Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wayfarers to God

Written by Habib ‘Ali Zain Al ‘Abideen Al Jifri
Translated by Shaykh Mohamed Mlamli Adam
Published by Guidance media
ISBN 0-9550891-1-5

‘Wayfarers to God’ (Ma’alim as-Suluk) is a translation of a series of Arabic lectures given at Al Zayed University for Women in the United Arab Emirates. Equally relevant to men and women, these lectures are full of wisdom to learn and practise insha-Allah. The shaykh shades light on how to approach Allah SWT, the importance of adhering to the Sunnah of our beloved prophet Muhammad SAW, impediments to wayfaring and so on. It also discusses about the principal diseases of the heart and most importantly their cures. This book has taught me a lot about self-accounting and how to perceive and deal with our ephemeral world, Alhamdulillah.

While reading this book, there came some moments where I felt very emotional and moved by the way the author talked about certain realities of life. But there also occurred some moments where I was feeling optimistic too, by the grace of Almighty. It puts your entire life into a proper perspective and teaches you how to deal with your short but very crucial time on this earth. As the author says, “Whoever knows that this (death) is the end of his world, know that the most that one will gain from this world is camphor and a funeral shroud with a little perfume that is folded in his shroud, that he will be placed in the dust in a hole. What is this intelligence that he has? Is he pleased that his aspirations, his mind, his consciousness, his thoughts, his lifespan, his time and his effort have come to an end, but that they do not go with him to the grave and no one will accompany him? This is what is incumbent upon man to be alive to, to wake up to. He wakes up to the fact that his connection with this dunya ( world), deceitful and scheming as it is, quick to flee and abandon its companions, treacherous to them, that his only worthwhile connection to it is as a means to attain Allah’s presence, nothing else. Intrinsically, this world is cheap, but can be priceless if it becomes a ladder for one to scale to Allah’s presence as one plans for the Next World.”

The author also talked about Rizq but not as financial provision but as ‘spiritual’ (non-physical) Rizq which has motivated me a lot Alhamdulillah. According to him, the spiritual rizq is the real rizq that is incumbent upon a Muslim to seek from Allah SWT. This rizq has been defines as the light of faith, reliance upon Allah SWT, being pleased with Allah SWT, fear and awe (before Allah), humility and renouncing (this world), hope, unveiling, beneficial knowledge, actions on the basis of beneficial knowledge, sincerity to Allah, teaching people, serving this religion and praiseworthy character. These are all forms of Rizq that Allah SWT bestows upon those He honours! This book is full of wisdom and not easy to grasp in one go. But Insha-Allah you won’t regret reading this book, I can assure you.

A Muslim girl's guide to life's big changes

Author: Rayhana Khan
Ta Ha Publishers Ltd

Written from a ‘big sister’ perspective, this book explains briefly all the issues young Muslim women may face in their life. The author encourages the young girls to remember her advice as an older sister who has been through what they are about to experience: ‘Stop, think and question all that you do in your life.’ She talks about school life, basic knowledge of Islam, hijab, behaviour, socialisation and the physical changes girls will experience from the age of nine onwards. There is a small quiz section to test how safe our Muslim identity is. She also explains in details how to take care of our bodies as women.

An excerpt from the book:

“The most simple but most effective thing you can do at any time is to pray to Allah (SWT). Be proud to be Muslim and stand up for your beliefs. Remember your aim is to please Allah (SWT) not your friends. Islam is about respect, kindness and decency. You should keep clean, dress decently, keep good company and speak good language. This is what makes you beautiful - the kind of person you are and how you treat people - not the way you dress and your accessories. You should try to learn what is in the Qur’an and the hadith and follow it.”

The book is quite easy to read and you will be able to finish reading in an hour or less. Mothers should try to go through the book as well as it can give them some idea of what young girls may be going through and they can discuss issues with their daughters. As the author has just touched upon very briefly about the issues faced by Muslim girls, it is important for parents to elaborate on the issues and try to help daughters to make the right choice during their transition from childhood to adulthood.

