On the first days of Dhul Hijjah, my true love gave to me…

Okay, I know, I know. I’m totally (mis?)appropriating a Christmas song. Well, I have a past and some cultural baggage in the form of a love of all things Christmas-y that came with it. I was a Christmas-celebrationist for 16 years you know. But enough of the made up words. This year, I reappropriated some ideas to get Noora and myself in the mood for Dhul Hijjah. Because Noora heard that Eid was coming and automatically thought it was Ramadan. And when she found out that it wasn’t Ramadan or Eid yet, let’s just say that she wasn’t too happy. Thus, the need to teach her that there are two Eids and that they are different and come in different months. So the way I decided to excite her about Eid-ul-Kabir, which, unfortunately, I think is treated as the lesser Eid since it comes and goes so fast…is by borrowing an idea from my dear Sr. Amnah of Little Life of Mine…the traditional Christmas stocking stuffer idea, which I actually never participated in as a Christmas-celebrationist for all those years.

So for the past ten days of Dhul Hijjah, Noora woke up to one very bright yellow bag that I’d place in front of our fireplace and Eid lights (SIDENOTE–>The bag is bright with pictures of (Muslim) people and Arabic letters all over it…yeah, it’s such a cool bag that I kept it as souvenir from our trip to Palestine). Each day, I placed a number for the corresponding hijri date…and put one gift inside. One for each day…to remind her that these are the best ten days of the year, and that we’re giving up TV and other trivial things we do for much more important things. It worked like a charm. Not only did it help her countdown the days to Eid inshAllah…(she quickly learned that 10 signified Eid early on!), but it also helped her to not get overwhelmed by too many gifts at once. She was actually able to enjoy one gift fully each day, enjoying the specialness of that gift and that day. A lot of the gifts were items that she needed–tights, knee-highs, shoes, but there were also some fun inexpensive items in there too like glow sticks and stick-on earrings. But on the first day of Dhul Hijjah, she woke to…

The second book of the Noor Kids series

And I am absolutely smitten with this book. And so is Noora. I was actually asked to review the Noor Kids series a couple of months ago, but never quite got around to it. I was actually sent two other samples of this series, but today, I am reviewing the book that I personally purchased at ISNA. You didn’t think that Noora wouldn’t have a book on hajj with all this celebrate-holy-days-cheerleading I’ve been doing, did you?! Well, here it is! And let me tell you, if you have more than one child, you should have one for each of them because there are activities inside! .Noor Kids Go to Hajj! and the Noor Kids series in general, are a very inviting and interactive way to talk and teach about Islamic concepts and morals with children. When I first read that the books were for the ages 3 to 8, I wondered how could that be?! That’s such a big gap! But this series is actually everything you could want in a book really. Written in a comic-strip-style format, Noor Kids books are interactive, discussion-generating, and also great for independent play with the coloring, word and image search, unscrambling, etc. activities. Of course a lot of the activities are geared towards older children, but Noora was able to color, answer some questions and do a seek-and-find with images, and she’s a pretty new three-year-old. And who in that 3-8 age group doesn’t love listening to stories? One main concept is featured per book through two stories and a lot of activities. I especially loved the first story presented in this issue, “In Allah’s Orbit”. The authors had a unique way of talking about tawaf through the attraction of the planets to the sun. MashAllah, it was a unique way to introduce the solar system and the idea of centering and focusing ourselves and our attention on Allah–two things that I’ve been wanting to teach Noora–all the while presenting the concepts of hajj through tawaaf and sa’iee.

