How To Make Sure A Movie Is Appropriate For Your Kids

(Without Having To Watch It First!)


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If only there was some way to know if the movie was actually appropriate before we go the cinema… the ratings are completely useless.

Nearly every single parent I know has said some version of this in regards to their children watching movies. It’s such a conundrum. You enjoy watching movies, you’d like to share that experience with your child – so you look up what’s on, read some reviews and book your tickets. You get your popcorn, your seats, start watching and then realise… ummm… this movie is not really the kind of thing you want your 6 year old to be watching! For whatever reason, it’s not what you expected. But how to extricate yourself without a scene? If only you’d known beforehand! And truthfully, this isn’t limited to being in the actual cinema, but can also be regular occurrence on netflix nights.

The broad ratings system, it’s true, is not very helpful. Sometimes movies are considered appropriate for violence shown but not for sexual content or nudity. Sometimes there’s nothing really shown but the language used is unexpected. Or sometimes, especially it seems in animated tales, there are mature themes of death and family disintegration which can be frightening or disturbing to some. As our children grow older and venture out of the world of cbeebies and Sesame Street, I know I’d  like to continue to make sure that what they are watching is suitable for their age and in keeping with our family values.

I can only imagine that this issue grows as children enter their tweens and begin going to the movies on their own with friends. Of course, after a certain stage, there is only so much parents are able to steer and advise and the hope is that by then, our children will be able to make good decisions on their own. But, especially while they are younger, how to stay an informed parent and make good cinema-going decisions without having to watch every single potential film yourself first?

There is a way and it is easy.

Meet Kids In Mind: A movie ratings and parents review site written for parents by parents.  As noted in their mission statement, the purpose of the site is “to provide parents and other adults with objective and complete information about a film’s content so that they can decide, based on their own value system, whether they should watch a movie with or without their kids.”.

The people behind Kids In Mind have come up with a robust methodology behind their ratings system, which includes three distinct, category-specific ratings (per film): one for sex and nudity, one for violence and gore and one for profanity. In addition to a numerical rating, they also provide a “complete content analysis” where every instance of sex and nudity, violence and gore and profanity are listed with a short description. This analysis also includes a list of major themes or as the site describe them, “discussion topics”.

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The reviews and descriptions are very detailed but don’t say whether a movie is “good” or “bad”. They simply list the facts so that you can decide for yourself what is appropriate.

The site was established in 1992 and has hundreds of movie reviews, so chances are most of the movies you consider will have already been reviewed on the site. A word of warning that the site itself is best viewed on a laptop or desktop – for mobile viewing, try downloading their app (for iPhone and iPad).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, whatever the rating of a movie, making a practice of discussing/debriefing with your kids about the media they consume is a healthy habit. You won’t always be able to monitor what they seek out and watch, but you want them to be comfortable sharing their thoughts, asking critical questions, and speaking up if they don’t like, or are confused by what they see. Here are some practical ways to begin an open exchange with your children and foster genuine media literacy in your family. As always, share your thoughts with us in the comments and happy watching!


On Being The Parent Who … ‘Forgot’


‘Mama why didn’t you come today to my school for the peace day ceremony?’

What?! That was today? When?! 

‘Yes everybody’s mama and baba were there I couldn’t see you.’

Heart dropping moment. I had forgotten. Completely and Utterly Forgotten.

I gathered up all the excuses I could, not to offer him, but to offer myself – I had an ultrasound scan today, I had a Glucose tolerance test straight after (and we all know how long that can take). At home his little sister drew all over her hands and face with marker pen – and I had to give her a bath to wash it all away….

But to him all I could say was ‘sorry’

‘I’m so sorry jaanu … … I’m sorry mama totally forgot’.

We were driving home, I had just picked him up from school. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal, surely someone’s parents probably couldn’t make it either? But I found myself asking him if he would forgive me (for not being there).

‘Yah OKAY’ he said in only the way your barely turned 6 year old could say it – all at once full of sincerity and nonchalance.

Yet I couldn’t shake it off.

Later that night I texted a friend – ‘… I  feel like such a crappy mama’

And the story came out … ‘… He said he was looking for me … I totally forgot…’

I turned to other mama friends in my tribe … and of course my sisters. None of whom are yet mothers but I knew they would feel my pain because to my son they are basically his second, third and fourth mothers! (The only people who I could tell every single tiny detail of the kid’s day to and they would still ask me to share more.)

One friend quoted Imam Gazali to me, another told me to ‘shut up and save your emotion and energies’  but you know what they all said?

‘I understand’

‘I forgot too…and he was the main performer…’

‘You are a good mom’

‘I’ve done this before…’

These women are, in my eyes, exceptional mothers. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the worst. I was in the company of ‘good moms’

‘Good moms’ who forgot.

One of my sisters soon replied ~ in true ‘Khala (maternal aunt) style’ she narrated a story that completely empathised with her nephew. Of a morning in primary school when she was around the same age as him during a class assembly to which parents were invited, she recalled of our mama-

During the whole assembly I kept looking for her but couldn’t see her… When we singing our last hymn, the doors opened and its was mama with (our baby sister ) in her pram… She had just run really late and had missed the whole thing … “

She went on to say that she remembered  her teachers reassuring her later on and that she “…nodded but cried a bit at playtime anyway” !

Have you been the kid whose parent forgot to show up? I started wondering if this could be one of those ‘growing up’ rites of passage. To be disappointed in your parent(s) and to learn to forgive them. Or may be it is a ‘parenting’ rite of passage?  The ‘forgetting it’s your kid’s big performance at school and having your heart crushed when your child tells you everyone else’s parent was there and that they were looking for you’ 

Those who have experienced this…. I know you get it.

