26 May 2017

Ramadan Activities For Children

Summer is showing it's hot signs this month. The generous sizzles and the scanty drizzles make us parched, yet we are getting ready to welcome Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Whatever season it may come, certainly, that is the most blessed month of the year. As we prepare ourselves for this special month, we also have to make Ramadan interesting and fun for our children, as much as making it worthy of them.

It is always best to involve the children in every discussion and the projects you plan. From the moon sighting, to Iftar till Eid preparation, make sure they participate. The essence of Ramadan must be the first thing to be taught before they observe fast. The kids often want to fast as they see their parents and elders in the family. But, at the beginning they are not able to complete the fast fully. In that case, let them fast for few hours or as long as they can. Prepare a special Iftar for them with their favorite meal. Try to divert their minds from hunger and thirst, by taking out for a walk or a ride in the car. Let them fast even for couple of hours and celebrate.

Highlighting here are the best possible ways, to my knowledge, to boost their energy levels during fasting, while improving their values and life skills. From toddlers to teenagers, this list applies to children of all ages. I believe, these are interesting as well as productive ways for them during Ramadan.

1. RECITE QURAN AND PRAY 5 TIMES A DAY - This is the fundamental of Islam and it is a good way to start practicing from Ramadan. Maintaining a journal or planner to keep track of 5 waqt prayers on time and the Juzes and Surahs they recite everyday. This will encourage them to recite more and to pray without a miss, especially to keep their journal impressive.

2. FAST TOGETHER AS A FAMILY - Every parent is their child's role models. They imitate them in their actions, knowingly and unknowingly. After sahar time, stay up till Fajr to pray together, and then go to bed. That will be one of the cherished family times spend together.

3. STORYTELLING - Don’t rely on reading books all the time. Kids will be entertained and well informed through a Storytelling session. Schedule your time to tell stories to your children, everyday. Tell them Prophet stories in chapters and episodes. And this activity will make you read more, while the kids look forward to the next session. This activity easily brings the enthusiasm to know about prophets and their lifestyle. On a long run, the stories we tell them now, will engrave in their memory as they grow older.

4. INVOLVEMENT IN IFTAR PREPARATION - Not to play with fire but they can help you in making desserts, fetching the things you need, setting tables, serving dates and water etc. Giving some responsibilities to them will make them feel important as well as some of our chores get done too. Once in a while, invite their friends for Iftar party. Let your children decides the menu and their guests. That will be like a picnic and will enjoy their friends' company. Apart from fun, this will also instigate responsibility in their minds, as they lead the Iftar.

5. PRAY TARAWEEH IN JAMATH - Children enjoy going to masjid with their parents to pray Taraweeh at nights. Even going to Taraweeh for few days with the family, standing for prayers with the community people and relatives, will give them opportunity to socialize with others and feel as a part of the community. That goes a long way for our children in bringing them closer to Islam.

6. MAKE GOODIE BAGS - Let the children fill the bags with goodies and they will be much happy to distribute to the people at the masjid. Do this at least once in the month. preferably, on Laylat-ul-Qadr. This will also make them know about the significance of that one night. Or they can even make the goodie bags for their class, anytime of the month.

7. INTRODUCE ARTS AND CRAFTS - From paper crafts to painting, there are lots to keep them occupied. If they are old enough to handle needles, then basic sewing and embroidering would be perfect. Fabric painting in a plain cloth or doing patches with patterns and designs with fabric glue on a Felt cloth which later can be used as their Prayer mats. Or help your small girl to do embroidery flowers in her prayer outfit. They will be more keen to pray in their handmade personalized prayer materials. Making Eid Cards and sending it to family and friends also make an interesting activity to keep them engaged. These will stir their creative minds.

8. ZAKAT PLANS- When planning for charity, include them too. Let them keep the Zakat money in the envelope. If they are older, let them write the names of the receiver, as you list. We should also teach them that charity is not alone about giving money, but also kindness through actions and manners. Greeting the guests or when going to Taraweeh, saying Assalamu Alaikum with a smile to others in the masjid -that itself a Sadaqah. Also encourage them to save some of their pocket money to donate during Eid. This will naturally bring the knowledge of Zakat calculating as well as the idea of sharing.

9. PLAY TIME WITH QUIZ AND DUAS - From the stories you tell, ask them questions. This will make them listen and grasp the stories and its details. Alternatively, you can also teach them one or two Duas and Salawats per day. Saying a Dua will encourage the children to ask from Allah and the Salawat brims the love for our Prophet (pbuh). At the end of the month, they will come to know some 40-60 Duas easily.

