People We Lost In 2016 

To God Is The Return

2016, more than any other year in recent memory, seemed marked by “high profile” deaths. From saints to inspirations,  humanitarians to poets to cultural icons – every month brought news of another passing. People we knew of but really didn’t know and yet still felt the world changed by their absence.

And more poignantly, in and around these headlines, everyday, people we know and love bid farewell to their own parents, children, spouses and friends. Each a radiant star at the centre of their own constellation – to be missed even more than the sun would be, were it to go out.

We are fortunate to be part of an online community of Muslim mothers which is far reaching and diverse. It is a safe space which is often hilarious in its commentary, useful in practical matters and more than anything else, supportive and generous when there is mother who is struggling on any level.

Today we learned that a member of our online community lost her intense battle with cancer. A mother in her 20s, she leaves behind a family which includes her loving husband and toddler son. Throughout the past year, her thoughtful words, sense of humour and honest reflections reached out from the screen and into our hearts. We loved her so hard.

Of all the passings this year of people who we didn’t know, never met, locked eyes with or hugged, this is the saddest. There was another blog post intended for today but we just can’t seem to write it. Sometimes it’s okay just to be sad and say so. Sometimes there isn’t anything else.

Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’un
To God we belong and to God we return

Image: Detail of Chapter 36 of the Qur’an,  Surah Ya Sin


Library Finds: Rufus The Writer

Book By Elizabeth Bram Illustrated By Chuck Groenink


Reading is one of the easiest ways to inspire writing, and this wonderful book about a boy who sets up a ‘story’ stand in lieu of a ‘lemonade stand’, is certain to do just that.

I read this to my then 5 and 2 year old a few months back the summer just gone, and it’s definitely a library favourite because months later he chose the same book again, even remembering one of the stories that had made us laugh together the first time round.

Rufus sets up his stand and in no time, he has customers. The book features four of Rufus’s stories each written in that perfectly child centeric way along with adorable illustrations that we loved pouring over together. One of the stories is particularly giggle inducing and we read it about 5 times collapsing into fits of laughter each time.  I’m sure you and your little ones will enjoy them just as much. 



This is one of the best and simplest books I have come across to encourage your child to write creatively. My son has always loved to use his imagination in drawing, truly enjoys being read to –  but is a reluctant writer. A few days after this book I found him attempting to write a  ‘recipe’ for macaroons (the boy loves macaroons)!


And better still, Rufus the Writer had given him the brilliant idea of gifting his Khala (one of my sisters) a story for her birthday. Written and illustrated by her favourite (and only!)  nephew!

Even if your child is not confident at writing encourage them to ‘narrate’ a story to you, while you write it down for them! This is such a lovely way to preserve that quirky tale without putting the pressure on letter formation ect if your child is not ready for that. The story Ismail ‘wrote’ (he narrated, I transcribed) to go along with his drawing was one that he titled ‘London’s Night’. It included ‘a moon that was shining on a little mini house’, ‘a road that someone had painted silver and gold’  ‘a flower that was pretty weird’ and ‘a shadow that was there all night and still there in the morning’ … all the ingredients of a sinister little tale that his Khala was absolutely delighted to receive!


That was in June, but we have another Khala’s birthday coming up this month and we know exactly what to send her!

Just like in a past Library Finds post, my son was willing to do a little mini Q&A session on the book if you’d like to read!

Describe what the book was about?  This book is about a Boy who made a story stand in summer instead of a lemonade stand.

What was your favourite part of the book? I like the part Rufus the writer wrote a ‘button’ story. it was SO funny and made me and my mom laugh I asked her to read it again and again and again! 




How did the book make you feel? Happy. And Silly. It gave me an idea to make a story into a present for my Khali.

Who would you recommend this book for ?  Mama and Baba and my friends. 



Put this book on your next Library Finds list!


The One Reminder We All Need || One Reminder We All Need || Timeless Advice || Wisdom || Boat || Sunshine || Hope

I came across a passage in a book when I was sixteen years old – just finishing high school and readying myself for a big city university adventure. Standing at the precipice of perceived “adulthood” I thought it a lovely piece of writing, in both form and message, but I didn’t know then how through challenges and celebrations, soul-searching and separations, it would be the best reminder I would ever have. The one that, no matter the circumstance or the emotion, would point me first in the right direction before gently nudging me forward. || One Reminder We All Need || Timeless Advice || Wisdom || Boat || Sunshine || Hope

In the twenty odd years since that first encounter, I have carried these words around the world  with me –  written out in notebooks, stuffed into backpacks, blu-tacked up on walls and committed to memory in my heart. I share them here now in the hope that they will be for you – as they have been for me – a shaft of light to shine through the moments of your life, urging always, whatever the situation and with a straightforward eloquence, to turn back to the Ultimate Source:

All praise belongs to God, who never disappoints those who hope in Him, never refuses those who ask of Him, never ignores those who quest for Him, never underpays those who act for Him, never deprives those who thank Him, never fails those who battle for Him, never allows those whose comfort is in His remembrance to be estranged, never surrenders to others those who surrender to His might, never abandons to others those who depend on Him, and never forsakes those who trust and commit themselves to Him. Those who firmly hold to His Book shall never err, and those who take refuge in His Presence shall never find disgrace.

