Book Review: Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

This was a first for me; I’ve never read an autobiographical book of a modern-day Muslimah.

Frankly, it’s not a topic that interests me because I feel like I would already know what would be written; que the stereotypical struggles of overcoming racism, oppression of a patriarchal society, religion vs. the modern world, etc. Perhaps that’s dismissive and presumptive of me, but in all honestly, that’s completely how I see it. But this book was given to me as an Easter gift by my aunt (ironic!) who wasn’t sure if it would be offensive or not, but thought it would at least be humorous. I figured it would be a waste not to read it.

The author, Zarqa Nawaz, is a Canadian of Pakistani origin who starts the book with her grade school self wanting to fit in with the other Canadian girls in her class. The only thing standing in her way are her pungent curried chicken drumsticks that her mom packs for lunch. Although after some whining she successfully convinces her mother to pack her PB&J like the other girls, after a short trial period she comes to the conclusion that fitting in is overrated and leaves you more hungry.

As you continue reading, you will see that that is the theme of Nawaz’ life. Although I was doubtful about the impact this book would have on me, surprisingly, Nawaz has gumption which is something more Muslim women should have. At first, due to parental pressure she started going down the traditional and boring path of pre-med undergraduate studies, medical school and then marriage, but she knew she was better than that. Luckily, she did not get accepted to medical school which triggered two desperate quests in her and her mother: Nawaz wanted to get into journalism school and her mother wanted her to get married. Of course, Nawaz finishes her quest first and from there her talent at writing takes her from the newsroom, to producing a couple of short independent films, to the first sitcom of its kind on Canadian television, “Little Mosque on the Prairie”. Oh yes, and she does find the time to get married and have four children in the midst of all of this.

She takes us through all of these milestones in her life and the hilarious events that punctuate them. Her writing is funny in a way that is well-suited to a medium such as film or TV. There were a few times when I felt that she was stretching the humor in a situation (bathroom scene with the contractor, jinn outhouse by the gas station) but for the most part I chuckled along to her foibles. At times she shocked me with her cheeky inattention to social rules (her comments at the dead body washing committee were too much!) but I suppose it’s that same boldness that compelled her to forge the career she did.

This is a mostly light-hearted but meaningful read that explains the common cultural and religious issues that Muslim women encounter at some point in their lives. I was expecting the lamenting of a disenfranchised woman but was surprised to find the smart and ballsy woman for me to admire. Overall, I highly recommend this book to someone interested in seeing a different type of Muslimah than the ones you see on the news — endearingly irreverent though she may be.

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Eid Mubarak and Ramadan Reflections

We just finished fasting our last day of Ramadan and I wanted to wish those who were fasting a congratulatory “Eid Mubarak” to you all!

This Ramadan was especially trying for me and my husband since during this time we bought a house and moved into the house and experienced all of the uncertainty and stresses that go with that. At an especially challenging point of the process my husband and I just had to let go of all of the worry, frustration and anxiety and enter into space of surrender to Allah. Also, during this same time I was promoted to a my dream position with the company I work for. While this was happy news for me, it was still a change from what I was used to and between moving at home and moving into a new role at work, I was feeling very disoriented and not my usual self. We completed our istikhara and wished for Allah to facilitate this home-buying experience for us if it was for the best or to end it if it was not. We’ve always known that nothing is in our control and as much as we try to plan and prepare for things, in the end, Allah’s will supersedes all. We did end up by getting the house — alhamdulillah — and now that I am sitting here in my new home and prepared to start my new position next week, I see that nothing was ever truly in my control so there was no need to worry.

I hope that I am able to keep this lesson within me and refer to it whenever I find myself falling into a endless pit of fear and distress because everything always works out — sometimes in ways that you planned, often times in ways that you didn’t even imagine.

Once again, Eid Mubarak everybody and may Allah accept all of our fasts and efforts during this blessed month!

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Ramadan Cooking Tips

It’s that time of the year again! This year I wanted to make Ramadan extra special and do my utmost to spend this valuable time doing beneficial actions that would bring me more knowledge and hasana such as reading Qur’an, listening to lectures and writing in my Islamic journal, and less time being miserably tired in a hot kitchen. My household consists of me, my husband and my cat and since we both work outside of the home full-time, coming home after a long days work to start preparing for Iftar is probably the last thing I want to do. Here are some tips I came up with to help with that:

Cook in bulk

 

For each Ramadan meal, my husband and I have a sort of routine that consists of a soup, salad, breek (Tunisian fried egg and potato pocket), and then the main dish which is usually a pasta or rice dish. As soon as I found out Ramadan was today, last night I spent time cooking up a huge dish of chorba (Tunisian soup) and have it stored in the refrigerator at the moment. I also prepared the filling for the breek so that all I have to do is fill the phyllo dough and fry them for fresh-made breek every night. i estimate that I’ve cooked enough breek and chorba to last us through Thursday. This means that all I have to do is cook a pasta or rice dish when I get home from work to have a delicious spread for Iftar, which will be no big deal since I’ve already completed tip number two below.

Prepare your ingredients

 

Last night as I was cooking, I diced one extra onion, minced a two bunches of parsley, peeled the potatoes, already minced the garlic, and cleaned and trimmed the meat so that today when I arrive, all I have to do is put the ingredients in the saucepan and I’ll have a delicious meal that took no effort to prepare. Cutting and dicing takes up the majority of your time and so does the clean up that needs to get done after doing all of that. Preparing and storing your basic ingredients takes the time and effort out of your Ramadan meal.

Cook and store time-consuming dishes during the weekend

 

 

Like I mentioned before, I cooked a big pot of soup on Sunday that will probably last me through Thursday but I can do the same for the pasta sauces that I make. Sauces and soups are time consuming dishes since they need to sit and simmer in order to bring out the best flavors. This would be best to do during the weekend when I can take my time and not try to rush it because I’ve got other dishes to prepare in time for Maghrib. Once I’ve made the sauce in bulk, I wait for it to cool and then store the sauce and freeze until I’m ready to use it.

So there you have it, those are my 3 tips for easy Ramadan cooking. If you choose to use any of them I hope they help you to maximize your time on more beneficial actions. Ramadan is about the benefits to your soul and I plan on writing more posts on that — but it sure is nice to have a good meal at the end of the day!

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