Recycling old-tech for new learning…

I recall my own excitement when I heard about the concept of a digital Quran many years ago. In a pre-smartphone world, these were seriously high-tech. With all the features of a digital Quran now available on Smartphones and Tablets, they became obsolete quite quickly. Today I decided to recycle some old tech and put it to good use as part of our home Madrassah routine.

Old Tech for New Learning

After memorising Surah Al-Fatiha, Al-Asr, Al-Fil, Al-Kauthar, An-Nasr, Al-Ikhlas and An-Nas, my son seems to be having difficulty perfecting Surah Al-Falaq which is a little more confusing than the rest of them. I know some adults who get this Surah mixed up so I do understand his frustration.

I don’t have the one I used growing up, the earlier ones were not very reliable and I think I went through more than one but I did have a brand new ENMAC EQ509 which we received as a gift a little while back so I cracked it open and it works, didn’t even need to charge it. It must have a Nokia battery.

This model is feature packed but one of the best features on these devices is the repeat function which is absolutely essential when memorising verses of the Quran.

After only a few repeats of the Surah (Al-Falaq), he was more confident and made a good effort to recite without any assistance which is more than you can expect from a 5 year old.

Despite its age and bulkiness, the concept appealed to his curious nature and he was quite impressed with himself listening to the recitation on a pair of earphones. I found this quite satisfying to watch and it brought back many memories of my days at the Mosque, learning, revising and reciting.

In the age of technology we live in, I never thought I’d be using a Digital Quran but it turns out old technology can be useful in certain situations and I’m glad I kept one to pass on to my son.

Though technology will never be able to teach our children or replace us as their role models, it can be a good tool and is something we should incorporate into the learning process, whether religious or otherwise.

We’ll definitely be adding this to our Home Madrassah routine In Sha Allah.

Patience at the end of the day…

Both my kids are early risers and as an early riser myself, I’ve had some of the best experiences with my kids in the early hours of the morning. They seem to be at their best early in the day and it pays to take advantage of this.

While I enjoy my mornings with the kids, after an early start and a long day at work, maintaining the patience and understanding at the end of the day becomes a challenge.

When the grown-ups are exhausted at the end of the day and the kids are approaching their bed time, patience becomes scarce and in most cases chaos ensues. Tired kids are cranky kids and cranky kids can’t think rationally. Unfortunately the same is true for tired adults so when these situations do arise, its a good idea to have an action plan.

  1. Give yourself a break. Take a few minutes to compose yourself and lose the work-baggage before you engage with the kids.
  2. See the bigger picture. In most cases, the quarrels we have with our kids are over trivial matters, put them into perspective and they’ll probably take care of themselves.
  3. Focus on the positives. Think happy thoughts and look at how mazing they are despite the current situation.
  4. Reflect. Find a quote or saying that inspires you and use it in these situations.
  5. Remember. Think about how much you love them and say it. Show some love and you might even be able to change the topic and neutralise the tension.
My kids are under 5 so I guess my strategies will have to evolve as they develop. For now, this is my action plan.

“And if you forgive and overlook and pardon – then Allah is most forgiving, most merciful.” – [Quran, Surah Taghabun, Verse 14]
Reflecting on this verse in the context of fatherhood is a good way to stimulate rational thinking in moments of anger or frustration.

Unplug and play…

I see many pictures and videos criticizing the excessive usage of smart phones and gadgets by kids and teenagers these days. While it is a major issue and though I’m not free from making judgments myself,  why is there so much focus on the kids? Kids and teenagers are almost being vilified for there use of technology which in some cases is justified but what absolves us as adults from this obsession and excessiveness?

We discipline our kids in regard to excessive TV, movies, video games, etc. Some of us wouldn’t even dare allow our kids to use our phones, yet we are comfortable and ignorant enough to whip out our phones anywhere, any-time without any regard for the people around us.

As a perpetrator myself and speaking from experience, I believe that our smart-phones are a great injustice towards our children. Technology has advanced so much that it now allows us to neglect our children while they sit in our company. I’ve made this mistake myself and its very easy to get carried away after a busy day at work but there is nothing on that device that can be more valuable than the time spent with your kids.

I have reduced my phone usage over the last 4 weeks particularly in the company of my kids and I plan to reduce it even further. Sometimes awareness is all it takes. Be mindful of your usage, focus on the things you and your kids are missing out on while your head is buried in your screen.

Unplug and play with your kids, one day you’ll look up from your screen… and they’ll be looking down at theirs!

10 tips for the 10 blessed days…

The pilgrims have arrived in the Holy cities and will soon embark of the life-changing experience that is Hajj. There is no doubt that the best act of worship one can perform in these Blessed days are Umrah and Hajj, but what about the billions of us that aren’t there right now.

