Making the most of Ramadan

As the next few weeks progress, the special month of Ramadan is something we all want to make the most of. I’ve not been the best in the past in doing this – usually I often struggle to do more than my daily salah and a few pages of the Quran, along wish full-time work and my usual chores at home. I think we were lucky this time around to start Ramadan on a long weekend, which has given us time to get used to the long hours and make the most of the time, as well as get enough sleep!

One of the things I wanted to explore this month is how to make the most of the month and also make it easier for ourselves. I’ve put some goals below, as well as ideas on new things to try. I’d love to see what your goals are for this month too, so please comment below and let me know!

Food ideas

  • My sister posted a long list of 200+ food ideas here – so have a look and see if there’s something new to try!
  • Looking to eat out? There’s a few food bloggers who have posted places in London which are iftar-friendly, sehri-friendly and offer prayer spaces – you can see a list here and here.
  • Make it fun! My sisters and I always send iftar pictures before/while we eat to show what we eat – it gives all of us ideas and also makes the eating side of it more enjoyable.  It’s always fun for someone like me, as it’s usually just me and my husband for dinner, so it feels like the whole family is there!

Spiritual readiness

  • Reading the Quran – we all know it can be difficult to read the whole Quran in 30 days (I certainly struggle to). I’ve seen a lot of ideas on how to break this down to make it easier for ourselves – one of the ones I really liked was reading 4 pages of the Quran after each salah.
  • Set goals for yourself, and keep them realistic. Learn an ayah a week, or look at the English translation of a verse to truly understand what it means. Look at the proper Arabic pronunciation of the words so you can read them properly
  • Read the English translation of the Quran . I’m lucky in that I’m a pretty fast reader (in English!) and this would be a good time to learn from the Holy Book, take lessons from them and to reflect.
  • Do something different – go to an Islamic talk or lecture, meet with prayer circles, host a gathering to share knowledge – it can feel pretty amazing.
  • Do what you can. A lot of people (myself too) feel guilty that we don’t make enough time to pray, whether it’s doing all 20 rakats of the Taraweehs in the evening, reading the whole Quran, or just doing simple dhikr. We are all human, and it is our intentions which count the most.

Energy

  • Eating well really makes a difference with having energy – look for slow-releasing food for sehri and nutritious food for iftar. Since I’ve been married, my husband and I have cut down on fried food (*sob* samosas!) hugely, and have noticed an equally huge difference – less bloating, our complexions feel clearer and it’s less havoc on our stomachs. We make a point of always having fruit – something like watermelon which is perfect for the heat, and is full of water.
  • Try to get enough sleep – easily said if you have work, housework, children (or all three!) but the good thing about the long day is that you can sneak a nap in somewhere!
  • Exercise – one of the things I want to carry on doing during Ramadan is exercising. Usually I don’t bother, and feel unfit by the end of the month (although those long evening prayers do help the legs!), but my aim this time around is to do some light exercise – walks before dinner, light exercise on the treadmill, or just simple stretches – it can be done!

Chasing away boredom

  • As much as we all try to do as much as possible to pray, read the Quran and go to Islamic talks, sometimes we need a break. So go for a walk. Look for things you wouldn’t normally have time for – art exhibitions, events in London, or just an afternoon with kids in the park for a battery re-charge.
  • If you’re anything like me, you use your free time to blog! Try your hand at a hobby, whether it’s blogging like me, or something like photography, drawing, cooking for iftar or just reading a good book.
  • One of the things a lot of my friends and sisters who have children are doing are Ramadan-related activies for their children to make it more fun and understandable. I love all of the ideas out there – whether it’s Ramadan calenders, getting children to help them with food preps, Ramadan-themed books and games, or just simply taking them somewhere like the mosque to learn something new.

The one thing I would remind everyone is to take it easy in the month where possible, don’t get too caught up on things like social media (guilty!), getting ready for Eid (also guilty!) or letting yourself get too lazy (although we’re all entitled to have some relaxing me-time!)

I would welcome any more tips any of you have, whatever they are – what will you being doing that is different this Ramadan?

The Capitalisation of Modest Fashion

This is something which has been playing on my mind for a little while – as modest fashion gains more and more exposure, there has been a big impact on the industry. I love that there are more and more Muslimah fashionistas and designers being represented out there, that retailers and brands are starting to take notice of modest fashion and the hijab (whether it’s stocking the clothes or featuring hijab models). Just recently an Indonesian Muslim designer garnered applause for having an all-hijab collection on the runway, and catwalk model Halima Aden also recently made news for wearing her hijab. I recently attended London’s first London Modest Fashion week (with another one happening this Bank Holiday weekend) and I’m pretty sure this is just the start. Vogue Arabia featured Gigi Hadid in a head-scarf, Uniqlo has made news for collaborating with a British-Japanese Muslim designer, and several mainstream companies have began to stock hijab-friendly pieces. In the midst of negativity about hijab, the French niqab-ban, the recent legislation about employers being able to ask employers to remove religious symbols, these are much-needed positivities in the modesty movement.