Taken from Gifts For The Seeker by Imam Abdullah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad, originally written in the 18th century, translated by Dr. Mostafa Al-Badawi and published by Fons Vitae, 1992.  

Also Thank God It’s Friday!


‘SCREENAGERS’ – A Thought Provoking Take On Tweens, Teens & Their Screens


Battles over screen time? Tears over phones? Rage when devices are switched off?  And that’s just your three year old.

Can you even imagine the situation with a teenager? Maybe you have teens of your own. I know mine are six and three, but I hold no illusions that navigating screen time will get any easier as they grow older.

That’s why when our first grader’s school sponsored a public free for all screening of the movie documentary titled  ‘Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age’ I knew I had to make it. On an awful rainy night the auditorium was packed with parents, caregivers and teachers and for 68 minutes we entered into the world of ‘Screenagers’. What a brilliant title, I’ll definitely give it that, I thought as the movie started.

Delany Ruston is a mother of two teenagers  and a primary care physician living in Seattle USA, who somehow made time to direct this, more than just a great title of a film. She herself is one of the ‘main characters’. In her we see the parent in us who is having to figure out the very real dilemma of whether or not to let her 12 year old daughter have a phone. Of course by ‘phone’ we all know what that means. This mother is having to consider letting her daughter have an online presence. Ruston invites us to follow through with her on this journey of  how she, along with her husband,  eventually decide to handle the challenge of rules and boundary setting while also learning to communicate in the digital language of their daughter and her peers.

How would you convince me? she asks her daughter in one of the earliest shots of the movie

‘All my friends have it?’ comes the reply, in that typically American way of tilting up the end of a sentence making it sound like a question.

The movie tries to address the extent of how ‘screen time’ can affect different families. From the despondent grandmother acting as a guardian who needs professional counselling and advice on how to create boundaries for her grandson, to a well adjusted, intelligent young man who dropped out of a good college due to the very real problem of video game addiction.

Video games are given a fair bit of airtime in the film, One expert ‘voice’ tells us that violent video games were initially developed to desensitise soldiers in the army to real war. However interestingly enough whether they are responsible for encouraging acts of violence is something that not many experts are willing to make a solid statement on.

Our son’s school had a post-screening discussion facilitated by Dr Barry Schneider, Professor of Psychology at Boston College, who led a brief question and answer session. On that  unanswered question from the film  “Do video games promote violence” he was confidently able to state:  ‘Yes they do’ and as follow on from that he posed another question most experts are reluctant to comment on “Does that mean violent video games cause aggression?” His short answer: ‘Probably’. 

One fascinating fact that is highlighted is this evidence based research done on the difference between what teen Girls and Boys like to do with their ‘screen time’. Apparently ‘Girls like to relate’ (they spend more time on social media). At one point Ruston’s daughter clearly explains to her parents that she can not get dressed in the morning without the aid of her phone. And Boys it seems, ‘like to shoot guns, crash cars and blow things up’ (they spend more time on video games).

Another story we get insight into is that of a high school girl persuaded by a classmate to text him a selfie in her bra. The same boy proceeded to share the text with others until it eventually spread through the entire student body. Unfortunately,  this is an increasingly common  scenario and one we often think ‘won’t happen to me or my daughter’ but if you haven’t made any precautions against it happening, how can you be so sure?

This example made me particularly think – as one of the experts in the film also states that asserting authority without justifying is never the way to go. “When your daughter is not with you do you want her to just do what someone asks her to (without question)?

Then don’t expect her to be the same with you.

Our children will and should be questioning us. They will ask why and why not. Commit to TALKING about technology with your children – both sons and daughters,  as the dangers are very real for both of them. In between these stories of families we get to hear from educators and students themselves.

One group candidly talk about the rules their parents have on screen time. Most of them describe themselves as being ‘addicted’ to their devices and all agree overwhelmingly on the fact that they are glad they have boundaries otherwise they would, they say, get nothing else done at all. This confirmed something I had been pondering for a while. I remember as a teenager myself, being in a situation where I wanted my parents to take charge. I had been invited to a sleepover by a friend and I was secretly relieved when my parents categorically said ‘No’. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, your teenager needs boundaries and rules from you, rest assured you are definitely doing the right thing by asserting them.

And wait, before we all start feeling like it’s a generational gap thing between us and our children, the documentary really brings it back to you and I – the parents who are using our devices in front of our children everyday. Many of our kids have grown up seeing us with our face in front of a screen.  I joked about it once with my girlfriends that the renaissance paintings of the past had mothers gazing adoringly at their babes on the breast and the ‘modern’ version of that is mothers gazing at their smart phones while the babe is on the breast.

