Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MECCA: THE LAND OF MIRACLES


About 3 years ago I felt a nudge in my heart. For some reason memories of the Holy Land came to my thoughts and I started to miss Mecca a lot. I was last there in 1999. I silently wished in my heart that someday I would go there again.

Turns out I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Recently, Mum contacted numerous travel agents and they told her the words she dreaded. "Fully booked and it's too late". The only available Umrah trip for us would be in January 2010. Mum pleaded to the final travel agent she spoke to until the lady gave in and said she'd submit our passports but there would be no guarantee that our visas will be granted. Mum chose 22nd December as her preferred date to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It seemed impossible because it was only 2 weeks away but Mum was set on late December. We didn't have much hope but 'you have to be in to win', right?

Last week we received a phone call from the travel agent. She told us the good news. We managed to get our visas! Apparently there were people who applied a month before we did and they didn't get theirs. It's instances like these that make me believe in fate. My silent prayer was answered, mashaAllah. But we were so unprepared! We had less than a week to arrange our travels and to organise everything that we need for Umrah.

Then I realised  I have nothing to wear! We have a few abayas left over from the last trip but surely I need some new ones that will fit the 22 year old me. I managed to borrow some beautiful abayas from my friend and her mum (thank you!). I'll get some new ones in Medinah, apparently they're really nice and cheap compared to what we have in KL. I went shopping for some hijabs, plain and simple ones in black or white. For the first time in a very, very long time... being fashionable isn't a priority. It's gonna be tough because I love my colours. It'll be like fighting what nature intended! Having said that, my favourite colours are black and white so I honestly don't know what my problem is. Okay, okay, with all seriousness being fashionable won't be a priority because going for Umrah is about getting closer to God. And God doesn't care what style or colour I wear so I'm going to be focused and have my intentions right.

Tomorrow afternoon I will be flying to Jeddah, inshaAllah. Then we'll travel to Medinah, Mecca and Taif. It feels too good to be true. The last time I went was 10 years ago. I'm older now and hopefully, I will be able to experience Mecca and other parts of Saudi Arabia with a much deeper understanding. It's winter over there at the moment so it will be quite cold. I still can't believe that we're leaving tomorrow! I don't know why but God never fails to make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. My head's spinning around with all kinds of questions. Why does He keep blessing me? Do I really deserve all that was given to me? What is His plan for me?

These are some the questions that I hope will be answered when I'm in the land of miracles. Isn't it wonderful that just the fact that we are going is by itself a miracle? I hope this will be the journey of a lifetime, both physically and spiritually; and I pray for a safe return, inshaAllah. I'll be back in 2 weeks which means I'll spend New Year's there. How cool is that? It's like starting the year on a really, really good note.

I won't be blogging until then so HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I'm gonna miss you guys... keep updating your blogs so I'll have heaps to read when I get back. Ciao bellas!

Amanah

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sometimes I wish I was blind,
So I could only see the inner beauty of others.
Sometimes I wish I couldn't speak,
Because ever so often I speak without thinking it through.
Sometimes I wish I couldn't hear,
As gossip and profanity have desensitised my very being.
Sometimes I wish I couldn't walk,
For maybe only then I'd use my freedom more wisely.
Sometimes I wish I wasn't loved,
For love can make me selfish and ungrateful,
Sometimes I wish I didn't have knowledge,
Because I don't want to be arrogant and self-righteous.

But God has given me everything and more as He believes in me. Somehow He trusts that I will appreciate His blessings and use them wisely. For that reason I am humbled because nothing I have is truly mine... everything I have accomplished was made possible because He made it be.. Kun fayakun.
 Qur'an 36:82 Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is “Be” and it is!
All that I have today is an amanah (responsibility) and I am always so quick to forget that.

My 2 Loves : Sushi and My Girls

A late update! But better late than never right?

