Most Beautiful Place On Earth

Most Beautiful Place On Earth
Banff, Alberta, Canada...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The House

"The house" is the name of the 'strip mall', comprised of Andalus Cafe and Mariam Sofia's (an Islamic book/clothing/gift store) . Andalus Cafe is a ladies-only environment which includes the above cited sections, The Growing- a place for mothers and children to be together, featuring a kid-zone in the middle, and full- supervisal access for mothers who may sit and relax with friends, or with work over coffee. It also has a large flat screen tv in the inner right-hand corner for convenience of the women. The Grown- a kid-free zone, quiet and comfortable for young single girls or university students. It aspires to provide a quiet, comfortable study seating with free computers and internet access as well as plenty of desk space for projects. In the bottom left hand corner is a Morroccan-style seating area with deep, cozy shades of red, purple and orange. Large cushions provide comfortable seating, while a see-through curtain provides a level of privacy and ease for the women there-in. In the top left hand corner, there is a big, comfy couch and table for anyone who wants to sit in the open, observing the comings and goings of the Cafe's guests, and there is a large window for women to see in and out of The Grown space. Connected to this room is a musalla/youth activity room/rental hall which also features a storage room and a wudu' friendly washroom. Guest speakers can be invited, open-mic's, and other activities can be held in this room. Most importantly, it's always open for Cafe guests and outsiders to come in and have a warm, beautiful place to pray in without the discomfort of male-onlookers and the like.
The environment will be earth-tone, deep, rich colors with Islamic sayings (from Qur'an, ahadeeth etc) painted onto the walls. I plan to do this myself; not by my one artistic ability of course, but I'll print the designs and calligraphy from pictures on the internet onto translucent paper and project the image onto the walls where I'll trace them and eventually color them in. I did it for a project once in school, and it worked well. Of the designs, there will be the words 'play with them until they're 7' in english and arabic on the door of The Growing, as were the words of Saidna Ali raa. I'll have soft anasheed playing in the back round as opposed to alternative Cafe music, and the windows will all have thick, bushy curtains on them to prevent outsiders from seeing in.
The Cafe will have lunch, snack and beverage items, including different kinds of international coffee (Colombian, Saudi Arabian, Turkish, Nescafe... etc), a fresh juice/cocktail/smoothie bar, all of the halal candy (I can order online that isn't found in other stores), soft ice cream, and deli-style sandwich options with all-halal deli meats, cheese, chips, pickles, soft drinks and tea cookies/baklava.
I should note that the parking lot is essential to the success of my idea, because Muslim women mashaAllah tend to have kids... and who wants to park 7 blocks away from their destination and lug all the babies and baby paraphernalia inside? Additionally, we all know Canadian winters... enough said. We need private parking.
The entrances have small rooms close to the doors where men may enter, only to help their wives carry things to the door, or maintainence/mail can come to the door without everyone screaming and running. Those entrances should have doorbells that notify clerks at the Cafe counter and in the kitchen so they can go check the door.
Lastly, my favorite part- Mariam Sofia's!!! The entire mall is inter connected, and every area is accessible from inside, but also from separate entrances outside for the convenience of the customers. Mariam Sofia's is an Islamic store that has a knowledge section, featuring books, cd/audio lectures, Video/DVD lectures, Kids educational items and the like; unique and hijabs, and abayas, the styles of which can't be found elsewhere in the city; as well as accessories I find online or in my shopping excursions. One of the most exciting thing about Mariam Sofia's is my plan to have racks of clothing from stores such as H&M, Forever 21, Costa Blanca, Old Navy, Winners, or wherever else I can find good clothes for young sisters- which meet Islamic standards, while at the same time inspire girls to be creative and have fun with clothing; sending them the message 'you can look and feel great while at the same time pleasing Allah swt, and protecting your modesty'. There will be a beautiful changing room with a full-wall-mirror to accommodate customers, and make them comfortable with their purchases.
Another idea I have for the store is to compile 'Visit the sick' bags, with a hadeeth encouraging Muslims to do so on the cart- they will be gift bags with herbal teas, get well soon cards, comfort-pack neck pillows... things like that. There will also be 'new baby' gift bags, 'thank you' gift bags.. and other themes. Also, there should be a section for home-decor items, like unique tea sets (you know how we Muslims do enjoy tea), candles, artwork and other items pertinent to western Islamic culture. I'd like to have a beautiful display case in the front of Mariam Sofia's to appeal to customers, and to exemplify the merchandise we offer in the store; the beautiful clothing and accessories, the home-decor, the knowledge section, all displayed among vibrant colors and decorations in the display case.
The idea here is to create what community architects call a Third Place; with the intention in mind that a person has their work environment, their home, and the Third Place should be a place of enjoyment and recreation. Muslim women need this desperately to keep our daughters, from loitering aimlessly in malls or 'hanging out' wherever their friends may be. We need a secure, blissful environment to call 'The House'.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dont let your 'rizq' take you from ar-Razaq!!

