FAITH, MOTHERHOOD

‘Mama Why Aren’t You Praying?’

How To Explain Periods To Your Muslim Child.



We all know how loaded this question is and, if unprepared, answering can be awkward to say the least. Yet, it’s not just young children who might be the ones asking!

I grew up with a father who never thought periods were shameful, and married a man whose family ethos is the same. However there are fully grown adult Muslim men have no idea about menstruation or the rulings of how it affects the spiritual dimensions of the women in their lives.

For sure, every Ramadan the topic comes up. We are already seeing it doing the rounds with our friends and fellow Muslim Mothers asking the same –

My monthly friend is here what do I tell my seven year old?

Aunt flo is visiting – how do I explain to my eight year old why I’m not joining in prayers?

Mashallah our nine year old is praying regularly now and wants to know why sometimes I miss my salat..

You may know of women ‘pretending’ to fast so that the men and boys in their family won’t know that they are on their periods. There is so much baggage to unpack in this very cultural practice that hides a woman’s bodily functions in the name of ‘haya’ or ‘modesty’. Oftentimes perpetuated by the women themselves. Especially in joint families, who wake menstruating daughters up for suhoor-  where to let a father-in-law or a brother know that one is not fasting due to periods is considered in bad taste and shameful.

Really what it boils down to is women making their own lives more difficult for the comfort of men. This ‘comfort’ is short lived and detrimental. What would happen if these men had been taught from a young age to respect the changes a woman’s body goes through? Maybe the ‘haya’ should be instilled into the men – in order to be the sort of man that doesn’t gruffly question his mother/ sister/ daughter in front of other family members as to why she is not fasting/praying?

One way to do this is to instill it from the very beginning. That is why your child’s question is so important. ‘Mama why aren’t you praying?’ – doesn’t have to fill you with dread – anymore. Here are some practical pointers on how and when to explain menstruation to our children;

  1. TELL THE TRUTH

‘I told my daughter I’m not well, I didn’t explain how or why… just that Mummy’s not well and doesn’t have to pray’

But this might lead to confusion for the child who may believe its ok to miss a daily prayer or two if they are unwell.

I’ve heard of women telling their children that there are times of the month when a woman is ‘unclean and impure’ so she’s not ‘allowed’ to pray. But what message does this really send to our children? That a woman’s  spirituality is judged by her bodily functions? That she is barred from communicating with her Creator for certain times of the month? That Allah swt just won’t be listening for those few days? We know that we can make many acts of worship  during this time, and so to indicate that the relationship with God is affected is not accurate.

Still yet, there are others who will say – ‘let them be little’, the child doesn’t need to know yet – let them be little” I agree.  So when is the right time to explain? The answer is simple –

The right time to explain to a child is when they ask. With some exceptions, this is a good rule to work by.

Your 3 yr old may notice you ate something while you were supposed to be fasting  – and call you out on it, ‘Oh no Mummy  you put something in your mouth isn’t it Ramadan anymore?’  Some three year olds wouldn’t realise or care. We don’t need to start answering questions that haven’t been asked but when they ask they deserve the truth. The age appropriate truth. So that they don’t grow up to be the women who hide and the men from whom it’s  hidden. So they grow up to be men who are comfortable in talking to their own daughters about this topic, and in facilitating ease for them and their wives with their knowledge. So they grow up to be women who respect their own bodies and embrace the rights that their Creator bestowed upon them. So no one needs to pretend and have to lie about an act of worship in one of the holiest months of the year.

You might think talking about the body and biological details will be  easier when children are older – but actually it’s the opposite. It will be harder. Much harder.

The thing is, reader – it’s not just about Menstruation and Ramadan. This is about being able to communicate with your children in the Sunnah way. The prophet Muhammad (saw) never encouraged lying to children. In a hadith where he saw a woman say to a child that ‘come here – I will give you something’, he told her had she not truly given the child the thing it would have been written down as a lie and a sin.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) never shied away from any kind of question. Women used to bring their ‘sanitary cloths’ to show him and ask questions about the degree of discharge. We all grew up with some percentage of shame surrounding bodily function but there IS  a different way and our spiritual tradition teaches that no question is too ‘vulgar’.

A young man was bold enough to ask the Prophet’s permission to commit zina (sexual intercorse before marriage) this says nothing about the young man except that he was a normal young adult with sexual urges, but it does say a lot about the Prophet (saw) – a leader who was approachable and kind enough for a teen to feel comfortable in asking and who was wise and knowledgeable enough to be able to answer  without shaming or shunning the questioner. Isn’t this what we aspire to as parents and guardians?


2. USE CORRECT ANATOMICAL NAMES FOR BODY PARTS

We’ve all heard that teaching children the proper terminology for body parts is extremely important. The American Association of Pediatrics identifies that teaching children the correct names for the genitals is a top tip in preventing and identifying child  sexual abuse – but how many of us really do it? Yes it’s not easy to explain to your six year old that ‘your pee pee is actually called a penis’ but that’s because you didnt call it a penis from the outset. Trust me I’ve been there.   Imagine using the words penis, vagina, sperm, menstruation for the first time EVER with your 15 year old. Whether it be in English or another language spoken at home, try to make it a norm in your house to use the correct terminology over ‘pet names’ . Hide your discomfort. Work through it if you need to and just SAY IT.

