Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chinese New Year Gatherings

CNY Dawah Open House Program

Went to 2 events today. The first one was organised by my working committee, Macma Selangor in a joint venture with 2 other local ngos, Ikram and Hidayah Center. Over 600 people from all walks of life turned up to enjoy the day with us.

The menu was Chinese Muslim food and we enjoyed the fried bihun, mapo tofu, fried mixed veggies, friend fish and veg, curry chicken and fried prawns. Lots of oranges, Chinese tea and rezeki draws were carried out.

My son won a prize again, just as he won one at the rezeki draw in Kuala Trengganu Darul Fitrah charity lunch event. At that event in KT ,3 members out of 10 at our table won hampers. It was a wonderful surprise to have our numbers called out. Alhamdulillah.

Lion Dance

After several short speeches by the different representatives, we had a colourful and noisy lion dance performance to entertain the guests and members. There were 2 smaller versions of the lions, one yellow and the other green.

Today I learnt that the lion dance members who consist of teenagers and young men were training regularly all year round for the yearly performances. Though the charges were high, around a minimum of around RM650 per performance, I learnt that most of the income would be donated to charities. In a way it is a good thing.

Healthy Youth Activity

I suggested that we should train our own youth members to learn the art of lion dance or some form of Islamic cheerleading performance. It is a healthy active physical activity that can be carried out all year round. We can also invite them to perform at Muslim events. The money we spend on the engagements will benefit our own community and let the youth earn some extra income.

It will insha Allah be a shirk free performance and we can customise it to suit Islamic requirements. We do not know what rituals some people had to go through to ensure a good performance. It is the belief and superstition of some non Muslims to maybe perform some ritual but if we train Muslims to perform, we can be assured it will be just pure cultural entertainment which can serve as a dawah instrument. Not yet Muslims will realise that embracing Islam does not necessarily losing their own cultural identity. Far from it.

Muslims can continue to enjoy their culture and heritage so long it does not contradict Muslim tenets. We can carry on with activities we used to enjoy within our own communities and enjoy the best of both worlds, insha Allah (God willing).

Mini CNY Open House at Br Firdaus's Home

In the late afternoon we visited a friend's house. Many of our revert brothers and sisters and children, parents were there. It was a sort of mini CNY open house gathering. Everyone brought something to share. We ate and solat jemaah together. It was a warm gathering.

It was quite a mini feast, pizza, fried bihun, curry chicken, green tea and red bean cream cake, curry puffs, ice cream and quesadillas. The host provided the drinks, fried halal luncheon meat, oranges, chocolates and halal malted drinks etc .

The children were the ones who had a really great time, from toddlers to little babies. They played, laughed and cried. They are so forgiving that they would not stay upset with anyone for more than a few minutes. Subhanallah!Thanks to those who distributed ang pows generously.

All of them including unmarried young people were given red envelopes of money as presents, commonly known as ang pows, or red packets.

Fried Noodles

Fried Yellow Noodles

I seldom cook with yellow noodles, even if the manufacturer claims it is free from any additives or preservatives. There is no nutritional value in the mee itself as it is made of mainly white processed flour and lots of oil etc.

However, once a while, I may succumb to a sudden craving of fried noodles. I like to just stir fry it with lots of browned garlic, prawns, some meat or chicken, fresh mushrooms, sawi or mustard greens and some blended chillies, ginger etc.

Use either chicken stock or just water to soften the noodles and serve with fried shallots, fresh coriander and spring onions, cut chillies and perhaps a small lime.

We can cook rice vermicelli or bihun in the same manner except we have to presoak the bihun to soften it. It would take ages to soften f we tried to fry it directly. Add lots of bean sprouts, kucai and any other vegetables you fancy.

A nice touch would be to fry a thin egg omelette, roll it up like a tiny swiss roll and slice it finely into tiny strips. scatter it over the noodels with los of friend garlic, sliced red chillies and greens.

