Wednesday 31 July 2013

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 21 - Sky

I haven’t had a chance to stop and take a picture of the sky, so I'm going to share one of my favourite hadith that this journal prompt reminded me of:

In Sharah-ul-Ihya, Hadrat Abu Na'im (Rahmatullah alaih) states that Hadrat Basit (Radhi Allaho anhu) has reported from Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam) that the houses in which the Holy Qur'an is read shine unto the inhabitants of Heaven as do the stars shine unto the inhabitants of Earth. ~ Al-Targhib

I found this so beautiful and often share it with my children to encourage them to learn the Quran when they complain.

In the meantime I am going to re-post this picture by Shutterbug Sister (originally posted here).

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 20 - Grateful For...

I had an interesting weekend just passed.  I had a group of sisters staying at my home.  Their husband’s were mainly scholars and imams and were staying at the local masjid and doing dawah work and teaching.  This involves visiting local shops and brothers living locally and telling them about the masjid.  Particularly where a brother who regularly attends the masjid stops coming, they will visit him to see he is okay.  They set up halaqas (study circles) at the masjid and even in two local shops before opening time for all of the staff to sit in (as hubby says, the best way to ensure your meat is halal, is to give dawah to the butcher).  They were here for three days over the weekend and their wives stayed at our home. 

Alhamdulillah, it was a wonderful experience.  It was nice sharing space with pious sisters, getting an iman boost and learning beneficial things.

Many of the ladies were the mothers of imams or hafiz (people who memorised the Quran), so they were role models for me and I wanted to learn from them about how they were with their children.

The sisters held halaqa’s throughout the day, which were open for local sisters to attend.  These included basic tajweed (i.e. correcting the pronunciation of verses we most regularly read), memorising hadith and dua, going through the fard (prescribed) acts of ghusl (bathing), wudhu (ablution for prayer) and salah (prayer) which many people get the basics of these wrong.

At iftar time, they would run through the sunnan (prophetic traditions) of eating and at bedtime they would roll out their bedding on my living room floor and go through the sunnan of sleeping.

There were certain things they really emphasised on that stayed with me, these included:
  • The importance of simplicity in our lives and in the homes
  • Making the most of the opportunities to make dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (SWT) all the time i.e. when we are going about our daily taks, doing our house work, resting and travelling (they especially stressed the benefits of tahleel – la-ilaha-illalah, tasbeeh - subhanallah, tahmeed - alhamdulillah, takbeer - allahuakbar, astighfar (repentance) and durood)
  • Having sincerity in everything we do and making sincere intentions.  So even if we are cooking, to make intention it is for the whole ummah (i.e. whoever might come your way), making intention to do tahajjud before we sleep, so even if we cant wake up, we get the reward of it.
  • Ikhlaq - making sure we treat other people, including other Muslims really, really, well.  This included suppressing our rights to make sure we fulfil the rights of others, because after all we will be held accountable for the extent we upheld others rights not how many of our own rights we demanded.  This also included holding our tongue, refraining from backbiting, speaking well of others and saying salam (the greeting of peace) to others.  One lady said something so nice - create a habit of saying salam amongst each other so that you enter paradise with salam/peace.

 It was such a lovely three days. It’s strange, have a group of ladies in a room and they start to talk too much and backbite.  Make them live together for a few days and the squabbling and fighting begins.  But when you do it out of love for Allah (SWT) you get a group of women who speak only kind words, or to give good advice or to speak about their faith.  They lived in one space for three days without any squabbling and there wasn’t even a problem with sharing the bathroom!

Before they left they made sure the house was tidy, the kitchen and bathroom was clean and seeking forgiveness from the household in case they had said or done anything to offend somebody

I am so grateful that Allah (SWT) sent these sisters my way, especially so that they came to us in Ramadan.

And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong, and these it is that shall be successful. ~ Quran (3:104)

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 19 - 6 o’ Clock

6 o’ Clock in the morning and evening have traditionally been the most productive times in the day for me.  In the winter, a late fajr (dawn prayer) means that I don’t go back to bed and this time of the morning sees me get so much done.

In the evening I’m back from work, have got the kids fed and settled, have coked something for dinner and have caught my breath and my second wind.  So this is the time when I can spend a little time blogging, crafting, reading, playing with the kids or gardening.

