Baby’s First Trip to the Masjid

Five months old and Baby had her first trip to the masjid yesterday. It was a long time coming.

When she was in her newborn stage, I remember holding her and saying to her after her father came back from the masjid, “When you are older, we’ll be taking you to the masjid too.” My husband said, “It will be a lot older,” and we had an almost argument about it.

It is stunning sometimes to realize you are not on the same page when you thought you were. All during my pregnancy and all the years I longed for children, probably even before I was married, I had watched other women with their babies and children in the masjid and thought: someday, inshallah, that will be me. I viewed it as important for children to go to the masjid, even just to be playing with each other, so that they can be in that environment with other Muslims, especially because it is not in the society around them.

It was one of the things I admired about about Islam, that children were allowed to just be children, to run around and play, while the adults worshiped. Unfortunately, that attitude seems to vary from community to community. It is also something that was common not that long ago but seems to be disappearing from the masjids. Increasingly, I am seeing imitation of the Christian practice of shuffling children off to nurseries. That is not what I want for my children.

I think children belong in the masjid from the earliest age possible. They observe and imitate the adults and learn from them. They hear Quran and adhan. They see people outside of their families praying. They play with other Muslim children. I do not approve of the nurseries because you are creating an environment that is separate, and I would argue more superficial than the adult experience.

When I was teaching at the Islamic school, children below the 5th grade were not allowed to attend jumu’ah at the masjid, even though they desperately wanted to and were sorely disappointed. The explanation I was given  was that they might misbehave and “embarrass” the school. Who was the masjid and even the school serving? Does it really seem right to block them from attending the prayer? It reminds me a great deal of the blind man in the Quran. And  why should we discourage them when they are showing an eagerness for it? So that when they get older they will no longer want to?

Another unintended consequence was that I, who also desperately would have liked to attend jumu’ah, was not able to. The masjid was right across the street. I was teaching no classes, nor was I assigned to supervise any students, but the male teacher who was assigned to them would leave his class unattended to go to jumu’ah. The school never regularly assigned anyone to attend to these students, so what was I to do? I graded my papers and did my planning and let them play. I had offered to accompany the students but was told that there were not enough male teachers to supervise the boys. This despite the fact that the men’s and women’s sections in the masjid were not really separate, and these boys were young enough that no one would have objected to them being in the women’s section.

When my husband and I were first married, we were both offended by the brother (delivering the khutba that day) who asked another brother to leave because his child was playing. We both said we would have refused. The very next week, the brother changed his tune and gave a khutba telling us how important, especially living in such a rural, remote environment where there were so few Muslims, it was for us to bring our children to the masjid as often as possible so they could be in an Islamic environment and learn to love it. People were clearly talking to him.

So anyway, given these experiences, I was very surprised when my husband told me that they had discussed and researched it once  in Omaha and concluded that very young children didn’t belong in the masjid. He told me it was based on hadith and that they had concluded that the only reason the Prophet’s (s) grandchildren were in the masjid was because of his great love for them and not for us ordinary people. I asked him what hadith and got no answer. Every hadith I have seen has indicated the opposite.What about the one where the prophet intended to make his recitation longer but shortened it out of pity for the mother when he heard a child cry?

My husband, not being the argumentative type, accepted that I wanted to bring our daughter to the masjid, but he worried about it. He worried the car ride would be too long. He worried she would get fussy. I said other mothers bring their babies. Maybe he’s not aware of that, not being in the women’s section. So I told him I wanted to take her, and he suggested I take her to a lecture on Sundays instead so that I could leave any time. I took his suggestion and made plans, even asking my father to visit earlier than usual so that we could go. As soon as my father left and I was just about to go out the door when my husband pops out and announces he has to do grocery shopping. The  following week, the signal light on the car was out, and he thought it wasn’t safe. Third week, I was getting frustrated because I hadn’t seen another Muslim since before my daughter was born. I say, “Just take us to jumu’ah with you.”

My husband works nights so he isn’t always able to wake up for jumu’ah. There’s a closer masjid that doesn’t allow women, so I don’t feel comfortable taking the car in case he wakes up in time to go there. I called my sister up 20 minutes before I would have to leave and asked her if she felt like taking me to the masjid. Bless her, my sister, who isn’t even Muslim, took 3 unplanned hours out of her day so I  could go to the masjid.

My husband must just have been anxious about it because he called his parents up that night and told them how his baby went to the masjid.

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Digestive Biscuits

I went to Job Lot yesterday to try to buy potting soil. Unfortunately they are out. I did end up buying chocolate digestive biscuits. These are something that I got a taste for while studying in the UK. I don’t mind the non-chocolate variety either, but when I looked at the nutrition label, the amount of sugar is the same. Might as well go for chocolate. Job Lot has a lot of other varieties of biscuits too.

People in America always say that biscuit is a British term for cookie. I beg to differ. I don’t think biscuits and cookies are quite the same thing. A biscuit can be a type of cookie, but it can also be a cracker. Furthermore, cookies are not always biscuits. Most homemade American cookies don’t quite seem to fit into the category of biscuits. Most biscuits taste better when dipped in tea, but cookies don’t. The exception to this would be American biscuits, which are a different category altogether.

A vocabulary list I once had, suggested that British people should call American biscuits scones, but they aren’t really scones; the texture is different. We have scones in America too. Biscuits aren’t really an American version of scones.

In Bangladesh we enjoyed toast biscuits. Our favorite brand was Cocola Special Shahi Toast Biscuit. I don’t really care for the ones that are coated in sugar or ghee. Although I haven’t had them in 7 or 8 years at least, I used to enjoy the rusk cakes that are imported from Pakistan. Bangladeshis don’t seem to be interested in these much, probably on account of preferring the toast biscuit.