It’s easier to explain that question ‘where do babies come from’ to a 5 year old than explaining it to a 12 year old for the first time, and the likelihood will be that someone already got there before you. Then it’s a gamble as to what and how much they know.

3. TALK TO BOTH GENDERS ABOUT THE BODIES OF THE OPPOSITE GENDER TOO

However it’s not about ‘getting there’ before someone else ‘corrupts’ your child – because there is, of course, the chance that they will learn about it in a very healthy manner – the point is that they need to learn there is no shame in talking about the amazing bodies Allah has designed, WITH YOU. Especially important is talking about the bodies of BOTH men and women to BOTH boys and girls. Educating your son about his body and teaching him about the opposite gender will not only educate him – but increase his respect and understanding for the women and girls he encounters.

Sometimes it’s easier to borrow words  that other parents have used to tackle such hairy topics wih very young kids  so here I share my approach – by no means am I any expert and many a time what saved me was  taking a pause to assess the question and sticking with the basic rule of ‘tell the age appropriate truth’.  My eldest is now eight and our journey with talking about our bodies is really just beginning. I am always asking parents with older kids ‘how did you explain such and such or have you had to tackle such and such topic yet?’

EXAMPLES OF QUESTIONS AND HOW TO TACKLE THEM

I offer the following  as an example of real life conversations that show progression as the child aged from two to  eight years old. I really want to stress the idea that this is just one way to do it for this age range – and I absolutely welcome ideas and comments from parents who have taken different approaches.

For very young children ages 2+

Where do babies come from? Be prepared for this question to come as soon as your child can speak.

Babies are a gift from Allah. And allah decides to whom and when to give this amazing gift .

You can stop there at this very young age. From an islamic perspective, It certainly answers their question truthfully and age appropriately.

Even the youngest of children are fascinated by the roundness of a pregnant woman’s ‘tummy’. The first time they point it out or it comes up – make an effort to introduce the word ‘Womb’ and try to say womb every time instead of ‘tummy’  


How does the baby come out?

Here’s where the building blocks come into play on the foundations you have already laid

‘You know Allah designed our bodies for amazing things? He gave us eyes to see with, ears to listen, tongue to talk and taste, nose to smell… well Allah designed a Mama’s body perfectly for the baby to come out.

For younger children (3-5) ;

There is an opening in a mama’s body called a cervix (the child is likely to forget this exact term but use it anyway)  that knows when the baby is just the right size and ready to be born. When the baby is ready to be born this opening gets bigger and bigger to let the baby come out from her body.

Your child may not ask the location of the ‘opening’  – and unless he or she asks, who are you to specify? Remember only answer the question that was asked.

The advantage of only answering the question asked is that there may be months or even years between each question. Children take their own time to process. In our home there were years between the questions ‘where do babies come from?’ and ‘how does the baby come out?’ but a friend told me she was recently deluged with all the questions all at once!

For older children (5 – 7+) ;

Remember I told you about the opening?  It’s a part of a woman’s vagina (see here how it’s SO much easier to use this word if it’s already in their vocabulary) there are two openings – one for going for a wee and another to let the baby out when it’s ready. Every woman has these two openings but she won’t use the cervix- the one for the baby –  until she is completely grown up and old enough and ready enough to become a mama.

All the while  – it’s helpful to ensure you are teaching the child the spiritual aspect –

Isn’t it AMAZING that a baby can be born from a Woman’s body like that? Allah has made mamas to be so strong! She holds the baby in her womb which is a super strong muscle – one of the strongest muscles in the human body! It holds the baby for nine months then pushes it out too when it’s ready to be born. Can you imagine holding something that’s growing bigger and bigger and heavier and heavier  for NINE whole months?! You have to be super strong to be able to do that! Sometimes it can be difficult for the baby to come out through that way and doctors and nurses in a hospital can help the baby to come out by opening the mama’s tummy and reaching through to the womb !

If you have already introduced these concepts – it’s an easy step to let the children see realistic animations of childbirth through the birth canal. Of course make sure to watch any videos privately before. Here is a video my children watched with much awe and wonder – I still advise you watch it fully before showing your children as you can best determine if its appropriate for your child.   

Questions about missing prayers and fasts

With very young children who do notice – may be on Eid or at the mosque and ask why you’re not joining in with the congregational prayer – the idea that you have a tummy ache definitely works, but try following up with –

sometimes ladies get a tummy pain and ALLAH is so merciful and kind he says it’s ok to not fast/pray on those days. It’s a kind of tummy ache only ladies and mamas get every month so it’s ok not to fast/pray on those days”

Avoid saying ‘women are weak and need the rest ect’ why not say instead women are so strong, their wombs are the strongest muscle in the human body  that every month ALLAH says they should have some rest time.

For  children aged 7 – 9+  

This is a thoughtful, receptive age and is when real questions about missing prayers are likely to start and here again is that building block moment.

‘Remember when I told you about times during the month when women  get a break from prayers? Well let me explain a bit more

Or if this conversation has not been alluded to before even in the form of a tummy ache – you could begin with saying –

I know you noticed I’m not praying and although you’re right we must never miss our prayers, there is a reason you must try to avoid asking a lady – why she is not praying and the reason is that she may be on her period. Do you know what a period is?

