Ramadan with Zaky & Friends…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

The latest release from One4Kids and a welcomed addition to our collection of Zaky DVDs is Zaky’s Ramadan. We’ve been listening to the Nasheeds for a few months and added the dvd to our pre-Ramadan stock-up for the kids.

As a big fan of the Zaky franchise myself, I was just as excited to check out the new release with the kids this Ramadan. So after mum had a rough night with kids last night, this morning was the perfect opportunity to take care of the kids, watch a movie and hopefully score some brownie points too.

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Zaky’s Ramadan is a good way to get kids excited about Ramadan and provides a simple, kid-friendly explanation of all things Ramadan. It’s a good introduction to the concept of Fasting, Suhoor, Iftar and the virtue of the month itself.

The Ramadan episodes cover a range of topics including:

  • Ramadan Moon Sighting
  • Doing Good Deeds
  • Suhoor & Tahajjud
  • Being Dutiful & Kind to our Parents
  • Breaking our Fast
  • Breaking our Fast
  • Cleanliness is One Half of our Faith
  • Zaky’s Advice for Ramadan
  • Helping & Feeding the Needy & Poor
  • Health & Nutrition

Zaky’s advice for Ramadan is very practical and covers more than simply when you can and can’t eat. By focussing on the concept of Good Deeds including kindness to parents, cleanliness, charity and well-being, it provides a more holistic approach to Ramadan which I think is something we need to encourage through kids education.

Too many Muslims make Ramadan about Food and Fasting only which is a great injustice to this Blessed month and gift from Allah. By facilitating a more reformist approach, we can encourage our kids to use Ramadan as an opportunity to form good habits, become better Muslims and ultimately achieve the real goal of Ramadan… the awareness and consciousness of Allah that can guide you through the rest of the year. In Sha Allah.

A $20 investment that will entertain the kids for hours and In Sha Allah encourage good habits and a love for Ramadan. Two thumbs up from me!

The DVD is available online at One4Kids as well as a number of other websites. Click here for a preview of Zaky’s Ramadan and check out my post on Zaky & Friends from last Ramadan.

Tip: Don’t just buy these movies for the kids, watch it with them, answer their questions and let Islamic knowledge be a positive experience for them. You might even learn something yourself.

I hope many more kids can benefit from these movies In Sha Allah!

Assalaamu Alaikum!

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American Sharia in Brisbane!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

I recall the kick-starter project raising funds for the first ever Halal Action Comedy a few years ago and was intrigued by the trailer released a few months later. I forgot all about it until a few weeks a go when my preferred Muslim Charitable Organisation, Muslim Aid Australia announced details of the Australian screenings of American Sharia.

The Brisbane Premiere last weekend went pretty well and I’m sure everyone who attended had a good evening and enjoyed the Halal Entertainment. In true Brisbane fashion, the theatre was less than full and the mood slightly sombre. Thankfully, someone warned Omar Regan about this so he was prepared for the lack of enthusiasm from the audience.

Getting to meet the producer and star of the show was exciting. The funny-man who’s had a few Hollywood appearances was extremely humble and truly appreciative of our support. Selfies ensued.

The movie itself was entertaining and gave us a few good laughs. I must admit, given the nature of the production and the budget constraints, I didn’t have high expectations. Despite the shaky camera scenes and a few too many sub plots through the story, the movie was very entertaining and the message was very clear.

It’s not all comedy, the movie takes you into the life of the protagonist whose character and personality is evolving through the story so there is a fair bit of grief, self-reflection and drama which adds to the depth of the story. I found the story of the Imam who was actually based on Regan’s father to be extremely heartbreaking and almost needed the Comedy to change-up the pace.

It provided an insight into the challenges and trials faced by everyday Muslims living in the West and America in particular. Many of the issues were inspired by actual events that have taken place over the last few years which is a sad reality. As an Australian, I felt a sense of relief that we aren’t subjected to such prejudice and discrimination – though I am sure some would disagree with me on this.