I’ve been busy shopping in preparation for the land of miracles. Oh and making time for my best friends, of course! After all, we only ever meet during this time of the year. After an afternoon of some drama (do not mess with a last born, you’re just asking for it) I finally went out with the girls… ProudDuck, Ella Bella and Her Royal Highness ;) We went to Gardens MV and it was literally impossible to get valet parking so we drove to Bangsar and ate sushi at BV 2 instead. After that we just pretty much hung out and giggled our night away like teenage girls. If there’s one type of cuisine I can’t live without it would be Japanese. Which reminds me, I don’t think we can get Japanese food in the land of miracles! It’s okay, it will still be the experience of a lifetime anyway.

My favourite Japanese meals so far? The hana maki at Sakae Sushi. Simple yet so satisfying. Every bite is like a burst of salmon deliciousness in my mouth. Oh and sashimi. I used to eat at a restaurant called Jitsu at least once a week when I was back in Dunedin and I’d order the sashimi platter.


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Hana Maki

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Mango & soft shell crab sushi with some hot green tea


I really wonder, how did Japanese food become so globalised? It’s pretty much well accepted in most countries around the world. I think it’s the simplicity of the food, much like Japanese designs. Furthermore, they’re very precise about their art and food is an art, isn’t it? I once saw an episode of Gordon Ramsay:Cook-along Live and the show included him meeting a Japanese master chef who spent 6 years just learning the correct method of washing glutinous sushi rice. Clearly, Japanese culture itself plays a role. I find the Japanese to be well organised, creative and meticulous in general (ah stereotypes, what will we ever do without them?). If you think about it, the culinary of distinctive cultures such as Indian and Thai are bound to be very popular in the West. They appear to be the most exotic.

As much as I can go on and on and about Japanese food, I do have friends who can’t imagine eating a piece of raw fish or seafood for that matter. C’mon people, get adventurous! If it’s halal and not slimy, I’m down! Anyway I’m just dying to post about something more thought-provoking but this is all that comes to mind at the moment. I spent the whole day with the family just making sure we have all we need for our trip. Now it's time to mentally prepare myself....

Btw, did I say that I love my girls? I've been friends with them for almost 10 years! (with the exception of Her Royal Highness, 13 years and counting baby!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

IN BETWEEN SALAMIS AND PEPPERMINT TEA
So here I am, just having a salami sandwich and some peppermint tea for brunch. Then this song comes on and automatically I'm in a good better mood. I can't help but sing along to the la la la la's in this BSB song! Also, how cute is Howie D in this video? I just love his smile! I also love the candidness of this video.... it just makes me feel so happy.

I grew up listening to quality music in the 90's and early 2000's that didn't describe sexual innuendos or promote malicious behaviour. Call me uncool but what happened to real, feel-good (or emotional) love songs that are meaningful??? It's great that BSB maintained their style.

Anyway, thank you for your messages and emails about 'the land of miracles'. Keep them coming... you have until Monday night to submit your guess! Now I'm off to get ready for late lunch with my best friends... ciao bellas!


Friday, December 18, 2009

GUESSING GAME
Today is a public holiday in Malaysia in commemoration of the New Hijri Year 1431. But I'm not going anywhere because I need to pack. This coming Tuesday I'll be going somewhere far, far away. I won't confirm where until Monday night but I'll leave you with a clue.

It's the land of miracles.

Can you guess? ;) If you get it right I just might get you a souvenir and send it your way! You can either comment here or drop me a line at elaiza_@hotmail.com.

p.s. If you're a friend who already knows, can you keep a secret? ;)


[Photo by bachmont via Flickr]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

MOMENTS I WISHED I WAS A HIJABI

#1 Mum and I enter an elevator in a shopping mall. A middle aged man saw us and rushed to enter the elavator as well. He took out his phone and started speaking in Farsi, so I'm guessing he was Iranian. We reached the level we wanted to go to and before Mum steps out the Persian man tapped her shoulder.
"Excuse me Ma'am. Is this your daughter?" he asked.
".... Yes," she replied hesitantly.
"Oh thank you, thank you very much! Thank you!" he expressed with his hands clasped together.
Mum and I were shocked and speechless. She quickly grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the elevator.

*Note: I don't think Persian guys are generally like him. This one in particular was a complete weirdo!

