Sunday, July 27, 2014

Inspiration of the Day

This would be a great outfit for entertaining at home.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Ramadan Beauty Regime

Hygiene and taking good care of our bodies is definitely a big part of Islam. Sometimes during Ramadan it can be stressful because I am the only Muslim in my family so I have to pray alone, fast alone, break my fast alone, etc., so I can imagine how stressed out those that do have Muslim families could be with having to keep up with family visits and large gatherings. It is important that we not neglect our skin and hygiene while we are fasting, or any other time for that matter! Here are the items I have been using this month to try to keep myself refreshed and pampered. 

Although I do not like Clinique makeup their skincare line does have some good products to offer, this clarifying lotion and UV repair serum I would only give an OK rating though. Those 2 along with the Estee Lauder day cream are left over from when I managed a cosmetics counter, the Estee Lauder day cream is fairly good but if I had to buy them myself I would choose other brands. I mix the day cream with the ponds moisturizer to make it less heavy and smoother on my skin. I cannot live without Argan Oil for my hair, summer heat and UV can damage our hair so the Argan Oil is great for restoring and retaining moisture to help our hair stay healthy.

I cant go a day without reading *something*, this month I have been going through the latest issue of Burda Style Magazine repeatedly. I can't wait to get some new fabric and make some dresses and kaftans using their patterns and ideas that were inspired by their articles. The sparkly Betsey Johnson Hamsa necklace and Burt's Bees Pomegranate lip balm are gifts I got myself for Ramadan. I love Pomegranate and the taste reminds me of the delicious pomegranate desserts I enjoyed while in Dubai. There are many opinions on Hamsa necklaces but for me they are purely a fashion accessory, use your heads, there is no way a piece of jewelry created by a human is going to protect you. Only Allah can offer you the protection you need.

Don;t forget to take care of your entire body including your feet, I love to use foot soaps and soaks in my at home foot spa. Don't forget to exfoliate! Afterwards rub your feet in a moisturizing oil like the lavendar one pictured or your favorite moisturizing lotion and put some socks on to lock in the moisture while you go about your daily chores and your feet will be super soft. I also like to  exfoliate my hands and out on a pair of moisturizing gloves while I sleep to keep my hands from feeling dry and rough. Exfoliating your face is also very important, since I am out of my favorite philosophy exfoliator I picked up this Loreal one with the little rubber scrublett that pops out of the bottle so you can scub your nose and pores better. I like it, the efoliating wash alone would be pretty run of the mill but the rubber scrublett makes it worthwhile. The caress body scrub works very well and smells fantastic.

 For my hair I sometimes use cocnut oil and rub it into my hair really well and put on one of the plastic disposable caps that you can find at discount stores and beauty supply shops and leave it on for a few hours so that my hair gets thoroughly moisturized, I then wash it out at night with shampoo followed by my normal conditioner and my hair will be super soft and easy to brush. The Argan oil hair masks also work wonders, I use them once every week or two to keep my hair healthy.

I love using face masks, my favorite right now is the paper rose mask that is pictured, it smells like delicate roses and leaves my face feeling incredibly soft. I pull my hair back and use the Hello Kitty hairband that I found at Ulta to make sure all the strands of hair are away from my face before I put the masks on.

An added treat that I like to do after a great exfoliating bath is to mix some rose water with a little warm water and sprinkle it over your skin after you fave dried off. It will leave your skin with a faint scent of rose like a Moroccan princess!

Are there any favorite beauty rituals you like to do for Ramadan to relax and pamper yourself?

Photo Essay: The Beach at The Walk, Dubai

I ended up at the walk due to a taxi driver not knowing where I asked him to drop me off, even though it was not my desired destination it was worth it just to walk around on the beach and have a seat and watch the beautiful waves. This beach and area is a very tourist area, I was the only one on the beach that day wearing an abaya. I got some awkward stares by those clad in their bikinis while I walked along the waters edge picking up shells, I guess some people just can't understand that we can still have the same amount of fun and adventure while we are dressed modestly haha

Inspiration of the Day

Even though I am a shy person and don't like to stand out in crowds I love bright colors, I like to call them happy colors. This abaya would be great for a ladies gathering or for just having a family gathering at home. We often don't dress up when we eat dinner with our families at home because everyone is always so tired and worn out from uni, work, or whatever other things our families may be doing but I think we should take the time once in a while to dress up for our families and have a nice home cooked meal together. You could even put up special decorations or play some music to add to the ambiance. Especially in Ramadan and with Eid drawing close I envy all of you that have Muslim families and get to eat and celebrate the holidays with them. Please, don't ever take your Muslim family for granted if you are lucky enough to have one, there are lots of people all over the world including me that wish we had the same.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My 3 Year Anniversary

It's been 3 years since I took my Shahadah on May 13, 2011. Am I the same person that I was back then? No, I'm not.