Last night I was praying Isha after a long period of eating...
and when I thought about praying taraweeh, or at least witr... my back and stomach began to hurt.
I was so full.
And the thought of bending in anyway was not pleasant.
All I wanted to do was recline in all my over-eating glory... and fall asleep.
But then... I thought about how pathetic I am.
Allah ta'ala was generous enough to provide me with a filling, nutritious meal (which I proceeded to gorge in the short time between maghrib and isha)... and now I wanted to repay His Generosity with laziness.
How cheap.
Then I thought 'self, don't let your rizq take you from ar-razaq'
Don't let your provisions take you away from The Provider....
and through my day, I've applied it in many ways to my life.
The beautiful kids I have should not distract me from doing things for Allah (swt) weather it be praying, studying, reading Qur'an...
I mean, sure...they demand attention and its hard to strike a balance between them and this... but I must try.
Then I began to wonder... which is worse... praying on-time without focus (due to kids and their hysteria), or to wait a while, calm the chaos in the house, and pray when I can dedicate more attention to the salaah?
OR I could try my best to prepare the house BEFORE the adthaan comes in, so that by the time it's time to pray, everything is kosher. And I can have the best of both worlds.
Thats it for today.

Monday, August 23, 2010

putting away childish things

I'm trying to maintain the motivation I'd had in the beginning of Ramadhaan. That zeal is wearing off, as I begin wandering back into what is called in Arabic 'lahu', or pass-times. It's the 12th day of the month, and by now I'm taking for granted how short a month actually is. Isn't that the world for yah? After a while, you get deceived into thinking we're here forever.. but we only tarry a day or two and it's all over. And what we've done is done, and there's no second chance. Same thing in Ramadhaan. All the rewards and blessings flow for a duration of 30 days or so... and when it's gone, we spend the next 6 months praying we benefited, and the following 6 months we pray we live to see Ramadhaan next year. Its a time to be cherished an not wasted. I just get desensitized sometimes. This toddler in my house is wild, and sometimes I don't know what else to do with him. I run out of options, so I turn on a movie. It's wrong and I feel the same guilt a diabetic would feel eating a pint of icecream but, hey... it gives me time to write by myself without a kid snatching my pen and writing on the wall. It give me time to read without him ripping the pages of my book; or time to sit on my laptop without him smashing my keyboard to bits; time to pray without him emptying the refrigerator; time to clean up the house without him destroying it behind me. Whats a mommy to do...? Maybe I need some more books for him. A good amount of options so he doesn't get bored.... as he is now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homeschooling/Unschooling vs. Traditional School