You can be the happiest woman in the world

Written by Dr. A’id al-Qarni


Published by International Islamic Publishing House

ISBN 9960-850-89-7
Well, the title says it all, doesn’t it? But still I would like to say something about this great book. Whenever I feel a bit sad or bored with my life, I turn to this book as it helps me to go on, Alhamdulillah. According to the translator, this book is for busy women, regardless of their role in life, whether they are wives, mothers or working women (or all three), containing short, snappy passages that lead to greater truths. I would like to quote some extracts from the book to enable you to get an idea about the book, Insha-Allah: "It is sufficient honour for you that you are a Muslim. If a woman obey her Lord, offers her five daily prayers and preserves her honour, she will enter Paradise of her Lord." “Wherever you go and find darkness in your life; what you have to do is to light the lamp within yourself.” And finally I love to read the passage below and hope you will love it too, insha-Allah. To be the most beautiful woman in the world! “With your beauty, you are better than the sun; with your morals you are more sublime than musk; with your modesty you are nobler than the full moon; with your compassion you are more beneficial than rain. So preserve your beauty with faith, your tranquillity with contentment, your chastity with hijab. Remember that your adornment is not gold, silver or diamonds, rather, it is two rak’ahs at Fajr, going thirsty when you fast for Allah, concealed charity which no one knows except Him, hot tears that wash away sin, a lengthy prostration born of utter submission to Allah, shyness before Allah when the inclination to do evil overwhelms you. Clothe yourself with the garments of taqwa (piety) for you are the most beautiful woman in the world, even if your clothes are shabby. Clothe yourself with the cloak of modesty, for you are the most beautiful woman in the world even if you are barefooted. Beware of the life of bewitching immoral disbelieving women, for they are the fuel of the fire of hell.” Need I say more!

The Ideal Muslimah

Written by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi
Published by: International Islamic Publishing House
ISBN 9960-850-39-0

I came across this book for the first time in Saudi Arabia during the hajj season 2006. This book is very special to me as my father bought this book for me. I am very thankful to him, Alhamdulillah. It is a very useful book for sisters who are interested to mould their personality according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our beloved prophet Muhammad SAW. It deals with every aspect of a woman’s life such as her relation with her Lord Allah SWT, her own self, relation with her parents, husband, children, in-laws, relatives, neighbours, friends and sisters in Islam, her community and so on. I must say, it is quite a comprehensive book on ideal characteristics of a Muslim woman. It’s almost a 550 page book to read and grasp the wisdom! But it really deserves to be read thoroughly. Every woman should have this book and try to practise the teaching Insha-Allah to their best ability, that’s certainly includes me too. Some extracts from the book: “The blessing of Islam did not stop at raising women from humiliation and backwardness to a level of progress, honour, security and protection. Islam is also concerned with the formation and development of every aspect of her personality, whether it affects her alone or her relationship with her family and society, so that she may become refined and highly developed, worthy of her role as Allah’s vicegerent ( khaleefah) on earth.” “When it comes to Islamic duties, the Muslim woman is just like a man; she has a mission in life, and so she is required to be as effective, active and social as her particular circumstances and capabilities allow, mixing with other woman as much as she can and dealing with them in accordance with the worthy Islamic attitudes and behaviour that distinguish her from other women. Wherever the Muslim woman is found, she becomes a beacon of guidance and a positive source of correction and education through both her words and her deeds.” Without any doubt I can say, this book is bound to boost your belief in Allah SWT and make you completely satisfied with Allah as your Lord, Islam as your faith and Muhammad SAW as your beloved prophet.

The Alchemist

Written by Paulo Coelho


HarperCollins publishers

ISBN 0-7225-3293-8
This book was given to us (me and my significant other) as a wedding gift and we managed to finish it quite soon as we really enjoyed the story. This is a fiction story which is about an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the exotic markets of Tangiers and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him. It’s a fascinating story which gives us the essential wisdom of listening to our heart and above all, following our dreams! Although I am not really fond of fiction that much, I have really enjoyed reading this one. The author here talked about ‘personal calling’ by which he meant God’s blessing. It meant the path that God chose for us on Earth. He talked about the obstacles that we may encounter while trying to fulfil our dreams. The story has taught me something very important about life. I believe that the life of every one of us is unique and special and it’s a journey towards Allah SWT and through the journey we gain wisdom.



Reflections of Pearls

Written by Inam Uddin & Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf


Published by: White Thread Press

ISBN 0-9728958-5-7
Mashallah this book is very helpful as it has lots of supplication (dua) we need on a day to day basis. This book not only deals with the supplication itself but also talks about the significance and etiquette of supplication. The authors have also mentioned the places and the time where our prayers are more likely to be accepted by Allah SWT. One thing I really love about this book is the citation of prayers from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (tradition) of our beloved prophet Mohammad SAW. The 99 beautiful names of Allah SWT with its meaning and English transliteration (which really comes handy if you cannot read Arabic properly) are mentioned. Beside, a short description of how to pray some of the well recommended ( by our prophet SAW ) supererogatory prayers such as Sunrise prayer, prayer of the pious, prayer for repentance, prayer for decision making, prayer for need and so on are given by the authors.I would like to suggest my brothers and sisters to read this book as it has helped me a lot to connect to Allah SWT on a daily basis, Alhamdulillah

Monday, 7 June 2010

Ruqyah for children

Recently I did a research on Ruqyah and alhamdulillah found a lot of useful information. Alhamdulillah Allah swt has blessed us with beautiful, healthy children. Sometimes I do feel worried for them . Insha-Allah as our beloved prophet Mohammad saw has recommended, I will try to do as much dua as possible for their well-being and good Islamic upbringing.

