26 December 2018

muslim convert at christmas

Wednesday, December 26, 2018 0 Comments



Christmas! Who doesn't love Christmas, eh?

Well, it seems that a lot of people believe that Muslims actually hate it. Ok, some probably do, but not all.

It can be a challenging time though, particularly for reverts/converts. As if it's not hard enough being a revert, suddenly we have to give up the traditions we grew up with, because the whole world is telling us how haraam it is.

Yes, it's a fact that we shouldn't partake in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, because the basis of Christmas is that he was the son of God, born human to save mankind. And while Muslims do believe in Jesus, in Islam he is one of the prophets sent to guide us, and we don't believe he was the embodiment of God on Earth.

But do we really have to be so hard on ourselves?

I believe it's all about the balance.

Living in a country where Christmas is a massive part of the culture, we can't avoid it anyway. But we're ok with it. There are Christmas trees and decorations everywhere, and all places play Christmas music. My child took part in the Nativity play, wore a Christmas jumper, had Christmas lunch at school, Christmas party where all the kids got books "from Santa" like every year, he even went to Santa's grotto at the school's winter fair. Does it make us celebrate the actual meaning of Christmas? No. For Adam it's part of learning about the culture, just like they learn about Diwali, Chinese New Year, Ramadan and Eid (when they also have a big party). 

I also believe it's about our intentions. How can we ignore our families' celebrations, yet expect them to acknowledge our Eids? I might not go home for Christmas, as it can get pretty pricey over the festive period, but we do send some small gifts every year and I always get on Skype to mum and dad. It's about the family time for us, and we don't even mention the religious aspect of the holidays.

To all the converts/reverts out there - small steps is the way to go. Don't feel bad for spending Christmas with your loved ones! If they pray before the meal, you might want to get on with getting the food ready for serving. If you feel that you can't avoid stuff you're not comfortable with, visit them on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Keep in mind that Islam also teaches to maintain the family ties.

Other Muslims - go easy on the converts, especially the new ones. What you take for granted, some of us might struggle with for years to come.

All in all it's about finding that balance, finding what will work for you without compromising your beliefs. Hope you all find it and can always have a great time over the Christmas period! 

30 November 2018

Presto Snow*

Friday, November 30, 2018 0 Comments
This post contains affiliate links, as an Amazon Associate I'll earn money through qualifying purchases.


Oh my, how the year has flown again! Can't believe it's the end of November already, and only one month left of 2018. This means that winter will be officially starting too, eek! And what does the winter need? Snow!

While we wait for the real stuff, Adam's been having fun with some artificial one from Presto Snow.






Presto Snow is a magical powder, made of super absorbent polymer. It absorbs 100 times its weight in water, and can expand up to 30 times its volume - just one 5g scoop of the powder makes up approximately one cup of snow! A full 100g tub will make about 7 liters of white fluff.


Here's how it works:




It's really easy - add 60ml of water per scoop (just make sure you measure the water properly so you don't end up with wet slush) and the polymer powder will absorb it, turning into fluffy artificial snow. 







The positives: kids can play with it inside, and for long - it won't make their hands freeze. It won't melt, and lasts for days - you just need to gently sprinkle it with water to freshen up. I would advise to not keep it in a sealed container - we did, and after a few days it started smelling a little like damp, so, yeah... (totally my bad!)







One negative - you can't build anything with it - once you make it into snow, it's like the dry kind that doesn't stick into snowballs or anything. Adam had fun making a little winter village, but that's about all you can do with it. I do think it would work great for some winter or Christmas decorations though, if that's something you do!



If you'd be interested in some Presto Snow, it's available in 50g and 100g tubs from Amazon:    


     

05 November 2018

New chapter

Monday, November 05, 2018 4 Comments
It's now been a week since I turned 30.





Honestly I thought I'll be feeling emotional or something. It's a milestone birthday after all! It should be a whole new chapter of my life!

It kinda made me feel super young to be able to say "I'm in my twenties" - even when I eventually got to 29. Somehow being in my twenties made me think of the thirty-somethings as more mature, even though they weren't necessarily that much older than me. I guess it kinda came from being that older one - when you're in your 20s, the teenagers tend to look at you as someone so much older (even if you're just 20-21, and they're 18-19). There's something about moving into another decade of your life that makes you feel relatable only to people within the same decade - one up or down and it can feel like this huge gap, even if it isn't. 

It's probably really chaotic and silly what I'm saying, but hopefully someone here will get me lol!

Anyway - I'm feeling nothing in particular. Well, I did get emotional, but not because of the birthday itself, but because Hubby was ever so thoughtful and brought the cake, flowers, bottle of fizzy (non-alcoholic of course), cards from him and the kids and a balloon. I got emotional, because it's just my silly nature - I played the Disney songs playlist off YouTube for Adam the other day, and Lion King's "Circle of life" still sets me off. But it just felt like any other birthday, my life didn't take some sort of sudden turn, I'm not feeling any more mature, or in any way different for that matter.


