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Live a

greener life

• Discover the SISTERS Green Guide • Connect to the Creation today! • Get free-cycling!

Reflections on the Hijrah 10 easy ways to give da’wah Celebrating growing up, growing old A mother's voice from inside Gaza

Survive the credit crunch Earn extra money from home Affordable family food

PREVIEW: Release your inner Queen of Sheba! PLUS

New trends for Spring Get your wardrobe sorted Plan the ultimate party Time for a tea party


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WHO WE ARE We are an eclectic team of fabulous Muslim women (masha Allah!): writers, journalists, artists and readers who are based all over the world, from London to Kuala Lumpur, from New York to Johannesburg. We are committed to filling SISTERS with uplifting, inspiring and enlightening material to help you become the best Muslimah you can be, from the inside out. The magazine’s ethos is rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah, according to the understanding of the Pious Predecessors, and our inspiration is Islam as a beautiful and richly rewarding way of life. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Na’ima B. Robert COMMISSIONING EDITOR Umm Zakariyyah Gardee SENIOR COPY EDITOR Safa Suling Tan ASSISTANT COPY EDITORS Farzana Gardee Raeesa Patel ISLAMIC EDITOR Abdul Wahid Stephenson LAYOUT & DESIGN Reyhana Daud (Cube Creative) ADVERTISING & SALES DIRECTOR Zinat Hassan (Business Ease) ( ADMINISTRATION MANAGER Umm Zakariyyah ( WEB ADMINISTRATOR Umm Hussain & Creative Astro ( AFFILIATE MANAGER Umm Ibrahim ( SYNDICATIONS MANAGER Safa Suling Tan ( DISTRIBUTION (UK) Darussalam ( DISTRIBUTION (SOUTH AFRICA) Channel Islam International (


WRITERS & CONTRIBUTORS Heba Alshareef Mariam Akabor Reuel S. Amdur Najma Ansari Fatima Barkatulla Amira Elghawaby Jenna M. Evans Sadaf Farooqi Fahmeeda Gill Sayeda Habib Anjuman Haque Saadia Hussain Huma Imam Amina Kara Asim Lone J.Samia Mair Clara McQaid Zuleka Mamdoo Sumayyah Meehan Najma Mohamed Faaizah Mohomed Zubeida Mohamed Humma Sharif Safa Suling Tan Najwa Ahmed Sheikh Tabassum Siddiqui Hodan Yusuf Maria Zain Umm Asma Umm Ayisha Umm Haneefa Umm Junayd Umm Raiyaan Umm Thameenah WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE TO SISTERS? Email: Telephone: +44 (0)208 150 3117

SISTERS is published quarterly. Nothing in the magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the publishers. All material sent for publication is sent at the owner’s risk and, while every care is taken, SISTERS does not accept any liability for loss or damage. Although SISTERS has endeavoured to ensure that all information in the magazine is correct, mistakes may occur. Please notify the Editor ( in this event. All prices and details correct at time of going to press. SUBSCRIPTION ENQUIRIES Subscription rates for four issues: £24 (UK mainland), £34.99 (overseas). See page 146 for latest subscription offer. SISTERS is available in print and online versions. To buy or subscribe to the online version, go to


Umm Raiyaan directs us back to Abyssinia, home of the first hijrah, where lessons await to be re-learned


Umm Thameenah reminds us that wherever we are, our need to make the hijrah of the heart



This Is Your Life: Make Your Voice Heard The second in our three-part series on improving communication


On Behalf Of My Mom Sleepless nights as a family struggles with Multiple Sclerosis


A Great Age To Be Muslimahs from the teens to the late eighties speak out about growing up and growing old


Oblivious Blessings A chance encounter brings the awareness that all of nature is a miracle


Muhammad’s r Company Poetry to stir the soul


The First Hijrah The hijrah to Abyssinia has lessons that we need to re-learn



Journey Of The Wayfarer As we journey to Allah I, do we know what milestones to look out for along the way?

Diary Of A Student Of Ilm In the first of a new column, a writer shares her journey and quest for knowledge


Holistic Muslim: Chinese Herbal Medicine We explore the mysteries of this ancient approach to health and wellbeing

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Self Hijrah Of The Heart The forgotten hijrah to attain an Islamic character Sunnah Focus: Welcoming The Newborn Follow our step-by-step guide to welcome the newest member of the ummah


10 Ways To Do Da’wah Turn your home into a da’wah hub


7 Reasons To Attend A Sisters’ Halaqa Compelling reasons to leave your comfort zone and go out in search of knowledge


Basics Kick The Credit Crunch With Money saving ways to beat the squeeze


How To... Change Careers And Keep Your Sanity Every work opportunity is a stepping stone to learning new skills and achieving your goals


Grow Your Own Greens Want to grow your own vegetables but don’t have the space? You dread the idea of digging? Small scale gardening may be just what your doctor prescribed.

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Fatima Barkatullah opens a page of her life as a student of ilm



You And Your Business Creative crafting for cold cash with Etsy


You And Your Purse: Managing Your Virtual Cash Pointers to manage your online shopping


Cyber Sisters: Keeping The Ties – Online! Using the internet to stay in touch

Family 62

A Life Too Fragile, A Love Too Strong A story of hope and heartache


Hijrah Homework For The Homebound Questions to ask before packing your bags


22 Ways To Connect To The Creation Recognising Allah’s I bounty all around us


Bee Like A Bee Using science to learn about the signs of Allah I


When Grandpa And Grandma Are Not Muslim Your child’s interaction with relatives of another faith does not need to be awkward


Letter To My Daughter Reaching out


A Search For Muslim Readers The quest to publish and promote Muslim fiction

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Using the colours of love, Amina Kara paints a story of hope and heartache





Foolproof Family Recipes Sisters readers from around the world share their family favourites




Our Changing Climate The changing weather patterns are a sign to return to the Natural Way

Muslimah Style Tips: Wardrobe Essentials The staples of a foolproof wardrobe



Muslim Style File The latest labels, collections and offers from the Muslim fashion world


Tea Talk Grab your favourite cuppa and come and chat


The Kitchen Beautician Scrubbing and soothing with oatmeal


You Are What You Say You Are Telling it like it is!


Hidden Beauty Learn to apply blush and lipstick like a pro!

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Letters To The Editor


Reveal Your inner Spring Chick Rejuvenate your skin with a home facial


Competition Share your tips for going green and stand in line to win a designer shopping bag


Special Sisters Trekking for a cause


When Did You Last?

Guide To A Green Life Easy and sustainable ways to go green


Free-cycling An online sanctuary connects a group committed to make a stand against rampant consumerism


Comm-YOU-nity Service You might want to consider the paybacks that volunteer work brings


Challenging Prejudice And Ignorance Armed with baklava, a group of Muslimahs open dialogue and work to change stereotypes




When did you last?

Child Health: Eczema Guidelines to managing this condition and improving your child’s quality of life



A cricket team celebrates their anniversary by planning the ultimate party



Dear Sisters Update your wardrobe with these fresh Spring trends

Tastes The Ultimate Party An indoor woman’s cricket team celebrates their anniversary by entertaining in style

Being Positive Ever thought there was no way HIV and Aids could touch you? Think again!


From Sudan With Love A gift from one group of orphans to another

Crunch, Crunch Dinner ideas that don’t pinch the purse


Time For High Tea Reviving that most English of traditions: the afternoon tea.

Voices Measured To Fit… For A Queen A glimpse from “Release Your Inner Queen of Sheba!”

Last Thoughts: Journal From Gaza We peek into the journal and life of a family in Gaza

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EDITOR’SPACE Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Raheem A few weeks before the birth of my little girl, I was suddenly inspired to take up needlework. Drawing on my many years of sewing clothes for dolls as a child, I set to work, practising embroidery stitches, old and new. I made my way to a haberdashery in town and, together with my two eldest sons, chose embroidery needles and thread, an image of the baby blanket I wanted to embroider taking shape in my mind. I wanted to make something beautiful and meaningful that would show her how much I loved her, already, even before I had even looked into her eyes or touched her silken toes. In years gone by, women all over the world have spent many weeks of their pregnancies in this way: knitting, sewing, embroidering clothes for the baby that they carry inside them. And indeed, the ancient, traditionally feminine arts of sewing and needlework, crochet and knitting touched a chord with me. I felt like I was part of an old tradition, one closely tied to the female experience, the cycle of life and renewal. As I selected the different coloured threads, threaded needles, drew out patterns and sewed blanket stitch, running stitch, French knots - I felt connected to my baby. I was preparing for her coming, anticipating the day we would finally meet face to face, and there was love and care in every stitch. Those days that I spent on my sofa, heavy with child, embroidery or knitting needles in hand, were special and their memory is precious to me, even now. But being prepared to raise a child, to love and care for her, to nurture her and protect her, and to at last send her out into the world and set her free, takes a lot more than a harmonious quilt pattern. Now, more than ever, I am aware of the magnitude of this task of motherhood. How much it requires from us, personally, physically, mentally and, most importantly, spiritually. People have been asking me since she was born: ‘What does it feel like to finally have a girl?’ and I have always answered: ‘Just the same as having a boy’, but that is not strictly true. Raising a girl is special. Our Prophet Muhammad r alluded to this fact in the following hadith: “‘A’isha, the wife of Allah’s Messenger r, said: ‘A woman came to me along with her two daughters. She asked me for (charity) but she found nothing with me except one date, so I gave her that. She accepted it and then divided it between her two daughters and herself ate nothing out of that. She then got up and went out, and so did her two daughters. (In the meanwhile) Allah’s Messenger r visited me and I narrated to him her story. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger r) said: ‘He who is involved (in the responsibility) of (bringing up) daughters, and he accords benevolent treatment

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towards them, there would be protection for him against Hell-Fire’” (Muslim). So there is the reward of bringing up a daughter that I now have to look forward to insha Allah. But on a deeper level, it is as if, because I am now entrusted with raising a future Muslimah, my life is a testament, a proof for me or against me. I am her closest example: what will I teach her? What lessons will she learn from watching me through the years: as a Muslimah, as a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter? What lessons will she take with her into her life? And what lessons will she pass on to her own daughter? It has long been documented that women are the keepers of tradition, the living thread that binds generations and preserves legacies, treasuring memories and passing down heirlooms. I hope that my baby blanket will one day pass, with the same love and sincerity with which it was made, to the next generation. I hope that my daughter will one day explain to her own child that her mother made this for her, as a gift, as a symbol of love. But, more importantly, I hope that she will carry with her the very best of what I able to pass on. That she will carry with her a strong belief and trust in Allah, strength, tenderness, courage, humility, confidence and modesty, wisdom and a sense of humour. That she will have beautiful memories to share, colourful stories to tell and confidence in her roots and heritage. These are just some of the aspirations I have for my daughter. Amaani - wishes and aspirations - is what we had originally intended to call her and, although we eventually named her differently, she will always carry my amaani with her, my first born daughter, my little princess, alhamdulillah. Ya Allah, make it easy for us to nurture ourselves and our children. May they be a proof for us on the Day of Reckoning. And may we pass down such pearls of wisdom and goodness that our legacy stands the test of time and is felt, again and again, for generations to come. Ameen. Wasalaam

Na’ima B. Robert PS. This editorial is dedicated to all the mothers and fathers who lost children and loved ones in the conflict in Gaza. Our thoughts, prayers and hopes for justice and a lasting peace are with them.

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Inspiration Our Inspiration section is full of beautiful reminders, touching true stories and thought-provoking reflections.

Be inspired Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

He fidgeted uncomfortably on his seat as he nudged his elbow to discreetly push back the loop of a plastic tube that was sticking out from the side of his wheel-chair. I lowered my head and pretended to re-check my audio-recorder in order to give him time to adjust himself, without the embarrassment of being observed. Brother Salim* is a paraplegic and he is paralysed from the waist down. I was meeting him for an interview for a local newspaper about life in a wheel-chair. Before our scheduled interview, he had kindly sent me books and videos describing the details of his physical condition as well as the everyday challenges faced by people with paraplegia and quadriplegia. Therefore, I was aware of the purpose of that plastic tube that showed up accidentally. That tube was part of a urinary catheter. The interview went fine, but I returned home a changed person. His story kept resonating in my mind. A sea diving accident had turned his life around: from an energetic air traffic controller to a sedate office worker; from a newly married man to a divorcee; from a physically fit athlete to a wheel-chair bound invalid.

“Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return” (Al Baqarah: 156).

Oblivious Blessings

Our Creator tests all of us in different ways. I prayed to Allah I to grant him patience, and to lighten his burden. I also supplicated to Him to keep me protected from such trials. But that meeting had awoken another sensation inside me, a feeling that perhaps began as a faint quiver in my core on first seeing him, then grew to an intense throbbing with the blood flowing in every vein, till it reached a point that rattled and shook my very soul: a humbling sense of gratitude.

“Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?” (Ar-Rahman:13). My mind was crowded with questions. Have I ever consciously expressed gratitude to Allah I for my ability to move? Have I truly appreciated my Creator for giving me a perfect body? Have I ever realised that even when I’m sitting, my legs continue to work for me by providing balance? Have I ever thanked my Lord for the ability to effortlessly relieve myself?

Brother Salim, due to his condition caused by damage to the spinal cord, is unable to feel when he needs to go to the bathroom so he has to wear a catheter. And when he does go to the toilet, he requires the help of a nurse to clean him. I remember a saying of one of our pious predecessors: “If a man is able to drink and expel a sip of water with ease, gratitude becomes due on him.” Putting all other infinite attributes aside, I pondered and focused over just this one aspect of my body’s blessings and it left me in awe.

“And in your creation, and what He scattered (through the earth) of moving (living) creatures are signs for people who have Faith with certainty” (Al-Jathiya: 4). As a child I had been taught to utter the words of dhikr before and after going to the bathroom. I knew their meanings, but over the years, the remembrance had become a mindless reflex action. That is, until that day. Today, when I utter the word “Ghufranaka” as I leave the washroom, my mind is attentive and aware of the meaning, and my heart is humbled and filled with gratitude at the realisation that many have to suffer the pain of indignity and shame for this natural function of the human body. Realisation is the first step towards true thankfulness. “No blessing is bestowed on a slave and he realises that it is from Allah, but the reward of giving gratitude for it is written for him...” (Patience and Gratitude by Ibn Al-Qayyim). I owe my Creator the highest gratitude, so I aim to busy myself with ways of expressing it. The Messenger of Allah r said: “There is a (compulsory) Sadaqa to be given for every joint of the human body (as a sign of gratitude to Allah) everyday the sun rises. To judge justly between two persons is regarded as Sadaqa, and to help a man concerning his riding animal by helping him to ride it or by lifting his luggage on to it, is also regarded as Sadaqa, and (saying) a good word is also Sadaqa, and every step taken on one’s way to offer the compulsory prayer (in the mosque) is also Sadaqa and to remove a harmful thing from the way is also Sadaqa” (Bukhari).

* Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual

Huma Imam shares how a chance meeting with someone opened her eyes to the unacknowledged miracles within us.

Yes, to be able to answer the call of nature in privacy and with dignity is a great blessing of Allah I, something I had never realised before.

Huma Imam is a U.A.E. based freelance writer with qualifications in Home Sciences. She has experience in voluntary work with Islamic centres and occasionally speaks at sisters’ halaqas.

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MUHAMMAD’S r By Fatima Barkatulla

My heart yearns to be in your company,

I swear, as long as there is breath in me,

Proclaim your call, setting shackled minds free,

In your footsteps will I traverse patiently,

Defend your person, fulfil every decree,

Defend your name, fulfil your every plea,

Fight at your side, repel each enemy,

Spread your call to all of humanity,

See your face, with its moon-like quality,

Striving, longing for the day that I may be

Would that this honour be given to me.

United in your blessed company.

Yet, regret I must, I am not worthy, Unfit to be in blessed company, Of those for whom Jannah was destiny, The chosen few, who were exemplary, Hand-picked by Ar-Rahman, honoured to be Friends travelling with you on your journey, Companions of your blessed history.

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Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

was shaken to such a degree that they were unable to conduct their da’wah and as a result even leave Islam altogether!


It was due to the Prophet’s r prophetic insight that he ordered a handful of these followers to cross the sea and seek refuge in a different land. Now, I want to ask you this. What was the significance of the Prophet r ordering these early Muslims to cross the sea? Why did he r not order them to enter a different part of Arabia? Why was he r not dissuaded from ordering them to cross the sea, knowing full well that there were many dangers at sea and that Arabs had no knowledge of the sea?


Hijrah Umm Raiyaan takes us on a journey of discovery to Abyssinia, the destination of the first hijrah of the Muslims.

Before my husband and I even contemplated making hijrah, I read about the hijrah that the pious companions of the Prophet r made, and ached for the reward of this act of worship. Often, when the word hijrah is mentioned, it creates daydreams of moving from the land of kufr to the land of Islam. Or it takes one back into history, to the hijrah of the Makkan Muslims to Yathrib, otherwise known as Madinah. However, there was another hijrah which is rarely read about, whose significance and lessons are buried beneath the dust of history books. For indeed, the first hijrah, otherwise known as the pre-hijrah, has wonderful pearls found within it that are waiting to be discovered by those that take pride in learning the history of the pious Muslims who came before us. Thus, I would like to take you on a journey with me back to the time when the first Muslims left their families, homes and all that was familiar to them to obey Allah I and His Messenger r.

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Although the Prophet r knew that crossing the sea was dangerous for the Muslims, these precious believers staying in Makkah was far worse. Why? Because the future of Islam depended on them. I would like to make a very important point here. Often in life we are faced with situations that require us to make ‘choices’. We know that choice A would probably be easier for us and is a perfectly halal option to take and that choice B would make our lives more difficult but would earn the most pleasure of Allah I. We often take choice A, don’t we? Why don’t we instead pause for a moment and consider the possibilities - the wonderful possibilities and exquisite rewards that our Lord is storing away for us in the next life? By Allah I, were we to think in this way and take choice B, we too insha’Allah could have a share in the accomplishments of this deen and in the rewards that were promised to the sahabah by the Prophet r.

be the final prophet to mankind. You may be picturing Muslims who were fervent in their zeal to worship Allah I and obey His Messenger r. You may be picturing a small group of pious Muslim men and women - strict in their acts of devotion. Our beloved Prophet r, in his wisdom and utter compassion saw a group of men and women who were the future of Islam.

Now, the hijrah took place in two steps. The first step was when Rasulullah r sent a small group of sixteen people to emigrate to East Africa. This small group of Muslims stayed there a very short time due to a rumour that the torture of the Muslims had stopped in Makkah and that it was now safe to return home. Upon their return, they found that things had actually become a lot worse for the Muslims. The Prophet r thus quickly ordered a larger group of eighty six men and nineteen women to leave Makkah and make hijrah to Abyssinia. They left by boat, protected from the Quraysh by the natural barrier of the sea and headed toward the land of a Christian King.

When the Prophet r announced his belief in Allah I and his intention to call others to the Oneness of Allah I, the Quraysh conducted terrible acts of torture, persecution and abuse. The acts of tyranny that were perpetrated were so evil, that it was unprecedented in the history of that part of Arabia. The situation reached such an unbearable state for the Muslims that the Prophet r knew that he had to do something, not only to protect the physical safety of his devout followers, but to protect the message that they lived by. Imagine if these few followers, at this crucial stage of Islam, had suffered so much due to torture that their iman

Upon hearing the news of this, the Quraysh were furious. They immediately sent a delegation to the King of Abyssinia in the form of Amar ibn Al-As and Abdullah ibn Abu Rabiah to convince the King to deport the Muslims back to Makkah. They used many forms of bribery to persuade the King to hand over the Muslims. They even used the King’s religion as a method when they said: “Those people who left their religion and did not join yours.” In other words: ‘These people who left the way of their forefathers, and sought protection in your land and did not even adopt your own religion. And you want to protect them!’

I want you to picture the state of the Muslims five years after Allah

I sent Jibraeel u with the message that Muhammad r would

Regardless of all of this, Allah I in His Perfect Hikmah, knew that the Muslims would be sent to a King who was just. Thus, the King’s reply was “As I listened to you, I shall listen to them.” After hearing the statement of the Quraysh, the Muslims made their statement through the beautiful words of Jafar ibn Abi Talib t. Jafar ibn Abi Talib t said: “O King! We were ignorant people and we lived like wild animals. The strong among us lived by preying upon the weak. We obeyed no law and we acknowledged no authority save that of brute force. We worshipped idols made of stone or wood, and we knew nothing of human dignity. And then God, in His Mercy, sent to us His Messenger who was himself one of us. We knew about his truthfulness and his integrity. His character was exemplary, and he was the most well-born of the Arabs. He invited us toward the worship of One God, and he forbade us to worship idols. He exhorted us to tell the truth, and to protect the weak, the poor, the humble, the widows and the orphans. He ordered us to show respect to women, and never to slander them. We obeyed him and followed his teachings. Most of the people in our country are still polytheists, and they resented our conversion to the new faith which is called Islam. They began to persecute us and it was in order to escape from persecution by them that we sought and found sanctuary in your kingdom.” What can we learn from this elegant statement made at a time when the future of the Muslims, the future of Islam was at stake? We learn a lesson which we must re-learn again and again and again, especially in the time we are living in, where Muslims seem to be forgetting the very essence of their deen and what this way of life truly means. Jafar t taught King Negus, he t reminded the Muslims that were present, and he t taught all the future generations of Muslims that Islam means to worship the One True Creator and to do good. Yes, ‘to do good’. We seem to have forgotten that Islam teaches us to be good and do good for the sake of Allah I. Were we to take heed of this simple beautiful advice given during the hijrah of the Makkans to Abyssinia, which touched the heart of the King of Abysinnia, Islam would prevail, not only in our hearts and lives, but in those of our families and the wider community as well.

Umm Raiyaan is a revert of 10 years and resides in London, UK with her husband and two children. She is a homeschooler, writer, student and is active in the dawah. She blogs at: and

Winter Spring 2008 2009 SISTERS SISTERS 17 17

The Soul’s Journey Several years ago I was a new traveller on what I hoped was a journey to Allah. But there was a problem, a big problem. I was a traveller who merely wanted to pack her bags and be on her way without ever looking back. I thought I had embarked successfully on my journey, when in reality, I had filled my luggage with nothing more than false hopes and dreams. I was a servant completely unaware of who my Lord I was and how I, an impoverished slave, was to successfully reach Him I. Laden with dreams of reaching the Home of eternal bliss, I disowned everything that stood as an obstacle in my path, and I ran towards my Lord I, eager to make Him I the most beloved to me. The Prophet r has said: “If someone wants to know what position he enjoys in the eyes of Allah, he only has to look at what place he gives to Allah (in his heart and life)” [Hakim]. Thus, I knew that seeking the pleasure of Allah I needed to be of the utmost importance in my life. I yearned desperately to be beloved by Him I, and yet I remained ignorant of how to successfully arrive and settle at this desired station. Journeying to Allah I is an action every servant undertakes. For those that choose not to acknowledge this inevitable fact, their journey is of a physical nature, having lost all sense of spirituality. They remain as souls merely fulfilling an appointed term. Every day of their lives they journey closer to their death, closer to their final destination and closer to the reality they so desperately strive to ignore - the meeting with their Lord I. For the believing servant however, her Siyaaha - spiritual wayfaring - is real in its existence, yet beautifully surreal in its essence.

The spiritual state Shaykh Abdur-Rahman As-Sa’di, in his book ‘The Exquisite Pearl: The Journey to Allah and The Home of The Hereafter’, says that spiritual wayfaring means to travel with one’s inner-self from state to state, gaining an array of qualities, whilst intending to cultivate each state

Spring 2009 SISTERS 18

into spiritual stations. Arriving at a State is to feel, behave and react in a particular manner that forms one of the characteristics of the devout wayfarers even though the roots of the characteristic may not have yet settled securely in the heart. As a result, a servant may feel patient at particular moments in her life, however this does not necessitate her permanent arrival at the “station of patience”, due to weak or corrupted qualities persisting in the heart.

Reaching the station Settling at a Station is the wayfarer’s desired goal. The Station of Renunciation which entails turning one’s heart away from all distractions, completely emptying it of other than the Most Merciful and thus enabling one’s movements, concerns and resolve to be in accordance with that which pleases Allah I, is an achievement of that characteristic. This is the contented settlement of a soul, for it does not live in a fleeting state without stability, rather such a soul lives the desired quality inwardly and outwardly: a permanent aspect of the heart, clearly evident in all that she embarks upon and accomplishes. The devout and God-conscious servant remains well-nurtured, with the fruits of faith having awakened her soul. She is gifted with the honour of having achieved praiseworthy stations, such as the stations of aspiration; sincerity; hope, fear and love of Allah I; reliance; renunciation of excessive materialism and the ultimate - companionship of her Lord I. Thus, she knows the honour of being near to Allah I in the spiritual sense and waits patiently, though desperately longing, to meet her Beloved I:

“If My servant loves to meet Me, I love to meet him; and if he dislikes to meet Me, I dislike to meet him” (Bukhari).

Is it possible to achieve success along a journey whilst remaining ignorant of what paths to tread upon? Umm Thameenah bint Luqman shares her experience of wayfaring to Allah I.

States or stations? So how does one who yearns to meet her Lord I recognise whether her soul is travelling from state to state or station to station? For each desired characteristic, ask yourself this question: do I behave in this manner sometimes, depending on my situation, or do I behave like this consistently? Your response, insha Allah, will enable you to identify what characteristics you need to purify within yourself as a means of seeking the pleasure of Allah I. For Allah I praises the servant that seeks to please Him I:

“And there is a kind of person who would willingly give up personal interests, seeking Allah’s pleasure, and Allah is Most Compassionate towards His servants” (Al-Baqarah:207). None know what features - whether trials, tests, obstacles, hardships, happiness, ease or bleasings - are kept hidden on their journey along the stretched and narrow roads; steep hills and creviced tracks of the wayfarer’s path. What remains to be seen are the splendours, beauties and joys that wayfarers in the path of Allah I have hope of experiencing, insha Allah. For what could be more pleasing than to be told:

“Oh soul at peace, return unto your Lord, wellpleased, well-pleasing! Enter among My servants! And enter My Paradise!” (Al-Fajr: 27-30).

Through the years I have moved from one spiritual state to another, with a never ending hope that somewhere along the way, these states will be cultivated into accomplished stations, insha Allah. I have witnessed hidden secrets and heart-provoking realities but the greatest of gifts is that of realisation - which marks the beginning of a journey: my journey - our journey:

Seek for yourselves The likes of what I have found. I have found a place of rest wherein He never falters in His love: If I move away, He draws me close And if I move closer, He draws nigh. (Abu Nu`aym, vol.9, p.357, no.14112) Embark upon your travels towards Allah I. Pursue the forgotten abode, where rivers flow beneath you, and in which lie palaces and gardens of pure delight. Proceed upon your journey with the light of this blessed deen and the love of The Most Merciful I in your hearts. Travel fellow wayfarers, to your Lord I and the Home of the Hereafter - and refuse your eyes the inclination to ever look back.

Umm Thameenah has been working in the da’wah for several years: teaching, mentoring and bringing spiritual awareness to Muslim women and children about Islam. She blogs her experiences and welcomes you to read about her journey to Allah I at: and

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Self Our Self section guides you through your various layers as a Muslimah: learning about Allah, cultivating your character, cleansing your soul, nourishing your mind and taking care of your body.

Take care of yourself Autumn 2008 SISTERS 22


of the



hat does hijrah mean to you? Do you dream of the day when you will be granted the honour of migrating to a Muslim land purely for the sake of Allah I? Now ponder this… how many of you hope and dream of making the ultimate hijrah – that of your heart? Umm Thameenah reminds us of the importance of the forgotten hijrah – the hijrah to attain an Islamic character.

sound beliefs and actions, whereas a corrupt heart will only serve to be a means of destruction. Following one’s desires is an evil that leads a servant to insincerity, a major disease of the heart.

The migration of the heart to Allah I is a strong requirement, if not an obligation, upon every believing servant. Correcting the heart is a fundamental aspect of our migration to Allah I, for it is a beautiful struggle performed on a daily basis.

Being in control of one’s self paves the way for beautiful relationships to blossom. It is not from the character of a believer to violate the rights of others, neither is it to be concerned with the vices of others. Thus, one should not go out of their way to look for, or to ‘discover’ faults in others, especially when one’s own character bears witness to internal faults and weaknesses. The ‘ibaadur-Rahman’ - servants of The Most Merciful I - are those who are constantly concerned with purifying their souls and immersing themselves in performing numerous good deeds, due to fear of their own weaknesses and shortcomings.

The heart is the spiritual container – the inner port – with the ability to harbour all that is good as well as all that is evil. It can either positively affect or severely corrupt a servant’s actions. As the Prophet r taught us: “There is a lump of flesh in the body – if it is set right and made good, the entire body becomes good and healthy; but if it becomes diseased, the entire body becomes diseased. Remember well – it is the heart” (Bukhari).

“For those who act with excellence is the greatest good, and even more. Neither darkness nor humiliation shall afflict their faces. They are the people of the Garden, dwelling there forever” (Yunus:26).

The goodness evident in a person’s actions is as a result of what emanates from the heart. Thus, a sound heart will in turn produce

As humans, we cannot harbour ‘perfection’, however, striving to perfect our character is what is really required.

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as angels, perfectly faultless; rather, it means that we sincerely strive to nurture and beautify our characteristics purely for the sake of pleasing Allah I - as a means of serving Him. The nourishment and cultivation of the heart requires a number of tasks and particular applications that will enable realistic spiritual and physical changes. Merely glancing at a problem and pruning the edges as opposed to uprooting it will only bring about short term solutions to lifelong problems. Rather, we should reflect and re-evaluate ourselves, our hearts and our souls and implement the appropriate steps specific to each of our situations. Living a life in which we claim to be Muslimaat, strive to be Mu’minaat and yearn to be Muhsinaat is an automatic avenue to unlocking the ills that prevail within ourselves and within our societies. Living as a servant of the Most Gracious means to live a life of humble servitude, which in turn breeds sincerity in our hearts, justice between other souls, and most importantly, the fulfilment of our ultimate purpose: to worship Allah I. Knowing our Creator I brings one to know the inner-self, knowing one’s inner-self means to find true inner peace, and the discovery of true inner peace is to find our heart and soul’s true happiness. As He I says

“…hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah. It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace” (Ar Ra’d:28).

