…and what is Ummi going to do this Ramadan?

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

FotorCreated

Us mothers, we tend to be very concerned with our children’s education and development into strong and sincere Muslims – and rightfully so. But do we give at least the same amount of thought and care to our own growth, strenght and sincerity?

This post is NOT about me. I am not going to sit there and expose my shortcomings. It is about people in a situation similar to mine: Muslim women that are at a stage in their life in which they are (intensively and extensively) caring for others.

Let’s take a hypothetical sister which we will call Umm ‘Abdullah. She is feeling somewhat apprehensive  at the thought of Ramadan approaching. That could be due to a low point in her Imaan, to the fact that she knows one should do so much more in Ramadan but the reality is that she doesn’t do much even outside of it.  Not much there to build on.  She might also feel overwhelmed by her committments and poorly equipped to make her Islamic education a priority in her life.

Wouldn’t it be great if we also had someone staying up late in the evening to prepare us a Ramadan calendar with daily treats? Maybe some Ramadan themed party games and a treasure hunt? or a month long “craft-athon”???? … maybe. But Allah has put us in charge of ourselves (among all the other people we care for). Each of us will not have to respond to Allah about little ‘Abdullah as much as she will have to respond about herself.

So, basically – and by Allah’s leave – it is down to us to take action to benefit ourselves.

Let’s ask for guidance: Allah is All Able to sort out the universe and everything in it so He can most certainly help us up on our feet and beyond. We must remember to ask.

Let’s take a look at ourselves: Right now. Not the way we used to be and do things before having kids, nor the way we envisage life when they will have all grown and moved out. Now. What do we need to learn about the most? In which area are we most deficient?

Let’s consider our individual skills and inclinations: What comes easy and what do we enjoy learning that can bring us closer to our Creator? What is the most efficient way for us to increase our knowledge of Him, ou love for His Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), our connection to His Qur’an…

Let’s take into account committments and time constraints: We must be realistic and flexible and don’t set goals that are to high and/or strictly connected to Ramadan. Leaving our husbands and kids to have to find their own dinner on a regular basis while we study all day is not a good idea. At the same time,  thinking that the children/babies/husband/work/mum/dad/chores/you name it make it impossible to take a little time to study something beneficial is simply not true.

I think a small and steady start is a beautiful thing. For example:

  • Choose a book to study or a set of lectures to listen to (plenty of very beneficial lessons on salafisounds, masha’Allah). Take notes. Draw mind-maps. Even better: pair up with a friend! you don’t have to meet up  necessarily (which could be difficult to keep up) but you can quiz each other, exchange notes and just share the benefits that each has found, as well as ideas to apply them to our life. Do what it takes for you to actually learn what is in the book/lecture.
  • Pick 4 ahadeeth (40 Nawawee is a great place to start) and memorise one each week of Ramadan, as well as studying the explanation. List benefits. List ways in which the hadeeth does (or should) impact on your life.
  • Attend Umm Mujaahid’s FREE daily class for sisters on WizIQ (to be notified about the course, create a Wiz IQ account and add Taalib Al-Ilm in your contacts); it is based on the book Fasting from Alif to Yaa, or just go through the book on your own or with your friends.
  • Dust off your Arabic books for the sake of Allah. Maybe conjugate a verb a day. Make flashcards. Use Memrise! It is such a wonderful tool for learning vocabulary and you get to use your competitive side to the advantage of learning (there is a score chart)! By the mercy of Allah, the Memrise course Arabic Through The Quran (based on the Alan Jones book) changed my relationship with the Qur’an because all of th Qur’anic vocabulary I learned. Alhamdulillah.
  • Try to speak Arabic. Maybe read a children’s book in Arabic everyday to your kids. Even the same one. Everyday.
  • Pick up your copy of Thalaathatul Usool or another core classical work. One of those things you never read enough, masha’Allah. Read the Arabic text and colour every word you understand. Try to memorise it. Learn the explanation. Teach it to your kids.

In fact, share any of the above things with your kids. Delivering what we have learned to others is one of the steps in consolidating that knowledge. Tell your husband/parents/siblings/friends what you have learned.

This is of course NOT meant to be an exhaustive list. Just a few ideas off the top of my head. Things that appeal to me personally.

Insha’Allah, let’s do something. Let’s take a step and may Allah grant us to please Him.

