Abundant Rain, A Blessing From Allah

Alhamdillah, my garden is doing amazing. I just ate my first chili pepper from it today. I attribute this to Allah blessing it and giving it the proper conditions to thrive, especially timely and abundant rain. I have watered my garden (which needs to have 3 or 4 watering cans of water hauled more than 100 ft.) only 2 or 3 times since I planted. Shortly after I planted, I made dua and asked Allah to bless this garden and give us success with it, and the results have been amazing. The rain came in timely intervals, and the plants seemed to spring up and bear flowers and fruit overnight.

I was reading a translation of the Quran and came across, “Ask Allah for forgiveness, and He will send you rain in abundance.” Abundance of rain is one of the blessings of Allah and something he gives to the believers, although I’m certainly not saying that He doesn’t give it to others as well or that the believers don’t experience droughts.

I didn’t ask Allah for forgiveness any more than I usually do. Probably I should have. What I did ask for was success with this garden. Some people would only ask for the important things, success in the akhirah and guidance and such things as that. After all, if we take our blessings in this world… I was inspired by something I saw written for children, which encouraged them to ask for everything that they wanted without limit because Allah is the most generous and has no limit. In other words, He can give us more than we can imagine or even ask for. I want success with the garden, why not ask Allah for it? Who else could give it?

I know all too well that the success of this garden is due to Allah. At any time, Allah could send a hail and wipe all of it out. I could be left with nothing, where now my thriving plants are heavy with promise.

Does Fasting Cure Dandruff?

I seem to have had an unexpected effect of my fasting this year. Most of my adult life, I’ve had issues with dandruff, and none of the remedies seem to help much. Then suddenly, I realize that I haven’t had any issue with dandruff since Ramadan started and I’ve been fasting. Now why is that? What changed in my diet, or is fasting itself just good for dandruff?

Is A Nursing Woman’s Fast Less Important?

My husband didn’t really say anything to me, but I don’t think he expected me to fast, and he has done nothing to really encourage or discourage. A couple of subtle things that he said or did made me feel that he might consider my fast somehow less important than his own because he considers it “optional.” Somehow this didn’t seem quite fair to me, although I can’t argue with the logic. Then again, it could all be in my head.

I decided to look it up, to see if other women feel this way. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything about how other women feel. On the Islamic question answer website (islam-qa.com) I did find the statement that a nursing woman is in fact obliged to fast if she does not fear for herself or her baby, is in good health, and fasting is not difficult for her. That would mean that my fasts are in fact obligatory (so long as I continue finding them easy and my milk supply and baby are unaffected) and are not any less important than my husband’s.

So how do other women feel about this? Have you had that experience?

The Gold Chain

It is a simple, thin chain. It is not particularly bright, eye-catching or valuable. To me, however, this is something special.

My father-in-law gave me the chain more than 6  years ago. My in-laws had already given me a rather large and flashy chain and were disappointed that I did not wear it more. I felt a little uncomfortable wearing such a large, shiny chain. It looked like bling. After observing me, my in-laws decided that I needed something smaller that I would feel comfortable to wear on a daily basis.

The chain is not long enough to come over my head. The gold of the clasp needs to be bent in order to fasten it. My father-in-law put it on my neck and told me that the clasp would break if it was removed too frequently, so I should always wear it and never remove it. That is exactly what I did.

The chain did not leave my neck for more than 6 years. When my daughter was born, and they laid her on my chest, one of the first things she did was hook her little fingers around that chain. Now she plays with it while nursing, pulling it out and dropping it back against my chest repeatedly.

Then, in the night, I woke to nurse my daughter and the chain fell from my neck as my finger brushed it. I could not tell in the dark whether it had broken or the clasp had simply come undone. I suspected it was broken. So as not to let my daughter waken or become distressed, I immediately sat it aside on the edge of the bed by the wall to deal with later. As soon as I sat it down, I rethought my decision, thinking that it could too easily become lost or the baby might get hold of it. But although I immediately tried to retrieve it, it was already lost.

After my daughter nursed, I stretched my hand under the bed, searching for it, moved the mattress away from the wall, to see if it had become caught. I knew it was not valuable, and told myself this was no big deal, but I felt a bit sad that my daughter would no longer be toying with it while she drank her milk. I made a dua asking Allah to help me find it, even while I tried to accept the loss with equanimity.

In the morning, I made a search for the chain in the light. Still there was nothing.

In the afternoon, as I stood for my dhuhr prayer, there, in the place of my prostration was the unbroken gold chain.

Asparagus Cheesy Rice

Asparagus is one of those foods, that if you have it at all when it is in season, you probably have more than you know what to do with. For example, my step-father recently gave me a grocery bag full of asparagus. My husband quickly informed me that he wasn’t going to eat any of it. The first thing I did was give a third of it to a neighbor, but I still had an awful lot of asparagus. Since then I have wrapped the asparagus in filo dough with cheddar cheese; made a dal with asparagus, green beans, green chili, onion, cilantro and poached egg, and now today I made a cheesy asparagus rice.

10 stalks asparagus (cut into bite sized pieces)

half an onion, chopped

1 tsp. garlic paste

olive oil

1/2 cup rice

2 cups water

1/2 cup cheddar cheese (grated)

lemon pepper seasoning

Saute the onion and asparagus in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and lemon pepper seasoning (if you are like me you will add some extra black pepper as well). add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the water 1 cup at a time. Cook stirring frequently until most of the water is evaporated. Then add more water. Continue cooking over medium/low heat until water is mostly evaporated. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Remove from heat.