Funnily enough, looking at the stats for Feroza (our online shop), 6pm seems to be the time when we have the most visitors each day, so maybe that’s when people have a bit of free time between work and their evening routine.

As its Ramadan at the moment, both 6am and 6pm is when I am fast asleep.  6am because I am so tired I keep sleeping through the alarm in the morning, 6pm because I need to catch up on my sleep after work and again.  Thankfully, I have two more days of work to go before I am leave until after Eid, which means I can sleep, do some Eid shopping, clean the house from top to bottom, catch up on my Quran reading and Arabic studies and maybe even do some Eid crafts.  I might even get one of my productive 6 o’ clocks back.

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 18 - In Your Bag

These are the two bags I use, the smaller one I bought a few months ago from River Island to use when I am on the go.  I don’t like to have big hefty bags over my shoulder as I end up with a numb arm very quickly.  So this little cross-body bag was handy and didn't look too casual (I seem to have a problem with trying to do casual).

The big bag is my work bag.  I looked for months for a decent work bag.  Your work bag is like your shield.  I always feel like if I have a serious bag, it helps you to look a bit less like someone coming back from maternity leave.  I usually buy a Fiorelli handbag every two years (which is how long it takes me to break them) and I found this one by chance in TK Maxx with an RRP of £90 but costing £25, which was closer to the price I wanted to pay anyway.  It’s big, so I don’t carry it over my shoulder and it holds everything I need for the day.

When I started taking things out of my bag it was a reminder that I carry around way too much.  The things below don't include the receipts and tissues that form the bottom layer inside my bag.

You can see my trusty purple organiser from filofax and my latest lunch time read - The Prince of Mist by Carloz Ruiz Zafon.  My purse was brought from Evans a few year ago for £5 in the sale.  It has lasted me ages, but is ripped inside now, so a replacement beckons.

I carry spare contact lenses and eye drop vials (by Celluvisc) as I get very dry eyes.  I usually ahve ibuprofen in my bag, but because I am still nursing my youngest, I have to stick to paracetamol for now.

The green keyring is a Pakistani flag.  I picked this up on a flight stopover in Kuwait on the way back from Pakistan fifteen years ago.  I has £5 left from my holiday which bought me two of these (one each for me and my brother) and some Ripple chocolates.

My husband drops me to work in the morning, so that is a time I get some quite time to do my morning dhikr, hence the prayer beads.  I kept breaking tasbeeh's, so this is one hubby gave me that is very strong.

The cream in the silver and green tube is Body Shops's Hemp Hand Cream.  I've tried many grands andthis is the best I have come across, much better even than more expensive brands.

I have a real thing for green, hence the green mini umbrella and this green make-up bag which I loved on sight.  I hardly wear make-up any more because of a number of reasons: it doesn't feel right for work, it takes too long to take off and re-apply if I need to make wudhu (ablutions for prayer), I like my face to feel clean, I have learnt to like my face as it is.    I still haven't let go of the habit of carrying make-up around though.  Inside are Max Factor False Lash Effect mascara, a nude coloured lip liner from Aveda (courtesy of Kooky Little Sister) which is a perfect nude for my brown skin, Avon Port Wine lip pencil (a gift) which I mix with darker colours, MUA black eye liner and Rimmel Brown Eye-liner, both of which I use as lip liners to blend with reds and nudes, Astor Perfect Stay Lip Tint (again from Kooks) in Prune Flush, which is  a very bright colour  that I don't really wear any more and various shades of nude lipstick (probably all from Kooks - the girl is handy isn't she?).  My one essential is the Clinique Rinse-Off eye make-up remover which I always keep with me in case I get a brainwave to do my make-up and make a big mess.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Feroza - New Products for July 2013

While the rest of us have been lumbering from work to home to iftar to taraweeh prayer to sehri in a blink of an eye again, Shutterbug Sister has been at work taking pictures and adding new items to our online shop.  Hope you like insh'Allah.

This necklace was inspired by the gorgeous graded ombre effect I kept seeing everywhere and also by my favourite mix of colours  - blue and green.

 Hania long glass crystal necklace (available here)

This is another play on the ombre effect, but with a fresh combination of blue and white.

 Azraq Long glass crystal necklace (available here).

We have also added my handmade cards.  There are only a few at the moment, but insh'Allah we hope this category of product grows.

