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Jun 30, 2014

SHORT STORY: THE HELPER - Chapter 1

By Ruksana


Bismillah

Before Khaled’s mother, Maryam, left this world, she only had one wish: “Take your brother and his wife to America. I want you all to stay together…he is your kin.” Aware that she was soon to depart from this dunya and on her way to Allah, the Most High, no one had to remind her to utter the shahada: “La illaha illa Allah, Muhammadan Rasulu-Allah (There is no god but Allah and Muhammed is His messenger).” She repeated this over and over again until her head fell back on her pillow, her thin body having been exhausted from a recurring heart ailment that she had refused to treat as she was afraid of hospitals and doctors. Maryam succumbed to sleep in Khaled’s arms.

It was not long when he awoke and felt her hand drop away from his. It was then that he knew she had gone away. Tears rolling down his pale face, Khaled trembled from the shock of not having his mother with him anymore. Even while whispering the customary statement, “Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi Raaji'oon” (To Allah we belong and to Him is our return), he could not help but think about his loneliness without his beloved mother. Who would worry about him while he was in America? Who would give him guidance? Who would he turn to during his moments of sadness and happiness? His mother would no longer be with him. She was…gone. Khaled was left to face the harsh realities of this world alone.

In the days ahead, it was Khaled who arranged for the washing of his mother’s body, the janazah prayer, and the burial afterwards. It was him, rather than his oldest brother Ahmed, who contacted relatives to deliver the news of his mother’s death. This was in addition to him having to complete a myriad of other tasks related to funeral planning and death certificates. The entire village came to make dua for Maryam at her janazah. She was loved by everyone, including the beggars who she had always fed (even on the days her own family was running out of rice). Her death marked a turning point in the village of Hema. It was not only her elderly status that gained her a reputation, but rather her extraordinary kindness and generosity had stood out in a village known to be shunned by nearby residents. The residents of Hema were constantly envious of each other and resorted to all kinds of trickery and deceit for their selfish interests, and few people in that village could be trusted. Poverty made most of the villagers bitter and resentful.

Khaled, who had been away studying in America, was clueless about the bitterness that had been eating away at his fellow villagers’ hearts. The naive young man had big dreams for his brother and his brother’s wife. He even dreamt of building up the village of Hema, having new wells installed, improving the telephone communication lines, and sponsoring the young boys of the village to study in the city. Maryam had always advised him to be a good Muslim and help those in need, especially his own kin. Ever since he earned his first job as a letter reader and writer for the illiterate people in the village, he had helped others in need. As such, Khaled took his mother’s advice to heart and was determined to obey her last wish.

Khaled’s brother, Ahmed, was not at Hema when their mother died. He was away in the city with his new wife Tahmima. Khaled had sent word to Ahmed four days ago that their mother’s condition was worsening, and it was likely she would pass away soon. However, Ahmed came too late. Khaled tried to convince himself that Ahmed had probably been kept at the city for some business he had to tend to. But a nagging voice in the back of his head casted doubt in him.

When Ahmed and Tahmima finally came back, Maryam had already been buried.

“Little brother,” Ahmed uttered, looking grieved, “Did Ama ask about me before she died?”

“She wished you had been next to her in her last moments,” Khaled replied.

“Well, I tried, but you know how traffic is in the city, we were struggling just to get out.” Ahmed avoided Khaled’s eyes.

Khaled forced himself to believe his brother, feeling ashamed that he was having bad thoughts about him. He could almost hear his mother’s voice warning him to always trust his brother, who he had looked up to from a young age. Brushing aside the doubts, he decided to renew their brotherly bond, which had become sour due to petty differences over the last few years. The grief and sadness attached with losing their mother gave Khaled incentive to appreciate his brother more. If it had been possible, he would have sacrificed everything to save his mother. That was no longer possible. He decided he would do everything in his power to bring Ahmed and Tahmima to America.

Khaled imagined how it would be: Ahmed and Tahmima would arrive in New York City, where he was living. At this time, he would have already saved up money from his job at the restaurant to rent out a small 2 bedroom apartment for them. At the same time, he would secure Ahmed a job in the same place where they would work together. After some time, and after he found someone suitable to marry, Khaled and Ahmed would save up enough money to move to a bigger place, possibly a two story house. Tahmima and Khaled’s wife would get along like sisters, and the couples’ children would grow up together like siblings.

This was an ideal dream, and Khaled found himself feeling enthusiastic about returning to America to fulfill it. He could not wait to share the idea with Ahmed, as he was sure he would be ecstatic to hear it. Of course, Ahmed and Tahmima were expecting to immigrate to America with Khaled’s help. However, Khaled’s dream would soon be shattered and he would be left devastated.

Continued ... Chapter 2
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Please leave your comments in the comments section below :) 


Jun 27, 2014

Luqman’s Advice to His Son (Part 2)

by Shazia Arif

Part 1

Bismillah


Our parents, who are they? They are our caretakers, our sustainers, and our first love. What responsibilities did they not fulfill as our parents? What struggles did they go through to bring us to where we are today?


