Monday 25 June 2018

Teen Muslimah and Body Consciousness

I remember being a teen and sometimes getting unwanted attention, probably at a younger age than was appropriate.  I remember being a teen and being aware of my many perceived flaws alongside a cocky arrogance about my youth and how skinny I was.  Despite these things, I would rather have been a teen then than now any day.

I see the pressures that my oldest daughter faces at aged 15 - academic, social, from peers, physically and I lament the loss of childhood so soon.  I also resent the culture we live in that focusses on every inch of a women’s body from the crown of her head to her toes.  A focus that is hyper-critical, merciless, unrealistic and punishing.  Full lips, nose contoured to a perfect point, chin shaped to a point and cheekbones you can slice bread with.  Enormous breasts, tiny waist and killer curves. Salon perfect nails and perfect mermaid waves in your hair. Slim ankles and perfect toes, feet with a high instep and every inch of the body hairless, silky smooth and free of pigmentation, scar or stretch mark.  That’s before you even get started on clothing and a studio-full of makeup layered on faces over and over again until you can hide the face Allah (SWT) gave you with a mask you like better.

The cultural pressures and standards around beauty are part of our culture and I have tried over the years to teach my children that they are as Allah (SWT) wishes them to be, that Allah (SWT) made them beautiful as they are.  I try to teach them to be grateful for all that Allah (SWT) has blessed them with and finally when all else fails to “work what your mama gave you”.

I reject the unrealistic standards of beauty that change each generation so that there are always losers as we chose one ideal of beauty over all the others and fail to appreciate the diversity of beauty.  Whether gaunt “heroin chic” when I was a teen in the 90’s or surgically enhanced curves today, in choosing either you fail to see the different types of beauty around us: willowy, slender women, toned athletic women, petite curvy women, luxuriously full-figured women.

Even moreso, I reject the cruel beauty standards of my own South Asian culture: an obsession with fair skin and weight – always too fat or too slim, but never right.  On top of that the lack of manners or perhaps thoughtlessness of sisters who feel the need to comment on those around them.

I have spent years hearing family members and acquaintances commenting on my weight and colour, but more recently on my children’s colouring.  People will say that Little Lady was “so much fairer when she was a child, what happened?”  When Little Man was very small people would say he is dark with distaste – I loved has glowing, healthy dark Mediterranean colouring.  People would comment on his big lips, ten years later his big lips are in fashion.  Darling is often complimented on her fair skin, but this is no better than people saying negative things about my other children, because I would rather she does not become fixated on something as superficial as colouring.

This week I heard three comments from friends over two days.  I attended a sisters halaqa where a sister asked why Little Lady tans so quickly.  I replied because I do and we all catch the sun quickly.  The next day I met a friend while out shopping with my daughter and she asked me why Little Lady was so skinny.  I was surprised because LL had gone from skinny kid to plump teen almost overnight and then managed to bring her weight down through healthy eating and discipline.  I said that she was a healthy weight and left it that.  This after being told in her early teens that she was fat, including by both of her grandmothers.  I can tell you they got an earful from me and didn’t mention her weight again.

The some evening a neighbour popped by to ask for help in filling out a form.  LL happened to be trying on a new dress that Harlequin Sister gifted her and came to show me.  My neighbour complimented her and commented on how much she has changed from a short, skinny little kid to a beautiful young woman in a few short years.  I took the compliment for what it was, and I think LL enjoyed it anyway.

It has made me think though about how much scrutiny young women come under. How easily we expose them to our throw-away comments and how people seem to feel comfortable criticising and judging things that are not of their choice but from Allah (SWT).  I think as my girls get older I will make it my business not just to educate them about the blessings of Allah (SWT) but to educate those careless people around them too.  It’s one thing to have a thick skin and to make your children resilient, but there is something to be said about making people think twice before they open their mouth to say something unkind to a young woman when she is at her most impressionable.

Book Review: Sleeping Beauty An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani

I was sent this book by Kube Publishers to review and was intrigued by the idea and the front cover.  A princess in pink…hijab.  A snake which I don’t recall featuring in the original story and what could or could not be a prince holding a bottle of something and clearly not anywhere near to kissing the princess.

On reading the book to my little girls I had a lot of fun finding the original story replaced with all sorts of Islamic references.  The party at the birth of the princess is an aqiqah.  The guests are alim’s (Islamic scholars) who come to make dua for the baby.  The villain is called Count Lahab, named after a relative of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) that is not loved by Muslims.