Its not the fact that other parents attended and you ‘missed out’. No, it wasn’t that.  Aiysha reminded me of something she had heard  Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad  say once during a Khutba ~

(Paraphrasing) ” …just watch a young child enter a room full of people and notice the first thing they do is look for their parent. To find them and centre themselves.  Now imagine a child who is looking and looking in a world full of people  and it can’t find that person…’

He was of course talking about not just the orphans of this world but those children with ‘present’ yet still ‘absent’ parents who consistently disappoint them by not showing up.

It was not just pregnancy hormones that made my tears fall on this one. Just the thought of any child experiencing that and my child even for a little while was enough.

That night during our bedtime ritual of saying our ‘Thank yous’ to Allah, (we each take three turns to say ‘Thank you Allah for ‘something/anything during the day’), Ismail said ‘you know if you had come today I would have said thank you Allah for letting mama be there at my peace day ceremony’

Inside I was thinking ‘Wow kid, you really know how to ram home the point!’  But out loud I said ‘And now? How do you feel about it now?’  

‘Oh, I don’t care. It’s ok mama I can choose something else’

His little sister waiting patiently for her turn so far, at this point couldn’t wait any longer ~ ‘my turn! my turn!’ and in her truly excited little two year old love said ‘THANK YOU ALLAH FOR MAMA AND BABA !”

Thank you Allah indeed! We slept after that and as it often is with the blessing of sleep the next morning bought some perspective…

As I write this, I have just come back now from morning drop off where I briefly spoke to his teacher about it. She reassured me that there really were not that many parents who attended, but it was a sweet thing that amongst those who did my son was looking for me.

I know we want to do it all, but I admitted to myself then, that this wont be the last time I disappoint my child. That sometimes you can be the parent that doesn’t show up. And that sometimes it really is okay.




Art Credit : Painting by Zarina Teli



The Hundredth Name: A Gentle Tale of Friendship, Family and the Power of Prayer

Book By Shulamith Levey Oppenheim

“I am near; I hear and answer the call of every caller when he calls to Me.”
Qur’an 2:186

My children want a pet cat.  In truth, “want” is too weak a word – they are virtually consumed by the idea of having a cute kitten to play with and raise. Every morning and every night we are regaled by tales of this kitty. How wonderful and playful it will be. What it will look like. What we will name it. How happy it will make us… the list goes on.  I love how much they adore this future pet already and admittedly, I’d enjoy adding a cat to our household, but for a number of very practical reasons, there is no way we are adopting a feline friend anytime soon.

No matter how many times I try to explain it, they are oblivious to my reasons. Oh, don’t worry Mama, says my six year old, I’ll make du’a for it and everything will be okay. Allah will send us the perfect kitten. This response from her always touches me for its straightforward approach and firm belief that her supplication will be answered and one day, a kitten will be ours. I am pleased that, Alhamdullilah, instead of getting frustrated, she continues to make du’a for all the things she wants, from kittens to red shoes, but I also want to broaden her understanding of what it means to make du’a – beyond asking for material things or focusing solely on oneself.

With this in mind, I was intrigued when a friend  mentioned The Hundredth Name, describing it as a children’s book about a camel, prayer and the secret name of God. It seemed interesting and different enough to look up online –  I found a used copy for a little more than the price of a cup of coffee and a few days later it arrived in the post.

I opened the package to find a treasure of a book, gorgeously illustrated in warm undulating shades of blue and gold with a tender and uplifting story to match.

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Written by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim, illustrated by Michael Hays and published in 1995 by Boyds Mills Press,this gentle tale is set “far back in time” in Muslim Egypt and follows the the concerns of seven year old Salah.

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Salah has a special friend, a camel named Qadiim. He and Qadiim are the same age, they work together, sleep together and take care of one another “like brothers”.  However, we find Salah profoundly concerned and perturbed over his camel. He is worried that his camel is deeply sad and he doesn’t know why. Salah is unable to enjoy anything good in his day as how can he be happy when his beloved camel is sad?

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Salah tries to speak to his father about this situation and find some way to make Qadiim happy. Salah’s father is kind and listens carefully but is not convinced that anything can be done for a sad camel:

“I don’t laugh at you , my son. Your heart is speaking. But one cannot have everything… Think, (even) here on earth we poor mortals  must live and die knowing only ninety-nine names for Allah, our God, though there are, in truth, one hundred names, and the last one most important. And do we walk about dejected, head down, shuffling our feet? No! We work, we eat, we care for each other. We try to be happy, as Allah wishes us to be. And… we pray!”

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And so, as his father finishes his own prayer and heads to the fields, Salah is left to his own thoughts. Later that evening, his worries regarding Qadiim keep him from sleeping and as he reflects on what his father told him, he realises what he must do.

He rises from his bed in the middle of the night, takes his prayer mat and, imitating his father, prays to Allah.

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He prays that Allah will grant Qadiim knowledge of His most important name, His hundredth name and that this knowledge will make Qadiim happy.

The next morning, Salah and his family find Qadiim a changed camel! Standing tall and proud, his neck long and his head high –  he is not only happy but wears “a look of infinite wisdom”.  Salah’s du’a has been answered and Qadiim has been granted knowledge of the hundreth name, a name he can share only with other camels. And this, the author writes,  is why “the camel has the look it does. For while man knows only ninety-nine names for Allah, the camel knows the hundredth name, and he has never told.”

This is a storybook which truly captures the concerns and thoughts of a child and how they view the world and their relationships. Open-hearted and loving, Salah reflects all children in his concern for a beloved animal and even though his father can’t see Qadiim’s sadness, his words and actions remind us, as parents reading this story,  that children watch everything we do  and that the answers they seek will come just as much (if not more) from their observations of our behaviour as from what we say.

It is also, ultimately, a beautiful meditation on making du’a and the power of prayer. I love that Salah is moved to pray for his camel, that his du’a is focused on asking for something so profound – for knowledge and happiness – not for himself but for one he loves. He wants nothing but that his camel be happy. This type of message is often difficult to convey in children’s books and stories without sounding instructive, but here it is done with eloquence and grace and may even serve as the beginning of a more in-depth conversation on the topic.

