Tuesday 30 December 2014

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

We have had guests from Scotland staying for the past few days, with seven of us and six friends (three adults and three kids) it has been a full, raucous and fun house.  It came just as I was wondering what I could do with the kids and meant that they spent the three days sleeping late, having midnight picnics, camping in the living room with their sleeping bag and generally getting up to all sorts of mischief.

Our guests did ask me to join them during the days they were out sightseeing but I declined because it felt challenging with Baby just falling into a good routine with nursing and bottle feeds and with Little Lady having school right up until New Years Eve.

My husband suggested that we visit Winter Wonderland, which is a fair that is set up in Central London's Hyde Park every year.  I had looked at the online reviews of which there were many negative ones and was a bit worried that it would be too crowded, the kids would get shoved about, too expensive and maybe not much fun if you are not spending tons of money on the rides.

To begin with I was shocked that we found parking space underneath the park and that it was fairly reasonable given London's reputation for parking.  The walk across the park was nice with the wonderland fair lights in the distance.

Have heard lots about the Magical Ice Kingdom, but the cost with the number of us there were, meant we gave it a miss.

There were lots of funfair rides, places to eat and stalls.  Lots of people complained that these were a rip off, but I thought that most of the stalls were okay and some of them had really nice handmade things.

We asked the kids to pick a ride and they spent so long squabbling about which one (they wanted scary, I wanted them to pick one less scary).  By the time we agreed on a ride, the rides were closing and the kids accused me of missing their ride aaalll the way back to the car (I pointed out to hubby , how it is always my fault and not both of ours).

Once we were out of the Wonderland and into the park, hubby decided to give the kids a ride and grabbed Gorgeous by the arms and swung him round and round high in the air.  Everyone was in hysterics and all of the kids wanted a turn.

It was nice walking through the park in the dark, it felt safe with so many people and I loved how creepy the trees looked.

In all, I enjoyed the evening there and I don't think it is a complete rip-off or that you have to spend tons of money to have fun.  The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of opportunities to have fun taking silly pictures for the kids with yeti's, snowmen and pirates.

Picture of the Day: 24.12.14 - City Lights

 When we were children it was tradition in my family every winter to for everyone to pile into our little car and get driven into the centre of London to see the Christmas lights.  My dad was quite religious and quite strict about not celebration Christmas, but even he thought it was a nice thing to do.  The sheer number of us in that car (five adults with kids in everyone's laps would be illegal now and probably people would think seeing the lights isn't very exciting.

But for some reason I still enjoy it.  My husband got us all into the car one evening and drove us into town to drive around the Oxford Street area.

The kids loved it and all five fell asleep in the car.  We had a long drive home with the two of us enjoying each others company, chatting and enjoying our rare quiet time.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

This Is Not My Faith

The sad deaths in Sydney following a hostage situation were bad enough, the horror that is unfolding in Iraq and Syria was horrific enough and then the devastating news today of over a hundred children killed in an attack on a school in Peshawar in Pakistan by the Taliban.

I have been thinking of the children who did not come home to their waiting mothers today. Of the parents who had to identify their children’s dead bodies. Of the people who are already burying their children. Of the children who saw their friends murdered, their teachers die in front of them, who are injured and in pain now.

Every mother knows the constant anxiety and worry being a mother brings with it – a child’s fever keeps us up all night, if we lose sight of them for a few minutes in a mall, our heart cannot bear the terror. So to live through what has happened in Peshawar today is unfathomable.

These events have become all too common around the world and again and again we find ourselves explaining that it is nothing to do with our faith, that we don’t recognise the people who do these things or their interpretation of Islam. I can’t explain why they do the cruel things they do and really why would I be able to? This is not the faith I was raised in and embraced. The Muslim people I know don’t think or behave like this.