Try to gauge how much a child already knows before talking about potentially complex matter. They might have heard things from older cousins or overheard adult chatter. They might have heard something about  ‘bleeding down there’ and be worried or scared about what that means.

You can start by assuring them that what you’re about to explain is completely normal and a part of growing up –

Then go on to explain this new word. You can simply start with –  

Every month the womb (womb is already in their vocabulary remember? )  prepares itself to grow a baby – its walls start to grow a really good blood supply and it starts adding soft layers to make the space comfortable for a baby. But if no baby is placed there, then by the end of the moth the mama’s body has to clean out the womb and all that soft tissue and it can take a few days to come out. So just like a lot of bleeding from any part of your body can break your wudhu and you make wudu again, in the same way the woman can’t perform salah  until it’s stopped and she has to make a big wudu called a ghusl – which is really like a wudu for your whole body – a bath.

This is a very personal thing for a woman. Just as anything to do with our private parts is not something we like to discuss with everybody (only the few ‘safe’ people in our lives) so I’d like you to remember this before you ask any woman why she is not praying.

I can’t stress enough how important it is that you relay this information to your sons as well as your daughters.

Remember your child will not have any embarrassment or shame unless you signal that there is something shameful and awkward.

Nobody needs a Baba to be born. You just need your Mama right?. What has a baba got to do with it?

I had not yet had to address the sperm and egg discussion, when it arose in a surprising manner. One day while we were re-reading the story of prophet Jesus and we reached the part about the miraculous  birth my eldest stated

‘Mama – what’s special about that? Nobody needs a baba to be born. You just need your mama right?’ (note we had read and told this story many times in our family, this was not the first time he was hearing it – but it’s the first time he asked such a question – just goes to show that children take their own time to process information)

‘What’s a Baba got to do with it?’

Here was my cue.

Well… actually you definitely do need a baba to be born! You see every person that exists is a ‘mixture’ of their Mama and Baba. We get half of our features and characteristics from our mother  and half from the father. To make one whole person! In every human being’s body there are cells that make up who we are. Its like lego, each cell is a block of lego. We have skin cells, blood cells, fat cells, all kind of cells. There is one very special and different cell though and it’s called different things in a man and a woman.  This cell inside a woman is called an egg and this cell inside a man is called  a sperm.

Yup work through it. Say the word. Sperm. You’ll thank yourself a few years down the line when you will be talking about puberty with a preteen.

The egg and sperm are the only cells in the body that are half cells – they don’t have a function on their own – but when a sperm and egg meet  – they join together like a jigsaw puzzle and become one whole cell and and this is the start of a baby! This one tiny cell holds all the information to grow into a baby! This egg and sperm cell once joined together is called an embryo and it sits inside the womb and starts growing into a full baby.

Bring it back to the spiritual aspect.

Isn’t that amazing? That is like miracle in itself – but Allah caused the Prophet Jesus to be born without the half cells from a baba – just like He created Prophet Adam without cells from a mama or  baba! These are the Miracles of Allah, everything else follows the rules of Allah and every other human being ever born always began with a half cell from their mama and a half cell from their baba.

I haven’t been asked yet ‘how exactly do the egg and sperm meet’ but inshallah I trust that when the time comes to answer, Allah makes it easy for me.  I’ll think about what the Prophet would say, and it will be the kind of answer that builds on our conversations and talks about sexual intercourse as a mercy and act of love between two stable and responsible married adults. It will be difficult and inside I’ll be writhing because of my own insecurities about the way sex was always presented as a taboo topic- but outside, I hope to show my child confidence and love and try not to project shame in my voice. Remember again your child will not feel awkward or embarrassed unless you signal there is something to be ashamed about-  Let them be little yes, but also let them be inquisitive, and let them have answers with love, with truth, and without shame.

Picture credit : Line Drawing by Zarina Teli

RELATIONSHIPS

A Common Kashmiri

Picture Credit ~ Saqlain Muran


As the daughter of an ordinary working class family in the Indian occupied valley of Kashmir, my wonderful and inspiring friend Maheen, worked hard to win a scholarship and come study politics and economics  in the US. Her mother is her hero and against all odds, has been her greatest supporter.

As the tremors of warfare begin to resurface in the subcontinent, here she gives us a view of what an impending war between India and Pakistan could mean for families like hers living in the middle ground that is Kashmir.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The past couple weeks have been tough to say the least. And the next few don’t seem much better either.

My heart had to carry the weight of words that I never imagined it capable of handling. This is what my mother said to me –

“Maheen, listen carefully, no matter what happens, no matter what, you will continue your education and focus on working towards your dreams and aspirations. You will not stop if anything happens. No one has seen the future and Allah is everyone’s protector, but bad things happen sometimes and one has to carry on.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Both of my siblings are also studying outside Kashmir and I knew she must have said the same thing to them too. My Mother had just implied very clearly, the possibility of a war breaking out. Who knows what is left after a war, if anything at all?

I doubt many of you have felt the weight of such heavy words, it is soul crushing, especially coming from someone who you love the most in this entire world.

