I've been wishing I'd made my blog over at Wordpress for a while now because I like some of the features that are not offered at Blogger including password protecting selected posts. I discovered today that it is possible to import all old posts and comments from Blogger over to Wordpress which I have now done. I've also added all my links to the blogroll there so please visit:
Friday, August 22, 2008
Do you sometimes stop for a moment and consider the fragility of this life? That what Allah عز و جل gave so easily, He can take in the blinking of an eye? Our time in this life and the hour, no, even the minute of our death have already been written by Allah, عز و جل and yet we continue our lives procrastinating and leaving things for tomorrow or next week or next year when we have no knowledge about whether we will even be alive at those times.
Indeed we belong to Allah and to him is the (ultimate) return.
Every soul will taste of death. Then unto Us ye will be returned. (Qur'an 29:57)
Abdullah Ibn Umar used to say: "If you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive in the morning, and if you survive till the morning, do not expect to be alive in the evening." (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 425)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Looks like there has been an enormous amount of preparation going on in Makkah for the large number of visitors expected during the holy month of Ramadan:
Makkah city braces for huge influx of pilgrims
Badea Abu Al-Naja , Arab News
MAKKAH: Municipal authorities have made all arrangements for the huge influx of pilgrims and visitors to holy city during Ramadan, Mayor of Makkah Osama Al-Bar announced yesterday.
He said the municipality has formulated a comprehensive plan for its work during the fasting month, including the intensification of the activities of the municipality’s branches, particularly in connection with cleanliness, environment observation and close monitoring the markets to check prices[...]
I wonder how it will be this year in the Haram area since I hear there is a lot of demolishing and extending going on... I wonder if chaos can be avoided.
Huge numbers of people flock to Makkah during Ramadan, particularly during the last 10 days since it was said by the Prophet Muhammad ( صلى الله عليه و سلم ) that the reward for an Umra performed during Ramadan is the same as the reward for a Hajj (although Hajj is still incumbent on those who perform Umra during Ramadan).
The Prophet said, "Perform 'Umra in the month ofRamadan, (as it is equivalent to Hajj or Hajj with me (in reward)." (Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 29,
I always remember Heinz baked beans on toast and Heinz cream of tomato soup at lunchtimes when I was growing up so now they are a kind of comfort food for me. I love to overcook the beans so they become a little mushy and then pour the beans with their steaming orangey tomato sauce over a couple of slices of buttered toast and then... indulge! Or a tin of tomato soup heated until bubbly and then enjoyed with fresh hunks of bakery bread to dip in. Hardly haute cuisine but it really is comfort food!
I can't always find my Heinz tomato soup here in Saudi and besides I do prefer to make things from scratch these days and avoid all the hydrogenated fats and monosodium glutamate and other nasties that can be lurking in the food in the name of preservation or flavour enhancing.
I have an ill child at the moment who is not eating much but is craving mummy's tomato soup so today was the perfect day for a little soup making and bread baking. :)
Soups are so easy to make and are often overlooked despite all the nutritional benefit that can be found in them. Tomato soup of course would be a wonderful thing to make in Algeria right now with the fields overflowing with ruby red tomatoes bursting with flavour and the price is low.
The ingredients for a small batch of soup to serve 2 people:
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 bayleaf
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (if you have fresh, it would be better chopped finely and added at the end of cooking)
- 6 medium tomatoes
- splash of balsamic vinegar
- splash of Worcestershire sauce
- salt as required
- generous pinch of sugar
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- water - I used very little since tomatoes contain a high percentage of water... I think 500ml is enough but check the consistency and add to your preference
1. Chop the onion and garlic and saute in a tablespoon of olive oil along with the bayleaf and dry basil.
2. Meanwhile place the tomatoes into a pan of almost boiling water and leave for a couple of minutes. Drain the water and pluge the tomatoes into cold water. Remove the skins, deseed the tomatoes and then chop roughly.