#2 My family and I went out for dinner and as I began to eat I felt like someone was watching me. I looked across our table and a young guy had his camera phone raised up as if he was recording me. "Oh get over yourself! Maybe he's just playing a game on his phone," said the voice in my head. Then the girl sitting next to him (his sister I presume) kept looking at his phone and then me while giggling.
"Hey I think he's recording me. Can you please do something about it?" I said to my brother.
"What? What do you expect me to do? As long as he doesn't try to touch you I can't do anything about it," he exclaimed.

# 3 Married men making advances at me.

#4 Men gawking and leering.

Ironically this happens to me more often when I'm in a Muslim country. Please keep in mind that I'm not the kind of girl who thinks men are crazy about me. In fact I hate it when men stare and try to make advances towards me. I think it's disrespectful. Furthermore, my mum makes sure I dress decently especially when I'm out with the family. I only dress up when I'm with my friends. Fashion is my weakness and my strength. Sometimes I wish I had the guts to start wearing a scarf but I'm just afraid I'll change my mind about wearing it the next day and people will say I'm a bad Muslim for being ambivalent. Being a good hijabi and Muslim is the ultimate commitment.

I think Muslim women and hijabis are beautiful and it's not because covering up makes them mysterious or exotic. It's because they choose to be stylish in a modest way and have made a conscious decision to protect themselves. They have a very healthy sense of self-respect and they express it by covering themselves (not that non-Muslims or non-hijabis don't). I found out through Amina's blog that The Sartorialist featured a hijabi in Melbourne on his ever so popular and influential fashion blog. It's very refreshing. Fashion isn't about showing as much flesh as you can. It's about individuality, creativity and self-expression. Muslim woman/hijabis are simply expressing their modesty. I think it's great, mashaAllah.

Oh yes, before I forget... Happy New Hijra Year 1431 to all the Muslims out there! May we have many more years together to celebrate the Prophet's (p.b.u.h.) efforts in setting up the first Islamic state.

Usbu Al Zainab a.k.a. Zainab's Fingers

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I promised to put up this recipe last week, can't believe time went by that fast! Anyway this is the easiest Arabic snack-slash-dessert anyone could possibly make. When making Usbu El Zainab (Zainab’s fingers) be prepared to make a lot otherwise they will be gone in a matter of seconds, especially if your family loves cheese like mine does.

I found out that there’s another dessert called Zainab’s fingers but it's completely different. This one here was introduced to me by my Omani friends who usually serve this during iftar at the mosque. I fell in love with it instantly! I made it recently and don't be deceived by the method list because it’s extremely easy. I used this recipe as a reference. However, it is a little time consuming because of all the rolling and sealing but it serves as the perfect opportunity to invite a friend over and catch up while making them together (and then eat them together too!)


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Ingredients
Cream cheese rolls (48 pieces):
1 packet of samosa/spring roll pastry, thawed (the one I bought contained 24 pieces)
1 box of Philadelphia cream cheese
Oil for deep frying
Flour sealant:
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 tablespoons water
Sugar syrup (for 48 pieces):
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 crushed cardamom seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice

Method
1. Make the flour sealant by mixing the flour and water until you get a thick, creamy paste. It prevents the cheese from leaking out of the pastry when deep frying. Keep aside.
2. Cut the Philadelphia cheese block into pieces that are sized 1 cm x 5 cm. The cheese tends to melt very fast and become very soft in countries with a warm climate. I suggest you do this bit by bit by cutting then keeping the cheese block inside the fridge again. This will prevent the whole block from becoming too soft and turning into a mess.
3. Cut the square pastry sheet in half. If you're planning to make a lot just cut the entire stack of pastry in half and it will save you some time.
4. Place a piece of the Philadelphia cheese onto the pastry. Leave 1 cm at the top. Fold and roll it until it becomes an entire roll.
5. Seal the sides with the flour sealant. Repeat the above steps until you have the desired number of cheese rolls.
6. Put some oil into a pan and let it heat for a while. Then deep fry the cheese rolls until they turn golden brown on both sides. Pick them up with a pair of tongs to prevent yourself from getting burnt and place them on a flat plate. You can drain the oil by using a paper towel (for the weight conscious, but aren't we all?).
7. To make the syrup, boil the water and sugar on low - medium heat until it becomes slightly thick. Add the lemon/lime juice and the cardamom seeds and continuing the simmering for 1-2 minutes. Then remove the cardamom seeds and your sugar syrup is ready!
8. Dip the cheese rolls into the sugar syrup to ensure that every roll is well covered. You can pour it on top if you want to save time but it won't be as delicious.... or you can pour the remaining syrup after you've dipped them.
9. And voila, you have a stack of irresistable and cripsy Zainab's fingers all ready for consumption!

