovers in this house (the two greedy ones), so I often experiment with putting different things in a simple pilau rice.  This week I tried potato and chickpea and another surprise ingredient - chicken stock cube - and really liked how it tasted. This dish was a hit with the kids too and is a fairly convenient one to include in packed lunches for school.

2-3 tablespoon cooking oil
2 medium onions - diced
2 tablespoon whole cumin (sabut zeera) seeds
6-8 peppercorns
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
2-3 medium tomatoes - pureed.
2-3 whole green chilli's with small slits.
1 tablespoon salt 
2 cans of chickpeas - drained and washed
4-5 medium sized potatoes - diced roughly.
1 chicken stock cube (I used Knorr chicken)
3 cups rice (I use a teacup).

First rinse the rice two or three times in water.  Then soak in water and leave aside until the masala is ready.

For the masala add the oil, onions, cumin and peppercorns to the pot and sauté the onions until golden.  Add the garam masala, salt, red chilli and cook for a minute, then add the tomato and cook for a further 5 minutes until the masala is fairly dry but not sticking to the bottom of the pot (the tomato should be fairly cooked through by this stage.  Add the potatoes and saute until they are half-cooked and then add the chickpeas, if they start to stick to the pan, add a little water to prevent this.

Add 4-1/2 cups of water (1 and a half cup for each cup of rice).  Partially cover the pot with its lid and let the water heat up.  Once it starts to boil, drain and add the rice and the chicken stock cube.  Partially cover the pot again with the lid and allow to cook.  

Once the water starts to boil again, take an old tea-towel and soak it completely under the tap. Wrap this around the bottom of the lid of your pot and tie the corners above the handle (make sure it is sopping wet or it will get roasted - I managed to turn one black in the past because I tied it on dry). Put the lid on the pot, and turn the heat down as low as it goes. Check after 15-20 minutes. If not cooked through replace lid and check after another 10 minutes. 

Can be served with a curry, yoghurt, raita or salad or eaten on its own (or in my case with coleslaw and potato salad as this was all I could find in the fridge).