Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Little Lessons Learned In India

// February 20th, 2013 // 1 Comment » // Blog

I recently spent a week in a dusty, little village in Gujarat, India, getting to know a small fraction of my husband's very large family. The last time I visited the subcontinent I was on the cusp of adolescence. A whole life time has passed in between, during which my relationship with Islam and my own cultural heritage has continuously evolved, to the extent that I have come to appreciate many of the same customs that I reviled not so long ago. I guess marrying an Indian will do that to you.

hens go cluck

Here are a few little lessons that my trip taught me about a religion and a people whom I thought I already knew:

1) Making wuḍūʼ for every prayer can become a necessary Sunnah.
Living in cool climes, washing yourself with cold water multiple times a day can be a challenge, especially when you don't feel physically unclean. The dust and heat of India meant that with every prayer I was looking forward to the special kind of refreshment that came with making wuḍūʼ. The increased khushoo I experienced during and after the prayer made me appreciate a Sunnah that I usually neglect.

2) Folding the prayer mat finally makes sense.
I have never understood the odd, unverified explanations behind the practice of folding over the corner of unused prayer mats (which is why my own masalla lays unfurled on my bedroom floor as I type). But the custom made a bit more sense to me whilst staying at my in-laws' house. It is open-plan, and most of the doors and windows are left open throughout the day to allow the air to flow. But with the breeze came the dust: an exposed prayer mat would quickly gather a visible layer of the stuff, thus defeating the object of praying on a mat to begin with. One dim light bulb moment later, I realised that folding the mat over would keep it clean in between uses. Kind of obvious, I guess, but I never had to think it through all these years, living in a sealed terraced house surrounded by concrete jungle.

cows go moo

3) Feet are meant to be dirty. Deal with it!
Feet walk on the floor; the floor is always covered in dust, even after multiple sweepings. Yes, it does not feel nice on your soles after you've washed them so carefully. But if you don't accept the dirt as inevitable, you will go mad. Other than making me less of a princess, this experience also helped me to understand why the positioning of feet has reached a level of significance in certain cultures. For example, the practice of not sitting with your feet facing the Qibla. Who knew dust was so educational?

4) Muslims don't hate dogs.
Not all Muslims, at any road. There are stray dogs all over rural India, both in the villages and the towns. This came as quite a surprise as I don't remember seeing any when I visited Mumbai as a child (I do remember the giant rats though, ngggh). A few were a bit mangy, but on the whole they looked plump and healthy. Yes, Muslims consider dogs to be unclean animals, and none of the houses I went to kept them as pets. But every Muslim village I visited had its fair share of canine residents. There are even a couple who frequent my in-laws' dairy farm. The mutts and humans seem to have developed a relationship of tolerance, both keeping to themselves, not getting in each others way. I do suspect, however, that the dogs have claimed the roads: they lie so comfortably on the narrow roadsides, completely indifferent to the hundreds of rickshaws speeding by within an inch of their paws!

It's amazing how much one can learn during such a short trip. I only spent a week in India, but in a way I feel like I am still traveling; navigating the deep, sometimes murky waters of my heritage. Here's to a smooth journey ahead.

My Dream Boy

// November 13th, 2009 // 5 Comments » // Blog

Inspired by this post.

About a month ago I dreamt that I was on a journey with someone – a man; someone I'm somewhat familiar with in real life. We had stopped somewhere en route, and were using the computer room.

Swinging round in my swivel chair, I came to face to face with a young boy, maybe six years old or so. I said “hi”, in the kind of gentle way that you would with a small child… but for some unknown reason, he responded by launching into an unannounced bear hug! It felt like the type of sincere embrace that a child would give if they were scared, lonely, and needed reassurance.

I didn't know the boy at all, but I was so moved by this simple gesture, by his implicit trust in me, that I couldn't let go. As his chest lay upon mine, I felt my heart beat so strongly – almost painfully. I suspected that someone had abandoned him there, and that he had latched onto me like a lost puppy, hoping that I would love him. The whole experience evoked such a powerful maternal instinct in me; I just knew in my bones that I was meant to protect him.

I turned to my travel companion (whilst still engaged in the bear hug), who was sat on a nearby terminal. And as soon as I did, I saw a little girl do the exact same thing to him! I knew – as one usually 'knows' in dreams – that the little girl was the little boy's sister. They had both been abandoned.

We carried the children to our car – a large, black 4 x 4. I was so sad. I wanted to take them with us. I wanted to make them mine, and never let them be alone again. In the background, I listened to my companion share his opinions on how unfortunate the whole situation was… but I could tell without asking that he was unwilling to take the children. He was being the sensible man; I, the emotional woman – though I reluctantly understood his perspective, and didn't argue. I remember the solemn look on my face, and how I secretly hoped that it would be enough to make him change his mind.

