Wednesday 27 February 2013

Learning Quranic Arabic (and Struggling)

One of the things I wanted to do for a long time was learn Arabic so that I could understand the Quran in the language it was revealed and insh’Allah also benefit my children in this way.  I started my maternity leave in October, a few weeks before a new Islamic Studies course started locally, so I planned to join the class once the baby was born.  Yeah right!  Once bubba was here, I could not imagine sitting through a three hour class without being able to breastfeed her, nor could I imagine the teacher allowing me to bring her along.  So I asked Allah to help me find a way and Alhamdulillah, he blessed me with something better.  Sister Sumaiyah, who is editor of Aailamagazine and a good friend of mine (her blog is here) directed me to a course being led by a local sister called “Arabic Through the Quran”.

I did istikharah, read through the blog a little and then took the step of applying for a place.  Alhamdulillah I was accepted and have joined the classes.  The classes are online and require a couple of platforms to run smoothly (Wiziq for classes, Moodle for the sister’s forum and Memrise for vocabulary practise).  I was a little bit daunted by this, but the teacher gave clear instructions and it was pretty easy to set them all up.

Alhamdulillah, the classes have been great.  The first few were brilliant, until class three when I started to feel a little out of my depth.  I soon realised that it wasn’t a case of turning up for classes and doing the compulsory homework and weekly tests, but that I would have to dedicate significant time and effort if I really wanted to learn.

I had to go back and review the sincerity of my intentions and make a commitment to set aside time daily and prioritise this over the numerous other things that catch my attention online and off through the day.  This week is the second week of the Red PillLeadership Course run by Sheikh Muhammad Alshareef  I have joined so I have had a full-on two weeks with  so many decisions and plans going through my head.  Once this is completed (last session today – more on this soon insh’Allah) I will be dedicating more time to the Arabic studies insh’Allah and try to bring some discipline to my studies.

One of the sisters on the forum recommended the following lecture by Ustadh Nauman Ali Khan for anyone looking for inspiration or wondering why someone would want to study Quranic Arabic.

Alhamdulillah, I feel so lucky to have found this course and just hope Allah (SWT) gives me the discipline and opportunity to rise to the occasion adequately.  I would love to hear from sisters who have learnt Arabic or are learning what has helped them or if there are books, apps, websites, programmes they can recommend for adults or children to learn.

Monday 25 February 2013

Little Ladies Amin (Finishing Quran) Party

I had promised Little Lady a party when she finished reading the whole Quran.  She finished last month, but as my sister-in-law was due to give birth around the time, I delayed a few weeks until my beautiful little niece had arrived.   Once my darling niece was here, we picked a date and started pulling our ideas together.

We got the idea for the colour scheme from some bunting I picked up cheaply - green, teal and pink.  The colour scheme didn't end up matching perfectly (hard to find teal balloons at short notice, but just about went together).

Kooky Little Sister created the balloon arch and put up the bunting.

We kept the boys busy by asking them to create a den in the living room using the snooker table, blankets, cushions and soft toys.  In hindsight this turned out to be a good idea.  The boys at the party - about ten of them aged three to ten turned the front room into a bachelor pad and stayed there playing games to begin with and then jumping off the snooker table.

Fashionista Sister spent hours baking for the party.   The Malteaser cake was her special surprise for us and got totally demolished, first by little kids trying to sneak Malteasers and then by just about everyone.

She also made these fairy cakes with messages for Little Lady

Kooks and Fashionista set up the dessert tables and mash'Allah I was really happy with the job they had done.

This gorgeous pink cake and the brownies were a gift from my very dear friend and sister Sumaiyah, who is a fab cook mash'Allah.  I had to hide some of these to make sure I got some too.

I was so busy I didn't manage to get decent pictures of the food.  The menu included chicken biryani courtesy of my Aunt, soft lamb kebabs made my mum and Fashionista's famous chicken sandwiches (no party of ours is complete without them).  I made chicken noodles, chicken pasta, macaroni salad, kachumber salad, aloo chaat, baked chicken, potato wedges and mint sauce.  I wanted to be sure there would be enough food!

The party was great fun.  Kooks counted about 25 children at one point, so it was also pretty raucous. Little Lady acted like the belle of the ball and was proud to have her best friend around for the first time and  she got some wonderful gifts which she is making use of now.

How else can I tell it was a good party?

  1. Every single room in the house was trashed and there was food everywhere
  2. There were hordes of little kids (I mean three and four year olds) camped out all the way up the stairs getting high on sugar.
  3. Somebody broke the snooker table.

My kids insisted that next time we have a party no kids should be invited, specially no little kids.  I think maybe next time I'll wait till they are in school and invite the ladies around.  Better still I might have pizza night and invite my sisters around.

Thank you to my sisters for all of their help setting up, running around with me and also for the pics in this post.

Rainbow Fruit Kebabs

For my daughters party, I decided to try making fruit kebabs.  I found the image below on Pinterest and loved the idea (my party ideas board is here).