Previously, we discussed the first advice Luqman gave to his son which was about the severity of committing shirk. The next advice Luqman gave his son was about the rights of parents on their children.

“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness...” Qur'an, 31:14.

Your mother carried you in her womb for a long 9 months. A pregnant woman gains 25-35 pounds, on average, during her pregnancy. To those who have never been pregnant, just imagine so much extra weight added to your body along with fatigue, mood changes and hormonal imbalances during pregnancy. Those women who have been pregnant know exactly how much weakness a woman goes through during this stage.


“...and his weaning is in two years...” Qur'an, 31:14

Nursing a child for a maximum of 2 years is hard work. Any woman who has nursed children can tell you how long these 2 years may seem to them. Many of the mother’s nutrients go to the child, which again, causes a lot of weakness to the mother. In this regard, Allah Almighty continues in the same verse 14 of the Chapter 31,

“...Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.” Qur'an, 31:14

At the end, our return is to Allah subhana wa ta’ala and if we show gratitude to Him and our parents He will reward us greatly for this act.

“But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness...” Qur'an 31:15

Don’t follow your parents if they follow another religion other than yours, and if they ask you to disobey Allah, you do not follow them in that regard. This is because, after all, Allah’s subhana wa ta’ala obedience is most high. However, that does not mean you can treat your parents in a bad manner, rather Allah subhana wa ta’ala commands that you must continue to treat your parents with kindness and respect in this world.

“Sa`d bin Malik said, "This Ayah, was revealed concerning me. I was a man who honored his mother, but when I became Muslim, she said: `O Sa`d! What is this new thing I see you doing Leave this religion of yours, or I will not eat or drink until I die, and people will say: Shame on you, for what you have done to me, and they will say that you have killed your mother.' I said, `Do not do that, O mother, for I will not give up this religion of mine for anything.' She stayed without eating for one day and one night, and she became exhausted; then she stayed for another day and night without eating, and she became utterly exhausted. When I saw that, I said: `O my mother, by Allah, even if you had one hundred souls and they were to depart one by one, I would not give up this religion of mine for anything, so if you want to, eat, and if you want to, do not eat.' So she ate.''- Tabarani

“...and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]...” Qur'an 31:15

Follow those people who will lead you to the path of Allah, and these people will be the ones who turn to Allah subhana wa ta’ala in repentance. This is also in indication that we should always repent to Allah subhana wa ta’ala.


“...Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.” Qur'an 31:15

At the end we will return to Allah subhana wa ta’ala . Allah subhana wa tala will show us what our deeds were, whether we were obedient to our parents or not. Whether we respected them, or humiliated them.

From this article, we learnt:
- Importance of obeying one’s parents
- Importance of obeying Allah subhana wa ta’ala over our parents; there is no obedience to the creation if there is disobedience to the Creator
- Importance of always respecting one’s parents
- The high rank of a mother in Islam

To conclude there is a short du’a from the Qur’an that we all can make and memorise for our parents’ inshaAllah:

رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا

rabbirhamhuma kama rabbayanee sagheera

“My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small." Qur'an, 17:24



I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post comments in the section below!

Jun 25, 2014

Our Compassion Makes Us Strong

By Hend Hegazi

Bismillah

Working moms and stay-at-home moms, alike, have very busy schedules. Just like the working mom, the stay-at-home mom gets up early to wake everyone up. As her husband gets dressed, she prepares breakfast and lunches. She calls out every so often to check on the progress her kids have made. Her husband grabs a piece of toast and heads out the door, leaving her searching for the missing sneakers underneath the couch. Grabbing the sneakers (and a couple of stray socks, a slice of stale bread, and a sticky hard candy while she is at it), she thinks she finally has everyone set. 

A sense of relief begins to come over her as she sees the school bus turn the corner up the street. Just then she hears, “Mom!! I forgot my report upstairs in my desk!” She becomes super woman as she flies up the stairs, rescues the report from underneath the bed (she already knew it would not be in his desk!), and flies back down the stairs. Three seconds later, the report is safely in the bag, the kids have all been kissed, and she waves goodbye as they board the bus.

At the same time, the working mom double checks that she is wearing matching shoes, that there are no remnants from breakfast stuck to her, and that the kids have not removed her keys from her purse. She takes off for work, where she will undoubtedly be greeted with problems and new deadlines to meet. The stay-at-home mom rushes to tidy the house before she takes off to run errands, where she will deal with crowds, and maybe some not-so-friendly customer service representatives.