But, regardless of how I feel about being 30 - it's time to get a grip. At the moment I'm not necessarily in the position to work outside, so I really need to get serious about trying to do something from home. I know I've said it a million times before, but I really should stop neglecting the blog for the start. A massive thanks go to sister Jameela from Ilma Education for setting up the Blog Post challenge and giving us prompts to get us writing. Let's hope this will be my motivation to write regularly, and finally use all the topics I just keep writing down in my notebook!


30 June 2018

The flavour-led weaning with Zainab Jagot Ahmed*

Saturday, June 30, 2018 0 Comments
Oh my, has it really been so long again? To be fair though, there has been a massive change in our lives again - we decided to leave Bedfordshire for the sunny (so far) Manchester! We're slowly adjusting and hopefully I can pick up the pace again.

Anyway - I'm lucky with the hot weather, because Aminah is nearly 8 months old, which means she's been enjoying her solids for a while now. And when I say enjoy, I mean my laundry detergent supply is nowhere near big enough.

When we started our weaning adventure, I got my hands on "The Flavour-led Weaning Cookbook" by Zainab Jagot Ahmed. Like probably most of us, she went through countless books, websites, forums and blogs to learn about weaning, but what she found left her underwhelmed. All the baby food just seemed... boring. Followed by extensive research into baby nutrition, food groups and the benefits of herbs and spices, Zainab started creating her own flavoursome baby food recipes, designed to tickle those little taste buds and encourage the love of variety in food.


flavour-led weaning



The book is great for all parents - both weaning beginners and those with a bit of experience. Zainab starts by explaining the weaning basics, including advice on when to start and how we know that baby is actually ready for it. She also explains two of the most common weaning techniques - spoon feeding and baby-led weaning, followed by an introduction to her concept of flavour-led weaning.





So, what actually is flavour-lew weaning? It's basically making sure, no matter what your weaning technique, that you provide the baby with variety of flavours from the start. The cookbook actually starts with the seemingly most basic fruit and vegetable purees, but there might be some flavours you'd never think to give to your baby - most of us probably stick to things like apple, carrot, potato, banana... While Zainab encourages us to try papaya, aubergine, or melons - things that are somewhat less obvious choices.throughout the book we're slowly moving into mixing ingredients and flavours (aubergine&cauliflower or pea&pear puree), adding spices like cinnamon, cardamom or ginger, through more textured meals to finger foods, chunkier meals and finally to big table means that whole family can enjoy.





Inspired by one of Zainab's stage 2 recipes for Tangy Apple Dhal, last time I cooked dhal for the family I made a portion for Aminah too. I made the masala in the usual way, skipping salt and chilli, but using ginger and garlic as well as some ground coriander and turmeric. 





I wish I had a book like this when weaning Adam, maybe he wouldn't have turned into such a fussy eater now ;) But I'm glad to have it now, it definitely encouraged me to be braver with feeding Aminah, and I know I can be bolder with the use of spices and flavours.


I'd definitely recommend this to anyone, not just those who are starting the weaning process, but also those with older babies and toddlers, looking for flavoursome age-appropriate meals.


You can get a copy HERE


*I was sent a copy of the above book by the author, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions, as always, are my own.

04 April 2018

The Ducktrinors*

Wednesday, April 04, 2018 0 Comments
As much as I love books, I hardly get time for them around my little monsters. Over the past few years I got myself quite a few (and even Hubby treated me to the whole set of my beloved Harry Potter), but my reading time always ends at reading Adam his bedtime story.

When I got a chance to do this review through the Muslimah Bloggers, I thought this is a perfect opportunity - having a deadline meant I would have to make time for my own reading, no excuses!

Well, I didn't really expect to get so hooked that I read it in less than a day! But oh my, it felt so good to read a book for my own pleasure again - and it would seem that I still have it in me to gobble up books like I used to.


Anyway.


The book I was so enthusiastically reading was The Ducktrinors: Book 1 and Book 2 of  the Jihad Series by Papatia Feauxzar.






The Ducktrinors is a sci-fi novel aimed at Young Adults. 

The story is set in the dystopian future, in the times when the world is ruled by Seculars and open display of one's religious beliefs can get the person imprisoned, or even killed. It is a future so distant, that the 21st century is often mentioned as the "ancient history".

Our main character is Hanifa Ducktrinor - a rebellious young Muslim woman. She believes that the end of times is near, and has a strong desire to visit Turkey and find the Ashab al-Kahf cave to join the fight of Jesus (AS) and Mahdi against Gog and Magog.

We meet the Ducktrinors in Brazil, where they moved from South Africa, fearing persecution following Hanifa's careless actions. They are a typical practising Muslim family - they perform their daily prayers, observe Ramadan and Eids, they even have family halaqa sessions. Hanifa and her three siblings are also named after the four madhabs. But under the Seculars' regime they can't practise openly.