I do admit, that when I first read the book (by myself) I was a little concerned that the slow pace of the story and all the wordy descriptions would fail to capture the attention of my three year old, but that has not been the case at all. In fact, the detailed writing, especially the specific mention of Allah, along with the illustrations, really drew both my children into the story and held them there. After it was finished, there was a moment of stillness as they took it all in.

The Hundredth Name should be available at your local library and if it isn’t, you should definitely try to request that they order it for their collection. It is also currently available to purchase new as a paperback but I would encourage you to try to find a used hardcover copy as this is one story you will want to read over and over, and that I am sure will continue to inspire faith and action, even for the hundredth time.

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Choosing A Muslim Baby Name



Every year BabyCentre comes out with a list of the top 100 baby names, I tried to find the ‘Muslimy’ version of this and they happen to have a post detailing the top 10  baby names  among Muslim parents around the world. And apparently, by around the world, they mean ‘Arab countries’, Malaysia and India.  Still, when you are in ‘looking for baby names mode’ any  list is fair game!

Choosing a name for your Muslim child,  in a predominantly non-Muslim country brings up its own issues. However, we are blessed to be in this position a third time and baby name searching has commenced!  I’d love to see a list of the top 100 Muslim baby names in the UK or the USA … If anyone knows of one do share in the comments!

So do you try to go for names that easily blend in like Adam, or Rayaan  or do you go for the classical ones? I like a mix of both. The classically traditional ones which are also familiar to the ear of most people living here in the West. For boys, the names of most of the Prophets mentioned in the Quran fit into that category.

6 years ago, when I was expecting our first baby (a boy) choosing a name was super simple. All the traditional prophetic names seemed so noble and majestic and there is something I totally love about the fact that there is a version of most of these names in all three Abrahamic faiths.  ‘Biblical names’ they call them here. So choosing a ‘Prophetic name’ was a no brainer.

One day while I was making dua for a boy who would be ‘soft hearted and strong hearted’ and for a son who would be the ‘best of sons’, I suddenly thought of a prophet, who is often mentioned in the Quran, a prophet who was truly the best of sons and whose story is the cornerstone of our faith. The Prophet I was thinking of, of course was Ismail or Ishmael. That was it. The name just entered my heart and settled in around the little boy who was still in my womb. It was an amazing feeling. To ‘know’ my baby’s name. I felt no trepidation at all in telling my husband (!) parents and relatives that I had decided on the name myself and there would be no need for further suggestions!

It was lovely, I still have emails from my dad asking me about the baby by name, months before he was born. ‘How’s Ismail doing?’ He would write.

Second time around it was the complete opposite. Why are Muslim girl’s names so much harder to choose than boys names? I was stuck. It was so hard. My husband and, the then three year old, Ismail advocated for the name Ayesha from the start. But I was adamant on finding a more ‘unique’ one. Evidently, it mattered to me that her name should not be so ‘popular’ (and by popular I meant common!). I made and read so many lists but nothing fitted. I guess I was waiting for that same experience I had with Ismail, but my little girl was already teaching me that she was not the same as her brother. She was her own person and whatever name we gave her she would make it her own ~ truly in the end I couldn’t come up with a more strong, intelligent and fiesty namesake than Hazrat Ai’sha (RA).

As for the third time round … there will be other considerations, like should the name ‘match’ the sibling names or not? My parent’s took some poetic licence and named my first 2 sisters and I real ‘matching matching’ names ~ all of them three-syllabic rhyming names beginning with ‘S’ !  #pro-tip from my dad : Don’t name your kids with names all starting from the same letter of the alphabet! It makes letters from doctors appointments and banks ect a nighmare (in deciphering the correct recipient – we would have three of everything addresses to a ‘Miss. S.Teli’ ) Fourth time round they chose a name beginning with Z instead. It’s never too late to learn! Right?!

How did you choose your baby’s name? Do you care if your child’s name is popular?


Thank God It’s Friday!

How To Have 52 Eids A Year


In case you hadn’t noticed, we love Eid. Whether putting together gifts, celebrating the day or sharing it with our community, both Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha feature prominently in our families’ physical and spiritual calendar.

Thankfully, between the two Eids there is never more than eight weeks difference, but when Eid ul-Adha has finished and all the pilgrims welcomed back home, things can begin to feel a little quiet for us. A little ho hum. A little less special.  Is it really a nine month wait until Ramadan?!

A few years ago, we decided that for our family, the joy, happiness, rituals and spirit of Eid could not be limited to twice a year. It just wasn’t enough and luckily for us, it doesn’t have to be.

“O Muslims! Allah has made this day (Friday) a day of Eid. So have a bath on this day, whoever has perfume should apply it, and use the miswaak.” (Ibn Majah)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)

Yes. Every single Friday has been made an eid, a festival and celebration, for us! That’s just the kind of TGIF we like.

In fact, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has said that Friday is the best of days, one that is most virtuous in the sight of Allah and has more greatness than Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

Even more wonderful, we have the opportunity to honor and share the blessings of Friday with our children every seven days!  It doesn’t have to be extravagant or elaborate, just a few little things to make it a bit more delightful than every other day and something exciting to look forward to. The hope is, that with the mercy of Allah, these small gestures will add up to the fostering of good habits, a deep connection to the joy of our Prophetic traditions and a lifelong consciousness of the beauty of our blessed Friday.

Since starting our own “Friday Eids” a few years ago with my eldest, I love that Jummah has become her favourite day – not because it heralds the weekend or means she can stay up late,  but because it has become a happy celebration in its own right with its own rituals.

