Ramadan Mubarak!

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This image of the Taj Mahal Mosque in Agra, India is taken from inside the Taj Mahal, through the marble screen on the windows of the Taj.
Everyone knows the Taj Mahal was built as a mausoleum for the Queen of Emperor Shah Jahan, but a little known fact is that the Taj Mahal is engraved with Surahs from the Quran all recited at the time of death or for the deceased. Another fact of Mughal architecture was that no building, tower, palace or other construction was made without first building a mosque on the campus. Most mosques are still operational today.

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Welcoming our newest arrival!

I resisted for many years- the pleading, the guilt trips, the begging, the whining, the promises and the complaints- but I finally succumbed. My family won, and Alhamdulillah, I must say, I don’t regret it either.

Our daughter felt alone in an all boys’ home (somehow mom and grandma don’t seem to count). She was the main reason I gave in or perhaps, I gave up, my fight. The boys wanted to prove responsibility, compassion and care. Yes, they did all this when our baby Jamal was born, but I guess Jamal has to grow up too. Everyone felt our baby was no longer a baby and the time was right for another one.

Perhaps, the biggest push in this direction was my sister who needed someone to watch her baby when she vacationed. She dropped off Muezza one day and she is still here! So, without a formal welcome or any proper planning, Muezza Rasheed has become the newest member of our “tribe”.

Muzzy, as she is usually called, is a 6 year old Abyssinian grey. She is mild mannered, soft spoken and very lady like. She is tolerant of my five year old and of our own ten year old animaniac.

Her presence has reminded us all to be gentler and more loving by default. She expects nothing more than a clean litter box, food and water. A warm spot in the sun and fresh air are good too:) She meows soothingly and is more well behaved than my own children at times. She doesn’t scratch or bite or expect attention. She’ll nuzzle next to our teenager every night and sleep by his feet as he reads in bed. She will never walk on our prayer rugs, always around them, and she will patiently meow by the bathroom door if it’s closed and she needs to use her litter box.

Muezza has taught my boys to be calmer out of respect for the little lady. She has made my daughter step up and take on chores like cleaning the litter box and feeding her and even helped me cede some responsibility on to my kids, which I sometimes have difficulty with. She has truly shown us the meaning of the interconnectedness of our lives!

Please join us as we welcome into our hearts and home-
Muezza Ellaboudy Rasheed.
Friends and neighbors are welcome to come meet and greet her anytime, I can’t promise she won’t be shy!

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Parent Education Seminar

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Why do I homeschool?

Recently a question about homeschooling sparked a lengthy, and sometimes heated, conversation on an email list I belong to. It was good that it made all the noise that it did because I usually don’t notice much on this list. But this question made me think about my own reasons for homeschooling and articulating my reasons was a good exercise, as it’s important for us to all understand and review why we choose to do what we do.

A point I make when I talk to people about homeschooling is how our lives have changed drastically in so many ways yet we refuse to change the most important aspect of our lives- our education.

Let me explain, a short time ago at the San Francisco Museum of Art, there was an exhibition on the maharajas of India. While at this exhibition I noticed how our lifestyles today resemble those of the Rajas and maharajahs of past centuries. Our scholars have also mentioned this point in various talks as well, this was not my discovery. We eat food like the royals would have, we dress the way the aristocrats would have, we travel and live lives as those with a lot of money would have, yet we educate our children in methods worse than the poorest would. If we look all over the Indian subcontinent, the descendants of rajas and maharajas to this day are homeschooled. Historically anybody who was being groomed to be a person of importance was homeschooled or taught by a private tutor.

We are contradicting ourselves by saying we want the best for our children and then sticking our children in hospital like or prison like sterile environments for eight hours a day – sometimes without even windows to look out of! We leave them with people who may be very dedicated, but are helpless in a system that is so crippled that it cannot even stand on its own feet.

Shaykh Salek Siddina taught a class on the rights of parents, which is in a way the rights of children. In it he highlighted to us this very point. He mentioned, that every child has a right to a good upbringing. This upbringing begins with being taught the right things at the right time in the right way. He said that a lot of Muslims in the west are facing a crisis of unprecedented numbers where people are reaching out to scholars for help with their children (young adults) who are leaving the deen. This is a problem scholars locally, in every US city, have to deal with daily- children or young adults moving away from the deen or seeing the religion as an unnecessary thing in today’s day and age.

I’m not saying that every child who goes to public school leaves the deen, but Christian homeschooling studies have proven that a lot of people become agnostic or at least move away from their own religious practices and beliefs by going to a system that is constantly questioning them and their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, that system is designed to separate God from education- and has gotten to the point of removing God from education.

I feel very passionately about homeschooling just like a lot of others feel about Islamic schools or private schools. Like a good friend of mine said, “If we are homeschooling because our neighbors or friends or families are homeschooling, then it’s not the right decision for us.” But once we have made a decision to homeschool let’s look forward and stay focused regardless of who is beside us. Maybe homeschooling is not the way for them, but we need to stop worrying about what the world is doing to stay just focused on what we need to do.

May Allah grant us all Tawfiq to do what is best for our families.

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

Look closely at the back of a plastic water bottle and you will see something that says CRV(California Redemption Value) 5 cents. What does this mean? It means when you buy something that has this printed on it, you pay 5 cents extra. Why pay extra for a bottle of liquid? Because the government wants to encourage you to recycle. Most people just pay this tax/deposit amount and forget about it. But some people gather these bottles and trade them in for money at a recycling center. We are one of those people who don’t forget our deposit because redemption is exactly what we do.

