#Blessed: Vacuum

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

It was 64 degrees today in New Jersey, and it’s January. It feels incredible to step outside in the middle of the winter without a coat, although it is rather strange.

My cousin and I took advantage of this weirdly warm weather. We lined up our cars in my parents’ driveway, rolled out my dad’s beloved Sanyo vacuum from Saudi and began to clean the inside of our vehicles.

This particular vacuum is short and stout. It’s red with an off-white danda, and I’m pretty sure my parents requested my uncle to lug it back to the United States on his way home from Umrah. When I went to Umrah for the first time in 2015, I recall my mom asking my dad whether they were going to get another vacuum since they always have to ask others to get it for them. They didn’t get a chance to hit up the particular store.

We plugged in the vacuum to the outlet on the exterior of the house and got to work on our cars. It was so satisfying to see and hear the tiny leaves, crumbs, and pebbles being sucked up by the hose of the vacuum. All that was left was a clean interior that we didn’t even want to step on with the soles of our apparently very filthy shoes.

Vacuums seem like a silly thing to get happy about (unless you’re my almost 3-year-old nephew—he loves household appliances), but they certainly get the job done. My car floors were covered in crumbs and dead leaves before I graced the mats with the vacuum hose. Not only was it satisfying and a funny way to spend quality time with my cousin, but it reminded me of a hadith my dad always quotes:

“Cleanliness is half of faith.”

Alhamdulillah, if a vacuum can help me act in some unique way upon a hadith, how can it not be a blessing?

#Blessed: Bubble Tea

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

I love bubble tea.

It all started when one of my friends took me and a couple other girls to a bubble tea place a few minutes’ walk from campus. I’m not exactly known for trying new things, but I took her word for it and ordered a mango bubble tea. She, of course, was fasting and decided to take the rest of us out for what would be the start of something new: a bubble tea addiction.

It was so good.

I was hooked. I became a regular at the little hole in the wall bubble tea spot. Pretty soon, the owner knew my exact order. I’m not sure if she even knows my name—but when I walk in to her sweet smelling store, she happily says hi and correctly guesses, “Strawberry mango bubble tea, with milk and tapioca, no ice.”

I smile to confirm her guess, pay, and pick out a straw as she concocts the frothy goodness. Within minutes the bubble tea is ready. And so am I.

Alhamdulillah.

#Blessed: Nanna

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

When I was in elementary or middle school, I recall writing something about my grandmother, Nanna, being one of my role models. She doesn’t talk much and busies herself in worship—that was something I always admired about her. She took extra long performing her prayers, always had a tasbeeh in hand, and kept her little Quran out. Any breaks I noticed would be to eat or nap.

When Nanna stayed over our house, my mom would tell me to warm up her food at lunch. She’d be so un-picky in her food. She’d take a little of everything, warm it up, and enjoy. I’d think, wow, I complain because I ate the same thing two meals in a row. And Nanna was just happy to try whatever was already in the fridge. When I would try to help her pour it in her plate and stick in the microwave, she’d apologize for bothering me so much, “Mei bahut satayi tumko.” As if it was a bother…literally the only thing she’d ask me to do is start the microwave, hardly a one second job. Even when she finished eating, she insisted she wash her own dishes.

More recently, Nanna’s been experiencing hearing loss. Over the years, it’s become more difficult to hold a conversation. Although from what I noticed, she was always the type of person who simply enjoyed your company and seeing your face since she was never exactly a chatterbox. She was comfortable in silence.

I visited her earlier today, and it seems her face always lights up when we walk into her room to give our salaams. She’ll ask the same questions: how are you doing, when did you get in town, are you happy, did your mom come with you, did you eat. And for each question, I’d do my best to round out my lips, speak a little louder than normal, and gesture. Of course, my Urdu isn’t exactly on point…so the louder I talk, the more I worry my aunt in the other room will hear me fail at two things: 1) speaking loudly, and 2) speaking Urdu. But it always ends up being more of a funny situation than a frustrating or sad one. Nanna somehow manages to understand my soft spoken and broken Urdu, and my aunt usually comes to the rescue and repeats what I say loud and proper enough that my grandmother will register it.

Today, Nanna asked me funny questions about marriage. It really put a big smile on my face—and I’m sure that answered her questions better than any words I tried to express. Alhamdulillah.

#Blessed: Scissors

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

My hair is pretty prone to split ends. I can spend hours analyzing individual strands for a tear, while some YouTube video or lecture plays in the background. I’ll position myself by a window that’s well lit with sunlight, get the playlist ready, keep a pair of scissors handy, and get to work.

Now I know you’re thinking, what the…? And that’s fine. I understand this is probably weird. I don’t know when this habit of cutting my split ends started, but it certainly has become a Thing. Even right now, I’ll finish up a few sentences of this post, run my fingers through my hair, and hold up the ends against the light of the screen to see if any strand needs a snip as I brainstorm what the next words should be.

All the split ends are definitely an indication I’m due for a trim. But until that cut is scheduled, there’s an odd satisfaction that comes with removing my split ends, and scissors make that possible. Alhamdulillah. (They’re also great for cutting tags off new clothes, opening a snack bag, arts and crafts, etc…but you knew that already!)