Amongst the things we do:

  1. Start the day the night before! My kids think it is so cool that our days begin after Maghrib prayers and that Friday actually begins Thursday night.  So we sometimes we read a special story or simply just mention that Friday has begun and then share one reason which makes the day super special – for example, that Hazrat Adam was created on a Friday or that there is one specific hour in the day in which if you make a dua, it will definitely be accepted.
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  2. Take a “special bath”. I know this sounds completely pedantic, but bathing on Friday is a beautiful sunnah and we make this bath special by using our “nice” shampoo/soap and also put on some attar afterwards (we also cut nails but I can’t say that part is a highlight!).
  3. Wear nice clothes (even if they’re not new). Wearing new clothes on Friday is a sunnah and when the kids get new clothes, we talk about saving them to wear first on a Friday but mostly, we just choose a nice Friday outfit – and try to incorporate green or white, the Prophet’s favourite colours!
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  4. Tasty lunchtime treat. Throughout the week my daughter’s lunches are quite simple and quick, but on Friday, we bust out the chocolate oatcakes, tiny cupcakes or, her favourite fresh figs. It is incredible how much she looks forward to her Friday lunch sweets, even though they are so simple!
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  5. Gifts. This comes in one of two ways. Somedays, I will make a gift for the kids. Super small and easy, often an origami animal or decorated pencil, I will wrap them up with a note and give it to them after school. Or sometimes, the gift is more of an experience. We will go to a different park that we usually don’t visit, meet friends we haven’t seen in awhile or walk to a local cafe for tea/hot chocolate. I expressly mention that this is our Friday gift (Jummah gift) and they will ask about what it is in the morning, but we try to keep it a surprise until the afternoon.
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  6. Be happy and grateful. It’s not always easy in the midst of daily life and multiple commitments, but we try to be extra calm and attentive on Fridays, especially with our children, who often get caught up in our everyday rush. This attitude really makes a difference to the entire day, infusing all parts of it with a great serenity.
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This is a small list of what can be done to celebrate Fridays with young children. On days there is no school, we try to attend jummah prayers – which can be quite an event in itself – and hopefully we will be able to expand and modify our celebrations as our children grow and change.

There  are so many ways in which to experience every Friday as the Eid it is – perhaps you already do this, in which case please do share your ideas and what works with your children in the comments. Or, if you are just starting out, then try to find the way that is right for your family and see how it anchors and illuminates your week!
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On Kashmir: Cuisine, Celebration, Curfew

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

In the spirit of Eid lets talk about celebratory food! I have already shared a delectable Saffron Kehwa from the region of Indian Occupied Kashmir. Today’s food post is a perfect one for upcoming Eid parties and also hails from the same Valley. 

Ah! Kashmir. One of the most romantic places on this earth, and also one of the most militarised. Poets and politicians both have laid claim to the paradox that it embodies. Bestowed with heavenly beauty and yet ravaged by hellish politics, perhaps the most quoted epitaph for this valley of mountains and lakes are the words of the 13th century Persian poet Amir Khusro

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.

(‘If there is a paradise on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this…’)


And what of the food of paradise?  Kashmir is no doubt close to my heart, but today I would like to bring some Kashmir into your home and on to your table.  Taking influences from the Mughal Empire – who themselves borrowed much from the Persian, Kashmiri cuisine is infused with spices that are at once familiar to the basic Indian palate, yet their particular combinations and use of yogurt and saffon along with the methods of preparation lend a unique flavor not found in other parts of India or indeed any where else.



Writer Tarquin Hall  has penned one of the most exquisite and detailed pieces on the ‘gastronomcal adventure’ that is the world famous waazvan of Kashmir.  As one of my favourite pieces of travel writing ever, I have gone back to this article over and over again.  It’s definitely worth a click even if just for the eye candy that is National Geographic photography!  In the Kashmiri language ‘waz’ means cook and ‘waan’ is shop so literally a shop of cooks. It is now the name given to the formal banquet that is served at weddings and other occasions of celebration.

The Full or ‘Royal’ wazwaan consists of 36 courses! It is a patriarchal tradition, the team of cooks, called ‘waazas’ and the head cook called the ‘waaza’ are always men. For a large wedding, they work through out the night for many days straight.  Putting up ‘camp’ in the courtyard of a home, they come armed with supplies. Firewood, huge copper based ‘degh’ or pots, all matter of paraphernalia with which to chop, mince grind meat with, all of which require pure muscle power. Nary a modern machine or kitchen appliance in sight.




With recipes handed down through generations, many families in Kashmir have their own favourite ‘Waaza’ who will be called upon on on any festival or celebration. Wazas can attain celebrity status in Kashmir with the famous ones being booked years in advance! The food is served by the wazas themselves and all the young men of the family roll their shalwar kameez sleeves up and help in the bringing to and fro and serving water to the guests who are all seated on the floor on the most beautiful Kashmiri carpets.


I am lucky enough to have had this feast multiple times on my visits over the years, but it still surprises me the number of self confessed ‘foodies’ I have met, who know nothing about Kashmir except that ‘Kashmiri waazvaan’ is on their bucket list! Now, most of the foods cooked in the wazwaan can only be conjured up by the waaza and his team, but there are some dishes that are a Kashmiri household staple. Yakh’n being one of them.

I have mentioned before, I am a no expert cook, but like my mama always tells me – when you have to do something, you will find a way to do it. I wasn’t going to let my first Eid in NYC as a newly married person of Kashmiri heritage go without Yakh’n on the menu.

This was in 2008 and no google search helped me in finding a recipe I recognised as my favourite dish so often eaten but never attempted! So I made phone calls to two different continents in order to get it right. One, my mother in the UK and two my phoophy (paternal aunt) in Kashmir, or I should say – her husband as he is the real ‘waaza’ (not a professional but he dabbles in it!)  of the family. My uncle, unlike my mother  took my questions very seriously. Like many South Asian mothers – mama told me she never ‘measured’ and that I should just add a bit of this spice a a bit of that. But I learnt cooking the western way and I needed to know my measurements.