Cooking is so flexible and there are no hard and fast rules about what you can or cannot do.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Daily Bread Daily Rice

Eat to Live, not Live to Eat!

Shukr Alhamdulillah! Thank you Lord for giving us our daily rice.... well Asians especially do actually eat a lot of rice. Some dishes just taste better with rice, don't you agree?

So Little Time

I was so caught up with some work that I totally disregarded the fact that it was almost dinnertime. The chicken has thawed but lying lifelessly (how else?) near the kitchen sink. Mmmm... too lazy to go out just for a quick bite. I did not really like the idea of changing, driving all the way out just to have a quick meal. And eating out aimlessly costs money but yields no pleasure as we may end up eating stale cold food that was reheated throughout the day. Not to mention the msg and recycled oil.

Eating Out is Great at the right time and right place and better still, at the right price!

I do enjoy eating out but not when we want to quickly eat and go home to finish our work and wrap up for the day. Okay, I decided to go for my trusty oyster sauce soya mushroom stew again. Its a family favourite and fairly quick to prepare. And its nutritious, without any added oil except some natural chicken fat sticking to some parts of the chicken thighs.

Soon everything was simmering in the large stainless steel pot upon my atmosfera, my trusty AMC induction cooker. I follow no recipe so I have to adjust the taste as it cooks.


large stainless steel AMC cooking pot
(I use this for quick flavourful cooking -
energy saving and keeps food hot at the dining table)

water just enough to cover ingredients
Put in the following ingredients and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to simmer 20 minutes. Cover.

2 chicken thighs and 1 boneless breast
or half a large chicken, cut up
remove part of the skin to reduce fats
2 medium large onions- chopped
2 pips garlic- chopped
10 medium sized shitake mushrooms (dry) - remove stalks
2 tablespoons quality dark soya sauce (colour to your liking)

Add the following 20 minutes later
(to prevent vegetables from becoming too soft)
few sprigs of coriander, cut up
3 potatoes, cut in halves
2 large carrots, sliced diagonally

Seasoning :

1- 1/2 to 2 tsp salt or less
half tsp molasses sugar or plain sugar (optional)
1/2 to 1 tsp sesame oil
2 to 3 tablespoon premium oyster sauce (optional)
white pepper, black pepper
1 star anise

Quick nutritious dinner served with steamed broccoli and parboiled rice.We did enjoy the food as it was fresh and hot. Alhamdulillah! I do not cook too well but it will suffice.

Glad we ate in. We had enough left over for another meal, probably just needs a salad or stir fry with prawns and baby corn and some assorted vegetable. Its good to serve colourful food as they contain different nutrients.

Finally, some Photos!

We were so focused on eating that we forgot to take some photos. Had to stop halfway to take a few quick shots.

Actually I did not take photos of the past recipes so may have to do that the next time I cook prawn sambal and mushroom soup and fried rice etc. Now I have to write about few dishes we did photograph last week.

Still have not bought a better camera. Let me learn how to use one first. Heh Heh!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chinese New Year and Superstitions

Missing this blog lately

Missing my blog lately. Its more convenient to write a few lines in FB whereas it takes a little more effort to write in our blog. Weather's been haywire, hot like right now and yet it may just rain cats and dogs in half an hour. Whatever it may be, Alhamdulillah! Just imagine having no rain at all for a whole month! Or raining non stop until the roads are flooded and houses washed away!

Reminder of Allah's Power

Such is the power of Allah SWT. He does not need to show us anything else. Just by sending winds and rain or drought, we can witness a tiny fraction of His immense Power. Lands dry and arid, crops may fail if the balance of rain and sunshine is affected. animals, insects, plants die as a result, upsetting ecological balance.

Just imagine having no clean water or no electricity and worse, no food at all. Things we have been taking for granted.

Its all Over!

Chinese New Year has come and gone. To many of us its just another day, another tradition. A way of remembering our roots, remembering the richness of culture of our forefathers. In a positive way, the warmness of love in the family, caring and paying our yearly respects to our elders.