This series would be a great companion to academic study. Children learn about science, inventions, and history all the while connecting to their faith. There’s also a parent guide on the very first page that clues you into the issue’s theme and lists other resources for development of the concepts. If I were to sum up this series in one word, it would be resourceFULL. I love the illustrations and creativity–they are colorful and the renditions of actual places like the Mecca are true to life and inviting. The covers feature traditional Islamic art with mihrabs, and the characters are animals, but still look Muslim, and cute while at it! It’s soft acculturation in a very cutesy kid-friendly format, I mean what child doesn’t like animals?! Soft cuddly bears, rabbits, and lions? (Good thing they aren’t lions and tigers and bears–oh my! ;)). Moreover, having different kinds of animals as the characters solves the dilemma of being multicultural, which is always a must in my book!

Noora asked to read this book every day during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. She liked it so much that I had to give her one of the review copies as another gift during these first ten days (Noor Kids Discover Their Blessings). When she opened it and saw what it was, she said, “look, another book of Noor!”  Oh, and I forgot to tell you that when she saw the first book on hajj, she noticed her name on the cover and asked if it spelled her name. MashAllah. All in all, I think I will have to subscribe to this series and it’ll serve as her Muslim Highlights for Kids right now. Speaking of which, there is a Muslim Highlights of sorts that came out in the UK recently. It’s called Discover…and I’ll be published in the second issue inshAllah, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, you can get yourself a free sample of the Noor Kids series from their website.

As for other cheerleading feats, I thought I’d try to be a Cake Boss this Eid. I had the wonderful? idea of decorating cookies and brownies to make them look like Ka’abas this Eid. Yeah, I was on my feet for four hours and I’m not quite sure that they ever evolved into the wonderful pictures that I had in my head…they tasted good though! Hey, I never said I had mastered any cake decorating skills. I’ll leave my art to pencil, paper, and fibers for now! Mastering the art of cake decorating and cooking is not a part of my agenda on this blog…so I’ll focus my intentions of more-likely-to-be-achieved tasks like getting ready to make twenty gifts for the next year’s first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, since Safiyya will be old enough to kind of understand the gifting process. In the future, I’d like to put out ten bags all at once, incorporating math skills, so that Noora can tell me how many days we have left til Eid and how many Dhul Hijjah days have passed (though that may be biting off more than I can chew–can you imagine the control it would take to not try to open all those gifts at once when they are right there?!).

Whichever way, I think I’m starting a tradition that will need advance preparation in order for continuation. And maybe by then I can finish those old ka’abas that I made from paper last year and never finished. When I actually do get them hanging from the ceiling (inshAllah!), there will be a tutorial here for you. Meanwhile, I better finish this arts and crafts idea from Little Life of Mine that we started during these first ten days of Dhul Hijjah…and think of what cheerleading feat I’ll have to pull for next month–Muharram, the beginning of the Islamic calendar (<–I so need to get this girl a calendar)! Until then, Eid Mubarak!

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Interior decoration

As I begin putting up the Ramadan decorations, I wanted to pass along this link to this new website for Ramadan and Eid decorations, invitations, and placards called ModernEid. It’s pretty nifty, eh? I thought about getting this metallic garland from them, but I’ve decided to just stick with what I made last year. For some more tips on how to decorate your house on Ramadan, you can check out my posts from last July, follow my Eid decoration board on Pinterest, and/or visit the following sites:

  • Ramadan Joy– formerly Barakah Life, this has great DIY ideas for decorating your home elegantly for the holidays.
  • Silver Envelope-an Islamic stationary company, and my personal go-to for the little somethings that make DIY projects pop!
  • Handmade Beginnings-has a lot of nice Ramadan and Eid craft ideas for the kiddos.
  • Islamic Bookstore and NoorArt sell the same kind of mass printed decorations.
  • Eid Way-a site dedicated solely to Eid decorations..including cake and cookie stencils! Yes!
  • Muslim Toys and Dolls-a site with a lot of the items from the previous mentioned online storefronts but with a little higher pricing, but free shipping!
  • Ranoon-a beautiful site for lights, candles, lanterns, and other Ramadan and Eid-inspired home decor.
  • ModernEid-previously mentioned, a new site that with Islamic stationary, postage, and decor all in one! Did you check it out yet? Did you, did you?!
  • World Market-a store that has lanterns and other Islamic-looking home-decor items if you look close enough…

