Thursday, 22 March 2018

Tips from a Single Muslim Mum Travels

As a young girl growing up I always loved adventures and going to new places, discovering new things and eating different types of food.

I always thought one day when I will have a partner we will do this together and explore the world. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way, but I found great companionship in my little travellers.

As soon as I got my driving license and the car was sorted, my family knew I would hit the road, and hit it, I did! I went straight on the motorways and I was off visiting different parts of UK with my little munchkins saddled in the back, in their car seats. Every weekend meant an opportunity to explore new places - I would finish my job during the week and sometimes we would leave on Friday night itself to go and visit family and friends, as well as places we had no connection with.
My kids who must have been about 1 and 2 when I bought my car are gypsies, just like me, they grew up always travelling and never complain about the journeys or being bored. We do not have any ipads or TV in the car so all they get to do is look outside the window, do some colouring and now that they are older, they can read a book.
Exploring UK isn't enough, even though I always had spare clothes, shoes and toiletries packed in the car for all  UK weather and a tent (just in case- you never know), we needed something new, it was time to venture outside the country and explore other places.

Our first holiday was to Mauritius ( back home), I thought about the logistics - it would be easier, I had family and friends there who could help out etc. So off I went with a 2 toddlers. It was an amazing experience, but also a very exhausting experience. We had a 6 hour flight from UK to Dubai, an 8 hour wait in Dubai airport and another 6 hours flight to Mauritius- we were absolutely exhausted. It was also not the best of flights, both flights were packed, I had the 1 year old on me who was annoyed at not having a seat of her own, the 2 year old was not happy that her TV screen was not working, they were both fighting over who should watch the TV as we had one to share between the three of us, and to top it up, I had a grumpy man in the seat in front of us who was not amused about having toddlers sat behind him. I guess it should have really put me off, but my love for travelling was greater than the obstacle we faced!

Tip for parents with babies and toddlers: For your first travel, just go somewhere close by a 2-4 hours flight and with minimum baggage, do not have a transit!

The next year, after this exhausting experience, I decided to take them somewhere closer and (cheaper)! We set out for Turkey this time to enjoyed a somewhat relaxing holiday. Obviously it was never going to be relaxing with me planning it. We had lots of activities every day- the girls who had been having swimming lessons for a  year now loved it! It was warm with lots of tours for us to do everyday for just £10 a day including lunch- no planning and driving required. We even went for a boat trip where my eldest who was just 3 jumped off a double decker boat into the sea- almost giving me a heart attack- she did have her armbands on and there were other people swimming already off the boat. So, off I went along with the 2 year old swimming in the middle of the ocean. This was definitely something I never planned on,  and would definitely never have done without them.

I was more confident about taking them abroad at this point, and every holiday they would ask if we are going anywhere warm and fun.

I had driven previously in Mauritius before ( and UK), but I have never driven on an unknown territory, so for our next adventure, it made sense for me to add some more driving experience. So off we went to Malta to climb the Azure Window ( which now doesn't exist anymore) and for much more, such as mouthwatering seafood.

Our last holiday was to the Algarve, Portugal. We were very limited on time, we left UK Monday evening and our flight back was Friday afternoon, which pretty much left us with only 3 days to drive all around the Algarve but....we did it!- 3 days and we had driven around the west coast, the south cost, the mountains and up the river separating Portugal from Spain.

As a single mum I am proud of all our adventures and I know that I'm making memories we will all cherish one day.

The most important thing about travelling with children is planning, and for me: keeping the cost low. We normally stay in B&B or airbnb, it keeps the cost low but we have been very lucky and have pretty much managed to book self-catered accommodation at relatively cheap price with swimming pools. Check for cheap flights by budget airlines, there is no need for priority booking, don't book any extras unless you need it, most flights will allow you to take car seats, boosters and pushchairs free of charge (check with your airline before booking). Research on different websites for accommodation- check the prices out, check the facilities offered such as parking, swimming pool- you would be surprised at what you could find! We even had a jacuzzi at no additional cost!

Make a list of the places you want to visit, if you are staying in different places, check out all the places of interests in all the places, write them down, print  a map of the areas you are to visit, calculate how long it will take from one place to the other, find information about places to eat (especially Halal places) and compare the prices as well as check the ratings on trip advisor. Go on google maps and check the areas using the satellites, find landmarks so when you are driving around you know you are in the right place. Satnavs can be tricky to work out in some countries, so it's advisable to have your own printed map.

If you have kids, you will know they are always hungry and thirsty, make your first stop to a supermarket and buy as much snacks and drinks as possible so you don't have to stop every now and then, especially for long journeys and always always ask them to go toilet- whether they need it or not!

Many places to visit are free for under 10, so add those places to your list! Always carry your passport- some places are free to visit for EU citizens and if you have a student card, it can always be a bonus.

I am currently planning our next holiday, and one thing I did realise while planning on this one, is that some places which normally charge you for a visit would be free for adults and children on certain days of the week, so try to see if you can be visit on the 'free days'. Also, look at the festivals taking place around the time of your visit, you will get more of the local feel and culture.

