Tuesday, December 27, 2016

All that's Sweet is not necessarily Sweeeeet

Chocolate cake and macarons. Strawberry jelly, lemon cheesecake and cronuts. Who doesn't like sweet things? And it's all ok if handled in moderation. 

The issue comes in when we make this our objective, and spend too much money, time and effort on this. And when we dont know when and where to stop and go over any reasonable limits. This point is timely given the festive time of year when sweet indulgences are top of mind - and in full swing for most of us!

Abu Sa'id Khudri reported that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said:
"The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act..."
Sahih Muslim
Listening to the tafseer of Surah Maryam on YouTube, Shaykh Jangda explains the metaphor that Nabi Muhammad (May peace be upon him) uses for this world being "sweet" and "green":

  • We know that things that are sweet are not so good for us, but the allure is always there. It just tastes so good! But the effects are felt later on - the "high" that you feel comes crushing down leaving you miserable and having no energy to do anything good.
  • Sweet stuff looks bright, yummy, attractive. Just like frivolous things in this world - they appear to be shiny and fun but actually can do more harm for us if it becomes all we focus on and live for.

  • Sweet stuff can be addictive. Didn't mean to eat the whole bar of chocolate? Well, it happened. sweet things have that effect. Its the same as being involved in worldly pursuits - it just keeps going on - it's never enough to just have that big house, now you want to fill it up with stuff. It's tempting and unless you have set your own limits it can become all encompassing in your life and really distract you from your purpose here on earth.
  • Sweet stuff spoil quicker - for example milky desserts if left out wont last very long. Similarly, things in this world do not last long. Unlike doing good deeds thinking about the Hereafter. Shaykh talks about saying one "Subhanallah" - boom, a tree is planted for you in Jannah. Hows that for everlasting?
  • "Green" refers to that which is attractive - like fruit and vegetables when they are just grown are so appealing and fresh. Just like the shiny things in this world can be - items to buy, positions to hold. 

Switching from the sweet to the substantial,
Muslimah 4 Life

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Turkish Tales : Our First Grocery Shopping Trip


Here in Istanbul, a trip to the supermarket is not the most simple of events I'm afraid to say! Maybe in time it will become second nature, but for now it is a marked event requiring company, Google Translate and a plan for how to bring back the stuff that we buy (as we do not have a car due to logistics of driving here and generally no need).

We chose to go to our local Migros supermarket (a cool five minute walk away from home) and took a huge backpack to hold our purchased items. My hubby's basic Turkish saved us time as we look for rice, low fat milk and cereals in the smart supermarket. And for the rest of the things, we used our friendly Google Translate app to scan items on the shelves especially when distinguishing between tomato paste, tomato puree and chopped tomato (which by the way is a beautiful red and tastes like the fresh delicious tomatoes we enjoyed in Rome).

We didn't manage to find everything on our list such as condensed milk and bran flakes. We did have some surprise finds such as what smelt like strong green chillies as well as frozen and pre-prepared artichokes which would make for a unique side dish one day I thought to myself mentally building up a menu. Other exciting prospects included knowing that all the ice cream is halaal - so we can enjoy the beautiful ice creams we longed for in the UK but could not have such as Carte 'dor and Cornetto, yippee!

It's also such a pleasure seeing our favourite jelly sweets amply stacked up in the local supermarket - the sour cola bottles you could only get in Dubai and now it's no longer even available at the Dubai airport so we will be shipping these back home alot I imagine!

We pay for our items and pack it all into my hubbys large backpack to transport it back home. Supermarket trip #1 complete!

I have already started my list though of items to look out for at other stores - and for people to bring when they come over to visit Insha Allah!

Shopping it up,

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Towards Perfecting Prayer : how the nations before us went wrong

Listening to the tafseer of Surah Maryam, I was really touched by the lessons taught regarding the importance of salaah (prayer).

From Salaam Studios, Shaykh Jangda in a month long Intensive course on Surah Maryam on YouTube eloquently explained how the really bad nations before us that were involved in the worst of sins and evil deeds. It all started with them being neglectful of the prayer. Some scholars interpret being neglectful as being reducing the quality of prayer by rushing, or delaying prayer or just not going to the Musjid at all. Whichever way it was, it was surely all downhill from there. 

Why is that? Well he explains, if you can't be good to Allah ( ie  fulfill His rights), then how can fulfill anyone else's?
It goes like this :

When you choose not to pray your salaah, you are in effect just looking after yourself. So then you stop feeling like helping other people as you are self absorbed with your own desires. That leads on to you interacting with bad people. Then, when at times you  feel a bit guilty, you start seeing the Day of Judgement- not something believable as a reality when you are so busy with having a good time here and now. This is how you can become totally distracted and on the wrong path.