If you don’t watch movies at all then this probably isn’t for you, so step away from the Haram-gun and just avoid the movie all together. If you do enjoy movies and are looking a for a more family friendly, modest yet entertaining production minus the foul language and obscenities, then American Sharia is a good fit for you.

Regan is working on a few more scripts to add to the Halalywood banner and I hope for the sake of our children that these initiatives are supported by the Muslim community so they become viable alternatives to the mainstream.

In Sha Allah!

Ramadan Prep… Clear up the clutter for 2015

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Ramadan 2015 is fast approaching and with a only a few weeks to go, it’s time to re-visit a few Lifestyle Optimisation Strategies of old. Clear up the clutter now so you can take advantage of every opportunity during the month of Ramadan.

Here are a few tips I’ve used over the years to prepare for the blessed month:

  • Make up previous year’s missed fasts / Pay Fidyah, etc. depending on your circumstances
  • Take advantage of fasting during the month of Sha’ban
  • Recite Quran – if possible, complete your current recitation and begin a new one in the month of Ramadan
  • Get a good sleep cycle going so you can handle waking up for Suhoor
  • Cut down on socialising and social media so you can avoid unnecessary talk/chat, etc
  • Talk to the kids and prepare them for the change in routine ahead – Get them excited too!
  • Limit the amount of Entertainment/Television/Movies/Gaming, etc
  • Plan your meals early – Ramadan is not just about food but since we need to eat and drink, plan your menu in advance and make all necessary preparations so you don’t waste time in the kitchen. My wife’s in charge of this department and I’m sure she’ll be sharing some of her Ramadan recipes on Modest Munchies.
  • Shop now – get your shopping done early, stock up on groceries and your Eid clothes too so you’re not frequenting the shops when you can be benefiting from  the virtue of this auspicious month.

It’s been a year since the last Ramadan, take this opportunity to get back into the zone so you don’t waste valuable time trying to find your feet. Prepare early, prepare well and get ready for the month of Mercy.

For the sisters, if you need support or motivation to help with any fasts you may need to make up, check out the Making Up Missed Fasts post by Modest Munchies. Brothers, if you’re not accustomed to fasting outside of Ramadan, give it a go and you’ll have a greater appreciation for the women in your lives who have to make up these fasts.

Ramadan with 2 kids driving us crazy should be fun and interesting this year In Sha Allah. Circumstances may change but the yearning for Allah’s mercy remains and continues to grow. This is also of the blessings of Ramadan.

May Allah extend our lives so we may witness the month of Ramadan In Sha Allah.

Translated Reflections… Patience & Restraint.

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

After falling asleep reading my Twitter feed which was filled with Anti Muslim sentiment in light of recent events around the country, I was pleased to wake up to these verses…

‘And do you be patient, for your patience is but from God; nor grieve you over them: and distress not yourself because of their plots. For God is with those who restrain themselves, and those who do good’. – Quran 16:127-128.

Recite Quran, understand your recitation and embrace the divine guidance!

May Allah grant us patience during these testing times.

Islamic Edutainment… My thoughts on ‘Zaky & Friends’

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

With Eid around the corner, I’ve noticed a number of ads for the Zaky & Friends Series of Videos and I thought I’d share my thoughts on these.

Zaky Range of Movies

I remember buying one of the ‘Zaky Movies’ for my little sister a few years ago. As a teenager (at the time), I didn’t care much about the movie itself but I thought it would be a nice gift for my baby sister. My sister was known for her endless questioning and so I was bombarded with questions about the movies which gave me some insight into how a child might absorb such stories.

Fast forward a few years and my little sis gave me these very movies for my son who was only a year old at the time but I decided to hang on to them and keep them safe for him. As he grew older and took a keener interest in the colours eminating from the tv screen, we began watching some of these movies with him and would often use them to keep him occupied while we were busy.