One massive word of advice is research a lot about the car hire company, a lot of them will try to scam you- always read the terms and conditions before booking. I've had to learn this from some horrible experience with certain companies and avoid a certain Europe based company which is definitely not selling any gold (read between the lines)!

Remember this is meant to be fun for all, plan way ahead so you don't stress over things and work out a timetable of what you want to see on which day and how long will all this take. I love visiting historical buildings, but I know my kids my kids won't like it as much so go to places where you can do a bit of both, where they can have some relaxing time at the beach but where you can also go to places of interest.

If a single Muslim mum can do it on her own, so can you!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Sahabiyyah- 7 Things Modern Muslim Women can learn from Umm Umara/Nusaybah bint Ka'ab (r.a)

Sahabiyyah for modern Muslim women (continues)

I previously wrote about Khadija bint Khuwaylid (r.a), who was known for her strength in character. We shall now look at another woman who is known for her physical strength.

Who is Nusaybah (r.a)?
She was a mujahidda - someone who strive in the path of Allah.

Why is she a role-mode?

Nusaybah was one of the many female Sahabiyyah who was known not only for her emotional strength but also for her physical prowess in the battlefield.

She had been married twice and all her sons were shaheeds (martyrs).

She was one of the 2 women from Al-Ansar who made the trip to Madina for umrah and to pledge her allegiance to the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w)

What can we learn from her?
1. Courage and bravery is for women too
Umm Umara is known to have shown tremendous courage, and maybe the reason she is most known for is the fact that she has been described by the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as being one of the strongest people on the battlefield, particularly for the battle of Uhud.

She had participated in most of the battles during the prophet’s time and continued to support other battles after the death of the prophet (s.a.w).

The prophet said ‘whenever I looked to the right or left I saw her fighting in front of me’. She became the shield of the prophet Muhammad (saw) in the battle of Uhud .

The story goes that Nusabah was only meant to be handing out water in the battle of Uhud, and the prophet had given orders to the army to remain on the hills, but the army did not listen and as a result, the enemy took advantage of this and attacked. A lot of sahabas fled, many of whom were men. Seeing this, Nusaybah decided instead of picking buckets of water to pick up a sword and fight to save Allah’s messenger. She was fearless, she didn’t have a shield and did not care about her own safety- her priority was to protect the prophet at all cost, including her own life.  The prophet never failed to compare her courage as being the better than  men at the battle of Uhud.

When one of the male companions was running away to save his own life, the prophet (s.a.w) shouted to him to throw his shield to Nusaybah who so far had been fighting just with a sword and without a shield. This shows how much courage she did have indeed.

Nusaybah had many wounds in many a battle, but during the battle of Uhud she sustained 13 wounds, one of which was a very deep cut on her neck which took 1 whole year to heal.

In another battle, she lost her wrist and became disabled yet that did not stop her to fight with other parts of her body.
This is a true imagery of courage and bravery and shows us how to face adversity in life, be it at work, in the house or outside.

2. Sacrificing in the cause of Allah
Nusaybah stands for sacrifice - the moment she became a Muslim, she dedicated to sacrifice everything in her life to Islam , including her own children.

During the battle of Uhud, many men fled and only around 10 people stayed behind to protect the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) and 40% of the people who stayed belonged to Nusaybah’s family. The story does not speak about 40% being part of a man’s family but of a woman’s family. This shows how strong of a woman she was, that the men in her family was recognised by her presence!

Nusaybah had 3 sons who all became shaheeds. Upon hearing about the death of her son Habib, she is reported to have said ‘it was for such a situation I prepared them’- meaning she raised them to be sacrificed in the way of Allah.

Habib was sent by the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as a messenger to Musaylam Al Khazaab- a powerful imposter who claimed prophethood. Along with Habib, another sahaba was sent. When they got Musaylam, he asked them 2 questions repeatedly:
‘Who is Muhammad?’
‘Who am I?’
The first sahaba, fearing for is life  replied you are a messenger of Allah to Musaylam.
Habib, well-trained by his mum, on the other hand was not scared. He was merely a messenger but he was not going to deny the truth.
He answered Muhammad (s.a.w) is the messenger of Allah.
And for the second question, his reply was always ‘I can’t hear you.’
Every time he said I can’t hear you, Musaylam ordered for him to be cut in pieces. And yet, he had the same answer everytime, and when they were done cutting him, they burnt him.

Rather than feeling sadness upon hearing that, Nusaybah was proud of her son and knew she had raised him right. She set the example for all mothers.

She was not the mother of just one shaheed but of 3. Her dua (prayer) was for her and her family to be reunited in Jannah with the prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). Dua which the prophet confirmed to be accepted.

Her other son Abdullah finally in the end killed Musaylam and avenged the death of his brother. Allah gave her this right in the Dunya ( this world) itself for justice rather than in Akhirah.

Her sons Abdullah and Damra also died in other battles.

What could be more important to a mother than the life of her children? Yet this woman did not flinch to sacrifice her own flesh and blood in the way of Allah.