So before the calls of “Muslims need to speak up” and “Muslims need to get their house in order” – start up as they always do (cause over one billion Muslims are a homogenous group that can be controlled and organised in a tidy manner), I’d like to be clear that the bombings, the civilians deaths, the murder of children, the intolerance of other faiths, the forced veiling of women: this is not my faith. This is not my Islam.

My Islam demands that we speak up when we see something wrong, we try to put it right, we defend our homes and our families and those weaker than us, we seek justice but favour mercy. My faith offers intelligent and peaceful ways to do this. My Islam condemns the slaughter of children and civilians, it orders against the destruction of land, crops and building even in times of war and it encourages us to seek peaceful means of resolving a matter if there is an alternative to conflict.

Up until today I have been confused at how people can justify these actions, even with the conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Syria and other places as a cause for anger, I still could not see how our faith asks us to respond in this way. But today I am just angry and hurt of the continuous destruction and suffering.

My prayers are with all those who have lost their loved ones: may Allah (SWT) give them the strength to bear what he has tested them with, shower them with his mercy and let their hearts find peace. May Allah (SWT) bring peace and safety to Pakistan where the people have had to suffer too much for too long.

“… whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.” ~ Quran 5:53

“Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.” ~ Quran 2:190

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor….” ~ Quran 4:135

“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)

"Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God." (Bukhari)

“Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

The Chronicles of Gorgeous

I got a phone call from my middle child’s school this week asking me to come in.  I asked what it was about and they said not to worry.  For a brief moment I did entertain delusions about being called in for a good reason, such as he being recognised as some kind of child genius,  but couldn’t convince myself (they would have sent a letter or waited until parents evening if that was the case).

So I went in to school and met another mother that had been called in.  We were greeted by the year group leader who sat us don and explained that our sons along with one other boy had managed to take a toilet door off its hinges (that’s the last thing I expected to hear).  As Gorgeous had never done anything like this before, they were not going to take any action.  Instead but they suggested we speak to our sons about thinking through their actions and the consequences of what they do.

I picked up Gorgeous after the meeting and he was adamant that it was not his fault.  Knowing how many things he has broken at home, I was inclined not to believe him at first.  He explained that the other boy whose mum had come in was very good and had just gone to the toilet.  A third boy, whose mum didn’t come in, got into the toilet too and started swinging on the door.  Apparently he does this every day.  When the first boy tried to get out, the second boy pulled the door and slammed it into his head.

Gorgeous was trying to get into the same loo because he was desperate to go to the toilet and the other toilets were dirty (of course the absolute messiest of my children would be the one who slightly OCD about germs).  He was also trying to help the boy that was crying.  So while the other two boys were pushing the door shut, he was trying to pull it open.  When the door fell off of its hinges, the other boys ran off and he went to call the teacher.

So as always and in every single matter ever relating to him, it was not his fault, but someone else’s.  If fact he was trying to help the boy that was crying (I asked him if he thought he was some sort of superhero now).  If anything he was aggrieved that the door nearly fell on him and he had to move out of the way.

The boy can’t lie with a straight face at all; in fact I always used to catch the other kids out when someone did something naughty because I would know if he did it or not (meaning it was usually Little man by default).  So I knew he was telling the truth. 

I told him he should still not have been pulling the door or try and open it.  I also told him if I ever heard about him being inside the toilet cubicle with another boy I would take a slipper to him (the first thing that the teacher mentioned when she spoke to us had been that two boys had been caught in a cubicle together and this freaked me out at the time).  He looked at me as if I was crazy – “no way mum!!”)

Anyway, I’ve explained to him he shouldn’t be pulling toilet doors, but I don’t expect this to be the last silly thing he does.  The thing is, despite causing the most chaos of all my children, he never elicits any anger from me.  Must be those big sad eyes.

image source (This still seems to apply to Gorgeous)

Picture of the Day: 16.12.14 - Little Tyrant

Every time I want to write something, one of the babies is crying, or I have guests, or it's time for dinner, or the bedtime routine, or someone needs help with their homework, or I just have to pop to the shops, or it's time to nurse Baby again.