As first time parents we were concerned about some of the effects television and movies could have on our son and found comfort in re-running these movies from time to time as a little distraction for him. He watched the movies over and over for several months and eventually tired of them and asked us not to put any ‘Zaky Movies’ on for him. I must admit, at this point I had memorised the scripts and soundtracks of all the movies so I didn’t mind the change up.

By 2 years of age he had tasted the sweetness of television and started watching ABC for Kids. We were very mindful of his television habits and kept a close eye on the content. In my 12 weeks as a stay at home dad, I found a number of supposedly children’s television shows to be completely inappropriate for kids and with the help of my wife was able to filter through the tv guide and only allow him to watch a select few shows that we were comfortable with.

A few months passed by and though he was enjoying watching Sesame Street and one of my favourites, Fireman Sam, he began asking questions about some of the stories he had learnt in the Zaky videos. I was amazed at this since he hadn’t watched any of the movies in a while and you usually don’t expect a toddler to retain such information for such a long time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed our little conversations and to be honest, it was an amazing feeling as a parent.

His questions and curiosity got us back into the movies, I bought the entire set and for Eid that year, we got him the accessories and toys to go with the movies.

His favourite movie was Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) which I watched with him a few more times so I could correctly address his questions and concerns. It was only then that I realised the power of these movies and the extent of their impact on a child’s mind. The questions he was asking related to matters of Faith including the concept of God and Good vs Evil which can sometimes get tricky when you’re dealing with a toddler. By taking the time to answer hes questions, unbeknownst to us, we had given him what I believe is the best Madrassah lesson you could possibly give a 2 and a half year old kid.

While the concept of God, particularly as The Creator was something he was already familiar with, the movie gave him an understanding of God as The Care-taker, The Protector, The Loving and Powerful as evidenced in the story of Prophet Ibrahim. He grasped the idea of idol worship being contrary to God’s teachings which also gave him a foundation for the criteria of what is right and what is wrong. He was also able to understand the concept of Prophethood and related it back to God.

The incident of the Fire in the story of Prophet Ibrahim introduced him to the power of God over all things as well as the concept of miracles. He even acknowledged the existence of the Angels which was something I was slightly concerned about due to the complexities of the unseen world.

I didn’t realise that he had understood and absorbed so much of this story until a few months later when I began reading the series of kids books titled ‘Stories of the Prophets’ to him.While I had prepared myself for the questions that might have ensued, to my astonishment, he had a firm understanding of the core concepts which facilitated his understanding and appreciation of the stories of all the Prophets – This is when I truly appreciated and understood the value of these movies.

I’ve also seen kids watch some of these videos without benefitting at all from them so it’s important not to force it on to young kids and to ensure you have the time and patience to address their questions and concerns. Parents should be watching these videos with their kids so it becomes more than just entertainment. I believe this applies to all types of entertainment, if you’re comfortable exposing your kids to something, the least you can do is expose yourself to it so you know exactly what your child is being subjected to.

The Zaky and Friends brand has grown substantially over the last few years and as a Muslim Parent in Australia, I am proud of their success and grateful for their efforts. May Allah increase them, I look forward to many more videos In Sha Allah and I’m hoping my daughter also enjoys their works.

The DVD’s and merchandise are available on the One4Kids website as well as a number of other Online Stores. Click here for a preview of Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)

In the words of Merril J Fernando… ‘Do Try It’ 😉 – Your kids will thank you one day!

I hope many more kids can benefit from these videos In Sha Allah!

Assalaamu Alaikum!

Ramadan Prep… Clearing up the clutter once again!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Ramadan 2014 is fast approaching and with only a few weeks to go, it’s time to re-visit a few Lifestyle Optimisation Strategies. Clear up the clutter now so you can take advantage of every opportunity during the month of Ramadan.