3. Resilience and steadfastness is a sign of womanhood
She was steadfast- even after many injuries and battles she did not give up. She carried on fighting for Islam, losing her own body part, losing her own children- yet she never gave up.
In one of the battles, her son got hurt and the prophet (s.a.w) ordered her to go and tend to him, which she did dutifully. Once her son was in a better position, she said to him ‘get up and fight’. She loved her children and she cared for them, but she was a Muslim before everything else.
The prophet is reported to have said to her following all her injuries and losses, ‘Who can bear what you can bear Umm Umara?’
The prophet himself was amazed by her bravery and courage. No, he was not praising a man, but a woman for being physically and emotionally strong.

4. Having priorities is a must
At the battle of Uhud, she was meant to be merely handing out water to the fighters. She knew what her ‘job’ was but when she saw the men deserting the prophet (s.a.w) - she also knew what her priority was. Her aim and objective was to protect the life of the prophet (s.a.w) and Islam. So, instead of doing her ‘job’. She took the initiative proactively to defend the prophet (s.a.w) instead.

There is a saying- we need to choose our battles and this is exactly what she did.

5. Show our love for Allah and his prophet (s.a.w)
There is no denying her love for Allah and his prophet (s.a.w). The prophet saw this through out his life and so did his companions. This woman who was picking a sword for the first time stood without armour and shield and sustained injury after injury just to protect the prophet (s.a.w) when most men had deserted him to save their own lives!
How many people will sacrifice themselves for the deen? We cannot even sacrifice anything as our love for our nafs are so strong. We mould ourselves to please people rather than Allah and his messenger.

6. We should earn the respect of both men and women
She was not only respected and admired by the women but also by the men. After the death of the prophet (s.a.w) she and her family carried on to play important roles in Islam. She earned, gave and commanded respect. She showed not only a woman has intelligence but also physical strength when and as required.

She is a role model for all of us women to teach our daughters to take on martial arts and other physical activities to make them stronger. She showed us that not only men are fighters, but women can too- we not only can defend ourselves but others too! After all, she is the one who protected the prophet (s.a.w) with Allah’s permission.

7. Women’s rights
Nusaybah was not only fierce on the battlefield, but she was also sharp with her tongue.
She told the Prophet (s.a.w) that she is only hearing about men in the Quran then the following verse  was revealed:
‘Verily, the Muslims men and women, the believers men and women, the men and the women who are obedient to Allah, the men and women who are truthful, the men and women who are patient, the men and women who are humble, the men and women who give Sadaqat (Zakat), the men and women who observe fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts), and the men and women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (Paradise)’ (33:35)

Don’t be scared to ask Allah and complain about your situation. He is ever-listening and have hope your dues and complaints are being heard by the one who can make everything possible.

Possibly, she is the first woman to ask for women’s right!

7 things we can learn form Umm Umara/Nusaybah bit Ka’ab

  1. Courage and bravery is for women too
  2. Sacrificing in the cause of Allah
  3. Resilience and steadfastness is a sign of womanhood
  4. Having priorities is a must
  5. Show our love for Allah and his prophet (s.a.w)
  6. We should earn the respect of both men and women
  7. Women’s rights

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

12 Things modern Muslim women can learn from Khadija bint Khuwaylid (r.a)

Whenever we are trying to look for a female role-model in Islam, we often are pointed in the direction of how a wonderful wife, daughter and mother the Sahabiyyah were. Nowadays, more than ever we need to know what other roles did they play other than perfecting their role as a mother, daughter and wife. What did they do for themselves? What made them an asset to the society they were living in? How did they contribute to raising the status of women in Islam outside their households?

I will be dedicating a series of blogs to the Sahabiyyah and the roles they played outside their relationship with the men in their families to show that us women do have role models we can look up to in order to aspire us to become the best for ourselves.

Who is  Khadija (r.a)?

The first wife of the prophet (saw) and the only one till her death.
She is the only wife to have given him children.
The first revert/convert to Islam.

Who was Khadijah (r.a) before she married the prophet (saw)?

Khadija bint Khuwaylid was the daughter of a noble and rich businessman of the Quraysh. She was highly sought  after for marriage due to the high status of her father  and she had been married twice before she married the prophet Muhammad (saw).

Khadija had been married and was a widow, having inherited the money of her late husbands. It is said her second husband was very rich, and after his death, she inherited all of his money and business.

Khadija was a smart woman brought up in a house of a smart and intelligent businessman and undoubtedly benefitted from her father’s knowledge and know-how in the business world.

She was known as Ameerat-Quraysh (“Princess of Quraysh”) and al-Tahira (“The Pure One”) and was a fierce business competitor in a world ruled by men. 

She knew how to handle her business single-handedly and appointed many a man to take care of her business dealings which involved a lot of travelling, and which may have been obstacle for her due to her being also a single mother and having the care of her children.

Khadija(r.a) was very clever and could tell she was being swindled by the men she appointed to do the business deals, which involved travelling and trading goods in different parts of the country/world. She knew she was making more profit, but it was not coming back to her as those men would lie about the profit they were making.

She wanted someone honest and she heard about Muhammad Al-Ameen (saw) through her sister, who had previously employed him. Khadijah (r.a), upon hearing about him decided to appoint him as a salesman; but she was also a very intelligent woman, reason being she also sent her servant along with him to make sure she received appropriate feedback about him. She was not one to be conned!