I still don’t think I have processed my mother’s words and with a literal heartache I have been fearfully following the news in anticipation of what might happen. I feel guilty for being away, in safety, far from my loved ones and Kashmir. How unfortunate that I have to feel guilty merely for feeling safe. The bar has been set too low.

As the ugly war clouds loomed over the subcontinent, the entire world seemed to wake up to this war that had left the confines of my beloved Kashmir and was encroaching over the safe spaces of others who generally watched such spectacles from afar.

Kashmir was yet again out of the discussion as it became about preventing a “war.” But I want to remind everyone – that it is my home that has been the battle ground all along and even if this war is evaded, my home will continue to be a battle ground unless a proper solution is arrived at. In Kashmir we live war everyday.

Right now, the political theater continues; ‘constitution’ is being ‘re-written’ to strip us of what little we have. And while Bollywood producers rush to create yet another distorted, romanticized and commercial narrative of our story, we, Kashmiris, will continue to do what we do the best, RESIST.

The purpose of writing this post is to sensitize people around the world to what Kashmiris live through everyday. I do not want any sympathy and definitely don’t patronize me or other Kashmiris. We are resilient people who are working to find our justice and will keep doing so till our last breath.

A common Kashmiri.

Thank you so much Maheen for sharing your words with us.

Maheen Akram is Currently pursuing a double major in Economics and Political Science at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. At Wellesley , she is involved in Human Rights advocacy and raising awareness on issues around the world. She has done multiple fundraisers for Kashmir, Rohingya and Syria.
Upon Graduation, Maheen wishes to return home to Kashmir and work for the social and economic development there.

FOOD

Oulve t’Haakh : An Authentic Kashmiri Greens Recipe

MAMANUSHKA.com || Oulve t'Haakh || Authentic Kashmiri Greens || Recipe || World Cuisine

You know there are those dishes people name ‘Poor man’s pudding or Poor man’s such and such’ – iterating that the ingredients are cheap and basic? I really dislike that term.

It makes the ‘Poor Man’ seem unsophisticated like he has no manners – but I’ve oftentimes noticed ever since I was a child, that it is often the ‘poor man’  (or woman) who has much to give. Not only that but is much more willing to give.

Haakh (greens) has been a staple in Kashmir for hundreds of years – if anything can be described as ‘the poor Kashmiri’s diet’ it is this. Every self respecting Kashmiri knows the true value of the humble ‘Haakh seun’ (cooked greens). Haakh grows abundantly in everyones back yard in Kashmir, if there’s nothing else, there’s always haakh.

It may be a common and often repeated staple in many households across the valley, but like all things abundant and taken for granted, when Kashmiris are away from ‘home’, Haakh is a beloved comfort food – right up there with Razma daal (red kidney beans) and Aanchaar.

If you hail from Indian Occupied Kashmir and you’re reading this – I don’t need to convince you. You KNOW. But if not, dear reader – I tell you, you have got to try this. For most of my life – I left it up to other Kashmiris around me to feed me this delicious dish – and once or twice I even tried to make it myself – but it was a fail. Not because it’s difficult to make – but because it’s TOO EASY! Yes, seriously. If you try too hard with this thing it just …

There are so many ways of cooking these greens. My friend Alina makes it with fresh green chilies and a handful of chopped onions and hers stays  the most gorgeous green color ever. My mum does some Kashmiri magic and eschews the onions altogether using only garlic, turmeric and red chilli powder.

Haakh is super versatile and can be added to anything – ‘Maaz t’Haakh’ (lamb and greens – like adding spinach to lamb but the taste is completely different) Kashmiri’s even make ‘Tschamen t’Haakh’ a lovely almost milky version where the greens are prepared with triangles of fried paneer.

Then there’s Oulve t’Haakh – potatoes and greens. My lovely Mother-in Law makes it like this (with a smattering of fresh tomatoes), and it’s the one I’m going to share with you because last time she was here I watched her like a hawk to see EXACTLY  how she did it.

One taste of my Mother-in Law’s Haakh transported me straight back to Kashmir. Tumeric stained finger tips and all. She made it taste exactly as I’ve had it there. I used to think it was something to do with the particular soil that gave the haakh greens its distinctive taste but after taking notes from her – I realized the secret ingredient no one else here seemed to be using (at least the times I’ve had it outside of the valley). And guys I’m going to share it with you!

Also – it’s good for you, green light all the way for this one. Serve with plain boiled rice and a dollop of cold Zamoud doud (plain greek yoghurt) and eat as much of it as you like.

Ok here’s what you need :

Ingredients :

One bunch of Haakh leaves. Basically any green leafy edible. Most akin to the Kashmiri haakh are Collard-greens (shown in photo), Chinese-brocolli and Kale.

Onion (one small)

Tomatoes x2

Potatoes depending on size one or more, mine were quite small so I used three.

Garlic x 4 cloves

Green Chilli x 4-5 (can also use red chillies)

Cumin seeds & Mustard seeds – 1/4 teaspoon of each

Turmeric powder heaped teaspoon

Fennel powder heaped teaspoon

Red Chilli powder is not shown on the photo above as I was using fresh green chillies, but often is used along with green ones too – depends how hot you want it.

Mustard oil 4-5 table spoons (recommended, but any other non-smelling cooking oil can be used in place)

Salt (to taste)

Water 3-4 cups

(Here’s what to do- remember don’t try too hard!)