When I have had a moment, I have just stared at my screen blankly with no motivation to write.  When I found some motivation my laptop would start having health problems again.  

Today I finally got a moment when the baby was asleep, Darling was busy harassing the boys, the food as cooked and prayers were done for now.  I felt inspired and motivated to write about and share lots of things and the laptop was working.


A certain person got into a fight with me over the laptop.  For every letter I typed, she'd type three vowels and when I tried to move the laptop away, she'd throw a fit and try to wrestle the laptop away.  In the end I let her type a bit and then distracted her with a custard cream.

I'm going to try and write some more, but I think it's time to nurse the baby again...

Monday 1 December 2014

To My Best Friend...

Sometimes you feel invincible, as if everything is under control and you can handle whatever come at you - empowered, strong, capable.  Then there are times when nothing seems to make sense and you can't even seem to manage your day to day life.  It's at times like these that I really appreciate the difference a good word can make.

I have been down in the dumps recently.  I didn't want to write, I didn't want to blog, I didn't even really see the point of getting up in the morning.  I felt like a hypocrite for calling this blog Happy Muslim Mama because for some days I haven't been.  I was scared I was falling into depression, where nothing mattered and I couldn't rouse myself to do anything.

I have been worrying about the baby as she hasn't been gaining enough weight and the health visitor has referred me to the doctor who is now monitoring her weight.  After successfully nursing four children (including Darling for 14 months), I don't seem to be able to get it right with number five.  It was starting to feel as if everyone was looking at me as if I am starving my baby.

I've also been worrying about money as hubby's work is very quiet at the moment.  These two things seem to have set me off, so that all the little things that I can ignore are now really upsetting me.  The state of the house which really needs refurbishing, being much less mobile with two babies, not being able to do all those projects I had thought up for myself.

Worse than all of these is my hyper-sensitivity to other people - I have been taking slight at things I usually ignore and getting angry at everyone.

I love my sisters, but none of them seem to deal with the same things, so although they are good to talk to, they don't always understand. (writing that is making me wonder about all of the things that they must deal with that I don't understand)

I love my parents with all my heart, but boy can they push my buttons sometimes and send me into a tizzy of hurt and angry tears.

I adore hubby, he is my rock and my safe place alhamdulillah, but I think he sometimes doesn't get what on earth I am on about (I don't think there is a word in Urdu for burnout).  It's at times like these that our cultural differences become very apparent.  Plus I've come to realise how intensely we can affect each others moods and mental states, my being down has been bad for him too, even more reason for me to get my mojo back.

So it's at times like this when I sit in the bathroom and sob quietly so that the kids can't see me, when I beg in my prayers for peace, but don't actually know what's wrong.  It's at times like this when I berate myself for being so down and call myself lazy and ungrateful and the term "first world problems" comes to mind.

At's at times like these when I start to feel as if I am dealing with it all alone, that my best friend reminds me I am not.  If anyone has been through everything I have and more, it is my crazy, loud mouthed, big-hearted best friend.

It took a few minutes of messaging, then talking with her for the black cloud to start to lift - some acknowledgement and understanding, some talking until we got to the heart of the matter and permission from her to take care of myself, stop trying to do things all the time and to put away our mutual old friend - guilt.

Simply the act of deferring everything on my various physical and mental to do lists for the entire weekend and clearing them from my mind and treating myself and the kids to a nice meal (putting aside the guilt of spending money unnecessarily or eating unhealthy food) has had a massive impact.

Things are starting to fall back in perspective and I'm surprised at how much I let things get to me.  I realised also that it was one of my occasional "blue periods" as I have come to call them.  I am generally upbeat and happiness is my default mood, so any time I am not happy I have to find a way to get back to my default.  But I think like many happy people, every now and again I fall into a time when I am down where resentments and anxieties come through to be dealt with.

