Sunday 30 December 2018

Things that are Super Hard About Being a Muslim Parent

I have had some hard and very heartfelt conversations with my husband in recent times, about trying to do the right thing, trying to raise your children in what seems to be the right way and still seeming to get it wrong.

Like the following:

We have never had a TV, for reasons explained here. We have tried to replace it with quality time, games and books, days out and crafts.  Now the kids are complaining that they need one and friends and neighbours are telling us we should get one.

We tried to teach our kids about the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), Sahabah (RA) and good role models.  Now they are interested in Youtube and Instagram culture. I cannot even begin to explain how pernicious, disrespectful, unIslamic and toxic some elements of this culture are and they are just under the radar of most parents (another post coming on this!)

We tried to limit tech and avoided giving our children mobile phones because we felt it would impact their concentration and affect their studies, they are adamant they are the only kids in the world that don’t have them.

We tried to make sure we earned only halal and fed them only halal so that they would be good people and do good deeds insh’Allah.  This means that our income provides them with everything they need but does not extend to luxuries.  All they see is that their classmate get to go on expensive holidays and have expensive devices – I have no idea how when half of them are on benefits.

I have had nothing but censure and nasty comments from my own community for being a Muslim working mother.  Between hubby and I we get by and try to help others where we can.  But it has been about 10 years since I flew abroad, even to see family in Pakistan (it would cost us about £6-7,000 just for tickets to Pakistan in the school holidays).  The same people who think it is fitnah for a woman to work, go abroad every year because they get benefits and free or subsidised housing from the government, even when some of them don’t seem to be entitled because they are working.  They don’t see anything wrong with any of this, but what I do is still wrong.

The painful thing is, that their children are well-behaved and becoming hafiz of the Quran or scholars.  It does not make sense to me at all and makes me questions everything we have done.

Hubby goes in the path of Allah (SWT) for three days every month and forty days every year alhamdulillah.  He teaches, leads study circles, encourages people to come to the masjid and calls to Islam.  In the beginning it was hard to be apart from one another but we were fully committed to the importance of dawah in our lives. When Hubby started his dawah work, I knew the children missed him and the boys especially played up when he was not there. We also had the promise that those that take care of Allah’s religion, Allah (SWT) will take care of their affairs, including their children’s tarbiyyah.

Now we get to see the kids doing anything to avoid going masjid or Islamic talks and questioning whether hijab is right for them.  It makes me questions everything we have done.

After much soul-searching and anxious introspection, there are some things I feel I have to trust and hold on to:

Much of the behaviors we are seeing with our teens now are just normal behaviors - they are growing, challenging, testing boundaries and trying to work things out. Plus those hormones are all over the place.

It’s not meant to be easy, enjoyable or perfect, our children are not for us to show of what good parents we are, but a test from Allah (SWT) that we have to undergo with patience:

"Your wealth and your children are only a trial (fitnah). And Allah - With Him is a great reward (Paradise)." (Quran 64:15)

"And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial (fitnah) and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward." (Quran 8:28)

When we see others getting it perfectly right, we have to remember that we don’t see the whole picture, only what they choose to let us see. How many Muslim families have to deal with dark things behind closed doors?

I also think we have to trust in what we have worked for.  As teenagers the children will challenge and question everything we have taught them.  As adults, I hope and trust that they will come back to it and embrace it and see why we did things the way we did.

Finally, we have to trust in Allah SWT), He can see the big picture when we can’t.  He knows where our path is leading when we don’t.  Perhaps what you sow isn’t realised immediately, but slowly and over time.  We just trust that He loves us and as always will be true to His promise.

Reading back over this, I hope I am not making my children sound like monsters.  I can see what they are growing and have their own opinions and take on life.  We are going to have to accept that and accept choices we might not agree with.  I can see also that sometimes our disagreements are painful for them and they express their pain as anger which is hurtful to us.  Clearly my role as their mother doesn’t diminish at this time, but rather I must grow with them and support them to be good people and good Muslims insh’Allah.

An elderly and experienced scholar staying at the masjid recently spoke at length about the children of religious families and how many were finding their children move away from or leave Islam.  All they had heard about growing up was punishment and guilt tripping for bad deeds and were tired of it.  He mentioned the importance of two things: positive language and examples in Islam and also making sure that the family spend a little time together for daily taleem (Islamic study) every day as this stops fitnah (evil or negative influence) coming into the home from all its various souces.