This means reflecting upon ourselves and working to nurture, refine, and polish the content of our character in order to emulate the beauty of this blessed deen. “In the Messenger of Allah you have a good example for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much” (Al Ahzab:21). The Prophet r was the epitome of Islamic character. He lived for Allah I; accepted His decree and acted upon His command. The Prophet r harboured the best of the best of qualities, and as he loved for us what he loved for himself, he advised us to uphold the same. Such qualities as sabr (patience), istaqaamah (steadfastness), yaqeen (certainty), tawakkul (trust) and taqwa (God consciousness) are all from the most praiseworthy qualities in the sight of Allah I. Thus, if our claim is love of our Creator I, then our behaviour toward and with other servants of Allah I should always be of an exemplary example, imitating the Prophet r in every given opportunity, in order to ensure a life that shines with the reflection of what it is we claim to love. This does not mean that we appear

So sisters, migrate – migrate with every atom’s weight of your heart and discover your Magnificent Lord I. Through the refinement of your character, your heart will find inner peace and true love, thus enabling it to migrate to The Only One it truly yearns to be with Allah I - its rightful Owner and true Beloved.


This article was submitted a week after the writer and her family made hijrah to the heartland of Islam. May Allah I keep her and her family ever inspired by those who left their footsteps on the ground on which they now walk and ever increasing in love, faith and guidance.

h heart in need of Divine guidance, shine! Shine like beams of light reflecting the jewels of our blessed deen. Wherever your soul may travel and whatever land you may traverse, always let the beauty of what you love, be what you do. For only then, will your heart come to know who and what it really is.

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Sunnah Focus

Announcing the birth The good news of the birth should be announced to family and friends, and the people should congratulate the parents. Du’a should be made for the baby and the parents in return.

Welcoming the

newborn baby

Just as we feel the pain of our fellow Muslims during their times of distress, we should express our feelings and share in their times of happiness.

Expecting a baby? Umm Haneefah gives a step-by-step guide on how to welcome the newest member of the Ummah.

The birth of a baby is usually an exciting, emotional and joyous occasion. The arrival of a baby marks the beginning of a journey – a long journey full of sweat and tears, laughter and happiness, hopes and aspirations, anxieties and worries, trials and rewards: a journey of worship. The Prophet r said regarding this trust, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects… the man is a guardian of his family, the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring” (Bukhari). So, not only are we responsible for our children but we will be held accountable for any negligence on our part in bringing them up properly. Welcoming the newborn into this world in the way prescribed by the Prophet r is the first step in the proper upbringing (tarbiyah) of the Muslim child.

Prayers of the prophets u From the time of conception, du’as should be read for the baby. The Prophet r said, “Three supplications are answered without doubt - the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller and the supplication of the parent for his son” (At-Tirmidhi).

Therefore, our love and concern for the baby should be expressed in our du’a.

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• Ibrahim u would pray not only for his children, but his progeny too: “Our Lord! And make us submissive unto You and of our offspring a nation submissive unto You, and show us our Manāsik (all the ceremonies of pilgrimage - Hajj and ‘Umrah, etc.), and accept our repentance. Truly, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful” (Al-Baqarah: 128). “O my Lord! Make me one who performs AsSalah and (also) from my offspring, our Lord! And accept my invocation” (Ibrahim: 40).

• The Prophet r used to make the following dua for his beloved grandchildren Hasan and Hussain t: “I seek refuge for you with Allah’s complete words from every devil and harmful creature and from every envious eye” (Al Hisnul Hasin). Qur’an should be recited regularly to get your child used to listening to it with the hope that it would have a positive effect on him. Surah Fatiha, Ayatul Kursi and the last three Surahs of the Qur’an should be recited regularly for seeking protection for the newborn.

“Every child is held in pledge for his Aqeeqah which is sacrificed for him on his seventh day and he is named on it and his head is shaved” (Ahmad). The name can be given to the baby on the day of its birth or delayed till the seventh day. When the Prophet r had Ibrahim, he said, “A boy was born to me this night and I have named him by the name of my father Ibrahim” (Muslim).

Silver used to be a form of currency in the time of the Prophet r, but the prevalent form of currency is now paper money, so it can be given in monetary form.

While it is commonplace to want a unique and unusual name, parents should choose the name of their children carefully praiseworthy names, names indicating servitude to Allah I, names after the Prophets u, names after the companions (both men and women) and scholars, names that are good in their wordings, meanings and easily pronounced should be chosen.

Circumcision (al-khitaan)

• When Maryam’s mother gave birth to her, she prayed: “I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Shaytan, the outcast” (Al-Imran: 36).

Six sunnahs to welcome the newborn Tahneek This is the practice of softening a date and rubbing a little on the palate of the child just after the birth or soon after. It is preferable to perform this sunnah before the first feed. It should be performed by the father, mother or a person of knowledge and good

character. If the date is not available, honey or anything sweet can be used. Like any act of Sunnah, it should be done with the aim of pleasing Allah. However, it has been said that, in addition to the different health benefits of eating dates, tahneek also exercises the baby’s mouth, helps with the circulation of blood and makes sucking of milk easy.

The sunnah is to start with the right side before the left and all the hair on the head should be shaved off. However, if the baby is born without hair, then there is no need to shave but rather one should find out the estimate of the weight of the average baby’s hair. The shaved hair is weighed and disposed and its weight in silver is given in charity. For example, if the hair weighed 3.0grams and the value of silver per gram is £5, then the amount to be given in charity would be 3g x £5 = £15.

Naming the child

Inspiration can be drawn from the lives of Ibrahim u and Zakariyya u who yearned and prayed for righteous children.

day when the aqeeqah is sacrificed, and silver should be given in sadaqah (charity) equal to the weight of the infant’s hair.

This is the surgical removal of the skin surrounding the head of a boy’s penis by someone who is medically qualified to do it. It is one of the symbols and signs of the deen. It is a sign of servitude and obedience to Allah I, and it is from the characteristics of fitrah. The Prophet r said, “the fitrah (natural way) is five: circumcision, shaving the private parts, trimming the moustache, clipping the nails and plucking hair from the armpits” (Bukhari). It is recommended to have the child circumcised when he is still small, but it becomes obligatory before the child reaches puberty.

Shaving the hair of the newborn The hair should be shaved on the seventh

Aqeeqah This is the sacrifice of a sheep on the seventh day, seeking the pleasure of Allah I – the first day of these days being the day of the birth. The Prophet r prescribed “for the boy, two equal sheep and for the girl, a single sheep” (Ahmad). The sacrificed sheep could be eaten, fed to the people or given in charity. Some of us have dreamed, or daydreamed, about holding our babies in our arms, teaching them about the deen and seeing them grow up to be balanced and pious children with the correct aqeedah and adab (morals). Now is the time to take the first step in establishing Islam in their hearts and actualising our dreams. May Allah assist us in every step of the way.

“Our Lord, bestow on us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes and make us leaders of the Muttaqun (pious)” (Furqan: 74).

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4. Invite someone round for tea

Whether it is the Jehovah’s Witness lady who knocks on your door or someone else you have met, you can invite them round for an informal chat. Let them learn a little something about Islam. You could just tell them what we believe about the Prophet ‘Isa u and you will have conveyed an important part of our message.

5. Call up a radio phone-in show

10 Da’wah

ways to do

from the comfort of your home!

The society we live in has many social problems: poverty due to debt, absent fathers, criminal youth, abortion, sexual depravity of all kinds. By presenting the Islamic solution to society’s problems you could leave a lasting impression on millions! Islam is being discussed regularly nowadays on all major radio stations. Call up and correct a misconception someone has about Islam and be a guardian of our deen! The Prophet r said: “Whoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand, and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue, and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).

6. Send a cheque to a da’wah organisation

There are plenty of organisations that print booklets or translations of the Qur’an and hold exhibitions to spread the word of Islam. By sending them a donation you will not only be participating in da’wah, you’ll be rewarded for sadaqah jariyyah (ongoing charity) as your donation may mean someone accepting Islam or touching someone and causing a ripple effect to future generations.

If you’ve always wanted to be a da’eeah, to invite people to the Truth, but felt you don’t have time, then you’d better take a fresh look at da’wah! Fatima Barkatulla shares 10 ideas to make your home a da’wah hub.

The Prophet r taught, “By Allah, if Allah were to guide just one man through you it would be better for you than red camels” (Bukhari).

1. Bake a cake for your neighbours

There must be something you feel passionately about or an experience you’ve had that others could benefit from. Put pen to paper and let your ideas flow. Base what you write upon the Qur’an and Sunnah and have it checked by a person of knowledge. It will be a chance for you to do a bit of research, increase your knowledge and it may be a valuable resource for other sisters.


The Prophet r said: “Convey (my message) from me, even if it is one ayah” (Bukhari).

Manners3 of the

It’s amazing what effect reaching out to our neighbours can have. A simple gesture such as baking a cake for them can really change their perception of Islam and Muslims. It is those little day-to-day interactions that make people think twice about how Islam is often portrayed in the media. The Prophet Muhammad r said: “O Muslim women, do not think that any gift is too insignificant to give to a neighbour, even if it is only a sheep’s foot” (Bukhari and Muslim).

2. Start a Blog

Even if it is just to write about an ayah of the Qur’an that has affected you, having a web presence is an effective da’wah tool. Every time someone googles ‘Islam’, they are met with a plethora of links, many of which misrepresent Islam. So your web presence means that people are more likely to come across correct information about Islam.

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. Phone or write to a friend

Supporting our sisters in Islam is also da’wah, because while you chat you can help renew a sister’s iman, give her some timely advice regarding something she’s worried about, and remind her to have sabr, all of which come under ‘enjoining the good’. Remember that Allah says in the Qur’an: “By Time, indeed Man is in loss, except for those who believe, and work righteous deeds, and advise one another with truth and advise one another with sabr (patient perseverance)” (Al-Asr).

7. Write an article for a magazine or website.

8. Start a study circle

Host a small gathering of sisters for an hour every week. Present a short talk about one aspect of Islam you have looked into, or study the tafsir of a particular surah together. Invite sisters who don’t normally go to a circle. Allah will put barakah in your home, insha Allah!

I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it” (Muslim).

9. Be your husband’s rock

When we support our husbands’ efforts in da’wah, we will be rewarded too. Allow him time to spend in this cause and help him in any way you can. Remember the hadith in which Asmâ bint Yazîd ibn As-Sakan t came to the Prophet r and said: “Oh Messenger of Allâh, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you. I have come to you on behalf of the women. We have believed in you. We do not go out and we remain in your homes. We are your source of physical pleasure. We carry your children. A man goes out to pray jumu’ah and jamâ’ah and follows the janazah. And if you go out for hajj, or umrah, or jihad, we look after your wealth. We wash your clothing. We raise your children. Shall we not share in the reward?” The Prophet r turned to his companions and said: “Have you ever heard anything a woman has said better than what she has said?” Then he said to her: “Understand O Woman, and inform the other women. Indeed a woman’s perfection of her relationship with her husband, her seeking his pleasure, and doing that which he approves of is equivalent to all of that.” Asmâ left exclaiming “La ilâha illa Allâh!” (Adh-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam An-Nubala).

10. Teach your children

Bringing our children up to understand and love the message of Islam is our most important Da’wah project! Remember that everything you do to increase their knowledge and make them strong, righteous people is priceless and will be rewarded. The Prophet r said: “All of you are shepherds and are responsible for your flocks. A leader is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is a shepherd over his family and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd in the house of her husband and is responsible for her flock…” (Bukhari and Muslim).

So, sisters, no excuses! It’s time to look at how you can contribute to the cause of Islamic da’wah. These ten tips are just the start...

The Prophet r said in a Hadeeth Qudsi, that Allah I says: “I am as My servant expects Me to be. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself,

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From forging a sense of community to providing an iman boost, the benefits of attending a weekly halaqah are many. Fahmeeda Gill shares seven good reasons to get you out of your house on the path of knowledge.

When was the last time you attended an Islamic talk or listened to a khutbah? In many areas, mosques are not even accessible to women, while children and childcare may make some courses out of your reach. Learning is still an obligation on every Muslim, and your weekly sisters’ halaqa may be your solution and inspiration. The Arabic word ‘halaqah’ means a ring and it is used to refer to a circle of Islamic knowledge. Historically, the transmission of knowledge usually took place in the masjids, a practice that can be traced back to the Prophet r. This tradition was preserved by the Companions t and their successors and scholars throughout the history of Islam up until the present day.


Good Reasons for Attending a

Sisters’ Halaqah

Many ahadith extol the virtues of halaqahs as well as the etiquettes that should be observed. Moreover, this has been one of the main ways in which women learned about Islam from the outset. As a hadith tells us: “A woman came to the Messenger of Allah r and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, the men have taken all your time; give us a day when we can come to you and you can teach us what Allah has taught you.’ He said, ‘Gather together on such and such a day in such and such a place.’ So they gathered and the Messenger of Allah r came to them and taught them what Allah had taught him” (Bukhari and Muslim). If that is not enough, here are 7 more reasons to inspire you:

1. Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim

How much time do you set aside for learning the deen? For most of us, life is a blur of work and/or studies, family, housework, salah, some Qur’an and the odd talk. There are ample opportunities to learn about Islam via the internet or Islamic books. However, these methods are not an adequate substitute for attending a halaqah. Alone, you are more vulnerable to the ploys of shaytan, not least of which is procrastination in the face of other “more pressing” priorities. In addition, when leaving your home to learn, you are rewarded for every step you take in the pursuit of knowledge.

2. Benefitting from the blessings of the circles of knowledge

“Whenever some people gather in one of Allah’s houses (mosques) to recite the book of Allah and study it among themselves – then calmness (tranquillity) descends upon them, the angels surround them, mercy covers them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with him” (Muslim). Subhanallah, how many of us are striving to benefit from this hadith?

3. Enjoining good and forbidding evil

enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment onto you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted” (At-Tirmidhi). This duty is incumbent upon all of us especially given the trials we are witnessing at present. Most of us may revile what we see in our hearts, but feel ill-equipped to challenge and make a change. Attending a halaqah will give you both the knowledge and confidence to make a difference – and to do so with wisdom.

4. Forging a sense of sisterhood

A hadith tells us that on the day of Judgement, seven groups of people will be under the shade of the throne of Allah. Among them will be “two (people) who love each other for the sake of Allah, meeting and parting for that reason alone…” (Bukhari). Halaqas are a wonderful way to get to know and to love your sisters in Islam.

5. Akhlaq and self-discipline

Instead of fitting your life around deen, you will learn to organise your life around your commitment to the deen in general and learning in particular. This can enable you to develop a positive competitive spirit towards learning. Group activities encourage you to learn and observe the etiquettes of gatherings, to interact with different personalities and to encourage only positive speech.

6. Iman rush

As you establish the commitment to attending and take your learning seriously, taking notes etc. you will immediately feel your iman boosted. Just being in the company of other righteous sisters can inspire and humble you and make you grateful for the favours of Allah I.

7. Most beloved deeds by Allah

The Prophet r told us that these are the most regular constant deeds even though they are few (Bukhari). It is hard to sustain our efforts to learn consistently and we tend to have periods of activity and long periods of inactivity unless we are incredibly self-disciplined. Even if we multi-task, listen to talks or Qur’an as we cook, we still hit blips or have interruptions. A weekly halaqah offers a regular space for you to learn at a steady pace and this knowledge can be reinforced by immediately sharing what you learn with your family. What are you waiting for? I am praying to Allah I that you will now be motivated to get to your local halaqah or, if you are homebound, to find an online halaqah.

The Prophet r said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, you either

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This is YOUR

Make your voice heard Towards better communication

Life coach Sayeda Habib looks at ways to improve your communication with others in the second in our three part series

We explored how to improve your own inner communication in the previous issue. We are now going to take things forward and explore how to improve our communication with others. It is our responsibility to manage our communication with others, particularly in challenging situations. So let’s discuss a few tips to build upon this very important skill.

Tip 1: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: This is particularly important when you need to have a challenging conversation with someone. Imagine that the person is sitting in front of you and you are about to say to them what you are feeling. How would they feel upon hearing these particular words? This exercise can help you to notice the impact of what you are about to say. You may find that the communication may be seen as hurtful or be misunderstood. Take a little time to rehearse the words ahead of time. But what happens if you need to react in the moment? The best thing to do is to pause, reflect and then speak. Remember, words cannot be taken back once spoken and the impact can remain in the long term. This exercise may be difficult in the beginning, but it will allow you to honour other people and say what you would really like to say.

Tip 2: Focus on yourself, not others. You might find the title of this tip a bit difficult. After all, being a good Muslimah requires us to pay attention to other people doesn’t it? But consider this: have you ever known someone who uses their communication to ‘guilt’ other people into doing things? Perhaps they may give someone the silent treatment or an ultimatum. Would you consider that communication effective? Effective communication is about being heard and understood, not manipulating an outcome. Having good communication skills does not guarantee that others will do what we ask of them. Remember that every person has his or her own thoughts and they are entitled to practise their free will. Remember that you only control your own thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions and you can never control anyone else. This will allow you to focus on yourself when a situation arises where you feel hurt or upset. Ask yourself what it is about that situation that is in your control. Is there something that you can do to make it better? What you make of the situation is up to you.

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Tip 3: Differentiate between a request and a requirement: There are times when we would like others to co-operate with us. Knowing that we cannot control anyone apart from ourselves doesn’t stop us from needing others to work with us, does it? We rely on Allah I for all that we require, but He has also made us the means of fulfilling the needs and desires of one another. So what do you do when you require something of someone? The key is to know whether this is a requirement or a request. A necessary requirement is when what you are asking must be delivered; in other words it is non-negotiable. This may well be relevant for certain things. For example, it may be unacceptable to you that your child uses certain language with you. A request on the other hand is something that allows a person to say yes or no to doing it. When the answer is no, then it is to be accepted. The person may not say no directly, but they may not do what has been asked of them. A request in essence means that you will accept the result without opposition. A person can feel it when something is a request; they sense the freedom and the permission. Remember that over ninety five per cent of our communication is non-verbal. Know when you are requesting something, and when it is non-negotiable and inform the person accordingly. This may not sound like the most polite thing to do, but it makes your communication a lot more honest. You know where you stand, and so does the other person. You can state your requirements in language that is respectful but direct.

Tip 4: Use “positive” language: Stating our requests or requirements may be more difficult than it appears. You might be clear about what you don’t want, but not

so clear about what you do. “Positive” communication is not about being upbeat all the time, nor does it mean that you cannot tell someone if something has upset you. “Positive” refers to how the brain hears language. For example, if you tell your child “don’t spill the milk” you might find him spilling the milk the very next moment. This is because the brain does not register “nots”. So, it would have to imagine spilling the milk and then negate that, but by then it is too late. Tell the person what you require directly. Tell your child to “hold the glass with both hands” and the message is more likely to be understood. Direct communication often worries people because they do not wish to offend. However, if you communicate with respect and regard, the essence of that will shine through. For example you could say “I demand that you clean your room” to your teenage son. Or, instead you could say “I am expecting you to clean this room now before you go out. This is non-negotiable.” What is said in a calm and respectful tone will allow you to honour the other person and be clear in your communication.

Remember; first rely on Allah I, then on yourself. Of course, there are some needs that you cannot meet on your own such as companionship and human connection, but you can learn to create your own sense of self worth. Also be clear about what you are offering in return. When you manage your own needs appropriately, you will find that your relationships with others will also flourish. Improving our communication skills takes practice. I hope that you will implement these tips. Remember, keep trying different things and you will know when your communication is being heard. Start by listening to others and you will find them more open to hearing you. Sayeda Habib is a Life Coach. She was featured in Rapport Magazine, ARY Digital Television, and has been a presenter on the Islam Channel. To get in touch with Sayeda log on to, call 0845 077 4027 or email

Tip 5: Manage your expectations:

I have a client who came to be very worried about his mum. He didn’t know what to do because his mum was calling him at work several times a day complaining about one thing or another. This was really affecting his work. He knew something had to change but he did not want to break ties or be disrespectful. His mum was relying on him for all her emotional needs. He came to realise that he needed to establish some boundaries in his relationship with his mum, but in a very loving and supportive way. We talked about a plan to move forward, and his relationship with his mother has since improved. Relying on other people for support is natural, but remember that other people have their needs and limitations too. If you place all your hopes on someone lse, you might well be disappointed.

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My Mom

On Behalf Of

In a moving tribute to her mother, Amira Elghawaby discusses the impact of Multiple Sclerosis on her family. It’s 2:30 a.m. and I’m still up because my daughter’s sick. I’m afraid to sleep and miss the beginning of another coughing fit so that I can hold her over some steam to clear up her airways. Or, maybe her fever will come back overnight and she’ll need someone to bring it down right away. I’m fretting and nothing except her recovery will allow me to sleep easy.

I didn’t really understand what the disease did but I figured it was pretty important, especially since the adults tried to make it fun to learn about. When the school called a special assembly to launch the fund-raiser, there was a cheerful cartoon dog talking about the mystery of the disease. I never forgot his description of how MS affected the body:

My mom used to worry her nights away over me, too. Whenever I was sick, she’d be at my side, wide awake, pressing cold compresses to my forehead, or holding my head over the toilet while something wretched came up. Her soothing voice meant it was all going to be alright.

“Imagine a telephone wire that’s all chewed up – that’s the nerves trying to send information from the brain to the body. MS chews up the wire so the message can’t get through.”

But now, I can barely hear that voice when she wants to tell me something. Multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that strikes the nervous system, has taken away much of her abilities – from walking to eating, to talking, to being. It has changed our lives, and there is little hope she’ll ever get better – though we’re still waiting up. The MS Read-A-Thon was a big deal back in grade three. I had to ask people for money for every book I managed to get through over several weeks. My earnings would be sent to the local branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the money would be used for research. I still remember carrying around the rumply sponsor sheet in my pocket, asking my friends and neighbours, and of course, Mom and Dad, for a quarter, or – gulp! - a dollar. They always gave a lot more.

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I had no idea then how many times I’d fall back on that imagery to explain to people why my mom could no longer move. The read-a-thon happened years before we found out that mom’s immune system was attacking the tissue around her nerves and that there was nothing anyone could do about it. It was a disease that struck suddenly and at random – though it was primarily women, between the ages of 20 to 50, living in colder climates that were the majority of its sufferers. That could mean that anyone of us could be hit with it, just like my mom, no matter how active and healthy we are right now. Once, when our neighbourhood mall was about to close, and I had my heart set on a particular novel from the bookstore, my mom told me to run so we’d make it just in time. I was only eight or nine years old, but I’ll never forget how much it meant to me to be running in

the emptying corridors with her as we giggled like schoolgirls. Her laughter still lingers in my heart. But then, the image starts to change. The beautiful, agile mother who seemed to know just when to let go of the bicycle so I’d finally know how to ride; the mom who always had a warm plate of French fries waiting for our return from school; the mom who would often stop by class to sneak cookies into my waiting hands; she starts losing her balance, needing to hold on tightly to a family member whenever the distance stretched ahead. Then, her eyes start bothering her, and no one knows what’s wrong, and then they tell her what’s wrong and everything changes. But oh, so slowly. Both painfully and mercifully slowly. I remember the canes, the walkers, the wheelchairs; the subsidised caregivers who would drop by to help with the housework, the cooking, and just taking care of mom. I remember her sadness at not being able to closely watch over my younger brothers and not being able to carry the youngest of them, as the disease began ravaging her body. For a mother so used to doting over her children, watching them grow up from the sidelines was so obviously hard to bear. Her faith kept her going, though. Our family coped as best as we could, but it was hard. We didn’t know how to help, how to make the sadness go away. It took a few years for the disease to make it impossible for her to live with us, and she was soon surrounded by the four green walls of a drab hospital room, that still somehow radiated with her light. As the years of suffering rolled into decades, her ability to cope improved, as did her physical surroundings – they renovated the hospital to bring cheer to countless patients who were imprisoned in their own bodies. Her days of doing things were becoming a distant memory, and it was actually the “little” blessings that she missed the most: taking care of her personal needs, eating for pleasure and not just survival, lifting a child into her arms. But nowadays, when Mom is really, really sad, all she will say is, “I fear God”.

I understand why they felt that way. Even now, as she lies in bed for most of the day, struggling to get her words out, her smile remains sweet and constant. I pray that someday she will find rest – and Paradise - after this sleepless, seemingly endless, night of waiting.

Amira Elghawaby is a freelance writer and journalist based in Ottawa,Canada.

Can we prevent Multiple Sclerosis? Multiple Sclerosis affects the brain and the central nervous system, often resulting in gradual loss of ability – including walking, eating, speaking and even thinking. No one knows why it happens, nor what makes a person’s immune system attack their body’s nervous system. What is known is that it affects one in 1000 people, usually between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease attacks 2 to 3 times more women than men, and is more common in families with a history of MS. And while there is no known cure, there may be a way to prevent it. Researchers at Harvard University recently discovered that increasing Vitamin D in a person’s diet would reduce their likelihood of developing Multiple Sclerosis. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last December, support earlier studies that point to higher rates of Multiple Sclerosis among populations living in colder, less sunny climates (sunshine can be a major source of Vitamin D). Women who wear hijab are already less likely to be exposed to sunlight, and so should speak to their doctors about ways to increase Vitamin D in their diet.

The nurses and doctors who bustle about her bedside all day and most of the night know she is special. They remark about her gentle smile, her patience, her devotion to her family. They seem touched by the steady stream of visitors who fill her room with smiles, and flowers, and children and hugs. Everyone who meets her, loves her, reminding me of the days my five-year-old classmates would look at her wistfully as she handed me my cookies and say,”I wish she was my mom.”

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Age to Be If life is a journey, what are the milestones to look out for? We ask several Muslimahs what growing up and growing old mean to them, and they share the treasures that Allah gives at each stage of the trip.

Looking up to the summit If life was a trek to the mountain top, the teens are the time for packing your backpack, says Anjuman Haque. For me being a teenager is a time of exploring; for moulding into the climber I desire to become; for searching for the character I yearn to find. There are times of misunderstanding, occasions of hidden tears, and times of hiding from the open space. This is simply one side of an unforgettable tale. It is also a personal journey of highs and lows and twists and turns during which we discover our capabilities and all the potential we have. These years are like our advantage card: the more points we gain, the more good we receive. We prepare ourselves for what is to come further down in our life and try and learn the things that would be of assistance in its mountainous trek. Fortunately, the journey comes with its perks. One of them would be the car ride with my dad, which I much appreciate particularly during those icy mornings. I enjoy the clean socks that I find on my bed every week, the food that my mum

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Being a teen allows me to really contemplate on my actions and to make any necessary changes.

makes for dinner and the long talks I have with her about life and its wonders.

Thirty going on forty – happily!

Being a teenager means more than freedom and shopping. I feel it’s a time that needs to be held tightly before it slips away. ‘Fun time’ will always be there as long as one stays young at heart, but memory span and learning capability will peak and then fade. I have the option to either waste this time, or to make good use of it, and change while I can, before it becomes a struggle to do so.

I get out of my car and lift my toddler out of his car-seat, scooping up my wallet, cell-phone and car-keys as I mentally revise the day’s to-do list, baby on hip, grocery-bag in hand. Adulthood is definitely a juggling act, says Sadaf Farooqi.

These years are like my backpacks of essentials that need to be full of all that I require to climb the mountain of life.

Making an Impact As a Muslimah in her 20’s, Saadia Hussain enjoys the maturity of being an adult and being respected for her opinion, yet is still close enough to her adolescence to be considered young. Working for the past five years as a healthcare professional with a legal and moral obligation to provide a duty of care to my patients, has given me little scope but to act in a mature capacity. In return, I am acknowledged and respected as an adult, and appreciated and admired for the caring role I’ve adopted. I feel blessed that I have entered into a profession that enables me to earn a living, receive job satisfaction and the pleasure of my Lord all at the same time. It is an amazing feeling to know that somebody at my age can have an impact on so many people’s lives. Despite not fully comprehending Islam when I first began studying it as a teenager, it was those early impressionable years of commencing its practice that have led me to acquire the Iman I have today. I am blessed to have found my path so early on, while others have only just found theirs, or are still seeking their path later on in life. Being the age I am, with so many opportunities and challenges ahead of me, comes with a bonus since it allows me to draw from others’ experiences, thus giving me greater insight into life and all its trials and tribulations. I’ve always been ambitious and still continue setting my sights high in life – marriage being the next journey I wish to embark upon insha Allah. Whether that comes about depends on the Qadr of Allah. For now, I’m just content with pursuing my goals and saying ‘Alhamdulillah’ for being blessed with so much at such a young age.

I sometimes wonder why people insist that teens and twenties are the only enjoyable years in one’s life. I, for one, love my mature adulthood at thirty. So what if my skin’s glow is ebbing or a grey hair has appeared on my head? I love being an adult! 1. Self confidence: Most of early youth is spent with doubts about the future undermining self-confidence: not knowing whether or not you’ll be successful in life. In your thirties, however, you have life-experiences like marriage, children, and graduation behind you, so you feel confident about your choices. 2. Settled in chosen occupation: Gone is the unrealistic idealism of the inexperienced years of yore. In your thirties, you are no longer dreaming about what you’ll be when you “grow up”; you are, conversely, enjoying your chosen profession or occupation leading a well-settled, stable life, insha Allah. 3. Parenthood: Undoubtedly the greatest joy of being thirty and above, is watching your children blossom into youths with individual personalities. 4. Financial and physical independence: In your thirties, you live on your own, without parental supervision, with your own source of income. Shopping solo has never been more enjoyable – you don’t need anyone’s permission to buy what you like. You are your own boss. Think about it – do you really miss youth’s acne problems, impeding curfews and paltry pocket-money? Or are you hung up on not looking as young as you did ten years ago? Get up, girl! Viva the thirties!