10. EID SHOPPING - That will be some fun outing for them at the malls. But shop for their Eid gifts in advance and surprise them, when the time comes. While gifting, do not forget to appreciate them for the effort they put throughout the month and let them know how much they mean to you. And even a simple acknowledgement means a lot to them.

These were few things my parents and grandparents used to do to encourage me and brothers during Ramadan, when we were young. Certainly, that helped us a lot in understanding the essence of the religion, as much it became our lifestyle, with no much effort. Also that motivated us in reading religious books, listening to bayaans, and keeping a Ramadan journal in later days.

Insha Allah, children will sure look forward to each day throughout the month. May Allah bless us all with long, good, healthy and prosperous life, to witness the next Ramadan. Aameen!

Image Source - Google Cliparts

16 May 2017

Baahubali - An Epic Saga

Finally, I watched Baahubali - The Conclusion. To be honest, I have not gone to the movie to know Why Kattappa killed Baahubali or to know has Baahubali really died? The question they asked at the end of Baahubali - The Beginning did stir the audience’s curious minds. And, the sequel holds answers to many questions.

Baahubali is undoubtedly an epic masterpiece. Captivating storytelling, stunning visuals, innovative war sequence along with the notable Tamil dialogues. (I watched the Tamil version) It has all the elements to enthrall the audience in every possible way. As the twists and turns unfold, we will be wanting for more and more. I found part 2 was powerful and action packed than the part 1. Well, the first part established all the characters already and so it was easy to go directly into fast paced action story.

However, I felt a hurry in the climax and also left with one or two unanswered questions, still there are many things to rave about. Because, the movie left me speechless in many places. I literally couldn’t come out of the movie and its characters even after two days. This post is not a review, but I am trying to reminisce what I experienced on the big screen.

I can list out many reasons for why I liked this film. I always look for the costumes in any movies. And here I couldn’t stop admiring those rich brocade costumes with bright colors and prints complementing each characters who share the same screen and also with the backdrop. Not to forget the lavish art direction, action choreography, well, every scene etched in detail to please our eyes. But the songs and the dance choreography failed to impress me as much it did in the prequel.

Know more about the movie

Let me highlight the two things I loved the most. Firstly, it is the visuals. No one can forget the visually stunning waterfalls and the magnificent golden statue scene in Baahubali - The Beginning. The team had put a lot of effort in the second part, and hence there are some breathtaking scenes. The visuals not only showcase the images and objects but also expresses the character of each and every element and brings out that overwhelming feel, naturally.

Secondly, the dialogues. I was kind of attracted towards the dialogues in Tamil version. I must admit I fell in love with my language one more time. It was like listening to a rhythm. Not all but some dialogues. That’s not because of the bestirring background score but the rhyming in the words play its own tune. The way its been rendered is also impressive.

I have grown up watching black and white Raja-Rani Tamil films and it reminded me of those days. At one point, I even longed for the Tamil poetry I studied in my school. It was that beautiful and enchanting. It also reminded me the historical series I used to read in a weekly magazine.

Beyond the extravagant visuals and the graphics in the movie, the emotions underneath played the vital part. Be it romance, vengeance, melodrama, action, humor, sarcasm etc. I admired how the brevity of dialogues elevate those emotions.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I did not go to the cinema to know the answers. But I only wanted to get drenched in awe moment. The movie did satisfy my expectation. It certainly has the gravity to keep the audience hooked throughout. When I walked out of the cinema hall as the end credits rolling, it was like every single droplet of the rain caressing my skin, leaving me in a state that I would want to sway in its harmony.

The magic of the terrific storytelling along with the visual grandeur makes Baahubali a brilliant masterpiece.

28 Apr 2017

Allah Al-Aleem ~ Children's Book Review

Author - Bint Abdul Hamid
Illustrator - Zahra Gulraiz

'Al-Aleem' is one of the 99 Names of Allah. The meaning of Al-Aleem is 'The All-Knowing'.

Allah calls Himself Al-Aleem - The All-Knowing, The Omniscient in the Holy Quran. Only He knows the minutest details of all things hidden and manifest. His Knowledge is complete, perfect and comprehends the past, present, and the future.

The best gift we can give our children is the knowledge of Tawheed, to know their God. Knowing Allah by His names will help establish their roots and help them attach to their Creator out of love of His perfection.