At the moment we are doing this in the shape of one hadith with some commentary and one sunnah that we can implement in our lives.  We take five to ten minutes and insh’Allah some of it will stick.

What challenges have you had with raising children in your faith and how have you overcome them?

Saturday 29 December 2018

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Browsing one lunch break from work at my local bookshop, I decided to ask one of the staff there for a recommendation. He pointed out a few books he liked but there was one he positively raved about.  He mentioned that The Name of the Wind was the best book he had ever read, he had read it eight time and had bought it in languages he couldn’t even read.  I internally laughed at his serious fan-girling over the book and decided to buy it.  A week or two later, my office book club met and discussed picking another book, I mentioned that The Name of the Wind had been recommended to me and we went with that (which was good because it saved me buying another book).

So you can imagine I had high hopes for this book.  The Name of the Wind is the first in a trilogy called the Kingkiller Chronicles. The story covers the first part of the life of Kvothe: bard, great warrior and magician, told by himself.  The story has a number of strands. The first of these is about Kvothe’s early life travelling with his family as part of a nomadic troupe.  We see his precociousness and introduction to magic and the tragedy that meets his family.  A second strand is about his will to survive in the world in harsh circumstances, another is about his introduction to the University where magic is taught and yet another about his quest to find out what happened to his family. A final element that runs through the book is how people feel unsafe and anxious in the present as stories of war and dangerous roads filter through to the little inn that Kvothe has retired to.

This book made me think of a cross between Harry Potter and the Poison Study series.  Kvothe is great fun as a protagonist – intelligent, kid, flawed, angry, mischievous and always finding himself in some trouble despite his best efforts to avoid it.  The story is mostly light-hearted, but often touches on more serious issues: The prejudice that Kvothe’s family and clan face as travelers, the trauma of losing his family, the extreme poverty and violence he faces once alone, the way poverty and desperation follow him to the university, even the vulnerability of women in a male world.

I am always interested in the way fantasy writers construct their worlds – from the maps at the front of the book, to the cities, clans and customs that make up a world.  Some writers get it right (Tolkien) and others leave you feeling not quite convinced. In this case, the across the span of the book I started to get a sense of he physical place and nations or groups that inhabit Kvothe’s world, but with gaps, for instance some elements of this world feel medieval and others more modern.  The puzzle didn’t fully fit together seamlessly, perhaps the next two books will rectify this. 

There has been some criticism about the female characters in the book lacking depth and realism.  I found female characters apart from Kvothe’s mother pretty much non-existent until he gets to the university. Once there, the other female students are bright and capable, mainly positive characters, although I agree they do lack depth a bit.  Oh, and they all seem to fancy the scrawny, teenage Kvothe quite a bit – I suppose that’s the authors prerogative though, to make the protagonist desirable.

I had so much fun reading this book, Kvothe is great fun and very down to earth, his story is fascinating, fast-paced and humorous. I liked how the narrative sets his admission that he sometimes exaggerated his greatness, started rumours about himself and his skill as a bard against the epic tale he tells, so that you often wonder how accurate some of the story is.

An enjoyable, interesting and absorbing read, I went to buy the second book after reading this and also a little side story to keep me occupied until the last in the trilogy is published.

Friday 28 December 2018

Terrible Teens

There are days when the boys are just too much for me. I have no idea how my mother-in-law raised five boys without any help at all. Today has been one for those days and I have told my two boys to stay well away from me because I just cannot take any more.

My older son, previously mild-mannered and sweet natured, is quick to anger and is very liberal with his hands at the moment, pushing, shoving and tripping his younger brother.

My youngest is easy going and silly, but responds to every touch at the top of his lungs as if he is being murdered and also by swearing.  He then takes his frustration out at me:
“You let him hit me”
“You don’t stop him”
“You don’t care”
“You don’t deal with it, why should I listen to you”
All this before I have had the chance to talk to his older brother.
He also misses no chance to irritate his brother, answer him back or provoke an argument.

I have had about eighteen months of this and it has worn me down.  The boys spent the last three days in Hastings with their dad and it has been peaceful and calm.  Then last night they returned and the nonsense started again.  I have spent the whole day mediating and consoling.  Except I don’t want to do it anymore.  I am tired of chasing, holding back, telling eight times or shouting.  Right now my voice is hoarse and my I just don’t want to face anyone.