Been thinking about Yusufss near future in school, or not. I guess since he's been starting to talk and develop his vocabulary so quickly in such a short time, the issue has pressed my mind. First of all, I love the concept of homeschooling. The mother is the first teacher, and the best teacher; who knows and loves and wants the best for her children more then her? No over-worked, under-paid public school teacher who may confuse the blooming flower for a delinquent, thats for sure.
But my issue with homeschooling is... I got married early, before I could get any degree or real education. I have one semester, not even one year of university... and I didn't do well in school until grade 10!! It was all D's, then I converted to Islam and I got on honor-roll, go figure. HA!
Anyway, I'm just a product of a bad environment, how can I raise my kids to be great, when I myself am not great? Kids listen with their eyes.
I was raised watching tv... and I'm struggling to break that habit so Yusuf never develops it. See what I mean? How can I teach him things I myself am learning?
So thats one concern when it comes to homeschooling. I don't know enough.
Secondly, I'm worried about his social life, I guess. Thats just because the only socializing I'd experienced back in my day was a direct result of contact with my peers in school. I guess there is the masjid.
Now, unschooling seems creative, outlandish... and worries me a little, the way it strays so far from the norm. It seems there is no discipline. I think discipline is a healthy thing, in moderation. So far, much of what I've read about it is positive... about trusting the childs natural inclination toward learning and activity; but I think laziness and forgetfulness are also an inclination of mankind that need harnessing. So... I'm not sure about the 'free-for-all' attitude unschooling seems to connote. It's just that I'm insecure about that.
But whatever happens, Yusuf and Mariam will for sure be in either an Islamic private school, a madrasah, or at least if I work up the courage and discipline to homeschool them, they'll be in regular Qur'an classes in whatever local masjid we attend. That's important.
Yusuf has an Egyptian cousin who is about 4 years old, and he just finished Juzu 'Amma, mashaAllah! Competition! That kid knows more Qur'an then me, and Yusuf can't even grip 'bismillah' yet ;)

Friday, August 13, 2010

the ghost of Ramadan past Ramadhaan. I had forgotten all about you. Welcome back.
I've never felt its spiritual significance as I do this year.
My first two Ramadhaans were before I even became a Muslim. My first was a result of reading in the newspaper that Muslims had begun to fast that day. I still have that clipping. I was in a delinquent girls school and I had a lot of time to reflect. The result of my reflection bore my admiration of Islam. So when I found out they were fasting, I too wanted to fast! It was not done properly according to all of the fiqh I know now, but Allah awj knew my heart and intentions. I requested to wake up early and eat a small meal of maybe cereal, toast and water or juice. Then I'd fast all day, then break fast after it was dark. I'd also pray during the lunch break we'd had, and I'd spend most of my prayer in sujood... which was the only position I was familiar with in that girls school. I had no access to internet or anything, so my learning resources were limited to a copy of the Qur'an that one of the staff gave me, and occasional new clippings, and Mos Def albums lol. Thats scholarship for ya. So that was my first Ramadhaan. The next year, I was out of the school and living with my mom and her newly-wed husband and every morning I'd wake up at around dawn and eat all I could handle from his kitchen and go to school... come back, and eat dinner. I think it was in October or so, then. At this point, I had internet access... so I'd spend lunch break from school in the library looking up articles written by muslims, a lot of stuff... I think I thought I was a Muslim then. I didn't know about shahada (official conversion)After Ramadhaan that year, I started wearing what I thought was 'hijab', which looked like this:
And when people, including my mom, noticed that I wore it everyday... questions began. Eventually, when I was sent to live with a Muslim family, I learned about true hijab... and the fiqh of Islam... and the heart of Islam... (which I'm still learning)... and I said shahada (testimony of faith) ... and Ramadhaan that year was for real. But by the time Ramadhaan came, I was living back with my mom, so I'd actually skip school and take the city bus to my Muslim family every Friday, then stay with them on weekends in order to benefit from khutbahs and halaqas during that month.
Then what happened... hmmm... after that I met who was to be my husband, and the following Ramadhaan was spent entertaining new Canadian friends of his...praying Taraweeh, even though I was pregnant at that time so I couldn't physically strain myself that much.
Then finally,last Ramadhaan we were in Egypt. And I was pregnant again. So I fasted most of the time, but skipped a few days as a result of car sickness while travelling through chaotic Cairo ;p and it wasn't that spiritual I guess because of the nature of travelling. We were so busy and preoccupied. It was a different experience.
SO! This Ramadhaan, I need focus. Spirituality. Dedication. Back to the basics. I've divided my days into hourly tasks... weather it be reading my books, playing with the kids, cooking... taking a nap if I can... and taking it day-by-day is so important. This could be my last day of fasting... this could be my last Ramadhaan. The days should overflow with worship and quiet meditation until I'm in need of sleep. And so it has been alhamdulillah. Good stuff.
So, welcome, Ramadhaan. I needed you desperately.
May Allah benefit us through these days of fasting and denial of shahawat, and make us of the muzahideen. May our dunya benefit from this Ramadhaan as well as our aakhira, one being a means to the other.
Increase us in our knowledge, ya rabb, and our sincerity and our patience.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Simple Math