Method

Begin by preparing your ingredients. Everything basically goes in one after the other so it’s really helpful to have all the chopping ect done before hand.

Wash each leaf of your greens under cold running water, then cut off a cm or so from the end stems.

Discard the ends and roughly chop the rest of the greens. Keep aside.


Peel and cut the potatoes as you like.

Slice the onion and chop the tomatoes as you like, keep them together.


Slice/grate/crush the garlic (whatever is easier for you). Chop green chillies keep aside, along with the mustard and cumin seeds.


Heat the pan/pot you will use for cooking on a high flame. Once it is hot, add the secret ingredient- Mustard oil! (I’ve always wanted to use the words ‘secret ingredient’ in a recipe blog!) Mustard oil has a pungent smell and it’s really important you heat it well – almost until smoking point. It is totally fine to use any other cooking oil if you don’t have mustard oil on hand – just make sure this time it’s of the non-pungent variety. It will still tase good without mustard oil, but if you do use it – it will give this dish that ‘back home’ twang.

When you feel the oil is hot and starting to smoke the tiniest bit throw in the cumin seeds and mustard seeds, allow to splutter and add garlic and green chillies. Give one little mix (you don’t want to burn the garlic or brown it too much)

Add the onions and tomatoes and potatoes (all together at once).

Mix, still on high flame, add salt and let cook for three mins or so giving a stir now and then. After three mins add the rest of the ingredients, turmeric powder, fennel powder and green chillies (also add the red chilli powder if you want it extra hot)


Stir, lower the flame and cover with a lid. Let cook for 2-3 mins more. When it seems the oil is seeping out on top of the mixture, add all the chopped greens, mix and turn up the heat.

Mix everything well and taste the sauce for salt. Add a little more at this point if you feel you need it.

After 3 mins or so add three – four cups of water. This may seem a lot but the greens should be covered in water.

Let it all come to a boil and then reduce heat to medium so it is still gently simmering. Let the water cook off until there is just enough that your spoon can still pick up soup (which will remain thin – don’t expect it to thicken) but the greens are more visible. Also by this time the oil should have risen and seeped out on top of the soup somewhat.

Taste for salt but beware of adding too much more as this dish tastes even better the next day and by then the saltiness also seems to slightly peak. Serve hot or cold with piping hot plain boiled rice and a dollop of yoghurt on the side. I love eating the whole concoction in a bowl with generous helpings of the thin soup. The spicy soup, fresh taste of the greens along with the hot rice and cold yoghurt is so delicious and literally guilt free.

Enjoy.


Also Kashur Yakh’n : Melt in the Mouth Lamb Infused with Cardamom, Cinnamon and Fennel

RELATIONSHIPS

On Gratitude, Change and Honouring Our True Selves

Aiysha Malik holding a copy of the book Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Sometime between the crisp promise of September and the bare leaves of November, just as the seasons changed in the way they always do, I changed too.

I can’t say for certain what caused this shift –  perhaps it was the afterglow of a long and purposeful summer, or maybe the crossing of a significant birthday, or it could simply have been a steady filling up of life, but things were looking different. Life was feeling different. And for the first time ever, I wasn’t certain if I could share it here.

I would open up my notebook and gaze upon the fresh page, intending to write for Mamanushka and ending up with zen doodles. During nap times, I would sit at my computer and will the words out of my fingers but there was nothing. Posts went unwritten and drafts languished unedited. And what’s more, when I did come here to look through our little corner of internet, it seemed so far removed from my current reality. I wanted to write about how the political is personal, how equity is everyday, and how we understand matters of representation, belonging and community building. Sometimes those things come with a great recipe and perfectly framed photo — and sometimes they don’t.

When we started Mamanushka, Sumaya and I would joke that this blog was our third baby. After all, hadn’t we birthed it, nurtured it, fretted over it and sacrificed precious sleep for it? The analogy worked for awhile, that is, until we both had our actual third babies and time swiftly disappeared into them and the realities of being immigrant moms of small children living far from familial support settled in.

Between the two of us, we had gone from sharing on Mamanushka several times a week to several times a month and slowly, slowly dwindling down to where we are now, with our last post published well over four months ago and all pretty quiet on socials as well.

As a blog devoted to the pursuit of everyday happiness and the sharing of honest experience, we were now doing neither. We had built Mamanushka for the past three years on a solid foundation of being slightly organised mothers of younger children. A window onto days of nature walks, baking, storytelling, faith and family reflections. But as our children are growing we are growing too. And as we are changing, so is Mamanushka. In truth, if it doesn’t change with us, it will get left behind and we love it and you, our readers, too much to let that happen.

In its short life, Mamanushka has been embraced by you and your friends and your mothers and your teachers. Born out of a desire to have the kind of conversations we couldn’t readily find and to create an online space that was beautiful, thought provoking and helpful, every single reader, whether supportive or critical, has felt like a light shining within a community of kindred spirits.

We are honoured to have been able to discuss things as simple as what to gift new parents and as complicated as explaining female prophecy and as heart wrenching as how to talk about racial bias with the very young. We’ve been delighted to host guest writers and giveaways, share outtakes on instagram, put on puppet shows, record stories, celebrate Eids and birthdays, the beginnings of life and the ends of them. We’ve gone through so much together and now we want to do more and we want to do it with you.