Modest fashion has been making waves for a while now – from Nigella donning that burqini to bloggers such as Dina Tokio and Nabiilabee who have now grown into becoming pioneers for the fashion industry, influencing the market, including designing their own ranges and even having pieces in mainstream stores – over the last decade it has really exploded and changed from the way it used to be (and I remember when we all used to wear a stretchy hijab when going to Quran lessons as kids which we used to just pull over our heads like little frumps!)

It all sounds so amazing, right? I love that there’s been so much growth in this industry, I do. But there’s also a lot of things which make me concerned about the rise of this multi-billion-dollar market. As a fashion blogger, and a young Muslimah who loves her fashion, and even as just an ordinary consumer, regardless of whether I blog about modest fashion or not, I certainly understand the struggle or getting decent modest clothes. My sisters and I all have memories of looking for suitable clothes as teenagers (and even now, sometimes) – outfits which cover our arms and chest, and look flattering without being fitted, modest without being frumpy, and stylish as well. Sounds like a tall order, and in our earlier years, it felt like it was. So it’s amazing to see the strides that have been taken in the fashion industry, that it’s easier to find pretty, girly maxi dresses which aren’t backless, long tops in pretty colours, or even scarves that are made from a decent material. It certainly makes sense that the reason for this growth is that there are so many others out there who has also had this need, whether it’s Muslim consumers, modest fashion bloggers, or just anyone looking for something which covers up a little more, and that this gap in the market is being filled. It also makes sense that there is a rise of modest fashion designers, online outlets which sell couture designs, and hundreds upon hundreds of companies which sell hijabs, abayas, modest dresses and so on.

So what’s my gripe? My issue is that it feels like a lot of companies are starting to recognise the amount of money being made from modest fashion, and taking their chance to capitalise on it. Now I understand that a business is a business – it needs to make profits and these companies are well within their rights to do so. However I feel that the result of a lot of these companies pushing the prices up means that the market gets inflated – suddenly it feels like a lot of the things which we want and need are expensive – ironic right? The outfits we want are there, but we can’t always afford them.

I’ve noticed, over the years, that some of the bigger designer companies have started to jump on the bandwagon too – D&G released an abaya and hijab collection last summer, and Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and DKNY among a few brands have all released capsule wardrobes for Ramadan in the Middle East in the past. The question in these cases are not why modest fashion is reaching these brands – these changes definitely show that customers fashion choices are being reflected – but more why these are aimed at an Arabian market which already have access to similar things like this, and also the fact that the price tags are only aimed at the richer classes who can afford these. Doesn’t it negate the whole gesture, surely, if the ordinary girls who want to wear this stuff can’t afford it, and don’t have access to the ‘designer’ things?

I’ve seen lots of modest fashion bloggers who collaborate with and promote modest clothing companies to help them become more popular. I’m not in disagreement with this, particularly when it helps a smaller brand, or a business whose ethics I genuinely agree with. I recently met a retailer for a modest clothes company whose outfits were very reasonably priced – the owner and designer of the collection explained to me he knew he could charge more, and chose not to. He said he would rather help more women be modest, do his good work in the name of religion, and sleep well at night – his children were in good university, his wife and himself were well-educated and had enough money, and they were happy with what they have. I was really pleased to hear something like this – as someone who has struggled with money issues in the past (as has everyone), I know it’s easy to get greedy and chase after more money. I loved that this company recognised that it would rather promote modesty in a workable way and still operate a business.

However I have also come across a lot of modest clothing brand who don’t take this stance – whether they like to cultivate an ‘elitist’ stance so that only certain people can wear their brands, whether they charge more because of their unique, customised pieces or even whether they charge these prices because they are ‘normal’. It’s made me pretty upset in the past when brands have cherry-picked who they want to work with – understandably they will pick those who will promote their brand, but it also makes fashion bloggers compete with each other, and creates a circle with excludes a lot of customers who want access to these outfits, and have to pay out of the nose to get them. One of my biggest concerns when I attended the London Modest Fashion week event was that there were plenty of brands and exhibitions to shop from, but I thought some of the things available were too pricey – I had a discussion with a friend who also went to the event a day later who said she would prefer to buy things from a normal high street store because the value for money was better.