New horizons The forties have brought both new concerns as well as new opportunities for Umm Ayisha. I’m at the library fingering through rows of novels to relax with over the weekend. The only problem is I left my reading glasses at home. I squint; I back my head away from the book spines to focus. Now I’m getting dizzy. Finally, I pluck a book off the shelf and carry it to the checkout desk. Welcome to the forties. One of the greatest challenges I have as I age is maintaining my health. Although I know I will not be here forever, I do hope for a healthy quality of life. Because people in their forties are increasingly being diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension,

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I find myself making stronger efforts to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. But two years ago, I discovered another important reason to be extra conscious of my health during my forties: I became pregnant with my eleventh child. One of my primary apprehensions during this last pregnancy was dealing with the health complications that accompany advancing age. I fell into the category of being at risk of delivering a Down Syndrome baby. Being a middle-aged mother isn’t all gloom and doom, though. There are abundant positives in raising my younger children while I’m older. Because I’ve had plenty of experience with my older kids, I now feel more secure in my childrearing skills. I know now what works and what doesn’t. I know what is worth spending my time on and what is a waste of time. But eventually, the child birthing years do end. This is why I think the forties are an opportune time in my life to pursue some of my long held ambitions. For many years I’ve had a desire to start my own business. Earlier this year I started a home-based copywriting business called Payless Writing Service. I compose resumes, produce press releases and newsletters, and write copy for brochures, websites and other business related material. I’ve found developing and pursuing my business to be an enormous stress reducer. On occasion when I get frustrated or troubled, I go to my computer and get to work on establishing my business. The forties are a time for revitalisation. I spread my wings of imagination and slowly flitter out of my life of familiarity and routine… to a horizon of blossoming possibilities.

Beautiful to be fifty You have had your half-century innings and now have a bird’s eye view on life, shares Najma Ansari. The beautiful thing about coming to fifty is that you can shed a lot of baggage. The children are now at an age when I am not still running after the dunya for the right size shoe, the nappies, the haircuts… Even if I do get caught up in the dunya, stepping out of it is easier. By the fifties, the body begins to show signs of ageing, but the beautiful thing is my inner senses are sharper. Fluctuating desires do not grip me as much. As the outer shell slows down it opens up doors of contemplation. The vision dims, insight sharpens. It is the sunnah of Allah, that as He takes something away from you, you are compensated with something better. Therefore, as physical vision (basarah) diminishes, the insight (basirah) of the heart brightens.

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The ability to cook, run around, be super active comes to a natural slow-down, but it opens up time for sitting, reading, more time after salaah for contemplation. Outer decline provides space for inner growth. If one is constantly resenting one’s ‘slow down’ then it means the door to inner expansion is not being availed. It is in seeing things in their place, in seeing the perfection of each moment that allows us to be ‘ok with it’. Without this awareness any outer decline is seen as an occasion for sorrow and resentment. It is pure pleasure, sitting in company and yet being allowed the space for reflection. I can sit by and watch the roller coaster ride go by. It is a lovely feeling. I am seeing more than the young ones, though apparently they are enjoying it more!

My time is my own

messages and emails. We have to adapt to this changing world. I have more time for ibaadah and for reflection. Although my health has deteriorated, I feel wiser, more independent, more tolerant and more able to take life in its stride. * As told to her niece, FaaiZah Mohomed.

Every year has its blessing Zuleka Mamdoo counts the favours she has enjoyed and gives thanks. At the age of seventy eight, I wonder at the miracles of Allah the Most High. My mother carried me in her womb for just over seven months, and what a wonderful container that was to be in, protected from every kind of harm. Then it was time to see the world. Miracle upon miracle, my food was provided by my Creator in another container, and so perfectly balanced. May Allah I grant my mother Jannatul Firdaws. I lived with my parents for seventeen years and eight months. Then I went on to get married and had babies of my own. It seemed like history was repeating itself. Every year of my life was filled with blessings.

Since I turned sixty three, I have become more aware that every year, every month, week, every day, every hour, every minute and every second is a bonus and a gift from Allah I.

Rasulullah r lived to sixty three. Since I turned sixty three, I have become more aware that every year, every month, week, every day, every hour, every minute and every second is a bonus and a gift from Allah I. In my seventy eight years I have seen a lot, heard a lot, done a lot, alhamdulillah. I appreciate every moment I have with my daughters and daughters- in-law, my sons and sons-in-law, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And I give thanks to Allah.

Zubeida Mohamed* speaks about the changing landscape of her life across almost seven decades. When I was young we cooked on coal stoves. Like Cinderella we made fire and cleaned ash. I remember how we boiled water in enamel jugs for showering; there were no luxury geysers. In my teens I lost my mother and grew up quickly. I ran a home of five brothers and a father. When I married I moved into a quaint home with my in-laws. At one stage we were almost ten adults and children living under one roof, happily. For fun, we entertained people, we cooked, we baked and we had peace of mind. My twenties were filled with new life, children and everyday household chores. Life in my thirties and forties were stressful due to death and illnesses of family members. I often had to push myself to the limit. In my fifties, although life became calmer, the side effects of earlier years started showing up. I had a heart attack and a stroke in one year. Through du’a and change of habits I survived those ordeals. My nest emptied as my children studied, married and moved out. In my sixties I became a widow after thirty eight years of marriage. These days, many marriages don’t last a month. I had to adjust to the empty home. My teenage years till my sixties revolved around other people. Now the only person I have to take care of is me. My time is mine. I have made the choice of being independent and live by myself. In my early sixties, I performed Hajj, visited my daughter in London and travelled through Europe. I have more time to read and do what I want to do. I have become technology savvy, learned to send text

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stood, taken aback for a moment, looking up at the familiar sight of the white building that was the Nile Hilton Hotel. This was not the same Cairo that I had left all those years before and I was not that same young student: the rather poor, dreadfully lonely and glaringly foreign girl. I would sit sipping cappuccino all by myself in the Ibis Cafe, couched in the Nile Hilton’s enchanting courtyard; the warm, reassuring, sickly sweet aroma of shisha, wafting around me. It was my oasis of peace in the mad bustle of Central Cairo, my retreat in times of homesickness, when I longed to hear someone speak in an English accent or lose myself contemplating my current state of affairs. Sometimes I’d see happy sight-seeing couples and feel sorry for myself.

Looking back, it seemed like a different life, not really mine at all, just a strange memory. And yet, my time in Egypt seems to have affected me to the core and changed every part of me.

Diary of

a Student of ‘Ilm

In the first of her new column in which she shares her experiences of studying deen, Fatima Barkatulla discusses the joy and wisdom of finding a husband who supports her journey as a student and her choice to get married young.

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I was 15 years old, when my father said those inspiring words to me. Sometimes you look back seeking those defining moments when it seems that your life changes course, though in reality of course it was all preordained by Allah I. We had been discussing my future plans and what I could do after my exams. I had expressed to my father my desire to become a heart surgeon. I was, by the Grace of Allah, very academically inclined but had always dreamed of studying Islam in more depth, the way my father had done before me. Then he told me about Al-Azhar University in Cairo and how I could travel and study there. “You could be a doctor for physical diseases,” he said, “for healing the physical heart, but what about all those spiritual diseases around us? Where are the doctors who can heal the spiritual heart?” I was excited, and from that moment onwards I fixed my gaze on Egypt. And then there I was, a teenager in Cairo, studying in Al-Azhar, trying to learn two languages at once: the classical Arabic of the Qur’an as well as the Cairene street-talk that seemed worlds apart. I rapidly realised that I wanted to be married. I yearned for companionship and it could have been a dangerous time for me if Allah had not protected me. In the UK where I had grown up as a Muslim girl who wore hijab, I found that men had always kept a respectful distance and I’d certainly never been chatted-up. But in Egypt, male attention was plentiful. My younger sister’s constant retort rang in my ears: “Don’t make eye-contact!” If you inadvertently made eye-contact with a man, he might get the wrong idea and then he’d ask for your father’s phone-number

there and then! There would be students who would approach me for marriage, sometimes through a teacher or an older student, but I just couldn’t understand some of them: how could you have studied at an Islamic University for nine or ten years and then be clean shaven, unwilling to follow the command and Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad r. Surely knowledge without action was not true knowledge at all. I used to think it would be impossible for me to combine being a student with being married. So I made du’a to Allah. “Oh Allah, I can’t see how I could be a student and a wife... but nothing is difficult for you, so somehow, let me be married happily and seek knowledge!” And then after two full years of study and adventure I had to go home, though I continued my studies hoping to return to Egypt someday. Coming home was to be a blessing because at the age of 18, I met my future husband who promised to support me in my path of seeking knowledge and we got married! Getting married young was the best thing I ever did. What could be better than spending those years with someone who loves you, admires you, enjoys the best things about you and shares life’s experiences with you? Aren’t those the years when we are usually at our most energetic, physically attractive and fun-loving? Most of us feel that yearning to love and be loved, to enjoy and be enjoyed and yet sadly so many of us,out of choice or powerlessness, delay that experience, sometimes fearing our loss of freedom. My husband has been pivotal in my own Islamic and intellectual development. Learning of course continues and always will insha Allah, whether through university or the University of Life. But I wouldn’t want to do it without him. I never imagined that the next time I stepped on Egyptian soil, I would no longer be that poor lonely student hanging-out in the foyer of the Nile Hilton, I would be staying there with my husband!

Holistic Muslim

Traditional Chinese

Herbal Medicine

Chinese medicine is successfully used for a very wide range of conditions. Among the more commonly treated disorders are:

Safa Suling Tan explores the mysteries of Chinese herbal medicine.

Chinese medicine is based on the principle that health exists when the body is perfectly balanced and its Qi is flowing freely. Qi refers to energy or vitality. In an ideal state, the opposites in the body are harmoniously balanced. However, external or internal factors can upset this balance, leading to disease. Chinese medical diagnosis and treatment involve identifying the elements that are out of balance and attempting to bring them back into harmony. Diagnosis is carried out by the physician by means of taking the pulse, usually by placing his two fingers on your wrist, observing and palpating various parts of the body, and asking a long series of questions. Practitioners may work within a tradition that comes from China, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan or Korea. However, regardless of origin, the tradition as a whole places great emphasis on lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. The prevention of disease is an important topic these days. chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, hay fever and cancer are all partially related to a malfunctioning immunity. The Chinese have put considerable emphasis on the condition of the digestive tract and the role impaired digestion plays in the decline of health. To maintain health, the focus is on digestion and nutrition, rather than immunity. The theory is simple. We are what we eat or at least what we assimilate. However, Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine (TCHM) is not just for prevention

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• Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, urticaria

theory, at least, because the greater the number of medications, the greater the risk of harm. TCHM prides itself on the opposite. According to TCHM theory, the various herbs in a formula balance and moderate each other. And it is not unusual to have an average of ten to fifteen herbs combined for one treatment.

and health optimisation. In fact, most Chinese medical literature, past and modern, have focused on the treatment of real clinical pathology. Many patients present with complaints that cannot be diagnosed according to modern physiology or biochemistry. In some cases, the patients’ complaints are dismissed as being psychosomatic. This includes chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, food sensitivities and more. TCHM can effectively treat much of this sub clinical pathology by herbally manipulating the patient’s physiology according to traditional Chinese concepts of harmony and balance.

In addition, Chinese herbal medicine does not restrict itself to plant products with subtle effects. Many traditional Chinese herbs remedies are simply put, poisonous. When taken in proper doses, they are safe, but dosage miscalculation or use in a particularly susceptible person may lead to serious consequences, including death.

The herbal formulas used in TCHM consist of four categories of herbs: ministerial, deputy, assistant, and envoy. The ministerial herb addresses the principal pattern of the disease. Deputy herbs assist the ministerial herb or address coexisting conditions. Assistant herbs are designed to reduce the side effects of the first two classes of herbs, and envoy herbs direct the therapy to a particular part of the body. In the traditional system of Chinese herbal medicine, herbal formulae can be used to treat virtually any condition. Some of the most common uses in China include liver disease (hepatitis and cirrhosis), sexual dysfunction in men , infertility in women , insomnia , colds and flus , menstrual pain , irregular menstruation, and menopause. To use Chinese herbal medicine in the most traditional fashion, you must visit a herbalist’s shop. There, experienced herb preparers will chop, grind, fry, and slice dried herbs according to the prescription given by an experienced herbalist or

Besides toxicity caused by Chinese herbs, other problems have been caused by adulteration of herbal products with unlisted ingredients. Therefore it is essentially that treatment be sought from reputable practitioners.

practicioner. You will walk home with a packet of dried herbs that need to be prepared according to the instructions, which typically involve adding water, boiling for several hours in a ceramic pot, pouring off the liquid, adding more water, and repeating the process twice more. The diagnosis in TCHM differs greatly from Western diagnosis. As all diagnosis is individualised to the imbalance exibited by the patient and determined by traditional theory, there is no such thing as a TCHM remedy for any one illness per se. That said, there are several hundred Kampo formulas on the market.

These are already prepared formulas designed to match the most commonly seen forms of imbalance. Available in powder, capsule, or tablet form, they can be used much more conveniently than fully traditional herbs. Though TCHM offers one the more personalised and holistic treatment of not just symptoms but internal causes, and side effects are relatively rare, there are still some serious safety concerns you should be aware of. While western medicine makes a point of using as few medications as possible, in

Despite its drawbacks, modern research and traditional practice both suggest an important place for TCHM in modern health care delivery. TCHM can play a vital role in the primary care of several common chronic illnesses that are not managed satisfactorily by modern medicine. These include diabetes, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, menopause and prostate hypertrophy. Modern research in China is very promising regarding the treatment of these conditions. Reported success is so high that this method would be warranted in most cases prior to utilisation of surgery or expensive medications.

• Gastro-intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis • Gynaecological conditions, including premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis, infertility • Hepatitis and HIV: some promising results have been obtained for treatment of Hepatitis C, and supportive treatment may be beneficial in the case of HIV • Chronic fatigue syndromes, whether with a background of viral infection or in other situations • Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs, allergic and perennial rhinitis and sinusitis • Rheumatologic conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) • Urinary conditions including chronic cystitis • Psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety) • Children’s diseases

References: Bensky D, Barolet R. Chinese Herbal Medicines Formulas and Strategies. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press;1990. articles/index.shtml

Winter 2008 SISTERS 41

Order ‘From My Sisters’ Lips’ by Na’ima B. Robert for just £8.99 including p&p n Order online: n Order by phone: 0208 150 3117 Order by post: send a cheque, payable to SISTERS, to PO Box 2950, Mitcham, CR4 1UP n


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Basics Our Basics section offers advice, hints and tips on the nitty-gritty of life: study, work, finances and entrepreneurship.

Everything a modern muslimah needs

Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

Sponsored Article

Kick the credit crunch with Money-saving ways to beat the squeeze... Looking for ways to earn some extra income from the comfort of your home and save money in the current economic climate? In the first article of a four-part series, provides you with top tips for managing your family finances to help your money go further and guide you and your family through the credit crunch, with little or no difficulty at all. Implementing simple lifestyle changes can bring considerable savings….

Give generously for sadaqah increases wealth Allah I, our Creator and Sustainer, promises that anything spent in His I way will be amply rewarded both in this world and the hereafter:

“ ...and whatever thing you spend, He exceeds it in reward, and He is the best of Sustainers” (As-Saba: 39). For our own success, we should spend time, money and effort in giving sadaqah for the pleasure of Allah as the reward of sadaqah is nothing but success, especially in the Hereafter. However, let us remember that this is a side benefit, and like all acts of Ibadah, sadaqah should be given solely for the pleasure of Allah I.

Be conscious of your spending habits

Smartening up is key to keeping more cash in your wallet. Remember the saying, “Take care of your pennies and your pounds will take care of themselves”? Start by logging your smaller expenses to see how these add up. For example, saving £10 each week may be as simply as giving up your daily latte. Planning a menu for the week and shopping for those ingredients only, will mean that no food goes to waste and you are less tempted to buy unnecessary goods. While you are at the supermarket, reach up for their own house brands as these are usually cheaper than other brands. Switch to energy saving light bulbs and switch off lights

Spring 2009 SISTERS 46

when you leave the room. Pay your bills using direct debit. Saving money is easier than you think!

Sell your unwanted items

Is the clutter around your house getting you down? Most of us have a hoard of items that we no longer need or use, but what few realise is that these items take up space and need to be tended to, shifted and dusted – thereby sapping up time and effort. We keep things under the assumption that we may need them one day, but in the meantime, clutter is a time and emotional drain. The good news is that getting rid of unused items can bring you cash! According to one report, the average house has £450* worth of items that could be sold for cash. As the saying goes, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. Online auction sites are ever increasing and many have found this as a way of trading your junk for cash, but we noticed that there were none to provide the kind of shopping experience Muslims might get at a traditional soouk, where among the hardware and household items lie items of religious and cultural value. And so, was launched in December 2008 with the intention to unite and connect Muslim people, businesses, buyers and sellers all under one roof and to improve the economic conditions of the Muslim community at large by establishing the Islamic trading principles of honesty, integrity, mutual understanding and trust. As Allah I reminds us:

O you who believe! eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities: but let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual goodwill: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful!” (An-Nisa; 29). The Qur’anic ayat and ahadith on our website are there to educate and to remind Muslims of ethical standards of trade, for example, the principle of disclosing any defect in an item before concluding a sale. These are features that set apart from other online auction sites. From vehicles to phones, properties to baby gear, whether new or used, whatever you would like to sell for cash can be posted on esoouk. Remember to check out the “wanted” ads, for lying around your home may be an item someone else is hunting for.

Grab a bargain

Whether you’re looking for a piece of jewellery to wear to a sisters’ get-together or a new toy for your baby, esoouk offers a great opportunity to grab a bargain. Take a look at what your fellow brothers and sisters are selling; you never know, something might just catch your eye and you can save money from having to buy brand new expensive items from the high street. Occasionally, we have “sellers” who post items almost for free to get the reward of sadaqah and to share Islamic literature and media with other Muslims for the pleasure of Allah. In order to discourage freebie hunters, they attach a price of £1.

Be the early bird ...

As an additional incentive, esoouk is offering a FREE 1GB esooukbranded USB that will be mailed to the first 500 users who register and put up three listings, and as a special launch promotion, all listings and fees are free! So what are YOU waiting for?

Visit esoouk at For further information, contact:

An online soouk! Auction sites are becoming more and more popular, and we wanted to create a one-stop Muslim market place so that when people want to purchase an item they visit first to check if it’s available on the site. In addition, Muslims around the world are learning the power of withholding their pounds or dollars to boycott certain companies, and we wanted to provide an alternative and say to Muslims, isn’t it time you started to support Muslim brands? But we are not just stopping at business. Traditional soouks are the place where people share information, make public announcements, meet to share kahwa and shwarma or lassi and pakoras. We try to capture some of that experience through our “events calendar” to help spread the word of Islamic events that are taking place, and soon through our matrimonial service launching end of 2009 we hope to help Muslims to fulfil half their deen.

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How to... change careers and Keep Your Sanity! I can recall the conversation as if it were yesterday. I had just returned to the US after a six month internship in Brazil with a human rights organisation that protected indigenous peoples and their lands. My family thought I was crazy to leave the US in the first place. I left a high-paying, attorney position at a prestigious law firm for a not-so-certain, unpaid position over four thousand miles away. It was an amazing experience, but now I was home and needed to support myself. I had hoped to find a legal position with another human rights organisation, but when nothing came my way after a few months, I knew I had to settle - at least temporarily - for a job that I thought would be much less satisfying. The phone rang. I leaped from my chair, hoping it was the attorney with whom I had just interviewed. It was. After the initial pleasantries, he said: “We really like you and thought that the interview went great. We have one concern though. Although your resume is very strong, it seems like you have moved around a lot. How do we know in a few years you might not want to return to Brazil or some other faraway place?” I paused. “Well, you don’t. I don’t know if anyone knows exactly where they will be and what they will be doing years from now. I would be lying if I said I did.”

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J. Samia Mair shares her experience and insight into changing careers. There was an even longer pause on his end. Long enough that I began to wonder if he was still on the phone. “I don’t know what to do with that statement.” He paused again. “No one has ever been that honest in an interview with me. On one hand, I respect your honesty and I would like to work with someone like you. On the other hand, I’m afraid that we would spend time training you and then you would leave.” After another long pause, he decided it was best if we parted ways—and he was right. His concerns were valid. I soon found another position that suited me better. Four years later I left that job to return to graduate school. I was starting over and it was not the first time nor would it be the last. In fact, I have changed careers several times. In college I majored in geology. I then travelled to Alaska where I waitressed to support an internship with an environmental law firm. I sold oriental rugs, attended law school, and practised law for nearly a decade. In the middle of my legal career, I moved to Brazil for another internship.

Eventually, I decided to get a master degree in public health after which I conducted public health research for nearly seven years. This varied experience has given me some insight into how to go about changing careers. You might say I have developed somewhat of an expertise in the area! I believe there are five points to consider that will serve you well when contemplating a career change.

1. Know what you want. This will be

different for each of us and each time you decide to switch. Do you want more money? Less pressure? More satisfaction? Although I have generally liked every place where I have worked, I have never regretted leaving a position. My job satisfaction seems to be inversely related to my pay. I now make very little money, work long hours, and receive little prestige, but I am happier than I have ever been. Know what you want and move towards that goal.


Be willing to work for free. I have consistently volunteered my time and skills over the years, including representing abused children, working with women in prison, as an emergency medical technician, as a disaster services volunteer for the American Red Cross and more. Not only have I loved my volunteer work, but I also believe it has been instrumental in leading to paid positions.

Willingness to work without pay not only helps to develop the skills that you may be lacking, but it may also give you the connections you need to enter that field.

3. Be willing to learn. Changing careers

usually requires acquiring new knowledge and skills. Returning to school is always a great way to start over. The prospect of starting over may appear daunting at first, but indeed it is a luxury to have time to study. Look at what you must learn as a wonderful opportunity and approach it with enthusiasm. Enjoy the process as you move towards your goals.

4. Remind yourself that today’s

disappointment is tomorrow’s blessing. Over the years I have been rejected from jobs that I had really wanted. I always eventually realised that the rejection was the best thing for me. Sometimes that recognition was nearly immediate, other times it took years to appreciate the blessing. I believe that every experience serves a purpose and helps you to develop spiritually. I try to look at the disappointments, the challenges, and the blessings as opportunities to get closer to Allah I. No matter what happens, I try to remind myself to say Alhamdulillah and move on. It is not always easy to change careers. Prepare yourself for hurdles and setbacks and keep in mind that Allah I knows best.


Realise that your provision is from Allah I. The Messenger r said, “God has preordained five things for every man He has created: his period of life, his action, his lying down, his moving about, and his provision” (Ahmad). I find this hadith particularly comforting in this context.

Knowing that my provision in life has already been decided has given me the strength to take chances - albeit thoughtful and deliberate chances - to leave the known for the uncertain. Also, do not forget to pray Istikhara salah. Only AllahI knows what your future holds and what will help your deen. You might be wondering what I do now. Several years ago I left public health to pursue two passions: being with my children, whom I now homeschool, and writing. Even though there are days when I would rather be in a hostile courtroom facing ten opposing attorneys, most of the time I cannot imagine doing anything else. Alhamdulillah. J. Samia Mair is a freelance writer who divides most of her time among her husband, two daughters, and computer.

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can be placed anywhere: on concrete, on grass, even on a table top – anywhere with enough sun.

Grow Your Own

3. Soil. According to the official site, you need Mel’s special soil mix: 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. However, Fatgieya mixes good loamy soil with a few handfuls of white sand, tree bark, grass cuttings, shredded paper and finds her mix to be equally successful. You don’t want your soil to compact, so add more soil/compost/ kitchen waste as you go along.


4. Grid. Divide your box into a grid of 9 squares, each measuring 30cm by 30cm. Use twine, old Venetian blinds, anything to make a grid to show you where to plant. This is a must. If you are using a window box like Fatgieya, you will get just 3 squares – this is a great start!

Are your thumbs more purple than green? Want to grow your own vegetables but hate the chore of digging? No space? Whatever your reason, small space gardening may be just what your doctor prescribed.

The past two generations have seen a drastic change in the way we view and produce food. Previously, a large amount of vegetables was what families produced on their own land, in season. With the mass migration to urban centres, more than half of the poor people in the world now live in cities. City farming, whether on lots of land, on rooftops, on balconies or a sunny window sill, can make a hefty contribution to alleviating hunger as well as enhancing the health and well-being of city dwellers. Across the world, sustainable development and city farm initiatives have drawn a following, from those who are seeking an alternative to food that is “plastic-ed” and packaged as well as those living below the breadline. And it is a trend that Muslims would do well to heed. For one Muslim doctor, tending to her patients’ health meant taking a closer look at the soil on which they lived. “While working in Newham, UK as a physician, I was surprised to see small lots of farms in the middle of the city,” says Dr Fatgieya (pronounced Fat-hiya), a family

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physican working in an impoverished community in Cape Town, South Africa. “I learned that these were community gardens or city farms – small lots of land leased out by the municipality to the city dwellers. On these tiny lots of land urbanites were growing their own corn, pumpkins, squash, herbs and flowers. I was really interested. At the same time, the cost of food in the UK seemed astronomical to me … so I had a motto, ‘only buy once.’ Instead of buying ginger regularly, I bought one piece, used a little bit, and then buried the rest outside, in soil that I kept moist. Instead of a cut coriander leaves, I bought them with the stem … used a bit, and planted the rest. I soon had a regular stash of herbs to draw from. “When I came back to South Africa, I wanted to start farming in the semi-urban area where I worked. But I needed to know the soil conditions and decided to experiment.” Thus began Fatgieya’s experiment in supplementing her family greens as well as finding a holistic response to both the

5. Select. Plant a different flower, vegetable, or herb crop in each square, using 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square (for more details, visit the official site). For Fatgieya, the first box holds carrots and strawberries, the second mustard spinach which is great in salads and on sandwiches and the third holds a dwarf variety of beans. All of these are high-yielding crops. 6. Plant. Conserve seeds. Plant only a pinch (2 or 3 seeds) per hole. 7. Water. Leave a bucket of water in the sun to warm up, and water by hand. The warm water encourages germination. 8. Aisles. If you choose to have more than one box, space them so that you can walk between them. poverty and the health problems that her patients were facing. She started growing vegetables in her backyard, but unfortunately, her dogs weren’t willing to play along – strawberry plants got uprooted and landed on her doorstep; she would find tomatoes growing where she had planted pumpkin. She needed to find another way.

Thirty times thirty

According to the garden enthusiast Mel Bartholomew, you can successfully grow your own vegetables and flowers and yield the same crop as traditional gardening in just twenty per cent of the space

by following the tenets of Square Foot Gardening. But as Fatgieya says, you don’t eat flowers, so here are the basic tenets with our doctor’s adaptations beside them. 1. Layout. Forget straight rows, you are not a farmer! Arrange your garden in a square of 90cm by 90cm. 2. Boxes. Now the good news: no spades or hoes required. You are not going to dig into the soil, but build a box out of what-have-you (recycled plastic, metal, wood, - no need to be fancy) above the ground. That said, Fatgieya gardens in just one window box of 90cm by 30cm. Boxes

9. Care. Never walk on your garden as it will compact the soil. Tend to your plants from the aisles.

background, experience and interest in gardening. Each of them lived beneath the bread line. They lived within a one kilometre radius of each other, so had similar soil, light and water conditions. We all share my packets of seeds. Because some are illiterate, I cut out squares with 30cm sides, and on each square I would draw small circles to indicate how the seeds should be spaced, for example nine small circles to indicate nine bean seeds. “Because they have the time and space, they dug and planted directly into the soil and were also able to produce larger vegetables like pumpkins, cauliflowers and squash - but other than that, they follow similar principles of SFG. I quiz them regularly, and have found that those who follow the SFG principles rigidly are producing a higher yield than those who are doing their own thing.” And the prognosis is … With a nudge to holistic health and treating the whole person, Fatgieya is now seeing better control of diabetes and hypertension in her experimental group. If only for one reason, that the stress of putting food on the table has been lifted somewhat, her patients are showing less signs of stress and are sleeping better at night and reporting a better quality of health in general.

“This is not for everyone many show no interest … but for those who have families to feed, this is a life-line.” Just what our good doctor prescribed!

10. Harvest. When you finish harvesting a square, add compost and replant it with a new and different crop, legumes (beans, peas) in particular as these will fix nitrogen into the soil. The prescription Having successfully supplemented the greens and vegetables on her family’s table, Fatgieya moved on to her patients. “I found four patients with a similar

For further information, read Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew or visit the official site:

Spring 2009 SISTERS 51

Business You and Your

Creative crafting for cold-hard CASH

Etsy is not an auction site. Quite the contrary, it is the artisan’s marketplace which is chockfull of artists, crafters, designers and suppliers. Anyone can have a shop on Etsy and for FREE. And certainly anyone can be a buyer on Etsy with exceptional artwork, delectable soaps and unprecedented vintage items on sale and ready to be shipped. Etsy is very affordable with each listing only costing $0.20 and expiring after 4 months. Sellers determine the value of their item, which includes shipping charges. Etsy makes it easy for moms especially to work from home. All it takes is a simple business plan to get you started on having your very own Etsy shop. Here’s how:

1. Decide what to sell

It’s not enough to simply make something and list it on Etsy. Before even setting up a shop on Etsy, you need to do a bit of market research. Stroll around the forums and look at other shops to see what people are selling. Etsy shows the number of items each shop has sold on a continuous basis. Find out what is popular on Etsy and what is not to increase your chances of having a successful business. Also, everything on Etsy does not have to be handmade. There are only two categories allowed for commercial products and they are supplies (buttons, beads, fabric, etc) and vintage (commercial goods at least 20 years old or more).

2. Hone your photography skills

The difference between the successful and unsuccessful shops on Etsy can be seen in the photos of the listed items for sale. The most successful shops have catalogue quality photos of their inventory while the unsuccessful ones have dark and often blurry images of their goods. However, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good pictures. The Internet provides a vast resource for learning how to take quality photographs. There are instructions for building a ‘lightbox’ out of recyclables on several websites and tips for setting the scene for an amazing photograph that will most likely look better than the item itself! Invest in a cheap digital camera and get snappin’!

3. Be descriptive!

For each item listed in your Etsy shop, you must also write a short description of the item, which should include the dimensions and colours since all computer monitors provide different colour hues. You should also list ways in which the item can be used to really grab a potential buyer’s attention. For example, if you are selling fabric you might mention that it would be perfect for sewing a quilt or if you are selling a handmade pillow then you might say it would make a great gift.