So what does this all really mean? First of all, it means thank you for still being here. For reading and sharing and commenting and messaging and supporting us. Your time is precious and we promise to always do our best to keep Mamanushka meaningful and relevant.

It also means that while we will continue to write here about our experiences and joys as women of faith, as parents and friends, our focus will also widen out. As I embrace the challenges and opportunities in this phase of my own life, I want to share them in the hopes of finding out whether or not you’ve had similar experiences. In the hopes of finding solidarity through them. In the hopes of continuing to build strength and resilience together.

Finally, it means that we are also excited to be pursuing other projects individually and would love nothing more than for you to join us on our journeys of growth. If you’d like to see what else we’re up to when we’re not at Mamanushka, then click over to instagram to follow Sumaya and myself on our personal accounts. You are also most welcome to sign up for my very new email newsletter, where I will be sharing even more of my quest on matters of living intentionally.

And so I leave you now, with immense gratitude for being who you are and prayers from deep within my heart for a year of blessings infused with grace. May you shine like the whole universe is yours.


FAITH, MOTHERHOOD

Mamanushka Storytime: Why did Allah Ask Prophet Ibrahim To Sacrifice His Son?

 

MAMANUSHKA.COM || On Being The Parent Who Forgot || Father and Child || Water Color

‘Slaughter’ and ‘Sacrifice’ are big words for little hearts … but they don’t have to be. When my sisters and I were growing up, ranging from the ages of five to eleven, our Mama told us the story straight up no censorship and we just accepted it. Allah gave prophet Ibrahim a test, prophet Ibrahim obeyed and Allah rewarded his obedience. It was a great story. While I didn’t feel troubled by the idea of sacrifice/slaughter,  I was a little confused. WHY Allah would ask this of His prophet? Admittedly it took me many years to ‘figure it out’.  With my own children and their friends I hoped to try and add a layer of meaning.

Eid-ul-Adha is coming up and Muslim parents everywhere are a flurry with the preps that go into making it special for our children. My kids know this Eid as Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail Eid. It is  the ‘Big Eid’ – the Eid of sacrifice, where we commemorate the obedience shown by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) towards Allah (God) in his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael) and of course there is some version of this story in both the Old  and New Testament.

In the past we’ve talked about how to share the festival of Eid-ul-adha with a classroom full of 3-6 year olds by mainly focusing on the celebration. But… how do you guys feel about the telling of the story itself? 

If you’ve been struggling with this (and even if you haven’t!) click here to go to SoundCloud or press play straight in the browser below to listen to this short yet detailed narration, that doesn’t shy away from tackling the question of why Allah asked Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his own son. It is especially written and narrated with little hearts and parents of little hearts in mind! Recommended age 4-7 (and above) .

Also It’s perfect! It’s chaos! It’s Eid! & another Mamanushka Storytime: The Story Of The Night Ascent

DESIGN

Bringing Kashmiri Back

Resistance through fashion.

 

I’m bringing  Kashmiri back.

Remember when we last talked about pherans ? That is still one of the most read posts on Mamanushka. As I write this I’ve just returned from Los Angeles, the location of  this year’s KGNA (annual gathering of people identifying their roots from Indian Occupied Kashmir)  and after that pheranominal blog post I was asked to help source pherans from new and upcoming Kashmir based designers for a fashion show, (which you can catch a peek of here).

In return for the loan of her gorgeous pherans, designer Iqra Ahmed of Tul palav fame asked me to photograph them for her. Apart from the fact that the mere thought of photographing pherans fills me with more excitement than I ought to admit, I  knew you guys would love to see them too! So of course I agreed.

Look at this show stopper of a red velvet pheran with gold tilla embroidery.  

I already had my friend Sabra down as the perfect model and we gathered a couple more fellow pheran affectionados who would be up for taking a few photos.

Despite all of us being on a super-tight schedule, taking a few photos turned into a full on outdoor photoshoot  in Long Beach Los Angeles! (Another friend Rahat, lent us this distinctively lovely necklace from her personal collection – isn’t that woollen link so unique?!) 

Having thrown the kids at hubby earlier, with a promise to be back in time to get ready for that evening’s black tie dinner, we quickly donned pherans on top of what we were already wearing.

This is actually one of the best things about a pheran – the fact that they are supposed to go over your comfy outfit and are a one size fits all.

I styled each pheran with traditional Kashmiri jewelry ( with a couple of bohemian add ons), here I wrapped this shawl on Faiqa’s head in what is nowadays considered a very old fashioned style – mostly seen on more ‘mature’ women in Kashmir and even then mostly in villages. I actually think it’s such a lovely and unique way of tying the hijab.

This amazing pure silver headpiece is actually a necklace! It was sourced by a jeweler from Sopore from amongst the Gujjar craftspeople. This nomadic tribe of Kashmir are the only ones who mostly make these now. The necklace is part of a set with the the bunches of hooped earrings worn here by Zairah (in green) underneath her skull-cap type hat ( also designed by Tul Palav -after a traditional topi worn by women in Kashmir called kasaabe’ ).

The earrings are so heavy that they are suspended on some string and not actually in the ear lobes, although I’ve seen many a low hanging ear lobe on elderly women in my childhood!