In my experience this is definitely a crowd-pleaser. My brother's in laws came over for dinner and they couldn't stop eating them! It was a good thing I made heaps. And it's true, they stay very crispy for a long time. Towards the end of the night my brother's mother-in-law approached me with a notebook and pen then said, "Shahirah, can I please have the recipe for the Usbu El Zainab? I really, really enjoyed them." So I thought I'd share the recipe with you guys as well. Happy trying and bon appétit!

"Success is Not the Result of Spontaneous Combustion. You've Got to Set Yourself on Fire for It"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The year 2009 has been a year filled with inspirations. I can feel it in my blood that I'm stronger, alhamdulillah. I owe it to those who have inspired me now and then. They are ones who have opened up my eyes and made me realise we have great potential if we are willing to believe in ourselves and work hard for what we seek in life.

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The One Who Made Me Believe I Deserve to be Happy. My late father was a happy go lucky man who loved to joke with anyone and everyone. He had this ability to strike a conversation with a complete stranger and make them laugh as though they've been friends for years. He enjoyed telling us stories about his life experiences, the people he met and the places he went. He once said to me, "I don't care what you want to do in life as long as you're happy. But work hard because you are smart and I want you to have the best". Abah always treated me like a princess. If he could he'd carry the weight of the world on his shoulders just for me. His patience inspired me to be forgiving because anger and resentment leads to sadness but when I forgive, there's space in my life and in my heart for happiness to bloom. His unconditional love made me believe in myself and the good things I deserve. My late father gave me a sense of self-worthiness no one else can even try to give me. My happiness is truly a gift from him (and Him,of course) that will last for a lifetime.

The One Who Made Communications My Passion. One fine day I was flipping through the channels on Astro and landed on ART. A show called Parables in the Qur'an was on. At the time I was obsessed with the Arabic culture and was also rediscovering Islam so when I heard the host of the show, Moez Masoud, a young American-Egyptian guy in his mid twenties, hosting the show in English I became really excited! He spoke about Islam in a way that was logical yet so relevant to the Muslim youth of today who are usually intrigued by the illogical. It was his ability to communicate intelligence in his messages with eloquence which really inspired me. That was the moment I realised one voice can cut through the negativity which will always exist in the powerful media. It requires some intelligent content, great delivery, simplicity and sincerity. Moreover, people in general fascinate me and I would love to be someone who helps them to tell their stories. I think there's so much we can learn from each other as a society. The key is in asking the right questions. My other inspirations include John Pilger, Lisa Ling, Noam Chomsky, Bob Ellis and John Stewart just to name a few!

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The One Who Gives Me Inner Strength. I'm a firm believer that everything comes from the Almighty. He doesn't always give our blessings directly as He may give them through someone else. Inner strength is one of them. My mum has always been a symbol of strength for me. She works hard for her family and this wasn't just limited to the office but in everything else that she does for us at home... making sure we get good education and supporting us through our problems. Being a mum is the most challenging yet rewarding role in the world. It requires patience, a strong sense of responsibility and persistence hence watching mum sacrifice for us makes me want to become a stronger person. Apart from her, my inner strength quite simply comes from myself because I'm an emotionally independent person. I don't put my happiness in the hands of others and whenever I'm upset I pull myself back up simply because I can. Inner strength isn't necessarily about aggression. Gentleness, subtlety and intricacy are greater options.