Why is it SO HARD to put down that device, and how can we expect our children to do so, while modelling the opposite behaviour? Just today my three year old put her ‘baby’ to bed, covered the doll with a blanket and lay down next to her only to proceed to ‘pretend’ to use her ‘phone’. To my horror I realised she was doing what she sees me do. It made me feel terrible. And it’s hard for me to actually write this and admit to you that yes, sometimes (okay – often) after bedtime cuddles, prayers and stories I lay next to my child and work from my phone. Whether it be catching up on reading or working on the blog, what my three year old sees before falling asleep is her mother engrossed in a screen.

One of the other soundbites from the movie I felt important to note was that ‘self control’ is a better indicator of success in several studies than intelligence. Remember that famous marshmallow test? Well it turns out that given the right guidance Kids CAN LEARN self control. The key is to set CLEAR guidelines. The takeaway message is that clear CONSISTENT  rules and boundaries given with LOVE and CARE promotes better everything. And that adults trying to set limits for their kids, without setting any for  themselves are setting both parties up for digital failure.

In the end all media is ‘educational’. It depends what it is you want your child to learn.

I was surprised to find that the issue of pornography exposure was not addressed at all. However this is a huge topic in itself and by the end of the film there was a lot to think about even without this. My husband and I often talk about technology and how we could/should control it in our household. After this movie, I realised we need to start involving our children in these conversations too. No they are not too young. A six year old can be involved in talking about healthy technology consumption instead of brushing it off for later when he is older. Recently to try to give him some perspective on why we have not allowed him to have a Playstation yet,  I tried this analogy: ‘some games and apps are like junk food for your brain, fun in small doses but not so healthy and too much can make you sick.

Before you go off to find this documentary on your favourite online streaming service, it is actually not available on any. The producer’s aim is to facilitate conversations between the viewers, many of whom will be parents and guardians, therefore it is only viewable at community screenings in public spaces. Watch the trailer here. You can inquire about bringing Screenagers  to your school, Mosque or community here.

Also while we are on the topic this brilliant step by step on how to help your child confront the p-word online.

And another great resource to keep you ‘woke’ when it comes to your kids and being online – Parents who fight blog 



A Shared Gender Neutral Space For My 6 & 3 Yr Old


My favorite rooms in our apartment are the ones my children use most! Surprised? Read on to find out how I created a shared gender neutral space for a 6 year old and a 3 year old that is not only their ‘happy place’ but mine too!

Ever since our daughter was born, her and her brother have shared a room. From our tiny New York space where there was no choice to a slightly bigger space in Boston Mass, where even though we had the option of separate rooms for them, we decided sharing, (at least for now while they are so young) would be more fun.

Here is a ‘Before’ shot, if you’d like to see. When we moved, the kids room was the first one we wanted to get up and running so to speak, in order that they would have their familiar things around them. The idea was that they would leave us alone to work on unpacking the rest of the place!


The room is not big at all and we finally decided to go for the ubiquitous kubra bed. Using Montessori principles of the floor bed, this was the ideal choice for our then not quite two year old and of course exciting for the then 5 year old as it was to be his first ‘big boy bed’ un-shared by mama or baby sister.


I love that this bed has been  a safe, non restrictive option for this little one, where she can lie down at ease when ever she feels like it and there is enough room for Mama or Baba when the need arises.


Of course my son wanted superhero bedding. So we set about looking for one with no faces or eyes on the design. This lovely ‘Captain America-esque’ duvet was a lovely gift from one of his Khalas (aunties). The astrology inspired wall stickers are a really easy and fun addition.


This home-made bunting is so special to me. Its made out of the remnants of an old Macy’s bag! My sisters and I made it together the night before they threw me my first ever baby shower. It still makes me smile to see it hanging above my first ever ‘baby’ s bed who is 6 years old now mashallah!  The ‘Boys & Balloon’ prints were made by the amazing Zarina, who also happens to be my sister!


The perfect place and height for this cheerful child safe mirror, next to this ‘baby bookshelf’ (which is actually one of those trays used for hanging plants or storing small gardening equipment!) The portability of this book storage idea is the best thing about it. My daughter used it SO MUCH when she was younger. Sitting next to it, choosing her own books putting them away herself… the size is ideal for those baby board books and we look forward to it getting much use again with the new baby (35 weeks and counting now!)


I know it’s not for everyone, but I love the mismatched / mixed up look. Here I wasn’t afraid of mixing wood, metal, plastic and rattan . The boxes are storage for, dinosaurs, animals, small super-hero figures, large super-hero figures, doll house furniture, wooden blocks and ‘traffic toys’ aka vehicles. These groupings of toys are always stored separately this way. Makes tidying up much more manageable as both kids know the ‘right’ place for all the items.


Aaaaand… here’s to keeping it ‘real’ !


One of my absolute favourite corners of the room. This miniature village is from a set that I bought for the kids years ago, I just hand picked a few buildings and put them on top of one of the  window sills. And I mean the top, top.