I gathered up the fruits I wanted to use, making sure they were fairly firm and would stay on the skewers without falling apart. 

 Shutterbug sister was around and offered to help, so I showed her the picture above and handed the fruit to her to prep.  She's quite careful and precise, so was a good person to do the job.

I love how they turned out - I think she did a great job.  I was so busy running around that I didn't get to try these, but everyone had one of these in their hands, all the little kids were running round trying to find a way to get the fruit off the skewer and into their mouths.

Definitely an idea I would try again in future at a party.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Party Prep for Little Lady's Bash

Little Lady finished Quran recently and I wanted her to know that I was proud of her and wanted to celebrate her hard work.  So we agreed a party was in order before the next phase of studying and learning really takes off (she actually thought she was finished and that would be it!! Think again madam).

So last night and this morning has been party prep time with the help of my fabulous sisters. This morning I will be cooking my little heart out

Its handy that valentines day was two days ago, I stocked up on these strawberries for extra cheap (along with piles of discounted chocolates), I think these will go down well.

 We found this bunting for £3 in Debenhams and I loved the colours, so we decided to use them as the basis for our colour scheme (the table covers and napkins were from the £-shop)

We set out the tables last night for the desserts and sweets,  Fashionista is making us some treats to display on these.

My bag of treats to set up the tables and decorations:

The snooker table was moved to the front room where the kids have been instructed to do something very special with this to surprise the little kids that will be coming.

Cant wait for this afternoon - a nice outfit, good food, and friends are one of my fave combination of good things.

That Feeling When Your Heart is in Your Mouth

Have been so busy this week with kids half term holidays about to start, trying to organise getting some stuff to my husband, party planning for the weekend and Arabic classes, but it all came to a grinding halt this week.

I have been trying to keep up with the Arabic classes and carve out a decent amount of time to dedicate to them.  So on Thursday nights when my classes happen, I get the kids fed and into bed early and I make sure I am ready on time.  Except the best laid plans are not always what Allah (SWT) plans.  

This Thursday I was feeding the baby before class and as I watched I could see red and white raised blotches appear around her ears.  At first I thought she had been bitten and started looking inside her clothes in case some bug had gotten to her.  As I watched I could see the blotches moving around her neck and throat under her armpits and down into her legs.  I've never seen anything like this with any of my kids, so was absolutely terrified.

I was tempted to call an ambulance, but called NHS direct first and they directed me to call my GP for out of hours assistance.  They directed me to the 111 number who booked an appointment for me to take her into the local hospital. 

By this time she had started shrieking and after about five minutes, the blotches started to reduce and she put her thumb in her mouth and quietened down.  I got the kids ready, dropped the children at my mums and then got my dad and sister Kooks to take me to the hospital.

Because I had been given an appointment for the emergency out of hours service, I was seen within ten minutes.  The doctor confidently diagnosed eczema and then realised it was an allergic reaction to something, which Kooks and my sister-in-law had already told me it looked like.

I asked him a few times if it was something I could have eaten as I have been eating pretty poorly for the last few and the doctor assured me it was not.  

Dad then drove us around through different boroughs trying to find a chemist open at night so that we could get her medicine.  Thankfully the scary blotches disappeared and were totally gone by morning.  

I am trying to work out what could have caused the allergy.  I have been supplementing breast milk with formula for the last two weeks.  I tried the Aptamil brand this time (in the past I have used SMA).  I will give it a break for two days and then try again, I will also be very mindful about what I am eating (just in case).

Subhan'Allah, the speed with which the blotches spread scared me and made me think that if this had been something life-threatening, then in the time that an ambulance would have come, considering the speed with which things were happening, what could they have possibly done?  It made me think that only Allah (SWT) can help us in our time of need and not people.

The whole episode also made me think about the hadith:

"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship" ~Bukhari

There was a time when me and my dad were so upset with each other that we were barely speaking and we spoke only because Allah (SWT) forbids us to break kinship ties.  Over the years, more and more I have seen the wisdom and benefit in this command and this week I really saw the point of this teaching when my dad helped when I most needed it.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Little Bald Princess

My brothers beautiful little girl was seven days old yesterday, so as per Islamic tradition we shaved her head.  Her granddaddy (on her mum's side) did the job quickly and gently mash'Allah, whilst we all sat and watched and joked around (my poor brother was filming on his phone and we all accused him of checking the football scores instead!).

Princess was showered with gifts and ended up looking slightly ghetto fantastic (she has the loveliest tiny, long, thin fingers mash'Allah).

The best part was the food afterwards.  Princess' nan is a great cook (as good as my mum which is really saying something).  We had samosa's, chicken pilau, lamb curry and cream cake for dessert.

I think my brother and sis-in-law are planning the baby's aqeeqah now, which I am utterly looking forward to.

Little Helpers

I had a challenging evening this week.  Too much to do and the day going by in a flash.  Study and homework for my Arabic course, visiting the new baby in the family, housework, and kids were enough to handle without one of the boys blocking the toilet and creating a whole lot more work for me.

