Archives

Parental Guidance

image

Being an avid animation fan, I find
myself tuning in from my seat height as an adult down through my toddler’s eyes. Cartoons are not automatically okay to plant your child in front of the screen with full consent; PG is not just a suggestion, your guidance is needed.

Provided the most family friendly movie, there remains some themes and ideas that as a parent you may choose to highlight or talk about. It’s such a great way to bond with them on those favourite characters given your approval, and fair enough to take time and discuss what might be underlying through that 90 minute feature. It’s your responsibility to try and make it fun and safe.

Even with U rated cartoons,  there could be some crude humour that they don’t have to pick up. Subliminal messages sent range from body image to obsessing over the franchise merchandise, so it’s not really over after the movie. Though girls are very much more empowered than they were in the first ever Disney’s Snow White, there are mixed messages on dress codes that are hindering your hijab advice at a very young age.

As a Muslim, it remains a challenge to find representation in animation; so trying to keep up with the glitz and glamour of those Disney and Dreamworks heroes with real life narratives of our Islamic role models is proving ever so difficult.  Not just on screen, but also on page, despite having a growing base of brilliant Islamic books for the younger ones, tweens can be a target audience worth reaching for.

Of course there are other parents who would rather put a ban on the screen altogether which I totally respect; but as far as a balance may be possible, I hope to be able to watch responsibly and find alternative animations that tell our stories too. I wish to get him more off the passive production and into the  creative world of reading allowing his imagination to bloom and blossom. Finally, I pray may Allah guide us to inspire a generation happily ever after.

Advertisements

10 Tips to Brighten your Day ISA

image

We all know that “woke up on the wrong side of bed” feeling all too well. Maybe
it’s stress, a series of unfortunate events or just pure mood swings that take a toll on our day. Yet most of the time given the right outlook to life, we can make a turn around with “tawakol” at heart and asking Allah for the strength and guidance to see the yellow flowers when the sky is grey.

Here are some tips and habits:

1. Start with Fajr and Athkar: the chance to catch the dawn of day with spirits high will keep Shaytan away. Also the early bird gets the worm, or in this case; “barakah”.
2. Have a hearty breakfast: not necessarily calorific, but hearty as in try to take the time to join the family table for the first meal and first smiles before your 9 to 5 or school runs.
3. Use your ” inside voice”: this tip is for you mummies freaking out over those all too-relaxed time oblivious kids, because really yelling won’t get them going. When trying keep up to schedule for school just try to work out what really saves time (like prepacked backpacks from the night before) rather than stressing out over the little stuff. Watch how that Japanese got her kid ready to go in 5 mins, it’s mind blowing!
4. Smile: research suggests that even if it’s a forced grin, your brain responds to the face muscles eventually and actually releases endorphins, so turn that frown upside down 🙂
5. Learn something new: unlike dogs, we’re never really too old to learn new tricks. Be it an online course on whatever sparks your interest or fits your passion, try Lynda.com or Cousera. You may even join a baking class.
6. Your daily dose of Quran: believe in how the Holy book reconnects you with His words SWT and how your heart is softened and worries are lifted with His will inshaAllah
7. Keep in touch with friends: and I don’t mean browsing Facebook aimlessly… Get in touch on a personal level, whether out for a cuppa or in for a call. And no backbiting 😛
8. Chocolate: instant endorphins 😀
9. Fresh air: a walk in the park or a city by the sea, and even if it’s rainy just keep your umbrella at hand. The exercise, the beauty of nature….Subhan Allah
10. Astaghfirullah for the past, Alhamdulillah for the present,InshaAllah for the future ❤