The last straw was when they kicked off in front of guests today. For the hour that they were here I don’t think we could have one sensible conversation.  I would expect that from little ones, except the babies were as good as anything.  But from an 11 and 13 year old, I expect better.  They spent the hour fighting, complaining, arguing and in Gorgeous’ case crying.  I had to drag them out and then shout at them in front of guests.  I was so embarrassed.

As soon as the guests left, I called their dad and complained and asked him to start taking them to work with him on days they are not at school.  A bit of hard work might help use up the spare energy and teach them some manners.  Hubby is not keen, but I am going to insist I think.

I sometimes look back at my approach of gentle parenting and allowing my children to have a voice and disagree with me respectfully and wonder if has backfired.  Perhaps those parents that put the fear of God in their children and take a more authoritarian approach have the right idea and maybe a more peaceful life.  I wonder where the boundaries around hitting, bad language, respecting your parents and behaving in front of guests have fallen away.  If I get a repeat of today I’m not sure what I will do, but for the time being they seem to have realised I have hit my limit and gotten very quiet.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Free Instant Download: The Muslimah Life Planner 2019

I created the Muslimah Life Planner 2019 by taking the best of the techniques, tools and planners and journals I have used over the years to try and manage my life better. I have built on previous versions to make this the biggest and best version yet insha’Allah.

This year 
The Muslimah Life Planner 2019 is 451 pages long and includes:
  • Space for your top goals for 2019 where you can see them every day
  • Space to reflect on 2018
  • Vision pages to brainstorm or collage your vision of your future
  • Planning pages across a 20-year span and longer
  • Detailed planning pages for 2019 across different themes
  • Monthly overview for every month
  • Daily pages including daily schedule, goals, daily review and gratitude journal
  • Pages to look back at the end of 2018 and reflect on achievements and lessons learned.
  • Space to capture notes for 2020

I hope that Sisters find it beneficial in helping to set wonderful goals and feeling inspired to achieve them. I hope it gets Muslimah’s thinking about how 2019 could be an amazing year for them full of clarity of purpose, gratefulness and creativity insha’Allah.

“There is no intelligence like planning.” ~ Hadith Ibn Majah (via Provisions for the Seekers - Zaadut Taalibeen)

This planner will help you to work through listening to your inner voice (Vision Board exercise pages), deciding what the most important things are for you in the greater scheme of things (Life Planning pages) and then focussing on the parts that you can realistically do over the coming year (Daily Pages for 2018). 

The Daily Pages will give you lots of space to dream, explore, plan and review how you will make these things happen. The act of setting them down on paper will mean that rather than vague ideas they are laid out in black and white where they can be prioritised at the start of your day, included with your days’ work and reviewed at the end of your day.

I hope the journal also offers a safe space for introspection and for self-review each day in order to learn and improve. I also hope it helps Sisters to find something in every day to be grateful about and to help cultivate a deep sense of gratitude in their everyday lives.

“And when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]” ~ Quran (14:7)

Please do download and print, you can keep the journal in a ring binder folder. I have tried to keep the format simple so that they are print friendly. There are some parts where you may need more than one copy of a page because you have lots of goals to plan out or because your vision is so expansive alhamdulillah. Simply print the extra pages and slot in where you want. This format is also conducive to adding in drawings, cuttings, art work, collages and articles you might want to save to inspire you.

Good intentions count for so much in Islam and planning ahead to maximise our good deeds is the first step in making those intentions.  After finding myself overwhelmed with everything I had to do with five children, a busy household and work, in the end it was using a daily planner that helped me to start managing my time better and understanding where my time-stealers were.

If you find it useful, please make dua for me and my family. If you find the Journal useful or have suggestions for improvement, I would love to hear from you at or in the comments and perhaps I could incorporate some of them into an updated version for next year.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Picture of the Day 25.12.18: Planning for 2019

I like to use this week of the year to look back on the current year and start planning for the next.  This week I am off work and the boys and hubby are away for three days in the path of Allah (staying at a masjid somewhere in Kent). The house is peaceful, clean and conducive to deep thinking insh’Allah (without stinky socks and people booting balls into living room walls distracting me).

I like to use the framework in my Muslimah Life Planner to organise my thoughts: reflect on last year – what did I achieve and what did I learn? I also like to see if I can tick off any of my goals from last year and then update them for the coming year.

I also have a box of notebooks from the ten years I spent at my last job which I am not quite ready to let go of. I actually just need to throw them away, but I will have a quick flip through and try and capture some notes for future reference (both work and for job application purposes). 

