Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Semolina And A Sweet Snack...

I have never been a fan of sweets, especially authentic Indian sweets like laddus. Of course, one or two on an occasion would be a nice treat. But not more than that.

AZ is different. He loves these sweets; especially those from his hometown that Mum-in-Law makes. His sweet tooth is to the extent that he apparently used to have mouthfuls of them for breakfast almost every day whenever he went back to his hometown during his college semester breaks.

Ever since he's been here, his eating habits have changed. I have not been really encouraging him to munch so much on sweets; but of course, treat times are inevitable for us.

It's only natural I think, that I started learning how to make some of these traditional sweets. Nei urundai (translated as ghee balls) have been checked on the list. Have not shot photos as yet, but these were made from the ready-made mix (something which I don't really support as I like learning and preparing food from 'scratch'; makes cooking so much more 'homelier'.)

And rava laddu (semolina sweets) is the next one on the list that has been checked. Have been making time on weekends to make try out new dish.

The recent weekend, I gathered these simple ingredients for this simple sweet dish.

Just some ghee, semolina, raisins, cashew nuts, icing or powdered sugar and some cardomom seeds will be good.

All I had to do was to toast the semolina in a dry pan, and then heat up the ghee, adding in cashew nuts and raisins. And from there, added the warmed-for-awhile mixture into the semolina and made them into round dough. 

And they turned out well and sweet - to the taste buds and eyes, Alhamdhulilah. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

One Of Those Briyani Days...

You know there are some days when you would feel like having just rasam and dhal.  And there are others when you feel like having food bursting with flavours. And then there are other days you would like to pinpoint that bursting-with-flavours dish to be briyani.
Our most recent weekend was one of those days.

A beautiful weekend; and became more beautiful when AZ suggested I make lunch. These days, while I try and complete most of the housework on weekends, Mum still prefers to be ruling the kitchen. But today, getting up earlier than usual (only on weekends) and wrapping up weekly chores gave me more time to prepare dinner (because we had an early lunch too).

Mum decided on chicken; and I decided on briyani. I have long wanted to prepare a really spicy and simple at the same time,  chicken briyani. Erm...don't we all want to do that?

After looking up a few recipes online, I didn't quite find what I had in mind. I surrendered and went to  Mum. When the best cook's always with us, why do I sometimes turn to the Internet?

I have a few reasons. I only look up new versions once I have learnt Mum's variations well. I look up online, like most ladies who cook, for inspirations on variations. But briyani is different on this standard. Only because Mum's briyanis are too complex. She makes dum briyanis - where the rice and briyani masala curry are cooked separately.

That day, we both - Mum and I were in the quick-cooking mood. Looking at my dismay on not finding a recipe that we could try out, she dished out her own. It was some steps she has not tried before.

This is the simple recipe we cooked up.

To marinate first
1/2 kg of chicken
(all measures are generous portions here)
2 tsp tumeric powder
1tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp briyani masala
3-4 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
5 tbsp chilli powder/ chilli paste
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt to taste
half cup of lime juice/yoghurt
4-5 bay leaves

We left the mixture to marinate for  1 hour; the longer, the better it should be.

Cooking Method
1/2 tsp food colouring
1 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp ghee
3-4 bay leaves
set of spices - cinnamon sticks, star anises, cardamom
serai - 1 or 2
evaporated milk, with 2 -3 strands of saffron
2 onions
2 tomatoes
2 green chillies
2 cups basmati rice : 3cups of water
fresh yoghurt to taste
salt to taste
fried onions
coriander and mint leaves
1 tbsp of ginger and garlic paste

After cooking for half an hour, Alhamdhulilah, the result was as below.
Mum and I added a tad too much water (the amount stated above is the correct version).
Otherwise, the taste was as I hoped for - bursting with flavours.
Serving up a plate below.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

My Thoughts On A Book - Notebooks from Makkah & Madinah

I have been sharing this with friends whom I know are into books:  I have never experienced anything even close to what I felt reading this book below.

The synopsis came across as a personal journey of the author - A South African convert, Shafiq Morton, with some historical information on the holy cities of Islam he visits. When it comes to history-related reading, I personally will find it heavy; heavy-reading.

But this book pushed  aside all that. Right from the first chapter, the author's personal sharing of his interaction with the people, places and presence during the visits was to me, real. There are about 32, or thereabout, chapters in the book. But I am only at Chapter 10. Because I keep re-reading them over and over again.