We hear the stories about the people of the past that were destroyed... And it seems to us so distant from us - but are we not also guilty of neglecting the prayers to some extent... So in reality how close are we to becoming that way and how important is it that we halt our negligence of prayer right away!

 Related in Muslim : A man came to the Prophet (saws) and said O Prophet of Allah (saws),what is the act or deed most loved by Allah?The Prophet (saws) replied:  To pray ones prayers on time. The man asked further: What (deed or act most loved by Allah) next? The Prophet (saws) replied: Obedience to ones parents.The man asked further: What (deed or act most loved by Allah) next?The Prophet (saws) replied: Jihaad in the Way of Allah.

Some Very Practical Steps I have been inspired to take to perfect the prayer, as suggested from Shaykh: 

 1. Pray salaah when the time of the prayer starts  -It's a really simple thought, but I found if I do this, I feel more relaxed during and after the prayer. I now live in a country where I am fortunate to hear the adhaan live, giving me every chance possible to do this. Knowing it's a teaching from the sunnah is a great boost as well.

2. If the above is not possible (due to work or another valid  reason), then fix a personal specific time of prayer (within reason of course!), so in your schedule you know that at 2pm everyday you will pray Zuhr, for instance. Then you can work your day around this. Certainly in Europe during winter this became a must as the days were so short, and with an hour or so between the day's prayers I had to set specific times to pray and not miss the time!

3. Work our salaah! When Nabi Muhammad (may peace be upon him), was sad when there was a pause between revelation, he was advised to turn to prayer as a means of still connecting to Allah. We can do the same. All we have to do is turn salaah from being a ritual to it being functional - a source of comfort, a way to connect and speak to Allah. And we know that through reciting Surah Faatiha,  Allah responds to us. How much more meaningful can the prayer now be for us?

Towards perfecting prayers Insha Allah,

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Keeping teaching prayer and charity to my children IN HOUSE!


Came across this whilst listening to the tafseer of Surah Maryam by Shaykh Jangda. Really interesting advice about this verse from the Quraan (19:55).

"He used to enjoin on his people Prayer and Charity, and he was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord"

This is referring to Ismaeel (son of Abraham May peace be upon them both) and we can learn from it the importance of us being the teachers to our own children and family about these two important pillars in Islam. It is not good enough to outsource this to someone outside- no matter how learned. These are fundamental practices in Islam that have so many benefits- such as learning discipline, time management, social awareness etc. If a child learns about prayer from outside, then he associates this very significant aspect of his life with that other than his own parents - and in many ways this is a loss to the parent-child connection. Therefore we should be the ones to teach our children basics like making wudu (ablution before prayer), praying and giving charity. For more specialised areas like hifdh (memorisation of the Quraan) for instance, that would make sense to have an expert to instruct the kids as they have more in depth knowledge and skill. However the basics, we gotta keep that in house :)

I even have an idea to involve my future children Insha Allah in my annual Zakaah (compulsory charity) calculation - let them go around counting their teddy bears and dolls and give out 2.5% of their toys to charity (or better still a poor family we know)- how fun and relevant this can be for them to learn first hand what it means- not just the theory when they hit school.

The full talk on this can be found here:


Sunday, November 27, 2016

God-Given Super Powering with Purpose

Just to share what I learnt in my family halaqa last week.
We focused on the following Quranic Ayah (3:49):
وَرَسُولًا إِلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنِّي قَدْ جِئْتُكُم بِآيَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ أَنِّي أَخْلُقُ لَكُم مِّنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُبْرِئُ الْأَكْمَهَ وَالْأَبْرَصَ وَأُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا تَأْكُلُونَ وَمَا تَدَّخِرُونَ فِي بُيُوتِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ

And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

When Isa (AS) is talking to his people about the skill and power he was given, he keeps attributing it back to Allah (SWT) – “… by the permission of Allah.”  This is a reminder for us, when we get any recognition for the good or great things we do, that we need to first attribute it to Allah (SWT) who had given us the skills and ability to accomplish those things.
Secondly, regarding the power which Isa (AS) to return health to his followers, Moosa (AS) was also given powers around magic to show Pharaoh the evil of his ways.  What we can learn from the reasons they were given their respective gifts is that health and medicine was the topic of the day for Isa (AS) and magic was the major discussion topic in Musa’s (AS) time.  The powers they were given were relevant to their time and place and helped in fulfilling their respective missions.  So what we can learn from here is that we too, should utilise our skills in a relevant way to help others around us and spread the message of Islam.
Obviously one of the biggest things is to simply be better Muslims ourselves, but other than that… what is the most relevant topic today which people are interested in?  Technology, Media, Social Media, etc.   We have developed skills in these areas, including marketing and sharing info - this ayah serves as a reminder that I should use these tools / skills to spread the message. And it's a reminder that any of these "super powers" I have been given, is from Allah - not my own great doing! This is humbling and grounding.
Super-powering with Purpose Insha Allah,

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Turkish Tales: Our First Meals

Food plays an incredible role in any special event in our lives. So no wonder, our first meal in our new home is significant to us,  and kind of represents a big step in settling in.

Whats on the menu you ask? Something exotic like local specialties of kofte or borek? Perhaps a home classic like chicken? Well bearing in mind I'm still stocking up my kitchen and groceries are not as straightforward as back home (not everything in the supermarket is translated for starters) and I was exhausted from the trip over, the menu was simple but just right to hit the right notes Alhamdulillah!

Mum's Grub Rules

For our very first dinner that we ate at home, we were lucky to have some homemade mum's grub from South Africa.

Nothing like urad dhall, mealie meal rotis and spicy carrot pickle to comfort and pick you up!
I also fried some okra ("bhinda") as its available in abundance here- the only real 'indian' vegetable really.

And we had extra food leftover for hubby to take to work for lunch - he was quite the envy of the office, and didn't mind a bit sitting in the canteen with his roti and dhall! We ended up packing some carrot pickle for his friends who missed home food too so it was great to share the love.

End result

For the first dinner that I cooked, I braved it with a new kind of fish called "plaithe" which turned out to be tasty and not too "fishy". I served it with spinach and onion (seasoned with "pulbiber"- a Turkish favourite which is red pepper flakes) and fresh potato salad.

When cooking for the first time in a new kitchen, and country really you have to be careful before you commit to preparing any dish - as you cannot take for granted that you have everything you need- even seemingly simple things like garlic, or chillies may not be as readily available. So I made good use of my personal favourite "Amina's wonder spice peri-peri marinade" from South Africa for the fish, as I know it wouldn't need anything further to flavour the fish - just pour over and you are ready to fry!

Get your first meals in your new country right, and you are on to the right track I say. May Allah grant us more barakah, Aameen
Next stop : cooking some chicken - but first I need to figure out how to make my own ginger/garlic paste (not found here!!)

Finding our way Insha Allah,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Turkish Tales : The Move

Seven years ago I found myself blogging about my experience moving abroad to the UK from South Africa. I shared some of the challenges with our new place, work and the weather. This month I moved to Istanbul, Turkey, just on the other end of Europe!

When my hubby and I emigrated to England, UK, we did so after never visiting the place. We just went with our entire flat of belongings, some saved cash , new jobs and a firm determination that this was what we wanted for our future. We did have many chats with family and friends before that of course, weighing pros and cons of other countries, and for us UK came out tops.

I laugh when I look back at that move, because it the naiviety we had was totally overshadowed
by all the enthusiasm and excitement of new prospects. We did find the move challenging at first and now I realise it was because we were not totally prepared to face the new lifestyle, setup and culture of the new country. It wasnt because we didn't try to prepare...nor that people living there didn't help us with tips and pointers - but it was because we really didn't know what were the best questions to ask that would equip us best to settle in our new abode!

Some of the drastic new lifestyle changes that took us time to adjust to in the UK (because we didnt know to ask about!) included:
- the small, compact size of houses, especially compared to our spacious living in South Africa
- the distance between places, how to best prepare for long commutes
- how best to tog up for bittery cold winters and the snow that comes with it

We moved to Istanbul after visiting it for one day and one night, en route to another destination but doubt that helped much! This time though we feel a little more wiser and more grown up Alhamdulillah, in that we knew to ask pertinent questions that would inform our choices about what to take and what to look out for to better manage our expectations.

We started our relocation project by taking my hubbys Turkish colleague out for lunch and a walk in Richmond park to quiz her on topics ranging from "What are the houses like in Istanbul?", "What essential items should we remember to pack?" , "What do people do at the weekend?". This enabled us to have a much more informed idea when preparing to move and researching accommodation options Alhamdulillah.

    Lunch in the beautiful Richmond Park, a Royal Park

Though even after all that preparation, you only really know a place till you live there! Everything else is theory and hearsay - useful to have in mind but just know that the reality only kicks in when you get there - so my lesson is not to expect to know much - anything really - till you take that one way flight over and start living!