As Muslims we do not care for the many superstitions and traditions that have negative effects in the society. Like not being able to wear black clothing on so called auspicious days like new years, birthdays, weddings etc.

Silly Shirk Traditions of the Past

I remember a silly though symbolic tradition where we were not allowed to sweep the floor on new year's day - all the luck may be swept out of the home! And I just heard of another equally funny tradition, one I never heard of before - people roll mandarin oranges into the front door to symbolise gold rolling into the home. Silly because in that case everyone will be filthy rich after a few boxes of mandarin oranges hve been rolled in. No wonder I never heard of it. Even superstitious people must have found it questionable.

Do not Believe in Superstitions

There will not be any poor or needy if all the superstitions were true .All the rich will become poor and the poor will become rich if they were to believe or disbelieve and suffer the so called consequences. Does not make any sense. Does it?

All rezeqi (wealth and blessings) comes from Allah SWT. We just continue to make effort to improve our livelihood and leave the rest to Him. If we get more, Alhamdulillah. Muslims do not envy the wealth of others. Each one will have his share decided by Allah.

Wish others well instead of being envious. If we want more, work harder and work smarter. Go for it!

Be Moderate

Its better to lead a moderate life and spend time to enrich our spiritual life. Be balanced and make time to care for our family and the needy. Care for ourselves by seeking beneficial knowledge and sharing that knowledge.

I am amazed at many people who attend all sorts of religious classes yet do not bother to share what they learn with others. Accumulating knowledge and not sharing it is something frowned upon in Islam. We are encouraged to share and help others become aware of their own religion.

Of course when we try to share there may others who cannot accept it. We do not claim to know everything. We are commanded by Allah to share what we know and to help to spread good tidings of Islam. Those with the right intention will benefit.

Everything is a Test for Us

Some soothsayers, fortune tellers and bomohs may tell you something of the future because they may get some help from evil jinns. These jinns do not know everything but they can tell half truths and so help to lead people astray. Some bomohs may be good liars and good obsevers of human character. He may simply tell you want you want to hear.

Muslims have to beware of this and remember we are not to meddle in the matters of the unseen. It is a grave test for us. Anyway none knows the future because only Allah knows best.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Simply Sharing

Why Do I Write?

I am no high flying writer or celebrity. Just the person next door who loves to express some thoughts now and then. Just sharing and learning from others. My friends inspire me. Especially the writers. Sisters Zu, Jamilah and Hajar - keep on inspiring us, okay?

Why do I write? Perhaps its just a way of sitting down and thinking about life from my own point of view, of how some things are, how it should be, could be, to lead a good and happy Muslim life.

The Beauty of Sharing

I prefer to make it simple, no high and lofty interpretations and deep academic research. Islam is made for every man in the street, the man sitting in the director's chair in a posh office, the woman sleeping on a luxurious 20 inch mattress in a 20 room mansion and also the dusty road sweeper down the street. Even the blind, even the deaf. Allah is Merciful.

I am Just an Ordinary Person

I'm just an ordinary person, living an extraordinary life. I am different from many hundreds of millions of people in the world. I am one of the chosen ones. Chosen by Allah and given the invitation to be Muslim. I accepted this gracious and generous offer and I am grateful to my Lord.

Allah is Merciful

Allahu Akbar. He gave me something of the greatest value. Ask many of my revert friends "What is the best thing that happened to you in your life?" They will all give you the same answer "I was given the chance to become Muslim. Islam is the best thing in my life".

Allah is the One who Guides. We can only share

With this wonderful feeling, we strive to share this beautiful message to our friends and relatives. It is an invitation to Jannah! Who wants to go to Paradise? Who wants their loved ones to go to Paradise? If only they would give themselves a chance to find out whether we are telling them the truth or not. If only they will give themselves the chance.