I have been reading on my daily commute to and from work. As that way, I will have an hour of 'me' time to dedicate just to reading.
(provided the passenger who sits next to me doesn't watch videos on his or her phone without an earpiece, or listens to music at the highest level so that half of the bus can share his or her choice of song)

Out of the times I managed to read this gem in the bus, I have teared at least twice. It was actually AZ who got hold of this book at the library.  I was preparing for a work trip weeks back and needed a book to keep me occupied on the flights. I could rarely find time to get to the library. So, AZ made time to pick up a few books for me. May Allah bless him. Ameen.

And this was one of the picks. And it's so Masha-Allah.

I am way past the due date to return this book. I have returned the other two - which I couldn't finish as well (given the three weeks' - only). But I have no heart to return this. I have searched online to purchase this book; but am yet to find a reliable source.

AZ suggested an awesome idea. That we should make a copy of the book and bind it ourselves. We will do just that, soon. In-Shaa-Allah.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Beauty Of Adhaan... And A Cabby Uncle

AZ and I were in a cab just two weeks back; we were heading home from the East. A few minutes into the drive, the Adhaan for the Azhar prayer in my phone came on.

To our very pleasant surprise, the Chinese Cabby Uncle (We, all of us here in fact, grew up calling cab drivers mature enough, 'Uncle' - out of respect. Of course, if they are younger looking, I always make it a point to switch to 'Sir' mode.) asked us if this was from the radio.

AZ explained that it was from the phone alarm. To this, The Cabby Uncle asked if the radio stations played it. He sounded really interested and very eager to know. AZ and I both then shared that the Adhaan can be heard on the Malay station, Warna 94.2 here. We explained that it was the call to Islamic prayer and that it can be heard five times in a day. He said he knew that very well and then asked us to tell him the exact times at which they will be played.

As AZ read out the timings, the Uncle actually jotted them down on a piece of paper at a traffic junction. He later shared with us something that made us smile from ear to ear.

Whenever he hears the Adhaan, he said he felt a calmness in his mind. A 'totally at peace kind of feeling', he added.

"Is it a song?" he asked. I explained. That the Adhaan is a call to prayer, which is in turn a call to success.

He said the Community Centres in his neighbourhood used to organise sessions to hold competitions for children to recite in this 'language'. We told him this is Arabic - the language of the Quran, and that the children must have been in a Quran recitation competition. "You know, I will spend all the time there while they recited. It was so beautiful to hear. The tone and way it is read" - this gist was what he tried to convey in his words.

AZ asked him what his religion was. He must have said he's a free thinker, if I remember. But what I remember vividly was his love for the language of our Holy Quran and of course, the Adhaan.

AZ told him he could attend sharing sessions in the mosques and other associations we know of, if he wanted to learn more about Islam. He nodded, smiling.

As we alighted at our home, we reminded him to tune in - in time for the Maghrib Adhaan, to which the Uncle said, 'Definitely!'.

What every line in the Adhaan means

Allâhu akbar Allâhu akbar

Allâhu akbar Allâhu akbar

ash-hadu al-lââ ilâha illa-llâh

ash-hadu al-lââ ilâha illa-llâh

ash-hadu anna muhammadan rasûlu-llâh

ash-hadu anna muhammadan rasûlu-llâh

hayya ‘ala-s-salâh

hayya ‘ala-s-salâh

hayya ‘ala-l-falâh

hayya ‘ala-l-falâh

Allâhu akbar, Allâhu akbar

lââ ilâha illa-llâh
God is Supreme! God is Supreme!

God is Supreme! God is Supreme!

I witness that there is no god but God

I witness that there is no god but God

I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God

I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God

Come to the prayer.

Come to the prayer.

Come to success.

Come to success.

God is Supreme! God is Supreme!

There is no god but God
For the Fajr prayer, (the morning prayer), the following words are added just after hayya ‘ala-s-salâh.

as-salâtu khayrum min an-nowm

s-salâtu khayrum min an-nowm
Prayer is better than sleep

Prayer is better than sleep

Source: Internet


Thursday, 30 October 2014

Salaam Maal Hijrah

Source: Internet
We have just ushered the new Islamic year on 25 October 2014.

Personally, I hope that this would be a time of reflection, on my walk towards Allah in the year just passed and what I could improve on, in the year that has arrived, In-Shaa-Allah.