Being a Muslim in a non-Muslim area is one of the hardest parts. Almost everyday it feels like you have to lead a double life, trying hard to be the best Muslim you can be and to follow the Quran and Sunnah correctly and trying hard not to cause any conflicts with relatives or others that would have a problem with my being Muslim. I try hard. I do what I can. I know my parents are pleased with me as a person and as their daughter. There isn't much left of my extended family but I do treat them well, I show them respect even when they are not respecting me. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, at least by having a blog I can talk to myself in a constructive fashion! haha

My Goals As I Enter My 3rd Year As A Muslim:

  • Keep trying to learn Arabic letters and words. This one is tough since I don't use Arabic everyday and often forget things I have learned but I am taking steps towards incorporating Arabic into my life like installing the Arabic keyboards on my phone and Ipad so I can play around with the letters and learn to spell something other than my name haha. There are also tons of apps made for children but can help adults learn the letters just as well, plus they are cute and fun. If you're gonna play a game on your device might as well make it an educational one. Plus when I finally get to the point where I can read Arabic and understand what I am reading I want one of these pretty colorful Qurans. I cant help it, I'm a girl and I like pretty things. 

  • Keep learning as much as I can about Islam in general. I was lucky enough to be able to enroll in a history of Islam and the middle east class for my fall semester. I'm actually more excited about it than my childhood education courses, I hope the class has a good professor and is not disappointing. Also, I'm going to keep studying and working through the free courses Bilal Phillips offers online. They may be small steps but they are definitely steps in the right direction. Education is key in Islam, we should never stop learning. Even those who are lucky enough to have been born to Muslim families still have plenty to learn. 

  • I know I need to try harder to deal with the stressful people around me. I try to avoid most negative people but it can be hard to avoid the ones that are your own relatives and can show up at your house and cause even more drama. I have plenty of meltdowns, the best thing for me to do is just take some time to myself to cry it out and pray. We will have to deal with ignorant people throughout our entire lives, everyone does. Even the prophet had to deal with plenty of ignorance from others, it's best to use him as an example of how we should be on our best manners even when we are being treated badly and to put all of our faith in Allah and sincerely talk to him about what is bothering us in our prayers and ask Allah's to guide us in the matter. 

Product Reviews: Lime Crime Opaque Lipstick and Velvetines

If you are like me you care about the ingredients and ethics of the items you put on your face or body. That was one of my main reasons for wanting to try Lime Crime products, they are vegan friendly which means they do not use any animal products while making their cosmetics and they are cruelty free which means they never test their cosmetics on animals. Pair that with some wild colors, sparkly unicorn packaging, and great quality and we have ourselves a winner!

Over the last few weeks I have been using the retrofuturist opaque lipstick and the pink velvet and wicked velvetines. All 3 have a pleasant scent that smells a bit like vanilla cake. As a said before the packaging is superb, although Lime Crime is an independent brand the quality of their packaging and overall quality of their product far surpasses even many of the higher priced brands.

While the higher priced brands usually target an audience that is bent on luxury Lime Crime is targeted to all the girls across the world that think of their makeup as art by providing us with colors that are very different and unique in their formulas.

The opaque lipstick is just that, with minimal product your lips will be evenly and smoothly coated in color. It is very creamy and comfortable to wear. Retrofuturist is a classic red shade that will easily go with any outfit on any day. Next I would like to try one of the more adventurous colors, maybe the pale orange shade cosmopop.

The Velvetines also offer maximum color coverage but dry to a matte finish that does not transfer off onto your clothing, drinks, or food. trust me when I say the wicked velvetine held up through an entire 3 course Italian meal! Although I feel the wicked velvetine is a bit too dark for my light skintone it is nevertheless a beautiful color and great product. As you can tell by the swatches on my hand in the pic below wicked dries to a deep dark matte red, I am a fan of the more classic brighter reds but maybe it will just take some time for me to get used to the shade and I will love it more.