Stay tuned for more on my tales from Turkey Insha Allah.

Friday, July 29, 2016

8 lessons from life of Malcolm X that could change your world

When I was 13 and in High School I had to do a speech on a well known figure. I came across a flyer at home on Malik el Shabazz (Malcolm X), and decided to do my speech on him. I was too young to fully appreciate the remarkable character and amazing story of Malcolm X. So 20 years later, (slightly!) more mature and having the opportunity to read the entire “Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Healey, I’d like to share my remarkable experience in learning and understanding about this amazing individual that have had a huge impact on my worldview.

    These are some of the lessons that I took out from his story:

How we can use the remarkable characteristics of our brotherhood and unity as Muslims to creative a positive impression of Islam to the world.
Malcolm X was completely taken aback during his journey of Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah) when for the first time he experienced equality and unity with people where race was not a criterion. He never knew that this was a possible. He spoke about how people of all colours and backgrounds welcomed you, ate together and spoke to you with respect. He called it “colour blindness of the Muslim world.” I love that phrase. He came from a background where race was the most dominant concept in his life – He said: “It’s what all black people were focused on either defending it, or fighting against white people about it, or bringing themselves down because of it.” But when he got to Makkah, he saw how the focus of everyone was on worshipping Allah, and the question of race was insignificant and irrelevant. This was a remarkable shift for him. He said that he could see how all Muslims in that special place behaved as “one” and how this was a reflection of the “Oneness of Allah.” This unity was the reason for Malcolm’s complete shift in perspective regarding the “white man”, which he later captured in a letter he sent back home. One of his other observations was the remarkable opportunity that this brotherhood could serve for really communicating to the world what Islam was about. He said:

I saw that Islam’s conversions around the world could double and triple if the colorfulness and the true spiritualness of the Hajj pilgrimage were properly advertised and communicated to the outside world.

This I made me realise that only a Muslim can understand the sense of brotherhood we feel during Hajj (as only Muslims are allowed to enter the boundaries of Makkah and participate in Hajj). We therefore have a responsibility to “market” this to those who have not experienced it i.e. strategically increase awareness and inspire others to also share in this wonderful gift. Perhaps we could use the hashtag #muslimunity to share examples of our unity as Muslims, from the way we interact with our neighbours in our day to day lives to the practices of Eid and other such occasions. I feel if we did this, then we could fulfil one of Malcolm X’s visionary initiatives that he didn’t get a chance to execute given his short life. We can help build this up so it becomes a beacon of representing one of the most brilliant aspects of being a Muslim- our unity and sense of brotherhood.

·  Everything happens for a reason, through Allah’s Wisdom
Malcolm X’s life was completely transformed when he was off the streets and in a complete change of environment. He discovered Allah, Islam and new way of life from within a prison cell. But for this to happen, he had to drop to his lowest point, after much grief and corruption, to finally being locked up in jail. One could view this as a terrible situation to be in – however it represented a complete turnaround for him, and reflects the Power of Allah to guide whomsoever He desires.

·  The racism that was prevalent in America, in such recent times as recent as the 1950’s was a total eye opener for me. I always knew it was there, but then something struck me about one particular incident - where Malcolm X describes how black people had to sit in the back of a bus and the white people in the front. That really stood out for me - how absolutely insanely ridiculous it is for one man to determine that another human being is not worthy of sitting somewhere because the colour of his skin? I find these questions roaring in my head: What kind of people do you have to be to allow this to occur? It’s the same as in South Africa during the days of apartheid, where there were specific benches for black people to sit on and different for white people. Where do you get off deciding one kind of people are superior to another? I find it totally appalling. And the plight of the people facing this oppression really touched on something in my heart.

·      He was incredibly insightful in how he approached people to spread the word.
    He knew that to connect with people, he had to meet them where they were - on their level, and in their way. So when he started to spread the word of Islam, he first understood where his audience were and used angles appropriate to them to ensure his message landed optimally. Similarly, one of the remarkable programmes of the Nation of Islam (the religious movement that brought Malcolm X into Islam led by Elijah Muhammad at the time) for treating dope-addiction had six steps for addicts to follow, the last one being once you were over your addiction, you would then have to go out and ‘fish in’ others as you know what it was like and can approach others with knowledge and technique that they would better respond to. Because of its tremendous success and effectiveness, this programme was covered in the New York times, and other groups were interested in using this unique approach.