3. When the onions have started to soften and become translucent add the tomatoes and salt. Leave on a low to medium heat, stirring every so often until the liquid from the tomatoes has almost dried up and then add the balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, sugar and a little water to make the mixture look soupy. Leave to simmer so all the flavours blend together.
4. Allow to cool a little before blitzing in the blender or liquidiser and return to a gentle heat. Taste to see if it needs a little more sugar to remove acidity or salt to season.
5. Just before serving pour in a little cream and swirl around. You can also sprinkle over a little freshly shaved Permesan just before serving and some chopped, fresh basil.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A big thing that motherhood and having five children around me has taught me is to value 'me time'; to relish solitude since it is something I get so rarely. It seems such a beautiful luxury when there is no sound at all in the house, when the older children are at school and the younger ones sleeping or if it is late in the evening and everyone sleeping.
Remember how the messenger of Allah ( صلى الله عليه و سلم ) used to retire to the cave of hira for a time of solitude and reflection:
A'isha, the wife of the Apostle of Allah ( صلى الله عليه و سلم ), reported: The first (form) with which was started the revelation to the Messenger of Allah was the true vision in sleep. And he did not see any vision but it came like the bright gleam of dawn. Thenceforth solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira' [...] (Bukhari, Book 001, Number 0301)
Ibn Taymiyyah, Allah yarhamahu, once said:
"What can my enemies do to me? My Paradise is in my heart. Wherever I go it is with me. My murder is martyrdom. My Imprisonment is solitude with
Allah. And my exile is tourism."
"At times, it is necessary for the worshipper to be isolated from others in order to pray, remember Allah, recite the Qur'an and evaluate himself and his deeds. Also isolation allows one to supplicate, seek forgiveness, stay away from evil and so on."
Do you enjoy your own company? Do you take advantage of your moments of solitude?
Time to reflect...
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Pasta: so quick, easy and versatile.
My three girls all wanted different 'sauces' with their pasta today but it was very quick and easy. Here are three simple things to do with pasta.
- Boil pasta in salted water.
- Meanwhile to make a tomato sauce, quickly fry 1 grated clove of garlic in a small pan, add half a can of chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of sea salt, and some dried herbs. I used a little crushed bayleaf, Pasta seasoning and dried crushed basil.
- Chop up 50g mortadella into tiny cubes.
- Grate 50g cheddar cheese.
Version #1 was pasta mixed into the tomato sauce with some cubes of mortadella added and then cheese sprinkled over the top.
Version #2 was pasta mixed into the tomato sauce with a little grated cheese sprinkled over.
Version #3 was pasta with a cheese triangle melted and a splash of water to help the cheese melt, the remaining cubes of mortadella stirred through and a generous helping of grated cheese over the top.
Later when my son woke up hungry, version #4 was pasta with a small knob of margarine, cubed mortadella - reheated in the microwave and then grated cheese sprinkled over - that was a 2 minute meal!What could be simpler?!
Friday, August 15, 2008
I have been Muslim for about 16 years and changing my name is something I have always been in two minds about. I was just a teenager when I accepted Islam and at the time it never occurred to me to change my name but over the years, meeting other convert sisters some of whom have changed their name it is something I have often thought about.
The reasons I did not change my name were:
- When I first accepted Islam it didn't occur to me
- I wanted to keep the name my mother chose for me out of respect to her
- I felt being outwardly Muslim, i.e. wearing hijab, yet having a very obviously Western name would be a good way of showing non-Muslims that Islam is not just for Arabs and Asians
- Keeping in mind that my name doesn't have any unislamic undertones, I didn't feel it was necessary to change my name to a 'foreign' name.
As mentioned though, the topic of name changing is one I mull over from time to time with the occasional sense of regret and I wonder if having a muslim name would give me a feeling of a stronger Islamic identity.
I say muslim name rather than Arabic name since I don't see the point in changing ones name from some perfectly acceptable non-muslim name to something like Jamilah (which means beautiful) or Wardah (which means Rose).