 Pack of three handmade Eid cards (available here)

 Pack of four handmade Eid cards (available here).

If you haven't already we'd love you to:

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Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 17 - Mosque

This prompt for the Ramadan journaling challenge is quite apt at the moment and rather timely.  This time last year, hubby and a group of local brothers had just finished work on a new masjid in our neighbourhood.  They had found a gap in provision locally for good quality Quran and Islamic studies for their children and between them rather than complain took it upon them to do something about it.  It was an interesting year.  First the building they found, a middleman tried to buy it and rent to the brothers, this was not what they wanted and in the end the middleman’s sale fell through.  The building went to auction and the brothers ended up buying it for cheaper than originally expected.

Then the whole derelict old building has to be virtually rebuilt from the ground up with no funds to hand.  A masjid in the next neighbourhood offered an interest-free loan (qarz-e-hassanah), local people volunteered their labour (literally hauling bricks and filling skips) and skills (including an architect and planning consultant) and a sister even sold her jewellery to contribute – if you know anything about Asian women and their gold jewellery, you’ll know that that’s no small thing.

I was pregnant with my youngest child during this time and struggling.  I didn’t see my husband for most of that year except in passing in the morning and at night and got more and more upset about it.  That was until the first day of Ramadan, when they rushed to clean up the masjid and put some order in it, just in time for taraweeh, when 400 people showed up!  I think that’s the moment all of my anger and self-pity was washed away.

In the year that followed there was the slow process to get permission to teach children and classes filled up leaving children on a waiting list.  The masjid was granted temporary permission for worship and told to apply for proper permission to use it as a place of worship.

The thing is, no sooner had the consultation for permission gone public that people started campaigning against the masjid getting permission.  So who wrere these people going door to door with petitions and asking people to go online and comment against the application?  Racists?  Far right nationalists?  No – Muslims.  This is what gets me.  The nearest masjid has long begrudged a new masjid of a different affiliation nearby.  So they are going door to door in the local neighbourhood telling people it is haram to have another masjid so near to an established one.

My neighbourhood has one of the largest populations of Muslims in the country.  19.6% or 20,895 people in the area are Muslim according to the 2011 Census – so actually I suspect it is by now much more.  The local masjid has a capacity of approximately 1100 – 2500 (I have come across both figures).  I pray that every Muslim prays salah and that every Muslim man prays salah in the masjid.  But one masjid for 20k+ people just isn’t enough.

So this weekend hubby and the brothers were getting their own petitions ready and asking people to go online and support the application to turn the Islamic educational centre into a permanent place of worship.  They asked the 400 brothers in the first Friday prayer and the 350 in the second Friday prayer to support them.

Some people they have spoken to locally have told them they signed the petition against because they trusted the people from the masjid and were not even clear about what the petition they signed was about.  One plucky Somali sister tried to get the petitioner to remove her signature and when he refused, called the police (I’m not quite clear if they did anything...).

There are about ten more days to the planning application for change of use to be determined.  The masjid is a hub of activity with children studying there five days a week, dawah work taking place, daily study circles and the men sitting together every day after fajr prayer to undertake mushwerah, or consultation about the needs of the neighbourhood’s Muslims.

Please, please make dua for the masjid and for the people in this neighbourhood insh’Allah.

My cousin T, who is only fourteen, lives in an area where there is no masjid at all.  He is currently working with local brothers to raise funds to buy a property.  So far he has doen a sponsored two-hour walk and helped organise a charity iftar with guest speakers.  He is an amazing role model for my boys and I am so proud of him mash’Allah.  Please support the efforts of this group by visiting their website here an if you can, making a donation insh’Allah.

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 16 - Perspective

Most times when you feel like something is immense or significant, a little perspective can help you determine whether that really the case.  Often we step back and see the bigger picture and realise that the thing is not as huge as we thought.  But Ramadan is different.  No matter how significant and special we think it is, our understanding often falls short.

So much has been written about the amazing benefits of this month.  We are often in awe of this month.  Yet when we stand back to get some perspective what do we find?  The example of the sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) who spent six months preparing for Ramadan and hoping that they would see it again.

