Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eid Mubarak 2011!

Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you),

This time we Pass the Lantern right here to Dallas, Texas  USA!  I am so happy to share with all of you the traditions and spirit of Ramadan and Eid, here in the United States...or at least here in Texas!  Whats even more exciting is that I will also be sharing with you a Ramadan experience from the aspect of non-Muslim Americans, who were thrilled to share their "fasting" stories with us!

This year, Ramadan 2011 had some pretty distinct timing, as it began on August 1, 2011 and ended with Eid on Aug 30th, 2011.  Here in Dallas, the Muslim community follows the Islamic timings according to the Islamic Society of North America.  This is how we get the exact dates and fasting times with which we follow during Ramadan.  Our local mosque, Islamic Association of North Texas, hosts all kinds of amazing events and activities during Ramadan!  They even publish a convenient Ramadan fasting calendar for Muslims to use, so that we can keep up with proper times for suhoor, breaking our fast, and praying Tarweeh prayers each night.  You can check out the Ramadan prayer and activities here.  

IANT helps keep Ramadan quite organized, members can follow that link and find out who will be leading the Tarweeh prayer each night, how long that Brother has been a Hafiz of the Quran, and even find out about additional khutbas, or lectures, that will be scheduled that evening. Twitter and Facebook are also used, to let members know ahead of time which section of the Quran will be recited that night during prayers, so that others can follow along!  Iftars are also hosted every weekend at the mosque and the busy Tarweeh prayers are kept well organized with assistance from security and local police to aid in the over flow of traffic inside and outside the mosque! This is a necessity because in Dallas, hundreds and hundreds of local Muslims gather each and every night to pray.

At our home, we really look forward to Ramadan!  This year, we decorated our home with glittery gold Islamic crescents and bright twinkling Islamic crescent lights! We also have a basket that says "Ramadan Kareem" on it and it's full of candy, which the kids (and everyone else) loves when they come over for iftar.  For me, it's important for Ramadan to really feel like a holiday, since I am a convert to Islam.  I really wanted guests of our home to know as soon as they walked in that we were celebrating a special time of the year.  You can find Ramadan decorations at Noorart and Eidway websites! We found ours while on our recent trip to Amman, Jordan, so that's an option too if your in the neighborhood, LOL.

When it's time for suhoor, we are always excited the first few weeks of Ramadan to wake up and have some breakfast!  Right now at our home, it's just me and Hassan, so we wake up together and make some boiled eggs (his fav), and juice and water and I usually have a big bowl of whole grain cereal with some cut-up fruit. While we are eating, an application on my computer will play the voice of an old Muslim man, walking through an ancient Islamic village, beating his drum and calling out in Arabic for everyone to wake up for suhoor! It's so cute and really makes the early morning breakfast a little more fun.  We then pray Fajr together and usually will sleep a little before time to start the work day!

Each year we enjoy hosting close friends for iftar, and we love visiting each other.  There are so many nights that we will get invited to share an iftar at friends or families homes and we try to invite them back, the same.  In Dallas, we break our fast with plump juicy dates, most are imported from Saudi Arabia (YUM).  Then, we have a small bowl of soup and small salad. Afterward we will stop and all pray Magrib prayer together. Then it's time for the main course, then Tarweeh prayers. 

At my home, if I invite Hassan's Jordanian family for iftar, usually I will make a large roasted rosemary leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and carrots in the broth!  On the side we will have a pasta salad and my hubby will make the best kabseh dish ever. He's the "Rice King", the title is not official though, LOL.  We also serve up some yummy garlic cheese bread and a delish dessert with tea awaits everyone when they return from praying Tarweeh together at the mosque.  For the kids, I make them their own individual personal cheese pita pizza's, it's their favorite and shows them they are special!  Each year, I also prepare a Ramadan craft for the kids to create together. This year they colored Islamic mosaic designs for the kids to take home and decorate with, so beautiful!  You can download your own Muslim coloring pages here.

