Wednesday 9 December 2015

Product Review: Halal Toiletries Range by Tamese and Jackson

I was recently sent some products to review by Tamese and Jackson, a British Company that has developed a range of halal toiletries free from alcohol, pork and other animal based ingredients.  In additon it is free from GMO's (genetically modified organisms), parabens and does not test on animals.

The website outlines what halal means, but I liked that the brand also suggests why halal may be of wider benefit than only Muslims:

Halal however is not exclusively for Muslims. Halal refers to goods or services permissible under Islamic law but which are designed for health, safety and benefit to all regardless of age, religion or culture.

The three products I was sent to review were:

The shampoo from the Lime and Reyhan range
The handwash from the Blue Orchid range
The body lotion from the Mint Noire range.
The first thing I noticed about the products was the pleasing designs on the bottles.  I love anything inspired by Islamic prints and patterns, so this immediately caught my eye.  I also like simple apothecary style packaging and this reminded me a little of that.

I have tried so many products over the years for my hair and found very litle that works for my hair, whih gets very dried out.  Because of this I tend to stick to the few things which do help me to manage it and keep it from going too frizzy.

The scent of the shampoo was a nice balance of lime and ginger, giving it a refreshing smell.

On trying the shampoo, I found that it dried my hair a little, which is common for most shampoo's I have tried.  Because of this I didn't feel that this was the right shampoo for me.  My daughter tried that shampoo and wasn't as keen on the smell (it's quite grown up), but found the shampoo suited her hair which tends to be slightly greasier, leaving it feeling silky and not dry.

The hand wash I was given to try is from the blue orchid with papaya extract range.  The first thing I noticed about the hand wash was it's smell.  Of the three products, it immediately drew me in with its feminine and slightly sweet smell, I really loved the fragrance.

On use, the hand wash lathered up nicely and a small amount was enough.  I didn't find it drying, which is important considering the amount of hand washing I do with nappies, trips to the toilet with my three-year old, making wudhu and who knows what else.  Of the three products this was my favourite and the one I would most likely buy and use.

The body lotion I tried was from the Mint Noire range.  The scent of this is very grown up and slightly masculine.  I wasn't sure on first appplication how I felt about it.  

The dispensing nozzle on the top gave me the exact amount I wanted (I needed a small squirt only) and the cream was rich in texture.  It took a few seconds of massaging in to get the cream to sink in, but left my skin feeling comfortable and was not greasy.

The thing that surprised me was the smell.  After a little while the spicy and invigorating fragrance really grew on me and felt quite refreshing.  

It's great to see products that cater for halal requirements, so this is something that I would definitely support, but I would only buy the products if they did the job for me and I was quite happy with these.

Tamese and Jackson's products are available at Tesco (online here) and through their website here.  You can aso find out more through their Facebook site here.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Mama Feeling Fierce: Hijab Fashionista’s and Role Model’s

One thing I love about my relationship about Little Lady is that we have great conversations. These are mainly about books, films, family, school, food and more books. But sometimes they are just about life and our perspective on things.

One recent such conversation came about because she had been watching lots of hijab tutorials. I had asked her to take these with a pinch of salt and with the reminder that modesty comes before fashion and that whatever she wears she must ask herself if Allah (SWT) would be please with her and whether it was fit to pray in. After watching these tutorials on YouTube for a few days, she came marching in one day and announced she was a bit fed up of them all. The thing that was bothering her was the enormous amount of make-up all of the YouTubers she was watching wore. She just wanted to see what they looked like without make-up and in ordinary clothes – i.e. somebody that she could relate to.

That was it, my moment right there. All my concerns regarding the hijab bloggers and the potential to influence her that were on my mind came to the fore. You couldn’t shut me up after that. I did try to be benevolent. I did explain that they wore so much make-up because of the camera’s and because if you don’t wear make-up you look worse than normal on video rather than normal. But that was barely an aside. I explained to her that we all have to find the thing that we are passionate about and that becomes are purpose in life and the medium through which we try to help others. For some this is hijab blogging and helping others to learn how to wear hijab and be modest without feeling frumpy.

I wanted to move the discussion away from hijab bloggers (that’s one for another day!). I asked her to think about whether the most important thing about a woman should be the way she looks, her make-up and what she wears. I asked her to think about what are the things that are most valuable in us. I wanted to talk about some of the amazing women who have inspired me and left me awed because of their compassion, ability, talent and intelligence. I suggested also that some of these women are beautiful in a way that defies stereotypical ideas of beauty.

One example I gave her was of the Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy, I love the passion and lucidity found in her writing (The God of Small Things is a must read) and the fact that she stands up for some of the most vulnerable people in her country in the face of immense criticism and hostility. Her beauty shines through her writing and work. Saying that she is naturally and effortlessly beautiful.