The servant could not stop praising Muhammad (saw) and how he dealt with other people fairly and the manner in which he conducted his business. Moreover, Khadija(r.a) knew she has finally found the honest man she has been looking to conduct her business as she had never made as much profit before with any other salesman.

How did she propose to the prophet Muhammad (saw)?

We consider ourselves to be living in a ‘modern’ world yet many of us would find it ‘inappropriate’ to approach a man and propose to him.

Khadija (r.a) was not one of those women - she knew what she wanted and she set out to work on getting what she wanted.

She was a confident woman, who believed in herself and had the courage to send a marriage proposal to Muhammad (saw) for herself.

She was also a noble woman, and as such, she could not approach him directly to ask the question but instead sent her sister to do the job. She had the courage and yet the shyness (hayah) to ask him for his hand.

She was a rich woman, who even though widowed twice and being a single mother was constantly being showered with marriage proposals from the most affluent men, yet she was not attracted to the money and name of those people. She was a fine woman who could see deeper than that which meets the eye - she had a vision of a better future, a peaceful and happy life with a man who would be her partner and complete her in every aspect of life.

Muhammad (saw) had been a shepherd and he was living with his uncle at that time and did not have any place of his own - he could not afford a wife with whatever he was making and he was not looking into getting married as he knew he would not be able to provide for one fairly. Khadijah (r.a) overlooked this - she did not need a man to save her finances, she needed a man who knew his priorities and was ready to work hard and honestly to meet his needs. She saw what he could do and believed in him even before she married him. She could see that his honesty was going to be the basis of a worthy relationship. Although she had previously decided she had enough of marriages following her two marriages, she knew he was worth it as he was an honest and trustworthy man - a man that deserves to be loved and cared for even though his financial status was not the best!

When told it is Khadija bint Khuwaylid (r.a) that was seeking his hand, the prophet (saw) was shocked - The princess of the Quraysh wanted to marry a poor shepherd! He did not think he was worthy of her, but obviously being the strong woman she was - she wanted him as a companion and she made this clear by sending her sister to ask his hand in marriage. She was determined - she knew what she wanted and she was out to get it, even when the man in question himself had doubts! His poverty did not scare him, nor did the fact she is richer than him make her question whether a man would be willing to live under his wife’s wings.

Who was Khadija (r.a) as the wife of the prophet (saw)?

Khadija (r.a) believed in Muhammad (saw) even when he did not believe in himself. She knew he was the prophet even before he accepted this fact. She was his rock! She was also the one to give him a shoulder to cry on, to give him support and to hold his hand.

She was not just his wife, but she was his best friend, his confident, the one who made him stronger when he felt weak. This shows how emotionally strong she was as a woman. In most relationships, it is the man who plays the ‘strong’ character, but we can clearly see in their love story -  Khadija (r.a) was the one who made Muhammad (saw) even stronger. 

She believed so much in Allah and his prophet (saw) that she spent all her wealth in the cause of Allah - doing charity and supporting Muslims through thick and thin.  This shows how selfless she was, she was a giver and gave everything away even when Allah blessed her with immense wealth. She was not scared of being poor even though she always had a comfortable life - she stood for the truth and faced it by staying constantly at her husband’s side.

What is special about Khadija (r.a)?
Allah granted her the status of being the first convert/revert to Islam - a woman was chosen to be given this status. 
She is mentioned first in the Hadith related about the 4 best women in Islam due to her patience and resilience.
Allah himself sent her ‘salam’ through Jibril (a.s).
The prophet Muhammad (saw) loved her more than any other wife.

12 reasons she is our role-model?

1. She is the Mother of the Believers.
2. She was a strong, independent and self-reliant businesswoman.
3. She was a clever woman with sound judgement.
4. She was a successful business woman in a world ruled by men.
5. She did not let the fact that she was a widow and single mother affect her career.
6. She had a vision and a goal and she set out to get it.
7. She loved selflessly and dedicated her wealth to others.
8. She was the rock for the man in her life.
9. She thought with her brain as well as her heart.
10. She was daring, yet respectful.
11. She was not scared of challenges.

12. She was not looking for a saviour in a man.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Instilling gratitude in Children

" If you are grateful, He is pleased with you..." (Az-Zumar 39:7). 

These are the words of Allah, he promised us that if we show gratitude to Him, we would not be among the losers.

In a world becoming increasingly materialistic, how do we go about raising children who are grateful for what they have? For what has been bestowed to them by Allah’s blessings?

I am a teacher by profession and I have worked with children from the age of 4 to 16 in the past 9 years or so - I have experienced dealing with Muslims and non-Muslims children and as a matter of fact, gratitude is one of the things that over the years I have witnessed being on the decline among today’s youth.

Both my children are born and raised in a first world country where obviously they are surrounded by new technology, new toys and new gadgets - much of the materialistic things that today’s youngsters rely a lot on and consider a must.

Over 6 years ago when I realised I was pregnant with my first child, I had just bought a brand new flat screen 40” TV. One of the first decision I made was to raise my child differently to the children I have been teaching in schools, I wanted to give her something different - my time!