“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher


The Ones Who Made Me Brave. I met a guy who has the most amazing smile I've ever seen. If you're thinking 'This is a love story"... It's not. Sorry if I disappointed you! He was just luminous and it was more obvious everytime he smiled. His energy was inspiring as he is incredibly adventurous and whatever he wants he just makes it happen. He lives his life to the fullest and it's almost like he's unstoppable. I can't explain how but I just became a braver person after getting to know him and I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve. It's liberating to be honest about how I feel and not worry as much about what others think. It's such an amazing feeling to feel like there's something new to learn from every person that I come across. Steve Jobs, although I haven't met him, has inspired me in terms of work ethics. He has always believed in his vision and he's brave enough to not accept mediocrity. He's extremely intuitive and he follows his ideas while listening to what the ordinary man has to say.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs



The One Who Brings Out the Superwoman in Me. Her Majesty Queen Rania Abdullah of Jordan is a queen, wife, mother of 4 children, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist who focuses on social, education and women issues. I'd love to become as dedicated as she is. Some may give her flak but there aren't many queens like her who are trying to make a difference in the world (while looking fabulous might I add!). As a royal figure she has accomplished so much according to her means. As a woman she has inspired many like myself to become passionate about family life, education, career and helping others. However I must say that I see a superwoman in almost every woman that I meet. They are all strong and dedicated and have inspired me in their own individual ways, how cool is that?


The Ones Whom I Take After. Apparently I take a lot after my godparents. I speak and debate like my godfather and I am creative like my godmother. It's pretty amazing because we aren't related at all. They became my godparents after they were chosen by my parents to carry out the upacara belah mulut on me (also known as the Prophet's sunnah called tahneek). My godfather is extremely passionate about the development of the Malaysian education system. Today he is 80 years old and yet he hasn't fully retired. "If you really do take after him that means you will always be thirsty for knowledge," said my godmother. Oh I hope so! My godmother on the other hand, has an eye for all things beautiful. She loves painting, baking and collecting jewellery. She even owns a few cafes where delicious homemade food are served. To those who know me, this sounds very Sha =)

I hope these are inspirations that I take with me for life. However, vision without action is hallucination so it's also really important to put myself out there and go for what I want. I realised that before all this can begin the most crucial of all is to know what I truly want to achieve in life otherwise I'll never finish the endeavours that I start. I have my whole life ahead of me and I hope I find new inspirations each and everyday to be thankful for all He has planned for me.

It's really interesting to find out who inspires others.... think about it, who inspires you?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

QUICKIE

Just a quick update... I've been so busy I hardly get enough sleep these days. At the moment I'm getting ready to go to a birthday dinner at Shangri La. I'm super excited to see her tonight as the last time we met was probably 2 years ago. I'll probably sleep over too. It'll be just like good ol' times!

Hope to blog more soon. Catch you guys later. Ciao!

Spirulina Tablets Can Turn You Into an Energiser Bunny

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The last 2 days felt like one of the longest 2 days of my life. You have quite a few of them when you’re a full-time student who’s involved with organising events and when you come from my family. For some reason we always have something to do and some place to go. Well, my mum in particular. I have days when I just stay home and relax but not my mum, she just goes on and on like an Energizer bunny. All that energy must come from those spirulina tablets she takes everyday.

Here’s a rough idea of what I’ve been up to…


9/12/2009
10.00 a.m. Rise and shine, breakfast, get ready to go out.
12.30 p.m. Lunch with godmother at her charming café, Teapot Deli @ SACC Mall
2.30 p.m. Off to Malacca (2 ½ hour drive because of the traffic jam)
5.00 p.m. Arrived Malacca and met our family friends
7.30 p.m. Visited other family friends, eat, eat and oh, eat

10/12/2009
12.30 a.m. Got myself some shut eye
6.00 a.m. Woke for Fajr prayer
8.00 a.m. Breakfast and more catching up with family friends
11.00 a.m. Left for KL (2 hour drive)
1.00 p.m. Arrived home, showered, changed.
2.30 p.m. Sister’s photoshoot
8.00 p.m. End of photoshoot
9.30 p.m. Dinner @ Old Town White Coffee
11.00 p.m. Blogging when I really should have passed out on my bed

I guess blogging is slowly becoming an important part of my life. I’m really trying to commit to it. It’s like my own little project. Also, I'm happy I haven't been sick since I've been back. I usually get a case of the flu or at the very least, mild tonsilitis but so far I've been alright.