But with all this talk about interior decoration, let’s remind ourselves that Ramadan is not so much about the decoration of our houses and masjids with people and food, as much as it is about the decoration of our hearts and souls with a good spiritual state in order to evolve and elevate to higher levels…to the potential that we must realize before we die. And with that, I’ll share some words that Shaykh Muhammad Mendes shared with my husband this past week during a class (and I’m paraphrasing):

Remember that the fall of Adam started when he ate something. Gluttony and meat harden the heart. Just look at how children change once they are given food other than their mother’s milk. They begin to develop an ego…Umar ibn Al-Khattab made in unlawful during his caliphate to eat meat for more than two days in a row for a reason. Put your two hands together in front of you and make them into fists, side by side–that is the size of your stomach. The sunnah is 1/3 food, 1/3 water, and 1/3 air. If you really want to experience the Ramadan of our noble predecessors, that of the Prophet (saws) and his companions, make your suhoor and iftar of the two black things: dates and water, nothing else. Then you will know the fast. And remember that abstaining from the carnal is the base level of the fast. To fast with ihsan is to abstain from all that distracts you from your Lord…with all of your senses (hearing, sight, and the limbs) and with all of your being (your heart, mind, and soul).

So here’s to a blessed interior decoration for your home, stomach, and soul! Eat less meat, eat more vegetables, and eat less in general! Instead fill your eyes, mouth, and heart with air and prayer! Enjoy your Ramadan and be merry!

Ramadan mubarak! May your fasts be accepted! Amin!

Welcome to the World, Baby!

This past Saturday was one of the best days that I’ve had in a long time. It was the aqiqa feast for baby #2. That’s right! She’s out(–she actually came out two days after the previous post!)…and it was pouring cats, dogs, elephants, coyotes, and every other animal at the zoo during her feast. This matters because…the aqiqa was outdoors at a state park! But she still had a beautiful reception. And we learned who really loved us–the people who came and stayed through the thunderstorm, getting soaking wet to their underwear (multiple times as it poured off and on!) just to welcome our baby to the world.

Subhanallah! In adversity, true colors come forth, just like the sun that greeted us after the rainstorm, making a rainbow. We had friends as far as Richmond come up as well as friends from around the Beltway. The rain reminded me of the movie, Monsoon Wedding and it was the first real soaking rain of this summer…a blessing as we’ve been experiencing a bit of a heat wave in these parts, heat advisories and all! And as couple of our family and friends remarked, it was Allah’s rahma (mercy) descending during the aqiqa because as the hadiths go, “Rain is a mercy” and “There are two which will not be rejected: du’a at the time of the call (to prayer) and when it is raining” (Abu Dawud).

This beautiful welcoming party by family, friends, and the elements alike reminded me of one of the first books that I purchased for Noora while I was still expecting, if not the first. It’s by one of my favorite children’s and young adult book authors, Na’ima bint Robert, and is entitled Welcome to the World, Baby! In it, we meet an elementary-age class who discover the different ways that families welcome babies into the world through their senses. It’s a multicultural dream come true, and stars a lot of Muslim children. On one of my favorite pages, a child takes out an envelope with a lock of her brother’s hair in order to show and tell about the Muslim tradition of shaving a child’s head and donating the hair’s weight to charity. Two children later, I can now smile at this page.

But I remember when I first learned about the Prophetic tradition of shaving a newborn’s hair on the seventh day after birth. I was a bit horrified for my little girl (it wouldn’t have been a problem for a little boy to me), but it was sunnah so I pressed on. Honestly, I tried to get out of it. I researched every hadith I could find and called all of my more knowledgeable friends and some of my already-mommy friends. But it all came down to the same thing. Shave your child’s head on the seventh day or on a multiple of the seventh day. That’s the sunnah, and while it’s not required, if you do otherwise, you’re missing out on the light of the prophetic sunnah.