I got rid of the brand new TV and then started my journey of motherhood. Only a few months after her birth, I found myself living as a single mother and also expecting a second child. The first few years of motherhood were the hardest as financially I was not in the best of situation and although I had found a more reliable job following the birth of my 2nd child, the pay was not the best but I was grateful to Allah for getting us through this tough patch.

I wanted my kids to realise how lucky and blessed we were that Allah made sure we had a roof on our head, food on our plates and clothes to wear. I started looking into how I could show my children that although we may not have the best of everything, what we do have is more than we need and Alhumdulillah I found a good and practical way of doing this.

One of my muslim friends started a homeless people project and asked me if I would help out. She was a divorcee and a revert with not much support herself, and who had upon her conversion to Islam experience some sort of homelessness herself. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind if I bring my daughters along (they were aged 2.5 and 3.5 then) as I thought it would be a good way of showing them what life is like for other people. So, we would cook and packed food as well as prepare hygiene packs which had the basic items for grooming and hygiene for the homeless people. Every      Saturday evening, when  people were getting ready for their night outs, we would load our handbags with foods and those survival packs to give out to people. I would rarely hand out any of them, but rather used to let my daughters to do it - the people they gave the things to were obviously dressed  in rags - old, stained, dirty and smelly clothes. They were not the most appealing  looking people - some have not had a hair cuts in months, others have not showered in quite a while and so on. You can pretty much portray the beggars from any old English movie you have seen - many did look exactly like that! It was important for me to teach them that those people ’s appearances did not matter, and they were not ‘ugly’ but instead they were having a difficult time and they had nowhere to live, no where to sleep, no food to eat and so on. I wanted them to be aware of other people’s difficulties and pain so they could see how much better off we are and give thanks to Allah for all we have.

We had fluorescent jackets with the logo of the charity we were helping out and they were oversized for their tiny body, but they loved it - they loved being part of the crew and helping making a difference to other people’s lives. The homeless people were thankful to us for what were doing for them, but I was also thankful and grateful for them to teach my children about appreciating the blessings we have. My kids, even though very young obviously asked questions about what happened to them(the homeless people) and why we needed to help them etc - and this helped to develop empathy in them towards others. 

One day, one of the homeless ladies who we had given some food asked me if I wouldn’t mind if she gives something to my kids and if she could hug them. She explained she has not seen her grand children in years and she would just like to hug them for making her day brighter. She had gotten a pack of sweets for them and wanted them to have it. As she gave it to them,I could spot a little tear rolling down the side of her eyes. Maybe my kids could not understand what this one hug meant to her, but I could and I am sure even though they were very young they could feel the love and warmth of that person. Unfortunately, we could not carry on with the project as there was not enough people to give us a hand but even till date - 2 years later, my kids still ask about ‘when are we going to feed the poor people’.

Another anecdote is the old lady selling Big Issue outside our local shop. For years there is this old lady (a refugee) who sells the Big Issue to earn some pennies in order to survive. Since my kids were babies, whenever I go shopping there , I make it a point to buy some extra food or drink item to give to her on our way out. Both my children know we always get her something, and when we are inside the shop, they will ask ‘Mummy can we get her this or that this time?’ I could not tell you how proud of them I feel whenever they do that - they love giving her her little something on the way out. The lady speaks no English, but she has come to recognise me and my daughters and she knows we will always get her something. My youngest once asked me why do we always buy the old lady stuff - I explained that Allah has given us enough to share with others so we can make them happy, then Allah feels happy and give us more. 

One day, I was packing away old clothes to give to charity, my daughters walked in and asked me what I was doing - I told them I’m giving away their old clothes to the children who don’t have clothes to wear as their mummy and daddy cannot buy any. My eldest said, ‘What about toys Mummy? Do they have toys?’ I said they probably do not. ‘Can we give them some of the old toys we don’t play with?’  So off they went getting their old toys and packing it away - some were not even old, and some the still played with, but they were so happy about sharing their happiness with other children that they were not bothered about giving toys they actually liked. Some of the toys were a bit tacky, so we went to the shop and got some pencils, colouring books etc to add to the pile so they could also have some ‘new’ things.

My kids do not have the latest gadgets, toys etc but they are happy for what we have and they are thankful to Allah for whatever He gives us. They understand that other children may have certain things we do not have, but they are grateful and happy for what we have and Alhumdulillah never have I experienced them throwing a tantrum for something they want or would like to have. 

As a single mother, I must admit money does run low, and sometimes I would like to give them more but we just cannot afford it! But they understand that we have priorities and inshAllah if we have more money then we can have extras from time to time, but they are grateful for whatever I give them and always thanks Allah for it. A ‘jazakhallah khairan’ can go a long way but also the fact as parents if we commit to doing something for them then we actually do it. If we promise to give them something once we are in a better position, then we actually do it! 