Here’s a better view of that kasaabe’ and suspended earrings.

I can’t get enough of how cool this looked. On top of the cap, I draped a Kashmir shawl fully embroidered with Sozni stitch work. It’s actually my wedding shawl!  

My vision was  Pherans and the Sea. Kashmir has no beaches of it’s own, since it is a Valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains so I was looking forward to the incongruity of the ‘look’.  Don’t you think the  photos ended up coming through as wonderfuly  freeing in spirit?   

Sabra, Faiqa, Zairah and Maysa looked so stunning, confident and regal  that, not surprisingly, they turned a few heads. We were spotted by someone who introduced himself as a photographer working with models and makeup artists (probably in Hollywood – who knows? After all this was LA)  he went on to give the pheran clad ladies a few tips and direction in striking just that right pose! Thanks Angel Ramirez – your tips were on point!

It felt like an episode of America’s Next Top Model!  Amongst smiles and waves and many well meaning compliments we were described as ‘Persian Princesses’.

Kashmiri actually, replied Sabra assertive yet polite as ever.

‘Ah Kashmerian’ (came one reply)

We all looked at each other – how many times have we heard that? And I just knew. This is it. We want to take Kashmiri back.

Back from the cultural appropriation by Bollywood, back from the Orientalist narrative of the ‘exotic’ back from the Persian Princess trope …  I want people to look at this dress and know the word Pheran (pronounced fe-ran).  To look at this embroidery and know the word ‘tilla’.  

For someone in LA or London or Lahore to look at this ensemble and say ‘Kashmiri’ (not kashmirian or Cashmere? ‘like the wool?’)  I want Kashmiris who have dismissed the pheran as old fashioned, to see themselves in this and recognise the precious garment they have folded away in their mother’s and grandmother’s trunks (because grandmothers in Kashmir don’t store clothes in closets and wardrobes – they still using their old school galvanized  steel trunks!)

I love the fun twist Iqra Ahmed, the name behind Tul-Palav, has put on the sleeves of this pheran. Traditionally the Quraab daar (or Koraab) sleeve, features an embroidered slit at the inner elbow, through which the wearer can extend their hand. The rest of the sleeve is then pinned back – so it doesn’t flap around. Normally quite a formal look and ALWAYS pinned back – on this pheran the Quraab sleeve is lighter and the gold tassels add an element of surprise and modernity.

Pursuing a career in fashion design is not easy for many women in the Asian subcontinent. More so in  a place like Indian Occupied Kashmir where unemployment in its younger generation is at a critical level and parents still have a heavy hand in directing the career paths of their offspring, usually pushing them to pursue vocations such as Medicine or Engineering. The concept of Fashion Design is totally misunderstood. As Iqra says herself – ‘at first people thought I was trying to go for modelling’.  

There are a number of savvy influencers  from Kashmir that I have loved seeing emerge these past few years through social media platforms. One thing that stands out is the passion for Kashmiriat and the preservation and representation of it to the world. Iqra Ahmed is one of them. There are others like Amir Wani (Kashmir Through My Lens), Rumaan Hamdani (The Other Rumii), Bisma Parvez (painter and Artist) and Muheet Mehraj (Kashmir Box) to name a few.

What is it about Kashmir that inspires and fuels this creativity? Decades of political and practical oppression, de facto martial law and military impunity have had a huge impact on health and educational infrastructures and employment opportunities.

It’s an environment in which people are forced to survive – not thrive. Perhaps it’s the paradox of beauty in pain, of  oppression itself, nestled, no, that is too gentle a word to describe the way oppression has torn into some of the most naturally breathtakingly beautiful topography in the world and into the psyche of its people. Maybe paradoxically,  that has given oxygen to creativity. With its language, culture and national integrity under threat, it  is heartening to see the next generation of Kashmiris step up and take on the challenge in ways they know how.

These young people have worked through financial losses caused by frequent internet bans across the region due to political unrest. They keep working through physically and emotionally draining situations to bring Kashmir to the world. Not every warrior carries a sword. Some carry a pen, a needle, a paintbrush, a camera, an idea.

 

This is my ode to kickass Kashmiris, especially the kool kashur kooris – the women of Kashmir – from the saints and poetesses of past, the multi-faceted- talented creatives of today and to all the women of Kashmir, who on enduring pain and loss still emerge graceful, strong and true torch bearers for their cause. We are a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple final pics. Fun times and Maz balai’ x

 

Thank you to Iqra Ahmed of Tul Palav ~ your pherans are beautiful. Tul Palav is Kashmir’s first online store for designer Kashmiri clothes follow her on instagram and facebook.

Thank you also to – Sabra Bhat, Faiqa Anbreen, Zairah Sahaf and Maysa Bhat. Sabra is a fitness enthusiast who also happens to be a Managment consultant & Digital health strategist. Maysa is a third year Dental student.  Faiqa is an Aerospace Engineer  (she says, yes, it really is ‘rocket science’)  and Zairah is a Data Scientist currently working on cutting edge AI technology.  Of course you are all so much more than your day jobs, which absolutey rock by the way! I loved working with you!

 

Also ~ What I wore when I wore ‘Me’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAITH, FOOD

Ramadan Thirst Remedy

Tiny Tips For Ramadan

 

What’s your Ramadan remedy for keeping thirst at bay?