We talked about Angelina Jolie – people might criticise me because she is not Muslim or because of her job, but I remember when she went to Pakistan she dressed modestly and covered her hair out of respect. A few years later (2010) she spoke up to ask people to donate to Pakistan following an earthquake and severe flooding at a time when I recall some influential people were coming out to say these people don’t deserve help and there was talk of donor fatigue (this was at the same time as the devastating Haiti earthquake). She has spoken assertively at UN assemblies about the humanitarian and refugee crisis resulting from the war in Syria , going back again to try to hold the organisation to account and ask why nothing has changed. I like that she makes films about things that matter: the Bosnian war, Japanese POW’s. Again naturally and effortlessly beautiful without six inches of make-up and fake bits.

I explained to Little Lady that she was beautiful but that that was a gift not an achievement to be proud of. I reminded her that as Muslimah’s we need to focus on improving our character more than our looks. Allah (SWT) has done that work for us, he has made us in the best form and we look exactly as He wants us to. But he also made us weak:

Allah would make the burden light for you, for man was created weak. ~ Quran (4:8)

and when we are held to account it is our character that will weigh heaviest on our scales – so what should we be putting our effort into and how?

The best way to improve ourselves I believe is through service to others. The suffering of others puts our lives in context and makes us grateful. Finding ways to help others turns us into problem-solvers and people who take action and make a difference. Fake eyelashes, finding just the right shade of lipstick and having the handbag that all of the other fashionista’s have don’t generally improve your character and make a difference.

I asked her to think about what legacy she wanted to leave for the world – whether as a teacher, scholar, artist, journalist or lawyer (all things she is interested in), how will she use the path she chooses to serve others and please Allah (SWT)? I reminded her we needed to think big – not about hijab and make-up, those were small fry, they were so superficial they weren’t even part of the conversation any more, we should be done with those, we know where we stand and what our obligations are regarding modesty and covering our hijab. We had to move on and aim higher and for greater things than that.

I loved speaking to her about Rabia al-Adawiyya (RA), Rabia of Basra was not beautiful. She was poor, she was a slave and therefore lacked status. Her love for her Creator was so powerful it consumed and overtook everything else for her. Despite her lack of beauty, status and wealth she is admired and remembered centuries later for her asceticism and spiritual devotion, an amazing legacy in a time where the world seems to value money and beauty above anything else.

I hope I inspired her, I hope that I put the seed of a thought in her that takes her away finding the prettiest hijab style to finding the best way to use her strengths to fight for and serve others.

Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so - for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. ~ Quran (33:35)

"...I will not suffer the work of any worker among you to be lost whether male or female, the one of you being from the other..."(Holy Qur’an, 3:195) .

“My value as a woman is not measured by the size of my waist or the number of men who like me. My worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety. And my purpose in life-despite what fashion magazines say-is something more sublime than just looking good for men.” ~ Yasmin Mogahed, Reclaim Your Heart: Personal Insights on Breaking Free from Life's Shackles

"I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny a thousand things, before 'thin'." ~ J K Rowling (source)

Wednesday 2 December 2015

How Lucky Are You?

My word for this year was shukr or gratitude, but I think it would be a pretty good word for life. Every now and again something happens or we hear about something that puts our life in perspective. Until then we get caught up in our anxieties, the little pity-parties that go on in our head and our first world problems and forget what the reality for most of the world is.

An experience in my life that really changed me happened during a visit to my grandparents in Pakistan when I was 18. I was in the first year of university and loved it. On my travels around my grandparents village I happened upon a young woman about my age and we got talking. She asked me what I did and on learning that I was a student, she asked how I could afford it. I told her that I didn’t have to pay any university fees and I received a small grant to cover my book and travel costs (this was 1997, just before the grants ended and the fees came in). She told me she really wanted to study but her parents couldn’t afford it so she had to stop. My heart sunk. I never forgot her. Free education and access to higher education is one thing we take massively for granted. That young woman has remained a teacher to me through out my life, a reminder and a lesson about how much we truly have and how little to complain about.

When my children complain about schools I explain to them about the girls stolen by Boko Haram and the schools shut down by the Taliban. I remind them that in our grandparents time girls were not sent to school and that my mum could not read or write and that it left her vulnerable and isolated, unable to fill in forms or read letters from her far away family until we were old enough to do it for her. My kids know better than to get me started on school…

Another experience that I have written about before was when I was pregnant with my third child and commuting every day into the city for my job. I was as nauseous as anything and feeling very sorry for myself, comparing myself to my sister-in-law in Pakistan who was expecting her first baby and resting with low-blood pressure. That morning I picked up a newspaper on the train and read an article about pregnant women in South Africa who had HIV or AIDS and were trying to access medication to prevent it from passing to their babies. One of the women went into labour and vomited her medication and could not get more in time. After the baby was born she had to wait to find out if her child was affected. This in a time where we have free health care, free medication for pregnant women and access to regular health checks.