So, what exactly  is Kashmiri Yakh’n? Well its not like anything else so it’s hard to describe. There is no red chilli in sight yet it is far from bland. Soft pieces of lamb on the bone infused with cardamoms, cinnamon and fennel , added to a luscious, subtely tangy, gravy made with yogurt, fresh mint and fresh coriander. A smattering of dried fenugreek leaves at the end all blend together in a perfect concoction. A Royal treatment for your taste-buds indeed. 


I know there are a lot of Eid gatherings being planned this weekend and even the next weekend, try your hand at this for a really impressive centrepiece! I wish 8 years ago  I had stumbled upon a blog post like this – someone who is not a super cook telling me I could do it! That I too, could make this dish fit for a Mughal Emperor in my own tiny New York kitchen by following this step by step.

So In honour of the Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir, who this Eid have been under lockdown and curfew, I would like to share with you one of the most celebrated dishes of the Valley. Please send a prayer their way when you and your guests marvel at the delicacy that is ~

Kashur Yakh’n 

Here’s what you need:

Lamb or Goat Meat (on the bone) this recipe is for approx  20-25 small/medium size pieces. Traditionally a shoulder cut with ribs is used but you can use any on the bone meat.
6 Whole green cardamom pods, slightly split
3-4 Sticks whole cinnamon (if it is a long stick then 2 sticks broken up, if it is small pieces then 3-4 pieces)
3-5 Whole black cardamom slightly split
2 Heaped  tbs fennel powder (photo shows whole fennel seeds – these will also suffice however ground is preferred.)




2 tsp dried mint powder
a generous pinch kasturi methi (dried fenugreek)
5 cloves garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger

For later –

6 cups Full fat plain / greek yoghurt
1 tbs mint powder
Fresh mint and fresh coriander /cilantro
1 small/medium sized onion,
1 teaspoon  cumin seeds

Here’s what to do :

Wash meat and put in a large pot, add to it the dry ingredients of the first list. Use your hands to rub everything together.


Add to it the ginger and garlic

Add aprox 2 cups water (no more)

Put on a high flame, mix,

Cover pot tightly with a lid, to ensure as least escape of pressure as possible. Put something heavy on lid if needed to keep all the gathering steam inside the pot.

Cook the meat and spice mixture till meat is just over 50% cooked.

This took me aprox just under an hour, it could take you longer or less.

Open lid, you should see a broth has formed,


Separate the meat from the stock.

In another pot, heat a generous glug of oil

Add the cumin seeds

let them splutter, you will be able to smell their aroma now

Add to this finely diced onions

Let them fry till dark brown, while they are frying –


Measure the yogurt into a bowl and mix so all of it is smooth.

When onions are ready, using a sieve pour the broth into the onions.  Make sure to squeeze all of the excess masala left in the sieve so all of their flavor gets through  ( ‘pro tip’ – when onions are done add 1 tbs of dried mint and some freshly chopped mint, JUST before adding the broth)

Garlic should have ‘melted’ into the broth by now


Discard the ‘mush’ that is left in the sieve, the spices have done their job.

Let broth and onions mix, add salt.

Turn flame to low, add all the yogurt . MIX.

This is the important part! you will need to ensure you don’t stop mixing at all, until the yogurt and broth come to a boil together! This could take around 10mins…


Keep on mixing

After two mins, turn hob to medium and continue mixing

After a further two mins turn hob to high all the while mixing

Keep mixing until yogurt/broth mixture comes to the boil.

At this point add the meat.


And you’ve guessed it – keep mixing, till this now comes to a boil. It’s ok if the meat is not totally submerged, but the yogurt/broth sauce should almost cover all the pieces of meat.

turn flame to medium/low and keep the pot on it till meat is tender and falling off bone.

(Its important that at this point you should not cover completely with a lid, Cover it but leave the lid slightly ajar,)

Garnish with more mint and roughly chopped fresh coriander.


Serve with plain white rice. In Kashmir guests are treated to a variety of dishes – one would never dream of making just one dish – there must be at least 4-5 different ones if a guest has been invited for a meal. Kashmiris keep the practice of using their fingers and are adept at mixing a bit of this curry with a bit of that while eating. However this Yakhnie, is almost sacred in the way that it will be eaten separately, with a fresh serving of white rice, untouched by any other dish, in order to savour its flavour without distraction.

#pro tip – Make this the night before as it tastes even better the next day!


Eid ‘Moo – Baa’rak’ ! || Eid Moobaarak! || Eid Mubarak || Eid With Kids

Wishing all our lovely readers a joyful Eid, full of blessings and peace for the year ahead. Ameen. Also a huge congratulations and ‘Hajj Mubarak’ to those who made that journey of a lifetime and completed their Hajj this year.


We have really enjoyed sharing our Eid stories with you. Until next time, here is a roundup of all the posts from this year’s Eids!

Made us laugh

Been asked to present on Eid to your child’s class? Look no further…

This is one Eid card you could make even on Eid day itself it’s that easy yet oh so cute.

Talking of cute, the cutest little Darth Vader ever wishing us all a ‘Starry Eid’ (now I never thought I would write the words ‘Darth Vader’ ‘cute’ and ‘Eid’ in one sentence!)

Even if you have been super organised this year and are on top of all your Eid gifting, enjoy reading these gift guides and recognising all your loved ones in the fun descriptors. (We can’t wait to start working on next year’s Mamanushka Gift Guide! Inshallah!)


Art Credit: ‘Eid Moo-Baa’rak’ drawn by Mininushka Ismail, who recently celebrated his 6th birthday. Mashallah! 


Living In Remarkable Times

Our Old-Fashioned Friendship In The Modern World

A few weeks ago, this article was making the rounds on my social media. It was mostly shared by people who, like me,  were born before 1985 and added comments such as: I am so glad I remember life before the internet and kids will never know how great it was.