To finish off I would like to end with a dua my daughters often make when we finish praying:’Oh Allah thank you for everything you have given us, but can you give my mummy more money or give us a new dad who will buy us all the toys in the world. Ameen’

I do pray both duas get accepted inshaAllah.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A box called Responsibility

One of my friends texted me today to say ‘it’s good to see you posting about women positive thinking again rather than the men bashing posts you have been writing lately.’ I am not a feminist nor do I hate men, I just don’t like incompetent men, men that cheat, men that lies, men that pretend and fake, men who are indecisive, men who are racists, men who are control freaks and men who don’t take on responsibility. So, to be honest, I don’t think it’s such an exhaustive list of men I hate, just maybe there’s more men in the world with those characteristics nowadays than there ever was before.

Anyway, I thought this is a good opportunity for me to post about the men I actually like and appreciate. Unfortunately, not many men will fall in this category as far as I am concerned. One of my work colleagues recently made a remark about women being ‘too much’ nowadays and my response was; maybe it’s not that women are too much, just that we have high standards and guys don’t meet them in general - here we go, I am men bashing again!

I think there is distinctive difference between what is a man and what is a boy. There seems to be more boys around than men - or maybe I just don’t come across men that often, I can literally count on my fingers the number of ‘men’ I have come across in the past 10 years, and literally I think Muslim men are a drop in that handful.

So here we go, thank you to those few men out there who are actually being men and doing what they are supposed to do, and following the example of the prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him)- the best of men.

My daughters are of the age now where they understand our family is different from most traditional muslim families - where you have a mother and a father. They do not mind it as such - single parenthood is quite a common thing in Europe, maybe not so much in the muslim community but they come it across at school etc. Nowadays, there are many more single muslim mums - not due to being widows (which was more common at the time of the prophet) but more so because of a higher divorce rate.

So, they ask questions about my marriage, whether they have a father or not etc. I have never lied to them - so they are aware their biological father is alive- although according to them, he lives ‘abroad’-something they came up with- and if that makes them happy- then so be it. People are easy to pass judgements, my kids are mixed-raced and their surname definitely give in that they are mixed. Not a lot of Muslims kids carry an English surname.

There are so many assumptions among Muslims, like for example if you are married to someone from a different race- it has to be a ‘love’ marriage; or if your spouse has a non-muslim name- then he/she converted to Islam out of love for you. Maybe in some Muslim ‘cultures; this is the norm - but to assume that this is the case for every single Muslim is choosing to be ignorant and judgemental - not all born muslim are cultural - some actually practice the religion, not the culture.

Moving on, the story I told my daughter is called ‘A box called Responsibility’. I made up this story so they can understand better and be grateful for what they have. The story goes, when babies are born, along comes a gigantic box called Responsibility. This box is the heaviest box anyone ever gets to lift - and only the strongest of people can actually do that. In a lot of families, two people need to lift this box and carry it cos it is SO heavy, and Allah knows one of them is not strong enough to do it by oneself, so he asks BOTH to carry it. 

But, in our family, Mummy is super duper strong, so Allah said ‘Mummy you can do it all by yourself, you don’t need dad’s help.’ So Mummy bent down and lifted the box, and she knew she could carry it all by herself. The box was heavy, but it was a lot of fun, and Mummy didn’t have to share any of things inside with anyone - she felt privilege that Allah chose her to have all the goodies in the box to herself. Some days though, this box does get heavier than usual, Allah puts more goodies in it, then Mummy feels tired and her back starts hurting - those are the days she needs help lifting the box. So then, Allah sends other people to help her carry the box; those are the nice people Allah puts on Mummy’s path and her children’s path - the people who just want to come and help just cos they are nice!
And sometimes, just because they (my kids) are so strong themselves, they give me a hand to carry the box. Kids from a single parent household tend to learn about responsibilities much earlier than other kids; the single parent depend on them as much as they depend on him/her.

Those friends, relatives, strangers who help us carry the box are our lifelines. Most single mums rely on their support network - they say it takes a village to raise a child and indeed it does - no matter how small that village is. Single mums tend to support each other, as we know of the struggle and the battles; but what is more amazing are those people who have not experienced our struggle, and yet they care enough to give us a helping hand and a shoulder. Those few people who recognise us, and see our struggle make a real difference to us - that stranger who stops in the shop to distract our children when they are having a meltdown, that friend who call to ask us how we are doing and if we need anything, the men who choose to play daddy in their lives - all of those people contribute in supporting us and we do not acknowledge them enough maybe verbally, but deep down you have no idea how grateful we are to those people. We do not want pity- we do not want those sorry looks - all we want is people to actually put into action what they are saying- actions speak louder than words and your actions tells us about your intentions.

So to those men, who comes in the form of our father/brother/cousin/friend or even stranger a big thank you for re-storing our hope in manhood. I am lucky enough that my brother chose to play that role in my family - although he has his own family, he still helps me with the school runs, with babysitting duties and so on. I could not have done it without him - when I gave up and didn’t believe in me, he pushed me to stand on my own feet - when I need a break, he takes time off work to look after my kids - and whenever he mentions having 4 kids, rather than 2- somewhere I feel even if something was to happen to me, he’d be there for them. My kids chose to call him ‘daddy’ and people have frown upon this as he is their uncle and it could confuse them- they are not confused - they are just giving him the respect and love he deserves.