When Little Man was born I remember my grandmother congratulating me on the birth of my son and my life. It seemed strange at the time but we forget how pregnancy and labour are still life-threatening experiences in much of the world. My maternal grandmother died giving birth with the baby dying a few days later, leaving my mum to spend a lifetime haunted by the loss.

All of these things, but certainly the article I read when I was pregnant, have made it very clear to me that I am amongst the most fortunate people in the world and I have no right to be ungrateful. That Allah (SWT) has blessed me with every comfort and every help. What right do we have to be ungrateful? How can we ever be grateful enough? The fact that we have so much when others have so little, is there a reason behind this? A responsibility that comes with it?

“Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless favours on you) and never be ungrateful to Me” ~ Quran 2:152

“And surely, We gave you authority on the earth and appointed for you therein provisions (for your life). Little thanks do you give” ~ Quran 7:10

Just to put what we have in context:
  • Just 2% of world have indoor toilets – this was the statistic that stopped me in my tracks, that was the really big reality check about the state of the world today for me.
  • The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or 1 in 9, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2015 (source)

  • According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world (source).
  • Under-nutrition (including fetal growth restriction, stunting and wasting) is a cause of 3.1 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths in 2011 (source)
  • The number of children in the world is 2.2 billion, the number in poverty is 1 billion (every second child) and the number not in school is 121 million (source).
  • Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere (source).  War, violence and persecution left one in every 122 humans on the planet a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum at the end of 2014 (source) - that's before the refugees leaving Syria throughout 2015 were even counted.
  • 1.2 billion people lack access to clean water; 2.4 billion live without decent sanitation; and 4 billion without waste-water disposal (source)
  • As of 2015 (2011 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were just over 1 billion poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less (source).
  • 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity (source)
The numbers make you think. They take you our of what you think and feel and put some perspective around what is real out there. Then it makes you think about where you stand in this picture. The luckiest 2%? The luckiest 1%, the luckiest one million in the world out of the over 6 billion souls on this planet? Each one as precious and important as us. Each one deserving of us much as us, but so many tested by poverty, lack of resources and opportunities and war.

How can we stop our ungrateful thoughts and behaviours dead in their tracks?

How can we show our gratitude?

Why do we have so much when others have so little?

What are we going to do with what we have been blessed with?

“If you tried to number Allah’s blessings, you could never count them.” ~ Quran 16:18

“If you are grateful, I will certainly give you increase.” ~ Quran 14:7

It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) prayed, he would stand for so long that his feet became swollen. ‘Aishah said: O Messenger of Allah, are you doing this when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins? He said: “O ‘Aishah, should I not be a thankful slave?” ~ Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: "Gratitude may be in the heart, in submission and humility; on the tongue, in praise and acknowledgement; and in the physical faculties, by means of obedience and submission." ~ Madaarij al-Saalikeen (2/246)

Picture of the Day: 02.12.15 - Lunch Invite, Pakistani Chinese and Octo-Baby

I got a lunch invite the day before yesterday from the a local sister.  I know her because our husband's are active at the masjid and a group of us have become friends.  Because I am at work, I miss the weekly sisters circle they all attend and have been missing seeing them.  When I got the invite I requested half the day off for today and was out of the door at midday.

I wore my outfit from Eid al Adha, the tunic below with straight black silky trousers which was simple and comfortable.  I have gotten so much wear out of this outfit and always feel smart in it.  I paired it with red bangles and solitaire earrings and pendant (not real diamonds unfortunately, but luckily I don't mind).

It was lovely to see my friends and I felt so much love and affection from them all alhamdulillah. The sister who invited us is known for her amazing cooking and went for a Chinese theme for all of her food. I have always struggled with Chinese food because most places are not halal and the veg options are sometimes limited (although a few halal Chinese places seemed to have opened up near us recently). I once went to a work lunch at a Chinese restaurant near my office and the only thing that wasn't cooked with the meat was the plain rice, so I had to have that on its own.

The Pakistani version of Chinese is something else though - a fusion of Chinese and Pakistani food that is what we call chatpatta (I explain what that is here), absolutely delicious.  The sister made a number of dishes and each one was delicious.

I have these pictures to prove I ate, but I have no idea what I ate because I spent the whole of lunch wrestling with Darling and Baby.  Darling wanted water but I knew she would spill it or Baby would spill it for her all over the cloth spread out or right in someones lap.  So we spent the whole of lunch with her crying for water, lying down and saying she wanted to sleep and then getting up and asking for my food and ignoring hers.  She lay down and pushed Baby behind me with her feet to give herself more space.  Obviously Baby gives as good as she gets and tried to climb on top of her.

