Life lessons from Imam Hussain (as)

Far away from the turmoil in Yemen, the sectarian killings in Pakistan, and from the new questions arising in North America regarding Imam Hussain’s mission, I am trying to keep Imam Hussain and Karbala alive for my children.

It really bothers me when I read about youth in the West now raising questions about whether Imam Hussain “failed” or “succeeded.” Did it ever occur to those same youth that the only reason you are able to talk about him at all is because he succeeded.

But my children are young, and I try to teach them the basic life lessons that Imam Hussain taught us while fighting Yazeed and his army in Karbala 1,400 years ago.

  1. Importance of prayer – While Imam Hussain and his army were fighting, time came for the noon prayers. Imam and his followers asked for a break in fighting to pray to Allah. Yazeed’s army did not pay heed and continued fighting. A few of Imam’s comrades guarded him and the others while the rest prayed. No matter when the going got tough, Imam Hussain taught us that remembering to show Allah gratitude is of utmost importance.
  2. Importance of faith/Tawheed (oneness of Allah) – Imam Hussain taught us to do everything purely for the sake of Allah. His mission, his stand against Yazeed, his inviting others towards good deeds and telling them to refrain from bad deeds, his traveling to Karbala – it was for Allah and all to save Islam. For this faith, he and his companions were rewarded with shahadat.
  3. Loyalty – It is said that Imam Hussain had the best companions. There is hadith that he claimed “I have the best followers, even better than the ones my grandfather, the Holy Prophet, and my father, Imam Ali, had.” The night before Ashura Imam Hussain sat with his camp and told them that by coming this far and intending to fight with him they had already been assured Paradise. But since Yazeed’s army was really after him, they could leave now and save their lives. He blew out the lanterns so as to save anyone from embarrassment. But when the lanterns were lighted again, everyone remained.
  4. Sacrifice – In their own ways, each member of the camp of Imam Hussain (as), even the women and children, sacrificed something near and dear, with the understanding that this was all for a higher purpose. If not their lives, then their peace and comfort, children, were sacrificed to keep Islam alive.
  5. Standing up for what is right, no matter what – When Qasim, nephew of Imam Hussain (as), was asked how he saw shahadat, he replied “I find it sweeter than honey.” When Hazrat Zainab (sa) faced the enemies of Imam Hussain and was asked “What do you see in how Allah treated your brother and your family?” She replied: “I saw nothing but beauty.”

I don’t have to indulge my kids in the horrific details of the Battle of Karbala. Unfortunately most of the time we mostly dwell in these issues – how Imam Hussain was killed, how Imam Hussain’s brother Hazrat Abbas was slaughtered, how the enemies shot an arrow through the 6-month-old Ali Asghar’s neck, how the tents were burned after the battle, etc.

While it is important to know about these tragic details, I like to focus more on the lessons. I like to reiterate important concepts with my children, like the importance of living with dignity and not selling away our beliefs for material gain. Or the importance of sacrifice, be it small even. Learning how to live for the higher purpose. I want them to see how the actions of those in Karbala saved Islam.

In the end, I want my children to see the same beauty that Hazrat Zainab (sa) saw on that fateful day, and be confident in their beliefs.


Who wants a spoiled brat?

I admit I may have been late to the “doling out chores” game. 

You might wonder why. Do you actually enjoy doing all the work? 

No, I don’t. But I have a problem. And that problem is that I like my things done in a certain way. Kids, and my husband, don’t understand this (itty bitty) problem. 

So, I just have been folding, picking, cleaning, arranging… and now I can’t take it. 

While I may be late (my eldest is 8 now), at least I’m trying to right my wrong. And I feel bad because to tell you the truth, FZ has been begging to help me out in the kitchen and with dusting, etc. 

I complied and put on my patience pants (is that a thing?), and let her do small tasks and make the mistakes that come with learning, and it’s actually been a great experience. I’ve had to step back, let go of my crazy OCD tendencies, and let my daughter blossom into a helpful, hard-working child. And also I get to relax a bit now!

Was it so bad? What was I really worried about? 

I really have had to stop and take into account my priorities when it comes to parenting. Before it used to be good food and bedtime. But now that I look back, those things pale in comparison to what it really takes to raise well-balanced, emotionally healthy kids.

It takes parents who take time to understand the needs of their child/ren. Sure we all need food, water, and shelter, but that isn’t it. In my quest for the clean and organized home, I ignored my daughter’s need to grow up. 

It’s interesting how God has instilled these traits in our children. Just a year ago this girl had no interest in the kitchen or any chores, and now she’s happily dusting away.

And to think if I kept on I wouldn’t have just raised a girl who would lack proper housekeeping skills, more importantly I would have raised a spoiled brat who would think she was entitled to having everything done for her. 