A real man knows when to stand up and when to sit down; a real man knows how to take responsibility on (whether it’s his or not); a real man doesn’t just do the talk, but he also does the walk; a real man does not live in a fantasy world but faces reality ( no matter how ugly it is); a real man will know where his priorities lie; a real man will guide and support and finally he will give and command respect. So cheers to all the real men out there - keep up with it - we need you!

And for those Muslims out there who are scared of us single mums for whatever reasons - the prophet (peace be upon him) was raised by a single mother until she passed away, his first wife Khadija bint Khuwaylid was also a single mother and business woman, Maryam bint Imran was a single mother, Sawdah bint Zam’a ( the prophet’s 2nd wife) was a single mother who was old, Umm Salamah (another wife of the prophet) also a single mum and barren, Zaynab bin Jahsh a divorcee ( wife of the prophet), Ramla bint Abu Sufyan (wife of the prophet and a single mum) and Safiya bin Huyay (wife of the prophet belonging to a Jewish family).  We single mums and divorcees have so many examples to look up to and we should know our worth according to what the prophet has set and not what society wants us to think. Ladies let’s try to please Allah and his messenger (peace be upon him)!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Happily ever after is in the Hereafter

I was reading a post earlier and it said “Happily ever after is only in the Hereafter” and this made me smile. We are always running after this ‘Happily ever after’ in this world - the dream job, the dream house, the dream marriage/partner, the perfect kids, the perfect education, the perfect look etc etc. So many times, we feel we have failed cos we are nowhere near the targets we’ve set. We still have a long way to go or maybe we have given up on the idea of ever even getting there.

I personally had to change a lot of things in my life. When I was 18, I set some goals with a friend and we both decided by the time we are 29 we would have achieved so many things in life. Sadly, my friend passed away just after his 20th birthday so he didn’t get to fulfil any of his dreams. It was a bit of a wake up call for me then, we plan but Allah is the biggest of planners. The targets we tend to set are more to do with the achievements of this world, the best target we could set is to do with the hereafter.

I must admit, many of things I set out to achieve by the age of 29 has not been fulfilled; some of them I know deep in my heart will most like never become true; though somewhere in me, I have hope that Allah’s plan is much better and bigger than the one I had.

Becoming a mum before the age of 25 was really not part of my plan, but it was part of Allah’s plan and probably the best I have had so far.  It has taught me so many things about life and about myself. I have been blessed with motherhood, even though maybe I have had to give up on other things; but I wouldn’t change it for anything else in this world.

When I turned 29, I decided it was time to change those milestones I had set; some were outdated and others were just not practical; maybe the best choice is to leave it all to Allah, for Him to decide what is to come without really planning too much ahead.

When my dad passed away, me and my siblings decided to talk to my mum and let her know that we will support her if she ever decides to get married again. Loneliness can be something quite hard to deal with, especially if you have spent most of your life by someone’s side. I clearly remember my mum’s answer: “ No matter how hard it gets here in this world on my own, I at least have the hope that in the hereafter, I will be with your dad again, as his wife once more.” This for me is one of  the “Happily ever after” - to have experienced true love and to be willing to wait for the rest of your life to re-live it. They did not have the perfect marriage, but they had what it took to understand each other and to survive through their 25 years of marriage.

So, I have hope that no matter what I have had, and what I have in this world; what is to come in the Hereafter in every aspect of my life will be much better even if I have to wait for eternity InshaAllah. We are but travellers in this world.

My dear sisters, let’s stop running after the goals we have set here, and focus on the fruits we will reap there InshaAllah.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

FREEDOM behind the veil

All we really want sometimes is to be truly free. Our daily struggles make it almost impossible to reach this freedom until we reach breaking point and we have to put everything in perspective. What if real freedom is actually separating us from all the life goals,all those milestones we have been setting ourselves to meet the standard of success set by society?

For years I have been busy trying to put the broken pieces back-  what if the pieces are not meant to be put together agin? What if, it was meant to be broken in the first place so that it can be a unique and beautiful piece of work? I told one of my friend once that I’m broken, and her answer was you are a beautiful kind of broken cos you are expensive and no one can really afford you. Bearing in mind that at that time, my friend was having her own crisis and feeling ‘broken’ herself- it hit home at that time- not that what she said meant much- but the simple fact she had something to say to make me want to feel better about myself. 

Today’s blog is mainly a thank you, first and foremost to God - the Creator and the Healer and then to all those people who have contributed in a way or the other to shape me - the people who’ve left good memories and those who have also hurt me at times. When we are at a point in life where we feel low, everything else feels negative - but when we manage to drag yourself out of this self-pity mode and look at things - even the negative people in our life has brought about some positivity.

Society has set certain standards and certain rules, culture has also set additional norms to follow and sometimes our value system does not agree with those rules and norms but we want to fit in badly - we feel the need to belong as humans and we try to adhere to those rules and norms set. Then we start living a lie - a life to please others: our parents, our family, our friends, the community and so on- we try to mould ourselves into their mould, but we forget we were not made for these moulds, so failure was guaranteed from the beginning.