I found a few hadith relating to the subject and it seems that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) only changed new Muslim's names when they had an objectionable meaning or a meaning unbecoming to the person. An objectionable name could be an unislamic name such as Shaytan (Satan) or Abdul Shaytan (Servant of Satan), a name that implies that person has bad qualities such as Al-Munba'ith (one who lies), a name which is for Allah alone such as Malik Al-Mulook (King of Kings) or a name that gives a person too much prestige such as Barrah (piety).
Narrated AbudDarda': The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: On the Day of Resurrection you will be called by your names and by your father's names, so give yourselves good names. (Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 41; number 4930)
Narrated AbuWahb, Hazn ibn AbuWahb: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked: What is your name? He replied: Hazn (rugged). He said: You are Sahl (smooth). He said: No, smooth is trodden upon and disgraced. Sa'id said: I then thought that ruggedness would remain among us after it. AbuDawud said: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) changed the names al-'As, Aziz, Atalah, Shaytan, al-Hakam, Ghurab, Hubab, and Shihab and called him Hisham. He changed the name Harb (war) and called him Silm (peace). He changed the name al-Munba'ith (one who lies) and called him al-Mudtaji' (one who stands up). He changed the name of a land Afrah (barren) and called it Khadrah (green). He changed the name Shi'b ad-Dalalah (the mountain path of a stray), the name of a mountain path and called it Shi'b al-Huda (mountain path of guidance). He changed the name Banu az-Zinyah (children of fornication) and called them Banu ar-Rushdah (children of those who are on the right path), and changed the name Banu Mughwiyah (children of a woman who allures and goes astray), and called them Banu Rushdah (children of a woman who is on the right path). AbuDawud said: I omitted the chains of these for the sake of brevity. (Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 41; Number 4938)
Narrated Al-Musaiyab: That his father (Hazn bin Wahb) went to the Prophet and the Prophet asked (him), "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Hazn." The Prophet said, "You are Sahl." Hazn said, "I will not change the name with which my father has named me." Ibn Al-Musaiyab added: We have had roughness (in character) ever since. (Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 73, Number 209)
Narrated Abu Huraira: Zainab's original name was "Barrah," but it was said' "By that she is giving herself the prestige of piety." So the Prophet changed her name to Zainab. (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 212)
I'd like to ask those reading this who are also converts to Islam (or reverts if you refer that term), did you change your name? If yes, why? If no, why not? Do you have any regrets about changing or not changing your name? Do you think you gained anything from changing your name?
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Allah's Apostle said, "The taking of a bath on Friday is compulsory for every Muslim who has attained the age of puberty." (Bukhari: Volume 2, Book 13, Number 20:)
Narrated Abu Huraira that the Prophet said, "It is Allah's right on every Muslim that he should take a bath (at least) once in seven days." (Bukhari: Volume 2, Book 13, Number 21)
Narrated Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) The people used to come from their abodes and from Al-'Awali (i.e. outskirts of Medina up to a distance of four miles or more from Medina). They used to pass through dust and used to be drenched with sweat and covered with dust; so sweat used to trickle from them. One of them came to Allah's Apostle who was in my house. The Prophet said to him, "I wish that you keep yourself clean on this day of yours (i.e. take a bath)." (Bukhari: Volume 2, Book 13, Number 25)
Narrated Yahya bin Said: I asked 'Amra about taking a bath on Fridays. She replied, " Aisha said, 'The people used to work (for their livelihood) and whenever they went for the Jumua prayer, they used to go to the mosque in the same shape as they had been in work. So they were asked to take a bath on Friday.' " (Bukhari: Volume 2, Book 13, Number 26)
Thursday, August 14, 2008
A few random things that only take 5 minutes. What other suggestions do you have?
- Pray 2 rak'at nafl at any time of the day or night
- Read a page or two from the Qur'an in Arabic or your mother tongue
- Take 5 minutes out from a hectic day putting your feet up and enjoying a cup of tea
- Something that worked for me this week: the bedroom dd10 and dd7 share was m-e-s-s-y and they made no headway on the tidying, I was only hearing whinging. Soooo, I set the timer for 5 minutes and told them to tidy intensively for just 5 minutes and see how much they could do. The bedroom was almost tidy by the time the alarm sounded. 5 minutes well used.