With the emphasis on the actual rites and rituals of the pilgrimage, we often neglect the virtue and the blessings in these days. The ten most blessed days of the year.

While we adjust to the post-Ramadan lifestyle, a busy life and an abundance of distraction can easily deprive us of the other blessed guest. How bad a host we must be for failing to even acknowledge this guest.

I’ve always felt that Eid-Ul-Adha lacked the enthusiasm and zeal associated with Eid-Ul-Fitr and I believe this is closely linked to the manner in which we spend the days leading up to it.

We spend an entire month sacrificing, reforming, reflecting and reciting in Ramadan which leaves us with a true appreciation of the celebration of Eid-Ul-Fitr. We need to apply this to Dhul Hijjah and in particular these blessed 10 days so we can also earn the joy and blessings of the celebration of Eid-Ul-Adha. This is how I plan to spend these days In Sha Allah (God Willing):

  1. Reciting more Quran
  2. Reading and Reflecting on the meaning of the Quran
  3. Visiting the Musjid more often
  4. Optional prayers throughout the day/night
  5. Increased charity – with an emphasis on the current Refugee Crisis
  6. Reading and seeking Islamic Knowledge
  7. Increased Dhikr and the remembrance of Allah – particularly Tahleel, Takbeer and Tahmeed*
  8. Optional Fasting – at least fasting on the day of Arafah In Sha Allah.
  9. Hajj activities with the family**
  10. Teaching the kids about Hajj and the importance of Udhiya/Qurban
My hope is that the increased awareness and sacrifice will not only allow us to benefit from these Blessed days but also facilitate a greater appreciation for the celebration of Eid-Ul-Adha.

Think about how you spent the last ten nights of Ramadan… and do it again!

May we all benefit from the blessed days of Dhul Hijjah and may the efforts of those who are performing Hajj be accepted.

* Tahleel = La Ilaha Illallah, Takbeer = Allahu Akbar, Tahmeed = Alhamdulillah

** Click here to see some of the Hajj activities we’ve done in the past.

Quran4Kids App Review

We downloaded the Quran4Kids App today and I thought I’d put it to the test with my 4 year old this afternoon. Pumped as any kid would be about using the iPad, he bugged me about it for most of the day and was very eager to get ‘Madrassah Time’ started this afternoon. After reciting the 7 Surah’s he’s now memorised, we had some fun trialling this new app.

The interface is clean and simple but very colourful which appealed to him and the child in me. He got into it fairly quickly and I knew we were on to something when he asked if we could use the app for ‘Play Time’ at night. The simple menu makes it very kid-friendly and we had seamless navigation between the 4 game modes.

The Move and Match game is very straight forward and works well to familiarise the child with the letters of the Arabic Alphabet. As the child progresses through the levels, punctuation characters and basic Tajweed Symbols are added to the letters.

The Writing Letters game is cool but can be a bit fidgety for little fingers. I’m sure this will get easier with practise and will definitely assist with letter recognition.

Bubble Pop and Letter Chase are more game-like and add a fun dimension to the learning experience. Identifying the moving letters and having fun with the different symbols and characters can also contribute to the learning process. Learning through play is also known to have positive effects on developing memory skills which would be a great way to start a child’s journey towards learning and appreciating the Quran.

I have purchased the full app now so I can explore the Tajweed Rules and pronounciation guidelines which we may need once we progress beyond the letters. I do intend to purchase the Quran4Kids e-Book which is available on their website.

The App is designed to compliment the Quran4Kids Program so its a good addition to our current Home Madrassah program. If your child is currently learning the Arabic Alphabet, the App is a good way to facilitate learning through play which may quicken the learning process and make it fun and interesting at the same time. Download for Free for a limited time on the App Store and Google Play.

I look forward to reviewing the Quran4Kids e-Book and hope we can benefit from some of these techniques going forward. The App is pretty cool and we will definitely be adding this to our Home Madrassah routine…

In Sha Allah.

10 tips to get your child to pray with you…

As a Muslim Father, one of the greatest joys of my day is having my kids pray beside me and join in the praise and remembrance of their creator and mine. It might be easier to put off Salaah until the kids are older but the best habits are formed early in their childhood, why not make Salaah one of them.

After 4 and a half years of hands-on experience and 1 amazing wife at my side, this is what I have learnt. My 10 tips to get your kids to pray with you…

  1. Pray with them, make it a habit of praying in front of them when ever possible – I started praying with my son beside me when he was a month old.
  2. Don’t make Salaah a chore – Allow them to witness the joy and peace you experience through Salaah.
  3. Play with them before/after you pray – let the prayer room/area/rug be a place of comfort for them too.
  4. Don’t be quick to pack up the prayer mat -leave it out for the kids to explore.
  5. Pray together, pray as a family – Let Salaah also becomes an activity the whole family can participate in and benefit from.
  6. Answer their questions, talk about Salaah and feed their curiosity – they’ll be emulating your actions in no time.
  7. Let them know when it’s time to pray – make room for them beside you in case they decide to join in.
  8. Entice them with a little kids prayer mat – make it fun and interesting.
  9. Visit the mosque with them – this can sometimes be tricky but I’ll leave it for another post In Sha Allah.
  10. Lots and lots of praise – acknowledge and praise their efforts!