Bestie also reminded me of the benefit of building a relationship with Allah (SWT) through reconnecting with his Word and turning to the Quran when you need guidance.  Truly the best advice that she could have given me.

So to my best friend...dear sis you made all the difference just when I needed you, I hope I am never without your craziness and knowing that at least one person 100% has my back.

If there is one person I would want to be a mischievous old lady with, I know who it is!

Monday 24 November 2014

Picture of the Day: 24.11.14 - Gifts from Turkey

Kooky Little Sister has been on her honeymoon in Istanbul and brought us back some gorgeous gifts:

The kids got floral headbands, mini spiro-graph games and Turkish delight.  I got the gorgeous scarf above which I can't wait to wear, a very pretty journal (she knows I love stationary) and Turkish chocolate.

Some of her pictures from her trip are below: 

You can see more of her beautiful photography here on her blog full of pretty things, here on her blog full of smart and artistic things and on her instagram page.

Picture of the Day: 23.11.14 - If You Don't Like Someone...

...cover their face with your picnic blanket and pretend to have tea.

Darling has still not come round fully to the idea of a little sister usurping her place as the baby of the house.  We can't leave them alone for a second for fear of her poking the baby in the eye or putting a blanket over her head.  I turned my back for a minute and turned to find the scene above.

At the moment, Darling has banned Baby from using her nappy mat, her blanket, going in her cot or touching her "special dolly", a little red heart shaped pillow that I used to put under my arm when nursing Darling.

We are trying to counteract her occasional tantrums and anger with lots of love, cuddles and some firmness.  Mash'Allah these two are little stars in our home at the moment: hard work, but so much pleasure.

Monday 17 November 2014

Book Review: Hend Hegazi - Normal Calm

Nursing my little one means I have to sit still, something I am not good at and so I thought that this would be a good time to get reading again. Normal Calm by Hend Hegazi piqued my interest after a saw a review on Muslimah Media Watch, particularly as it broached themes that I hadn't seen touched on in Western literature before in this way.

A Normal Calm is the story of the young Arab American Muslimah Amina who finds herself the victim of rape by someone she trusts. The book follows her on her journey as she tries to come to terms with what has happened to her and the impact on those around her. It also explores the way in her wider community deal with what has happened to her, in particular potential spouses.

All of this is set in the context of Arab American life: the immigrant work ethic, the wish to see children succeed, the anxiety of parents at the prospect of letting their children go as they move forward in their lives. The book also addresses the problems someone who can clearly be identified as Muslim might face in America and the way Muslims integrate and interact with those around them.

The subject matter of this book is dealt with in a sensitive way and the attack on Amina which is fairly early in the book is not graphic or portrayed in a sensationalist way. Instead the book takes the time to follow Amina as she goes through the process of dealing with what has happened to her and how it impacts on her relationship with her parents, friends and potential partners.

The book is written in clear direct prose and moves between events at a fairly swift pace, which is enough to carry you through the book without losing interest so that you maintain a desire to find out how Amina fares. Alongside this the author makes use of dialogue between Amina and her non-Muslim best friend Kayla to try and explain why, as a Muslimah, Amina does things a certain way. This acts as a useful tool throughout the book to explain the role of faith in Amina’s life, the way it helps her in her hardest times and the role of particular elements of her faith (i.e. hijab). You can imagine many of these conversations happening between Muslims and curious non-Muslims in the real world.

I really loved the fact that the author gives a voice to a young Muslim woman – a demographic that is much stereotyped but sometimes not well understood. The book attempts to shine a light on the difficulties that these young women face in the West and also the lack of understanding that can come from their own communities and the reasons behind these.

The book left me with affection with Amina and some of the women around her and also some curiosity about the male characters in the book. I would definitely recommend this book, particularly to anyone trying to understand the role of faith in the lives of young Muslims and how this impacts the way they see and are seen by the world. A necessary and important book.