Most of us have a hidden artistic talent whether we are handy with a needle and thread or a whiz at baking delectables in the kitchen, says Sumayyah Meehan. But have you ever considered capitalising on your talent to cultivate some cold hard cash? There is another ‘E’ in town – Etsy.

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4. Use tags wisely

One of the best ways to get people into your shop is to list items regularly. Each time you list an item it is automatically fed into Etsy’s ‘newly listed items’ section on the front page. Etsy also allows search tags to be used for each item. You can add fourteen tags

per item. So, if you were listing a handmade bracelet you would use the colours, materials and possible uses as the tags (i.e. beads, turquoise, blue, silver, bracelet, gift, wedding, present). Buyers utilise the search engines consistently on Etsy, so use tags to get as many people into your shop as possible.

5. Promotion is key

Once your shop is set up and ready for business, the customers might not simply roll right in. You must be patient. Some buyers may sell something the very first day while for others it may take a month or more before they get a sale. It simply depends on the timing. For many Etsyians, advertising has proven to be the key to their success and promoting their shops on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Flickr has been a lucrative way to drum up business. There are also specific websites, like that offer Etsy shop stats for free and sell ad space for a minimal fee.

Sisters on Etsy!

Several Muslimahs have found a comfortable selling spot on Etsy. “Etsy’s been a wonderful experience. I used to sell on Ebay, but the fees got ridiculously high and it was so impersonal. Etsy was the perfect place for me since I make all my garments by hand. I’ve also made so many wonderful friends through Etsy. What I love most about sewing things for others is the happiness it brings to them,” says Sister Badra, who is a mother residing in the US State of Texas and the owner of, which features a wide array of handmade hijabs and Islamic clothing. Creating an Islamic identity, especially on a non-Muslim e-commerce site, is what keeps Sister Umm Abdullah, who resides in California, going strong. A mother to a little boy and with another baby on the way, she shares, “I try to focus on providing services and products that I truly feel are contributing to an overall good, helping to create an Islamic identity, and offering Muslims a chance to benefit from and enjoy unique, quality products that are specifically made with our brothers and sisters in mind. My personalised Arabic name pillows have been most sought after, and it really makes me happy when people love that which I have spent hours on creating, specifically and exclusively just for them.” Her shop,, features Islamic cards for every occasion and plush personalised pillows.

Thanks to the Internet, and user-friendly e-commerce sites like Etsy, just about any Muslimah can go into business for herself to earn money to help support her family or to donate to charity for the sake of Allah.

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You and Your

Managing your Virtual Money

The internet opens up channels of choice through online shopping. For a busy Muslimah, particularly one with children, it removes the stress of travelling and waiting in line with small children, the cost of petrol and the time wasted in loitering around the shopping mall that often leads to impulsive spending. However, online shopping usually involves credit cards or virtual accounts such as PayPal. These types of transactions and accounts bear risks of their own. To get the best out of virtual shopping, try implementing the following guidelines.

Remember to keep a paper trail Many shoppers make the mistake of assuming that the internet or the computer is able to keep accurate tabs of their expenditure. Though this is true in most cases, there have been instances where system outages, hackers, and even viruses have caused havoc within the most secure online payment systems. Other shoppers forget to periodically check their statements from either the credit card operators or their virtual accounts and fall into the trap of spending beyond their means. Always keep a paper trail of online expenditure. Check statements frequently to ensure that all purchases are accounted for and there are no dubious extra ones. Print out records for safekeeping and file them the same way physical transactions are kept. Also remember to print out email correspondences and invoices (if any) from the vendor of the products and services. In the case of a lawsuit, documentation is important and a case would be invalid without substantial evidence from the shopper’s side.

Watch out for fraudsters Fraudsters are everywhere and prey on anyone. The first rule is to eliminate any potential contact with a fraudster is never to disclose private and confidential information over the telephone or e-mail. This would include account PIN codes, credit card numbers, passwords or anything that could allow access to virtual funds. When shopping online, check credentials of shopping websites by reading reviews. Also take time to chat with other shoppers who frequent the internet and learn through their recommendations. Using established online market places such as eBay or Amazon reduces the risk of dealing with a conman. These sites are formulated to protect the customer by having vendors register with them. It may be a hassle to communicate with sellers through the website’s interface, but it is safer than speaking to traders at a personal level. Payment is also made through the sites and most importantly, store ratings and reviews are available for reassurance before making a purchase.

Online shopping involving virtual money can be far trickier to manage than transactions from one’s purse. Maria Zain shares a few pointers to keep online spending on track.

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Also watch out for paid subscriptions which may come with services. Sometimes it is easy to subscribe to a service before realising that the service is not beneficial. When unsubscribing, remember to check the following month to ensure that continuous deductions are not being made. Fraudsters are able to manipulate their own systems to continue charging clients without a record of unsubscription. Even though funds may not be sufficient in a virtual account, some accounts require them to be “linked” to personal credit cards. On-going “subscription” can lead to a mountain of debt.

Be a smart shopper Keep tabs on discounted items of choice by saving favourite websites into an internet folder that will serve as a reminder to return to those sites as and when discounts are available. Alternatively, sign up for newsletters to get notices of sales and discounts. Be an informed shopper. Compare prices between retailers by running a google search. Remember to factor in external costs, such as shipping and delivery. Look out for store or product reviews before purchasing a product. Reading up on reviews actually cuts down shopping time and prevents the regret that sometimes follows a purchase. A word of caution for shopaholics: the internet may be an even more dangerous playground than a physical shopping mall. Take care when purchasing products or services as one swipe too many of the credit card could increases the risk of falling into debt. Remember that virtual accounts can also run dry.

Treat online shopping as important as physical shopping trips Shopping online should be made as convenient as possible, since convenience is one of the main purposes that shoppers turn to the net. Choose the right time to surf the internet and remember to treat online shopping seriously – remember, it does involve money.

Do not forget to pay zakat Lastly, money is still money, whether it is virtual or not. For shoppers with online accounts such as PayPal or any other virtual account, it is important to remember that a zakat deduction is due on the amount that is stored in that account. Though one may not necessarily “see” the money he or she is spending online, it does not absolve him or her from the obligation of zakat. Online shopping should be convenient, secure, fun and relaxing. As is the case with physical shopping, there are pros and cons to virtual buying. With caution, planning and discipline, managing your virtual money is only a few clicks away.



your computer. Instead, you use their software online while you are connected to the Internet.

your preferred service then any friend or family member you want to chat with also needs to have an account with Gmail.

However, what you can’t do with email is have a real live conversation like you can over the phone. You can’t see the person’s facial expressions as you would in a normal face-to-face conversation.

Talking to your loved ones, once they’ve been added, is as simple as double-clicking on their name from your contact list, provided that they are online of course. You can enter into a chat session with one or more of your contacts.

Photo sharing

Group chatting is a great way to have a get-together online with your loved ones. Start a chat session with one of your contacts then invite your other contacts to join. In Gmail, you can do this by selecting ‘Group Chat’ from the ‘Options’ menu at the bottom of the little chat window. In the field labelled ‘Add a person to this chat’ enter the names of the contacts you want to add to your chat session.

So what if you want to share photos of your child’s prize-winning art project or the fantastic view from your hotel window with friends and family in different parts of the world? Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to upload all of your photos to one central place, with all of them organised into neat little albums? Well, you can with services known as ‘photo sharing’ applications. Again there are many to choose from and they all offer similar services, however the most popular is probably Flickr ( And with Flickr you’re not just limited to uploading photos and creating albums but you can also edit and categorise your photos as well as writing and receiving comments on your pictures. The other great thing about services like Flickr is that your photos are safe from getting lost, old or damaged. And lastly, Flickr is a web application which means that you don’t have to download any software to you computer.

Instant messaging Email is great for sending one off messages to loved ones but what if you want to have a real live conversation. Instant messaging is basically a way of talking to your friends in an immediate or ‘instant’ way. You can either type messages using your keyboard and receive messages back immediately or have a real spoken conversation using a microphone and speakers connected to your computer. You can talk in this way to one person or many people at the same time.

Keeping the ties - online! In this issue, Asim Lone of Tijara Pages looks at the different ways in which the Internet can be used to strengthen our ties with loved ones across the globe.

Want to keep in touch with family and friends across the globe? The Internet can help. Want to show your parents back in the homeland photos of your new home? The Internet can help. Your best friend has moved 200 miles away and you want to be able to talk to her face to face. Yet again, the Internet can help. There are many excellent services available on the Internet now that you can use to keep in touch with your family and friends, no matter where they live in the world. We’ll look at some of these services and try and discuss their pros and cons, bearing in mind specific scenarios. I hope that we can show you that communicating with your loved ones over the Internet can be flexible, fun and, best of all, free! Sure you can continue to use the telephone to keep in touch but that’s so 20th century!

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Email Probably the most popular means of communicating via the Internet nowadays is email. With email you are able to share photos and send messages to your loved ones. Unlike sending a letter by post, email is pretty much instantaneous, reaching the recipient within a few minutes, regardless of where they are in the world. You have the flexibility to send an email to one person or many, which allows you to control the level of privacy for your messages. There are many good webmail providers on the Internet now. Gmail (by Google) and Yahoo Mail are probably the most popular ones available. And as the name implies, webmail is a web application, i.e. software that does not need to be downloaded to

Again there are many providers of this kind of service but Gmail or Yahoo Mail are probably the most popular and reliable. And as they are webmail providers you can use their software online for their basic text talking features. However you do need to download some software for either service if you want to have a voice chat with your friends.

As you begin to use instant messaging more and more you will notice that sometimes you may be online and you don’t want to be disturbed by your contacts. If this is the case then you can set your online status to ‘Busy’. This is like putting up a do not disturb notice on your door. You can also set your status to ‘Invisible’ which means that your contacts will not be able to see that you are online. Whilst in busy or invisible mode you will still be able to see your contacts and their respective statuses. You can also enter into chat sessions with any of your contacts even if your status is set to invisible. This is a nice little feature as it gives you the control to better manage your online chatting time. By default, Gmail allows you to text talk, however if you want to be able to chat using voice and video then you will need to download some software.

Video conferencing You can also have a video chat using Gmail and Yahoo Mail provided you and your friends all have webcams. Nowadays webcams come built into most laptops or are generally quite cheap to buy as an add-on to your computer. You do have to download some software to your computer but it is well worth it to be able to see your loved ones face-to-face. Skype ( is another popular service which you can use to talk by text, voice or video. Again you have to download some software to your computer.

You will need to create an account with either Gmail or Yahoo. This is completely free and you don’t need to give them much information about yourself if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Once you’ve signed in to your account, you can add friends and family as your contacts. Both Gmail and Yahoo will send an email to your new contact confirming that they are happy for you to add them.

You must ensure that your computer is adequately protected from viruses and spyware when installing voice/video chat software on your computer, as this kind of software increases the risk of attack from viruses and worms that can irreparably damage your computer. Refer to my series of articles on safe Internet surfing for more information.

On the down side, you can only chat with contacts that are using the same messaging service, meaning that if you opt for Gmail as

I hope we’ve interested you in some alternatives to the boring old telephone when communicating with your loved ones. Do write-in and tell us how you get on.

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Have you discovered u Our website is full of new features to keep you in touch, informed and inspired. u Browse, read and comment on web-exclusive articles and interviews. u Find out what we’ve been up to! Check out articles, audio and video about your favourite magazine in SISTERS in the News. u Curious about what goes on behind the scenes at SISTERS? Read Editor Na’ima B. Robert’s blog in From the Editor’s Desk. u Want to know more about our contributors and writers? Visit Our Contributors to follow your favourite SISTERS authors. u Interested in joining the SISTERS team? Have a look at the latest job and volunteer opportunities in Jobs @ SISTERS. u You may also find information for affiliates, advertisers and contributors on the site.

w w w. s i s t e r s - m a g a z i n e . c o m

Family From husbands to children, from parents to distant relatives, our Family section addresses issues regarding your loved ones: joys, challenges, fears and triumphs.

See your family with new eyes

Autumn Autumn 2008 2008 SISTERS SISTERS 59 61

a love t oo st rong A life too fragile, A little boy with all the odds against him, a promise by the medical profession of a life all too short, this is the story of pain, hope, faith and joy. The type only Allah can give. Amina Kara shares a story of hope and heartache.

The morning after the birth I sent a text message. It read, “Congratulations on the birth of your son, May Allah always keep him happy, healthy and may he bring you a lifetime of joy. Hope u feeling ok, wish I was there for you... get some rest. I’ll call soon. Love n du’as A”. After a few minutes I got a reply, ” Thank you, I am in so much of pain, I haven’t seen baby yet, I don’t know what’s wrong… they have taken him for tests… ” This is the story of my cousin Rabia, her husband Zaahir and their amazing little boy, a boy called Safwaan. The tests Safwaan had undergone revealed that he was born with a rare birth syndrome; it has no name but is referred to by an acronym - VACTERL syndrome. This is because it is still unknown which genes cause the syndrome. The syndrome is characterised by the following malformations: V- Vertebral: tethered spine, extra or missing ribs or ill formed vertebrae. A- Anal atresia C- Cardiovascular T- Tracheoesophageal fistula or windpipe problems E- Esophagea Atresia R- Renal (can cause kidney failure) L- Limb malformations Safwaan displayed most qualities of the syndrome. His most critical condition was cardiovascular. His heart did not receive enough oxygenated blood so he displayed a bluish appearance over his body, especially around his mouth and feet. By day two, Safwaan’s parents were emotionally loaded and physically drained. It was the birth of their first born. No birth manual, guide or magazine had prepared them for this. Doctors and medical personnel bore the bomb: unless Safwaan underwent major open heart surgery, he would not survive. The head cardiologist, renowned in South Africa, had even more bad news. He felt a baby with so many complications, especially renal problems that could lead to kidney failure and low birth weight, had all the odds against him. However, he reluctantly agreed to do the operation.

Safwaan was not in perfect shape but he had survived many hours. Up to this point he was being fed through a pipe fitted through his nose. He was now beginning to be breastfed, something doctors had said was impossible because of the deformity to his mouth. But who can stand in the way of a mother’s will to carry out the commands of Allah?

...when all is lost, when hope seems gone, du’a can change a course… So far Safwaan was surviving on a drip that was widening his arteries to get just enough oxygen to his heart. But the drip was a short term solution and a decision to do the operation had to be made fast. This fragile life lay in the hands of two young parents. No one could understand the torment in their hearts. I sat halfway across the continent in Uganda, anguished at how my cousin could bear such a load. As I contemplated over and over her predicament, I knew only Allah could decide. I wondered how what was supposed to be their most joyous moment could be so sorrowful. I remembered Khalil Gibran when he said “some say joy is greater than sorrow, others say ‘nay, sorrow is greater than joy’, I say to you they are inseparable.” What took me a long time to realise was that these parents had resolved as soon as their baby was born: “Allah has given him life for however long He wills; he is with us for that time... that is all we need to know.” With complete conviction and reliance in Allah they decided against the operation. They requested their baby be taken off the drips and ventilators; they were taking their baby home! To everyone that knew them it seemed that they had just passed a death sentence. But in the hearts of these parents was complete tawakkul in Allah. They believed that Allah would give him the life that medical technology adamantly denied him. And so as they left the clinic they were warned that he would pass away within hours. At this stage Safwaan’s ordeal had reached friends and family all across the world. Well wishers united in their prayers. By the grace of Allah, the power of du’a was now in motion. This is when you know, when all is lost, when hope seems gone, that du’a can change a course… and a little boy survived! I arrived in South Africa two weeks later, and had to face the anguish that the rest of the family had already been dealing with.

Shortly after I arrived, we decided it was time to take Safwaan back to the doctors. Rabia and Zaahir needed short and long term objectives in order to go forward. As we walked into the doctor’s rooms, he gasped in shock. “He’s alive!” A rather crude remark, but his shock and amazement at what he saw before him could not be avoided. “Yes,” Rabia said, the tears thick in her eyes. “God willed him to live!” In July 2008 Safwaan turned one. The year that had passed was fraught with moments of pain, anxiety and worry. A thousand tears had been shed, and there were so many times Safwaan had to be rushed to the clinic. So many times it seemed all was lost. Yet, he had survived, and equal to the thousand tears, had been all the smiles, the laughter and the joy. He brought hope. Although he lagged behind developmental milestones, he ate well, could sit and move his body about. He was an amazing boy, who smiled and crept into the hearts of all who came into contact with him. He was a marvel, a definitive sign of a Creator above. Still on most days, Safwaan was blue, struggled to breathe and was in need of the heart operation, as he only weighed five kilograms and was still at great risk. Safwaan had amazing parents who loved and nurtured him to a height he was never expected to reach. Rabia was an amazing mother, selfless and determined. Zaahir slept each night of this past year with his baby on his chest because this was the only way he could be comforted. Rabia carried and cradled him, even when her back could not bear the stress. She gave him hope, and built his dreams, never failing to believe in his future. She

gave him the gift of prayer, so that he could raise his own hands whenever he heard the Adhan.

As much as this is the story of an amazing boy and his struggle to survive, it is a story of two parents; a story of sabr and shukr; a story of the

patience of two parents who continued to wait for their little boy to become stronger so they could get him the medical help he so desperately needed. The patience of a mother who watched other children, younger than her own reach developmental milestones, but continued to believe that soon her boy will too! This is the story of shukr, of gratitude in the face of adversity: gratitude each morning for having made it through the night and gratitude each night for the day spent together, the kind of gratitude to Allah we have forgotten because we take so much for granted. This was a mother who had sabr and shukr each minute of each day, her life centred on a fragile life that she prayed she would never lose. So I write this as a salute to her. For when we all put our trust in a world of technology and advancement, my sister you prayed. In adversity, you prayed.

“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has brought you delight” (Khalil Gibran). When this article was written Safwaan had begun the long road towards open heart surgery. Unfortunately a week short of his operation Safwaan breathed his last. A request is made for your prayers, for parents of a little boy who had brought a world of joy.

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Making a living

Domestic and lifestyle considerations

5. What are my job prospects? Apply through recruitment agencies, multi-national companies with offices in your country and private referrals. Evaluate the pros and cons of seeking positions in the private or public sector. If you get a decent offer, accept it. Once you are in the country, it will then be easier to look for better openings.

14. What standard of living will I be able to afford? Depending on the country you are migrating to and from, anticipate some change - be it an upgrade, downgrade or simply, a different way of life.

6. Can I set up my own business? This is best done after really studying the market and knowing the region’s business culture. Again, this knowledge comes with experience which you can gain by working for another company for the first year or two.

Expenses 7. What costs will I incur during my first year? Get an estimate range for house rents, furniture, household appliances, school fees, conveyance, fuel, medical services, utility bills, etc. Ensure you have enough money to settle in, not just to get there.

Hijrah Homework You return from your halaqa one day all charged-up about making Hijrah. You ask around for opinions. The responses range from outright ‘no’ to positive thumbs-up, with bitter and sweet stories in-between. In this life-changing journey, the more you learn, the better informed your decisions will be. Huma Imam gives a brief check list with vital questions to ask before packing your bags.

Intention 1. Why do I want to make Hijrah? Question your intention and only proceed after you reach the right answer – for the sake of Allah I. Doing Istikharah before every move will ensure that your intention is on track and that you accept the outcome (good or difficult) of your decision as the Will of Allah I.

Country specifics 2. Does the country offer citizenship or temporary residency? Contact the naturalisation and immigration department (through their embassy and websites) to understand eligibility, application procedure and document requirements.

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3. How favourable is the general climate of the region in relation to our family’s health? Some people suffer migraines from the heat of the Gulf countries’ summers; constant switching between air-conditioned indoors and humid outdoors can aggravate skin conditions; heavy pollution or pollen-laden environment negatively impact asthmatics; etc. Health facilities should be taken into consideration if anyone in your family has special medical needs. 4. When scheduling relocation, what factors could facilitate or impede a smooth transition for the entire family? Flying down from cold Canada to the Gulf’s summer heat may be inviting a shocking welcome. Also, consider the beginning of the academic year to ensure less stress for children.

8. What hidden costs do I need to consider? Anticipate a variety of side expenditure in the form of mandatory insurances, getting driver’s license, ID cards, even buying drinking water, etc. 9. How favourable will my currency’s purchasing power be after conversion? If spent wisely, your pounds or dollars can stretch quite far. 10. Do I have a safety-net to fall back on? Despite planning, your situation could still turn sour due to some unforeseen event. It is prudent to not put all eggs in one basket.

Family issues 11. Is my spouse happy with the hijrah decision? If migrating with a spouse, it is vital to ensure that she is willing, if not happy, to take this major step. A reluctant partner will add to the stress of settling by magnifying and complaining about even minor issues. 12. Can I marry after migration? Singles who hope to get married after hijrah need to find out about the local laws or customs. In some countries, while not illegal, the laws and cultural norms discourage marrying a national. There are no restrictions on marriage between expatriates. 13. What options are available for my children’s education? This major decision needs to be made after considering many factors, but you will be able to gauge the standards of schools through the testimonials of other parents. If you are homeschooling, find out if it is an accepted option.

15. Would buying a car be necessary or will public transport do? In some countries, public transport is expensive or unreliable. Consider renting or buying second-hand. Getting a car on Islamic finance is an option in many Gulf countries. 16. Should I pack my household appliances? It is best to leave such items behind, as they would be useless without a converter. You can easily get everything secondhand or buy new. Otherwise, be sure to pack adaptors for your appliances. 17. Can I continue with my prescription drugs? People with chronic conditions like hypertension or diabetes need to find out the availability, cost and possible alternatives for their medicines. Also, inquire about any banned substances from the embassy.

Society 18. Will I face a language barrier? There are many countries or cities where you can get by communicating in English but some places could be frustrating to live in without knowing the local language. 19. Is the majority population’s Islamic ethos consistent with mine? It will defeat the purpose of hijrah if you end up in a country where you have to swim against the current to practise your religion. 20. What level of culture shock should I expect? Despite making pre-hijrah trips to the new country, there will still be some degree of culture shock when you finally settle. Minimise the shock by having realistic expectations with regard to inevitable differences and being open to learning. 21. Will there be a sense of community and belonging? The social setup in the West forces Muslims to geographically group together and to set up close-knit communities. In Muslim-majority countries, families tend to live as independent units scattered far and wide. The nature and frequency of your socialising will depend on where you live. Finally, after making all efforts from your side, trust and rely upon Allah I to guide and bless you in your sacred endeavour.

Huma Imam is based in the UAE. She regularly interacts with new immigrants arriving from the West - a trend that, she says, has gained momentum in recent years.

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ways to


to the Creation

With so many of us living urban lives, it can be easy to lose touch with the creation of Allah. But, by using all our five senses and encouraging those around us to do the same, we can reconnect with the natural world around us - and be reminded of Allah’s bounties every day.

Birds and butterflies


6. If you can, grow your own fruit and

1. Open your windows each morning to allow fresh air to waft

vegetables in your garden, on your balcony or rooftop. Get the kids involved and observe the cycles of growth and renewal and enjoy yummy natural food!

through your home. Breathe in deeply and fill your lungs with this abundant blessing first thing in the morning.

2. Keep fresh flowers in the house - they don’t have to be

expensive or store-bought: wild flowers from your garden will do nicely.

3. Buy potted herbs and grow them on your kitchen

windowsill - harvesting fresh herbs for your cooking is a real treat. Don’t forget to savour the aroma...

4. Eat more raw foods - experiment with fruits and vegetables

in smoothies, salads and as is: your body will thank you for it!


5. Get your hands dirty and get growing! Herbs are an easy

place to start: cress is child’s play to grow and is delicious in sandwiches, salads and even soups.

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Get to know about the wildlife in your area - do you have foxes, badgers or hedgehogs visiting your garden? Get to know about them with the family!



Learn to listen out for birdsong and get to know the different birds’ voices.

12. Install a feeding tube, birdbath or birdhouse to attract

birds to your home.


Plant a butterfly flower patch to encourage butterflies to visit your family.

The great outdoors


Make it a habit to get fresh air on a regular basis - early morning or early evening are ideal times to tune into the call of nature. Share these moments with your family but try to steal some time to enjoy a few quiet moments on your own.

18. Make visiting places of natural beauty - parks, lakes, rivers, reserves - part of your family’s routine. Take the time to get your feet wet or dirty!


Go on nature walks and make displays with your foraged treasure - seeds, pods, leaves, flowers and shells all make beautiful natural decorations.

Encourage your children to grow plants indoors and to take responsibility for them.

By night


14. Educate yourself and your family about the moon’s cycles

Collect and dry your own flowers - make wall art or cards and gifts with your children and give them to friends and family.


Try to take at least one rugged holiday with your family - caravans, camping, trekking, country or beach cottages are all wonderful alternatives to hotels and commercial holidays.

16. Savour the power and beauty of natural

If you travel abroad, take time away from the hotel and city life to appreciate the beauty of Allah’s creation in its multitude of glorious forms.

8. If you have the space, try keeping animals like a cat, rabbits

or chickens. Get the whole family involved in getting to know them and caring for them. Birds and fish also make pleasant additions to the family and introduce children to animals.

9. Visit farms and mini zoos where you can touch and care for

the animals - get used to being at close quarters with animals like rabbits, goats, sheep and horses.

- watch out for the new moon and observe it as it waxes and wanes.

Camp in the garden and record the sounds on tape. Look up at the stars and try counting them!

phenomena like the sunshine, rainbows, clouds, rain, storms, lightning, and snow.

20. 21. 22.

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Be Like a


J. Samia Mair shares a few ideas on using science to teach about the signs of Allah I.

“Be like a bee; anything he eats is clean, anything he drops is sweet and any branch he sits upon does not break.” (Ali bin Abi Talib t, The Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity). Teaching our children about Allah’s I signs is one of the most important things that we can do.

“We will show them Our Signs in the universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the truth” (Fussilat:53). “A sign is put there for people to read… All of nature and scripture speaks to us directly, with a specific message, and God expects us

Spring 2009 SISTERS 68

to read the message and to react appropriately… If we understand the signs, we are understanding something about God” (Chittick and Murata, The Vision of Islam). Children are natural scientists and eager to learn, making science a great way to teach them about Allah’s I signs in creation. The goal is for our children to look at the world around them and immediately wonder what AllahI is trying to tell them. Spring, for example, should remind us that we too will be brought back to life after we die:

“And among His Signs, that you see the earth barren; but when We send down water to it, it is stirred to life and growth. Verily, He Who gives it life, surely, is able to give life to the dead. Indeed, He is able to do all things” (Fussilat: 39). A simple and fun project to teach children about bringing forth the living from the dead is growing a Balloon Plant: 1. Hold a balloon firmly by its neck, or alternatively, a clear litresized plastic bag. Using a funnel, pour about 3/4 cup of potting soil into the balloon. 2. Add about 1/4 cup of water through the funnel. The soil should be moist, not soggy. 3. Using the funnel, drop radish or other seeds that sprout easily into the balloon. 4. Continue holding the balloon gently by the neck and blow it up. 5. Tie a knot in the neck to keep the air in the balloon. Tie a ribbon around the knot. 6. Hang the balloon by the ribbon to a hook or other place near a window. The neck should be the top. 7. Watch your balloon plant grow! Another simple experiment can teach younger children about the Unseen. Out of your child’s presence, fill two identical, clear glasses with one cup of water each. In one glass, add 1/8 teaspoon of salt and stir until it completely dissolves. Ask your child if he sees any difference between the two glasses of water (he should not). Have your child taste the regular water first and then the salted water -you should get a reaction! Explain that even though the salt cannot be seen, it is still there - in other words, you do not have to see something, such as angels and Paradise, for them to exist. Similarly, go outside on an autumn day when leaves are blowing. Ask your child what is making the leaves move. Explain that even though he cannot see the wind blowing the leaves, we know the wind exists by the movement of the leaves.

The night sky is a beautiful way to teach your children about the role of Prophets u.

“It is He Who has set the stars for you, so that you may guide your course with their help through the darkness of the land and the seas. We have explained in detail Our signs for a people who know” (Al-An’am:97). Take your child outside on a clear night and discuss how the moon and stars make the night much brighter. Point out a few stars or constellations and tell them that sailors used the stars to guide them to their destination. Recite the above verse and explain that just as the stars help to guide sailors in the dark, the Prophets u are lights of understanding that help to guide the rest of us to Paradise. Rainbows are a relatively easy way to teach children that Allah I is One, but has many names and attributes. Hang a crystal on a string near the window of your child’s room. When sunlight shines through it, rainbows should appear on the walls and elsewhere. Ask your child to push the crystal so that the string moves back and forth; the rainbows should move around the room. Explain that although sunlight is clear, it is actually made of up all of the colours. Similarly, Allah I is One, but has many names and attributes. It has been said that scientific research describes natural processes whereas religion gives them meaning. As parents, we can use science to teach our children meanings. Insha Allah, in doing so we instil in our children a lifelong desire to understand the messages that Allah I has given us to read. We might even learn a thing or two ourselves! Enjoyed the article, but would love more ideas? J. Samia Mair is currently working on a children’s book about using science to teach about the signs of Allah’s I.

“Why are Naani and Nana (maternal grandmother and grandfather) not Muslim?” This was the question that I had been dreading since I reverted to Islam twelve years ago. Although I was a carefree university student at the time, with marriage and children very far down on my list of priorities, I knew that at some point in the future I would have to face this question. After all, it comes with being the only Muslim in one’s family.


Grandpa and Grandma Are Not Muslim

Your child’s interaction with your non-Muslim family does not have to be awkward. Suraya Dadoo shares her experience.