Such a beautiful relationship this is between parent and child. Parenting really is about becoming the person we want our kids to be. 

Yes, one more lollipop does matter

We love visiting home for the summers. We love hanging out with grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins. But I’m not going to lie – the routines going upside down, soda up the wazoo and the spoiling makes me want to pull my hair out. 

What happened to 8 p.m. bedtime? What happened to no soda? What happened to limited screen time?

I think I’m pretty flexible when it comes to my kids. On vacation mode I let many things fly. Bedtimes are the first to go. I start mixing water in their sodas. You get the picture.

But there are a few red lines, and I think I’m not asking for a lot if I stand by a few rules. Like sweets before dinner. Or getting what you want after throwing a tantrum. No way.

I think some in my family might see me as a meanie while denying my child ice cream at dinner time, but to me it’s unacceptable to give in. It means my child is hungry and he/she needs food, not empty calories. 

And as parents I think we can’t always be strict, especially among extended family. We have to pick our battles. And I don’t mind letting elders spoil my kids, within limits. 

But I should be there to supervise and step in. I’d like to just hand over my duties so I get a vacation, too. But then I’d lose my title as Mama the Great. 

We’ve been entrusted with taking care of and raising a generation, and I’d hate to screw it up because I was lazy.

I like the power I have to deny a lollipop or another cookie. I just hope it doesn’t go to my head….

Running from reality

I sit bewildered in front of my computer as I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed and see post after post about adults “catching” Pokemon. It’s pretty wild to think that grown-up people are obsessing over a ridiculous game.

But that’s just the reality of the world we live in today. Things go “viral.” “Likes” matter. “Comments” and “followers” are counted. Everyday “selfies” are a must. We are constantly bombarded by mindless “obsessions” to keep us moving farther away from reality.

I can’t forget the story about the couple (or a person) who fell off a cliff while taking a selfie. Or the accident caused on a major highway while a driver was playing Pokemon Go. What kind of world is this? 

As kids I remember ads running over and over again with baby dolls that pee and playdoh sets that made ice cream. When asked what we wanted for our birthdays, we just blurted out exactly what we saw on TV.

But back then, that seemed to be the extent of our obsession. Once we grew up, we didn’t care about those things anymore.

Why do we constantly feed into these activities that seem to have no limit? And no real goal, if you ask me.

It’s worrisome to me, as a parent, if I see my child constantly obsessing over something. In my opinion, we must teach our children about limits. Sure we’ll limit soda or sugary cereals, but a room full of princess-themed decor? No problem! 

I find my children are less demanding when they learn to live to deal with anything. 

Currently my middle baby, Marium, is obsessing over ponies and cats – no characters, just the animals. So I might buy her something cute with a different animal, just to get her thinking away from “only cats or ponies.” 

My son loves cars, and sure, for his birthday we bought him cars, but it’s not the only thing I’ll buy for him or let him buy every one he sees.

You might say, “Well kids have favorite animals or colors or toys, what’s wrong in indulging them?” There’s nothing wrong in getting your child a blue backpack if they like the color blue. The problem, I find, is when they think everything they own must be blue.

And once we indulge, they think they are entitled to get exactly what they want, when they want it. Because we pretty much trained them.

And, whether we or they like it or not, reality is that you won’t get exactly what you want how/when you want it. 

(Which might be a reason why so many people today can’t compromise in their marriages – but let’s leave that for another day.)

I don’t mind my kids having an imagination, but I don’t want them running away from reality. Which unfortunately, has become a big problem in our world today. Social media enables us to pick and choose how we show ourselves to the world. Our friends “like” everything we post, even if they don’t agree. And, again, we are being indulged.

If we want our kids to succeed, we must give them the tools to understand and deal with life’s ups and downs. Unless you want to give them the guarantee that you’ll always be there to pick up the pieces.

I’d rather not.

Ramadan Mubarak! And some news!

The blessed month of Ramadan is here again! It’s a little different this year for me, because this year I have been trying to plan on how to make it more of meaningful for my kids. Especially FZ, since she will be fasting full-time come next year.

But before I go into that topic, I have exciting news to share! I have finally finished my first children’s book! When FZ was 5, I remember her millions of questions about everything under the sun: Why is the grass green? How to airplanes fly? Why do we die? Who is God?

And I told myself that I would always entertain her questions and try to explain them in a way that made sense to her. At least as much as her little brain could hold, anyway.

So that got my mind rolling into writing kids’ books in a language kids understood, with questions and discussion topics for parents to help engage their kids, as well. For me, the more important thing was to have my kids see how these issues affect them in their own lives. Sure lying is bad, but what would you do?

Long story short, I started writing short stories on important life lessons, and I have finally finished my first one! I have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help fund future books. I hope with the support of you all, that I can get two more books out by the end of summer.