I liked also that the book focusses on the good character of the princess who rejects all of the princes that come to ask for her hand in marriage in favour of an orphan boy of kind nature and good character.  The princess’s protector in the palace is a tall woman in green abayah with a bow and arrow, the happy ever after wedding is actually a walima.

As the story unfolds we find it is the princesses husband not a prince that must help her, we are reminded that cure is from Allah (SWT) not from anything else.

The illustrations are vivid, I liked most the illustrations of the princess herself, abaya, hijab and all and also the theme of pink roses running throughout. The book was a little long to read aloud in one go to the babies, maybe a better option to read over a few nights, certainly it would hold the interest of an older, independent reader.

An intriguing, fun story with some positive messages for little Muslims. I have seen Snow White and Cinderella by the same author and wouldn’t mind checking these out to see how the author has put an Islamic spin on them.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Healthy Office Pot Luck

Someone at my office had a nice idea of hosting a healthy pot luck lunch.  I am always up for any work social occasion, especially if involves food:

A colleagues made these mini wraps and someone on Instagram has asked for the recipe, I will see if I can get it to share.

I made this salad that I tried at my brother’s house on Eid and loved.  It contains salad greens, cucumber, celery, pine nuts, apple and grapes.  Sounds strange but tasted fab, I will share the recipe including my dressing when I get a moment.

What is your signature dish?  What do you take to a pot luck or one dish? What would your healthy contribution be?

Picture of the Day 15.06.18: Beauty Blogging

I got a bit of a treat on Eid day when a box full of cosmetic and toiletry treats arrived:

These are from Beauty Base and include the new vegan, halal friendly products from W7 for me to try and review.  I have been trying these out with Little Ladies help and will do a full review soon insh’Allah.

Eid-ul-Fitr 2018/1439: Day 2 - Hosting and Visiting

On the second day of Eid I spontaneously decided to host lunch so invited anyone that could get to us in time for lunch.

I wore this outfit, which I found really pretty and which was cool and comfortable with a lovely fit:

The babies wore these rainbow dresses which I picked up for a bargain £13 each at TK Maxx, I loved how pretty these looked on and they looked fab in photo’s too.  Our Eid décor this year was inspired by these.

I ended up making plain pilau rice, lamb curry, chicken curry, roast chicken, seekh kebabs and some shammi kebabs Fashionista’s mother in law had sent us to freeze and use when we want to.

I never got quite as far as making dessert so served up watermelon slices and sweet Pakistani mangoes which went down a treat.

For dinner we were invited to my favourite uncle’s house.  I knew there would be non-mahram’s there, so I switched to this loose abaya-like outfit

We explored my uncles garden – he is an avid gardener and will pick whatever he can lay his hands on and give it to us to take home: cucumbers, tomatoes, greengages, figs, plums, cherries, apples, even green chickpeas one year.

The babies enjoyed playing outside in the twilight.

The food was good and the company interesting, the various uncles and cousins locked horns over Pakistani politics while the ladies rolled their eyes, we ended up staying late into the night chatting and sharing dessert.

I hope your Eid was pleasant and enjoyed with those you love insh’Allah.

You can see more pictures at Shutterbug Sisters blog and Instagram or at Harlequin Sisters blogs here and here and Instagram

Eid-ul-Fitr 2018/1439: Day 1 - Family, Feasting and Fashion

After a Ramadan with long days of fasting, an intense job and hubby being away, I was more than happy not to be hosting Eid lunch for the family.  My mum insisted she would cook for everyone and no one objected.

I still had to cook so that we had something to eat at home: sevaiyah (vermicelli in milk dessert) for breakfast, tandoori chicken legs and channa chaat for guests and lamb curry for dinner.

Not doing a full meal for the whole family meant that we had time to get ready instead of rushing as usual, or worse, me in the kitchen with slippers and an apron over my new clothes while everyone turns up in heels and full makeup.

Hubby bought me something new to wear at the last minute (1am the night before Eid):

It's a lovely grown up shade of dusky pink and looked really elegant with the gharara-style trousers (type of trousers that flares from the knee and looks almost like a skirt when worn).

The babies for the prettiest rose-print dresses that my mum bought for all of the little girls in the family.

As always, the most important thing to the boys was their new socks, Gorgeous has a proclivity for loud socks and calls these his bumble socks.