Oh wait, I think I just felt something in my throat...

Beauty - An Innate Feeling

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

When I was 8 years old one of my cousins was working on our family tree for her school project. As part of the project she had to write the occupation of each adult and the ambition(s) of each kid. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I told her with excitement, "I want to be a model!" Of course, along the years I've changed my ambition many times from dreaming of becoming an architect, a florist, perfume maker, doctor, lawyer, you name it.

But let's just pause for a second. Why would an innocent 8 year old girl who loves watching Pocahontas over and over again and playing 'pretend chef' with the other neighbourhood kids aspire to become a fashion model? What would a young child find so appealing about them and what they do for a living? I realised that my mum's occupation as a fashion design lecturer could have somehow influenced my decision at the time. I'd listen to my mum talk about fabric and designs as I wait in her office after school and I'd attend fashion shows that my mum was involved in but what could this all mean to the 8 year old version of myself?

It struck me a few years ago that it wasn't my dream to strut down catwalks or appear in fashion magazines. I just wanted to be beautiful. On top of that, I was and I still am very close to my mum. As a child, I admired her beauty and the way she carried herself. She was always so busy and creative. She never spoke too much and wore the prettiest dresses. She also collected jewellery and bottles of perfumes. I wanted so much to be like her. I think we learn to appreciate beauty and to emulate what is beautiful at a young age. The desire to be pretty is simply an innate feeling even for little girls.

Today this desire has become an obsession for many young girls, young women and not-so-young women. It's come to a point where we want to become someone we just weren't meant to be and most importantly, someone we don't have to be. I'm glad I didn't turn out to be a so-called model and that my family saw a different kind of potential in me. You know the saying 'Charity begins at home'? It's so true... except that I think everything starts from home. Values, habits, education, culture (including the way we perceive the world), love, trust. Even as adults we are careful with whom we surround ourselves with because people have such great impact on our lives. Now can you imagine how amplified the impact would be on a child or adolescent who is still absorbing, learning and trying to understand what she observes?

My point is, if you have a daughter, sister, female cousin or friend tell her that she's beautiful and that she doesn't have to look a certain way to be happy. Tell her that she can count on her intelligence more than anything else because there are thousands of girls out there who are so beautiful on the outside but they're still unhappy inside because they don't believe in themselves. They're always seeking approval from all the wrong people, people who take advantage of their vulnerability. If you have a mother, an aunt or even a grandmother tell her what an amazing woman she is. Express your appreciation and tell her how much she means to you.

As the famous Dr. Maya Angelou said, "If you mean to demean a person, to make her or him feel less than whole, anybody could say it." Well it works both ways. Never underestimate the power of your words and encouragement. It could save a life. It could've saved her life.

EDIT:I find the role of a father is extremely crucial. I noticed that girls who felt loved and protected by their father felt less or no need to search for love outside her home, such as by having many boyfriends.They have a higher sense of self-esteem and self-respect.

"What to expect from a male-female relationship". Daughters learn about marriage from watching Mom and Dad. If parents treat each other well, this becomes the expectation. If Dad is a tyrant, then men are regarded as essentially bad. If Dad is alcoholic or abusive, men are considered to be people who are allowed to get out of control and be hurtful. The unconscious conclusion is... "If Dad treats me well, I am a worthwhile individual. If Dad rejects me or criticizes me, I am no good."

Usually, mothers serve as role models for their daughters. They provide examples of how to be an individual, a mother and a wife. Fathers, however, teach their daughters how to regard themselves, what kinds of relationships are healthy, what to look for in a partner, and what to expect of men in co-parenting relationships.

an excerpt from Father-Daughter Relationships



Tuesday, December 08, 2009

NUMBERS

59 days left in Malaysia. I have to start planning my holiday seriously. The last two words should never be side by side. Let me rephrase that. I need to have a better idea of how the rest of my summer break will be spent.

7 papers until I graduate from university with a degree majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Political Studies and Marketing, inshaAllah. It's been quite a journey.