For the past few years, we have invited a few of Hassan's co-workers, at World Affairs Council, DFW, to fast for one day and then to break their fast with us in our home.  It's always been something important to us, to share Ramadan with non-Muslims, and Hassan's co-workers really enjoy being included.  This year, Hassan's boss, Jim Falk-President of WAC, suggested that the whole office be invited to fast and before you know it, the owner of a local halal restaurant offered to donate the iftar for that evening!  I am so excited to share photographs and a few video clips from that special night with you!

We first prepared a friendly Ramadan email that was sent out to all the staff, highlighting the beauty and tradition of Ramadan and fasting, to give the participants a background.  I even included some helpful "tips", like when you hit that afternoon fasting wall and you MUST have a coffee...just remind yourself of all the children in Somalia who are dying for only a drink of water.  We also made sure to email positive motivation to participants the day of fasting, and tried to give a feeling of pride in having strong self-discipline. 

The day was over and the sun was about to set, probably not quick enough for the brave few who made it through the fasting adventure.  We all met at the beautiful home of Br. Ahmed, who owns an amazing (and favorite) halal Moroccan restaurant called, Kasbah!  In his home he had a beautiful Moroccan inspired room for all of us to gather in, and a local religious leader was present to give a small speech on the beauties of Ramadan.  The staff was surprised to learn all of the details involved in fasting, such as the fact that it is not seen as a burden and is pardoned from those who cannot partake in it. Shortly after it was time to break our fast with ice cold milk and juicy dates, and then on to delicious soup and warm bread!  After the first course we all dined on the best Moroccan feast in Texas!
WAC staff along with Nicole, Natsiria, and Hassan
The staff was in love with dinner that night and compliments were flying left and right! I think they were pretty grateful to eat!  The Moroccan catered meal included tender roasted lamb, fresh hummus, greek salad, roasted egg plant, couscous with grilled veggies and much much more!  After dinner we all enjoyed a buffet of fresh made from scratch cookies and the most amazing hot tea!

Nicole with Jennifer and Natsiria

Hassan, Jim Falk and WAC staff members
When the feasting had slowly come to an end, I was excited to hear from the staff and President of WAC about their fasting experiences.  Sarah Gordon, a veteran team member of WAC along with Jim Falk were gracious enough to share their Ramadan thoughts with me on camera. I hope you enjoy their interview and I apologize for the back ground noise, it was a full house that night!  

If you would like to visit the amazing Moroccan restaurant that provided the feast for our iftar that night please see their information below:

Kasbah Grill

2851 Esters Rd
Irving, TX 75062

If you would like to learn more about the World Affairs Council, DFW, then please visit the link below:

Hassan and I would both like to wish you and your families an amazing Eid Mubarak, 2011.  We have some special news to share with you all! You might have noticed some extra weight on me in the video!  God has blessed us with a baby boy, due this winter, God willing.  We thank God everyday for his blessing and are so excited to become parents soon! Eid Mubarak!!!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pass the Lantern to Malaysia!

I asked you to share your favorite Ramadan Memories from around the world and our first story comes from a Brother in Malaysia! This Brother even shared a great video of his family Iftar, you can view it at the bottom of this posting, God willing.  Enjoy reading in his own words about Ramadan with his family in his home country and please make sure to send your story to hassanandnicole@gmail.com

17 August 2011

Brief stories of our Ramadan Memories.
Malaysia is a multi-cultural and ethnic society. The majority of it's 28 million population is Muslim. Malaysian Muslims are from Sunni following mazahab Shafei. 1st Ramadan is a public holiday in Malaysia.

The coming of the Ramadan month can be noticeable in Malaysia. Many tents and outlets were set up for business selling assorted cuisines. Hotels too advertised Ramadan Buffets as well. It is a custom in Malaysia that the media will announce the starting day of Ramadan. Once it is make known, on that night most of us will go to the mosque to perform the 1st tarawih prayer. During Ramadan, offices change their operation time clock to end the work day at 4.00 pm instead  of 5.00 pm but they still maintain the 8 hour work schedule.
In the evening of 1st day of fasting, we can see flocks of people shopping, buying their likes on groceries as well as ready made foods and delicacies. The non-Muslims too enjoy the fun as they can have so many choices of different foods during the Ramadan months. Praying facilities are well equipped where you can find mosques as well as praying rooms at  commercial centers such as supermarkets and hotels.