We live in a world where everything is materialistic, where relationships have become a business deal - whereby people won’t help you  unless you give something in return; where friendship,love and all relationships have become business dealings of give and take and once you have nothing to give - you are sent to the scrapyard. This can be hard for givers - who were born to give automatically, who were raised to not expect anything in return when they give. As a giver, you are constantly intentionally or unintentionally putting yourself in positions where people will take, to the point where you are drained of giving and you have given too much of yourself- where you are exhausted from putting others’ needs above yours. 

A message for givers: you have needs too and you also need to learn to take and find other givers who will give you back and not just take from you. Your kindness is what makes you extraordinary, but your kindness is also what makes you vulnerable. Some people are born takers: everything is a business deal and is about making profit - and if you are not careful, you will end up losing more than you intended to give. Do not let anyone have this power over you without them intending to give you something else in return. It is a selfish world out there and you got to look out for yourself! Learn to say No! Learn to say Enough!

In the process of giving, I’ve lost myself more than once - but i’m glad i’ve learnt to step back and to say No! Enough! For years, I’ve been trying to find myself again - but I was looking in the wrong place all along - I was looking to find myself in a society/community I didn’t belong to. But today, I’ve found myself - and I know I do not belong and never will - my values are too different, my beliefs do not fit in and I certainly would be more unhappy trying to fit than live by what I believe in.

When I was at uni, we had this cartoon picture where friends would tag each other according to the type of characteristics/personality  traits  others thought was closer to them. I remember being tagged as ‘the one who takes no crap’. At that time, I remember laughing about it but never really pondering why everyone agreed to it. But today it makes perfect sense: I was the type of person who would tell you things the way they were whether it offends you or not and I just didn’t let anyone walk over me. I was actually proud of that me- because I stood for what I believed in and what I believed to be right rather than what would be acceptable according to society’s standards. I set the rules back then- I was the Alpha- the pack leader - the one nobody dared to mess with.

But then, life happened and I broke. My ex-husband was warned about me - I warned him myself and people around me warned him - I was too strong for my own good - I was not one to break easily and to put up with nonsense. Maybe, he took it as a challenge and had to prove everyone else wrong. God knows best, but you cannot completely break what God is protecting. Today, I thank God for the bad experience - it has made me even stronger and firmer in my belief. Every experience good or bad counts and make us who we are today, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the bad experience. Some people come into our life to stay, others to teach us a lesson and move on. So, I would like to thank him too for the lesson - my experience of him has taught me a lot and has definitely make me believe that God believed I was stronger than I thought.

Some years back, I used to wear the face veil - something I took on because I wanted to. My family was not keen on the idea though they did not contest it. They believed I was going through some form of extremism in the religion- and truth be told even I started to think maybe I was lately. Wearing the face veil though was not for me to show my piety but it was something I did in my personal journey, something I did to please God as an extra act of worship. Then I found myself alone - raising my daughters; I felt the pressure of finding a job to provide for my family, the pressure of being a single Muslim woman out and about in the street with 2 kids in a non-muslim country and I gave in. I found all the excuses to take it off - to make my life easier. 

Today, I realise this was where things started to go downhill. It is just a piece of garment that doesn’t mean much maybe - but it was my decision- it was my faith that I jeopardised it. From then, all the other pieces of clothing became a formality - something that was accepted in the society I was trying to conform to, but it was a lie- a lie I was living as it didn’t represent me - I was not identifying the way I wanted to. I grew tired of 'practsing' Muslims who were completely hollow from inside and wanted and still want to separate myself from them - those cultural muslims who pray 5 times a day, dress like a muslim but who's character did not conform to the teaching of Islam.

For the past few weeks, I asked God to free me rather than to give me something I wanted - I wanted to feel free again and that’s the prayer I made. I attended my Sunday class in the mosque and prayed there and one more time asked God to free me when I come out of the mosque. This time, I felt a relief, I could not wait to be out of the mosque and I went home and as I got home- I texted 2 friends and said I feel like putting my face veil on. One asked me why and the other told me to do it if that’s what I feel like. So I went upstairs and rummaged through my box of clothes and found my face veil and gloves. Just as I was putting them on, my daughters walk in and they both said “Mummy, you look so beautiful like this. I like you like this.” 
Part of the reason I had given to myself before to take it off was about their safety - what if I get attacked while they are with me? But their little sentences struck home, so I looked up in the mirror and I recognised the person I was looking at - it was someone I have seen before and someone I was proud to be. It was then that I realised this is who I was looking for all along. It was God who protected me all along , not men.

So, I took them to the park with their scooters, we ran like crazy - had a race which I lost, but we haven’t had that much fun together in a while - they didn’t care I looked different - they valued me for being who I was - their mum. But, I felt FREE from everything that tied me down before.

So thank you, to you Miss I - my partner in crime for always supporting me; my family for your support and positive criticism, Yezarck- for being my role model and the big sister I always need and all my friends.
But I will also like to thank those people who intentionally or unintentionally have brought me hurt and pain along the way - cos without you, I would still be struggling to find myself, FREEDOM and PEACE. You as much or maybe even more than others contributed in making me stronger and helping me recognise my true identity. Some people are not meant to stay with us for the rest of the journey but they come into our life to teach us a lesson.

May God bless all of you!