Of course, if anyone also wants to prepare a Ramadan calendar with a daily treat for me…. I like my chocolate dark. Barak Allahu feekum.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Summer : Thinking outside the bucket

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

I have learned what a “bucket list” is from Pinterest. I kept coming across them and, since me and the boys keep talking about what we should do in the Summer (only because the UK weather is likely to be less rainy then, we don’t really take Summer holidays…). I thought it would be fun to make our own. Especially today: baby H and myself have a cold and – alhamdulillah – last night was rough and I woke up feling a bit overwhelmed by my unwritten to-do list. For once I prioritised fun with the boys over the washing up. I did the most urgent jobs and left the dishes while we painted.

I let the boys pick the summery element we would use to write each item of the list. They picked ice lollies. I wanted pineapples (or t-shirt hanging on a string washing line… but I feared it would make the poster too heavy). I got to choose the technique: of course watercolour. Masha’Allah. Minimum skill, maximum splendour. I think most mammals with opposable thumbs could achieve a good result with watercolours!

You litterally just have to teach the child to use strokes rather than the back and forth motion we use to colour with pencils or felt tips. Masha’Allah. The beautiful layering of shades and transparency of watercolours creates a brilliant rendition of juicy ice lollies melting.

20160521_200800.jpg

I cut a template of the main shape from thin cardboard, we filled a few watercolour friendly sheets and coloured them without minding the lines (we were going to cut them anyway). Then we cut the sticks out of a brown envelope I had lying around. TA-DAH!

So here it is:

20160521_200410-1.jpg

(This lovely font is called “KG love you through it”)

I put it up in our usual poster display spot in the entrance after the boys’ bedtime. I can’t wait to see their reaction tomorrow morning insha’Allah.

Initially we kept it really simple and easily achievable, with entries such as these (even B had a go at writing on his own masha’Allah!):

Then Y started becoming much more ambitious…(the left photo below refers to archeological research, expressed is Y’s characteristically coincise style! … he has been digging up the garden in search of an ancient town…)

wp-1463859939792.jpeg

Until, when we were about to finish and I had popped upstairs to change H, Y shouted up to me to ask whether he could write this entry and I though “yeah sure, why not?!”

wp-1463859891557.jpeg

If our Summer is as fun as it was to make this poster, insha’Allah, it will be wonderful. We probably won’t need to go that far.

Clearer cupboards = Simpler life

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

Simplicity is not easy to achieve. In fact, it is a journey more than a destination. Alhamdulillah, it might have been the onset of Spring, or the fact I came across a couple of interesting articles about decluttering and minimalism that encouraged me to tackle my cupboards. To tackle the STUFF. AH! the STUFF!… you know what I mean when I say STUFF. I mean those piles, bunches and bundles of objects that once had a function and a place in our life but no longer do – or never had one to start with! And we just hang on to them because we think we *might* need them or we are just too busy (or lazy) to sort through them. And – alhamdulillah – the years pass, the family increases and so does the STUFF.

In Islam we know that every possible human action falls in one of 5 categories; it is either waajib (obligatory: you are rewarded if you do it and punished if you don’t), mustahabb (recommended and pleasing to Allah: you are rewarded if you do it and not punished if you don’t), mubaah (neutral – no punishment or reward), makrooh (displeasing to Allah: there is no specific punished associated to it, but it is sure blameworthy) or haraam (forbidden: you are punished if you do it and rewarded if you don’t). It is often the case that we can, with a little thought, raise the level of something we are about to do by adjusting our intentions.

How does this apply to the STUFF? Well, are we hoarding so much that we don’t actually know what we have and what we don’t? in that case it is easy to end up wasting money ( buying the same thing more than once, food going bad – hidden at the back of the cupboard, buying more and more furniture to store everything…). This is not just about waste, it is also about creating a clearer, cleaner space for the whole family to enjoy and to get better use out of, and – even more importantly – about correcting our mentality and rectifying our concept of need.

Do I really need 19 mugs when I am the only one in the house that drinks hot beverages??? But what if someday I need them? What if someday – in the middle of a cold, stormy night – a coach breaks down in front of my house? the coach taking the “Coffee Lovers Society” on a trip? and I would surely want to help them, you know, that’s good da’wah!….right?

Personally, I fear that having too much STUFF – particularly the STUFF that doesn’t get used regularly – is hurting me and my family, increasing even further our level of attachment to – you guessed it – STUFF. And here is how something seemingly inoffensive can become harmful.