It’s funny, because this time around, I had the same anxiety. Oh those newborn curls! Couldn’t I just keep them on her head forever? Well, I could, but it was all in the name of vanity and prissyness. So I write this post dedicated to all other women out there, who, like me, may have some anxiety over their little girls going bald. There is nothing to fear. The hair grows back…even, full, and quickly too! And the most beautiful thing about the child is that they are not vain–they are content as long as you show them love. They couldn’t care less if you shaved their head or not. I was blessed to know a brother who had shaved 100+ children’s heads. But you may not be so lucky. He shaved Noora’s head. This time around, we did it ourselves. Between the two, here’s what I witnessed in the hopes that you, new mommies out there, will keep the Prophetic tradition alive!

  • Breastfeed baby before the shaving–it calms them down and gets them to sleep. Let him/her sleep in your arms (that way you can move his/her head around as needed for the shaving–and make sure you’re in clothes that you don’t mind getting messy! Check out your floor too–it’s much easier to mop up a mess than vacuum up one!)
  • Have a bucket of warm water ready, some Aveeno or sensitive shaving cream, and a new good razor (we used a Mach 3 and didn’t get any cuts!)
  • Cut the baby’s hair with scissors first if its long (this is the hair that you’ll want to save and put in that nice white envelope as in the book, or in our case, a ziplock bag–it’s nice and dry). Then proceed to shave it, right side to left. Take your time; it’s gonna take a while (it took us about an hour). Use the bucket between shavings to rinse the razor and replace the water when it gets too mucky to use.
  • Give baby (and yourself) a bath and cuddle. Take a before and after pic if you take pictures. Baby wears bald very well!

So this is how we welcomed our second daughter to the world. She had her aqiqa, albeit divvied up on different days (she got her name on her first day, her hair shaved another, this feast on yet another), and likewise, we pray that that prophetic light surrounds her each and every day for all of her days. She’s another shining light from the Creator that we hope to nurture and guide to the good. Please welcome Miss Safiyya Yusaira to the world with us with your goodly thoughts and prayers!

The rainbow after the storm…

P.S. We realize that not all who love us could physically be there for the feast, but we were genuinely surprised by the amount of people who came through–rain and all! We know that some friends could only be there in spirit :).

What’s up with the owls?

So, have you noticed all the owls floating around? They are everywhere! On fabric, jewelry, hats…it’s hard not to find them! But I wondered why they were popping up everywhere…so I googled the fashion trend and here’s what I found. Owls are flexible…adaptable, if you will, to many aesthetic tastes. For instance, they can be seen as symbols for wisdom, intelligence, protection, or mysticism, and depending on the colors and depictions used, they can be serious, whimsical, cute or scary. So they are versatile to grown-folks and little-folks tastes. And I must admit, they are growing on me. I saw the cutest matching mommy and me pajama set in a catalog…I yearned for Noora and I to be twins. (Yeah, I have this thing for matching with Noora). But since my husband and I decided not to dress Noora in clothes with figural embellishments when it could be avoided, I won’t buy those pajamas. But that doesn’t mean that those fowls still aren’t cute…especially when they are appliques or make up the entirety of a little person’s hat. I’ll just settle on making this Forest Friends Hoodie for Noora, or the Springtime Friends equivalent by Anji Beane….complete with Moroccan hood (YEAH! Now that’s a touch I love!)…and I’ll probably end up trying to make one for myself too…of course, fowls and other animal friends excluded. Anyways, by the time I get to this pattern, the trend will probably have moved on to mushrooms or snails. And that’ll be right on time for the embellishments that I’m going to add instead of our furry creature friends :). But on the other hand, there’s always the Ermeline Moroccan-esque jacket, and the matching mommy-counterpart…just saying! we could be twins…next fall!

Crocheting a Beard?