We have a special recycling project that we undertook. It started about 3 years ago when we collected glass/plastic bottles and aluminum cans and took them to a recycling center and traded them in for cash. We then sent the money to different charities and this was one way we, the kids, could help other kids worldwide. This time, we saved all our collection to feed orphans in India, when we visited there. We also asked our friends to save their recyclables and we would collect them and add to our pile. Alhamdulillah with everyone’s support we collected $300 (which is more than 20,000 Indian Rupees) in just four months! The recycling center part is so easy- we keep our recyclables separated and our mom drives it to the center. Then the people that work there sort the stuff in bins and weigh them. They give you money depending on the weight of the different materials.

When we got to Mysore, India, we fed over 200 people in an all girls orphanage and ate dinner with them as well. The food was Indian of course and they had rice, lamb korma, fried chicken and a dessert of dhal (lentils). This was surely out of the ordinary for the girls who usually get rice, lentils and sometimes veggies. We also gave them an extra treat, which was a fruit pudding. The girls were very thankful and happy. Their lives are very simple- for example, they live off of one box of belongings and sleep on a bunk with another girl under or above depending on where they sleep. They don’t have the freedom to grab a bag of chips or get a glass of milk. They don’t get to choose what they want to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just because they’re bored doesn’t mean they can watch a movie. There’s no one to share their happiness with if they get a good grade or accomplish something big, but they are still happy, content and don’t complain because they are thankful to Allah for giving them shelter, food and education. They make dua for every person who has fed them and what they want most is love and friendship. They didn’t want us to leave and were happy to show and tell us about every little thing in their lives just so that we could stay longer. They keep asking us to make dua for them and kept asking if we would come back again.

It was very shocking to see everyone’s trash – its trash that I’m talking about, stuff that we don’t even use anymore, stuff that we throw away – feed more than 200 people in the orphanage. This goes to prove that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Insha Allah we hope that Allah gives everyone lots of Baraka and Sawaab for helping us with our goal. We are also planning on doing this again even if we might not go to India so let us know if you save your recyclables and we’ll be happy to pick them up – if you are local.

You can do this project too. Just follow these easy steps: find a recycling center near you, collect bottles and cans and trade them in. Doing this will help the environment and save money. It is also very fun and empowering because you can do some simple things and get a sense of accomplishment in a big world of adults. So next time you see suffering children somewhere, you don’t have to feel like a small kid who cannot help anyone, but know that you can do something about it too!

By- Ridwan Rasheed

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Pieces of Paradise

Every pilgrim to Mecca dreams certain dreams- to drink to their fill from the well of Zamzam, pray undisturbed in the multazim, cry uncontrollably while holding on to the kiswah, pray in the Rawdah, touch/kiss the black stone. Few though, are blessed with accomplishing all of their dreams these days- mainly because of the huge influx of pilgrims into Mecca and Medina. All the times in my life that I’ve visited the Ka’aba, I’ve been unsuccessful in greeting the black stone in person. I usually have to wave at it from afar and hope to touch this piece of the heavens some day. For me, that blessed opportunity happened to be in Turkey!

During our recent visit, we happen to be staying a street away from the Mehmet Pasha Mosque in Istanbul- a quaint little mosque built by the famed architect Sinan- which houses four pieces of the hijre aswad or the heavenly black stone! Today, after a tranquil fajr prayer and a calm dhikr attended by all the resident students of the Mehmet Pasha madrasa, we were blessed to be able to see all four pieces of paradise and touch one!

These pieces of the sacred stone were preserved when the cover of the hijre aswad was being replaced by the Ottomans. The golden cover is on display at the Topkapi palace but the four small pieces, about an inch long and half an inch wide, have found their home in this blessed mosque.

This mosque is a quick ten minute walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia- both in the Sultanahmet area. At any given time, you can witness the young Turkish huffaz sit under the black stone and perfect their recitations or pray calmly, as this little mosque doesn’t get the tourists from around the world like the Blue mosque does.

One of the pieces of the hijre aswad (black stone) greets every one entering the mosque as it sits above the entrance door to the masjid. The second is unreachably high above the mihrab, looking at every masjid goer, the third one sits right at the arch of the stairs leading up to the muezzins tower and the fourth one is lodged between a white tower inside the mosque and cemented block. These rectangular pieces of stone are clearly visible- secured on distinct large wooden blocks that frame them.

The ehtaram or respect that the Ottomans showed to these fragments of the heavenly stone is just another of the many ways Turkey has impressed me with their love and respect of the Ahl al Bayt and nonchalant approach to traditional Islam. No one argues with you or brushes you away if you stand to touch the black stone, in fact, they show you where the others in the mosque are located. They help get a stool for your old mom to use and clamber on while trying to get her cold fingers to feel this piece of paradise. They ask softly, where you are from and smile with a “welcome” when you respond. Though English is not the first or the second language of most Turkish people today, they sure can speak the language of Adab and make one feel welcome!

If you go, here’s where to look for it!

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Ready, Set, Go!

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One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that we can take vacations during off peak travel times! We were able to enjoy Morocco and Mauritania a few years ago and the circuitous trip of the American southwest. As we get ready to travel again, we invite you to join us on our journeys and see the beauty that Allah has placed in Istanbul and India. We hope to put up pictures and posts frequently and keep a memoir of our travels and inshaAllah, return as successful storytellers.

We hope you join us and the easiest way to stay on course with us is by subscribing to our blog. This way you won’t miss a single upload and can traverse the many paths alongside us.

“Experience, travel – these are an education in themselves” ~ Euripides

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