At around 5 o’clock, everyone returns home.  As the husband takes a shower, she starts dinner, not yet having taken off her shoes. An hour later, she is washing dishes as he takes a nap in front of the television. She puts in a load of laundry, and just as she is about to jump in the shower, her oldest son asks her a question about his math homework while her youngest throws up all over himself. She attempts to clean up the mess and simultaneously answer the question, but to her relief, the stench is motivation enough to send the inquirer fleeing to his room where he can try to figure it out on his own. An hour later, the kids have finished their homework, the puke is all taken care of, and she is finally showered. Just as her butt is about to land on the couch, she hears, “Could you get me something to drink before you sit down?” (It’s not really a question, of course, but we would not get into that now.)

Despite all she goes through on a daily basis, we rarely acknowledge her strength unless she is forced to deal with crisis. All parents who lose their children mourn. Some collapse and seclude themselves. No one can blame them; the loss of a child is considered, universally, to be the most difficult tragedy a person can face. The most astonishing part of it is that moms tend to push through quicker than dads. The fact that the woman—who after carrying her child for 9 months in her womb,was the first to hear his laugh, taught him to read and count, sat up nights nursing him when he was ill—can actually stand back up is remarkable. In many families where this tragedy occurs, it is usually the woman who supports the others. She continues to cry, but she forces herself back to work. Her heart continues to bleed, but she tells her husband that their kids need them both to be strong. She hates that she is alive while her child has died, but she cooks dinner and does the laundry.

The point is obvious, but the question remains…How is it that she is the rock? How does she endure?

The short answer: She is stronger because God endowed her with more compassion. She can hate it when her newborn keeps her up all night, but it is her innate compassion that gives her strength enough to hold onto that wailing baby instead of throwing him out the window. She can hate when her pre-teen talks back to her, but it is her compassion that flexes its muscles, keeping her from beating him over the head. She can roll her eyes when her “exhausted” husband cannot take out the trash, but she knows that if she dumps the garbage can over his head, that will just make more work for her.

She gives, almost endlessly, because she knows she has to. The miraculous thing is that most of the time it is not a chore; she enjoys doing it all because it is for the people she loves. She does it all, and smiles, and can keep going, because if these same people needed it, she would sacrifice her life for them for the sake of Allah. Because that is the strength God blessed her with simply for being a woman.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!

Jun 23, 2014

Time in the Kitchen - Part 2: Recipes

by Amal S

Part 1

Bismillah

Here are two recipes! These are two Persian recipes for all those who enjoy (or are open to trying) sweet dishes.

The first recipe is for a Persian dish called Shirin Polo, literally Sweet Rice.

As with most ‘traditional’ ethnic recipes, there are variations to this recipe you can find online – for example, some people will add sliced carrots, some people will not use raisins/sultanas. This recipe is not suitable for those who have nut allergies, unless of course you eliminate all nut ingredients from the recipe. Do not be put off from trying out this recipe by the many steps; it is actually quite an easy dish to make once you are familiar with it, and it is an intuitive recipe to follow.

Ingredients:

· Basmati Rice
· Chicken
· Onions
· Butter
· Sliced Almonds (usually bought pre-packaged, though I suppose you could peel them and thinly slice them yourself)
· Sliced Pistachios (unsalted)
· Oranges (to make orange zest)
· Orange juice
· Honey
· Saffron (not essential)
· Salt
· Raisins (seedless)
· Sultanas (seedless, golden/green-coloured raisins)

The Chicken

1. Chop up your onions and chop up your chicken.
2. Add some oil to a pan
3. Fry the onions until golden in colour
4. Add the chicken to the pan. Add salt, pepper, and turmeric (and cumin and/or cinnamon if you like) to the chicken and stir. Add water to the pan and cover
5. Allow the chicken to cook (20-25 minutes)
6. Keep a cup of the broth remaining in the pan after the chicken is cooked and add saffron to it if you like

The Rice

1. I use a rice cooker, but if you are not using one or need a recipe on how to make Persian rice, you can Google it or go to : http://www.farsinet.com/farsieats/recipes/polow.html
2. You can either add some of the chicken broth at the beginning, or preferably after draining the rice so its flavour stays.

The Sweet Stuff

1. 10 minutes before the rice is done, you need to prepare the Sweet Stuff!
2. Peel oranges to create orange zest. Try to remove most of the white inner layer as it can have a bitter taste. If you like, you can boil the orange zest and then drain and rinse to make sure any bitter taste is removed – though I do not go through the trouble of doing this and there is so much sweetness already in this recipe. Chop/slice the orange zest into small pieces.
3. In a pan, add butter and set at a high temperature. Add the orange zest, almonds, pistachios, raisins, and sultanas to the pan. Add a splash (or more) of orange juice. Add 2 spoons of honey. Make sure to mix and stir, and decrease the temperature when it seems to be boiling. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until the orange zest looks cooked but not too long so that the other ingredients do not burn.