There is also the enormity of the opportunity this month brings:

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said; Three supplications will not be rejected (by Allah (SWT)), the supplication of the parent for his child, the supplication of the one who is fasting, and the supplication of the traveller.  (al-Bayhaqi, at-Tirmidhi)

Then there are the immense rewards:

"Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving then times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, 'Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.' For the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk."  (Bukhari)

Fasting will intercede for a person on the Day of Judgement, and will say, "O Lord, I prevented him from his food and physical desires during the day, so let me intercede for him." (Ahmad 2/174).

Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will remove his face seventy years' distance from the Fire. (Muslim, 2/808).

"In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through those who fast will enter, and no one will enter it except them; when they have entered it will be locked, and no-one else will enter through it.  (Bukhari, no. 1797).
"Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven. (Bukhari, no. 37).
At the breaking of every fast, Allaah will choose people to free from Hellfire.  (Ahmad, 5/256).

So when you get some perspective on Ramadan it’s mind-blowing – the opportunities, the immense rewards and the promises of freedom from hellfire and entry into paradise for the next world.

So how do we make the most of this month?  In a sisters study circle we came across the following hadith today:

Abu Umama reported that the Messenger of Allah said, "Whoever dreads to endure the night, or is miserly about spending money, or is too cowardly to fight the enemy should say often: 'Glory be to Allah and with His praise.' It is more beloved to Allah than a mountain of gold spent in the Way of Allah." (at-Tabarani)

Many people spend the nights in worship and the days doing good deeds and giving more charity than we do during the rest of the year.  But not everyone is able to do this.  I know as a mother of four, I’m often too tired to worship for long during the night and I don’t get enough time during the day to do good deeds because I am doing the good deed of caring for my family.

So the hadith above really touched and inspired me.  It put into perspective, that not everyone can do great things at all times, but that there are still simple things we can do for great rewards insh’Allah.

“And remember your Lord much and exalt [Him with praise] in the evening and the morning."  (Quran 3:41)

"Those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of Allah--for, verily, in the remembrance of Allah hearts do find their rest." (Quran - 13:28)

“Abu Dharr reported that some of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah *said, "Messenger of Allah, the wealthy have appropriated the rewards. They pray as we pray and they fast as we fast, but they give sadaqa since they have more wealth."He said, "Did not Allah give you that which you can give as sadaqa? Every glorification is sadaqa. Every takbir is sadaqa. Every praise is sadaqa. Every 'la ilaha illa'llah' is sadaqa. Commanding the right is sadaqa. Forbidding the wrong is sadaqa." (Muslim and Ibn Majah)

"The difference between the one who makes dhikr and the one who doesn't make dhikr is like the difference between the living and the dead." (Bukhari)

(All images courtesy of my sisters blog here)

Saturday 27 July 2013

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 15 - ME

We usually buy each other gifts for Eid in my family, nothing extravagant, but something nice nonetheless. This year, the price of everything sky-rocketing means that everyone has been forced to watch their finances very carefully. This being the case we sisters had to have a conversation around gift buying. We came up with a number of solutions. One was to gift an experience rather than buy something. This could be dinner for us four, a tea party, picnic, afternoon out doing something cool, even an afternoon indoors with take-away and a good movie, where we block the time out for it and tell everyone to leave us alone. This way if we could not pay for it, we could organise something free instead.

The other thing we did was create a wish list each with some items that are fairly low priced and others that are medium-priced. We have done this in previous years and I think these lists say a lot about us. Funnily this year everyone’s lists were very short and appended with notes along the lines of, “we don’t really need anything”. This didn't really surprise me. I have been on a mission to downsize and simplify my life for the last year. I am tired of maintaining and storing things and I yearn for empty uncluttered spaces. I can imagine my sisters feel some element of that too.

At the same time I do think that fasting for Ramadan has an affect on our “nafs” or ego. It dulls our desires for worldly possessions and shows their true worth. I certainly don’t feel that I need more “things” and feel lighter and freer for it.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Last day of School: Thank you Miss!

Today was the last day at school for the children before six weeks of summer madness descend upon us.  My kids teachers have worked so hard all year helping them to learn.  As my sister Fashionista is a teacher, I can see first hand how tough a job it is and how mentally challenging and exhausting it can be.

So I certainly felt that my children's teachers deserved a treat and a thank you.  So along with chocs and gifts (toiletry sets and a boxed necklace I picked up in the sale a few months ago), I included these cards.  I had meant to buy some and forgot, so I made these really quickly last night just after midnight.