My favorite of the 3 Lime Crime Products is the pink velvet velvetine. It dries to a pretty bright pink matte on your lips that does not look too harsh or out of place. I often forget that I am wearing it because it is so light and does not transfer onto my glass or water bottle as I am drinking, then I look in the mirror and it's still on and still bright!

In conclusion Lime Crime is definitely worth the price you pay for each product. A tip of advice: if you see a shade you want on their website get it while you can because their products sell out quick! And, as always, only buy Lime Crime products from authorized retailers because there are a lot of fake Lime Crime items floating around on the market!

From top to bottom in the above and below pics you have the retrofuturist opaque lipstick, the pink velvet velvetine, and the wicked velvetine.

An Iftar Post

Anyone that knows me knows how much I love to cook and experiment with recipes. Since it has only been 3 years since I reverted I still have issues with choosing the proper things to eat for Suhoor and Iftar, it's a learning process as I go. For my Iftar last night I used several vegetables that I grew in our garden, it's so awesome to be able to go outside when you feel like having fresh vegetables and just pick what you want. I wish I could get extra credit for not only cooking my own food but being able to grow it too! Haha, wishful thinking, I know.

Seasoned Potato Ingredients

  • Baking potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt 
  • Sea Salt Grinder
  • Pepper Grinder
  • Organic Minced Garlic 

So tonight I made my version of Hasselback Potatoes, for this you just need some regular baking potatoes which you will cut width ways many times across the length of the potato. When you make the cuts push the knife deep enough so that it almost goes through the entire potato so that when you are done the potato sort of fans out like an accordion.

After you have all the slices made in your potatoes place them in a foil lined baking pan and drizzle some olive oil over them and rub it all over the potatoes with your hands. This will help them keep moisture while baking and your seasonings will stick to them better. Use the sea salt and pepper grinders and grind your desired amount of each directly over the potatoes. Next, take a butter knife and use it to spread some of the organic minced garlic between the slices of your potatoes, for this step use as much or as little garlic as your personal taste desires. To finish it off sprinkle some Mediterranean spiced sea salt all over your potatoes.

I also cut some butternut squash and zucchini into large circles and rubbed them with olive oil and seasoned them with ground pepper, ground sea salt, and the Mediterranean sea spiced sea salt. I line the potatoes along the sides of my pan and place my slices of squash and zucchini in the middle. I bake them in the Oven on 350 degrees F for 1 hour to an hour and a half, until they are tender.

To make my homemade onion rings I start with medium sized yellow onions (Vidalia) and slice them fairly thinly from side to side so that I can pull the pieces apart and have the classic style round rings. If you prefer yours to be in strips like a "blooming onion' style all you have to do is make your slices from top to bottom and then pull the pieces apart. A tip for slicing onions is to wear latex gloves while you cut and handle them so that your hands don't smell like onions for the rest of the day/night. 

For my batter this time I am using a locally made hush puppy mix. For those of you that have never heard of hush puppies before think: southern falafel. On a side note I also use the dry falafel mix to make onion rings using the same steps as I do to make the hush puppy onion rings. Hush puppies are dough that is made into balls and fried so that it looks very much like a falafel only the ingredients are a little different. To turn this hush puppy mix into an onion ring batter I pour the bag of mix into my beloved vintage pyrex bowl and add enough water so that it has a paste consistency when I mix it together. It is important not to get too much water into the mix during this step because it will cause your mixture to become too runny and not stick to your onions. When it's all mixed up I throw in my onion slices so that I can toss them around in the mixture by hand to ensure each one is coated in the hush puppy batter. 

Once you have your onion rings coated in the batter it's time to drop them into the deep fryer until they become golden brown and crispy. When removing them from the deep fryer I always place them on a plate or in a bowl that has a paper towel in it to soak up the excess oil that may still be on them. This is important because if they are left to set in the excess oil they will become soggy, plus your body doesn't need the extra oil anyways!

As a topping for my baked squash and zucchini I place a thin layer of fresh mozzarella cheese over them once they are on my plate so that the cheese melts onto them and makes them taste even better.
If you use mozzarella don't ever buy the shredded kind that comes in a bag at your supermarket, that's just gross and tastes like rubber. Maybe it's the Italian in me (or maybe I'm crazy!) but I always opt for getting a small block of mozzarella and cutting it myself, your taste buds will thank you! Plus it's not as processed as buying cheese that some machine has chopped up and spit out so it's definitely cleaner and healthier.