Here, we would like to share with you our life style in Ramadan which it is quite common practice by most Muslims in Malaysia. We live in the city Seremban, about 50 miles south Kuala Lumpur, the capital city Malaysia. Ramadan is special to us and we are very anxious for it's coming. During Ramadan we have special tasks to perform, like practicing to discipline our selves in all aspects in life. Hunger and thirst is one of the test we have to go through. When it comes to food, we find that our desire to spend more is high but we always maintain as minimum as possible meeting our needs and budgets.

We usually cook our own foods and buy some desserts or fruits to add into the variety. The dishes are simple, they are comprised of rice, main dish of meat or fish with gravy, vegetables soup or fried, cut out fruits or fruit juices and sweet delicacies as the starters. Off course we change the menu daily so that we always feel a new beginning and don't feel bored eating the same foods. Some preferred to buy ready made either take home or break fast at outlets, especially those working and have limited time to reach home.

After eating, we rest for awhile and then take our wuduk and perform magrib prayers and doa. We usually perform magrib prayers at home unless there are special occasion where we go to nearby mosque. Next, if we want to perform the tarawih prayers at the mosque, we then dressed ourselves up and leave our home before Isha prayers. At the mosques we perform Isha as well as tarawih together with the jamaah. At the mosque we went, there are about 600 jamaah mixer of men and women. Here, we performed 8 rakaat tarawih and 3 rakaat witir. Some mosques in the country sides performed 20 rakaat tarawih and 1 rakaat witir.

Besides breaking fast at home, we also do 'pot-luck', bringing our foods to my mum's home and we share breaking fast together.  My imediate families also join in making the day more merrier. At the mosques there are also foods people bringing in where we can enjoy the midnight hours with friends while listening to Quran recited by the jamaah. The mosque is never quiet during the Ramadan nights!

At times we perform Isha and tarawih after midnight. Our sahur time is after the prayer. We usually eat light food such as egg omelet with toppings, bread, tea or coffee. Plain water is also added in as we need to prepare for the next day of fasting. Upon hearing azan subuh, we headed for our wuduh and perform subuh prayer plus reciting Quran verses a bit.

Alhamdullillah, for the past half month fasting and prayers we felt ourselves more healthier, energetic, peace of mind and cut loose all the unnecessary weight we had. With the Ramadan coming to the end, we felt that we are in the old track of life but with good values in our soul. Inshaallah Allah forgive us, looking forward for the next Ramadan and aim to do much better from what we have gone through this Ramadan.

Here is a great video of this Malaysian family iftar! Enjoy!


I would personally like to thank this Brother for sharing his Ramadan Memory with all of us and I hope to one day visit this beautiful country!

Would you like to see an article about Ramadan in your country? Then please Pass the Lantern to us by sharing your story! Send your story to Hassanandnicole@gmail.com

Friday, August 5, 2011

Share your most memorable Ramadan stories!

Assalamu Alaikum my Sisters and Brothers! Inshallah you are enjoying an amazing Ramadan, 2011!  Ramadan is a special time of the year for all Muslims. A time of fasting, prayer, and oneness with our community.  Across the globe Muslims are fasting for God, refraining from food and water from dawn until sunset, all know the feeling of hunger and thirst.

During Ramadan, Muslims also give in charity to the needy, something very important as a Believer!  So many beautiful stories of togetherness, charity, and submission to God are shared by so many wonderful Sisters and Brothers!

Now is your chance to share your inspiration with others! Share your story of love, charity, and family. You can write about anything that you felt was a special Ramadan memory! Sharing our stories helps inspire others during hard times and helps bring even more togetherness to our faith as a whole. The stories will be posted for Muslims to see on www.QueensofIslam.com and here on NicoleQueen.com and can be completely anonymous to protect privacy.

Submit your personal inspirational story to: HassanandNicole@gmail.com

You can even submit a video! Find us on YouTube@TheNicoleQueen

You will be notified when your story is ready to be shared!  I can’t wait to hear from you and may you and your family have a blessed Ramadan, Inshallah!

*Only respectful (free of profanity, or offensive materials) postings will appear.