Ruqyah consists of words said or written in the form of dua (supplication) or dhikr (remembrance of Allah SWT) for the purpose of protection and cure. It is sometimes accompanied with certain actions such as blowing or wiping over someone to whom it is applied. Our Prophet (SAW) warned against ruqyahs which involve shirk (associating partners with Allah SWT). There are some important conditions that must be satisfied for a ruqyah to be permissible. According to Ibn Hajar (RA), there is a consensus among the ‘ulama that a ruqyah is permissible when it satisfies three conditions:


1. It should be with Allah’s (SWT) words (the Qur’an) or using His names and attributes.
2. It should be in Arabic or of an intelligible meaning.
3. One must believe that it does not have an independent power by itself, but by Allah’s (SWT) will.
Ruqyah from the Qur’an

Surah Al-Fatihah - (Surah 1)
Ayat ul-Kursi – (Surah 2:255)
Surah Ikhlas – (Surah 112)
Surah Falaq – (Surah 113)
Suran Nas – (Surah 114)

The last three surahs of the Qur’an are called mu’awwithat (‘the protecting ones’)

The Prophet (SAW) said, “Say the mu’awwithat three times in the evening and in the morning. This will protect you from all (harmful) things.”

Aishah (RA) reported: “When Allah’s Messenger (SAW) went to bed, he would bring the palms of both hands together and blow into them while reciting ‘Qul huwa Llahu ahad’, ‘Qul a’uthu bi rabbi l-falaq’, and ‘Qul a’uthu bi rabb in’Naas’. He would then rub with them whatever he could reach of his body, starting with his head, face and the front of his body. He would do this three times. When he was too ill, he asked me to do this for him.” – (Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Said al-Khudri (RA) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (SAW) used to seek Allah’s protection from jinns and evil eye with various supplications until the two mu’awwithat were revealed. After that he (SAW) adhered to them and left everything else.” – (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

Abu Said al-Khudri (RA) reported that Jibril (AS) visited the prophet (SAW) while sick and said to him, “O Muhammad, are you sick?” He replied, “Yes” Jibril (AS) said:
“Bismillahi arqik, min kullishay’in yu’thik, min sharri kulli nafsin aw ‘ayni haasid”

– “With Allah’s Name I shelter you, from all that ails you, from the evil of any soul and that of the envious eye. May Allah cure you; with Allah’s Name I shelter you.” – (Muslim)

‘Uthman Bin ‘Affan (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: “Nothing would harm a slave who says three times every morning and evening:
‘Bismillah il-lathi laa yadurru ma’ asmihi shay’un fil ardi wala fis-sama’I wahuw as-sami ul-alim’

– ‘I shelter myself with the name of Allah, the One with whose name nothing can cause harm or earth or in the heaven. He is the Healer, the Knower.’” – (Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi)

Prophet (SAW) has taught us how to avoid the evil eye. Children are especially vulnerable to the evil eye. The supplications we can do for our children are given below:

‘Abdullah Bin ‘Abbas (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) sought Allah’s protection for his grandchildren, al-Hasan (RA) and al-Husayn (RA), with the same supplication that Ibrahim (AS) said for his children Ismail (AS) and Ishaq (AS):
“U’ithukuma bikalimati illah it-taammah, min kulli shaytaanin wa-haammah, wa min kulli ‘aynin laammah”

- “I shelter both of you with Allah’s complete words from every devil and harmful creature, and from every envious eye.” - (Bukhari)
And Allah (SWT) tells us that upon delivering Maryam (AS), her mother sought Allah’s protection for her and her descendents from Satan:

“Allahumma inni u-idhuha [hu] bika wa dhurriyyataha [hu] mina’sha-shaytani’r-rajiim(i).”