‘Sunshine’ means more than jut sunshine to us, as ‘sunshine face’ is one of the names I call my children.


Here’s the view from the door, for some perspective…


We are renting so painting walls is not an option. This never bothered me though – even if we could paint I would probably choose a bright white wall anyway, preferring to accessorise with bright textiles and items on hand. And wall art. Always wall art. Always bright and beautiful. The kids both have a ‘painting’ they have done that I framed and put in a trio along with another great print from their Khala (aunt)

‘ladybird’ finger painting by Ismail aged 3!



‘Guest Of Nature’ paper cut art by Zarina aged 17!


Hand print ‘hand painting’ by Ayesha aged 2!


Another way to add dramatic colour is by strategically only giving your child certain paint colours to work with and letting them go all out on a blank white canvas. Voila. (As opposed to giving them free reign of all paints and ending up with a brown mush). These three bears are part of some vintage wooden wall hooks and were a $3 thrift store find!


Hope you have enjoyed this peek into a corner of my home. What your home’s ‘happy place’ ?







How To Tell Your Child The Truth About Santa


Let’s admit it,  who secretly believed in Santa when they were little? (Me!) And who hung up stockings on Christmas Eve in the hope of finding them heavy with goodies in the morning?  (I hung up socks. True story). And who was a chubby little brown kid whose family made clear there was no such thing as Christmas or Santa or Stockings full of gifts and still did it all anyway? Yup! You guessed it. Me. 

Of course the next morning there was nothing but those empty limp socks to be seen (one of them had even sadly fallen on the floor). And that, as they say, was the end of that. Yet look at how powerful the concept of Santa is that it captured my imagination to such an extent that even though I knew it couldn’t possibly be logically true, a tiny part of me still wished and hoped it was.

Santa Claus, his merchandising and cultural references are  all-encompassing. It’s difficult to know exactly how to explain it all to our children. Will they feel like they are “missing out” on yet another “fun” thing that others do and “we” don’t?  Will they be strong enough not to care? Should we ignore it? Give a dose of tough love?

This is actually not just a ‘Muslim’ parent problem. Many parents of all faiths and practices are loath to feed into a myth which features a fantastical man coming into your home in the dead of night and leaving gifts for children based upon their “goodness”.

In my Montessori parent’s group, there is often much discussion around this very topic. Central to Montessori pedagogy is the belief that children should be able to learn the true nature of things. And even though some Montessori parents have fond memories of Santa Claus, they also speak of how betrayed they felt by the adults in their lives when they discovered he wasn’t “real”. The Lancet Journal of Psychiatry recently published an article suggesting that this ‘lie’ parents tell might be complicit in undermining the trust their children have in them. 

So why not try to approach the story of Santa by  telling your curious child the truth? Not just the ‘Santa doesn’t exist’ truth but the real truth. Here is  what worked for me ~ and may be you could try it with your budding Santa ‘fan’ ….

I started by telling my then 5 yr old a story ~

A long time ago, in the past, there was a wise and pious man named Saint Nicholas who used to secretly leave gifts for poor people on their doorsteps. When they woke in the morning they would find food to eat and warm clothes clothes to wear. He was a simple and humble man and he didn’t want anyone to know it was him as he didn’t want anything in return except good rewards from God.

Then over the years as time went by people wanted to remember him and his good example so they gave gifts to children and they would say the gifts were from St’ Nicholas …. Over time, practices change and after many years “St’ Nicholas” turned into ‘Santa Claus’ (try repeating the phrase over and over again!) and today people who celebrate Christmas like to be a ‘Santa Claus’ for their kids!

So Santa is not one real person. It’s people who pretend to be Santa and give gifts to their children, in the spirit of St’ Nicholas “

Along with this a discussion on how ‘nothing is free’ and that people work hard to be able to afford to give children gifts on special occasions like Christmas and Eid respectively.

This really worked for my son. He knows that I try to answer all questions he has truthfully and he expects that from us as his parents. Also it is a true and inspiring story and we even talked about the concept of charity and why it might be considered good to give it with ‘discretion’. This led us perfectly to a Hadith (saying of the of  the Prophet Muhammad) in which one of the people closest to God is described as being ‘… a person who gives charity and conceals it (to such an extent) that the right hand does not know what the left has given’ .

Through this story he also understood why some kids like to believe in ‘Santa’ and why some adults might like to lead their children to believe in Santa.  Of course I told him that it’s not up to us to tell other people what to believe and what not to believe but that in our family, we felt it important for him and his sister to know where their Eid gifts came from so we could thank the real and relevant people who cared enough to send them.

I am pretty sure this will make sense to most children and they will feel less ‘left out’ but one thing I can not guarantee is that your child will resist the urge to ‘reveal the truth’ to a Santa believing classmate. Even after warnings not to- my son just couldn’t help educating a younger friend, as I got to find out later from the child’s caregiver, that Ismail had told Eliot;  ‘Santa is not real’(!) 