Well, it seemed to have worked! Because as the dream advanced to the next 'scene', it was several years in the future. The travel companion and I were now married (I assume we weren't before), and the children were ours.

There was more to the dream, which has now been forgotten, and so I assume it was less significant. The strangest part, however, happened after I awoke. I made the opening takbir for Fajr salat. I went to place my hands on my chest, and subhanallah, I felt the same strong, painful, feeling of empathy in my heart, as I did during my embrace with the little, lost child.

As I prayed, I wept. All for the love of my dream boy.

Impromptu American Cookies

// September 29th, 2009 // 3 Comments » // Blog

Well, they're probably not American cookies, per se. But the whole culinary experience has been American-ish.

First off, I had a 'mad' craving for summit sweet after dinner – but horror of horrors: no decent chocolate in the house. What to do? I suddenly came up with the idea that I would make raw cookie dough. Them US peeps seem to be crazy about the stuff, and actually buy it in packs ready-to-eat, so I thought it must be worth a go – especially as I have all the ingredients in the house from ‘Īd-cookies/" target="_blank">last week.

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A Safe Space

// September 28th, 2009 // 4 Comments » // Blog

I've noticed that I refrain from commenting on several blogs, even my regular reads, because I don't deem them 'safe'. I don't mean that I fear being tagged by intelligence services (I don't think I'm controversial enough for that; though Allāh knows best), rather, I just don't feel comfortable speaking up, for one reason or another.

I wonder, do people feel the same on my little corner of the web? I don't think I have enough readers to warrant attention from Islamophobes and general nasties. But there are many other reasons to be timid.

Which sites to you feel safe on and why? Do you do anything special to welcome and reassure your readers?

Speaking of fear, last night I had a mini-panic attack that took me a while to overcome. I was already emotionally vulnerable as I had been suffering minor illness for several hours.

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Eid in the Square 2009

// September 26th, 2009 // 4 Comments » // Photos

This is the fourth year that Trafalgar Square has been used to host post-Ramadan festivities for London's Muslim community.

Even so, today was only my first time experiencing '‘Īd in the Square'.

I did have a good time; but I attribute that more to the gorgeous weather, and the wonderful company I was blessed with.

The event itself was 'alhamdulillah': a good effort, but I'm not sure that I will return next year. Though I did like the fact that there were plenty of non-Muslims walking about, checking the stalls, and generally mingling in.

I guess it's good for us to be seen enjoying ourselves, with our families and loved ones, i.e., Muslims can haz fun!

Click here to view the rest of the photos from ‘Īd in the Square 2009

Eid-ul-Fitr: Prayers in the Park, Pt III (or maybe Pt IV?)

// September 21st, 2009 // 8 Comments » // Photos

Well, I think this is the third time I prayed ‘Īd salat in the local park. ‘Īd-in-the-park/" target="_blank">First time, second time… hmm, the blog seems to think 'three' too. Looks like I missed out on park Eiding in 2008… I believe I prayed one ‘Īd at Whitechapel mosque, as it was raining… but where did I pray the second one? – complete blank – Gah! [Update (23/09/2009): After discussing the matter with SimSim, we remembered that we prayed at East London Mosque on both Eids in 2008. Alhamdulillah & huzzah for the relief!]

Anyway, one thing you'll hopefully notice from the pics below is that I actually took a decent camera with me this time, and did not rely on the crummy camera in my phone (which is good, as I still use the same handset as I did back in 2007!). Please click on each image to see the full-size copy. [Flickr archive]

Don't Start Without Me!

Don

Straighten the Rows: the men line up for the prayer.

Straighten the Rows: the men line up for the prayer.

Imam gives the Khutbah

Imam gives the Khutbah: Not the most effective design for a partition. ;)

Higher Daddy!

Higher Daddy!: A father pushes his child on the swings during the khutbah.

The brothers sit and listen to the imam.

The brothers sit and listen to the imam.

The kids quietly play!

While the kids quietly play! The advantage of holding prayers in a playground. :)

Playground Springs

Playground Springs: I have no idea why they have these little fountains and showers in the kiddies

Curious Child

Curious Child: All the kids were fascinated by the sprinklers... though I

So there you have it: another ‘Īd in the park; another step closer to establishing a personal ‘Īd tradition, inshā’Allāh.

Where did you pray today?

On Rivalry

// September 17th, 2009 // 5 Comments » // Blog

“Bear in mind that the present life is just a game, a diversion, an attraction, a cause of boasting among you, of rivalry in wealth and children.” Qur'an 57:20

I don't think I ever really appreciated the sense of rivalry that Allāh mentions in the above verse (and elsewhere in the Qur'an), until very, very recently. I'm talking, the last two months or so. It sort of crept up over me, maybe because nearly every singleton in my life has suddenly gotten married, with other newly weds having babies, that I feel somewhat left behind in the personal life department.