As a side dish I fill a small bowl with cold water and grind a little sea salt into it then slice a fresh cucumber and put the slices in the salted water.

And voila! After all of your hard work you have a delicious meal for Iftar or any other time you desire.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Favorite Nasheed

During Ramadan I make an effort to avoid 'normal' pop music during the day as much as possible, but since it is blared on every radio, in every store, and all of the TV here in America it is not an easy task. While I'm fasting when I feel like I want to listen to some music while I relax or work on things I always choose Nasheeds. This has been my favorite Nasheed for years, it's called Achado Al Jihad by Mishary Alafasy. His voice is beautiful Mashallah and you can also easily find his recitations of the Quran and Ruqyahs. There is also a free app you can get on Android and Apple products called "Nasheed Collection", it's free on Android and has a decent selection of singers and Nasheeds.

Do any of you have a favorite Nasheed or singer? Please share in the comments below, I would love to check them out :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Niqab?

The niqab. Some see it as a beautiful, modest way to cover yourself so that you may feel more grounded and connected with Islam and Allah, but others see it as a social restriction, oppression, or a source of fear. What is more violent, a female wearing a piece of cloth over the lower half of her face so that she can feel more comfortable and modest or the person who emotionally or even physically rips the cloth from her and leaves her feeling exposed? 

First, examine the reasons why someone would choose to wear niqab. 
  • Belief that it is Islamically correct/ permissible to do so
  • Modesty
  • They may be shy and it helps them feel more comfortable around people

And now reasons that are given on why we should not wear it:
  • Security issues/rules set by schools, businesses and buildings where they may live
  • Safety issues, fear of attacks, threats, etc. 
  • Niqab is banned where they live/will be fined for wearing it
  • Hostility by people around them
  • Personal reasons/they may feel that niqab holds them back

Now, look at what Islamic scholars have to say about niqab:

  • The correct view as indicated by the evidence is that the woman’s face is ‘awrah which must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body, because what people look at most is the face, so the face is the greatest ‘awrah of a woman. This is in addition to the shar’iah evidence which states that it is obligatory to cover the face. 
  • A woman is obliged to cover her face in front of anyone who is not her mahram (blood relative to whom marriage is forbidden). From this we learn that the face is the most essential thing to be covered. There is evidence from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the views of the Sahaabah and the imams and scholars of Islam, which indicates that women are obliged to cover all of their bodies in front of those who are not their mahrams. 

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…”
[al-Noor 24:31]       

I believe this passage shows evidence that not only are abaya and niqab permissable for all Muslim females who wish to wear them, but is proof that we should be wearing them when we are able. Today, we see many Muslims that place greater emphasis on fashion, the latest styles, and looking sexy than they do on trying to understand and learn what their religion requires of them. Abaya and niqab is a privilege, you must ask yourself whether you want your entire body and face judged by men and women without your consent or would you rather take the time to understand and appreciate the niqab and abaya as a source of protection and let only your family and the special people in your lives see what is hidden. 

 “There will be women who will be dressed but they will be naked. Their heads will be like the humps of camels. They will not enter Jannah and will not even smell the scent of Jannah while it can be smelt from a far distance.” [Sahih Muslim]

It is very sad that those of us who try our best to dress modestly and enjoy wearing abaya and niqab cannot do so in public because we live in places that may be unsafe for us to do so because of the hostility of others.  It is more acceptable in our society to wear revealing clothes that expose cleavage or other body parts because media and society puts forth the image that we should dress and behave provocatively because that is what will make us an attractive woman that men will value. But do men really see the value of a female when all he cares about is what he can see of her body visually? Muslim and Non Muslim men alike will look at women who expose themselves in front of them, it's only their human nature; but should those of us that wish to cover ourselves be seen as lesser individuals and pushed aside because we do not publicly show men what they could possibly have if they choose us? 
'She says she has been denied entry into grocery stores and has been verbally harassed by strangers. Once, when she was at a gas station, she says a man a man pulled off of the road, swerved his truck in front of her pump, and took a close-up picture.She watched him speed back out of the station and saw a large sign on the side of his vehicle advertising a website called “I was so disturbed and I cried, and I couldn’t understand it. I just felt like, why would he do this?” '

Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Modesty brings nothing but good.”[Sahih Bukhari]

"Even after Surah an-Nur ayah 31 had been revealed, ordinary Muslim women continued to wear niqab with the approval of the Prophet (sAas). This has specifically been mentioned for Umm Khallad (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 14 #2482), Asma bint Abu Bakr (Muwatta Book 20 #20.5.16), and some Qurayshi women who were visiting the Prophet (sAas) (Sahih Bukhari Book 54 #515). As well, the fact that the Prophet (sAas) had to tell women not to wear niqab and gloves in ihram (Sahih Bukhari Book 29 #64) means that niqab and gloves were well-known and worn by a substantial number of sahabiyat (rAa). Clearly this form of extra modesty has the approval of the Prophet (sAas) and that is another reason that it is sunna."