Putting it all Together

1. After draining the rice, add a bit of chicken broth.
2. Add and mix the chicken into the rice or you can serve it on the side.
3. Add the sweet stuff mixture to the rice, gently but thoroughly mix it in and let it sit for a bit.
4. If you have extra sweet stuff, you can use it to sprinkle/decorate over the top of the rice.
5. There you go! Ready to eat! You can also serve with plain yogurt if you like.


The second sweet dish is called Adas Polo (Lentil Rice) with a twist (dates!)

Ingredients:

· Basmati Rice
· Chicken
· Onions
· Salt
· Green/Brown Lentils
· Dates

Method

1. Make your basmati rice and chicken as outlined in the previous recipe.
2. Boil some lentils until they are just slightly undercooked.
3. Add the lentils to the rice and mix.
4. Chop dates (removing the pit),add them into the rice and mix.
5. Cook until ready.
6. There you go! Ready to eat! You can also serve with plain yogurt if you like.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


 

Jun 20, 2014

The Etiquette of Visiting Another Home

By Melody

Bismillah

What I find fascinating about the Qur'an is the way it helps us see matters in their proper perspective. Sometimes, our judgements can be made cloudy due to cultural or social norms and we are confused about what is actually right and proper; the Qur'an helps set these matters straight and guides society to do what works best. For example, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wa sallam, wine drinking was considered praiseworthy and a means for pampering the soul, but the Qur’an came to gradually abolish drinking alcohol and highlights that, though it has its benefits, its disadvantages outweigh the advantages and so the best solution would be to avoid it all together. Similarly, the Qur'an and sunnah explain in detail the etiquette of visiting another home, making Islam a true a way of life in even the simplest of matters.

1) Ask permission before entering a person’s home

“O you who have believed, do not enter houses other than your own houses until you ascertain welcome and greet their inhabitants. That is best for you; perhaps you will be reminded.” [24:27]

Before entering another person's home, it is important that permission is sought first. Alhamdulillah, nowadays, with technology, it is easy to contact others beforehand to arrange a time that is suitable for both and thus avoid awkwardness.

2) Knock three times

Three times is the maximum. The most common way that we ask permission before entering a person’s home is by knocking, but of course one can easily ring the doorbell as well or any other means to indicate your presence including giving salaam. If after knocking, nobody answers, it is required to leave.

“If any one of you asks for permission three times and it is not given, then let him go away.” (Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 74, Number 262)

3) If refused entry, go back

Even if you have come a long way, and gone to specifically visit a person, if either nobody answers the door or you are asked to go back then it is necessary to leave. Banging on the door shouting “I know you are in there!” is a complete no-no. It can be hard to be told to go back when you have made the effort to come, but remember that this is the homeowner’s right; let that help you be content with their decision. We are told specifically in the Qur’an:

“And if you do not find anyone therein, do not enter them until permission has been given you. And if it is said to you, "Go back," then go back; it is purer for you. And Allah is Knowing of what you do.” [24:28]

4) Standing to the side

Whilst standing outside the door of another’s home, it is important to stand on either the left or right of the doorway, and not in the middle to avoid the invasion of privacy. Perhaps there is something in the home that the homeowner would prefer you didn't see, so it's best to stand to the side where you're not able to see the contents of the home.

A hadith recorded by Abu Dawud from `Abdullah bin Busr, who said:

“When the Messenger of Allah came to someone's door, he would never stand directly in front of it, but to the right or left, and he would say, As-Salamu `Alaykum, As-Salamu `Alaykum.”

5) Greet with As-salamu'alaikum

Once permission has been given and you are welcomed in, say the islamic greeting of salam (i.e. As-Salamu `Alaykum), as highlighted in the above hadith.

6) When asked who you are, respond with your name

This is an interesting point. When you knock on the door and someone asks who you are, you should say your name rather than simply say "It's me!" Much confusion will be avoided this way because although your voice may appear obvious to yourself, the person behind the doorway may not be so sure. It's fascinating that there is an actual hadith (Sahih Bukhari 8:267) narrated that outlines this very point!

"I came to the Prophet with something that was owed by my father and knocked at the door.
He said: Who is that?
I said, "I am!'' He said “I,I” as if he disliked it.''


So there you have it. Outlined here are simple points we can carry out the next time we visit another person, based on the Qur’an and sunnah. This way, the homeowner has rights which are fair. We all desire to rest and take our freedom in our own homes; the placement of this advice helps create order and peace within our community.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Jun 18, 2014

5 Options to Spend Quality Time with Your Children, Without Gadgets

by Farheen Naaz

Bismillah


In the previous article Gadgets and Children we have seen how gadgets have become an important part of our lives and how they can affect the growth of a child. Parents often end up not spending quality time with children due to lack of time or just to take the easy way out by handing a gadget to their child to fulfil their emotional needs. In this article, we shall look at five easy ways to spend quality time with our children, without using gadgets.