Did you ever believe in Santa? Does your child believe in, or secretly want to believe in him? Do you care? We would love to know how our readers approach this topic!


An Awesome Book Of Thanks: A Heartwarming Read About Cultivating A Gratitude Attitude

Book By Dallas Clayton

“If you are thankful, I will give you more” (Qur’an 14:7)

Grandparents, self-help books and the internet all agree: Raising children to be grateful and gracious is becoming an exceptionally difficult task in our age of rampant capitalism, disposable consumer goods and culture of entitlement.

No matter what time of day or year, somebody somewhere is talking about what steps to take in order to help kids understand and appreciate not only things, but other people and experiences. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) this review will not add any “helpful” steps to this body of knowledge.

Instead, prepare to be inspired by a delightful book which introduces the concept of giving thanks as an action to be undertaken everyday and in every circumstance.

Author and illustrator Dallas Clayton had been writing children’s books for some time when, after being rejected by several publishers, he self-published to incredible success in the mid-2000s. I first came across his work around that time and when An Awesome Book of Thanks was published in 2010, I bought it right away in the hopes that I would share it with my shiny new baby as she grew. || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


The book begins with listing with what there didn’t used to be – cars or people or stars: || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


I will admit here that when I get to this page I edit it a bit and read it as “There didn’t use to be anything… but Allah.”  Because even though, in the context of the book, it refers to nothing in the created world, for me it feels right to mention that Allah was/is always in existence. || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


It then moves forward to observing the world and seeing how full it is. How once there was nothing and now there is everything – and for that I say THANK YOU! || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


The story is thankful for friends, rain, trains and “books to fill my brain”! || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


For the natural world, for other people, and then, in a sweet change of pace, saying ‘thank you’ for sometimes not being the best. And, after a few pages, pushing the concept a bit further by being thankful even for “bad things”. || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


The book ends with a final few touching pages of thanks yous – for thank yous themselves and from the author to the reader for simply being who they are. A final statement brings everything together with the observation that “thank yous” keep the world spinning round and that each spin is an end and a beginning.

awesome-book-of-thanks-kisses-via-mamanushka-blog || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


Over the years we have loved reading this book together. With its cute and charismatic illustrations, rhyming text and heartwarming message – it hits all the right notes in becoming a much cherished classic.

I particularly appreciate that the idea of “thank you” here is presented without any moralising. Instead being thankful is considered natural, enjoyable and fun – an obvious reaction to living in this most marvellous world. And because of this, the message really does stay with us long after the book has been put away and we have, in fact, made an easy game of all the  things we can say thank you for – which sometimes includes “imagination creatures” and “microbes”!

So to finish, here is my own addition, not quite polished but written just for you:

Thank you dear friend, for reading this review
Sometimes reading is the best thing to do
Whether with children
Or off on your own
Thank you for having us be part of your zone! || An Awesome Book of Thanks || By Dallas Clayton || Children's Book || Thanksgiving


The Awesome Book of Thanks  is available to read for FREE online (remember to scroll to the right to keep reading).
If you like it –  and I’m sure you will – you can order a copy through your local bookstore or from any major online bookseller.



3 Magnificent Traditional Muslim Artists You Need To Know Now || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || Karamala || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Modern Arabic Calligraphy|| Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

Have you seen this New York Times review of a phenomenal new exhibition showing now at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.? Titled The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts , it is the “first major presentation” of Qur’anic manuscripts in the United States and features almost sixty pieces from between the 8th and 17th centuries. It looks so incredible, I only wish I lived more locally so I could view it in person.

Last year, I had the privilege of volunteering my skills in aid of a prestigious international Islamic Art Charity Sale.  From around the globe, master artists and artisans donated their work to be sold in benefit of a ground-breaking and innovative mosque project. As each new piece arrived, we unwrapped it carefully to feast our eyes on pieces which ranged from watercolour drawings to plaster carvings.

One sunny afternoon, we gathered to photograph some calligraphic pieces. With no expectations of what this package may contain, I lifted the protective covers and gasped. Shimmering and radiant, seemingly reaching out to me from it’s paper ground, the work I had uncovered was so arresting and sublime it had, quite literally, taken my breath away.

Arabic calligraphy, particularly Qur’anic calligraphy, is an artform beloved by Muslims worldwide. It’s meaningful beauty a source of spiritual strength, pride and honour at a time when so many visual representations of our faith are twisted into ugly caricatures.

And although we love to admire it, purchase prints, posters and vinyl decals, there is also this sense that the greatest original works of traditional Islamic calligraphy – those which fill the page with their precisely balanced and flowing strokes, surrounding by luminous, detailed golden illuminations, are somehow a thing of the past. Somehow no longer part of our world.

And yet, on that day, in front of me lay a transcendent piece of pure, ethereal beauty – very much created in the modern world, by living artists.  My most immediate questions were where did it come from, how was it made and how much was it?  Needless to say, it was completely beyond my budget but through these questions I came to learn about the amazing Özçay family.