You can find out more at: Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook

Thursday 13 November 2014

Picture of the Day: 13.11.14 - Sweet Sisters

Some days my entire day revolves around my youngest two and I keep trying to find moments to get something else done apart from feed, change nappies and placate crying babies.  Today was one of these days and I just surrendered to it and decided to enjoy them.

I nursed throughout the day, played with them both and just enjoyed their baby talk ("No baby, why did you do that trouble my eye?" said Darling after being poked in the eye accidentally by Baby).

My husband came home with a big box of little girls toys from a house clearance and Darling immediately took control of the whole lot yelling "Mine!"  There was a little Doctor's kit that she used today to check the baby over with, including making sure her blood pressure was okay:

The afternoon was spent at the local clinic getting the baby's vaccinations done.  Poor Darling got the shock of her life when the baby got her injection and let out a screech.  Good job she has that big hat that Shutterbug Sister bought her last winter to hide in.

Advice to the Breastfeeding Mother: Be Happy

With baby number five I felt confident about nursing and fully expected to get on with it and have a healthy, satisfied baby on my hands, so when I went in to get her routinely weighed at the local baby clinic, I was surprised to find she hadn't been gaining enough weight.

On answering some pointed questions from the health visitor I realised that I had been doing everything right for the baby: feeding her on demand and topping up with the bottle. What I hadn't been doing was the right things for myself which impacted on her.

I lost a lot of weight in a short time and was keen not to overeat and most of the time I was too busy running around to eat properly. I was also stressed at trying to keep the house in order and keep up with the kids (this coming from someone who was working with four kids and complementing a Masters degree). I suddenly seem to be slower, more forgetful and a lot more confused. I think I might be suffering from baby brain.

Anyway, I had to admit my diet was terrible, I was not remembering to take my vitamins, I couldn't stop feeling sleepy and I was not doing my little one any favours.

The health visitor instructed me on diet and agreed a plan for feeding the baby and I will be going back in two weeks to see if her weight gain has picked up. She also mentioned that breastfeeding is affected by a mothers mood and stress levels and that the hormones that encourage milk production are called the “Happy Hormones” – so a happy mum is better placed to nurse her child when she is happy and relaxed.

So I have been making an effort to sit down and eat properly including having a proper breakfast. The other thing I am doing is let go of my need for order. The mess and clutter in the house distracts me and makes me less productive, but I am dealing with it a little at a time instead of trying to tame the whole beast every day. I am also accepting that a house with five kids can be less than perfect (it has always been a matter of pride for me to keep the house tidy and I feel like a failure when it is not). Hubby has been supportive mash’Allah and the one thing we agree on is that if we have less possessions we could free up time for more important things, so that is something I am working on.

Picture of the Day: 12.11.14 - Grey Skies and Beautiful Rainbows

November means long nights, short days, lots of rain and very grey skies at the moment.  I've been grateful for the mild weather so far although the plants seem confused and are full of blossoms again.

I was walking back from the baby clinic with my youngest two and saw this stretched across the sky:

I had to take a picture people walking towards me kept stopping to look back at what I was taking pictures of and stare at the rainbow too.

It was such an intense double rainbow that it was reflected into the pavement.  Brightened my day so much alhamdulillah.

Friday 7 November 2014

Super Quick Baby Boy Cards

I got a message from a cousin yesterday asking for some baby boy cards.  I've been meaning to make some wedding, thank you and baby cards as these are the ones that get used the most, but I just haven't had the chance.  As she asked so nicely and as her dad, my favourite uncle, was coming to pick them up, I rushed to put some together.

For both of these cards I had already created the backgrounds and never got round to finishing them, so just had to add the embellishments and sentiments.

The card stock was from the DCWV Sweet Stack (which is my favourite ever card stack) plus some textured paper I had some small pieces of.  The baby boy ribbon in the second picture was from my friend in the US who sent me a bundle of really nice quality (American Crafts brand I think) grosgrain ribbon that I have been using on numerous projects over the years.