There are lots of options to choose from to spend quality time with children. The most feasible and fun ones are:

1. Read Together – Discuss

Reading is a long lost habit of the yesteryears for many kids of the present world. Start from the early years and inculcate the love for the written word in your children. You can read a book together and discuss it once you are done reading. Choose from a wide range of topics to discuss (Which character do you like the most and why? Why do you not like the other characters? Do you think the story could have ended in a better way?)

There are lots of fun after-reading and pre-reading activities which you can participate in with your children to get to know them and also mould their thoughts the proper way.

2. Eat Together (Plan a Theme for Dinner/Lunch)

Quality time can be spent together at the dining table, if one encourages this in the family. Turn off that TV and start acknowledging each other’s presence! Make sure that at least one meal of the day is eaten with the entire family concentrating on eating the food together and progressing towards discussing their day with everyone at the table. Themed dinners or lunches can be planned weekly or fortnightly depending on your schedule. It can include anything from pizza night to Italian night to Indian night or to junk food night! Choose according to your family’s tastes. It is often said that a family that eats together stays together.

Parents can even team up with their children and plan a get-together for their friends. Another fun way to make eating together interesting is to organize a cooking competition wherein the family can be divided into teams and take up tasks for breakfast, lunch or dinner; as per convenience.

3. Evening Walks

After a hectic and tiring day all you would want to do is just pop into that bed and go to sleep, but do not forget your children who sometimes need to talk to you. And if you are not there for them when they need you, do not wonder why they will not share things with you when they are all grown up. Evening walks after dinner are a nice way to spend time with your children, while helping each other stay healthy and fit. It gives you the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your children and ask them about the happenings in their life.

Grocery walks are also a good way to spend time with your children. Take them to the grocery store and discuss the groceries to be bought and reasons why they do not particular food items.

4. Play a Sport/Game Together


Yup! Parents playing with their kids makes the kids feel special. There are a wide variety of indoor and outdoor games to choose from to play with your kid. Teach them a game you love, teach them all the rules of the game and teach them the tricks of the trade. It sure will make them feel special. Board games rule the spot when it comes to family fun together. Choose from anything: Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders among others.

5. Do Home Improvements

One awesome way to spend quality time with your children is to involve them in the work related to your home. Do not fix the broken table on your own, get help from your kids. This will not only give you quality time you can spend with them, but it will also give them life training. Who knows, you might end up getting some better tips from your kids!

These were just some tips on easy to do activities with your children. Spending quality time with children is more important than giving them worldly things to entertain themselves. The presence of parents at every step in a child’s life will help the child develop in all aspects. It is necessary for growing up which most parents forget as they are too busy with their own lives, failing to realize that their kids are a major part of it! Memories of childhood and adolescence make adults look back at life’s lessons taught in the most subtle of ways.

What are the tips you would like to give to parents on spending quality time with children without using gadgets?


I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!

Jun 16, 2014

Time in the Kitchen - Part 1

by Amal S

Bismillah

Many sisters spend quite some time in the kitchen either as a responsibility or as a hobby. It is wise to try and maximize our time and good deeds while cooking by (1) purifying our intentions before we cook, (2) upgrading what we do while we cook, and (3) improving how we enjoy our meals. This daily chore or pastime can actually become into a good-deed-accumulating experience insha’Allah!


(1) Before Cooking:

· Say Bismillah

· Renew and purify your intention
  • Make your intention to please Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala by serving your family, feeding people, and nourishing your body so that you can continue to worship Him Ta’ala.
· Choose tasty but simple recipes
  • It’s good to evaluate if regularly spending 8 hours cooking one dish is the best use of time when there are many delicious recipes that are both nourishing and tasty and are not so pain staking and time-consuming. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
· Remember our ultimate role and aspiration is to be a slave and worshipper of Allah, and our hearts and deeds are of most significance – not one’s flare at cooking, or lack thereof.


While Cooking:

· Cooking can be a nice time to remember Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala
  • “The comparison of the one who remembers Allaah and the one who doesn’t is like that of the living and the dead.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree] 
  • Listen to a beneficial lecture
  • Plan out dhikr chunks
        - Making dhikr while cooking seems like an easy task, but the mind and heart are easily distracted.       It might be more effective to allocate a dhikr you will say for certain chunks of time. For example,       do istighfar for 10 minutes, then tahmeed for 10 minutes, and then send peace upon the Prophet           (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), etc.
        - Different types of dhikr: Istighfar; Subhan Allahi wa bihamdih; la hawla wa la quwwata illaa billah;       SubhanAllah, walhamdulillah, wa La ilaaha illAllah, wAllahu Akbar; and others
  • Recite surahs from the Qur’an as revision

After Cooking:

· You could invite sisters over for a halaqah (sisters’ circle) & serve a meal
· Review the recommended, obligatory, and disliked acts associated with eating. Here are just a few examples:
  • Eat and drink with the right hand
  • Do not complain about the food
  • If a piece of food falls on the ground, pick it up, remove the dirt, and eat it
  • Say Bismillah before eating and praise Allah (Alhamdulillah) after eating (there are specific du’as to say after eating)
  • More information: http://islamqa.info/en/ref/13348
· Whilst eating:
  • Reflect on the ingredients and creation of Allah
  • Remind children in the family that Allah is the Provider (Ar-Razzaaq)
  • Have productive, beneficial conversations: family bonding, sincere advice, sharing beneficial information and reminders, making each other happy, kind words, etc.
· Nourish your Eman – The Qur’an
  • This can be done before cooking or after cooking
  • You’ve looked after your body, the family, and the heart with some dhikr, but now it is time to really truly enjoy the ultimate delight, taste the ultimate sweetness – spend some time reciting the Qur’an (along with a translation if you do not understand Arabic).
  • Whether it is a 1 page, 5 pages or 1 juz’, we ought to set a time in our schedule to spend with the words of ALLAH subhanahu wa ta’ala.
  • The Qur’an is one of the supreme ways to renew one’s Eman and heart
Most, if not all of us, find ourselves in the kitchen at some point in time. We should make this a time in which to remember Allah and follow it up with remembering Allaah during our meals. InshaAllah these practices will aid in having a happy kitchen and a happy home.

This concludes Part 1 of Time in The Kitchen. Be sure to look out for Part 2 where we will share some Persian recipes with you inshaAllah.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Jun 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Music Made Me Do It [An In-Depth Study of Music through Islam and Science]

by Amina Edota

Bismillah

written by
Dr. Gohar Mushtaq

{International Islamic Publishing House, 2011}




Music has inevitably become a huge part of our everyday life. We get bombarded with different kinds of music while shopping, at work, travelling, at family events and other special occasions. Children may be mandated to compose music and perform musical acts, while at school, thereby forming a foundation for their future. It becomes confusing for many Muslims to understand what Islam says about this issue.

Is there such a thing as 'Islamic' Music?

How do we set limits as Muslimahs, Parents, Guardians & Educators regarding Music in our lives?

Do we know enough from authentic sources to boldly face this modern challenge?

Dr. Mushtaq's book, covers the topic of Music and its position in Islam. It could be the first Islamic work of its kind, analysing the effects of music in the light of modern scientific research. p.29

With a background in the Sciences (Biochemistry & Biophysical Chemistry) and Islamic sciences, Dr Mushtaq draws heavily from both authentic Islamic sources as well as scientific evidences to produce an extensive work.

He sought to address the concern of many Muslims today, about whether the issue of music is indeed controversial or rather one of consensus in Islam. The author regards faith as the main ingredient that needs to be nurtured in the heart of the Muslim in order to accept right as right and wrong as wrong.

Through 282 pages and eight (8) chapters, he examines Music & its effects from different perspectives. First, from an Islamic viewpoint (in the light of Qur'an and Prophetic Hadiths) and then from the lenses of contemporary research in areas of medical and behavioural sciences. This framework of using two viewpoints gave a defining structure to the heavily referenced discussion throughout the entire book.

Furthermore, the opinions of various companions of Prophet Muhammad, Sallalahu alayhi Wasallam, The Tabi'oon, Four Imaams and other Islamic scholars were compiled relating to listening to Music. Scholars such Imam Ibn Taymiyah, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali & Shaykh 'Abdul-Aziz ibn Baz among many others.

The chapters clearly showed that Music and singing ultimately affect listeners' behaviour as well as eat into the moral fabric of the society. It was shown that subliminal lyrics - whether intentional or unintentional are usually embedded into music. And these lyrics are mostly about drugs, promiscuity, revolting against elders and religious traditions.

The last chapter covered stories of Muslims who had some background in Music; From the story of Imam Malik ibn Anas whose ambition was to become a singer to the life story of Dr. Bilal Philips with some profound reminders for the youth.

Life stories of other former music stars were also given chronicling their musical experience; how they lived wholly immersed in a life of music then found their path back to Islam and its correct teachings.

Notable, was this profound insight from many years gone past. ''One quick way to destroy a society is through its music.'' (Vladimir Lenin, 1870-1924 CE) p.207

This sentence clearly reflects the state of our Ummah today, where our celebrations are heavily infused with music and the youth typically have headphones stuck in their ears listening to music for most of their productive hours.

The findings make it glaring that music has a big impact on the worldview and behaviour of its listeners as it furnishes them with lifestyle choices and helps shape their identity. Therefore, ''Music and Singing are not simply harmless forms of entertainment'' p.122

The book ends on a beautiful note with a quote by a Muslim revert, Sister Yvonne Ridley, who calls on the Muslim Ummah to wake up and listen to the pain of their global family, rather than to what is haram. p.240

This piece of work is a wakeup call for me and you. It is an important book for all Muslims and every home should have a copy, to serve as a source of reference for learning about this contemporary issue.

If you've read this book, I'd love to hear your views on it. Please tell me in the comments section below.