Allah Al-Aleem book gives the exposure to the one the many attributes of the Creator. This book is suitable for children of 3 years and above.

Nowadays, children are becoming smarter and intelligent and pose millions of questions on whatever they see and what all they hear. Well, children are naturally curious and are tend to ask so many questions. We elders try to answer them as much as we can, while sometimes we fall short. It is hard to satisfy the young minds with our answers.

Like say for instance, How many creatures live under the ground? How many leaves fall from the tree? Mostly we manage to engage them with some sort of stories or sometimes, we try to teach them science and nature or many times, we just give a short reply. As much as the detailed answers we give, we also should keep in mind that it is our duty to make them aware that only the Creator knows the best. And that is exactly what the book is all about.

However, I feel not alone replying the kids 'Allah knows' is enough, but if we add that with relevant information, that will certainly ignite their little minds. And I believe that would be more appropriate for them to learn. But of course, Allah knows the best.

This little book introduces the young reader to the name Al-Aleem in an easy to follow, colorful way. Illustrations are rich in colors and the writing short and thoughtful.

It is parents’ responsibilities to introduce their children to Allah’s names and attributes and engage their little minds with good lessons. The author has beautifully connected universal signs with the name العليم and along with it, she has also given the answers, in order to give certainty in their belief like, We can guess the rain, but only Allah knows.’

The Allah Al-Aleem book is short, sweet and colorful. It gives children, a beautiful introduction to their Creator's one of the many qualities.

Jumma Mubarak!
Happy Friday!

29 Mar 2017

A Selection Of The Finest Children’s Books

The seeking of knowledge is obligatory to every one of us. From cradle to grave, the search for knowledge never stops. Life offers so many lessons to learn. As an elder, as a parent, it is our duty to teach our young ones. We are responsible to instigate them the love for reading. And that itself becomes a huge responsibility as we have to guide them through valuable lessons. I encourage my little nephews and niece to read by gifting them books - be it stories or activity, every now and then. Because, you know children often tend to get bored with their old toys and look for new ones. There are loads of children's book in the market but mostly fairy tales and imaginary fun loving books. They, of course, are appealing but at times they fail to emphasize morals and values.

Selecting good books for children is very important. Only that will increase their interest in learning, building vocabulary and stir their curiosity about the world. And that leads to creating a wonderful memory for them. However, we have better choices of books for young adults, but for the kids to start with, to get them introduced to the faith and the way of life, I realized there were only a limited collection. My nephews are still 4 to 5 years old and I was looking for lively, engaging and religious upbeat books that would introduce them to our faith while also focusing on the universal ideas.

My quest in finding the Children’s books that inspire as well as engage is there for quite sometime now, especially after my nephews were born. I came to know of Prolance Publishers who have released some beautiful and appealing books. And these books are enriched with meanings, and they are suitable for the kids of all age group. They have a selection of the finest books that spark creativity and make the learning fun and exciting. Some of my favorite books from their collection are:

Authors - Akila Dada & Sukaina Dada
Illustrations - Michael Wagstaffe

This little bedtime book is suitable for the kids of all ages. Children will be drawn to the cute illustrations and simple rhyming prayers. This is one of the easiest ways to introduce prayer into a child's bedtime routine. In this book, little Esa with his Mama thanks God and says a prayer for people all around the world. With thoughtful illustration and imagery, this charming bedtime story will inspire the kids to contemplate the world’s wonders and say prayers before they go to sleep. This book is a beautiful lullaby prayer to every child.

Buy this book at Amazon.com

Compiled & Illustrated by Meenu Bharadwaj

This book is a collection of Duas for kids. The duas listed in this book are very powerful. Prayers are meant to protect and to get the blessings from Allah. Not only kids but even the adults should know. It has both Arabic and the English translation for each little prayers. Each prayer comes with English Phonetic pronunciation and that makes it much easier to follow. The coloring pages are a plus as it particularly makes the learning session fun. This book is an effortless way to teach our children the basic little prayers. Like the prayers to be recited at bedtime, when you eat, when you wear a new dress etc. Quite an engaging activity book with coloring pages to stir the interest to memorize the short Duas while they color the illustrations.

This book playfully teach the duas and prayers to the children.

Buy this book at Amazon India

Author - Mai Hazem
Illustrations - Ahmed Moneer

Hannah Travels is a 5 part world travel book series that tells tale about different countries through the little girl Hannah. Hannah with her friends travels to places and this is all about her adventure. This book has lovely illustrations and stories around the world. In this series, the children get to discover new location, languages, learn new words, local food and explore their culture. A wonderful book for the kids to know about the world. Hannah travels to France, Egypt, India, Japan and Mexico. These books will certainly make the kids to muse about the people and the world.