She liked the cards and she also inspired me to make some more.  Little Lady has a half day on Friday afternoons and I have agreed that we can try and save this is our craft time together, so I am hoping to make some more new baby cards with her insh'Allah.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Pleasurable Parenting: Flexible Reward Chart

Considering that my children are going to be the focus of my life and parenting them in the best way I can is going to take up most of my time and focus, I want to try and bring as much pleasure into the process as possible.

I believe that my children are blessings and a gift from Allah (SWT); an opportunity for reward in this world and especially the next but also a source of pleasure and fun.  As parents we spend a lot of time worrying, stressed out, feeling guilty and feeling as if we are getting it all wrong.

I realised that we can go down the route of getting angry, shouting, smacking, constantly finding fault and trying to correct what we see in our children or we could accept that we are not perfect and we have no right to expect them to be either.  We can understand that they will have their faults and weaknesses and that is how Allah (SWT) made them.  At the same time we can celebrate their strengths, be gentle in the way we guide them and recognise when the right way to discipline requires a loving approach that tries to identify why a child might be rebelling rather than punishment.

In the end whichever route we take, I have come to think it's a reflection on us more than on our children.  I also love the acknowledging and appreciating when they are good.

My kids have been asking for a reward chart for the last few days.  They know I call on them quite a bit to help me, especially since we have Darling who has just turned two and a newborn who is now two months and they liked the idea of getting something out of it for themselves.

I have used reward charts on and off over the last few years, mainly to get Gorgeous to brush his teeth.  The ones I have bought from the shops haven't always catered to more than one child and often cover a defined daily routine (reward for brushing teeth, getting changed for bed, putting toys away etc.) which three of my children are too old for and Darling is too young for.  Also there are clear things in my mind which I would like to see more of (Arabic practice -the boys) or less of (the sheer volume of mess Little Lady still manages to generate for me to clear up) that I could incorporate into my own chart.

The chart I came up with isn't too complicated, it had nine broad categories of activity that could generate a reward (or merit) and each child had a different coloured dot to identify who did something good.  The bar across the top shows weeks from now to the end of the year.

The categories I chose above were:

  1. Tidying away all clothes (including uniforms and night clothes) - this one is mainly geared at Little Lady who manages to create piles of clothes on her bed and also the boys beds.
  2. Brush teeth twice daily (aimed at Gorgeous who tries all sorts to get out of this)
  3. Pray five daily salaat - Mash'Allah LL does so, but sometimes has to be reminded, we are now working on Little Man to get into the habit of ensuring he prays all of his prayers.
  4. Keeping your bedroom tidy - mostly LL and her clothes, books and stationary again, although it was her brothers that rushed to tidy up and then asked for a merit.
  5. Helping with housework - I do ask them a lot to help and try to give them daily chores to help with, but this way they do it happily instead of moaning that they do "everything around here" (Gorgeous again).
  6. School - good school reports or grades, good feedback from teachers or an exceptional piece of school work or homework.  LL loved this one, she really does put a lot of effort and time into her studies mash'Allah and I try to acknowledge this, I think she would love it to be more tangible though.
  7. Helping care for the babies - mainly watching the baby when I have to leave the room so that Darling doesn't try to poke her in the eye, but also helping to distract Darling
  8. Excellent Quran recitation or Arabic lesson.

The kids favourite bit that really motivated them is the bit about rewards.  I let them choose what they would like as reward and we will be adding on new things we think of.

Mash'Allah, they were so excited about the reward chart and the rewards they could earn.  The boys have been trying to get merits for everything they do and I have tried to explain that they are not going to get a merit for every time they put something in the bin or pick a toy up but for exceptional good behaviour or actions.

I'd love feedback or suggestions from people who have used reward charts in the past.  I might try and create a PDF version in A4 or A3 for readers to print off, what kind of things would you like to see in a reward chart?