Dinner at mums was the very flavoursome lamb pilau that gets made for Eid with kofta curry, chicken breast curry, lamb kebabs, tandoori chicken and accompaniments.  Fashionista Sister made us cake for dessert, rich, dark and slightly bitter:

The afternoon was spent opening presents, admiring outfits and pestering little people for photo sessions:

This box of scarf cupcakes was a gift from my aunt, I thought it was a nice little idea, the scarf colours were lovely too:

This ring is from shutterbug sister and is the best present ever: jewellery, green, sparkle, natural motifs, all of my favourite things in one.

I laughed when I saw my dads gifts, everyone seems to have bought him scent, the box on the right is from me

Late afternoon my brother invited us all back to his house for a barbecue.  Sister in law is a fab cook and her mum who made us all lamb pilau is even better.  I liked the way they planned the meal – everyone in her family brought a dish and one person is not lumbered with all the work.  Plus the barbecue meant that the men got off their bottoms and helped out too.  I think I will suggest something like this for next Eid.

The lamb pilau was one of the best I have tasted and so full of taste that it didn’t need anything with it, I added salad because it was a very nice salad, I have recreated at home and will share the recipe soon insh’Allah

It was a very nice Eid alhamdulillah  

Thursday 21 June 2018

Eid-ul-Fitr 2018/1439: Eid Decor and Crafts

I didn’t even try and be creative, or trendy with this years Eid décor and just went with my favourite theme for Eid: rainbow pastels.  I figured that it’s a summer Eid so I couldn’t go wrong.

As with the Ramadan decorations, Little Lady helped with cutting and assembling what I asked for.  The banners are made with DCWV textured plain coloured card stock with wooden letters on then that we spray painted silver (these are the letters I use and this is the spray paint I prefer).

The framed pictures are with more of the same card stock and smaller spray-painted wooden letters (we used these).  The two frames we created were embellished with a range of adhesive gems from various sources.

The children filled the large plastic drink cups with sweets and wrapped with squares of cellophane cut from a large roll I have, the tops were tied with old loom bands.

The table cloth is a pretty scarf of mine, my dad-in-law saw the display and asked “isn’t that supposed to go on your head?”

Eid-ul-Fitr 2018/1439: Belated Eid Mubarak!

A belated Eid Mubarak everyone.  Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

I hope everyone had a happy, peaceful and blessed Eid insh'Allah full of sweet moments, good food and the company of loved ones.

“Anas ibn Malik reported that in the pre-Islamic period people (in Madinah) people used to celebrate two annual days of festivity. When Prophet (PBUH) came to Madinah he said, “you used to have two days of celebration, Allah (SWT) has replaced them with two better days: the day of Fitr and the day of Adha.” (Nisai’, Sunan al-Kubra’, 1, 542; Sunan al-Sughra 3:199).

The Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said: "The days of (Eid) are days of eating and drinking and of remembering God, the Exalted." ~ Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2, Number 153

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Picture of the Day 19.05.18: He's Home

My better half came home the night before Eid (Chand raat) after six weeks of doing dawah work in California.  As always there was relief and tears on my part and the sweetness of coming home to your loved ones on his.  But always as always there were the small recriminations tucked away in my heart.  Of being left to deal with it all by myself, of unruly boys and little ones and in-laws to look after.  Of the barbed comments from people about his leaving that I have had to endure so many times. Of feeling like my life is on hold every time he goes away.  Of feeling stronger every time, but resenting having to be so strong.

He dropped off his bags, we broke fast together and then took me shopping at 1am despite my protestations that I have something to wear for Eid.  As it was chand raat the shops were all open and there was a really celebratory vibe everywhere.  I found something I really liked and then he insiste we find a scarf to match it.

We had a beautiful Eid alhamdulilah and as always when he returns, he has been at his kindest and most understanding, waiting for the complaints to subside and helping me as much as he can.  Knowing I am tired, he gently reminds me that he could not do what he does, if we did not do what we do, and what he does is so important to us.

On my part I have to remember the importance of his dawah work, the value of it in the sight of Allah (SWT) and the benefits.  He tells me the people he met in California were soft hearted and listened to him, many were concerned for the iman (faith) and upbringing of their children and were thinking about how they could ensure faith remained a part of their lives.

In any case, I am glad to have him home and I am thinking about how I can reward myself with a break of some kind, if not physical, then mental at least.

Chocs from America, I look forward to taste testing these :)