They are three siblings from Turkey, Mehmed, Osman and Fatma, whose exquisite mastery and understanding of Islamic calligraphy and illumination is directly connected to the finest calligraphers and illuminators of the past and yet, their own work is fully actualized in the present and at times even reinterpreted for a more contemporary context.

Mehmed Özçay and Osman Özçay  are master calligraphers, while their sister, Fatma Özçay is a master illuminator. Separately and together, they create the type of art which hangs in museums and private collections around the world. And yet, despite the high status of their work, many people will have never heard of them.

Qur’anic calligraphy, like almost all Islamic arts, is a living tradition which, thankfully, is still available to us in it’s most finessed form. Since that first encounter with their artwork last year, I have developed something of an obsession with the art of the Özçay siblings and am delighted to share some of my favourites here.  No photograph can do these artworks justice, but trust me,  this is traditional Islamic calligraphy at its most glorious. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || "Iqra" (Read)

Iqra (Read) | Calligraphy by Osman Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay

This is the piece, that upon unwrapping, started it all. It’s difficult to tell by this image, but the calligraphy is done in a gold so rich and deep that it seems to glow from within. The illumination around it is so subtle that it appear to ‘float’ up from the depths of the paper. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Basmallah Bismillah ||Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

Bismillah (In The Name of God) | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay

How beautiful is the juxtaposition here between the strong bold strong  of the basmalla and the delicate, almost charming floral illumination surrounding it? This is one of the precise classic styles the Özçay siblings are known for. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Quran Calligraphy

Lā Ḥawla Wa Lā Quwwata Illā Billāh (There Is No Might Nor Power Except In Allah.) | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

Verse from Surah al-Baqara | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay

“[Our life] takes its colour from God, and who can give a better colour than God? It is Him we worship” Surah Baqara, Chapter 2, Verse 138. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Karamala || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

‘Ashq’ & ‘Mashq’ | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay

This form of calligraphy is known as a Karmala, literally translated at “scribble”. Developed by the artist with coloured inks, my eyes enjoy these dynamic and modern-looking compositions. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || Karamala || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

Karmala | Calligraphy by Osman Özçay

Here is another Karmala, this time by Osman Özçay. This one reminds me of calligraphy practice sheets, where each letter is set against dots or nuktas made by the pen in order to ensure their perfect proportions – although, of course, this is far more beautiful and accomplished, I am fascinated by seeing the usually hidden measurements made visible here. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Basmallah Bismillah ||Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

Calligraphy by Osman Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay

How utterly striking and gorgeous is this piece? I can’t stop looking at it for all it’s detailed perfection. Stunning. || Gorgeous Islamic Floral Illumination || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

Illumination by Fatma Özçay

A close up detail of the most beautiful illumination. Each stroke so fine and carefully placed, I could fall into this pattern and happily stay there. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

Illumination by Fatma Özçay

The subtlety and grace of this work keeps me returning to look at it – so thoughtful, serene and pleasing to both eye and heart. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || Karamala || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

“Nun! By the pen and all they write.” | Calligraphy by Osman Özçay

Yet another karmala because I  love them so much and just had to get it in here!  This one centers upon the sacred letter nun and the opening verse of chapter 68 of the Qur’an, al-Qalam (The Pen). The colours in this are slightly more subdued but the mark in the middle reminds me of a golden ka’aba circumambulated by letters. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

Hadith (Saying of the Prophet) | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Surah Hud || Quran Calligraphy || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

Verse from Surah Hud | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay

“It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein” Surah Hud, Chapter 11, Verse 61. Love the sunshiny colour. Love the perfectly balanced calligraphy. Love the golden paper. Love. Love. Love. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Vaw || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

“Vaw” | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay

I have to say it… this is a definite “wow”! || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay || Illumination by Fatma Özçay || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Turkey

La Illaha Ill Allah (There Is No god But Allah) | Calligraphy by Mehmed Özçay | Illumination by Fatma Özçay

The power of illumination means that a difference in it and ink colour completely changes the feel of otherwise identical calligraphic forms. || Gorgeous Islamic Calligraphy & Illumination || Calligraphy by Osman Özçay || MashAllah || Islamic Art || Sacred Art || Traditional Arts || Quran Calligraphy ||Turkey

MashAllah (Allah Has Willed It) | Calligraphy by Osman Özçay


If you’d like to know more about traditional Islamic calligraphy, it’s historical importance and development, here is a short overview.
“Iqra” Image courtesy of the Cambridge Islamic Art Sale, all other images from


On Promising My Children The Moon || Promising The Moon || Supermoon || Illustration by ||


It begins two weeks before, innocently, on a weekend morning after perusing the news.

Oooh Bachas, listen, there is a Supermoon coming week after next!  We need to watch out for it.

Mama… a Supermoon?  What will it DO? Does it have powers?

Ah, no, no –  it doesn’t really do anything different than what a moon usually does.  Actually, it’s the same moon! But it will shine brighter and look a lot bigger and be even more beautiful,  so we should definitely try to see it.