That point came on a recent trip home when my 4-year old daughter, Khadija, started noticing how different my Hindu family wa to us, especially in terms of prayer, dress, and remembering the Almighty. While most reverts around the world are forced out of their homes, isolated and completely disowned by their families when they accept Islam, I was extremely fortunate as I managed to coexist very peacefully with my family when I became Muslim, subhanallah! However, the differences between the religions were quite apparent to my daughter. In trying to make sense of things to her, I explained to her that we were very lucky as Allah I had chosen us to be Muslim, and that she should make du’a that He would guide them to Islam as well. Although I had thought about how I was going to approach the situation, I was still anxious. Would she love them less now that she understood that they were non-Muslim? Would there be an element of conflict in her relationship with them? Alhamdulillah, that has not happened, mainly because of the help that I received from the Sunnah and Hadith of Rasulullah r who stressed that a Muslim’s non-Muslim family must be respected and revered. I have echoed this sentiment and asked my daughter to respect Naani as much as she respects her Muslim paternal grandmother. Unbeknown to her, Khadija performs da’wah with my family in the form of singing Islamic songs and reciting short surahs. She even recited the English translation of Surah Al-Fatiha at her cousin’s party when all the other Hindu children were too shy to recite a Hindu prayer. It is not all smooth sailing, though, and there are times when things do get a bit tricky. For instance, she is utterly fascinated by my mother’s saris and by her bindi’s (a red dot placed on the forehead of a Hindu woman to indicate that she is married). She’s asked if she could also wear one. I explained that that was Naani’s way of dressing and Muslims didn’t wear that. My mother, in turn, told her that as a Hindu she would never wear Hijab since that was how Muslims dressed. That seemed to make sense to Khadija. Far from a clash of cultures, the situation at home seems to indicate a complete acceptance and tolerance of each other, as described in Surah Kaafirun:

“I worship not that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship” (Al-Kafirun: 2-3). The complete absence of any inter-religious conflict can be attributed, firstly, to Allah’s mercy on me by giving me such an understanding, compassionate mother who unconditionally

I explained to her that we were very lucky as Allah I had chosen us to be Muslim, and that she should make du’a that He would guide them to Islam as well.

accepted my decision to accept Islam. This is certainly not the norm for most reverts. For Khadija, it is also due to the constant maintenance and reinforcement of her Islamic identity at school, and at home with my husband’s Muslim family. My daughter is comfortable in her Muslim skin when she is with non-Muslims, a quality she will desperately need as she gets older and navigates the multi-faith, culturally diverse South African landscape. In the future she will, no doubt, become more aware of the consequences in the Hereafter of her beloved granny and granddad being non-Muslim, and the situation will become more complicated. As millions of reverts know, one of the toughest things about embracing Islam is accepting the chasm that develops between “us” and “them”. Knowing that on the Day of Judgement, your loved ones will be on the “other” side is a heartwrenching realisation. Millions more will also feel this pain when one takes into account Islam’s projected growth. According to author Rose Kendrick, British converts will equal or overtake the “born” Muslim community in the next five years. In America alone, a conservatively estimated 25 000 people a year embrace Islam. In an ironic twist, clerics say they have actually seen conversion rates quadruple since the 9/11 attacks. For many, including myself, the consolation is that the Prophet Muhammad r also felt this pain when his beloved uncle Abu Talib died a non-Muslim. I constantly encourage Khadija to make du’a that our non-Muslim family becomes Muslim, since Allah I guides whom He wills. Most importantly, I have tried to answer all her questions as honestly as I can. Ignoring those awkward questions or trying to tip-toe around issues will only lead to more confusion, something which I am trying to avoid. Now if only I could think of a creative way to answer the most cringe-worthy question any parent could ever face: “Where do babies come from?”

Suraya Dadoo is a South African revert and mom to Khadija, 4 and one-year old Humaira. She is also a researcher for Media Review Network ( a Johannesburgbased advocacy group that aims to dispel myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the media. She writes in her personal capacity.

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My Dearest Daughter, Asalaamu alaikum I thank Allah I for blessing me and deeming me fit to be your Mother. I thank Allah I for giving me the opportunity to experience and understand my mother better and to appreciate her more through my journey with you. I send salat and salam upon our Beloved Prophet Muhammad r, from whose life we take lessons in fulfilling this duty of parenthood. I am thankful for having him r as a guide and example.


to my Daughter

Umm Asma reaches out to her daughter in the first of this series of heart-felt letters.

Spring Winter 2009 2008 SISTERS 72 72

Ibn Umart narrates: “I heard Allah’s Messenger r saying, ‘All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and responsible for his subjects; the man is a guardian and responsible for his family; the woman is a guardian and responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards’” (Bukhari and Muslim). So my dear daughter, I am your guardian and you are my responsibility, an amanah entrusted to me by Allah I. Have I fulfilled this trust? Today, as we wait to hear your Nikah being performed, I ask myself if I have equipped you sufficiently for this responsibility. I worry constantly whether you will make the right choices even in the smallest of situations. I still remember the day you were born and the promises I made to be your guide and advisor. Have I fulfilled that promise? How does one who is still searching and learning guide another? I tried to do my best and to always put the deen of Islam first. But ultimately we are all human and we can’t be perfect, so I know I have definitely erred, compromised and not been the best example. Please forgive me. I worry constantly about the decisions I make. I want for you what every parent wants for their child: a safe, loving, healthy, Islamic environment; an environment in which you can explore your Allahgiven talents and capabilities, and achieve your fullest potential.

I decided to teach you life skills by practising them. The saying ‘do as I say, not as I do’ never made much sense to me. I remember when you were a little girl of 5, and as we were washing the morning dishes, I told you to recite Bismillah. By reciting Bismillah we would gain blessing for doing something we had to do anyway. You asked me why I always gave you an explanation for everything we did. I replied that by explaining my actions, you will learn about our Deen. And one day you would do the same for your little one. You gave me this big, bright smile. To this day I wonder if the smile was for the moment that we shared or the thought that you would share a moment like this with your child someday. One moment of pride and gratitude came when you were 13 years old and you told me about the essay you wrote in school. The topic was ‘the motto by which you live’. The motto of the school you attended was ‘Excelsior’, meaning ‘Aim higher.’ You wrote your motto as ‘Allahu Akbar’. SubhanAllah, I thanked Allah that the message we tried to give you - that all our efforts and all our deeds revolve around the greatness of Allah I, in the recognition of Allah I and having complete faith in Allah - was achieved. For one little moment that understanding was displayed: Allahu Akbar. In my letters to you I will explain the choices we made and how we made them - decisions concerning your dressing, schooling, sport and social life - in the hope that you will understand and believe that it was with thought and responsibility that we made them. I love you so much and want only the best for you. And sometimes the choices I made seemed so cruel and heartless but one day you will understand, insha Allah. As an old Chinese proverb goes, “To understand your parents’ love, bear your own children.”

With love and duas.


Spring 2009 SISTERS 73


smile lingered on the corner of her lips as she reminisced her rebellious days. With her head resting in her hands, Mulky Roble revealed how much of a wild child she used to be. Innocence enveloped her face, just as the black khimar that hugged around her shoulders hid her unsettled past. Yet contentment was evident as she confided in me about how much of an impact a novel written by a Muslimah has had on her life. Although she is only of the unfledged age of eighteen, Mulky had many rough patches in her younger teen years, with a trail of exclusions and suspensions from school. Mulky considered herself to be like other girls her age: she loved shopping and looking great, so it was no surprise when Mulky confessed her previous hatred for the written word. “I hated them,” she blurted when I asked about books, “I didn’t have time to read them, and I just thought they were rubbish.” And while reading classical literature is a requirement in English classes, she had managed to evade reading them in class, with the exception of one. “I wouldn’t really count that as reading,” she laughed, “because the teacher read the book to us in class - I didn’t read it myself.” Mulky may be considered to be from the minority of girls who do not like to read, since reading is more popular amongst females. But speaking to girls at a local Muslim youth group revealed that while the girls loved to read, not one of them had picked up a copy of Muslim fiction. So what was it that led Mulky to read Echoes by Jamilah Kolocotronis?

Muslim Readers

The Search for

“Well, you were distributing Echoes and everyone in the youth group was saying how ‘sick’ [interesting] it was, and some of you just kept talking about it. So I wanted to know what everyone was going on about. When I read the first chapter, I just had to keep on going. I was curious to find out what happened at the end.” And according to Mulky, this is something of a miracle considering her resentment towards books in the past, but for her, it was more than a mere book. “It was so emotional, and I cried all the way through,” she laughed shyly. “Some parts just really touched me. I cried at the end.” We both laughed at this point - her from embarrassment and me from shock since Echoes isn’t exactly an emotional rollercoaster. Yet, what surprised me more was what Mulky told me next. “I never used to read before reading Echoes, but now I love reading.” None would have thought that Muslim fiction could have the power to affect a teenager in such a way - especially a toughnut like Mulky Roble. Muslim fiction has had a hard time in gaining respect within the Muslim community, with some deeming it a waste of time and tantamount to lies. The shelves of Muslim book stores are laden with books, but few - if any - are Muslim fiction. Despite this, our teens are reading novels that condone intercourse outside of marriage, free-mingling with the opposite gender, partying and other acts that Islam frowns upon. It is from reading such books that our teens desire to have a slice of that pie, and Mulky

confirmed this. “Teens who read romance, or books like that end up thinking, ‘Oh, I need a man, now’, but reading fiction for Muslim teenagers will kinda show them a better way.” It was with this exact line of thought that I delved into the world of publishing. As a teenager, there were no books with Muslim characters, I was left to the traps of teenage books that left me feeling odd for not having a boyfriend and resentful for not being allowed to go to parties. Now, in troubling times where our youth are struggling to find their place in society, many are slipping through our fingers due to what they read. The emotions that are evoked and images that are painted through words cannot be undermined; they have the potential to be extremely powerful, and Mulky’s case is a fine example. “[Echoes] really touched me, I started being kind to my mum after reading it,” - these are the words of a rebellious teenager whose loving mother once found hard to tame. Is there then any doubt that Muslim fiction can be of profound benefit? Initial thoughts of Muslim fiction are books that are preachy and dictating, and my experience has for the most been the complete opposite. Novels are supposed to take readers on a journey through a character’s life and expose them to their inner feelings and thoughts, and a book containing Muslim characters should be no less engaging.

Although Muslims have their faults, shortcomings and internal struggles like every other human, a workshop I conducted at a youth group revealed that teens are averted from Muslim fiction due to the belief that the characters will be portrayed as the perfect Muslim. For the girls I spoke to, many elements of a book would gain their interest, the most important being the story itself; they seek stories that are exciting, engaging and speak their language. Stories that represent them and their issues, and not those that put them down. While many writers have woken up to realise the great benefit Muslim fiction can bring into the lives of readers, there are still only a handful of Muslim publishers willing to publish them. Those of us who do are the pioneers of a new movement - one that can shine a new dawn in the lives of many. Getting Muslim fiction onto bookshelves is still a great task, but the happiness in knowing that it has reached some teenagers is comforting nonetheless. There may not have been any Muslim fiction books to devour in my days of fervent reading, yet it is my dream that our youth will be from the generation where Muslim fiction is readily available and no longer a rarity.

Umm Junayd unravels her quest to publish and promote Muslim fiction

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next flare-up occurs. Topical steroids can be applied alongside an emollient, it doesn’t matter which one is applied on the skin first, as long as there is a half-hour interval between the two applications. Generally speaking, a milder potency steroid should be used for the face, and a stronger potency for the rest of the body.



Affecting one in five children in the UK, eczema is now as common as a cold. However it still remains the cause of many acute hospital admissions, often due to delayed treatment and misconceptions regarding management of the condition. Saadia Hussain, a paediatric nurse, reports.

Mild Eczema can manifest as redness, scaly skin, dryness or itching. Severe eczema presents with any of the following: irritability, restlessness and sleep loss, persistent itching/ scratching, crusty skin, weeping of the skin/fluid discharge and bleeding - the later two are signs of infection and are often accompanied by a temperature.

What is eczema?

What is the treatment?

Eczema is simply a dry skin condition, varying in severity from one child to another, and can come in different forms. Contrary to popular belief, it is not contagious! Eczema is a common skin disorder affecting people of all ages, but is primarily seen in children. Although some may outgrow their eczema during childhood, it has the potential to recur during adulthood.

What is the cause? There are a number of causes for eczema with ‘atopic’ eczema being the most common. This is basically the result of the relationship between a number of genes and environmental factors. A family history of either eczema or other atopic conditions, such as hay fever or asthma, is seen in the majority of cases. Due to this, those with eczema may go on to develop asthma or hay fever at some stage in their life. Once eczema is diagnosed, frequent outbreaks (‘flare-ups’) will occur which could be caused by any of the following: a bout of illness, often viral-related, teething, anxiety/ stress-induced, overheating, house dust mites, pets, raised pollen count, certain foods or irritants such as soaps and detergents.

What are the signs & symptoms? Eczema is very much an individual condition with varying degrees of severity. Therefore, one child’s outbreak will be different in comparison to another’s.

The treatment of eczema comes in two forms – emollients to moisturise the skin, and a topical steroid cream to reduce the inflammation whenever the skin becomes inflamed. Due to the nature of eczema, children are prone to losing moisture from their skin, hence the importance of frequent emollient use. Emollients work in three different ways:

Treatment by way of emollients and topical steroids is highly effective in the management of eczema, however, there are a number of other environmental factors that can be treated to stop it from spiralling out of control. As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure! • Keep your child and his environment cool – not too hot or too cold. • Use emollients generously several times a day, even when the skin is good. This will help minimise flare-ups from occurring. As a rough guide to its application amount, a child with eczema should be getting through a 500mg tub each week. • Trim your child’s nails regularly to stop from scratching and breaking down the skin. Mitts can be worn on babies. If the itching is so persistent it keeps your child from sleeping at night, your GP can prescribe an antihistamine. • Avoid using soap and bubble baths which can act as irritants.

A bath oil or emollient applied prior to washing is just as effective at keeping the skin clean. • Daily or twice daily baths can help improve the eczema. Again, this is highly individual, so offer baths as frequently / infrequently as the condition of skin responds to them. • Wash clothes and bed linen with a gentle non-biological detergent to at least 60 degrees. • Reduce house dust mites from aggravating the skin by: airing the bed and changing the bedding regularly, damp-wiping surfaces to remove dust, vacuuming regularly as well as deep-cleaning carpets, and opting for hard wood flooring instead of carpets. • Limit the use of soft toys which can act as irritants. Prevent your child from sleeping with them and wash them regularly to at least 60 degrees. • Remove pets from the home, or at the very least, prevent them from entering your child’s room. • Keep your child indoors with the windows shut when the grass is being cut – grass pollen is one of the most common irritants. Although your child’s eczema may not ever completely resolve, good management control is the key to enabling your child to have a better quality of living.

1. moisturises – contains oil to rehydrate dry skin 2. protects – leaves a thin layer of oil on the skin, helping to retain moisture and protect the surface of the skin from drying out 3. soothes – relieves irritation and the need for scratching Emollients come in the form of creams, lotions, ointments and gels. • Creams consist of a mixture of fat and water, feel light and cool on the skin, and are easily absorbed – making it preferable for daytime use. • Lotions are light and easy to apply, consist of more water and less fat than creams, making them less effective at moisturising the skin. These are best used for weeping eczema and on hairy areas of the body such as the scalp. • Ointments are very greasy as they retain water in the skin effectively, making it more useful for extremely dry, thickened skin. • Gels such as emollient shower gels, are an effective alternative to soaps, as are bath oils for daily washing. There are many brands of emollients on the market, so it is worth bearing in mind what works for one child may not work for another. It is a simple case of trial and error – you may have to try a few before you find one that suits your child best. Your child’s dermatologist or eczema nurse will be able to recommend some. If your child’s eczema has always been relatively mild, you may never need the use of a topical steroid cream. However, in moderate to severe cases, topical steroids are the only way forward. Applying a twice daily, light layer on the affected inflamed patches for up to 7-14 days will greatly improve the condition of the eczema, and stop it from deteriorating. Once the inflammation has resolved, the use of steroids should be abandoned until the

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World Our World section links you to your sisters around the world and inspires you to connect positively with world issues.

Because it’s your world too

Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

Winter 2008 SISTERS 01

activities have impacted heavily on the composition of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. This increase in greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), leads to a warming of the earth’s surface: this is what is meant by the term global warming. It has been reported that eleven of the last twelve years are the warmest on record, with 1998 being the warmest year.

Our Changing


Whether believers or nonbelievers, scientists or laymen, there is a growing awareness that climate patterns are changing. But for believers, this is a sign to return to the Fitrah, the Natural Way, writes Najma Mohamed.

Rising early to get the washing on the line before work, I would meet my sprightly seventy-something neighbour who would comment regularly about the changing weather patterns. On the train, worried commuters would eye the clouds packing on the mountain, wondering whether they would bring wind or rain that day. Though climatologists might scoff at our unscientific methods, most of us have come to realise that something is not quite right with our weather. At the dawn of the twenty first century, we are beginning to witness the impact of climate change. Scientific evidence that our world is getting warmer is mounting. Already, we are experiencing an increase in weather-related disasters and it has been predicted that climate change could result in increased flooding, drought and sea level rise, with large-scale human loss and suffering. Climate change has become, without a doubt, one of the leading issues on the global agenda. It is an issue which transcends borders and affects rich and poor, the developed and developing world, young and old.

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Our atmosphere: a heavenly protection “And We have made the heaven a roof, safe and well guarded…” (Al-Anbiyaa: 32). The atmosphere, which protects the Earth from harmful solar radiation, is composed of a mixture of gases. Nitrogen and oxygen form about 78% and 21% of our atmosphere respectively, while the remaining 1% is composed of greenhouse gases, consisting of water vapour, carbon dioxide, ozone and other gases. Though they constitute only about 1% of our atmosphere, greenhouse gases play a crucial role in regulating our climate. Greenhouse gases, as its name suggests, act like the glass in a greenhouse, trapping heat and keeping planet Earth warmer than it would be otherwise. Through rapid industrialisation, changes in farming methods as well as large-scale deforestation, human

Scientific investigations have found that even small variations in temperature have resulted in dramatic changes in the past. The rapid rate at which we have been releasing CO2 into the atmosphere in only a century and a half of industrialisation, will possibly double the level of CO2 from pre-industrial levels. The resultant rise in temperature will be accompanied by changes in our climate.

What are the possible impacts of climate change? Scientists are already observing changes in our weather patterns. These changes will have a variable, and in some cases severe impact on the livelihoods of peoples across the world. Extreme weather events such as droughts, heavy rainfall, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones are already being observed. Yes, while some parts of the world will become warmer and drier, others will become wetter.

Muslims and climate change Dr Muzammal Hussain, a leading climate activist and founder of the London Islamic Network on the Environment (LINE) says that, “From an Islamic perspective, climate change can be viewed as a symptom. Ultimately, it could be said that much of humanity has deviated from its natural state, or state of fitrah, towards the endless pursuit of superficial attractions.” Muslims believe that the earth has been created in balance and that men and women are trustees or stewards of the earth, provided with bounties that should be enjoyed within limits. This balance has been disturbed and the limits have been transgressed, according to the majority of climate scientists the world over. The Qur’an tells us:

“Evil (sins and disobedience of Allâh, etc.) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allâh may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allâh, and begging His Pardon)” (Ar-Rūm: 41).

Sea level rise, produced by expansion of the ocean and melting glaciers and ice caps, could cause flooding of many coastal regions and in some cases, could result in the complete disappearance of island nations. Both the quality and quantity of freshwater supplies will decrease as salt-water intrudes into freshwater supplies. The future effects of climate change, even when applying minimum predicted shifts, are thus likely to be significant and disruptive.

As humanity moved further away from the pure state or fitrah in which we were created, and our actions became motivated by greed and overconsumption, “destruction appeared on land and sea”. The concept of fasad (translated as destruction or mischief ), explained so clearly in the Noble Qur’an, has been interpreted by Muslim environmental scholars to incorporate environmental pollution and destruction, some of the main factors affecting climate change.

The biggest culprits in global warming are the industrialised countries, particularly North America, Japan and Western Europe, but those who stand to suffer the most are the poor since they have fewer resources to cope with the likely impacts of climate change and are also more dependent on natural resources to sustain their livelihoods.

Yet the end of this verse urges humankind to turn away from evil and to turn back to the intrinsic goodness or purity within creation. This will assist humankind to control the desire to “consume beyond their needs” and to live simply.

Climate change will therefore affect not only those whose energy-intensive, wasteful lifestyles have put the world in this position in the first place, but the ones who have done almost nothing to cause global warming.

The evidence for global climate change is increasing and calls for action resonate across the world. Muslims need to join this call, and contribute to the action required to lift our world from the impending climate crisis and return it to the pure, beautiful state in which it was created.

Najma Mohamed is an environmental researcher and writer based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Guide To A




The best phase to start considering green design and green living is obviously at the planning stage, building our homes according to eco-friendly principles. But even if you are renting or have already built your home, basing your interior design on green principles can go a long way to preserving the environment, your health and your purse!

“Do not squander your wealth wastefully” (Al-Isra: 26).

Flooring first Carpets can contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which fill the air in the home with toxins that could take years to dissipate. Certain brands of tiles, containing high levels of formaldehyde, can also wreak havoc in the home. A more eco-friendly option is flooring your home in bamboo which is less expensive and more durable than wood. Another option is installing carpet tiles made completely from recyclable materials.

Heating A basic principle to moderate household climate is that whatever keeps the heat out will also keep it in. Try the following tips to ensure a stable temperature indoors that is as kind to your purse as it is to the environment.

Wonderful walls

• Installing a radiant barrier in your attic to deflect the heat from the Sun from your home will keep the floors below cooler.

Paint containing VOCs can release toxins long after the paint has dried on the walls. The good news is that there is a growing market for paints that are low in VOCs and are thus less harmful to the environment.

• Older houses may let the cold air through windows. Install double glazing or insulation tape to windows and doorframes to keep your house cooler/warmer without having to turn up the thermostat.

Another eco-friendly option is wallpaper manufactured out of chlorine-free paper and designed with water-based inks. Special low VOCs adhesive is also available for adhering the wallpaper to the wall.

Futuristic furniture The majority of wood used for creating furniture, tables and shelves in the home comes from unsustainable forests which means once the forests are cleared of all the trees they are never replanted.

In September 2008, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) and the Lifemakers Foundation co-published the Muslim Green Guide with the help of the charity Muslim Hands. It is designed to help households understand and reduce climate change using Islamic evidences to explain why Muslims must do their bit for the environment. Each section has hints on how to positively reduce our carbon footprints. The benefits include healthier living, saving energy, time and reducing harmful gases.

Put your home on an energy diet by doing a host of simple things that can be done in a relatively short time. Call your local electrician and have him take a tour of your home to point out all the places where your family is wasting energy. He might charge a small fee but the savings you will reap in the long run will be worth it. Installing solar panels is another economical idea to power your home with a free viable source of energy.

• Air conditioning uses a lot of energy, more than almost all of your home put together. Use fans instead. • As far as water heating goes, if your boiler is over 10 years old, change it for an efficient condensing boiler.

“(Allah’s) Servants are those who are neither wasteful nor niggardly when they spend, but keep to a just balance” (Qur’an Al-Furqan:67).

While there are sustainable forests, where only a set number of trees are cut down while seedlings are replanted, they are in the minority, used only by a select few furniture manufactures. This fact alone has set off a hot new trend of designing home décor exclusively out of recyclables. Countertops and shelves made out of recycled glass are stylish while also being good for the environment. Furniture made out of reclaimed wood, which has already been cut and used for something else, are also becoming more readily available on the market.


Don’t forget the option of buying and refurbishing antique or second-hand furniture to cut down on waste.

• All rooms do not need to be equally bright. Check the watts number on your lights, if they are more than 60 watts, change to a lower power usage, for example 40 watts, particularly in rooms that do not require as much light such as the bathroom, laundry, passages, etc.

• Are you paying for what you aren’t using? Up to 15% of your electricity bills are just from lights around the house. When you leave a room, switch the lights off. • Where possible, change your normal light bulbs for energyefficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb. This simple switch will save about 150 kilograms of CO2 a year.

SISTERS recycles, reuses and recovers the Muslim Green Guide’s environmental message. Reporting by Hodan Yusuf, Najma Mohamed, Sumayyah Meehan and Umm Zakariyya Gardee.

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Food preparation

• Don’t leave electrical appliances on standby, switch them off.

• Cover your pots while cooking. Doing so can save a lot of the energy needed for preparing the dish.


• Even better are pressure cookers and steamers: they use 70% less energy than regular pots.

If you live in the UK, there are insulation grants to help you add wall and loft insulation. If you’re more ambitious and want to generate your own electricity, you can get grants for solar power systems. For more information visit the following websites: ,, and For further information on saving energy AND money, visit: Global Warming facts. 50 Things to Do to Stop Global Warming.

BATHROOM • An often neglected aspect of the home is plumbing. Leaking faucets are not only annoying but they also waste gallons of water. • Showers use four times less energy than a bath, but long showers are also environmentally irresponsible. By attaching aerators, which combine air with the water to increase pressure without wastage, you can trim the amount of water used each month. Low-flow showerheads are also excellent ways to conserve water. • If you don’t have a low-flush toilet, adding an empty plastic bottle to the cistern is a simple way to reduce the amount of water used per flush as it prevents the water from filling up to the brim.


• Use water sparingly when performing wudhu or ghusl.

“Eat and drink the sustenance God has provided and do not act wrongfully in the land, causing corruption” (Al Baqarah: 60).


The kitchen is the ideal place to nurture your body and soul by being conscientious of Allah in what you put into your body, the way that you obtained the food and the environment in which you prepare it. Use the following tips to ensure that what you eat is halal and tayyib (wholesome) for both your family’s health and the environment.

Food planning • Think before you buy. Getting produce out of season means either growing it using glasshouses or importing it, usually by air which increases CO2 emissions. Buy local, seasonal food, organic if possible. • Buy in bulk for everyday items. As well as saving money, this avoids emissions produced in packaging individual items. • Forgo the use of plastic bags. Take advantage of reusable bags offered by some supermarkets or bring your own from home. Why should you say no to plastic bags? Consider the following: • Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. Most plastic bags could take over 400 years to biodegrade, with some figures pushing that number to 1000 years (United Sates Enviromental Protection Agency). • In the UK alone, banning plastic bags would have the same environmental impact as taking 18 000 cars of the road!

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• Use the washing machine or dishwasher only when they are full. If you need to use it when it is half-full, then use the half-load or economy setting. • Wash your clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot. • If you are replacing your appliances, choose energy efficient machines. Newer energy efficient machines can use as little as one-quarter of the energy of older machines.

2. Secondly, we need to re-use whatever we are able to. Re-use materials, repair them or give them to others who can make use of them. 3. Thirdly, recycle what you use. • A special place for recycling will make it all the easier for the rest of your family to be more aware of the importance of being conscientious when discarding garbage. • Designate a recycle centre, either in your garage or kitchen. Plastic or metal bins (with or without lids) or even a few cloth bags hung on hooks against the wall will help you get started. • If you’ve got a couple of spare square feet available, you can build a special recycling centre out of a few scrap pieces of plywood and rubber bins. • Make appropriate labels for each bin/bag to separate paper, plastic, tins and glass. • After using an item, wash it where applicable, compress it and toss into the appropriate bin. We find in the simple life of Prophet Muhammad r the perfect expression of the Qur’anic message regarding wastefulness. His r life abounds with examples of how we should be careful of the impact we have on all creation as he forewarned his companions that we would be held accountable for everything in our care.

OUT AND ABOUT Transport • Cars produce a lot of polluting gases. A quarter of all car journeys [in the UK] are under two miles: that’s a lot of short, polluting trips.

• Air dry your clothes by hanging them on a line, rack, or radiator instead of using the tumble drier.

• Reduce the number of kilometres you drive by walking, using a bicycle, sharing transport or using public transport wherever possible. Avoiding just 10 miles of driving every week would eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year!


• For your next car try a smaller engine (1.3L or less), a hybrid car or one that uses alternative fuels such as electricity, LPG, hydrogen fuel cell. All these produce less pollution than petrol.

As Muslims, the core message of recycling, which is essentially about living simply and not indulging in excessive consumption and wastage, lies close to our hearts. Recycling, or ‘re-psyche-ling’, needs a change of our psyche just as much as a change in our waste disposal habits. Before we even get to the point of recycling, we need to take the following steps. 1. First, we should pre-cycle or limit the amount of waste we produce. • Buy products with little packaging: the less packaging the less waste. • Buy only what you need and avoid goods you won’t use.

Gardening • Plant a tree. A single tree will absorb one ton of CO2 over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15%. • Installing a rain collection system outdoors is another great technique to collect rainwater for use in watering your plants. • Want to grow fresh flowers and vegetables but don’t have a garden? There is a growing movement of city gardens or farms in which people grow their own food in small, urban spaces often referred to as allotments. According to the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, these are an urban “response to a lack of access to green space, combined with a desire to encourage strong community relationships and an awareness of gardening and farming.” These may exist on private estates, on any unused lot of land or even on the rooftops of buildings. Try starting with a window box in a sunny spot.

CONCLUSION Our children are the ones who will inherit this world with all its flaws and damage done by years of unabated waste, pollution and mismanagement. Make a commitment to recycle what you use and do your part to make an eco-friendly environment that will lessen your impact on the world and create a brighter future for the next generation.

For further information • The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) can be contacted at • Life Makers Foundation: • Muslim Hands Charity: • Sign up at LINE (The London Islamic Network for the Environment) for their free newsletter: • Join Green Muslims, a yahoo group that links Muslims who are interested and involved in environmental activism.



FREE-CYCLING In a world ravaged by rampant consumerism, an online sanctuary reminds us it needn’t be that way. Amira Elghawaby shares the story.

There is a terrific little online film which anyone with an iota’s concern for the environment ought to watch. It’s called the ‘Story of Stuff’ and it’s all about how we’ve all been duped into wanting more, buying more, using more and, consequently, chucking more than ever before – so much so that if everyone in the world consumed like Americans, we’d need 3 to 5 more planets. Yikes. And Europeans shouldn’t be smug, at least not if the Brits are anything to go by. One report says that the English spent 625 English pounds a year on clothing per head. Most of that clothing, along with various other materials – totalling about 650 thousand tonnes every year – eventually end up in landfills. But we’re not all completely culpable for the unbelievable waste. Take Noor Limame, for example. She’s a graphics designer and mother of six, living in Ottawa, Canada. She launched the Ottawa Muslim Community Closet – an online group of women who share their stuff – everything – from wedding dresses, to toys, to electronics to advice. All for free in a system that helps the environment, our wallets, and keeps Muslimahs connected. “I had come across the Ottawa Freecycle site,” remembers Limame, “and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have this resource for Muslims?” That was back in 2006, and the yahoogroup has grown steadily, and now includes 210 members. It works like this: a member is either looking for a particular item, or wants to offer something to the group – they post a message and wait for those interested to reply. They arrange to exchange goods and the ‘gifting’ is complete. “Allah only knows why the [group] has been around as long as it has, though I think there must be some sort of blessing in it if it has lasted this long, masha Allah,” enthuses Limame. “Once you get the ball rolling you never know what doors will open next. Our group has extended its help in many different kinds of ways, sometimes the help needed is for a helping hand at the local Masjid at a fundraising bazaar, visiting the sick, finding a home for a pet or even helping someone else to find a job.” Part of the group’s appeal has to do with its ability to connect Muslim women who are sometimes stranded without transportation, or busy looking after kids, or just too plain busy to get out and meet people. In the online world, members post information on sisters’ gatherings, whether there’s a new sister in town, or about a problem that needs solving (advice is always on offer!).