Jun 11, 2014

Must Try Recipes

by Farheen Naaz

Bismillah

Every cook has must-try recipes from her kitchen, and I am no different. The only thing which might be different is that I am a novice when it comes to cooking and these are NO-FAIL recipes from my kitchen. When you are falling short of time, need to cook something delicious in a short span of time or just want to cook for fun, try the following recipes.

GINGER CHICKEN

This is the easiest recipe I have come across to make a gravy chicken. Ingredients are readily available and it takes just about 20 minutes to cook.

Ingredients:
1/2 kg chicken
2 tbsp corn flour
1/4 cup oil
2 large onions
2 tbsp grated ginger
10 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

For the Sauce:
2 tsp soya sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup tomato puree
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp lemon juice -

Method:
· Marinate the chicken with corn flour, vinegar, soya sauce, black pepper and salt. It takes hardly 20 minutes for the chicken to get marinated in this mixture.

· Meanwhile, cut onions, grate ginger (thin and long pieces) and garlic. Grind 3 to 4 tomatoes and keep aside as the puree

· In a big bowl, mix water, corn flour, vinegar, soya sauce, salt, red chilli powder, lemon juice. (If you want a lot of gravy then use more water)

· Next, heat oil and deep fry the chicken. Keep aside the fried pieces.

· After that heat some oil and fry the onions till translucent. Add grated ginger and garlic. When the ginger and garlic start getting cooked, add the tomato puree and stir for four to five minutes.

· Add the liquid mixture to this and mix well. Next, add the fried chicken and leave it to simmer till the gravy thickens. When the gravy begins to thicken, add black pepper (if you want it to be very spicy)

· Garnish with spring onions and coriander.


CRUSTY POTATO FINGERS

Here’s a recipe for French fries with a little twist.

Ingredients:
2 large potatoes
2 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
Oil, for deep frying

For the Batter:
1 onion, roughly chopped: 1
1 green chilly, chopped: 1
1/2" piece ginger
Salt
1/2 cup refined flour
1 tbsp corn flour

Method:
· Peel and cut potatoes lengthwise into even strips

· Heat 4 cups water. Add salt and parboil sliced potatoes

· Drain and set aside

· Grind onion, green chilli, ginger and salt to make a fine paste. Mix with flour and corn flour

· Add water to make a thick batter

· Dip potatoes in batter, roll in crushed cornflakes and deep fry till golden

· Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with tomato sauce or mayonnaise


BABY CORN CIGAR / GOLDEN BABY CORN

There are lots and lots of recipes available for making baby corn. Here is a mixture of all of those. A tried and tested one :)

Ingredients:
20 – 24 baby corn
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
½ tsp red chilli powder
Salt
Chaat masala (if you do not have this then just use a spice mix which suits your taste)
Oil, to deep fry

For the Batter:
2 tbsp refined flour
2 tbsp corn flour 2 tbsp
1tsp coriander, chopped
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
Salt

Method:
· Marinate the boiled baby corns in ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, salt and chat masala for 15 minutes

· Make batter by mixing all ingredients with sufficient water

· Dip marinated corn in batter and deep fry till golden and crisp

PS: If using the tinned baby corns, there is no need to marinate them. Just use a little extra ginger garlic paste and red chilli powder in the batter and dip them directly.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Jun 4, 2014

Permissible Gheebah Part 2

By Afsha Ibrahim

Part 1



Bismillah

Gheebah is a serious sin that some Muslims take lightly.  The Muslim must choose his/her words wisely and speak what is good.  However, there are some cases where Gheebah is permissible.  See Part 1 for an introduction to this part.

Situations where Gheebah is permissible

  • To criticize those who openly commit acts of disobedience, such as drinking wine, gambling, engaging in immoral habits, fornication, hypocrisy, and making mischief.
  • It is also permissible to mention the bad qualities of somebody for marriage purposes in case an advice is sought.
Fatimah bint Qais (radiAllahu anha) said: I came to the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and said to him: "Muawiyah and Abul-Jahm sent me a proposal of marriage.'' The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Muawiyah is destitute and he has no property, and Abul-Jahm is very hard on women.''  [Bukhari and Muslim].
  • Also, if one has noticed that a "seeker of knowledge'' frequently goes to the gatherings of an innovator in religion and one fears that this "seeker of knowledge'' may be affected by this so-called scholar, then in this case one must consult the person by telling him about the "innovator,”.
  • It is permissible to use names such as "Al-a`mash'' which means `the blear-eyed' to talk about people who are known by such names for the sake of identification and not as an insult. To identify them without resorting to such names is however better.
Examples from the Prophetic narrations

Aishah (radiAllahu anha) said: A man sought permission for audience with the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). He said, "Give him permission but he is a bad member of his tribe.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Backbiting of wicked people is obviously justified to save people from being deceived from their appearance. If people are not informed of the real conduct of such persons, their religious as well as worldly life will be exposed to a grave danger. For this reason, the backbiting of wicked persons for the purpose of warning others is permissible.