- Make some silent dhikr
- Cyclone clean one room; pick up any things on the floor, quickly dust surfaces, spray some air freshener, plump up the cushions.
- Email a friend you haven't been in contact with for a while
- Read a short story to your child
- Recite As-Salat An Nabi: A person who calls for blessings on me once, Allah sends down mercies on him ten times, ten of his sins will be remitted and he is raised ten degrees.
We often complain that we don't have enough time in the day but there are so many things that require a mere 5 minutes.
I caught the Flickr bug and have started uploading a few photographs and thought I would test out the 'blog this' function for pictures so here goes...
Oh, and you can find my Flickr photostream here.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
It's already the 11th Sha'ban and with Ramadan a matter of only a couple of weeks or so away it's time to start preparing to welcome this blessed month and consider what I want to achieve this Ramadan.
All over the net I have been reading articles about Ramadan and how to be prepared; Oum Anas and Umm Raiyaan have written some nice pieces on looking forward to Ramadan that have made me think more.
- First and foremost of course, I hope to be able to fast all of Ramadan as quickly as possible; any days I miss due to ha'id I intend to make up immediately during Shawwal and if there is time I also intend to fast the 6 days of Shawwal.
"Whoever observes the Ramadan fast and follows it with six days of fast in Shawwal, it is as if he has fasted Dahr (the whole year)." (Bukhari)
- Read the whole Qur'an in English, one juz (thirtieth) per day. M. A. Abdel Haleem's translation will be my copy of choice, chosen for ease of reading, minimal footnotes, absence of exessive explanations in parentheses and the smooth way that the text flows. This translation has great reviews even from non-muslims. I will make this my bedtime reading.
- Aim to read at least half the Qur'an in Arabic. I still struggle with reading in Arabic those parts of the Qur'an which I have not memorised so I am setting myself a more realistic goal. In order to read the whole Qur'an in Arabic during the month of Ramadan I would have to read 6 pages after each daily prayer; I have set myself the task of 3 pages after each daily prayer...
- Pray Taraweeh at home with my older daughters
Narrated Abu Huraira:
I heard Allah's Apostle saying regarding Ramadan, "Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan)out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 32, Number 226)
- Be prepared with the cooking, get iftar (meal to break the fast) cooked early in the day and... keep it simple!
- Go on umra towards the end of Ramadan if possible.
The Prophet said, "Perform 'Umra in the month of
Ramadan, (as it is equivalent to Hajj or Hajj with me (in reward)." (Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 29, Number 86)
Insha'Allah we all have a healthy and blessed Ramadan.
Monday, August 11, 2008
More traditional crafty stuff...
The turquoise set that I want but we didn't get because we don't know how to get it home intact. :( There were far more pieces than this though; there were also couscous dish, oval fish plates, laban jug and mugs, large serving plates, beautiful latticed fruit bowl. I'm so disappointed! I now wish we'd bought it and brought it back a few pieces at a time, leaving the rest at my in-laws to collect later!
And some traditional Kabylie jewellery:
Sunday, August 10, 2008
For me, it's always nice to get home after being away for any period of time and this time was no exception. I was in Algeria for just over 5 weeks and we were all so happy and relieved to step in the front door last night.
It was a good journey; the first leg of the journey was from Algiers to Istanbul and took just over 3 hours. The airport in Istanbul is fairly cosy but well equipped so the first thing we did was to go to the prayer room and do our Zuhr and Asr prayers. After that we freshened up, changed baby's nappy and then went back to the prayer room to wait 10 minutes for Maghrib prayer and we joined our Maghrib and Isha prayer. After that we made our way to the lounge and it wasn't long before we boarded our onward flight to Riyadh. The plane was almost empty so I was able to move and have 3 seats to myself and lay baby down next to me instead of juggling her and my food when dinner was served. It was a nice meal which I was able to enjoy for once!