I have had this orange print paper for ages and just loved it, so was pleased to find an opportunity to use it.  This card was for Little Lady's teacher.

This card was for Little Man's teacher and he said she loved it.

This was for Gorgeous' teacher and teachers assistant who are both amazing.  Gorgeous is an extrovert and can be very charming and affectionate.  This, coupled with those big, sad eyes makes him very easy to love mash'Allah.  This means that his teachers always adore him.  You can imagine he got lots of hugs at home time today.

Now I have summer with my sweethearts and will have to think of ways to keep them busy and not spend all day harassing their fasting grandparents or taking the house apart.  THis is going to be interesting...

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 14 - Now Playing

I don’t listen to music and we don’t have a proper sound system anywhere in our house. So instead in the evening, we use the family computer to listen to Quran recitations on Youtube. Our favourite reciters are Sheikh Abdul Rahman as-Sudais, the imam of the Grand mosque in Makkah and who is well loved by everyone and Sheikh Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy, the Imam of Masjid Al-Kabir in Kuwait, who is blessed by Allah (SWT) with a truly beautiful voice.


 The other thing I have been listening to on my laptop, usually whilst I am doing laundry, is lectures by Ustadh Nauman Ali Khan, mainly on Ramadan. There are a couple that I have found quite inspiring.

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 13 - In My Kitchen

 I decided at the beginning of Ramadan that I didn't want to make massive shopping trips, or smaller ones every single day or spend hours in the kitchen cooking big, elaborate meals. I realised fairly quickly though that if I could be organised about my shopping it would make my life easier. Otherwise, I’d be heading to the shops every evening looking for ingredients for whatever I wanted to make.

I decided to bypass the supermarket and its sweets, crisps, sugary drinks and processed food and stick to the local grocers for basic ingredients. I head out every Friday morning which is my day off and at that time as most people are still trying to catch up on their sleep, I find the nicest produce.

The things which are the staple of our kitchen during Ramadan are fruit, including Pakistani mangoes as they are shipped here every year during this season and dates. Most of the nicest dates locally are from companies that harvest land taken from Palestinians by West bank settlers and so I refuse to buy these, instead going for the Tunisian or Saudi dates or ordering Zaytoun brand Palestinian fair-trade dates. Happily, yesterday I found some big juicy dates of the type I love from South Africa, so they will be my next buy.

Other staples during Ramadan are trays of chickpea tins and natural yoghurt and  for aloo chaat, dhai bhallay and for marinade for roast chicken. I buy pastry sheets for samosa’s and spring rolls which we only eat about once a week and big sacks of potatoes and onions and bunches of spinach for pakora’s which hubby and my in-laws are crazy about (we did use the spinach in the garden, but it has finished now).  I also buy lots of limes for the cold lime juice my mother-in-law makes every day for iftar.

Buying for the week means I don’t have to rush out after work and can get some rest, although in practice, we always seem to run out of something (often mangoes) and I have to take my grocery shopping buddy – Little Man, to the shops with me.

Ramadan Journal 2013: Day 12 - Prayer/Mercy

I always get to the end of the first asharah (ten days) of Ramadan feeling somewhat unsatisfied that I have not been able to make the most of this section of the blessed month.

In the last few days I have felt a dissatisfaction creeping up on me at rushing from one thing to another but not achieving anything. In particular, not being able to engage in the amount of worship I would like, not being able to read as much Quran as I like or to study Arabic at all.

Slowly it dawned on me to let go, to stop worrying so much. I have been asking Allah (SWT) to place barakah (blessing) in my time and to help me do the important things that need to be done in my day. But apart from that I need to remember that Ramadan isn’t a race to do the most or to tick off your checklist, it’s about my relationship with Allah and with his Word and I want that relationship to be full of pleasure and sweetness. Panicking just isn’t going to get me there.

So I realise I have to accept the reality of my situation. My baby is nine months and needs my full attention; my other three crazy children are at an age when they keep me busy with clubs, activities and questions. My husband has a long hard day and deserves my care. Everything else: writing, my messy house, iftar parties, crafts, trying to find new recipes each evening – it can all wait. It’s the small stuff.

Perhaps one benefit I take from this first asharah is the lessons to be merciful to myself and my family as well as seeking Allah’s mercy insh’Allah.