·  How to connect and positively influence a crowd
One of Malcolm X’s  strength’s was that he was incredibly eloquent and had a commanding way of engaging a crowd as well as the ability to debate with power. In the book, he spoke about his ability to “feel the audience reaction” and this being his unique trump card. His approach resonates with me as I am reminded about one of the concepts of BodyTalk (a whole-healthcare system I practice) around synergistically using both aspects of your brain to function optimally– Malcolm X used his left brain for the logic, structure of his argument and learned facts and the right brain to intuitively feel his audience and then appropriately act, displaying an amazing ability to fully engage with people to bring out the best results – something we can learn from and practice too.

·  He makes an interesting point about how society can be lifted if we strike a balance between “material progression and spiritual values”. I love that. It’s not saying that we shouldn’t increase our wealth and the things we own necessarily - but he suggests that if we do, we do not loose the spiritual side - meaning not attaching yourself to the wealth. Rather, use it as a means to benefit society as well, not just for selfish gain. These are the principles taught in Islam.

·  He was not afraid to change his point of view and openly share this. That in and of itself takes immense courage. Most of us think it’s a sign of weakness if we change our viewpoint on something we perhaps held very strongly before. But life is dynamic, things can evolve and to having the strength of character to openly admit to having a new perspective is refreshing and really admirable. Malcolm does this when his perspective of white people changes after Hajj. He also has a huge realisation of how he had held Elijah Muhammad in such a high rank, such that he felt he was even divinely - and so when Elijah’s human weakness was revealed (he was involved in adultery, and Malcolm X suspected he played a role in encouraging the death sentence for himself), it was crushing for the former, but also hugely insightful. It made Malcolm X realise how it is dangerous to put your faith in a human, for only Allah can be solely relied on and only Allah is Most Powerful.

·  The influence of media. I think it was really horrible how Malcom X’s actions were negatively portrayed in the media. Of course he must have been seen as a threat - inciting so much change and getting his people to challenge their situation and giving them the courage to stand up for their rights. He was portrayed as a “hater” and “igniter of violence” and this tarnished his reputation and hindered his cause. There was also the jealousy amongst his own people that led to them to trying to destroy him, ultimately leading to his assassination

Allah truly guided him, as he was a man that came from the extremes of on one hand having a background as a drug addict and street hustler and then found Islam -at least a version of it until his mind was completely open to the true Islam and worshipping Allah as He should be worshipped.

Because he kept seeking the truth as his main drive in life, this enabled him to keep an open mind despite his immensely strong convictions to the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad. And that’s why during Hajj he was able to finally completely transform and see what Islam was really about. He was guided to see that what he was taught by Elijah Muhammad about the “white man being the devil” was not true, that Islam taught equality and unity and that through having a higher purpose of serving Allah, racism was erased.

In his famous “Letter from Mecca” he said:
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered 'white'--but the 'white' attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.”

The full letter can be read here it makes for a fascinating read: http://www.malcolm-x.org/docs/let_mecca.htm

He was a remarkable man, a visionary and a leader. He was impatient, an activist and he wanted to see change. He was dedicated and passionate, he wanted to grow the number of Muslims in the world and he was prepared to go out and do what it takes himself to achieve this.

The world could do with people like him today.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ramadan in the Workplace


We're in the swing of things this Ramadan, hopefully reaping the benefits of this blessed month as best we can!

This year I am not working at the office (I see my BodyTalk clients periodically at the clinic or at home via distance sessions). However I do recall my many years in corporate, fasting through the endless meetings, trying to not get distracted with the recipe emails sent to my Inbox and enjoying the occasional early afternoon nap in my car or in the First aid room!

I was fortunate to have colleagues and managers who were very understanding. That's part of the culture of Unilever I guess. I was able to adjust my (already quite flexible) schedule so I could leave a bit early, as especially in the UK with the long hours of fasting, you need some rest in the evening.

One thing that helped me to set things up with my colleagues was to explain upfront about our fasting month of Ramadan. I created this One Pager "Ramadan in the Workplace Guide" that was a handy guide to share with my team to explain Ramadan and Eid in a simple way. I wanted them to appreciate how significant this month was for us, so in some way they too were sharing in this special time, just by being aware.

Handy One Page PDF
Handy One Page PDF
I know we are already in the midst of Ramadaan, but if you would like to share something simple with your colleagues at work then feel free to download this PDF. It does have some specific reference to Europe, but can serve as something useful, Insha Allah.

All the best for the rest of Ramadan, and do remember me in your prayers!

Radiating through Ramadan,