Now, I liked the article and put the book it refers to on my library list, but everytime I read a smug comment which essentially celebrated being older than 30, I just felt annoyed. Mainly because being born before 1985 is not an achievement – we definitely do not have any influence over when we are born – and also because, in the grand scheme of things,  while it does mean something, it doesn’t mean everything.

Someone somewhere is always bemoaning the onward march of technology and the pervasiveness of our screens and gadgets. Oftentimes this someone is me. I’ve always been a bit wary of personal tech and since becoming a parent, I am hyper-sensitive to screentime (my own and my children’s).  But when there is reason to stop for a moment and seriously consider life before and after the internet, I really have only true awe and astonishment.

“Do not raise your children the way (your) parents raised you;  they were born for a different time.” Hazrat Ali

There is absolutely no way our own parents could have known what type of world we would inhabit as adults. In their wildest dreams could they have ever imagined the challenges our mobile, interconnected world presents us? Or even more significantly, the benefits and joys it is able to bring?

We live in remarkable times. Flooded with opportunities for enrichment, participation and collaboration – never has it been easier to articulate who you are and find your tribe. However, like every generation before me, I struggle to reconcile the advances in our world – the good and the bad of them – while staying true to the things that matter and make us most human: compassion, community, desire for safety, the sharing of stories and meaningful knowledge.

A little over seven years ago, I received a sweet submission email to my old blog. Back then, Hijabs High was a hive of activity – on the bleeding edge of street-style blogging and cited in the mainstream media – it celebrated Muslim women far in advance of the juggernaut that was to become Modest Fashion. I received many great submissions but never forgot that particularly thoughtful message — so positive and encouraging — that  the sender ended with by quoting this hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

God will say on the Day of Resurrection, “Where are those who have mutual love for My (sake)? Today I shall shelter them in my shadow.”

Those words struck a powerful chord with me. I felt in my heart that whoever this person was, I knew that they were a kindred soul, and I loved them for the sake of Allah.

And you know what? Fast forward over seven years of correspondence, and rewind to exactly three months ago,  the sender of that email and I started a new blog, this blog.


The one you are reading right at this very moment. And we did it without any major hesitation, without ever meeting – in fact, without even exchanging phone numbers.

Wait, what? How did that happen?!

The truth is, I can’t tell you exactly, because I don’t really know myself – it just did. But the thing I can tell you is that I doubt it could have ever happened at any other moment in history.

If this all sounds a bit magical, well… that’s because it is a bit magical. Despite geography and time zones, work and children, our desire to share experiences honestly and celebrate our evolving identities has compelled us to seek one another repeatedly throughout the years in a way which simply would not have been possible before the internet. We are completely and proudly a product of our time.

If Mamanushka was a baby, she would be twelve weeks old today – still sweet and tiny but with distinct features emerging and a real personality beginning to come through. And what is a baby without a host of well-wishers surrounding it? From Denmark to South Africa to Canada to Malaysia and countless countries in between,  this little blog has been blessed with the warmest of welcomes from around the world.

And in this way, you, our lovely readers, are the newest part of this old-fashioned, modern day friendship. When else in the history of all the world would we have ever been able to know and share all of this with all of you? With such ease and positivity? Such hope and joy? We love you for the best of reasons.

This past summer, between juggling international travel schedules, school holidays and family commitments, Sumaya and I finally did what most people do first – we met! And it was so good.

Here are some snap shots from our very first ‘Mamanushka Meets’, if you’d like to see:

Same Same: || Living In Remarkable Times || Mamanushka Meets!

Look at how giddy we are – we can’t even be bothered to manage a more stylised selfie, let alone figure out where the camera is!  This is after a cross country drive for me and a packed day with the kids for Sumaya.


Playground Antics: || Living In Remarkable Times || That Sky Tho

Escape to the local park so everyone can run around and we are greeted by this amazing sky. || Living In Remarkable Times || The Only Way To Go Up A Slide

All Mininushkas agree, there is only one way to get to the top of the slide.


Mini Me’s:


While the mothers were having a meeting, these little mothers were discussing their babies too! Our girls love these dolls, both from Corolle.


Partners In Joy: || Living In Remarkable Times || Project Birds Nest

These two greeted each other like lifelong friends and immediately set to work adventuring. A glance out the window found them hard at work… what is going on over there? || Living In Remarkable Times || Project Birds Nest

Ah, it’s a “bird’s nest”! Complete with comfy padding and boundaries, of course.



Same same but diffirent indeed! We both gifted each other books!

remarkable-times-cookbook-via-mamanushka-blog || Living In Remarkable Times || Gifts || Cookbook

From me to Sumaya, this gorgeous book which features saffron, spices and tea – all things that remind me of her! || Living In Remarkable Times || Gifts || Playbook || Living In Remarkable Times || Gifts || Playbook

From Sumaya to I, this gem of a book packed with ideas to make and do – we have already started collecting cardboard for these houses.


A House for All Seasons : || Living In Remarkable Times || This Door Is Always Open

I have a feeling this is a door which is always open. We met at Sumaya’s parents home – a 19th century Victorian town house straight out of a C.S. Lewis novel!  (Thank you Mama & Papa Teli!) 


If you have any questions for us about blogging or Mamanushka, feel free to send us an email or write them directly in the comments – we would be happy to pick a few and answer them in a future blog post! And as always, thank you for reading and we hope you will connect with us on facebook, instagram or twitter.



How To Celebrate Eid-Ul-Adha With Your Child’s Class


‘You have a festival coming up don’t you?’

Around one year ago, this is what my son’s teacher said  to me as I was collecting him from school in his second week at a new school in a new city.

I was pleasantly surprised she had some inkling of the Eid that was indeed coming up in a few days time and of course I replied in the affirmative.

‘We love to hear about different celebrations in our class would you like to come in and talk about it?’