`Aishah (radiAllahu anha) said: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "I do not think that so-and-so understands anything of our Faith.'' [Al-Bukhari]

Al-Laith bin Sa`d, who is one of the narrators of this Hadith, said: The two men mentioned by the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) in this Hadith were hypocrites (i.e., they revealed Faith and concealed disbelief).

Hypocrites are also people of mischievous and doubtful conduct. It is, therefore, not only permissible but necessary to make people aware of their real position so that people become cautious about them and their religious and worldly life may remain safe from their machinations evil plots.

Apart from these exceptions it is absolutely forbidden to speak ill of a person behind his back. If what is spoken is true, it is Gheebah, if it is false, it is calumny; and if it is meant to make two persons quarrel, it is slander. Gheebah must never be made a source of entertainment. The Shari’ah has declared all these as forbidden. In the Islamic society, it is incumbent on every Muslim to refute a false charge made against a person in his presence and not to listen to it quietly, and to tell those who are speaking ill of somebody unjustly and without a genuine religious need, to fear God and desist from the sin. May Allah be our source of spiritual strength and guidance. Ameen

Jun 2, 2014

5 TIPS FOR MAKING UP MISSED RAMADAN FASTS

by Aasiya Maryam

Bismillah

Debt is one of the many reasons people worry. Imagine taking a loan from someone, with intent of returning it by the following year. Now imagine not being able to repay this loan by the due date, and it just so happens that there arises a need to take out this loan again the following year, and the year after, and so forth. What you have now is a big debt on your shoulder, which has accumulated over the years. And now you do not understand what to do about it! How do you repay such a huge loan?!

While we are worried about this worldly debt, there is another debt that, if not repaid, can affect our akhirah (hereafter). A debt we owe to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) - the debt of our missed fasts! Most of us have not been able to make up the missed fasts from the past Ramadan, whether it is due to our own personal reasons, or simply out of ignorance.

We must realise that it is extremely important for us to make up these fasts because they are fard (obligatory) on us. It is an obligatory act and, in fact, we should have made them up before Ramadan of the present year. Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) says in the Qur’an –

"The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, 
a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. 
So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; 
and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. 
Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship 
and [wants] for you to complete the period 
and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; 
and perhaps you will be grateful." (2:185)

Here are 5 tips to get you started on this absolutely important task of making up your missed obligatory fasts:

1. INTENTION:

'Umar ibn al-Khattab relates that he heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, say, "Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended…” [Bukhari]

Begin with making a strong intention to make up all your missed fasts for the sake of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala). Seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent for delaying it. Make the intention to repay this debt in order to protect your akhirah.

2. PLAN:

Brainstorm and create a plan to make up these fasts.

· Firstly, count the number of days you missed. If you do not remember the exact number, then approximate, add a few extra days to stay on the safe side.

· Set a deadline – say 6 months or by end of the year. This is your deadline by when you must complete all the fasts.

· Depending on what is preferred and convenient for you, decide how many days a week you will fast. This could be Mondays and Thursdays, the white days (13,14,15) of every month of Islamic calendar, or Dawood’s alayhissalaam fast – fasting on alternative days, etc.

3. PREPARE:

Make all arrangements of what you want to eat for suhoor. Since you may be the only person fasting at home, you want to be ready for it. If you face a problem of waking up for suhoor set 3 – 4 alarms; you are sure to get up from at least one of them, inshaAllah.

4. ‘FAST’ FRIEND:

I have had a tough time motivating myself to make up my missed fasts. It was not until a close friend asked me to be her “fast friend” that I was able to kick start my mission- “make up missed fasts,” alhumdulillah. In case you are facing the same problem, find a ‘fast friend’ – you can keep each other updated about the number of fasts you have left, which days you plan to fast, how you plan to make up further fasts, wake each other up for suhoor, and also give each other the required motivation to keep going when you find yourselves getting lazy again, inshaAllah!

5. MOTIVATE:

I did not realize the importance of making up missed fasts until another close friend added me to her facebook group – (Sisters Only) Making Up Missed fasts of past Ramadans. It provides a lot of motivation and inspiration from other sisters to pay back the debt we owe to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. I urge you to join the group to help you get going, inshaAllah!

Fasting during Ramadan is an obligatory act of worship, and not making up the missed fasts before the next Ramadan (without a valid reason) is a sin. So, let’s seek Allah’s subhaanahu wa ta’aala forgiveness for it and make a firm intention to make them up on time in the future, inshaAllah.

May Allah forgive us and grant us ease to complete all the missed fasts.


NOTE: Regarding fiqh rulings on making up missed fasts, please refer the following links:
1. Ruling on delaying missed Ramadan and paying fidya
2. Do we need to make up missed fasts on consecutive days?

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below!