So, you know how you listen to a lecture in one state, then a little while later you listen to the same bit of information and you contrive a whole new, relevant meaning to apply to your life? That happened to me today. I was listening to Anwar alAwlaki's "The Hereafter Series" in the car.. and it really opened my eyes to a truth I had forgotten... not just 'a' truth... but virtually the most important truth out there! And it has to do with simple math. We're here on this earth for what, 100 years tops... scrambling to live in luxury and wealth. Then, for people like us who believe in a hereafter, it's forever. Yaqm alQiyama alone is said to be 50,000 years! Simple math, now. If we are going to invest our time and energy and worry and woe into one or the other, which should it be??? God doesn't asks us for much at all, beside gratitude and patience. Sabr we shukr. In various forms... but the beauty of Islam is that it doesn't embrace that extremism. We are not a monastic people who reject the world and its pleasures, nor are we like the Christians, many of whom embrace a teaching of hating the world. No, the world is to be marveled at and is meant to draw us nearer to Allah, marveling at His splendor. Nor do we leave religion alone and saturate our time in love of this life. The Prophet used to pray to God 'Oh, Allah give me good in this life, and good in the next...', so he didn't neglect this life... but the problem arises when you come into a state of ghafla, or heedlessness which I often (regrettably) find myself in. In this state you virtually forget about the next life, and the way that the planets will be knocked out of their orbit and the ocean will boil over and the mountains will be flattened during yawm alQiyama. You forget that the first heaven consists of all of the stars seen by man, and that its size is only comparable to a ring tossed into the middle of a vast desert!!! This life and all of its drama and glamor are so terribly insignificant, and we are unaware of this until we wake up from it and we'll feel like it was all a dream. This is the deceit of shaytaan. Everything looks and feels so eternal. I think about my family memories, the future of my new family and kids... where we're going to live, travel... 'family planning' as I've mentioned in other blogs... its all so petty when you look at the big picture. But at the same time, its not petty. In fact, these details will all be played back to me on yawm al A3theem, and I'll answer for everything I thought, said, did, and neglected. SubhanaAllah! It really puts things into perspective. This life... its only the means to an end. The means is the test, the end is the reward of Allah ta'alas Merciful presence.... and may He make us of those glad to see Him. It's just.... I had forgotten. And the reminder struck me like a ton of bricks. So... HA! You almost had me fooled, there, dunya! Man, that was close and alhamdulillah I didn't end in such a state. May Allah keep me awake, and aware and out of ghafla. Me and us.
Oh, and I heard a cool quote about hijab the other day that was from an Arabic poem. There was a man who met a beautiful woman who covered her face upon meeting him, and he went on to compliment her and say basically, why would you cover your beautiful cheeks and lips? And she laughed at him and said something to the effect of 'uncovered i am hidden, but covered i am truly seen'. Isn't that cool? She's basically saying 'I am not my beauty', or like India.Arie said, 'I am not my hair'. ;p <3 Okay, self. Thats enough pondering for now. Talk to you later.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Loss of Haya..

Haya' is an Arabic word that is translated, usually to mean 'modesty', sometimes 'shyness' or 'shame'. Essentially, (according to FTF, Baig pg.196) "It is a natural feeling of pain at the very idea of committing a wrong." I just want to mark my disgust with modern 'ads' and 'headlines', especially; who make indecency attractive and lack any sort of haya'. Not only do they lack this shame, but they spread their lack-there-of around to everyone and desensitize people, making this nonsense seem normal. Now you have people walking around with bad images stuck in their heads, bad songs with indecent lyrics, all wis was from shaytaan. We a3outhu billah. Thats my thought for today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