I told her that it was very nice of her to remember and to invite me, but that I would have to talk to my son about it before I could commit…

The Holidays of Eid-UL-fitr and Eid-UL-adha are officially recognised as public school holidays in New York City and in the city of Cambridge in Boston Mass. So may be I shouldn’t have been surprised that a teacher knew about Eid, in fact I should have expected it.  The fact that Eid is ‘visible’ on some public school calendars is no small feat. It would have seemed impossible in my own childhood.

I have written before, a little bit about how my childhood Eids used to be. Needless to say growing up in the mid 90’s in a predominantly white and conservative area of Britain, meant that I had few Muslim friends in high school (there were two other muslim girls in my grammar school in a sea of 800)

In primary school I had none, and having myself arrived in England as a 6 year old, I was trying to figure out my immigrant identity. One thing I remember feeling about myself all those years ago – ’embarrassed’.  I am not proud to admit it, but it’s true, I was embarrassed about being ‘different’. It took me a few years before I was confident enough to say ‘I  don’t celebrate christmas – I celebrate Eid’ or that I was fasting due to Ramadan and had not ‘forgotten’ my lunch.

When my friends asked what is Eid? I would inevitably say ‘It’s like our Christmas’. Except it wasn’t. And neither should it be.

Now as a parent  navigating the bringing up of children myself, I knew I didn’t want them to have to say ‘It’s like our Christmas’

Yes Eid is a big deal. Yes my kids love it. Yes they know the stories behind both Eids and especially this one as my son, whose name is Ismail – calls it ‘Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail Eid’ (not without a good dose of pride at the importance of his namesake!)  But was he willing to talk about it with his friends at school who are all non-muslim? Was he willing to tell them this special story that he holds so dear, about a man and his son who built a structure that billions  of Muslims turn toward in unity to pray five times a day?

I remembered back to my own 6 year old self, who would have been at a loss and completely unconfident to talk about Eid and its meaning to my class. I thought of my mother, who had recently enrolled in English classes, and my father, a busy junior doctor could not have left work to do this with me. They bought us up in a different time with different challenges and we are bringing up our children in a different time with completely different challenges. No I was not judging their parenting, I was comparing the child in me and the child in front of me.  I wanted to know if he was proud of  ‘his festival’ ? If he was proud of – himself.

‘YES! YES! Mama and can we take goodie bags and mama can we give cupcakes… and and mama are you going to come INTO my class? And TALK to my friends?’

These last two questions were said with such awe and excitement at the prospect, that it made me want to cry!

It turned out the answers to all his questions were ‘yes’ except for the cupcake part. The school would not allow any cooked or baked goods nor any sweets or chocolate. Basically anything with a list of ingredients. But we addressed that point when we came to it.

Here I was about to do this for the first time. I definitely wanted to be a ‘cool mom’ and not let him down so I enlisted the help of a ‘cool mom’ I already knew (but hadn’t met yet!) : Aiysha!

I knew she had done this before. Tell me everything I implored.  Turns out, for her presentations – she had enlisted the help of a cool mom she knew and with all this combined ‘cool mom-ness’ I felt well equipped to start!

And here if you’d like to read about it, is how we talked to a class of 4-6 year olds about Eid-ul Adha : || Talking About Eid with A Kindergarten Class || Eid-UL-Adha || Step By Step

First of all Make your intention. I made the intention, that in these blessed first 10 days of du’l hajj we would be doing this so that these young children would learn something good and positive about Muslims. That from a very early age, we would somehow impact their perception of a muslim family celebrating a beloved festival, that we would impart some of the joy and love in our faith and share it with them.

Secondly ; Do a little planning and keep it SIMPLE.

Wear a great sparkly outfit fit for any Eid party! (The kids will delight in seeing you dressed up!)

Bring props. Children like to hold, touch, feel, smell, taste…

We took with us ~

To Touch/Try on: Kufis (a kind of skull cap worn by many muslim men – one of Ismail’s friends loved wearing this particularly colourful one from Egypt throughout our presentation – see photo below) Sparkly duppatas, a traditionally embroidered shirt, some tasbihs (prayer beads) and some pretty prayer mats.

To Smell : Attar, a kind of oil based perfume. For the children, we chose a delicious fruity smelling one. They could smell it and even roll on to their wrists and clothes  if they liked

Talking-eid-to-your-child's-class-perfume- via-Mamanushka-blog.jpg

To Taste/For food : dates and pineapple lollipops – literally pineapple cut into discs with a pineapple corer (or use any shape/cookie cutter) and stick on the end of a toothpick


For Favors : try to avoid too much gimmicky plastic stuff … we finally settled on two balloons and a mini tambourine for each child.


A Handout : A simple printed explanation, mounted on colorful paper for them to take home and share with caregivers. The text of this was mainly inspired by original cool mom Unaiza, feel free to use it and modify as you wish. (I felt it important to add the part about prophets)


And because, if I were you and reading this, already quite long, post, I would want to do as least work as possible and want to know exactly what was said to the kids and when… So here goes – a rough transcript ~

Hello! I am Ismail’s mama and today Ismail and his little sister  are super excited because tomorrow they will be celebrating a very special holiday called Eid-ul-adha.

The word ‘Eid’ means ‘a feast or celebration’ and you can wish people by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ to say ‘have a blessed celebration’’

Muslims believe in all the prophets of God. Who can tell me the name of a prophet? Has anyone heard the story of Moses? (Hands go up)

What about Noha and his Ark? (more hands go up)

Well this Eid is celebrated because Muslims remember another special Prophet called the Prophet Abraham or Ibrahim and his son Ishmael… who your friend Ismail is named after!

Who  else has the same name as a prophet? (I had advance knowledge of the names so was able to use this question!)

Muslims ALL AROUND the world, of all different colors and who speak many different languages, including Muslims here in America who look just like you and your friends, celebrate this festival of Eid every year.

Ismail and his sister are going to celebrate too …And they can’t wait!