- “O Allah, I put her [him], and her [his] progeny under Your protection from Satan, the accursed”

- (Qur’an Surah 3:36)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The tale of an unplanned homebirth

This time last year, I was counting down my days until I could see my baby for the first time. My daughter was due on 11th April and on 9th, I was busy shopping and gardening the whole day. The day I go shopping, I really try to avoid cooking and prefer to eat out, but on that day, eating out seemed impossible and that made me very annoyed. I just realised how dependant I was on eating out! Anyway, like any other pregnant woman I was very hungry by the time I reached home and decided to cook a proper three course meal as if to prove that I can do better than the restaurants that I would have gone to! I cooked quite a lot which was going to last at least couple of days. At that time, I didn’t have a clue that my baby was going to arrive on the same day! Allah (SWT) makes things happen for a reason, Subhanallah.


By the time I went to bed which was around 11, I was having quite a lot of pain and was going to the toilet a lot and that is why I thought it was just tummy ache for some unknown reason. When the pain started to increase, then I thought maybe this is it but just started to use the breathing techniques I had learned watching endless pregnancy and birth programmes on TV. It was going quite smoothly and I thought I was in control. But by 12, I was pretty sure that it was labour pains and not indigestion. I woke my hubby up and sent him to get his mother as we had to leave our 16 month old son with her at home. I thought I had at least 6-7 hours in hand, as my previous pregnancy had been induced and was over in 3 hours. I thought that as this would be a ‘normal birth’ this time, I would have as long as most other people have. However, by 1 am, I started bleeding and my waters broke! I was in severe pain and I was feeling a tremendous pressure at the lower end as if the baby was almost ready to come out. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t stand or sit; I just lied down on my bedroom floor and started groaning. I wonder what the neighbours were thinking! My poor son was watching me from his cot and must have felt quite shocked seeing me behaving so unusual. Luckily I had my mobile with me so I called 999. This was the first time I had ever had to dial 999 in my life. I was really in shock thinking, is this really happening to me or is it just a nightmare!

Alhamdulillah my husband arrived with my mum-in-law just before the paramedics came. We were told that there wasn’t that much time left as they were able to see baby’s head so I stared pushing in accordance with the contractions. I was asking for gas and air. I was very scared thinking about the possibility of going through labour without gas and air! Alhamdulillah they were able to provide that for me. By 1:10 AM I was fully dilated and alhamdulillah our beautiful baby girl was born by 1:30. My husband told me later that she was all blue when she came out as the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. The paramedics remained calm though and massaged her chest a bit and alhamdulillah within a couple of seconds she started crying. It was such a relief Subhanallah! I still cannot believe it. With my first labour I had a bad experience with stitches. That’s why this time I strongly refused to have any stitches. Alhamdulillah I was healed very quickly. The trick is you have to keep the place clean and dry and try to have warm bath with a little bit of salt on a regular basis.

The whole process, from the first stage of labour to the third stage, lasted only two and a half hours! I felt like the luckiest mum in the world, alhamdulillah! I still think it was a miracle. I always thought this can only happen in movies. By 3:30, I had my bath and was enjoying my time with my newborn baby. Having an induced labour at hospital with my first baby, I was able to compare the two birth experiences. As it was such an unplanned sort of homebirth, I felt very scared as everything was happening so quickly. But when I compare this one with my induced one I think this one was far better alhamdulillah.

Watching programmes on homebirths and reading about homebirths, I was thinking about homebirth at the beginning of my second pregnancy. However, as midwives suggested not trying homebirth given my previous history of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, I had to change my mind. But now, alhamdulillah going through this accidentally I think it was the best way to have my baby. I felt comfortable being at home. Some medical experts do believe that giving birth in familiar surroundings can raise your confidence during labour, make us feel more in control, if all is proceeding well and make us feel less inhibited: all of which can help ease labour. Moreover, there's a far lower incidence of medical intervention in homebirths, whether that’s having our waters broken (with my first one I had it done), electronic foetal monitoring (I hated it), medication or episiotomies. In terms of privacy, homebirth can be really good. I was surrounded by ladies, which created a ‘sisterly’ environment mashallah. All the paramedics who came were women, as were the two midwives who came later to check everything was alright with me and my daughter. I was lucky that this happened as this probably would not have been the case if this was planned. A significant advantage of a home birth is that you can start your recovery process in the comfort of your own home straight away. After the hard work of delivery, it can make all the difference to be settled into your own bed and sheets, alhamdulillah. I was also very lucky to have my mum and mum-in-law cooking and helping me in almost everything.