Last year while bemoaning cranky babies and drying up milk supplies (and therefore days missed of fasting) my friend Vanessa said ‘just drink coconut water’.

She didn’t even have to say anything else. It’s like one of those things you wonder why you’d never thought of before! Coconut water. OF COURSE! No matter how much plain water you drink – unless you sip it all day (or nights in Ramadan ) large bolus amounts of H2O just pass through your body a couple hours later. The natural electrolyte properties of coconut water mean that this fluid sticks around.

The first time hubby topped up with coconut water at iftiaar and sahoor – he was pretty amazed that the next day of fasting he experienced little to zero thirst. Now it’s the first thing he puts in the preparation for Ramadan groceries list.

I know I keep coming back to nursing – but this is a game changer in increasing your milk supply. Fasting or not, drinking coconut water will increase a nursing mother’s milk supply. You might already know that the amount of food you eat doesn’t really affect milk supply – but surprisingly enough – the quality of food you eat doesn’t affect milk production either! It’s all about the amount of fluids and the frequency with which your baby nurses. 

 

This tiny tip has big benefits! Try it. You’re welcome. 

 

Check out more Really Tiny Tips For A Really Real Ramadan 

 

Photo Credit : Aiysha Malik

DESIGN, FAITH

Three Favorite Ramadan Things

Flowers, Moons and an Adorable Book. Three lovely and simple ideas  to incorporate into your Ramadan / Eid Vibe.

 

Book

Ramadan Celebrate The World Book

This cute little board book is officially my favourite Ramadan children’s book of this year. If I could live in children’s book land this is where you’ll find me wearing colorful babushka inspired prints and living in a lollipop domed house. Look through the book right here  

 

Flowers

 

We’ve been seeing Ramadan wreaths everywhere. They are officially a thing. And since Ramadan this year is hosted by the blossom filled month of May – wait – do you really need reasons to embrace more flowers into your life?

Love walking past this little corner of the kids’ room – makes me so happy. Felt flowers wreath from Target – mosque sillouette art  put together myself with black card stock and some pretty leftover wrapping paper.

Another way to do it – with this  Moon & Star wall decor light.

 

Moon

Ok so I might have saved the best for last. This gorgeous moon mobile is alas not hanging in my home but in lovely Aiysha’s walls because get this – she MADE it.

All I want to know is – when can I order mine?!

 

Also Really Tiny Tips for a Really Real Ramadan

RELATIONSHIPS

Hey Shortie It’s Your Birthday

It was my birthday yesterday and despite best efforts to the contrary, this tune was in my head all day! I’m probably dating myself here but I still remember when it was in the charts and the way it made me chuckle on opening a card from one of my sisters to read this apt ode  ‘hey shortie it’s your birthday!’

Since then its been a Teli sister joke. You see, among the four sisters, I am the eldest but also shortest sister. Go figure.

Its been a while since my birthday has come round in Ramadan. I told the hubby and kids not to buy a cake as I’d bake one myself. There was an old pear that needed rescuing and some dark chocolate that needed to be used up so mama (thats me!) decided to make a chocolate and almond flour, pear cake that ended up being more artisan brownie than cake (definitely a good thing). Somehow it’s so much more painful to waste food in Ramadan isn’t it? It was the perfect little post iftiar treat, made all the more amazing with a steaming cup of Somali shaa

This weekend is a long one for both the UK and USA. I am really looking forward to my little Ramadan gig at the Boston Children’s Museum on Sunday. I’ve so much been meaning to tell you guys more about this and if you’ve been following our instagram stories you will have heard about it already. Promise to write more on it soon!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend wherever you are.

FAITH

Really Tiny Tips For A Really Real Ramadan

MAMANUSHKA.com || Ramadan Decor || Ramadan Tips || Ramadan Banner || Welcome Ramadan

 

Ramadan has arrived, splendid and smiling and we could not be happier! What a true blessing it is to welcome this month once again into our homes and into our hearts.

We are about a week into the Ramadan vibe and some of the initial adrenaline of this spiritual month is beginning to fade. The realities of 16+ hour fasts, very little sleep and those young children, who have decided Ramadan is a party each and every day, is beginning to set in. This shift has had us mining our previous Ramadan experiences for all those little things that make these few weeks just a bit simpler, just a bit easier and just a bit more manageable.

These are tips for a really real Ramadan – one that happens alongside a life full of work, home and responsibilities. And as tiny as they are, these tips have been super amazing at helping us maintain our fasts, calm our homes and keep the joy!  We are so looking forward to sharing the love with you over the remainder of Ramadan with series of “tiny tip” posts and hope you will share your best ones with us as well.

I will begin with the decorations in this picture above. It may seem obvious but this year I was about to give up on Ramadan decorating until I realised that I could hand it over to my eight year old! She enlisted the help of her younger brother and they spent a weekend cutting and pasting and going through all the craft supplies to come up with this arrangement. It’s so charming and full of love and they were so proud of themselves. I admit, it was slightly difficult to let go of my pinterest inspired decor ideas but in the end, it was so much better to do so. Definitely a #winwin.

 

 

Also Things To Listen To In Ramadan & Beyond