We are going to tell you about what we do on the day of Eid.

On the morning of Eid Ismail will wake up and have a bath to feel lovely and fresh and ready to wear his special Eid clothes, (Here your child can give out the clothes for the children to feel and wear the hats/drape the sparkly duppatas )


He will put on some special perfume …. (here you can go around to each child and ask if they would like to smell and even wear some of the attar )

He will eat something sweet for breakfast  Here you could give out dates – be sure to mention that although they look like chocolate they are actually a fruit but they are JUST AS SWEET! Then watch each child actually eat a date and ask for more. (True story! Even the teacher was surprised at the success of the dates!)

Then we will all go to the mosque and on our way we ‘sing’ a special song. ALLAH is the word in the Arabic language to mean God and we sing the praises of God.

Aiysha advised me to actually say the takbir myself  ‘Listen to Takbiraat of Eid by Omar M. on SoundCloud’  she said. ‘It will be great’  she said. But little did she know how much courage it took me to actually do it. I mean singing ‘Allahu-Akbar’ to a bunch of kids in a North American school?  But I did it. And I am glad that they heard it, most of them probably for the first time, without the tainted filter of the media. I wished everyone in America could hear the Beautiful Takbir through innocent ears and hearts such as these children.

At the mosque all the muslims give some charity to help others who are in need. And then they pray together.

(Here you place the prayer mats on the floor)

After the prayer we hug the person next to us and say ‘EID MUBARAK’ then it’s time to go home, open gifts and eat some yummy food. Eid lasts for three days and  we visit friends and give lots of Eid hugs to everyone and there will be Eid parties and all the things that go with a party. what is YOUR favorite thing about a party?

But in all of this we remember the prophet Ibrahim who was a friend of God and his son prophet Ishmael, who both loved and obeyed God.

Then ask the children if they have questions. At this point your child could distribute the favors to his or her friends (and this is when we busted out the pineapple lollipops)


The children were delighted, the teachers visibly impressed and they led the children to wish us ‘Eid Mubarak’ in unison!

I am sure all of you cool mamas and cool aunties and cool big sisters and cool teachers have done some version of this for a child you know or your own class… for those of you yet to take the plunge I hope this has inspired you to try it! We are here ready to answer any questions and of course would love feedback and suggestions on how to improve !

Eid Mubarak!


Good Work: 4 Ways To Make A Difference This Labour Day || 4 Ways To Make Labour Day Matter || Good Work

Ah, Labour Day. You are finally here. Heralding the end of summer, the beginning of a new academic year and the last of white trousers and cottage weekends. Every year, your arrival is bittersweet.

But other than it being the final long weekend of summer, have you ever wondered why Labour Day exists? I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I only learned of its true origins a few years ago.

I was six months pregnant, tired and trying to rest. I picked up my phone to check through social media and saw the news of a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. How terrible, I thought and scrolled on. But in the coming hours and days the news kept rolling in and I found it more and more difficult to click past.  As I began to read,  the true scale and horror of the disaster began to emerge as eventually, 1,137 people would be found killed, approximately 2,500 injured and 200 still missing.

These numbers alone were enough to cause a deep sense of anger, injustice and sheer disbelief at the inhumane way people were treated and expected to work for their livelihood but it was this article which caught my breath and turned my stomach.  The retailers on that list were ones I had supported without any concern. The Children’s Place, Primark, Matalan, Mango… Joe Fresh?! All places where I bought clothes not only for myself but for my children.

The thought came to me: Were my children wearing clothes that other children’s parents had suffered for? Would they wear clothes that other parents had died while making? And to what end? So I could bag another discount?!

I decided then and there that the baby we were soon to welcome into the world, this perfect blessed gift to us, would in no way collaborate in this nefarious situation. This would be our Fair Trade Baby and we would do our best to make sure that all things connected to it were ethically sourced and fairly made, with the least harm to people and the planet. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not easy, but as much as we can, it has been worth it.

This was a completely new paradigm – and one I hope to detail more about in future blog posts – but I knew the first step was to research and learn about how goods were made, including a refresh on the history of industrialisation and the workers movement. And it was there that I finally realised that the end of summer Labour Day is supposed to celebrate (surprise!) the Labour Movement.

This day is meant to highlight and celebrate the contributions of workers, movements that championed change for working people, and the achievements of workers rights. I learned this included many things we take for granted, like the establishment of an eight-hour work day, the end of child labour and equitable workers compensation.

However, as noble as the founding of this holiday – and its continued celebration – is, in this age of intense global inequality, the conditions of working people continue to decline as companies and international employers squeeze out humane practices for increased profits. And lest we think that this is a problem limited to “other countries”, just have a look at how ruthless employment contracts can devastate vulnerable families.

It is up to us to remain vigilant about what is going on out there and do whatever is possible within our spheres of influence to affect positive change.

So, if you are lucky enough to have the day off today, spend a few moments of it reading up and supporting those people and efforts around the world who continue to fight for better working conditions for all:

GLOBAL The garment and textile industries are amongst the worst offenders of inequality and unsafe working conditions. Read up on key issues and then take action.

USA  The United States is one of three countries in the world without legislated paid family leave. This disgraceful fact leaves countless families and children vulnerable.  Sign this petition calling all presidential candidates to commit to supporting mandatory paid family leave within their first 100 days in office.

CANADA You can’t work or provide effectively for your family if you lack basic necessities like clean drinking water. Learn about the appalling lack of safe drinking water for First Nations communities and then sign this letter calling on PM Justin Trudeau’s government to do something about it.

UK As refugees from around the world continue to run for their lives, many are left stranded in countries which won’t grant them the right to live or work. Think global but act local by learning about how to help  those arriving in the UK, join your nearest group and write your MP.


Together, we know that change is possible. Which movements for decent work and a better world do you support? Would love to hear how you mark Labour Day!