We can choose to sit surrounded by ever expanding mountains of STUFF to store somewhere, dodge, dust, move from here to there, trip into, put some sore STUFF on…. OR we can:

  • Sell it – someone will use it and you will earn a little something to put to good use, insha’Allah.
  • Re-purpose it – the internet is absolutely full of creative ideas to avoid waste.
  • Gift it – some of your friends and family might have a use for – or really like – something that is sitting in your house gathering dust.
  • Donate it to your local charity shop or freecycle.
  • Recycle it.
  • Throw it away – if nothing else can be done – and live with less clutter.

It is a work in progress for me, but I very much enjoy the little victories against clutter -alhamdulillah! like freeing one of my deep kitchen drawers to put the things we used for homeschooling (that used to be dumped on the counter) and not having an avalanche of mismatched plastic food containers falling on my face every time I open a certain cupboard (as witnessed by many people who have been to my house).

And now some pictures I took at the beginning to keep myself motivated (I wish I had remembered to take the “before” picture before actually starting…)

 

wp-1461764781281.jpeg

wp-1461765086254.jpeg

^^These were the easy cupboards –  alhamdulillah

It helps to have a couple of (clearly labeled) empty boxes/bags handy, to sort the stuff into categories such as “give to …”, “put upstairs”, “shred”, “create a drawer for it” etc. Part of the challenge, and of the purpose of this exercise, is to organize whatever you are keeping handy with what you already have. Fight the urge to go out to buy boxes or pretty flowery drawer dividers!!!

You don’t want to go crazy with throwing away everything either (and then buy it again 2 months down the line because it turns out you actually needed it!). Be realistic. Have a box to put things you do use on some occasions, just not everyday, and have it somewhere less accessible. That’s where I put 15 of those 19 mugs, in case I have a lot of sisters over, or the “Coffee Lovers Society” drops by.

 

 

I love paper

Assalamu ‘alaykum.

I do. Brown parcel paper, washi paper, scrapbooking paper, origami paper, wrapping paper, pages of books and magazines… even the plastic wrapping of food packets (which technically isn’t even paper but plastic). Some papers are great to look at, some smell lovely, some are amazing to the touch and some tick all those boxes. It is such a wonderful, versatile material and there is so much all around us, just heading for the recycling bag.

I usually prefer not to wrap presents because I think it is a bit wasteful and also because when I was a child and it was time for the traditional equivalent to “Santa Claus”  that is fed to kids in the village I come from, my mother never wrapped our presents; instead, she would stay up at night beautifully arranging the gifts for myself, my siblings and cousins as though she was dressing a shop window; there were toys, clothes, books, stationary… all decorated with sweets. Looking back, with the knowledge of what the financial situation of my family was back then, I realise it was not mountains of expensive gifts, but that is certainly what it looked and felt like to us children. This is usually how I give presents on Eid ul-Fitr.

Eid ul-Adha usually ends up being a smaller affair (because it follows the day of Fitr quite closely) and my children love ripping through what they call “paper presents” (i.e. wrapped up gifts), so this year I decided to be creative with the pile of cooking magazines I had to throw away (which, incidentally are full of very colorful full page pictures of food).

A quick research on pinterest and here it is: Our recycled magazine paper Eid decorations and gift wrapping! (gift bows included!!!!!)

wpid-wp-1443174989059.jpeg

wpid-wp-1443174957617.jpeg

I had a lot of fun making this, it put me and the boys – who helped with the paper fans – in a very festive mood AND – when the festivities are over – the lot is going the get chucked in the recycling with a clear conscience. It was heading there anyway, at least it went out with a bang!

High expectations

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

A week ago we were blessed to travel to Birmingham to attend the “Hereafter” conference at Masjid As-Sunnah An-Nabawiyah. Alhamdulillah, it was very beneficial (may Allah bless the speakers, organisers and everybody that helped in it).Incidentally, it also delivered an important lesson to me about what I can and cannot do and about accepting the – few and moderate – restrictions that pregnancy is imposing on me. In other words, we couldn’t stay until the end but we are slowly catching up on the talks we missed (click the image to listen to the recordings:)

conference poster

The environment at the conference was lovely masha’Allah and it really felt like a blessed sitting, but one thing stuck with me. When I took a break for some fresh air (during one of the talks… erm… see what I said above about restrictions…) I noticed there were a lot of children of various age groups playing and generally hanging out outside. It felt strange to see the sisters trying their best to keep babies quiet and toddlers entertained during the lessons, while some older children and teenagers were outside, not benefitting. I am sad when during jumu’ah or ‘Eid prayers I see sisters coming in and immediately “settling” their children – from toddlers to teenagers (some of whom look not far if at all from the age of accountability) handing out iphones, tablets and other gadgetry. Children should be taught from their very first visit to a masjid or a lesson how they should behave in that environment. Of course, they might take a while to learn, but the effort from the parent needs to be there. Encouraging them to “kill time” does not teach them to sit quietly while the khateeb is talking, not to run around during salah and not to chat with their friends but to try to listen and benefit from what is being said. If we read the biographies of some of the major scholars, we will find that they were accustomed to sit in the gathering of knowledge of adults from an early age. And they sure weren’t handed an ipad to play some “educational” game on. Let’s try not to short change our children and to have the highest possible expectation that is appropriate to have for their age.