  • Make up previous year’s missed fasts / Pay Fidyah, etc. depending on your circumstances
  • Take advantage of fasting during the month of Sha’ban
  • Recite Quran – if possible, complete your current recitation and begin a new one in the month of Ramadan
  • Get a good sleep cycle going so you can handle waking up for Suhoor/Sehri
  • Go easy on socialising and social media so you can avoid unnecessary talk/chat, etc – something I need to work on this In Sha Allah.
  • Limit the amount of Entertainment/Television/Gaming, etc
  • Plan your meals early – Ramadan is not just about food but since we need to eat and drink, plan your menu in advance and make all necessary preparations so you don’t waste time in the kitchen. My wife’s in charge of this department and I’m sure she’ll be sharing some of her Ramadan recipes on ModestMunchies.com
  • Shop now – get your shopping done early, stock up on groceries and your Eid clothes too so you’re not frequenting the shops when you can be benefiting from  the virtue of this auspicious month.
It’s been a year since the last Ramadan, take this opportunity to get back into the zone so you don’t waste valuable time trying to find your feet. Prepare early, prepare well and get ready for the month of Mercy.

Over the years I’ve observed how Ramadan preparation changes with our circumstances. Ramadan as a child with my family, then as a teenager, as a husband with my wife, as a new father, last year with a toddler, this year with my 4 month old daughter…Alhamdulillah.

Circumstances often change but the yearning for Allah’s mercy remains and continues to grow. This is also from the blessings of Ramadan.

May Allah extend our lives so we may witness the month of Ramadan In Sha Allah.

Hajj at home with my wife & kid!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

It usually starts with Hajj Package posters outside the mosque, then a few Hajj preparation seminars and finally the meeting and greeting as the chosen people depart on the spiritual journey of Hajj. Despite the emphasis on the importance of Hajj and in particular the first 10 days of the month, growing up I always assumed that the auspiciousness of the month of Hajj was exclusive to those actually performing the pilgrimage.

As a child I was always aware of the occasion, but I can’t remember anything special or different during the month of Hajj. The one time it really impacted me was the year my parents undertook the journey and left my sisters and I at home with the grandparents. When you’re a kid and you’re parents leave for such a long time, the Hajj memories you’re left with aren’t so great. Nevertheless, it was the one year, we experienced something different during the month of Hajj.

This year was a little more eventful and spiritually uplifting. As soon as Hajj approached, Facebook & Twitter were flooded with messages and reminders of the importance of Hajj and some of the commendable acts of worship associated with the first ten days. I was reminded everyday and the reminders alone instilled a sense of awareness and I found that engaging in some of these acts of worship and even fasting during these days became instinctive. Social media is not all bad, but you have to be engaged with the right people, groups & organisations to benefit from them.

At home I was reminded about Hajj through my wife’s awesome idea of a Hajj advent calendar for our 2 and half year old son. The calendar had little pockets for each day of the first 2 weeks of Hajj and he would get to open one of the pockets each day. I’ll leave the details of the calendar for my wife’s blog but by acknowledging the importance of each day and making an effort to do activities relating to the events that took place and take place during Hajj, we were constantly reminded of the importance and significance of Hajj and then Eid.

My son loved the idea and by Eid day had learnt about Hajj, the Ka’ba, Ihram, Tawaaf, Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) etc and became enthused about Eid day and the idea of one day visiting the Ka’ba In Sha Allah. All it took was a poster and a brilliant idea from my wife but the results were amazing. Being able to celebrate and enjoy Hajj at home with the family was truly a blessing. The highlight of my Hajj at home was watching my son get confused with the extra Takbeer at the Eid Salaah… truly heartwarming.

With the end of the month of Hajj and the beginning of a new Islamic year, my aim is to find ways of integrating faith and spirituality into every month. Ramdhan and Hajj are special indeed, but in order to counter the moral imbalance of the world our children live in, we need these reminders more often. I’m hoping the wife has a few more ideas up her sleeve or possibly on her blog.