rAnDoM tHoUgHtS

Couple of thoughts: First, why did Brittney go crazy and Justin didn't (necessarily)? I think its a testament to the sexual pressure on females in this culture (which is especially directed toward, but not limited to celebrities). I was thinking that when I saw some controversy on the news over our dear, dear Hannah Montana aka Miley Cirus. Apparently, she grew up. And its not pretty. THANK GOD I am spared of that world of pressure when I leave my house...yay hijab.
Second, I learned today that I have to treat Yusuf the way I'd like him to treat his precious baby sister. This, after she began to cry and he yelled in her ear 'Stoooooooooooooooop!', leading her to a nervous break down and and a subsequent heart attack for myself. So, lesson learned. I don't yell at him, and he won't yell at her.
Lastly, I was pondering the spacing of the kids in my family. I love the fact that Yusuf and Mariam Sofia are so close. If God would be so gracious as to allow me 4, I'd be more then satisfied. So, we're half done. But I guess I was thinking about when I can go back to school... and weather or not to 'home-school', and travelling gets complicated the more kids you have. So I'm thinking about getting the IUD for the next 4 years or so, which would put me at 26 yrs old, Yusuf in 1st grade at 6 yrs old, Mariam would be 4 1/2, Mohamed would be 34 (still young)...
and my peers would probably just be getting married and having kids of their own, which is good because we can help each other out. Well, my med. school friends at least...others might get married sooner. Anyway... inshaAllah by that time we'll be in Toronto anyway so it won't be a million dollars o take the plane with all the kiddies. We could just drive down to visit family in New York. And about my school... hmm...I guess its on the back burner until God opens a window of opportunity; and until then, these kids are priority number one. NOW I see why Muslim girls say 'I have to get my degree first, then I can get married'... DUH! ;)
Also, I was thinking about the next time someone asks me why I became a Muslim, or why I wear hijab. I think I'm just going to answer 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' Because in all truth, that's why.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ramadhaan Resolutions #1

This Ramadhaan is especially important, because (like any other) it may be my last. The chances are actually stacked against us living, if you think about it. There are millions of reasons for the heart to stop beating, and for reasons unbeknown to mankind, we go on for days. But I digress. The fact that life is so short, and Ramadhaan is so blessed is more then enough reason to excel in every minute of every activity of everyday; but there is more to it. Not only is it an opportunity to improve our status in akhira, but it is a mighty opportunity to improve ourselves in this life. In terms of self-discipline, in terms of compassion for others, fear and love of Allah (the Glorified and Exalted), letting go of the luxuries of this life, and drawing more near to readiness for the next life. I need this Ramadhaan. And all praise is due to Allah ta'ala for allowing us this gift. This time of wiping away sins, repentance, striving for His approval... its a recreation of our hearts.
So this Ramadhaan, I want to do a couple of things to ensure that my precious, precious time is used wisely. First thing's first... no tv (thats a given...even during other times). It's a pitiful waste of time which bares no fruit except disappointment and laziness. And its worth can be met and exceeded by reading a good book, enjoying a walk or time in the park, writing, doing housework, or most importantly, praise and worship (aka salah/dhikrullah). So thats one main thing. Secondly, a slightly superficial thing (I'm not writing these in order of priority, just as I remember them...) I decided I'm really going to downplay the role that food actually has in fasting. Fasting is about the lack-of food, not the WAIT for food. I've spent countless Ramadhaan hours slaving over a hot stove, when I could be slaving fisabilillah in sujuud or through the mus7af. And while cooking is a source of hasanat for women who do it with the right intentions, I just need something more spiritual to fill my hours. So this Ramadhaan, we're KISSin'. Keepin It Simple, Sister. That means meat maybe once a week, salad nightly, soups are easy... nice hearty suhoors like fuul and bread, cereal and fruit, tamr and bagels... yogurt. No juice. Its not a source of much good, and is most of the time loaded with sugar. Which brings me to my second food-requirement which will be for me personally, and not so much my family. NO SUGAR. Yep, I said it. Not a teaspoon. If anything has glucose-fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, or just plain old sugar, it's not going on my fork this month. If I need sweetener in tea or cereal or whatever, honey is more than enough, and I can limit the intake. Plus there are health benefits in regularly eating honey. I just need this for a personal goal because I've learned about how our body has a right over us, and most people in the west including myself oppress the right of our bodies. It has a right to be used for halal purposes, to worship Allah, and to be treated well and maintained in a wholesome, healthy manner. Alhamdulillah, I dont drink coffee, but I do have a big weakness when it comes to snacking and sweets. So the fasting eliminates the option of 'grazing' through the day, and my personal goal is to eliminate sweets. So no baklavah for me, friends! ...hmmm, now that I think of it, that eliminates my 'Cold Stone for suhoor' plans too. Ahh well... we have to be hard on ourselves sometimes to prevent spoiling the nafs lol.