Mummy Milestones

image

There are moments…
1- When you’re watching your favourite cartoon but he thinks it’s scary, and you train him to ‘conquer his fears’, suddenly he’d rather hug its toy than you!
2- When you’re joining him in his first daaays of nursery,staying with him in class like an oversized toddler, bored to bits with wasting your precious time.
3- When you’re waiting at the nursery door eavesdropping at his heartbreaking cries, too busy absent minded to do anything with your new found time.
4- When you’re going out on a fine sunny day in the park, but rush back home after a tantrum over pebbles… Yes… pebbles!
5- When you’re not quite sure if he’s picking up your reading, then as soon as you pick up the Quran he says Ameeeeen.
6- When you’re excused during your (ehm) off days, and he voluntarily hands your prayer dress “Sally Mama” … embarrassing
7- When you’re complaining about how naughty he’s been and he comes up with open arms “Huuuug”
8- When you’re cheering and clapping with genuine excitement for a single success of “potty please Mama” knowing that it’s not a triumph yet, an “accident” is just around the corner, around 2 o’clock.
9- When you’re out in the shops and he decides to nap in the stroller, you’re almost shushing everyone in sight. Sleep tight.
10- When you’re sorting out your priorities to his likes and dislikes, but still selfishly silly fighting with a two year old over the last cookie.

Just as there are baby breakthroughs, there are your very own mummy milestones when you’re tried and tested, learning more than you teach and practising more than you preach… With all their ups and downs you wouldn’t and shouldn’t trade them for the world.

“رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا”

“Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.”

Day4: Swimming Swan ((5Days 5Photos Challenge))

image

As you lead the way in our harmonious swim, I look back at the day you were but a hatchling. A tiny fuzz of feathers so full of life. I remember your first swim, your hesitant paddles, and your tracing my every move. Today your confidence is gaining, and the clinging is waning, quite enough to speed the pace, leaving me behind; reassuringly there but independently flowing through the stream. I know you’re not that settled yet, gradually discovering the lake, carefully peeping over your wings to find me nearby.

A milestone for you but more so for mummy, as emotions beyond my words soar inside. They grow so fast, and Spring won’t last, feeling blissful beyond compare. I’m proud to call you my own, not mine to keep, but mine to hold in my heart and release in the wild, into the water, into the wind. I pray I never fail you, and never lose sight of the bounties of this blessing.

I’ll miss that grey ‘duckling’ never ugly in my sight, as joy and wonder takes me in the follow of your first white flight.

Day2: Baby Shower ((5Days 5Photos))

image

Photo taken by Hassan Kassem

Those tiny socks have a whole new meaning. A whole new feeling. As a little kick goes on inside me, my heart jumps. The miracle of life. Subhan Allah.

I can’t wait to meet you, hold you, hug you and cry. Tears of joy, yet maybe there’s some worry too. I wonder if I could ever be worthy enough. If I could ever be grateful enough. Alhamdulillah forever and always.

These past few months have been a transformation, both physical and emotional. I stand on swollen feet I can hardly see, as you block my view in this little bump you are. For once I have only imagined how selfless a parent can be, today, your father and I both know it now for real. “And Allah has made for you mates (and companions) of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best” this verse rings in my ears loud and true, praise be to Allah, may you be raised in His guidance. Waiting, anticipating, appreciating your grandparents with a mere metre in their shoes. Such a joy, such a journey and such a responsibility.

I sense a new chapter of my life unfold, still to be told. I fear I might not be up to the challenge; and the change might be overbearing. But this is the only constant there is, change. I pray I may get the chance to be around and watch you write your own story, as you may grow out of my arms but never out of my heart.

photo credits go out to my other half, and his wonderful photoshoot in my ninth month… May Allah bless us, guide us, my little family.

For the love of Cake

image

It’s easy to get caught up in the details, lose sight of purpose and obsess over the little stuff; but not really when you have a recipe, a fool proof recipe… Being a “Bake Off” fan through and through, I know one thing, that no matter how inviting a show-stopper looks, it all falls down to what’s on the inside. Hint, this article holds more food for thought than baking tips and tricks.