My husband was there throughout the labour which I really appreciate. I strongly believe husbands should be birth partners as this can help them appreciate what their mothers and wives and hopefully one day, their precious daughters will go through. It also helps guys to create a better bond as fathers with their newborn. I was very lucky to have my families around. I didn’t need to go to the hospital and my daughter was doing very well too. I am very grateful to Allah (SWT) for making things so easy for me, alhamdulillah. Homebirth is on rise through out the world as more and more women want to have the birth as naturally as possible. But this is not an option for everyone as some women can have complications during their pregnancy and hospital is the best place for them. However, I am trying to learn more about homebirth, as I hope and pray that I can have planned homebirth in future INSHA-ALLAH.

Chicken Biriyani

Chicken biryani is my all time favourite. I love making this recipe whenever I get chance especially for guests. You can even make it one day early to save you from hassle and it actually tastes better the next day. You can serve this biryani with mint yoghurt and a salad of cucumber, tomatoes and red onion chopped very finely.
Ingredients
1 chicken (cut into 8 pieces)
1 medium onion
1 cup (250ml) thick yoghurt
1 teaspoon (5ml) chilli powder
1 teaspoon (5ml) garam masala
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon (15ml) garlic paste
1 teaspoon (5ml) turmeric
3 tablespoons (60ml) vegetable oil (or butter)
6 cups basmati rice
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh coriander
1 teaspoon roughly chopped mint
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
2 cinamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
a pinch of saffron
3 tablespoon fried onion for garnising
some roasted chashew nuts
Fried onion for garnishing
Water according to need

Method
- Cut the chicken into 8 pieces
- Cut the onion into small pieces.
- Mix the yoghurt, chilli powder, turmeric powder , garam masala, half the ginger, half the garlic to make a paste in a bowl.
- Make some cuts in the chicken pieces and rub the paste that you just made over the pieces.
- Let the paste soak into the chicken for 30 minutes. Sometimes I keep it in the fridge for a day.
- Heat half of the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and lightly brown the onion. Add the rest of the ginger, garlic and some cinamon sticks and cardamom pods.
- Stir-fry for just for couple of minutes until you can smell the spices and then add the chicken pieces and cook until it’s tender.
- In another pan, boil some water (2 litres) with 1 teaspoon salt, some black pepper corn. Add the washed basmati and cook till it’s a bit firm then drain the rice.
- Now to assemble the chicken biryani, get some herbs such as coriander, mint chopped and some ginger root grated and fried onion. You can also add some saffron mixed with warm milk to add a beautiful golden orange colour to the dish. In a large, thick bottom pan, make a layer of rice topped with the chicken cooked previously, then sprinkle the chopped herbs, ginger, fried onion and saffron, then cover it with some more rice and sprinkle the rest of the saffron milk.
- Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pan with foil and its lid and leave it to cook very slowly for one hour. You can cook it in the oven at gas mark 5.
- Just before serving, mix the biryani lightly with a wooden spoon and spread the biryani in a wide dish, topped with fried onion, roasted cashew nuts (optional) and chopped corainder.
- Serve hot. I like to serve my biryani with yughurt and mint sauce . Enjoy :-)

Easy chocolate cake with caramel cream

This a very easy recipe which can be quite a popular cake for any gathering. My mum-in-law makes yummy cakes and I have learned quite a lot from her recipes. This one is inspired by one of her cakes which I thoroughly enjoyed eating every bit of it as it had caramel in it ! From my experience, chocolate cakes are liked by almost everyone. So do enjoy making and serving this delicious cake insha-Allah. This one can serve up to 12 people.

Ingredients
6 oz self-raising flour
2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder
8 oz caster sugar
8 oz butter
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
4 eggs
A good quality chocolate bar
7- 8 tablespoons of coke
Roasted almond flakes

Ingredients for caramel cream
600 ml double cream
198 gm caramel (half of a regular tin)

Method

- Preheat oven to 350 deg F (Gas mark 4 or 180 deg C).
- Grease a 9 inch (23 cm) cake tin.
- Mix everything together until smooth, either by hand or by using an electric mixer at slow speed.
- Transfer to bake tin and bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean, after approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
- In the meantime, make the caramel cream by whipping the double cream with caramel. You can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence in the cream.
- After the cake has cooled, cut the cake into two layers, add some coke to make it a bit moist .
- Use one 1/3 of the caramel cream between the two layers, 1/3 on top, and the rest around the cake.
- Sprink roasted almond flakes all over the cake.
- Using a grater, you can make some tiny chocolate pieces and sprinkle on top of the cake.
- Keep the cake in the fridge and take it out just before serveing. Enjoy !