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… an online group of women who share their stuff – everything – from wedding dresses, to toys, to electronics to advice. All for free in a system that helps the environment, our wallets, and keeps Muslimahs connected.

“I don’t know of any other major source of information for Muslim women,” remarked a new member in an email. “So for me, it benefits the Muslim women by bringing them together.” One especially active member, Erica Marx, even launched the real life version of the group - holding give-aways at her house that filled every nook and cranny of her place with stuff; stuff that would otherwise have gone in the trash, or to other charities that might have been out of reach for some Muslim ladies who are limited in their wanderings. When I first joined at the very start of the group’s inception, I remember reading email after email from various sisters around the city who were offering neat stuff that I felt I had to have (I didn’t grab the bread maker; that went fast!). In return, I’d make sure to offer up some useful thing – a crib, mattress, books, etc., and once I connected with a sister, giving or receiving, I’d know that I’d made a new friend. Never mind the times we coordinated to make food for a mom who’d just delivered, or all pitched in to organise an Eid party or picnic – the collectivity gave of their time as well. “Recycling is an Islamic activity,” says Marx, who also holds the occasional ‘freecycle’ garage sale in her own front yard, much to the delight of her neighbours. “Personally, I believe it is a duty for Muslims not to put things in the garbage if people need it.” Obvious, perhaps, but sometimes it takes a little bit of sisterly encouragement to get into that freecycling mode. For ideas on how to start your own online group, check out http:// Amira Elghawaby has put her journalism career on hold to be a full-time mom. Sort of. When she can get away to the computer, she blogs about motherhood (http://fromabovetheacaciatree., writes the occasional article about whatever, and edits anything that needs a polish.

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Comm-YOU-nity Service Jenna M. Evans reflects on the lessons she learned through community involvement and outlines how you, too, can benefit from giving back.

Dressed in a red and white pinstriped jumper with her hands tucked into her pockets, she walked through those grey halls once each week, always nervous and unsure as men and women in scrubs scurried by. The thirteen-year old “candy striper” eagerly listened to the nurse’s orders and carried out her tasks with precision, never once questioning what she had been told. That volunteer position marked the beginning of a five year journey through various hospital departments and was the source of a personal promise to overcome timidity and build confidence in public speaking. That volunteer position is the reason why even today, community service is a part of her life. That girl was me. But things are different now than they were ten years ago when I took my first steps into the world of community service. With adulthood comes responsibility. While trying to remain afloat in a seemingly bottomless pool of the four C’s - Cooking, Cleaning, Counting and Caring - committing to a volunteer position in the community may seem daunting. Then again, it could be exactly what you need…

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Engaging in community services involves giving freely of your time, talent, and effort to benefit the public. The next time a colleague asks for your support on a project or you notice a gap that needs to be filled in the community, you may want to consider the following potential benefits of getting involved.

Your health Stress is unhealthy because it causes a fight or flight reaction in individuals that, when triggered too often, can weaken the immune system. However, making a difference in the lives of others, no matter how small, leads to the release of endorphins, more commonly known as the ‘feel good’ chemicals that help combat stress. Amina Ali, 25, of Virginia says, “Volunteering makes a person feel good. When we are recognised and appreciated for all that we do to help, it gives us a positive feeling about ourselves.”

Personal development Participating in community services helps you develop important transferable

skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, and time management. Whether you are a full-time mom, a teacher, health service worker, housewife, or salesperson, you can benefit from the ability to speak and write with clarity, to organise an event, or to follow through on an idea. Shilan Ansari, mother of three from New York, uses the skills she learned while volunteering with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to help her in her duties as a mother and wife. “Being involved in Girl Scouts, especially with crafts, helped me explore my creative side,” Shilan explains. “This served as inspiration for improving communication and time management at home. For example, I now use colourful posters and stickers to organise my daily and weekly activities and to help my kids keep track of homework, prayers, and chores.”

Career advancement According to surveys on the outcomes of volunteering, 12-15% of volunteers report their community service efforts helped them obtain employment. This was the case for Insaf Ali, mother of five, who upon moving to Texas immediately volunteered to teach Qur’anic recitation and Islamic studies at the local mosque. Insaf says she

was “soon hired by an Islamic school to teach on a part-time basis.” She adds with a smile, “It is great to see that my volunteer work has given me the opportunity to connect with even more children through an official position.” In today’s economy, the importance of distinguishing yourself from the competition cannot be overstated. For youth, new graduates, recent immigrants, or individuals entering into a new field, volunteer work provides an opportunity to gain experience and knowledge that will strengthen your job application and future employment prospects.

Spirituality In addition to enhancing your health, personal skills, and employment prospects, community involvement helps cultivate an Islamic personality and spiritual peace. Sadaqa, or charity, is a form of worship. In the Qur’an, Allah I says “Never will you attain the highest degree of virtue unless you spend in the cause of Allah I out of that which you love; and whatever you spend, Allah I surely knows it well” (Aal-Imran: 92). Giving freely of your time, money, knowledge, talents, or kindness are examples of engaging in infaq fi sabilillah,

or spending in the cause of Allah I. There is no form of charity or service that is too small. The Prophet Muhammad r said, “Save yourself from the fire, even with half a date [to be given in charity]. And, for anyone who does not have that much, he should do so with a good word” (Bukhari). When you get involved in community service, whether on a small or large scale, you initiate a process of spiritual selfenhancement. As you experience the internal and external benefits, volunteering will become habitual and instinctive – a part of your day or week that you look forward to, a duty that cannot be brushed aside. Aspiring teacher, Hanifah AbdulBaqi, 21, from Chicago points out that “There is always blessing from Allah I and a lesson in humility learned when helping those less fortunate than us and these experiences are necessary in order for us to grow into well-rounded, conscientious women.”

Lessons learned I am no longer that young, shy girl who yearned to learn about the medical profession, but allowed her fear to suppress her questions and comments.

The various community projects I have been involved in have helped me grow both intellectually and spiritually, bringing to the surface the confidence, creativity, and strength of faith that were there all along hidden beneath layers of fear and excuses. I have learned that giving back to your community is giving back to yourself. But we only experience some of the benefits in this life. Whatever we give and share with others freely, without expectation of worldly reward, is an investment in a “business venture” with Allah I, one in which the rewards are far greater…and everlasting. Graduate student Jenna M. Evans has been the recipient of several awards for her community service efforts during the past six years and most recently founded Bookmarks for a Cause (Bookmarksforacause.Etsy.Com).

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In order to understand why the code was created, we need to know a bit more about Hérouxville and Quebec. With very few exceptions, the residents of the town of Herouxville are white (there is one black family), native-born, Catholic, and Frenchspeaking. The town is 1300 strong, some distance from urban centres. There are no Muslims in Hérouxville and no flood of immigrants of any sort looking to move there. On the other hand, Quebec culture is changing. The role of the Catholic Church has been severely diminished. Large urban centres are receiving newcomers from around the world, resulting in changes to social values and to laws. While Hérouxville still lumbers on more or less as always, its people are hearing through the media about the changing nature of Quebec society beyond their tight little community. Those changes are troubling and, while no resident of Herouxville had ever met a Muslim, that was about to change. The Canadian Islamic Congress asked for a meeting with the town council, and on Sunday, February 11 2008, a group of hijab-clad women drove two hours from Montreal to Hérouxville, where they met with some 75 locals. These hijab-clad women did not fit the preconceived notions that the Hérouxville locals had of Muslim women. They simply did not fit the stereotype. Far from being kept ignorant and oppressed, these were Ph.D.’s and Ph.D. candidates. Far from being “alien” to French culture, they were led by Dr. Najat Boughaha, whose Ph.D. is in French literature. The people of Hérouxville were forced to think again.

Challenging Prejudice and Ignorance On January 25, 2007, the town council of Hérouxville, Canada, adopted a “code of conduct,” informing immigrants of standards of behaviour expected of them. No face coverings in public except at Halloween. No public stoning or burning of women. No female circumcision. Women had the right to drive. Many of the standards were clearly based on stereotypes of Muslims, but the local politicians also tossed in a few barbs aimed at Jews and Sikhs. For a group of Canadian Muslimahs armed with baklava, this was the cue to begin dialogue, reports Reuel S. Amdur.

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These strangers brought Arab delicacies such as baklava as well as arts and crafts and books for the local library, books about the role of women in Islam and about Islamic philosophy. Dr. Boughaha and her group were greeted with a round of applause when they arrived at the seniors’ centre where the meeting took place. They told the citizens of Hérouxville that they were hurt by the way in which the code portrayed them and their faith. They spoke to and answered questions for a largely uninformed audience on Islam and about the cultures of Muslim countries. The women made a clear distinction between the religion of Islam and the cultural practices in some Muslim countries, practices such as genital mutilation. The Montreal women succeeded in presenting themselves as real human beings, beyond the stereotypes. “There was a real exchange,” said Dr. Boughaha. “These were people who reached out to us. I really think our visit to Hérouxville benefitted both sides.” André Drouin, the author of the code, said defensively that agreeing to the meeting with the women from Montreal proved that Hérouxville is not racist, and the night after the visit the town council amended their code to remove references to stoning women and to female circumcision. The change, claimed the town

These hijab-clad women did not fit the preconceived notions that the locals had of Muslim women. They simply did not fit the stereotype. fathers, had nothing to do with the visit by the Muslim women. Dr. Boughaha thinks otherwise. Some Hérouxville women promised to return the favour and share food with the Muslim women. Luce Rivard, André Drouin’s wife, while affirming his claim that the town is not racist, spoke of the meeting as “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

Most people would react to this kind of slight by mumbling among themselves or avoiding any situation where they might be embarrassed, but these brave women went right into the lion’s den. They came out unscathed, with a bit of the lion’s tail as a souvenir. There are lessons here for all of us. Way back in 1947, sociologist Robin Williams Jr. produced a volume titled The Reduction of Intergroup Tensions. In it, he says, “In intergroup relations, as in many others, the ‘propaganda of the deed’ is especially likely to have effects upon attitudes and behaviour.” The visit to Hérouxville with gifts in hand was these Muslimahs’ propaganda of the deed, confronting the local prejudices and stereotypes with living human beings who were a challenge to the preconceived notions. Most people would feel embarrassed taking part in such direct action but these women were able to gather the internal strength to come face-to-face with people who might hate them in order to win them over. Muslims are currently the object of prejudice throughout much of the Western world. Challenging instances of prejudice with faceto-face meetings and baklava, sharing information about beliefs and culture, these are ways of bringing change and understanding, even if the change does not take place all at once. The Hérouxville code was altered a bit, but it still exists. Yet there has been a start, thanks to the brave women from Montreal.

Reuel S. Amdur is a social worker and freelance writer living in Val-des-Monts, Quebec.

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There was no way HIV would affect my husband or me, I thought. in his article, AIDS: A Moral Perspective, stresses that whilst we should be speaking out against immorality and its resultant consequences in Islam, we shouldn’t judge others and thus should treat infected Muslims with compassion and tolerance. Maulana Bham says that “one needs to draw a distinction between an evil act and the perpetrator. Hate the act and not the perpetrator.” It’s also important to remember that HIV is not always spread through promiscuity or infidelity.

Being Positive

In a country with the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, Mariam Akabor talks to one woman about her terrifying ordeal.

Islamic support groups

Have you ever experienced a miracle? When something that defies logic occurs and exceeds your wildest expectations? Aneesa did, when her husband, a medical intern, was diagnosed with HIV and their hopes of having children someday were shattered. It was a sunny afternoon when Ahmed came home looking extremely distressed. He couldn’t even speak. After a few moments, he said, “All the staff were required to go for a medical check-up at the hospital. I had an HIV test done. It came back positive.” Then he burst into tears. Aneesa tells me that she was stunned. Assuring her husband that it was a mistake, she calmed him down. But Ahmed was shaking and continually reassured Aneesa, “I promise you I never did anything with anyone!” She was so touched that at that moment he felt the need to reassure her, even though that thought had never crossed her mind. “There was no way HIV would affect my husband or me,” I thought. We didn’t lead a promiscuous life. Even though South Africa has the highest rate of HIV in the world, I never really worried about it affecting me or my family.”

It was only then that Ahmed remembered that he had had a needle-stick injury the previous year. Dismissing it as a “low risk”, he ignored it. Now Ahmed wanted Aneesa to have a test done as well. “Throughout the ride to the hospital, I kept on praying to Allah I, asking for all this to be a big mistake.” At the hospital, a staff doctor counselled Aneesa before she took the rapid test. This is a compulsory practice in all hospitals in South Africa. “She basically explained to me how taboo HIV is in the Muslim community. I asked her whether it would be advisable for my husband and I to have children if both of us were positive. I can’t even remember what her answer was as the reality began to sink in.” After removing four vials of blood from Aneesa, it was sent to the lab for a rapid test. A rapid is the instant test that is taken to determine whether a person is infected with HIV. It has an accuracy rate of just over 99%. The rapid test checks for HIV antibodies, which your body produces only when you have the virus. Ahmed’s results showed up as positive on the rapid test. The staff doctor decided to send his blood for an ELISA test, which has a very high sensitivity. And the wait began.

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In the past decade there has been an increase in the number of Islamic organisations that are involved in helping infected Muslims. Following an Islamic ethos, these organisations are making a difference in the country. Cape Town-based Positive Muslims offers group therapy, individual counselling, empowerment projects and runs workshops and presentations in schools, mosques and factories.

Muslims and HIV The stigma attached to an HIV positive person is ubiquitous in every society and culture. However within religious communities, like the Muslim community, it has been the worst. Since HIV is associated with vices like promiscuity and infidelity, people fear discrimination. Many Muslim countries are also affected by HIV, including Indonesia, home to the largest number of Muslims in the world. Of the 245 million inhabitants in Indonesia, 88% are Muslim. According to a report (20062007) by the National Aids Commission in Indonesia, there is an estimated 193 000 infected people in the country. Within the Muslim community in South Africa, there is a prevalence of HIV.

Faghmeda Miller from Cape Town made history by becoming the first Muslim woman to openly declare her positive status. Miller was married to her Malawian husband, and only discovered after his death that she was infected. Hoping to help fellow Muslims cope with the reality of living with HIV, she founded Positive Muslims. Another Muslim woman, thirty-something Riana Jacobs from Johannesburg in South Africa, also disclosed her positive status on World Aids Day in 2004, in an attempt to help Muslims living with HIV. These two women, like many of their counterparts, have personally experienced discrimination from family and friends when their statuses were disclosed. South African theologian, Maulana E Bham,

The Muslim Aids Programme (MAP) is an NGO and a joint project of the Jamiatul Ulama, Islamic Careline and Islamic Medical Association (IMA). Founded in 1997, MAP offers counselling, life skills/abstinence programmes, and AIDS awareness and training. They have offices in four of the nine provinces in South Africa. Their motto is “Save Sex rather than safe sex.” In KwaZulu-Natal, the province with the highest number of infected people in the country, there is the Islamic Medical Association’s Baytul-Nur, a professional counselling, training and developmental organisation. Social worker and counsellor at Baytul-Nur, Sister Fathima Abdulla, explains that, “Baytul-Nur is not specifically for HIV infected Muslims only. We are involved in other areas of community service, like counselling those involved in domestic violence, substance abuse, marital conflict and so on.” Furthermore, the organisation offers training programmes in community development and empowerment.

Final results Aneesa and her husband waited for half an hour before her result was available. “I don’t think I prayed so hard in my life.” But the results were surprising: she was negative! For the first time during the entire afternoon, her husband smiled. “He told me, ‘I don’t care if I’m positive. As long as you’re fine!’” She assured her husband that it was a mistake and that Allah I would never allow this to happen to him. “You don’t understand! These rapids are so accurate. We use it all the time for our patients!” The hour that followed, waiting for the ELISA test results, was the worst hour of their lives. When the results for the ELISA were ready, the staff doctor summoned Aneesa and Ahmed. With an unreadable expression, she announced, “The ELISA test came back negative.” Aneesa and Ahmed hugged each other, crying. The most worrying thing for Ahmed was how many other patients in South Africa have been told that they were HIV positive, based on the results of the rapid tests, when they were actually not? As pleased as they were with their results on that day, the nightmare did not end there for the couple. It took a full month to conclusively discover whether Ahmed was positive or not. His blood samples had to be sent to Johannesburg for further tests to determine why the results showed up like it did. His final result? He is negative but “something” in his blood reacts to the test that makes it appear positive. Even today, that cannot be explained. But Aneesa and Ahmed both know that it is one of Allah’s I miracles. This incident created a significant impact on Aneesa’s life. “I no longer view HIV as something that’s not my problem. I am definitely not ‘above’ it. I know it can happen to anyone.”

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wit h love

From Sudan, Orphans in Darfur reach out to the children of Gaza

Charity comes in all shapes and sizes- whether it is purely financial or offering your time, effort, energy, skills or a simple smile. Things are not always straightforward either- those who give may find themselves in a position to receive and those who receive may be giving continually also. The essence of charity has always been giving selflessly, giving not fearing poverty and giving for the sake of Allah. During the recent attack on Gaza, Muslim Hands has been overwhelmed by the generosity of many donors across the UK reaching out to their brothers and sisters in Palestine. What touched us more deeply, however, was the case of an orphan school in Darfur, Sudan, who held their own fundraising event for children in Gaza. Sudan is a country in need, and without parents, these children’s needs are greater still. Yet, on hearing the plight of the Palestinians and the newly-orphaned children in Gaza, the orphanage had a fundraiser and sent money to Gaza. These children gave up the little money given to them by way of charity, to give to others who they felt needed it more. Read about the fundraising efforts from one group or orphans to another: As images of devastation from Gaza flooded our television screens, there were few places where media coverage of this humanitarian catastrophe didn’t reach; the Muslim Hands orphan school in Darfur, Sudan, was no exception. In a makeshift gazebo in the dusty school yard, children presented their own show of community support, fundraising and du’as for Palestine. In the dusty courtyard of the school, a single cardboard box stood hoisted on a stool. It was papered over in pink wrap and bore the simple words: “We are for Gaza.” Children streamed around waving flags of Palestine and waiting for their chance to hold a baby’s mock shroud – a symbol of the loss that was playing out many times over in Gaza. Female students sported their MH tunic uniforms with bright white hijabs tucked neatly into the keffiyah (Palestinian-style scarf ) draped over their shoulders. Following an opening speech, young girls came in carrying flags and posters. Du’a punctuated the itinerary of poetry and speeches to raise the awareness of the situation in Gaza. A young boy took centre stage, said, “Patience, patience oh Gaza- we are all on your side with our prayers and our souls.” Children queued excitedly, clutching notes in their hands to make their own donation towards Gaza. A woman took to the stage and after a rousing speech, she cleared her hands of gold rings to put in the donation box and walked off stage, not looking back. Those who didn’t have money, donated jewellery. Whether they had both to give or neither, everyone responded, many by donating their blood wherever this service was offered – at schools, universities, mosques and hospitals. And equally

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important, everyone offered prayers with rows and rows of men and women raising their hands in supplication. After Zuhr salah, a girl took to the stage and said: “May Allah reward you for your kindness- you have made it possible for us to live the beautiful life we are living. Please, on behalf of every student and orphan at the MH Sudan school- we want to make it possible for our brothers and sisters in Gaza to live a beautiful life too.” Children stood together in formation of the words ‘g’ ‘a’ ‘z’ ‘a’- an aerial view of the scene revealing the simple lettering for the place they were all gathered together for. The event climaxed with girls queuing to make their donation, tugging to get closer, impatient and giggly. The boys followed with theirs, while the teachers and wider community were close behind. Most of the people gathered donated the living allowance for basic essentials provided to them by MH orphan sponsors. The donations reached £2000. In a country where 90% of the population earn less than a dollar a day- it would take the average Sudanese over ten years to earn that amount of money. The scene of enthusiasm reveals the truth behind that oft-quoted adage: even where money is scarce, generosity is not.

The journey of zakah and sadaqah can often throw up the unexpected and unusual. It is not only the rich who give and the poor who receive- it is simply that those who want to give, give despite their own hardships, seeking the pleasure of their Lord.

Looks Our Looks section celebrates all that is beautiful about you, featuring style and flair for every type of adornment.

Beautiful...inside and out

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Asalaamu alaikum, to update my wardrobe with a few e lik d I’ d an re he is g rin Sp d an er ov is er Wint dable and, above all, or aff le, ab ar we are t tha s nd tre for g kin loo am I . ces key pie ciated. Muslim friendly! Any advice would be appre sting with clothes inspired by the bur to full et stre h hig the on ps sho trends As usual, Spring sees the ion victim, it is crucial that you judge fash a e om bec to not er ord in er, wev le latest trends. Ho nt your lifestyle? Will you be comfortab me ple com y the Do ? you t sui y the do objectively: m? wearing them? Where will you wear the drobe: hlighted two ways to update your war hig e hav we d, min in ns stio que se the With erimenting with a new texture. by introducing a new colour and by exp

Get the blues...

to navy, introduce some electric From turquoise to teal, from sky blue ment top, scar f or piece of jewellery. colour to your wardrobe with a state

Shoulder zip jersey top £32 Rare

Aqua boho ring £8 Accessorize Et Vous blue kimono jumper £18 Matalan

Editor’s Choice

Cobalt silk ruched

detail utility dress £45 Principles

Dreamy and romantic...

Experiment with new shapes and textures with these floaty, ruffled dresses, easily worn as tops... Everyone is making a fuss about harem pants - the ‘unwearable trend’ - but as we’ve been wearing shalwar for centuries, we’ll keep right on doing it! Update them with a fitted top and gladiator sandals for relaxed weekends at home. Here are some of the shop versions:

Petal dress £85

Chiffon satin ruffle dress £36 Rare

Mint silk harem pants £35 Wallis

Black harem trousers £59 Principles

SISTERS Note: Please note that the above fashion ideas are intended for hijab-free environments. Please use them responsibly.

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STYLE TIPS Wardrobe Basics For Every Muslim Woman

Never feel that you are looking your best? SHUKR’s Head Designer Tabassum Siddiqui is on a mission to arm you with an arsenal of staples to give you a foolproof wardrobe.

Day dressing has been left to the wayside. It is really sad to see the phenomenon of ‘Casual Friday’ being translated into ‘Casual Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday’. Hardly anyone puts any effort into the way that they dress. It has gotten so bad that when we open our wardrobes to actually put on ‘something nice’, there’s not a dress in sight. We’ve become so accustomed to going with the flow and dressing casually like everyone else, that we’re wearing trousers, tracksuits and trainers outside of the gym, pyjamas underneath our jilbabs, and at home it could be the same sloppy oversize t-shirt with holey sweatpants day in and day out. We may all want to be more put together, but it has either been so long since the last time you really looked and felt good that you don’t remember or even know how. Building a wardrobe with strong, stylish, classic staples is like stocking your pantry. The better quality of basic ingredients that you have, the better tasting and more nutritious your food will be. On the spur of the moment, you can whip up a lastminute meal that tastes like a five-star dish because you were prepared. The same is true about the foundation that you need to have to give you a polished look at any given moment – it’s about being prepared. Once you have your arsenal of basics, you can feel free to customise your wardrobe according to your taste and style. This list that I have created is to combat those recurring “getting dressed” crises and that sinking feeling that you get when you feel that you look sloppy or mismatched and not your best. This list is not the definitive, ‘last word’ on what should be in your wardrobe, but it’s a good start. Feel free to add, delete or switch items on this list. This list is not about dressing up for strangers, but more about improving your overall self-image. And when you are in the comforts of your own home, hopefully you’ll get into the habit of dressing up for yourself, your husband, and your family.

without lace. Yes, comfortable bras can be pretty. For the indulgent bra, this can be a push-up, plunge style, or convertible bra. Choose the style that makes you look and feel your best.

The arsenal:

Hosiery and leggings A few pairs of leggings in black and in a neutral tone, a pair or two of leggings in winter fabric, several pairs of opaque knee-high and opaque stockings with the full panty in the standard black and nude, and a pair or two of indulgent hoisery. Indulgent hoisery can include opaque hold-up thigh highs (with or without the garter belt), fishnets, and textured stockings. It’s very feminine and the final touch to your new bra and knicker set.

The underpinnings: 3 to 4 good quality, well-fitting bras plus one indulgent bra To build a great outfit it is always important to start out with a great base, meaning your bra and underwear. Get fitted for your size if you are unsure. Lightly lined bras in black, nude or blush, and white are your basic bras but they don’t have to be boring or unattractive. Buy them in sets with knickers and pick pretty ones with or

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7 pairs of underwear in nude, black, white, grey, and/or blush with smooth seaming in nylon/spandex Try a culotte, hiphugger, or bikini cut for a flattering fit. For those who must have a version of the granny knickers, then go for the ‘starlet’ high waisted knickers as they are much more attractive. For those wanting more daring cuts, by all means, go for it, but always make sure that all of the seats of your underwear are of 100% cotton. 2 slips A full length half-slip for skirts in black and nude. 1 piece of shapewear This can be a full body shapewear or a control top underwear for the abdomen area for the appearance of a flatter tummy.

Lingerie and pyjamas Be sure to have a few ‘indulgent’ sets apart

from your everyday pyjamas. These can be silky nightshirts, tanks and short sets, teddies or gowns.

Clothing: 2 black Abayas in a basic and formal style Avoid the polyester ones at all costs. Synthetic ones from the Gulf have a much better flow and no ‘cling factor’. Hijabs Invest in hijabs of good quality and in breathable fabrics - no polyester please. At least be sure to have two of each of the basic hijab colours (black, a neutral tone such as caramel, grey, white, and your signature colour) - one for work or every day and one for formal events. Also include two metallic toned hijabs in silver and gold for formal events. Don’ t forget to pair them up with stretch knit headbands to prevent your hijab from slipping. 2 pairs of classic dress trousers in black and grey I prefer grey trousers over black ones because everyone wears black trousers everywhere, all the time, and grey trousers are the other sophisticated colour antidote. 3-4 skirts in a variety of cuts A-line (or A-lined flared), full/circle, pencil flared, and pleated. Choose skirts in natural fabrics and blends and with a little bit of stretch is fine: linen, silk, wool, viscose, etc. 1 blazer There is a plethora of chic styles to suit every size and image. Choose a blazer in a black or neutral colour with an amazing cut and few details to function as a versatile

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piece in your wardrobe. If you wear a jilbab, then leave out the blazer and opt for a professional looking jilbab. Go for high quality natural fabrics such as linen, silk, wool, viscose, and blends of any of these. 1 trench coat A stylish rainproof trench coat that is impermeable for rainy weather. 2 classic white shirts These can be in almost any style. Avoid a boxy cut white shirt. A loose white shirt with princess seams can add femininity to a traditional menswear item without sacrificing modesty. A white shirt adds a refreshing crispness and polished look to any outfit. 1 Silk Shirtdress This is my personal favourite because it is longer and more modest than a short blouse. A shirtdress does not necessarily mean that it is a button-down. It can also be a silk tunic or dress that hits around the knees or a bit longer and this can be paired with wide leg trousers or A-Line skirts. This should be in a style that can be dressed up or down. It can be in white, black, neutral tone, print or in a statement colour. Look for silk blends and viscose blends. 2 day dresses Look for a ‘maxi dress’. Don’t overlook a beautiful short sleeve or sleevess maxi length dress. Add your cashmere cardigan (see next item) or blazer over it and you have a modest look. Go for silk dresses or silk blend dresses in a modern print or modern colour to pick up your overall look. There is nothing more feminine than a gorgeous day dress! 1 long cashmere jumper or cardigan This is an excellent investment. Another option and my personal obsession is the floor-length sweaterdress in a cashmere or cashmere blend. This is a Muslimah’s dream outfit: it feels wonderful against the skin; it’s lightweight; it’s long; and in the winter, spring or fall, it’s perfect and always on trend.

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1 pair of flared trouser style jeans I can already hear the groans. If you generally don’t wear jeans, it does not hurt to have a great pair to wear at home or with other sisters. Look for a pair with a longer inseam (around 84 cm) and a slightly low-rise contoured waistband which will be the most flattering shape on almost everyone. Also look for the slightly more expensive brands that specialise in jeans for women. A good pair of trouser style denim can be dressed up for a casual chic outfit. 4 fitted long sleeve t-shirts for layering Choose from grey, black, white, or beige. Later on you can add more colours. These can be in cotton/lycra blends, modal/lycra blends, silk/lycra blends, etc. For winter, add a couple of thermal shirts. 1 winter coat in a classic design A timeless winter coat classic is a camel haired coat in camel. This has been the standard for decades, so you can’t go wrong, but feel free to look for your own style, keeping in mind that your coat should last you for a few seasons if not more. 2 statement items or ‘Wow’ pieces A sequined or embroidered top or skirt, a printed scarf, etc. These are pieces that can accent and add personality to your wardrobe and look. For those of you who wear a jilbab, abaya, and/or niqab these can be items to have to wear at home or with other sisters. But there are other ways to have statement items in a subtle way. For example, instead of your basic black boots, you try on a pair of black patent leather colour-blocked low-heeled boots. It’s subtle, but it’s just a cut above the rest.