There are so many aspects that I need to improve on. So many. My Quran recitation is the first on the list. And there are specific duas and elements that I have been wanting to memorise; and never got to doing it.

AZ has been sharing with me that the level of peace and happiness that we attain depends on our niyah (intention) towards what we hope to achieve. He has been constantly reminding me that we should be looking beyond this world, and work sincerely towards the Hereafter.

And this is not easy. And it will never be, I think. I pray that Allah (S.W.T) makes all our journey towards HIM easy, In-Shaa-Allah.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

In A New Space

Source: Internet
I have just started on a new role in my organisation. With so much technicalities involved in the way that this organisation operates, I am considered to be on new employment.
This means I have had to resign from my previous job and hired as a new entrant in the new role in a different team.

It sure has been a comfort zone; the team, the work, the job scope that I have been doing for a good meaningful seven years, Alhamdhulilah. But it was this very comfort level on my job that made me move – move on to take on different challenges.

In fact, I had long wanted to join this new team; Allah (S.W.T) has only made it possible for me now. I believe I was in a better position to secure this job at this stage, after the years of experience and knowledge in the organsiation. We, mankind, just make plans, ultimately, HIS plans for us are always greater and sweeter. SubhanAllah.

But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners.
(Verse 8:30, Surah Al-'Anfāl)

The other sweetener in this new role is that I had decided to take steps to even find out if there was an opportunity in the first place, in the month of Ramadan this year. HE made the path easy, and by the time we were celebrating Eid-Ul-Adha, I had already accepted the offer. And started work two days after Eid-Ul-Adha. Alhamdhulilah.

Many have asked me why I decided to take on this role – which is likely to be time-consuming, with more assignments, projects and responsibilities. My reasons lie with the target group that we will be working with in this team. I will have a bigger opportunity, In-Shaa-Allah, to serve the community that I have always wanted to more directly – our Ummah.

AZ has given me his support, as always, and this matters most to me.

I hope Allah (S.W.T) gives me strength to find this new role more meaningful than what I have moved on from; while it is going to be hard work, I see them as doors to earn more rewards for the Hereafter, In-Shaa-Allah.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Selamat Hari Raya Haji!

"It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him." 
[Al-Qur'an 22:37]

Wishing all Muslims a blessed Eid-Ul-Adha. We celebrated Eid here today, while my in-laws celebrated Eid yesterday. And AZ's relatives in India will be celebrating tomorrow, In-Shaa-Allah.

I hope that Allah (S.W.T) has accepted all our Korban (animal sacrifices), sadaqah (charity), fasts and voluntary prayers. 

Alhamdhulilah, for us at home, it was a warm homely time of great food and great family time.

I wished I had done better with spending time with the Quran and Tahajjud prayers though. Time and again, I am reminded of the need to establish a secret relationship with Allah (S.W.T) through the Tahajjud prayers. But I am just not doing enough. 

I have made the niyyah (intention) to spend more time on this special prayers on certain times of the week. AZ is also supporting me on this, encouraging me to stay focussed on what I want to achieve. I really hope to do better on these special prayers, In-Shaa-Allah.

And I can't complete an Eid-Ul-Adha post without sharing this. Sister Umm Salihah has done a beautiful post on what this Eid means for Muslims. Please read her informational post here.

And keep her in your duas if you found the read useful, In-Shaa-Allah.

Mum's murukku and my marble cake. Both came out to be yummy, Alhamdhulilah.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Feeling Grateful...

Source: Internet
I spent almost three-quarters of the day with housework today. I actually only intended to do up the laundry (for those fabrics those that get done every three to four weeks), but ended up doing cleaning up other things too. A lil race to spruce up the house in time as we have just ushered in Dhul-Hijjah, the sacred month in which the Hajj pilgrimage takes place.

I have this thing about cleanliness. And cleaning. Many a times, I have deduced that I probably have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Mum used to get upset and occasionally angry with the way I clean things. Dad and Brother were in similar leagues too. My friend Vanessa, while we were still colleagues, tried her best to make me break my OCD-habits.

When AZ came into my life, he provided me with practical solutions to overcome this. One of the things he said, was to find within me, the real objective as to why I set out on cleaning a certain space or stuff. Was there really a need to turn over the house every month and do a massive spring cleaning? Some things really do not need so much of frequent cleaning, he always reminded. There have been times when I get so engrossed in that cleaning activity that I would even overshoot my prayer schedules. Astaghfirullah, I pray that Allah (S.W.T) forgives me.