They don’t  ask any more questions – which is perfect, because at this point I don’t have any more answers –  but are fascinated enough that the following morning our countdown begins:

12 more sleeps till the Supermoon…10 more sleeps…  one week… 5 days…  3… 2… 1…. Supermoon is a go!

Finally, it is here: The Day of the Supermoon.

Up before dawn, as is their regular habit and rushing out of bed, Mama! Abu! Today is the Supermoon! And just in case we hadn’t grasped the details, The Supermoon will come today!!

Yes! Amazing! InshAllah we will go out at moonrise.

Thankfully, moonrise where we live is at the very kid-friendly time of 5:30pm, well before bedtime or any late night tiredness. This is going to be great, I think. The biggest, brightest moon in over 60 years and we would get to see it together.

That is until I glance out the window. Oh no. I forgot that we live on this Island with its clouds and rain. A grey day greets me as I head out for the school run, not a patch of blue sky to be seen.

How could I have made such an amateur error? Not checking the weather before planning is like not checking the traffic before a road-trip, leaving you unprepared for significant changes to plan!

I had promised a Supermoon and as my two chatted away in the back of the car, I begin to  make du’a fervently for a good outcome that evening. Please, I ask Allah, please, please, please help us to see the Supermoon today. Please clear the skies and let us witness this amazing image. You are All-Knowing, Most Powerful.

The day passes. As moonrise approaches and the clouds stay firmly gathered, my anxiety rises. I know it’s okay for kids to be let down. In this case particularly, circumstances cannot be helped but I still feel agitated at the thought of how disappointed they may be.

I try to mitigate the situation a little in advance by pointing out that even though we are so excited about the Supermoon, maybe, because of all the clouds, we might not be able to see it.

Okay, they concede, but we have to try! The Supermoon only comes once in  hundreds of years. Clearly, awareness of time is a concept we are still working on.

With our waterproofs, wellingtons and thermos of tea at the ready,  about ten minutes to moonrise I step out into the windy, drizzly rain.

Pitch black. So dark and with clouds so thick it is hard to make out any movement between them. There is no way we are going to be able to see anything with this sky.

My insides sink. The Day of The Supermoon has become The Night Of Inclement Weather. From phenomenally fantastic to truly mundane in the space of eleven hours. I go back in and explain the best I can to a still hopeful three and six year old.

There is denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and finally acceptance that we will not be taking a cold rainy walk in order to try and “find” the Supermoon.

As a kind of consolation, hot chocolate is made, games are played and stories are read. Finally, it is time for bed.

Snuggled in, warm and cosy, singing a lullaby into the quiet of the moment, a bright light shines through the blinds, casting patterns into the room. No big deal. This is likely the headlights of a car coming up the street – only the shadows aren’t moving and the light isn’t  flickering.

At once it comes to us. My six year old bolts out of bed first and raises the blinds.

The moon! The moon! The Supermoon! Look. The Supermoon! The Supermooon!

She stands on a small bench under the window with her little brother and they gaze into the night sky, where the clouds have parted to reveal the brightest, roundest, most luminous moon we have ever seen. We are completely quiet and still.

And then, from our daughter,the faintest hum and whisper of a song, growing louder as our son picks up the tune and joins in, first in Arabic and then in English:

Ṭala‘a ‘l-badru ‘alaynā
Min thaniyyāti ‘l-wadā‘
Wajaba ‘l-shukru ‘alaynā
Mā da‘ā li-l-lāhi dā‘

O the white moon rose over us
From the valley of Wada’
And we owe it to show gratefulness
Where the call is to Allah

We talk a lot about the moon at home and this is the song we sing whenever we see a full moon as it is a beautiful reminder of our beloved Prophet’s hijra journey and the welcome he received as he entered the city of Madina to children singing these exact same verses. But this is the first time my children sing it unprompted and with such focus.

From the depths of my heart I feel a deep gratitude. Thank you Allah. For creating this gorgeous sky. For showing us this beautiful moon. For fulfilling our hopes and for granting us the gift of sharing it together.

But my thoughts are interrupted.

Is this the same moon, Mama? That the Prophet looked at with his own eyes?

My first born is staring up through the window with great intensity.

Yes, I say, it is.


And then – even as I watch her register that her eyes and his eyes, peace and blessings be upon him,  have looked into the same sky, been shone into by the same moon –  the clouds come together in an instant, the blackout curtains of the sky, and the moon – the brightest moon we’ve ever seen – is completely gone. Hidden from view like it had never appeared and we are abruptly pulled from our reverie.

Mama! Panic rising. What’s happened? Where is it? Why has it left?

It’s still there, I try to reassure, just hidden behind the clouds like before.

Why would Allah make the big Supermoon and then hide it behind the clouds?!

Ummm… that is a good question,  I say, but neglect to mention that in order to answer it I will likely need to consult several books on philosophy and also check scholarly opinions.