I will be publishing the free and updated Muslimah Life Planner for 2019 tomorrow insh’Allah, so please look out for that.

Do you have a review or planning process for the end of the year? Or do you do this at some other time of the year?  Do you have an achievement for 2018 you want to shout about or big plans for 2019? Tell us about them in the comments!

Tuesday 25 December 2018

An Honest Reflection

I haven’t been writing as much in recent days and there are a number of reasons for that.  I get so much encouragement and love from sisters who read this blog and that means a lot to me alhamdulillah.  When I started out on this journey I felt isolated and different to everyone around me.  This blog helped me to find my voice, find sisters who understood me or were in a similar situation to me.  It allowed me to be honest about some of the challnges in my life.

When I started out on this journey, my children were also small and it was easier to be honest I think.  In the last year or two, there has been so much change in my life: redundancy, new job, career growth, dealing with strong willed teens, ageing parents and in-laws, struggling financially a little. Hubby has been super busy with work and the management of the local masjid and it has made me feel a little clingy and down, something I am only just realising and dealing with.

Some of this has been harder to talk about than when the kids were little or even quite get my head around.  Work has also been super busy. When I started blogging, I was bored and under-challenged at work, blogging let me use my brain and offered opportunity to introspect and reflect.  My job at the moment is so full on, from 8am to 4pm, I only get up to pray. Every day has something new to research, plan or solve and I have had the best work year of my life. But I am also left mentally drained and exhausted on many days and just need to do something physical – like housework, or brainless – like looking at rubbish on Instagram to wind down.  I have spent the first few days of this week’s break from work cooking and cleaning and de-cluttering until my brain has climbed down from the roof and things make sense again.

In the last few years, I have heard a lot of debate around whether blogging is dead and whether there is any point in maintaining blogs.  This was a little bit discouraging, but I realised that this blog is the platform that hosts my content, but it can still be shared on whatever the latest social media or platform is trending at the moment. I also think long form content is valuable in a world full of super-fast minute-long or even seconds-long content across social media that sometimes has no space for reflection or deep thought.

Finally I have been reading like crazy. I have piles of books everywhere and I am trying to counter the lure of Instagram and twitter which are oh so fun, but rarely very productive (half an hour of silly videos anyone?)

So now I have had the chance to think on these things and clear some mental space, I feel good about writing. I feel brave enough to share again. I am looking forward to connecting with sisters. I want to document my growth because so much happened last year and I feel it has set the foundations for so much more next year (Post to come on work and the beginnings of community engagement insh’Allah).

Most of all, I want to do things more consciously, rather than just because it’s easiest when I am tired, or on auto-pilot.  I want to manage my work so that I have energy left for life. I desperately want to improve the quality of my worship, improve my iman (faith) and be confident in living my faith.  I hope you say with me for this journey insh’Allah and continue to share your stories, teach, guide and advise me insh’Allah.

A Sweet Engagement and Our Last Party of 2019

This week was my young cousins engagement – an affair full of both nervousness on everyone’s part and joy.  I got to buy a new dress which I wore with red suede pumps and red lipstick:

Mash’Allah it was sweet to see her innocence and shyness and moving to see her how emotional her dad was already – he is one of my best friends and cried at my brothers wedding.  I have threatened to lock him in the kitchen if he starts crying too early at her wedding.

My dad opened the meal with Quran recitation and a reminder about what this union would mean for both the young couple and both families.  I was still talking to my sister when he started, so I got the dirtiest look from him and a comment about “I am about to start reciting Quran, so people should stop talking now”. It reminded me of when my aunt and I were trying to get the cellophane off the sweets at my brothers wedding during the imam’s speech and he stopped midway through to tell us to stop making such a racket.

It was lovely to meet her fiancé’s family and we had a lot of fun chatting and getting to know each other. There was a (very spicy) buffet meal, lots of cake and lots of taking bad pictures.

Someone pointed out that my cousin was four years old when I got married and had danced at my wedding, now it was her turn.  It’s really lovely seeing the younger ones making their own way now and setting out on new journeys into their future.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Not So Little Any More

I have been blogging since Little Lady was four, Little Man two and Gorgeous was six months old. I had no idea that the Babies would also make their way to me one day.  Looking back on my first post, I cannot believe how long ago that was.  This blog had served as a place to capture my journey as a mum and also the challenges of work and staying true to my faith.