The Library Is A Resource: Use It

Wednesday is our Library day. There is a “Baby and Me” lap time that we go to fairly regularly. To be honest, I don’t think either I or the Baby are particularly interested in the activities, but she enjoys watching the other children, and I enjoy talking with other moms. It also gives us a chance just to get out, get and return library books, etc.

I think the library is a really great resource. I enjoy reading, and when I had a baby in my arms almost 24/7 the first 2 months, it was great to have something read while she was sleeping. Because of interlibrary loan, you can request books from the entire library system, not just what is available in your local library, so this gives access to a great many books. There is very little available on Islamic topics, but for child development, parenting, education, history, science, and novels it is wonderful.

It isn’t just books either. The library offers free family museum passes for local museums. They have subscriptions to online educational resources such as Mango Languages. I am currently do the Bengali and Arabic language courses through the library’s subscription to Mango. There are programs for children. For people who are into such things there are videos and DVDS.

Some people complain about library taxes, but for all the benefits, the price is small.

Your Baby Is Your Seed

I often feel like I’m not getting things accomplished, that I am too idle. There are so many things that I want to do, and it seems like if I just got the chance to work on them they’d be done, very quickly. Things really do take longer with a baby. Sometimes 3, 4, or 5 times longer  than it seems like they should. I have to take a step back and realize that it is okay just to be, to sit and hold my baby or play, just be with her because that’s what she needs from me right now.

I wanted to plant a garden this year. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity for a real garden. My sister was talking in the winter about starting eggplant and tomato indoors from seed. My home is fairly small; I don’t really know that I have the space for that, and it would annoy my husband. I said, “I don’t have the time or the energy for that this year with a newborn baby,” and my neighbor said to the baby, “You are Mommy’s seed.”008

The garden is a 6 X 10 foot plot out in the field. I planned to put some eggplant, chilies, and tomatoes in pots up by my porch. I wanted to plant zucchini, lima beans, peas, radishes, cucumbers, turnips, and spinach out in the plot, but I needed some help getting it ready. We had to pull up the sod with a fork, and there are a ton of woodchucks out there, so we need to put in a fence with an L shaped bottom. It seems like it should have been possible to do all of this within a week, but it has been 5 or 6 weeks at least, and I’ve given up on planting the peas, radishes, and other cold weather crops. My neighbor suggested that I could plant them in late summer for a fall crop.

Just an example of why it is taking so long: This evening I put the baby in her carriage, grabbed the 50 foot roll of chicken wire, and carried them all out to the field. That’s where I ran into trouble because it is really a two person job. I cannot unroll the chicken wire, hold it into place and attach it to the posts all on my own. My husband very specifically told the landlord that he wanted nothing to do with the garden. My sister, who was very excited about having a garden is only here to help maybe once or twice a week, and I feel I am basically expected to do it all on my own (with a baby) if I want it done. I gave up for this evening. I need some help holding the chicken wire in place or some help with the baby. I planned to attempt this yesterday, but I fell and twisted my ankle, and when I went to lift the roll of chicken wire, I thought could really use some help with this.

For my porch, I planned to put two hanging baskets, flower boxes, a glider and two chairs. This is actually coming along, almost done. You can see the glider, chairs, and hanging baskets are in place. Yesterday I bought impatiens for the flower boxes, but I still need potting soil to fill them. I know we aren’t supposed to buy impatiens, but they are the only flower that is shade tolerant that I can afford enough of to fill flower boxes. The landlord actually came a couple of days ago to put up chain for my hanging baskets. My tuberous begonia has yet to go outdoors. So inshallah by tomorrow I can get the potting soil and finish setting up the porch, and maybe my sister will help me with the fencing or maybe I will figure out how to do it by myself.

So anyway, I have to keep in mind when I feel like I’m not doing much that my baby is the important thing. She is my seed.

Improvised Butter Chicken Recipe

I’ve never actually eaten Butter Chicken, so I’m not sure what it is supposed to taste like, but I always come across it when I look up chicken recipes online lately. I read that it isn’t really Indian food, but Indian inspired British food. Anyway, it would seem that two rather important ingredients are either cream or yogurt and garam masala, neither of which I have right now. I know that the main spices in garam masala are cumin and probably cinnamon and other sweet spices like that, but my husband used up all the cumin and it hasn’t been replaced, and we don’t have any garam masala. So this is what I came up with. It’s pretty good, whether it bears any resemblance to actual butter chicken, I don’t know.

Ingredients:

6 halal chicken thighs

1 onion chopped

oil

3 TBSP. butter

2 TBSP garlic paste

1 TBSP curry powder

1 TBSP tandoori masala

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 cup tomato paste

3 heaping TBSP tahini

2-3 TBSP honey

a splash of milk

1/4 cup water

2 cups vegetable of choice ( cut into pieces)

salt to taste

Heat oil in a skillet medium/high. Add onion and chicken thighs. Cook until chicken browns, at least 10 minutes. Add garlic paste. Stir in. Stir in spices, tomato paste, tahini, honey, milk, and water. Stir to coat chicken. Add vegetables. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed.

Hello world!

I’m not much of a blogger. I don’t have a very good past record either. Right when I was thinking about starting this website the Internet went down for 3 days, and that’s the 2nd time this month. One of the costs of living in the country, as people say.

My focus will be education of Muslim children in particular, lifestyle/health, and Islamic topics of interest to women (I know! Not very focused.). I plan to post resources for parents and teachers.

It is my observation that the majority of Muslims live in cities. So here is the story of a country muslimah, both the good and the bad of it.