There are so many things falling apart in the house at the moment.  Some are things which the kids have broken which don’t bother me that much, I just tell myself that that’s kids for you.  Others are ongoing maintenance work that needs to be done.  My husband was very busy in the last year and lots of things got left undone.  Now he is away doing dawah work until mid-March and there is a growing list of things to fix – broken tiles in the kitchen, one of the kitchen units is missing a door (a big thanks to Gorgeous for that one), the bulb in the little store room is not working, I tried changing the light bulb in my bedroom and managed to break the holder, I also managed to break the shower (thank God for the spare electric one which we haven't used for years).  All less than a morning’s work for hubby, if hubby were here.

I don’t think it looks as bad as it sounds; the house is neat if anyone comes around, but I notice it and it bothers me.  That evening it all got to me, especially the thought of having to pay a plumber to unblock the toilet if I don’t manage to fix it.  I felt really upset and fed up thinking no matter how much I do it doesn't seem to be enough.

I made dua to Allah (SWT) and asked for help (am I the only one that sometimes wishes I had the same power as Mary Poppins to just snap her fingers and let the room tidy itself up?).  I wondered what help would possibly come at that time of night and decided to just get enough and do what little I could.

I put the kids to bed and worked my way through the chores – dishes, packed lunches, hoover, straighten up downstairs.  In the meantime I could hear the kids out of bed and giggling.  I went up to see what they were up to and found that they had tidied upstairs.  Their room was tidy and their toys had disappeared (they actually dumped all of their toys in their grandmothers room and shut the door with the intention of sorting them out later.  At least they tried I suppose).  They change the baby into her night clothes and , tidied up my room, put away my books and left some sweets on my bedside table.

I felt so humbled.  I couldn't imagined where help would come from and Allah (SWT) made my little ones a medium of help and comfort when I felt sad.  Now I am going to have to think of a treat to reward then insh’Allah.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Hello Little Princess!

We had some good news this weekend.  After much impatient waiting, My brother and his lovely wife had a very pretty little baby girl this weekend.  

'U'eethukumaa bikalimaatil-laahit-taammati min kulli shaytaanin wa haammatin, wa min kulli 'aynin laammatin.

"I seek protection for you in the Perfect Words of Allah from every devil and every beast , and from every envious blameworthy eye"

She is the image of her mama and hasn't been named yet, so is being called princess at the moment (I suspect that might stick).  

Funnily enough, she was born on Little Lady's 10th birthday, so the youngest and oldest grandchildren in the family now share a birthday.  I have been a mum for 10 years and have 9 nephews and nieces from my husband's family (number 10 on the way soon), but they are all far away in Pakistan.  This is the first one in my family and I am over the moon at finally being a proper aunt (or as I explained to Princess at the hospital "I am your big puppo (paternal aunt) and all of these are the extra ones").

Any excuse for cake and sweets with our lot.

Congratulations to the new mum and dad.  Please make dua that they enjoy the challenging and rewarding days ahead as new parents and that Allah (SWT) makes this beautiful challenge easy for them insh'Allah.  I make dua that Allah (SWT) brings the blessing of a little one in their arms to those who yearn for it and for ease and comfort for my expectant sisters insh'Allah.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Aaila Magazine January/February 2013

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is out now. Mash’Allah as always it is packed with great articles, columns and reviews from brothers and sisters.

Do a take a look (my column is here) and leave your comments and thoughts insh'Allah.

Pot Luck Take Two

I was invited to another one-dish/potluck last week, much to my delight.  Kids busy at school, delicious food, good company - perfect.

I decided to make mince kebabs:

On a whim, I threw together a Pakistani-style salad called kachumber (very professional pic below with half-eaten salad and someone's noodles dropped on top):

I had this outfit from Karachi-based brand Thread and Motifs, which Kooks gifted to me and which I absolutely love that I decide to wear.

Of course the bling came out, a lot less of this these days with a little one in my arms, but thought I would make the effort.  Also, I find my niqabi sisters go all out and look fab at these kinds of sisters-only gatherings.

Darling wore the bright pink velvet and net dress her nan bought for her.

Baby bling courtesy of my mum's little sister

One of my friends has three boys and she loved Darling's outfit so much she asked me to keep it for her because she was praying for a girl one day.  I loved her positive thinking and belief in the power of dua.

The food was fantastic: masala fish, chickpea chaat, dhai bhalle, chicken korma, noodles, chicken kebab and a quiche of some kind with chicken and veg inside.

One of my friends made the same dessert she made at the last pot-luck, it tasted absolutely amazing.  I am going to try this and if it comes out good, I'll post the recipe.

It was lovely seeing friends and their little ones, it was also nice and easy to leave at three o'clock without anyone making you stay longer as everyone started to rush out to pick up their kids.  Seeing as I had had such a nice afternoon, I took mine three a little treat when I met them at school.