I read about this phenomenon last May, but I was waiting for a time when I could intelligently respond…have you ever heard of a knit or crocheted beard? You don’t believe me? Just check out this site or this site! I first read about it on Green Prophet. Apparently, it was all the rage last year in Europe as a type of facewarmer–what a great alternative to the regular ski mask, no? But what I loved about Green Prophet’s article was highlighting the fact that a beard is a sunnah (a Prophetic tradition) and a beautiful symbol of manhood and maturity. I must admit that while I’m all for the natural beards that men grow, I was a bit perplexed by the idea of a yarn-made beard. I mean, women are wearing the beards too…hmmm…can we think of a more feminine facewarmer option? But I could see myself making this beard…if I had a son one day…and we were going skiing…so his face could be warm…and he could be just like Dada…and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 🙂

Eid-ul-Adha Ka’abas

Eid-ul-Adha paper ka'abas

Yeah…I was late with Eid-ul-Adha decorations this year. So late in fact, that the new ones will have to wait until next Eid-ul-Adha. See, I began making these 3-d ka’abas and fell asleep on them…I just couldn’t finish them…I was going to hang them in the hallway to greet our hajji upon his return. But alas, he will return tonight and only three are done. Next year inshAllah…ka’abas…and a tutorial for you…

Ma’salaama Eid-ul-Fitr, Marhaba Dhul Hijjah

I finally took the Ramadan/Eid ul Fitr decorations down today…I couldn’t figure out if I really wanted to since Eid ul Adha is just a little over a month away, but I do want my daughter to be able to tell when it is a holiday season and when it’s not…plus I want to something a little different for Eid ul Adha…think 3-d ka’abas hanging from the ceilings…stay tuned…

Eid Mubarak to you!

To borrow a quote…

ليس العيد لمن لبس الجديد إنما العيد لمن طاعته تزيد
“Eid is not for the one dressed in a new garment, rather Eid is for the one whose righteous actions increase.”
Eid Mubarak to you!!!

Ramadan Decorating Phase 3

And then there was light…

…and now we are ready! Lights, Camera, Action! Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Lights from the U.S. (Ranoon.Com)

Ramadan Decorating Phase 2

What kind of Ramadan decorating would I be doing without lanterns? Lanterns are central to the Ramadan spirit and they were present in almost every room of our house this year…with the addition of a bonus celestial space in our kitchen (not pictured, couldn’t get a good enough picture of it!)…I also made a suncatcher-type 2-d lantern for Noora’s window, based on this post from The Muslim Learning Garden.

I used the book, Ramadan Crafts for Kids by Dana Jadallah and Dana Amer (Aardvark Global Publishing Company, LLC, 2007) for instructions on how to make the 3-d lanterns. There’s a lot of great ideas in there, and I ended up making 9 lanterns which took the whole week. Believe me, I wanted to make more. I have like 10 more templates left that I didn’t finish out of sheer and utter exhaustion! As for how I decorated the lanterns, well–scrapbook paper, transparency sheets, cellophane paper, and sheet metal of course!…with my favorite touch of invisible beading thread…They are made very much like The Muslim Learning Garden’s suncatcher-esque lantern except for the whole 3-d thing. As for the patterns, that’s me tracing the Arabic Patterns Stained Glass Coloring Book (Dover Publications, 2006) and The Art of the Muslim World Colouring Book 2 (Ta-Ha Publishers, 1983).

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Ramadan Banner Tutorial

So, a couple of you out there have asked me to blog this tutorial on my Ramadan decorations. I’m so flattered. This post is for you. But first, I must give due respect. I was inspired by the eye-candy-licious BarakahLife Ramadan Joy Creative Companion Blog and chamomiles&smiles 🙂 blog post on Ramadan decorations in making this banner. I just added my own touch on the concept that the sisters presented there.