10 years ago was the last time I visited Mecca. I felt very at home for some reason. The owner of the hotel we stayed in was married to an Indonesian lady. They invited us to dinner at their home one day and served us lamb mandy. It was amazing. I also remember sneaking off to the shops with my late dad because he wanted to buy me a handbag my mum said I couldn't have. He spoiled me to bits and I miss his unconditional love.

48 pieces of Usbu Al Zainab (Zainab's fingers) were made for our guests during Eid ul-Adha. An Omani friend taught me how to make them last semester. They're incredibly easy to make and very delicious! They were really popular with our guests... definitely a crowd-pleaser. I'll post the recipe sometime this week. (Done! Click here for the recipe)

389 photos of my summer break have been captured so far. I take pictures of almost everything. I'm like a tourist in my own country... it's fun! Every year I come back home and I see things with a fresh pair of eyes. There's so much that I find fascinating but there are some changes and/or stagnancies that devastate me as well.

5 pairs is the amount of wearable, decent shoes I have in Malaysia at the moment. You know what, 2 of them don't even count because they're sandals! I need want new shoes so badly...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

THE GIFT OF ISLAM IN MY LIFE

Being a Malay normally means being born into a Muslim family and it's fair to say my family is quite religious. My sister was a hijabi ever since she was 16 and my mother however only started wearing it full-time in her late 40s, early 50s. Throughout the years she became more and more religious and she now spends her free time reading and reciting the Qur'an. As for my brother, although he doesn't smoke, gamble nor drink it was in his late 20s that he became a more conscientious Muslim. My late father was a happy go lucky man who hardly missed a prayer and stayed away from most things haram. Aside from reminders by my mum about not missing my prayers and (very) frequent nags about dressing decently, Islam was never forced upon me. This is one of the reasons I just love learning about my religion and I try my best to practice as much of its teachings.

During most of my childhood and teenage years Islam wasn't something I would think about that much. I was more concerned about the latest video on MTV, getting my homework done (I remember we had a Nazi-like math teacher who used to make us cry but still, homework wasn't as important as MTV of course) and basically trying to fit in. The month of Ramadhan would come along and as a kid I'd fast at least half a day for a month. I went to a Western-oriented private school in KL and Islamic classes were just part of the curriculum to me. It wasn't until I moved to New Zealand that Islam started playing a bigger role in my life. I was 16 years old and suddenly I was placed in an all-girls' school. I made friends and they would ask me questions about Islam and sometimes I wouldn't quite know how to respond.

"Why do Muslim girls wear that thing on their head? Why don't you wear one?"
"Why does Islam allow people to get divorced? It's forbidden in Catholicism and that's how it should be." (this 17 year old girl was a pretty staunch Christian as you might have guessed )
"Why doesn't Islam grant equality between men and women?"

Living in a Muslim country and being surrounded by Muslim family and friends didn't really give me a reason to question Islamic beliefs and practices. I just accepted things as they were. However, living in a Western country was a completely different experience and it led me to question and think about Islam on a deeper level. I felt silly not knowing the answers to some of the questions that were thrown at me so I'd ask my sister and brush up on my Islamic knowledge by reading books. Books about Islam by Muslims, books about Islam by Christians, books about other religions... just all sorts of books. During Islam Awareness Week the university students would organise a week's worth of activities to educate people about Islam. I attended talks by prominent Islamic scholars such asYusuf Estes, Bilal Philips and Abdurraheem Green and watched documentaries about the history of Islam. I watched Parables in the Qur'an and Stairways to Paradise by Moez Masoud. I met and became friends with Muslims from various countries and got to know a few Muslim converts (or reverts, whichever way you like to think of it). It was this experience which really opened my eyes to the beauty of Islam.