A few years ago, I was on a quest to get married – but it was more like an adventure; one that I shared with friends and cousins. Alhamdulillah, one by one, my travelling companions left for the next stage of their journey, and we waved them off happily, so secure in our knowledge that we, too, would be moving ahead very soon.

Returning to the present, it seems that I am one of the few passengers left behind in the waiting room, wondering why my train is running so late. Shouldn't it have been here by now? Did I miss it? Maybe I read the timetable wrong?

And worst of all, I've become one of them. You know… the 'older' unmarried women, that the younger unmarried women use to make themselves feel better: “Oh, at least I'm not as old as so-n-so”. They become so shocked when they hear my marital status combined with my age. That is, until they realize the expression of disapproval at their tactlessness on my face, and try to cover it up with: “Oh, it'll happen soon, inshā’Allāh”. Yes, thank you. I feel totally reassured now.

Anyway, believe it or not, I'm not complaining about my fate. And if I did, I wouldn't be complaining to you. Rather, I wanted to share how one's perspective on the Qur'an changes with new life experiences. Now I actually feel the sting of rivalry in my heart from time to time. But the verse above reminds me of the bigger picture: it's only a game, Mehzabeen. So be a good sport, and play it well.

Don’t Play Shaytaan’s Blame Game

// July 10th, 2009 // 10 Comments » // Blog

I attended the much hyped (my own doing) “Emasculated Muslim Men and the Feminist Hijabi” debate this evening. I actually bumped into my good blog buddy, Sumera, prior to the start of the event; so I know that I wasn't the only intrigued blogger in the audience.

Anyway, I don't have much to say about it all. Partly because I was asked to film it, so I was too busy paying attention to my camera, to soak in much of anything. I can tell you that it was a very mature, rational discussion, māshā’Allāh; there wasn't really any kind of 'debate' as such, as all the speakers pretty much agreed with one another (even though the panel consisted of Muslims and a non-Muslim, men and women – “Yey!” for social harmony).

However, one tidbit that made a lasting impression, was offered by the entertaining, yet informative, Imam Shahnawaz Haque (Psychotherapist, Teacher and Khatib), in response to an audience member asking why all the attention was being placed on the deficiencies of men – what about women's deficiencies?

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Enjoying the English Countryside

// June 1st, 2009 // 9 Comments » // Photos

I spent the weekend in Blackburn, which is about 300-odd miles north of London. I was there for my cousin's wedding, on my father's side, but ended up being person-napped by my cousins on my mother's side for a outdoor birthday party at a picnic site in the country. As you can tell, I have a lot of family 'up North'.

The weather was gorgeous, māshā’Allāh… just perfect for a BBQ.

Smokin'

Chops on the BBQ Birthday BBQ Cake Cute Baby Tee

After lunch, we took a leisurely walk in the woods and fields surrounding the picnic area.

Walk in the Woods

Bleached Buttercups In the Spooky Woods In the Woods Grrrass Breathtaking Cows From A Distance Cows Up Close Cows! Sheep!

These were the shoes I was wearing during our little Nature walk… not good for wading through patches of mud. Alhamdulillah, I survived, unscathed.

My Chappals

A nice shot I managed to capture from the car on the way home. Click here to see a larger version.

Show Me the Way to Go Home

My parents and I used to travel to Blackburn at least once a year, back when we were living in Leicester. However, moving to London added another 150 miles to the car journey. That, together with my studies, meant that in the last ten years we've only bothered to drive up there for two important family occasions: deaths & marriages.

Upon leaving the wedding house yesterday evening, we exchanged the usual pleasantries with our hosts, not-so-subtly acknowledging the fact that only another wedding would likely reunite us in the near future.

inshā’Allāh, it'll be your turn next, Mehzabeen!”, my aunty chirped in Gujarati, as I put on my shoes. Luckily I was looking down at the time, so she didn't notice the eyes rolling in my head.

Oh well. At least they'll be the ones making the six hundred mile round-trip next time, if she's correct.

Mums Say The Funniest Things…

// May 19th, 2009 // 3 Comments » // Blog

Scenario: iMuslim enters the living room, illuminated by the soft glow of the tellybox, and sits next to her mother on the sofa.

iMuslim proceeds to kiss her mum on the cheek, and notices a flowery scent.

Me: “You smell of talcum powder…”

Mum: “Whaaat?!

Me: “I said: 'You smell of talcum powder'…”

Mum: “Ohhh… I heard something else…”

Me: “What?”

Mum: “I thought you said, I smelled of cow ka powder.”

Me: {guffaws}

Mum: “I was thinking: 'Cow ka powder is milk!'”

Mother and daughter erupt into giggles. Dad looks on in confusion.

And thus a new parent-child in-joke is born.

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