Illustrations - Jenny Reynish

A beautiful and rich colorful story about the child’s birth and anticipation of coming into the world. It was a beautiful journey to every mother but what it is to the baby? This book talks about the baby’s thoughts about the mother and the father and the surroundings. Simple narration and colorful illustrations make this book worth the read to every kids and the parents. I felt that this book would be sweet and genuine enough to answer their curiosity in a religious and creative way. The illustrations depict the origin of baby from the heaven to the mother’s womb to the beautiful earth in a blessed way.

Publishers - Prolance

All these books have engaging words with interactive activity, rhymes and stories filled with faith and identity. These books also provide great opportunity for parents to spend quality reading time with their children.

Children will find this collection amusing and enjoy reading these books every day.

14 Mar 2017

The Dalai Lama's Cat ~ Book Review

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie is one of the most adorable books I have ever read in recent times.

This book came to me as a gift to my Amazon Kindle Paper White. If not, I would not even thought of buying it. Like few other books in my shelf, I was not intended to read this immediately. At first I was hesitant to pick this but when I did, the book turned out to be a surprise from the Page 1.

About the author - David Michie is the author of Buddhism for Busy People, Hurry Up and Meditate and Enlightenment to Go and The Dalai Lama’s Cat - Art of Purring.

As the title implies, this is the story of The Dalai Lama’s Cat. and the cover page, cuteness overloaded. The author effortlessly transports us to the world of the narrator. I fell in love with the narrator from the first page and I was smiling all along.

The cat is referred as His Holiness’s Cat (HHC) by the monks in the monastery but the Dalai Lama addresses her as a Little Snow Lion. And, she is the protagonist. The entire story is the perspective of this Himalayan Cat. She begins the story from her birth on a roadside and how she became the Dalai Lama’s pet. And the story revolves around her and the people and the day to day events she encounters.

Having a cat as the storyteller, the book is very refreshing. The story is warm with simple narration and the writing is witty as well as profound. This cat even made me wonder what my pet birds think of me and my way of life. Well, that’s tough to say but then they are adored and spoiled, and sure enjoying their luxuries at home.

The HHC, much loved by the Dalai Lama and his staff, is free to wander everywhere in and out of the monastery. She enjoys the luxury as well as the closeness to Dalai Lama and his monks that others could even think of. It was very exciting to read her antics. Every detail of this cat is cute and funny. Especially her first fur ball experience, her tinge of jealousy over a dog that was brought in to the monastery, her love interest with a downtown cat and there are lots more.

Meantime, she also encounters people from different walks of life - Hollywood actress, monks, a self improvement author, a chef and many others who visits Dalai Lama. Where, she gets enlightened just by being closer to him.

This book is all about the events in the cat’s life laced with Buddhist philosophy. Some of the incidents are interesting and thought provoking. Most of the Dalai Lama’s private interactions with the cat are quite endearing. But I will not say this book is unputdownable as I took break quite a few times. And whenever I resumed, it still gave me the same feel, and no less.

Some passages instantly lit up my mood. Some stirred my thoughts with its deep topics. While, some helped me understand the complexities of life in simpler way. I have many favorite quotes from the book. I would like to highlight one here.

'You know, Professor, this stray kitten and you have one very important thing in common.' 'I can't imagine,' responded the professor coolly. 'Your life is the most important thing in the world to you,' said His Holiness. 'Same for this kitten.'

'For all of us with consciousness, our life is very precious. Therefore, we need to protect all sentient beings very much. Also, we must recognize that we share the same two basic wishes : the wish to enjoy happiness and the wish to avoid suffering.' These are themes the Dalai Lama repeat often and in limitless ways. 'We all share these wishes. But also the way we look for happiness and try to avoid discomfort is the same. Who among us does not enjoy a delicious meal? Who does not wish to sleep in a safe, comfortable bed? Author, monk – or stray kitten – we are all equal in that.' 'Most of all,' the Dalai Lama said, leaning over and stroking me with his index finger, 'all of us just want to be loved.'

But hey, this is not religious or self improvement book but it works that way as well. Other than spirituality and philosophy, this book brings lots of cheer through the Cat. If you are cat person, you will love it to the core.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat is an easy, relaxing and an enjoyable read.
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