Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Letter to You All

Asalaamu Aalaikum Wa Rehmatullahi My Beloved Family and Friends!

         Subhanallah, the past few weeks have been crazy for our family. We have had blessed days of travel, the opportunity to reconnect with family away from home and frankly a huge reality check.

Lets start first with out trip to Karachi. Karachi is the city that never sleeps. At any given time at night, we could hear the motor of a rikshaw grumbling in the quiet of the night. During the day, the streets were often flooding with crowds of people, vendors, traffic and pollution.

Sea View, Clifton Beach. The boys with Grandma.

Still, there was something precious about this city and that was the charm of its people. The people of Karachi, with their wide smiles and over confidence, their desire to stay forever in their city was a strange sense of patriotism I had never before experience.

With my in laws living in Lahore and Islamabad, it was only natural that we would go visit. Lahore was completely different than Karachi. In SO many ways, I believe the saying goes something like “if you have not seen Lahore, you have not seen anything at all”—whoever said this was right! Lahore was a town full of history, from the Badshahi Masjid to the Gudwara next door. Settled somewhere between these sights was the town of Shadara.

 Whilst on our way to Shadara, our driver pointed out the sights as we observed all the details and charm of Lahore.  My eyes fixated on the world famous Data Darbar. Our driver insisted we go inside and offer our prayers and offerings to the saints of the past. I politely and awkwardly half smiled, citing that dua can be made from anywhere and I much rather seek help by asking Allah SWT.

Shadara was the town where our relief effort began. As we pulled up to the The Ghani Grammar School a dusty sign greeted us. We met with Waqas Khan, one of the representatives of the school. He welcomed and unloaded the heavy suitcase full of school supplies we had collected with the help of our family and friends.

Nusaybah and Zakariya sorting thru the donation supplies!

 We walked a short distance, turned a few corners until we reached the school. It was located on a muddy rocky road. Whilst making our way up a set of narrow steep stairs, we were met by two charming boys dressed in crisp blue school uniforms. They were both students at the school. We visisted each of the classrooms and were invited in with a huge smiles from all the children. The students sat neatly in their seats and ever so politely answered our questions. A sweet young girl told us it took her 30 minutes to walk to school! This gives you an idea of the motivation these children have towards wanting an education.

         One by one each sparkly eyed child told us what they wanted to be when they were older. Their answers ranged from Pilots to Teachers to Doctors. The children cheerfully presented Zakariya with handmade thank you cards. A gift and story we will forever cherish.

Zakariya & Waqas 

Waqas presented Zakariya with a certificate for his efforts

         Mashallah we recently learned that three talented children from the Ghani Grammar School went on to winning the Art for Change Competition where they competed with 2500 students from all overPakistan!

After saying goodbye to Lahore we journeyed our way ahead to Islamabad, Mauree, Pindi and then back to Karachi. We hugged our friends and family in Pakistan and the second leg of our trip to Istanbul began. 

         Ahh Istanbul! Situated between two continents, Europe and Asia. A city I had to share with my parents. Istanbul first stole my heart in 2010, when we were blessed to visit Ankara and Istanbul.

          Marhaban Istanbul! We spent some time in the city, taking in the sights. The Blue Mosque at the heart of the city surrounded by chirping birds, The Hagia Sophia filled with the ever- popular wondering stray cats and The Topkapi Palace adorned by treasures centuries old.

Baby meets Blue Mosque

         Ohh Dear Istanbul, how I missed your rich Islamic history! You look the same but you feel so different.  

Right now I am thinking of that dark alley which is sometimes visited by an old hunched over man, his palms cupped together in search of spare change. I think about the woman I saw sitting on the street cradling her two sleeping babies in her arms, her bodily heat keeping them warm. I can hear the two hungry little Syrian girls, staring into the window of McDonalds while we comfortably ate our meals. I feel for them, so I feed them. They order more than they can eat, “to take it home for the others” they say so insistently.

I take a harder look this time. You do not look the same. I hold my purse tight, I ask myself in despair “ Ya Rabb. Where do we even begin?”

The next day we headed towards Fateh, the area in which the Syrian Elite School is located. Here we meet Ayman, our interpreter. Ayman is from Canada. He reminds me of home. Our friends from the Muslim Helping Hands helped us arrange the school visit. A special thank you to Sara Syeda, Moheeb and our host in Turkey- Yashar. We could not have done this without you guys, may Allah reward you immensely. 

Yashar & Zakariya at the Airport

Children in the school have to keep their jackets and sweaters on during class 
because there is no central heating

Hanging out with some of the children during recess

We meet some of the Syrian children and hear their heart wrenching stories. It was difficult-- mostly to try and stay composed.  A sweet girl, dressed in a red sweater made her way to the office, her name is Islam. Her age just 9 years:

Islam: I lost my Father. We (my Mother and my four siblings) escaped Syria and now live with my Uncle’s family in an apartment
Me: Do you still have family in Syria?
Islam: Only my Grandmother, she is in a refugee camp
Me: Do you like coming to school?
Islam: Yes, I like to study Arabic
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Islam: A Teacher
Me: Do you miss Syria?
Islam: Yes, we will go back Inshallah.

Islam both in her intelligence and naevity surprised me. She doesn’t realize the gravity of her situation. She doesn’t realize that she will not see her Grandmother again. She doesn’t realize that the Syria she remembers is no more.

Islam captivates me with her maturity but I feel sadness. Sadness that she has to grow up so fast, sadness that she has lost her childhood, sadness thinking about what conditions she has to live in. There is a reason she survived. She has a purpose and so much to offer but only if she is given a real chance.

         Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. For Islam, her family’s future depends on her. Islam’s mother has done her part by desiring an education for her children, she is keeping them safe and off the streets.

         Your contribution can change the life not only of a child but the child’s entire family. As Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

         For just $10 a month you can sponsor a child at The Ghani Grammar School in Pakistan and for just $60 a month you can sponsor the education of a Syrian migrant in Turkey.
         I leave you with the words from my favorite book, Ayah Jamilah, “The human race is created from the one source, if one man feels pain, the others, from the same source, cannot be indifferent to it.”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

DIY Mason Jar Ramadan Favors

Perfect to share with your neighbours this Ramadan!

Get your filler ready, we filled ours with almond dates sprinkled with coconuts

What you need: 
Mason jar, roff burlap, mod podge or glue, twine, rubber bands, doilies and a brush

*tip: if you are using cookies, remember to face them outwards

Cup burlap large enough to cover mouth of lid

Write your msg on your doiley, spread modpodge or glue across your doiley with brush

Center doiley onto your jar and secure burlap square with rubber band around mouth of jar

Measure and cut your twine to fit around mouth of jar

Tadaa, you have your finished project!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Welcome Ramadan 2015

There is a cheerful presence in the home while we await the blessed month of Ramadan. Oh Allah let us see the beautiful bright and glowing Ramadan moon this year, let the month be full of blessings, the cleansing of our bodies and souls and a time to come closer to you in the deeds you love.

I wanted to stress the importance of using paper and recyclable products. Alhumdulilah, there is not a single plastic item in any of our decor this year! Make this Ramadan count and go green.

Lights for days!

Our Eid Countdown, place to hang Ramadan crafts 

Handmade doilie banner

Turkish hanging lights

Everything we hung is recyclable #usepaperproducts
Upcycled baby food jars- painted by Zaki with all purpose paint and decorated with gold puff paint

Our mantle adorned with one our favorites, masjid blocks from Eastern ToyBox

 Filled with good deeds during Ramadan- each Friday the boys will a small surprise in the pouch

Our finished mantle- yippeee!

A bookshelf filled with our favorite Ramadan reads

Wishing you a blessed Ramadan! 
From our little mushroom family to yours <3>

Friday, May 8, 2015


Welp. This post is for sure going to rustle a few feathers. So to the haraam and fatwa police, know that I have done extensive research and it is permissible to bury organs.*

After 19 long months whilst welcoming the sweet spring- we decided it was the perfect time. The perfect time to revisit the emotions from that crisp fall day when we met our baby boy, Sayf.

Sayf, you Mashallah are strong, resilient and courageous. You had us on our toes in pregnancy and even now a year and half after your delivery!

It was only natural that the placenta, who shared with you my womb for many months, be symbolic in that of a tree.

May Allah subhana ta alla, accept this sadaqah jariya (continuous charity) from us and may he cause the tree to benefit to all, including the insects, birds, plants and people that surround it.

**Burying of the organs is a permissible based on general consensus of many scholars. I used the fatwa of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Baby

In our country, we have a famous proverb that goes like this:
“When a baby is in they belly, it belongs to its mother. When it’s born, it belongs to everyone.”
The “it belongs to everyone” part is really great, believe me. And here’s why:
First, when you give birth, you only stay in the maternity ward for a day, unless you have a caesarian, in which case you go home the day after (not enough room and it’s expensive). But that doesn’t matter because as soon as you get home, you are welcomed like a “queen” by everyone. (Your family will take care of you and your baby for awhile, and that’s great, because you won’t have time to get those famous postpartum blues.) The baby and you are promptly looked after. Your mother heats some water and massages your whole body, especially the belly. Next she slathers you in shea butter and you go shower. Then she slathers you in shea butter again and wraps your belly (if you haven’t had a caesarian of course). Afterward, she dresses you and does your hair (you couldn’t get better treatment at a spa). 
During this time, a team made up of your grandmother (if you still have one) and great-aunts takes care of your baby. They massage its head with a warm washcloth (so that its head becomes nice and round) and then its whole body (to make it nice and firm). When that’s done, the baby is washed, slathered in lotino and dusted with “Bébé d’Or” talcum powder or other things, then dressed in pretty clothes.
Meanwhile, another team made up of female cousins, sisters-in-law and tanties* makes a delicious meal, and then it’s time to sit down to eat! You come out of your room beautiful and glowing (thanks to the shea butter) and you enjoy the special meal (that you requested) under the happy gaze of your whole family.
When you have finished your meal, your beautiful baby is returned to you so you can nurse it (yup, that’s right, you’ve got to work just a little bit). After it burps, you put it down to sleep, and you can take a well-deserved nap and rest easy because your baby is being watched over by dozens of people. … 
You’re helped in this way for some time. A few days before the aunts, female cousins, and sisters-in-law leave (your mother and grandmother can stay much longer), you introduce your baby to all the people in your neighborhood (even though they’ve all come by your house already to see you). This ritual is very important because you bring them your baby as a sign of respect and consideration. That’s how you get everyone to adopt your baby. 
That’s how children grow up in this community. When your children are old enough to play outside, they’ll always be watched by someone and they’ll get scolded by a tantie or tonton the minute they’re up to some mischief.
Your children will invite other neighbor kids to come eat at your house because your children have had meals at theirs. They’ll learn about sharing and life as part of a community. You’re probably wondering about the “mother-father-child” bond. Don’t worry, because the others will never get in the way of that bond. Just because you give your children to others for a short time, doesn’t mean they’ll love you any less. 
In any event, in our country, we don’t have to deal with those kinds of questions, because we don’t even think about them, and everything goes really well.
After all, we all want our children to be happy.
Excerpt from Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie 

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