Our arrival in Riyadh was smooth too, the airport was quiet, no queues and long waiting at immigration so we got through to baggage arrivals quickly and since the plane was less than half full, the luggage came quickly.
A truly hassle-free journey and I think I have DD12 and DD10 to thank for making so much du'a and reminding me to do so too that day and the days beforehand!
Back to quite a mess and a very warm, dusty house but I am so happy to see my washing machine, tumble dryer, Comfort fabric conditioner that makes the clothes smell so delicious (!) and my bed. Also nice to have air-conditioning and not feel sweaty and melty all the time... Algeria is nowhere near as hot as Riyadh but the humidity knocks me out. Nice not to have 3 brothers-in-law and 2 teen nephews about the place too which means I don't have to live in my abaya and hijab.
It's the little things I appreciate after being away from home. We had a good stay in Algeria, it was nice to see the family but it's nice to be home.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Hammam Melouane is a small town at the foot of the Blidean Atlas mountains; 37km south west of Algiers. Hammam is the Arabic for baths and it is the presence of the baths with thermal spring water that gives the town it's name.
The drive from Algiers to Hammam Melouane is a beautiful one; as you turn inland away from the coast the scenery quickly becomes mountainous and you drive past fields upon fields of olive trees, apricot trees, orange groves already bearing tiny green spheres which will grow and become ripe by December, fig trees which have already been harvested for the first batch of larger figs - the smaller sweeter ones will come later, grape vines and prickly pear cacti which are interestingly named in Algerian although I am unsure as to why: they are called Qarnous Nasaara (Pears of the Christians) or Hindi (Indian).
As you enter the town of Hammam Melouane, you drive along a narrow road through the mountains and arrive in a populated valley with green mountains rising on all sides; these mountains are covered in snow during the winter.
If you pass right through the town, you will come to another mountain road and the stream which comes from higher in the mountains and people enjoy bathing there.
The actual hammam, Station Thermale, is reasonably priced at 120Dinars (6Riyals/75p) for adults and 60Dinars for children. The men's section is to one side and ladies' section to the other side. There are private rooms with a chair and bath so there's no need for communal bathing.
The water is hot and salty and full of minerals, rare gases, nitrogen, magnesium and iron. It is especially recommended for those with any kind of rheumatism; illnesses of the bones; joint pain; problems with the intestines, liver, pancreas and kidneys; circulation problems in addition to other conditions.
It is not recommended for those in the final stages of cancer, those with advanced tuberculosis and those with acute infections. *
On the main road through the town there is a busy street market and shops selling seasonal fruits, traditional clayware and other souvenirs and novelties.
A couple of hadith relating to Jumu'ah
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) said, "When the Imam is delivering the Khutba, and you ask your companion to keep quiet and listen, then no doubt you have done an evil act." (Bukhari: Volume 2, Book 13, Number 56)
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) talked about Friday and said, "There is an hour (opportune time) on Friday and if a Muslim gets it while praying and asks something from Allah, then Allah will definitely meet his demand." And he (the Prophet) pointed out the shortness of that time with his hands. (Bukhari:Volume 2, Book 13, Number 57)
Thursday, August 7, 2008
The traditional clay dinner services were gorgeous; the one I want is like the orange and lime ones in the pic below but in turquoise. The plate with a pyramid lid is for serving cous cous and the lidded bowl beneath that is for shorba (soup).
The clay plates in the photo below are tagines for baking traditional Algerian semoline bread, matlou'. There is the type with a plain base or the spotted one has a patterned base so the underneath of the bread comes out with a nice pattern.
Clay couscousieres... the bottom part is for making the stew and the top part is a steamer for the couscous, it has holes in it.
Beautiful, intricate woollen woven rugs:
Random tiling that you see around the place on walls and even around the outside tap in my in-laws house. This was just a tiled area on a wall and you buy this sort of thing framed to hang at home:
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The steps you can see leading down in the photograph below lead to the metro station although Algiers is still awaiting completion of that project.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I find our hijab shopping expeditions more successful here in Algeria than in Saudi. My 12 year old daughter prefers to wear the 2 piece slip-on hijabs which are hard to find in Saudi in anything other than black or white low quality polycotton. For around about the same price I pay in Saudi, I am able to find nice quality fabric hijabs in various designs and colours.