Materials:

  • Scrapbook paper*
  • X-acto knife or Utility knife
  • Invisible Beading String/Thread
  • 4 in. letter stencils
  • Bookbinding awl or paperclip
  • Pencil

*I used Die Cuts With a View (DCWV)’s Royal Garden with Foil and Taj Mahal Scrapbook paper which has some very ornate and Islamic-looking, Silk Road-esque prints. I also used DCWV’s Glitter Cardstock Stack. But feel free to use whatever works for you and your space. Those were the colors and designs that spoke to me and our space! If you don’t want to have to worry about cutting big ‘ole scrapbook paper down, get the matstacks of the collection. They are postcard size and perfect for 4-5 inch stencils.

1. Trace the letters for “Ramadan Mubarak” or another greeting on your precut 4.5″ x 6.5″ cardstock paper with pencil.

2. Carefully cut out the letters using your X-Acto knife or Utility knife. (I found that using a utility knife required less force–and upper arm strength–on my part and went much quicker : :). Punch out the positive space (the actual letter)–the banner is made using the negative space (yes, I’m pulling out the art teacher terms!)

3. Use the bookbinding awl or an unwound paper clip to poke two holes on the top of your letter on either side.

4. If you haven’t already, arrange your letters in the proper order.

5. String the invisible beading thread through the holes of all the letters. I prefer to string from front to back through the left hole and from back to front through the right hole so that the string is not visible over the letters. I hope this makes sense. You want the thread running behind the letters, not in front of them. Also, make sure your string is long enough for where you want to hang your banner…if you want your banner to drop some in the middle (rather than hang straight across), like mine does, leave extra string on the sides and put the letters closer together towards the middle.

6. What are you waiting for, already? Hang it up!

Ramadan Decorating Phase 1

Me, scrapbook paper, and my handy dandy X-acto knife. See you on the other side of my extreme home makeover: Ramadan edition.

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Holiday Decorating Frenzy

Perfuming and airing out the prayer rugs…

I started working on a blanket for Noora’s Eid gift, but then I saw the most beautiful post on a centerpiece for Eid…and decided that the house must be decorated ASAP in time for Ramadan. It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge with only a week left, right? After all, I was charged with decorating an entire school only a little over 2 years ago…

You know, I was bound to decorate the house. After spending last Ramadan in Palestine accompanied by the most beautiful lanterns and lights, some of which I brought back, you know I had to try to recapture the feeling. I’ve also always itched to decorate for Ramadan. Coming from a Christian family tradition where we always decorated the house, it is important to me for holidays to be festive. Christmas time is still very nostalgic for me precisely because of those reasons. And being in the alleys of Jerusalem that were decorated like the Christian holidays I celebrated in years past brought me back home.

Of course, the focus of Ramadan should not be on decoration, but sometimes that’s how we get in the spirit. Lights, carols, good clean home-y movies…don’t you notice how everyone is pretty cheerful around Christmas time here? I mean, I’m singing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and can’t help but to partake in the gingerbread…But if I’m honest with myself, Ramadan in the past couple of years has been pretty boring. I’ve wished so much that the Muslims here in the U.S. would do something big for our holiday. Even putting one something that lights up on their doors just so that neighbors know that we celebrate something–something wonderful. But the streets are dark. And in exchange, I see Muslim children practically begging their parents to celebrate Halloween and Christmas sometimes because of the festive atmosphere that those days bring…when they should be begging their parents to just actually celebrate Ramadan.

The dining room…ready for iftars…with a handmade lantern-chandelier!