Alhamdhulilah, over the years, I believe I have changed. Increasingly, AZ and I tell each other that our lives must always revolve around our five prayer times. I confess and pray that our Rabb forgives us for  not being able to stick to this too - that our faith is tested many counts on this aspect. But doing my best to wake up each day to fulfil our prayers on time has changed me for a better person, I really trust.

When it comes to my OCD habits, I no longer clean the house so massively. My cleaning routines have changed. A LOT.  My cleaning schedules are more realistic and reasonable now. I am not bent on a change of cushion covers or curtains when it's uncalled for. 

Even before I got married, I don't allow Mum to do any other housework except cooking meals. Dad used to help me with scrubbing the bathrooms, especially during times when I had exams while still in school and when I am unwell, but I don't allow him to do that anymore too. Brother is delegated to clean his room whenever needed too (and he likes it that way too as I end up cleaning 'too much' and moving his speakers and computer stuff around, causing them to need re-looks).

After we got married, my dear better-half tries to help whenever possible and even learnt the way I clean things, especially, scrub bathrooms so that I don't re-do the work (although I don't tell him he didn't do the way as I would have).  So, on most times now, I don't stop him when he volunteers, as I don't wish to come in the way of the rewards for following the sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) in sharing the housework with his spouse. 

I have realised that the fatigue that comes with housework seems to stay away from the mind when the intention (niyyah) is set to serve and take care of our family, for the sake of Allah. I find myself happier while cleaning actually and accomplished when this intention is set right from the start.

I pray that Allah (S.W.T) eases things for others, like me, who have been conditioned to spending too much time on keeping up with OCD-like habits. Ameen.

For that matter, I have felt guilty too, whenever we ask a part-time helper to drop by to help with more time-consuming chores. Somewhere within me, I always feel I am giving up on the barakah of earning a reward from our Rabb for doing that particular chore. Over time, Mum and I decided we would just ask her over to help with cleaning our windows.

Today, as I was completing the final task of washing up the bathrooms, I felt so thankful for the energy, health and faith to be able to clean my house. I thought of many other women who were not as blessed as me. And I decided, that I should be appreciating the blessings that HE bestows everyday upon me. How special they are, and how much more thankful I should be every other day.
Source: Internet

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Other Therapy...

It's been a while since I found time for a book. Picked these two books up from the library just last weekend. I didn't want to be over-ambitious; AZ reminded me too, bearing in mind the fact that I can end up with four to six books at one visit and end up finishing only one by the time it's due date for returning them.

Alhamdhulilah, almost finishing the "Bookseller of Kabul" - a book the way I expected it to be. In-Shaa-Allah, Hoping to start on the second book soon - a non-fiction novel about post-war trials on home ground.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A New Skill Learned...

I had shared in my earlier post on Sister N’s Mum’s tasty food that she fed AZ and me two weekends ago. Last weekend, I decided to try out two of her dishes  - corn rice and cucumber and carrot achar. Alhamdhulilah, both the dishes turned out well. And that means, I have learnt two more new dishes.

And in the process, I discovered something very useful about cooking with basmati rice (and I am sticking to it). I have been practicing cooking with basmati rice for a while now- ghee rice, vegetable pulao, prawn biryani, etc. I don’t always follow what my Mum adds in, I try to innovate what I get from my favourite food blogs and from my own food sense sometimes. And thankfully, I am blessed with a family that welcomes variations in their food every now and then.

One distinct way Mum cooks basmati rice is that she does not soak her rice. She rinses it thoroughly just before adding it into the mixture base that she has prepared for her briyanis. I, on the other hand, have been soaking rice for at least 20 minutes before cooking it for a while now. For some reason, my rice texture would almost be not quite close to how I want it to be. I tried this time, making the corn rice, without soaking the rice. And it really did turn out with a texture that I always hoped for, or to be precise, with a texture that our family’s taste buds were accustomed to. And so…. I am definitely sticking to this method from now on, In-Shaa-Allah.

Oh, and we enjoyed lunch with chicken masala to complement the two dishes below.

While cooking the corn rice, I realised I had too much corn. And so, I decided to make custard with corn for desserts later in the day. What I did came to look like the bowl below.