Ramadan Abundance

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been focusing on Ramadan, which has really been going very well, alhamdillah.

It always amazes me just how much we have during Ramadan and through no effort of our own. It seems to me that Allah really blesses this month, not just spiritually but materially also. Since Ramadan started I’ve only had to cook every couple of days, and we have more food than I know what to do with. It isn’t that we are buying more either.

Of course if you look at it, you realize that you really can’t eat as much during the short night as you can all day, and if you’ve been fasting all day, you get full very quickly also. But still there is so much good food all around us, and our needs are little. Allah really has blessed us abundantly.

Ramadan Moon Sighting

I started a post a couple days about moon sighting. I was working on it one-handed with Baby in the other arm for close to an hour too.Then Baby needed a diaper change, and my husband came along, hopped on facebook, and closed my unsaved post. Lesson learned. I should save things. But the last time I saved a draft it seemed like my formatting got changed.

About moon sightings, the people at the masjid say that they have had reports of credible moon sightings throughout the United States, so it is officially Ramadan here. Throughout the United States is a pretty big geographic area. If it was at all possible for anyone to see it, someone was going to. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t local. We looked for the moon last night, but it was far too cloudy to see, so if we were depending on local sightings, I suppose it wouldn’t be Ramadan yet.

I believe in local moon sightings, but it seems like hardly any communities do that. Actually basing the decision on a sighting is preferable to those who do not. The Prophet (s) told us to “fast when you see it, and break your fast when you see it, and if it is cloudy or hidden, count out 30 days.” This seems to me like it should make things simple because if the moon isn’t seen, it is 30 days. Simple.

But people don’t act like it is simple. In fact, it can become very complicated. When I was a new Muslim there was this argument that we couldn’t base it on moon sightings as it would be impossible during certain times of the year (eg. October) to see the moon in the northern hemisphere on the 29th day. So if we can’t see the moon on the 29th day, the month is 30 days. That still doesn’t seem  complicated.

Some communities don’t care about sightings at all. They base their decisions on calculations and calendars and can tell you when the month will start and when the eid will be long before it actually comes. I can see the convenience in this, knowing when to take off from work, renting facilities, making plans, but I don’t agree with it.

Other people will accept a moon sighting anywhere in the world or only take the sighting from their home countries.

Probably the majority will look for sightings anywhere in their country. In the “Muslim world” countries will declare the start of Ramadan or eid. The United States is not capable of this due to a lack of a centralized Muslim authority, so each community makes the decision for themselves.

Some people are very bothered by different cities celebrating at different times. Especially in our globalized society they feel like everyone should fast and celebrate the eid on the same day. Traditionally though people in different cities were on different days, and this wasn’t a problem, so I don’t see why it should be now. Honestly, the moon isn’t always visible in different places on the same day. Just because they’ve seen the moon in California or Florida or Saudi Arabia, doesn’t mean we could see it here, but a moon sighting is still better than none at all.

Gardening with Baby

I always tell Baby she is helping Mommy. Today she helped Mommy weed the garden. Pretty much all the seeds we had planted have come up: zucchini, lima beans, radishes, cucumber, and cress. We bought our eggplant, tomatoes, and chilies from a nursery this year. We have only had to water the garden twice. Other than that, Allah has watered it with timely rain (definitely much appreciated).

Baby sat in Mommy’s arms and watched, Mommy pull up weeds. Then we came back to the house and she watched me dead head flowers. She reached out her chubby, little baby hand and plucked a perfectly good petunia, tried to shove it in her mouth. Mommy wasn’t so sure petunias were good for eating, so now she’s wearing it in her hair.

Focus on Food

At the masjid, online, just about everywhere, I see suggestions for making the most out of Ramadan, and one of the biggest is not to focus on food. Apparently many Muslims are very elaborate during Ramadan. They spend hours cooking. They have special foods and lavish iftars. Some people even gain weight during Ramadan.

I can’t say as I’ve ever had that problem. I always seem to lose weight, but I must confess I am focusing a little on food this year. My husband and I will both be breaking our fasts and eating suhoor alone most days this Ramadan. We are unlikely to get invited to any iftars, and on workdays, my husband will have to take all of his meals at work.

With the absence of family and friends, I want to make it at least a little bit special by giving good food to break our fasts, but really my main focus is our health. Both of us have physically demanding jobs. I am nursing a baby. He is doing heavy lifting. I need to make sure he has enough food to give him strength and energy for his work. Truthfully I worry about him. For myself I need to make sure that my diet is nutritious and I drink enough to stay hydrated so that I keep producing good milk for my baby.

This is actually difficult because Baby sets the schedule. The one day I thought I might try a practice fast, I set my alarm to get up for suhoor, and baby decided she needed to nurse. I fell asleep nursing her and barely woke up in time to say fajr before the sunrise. This happens far too frequently. Even trying to fit in some extra prayers after isha or before fajr, I barely have the energy for witr, with isha so late, and of course actually waking up for fajr(or suhoor if I’m going to fast) is a priority.

Another suggestion I’ve often seen is not to sleep after fajr. I can see this when fajr is 5 or 6 in the morning, but this time of year it’s not realistic for a lot of us. If we have to get up at 2:30 or 3:00, and we can’t go to bed until 10:30 or 11:00, that’s simply not enough sleep to function and meet our responsibilities. I think we also have to think about other people and not be driving in a sleep deprived state.

I have also seen people who seem to pick tarawih over fajr. If you can only do one, pick the fard.