I know that we Muslims in America are in the process of creating our own unique Ramadan traditions. I just wish we’d hurry up, before we lose our children to other (less-noteworthy) traditions in our culture.They are visual, and they do like lights and festive atmospheres. Who doesn’t? Just look at children’s toys…they are bright and decorative for a reason…

And if anyone wants to take up the position that decorating for Ramadan is imitating other traditions, well there is a hadith you should read:
Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said, Indeed, Heaven is decorated for Ramadan-ul-Mubarak from the beginning of the year to the end. (Shu’abul Imaan, V::3 P::312 Hadith::3633)
If heaven is decorated, shouldn’t the earth be decorated, too? And more importantly, shouldn’t our hearts? Actions are by intentions…we will be the losers if we deny our children the right to celebrate Ramadan by not making the effort to make the occasion special for them. If we don’t do it, who will? Certainly, people of other faiths won’t be decorating for Ramadan. We must ask ourselves how we can make Ramadan special for those little ones who do not fast or pray like we do. And don’t think I have it easy just because I’m an art teacher. Anyone can grab scrapbook paper and scissors and make something out of it…which reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books, which happens to be Jewish folktale by the way…Phoebe Gilman’s Something from Nothing. But alas, I must not digress from the main point. In closing, I’ll share this very touching quote that I found on Yahoo!Answers–a response to someone who asked how one should decorate the home for Ramadan:
“If u want to decorate Ur house, you may decorate it with all good deeds in this holly month, un seen decoration which no body can see it except Allah. Decorate it with good quality of Salah (prayer) good quantity of Zeker (remembrance of Allah) decorate it with lots of recitation of holly Quraan and lots of Nawafils extra prayers like Tahajjud Tarawih Qeyam …”
Subhanallah. In efforts to brighten up this dunya with our joy over this blessed month, we must not forget to decorate our real homes…our hearts. For what good is beautifying the exterior if we do not beautify the interior?!?

The living room…decorated…

What’s Islam Got to Do with It?

I know some of you must have been looking at my site by now and wondering what’s so Islamically-inspired about this? Well, I haven’t quite dished out all the inspirations up my sleeves. But, I assure you, there are some unique items to be showcased inshAllah (God willing) that definitely have at least a Middle Eastern vibe to them in the coming months. For now, though, I’m just concerned with keeping our babies’ heads and necks warm and keeping the girly girls’ hairdos looking fantastic!

On a more serious note though, Islam has everything to do with it. It’s the reason you don’t see animal figures on my projects. It’s a way of life that I’ve chosen to live by, and I am particularly inspired by two women from the early days of Islam. Both were wives of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at different times. One’s name was Khadijah bint Khuwaylid and the other was Zaynab bint Jahsh (may they both be enveloped in Mercy). Khadijah (ra) was a businesswoman, who actually employed the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). She remains a noteworthy example of a strong woman to this day–self-employed, privileged, educated, and business-minded at a time when female infanticide was still practiced. Khadijah was successful in pre-Islamic Arabia, a time best described as primitive and barbaric. “Women were marginalized, and unequal, used for enjoyment and breeding…[without] property or dowry rights […]. Survival for most women meant being attached to a family unit” (see Tamam Kahn’s Untold: A History of The Wives of Prophet Muhammad, 2010, p.10). Shoot, women are still marginalized in that way today, but Khadijah didn’t merely survive, she soared like a butterfly!

The other wife, Zaynab (ra), who came years after Khadijah’s death, excelled in arts and crafts and then spent the money she made on charity. She did leatherwork (tanning and piercing leather) and embroidery. There is a hadith (traditional saying of the Prophet) that concerns her, “The swiftest of you to join me (in paradise) will be the one with the longest armspan (or hand).” Zaynab was a small woman, her arm wasn’t that long, but it was clear that after she died, Muhammad had been talking about her generosity. She died ten years after the Prophet–the first of his later wives to die, with her small, but long hand forever a symbol of charity (See Sahih Bukhari, Vol.2, Book 24, Hadith #501). It is my hope to one day create a circle of women crocheting for charity.

And to my fans of other faiths, don’t worry–there will always be something here for you. Remember, everything can be looked at as inspiration, though I’m not sure you’ll want any change to my designs once you see the beauty of Arabic calligraphy… But that’s all I can say without spilling the Arabica coffee beans.

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