I rustle our two sleepyheads back to bed. Their father is travelling and they are buzzing about how they can’t wait to tell him that they saw the Supermoon. How it came to them in their very bedroom. They are happy and excited, until my three year old remembers the clouds and has a true meltdown.

Why did Supermoon have to go? Why didn’t it stay? I wanted it with me. I wanted to keep it. Why isn’t it here? I love Supermoon. I miss Supermoon. Why won’t it come back to me?

I have no answers, only empathy as I cuddle away his sadness and think about all the times, in fairytales and literature, I’ve read about a child crying for the moon. About the idea that you can prove your love for someone by bringing them the moon and stars – in urdu poetry, this is literally referred to as breaking apart these celestial bodies and carrying them back to Earth (chand taare tod laun).  I think about how as parents, we want to do this for our children at every turn – how we would gladly dismantle not only the moon, but entire galaxies for them. But the moon and stars belong in their orbits and not on this earth and the truth is, I’ve learned my lesson – some promises are not ours to make.

“Exalted is He who put constellations in the heavens, a radiant light, and an illuminating moon.”
Qur’an 25:61



And here is a sweet song for children which talks about how we share the same sun and moon with our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:

Illustration by Good On Purpose


Homemade Bread In An Hour

Totally Possible, Completely Delicious & Yeast-Free || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Homemade Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids

Can we take a moment to talk about baking bread at home? The ultimate in homemade comfort, nothing will make you seem more like a domestic goddess than pulling out a fresh baked loaf out of your oven.

But for something so simple and with so few ingredients, it is amazing how complicated, daunting and time-consuming it can be. Even the most basic recipes require the right type of flour, yeast, time to knead, then prove, then knead then prove again and finally (finally!) into the oven and even then, sometimes your loaf bakes up too dry or too mushy and even your tears won’t bring back the hours you lost in the anticipation of a lovely wholesome loaf. I mean, I’m just assuming that’s how it is… because nothing like this has ever happened to me. Ever.

Now, what if I told you that after years of never crying over ruined loaves, I have finally cracked the homemade bread code? You may not jump for joy, but you would be intrigued wouldn’t you?

And then, what if I told you that you could have this tasty loaf mixed and baked within the hour? With NO kneading necessary. And no yeast. And using whatever flours you already have in your cupboard! Finally, what if I told you you could make it with your kids, even if your kids are three year old whirlwinds of energy and it would still only take one hour and one bowl? Well I bet you’d want to know how this magic is possible and this is your lucky day because I am about to share the ultimate bread recipe for real life.

This bread gets its rise from baking soda, buttermilk and an egg. Yes, you heard right, there is an egg in this bread. Strange as it sounds, this egg gives the loaf the kind of soft springiness that makes it perfect for sandwiches and toast. It works well with soup too. And with cheese. And hummus. In fact it tastes good with everything and it tastes good on its own.

The only danger is in slicing bit after bit (just to taste) and finding half the loaf gone. So be careful with that part – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life
(adapted from Rachel Allen’s Brown Soda Bread recipe)

1 3/4 cups (225g) whole grain flour
(Use all of the same kind or mix up whatever you have, for this batch I used 175g wholemeal spelt flour, 25g wholemeal rye flour and 25g oat flour BUT all these types of flours are NOT NECESSARY. Use 225g of normal wholemeal flour and this bread will still be awesome. I just use bits of different flours because I have a flour obsession.)
1 3/4 cups (225g) refined flour
(Same as with the wholegrain flours, use what you have, just make sure it’s not self-raising. For this loaf today I used a mix of plain flour, white spelt and white rye, only because I had these on hand. All plain flour is totally fine and works great.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
3 tablespoons (50g) mixed seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower, or golden flax seeds (linseeds) (optional)
1 egg
About 1 2/3 cups (375–400ml) buttermilk, kefir or soured milk
(Sour your own milk by stirring 2 Tbsp of lemon juice intto 400ml of whole milk and letting it sit for a few minutes.)

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and generously butter a 6 cup loaf pan or bread tin. || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids


Whisk together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix in the seeds (if using). Make a well in the center. || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids


In a measuring jug, whisk the egg with the buttermilk and pour most of the liquid into the flour mixture. || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids


Using a wooden spoon, or silicone spatula, carefully mix the dry ingredients into the liquid until they are well combined. If the dough seems dry, add a little more buttermilk. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky. || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids


Spoon the dough into your prepared tin and smooth the surface. If you wish, you may make a deep cut at the top, but I never do as I like the way it rises without it. || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids

Bake for 15 minutes in the center of your oven. Turn down the heat to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 30 minutes more.

When done, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the baking tin and place on a wire rack to cool – although there really is nothing like fresh warm bread so feel free to completely skip the cooling part without any guilt! Enjoy. || The Ultimate Homemade Loaf: A Homemade Bread Recipe For Real Life || EASY & DELICIOUS || Yeast-free || Baking With Kids