What’s it all for? I want to get across to you the importance of investing in yourself. When you go shopping to update your wardrobe, buy the best quality that you can, given your budget. Learn to be a connoisseur of high quality. It’s your money that you are spending, so shouldn’t you know what you

are spending it on? Visit high-end stores to check out clothes from the inside to see how they are made, try them on, and know what types of fabrics are out there. High quality, well-made garments are within reach and it’s just a matter of familiarising yourself with the brands that produce them. Break up your shopping into small purposeful trips. For example, this week is to buy your tall black boots. Next month, to buy your new bras and knickers. It makes your trips less stressful mentally, physically, and economically. Start putting money aside now to purchase the good quality items in the styles that you want. It’s never a good idea to get into the habit of impulse shopping. You’ll end up wasting a lot of money, something that hardly anyone of us can afford to do, and winding up with a top that you will wear once and toss, something that is not good for the environment. When you do get out there to shop, be sure you go with enough time. Many people think that making a good purchase has a lot to do with money. However, it is really time that you need to try on things; to find your size, colour, and cut. Also, if you must shop with someone, choose someone who isn’t anxious and who isn’t going to rush you, who likes to shop, and who can be objective. On a personal note, looking good really isn’t about vanity, but about our responsibility as ambassadors of ourselves, our families, and our Ummah. How you present yourself reflects those that you represent. So the next time you get dressed for the day, regardless of the occasion, give yourself a quick lookover in the mirror, and ask yourself, “Is this the image I want to reflect of myself, of my family, and of my Ummah?” Tabassum Siddiqui is the Head Designer for SHUKR who lives in Andalucía, Spain with her husband and divides her time between Andalucía, Damascus and her hometown in Los Angeles.

The Aab Philosophy Aab abayas and hijaabs take into account simplicity, style and comfort desired by Muslim women who find themselves playing multiple roles in today’s society. Distinguished by high quality tailoring, the use of natural fabrics and a relentless focus on the finest details, means each individual garment truly embodies the Aab spirit of beauty and gracefulness. Visit our online boutique at for your very own Aab experience.


Style File SISTERS looks at the latest news from the Muslim style scene.

Elenany: a new fashion brand inspired by Islamic art and culture

Contemporary and classic. Sophisticated and basic. Unique and familiar. SHUKR serves up Spring style as they know best with all of the great pieces men and women search for in breathable, easy fabrics such as linen and cotton. As the Islamic clothing pioneer since 2001, SHUKR has designed Islamic fashion for the modern Muslim, season after season.

New collections for Spring!

SHUKR provides 3 seasonal collections every year, Spring/Summer, Ramadhan/Eid and Autumn/Winter. Each collection comprises 100 new designs and 30 new designs are added to SHUKR's website every month.

Silk Route

Check them out at

Silk Route, the avant-garde fashion house, have their new collection of jilbabs online now. Don't miss them.


to view the collection and find out why everyone is talking about Silk Route.

Elenany is the brain child of product designer Sara Elenany who has created a clothing label that produces stylish streetwear which is acceptable to a Muslim’s desire for discretion and modesty. She says, “I tried to capture the spirit of the Muslim youth in graphics, then incorporated these graphics into the clothing”. The Elenany brand will mainly produce outerwear and kneelength dresses, with almost every piece incorporating its trademark graphics. Elenany will be launching this Spring via an online shop and direct sales events. In the meantime, the Spring Summer 09 collection can be found at:

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SHUKR celebrates 'Spring's Juxtaposition'

aab, home of the elegant natural fabric abayahs and jilbabs, have a new Spring/Summer collection available online.

Please visit them at

A new online shop for non-silk neckties As the Prophet Muhammad r forbade men from wearing silk garments, purchasing a classy tie can prove to be a problem for the discerning brother. This Islamic injuction against silk usually leaves our more debonair Muslim brothers fishing through necktie bargain bins at Poundland, elbow deep in all sorts of shiny nylon awfulness.

See the collection and sign up for updates at

Visit them at

No more. has the latest designs, colours and styles of neckties that look virtually indistinguishable from the non-Halal silk alternative.

Contemporary jilbab brand, Masoomah, adds to their collection this season with new designs being released fortnightly. Also, Masoomah now caters for tall and special size sisters by tailoring garments to their required size and fit.

Online shopping featuring secure payment and next day delivery make it easy to choose the Adeena alternative.

10% off at Saif Modesty Saif Modesty's new website launches in the first week of March, featuring an improved shopping process that includes zoomed product views. The company will also accept international orders.

Reader discount: Saif Modesty is offering all SISTERS readers a 10% discount on all products featured on the new website. Use code SISTERS10. Offer ends 30th June 2009. Terms and conditions apply.

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The Kitchen

Beautician By Sumayyah Meehan There’s nothing like the soothing warmth and scent of oatmeal to put you in the mood for rest and relaxation. Not only is oatmeal the perfect food but it is also a perfect tool for beauty.


Tangy grapefruit & oatmeal scrub Ingredients:


2 Tbl. whole oats 3 Tbl. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice 2 tsp. sea salt

Mix all the ingredients in a small container until it resembles a chunky paste. Now head to the shower! Dampen your skin with warm water and rub the scrub all over your body to remove dead skin cells and to brighten your skin. Rinse.

Lemony-ginger oatmeal mask Ingredients:


3 Tbl. ground oatmeal 1 egg white 1 Tbl. fresh milk 1 pinch of ginger powder 2 drops of fresh lemon juice

To cleanse oily skin and banish pimples from your face, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Apply to the face and neck for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. In case the mask is too thick or thin, you can either add more milk to thin it or add more oats to thicken it so it is at the perfect consistency.


Oatmeal purges the skin of impurities, improves texture and softens the skin. It also relieves dryness and itchiness. On top of that, oatmeal is super cheap and a huge tin will last FOREVER! So, let’s get your oats rockin’ and rollin’ by heading straight to the kitchen!

Red rose and orange oatmeal bath




1/2 cup oatmeal Petals from one fresh red rose Half of an orange – sliced thinly

Take an old stocking or a knee-high that you don’t need anymore. Fill it with all of the ingredients. Tie the end off and BAM, you’ve just made a delectable bath treat that will woo and awaken your senses! To use, run a bath of very warm water. Plop in the stocking and yourself. Soak until all your tensions and worries melt away!

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Apply Makeup

Like A Pro

There are times when every woman needs to look and feel glamorous and gorgeous, be it her wedding day, for special times with her husband, for those sisters-only get-togethers where hijabs are removed and fun is the order of the day, or simply for herself! Feeling confident about the way you look can go a long way to bringing out your inner radiance and beauty. Afshan Qayyum of Hidden Beauty, a professional make-up artist, discussed the basics of foundation in the last issue of Sisters. With a clean canvas as the base, she now turns her attention to blusher and lipstick.

The basics of blush

Playing tricks with lipstick A lot of clients ask me “how do I make my lipstick stay?” and the honest answer is “don’t move your lips!” Lipstick will come off at some point. However, there are some tricks that can help it to last a bit longer. The key here is to have good conditioned lips to start with. Using Vaseline on your lips daily will prevent cracks and peeling.

As is the case with foundation and eye makeup, you get liquid and powder based blushers. Depending on your skin and coverage you would use one or the other, or even both!

When applying your foundation, you can also apply some on your lips. This actually creates a good base for lipstick. If however you want to wear gloss, try to keep the lip area clean.

Generally use powder blush for oily or combination skin and cream blush for dry. When applying powder blush it’s best to use a good size blusher brush. The angle blusher brushes are fabulous for creating a perfect finish.

It is always best to apply your lip liner before lipstick. Use the same colour lip liner as your lipstick and follow the curve of your lips. If you would like to make your lips appear fuller then apply the liner slightly outside your natural lip line. Another trick to give the illusion of fullness is to use a liner that is a shade darker than your lipstick, and to use lipsticks with a gloss. To make your lips appear smaller, apply foundation or concealer to your lips and create your lip line just under your natural lip line. Alternatively, choosing matt lipsticks also make them appear smaller. Either way, ensure that you blend both colours together using a brush.

Load the brush in a colour of your own choice. For darker skin tones, deeper colours like reds, plums and oranges work best while any colour works with lighter tones. After loading the brush, tap off any excess. There are two ways of applying blusher. The first is to smile which brings out the apples of your cheeks. Apply blush to the apples and then brush away from the nose towards the ears. The second way is to make a “fish face” which will accentuate the cheekbones. Apply the blush not directly to the cheekbone but rather just below it, using soft brush strokes starting at the nose and brushing towards the ears. The main trick here is not to look like a clown so it is best to apply a little bit first, blend, and then to add more if required. Try not to create a defined line. Blusher should bring colour to cheeks just as you would if you were to blush! Use circular motions with the brush to remove any harsh lines. Cream blushers can be applied in the same method, but with cream you can use your fingers or a brush. A stippling brush is perfect for cream blushers. Dip it into the cream, wipe off any excess on the back of your hand and apply as above. To apply with your fingers, dab a few spots over the cheek area and blend using your fingers.

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If you’ve gone a bit too heavy on the powder blush, a bit of translucent powder over it will calm it down. For cream blush, blot the colour off with a tissue.

Another trick to make lipstick last is to apply lip liner all over the lip and then apply lipstick directly on top. Many makeup brands have long lasting lipsticks which are ideal.

Afshan’s “take home” message to her clients Invest in a good brand makeup from makeup counters. Your skin is a great canvas and you would be surprised at the colours that can and will suit you. Try to creep out of that comfort shell and try new things. You’ll never know what works until you’ve tried. And remember, every woman is perfect and makeup is only there to enhance natural beauty. Contact Afshan at Hidden Beauty:

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In order to purchase the best products for your skin, you must know your skin type (see article in SISTERS Summer 2008). The most effective cleansers are those that are milk based. Once you have found the right cleanser for your skin, squeeze some into your palms, warm in your hands and then massage into your skin. Use your finger tips to get into all of those problematic areas such as around the nose and use your palm on larger areas such as the cheeks and the neck area. It is important to get the pressure right, don’t be too soft nor too rough. When you feel the product is beginning to drag on the skin, apply some more. This should take between 1-2 minutes. Repeat if necessary.

Step 2: Toning The purpose of toning is to: • Ensure complete removal of all cleansing product left on the skin • Refine skin texture • Close pores which were unlocked during cleansing • Help restore Acid Mantle which is a slightly acidic layer on the skin’s surface that serves to protect it from bacteria

Reveal your inner

Spring chick

Qualified beauty therapist, Humma Sharif, provides hints ad tips on giving yourself an invigorating facial

Again, it is very important to find the right toner for your skin. Toners vary in strength and action but all have a tightening and cooling effect on the skin. Place some tonic on a cotton pad and gently wipe over your face. Your skin may feel tight or dry at this point, but do not worry as this is normal. This should take less than a minute.

Step 3: Exfoliation Place some exfoliator in your hands and massage very gently into your face and neck using the same massage routine as you did whilst cleansing. After a minute of gentle exfoliation, wipe off the granules with a damp cotton pad. You may need a few damp cotton pads to remove the entire product. This should take between 2-4 minutes, depending on the condition of your skin and your skin type.


pring is the season of new beginnings, a fresh start and a new you! Now that the cold winter months are behind you, this is the time to rid your skin of those wintry blues and reveal the spring chick that has been in hibernation.

Here is a step by step guide on how to carry out an invigorating facial on yourself. You will need: cleanser, toner, exfoliating scrub, massage medium (oil or cream), face mask, moisturising cream and cotton pads. Before you begin, ensure your hands are washed and clean.

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Step 1: Cleansing

Step 4: Mask /Masque

The aims of cleansing are to: • Remove traces of make up • Remove surface dirt • Remove dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin • Unblock congested pores • Stimulate / strengthen skin tissue • Improve circulation • Improve skin colour and cell regeneration

There are many masks available out there and the best way to find the right one for you, is to look at your skin type and ask yourself what you want the mask to achieve for your skin. For example, if your skin is dry and you want a mask that provides moisture for your skin, then you go for a moisturising mask. If you have oily skin that gets quite spotty, then you want a clay mask that will act as a deep cleanser to draw out spot-causing impurities. ‘Paint’ the mask all over the face and neck area for the time specified in the product’s instructions. However, if you feel any stinging sensation

on the skin, the product should be washed off with cool water immediately.

Step 5: Massage The purpose of massaging the face is: • To tone and strengthen facial muscles • To improve circulation • To improve skin tone and colour • To relax! This is the most relaxing part of the facial. Ideally you need someone else to take over on this step but if you haven’t got anybody to do this then it is perfectly fine to do this yourself. Firstly you need a massage medium. This could be either a massage oil or a cream. You need to warm the oil in your hands and then give yourself a much deserved relaxing facial massage. There is no hard and fast rule about the massage movements as every therapist has her own technique. However, the important thing is that you apply the right pressure using all the different parts of your hands, for example using the palm of your hand on the cheek area, the knuckles around the jaw line, intense strokes on the chin area and the finger tips around the eye sockets. Just as you did whilst cleansing, it is important to use the right pressure. It is also important that you use a generous amount of massage medium during the massage routine and when you feel the product dragging, apply more. This should take around 10-15mins. Then with some toner on a cotton pad, wipe the excess product off the skin.

Step 6: Moisturise Before you apply moisturiser to the face, give your skin about a minute or so to calm down. Now you may apply some light moisturiser ever so gently onto the skin. Note: You may find that you break out in a spot or two a few days after your facial. This, however, is nothing to worry about; in fact it is a good sign as it means that your skin is still active. To avoid anything serious like burning sensations, irritations or reactions, it is very important that you find the products that suit your skin. If you are unsure, then I would advise that you opt for products that are formulated for mild or sensitive skin. And there you have it, your inner Spring Chick! Look yourself in the mirror and be amazed... masha Allah!

Humma Sharif is a qualified Beauty Therapist who is currently training as a Homeopath at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

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Tastes Explore new recipes or brush up on old favourites with the delicious selection of food articles and features in our Tastes section

ious... Delicious... Delicious...

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Part y

The Ultimate

beaded key ring that had been custom made for the occasion – a beautiful keepsake of years of fitness and fabulous company.

Colour therapy Planning the menu and cooking together were great fun and went off really smoothly. We really wanted the ladies to feel special and to feel they were worth going to these lengths for. Take a look at our menu, please note how we tried to keep elements from our colour theme in our choices of starter, juice and dessert. Carrot halwa in phyllo pastry baskets Grilled Shrimp or Masala Chicken with savoury rice Vegetables in Butter sauce Garden Salad Fresh Medley of Fruit Juice Malva Pudding baked in individual gold cupcakes Jam and coconut mini cupcakes Tea or coffee We served the phyllo baskets at the table, but set the rest of the food into glass dishes with silver lids so that we would not have to worry about dishing up into platters and could instead sit together with our team to enjoy the good food, good weather and great company!

Twelve years of cricket means a century to celebrate… An indoor woman’s cricket team pays tribute to over a decade of sisterly fitness and fun by entertaining in style.

We saved the dessert for after the fun and games.

Player of the match

We are a group of women aged between fourteen and the mid fifties, who together make up an indoor cricket team, the High Flyers. We play every Thursday afternoon in a hijab-friendly environment. Every so often, we have potluck parties, either at someone’s home, or out in the park. But this past year was special. It sparked a momentous point in our journey, our twelfth anniversary. Our captain deemed this achievement worthy of a great celebration and approached me and a few of my teammates to plan a surprise party for our team.

Preparations... As the date drew closer we sent out invitations informing the team of the date, time and dress code - glamorous and gorgeous style but the venue and the itinerary were to be a complete surprise.

Amazing race or wild goose chase? In what was probably the most enjoyable part of the party, we handed out a long poem, several stanzas long, giving clues as to the venue. Take a look at the first two stanzas:

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Where to? Where to? Oh, dear me, whatever shall I do Ladies, don’t stress, we’ll take you there more or less. Let’s have some fun, before you find your place in the sun. A journey, a destination, will it be a park or a station? Remember your code of dress, Eastern or Western, we are out to impress. Start your motor at your local one stop convenience store, Down to furniture, appliances and lots more. Pass your world of knowledge and health, And continue with stealth. It may not be exceptional poetry, but for a treasure hunt with encrypted clues, it was sheer genius. We all live in the same suburb, so the treasure hunt drew on a circuitous route through familiar landmarks. Some of the clues were: passing the house where 3 spirits dwelled (a humorous reference to the church in our suburb), driving into India (into a street called Agra), down its most famous landmark (Taj Mahal Street) and finally driving to the street of the writer of The Prophet (referring to Khalil Gibran, and to Gibran street). “We will meet at the House of Gemini” was probably the most cryptic of all the clues – but pretty straightforward actually when you consider that the house is home to twin girls.

Some ladies got lost, and needed to pair up to solve the mystery. Others drove around with their husbands, drawing their families into the excitement as they tried to figure out where the party would be held.

No running shoes today My husband was banished from the house that day so that the ladies could have a chance to really dress up and accessorise. We opened the door and were completely swept away with the way everyone looked – they had taken so much time to look their best for this day. Hijabs were laid aside and everyone was ushered into the garden where the tables were set.

Trading in the cricket pitch Several tables were placed together in the centre of the garden so that we could all be seated together. Our colour theme was gold and tangerine – and we carried this out from the tablecloths to the food. Beautiful embossed tangerine tablecloths decked the tables which were centred in the garden. Chairs were covered in white organza with tangerine ribbons. Gold charger plates were used beneath the white china, and for the centrepiece we used metre-high vases entwined with an orange beaded garland – and two goldfish swimming merrily therein. Beside each plate was a

Remember the fond memories you have of your childhood games and playmates? Why do we ever stop playing? We had several games lined up, from hoola hoops to brain games. In one of these games, we grouped everyone into three and they had to hold a balloon each between them and try to pop it by pressing as hard as they could. We had some inexpensive but fun prizes, like garish earrings and other budget store finds to hand out to the winners. Coffee or tea was served when everyone was breathless and needed to wind down. Desserts were brought out – malva pudding baked in gold foil cups and mini cupcakes that had been coated in jam and coconut and topped with cream. As the afternoon came to a close, hardly anyone wanted to go home. Those without urgent commitments (such as returning to nurse a baby), lingered behind to lend a hand to tidy up. We are a strong team with a strong bond – but this day just made us closer. When we started out the team twelve years ago, our youngest member today was two at the time. There comes a time when ladies can bond and enjoy one another’s company – regardless of the age gap between them – all you need to do is set the scene.

For more party tips and ideas, please visit and visit the Tastes section.

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Crunch Crunch Most of us are feeling the pinch on our purses as food prices rise along with everything else. SISTERS food writer, Clara McQuaid, has a few economical dinner ideas that you will surely look forward to after a hard day.

A Twist on Pasta Bake


Lots of veg, loads of taste and as filling as can be, this is a step away from the regular tomato and cheese combinations of pasta bakes. Although a few vegetables are listed here, you can easily add or substitute with whatever you have on hand.

This takes about half an hour to 40 mins to cook and is quite labour intensive as you will be standing and stirring for the entire time, but the results are worth it!

Serves 4 Ingredients 1/2 tsp olive oil 150g fusilli or macaroni 1 bunch spring onions, chopped 85g frozen or canned sweetcorn 85g frozen peas 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped 2 large eggs 150ml semi-skimmed milk 50g mature cheddar, grated 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan

Method Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Grease a 1.2 litre baking dish with the olive oil. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water in a large pan for 8 mins. Add all the vegetables and cook for another 2-3 mins until the pasta is tender and the vegetables are slightly softened. Drain, then tip into the baking dish and mix well. Beat together the eggs and milk in a jug. Mix the two cheeses together and add most of it to the egg mixture and season with a seasoning of your choice. Pour into the baking dish and stir gently. Lastly, scatter the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 35-40 mins until set and golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving with a green salad.

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Serves 4 Ingredients knob of butter 1 medium onion, finely chopped 250g Arborio rice Vegetables of your choice Grated chunk of parmesan (to your taste, I add quite a bit) 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock Squeeze of lemon juice Method Get 2 saucepans on the cooker. In the first you add your stock, keeping it on the edge of simmer. To the other saucepan, add a generous knob of melting butter to which the onion is added. Soften until translucent and sweet. Add the rice, coating it well in the butter and onion mixture. Add a ladle or two of the stock, enough to cover the rice and keep it bubbling gently. Stir continuously until the liquid is reduced and appears creamy. Continue stirring, keeping the mixture to a gentle simmer until the rice is cooked but still has a slight bite. Add the veg with another ladle of stock, stir and allow the mixture to reach a creamy consistency. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the parmesan and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with salad/bread. *For mushroom risotto, add sliced mushrooms after you have softened the onion, along with a few teaspoons of olive oil. After the mushrooms are sautĂŠed, add the rice and proceed as above.

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Advertorial Chicken Chow Mein Serves 6-8

Ingredients: 450g/1lb egg noodles 30ml/2 tbsp vegetable oil 60ml/4 tbsp vegetable oil 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced 3 spring onions, chopped 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped 175g/6 oz boneless chicken meat, finely shredded 50g/2 oz mushrooms, sliced 5ml/1 tsp sugar Salt to taste 30ml/2 tbsp light soya sauce Pinch of monosodium glutamate (Chinese salt) 90ml/6 tbsp chicken stock Preparation:

Chilli Con Carne This is a fast and satisfying evening meal that can be made in larger quantities and frozen. You may want to rethink the chilli measurements (I have been know to omit it entirely) if you have delicate little sprogs to think of. Regardless, it tastes great both ways. Serves 4 adults Ingredients 1 tbsp oil 1 large onion 2 red peppers 2 garlic cloves, peeled 1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder (or less if you prefer mild) 1 tsp paprika 1 tsp ground cumin 500g lean minced beef 1 beef stock cube 400g can chopped tomatoes 1 tsp sugar 2 tbsp tomato purée 410g can red kidney beans soured cream (optional) and plain boiled rice to serve Method Dice the onion as small as you can. Cut the pepper into bite size chunks. Heat the oil and cook the onion for 5 minutes, or until they are soft and slightly translucent. Tip in the garlic, red pepper, chilli,

paprika and cumin. Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, brown the mince. Turn the heat up a notch, add the meat to the pan so it’s sizzling and break it up with your spoon. Keep stirring for at least 5 minutes, until all the mince is separated and there are no pink bits. Make sure you keep the heat high enough for the meat to fry and become brown. Dissolve the stock cube into 300ml/1⁄2 pint of hot water and pour into mince mixture. Add the can of chopped tomatoes. Add in the sugar as well as a good shake of salt and pepper. Stir in about 2 tbsp of tomato purée. Simmer gently at first, gradually bringing to a boil. Stir well and place the lid on the pan. Turn down the heat so that the mixture simmers gently, and leave for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring to ensure that the sauce neither catches at the bottom of the pan nor dries out. The saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy when done. Drain and rinse the beans in a sieve and stir them into the chilli mix. Once again, bring to a boil and lower to a gentle bubble, without the lid, for 10 minutes, adding a little more water if it looks too dry. Taste a bit of the chilli and season.

1) Place the noodles in boiling, salted water for 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain once again and add 2 tbsp of oil and mix well. This will prevent the noodles from sticking together. 2) Heat 4 tbsp of oil in a wok and over medium heat; fry the onions and the garlic for 2 minutes. Now add the chicken and stir fry for 3-4 minutes and then add the mushrooms. 3) Sprinkle the sugar, salt, Soya sauce and monosodium glutamate over the chicken and cook until the mixture is fairly dry.

4) Add the noodles to the chicken mixture and stir fry well to mix. Then finally add the stock and cook once again until dry. Serving suggestion: serve with chilli sauce or dark Soya sauce. Variation: if vegetables are desired then 50g/2 oz of each: green beans, peas, carrots can be added along with the chicken pieces.

This recipe has been taken from ‘Culinary Delights from Around The World’ by Nadia Hamid Bring the taste of the world to your plate! From exotic flavours of the East to the specialities of the West, from simple dishes to lavish feasts there’s something for everyone to try and enjoy all in an easy to follow format with the emphasis on enjoyment and simplicity. An impressive range of choice peppered with cook’s tips and advice. All the recipes contain halal ingredients. Available online at:, Waterstones, WHSmith and Borders

Replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave the chilli to stand for a further 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to mingle.

Or can be purchased at all good bookshops by quoting the title and ISBN


ISBN 978-1-906710-14-9 RRP IS £8.99 For bulk purchases please contact the publishers on 0845 108 0530 or email For more information please visit

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Baking Fix: Time for High Tea This issue, Clara McQuaid invites us to indulge in that most English of traditions: the afternoon tea. Afternoon tea anyone? A quintessential English tradition, afternoon tea, traditionally served around 4pm, has been resurrected in the contemporary world. Most of the top end hotels in the UK offer tempting versions complete with delicate, tiered cake stands

and china cups and saucers. They usually include some elegant finger sandwiches as a small savoury element. I have neglected the sandwich part, to be left to your own discretion. Now you can create a Pride and Prejudice feast in your own kitchen.

Welsh Cakes Another great Welsh contribution to the world. Fantastic with a cup of tea. Ingredients 200g plain flour 100g butter 75g castor sugar 85g sultanas 1/2 tsp mixed spice Pinch of salt Milk 1 egg Castor sugar for sprinkling

Sticky Ginger Cake Ridiculously more-ish. Moist and full of flavour. Serves 8 Ingredients 225g self-raising flour 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1 tbsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground mixed spice 115g butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing 115g dark muscovado sugar 115g black treacle 115g golden syrup 250ml whole milk 85g drained stem ginger, finely grated 1 egg

Scones My childhood memories are awash with scone smells and tastes. My son likes cutting out the dough, just like I did with my granny. Pass on the love. Makes 12 Ingredients 225g (2 cups) self-raising flour plus extra for dusting 1 tsp baking powder 55g (1/4 cup) butter 25g (5tsp) castor sugar 150ml (2/3 cup) milk Method Preheat the oven to 220c (this is very important, your oven needs to be at the full temperature when you put the scones in). Grease a baking sheet well. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir to mix. Rub in butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Make a well in the mixture and pour in the milk. Using a dinner knife, mix everything together until dough is soft, but not sticky. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead lightly.

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Pat dough out to a thickness of 3cm. Using a cutter (around 5cm), cut out 12 scones. Arrange on the baking sheet and brush the tops with a little milk. Bake for 10-12 minutes until well risen and light brown.

Icing 50g icing sugar, sifted 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest 1 tbsp lemon juice

Method Put flour and spice into a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and sultanas. Beat the egg and add to the mixture along with a little milk, just enough to bring it together into a firm dough. Roll out the dough till about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out the cakes using a round cutter. Grease a griddle or a heavy-based frying pan. Cook the cakes for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Cool and sprinkle with castor sugar. Some people put butter on them, some like jam, but most seem to prefer them without anything.

Method Preheat the oven to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4. Butter and line an 18cm round, 7cm deep cake tin with greaseproof or parchment paper. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all the spices into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Put the sugar, treacle, syrup and milk in a medium saucepan and heat, gently stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to just below boiling point. Add the stem ginger to the flour mixture, then pour in the treacle mixture, stirring as you go with a wooden spoon. Break in the egg and beat until the mixture is combined and it resembles a thick pancake batter. Pour this into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out fairly clean. Leave to cool completely in tin before turning cake out. If you intend to freeze it, wrap in greaseproof paper, then in cling film. Freeze for up to one month. To make the icing, mix together icing sugar and lemon zest, then gradually add lemon juice until you have a smooth, slightly runny icing, adding more juice, if needed. Drizzle icing over cake. Cake keeps for up to 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container.

Remove to a wire rack and cover with a cloth while they cool. Serve with butter, whipped cream or clotted cream and jam. Variations When the dough is ready, rather than keeping it plain, you can add some sultanas, or my favourite, some halved glace cherries, according to your taste. For savoury cheese scones, omit the sugar and instead add 60g (1/2 cup) grated cheddar cheese.

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Reader Recipes


family food! “This is a favourite family recipe that I learnt from my mother,” says Mariam Aboelezz. “This is a traditional Egyptian dish with a twist. The additional vegetables provide extra nutrition as they pack this dish with vitamins and protein. In three easy steps, you can whip up this deliciously nutritious

soup to warm you on those cold winter evenings!”

Lentil soup

Serves: 8 as a starter; 4 as a main dish Preparation time: approximately 45 minutes

In the first part of our new series showcasing readers’ recipes, SISTERS readers from around the world share their foolproof family recipes, ones that guarantee full bellies and smiling faces every time. Enjoy!

Ingredients 1 cup (200g) red split lentils, washed 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in half 1 small potato, peeled and cut in half 1 celery stick, cut in half 1 large tomato 2 large cloves garlic, peeled 2 vegetable stock cubes 1/2 tsp cumin Sprinkle of ground ginger (or grated fresh ginger) Sprinkle of ground cinnamon Sprinkle of ground cloves 4 cardamom pods Salt and pepper Croutons for serving 1/3 cup (50g) short vermicelli, lightly roasted in 2 tbsp vegetable oil (optional) Method 1. Place all the vegetables and lentils in a large pot and cover with water. Simmer on a medium heat for approximately 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked through. 2. Blend the cooked vegetables and water in a food processor into a smooth purée and return to pot (you might have to do this in batches). Alternatively use a hand blender. Add more water to reach the desired consistency (most people prefer it thick!). 3. Place pot on a low heat and add the vegetable stock, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Stir for 5 minutes until the stock cubes have dissolved completely. Season to taste. Serve warm with a separate helping of croutons.

Grandma’s corned beef stew served with coconut sweetcorn rice Umm Zakariyya, one of our longstanding SISTERS team members, serves up this “quick, easy, tasty” stew. “These are all store cupboard ingredients,” she says, “and the stew goes a long way. It serves about 4-6 depending on how much stew is eaten with the rice. What is great is that it can always be doubled for larger families or the leftovers served the next day.” Ingredients 1 tin of corned beef 1 tin chopped tomatoes 1 large onion, chopped 1 tsp garlic powder/ 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 tsp black pepper 1/2 tsp sugar 1 tsp of chilli powder or to taste 1 fish stock cube or any stock cube 1/2 tsp tandoori powder (optional) 190 ml (6 fl oz) of water Oil for frying 1 egg (optional) Method Brown onion in oil until soft. Add the garlic if using fresh. Add the tin of tomatoes, bring to boil, add all dry ingredients and stir. Turn down the heat and cook until the oil separates from the sauce. Chop corned beef into large chunks and add to the tomato sauce. Add water to prevent the sauce sticking to the pan and to achieve the desired consistency. Cook gently for 15 minutes. Add an egg and stir this into the stew, if liked. Serve and eat with rice and salad. Coconut and sweetcorn rice Cook the rice as you normally do. To get the coconut flavour, add a cube of creamed coconut, a knob of butter and half a tin of sweetcorn to the rice.