"The descriptions of the dress of Ummahat al-Muminin (rAa), of the way that the jilbab was worn when Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59 was first revealed, and of the extra-modest dress worn by some of the sahabiyat (rAa) all clearly and unambiguously point to a face-cover. This makes niqab the specific form of extra-modest dress set by the Shari'a. As such, it is sunna as well as mustahabb."

One of the most common false allegations about niqab that is given is that it makes women appear and be less important than men. In fact, the total opposite is true. Allah never said that men had faces so beautiful that they should be covered. But Allah did know that because of human nature men would stare at a beautiful womans face until either she was able to get out of his line or vision or her husband or father made the man stop staring! Personally, I have always hated being stared at. It makes me feel very uncomfortable and I freeze up and just want to hide. 

Honestly, alot of Muslim girls do things I do not understand at all. I don't have to repeat the proof of how we should dress modestly and cover ourselves, we all know about that by now. Or at least we should. What confuses me is when girls will show their entire body but not their face. You can get on instagram at any given time and see photos of girls showing off their pretty outfits, sexy dresses, etc. but then they will have their hand covering their face. If you are really that concerned about who might recognize you why don't you put on your hijab and use your abaya to cover yourself instead of leaving it open so the entire world can see your cleavage or whatever else you are trying to show.  Yeah, I know, most of these girls only care about who might recognize them and say something to their family more than they spend time worrying about what they should be doing that's right in the eyes of Allah. Another thing that bothers me is when other girls tell me "I look up to *insert name here* as a Muslim and she doesn't cover so I'm not going to either." That's just straight up ignorance to me, if that person you look up to is going to jump off a bridge are you gonna jump to? It's basically the same thing, they are disobeying Allah's orders to cover their hair and bodies and you are going to disobey as well because you care more about the person you look up to and fashion that what Allah has commanded you to do. 

I have also noticed that there are a lot of girls from Muslim countries who claim to hate wearing the abaya or niqab and only do so for traditional purposes for their family. What can be more confusing than someone who dresses like a Muslim at times but hates it and does not exhibit proper manners or courtesy for those of us who choose to cover for the sake of Allah? There is a well known women's rights activist from Saudi Arabia who rants on how much she hates niqab and abayas and how "oppressive" they are. Take it from me, I am not opressed by the clothing I choose to wear to cover myself. It is those who choose to berate and dissect my actions, religion, and choices that I find oppressive.

I fully love the niqab and think that it is very beautiful. Over the years I have tried on different types and styles of the niqab until I found my favorite one, which is like the one in the photo above. This style originates from the Najd region of Saudi Arabia. For those interested in reading about the history of some types of niqab and abaya I highly recommend the book The Art of Arabian Costume by Heather Coyler Ross, she did a great job researching for the book while she lived in Saudi Arabia and I have learned so much from her writings including that basically every style of niqab, abaya, and jalabiya that I have always liked originated in the Najd region.  Out of all the different types I have tried it is the most comfortable for me and the easiest, although niqabs that cover only the bottom half of the face may be pretty at times they also come untied or unpinned easily while moving around during the day. 

My main attraction to the niqab when I first became interested in it is how it removes almost all of the chances of men and women scanning your face as soon as you walk by in search of flaws or to try to figure out what nationality you are or even what family you come from for some women who live in places where what family you come from means more than what type of moral values you actually hold. 

Although I cannot wear niqab in public where I live I would like to try wearing it the next time I visit a Muslim country Inshallah. Practically every time I go to a public place I feel bare because I want to be fully covered from head to toe but cannot because of fear that I will be attacked. It definitely is a spiritual jihad, seeing my reflection while wearing hijab or niqab greatly intensifies my awareness of my actions and my faith.  Inshallah niqab will be part of my future and I will be able to wear it freely as  I choose. 

What about everyone else? I am curious to know what your thoughts and beliefs are on niqab :)