Of course I did not expect Bilal (who is 4) to listen to the talks at the conference, but I expected him to sit still, entertain himself quietly (with colouring, tracing, stickers, washi tapes and a little notebook, books, etc. which are not the same as giving him my phone to play on, because these are real, creative, tangible, beneficial activities), to whisper if he needs to tell me something and not to bother me (and others) with continuous requests for snacks/drinks/more entertainment/unreasonably frequent trips to the toilet (I’m sure anyone who has kids can tell when they don’t actually need it, right?), because Ummi needs to take notes.

My 7 year old sits with the men  (at shorter events, such as jumu’ah, the little one does too). I don’t only expect him to sit quietly and not to be a nuisance but I expect him also to listen and benefit as much as he can, to start learning how to be a member of that congregation. Now, I know he needs help with listening and following, so I gave him a “word search” to do, with a lot more spaces to tick every time he hears one of those words in the talks. Also a couple of lists to compile (the major signs of the Day of Judgement – which he missed – and some of the different names of the Day of Judgement, which he did very well masha’Allah).

wpid-20150530_132829-1.jpg

Alhamdulillah,  we are always very excited to take part in these events, both boys have been delivering lectures since *smile* they have been Abu Fulan and Abu Fulan, they talked about whose beard was longer (masha’Allah) and how their beards will look Insha’Allah.  Yusef reads out parts of the matn of “al-Waajibaat” (by shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhaab) in Arabic and English, and he expects me to take notes (“Where is your notebook Ummi?… you can make a spider diagram if you want…”). Well, Ummi needs to take notes, doesn’t she?

Sweet rewards

For a long time I thought about introducing a reward system connecting certain types of age appropriate house chores with money, but struggled to find the right format. Then I came across an ice-cream cone reward chart for toddlers on Pinterest (https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/397935317045719021/) and immediately loved it. It isn’t just cute, it is perfect for a boy who is still too small to read (and will still be for a while) as well as his older brother, it goes on the wall neatly instead of sitting on my kitchen counter where it could easily be knocked over (I had considered using jars with marbles), it doesn’t require much printing and did I already mention it is so cute? I want one for myself, for when I am a good insha’Allah. Plus I got to use my craft papers and laminator, which is always great fun.

wpid-wp-1424990951318.jpeg

The idea is not that children should be paid for contributing to housework. It is their duty to pitch in and I do not believe they are entitled to payment for it per se. However, I want to encourage them and to create good habits, insha’Allah. I want them to learn to be responsible for whatever money they have, to chose how (and if) to spend it and to know where it comes from, insha’Allah. Also, I chose some specific jobs they dislike to do. I am not going to reward Bilal for washing the dishes or Yusef for reading, for example, because they love it and they would do it for hours given the chance… the list I put on the chart is not exhaustive and I do add things as they come to my mind. I might even do the opposite: restricting the reward if an ice-cream scoop only to a specific job they are particularly adverse to(i.e. Yusef taking off his clothes neatly or Bilal dressing on his own, as he can get lazy about that).

So far it is working well, Alhamdulillah. My husband said I’ve been too generous by putting £5 as a target… Yusef is already almost there… I was stuck for an amount to put, I didn’t want to be too liberal with it but also I wanted to give something they could realistically spend in an amount of time that wouldn’t be so long they would completely forget what they are doing and why. But the prize awarded might be modified as we go along.

wpid-20150225_112032.jpg

Growing up with the Qur’an

This morning Yusef put the last sticker.

wpid-20150225_091835-1.jpg

I am proud of him and immensely thankful to my husband (Allahumma baarik alayhimaa) because of their hard work, and every success is only from Allah. It was very frustrating at times, for all of us… but Yusef is very happy. And he should be! May Allah always attach our children’s hearts (and indeed our own!) to His Book.

Now off to plan how to teach him the meaning all he memorised.

(the poster above is from here https://www.learningroots.com/hifdh-shelf and it has juz’ 30 on the back)