Picture of the Day: 3.11.14 - Go Smash an Egg

My husband was given this little spoon by a friend that collects things like this.  It says "Go smash and egg" and when he gave it to Gorgeous, who breaks things without even trying, I knew it was a bad idea.  So after carrying it around for a day or two and laughing to himself every time he tapped his head with it, I found an opportunity to sneak it away and hide it.

He clearly found it:

When I found the tray of eggs like this, I wondered if someone had put something heavy on them and broken them all by mistake, but they were all clearly tapped from the top.  So I asked the kids if they all knew anything about it.  They all denied it, including Gorgeous.  One of the things I love about him is how transparent he is.  He cannot look you in the eye and lie and he cannot lie with a straight face.  Which is handy because I always catch him out when he makes any mischief and if it isn't him and he looks me in the eye and says so,  I catch his brother out by default.

So I asked him if he broke the eggs and he burst out laughing.  He said he wasn't laughing because he broke the eggs, but because it was so funny.

Someone is going to be eating a lot of eggs for the next few days.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Little Lady and Big School: Reasons for Choosing Islamic Scholarship

I have been worrying and praying about Little Lady’s secondary education for the last few years. As she was my firstborn I had no experience of how the system worked or whether the local school or an Islamic school would be best for her.

There is massive competition for the one local grammar school and she did not get in, following the secondary school application process she got a place in the local state school that I had attended.

We had tried to find a place in an Islamic school a year earlier, but all of those that offered an Islamic education that included the Alimah (Islamic scholars) programme were full and sent out applications to include her in their waiting list.

We decided to let her start in the local school as there didn’t seem to be any other options. The local state school has come a long way from when I studied there. At that time it had a bad reputation and not the best results for GCSE. I remember that being good at your studies was not something to be proud of amongst students but something to be masked, with even teachers occasionally joining in at making fun of the bright children.

I was one of the smallest kids in my year and had to learn to make up for this by being extra loud, rude and by swearing a lot. I made it to the end of high school with good grades and to the end of sixth form with reasonable grades but knowing I could have done a lot better. It left me with a legacy of for many years thinking how much better I could have done as an adult if I had better schooling as a child and with a foul mouth, both of which took many years to overcome.

So you can imagine I had my worries when that was the only option for us. A visit to the school and talking to friends and neighbours who had children studying there assuaged some of my worries. The school has a new strict head teacher and has had millions of pounds of investment in new buildings and equipment. It has expanded to a primary and nursery school and the sixth formers look like they are dressed for the office.

Little Lady loved it there and made friends straight away. She became a school council representative and volunteered for everything. Best of all they had a massive library full of every book she had ever been looking for.

I still had my worries. For instance probably over half of the children in the school are Muslim and many of the girls wear hijab. This doesn’t stop them from listening to music, swearing and generally assuming a very cocky attitude. This just isn’t part of the beautiful character I want to develop for my children and I feared that Little Lady would pick up bad habits. As she is so strong willed I could also imagine a situation in a few years where we would not be able to rein her in and discourage bad habits.

It was hard to explain my reservations to my husband, but once he was picking and dropping her from school for a few weeks he could see the behaviour of some children for himself – giving adults dirty looks, swearing, shouting, chatting or fighting with people of the opposite sex - all things normal teenagers do, but things that I don’t believe are part of the correct upbringing of a Muslim teenager who we hope one day becomes a good Muslim.

One option I was considering was putting her in one of the after school alimah courses that have started locally recently which would cover her Quran studies also. This would have been tough with picking her up from school and then dropping and picking her up from a second place whilst juggling the boys school run and Quran studies also, especially as I don’t drive. It seemed to be our only option.