My three eldest are not so Little any more, two are teens and the third is not far behind.  They are confident, doing well at school so far and also incredibly mouthy.  Often I am proud of them, sometimes I am sick with worry about how they will turn out.  I have to remind myself to trust in my parenting in their early years, my faith in Allah (SWT) and also them and tell myself that they will come out of their teen better people than I could imagine (insh’Allah).

Recently I managed to get the babies into bed on time for once and all of my housework done.  A peaceful, lazy evening beckoned.  Instead, these three decided to camp on my bed and pester me for the next three hours until their dad came home.

They misbehaved while I prayed, teased me, made fun of their poor dad mercilessly and refused to leave.  They then fell to reminiscing about their younger days and started telling me about all of the naughty things they had done and gotten away with – I couldn’t believe some of the mischief they had made in primary school!

I eventually chased them out when their dad came home.  It was nice hanging out with my three older kids who are now all as tall as me and like to remind me of the fact.  It was like a conversation with adults – fun and interesting. It was also a nice (if short) break from some of the teenage tantrums and drama I have been dealing with in the last two years or so.

By the way, I have been thinking that Little Lady and Little Man need new names -seeing as he is taller than me and she almost as tall and ten times as bossy.  I will have to have a think. Gorgeous is still my ray of sunshine, so he can stay Gorgeous for life insh’Allah 😊

Saturday 8 December 2018

New Arrival to the Family

After much waiting and worry, my younger sister Fashionista has been blessed with a little girl. Healthy, with a good appetite and sleeping well alhamdulillah.  We are all over the moon. Despite the long labour and then going on to have a cesarean anyway, Fashionista is recovering well.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed holding her for the first time. She reminds me of my youngest two as babies. I firmly believe that your brother’s and sisters’ children are your children and I have always tried to conduct my life and relationships according to this – whether with my nieces on my side or nieces and nephews on my husband’s side.  They are all mine: in my prayers, in my concerns and I hope I can always be there for them insh’Allah.  So, of course I am over the moon and in love with this lovely little addition to our family.

May Allah (SWT) bless her with good health, long life and much happiness. May she be a source of joy for her parents, pride for her family and benefit for the Ummah insh’Allah. 

Image courtesy of Shutterbug Sister

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Fashionista's Baby Shower

It doesn’t take much of an excuse for us sisters to throw a party, so the blessing of Fashionista Sister being pregnant filled us with joy and got us all planning.  We did our usual routine of making a WhatsApp group and adding Fashionista’s friends and in-laws.  We also added her husband and proceeded to confuse and wind him up.

In the end we allocate the tasks as:
Me – cooking for guests
Harlequin Sister – Decor
Sister-in-law – desserts including cake and biscuits
Shutterbug – photography and helping everyone else.
Fashionista’s in-laws – tracking down her friends and inviting them
Fashionista’s husband – bring her to the party under a pretext so that we can surprise her.

On the day we rushed around like mad trying to set everything up while her husband staled her and sent us fraught messages telling us his pregnant wife was losing patience while he drive around to kill time.

She arrived as we finished off and came into the sound of party poppers and everyone yelling surprise, giving her a shock and scaring my poor, very soft-hearted niece in the process.  I can’t tell you how much fun it was and how shocked we were that she hadn’t caught on.

The idea of the banner was to match the cake with it’s button design:

Mini lemon possets by my sister-in-law as were the babygrow biscuits: 

I was tasked with the food and ended up making tandoori chicken bites, macaroni salad (recipe here), chicken sandwiches (recipe here) and salad (recipe here).  Mum made her delicious lamb kebabs and Shutterbug Sister brought pizza and chips which was scoffed ridiculously fast.

Harlequin Sister had decorated the garden with pretty scarves tied together in a canopy of sorts.  With the day being very sunny, the scarves provided lovely shade when we went into the garden to play party games.

Sister-in-law was in charge of games and came up with some real fun ones:
We had to feel in a bag for some baby-related items and guess what all of them were
We had melted chocolate in a clean nappy which people had to taste and guess the flavor – if that sounded gross, it really was
We had to get into two teams and use toilet roll to create a nappy on a team member, racing the other team
So you can imagine there was a lot of laughing and good natured teasing. 

The Babies complained our games were boring and went inside and found their own game to play:

We ended the afternoon with cake and more cake with the button cake split up and shared with all of the guests and still plenty more to take home.