And Mum came home, tasted the custard, and did what she does most of the times. She corrected the consistency by simmering the mixture again. Mothers…. May Allah bless them in both this Dunya and Akhirah for the things they do for us every moment. Ameen.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Surprise Gifts

Our Eid visits have just been wrapped up I believe. Alhamdhulilah. With AZ's exams throughout the month of Ramadan and into Eid as well, we have postponed some of our visits though. We opened our doors and warmly welcomed our guests nevertheless, and had good food and company that came with Allah's barakah through them.

Just last weekend, AZ and I accepted an invitation to visit a newly-found friend's family - Sister N, whom I have mentioned here. She came by weeks earlier, and we spent a good number of hours right after Azhar into Maghrib and Isyak. We had so much to share about, it didn't feel like she only just came into my life at all.

I had made vegetable briyani, my 'turn-to' brinjal pachadi and fish masala that day.  In all, it was a beautiful day. Sister N and I have been colleagues  who work for different media companies. We meet often at events that we happened to be assigned to cover at the same time. But our friendship just bloomed very recently. I am so thankful it did. Alhamdhulilah.

After our meeting at home, Sister N then insisted we visited her family too. AZ and I could't say no, of course.

Sister N's family is really sweet, especially her Mum. Both of us ended talking to each other more than Sister N and I. I have always been intrigued by her whenever Sister N shared about her, and it was for this one fact - that she is a convert who is trying her best to learn new knowledge on our Deen every moment. SubhanAllah.

So, you can imagine we didn't realise how fast time flew when she started sharing on her conversion, etc.

Together with our hearts, our stomachs were happy too with Auntie's lovely cooking. I came home with some nice recipes from her too.

Above all, what really moved me was Auntie's gift to me. A sejadah (prayer mat) and a pearl-beaded tasbih from her Hajj pilgrimage three years ago. She said she was waiting for the right moment to give it to someone, and Masha-Allah, she chose me.

I was so happy and really moved I must say... Whenever there are matters related to the blessed land, I am always lost on how to describe what I feel these days.

We came home in time for Maghrib. AZ and I took turns to pray on the sejadah. I have kept the beautiful maroon and clear-toned pearl-beaded tasbih in a relative's wedding souvenir holder, next to the table where we pray. I hope to make good use of it, In-Shaa-Allah.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

My Creative Better Half...

I have mentioned about my good friend Vanessa's wedding previously. 

Vanessa is a special friend in many ways, and I always thank Allah (S.W.T) for bringing this friend into my life. 

She's a Christian and I, a Muslim, and we always have exchanges of how our religions shape our lives. And keeping in mind that I am Vanessa's first close Muslim friend, I have made sure that my sharings with her about everything in our everyday lives are meaningful and informative.

We met as colleagues, she came in two years later as my junior, and our relationship bloomed very quickly as we became each others' office confidantes.

She is also one of the few friends who calls my Brother by the 'home name' I address him as - so I believe that well explains her relationship with my family too. Alhamdhulilah.

And oh yes, she is the first friend AZ met after a few days he arrived in Singapore too.

For this and many other reasons, AZ has always referred to Vanessa as his 'little sister' in Singapore.

Thinking back, it is also heartwarming to recall that Vanessa and I were still colleagues who sat right next to each other (and shared about almost everything we could think of) when she met her husband, Kenny. Of course, he naturally became our friend too.

Vanessa and Kenny just got married in Ramadan this year. When preparing for her wedding, she passed AZ a file of her wedding invitation for some conversion. Quite casually, he worked on some alternative designs for them both, and they liked it too.

After several rounds of creative works and designs, these are the final versions of the invite and guest posters with the same theme. 

Their wedding invite.

This one was for their church wedding.

This one was for their wedding dinner.

The posters were printed on a bigger paper size, of course, and looked really pretty. AZ and I have wanted to contribute something special for Vanessa's wedding and we were really happy that Allah (S.W.T) gave us an opportunity through this. Alhamdhulilah.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Our Humble Eid Celebrations

And so here I am - finally, with the post on our Eid celebrations. I had sat down just before Maghrib prayers to start writing on all my catch-up posts on my Ramadan Journal, and it is almost an hour after Isyak, and I am now starting on my last post for the day, In-Shaa-Allah.