Helping Ourselves when We Help Others

We cannot make them accept or believe. Only Allah SWT can do that. Let us just do our job by sharing Islam in any way you can. We are helping ourselves when we help others.

Do Cats and Dogs go to work?

When will our next meal come along?

The backstreet cats are always alert! Their tiny pointed ears are ever alert to detect the back door opening, or any sound of the shaking of a biscuit box. Ah hah! Someone is coming to feed us. They spring up and run very quickly towards us as we put some food onto the dish in the back yard.

Can Cats and Dogs go to Work?

These innocent cats cannot go to work or find food on their own. When they are hungry they try pouncing on miserable lizards and cockroaches. They often go hungry. When they help themselves to a fish or a tiny piece of chicken its because they are very hungry, in pain perhaps.
Do not get upset if they decide to share your dinner. We are supposed to share our food with them anyway.

Actually I just remembered that people in the circus do make the cats and dogs work. However, just like monkeys, they will only get peanuts while their efforts bring home the bread and butter to their masters and trainers. I actually avoid circuses for this reason.

Kindness in Islam

Islam encourages kindness to all living things and we have to take good care of our environment as well. So feeding the helpless and homeless animals are part of our duties. Even dogs and all anomals if they are hungry though we try to avoid having the whole pack of strays gather in front or our home daily in the hope for food.

In my area there are others who feed them and they gather there most times. They travel in packs (more for their own safety as humans try to harm them sometimes out of fear or ignorance). Its sad to see their condition but we also need to avoid harm to ourselves and our neighbours.

Humans need to Strive for Survival too!

When I look at these cats scurrying and scampering all over the backlane in search of a living, I see humans are not much different after all. We too are busy each day, trying to improve our standards of living, to find ways to earn a little more, to put food on the table, to pay the bills.

We are no different from animals who strive daily for a living. We can make all sorts of plans but nothing can succeed without Allah SWT's permission. Whether we succeed or not, life is a trial.

Man vs Animal

The only difference is we are given the intelligence and faculties to think and reason. Animals are given their fitrah, their natural instinct. They all know who their Lord is. Humans may not. Even if they knew, some still reject out of indifference, apathy, past disillusionment, ego or personal weaknesses.

Never Give Up!

Only weak people give up. They give up searching for the truth and just want to live their short worldly lives in blissful ignorance. Maybe some had searched long and hard, been there, done that and yet still could not find the truth. Many stop short of Islam because they never dreamt that the truth can be so close and yet so very far away. Its their own choice.

We must remove all self ego and preconceived ideas before we can seek sincerely. We have to seek earnestly and most humbly. Are people busy seeking worldly gains and losing out on their spirituality?

Make the Right Choice

We have the choice of religion - we can choose our own way of life. We can choose to believe or not to believe. Once we declare we believe, the choice is final. No turning back and the next step is to strive to submit.

It can be a beautiful journey when we strive to seek beneficial knowledge and are sincere to improve ourselves. Its not always easy, but we can manage if we give each other mutual encouragement and support.

Get a Life- a Real One

We do not mean to let your hair down and go out and do all the things you always wanted to do, without caring for the consequences. It means to really live well as a human being, not be part of the human jungle. Live a dignified and honourable life as kalifah of Allah. A caretaker of this world.

God is One

Let us help people to live a good life. Share the word so they can be revived and help each other on the journey to Jannah (paradise). Many people are not conscious that God is One. Allah is One, the First and the Last, the Everlasting.

Islam is the Middle Way of Life

Non Believers do not realise their search for god will lead them to Allah if they are sincere and want to seek the truth. Many are returning to the straight path but still many more remain in a maze, losing themselves in worldly pursuits.We need a balanced lifestyle. Islam is the middle way.

It is not wrong to seek relaxation and entertainment if it is in the form that is accepted in Islam. Allah SWT does not place that many restrictions on us but we have to be careful not to take too much advantage on His Kindness and Generosity. We must choose only what is halal and tayyib.