It’s not rocket science, but we often take these things for granted. It’s a matter of priorities and lots of patience.

Though the requirement to perform Salaah is only incumbent on kids at a later stage, it is our duty as parents to get them started on the straight path. Teach them to pray now and when they pray later, we too will benefit from it.

I pray that our children are the coolness of our eyes!

Coffee & small talk…

After a busy week and a few rough days, I seized an opportunity to spend some quality time with my son this morning. Mum and daughter were napping and I desperately needed a coffee so we visited my new go-to coffee place on the south-side… Sweet Treats Dessert Cafe.

Coffee & Small Talk...

After ordering our usual Cappuccino + Babyccino, I decided to put my phone away and indulge in some Father-Son banter. A simple ‘what do you think about this place?’ was enough to spark a very interesting conversation.

The Minion drawing got us on topic and quickly moved on to Hot Wheels, big wheels and all topics wheels related. It was interesting and fun, probably took all of about 15 minutes and we we’re on our away again.He seemed to have enjoyed it and it reminded me of the many father-son dates we had when he was younger, when I was less occupied and when we actually took time out to just chill and do things together.

As they grow older and circumstances change, its easy to take things for granted and neglect the little things. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes and a slight change of atmosphere but the father-son dates are absolutely essential and can make a world of a difference to both parties. Not to mention the brownie points scored when you let the Mrs have some time off too.

Show me the Bunny…

Having indulged in many a bunny over the years, I don’t recall ever wondering where this simple yet ingenious idea stemmed from. Last weekend I enjoyed a homemade bunny with a slight twist and began wondering…Bunny chow refers to a curry dish served in a hollowed out loaf of bread and is a common street food in Durban, South Africa. It’s origins are deeply rooted in South Africa’s apartheid era and though many legends exist, there is one plausible theory that makes for an interesting story.

Bunny Chow
The ‘Bunny’ or Bunny Chow was engineered by the Indian working class of Durban during the apartheid era and made for a cheap and convenient meal that satisfied their taste for curry. Some say it was the Indian Caddies at the Royal Durban Golf Course who couldn’t afford to leave work to have lunch. The curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread was cheap, easy to transport and made for an awesome, consumable container. Other stories claim it was the Indian slaves working the sugarcane fields that came up with the idea to transport their lunches.What ever the story, Bunny Chow originated in Durban, South Africa and fulfilled the needs of Indian workers during a time of great injustice and discrimination. Non-whites were considered sub-human and were not even permitted to enter restaurants, their creativity and ingenuity resulted in the creation of one of the countries greatest contributions to world cuisine.

The merchants selling the dish were known as Banias (an Indian caste) which is where the term ‘bunny’ originated.  Based on this, it is highly likely that the dish was invented on Grey Street in Durban at the G.C. Kapitan Vegetarian Restaurant that operated from 1912 to 1992 and was famous for its Beans Bunny.

Today, Bunny Chow is enjoyed throughout South Africa and South African homes/cafes throughout the world. The Bunny that spawned this post, pictured below, was a quarter bunny layered with hot chips topped with a spicy, homemade lamb curry.
Bunny Chow
Surprise inside Bunny Chow
No Rabbits are harmed in the preparation of Bunny Chow!Links:

Decorating cookies… like a man!

Ignoring the fact that I was surrounded by mothers and their kids having a go at decorating some cookies, I decided to join in and, together with my son came up with this little bearded master piece.

Bearded Cookie
Its sad that so many fathers pass up on these opportunities by assuming that it’s the mother’s role to interact and entertain the kids. Perhaps culture has made it convenient for men to take a back seat in these situations or maybe men aren’t confident enough to enter a female dominated space. Whatever it is, we need to break the cycle and claim our place. Fathers are not bystanders, we need to get down and dirty and start decorating cookies with our kids.

What is Modest Man Stuff?

Modest Man Stuff defined…

Modest: having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits,importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions; free from ostentation or showy extravagance; having or showing regard for the decencies of behaviour, speech,dress, etc.; limited or moderate in amount or extent; unpretentious, unobtrusive, pure, virtuous; implying conformity to propriety and decorum, and a distaste for anything coarse or loud.

Man: an adult male person; the human individual as representing the species; a human being; a husband; a son; a father; a person.

Stuff: material, objects, items or subject matter of some unspecified kind; action or talk of a particular kind; informal; to cram oneself with food.

A work in progress…