Sister Fozia Ahmed, a reader from South Africa, sent us her recipe for “tasty, tasty chicken - perfect with roti or chips.”

South African roast chicken Ingredients 1 chicken (approximately 1 kg), cut as desired, washed 1 full tsp salt 1 tsp turmeric 2 tbsp ginger garlic masala 1/2 cup lemon juice 1/2 cup good thick tomato sauce (ketchup) 3/4 cup oil 1 tsp crushed dhania (coriander) if available

Method Mix together all spices and oil until combined. Marinate chicken in spices for 1 hour then cook on high heat for 10 min. Lower heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Serve with roti or chips and a green salad.

Suggestion: Add vermicelli to the blend at the end of step 2 for a more savoury mixture.

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From Trinidad, in the sunny Caribbean, Nadia Ali offers her twist on a Caribbean favourite.

One pot chicken pelau She says: “This is one meal I can always count on. It’s easy to prepare, economical and the whole family enjoys it especially as I use lentils instead of black-eye beans as used in the original recipe. Served with a fresh green salad or coleslaw, it’s great when we can’t decide what to eat.”

Ingredients 2 chicken breasts 1/2 cup lentils 2 cups rice 1/2 diced onion 4 cloves garlic 6 tbsp tomato paste 3 tbsp chicken seasoning 2 tbsp tomato sauce (ketchup) 1 diced carrot Method Pre-cook the lentils until semi soft with salt and some chicken seasoning. Pre-wash 2 cups of rice and set aside. Cube the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. In a large pot, heat 6 tablespoons of oil with 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. Allow the sugar to caramelise before adding the chicken cubes. Toss lightly in the pot until the chicken is browned by the sugar. Add sufficient water to fill half the pot. Add the pre-washed rice into the pot with the chicken and water, adding the chicken seasoning, ketchup, tomato paste, onion and garlic. Leave to boil for about 30 minutes then add the lentils and carrots. Place the lid on and leave to cook until most of the liquid has almost been absorbed and the rice has softened. Turn off the heat and give the rice a turn. Serve with a green salad or coleslaw.

From Palestinian soil


Olive trees and their fruits have always been important to the Palestinian people. Now, Zaytoun, a fair-trade company based in the UK, is sharing Palestinian produce with the world. Zaytoun was started in 2004 by Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson who brought 200 bottles of Palestinian olive oil to sell to friends and family in the UK. Both women had been doing voluntary work in Palestine, working with rural communities on issues such as land access, checkpoint human rights abuses and village closures. Since then, they have imported over 170 tons of olive oil to a mixture of retail and wholesale customers, in addition to regional fair-trade and Palestine campaign groups. As a fair-trade company, Zaytoun helps Palestinian producers to achieve Fairtrade and organic certification, thus making their products more marketable to UK customers. Zaytoun’s founders say, “We believe in supporting the Palestinian people’s right to a sustainable livelihood with dignity, through trade rather than aid. We know that the farmers we visit every year want their stories told - both the tales of the extreme challenges for a community under military occupation, and also the story of their rich and vibrant heritage which has been handed down through many generations of farming families.” The company imports their flagship product, extra virgin olive oil, as well as a range of other Palestinian produce - olives, Medjoul dates, almonds, couscous and za’atar. Zaytoun’s suppliers are a mixture of Palestinian NGOs and fair-trade companies who collect, test, bottle and store the oil from many farming cooperatives in the West Bank.

Zaytoun’s oil is from cooperatives in the Salfit, Nablus and Jenin areas, whilst their dates are from Palestinian farmers in Jericho. Women’s cooperatives are traditionally involved with za’atar production and also couscous preparation. Zaytoun were sourcing couscous from a women’s cooperative in Gaza but it has been impossible to bring anything out of Gaza for the last two years. Cathi and Heather both hope that Zaytoun will one day become obsolete as a campaigning tool. They say, “We know that the income we create for Palestinians through selling their produce in the UK, and the social and environmental benefits that this trade brings to their land and their families, is not only needed by a people who have few other employment opportunities, but also by our customers here in the UK as a way to do something positive and creative to help a people about whom they care very much.”

WIN a year’s supply of Zaytoun’s Palestinian olive oil!

Question: Name three of the Palestinian areas from which Zaytoun sources its olive oil.

Email your answer to along with your name and postal address. Closing date: 31 May 2009

Contact Zaytoun on 0845 345 4887 E: W:

Terms and conditions: Open to anyone over 18 years of age. Open to residents of UK and Eire. One prize only of 12x500ml bottles olive oil will be sent to the first person with the correct answer to be drawn after the closing date.

Voices In our Voices section, we hear the thoughts, ideas and experiences of readers, contributors and guests.

It’s time you had a voice

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for a Queen

Measured to fit… Heba Alshareef offers a glimpse into her book, “Release Your Inner Queen of Sheba!”

My grandmother, may Allah have mercy on her soul, was a seamstress extraordinaire. In most of my memories of her, she is bent over fine materials, meticulously weaving her needle and thread with the precision of a surgeon. Her specialty was wedding gowns and she was renowned for her craft, not just amongst family and friends, but also to some of the most wealthy and influential people in Egypt and Europe (or at least their wives). Her stunning designs, attention to detail, and dedication to excellence was unprecedented and likely the reasons why she maintained such an elite clientele. The ladies she tailored the gowns for would come in for ajustement after ajustement (many peppered their Arabic to show off their French), or fittings that stressed the importance of her incredibly high standards. Between adjustments, my grandmother would put a dress away, refusing to work on it until its owner came in and tried it on. As a young girl, it was fascinating for me to see the final product, always true works of art, but the lengthy

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process seemed to take so long, it was almost unbearable. I could barely wait, and would ask why she just didn’t keep going? Why did she have to wait for the fitting results? Even the ladies would urge her to continue on, saying that the constant appointments weren’t necessary, that they trusted her to produce perfection. But she insisted. There would be no further progress on a gown until the bride came in for the fittings my grandmother requested. It was her way. She didn’t know shortcuts. And she had the experience and foresight that went beyond the impatience of a young girl or an anxious bride. Oftentimes, the fittings would mean more work for her, seams would have to be taken in or out and alterations could be hazardous to the pattern or the beading. But the end result was always breathtaking. Her masterpieces are still being passed down through the generations. I often wondered how she kept going, even into her seventies, physically frail and after illness had depleted her. Day in and day out, stitch after stitch, ajustement after

ajustement, she kept on. Have you ever tried producing a wedding gown? If you’ve attempted to purchase a higher end one, and found the prices shocking, it’s likely so because of the sheer amount of physical labour that is put in and the delicate handiwork involved. How did she do it? She was a testament to the power of motivation. And I think she can teach aspiring queens of Sheba a thing or two on the subject; specifically how to stay the course, and how to keep at it. From my recollection (and a few well documented success principles), my grandmother did it by:

1. Keeping the end in mind. Have a clear picture in your head of what you want to have happen, what you’re working towards. My grandmother’s sewing room (and much of her home) was storage space for literally hundreds of sewing magazines with full glossy pictures. Her favourite was the German one Burda and sometimes I thought she

kept them just so I could happily pour over them in all hours of the night. A young girl and fashion magazines can be a lethal combination. But I digress. The point is that my grandmother knew how the end gown would look like when it was finally complete. She knew it because she’d seen it. It’s why she could do a fitting and know precisely whether she was moving towards the precious end product or not.

2. Remaining focused. When you have committed to doing something, have made it a priority, and are actively working towards attaining it, make sure that you aren’t distracted from the goal at hand. Fight off any temptation to jump to something else or to juggle too much at one time. My grandmother understood this well. Sewing was her thing. She didn’t know much how to cook or clean- and if she was working on getting to a certain point with a gown, there was no way she would put it down until she felt that

she’d accomplished what needed to be accomplished for that particular sitting. Of course, she had her rules. No sewing on Fridays was the big one. She’d heard a sheikh say that working on Fridays was forbidden in Islam, and she wouldn’t budge when others tried to clarify that it was only during the Friday prayer times. But honestly, she needed the rest. And if you’re diligently following the ‘it’s good to be queen’ protocol, then you know that she certainly needed this time. And if I told you that her favourite gifts to give to others were warm, velvety blankets and fine chocolates, would you believe me? I kid you not. Indeed, the things we inherit from our mothers and grandmothers!

3. Measuring. Ajustement. This is perhaps the most critical point of all, because indeed “that which is measured improves.” Obviously, for a seamstress, the likelihood of how well the dress fits its intended owner is the epitome of whether it’s a success or not. And the progress

from yards of fabric to picturesque gown is something that is visually tangible. You can literally see the progress. But for some of our goals, that might not be the case. We become haphazard and we don’t measure progress that we can’t see. Unfortunately, this sometimes makes us give up. If my grandmother had one dress that wasn’t working out - how would she know this? She’d see it by measuring. Then she’d have to decide if she could make the necessary adjustments or if she’d have to go back to the drawing board. The gown must go on.

Heba Alshareef is the author of Release Your Inner Queen of Sheba! Visit her online at

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When I learned that SISTERS was recruiting writers in early 2007, I immediately wanted to contribute. I liked the way the magazine was presented: “The publication is stylish but accessible and our voice is intelligent, sisterly and conversational, with a strong Islamic consciousness.” It sounded like a magazine I wanted to read. With this purpose in mind, I try to write for SISTERS as if I am talking with close friends over tea. I want the discussion to be intimate, thought-provoking, humourous and worthwhile. I want to have learned something and I want to have contributed something valuable. When the editors asked me to write a column for SISTERS, I was thrilled. I decided to call it “Tea Talk” to reflect this conversational tone and the fact that I am often sipping tea when I write. But launching a column is both exciting and intimidating. Where does one begin? After some deliberation, I thought it apropos to begin with “sisterhood” - something I have not always appreciated. Growing up as a non-Muslim in the West, I had many more friends who were boys than girls, and this was by design, not circumstance. I did not particularly like hanging out with girls. To me, girls were far more cattish, got into ridiculous arguments and were interested in many things I cared little about. Boys, on the other hand, were less vindictive, more up front and so much easier to get along with. Not surprisingly, when my parents wanted to enrol me in a private girls’ school, I declined. Ironically, later in life, and for reasons still not entirely clear, I chose to attend a women’s college. It was here that I grew to appreciate female friendships, in all its fullness. I realised that the traits I had so readily attributed to my gender were not universal, and that perhaps I had been a little harsh.

“Sit down, put your feet up, and relax,” says Julie Mair. “Sip your tea and let’s ‘chat’.” I realised that my desire to hang around boys might have had less to do with what we had in common, but more to do with the attention I received for being a girl. When I gave women a chance, I realised how much I valued their friendships. Becoming Muslim was another eye-opening experience in the friendship realm. The thought of no longer developing close friendships with unrelated males was foreign to me - I would even say unnatural. But as it turns out, I don’t miss it at all! It sounds trite, but my husband truly is my best friend. My girlfriends offer me support and understanding that I believe a male counterpart could never provide. I have never heard a Muslim sister complain that another sister was flirting with her husband, or that a brother had made an inappropriate remark to her. I am not suggesting that this never happens among practising Muslims, but I believe it is the exception that proves the rule. Even amongst the closest of sisters, disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to arise. Islamic teachings can help to keep conflicts at a minimum and “sisterhood” at a maximum. I try to keep the following principles in mind: 1. Credit your sister with the best intentions. Interpret a sister’s speech or action in the best of lights, even if you suspect her motives may be less than honourable. 2. Enjoin the good. Help your sisters to become knowledgeable, practising Muslims and allow them to help you. When giving advice be gentle and nonjudgmental; when receiving advice refer to the point above. 3. View your sister as better than you. Only Allah I knows the state of someone’s heart. We should not make assumptions about another sister’s faith based on whether she covers her hair or how she practises. 4. Focus on your own behaviour. Fulfil your duty towards your sister and forgive your sister if you feel she has not done her duty towards you. 5. Make du’a that you and your sisters will be neighbours in Paradise. All burdens will be lifted and hardships forgotten in Paradise. It brings me great pleasure when I am with my friends to think about us being together there. It reminds me how much I love them and puts everything into perspective. I embark on this new writing adventure with the hope that we learn together and deepen our bonds of sisterhood, and I make du’a that our “tea time” is well spent.

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J. Samia Mair is a freelance writer and has contributed to SISTERS since its inception.

You Are What You Say You Are Telling it like it is, Umm Junayd calls out to sisters to think positively about themselves.

“I’m too lazy to lose weight,” “I’m not clever enough to teach my kids”, “I’m too fat to wear that dress...” Have you heard yourself saying similar statements before? Maybe you’ve heard another sister talking in such a way? These are explosive assertions that are common on the tongues of women, and the question remains: why do we put ourselves down? People tend to put themselves down for various reasons. For some it’s a matter of low self-esteem, where they’ve been told they are a certain way so many times that they’ve adopted it. For some, it is a sympathy ploy to get others to make a counter-claim. For others, it is an inherent fear that they will disappoint people if they do not surpass their expectations. Whatever the reasons may be, downgrading ourselves is unhealthy and can have adverse effects on our personae. I have seen many sisters who have been held back in their lives simply because of the way they think about themselves. When you attach a definite trait to yourself, your actions begin to reflect that trait. When you say you’re too lazy to do something, you will behave lazily and fail to get things done. Likewise, if you say you’re not intelligent enough to pass a test, you won’t work to prove yourself otherwise for it is ingrained in your mind that you’re below par. The mind is a powerful thing, and the heart thrives on its thoughts.

Pumping your mind with damaging thoughts persuades your heart to feed on them and embrace them. It will not willingly let them go until you do. The most dangerous aspect of putting yourself down is that it’s hard to break the cycle. Even though others may compliment you, your certainty that you are the complete opposite prevents you from freeing yourself of the negativity that weighs you down. These thoughts obstruct you from venturing forth and attaining your dreams; they are hurdles that you must jump in order to move ahead in life. Holding on to such beliefs, will cripple your mind and force you to live up to them. The sad reality is that you will remain undervalued until you discover the value within yourself. Rather than degrading yourself, why not see yourself as a bird freeing itself from a cage of negativity? Once you spread your wings and fly into a world of endless opportunities by seeing your many positive attributes, you’ll find a flock of people wanting to fly with you to reinforce them with you. Dear sister, you are what you say you are. Spread your wings and take flight on a journey to positive thinking.

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letters EDITORS Assalaamualikum I am a third year student in South Africa. My mother and I searched everywhere for the latest issue of Sisters Magazine and alhamdulillah we stumbled across it in a bakery yesterday. Suffice to say, it was absolutely wonderful - the articles, the graphics, the layout was simply superb. Interestingly enough, it was the issue relating to marriage and love and as I am still single, I found it interesting as I too hope to be wed in the future. However, I do believe that perhaps you may want to add a few articles aimed at the young Muslimah. Sadiya

Wa alaykum salaam Sadiya Jazakallah khayr for your comments ... we are listening ... We have a dynamic readership with many single, young professional Muslimahs and based on feedback like yours, are taking their needs into account. If there are any particular topics and themes you would like us to explore, please send us a list... Wasalaamaulaykum

AAW! Masha Allaah the winter edition is fantastic, vibrant and pulsing with the energy of the deen fed by gifted women by Allah’s Will. Well done indeed. Sumayyah

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Journal from



For the past few years with young kids, I lived like a “mommy tramp” – sticky handprints on my pants, baby spit-up on my shirts. Going out meant throwing on an abaya, so I never took note or care of how I looked at home. I badly needed a change! Now, I have a personal shopper – well two actually, both Sisters Magazine and Tabassum Siddiqui! I have taken her advice to heart and out shopping with me. It has framed the way I bought bras, the kinds of tops I now look at, the friend I take with me (one with similar body shape, an honest opinion and who understands my budget so she won’t push me to spend more than I can afford to). I would never have thought I could wear a cross-over top, but after reading her article, I tried one on and it looked fab! Knowing what would work and what won’t means that shopping is a lot easier. Wedge heels, new bras, new cut tops have all made their way into my wardrobe and when we went shopping I find myself constantly quoting Tabassum. And I am looking at shopping differently since then. Assalamu Alaikum, Umm Ibraheem I’m a great fan of Sisters Magazine and would love to contribute to the progress it has been making. I am always looking Tabassum Siddiqui replies: forward to the next edition even before I’m through with reading the present one. May Wa alaykum salaam Allah bless you abundantly. I’m glad to hear that my tips have been Keep up the good work. helpful for you. I thought the same way about wrap tops and dresses until I Ma’assalam, actually put one on. When we see clothes Maryam S. Mohammed displayed on size 0 models, it’s really hard Abuja, Nigeria. to tell what would work on real women. Alhamdulillah, I am pleased that my work has helped you and I hope it can help many others. I strive to submit articles that will be of help to the sisters out there. I not only draw upon my design experience, but also from my experience in Psychology. Although my Masters is in Design, my B.A. is actually in Personality Psychology and I practised as a Counsellor for a few years in a Muslim high school as well as teaching. What I do when I address the questions from the readers, I also look at them from a psychological and sociological standpoint because that is what is really behind a lot of these surface questions. So if anyone mentions that fashion and style is fluff, you know that it isn’t.

Dear Maryam, Wa alaikum salaam warahmatullah JazakAllahu khairan for your kind words. The editorial team is constantly trying to improve the quality and content of the magazine. Letters like your let us know we are on the right track. We are also always keen to hear from readers who are interested in contributing to the magazine. Please send all such queries, article ideas and comments to and we will get back to you. Many thanks once again Na’ima B. Robert

Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee whose family has lived in refugee camps in Gaza since the war of 1948 when they were forced to flee from their home in Al-Majdal. She lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and four children: Mustafa, 8; Ahmed 7; Salma, 2; and baby Mohammed. July 2008 Once in a liftetime Najwa works for UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency – and for the first time in her life, her work took her to Jerusalem. Some might think that I am overreacting when I say that the two hour trip from Gaza to Jerusalem is not a short trip but rather, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trip was a window that opened suddenly to allow in the fresh air and joy of life, and one that I may never experience again. After I reached the office in Jerusalem, I finally met the colleagues whom I had spoken to over the phone but never met in person until now. They decided to take me on a quick tour around the city. I felt so overwhelmed with both excitement and anxiety that I refused to take a break or to rest even though I was eight months pregnant. We took the car and went around East Jerusalem. To my surprise, I found myself standing on the Mount of Olives, where in front of my eyes was an endless scene of beautiful landscapes. Past the trees and buildings, there it stood. So old and so new, so honourable and humble, an impressive and beautiful edifice. The Dome of the Rock. I had to ask myself, am I dreaming? Is this all true? How difficult it was for me to get here, to see for the first time this holy place in reality and not through photos or stories of those who had visited it before. The experience meant so much to me that I suddenly burst into tears. I felt that I finally found my inner peace. The holiness of the place affected my entire being, it captured my body and soul. I felt so weak and unable to resist, I was crying like a baby who finally found what she had lost a long time ago. The mosque was there in front of my eyes, with all its holiness, mystery and secrets, something unique, and a wonder to the world in its carvings, design and architecture.

It was so beautiful, I wanted to watch and never stop, hypnotised by its holiness. I felt such an attraction to the place that I never wanted to leave or see anything else. My heart was pounding, terrified by the idea that this, my first time, would also be the last time that I would see it. Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

2 December 2008 Home sweet home Home for all of us is the place where we can find comfort, and love. No matter where we are or who we are, it is the place where we retreat to find solace and peace. I am a third generation Palestinian refugee, and I sorely feel the lack of a home. We live in Nuseirat Camp, a refugee camp in Gaza, where I have been raised; where my family before me was forced to live after they lost their homeland. The camp can never be my home. Although all my memories and my childhood were spent in the camp, there is always a feeling of connection with the original homeland. I had just spent one week in Jerusalem, and I was going home to Gaza. But more importantly, I was going enroute the place where my parents were born, the place that would have been my home if my parents had not fled during the war of 1948. When I first heard that my colleagues had planned this to surprise me, I started to shake and my heart started to beat fast. I was going to see the places mentioned in the stories of my parents and grandparents: the mosque at the centre of the city, the water well, and the fig tree - places which were carved in my parents’ minds and hearts. I was finally going to experience what it was like to go home.

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When we reached it, I felt that I could hardly breathe. I wanted to see every old house, to touch it and to hear the voices hidden between the stones. I wanted to see the lives of my family before the war of 1948; I wanted to be there with them, to see how happy they were, to feel the misery that lay beneath their feelings of loss. My parents would give up their lives for a moment at this mosque, to breathe the air of Al Majdal, to see the place that was once their home. I went back holding the sand that my father had asked me to bring. Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

27 December 2008 Gaza under fire The air is very heavy in Gaza; full of anger, grief and sadness; laden with the sounds of Israeli airplanes and the vibrations of missiles. In one hit 284 people were killed, more were injured and many are still missing. It is very funny how things turn in Gaza so quickly and how the destiny of my people depends on a dirty political game. I was home with my baby and my one year old daughter Salma. Ahmad was just entering the house, returning from his exams, when the bombing started. It was so sudden, and so continuous, everything was shaking, the windows, the walls, everything, even my children. Salma collapsed crying and asking for her father, while Ahmed sat on the floor and started to scream, asking for his brother Mustafa who was still at school. I felt helpless, unable to do anything, wondering what was going on and if the Day of Judgment had come. Were we going to die that day? The electricity was off, no phones, no Jawwal networks, nothing. I needed to call my husband, to call the school, but there is no way to do so. Then the news started to announce that they would be bombing all military compounds. I could not sleep and neither could my children. My daughter screamed and held onto me each time she heard a loud noise, telling in her own simple words “I scared. The plane it makes boom.” What could I say or do? Our home on the fourth floor shook every time there was an Israeli bombing, and so we decided to take them to their grandfather’s house. At ten o’clock the electricity finally came back on and I could see the news, the terrifying images of dead bodies lying on the ground. I counted one, two, ten, twenty … I could not continue counting beyond a hundred. Whose name will I read on the list? Oh Allah, what is going on? Are we so cheap? Does anyone care? Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

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31 December 2009 Migration within the camp

I stopped hoping for an end, my kids stopped feeling scared since they saw the photos broadcast on the news. Life has become

Words stand helpless in front of the continuous sufferings of the Gaza people, a continuous journey of migration, but this time the migrations are between camps in Gaza, and within camps themselves.

meaningless, not only for us but also for our children. We wait for the time when it is our turn to join the list, as an additional number, nothing more, but just a number.

My father in law’s house is small; you can barely find a place to sit comfortably without someone walking over you. When we arrived there, we found my husband’s sister and her four children who had fled from their home in Al-Buraij camp after they heard that the mosque near their home had been targeted. So, we were nine adults and twelve children in this small house. We finally have electricity, and I am trying to write before another hit occurs. I can still hear the sound of the Israeli planes which make me very tense and scared. I want to grow old, to have my kids marry and to see them have children. I want them to bring their kids to visit me and I want them to call me granny. Oh, Salma my sweet Salma, I still want to give her the advice she needs, I want to see her as a woman. I want to live a normal live. Mohammed is five months old now, and he has started to giggle and to smile his sweet, funny smile. I still want to hear him say mommy some day. Will I have the chance to do so? Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

6 January 2009 From a meaningless life to a meaningless death The sky is still as blue as I remember. I haven’t seen it for the past three days and I had almost forgotten how beautiful it looks on a sunny day in winter. I wish I could walk on the beach and enjoy some peace. We have left our apartment on the beach to move in with my husband’s family so that the kids do not hear the loud sounds of the explosions and wake up frightened and crying. I cannot give them any assurances that tomorrow will be better for them, and that they will be safe. They have stopped asking us when this is going to end.

With one wish: to die together so none of us will have to live with the bitterness of losing the others!

But it was not the earth that was to blame, but humans with a determined hatred and an insatiable appetite to kill. I could hardly recognise what had been a farm, a home, a school. Today I met with families who lost their homes, and heard the stories of women and of children. Over and over again, I heard the same question being asked: “Why us?” It was not our war, and it was not a war of one army against another. The “enemy” they tried to destroy were civilians in their homes, the enemy was mostly children.

Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

19 January 2009 Is the war really over? They said that the war on Gaza has finished. How amazing, that a war can be started in one single meeting, and finishes in one single sitting, almost oblivious of all the pain, sorrow, fear and anxiety that war can leave on those it was unleashed upon. With every war there are stories to tell, stories about the brutality of the conqueror. With every war there is a will to live and to survive in order to tell these stories. I am the third generation of Palestinians who have heard the stories of my parents and grandparents, stories of how they fled from their homeland, of how people lost their children, while others abandoned their children on the roads because they could not take care of them anymore. Fearful stories that shake you to the core. Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

25 January 2009 Going back to work It was the second day after the ceasefire was announced, and people started to leave their houses to see what has happened to the other places. I was on the taxi going to work in Gaza, and all the way I was trying to prepare myself for what I was going to see. But, it seemed, my expectations had been humble; reality was far worse. It looked as if the earth had unleashed its anger and turned everything inside out and upside down.

It was hard for me to listen to the children and see their shaky hands and their innocent eyes turn fearful as they told me about the horrible events of the past few days. It is hard to believe in peace, when it is a peace that we pay for with our lives and the lives of our children. Najwa Sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

5 February 2009 The aftermath Yesterday night I sat helping my sons with their studies, Salma playing around us, when we heard the sound of an F16, although still in the distance. Salma jumped into her brother’s lap saying, “I am too scared, a shelling.” Mustafa, my oldest, whispered a question into my ears, asking me if the war was starting again. It was the same question on my mind, a question I desperately wanted to hear answered in the negative. Yesterday my son Mustafa commented that if the Israelis started another war, he hoped we could die first and fast, to be saved from all further war. How can I comfort him and console him, when I feel the same? Because the times that I kissed my children in their sleep, asking their forgiveness for not being a good mother; the times I whispered in their ears how much I loved them – this was harder for me than the sounds of the bombing. The number of times that I had to look closely at their faces while they were asleep to remember how they look, were harder for me than the war itself. I am not going to handle going through the same feelings again.

Najwa sheikh, Nuseirat Camp, Gaza.

The kids would go to bed early to avoid the sounds of the F16 bombs. You cannot imagine how scary it is to hear the whistling of the missiles before they hit, to count the seconds before the bomb falls, and to wonder each time if you are the next target. Every morning when we wake up we thank Allah that we have another day to live.

Spring 2009 SISTERS 137


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The great trek for Gaza Sarwat Baig is a thirty - two year old mother of four children. In April of this year, she plans to do a 1334m trek up Ben Navis to raise funds for the people of Gaza. SISTERS caught up with her to find out more about her motivation, her intentions and her hopes for Muslims in Gaza, as well as around the world. So sister, tell us more about yourself. I am the manager of my home, which means that I cook, clean, vacuum, wash the clothes, do the ironing, change dirty nappies, and do the school run... I am pretty sure that many mothers can relate to this! Three years ago, after giving birth to my fourth child, I gained so much weight that my BMI (body mass index) was classed as obese! I realised then that I had to do something about it. I had only ever engaged in physical exercise once before and that was when I was in secondary school. Even then, my friends and I skipped our PE lessons whenever possible. Fortunately for me, within six weeks of working out, my weight just started to melt away. Not only could I see the difference in my body, I could feel it too: It was as if I finally had an extra spring in my step. When I had heard about Haroon Mota’s trek up Everest to raise money for charity, I was inspired. I wanted to do something similar. I wanted a challenge! What exactly are you planning to do? Insha’Allah, I am planning to do a sponsored trek for Gaza by walking up Ben Nevis in Scotland around the 15th-19th of April 2009. Ben Nevis stands at 1344 metres high (or 4408 feet) above sea level and is the highest mountain in the British Isles. The average temperature at the summit is one degree below freezing. Every year around 11000 people walk to the summit of Ben Nevis, so I am not the first woman to climb it. I am hoping to raise my target of £10,000, but even if I raise half of the amount, I will be happy because every penny helps. I don’t get anything out of this except that I will burn a few calories while I trek... insha Allah. But why Ben Nevis? Last year, my husband took me to Mount Snowdon in Wales. We could see the mountain from a distance, and as we got closer, the sheer scale of it blew me away... this was one massive rock! Snowdon is the tallest mountain in England and Wales. I looked at the mountain and said to myself, “If I can do this (ie. Snowdon), then I can do Ben Nevis!” It was a major achievement for me, and my hijab did not stop me from getting to the summit. I loved every moment of it, although some parts of the trek were quite difficult! What really amazed me was the number of men and women in their sixties who trekked up this massive mountain! You could tell that they had kept themselves physically fit and active, and that is something that we should ALL try to do! It was then that I decided I wanted to hike

Extra Special SISTERS up Ben Nevis in April 2009. So, I started to train immediately after Ramadan had ended, by training at the gym and going on long walks. Is there any message you are trying to send to people with this project? Muslims today don’t seem concerned about their health and fitness. We are not as active as our earlier generations were. Even when the Masjid is only a ten minute walk away, we will still travel to the Masjid by car due to our laziness. This can sometimes cause us to be lethargic in our Salaah and our Ibaadah. Seeing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and seeing images of little innocent children being pulled out of the rubble that was once their home, injured and crying out for their parents whilst being rushed to a hospital that was running dangerously low on medical supplies, was heartbreaking. This sponsored trek that I am planning to do is for Gaza, and in particular, for the children of Gaza. The people of Gaza have lost absolutely everything. Masha - Allah, thousands of Muslims are giving what they can to ease the suffering of the people of Gaza. People are now more aware than ever before about the history of Palestine and there is, I feel, a change of hearts and attitudes. How can anyone who wants to support your cause help? The charity that I am doing this through is Islamic Relief. Islamic Relief (IR) is an international relief and development charity, which aims to alleviate the suffering of the world’s poorest people. It is an independent Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded in the UK in 1984. I need people like you, the reader, to be just as responsive by donating, and you can do so online by visiting And if you can’t donate, then all I ask of you is to make du’a that Allah makes it easy for me to do this, that I have good weather and that Allah makes it easy for the innocent people of Gaza.

Treat yourself to an ice cream sundae?

Give your mum a hug?

Cry after reading an ayah of the Qur’an? Give dawah to a non-Muslim?

Spend some time just you and your dad? Plant a new plant in the garden? Smile at the sky? Sit down and inhale slowly? Memorise a new surah?

Dress up for the girls? Cook your favourite dish? Pause and thank Allah?

When did you last...?



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