It was Muslims whom inspired me to learn more about Islam and it was Muslims whom made me fall in love with Islam, mashaAllah. Dunedin is such a simple city compared to where I come from but it holds a very special place in my heart because of this. In all my years of trying to become so Western, I failed to realise the beauty of my own culture and religion. The Muslim women in New Zealand are strong, beautiful, vivacious, multi-cultural, tolerant and understanding followers of Islam. They made me realise that I can be Muslim and be an educated, beautiful and empowered woman at the same time. I am very thankful to have been given the gift of Islam and I continue to learn so much more about life and people through this beautiful and enlightening religion. I'm not the best Muslim you could ever meet but I still hold on to many traditional values and this surprises many. My faith in God is much stronger now and my life is a jihad (struggle) against my nafs and incessant wants for I recognise the true meaning of freedom is the ability to do what I ought to and not what I want to. It's only when I am ready to open my heart and mind that God is ready to let me in.

Allah said: “Indeed I Am as My servant presumes Me to be. And I Am with him when he remembers Me, so if he remembers Me to himself then I remember him to Myself. And if he remembers Me amongst a company, I remember him amongst a company greater than it and if he draws close to Me a span of a hand I draw near to him the span of an arm. And if he draws near Me the span of an arm, I draw near him the span of two outstretched arms. And if he takes a step towards Me, I quickly step towards him.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

So I'm taking it one step at a time...

Visit Muslimology.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

FINALLY, A CHARITY BOX FOR A REALLY GOOD CAUSE....

I totally needed something to make me laugh today so I browsed Engrish Funny and I have to say this is my favourite out of the many images I had a look at...



I laughed until I had tears in my eyes! Plus... do you notice how the charity box is really full? LOL

If you're bored and in need of something silly to laugh at just visit Engrish Funny. There are heaps of misspelled and mistranslated words and phrases to go through! Do tell me if you come across anything you find hilarious.

White Grains of Sand

Friday, December 04, 2009

I'm back from PD and boy am I tanned. I was only away for 2 days and it was a pretty good trip. We managed to catch up with Kak Amy, a relative of ours who lives there. She took us around to all the popular food spots and we even ate durian! Thanks again Kak Amy, I gained 1 kg from the trip by the way. We managed to do some shopping as well, there's just no cure once you're bitten by the retail bug... We stayed at the Avillion Admiral Cove, a very new hotel which I initially confused with the Avillion, a hotel we used to stay at in PD.



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Avillion Admiral Cove

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We ate durian at Kak Amy's apartment. Deeeelicious.


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The Regency Tanjung Tuan beach



I had a good time! However, I just wasn't feeling myself while I was away. Throughout the entire trip I couldn't stop thinking about the many things that are going on in my life at the moment. For example, one of my best friends recently discovered that her mum has lung cancer. Her mum doesn't smoke nor is she usually surrounded by people who smoke. I'm so saddened by this because she is the sweetest lady one could ever meet. I've known her ever since I was 10 years old. She is so gentle, thoughtful and sincere mashaAllah. I've never ever heard her raise her voice and she knows that I enjoy reading Islamic books so she usually gives them to me as gifts. She is one of the kindest people I've ever met and I'm not just saying that. Anybody who knows her will tell you how kind and humble she is. I used to ask myself how anyone could be so nice, almost too nice... She truly is the queen of hearts.

I know that she doesn't deserve to go through this pain but I also know that Allah s.w.t. is All Merciful and that He usually tests the ones he love most. There is hikmah behind all this, a secret which is kept hidden by Him for now. I pray that she and her family will stay strong throughout this time of adversity and that Allah s.w.t. will grant them what is best, Ameen.

I'm still tired from the trip so I'm gonna get me some rest! Meanwhile, does anyone know why it takes FOREVER to upload photos on Facebook and Flickr? Grrr...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

THIS MERMAID WANNA-BE IS OFF TO THE BEACH!

I am off to Port Dickson today for a quick holiday by the seaside. It's nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle for a few days. I haven't been there for at least 2 years! It'll be nice to see the changes that have developed and I just love beaches. As a child I used to dream of becoming a mermaid (secretly I still do). My friends and I plan to visit a Malaysian island during our summer break. We went to Penang last year and had a blast! Just some good quality time with some good quality friends =) A few names such as Pangkor, Pulau Rawa and Langkawi have been raised. We haven't decided. Plus, there's the whole monsoon season thing to consider! For now Port Dickson will do...

I hope you guys are having a good week so far... adios amigos!