Earlier this month, we had planned a party for our little one. Since one of his first few words was “beep-beep-cars”, I had the theme all in mind. Spread over days, a few hours glued to YouTube tutorials on ” how to bake a car cake”; in fact, a Lightning McQueen Cake! Of course reality check had me reconsider the prospect of my cake cutting skills given that this would have been my second celebration cake to bake, ever, in my entire life. So two cakes later, prep and practice, I hit a quite obvious revelation, it’s all in the taste. You see, to meet those elaborate plans for the 3D car, I had to compromise my favourite tried out recipe for another not too springy solid sponge cake, and worse, buttercream to hold form. If there’s one thing a sweet tooth like me ever finds sickly it’s buttercream! So would a party of four plus one fussy taster forgive this untried venture for a Facebook post picture perfect pastry? I thought not. And so it was, I tuned down the plans to keep it simple, to keep it tasty, and more importantly to keep me sane. A few cookie cutters there, my usual round cake pan and voila, mashaAllah! Don’t take my word for it, ask them , I humbly declare it was delicious.

As we got through with our forks, I had a more profound revelation, seriously this time. I imagined how much time and effort we spend on perfecting our image, our body and foresake our inner self, our soul. Hence, the metaphor explained; we move about life with tried out recipes for success, be it Allah’s SWT divine spiritual guide, Prophetic example, history or previously worked out experiences; yet we sometimes push the recipes aside in fake confidence of cooking up a masterpiece. With no real practice or focus on what matters most, we lose the taste of what’s on the inside in favour of appealing to applause. As a Muslim, there’s an ever reminder of how it is the soul that matters, the purity of intentions to please the Lord of the worlds, not the worldly crowd.

I know it might be ironic to reflect on cake, sometimes nicknamed as a ‘guilty pleasure’; but really it helped me for a moment to put things in perspective. The trick is, like a bake, life is meant to be a recipe walkthrough, though unexpected events might always arise. And like cake, we need to be constantly reminded of our essence within. Of course it wouldn’t hurt to have a gastronomic glam, but it definitely won’t make up for an inedible one. In a world of snarling social media, we are often entrapped in a competition to boast ourselves, that we so much so overshadow our self esteem with the aftermath of “likes” or lack of them. And more crucially we risk our good deeds with a pinch of Reyaa’, a dangerous lurking flavour that has a bitter after taste.

So next time I’m in the Kitch, I guess there’ll be more on my plate than a dessert. It’s a fine balance of priorities that I pray to find and act upon. Hope you enjoyed this extra slice.

P.S.: tune in to the comments for the recipe, for real.

Dawah for Dummies

word cloud
Dawah, often defined as preaching to Islam; yet as the Arabic meaning holds it is more of an invitation to understand Islam for those who are yet to know it, yet to accept it. Yet, we mostly as Muslims find ourselves somewhat lost in translation, adopting a “hit and run” approach where we count a revert ‘Shahada’ as the end goal and that’s that. However, if we are to convey the true message of Islam especially in the face of an ever discouraged environment, we may as well adapt to a more holistic strategy of Islam as a lifestyle, as it should be. Now I am no certified ‘da’iah’ preacher, yet the responsibility of marketing myself as a Muslim is beyond self-branding, and I pray that I am not a contradictory ‘fitna’ to the Non-Muslim onlooker.

Perhaps my readers by now have sensed my love for alliteration, the choice of the title serves the double meaning for this article. Firstly, dummies in a US English sense, as in me being a complete beginner to the practices of preaching. So note here without taking the words on the offensive, you the beginner preacher are the –ehm- dummy to the ways of the trade. Through trial and error, and first-hand experience I aim to give a humble incomplete guide to how to confront the reasoning of your Non-Muslim acquaintances in an inviting manner. With a little help from a marketing background, I pray we may be able to learn how to dawah to prospective customers.