Thanks to the soul who knows me better than I do - AZ - who knew I was going to take this long to complete all my posts - and never allowed me to stay up writing on my blog during the weeknights as he stayed up to study for his exams. Whenever I said I would take only a couple of minutes to complete all the six to eight posts I must have published today - he would talk sense into me.

Alhamdhulilah, glad I found time to share on our Ramadan and Eid moments this year. Never before in other years have we remembered others' hardships more than this year - both AZ and I kept reminding each other to make duas for the suffering brothers and sisters around the world first, before we asked for ourselves and our families.

We pray that Allah (S.W.T) has accepted all our prayers and deeds in Ramadan this year and previous years. Ameen.

As we celebrated Eid this year, we constantly told ourselves that we should avoid food wastage and kept everythiing simple and humble. Mum and I decided we would not make the usual briyani and went for something simpler - ghee rice. Equally tasty, and she supplemented the spread with her other signature dishes (actually with Mum, everything she does is her signature dish, Alhamdhulilah).

This photo was taken by my friend Vanessa, who came over with her husband, Kenny for their 'newly-married couple's lunch treat' by us.

For the first time this year, we used paper plates instead of the ceramic plates that we always use. It really saved so much preparatory and washing up time, considering that fact that I could not be on leave the next day (had to get to office to complete a project that had to be sent for print the next day).

The sister from Zameel Abaya, one of our customers, is selling these pretty plates. I thought they looked so pretty and bought a pack each of each design. A lot of our guests were intrigued by them, even some brothers. I believe she stocked these up after Eid. Do check them out here if you would like to buy them. And they are pretty affordable too.

The lovely four designs of paper plates. Some even came in dessert plates.

And what is Eid without kueh tarts (pineapple tarts), keuh makmur (yummy biscuits with crushed roasted peanut fillings), and the likes.... and of course, Mum's 'Murukku' right? Alhmadhulilah.
The cookie jars and 'Murukku' containers in various shapes and sizes  you will see in every Muslim house here.

Ramadan Journal - Traditions

Whenever I read the prompt - 'tradition' - on some blogger-sisters' Ramadan Journal prompts in earlier years, one of the things that comes to mind is usually getting henna done on the eve of Eid.

But thinking of it, it has been a few years since I have moved away from that 'tradition'. The reason is simply because I always have much undone work on the eve and am usually very happy to steal some hours of sleep before I wake just a few hours after Mum to start work in the kitchen.

And the other reason is also because everyone else is also too tired to draw henna designs on my hands (as they too wish for some hours of sleep before dawn cracks). On years where I can afford some time to myself by 11-ish into the evening, Mum would get them done on my hands and toes. Alhamdhulilah. Yes. If I am getting henna done, I get them done on my fingers, palms and toes.

In recent years and last year too, AZ did them for me. Alhamdhulilah. This year, I didn't want henna done, as I was really very exhausted from the day before's housework.

Putting up curtains, last minute dust-wiping and washing of two bathrooms - these were exhausting enough to have me wishing only for some hours of sleep.

The other thing that is a yearly do on the eve of Eid is baking. Ever since I learnt the proper way of baking a decent cake, I have been baking two cakes on the eve of Eid.

I usually bake them very early in the morning because for some reason, my cakes are always tastier the next day, Alhamdhulilah.

This year too, I stayed up after Fajr prayers and made two cakes - a marble and an orange cake. It was while baking that I decided to also pack some for the sisters in the Sunday Iqra class. It was also heartwarming that we had become better friends through our Whatsapp group chat. 

And we had even all decided to wear black abayas with a coloured scarf - of the seven rainbow colours - to class that Sunday in celebration of Eid as we welcomed Syawal. Masha-Allah. And the colour I chose was green, I wore it with the Zariya Abaya from our new Eid stocks.

While shopping for ziplock bags and other items to serve food for guests several days before, AZ and I came across these pretty and affordable party bags. And they came with very cute stickers as seals too. I bought just one pack, knowing they would come in handy anytime. As I was rushing to pack the cakes for the sisters that morning, these bags were very helpful. 

The bags added so much colour to the Eid gifts.
Alhamdhulilah, Ustazah also surprised us with Rainbow Nutella cakes as Eid gifts that day.

Ramadan Journal - My Baking Intention

Thank you, Ya Rabb, for giving me the strength and ability to be able to fulfill the niyah that I made before Ramadan.