#Blessed: Google Maps

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

This is gonna be a quick one for today. About a half hour ago, I got home to my parents’ place after driving a new route. It took some time, it was dark, but Alhamdulillah, roads were clear this Sunday night after a very snowy Saturday.

Google Maps is one of my best friends on a long solo ride. It tells you what lane to be in, the names of the roads to turn on, and it even welcomes you to a new state upon your car crossing the border.

That welcome announcement is one of the best feelings, to be honest.

Just when I get manage to navigate the unfamiliarity and hustle and bustle of New York roadways, I hear the comforting “Welcome to New Jersey” announcement in that Google Maps’ lady’s voice, and suddenly, the route seems a lot easier. There often is still an hour or so left of the journey, but the level of driver confidence rises. My license plate now matches the other cars, at least.

Alhamdulilllah, I’m home. Still in my coat and hijab with my backpacks of stuff surrounding me in the family room…but the drive was a lot better than expected.

#Blessed: Rumi

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

Yesterday morning, I saw my cousin retweeted an article called “The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi.” Instantly, I was intrigued because I took a class almost every semester in college with a professor who is a Rumi translator (he’s actually quotes in the article). From my freshman class called Islamic Mystical Literature to my senior seminar on Rumi himself, I received a lot of first-time exposure to Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi—the mystical poet and the Islamic scholar.

I excitedly clicked the article, and came to realize much of my paper from a Sufism class sophomore year (good God, that was almost FIVE years ago) discussed similar issues regarding Rumi as the best-selling poet in the U.S. But what I never mentioned in the paper, which was the premise of Rozina Ali’s entire article, was how many Islamic references are written out of the popular translations. At the same time, references to prophets that would still be recognizable to your average American were left as is.

Although I knew many people quoted Rumi online, at weddings, and in greeting cards for romantic reasons, it never occurred to me the references to Quran and Islam were blatantly left out or reworked in translations to appeal to a general audience. Whether intentional or not, this reworking did erase Islam from much of Rumi’s translated works which spread so far and wide in the Western world. But of course, all the credit for Rumi’s popularity can’t be relinquished to the translated works, which Omid Safi cleverly referred to as “spiritual colonialism” in Ali’s piece. To quote from the introductory paragraph of a paper I submitted my final semester of college about Rumi:

“There is something to be said about a writer who can connect with his or her reader. The conveyance of a message to an audience requires skill. The conveyance of a message to an audience that transcends borders put in place by faiths, languages, and centuries requires great mastery of said skill with a mix of unique flair, clarity, intrigue, and empathy. The writings and poems of Jalal ad-Din Rumi do exactly that. For despite his being a thirteenth century Muslim mystic originating from what is present-day Afghanistan, Mawlana Rumi is a bestselling poet in twenty-first century North America. Rumi the poet, the scholar, the Sufi, and the human was and is a bridge connecting members of his audience from all corners of both the Muslim and non-Muslim, past and present worlds.”

Clicking that article yesterday threw me back into the classroom of my college courses. It reminded me how I’d come across a line of poetry exactly when I needed it most and how fond I grew of Mawlana Rumi’s writings, Alhamdulillah.

#Blessed: Snow

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

“Snowflakes falling real slowly, everything looks so pretty.”

–Arthur Read, of course

Ah, snow. What a sight it is, really. When I looked out the window this morning, (which is hardly a view of the sidewalk four stories below due to a theater wall adjacent to our building) I saw flurries. They floated around, trying to make their way to the ground below.

Snow, simply put, makes me happy. Maybe it’s the childhood (and teenage-hood and young adulthood, let’s be honest) excitement that resulted from a school closing due to too much white on the roads. Even now well-removed from my schooldays, I seclude myself to the wondrous indoors when snow falls, admiring from afar in the warmth of my fuzzy blanket and perhaps with my fingers wrapped around a cup of chai.

Other memories of snow include:

  • Sitting in a circle on the carpets of the masjid on Jumuah with my high school English class due to a busted heater in our room.
  • Not immediately realizing my next door neighbor/cousin was attempting snow angels when my mom and I saw her from our kitchen window lying on the ground outside.
  • Turning on the clock radio or News 12 to hear my school’s name announced on the please-be-on-it closed list.
  • Skipping the first day of my final semester in college because I didn’t want to endanger myself driving in the snow.
  • Attending a friend’s wedding ceremony as the next day’s huge storm began flurrying its first snowflakes outside the masjid.
  • Printing wedding invitations on the floor of my living room with envelopes surrounding me as I looped videos of my soon-to-be nephew making a funny face and attempting to vanish quarters into thin air.

I do, I love the snow. Yes, driving in it freaks me out, and no, I’m never the first person to initiate a snowball fight or suggest we shovel the driveway…but it is kind of beautiful. It’s a beauty that falls straight from the sky, only when and if Allah wills. And that’s a sign I feel very blessed to witness, Alhamdulillah.