For my encounters with curious friends and colleagues about Islam, I find many of their concerns arise from three main points; Women’s rights, animal rights, and diversity in Islam. For a born and raised Muslim, these may seem like givens. But to an apprehensive audience who are bombarded with media suggesting an abusive ritual against all these rights, a clear understanding is in need. I remember a friend of mine referring to Eid Al-Adha as the “sheep murdering bayram”… it did sound harsh, but I genuinely cared for her concern. I tried to explain how the true teachings of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) enforce a clean swift cut where the animal is submitted and unseen by its sheep kind as not to strike fear. I further highlighted the research proven benefits of blood drainage of the meat yet to be eaten. And I even went to further readings on the yet disputed rulings of pre-stunning that is sometimes allowed in a context of “Halal”. As for women rights, it seems essential to differentiate between backward culture and sound Islamic guidance. With all the radical killings and ill-practiced misinterpretation of extremists at the time it is an ongoing effort to prove that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, accepting peaceful diversity and coexistence.

All in all, to the dummy little me I found there are a few “Do’s and Don’t’s” to help with the process, so the ten countdown is as follows:
Don’t Judge: in fact, let go of any feelings of superiority or “kibr” as they may not only ruin your “niyyah” and intentions, but they would also show in a rather uninviting tone.
Don’t take the Offensive: this is not a matter of clearing your name or defending your clan, but rather prove your point as objectively as possible.
Don’t give Excuses for not doing Dawah: you may spread the word in the most unconventional of media, in your own pace in your own context, yet don’t do like me and resist for so long the responsibility of simply showing Islam 101.
Don’t get Lost in Priorities: whilst it is true that the five pillars of Islam are what the building firm and strong, they may not well be the very first thing you should present. The most inspiring of all is Ja’afar ibn Abi-Talib’s speech as he eloquently and concisely presented Islam to the King of Abisinya: “We were an uncivilised people. God sent us an apostle who commanded us to speak the truth, be faithful to our engagements, mindful of the ties of kinship and kindly hospitality, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He forbade us to commit abominations and to speak lies, and to devour the property of orphans, to vilify chaste women. He commanded us to worship God alone and not to associate anything with Him, and he gave us orders about prayer, alms and fasting [enumerating the commands of Islam]. So we believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah; and we follow what he asked us to do and we avoid what he forbade us to do.”
Don’t Lie: it may seem very obvious, yet often we might sugar-coat the truth to appeal to our audience. Big mistake! Learning from the preaching of Abisinya, Ja’afar did not for once confuse the fact that Islam believes in Jesus as the apostle, but not the son of God. Half-truths are worse than lies. You may well try to explain the virtues of the veil to an unassuming free spirited bikini wearer as that it would eliminate sexual harassment altogether, but unless you are keen on sharing the utmost importance of lowering the gaze responsibility on men, you are effectively victim-blaming women; and offering a confusing communication on how veiled women are still harassed and raped.
Do as you Teach, Practice what you Preach: there is nothing more confusing than a non-practicing Muslim; I confess that it is a daily trial to not give mixed messages. Though of course Islam is not Muslims, not imperfect and faulty, but there is a thin line.
Do your Research: relying on your information is one thing, yet as new questions surface you should always try to refer to resources for your message.
Do your Targeting right: for every target audience there is a fair way to handle the positioning. Neighbours differ from colleagues differ from wondering walkers asking about your veil. And build on the base of beliefs for each group, where again the example of Ja’afar when he was asked to recite verses from the Quran he carefully chose Surat-Maryam, touching the heart of the Christian King.
Do keep up to date: try to be proactive to the counter claims and “Halal” hysterias as they arise, showing your side of the story without being rude… simply cursing at the “Daily Mail” is not going to get you anywhere.
Do your After-Sales Support: if God-willing your efforts are blessed with a Muslim convert taking ‘Shahadah’, know that this is just the beginning. Keep actively in touch supporting your new sister through the calamities and trials she will face. Remember, retaining a loyal customer is far more important and rewarding than attracting new ones. And Surat-Abasa is an everlasting reminder of how the Chosen One (PBUH) was advised to attend to the blind revert, rather than invite the leaders of Quraish.

Secondly, and in conclusion, the “dummies” as in the UK English dictionary meaning, of baby soothers, we may well be reminded that teaching our children about Islam is an inviting involving process that starts very early at age, rather than “because I said so” sort of strategy. I pray to teach my son to love Islam as it should be, not merely a culture or an arguable way of the family.