There is Sajeda hijab and abaya shop just near to the Amir AbdelKader monument and another shop called Qasr Al-Muhajabaat just before the Quick hamburger restaurant on La Rue Larbi Ben Mhidi both stocking a variety of hijabs priced at 350-500 Dinar (20Dinars = 1Riyal/160Dinar = £1). The navy hijabs we bought for school from Qasr Al-Muhajabaat were 350 each or 500 for 2. The same shop also had some 'Buy 1 get 1 free' offers.
My daughter chose a few hijabs including the one below.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Briefly, Amir Abdel Kader was, "... a political and military leader who led a struggle against the French invasion in the mid-nineteenth century, for which he is seen by the Algerians as their national hero." He lived from 1808 - 1883 and died in Damascus.
The monument below is a statue of the Amir and stands in Algiers on the Rue Larbi.
Algeria's first international fast food restaurant, 'Quick' is right next to the monument along with other icecream shops and cafes.
Oh yes, and we did go into Quick as dd12 was desperate for a cheeseburger (kids!). It was packed in there contrary to what I had heard about the place being unpopular and too expensive. A Double cheeseburger with french fries and a Coke was 270Dinars (13.5Riyals; £1.70) - maybe a little expensive by Algerian standards but in line with the price in Saudi and Europe.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Ketchaoua mosque (pronounced 'Ketchowa') which is at the foot of the Casbah has quite an interesting history. It was mosque then cathedral and then later, mosque once again. Originally it was built by the Ottomans but was coverted into a cathedral during French colonial times; it was restored back to a mosque in 1962.
"The Ketchaoua mosque (Djamaa Ketchaoua جامع كتشاوة), at the foot of the Casbah, was before independence in 1962 the cathedral of St Philippe, itself made in 1845 from a mosque dating from 1612. " *
The mosque has some very beautiful architecture as can be seen in the photographs I managed to snap.
You can just see the mosque in the picture below; there are crowds of people because the street just near to the mosque is the site of a popular market selling dates, clothing and other items.
Yesterday morning I sat with my sister-in-law for practical lessons in how to make M'hadjeb. It's something I have wanted to learn to make for a long time now so it's about time! M'hadjeb is similar in principle to the Pakistani/Indian Paratha in that it is a flat chapatti type of bread with a filling; in the case of M'hadjeb though, the dough is made from semolina rather than regular flour.
It is a very economical recipe at this time of year since semolina is a staple of North Africa and onions, tomatoes and peppers are in season and are cheap. Tomatoes are around 10Dinars/kilo (50halala/kg; 7p/kg)
The filling is made from equal quantities of chopped onions and peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes. Sauté the onions until soft, add salt and the tomatoes, some chopped green pepper if desired and you can also add chili powder or caraway seed if you like. Cook until reduced and rich in flavour.
For the dough, pour semolina of medium coarseness into a large bowl - for my trial run I just used about 1 kilo of semolina and a teaspoon of salt. Pour on some tepid water and mix briskly with the hands and add enough water to obtain a dough that comes together and is kneadable.
Turn the dough out onto the table and start kneading and keep sprinkling with drops of water and pummeling, stretching and kneading. You probably need to sprinkle with water every minute. Knead really well for at least half an hour. We kneaded for about 20 minutes, covered and refrigerated and then continued in the morning for another 15 minutes.
You should finally have a soft, elastic dough that is quite sticky. You'll find that it is easy to knead but if you leave it for a moment, it sticks to the work surface. To test, break off a small piece and stretch into a rectangle, it should stretch easily and become quite sheer.
Form the dough into even sized balls, about the size of a tennis ball.
They can also be made with no filling, and then sprinkled with sugar and eaten with coffee; these are Ma'aarek.