Holding onto Baby is like holding onto a demented and very strong octopus.  At home we have the type of seat you tie onto a chair and we belt her in and have a tray at the front to put her food in (this one).  I probably should have taken it with me.  She spent the whole of lunch kicking both me and Darling and I spent the whole time trying to hold onto her so that she couldn't kick other people around us, which made her angry enough to howl.  I remember the days I used to eat in peace and other people's children used to act like little barbarians.

Everything we did eat was delicious and it has totally inspired me to learn some "Pakistani Chinese" dishes.  Also, next time I think I will feed the babies first and take the belted seat along with me anyway.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Keeping on Going: Little Man and Hifz

Little Man and I are having a daily moan-fest at the moment. He wakes up and moans at me, I listen and try not to get annoyed. I come home from work and he moans at me a bit more, I’m a bit more wake at this point (marginally) and listen and try to be encouraging.

He isn’t usually a whingy child but at the moment he is enrolled in before school Quran hifz (memorisation) class. This means he has to go to bed a bit earlier so he can wake earlier. At this point we have been waking him up for fajr (dawn) prayer for about a year and then letting him go back to bed for a while. After about three months of hifz class he is still moaning that “It’s not fair”, “I hate it” and “I’m tired”. The fact that Gorgeous isn’t going to the class yet is another sore point and we had to spend a few weeks calming him down when he was getting really angry with his little brother over seemingly trivial things.

Usually I make my children try something at least once before I let them write it off completely. This has been the exception and we have kept on going through the whinging, despite feeling sorry for him at times. We went through something similar with Little Lady a few years ago when she used to do sports before school and was adamant she hated it, hated the boys who wouldn’t pass the ball to her and didn’t see the point. I asked her to persist for the rest of the term because I had paid and at least she could say she gave it a go and was sure she didn’t enjoy it. It turned out she loved sports, got very good at being assertive about knocking boys out of the way to get the ball and ended up playing for her primary school girls football team (the “Lightning Bolts”), who were pretty terrible but had sooo much fun. I’m happy she still likes sports as I think this is something that will benefit her for life.

It’s the same for Little Man, I firmly believe that memorising the Quran , or even some of it, will bring comfort and guidance to him for the rest of his life. I know as a child I did not enjoy studying Quran and would do anything to get out of it. As an adult I am grateful for what I learned and the little I memorised, my only regret would be to not have done more as a child.

My youngest brother-in-law has memorised the whole Quran mash’Allah, and I remember him as a child trying to get out of lessons and getting in big trouble with his madrassah teacher for it. As an adult his mum is so grateful for the fact that one of her sons is a hafiz (person who has memorised Quran). A neighbour of mine was telling me how her mother was gentle by nature but had to be tough with her youngest son to get him to complete his memorisation and felt sorry for him because of the discipline it took. As an adult he is grateful to his mother for making him stick to his studies and puts his achievement down to her.

So for now, despite the moaning, the early mornings, the tears, I am encouraging him to stick with it. I think he will find a point where it no longer feels like a chore and becomes an achievement. At the same time as trying to be firm and answering his complaints without getting annoyed, I am trying to explain why we are doing what we are doing. At the same time as being a sounding board for him to absorb some of his annoyance and let him vent a little, we are continually reminding about the benefits of memorisation.

It’s making me understand a little, why the rewards and benefits of memorising the Quran are not just for the memoriser but also the people around them, because it requires everyone involved to have discipline and to be motivated to make it happen.

It is narrated from Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Amr (RA) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) said: Allah will say to a Hafiz (upon his death and on the day of Qiyaamat) 'Recite the Quran and (upon reciting each Verse) climb (a stage in Jannah) and continue reciting as you used to in the world as your abode in Jannah is upon the last verse you recite.' (Mishkaat vol.1 pg.186; Me'raaj)

“Mu'aadh al-Juhani narrates that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) said, 'Whosoever recites the Quran and practices upon its injunctions, the reciter's parents will be given a crown on the day of Qiyaamat. The brightness of that crown will be more intense than the brightness of the sun in your actual house.' Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) further said, 'What do you think will be given to the Hafiz (reciter) of the Quran himself?'” (Mishkaat Vol I.)

“Hadrat Abu Hurairah (RA) says: In the house where the Quran is read, the household members increase, virtues and blessings multiply, angels descend upon the house and Shaytaan quits the home.” (Fazail-e-Quran)

A person who memorized the Quran, adhered to that which is permissible, and refrained from that which is forbidden, Allaah will admit him to Paradise and allow him to intercede for ten people of his family, all of whom deserved the fire." (Tirmidhi)