Chocolate chip cookies that turned out the way I hoped they would, Alhamdhulilah. Mum did her part with another bottles of suji cookies too (didn't get to snap a picture though). But they were lovely nevertheless. Alhamdhulilah.

Ramadan Journal - Pretty, Green Packets

The one thing that we all looked forward to as Muslim children celebrating Eid - or in fact, something that all little ones celebrating most festivities look forward to - festive money from relations.

One of our office colleagues distributed these green packets - courtesy of DBS Bank - just before I was about to go on leave for Eid. Not just Muslim colleagues, but colleagues from all other races and religions took a few packets. I especially liked the illustration of the little girl.

And it sure looks like to be functional for multi-races, with the shades of yellow and red on the green background.

Ramadan Journal - A Gift

My parents and I - and recently, two of our cousin sisters - make a day trip across the Causeway to purchase some Eid cookies and tarts every year. We usually buy several bottles in a few varieties to give to our neighbours and colleagues. This trip is usually worth the while - keeping in mind the exchange rate and that fact that we purchase many bottles packed in a few boxes, at one go.

This time, we came back with this gift. I think I will not go into too much details of how this came into my hands. I just love this. Masha-Allah.

AZ placed it on our bookshelf, that comes with a glass window (as seen here). Every morning, it is so tranquil to see this beautiful view the moment we open our eyes. SubhanAllah.

I pray Allah (S.W.T) invites us to spend our next Ramadan in HIS House to perform Umrah, and in later months, Hajj. Ameen. Ameen. Ameen.

Please keep my family and me in your duas too.

Ramadan Journal - Ajwa Dates and My Intention Letter

Before we got married, I was totally unaware of Ajwa dates. When AZ and I went for our first Ramadan fair together here, he bought two kilos of them. After he paid, I was so surprised at the price. That's when he explained on the special attributes of these gems that our Prophet (S.A.W) liked to have.

The Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Whoever has seven Ajwa dates every morning he will not be harmed on that day by poison or magic.” [Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (5445) (5768) (5769) (5779)].  

The Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Ajwa dates are from paradise.” [Tirmidhee (2068)

Referring to eating seven Ajwa dates, the Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, “Hewill not be harmed by anything until he reaches the evening.” [Saheeh Muslim (2047)].

There is a whole list of the benefits of the Ajwa dates here and here, Masha-Allah.

AZ and I always remind ourselves to buy Ajwa dates for Iftar for the the family. Oh yes, this was also part of my intention letter for the 30 days in Ramadan, inspired by Ustazah Su'aidah during the Quran workshop.

This time, we ended up going up the Ramadan cum Eid fair here only towards the last five days - which was a really good thing as we did not do any impulse shopping and spend too much money on things we didn't really need but were just pretty. Alhamdhulilah.

So, I bought a few boxes at a mall near one of our office branches.

Talking about dates, I also saw this brand at the same dates section in the mall and needless to say, was just happy at what I saw (Al-Barakah.:)). So I bought a few packs as well.

Photo courtesy of Sister R.

Ramadan Journal - Quran Workshop

My Sundays in Ramadan this year have been so blessed, Alhmadhulilah. 
I thank Allah (S.W.T) for the opportunity to strengthen my iman (faith) through a two-hour Quran intensive workshop, followed by Iqra mentorship for another hour-and-a-half.
Ustazah Su'aidah Salim always shared more than the course materials - on stories of our Sahabas, islamic history, of Hereafter, and so much more. I always wished the lessons never ended, for the sake of Allah.

Will share more on her sharing as I sit down to review her notes on Tafsir very soon, In-Shaa-Allah.

While the Quran workshop is over, our Iqra classes will resume with six other sisters - all of whom have become good friends - in September. Looking forward, In-Shaa-Allah.

A shot I took on the fourth class of the Quran workshop session. Our Iqra class is cosier - just seven of us and Ustazah.
As I am writing this, I am suddenly overwhelmed by so much sadness... that my Sundays in the past five weeks have been about preparing for Iftar. We were still in Ramadan a week ago, and at this hour (it will be Maghrib in a few minutes...), AZ and I, and everyone at home were talking about how fast Ramadan was going to come to an end in a few minutes.

AZ constantly reminded me to lay the Iftar table quickly and sit down and make duas... before the precious month slipped away. I pray that Allah (S.W.T) gives us all the opportunity to experience another Ramadan with HIS mercy and blessings. Ameen. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ramadan Journal 2014 - Just So Soon...