Back to fasting

So back to fasting and Ramadan… Now that FZ is turning 8, I am more focused on making this life change a positive experience for her. I have a few ideas on trying to make each day different, but I am working on this as I go along, so wish me luck! And please share your ideas as well! I’d love to hear about things that you all have tried.

In the meantime, I pray all my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters get the opportunity to reap the full rewards of this holy month. And I pray Allah accepts your fasts and worship!

Slow down and smell your kids

Every milestone, every change in a child’s life forces a mother to sit back and see a whole life flash before her eyes. 

“But it seemed like just last week she was crawling…”

Yeah, they grow up so fast, don’t they? And you’re left just grabbing pieces of them as they fly past you.

FZ had a ceremony in school marking the kids’ completion of learning how to read and write Farsi. She was so proud of all she was able to read and now write. Often I’ll find her curled up with a book, either in English or Farsi.

Where does the time go? I always want to just curl up with her and read – I love reading. I used to read by nightlight and wouldn’t stop until I heard my parents’ yelling full of fears of me losing my eyesight. 

But I can’t just sit with her. Because I’ve got other kids who crave my attention. Other household duties that need tending to. I hate this feeling, really. Because I turn around and they’re another year older and I’m another year full of more regrets. 

As they get older, I’m constantly finding myself just wishing time would stop so I could soak it all in for a little bit longer.

I’ve started to slow down and be more attentive of my kids’ individual needs. Too often as a parent you’re surrounded by the common needs – food, baths, potty, that you forget to slow down and be in the moment. 
Slow down and smell your kids! Slow down and let them get dirty! Slow down and let them make a mess! Let them tell you their fears, share their excitement, repeat their jokes…

I’m praying to get better at this, and I hope God gives me more of these beautiful moments that make me want to try harder to be a better parent.

Top 10 tips when traveling with kids

Summertime is fast approaching, and that means vacation! It’s nice to look forward to a break, especially when you have kids.

But that variable is also what makes travel difficult – kids. 

Here is a list I’ve culminated over 8 years of traveling with children:

1. Pack lightly – A big mistake I used to make early on is packing like tomorrow was the end. Make sure to pack things you specifically need like medication, training pants, favorite toys, etc. Otherwise you can always buy stuff at airports, at rest stops, etc.

2. Backpacks are a lifesaver – After years of hauling around diaper bags, I bought a backpack and it changed the way I travel. No more falling off the shoulder bags, aching arms, or tipping strollers. 

3. Stock up on candy/sweets – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prevented a potential tantrum by just whipping out a lollipop or bag of fruit snacks. I save these treats for travel time, and that just makes it all the more sweeter.

4. Dress kids in clothes you don’t mind tossing – While I’m not a fan of just throwing away perfectly good things, I certainly don’t want to hang on to a pair of pants covered in vomit. Things happen during travel, and it’s one less thing to worry about when you can just toss a shirt or pair of pants. Diarrhea happens. Vomit happens.  Leaks happen. Sometimes they  happen together. I keep things they are about to outgrow, little faded, maybe has a tiny, itty bitty hole – basically stuff I can’t pass on to anyone. 

5. Purchase a few new things for the trip – A coloring book, a small toy, a puzzle. Kids love being surprised with something new while traveling. 

6. Let kids have their own luggage – Now my husband is not a big fan of this because he’s had to lug around 2 kids suitcases because our girls were tired, but on the whole they were a good buy. Kids love copying parents with their own personal things. And they enjoy rolling them around – makes them feel important. Plus I pack a change of clothes, underwear, snacks and toys in each kid’s suitcase so I end up carrying less, too. 

I personally am a big fan of the Skiphop Zoo rolling suitcases. They’re roomy, light, and have a convenient strap on the back that I can swing over my shoulder or a stroller handle if my kids get tired. Plus if you search around, you can often get them for less than $25.

7. Be flexible – When you have too many expectations, it ruins your trip. Layovers happen. Delays happen. Make room for flexibility. Plan your layovers/rest stops wisely. Let kids run around. Keep a few portable food items so just in case they get picky, at least they’ll eat something. I often make a batch of French toast to keep in my bag. Pack a few juice or milk boxes. The last thing you need is a cranky, sleep deprived, hungry kid. 

8. Don’t forget the wipes – Perhaps one of the most essential items to pack when traveling. They can clean hands, refresh your face, wipe gunk from clothes. 

9. Invest in a DVD player/tablet/electronic kids toy – And don’t forget the headphones. When all else fails, these things help divert children from going over the edge. Remember to break it out ONLY when you need it. Otherwise it loses its “new” factor. 

10. Remember to rest – If you’re like most parents, you forget to take care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep before the day of travel. That way if you’re on the road, you’re able to focus. And if you’re flying, you don’t get cranky or frustrated. 

Most importantly, remember to have fun!