#Blessed: Lots of Fruit

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

Any visit to our parents’ homes or their visits to us result in love, laughs, and lots of fruit. I would’ve just finished picking out the bunch of bananas that weren’t too green or too yellow to last us a certain amount of days earlier during the week at the grocery store, when I’d be hit with another bunch—or two—upon seeing the ‘rents. Our breakfast or lunch would be “forced” to include a banana each day to ensure no wastage. Even with us eating a couple everyday, there’d still be three or so left over that turned too mushy to get down.

An online recipe search would give me a use for the still-standing three brown-spotted bananas: muffins. Never had I made them before, but now was the time to try. Alhamdulillah the overripe fruits turned into a delicious breakfast or late night dessert (and probably a regular recipe with all the fruits that end up in our house).

More recently, my mom gave me a huge bag of grapes. We’re only two people, and the grapes were well on their way to mushy status. We ate all we could over the week, and with a long travel plan ahead of us, what were we to do with the remaining fruit? Jam? More than one jar in the fridge already. Sorbet? Eh, not feeling it. Fruit leather? Hey…that’s a childhood favorite my parents would buy for me from the Pathmark next door. Let’s give it a shot!

After only a half-hour or less worth of prep (plus four hours in the oven, lol), I got myself an awesome, healthy, and nostalgic snack. I’d be surprised if lots of fruit ever pose a “problem” for us again.

Alhamdulillah for those overripe bananas and grapes sitting around that I initially wished hadn’t found their way to my counter and fridge. I learned a couple new recipes, ate some yummy snacks, and avoided wasting food. Plus, I came to realize how versatile fruit can be.

#Blessed: Fuzzy Blankets

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

For most of this January morning, I stayed wrapped up in a blanket gifted to us by my brother and sister-in-law back in the fall. That wonderful piece of fabric makes you feel like you’re being hugged by a cloud and you simply don’t want to let go.

When my nephew came by with my sister last week, he climbed up onto my bed and said in his very matter-of-fact, articulate, almost 6-year-old voice, “This is so soft!”

Oh yes, Abdullah. Isn’t it soft? So soft in fact, I refused to take it off this morning. I kept myself wrapped in my blanket as I settled into the day and completed some tasks on my to-do list. Ah, the benefits of remote work.

It wasn’t until late afternoon I realized my blanket didn’t yet make its way back to its proper place on the bed. As the sun started to set, I gently placed the warm, soft, fuzzy blanket at the foot. Its ends gracefully hung off the sides of the mattress, waiting ’til I’d want to wrap myself in them next.

Until tonight, fuzzy blanket.

While this sounds very overdramatic, having a comfortable and warm blanket in the winter is truly a blessing. Many people suffer greatly when battling the cold temperatures and this project is about recognizing even the simplest of pleasures we enjoy. Alhamdulillah. 

If you are able, please take a moment to donate a $30 winter pack to Syrians who need it. May Allah reward you for your efforts.

#Blessed: Onions

This post is a part of a series called #Blessed, an effort to recognize a blessing in every day.

I know, I KNOW. I’ve been the girl who complained about onions forever, and here I am recognizing onions as an actual blessing. A few months ago, I would’ve considered this a defeat. But onions, in all their smelly and tearjerking non-glory, should be given their due.

First, you must understand, I have a history of sorts with onions.

Any time I’d call in an order for a burger at a local restaurant on my way home from school, I’d say, “No onions, please.” The guy on the other line would say, “They’re grilled onions.” And I’m thinking, I don’t care. Onions and I do not mix. This exchange happened every time I ordered from this place, no exaggeration.

Burgers, my beloved papdi chaat, you name it—I didn’t want onions in it. If onions made their way into something I ordered, my entire mood would be thrown off and my appetite totally lost. Granted, I was being pretty stubborn, but that onion taste and smell lingers in your food and mouth man, and it’s simply not good. It’s one of the worst downers, you’re looking forward to eating that dish you specifically paid for to not have onions in it, and then you bite into a ring of that vegetable (if you failed to inspect it thoroughly upon receipt). Even the fact that onions played a role in one of my childhood favorite books, Holes, was a little bit of a downer.

So why recognize onions as a blessing? I’ve come to realize Desi food owes a lot of its awesome taste to onions. I secretly always knew this, but didn’t want to admit it. I would joke how I’d never use onions when I had to cook. My sister-in-law would laugh and give me this look like, Yeah okay…we’ll see. 

Oh, how the turn tables…

Last week, I fried a bunch of onions for the SECOND time in my life. I wouldn’t be surprised if my carpet still boasts of the stench. Today, I used not one—but two—onions in the dinner I made. Yes, it was smelly, but you know what? The food tastes great, Alhamdulillah. (All of that credit goes to my mom, by the way, who gives impeccable instructions over the phone on how to cook stuff.)

While I still order my burgers without onions, I do understand now that onions are a blessing and a requirement for most of the other dishes I deem my favorites. Alhamdulillah, I came around somewhat. And if you wanna know a little secret: I’ve always loved to sprinkle lots of fried onions on my haleem growing up. Darn things…had me all along didn’t they?