I knew it... that I wouldn't be able to keep up with my blog posts for this month. But I am not complaining though.

This Ramadan has brought about new awareness. 

What was difficult are the  many upsetting news of Muslims and non-Muslims alike around the world.

May Allah forgive us all, and accept all our duas and deeds. Ameen.

Like I said, I am not going to try and complete my journal now. There are only four precious days in this precious month left this year. While I still can, I want to try to make the most of it, In-Shaa-Allah.
Let's us all too.

Will come to this space to complete my journal after Eid, In-Shaa-Allah. I pray that all my brothers and sisters will persevere to make the most of this Ramadan with the best of imaan. Ameen.

The new Quran I have been reciting from this Ramadan.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ramadan Journal 2014, Day 12 – We Are Almost 1.

Alhamdhulilah.  AZ and I were surprised at first, and rejoiced later when we received a letter on the yearly renewal for our business. We didn’t really realise that our ‘fairly new business’ is  turning one in about two months.

We both remember clearly. Our dream on starting up our ‘Al-Barakah Abayas’ online store was conceived in Ramadan last year. Masha-Allah.

We registered our business around September and October. AZ and I did all the ground work and tried our best to get in our first batch of stocks by Eid ul Adha last year. Our orders reached us a few weeks later. Actually before that, our heat press machine arrived. AZ has been experimenting on this, on and off, now and has made two pretty abayas for me.

We would like to move into customising abayas for our sisters in the future. Working towards that, AZ is still exploring with design ideas, various types of rhinestones, and suppliers. We will market the concept when he is ready. In-Shaa-Allah. 

 The abaya that is getting worked on by the machine is a sample – AZ created that design from scratch on a plain, black abaya. I had asked for pink rhinestone works and there he is, at work. 

We must have launched our business in December (I think!). In our pursuit of bringing on, “Elegance… With Modesty”…(our tagline)

So, that makes it almost a year now since we made the niyyah (intention) to start an online business to bring elegant, affordable abayas to our sisters here.

Thank you, Ya Rabb, for making this possible for us, and we also thank many other people who have walked with us on this journey.

Our Parents – For believing in us and praying for our success in every single step that we take that and every dream that we pursue, every moment. And my Mum and Dad’s word-of-mouth marketing and handing out of our namecards at all the weddings, functions, market places, and all other places (you name it), they went to. They still do too.

My Brother – For spreading the word among his friends and colleagues. It always brings a smile to my face whenever I hear him say, “Kakak saya dan Brother-in-Law saya jual ini…(My Sister and Brother-in-Law are selling these...)” over the phone to his Malay friends. Oh yes, and for being my very patient Malay to English translator on our customers’ messages and enquiries on Facebook, whatsapp, etc. And occasionally trying to help AZ with photo-taking with our abayas but giving up after our mannequin proves too challenging for him.

Friends and Colleagues – Muslims and non-Muslims alike, these people in our lives have been very sweet and have motivated, supported us right from day one. And still are, with suggestions, on how we can improve, etc.

iMentor Training Academy – When we prayed for a name for our business, AZ and I asked for a name that will give us lots of barakah. And Allah (S.W.T) pointed us to ‘Al-Barakah Abayas’. The first Facebook friend we made once we set up the ‘Al-Barakah Abayas’ Facebook account was Sister Mariam and she introduced us to the iMentor journey. And through that, Sister Ruzie’s invaluable friendship. And then, AZ and I went on to our iMentor journey, and are learning new things through Sister Suria’s priceless coaching. While AZ and I must admit, we must be more pro-active in practicing what we bring home from all the training! In-Shaa-Allah.

Our Suppliers – We have worked with a number of suppliers now. And we thank all of them for the experiences – the difficult ones who taught us patience, and the patient and accommodating ones who taught us gratitude.

Our Customers – Both offline and online. For believing in us, and our products and our services. We thank you for all brothers and sisters for your  feedback, enquiries, words of encouragement, and some really kind-hearted sisters who have also recommended services they have benefitted from.

We also take this opportunity to seek forgiveness if we have hurt anyone in the course of our business or otherwise.

And we make lots of duas for everyone. Please keep us in your duas too.

(P.S. there will be lil preview of what we have in store this evening on Facebook. We will start uploading our humble Eid stocks tmw, In-Shaa-Allah).