Halal and Tayyib

What is halal may not be tayyib. (What is allowed may not be good for us) Everything should be in its proper place for us to lead a happy and productive life. Just imagine sugar, salt, grass, carbonated drinks and fried fish crackers . All these items are halal. Not considered impure or toxic . However if we were to consume any one of the items in excessive quantity, surely our health and even mental faculties will be affected adversely.

Halal to Eat or Smoke Grass

Grass is halal - so is it aright to eat it? Some people even try to smell and inhale some grass and weeds - of the dangerous and addictive kinds. Halal in its natural form unless we understand its dangerous nature.

Be Sincere to Ourselves

Similarly, in seeking entertainment we need to be moderate and be sincere. Do not stretch the limits and say it is alright to do certain things because there are some small examples that it was done in history. We have to look at the occasion, the age, the place where it took place, many small things that make it halal or makruh. There are many schools of thought, do not choose what fits your desires but desire to fit what is best for you.

Not always easy to draw the line

Let us be sincere in whatever we do. Not always easy to draw a line but we have to just keep on striving. And admit our own weaknesses. I try not to judge but I feel sad when I see people do not really know how to love themselves but following vain desires. Sometimes they cannot even see the wood for the trees and they do not want to listen. They know if they really stopped to reflect, they may have to give up many things they love to do. We all have been through this so we know it is their trial. I wish them well.

Take Time to Reflect

As I write and I reflect on my own mistakes and weaknesses. Its good to write as it gives us some space to reflect and be more realistic. Sometimes we try to achieve so much and try to please so many people that we end up depriving ourselves of precious time to reflect to save ourselves. May Allah help us improve and keep us strong.

Adventure of a Disgraced Baker and her Disastrous Chocolate Cake

Bakers are Only Human

Friends and customers always expect their bakers to produce perfect cakes everytime, all year round. They do not know we do have our fair share of disasters, especially on busy days or when we are not really in the mood to bake. One has to be emotionally attuned to the work. It is akin to a work of art, trying to produce something that is pleasing and pleasurable to the people tasting the cakes and cookies. Not easy sometimes.

Moist Chocolate Cake that never was

Had potluck on Saturday and made a chocolate cake that did not behave well. Partly my own fault as I was in a great hurry to finish all my few engagement cake orders and poor chocolate cake had to be made at the last minute! When butter is not softened to the right temperature it may not bind well with the eggs. When the batter is not well incorporated everything may separate while baking in the oven. My poor cake was rather dense at the bottom and also really dry and beyond much help.

Foolishly fulfilling my promise

Anyway, I did promise cake so the cake had to go to the potluck, at least beautifully made up with tasty frosting. Boy, were they in for a surprise! I was really apologetic about it but wanted to practise humility. Yeah, to admit that I too have my share of baking disasters (smile).

Kindness and Good Manners of Muslims with Knowledge

Actually it was really quite sad but people were very kind. They took a slice, tasted it, swallowed and continued to chew it all up quite. No raving about how delicious it should have been. My fallen pride was somewhat reduced when 2 latecomers bounded in, perhaps very hungry.

Disappointment reduced- some people actually did not mind!

I noticed they attacked the dessert first. I waited in apprehension to see their surprised reactions. Oh! They seemed quite oblivious to the fact that they were eating something rather dry and tough. And to my delight, the young man ended having around 3 large pieces! He actually enjoyed it. (You have to, to consume that much). I was very grateful to him for saving my day.

Hurray! the whole cake was finally consumed, much to my relief though I did feel bad to 'torture' my dear brothers and sisters with my act of love.

One Man's Meat is Another Man's Poison

Hah! Now I understand when they say 'one man's meat is another man's poison'. I only thought it applied to people enjoying and consuming haram food ( forbidden in Islam) because what is delicious and good to some of them is actually very in fact very unhealthy and impure to the Muslims.

May Allah SWT guide us all and protect us from consuming impure food that becomes part of our bodies. Amiin.