As the first few weeks of term progressed, my husband got more concerned about the way students at LL’s school behaved and the influence this would have on her. So one day on the way to look for a new double pram for Darling and Baby, he suggested we pick up forms for the two nearest girls Islamic schools. One had no spaces and did not offer the alimah course but did provide a very positive environment and is run by a masjid that my husband has strong links with. The other school was attended by a cousin of mine and a few of my friends’ daughters and I have heard mixed reviews of. We filled the form for this one and submitted straight away and LL was called back for a test the following week. She did well on the test and was called back for an interview. The head teacher listened to her recitation of Quran and asked her about why she was interested in the school. They offered her a place for the following Monday and also allowed her to join the alimah programme (they have three strands: Islamic studies, alimah course and hifz programme where the whole Quran is memorised).

We were over the moon but I was also worried about how the transition would affect her. She would have to leave behind the friends she made and the hours are longer with a 7:30am start due to alimah studies in the morning,

Following her first half term there she has settled in well and is catching up quickly with what she missed (Memrise has really helped with Arabic and French). Her Quran teacher was brilliant and supplemented Quran studies with Islamic knowledge and memorising prayers and reading Islamic books, so this meant that much of what was covered in the first half term that she missed she already knew. Her Dad had also been helping her learn Urdu which has the same script as Arabic and this helped her with learning Arabic too.

There are some things she misses: having the latest IT equipment, swimming pools and a greater emphasis on sport, the library she loved so much, switching from Spanish (which she loved) to French (which I like) and also missing out on certain lessons (such as Drama) to accommodate for others (Arabic). I have agreed that we can work on subject areas which she liked that are not covered in her current curriculum and she sees the value of the Islamic environment and studies Alhamdulillah.

The cost of her education means that we will have to cut back everywhere else that we can and it will also mean that we have to conduct ourselves even more carefully as the parents of someone engaged in this kind of study – it has certainly made me think about what kind of qualities should be present in the mother of a scholar and has made me face up to where I lack in these.

Some might question why we would only put one child in private education and possibly not the rest. As my oldest child I believe that she will have a significant influence on the others, particularly on my two youngest girls who will be of an age to benefit from what she learns by the time she finishes high school and sixth form (the alimah course is seven years and the girls are 9 and 11 years younger than her). I also believe that I was still learning to parent with my oldest children, I made all of my mistakes with them and now that they are older those mistakes (shouting, screaming, being very impatient etc) are staring me in the face in the shape of their behaviour. I feel like Allah (SWT) has given me the chance to do things better with my younger children, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I feel as if I messed up with my older children and I would do anything I can to put that right. So rather than worry and feel miserable, I want to give them a positive environment and keep trying to put right the things I could have done better in any way that I can.

I am so very grateful to Allah (SWT) for this opportunity for my daughter, after 3-4 years or worrying and two years solid of praying for her education and correct upbringing (tarbiyah) in every salah, I feel as if my prayer has been answered insh’Allah. Now it’s Little Man’s turn. I have left it a little late for training for the eleven plus exam that has to be passed for entry into the local boys grammar school. The exam isn’t until next September, but the competition is intense. So we will start planning and thinking for him, but in the meantime I am going to have to resort to the only measure I can really rely on and which has gotten me results: praying for him in every sujood until Allah (SWT) creates the best path for him and trusting that Allah (SWT) always does what is best for us at the right time.

Huzaifa (RA) said that, whenever the Prophet (Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) happened to face any difficulty, he would at once resort to salat. (Ahmad, Abu Dawud)

Anas ibn Malik (RA) narrated that Allah's Messenger (Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) said: “One who goes out to search for knowledge is (devoted) to the cause of Allah till he returns.” (Tirmidhi 220)

‘Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA) narrated that Allah's Messenger (Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) said, “Acquiring knowledge in company for an hour in the night is better than spending the whole night in prayer.” (Tirmidhi 256)

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that... the Prophet (Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam) said, “... He who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy, leading to Paradise for him and those persons who assemble in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), recite the Book of Allah and learn and teach the Qur’an (among themselves). There will descend upon them tranquillity, mercy will cover them, the angels will surround them and Allah will mention them in the presence of those near Him.” (Muslim 6518)

The superiority of the learned man over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion.’” (Abu Daud 3634)