So how can we address this issue? Over the years, as fashion has evolved, my attitudes has too. In the past I use to splurge on makeup and clothes (and had the money too!) so could afford to spend more to get what I wanted. These days, it’s not so much the money but the principle of getting quality for my money which has made me more picky. Can’t find a reasonably priced maxi dress? Buy some loose fabric and get it tailored (although we all know the struggle of finding a decent tailor who won’t charge the earth and also gives us our outfits on time!). Support a smaller brand who will appreciate feedback and pay attention to the products. Look at fair-trade companies who work ethically – it’s one thing supporting a Muslim company, but what about one who works in a green, ethical way?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this – have you noticed the difference in the rise of modest fashion too? For those of you who wear modest clothes, what have you opted to do?

Weekly Tiny Sweaters Links

That time of the week again! Here’s a few links to keep you going through Monday…!

Some beautiful rocks. Beats the crappy pebbles in my garden (and probably cost a lot more!)

Thought this was interesting – what do your doodles say about you? I think I’m definitely the messy multi-tasker!

Tiny animals in tiny sweaters for your daily ‘awwwwww!’ It’s enough to make me consider taking up knitting.

We all know that Bill Murray has a habit of wandering into parties. weddings, random tours and even weddings to make a brief appearance (and telling guest ‘they’ll never believe you”) – his latest audience was at the White House! Have a look at some of his random comments here.

So these are new – ice cream rolls. It’s too cold for ice cream in London now though, I’ll stick to sweater rolls and hot chocolate.

So this is an artist I’ve been following for a little while, and I LOVE her work – the Pakistani Martha Stewart; a mix of Bollywood, Pakistani idioms, satire and outright humour!

Candles which have smells inspired by books – how can you not love that?

If you were a 90s child like me then this is heaven – watch your Nickolodeon favourites from the 90s here!

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Weekly Dali-Disney Links

Time for the weekly links!

So these look cool – trainers which can let you upload any digital design on the surface, so you can change them to match your outfit! ShiftWear sneakers – there’s debate about whether these are a scam or not, but it’s cool idea! You can see a demo here as well.

The famous Salvador Dali and Disney made a short movie together – and it’s available to watch more than 50 years after it was made! You can watch it on Youtube now – it’s got the signature Dali style to it, very surreal and dreamy, but I kind of loved it.

Buildings designed to look like other things – some of these are bonkers.

Smart-ass vandalism, gotta love some of these.

I thought these were brilliants – a gif of 11 actors and their most iconic film roles summed up.

Harry Potter – re-done by Pencilmation! The entire movie done in two minutes in a pencil, cartoon style. Check out their other movies too (I love the Ghostbusters one!)

I thought this was interesting – a photo series by artist Baljit Singh to highlight the mentality of dowry in Asian culture, and how this can affect a girl’s life from a young age.

Cat heads placed on owl bodies – it’s weird how well some of these fit.

Gemma Correll’s guide to the mundane, everyday worries of life.

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Weekly Rainbow Pizza Links

I’ve been reading a lot murder mysteries lately, so I’m in a mood for something silly today – weekly links time!

I’m loving these beautiful funkadelic rainbow lightbulbs which throw patterns on the wall – probably not the best light for when you’re trying to cook in the kitchen, but hey, it’s so pretty!

Unmasked superheroes – some of these are not what you’d expect!

History’s most powerful and poignant letters and diary entries – prepare to feel moved.

So this is 6,000 matches being lit at the same time which is weirdly satisfying to watch.

So this is a receipt for rainbow pizza. Eat it at your own risk.

Me and social media.

A little dose of Disney – Disney characters in the real world. I quite like the idea of little mice from Cinderella running around, although it’s probably not a safe scenario there! More from the creator, here.

A review of every James Bond movie by animated spy agent Archer. Don’t expect much from this guy.

Some of these are beautiful – photos merged with fantasy for some very cool pictures. Something to try at home, perhaps.

And now, a rap.

Weekly Beautiful Libraries Links

I’ve been looking for books to read, but have ended up finding silly links and games to play – so far I’ve played 5 rounds of Battleship on my mobile and only won twice. Here’s some links while I play again.

If 2016’s Oscar-nominated movie posters told the truth – let’s see which one of them wins tonight!

When Frozen meets Star Wars. A mashup by artist Katarzyna Witerscheim.

And while you’re at it, here’s some hijabi-fied Disney Princesses.

A magnetic collage – a short story with GIFs.

Thought this was good – a piece of fiction on an alien’s take of human behaviour.

This is one for Londoners – cute and quirky cafe shops around London to visit for something a little different.