The story starts on the first day of school, when Hanifa joins her siblings at the Castle 5, ran by Secular Deputy Sylas Yumaneter. Throughout the year she forms friendship, discovers many more hidden Muslims, and eventually joins the Seculars just to plot the rebellion from the inside and form the army ready to join her on her quest to Turkey.




So, what did I think?


Well, it was actually my first encounter with Muslim fiction. Even though it's aimed at Young Adults and I'm probably out of this group by now, I really got hooked and have gone through the 500-odd pages in just few hours!


What I liked, is that each chapter clearly identifying the scene, and the character whose point of view is displayed. The book is filled with Islamic references, cleverly tied into the story through Ducktrinors' conversations and descriptions of their halaqa sessions. Although we don't know the specific time setting, there are some strong indicators that the end of times is near: our characters having to hide their religious beliefs, women appearing naked despite being dressed, buildings so tall they seem to never end - to just mention a few. The book is a really engaging way to teach or remind the readers some basic Islamic principles.

What I didn't like, was that at times I was getting slightly confused. Couple of chapters were like other Ducktrinor kids' childhood memories - while interesting and filled with Islamic references, overall they didn't seem to add anything to the story. Towards the end, when it's time for the battle between Hanifa's army and the Seculars, there are chapters filled with the additional characters' thoughts - I must admit that I kinds skimmed through those, they didn't really interest me and I just wanted to get back to the main story and find out what happened. 

At times I also felt like the writing was a bit rushed, like the stories of particular chapters were explained really briefly. But then, towards the end of the book, we finally get all the explanations - and even a little plot twist thrown into the mix!






Overall, it was quite a good read. I'd say it's suitable for young readers aged 14-15+, due to mild sexual references and violence. Apart from the few short parts I chose to skip, the story is really engaging. It's an interesting vision of the future close to the end of times, also reflecting on the current state of Muslim ummah. We have all sorts of futuristic concepts, including teleportation device and even time travel. There were a couple of ideas there that reminded me of the Harry Potter series - could The Ducktrinors be its futuristic, Muslim equivalent?




If any of that has sparked your interest, The Ducktrinors is now available to buy as:






*I was sent an eBook for the purpose of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

27 February 2018

New reads from Kube Publishing*

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 0 Comments
You know you have a keen little reader at home, when the postman brings a flat parcel and your child immediately asks "Are these books, mummy?"


The most recent additions to our home library came from Kube Publishing. They were kind enough to send us two lovely books: Yan's Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime by Fawzia Gilani and Zak and His Little Lies by J. Samia Mair.






Title:  Yan's Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime
Author: Fawzia Gilani
Price: £3.99


"Once upon a time there lived a farmer called Yan. He dreamed of visiting the Kaaba to perform Hajj. For he loved Allah more than anything else.
One day, when his money bag was full, he set off on a journey that would last a lifetime."



When I saw the title, I thought it would be one of those books explaining the Hajj to the kids. Instead, it's a heartwarming story of a poor farmer, whose biggest dream is to perform the pilgrimage to Makkah, because he loves Allah so much. Little does he know, his journey will actually take him a lifetime!

Our poor farmer works hard to fill his money bag and complete the pilgrimage to Makkah. However, on his way he comes across people in need, and his kind nature makes him stop his journey and help. This leaves him out of pocket, but he just goes back to earn more money. Years pass, and Yan's every attempt to reach Makkah is unsuccessful, until he gets too old to earn. But then an unexpected visitor from the past helps him fulfill his lifelong dream, and Yan gets repaid for all his kindness.




This story is a lovely reminder to help others, and that kindness and good deeds always get rewarded in the end.


I'm a big fan of the illustrations in this book, they have a really "soft" feel if you know what I mean. The language is simple enough for my four-year-old, and there's not too much text on each page, so he can read it himself and not get overwhelmed.


**********




Title: Zak and His Little Lies
Author: J. Samia Mair
Price: £4.99


"Zak is on his final warning. If he tells one more lie, however little, he won't be going to the skate park with Baba and Hana. With one job left to do, what could go wrong? A lot, it turns out (...)."


Zak is about to learn a big lesson about lying. He and his sister Hana have only one chore left for the day - delivering some baklava to the neighbours before they can go to the skatepark. Turns out that still leaves Zak with a few opportunities to bend the truth. We can quickly see, however, that Zak himself is the one suffering the consequences of his little lies. That is, until he does some real damage and lets Mama and Baba blame Hana for it. But then he sees his Quran and remembers that "Nothing in the earth and in the heavens is hidden from Allah".


At the end of the book we also found a great little Q&A activity for the kids, along with the Hadith and Quran verses about being truthful.


This one is definitely more suited for a bit older children, but younger ones can enjoy it with some help from a grown-up.