This white chocolate sphere dessert. Surprisingly not that difficult to make!

An interesting article on China and it’s women-only mosques – part of BBC’s documentaries about China.

I’m a real library freak, and I always look for pretty bookshops and libraries whenever I travel abroad. A list of beautiful libraries around the world to add to my bucket list.

5 second films – enjoyment and wasting less of your time. Or more of your time depending on how many of these you end up watching.

Weekly Mean Legolas Links

Yaayyy, it’s Sunday! Here’s a few links before the crazy week back to work (for me) until the holidays!

I loving the new Twitter crazy this week – #explainafilmplotbadly – some hilarious submissions here! Here’s just a few of my favourites.

I love finding alternative worlds of famous cartoon or TV characters – this is one comic strip I found by the wonderful Sassquach of Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald on a Boy’s Night Out. It’s a little long so be patient, but it’s wonderfully moving and well done – as soon as I read it I wanted more. Let me know what you think of it.

I have to throw in some Disney here. If they re-made Disney films like this, imagine how much more popular (and awkward) they’d be!

A whole tumblr site devoted to Parks & Recs mash-up with Lord of the Rings. Weirdly it works well. Read more on Buzzfeed here.

And if you liked that one, this is even better – Mean Girls meets Lord of the Rings. I love how well they fit. Here’s a Harry Potter mash-up as well.

I wish I had ideas like this when I go on holiday. Famous landmarks which are transformed with simple pieces of cut-out paper. Part one here and part two here.

I thought this was amazing – astrophysics of galaxies visualized with a foam ball soaked in water, complete with the stars. Not entirely accurate but makes a beautiful demonstration.

Literary classics re-imagined in text messages. Most of them sound like whiny teenages, to be honest.

Well, it was inevitable, they have everything else. Japan has it’s own My Little Pony cafe, for all the Pony fans (and Bronies).

Birds with arms. Because, why not.

Something cute to finish off – wildlife that’s cute and funny. These are submissions for the competition held by The Comedy Wildlife, some of these are adorable!

Let me know what you think of these, I’ve been giggling away and wasting lots of time in front of Sherlock re-runs, and generally having a good Sunday looking for these : D

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Back To The Future Day – 21 October 2015

It’s here! It’s finally arrived! The day that Marty in classic Back to the Future II dials to find goverboards, microwavable pizzas, self-lacing shoes and flying cars – although not all that we’ve been promised have been developed yet!

I’m off to celebrate with a Back to the Future Marathon, pizza that doesn’t microwave and a skate board – but it’s amazing to see how time flies. No, I don’t feel old at all!

You can read some live updates here and here by The Guardian, and BBC here.

Weekly Donald Trump Princess Links

It’s that time of the week to take some time out, get the mouse ready to click, and basically look at useless websites to make us happy. Here’s some links I found.

When advertising fridges takes a new level.

Hinglish, a mix of English words with Hindi accents you need in your life.

I love finding blogs with talented artists, particularly those with a story for each piece and some serious talent. Doodlewash is one of these, browse away!

The things we did as kids. One woman’s apology to her parents.

Amazing Paper Craft, seriously inspiring. And I can barely make a paper plane.

Awesome superhero strips! I love these.

Foreign words that can’t be translated into English in a single word – some illustrations.

Not sure where to browse? Try The Useless Web, one click and it takes you to a useless page. Pretty self-explanatory.

Donald Trump as Disney Princesses. Because why not?

Super cute cards for people you don’t like. I’ve been looking for these.

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Weekly Gurrrlll Links

I always enjoy doing these, although inevitable I go from one (more sensible page) and end up watching cat videos on Youtube.

What does ‘Guurrl’ really mean? I can relate to all of these.

Parenting. Nuff said.

For the Harry Potter Fans who want more after the ending – here’s a compilation of what happened to who in Life after Hogwarts.

For the Bollywood watchers, here’s an accurate and hilarious summary of Devdas. I remember when this came out (more than ten years ago now!) and it’s still pretty breath-taking (and emo!)

I almost wish my wedding pictures were this emotional.

I need to convince my mum to plant these in her garden – flowers that turn into transparent skeletal looking flowers.

If Disney Heroines had their mothers, they wouldn’t be in the mess they ended up in. That clears a lot of things up.

Instagram nonsense which is actually kinda cool

Words you never knew existed but which have lovely meanings.

This is cool – the Bechdel IMBD list about women who talk about something other than men.

Shakespeare illustrated – I liked this one from Romeo and Juliet!

The pencil case I would have hated as a kid, but which I want now so I can pretend it’s one of my mum’s rotis.