Staying Strong after Boston Bombings

As we find out more about the Islamic connection that the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing had, Muslims across the nation are going through an array of emotions.

The news pundits keep bringing up Islam and how that might have been the motivating factor for the two brothers actions. The American Muslim community is beginning to brace for the backlash. Already we’re hearing stories of kids in schools being taunted, mosques with armed guards and harassment of women wearing the hijab.

Muslims are feeling vulnerable, tired and frustrated. We are asking “Why do we have to constantly explain our religion, be unfairly targeted and treated in a way that that other Americans are not?”

But we often forget that we are not the first generation of Muslims to feel this way. Neither is it a new phenomenon that Islam or Muslims have been attacked. From the first time the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) preached till present day and till Allah wills, there will continue to be challenges for the Muslim Ummah. However what has changed is the way Muslims respond to these challenges.

The Prophet (SAW) and the Sahaba’s were physically, emotionally and financially tortured and yet were patient. They were so steadfast in their beliefs and trusted that Allah (SWT) would guide them through their hardship. One example is of Sommaya RA who was tortured to death (the first female martyr of Islam) for simply believing in Allah SWT. The Prophet(SAW) was powerless and the only thing he could say to her was to be patient and that her reward was waiting for her in Jannah.

Our tests are like cake compared to theirs. We’re bugging out because some dude is staring at us in a grocery store or the media is bashing Islam. Muslims living in America find it difficult to deal with issues such as profiling, defending our beliefs and dealing with the ludicrous comments thrown by the media.

When we feel angry about the way the media is portraying Muslims we should read about the challenges that the Prophet (SAW) and his companions went through. The Prophet’s (SAW) own family threw sticks and stones on him till he would bleed. His own neighbors and friends drove him and his followers out of the city of Mecca.They were physically attacked, their properties were seized and they were economically marginalized. But these hardships did not wear them down, their faith in Allah was only strengthened by the challenges. Their faith also helped them in remaining optimistic about their future.

We must remember we are all ambassadors to our deen, the only way to change anyone’s perception of Islam is through our own actions. So lets practice the patience and optimism that the Prophet (SAW) and the sahabas practiced. Put on that smile and lend a helping hand to your neighbor, be the first in community service, give a compliment to the cashier and don’t forget that extra cheerful thank you to the waiter, sales clerk or whoever. Our best akhlaq (virtues) and adab (manners) is most needed right now.

Changing one person’s outlook may lead to changing an entire household. In addition to educate the masses, exemplify what you speak. Justifying the violence or comparing other countries does nothing but harm. Lives are lost and our empathy and mercy should be in the forefront.

These are days of trials and tribulations. We must hold on to our ideals and principles. May Allah (SWT) preserve our community and bless our Nation.

-The Biscuits and Banarsi Staff-

For my Baby Sister


My baby sister is 18 today MashAllah. I’m so happy for her but at the same time I’m sad, here’s why, I got married and moved away from my sister when she was only 12. I have not been there for her when she went through many of her growing up experiences and as time wore on I grew busy in my life and never made a very conscious effort to keep in touch with her or be there for her when she may have needed me. Although  I love her I’m not sure she knows how much she means to me, So Shifa I dedicate this post to you.

Looking back I still remember the day Ami and Abu brought you home from the hospital. Before you arrived and mom was in labor and  Dadi Jaan (our grandmother) came to me and Saher (my middle sister) and  told us to make special dua for a brother. We didn’t want a pesky a little boy so we silently rebelled and instead prayed to Allah for a baby sister, Allah could not have given me a more beautiful sister. Shifa you arrived October 9th 1994 to a house with two adoring older sisters. We would linger around your crib and  keep checking on you to see if you were finally ready to play with us. The funny thing is that you kept us waiting a long time, it was 2 months before you decided to open your eyes , it was  love at  first  sight and we knew there were fun times ahead.

Shifa, you were a living doll to us. We would dress you up and create elaborate stories in which you were the bride and you would sit for hours in the position that we had placed you in. We would drape you in mom’s fancy dupatta’s and  layer necklaces and bangles and then put all our stuffed animals around you, trying to recreate a mehndi scene in which you were the bride and the stuffed animals were our guests. You are always such a sweet tempered child and I honestly can’t even remember you doing anything wrong! As you grew older you started different activities such as gymnastics and girl scouts, you easily made friends and were always going to different friends birthday parties and extracurricular activities. You were always a reader and were very imaginative, you would play with your toys and create songs about different things. In fact I remember that there was this art contest at Publix and you entered your drawing and you won first prize! you were always very creative and had a knack for art even at such a young age.

Do you remember the one birthday when we were a part of the National Conference for Community Justice walk and then we went ice skating. It was such a fun day and I think it may have been one of the last birthdays that we celebrated in America. We had then moved to Karachi, Pakistan and thus began a new chapter in your life. It was a difficult adjustment trying to fit into a new culture and a new way of life. You entered the Foundation School and began your journey in the Pakistani Education system. In the first few weeks I would pick you up from school and I remember trying to scan the crowd for you, everyone looked the same! It was so different from America, all these desi girls in identical uniforms. We shared stories on the way home and I listened with amusement as you related how the students would be jumping on desks and how the  teachers lacked control of their classrooms. I saw you struggle on an academic level, you were being exposed to subjects like Urdu and Islamic Studies that you had never taken before. The other more traditional subjects were also taught entirely differently than what you had been used to back home in the U.S. You started taking tutions and learned first hand what it meant to be a student in Pakistan. Socially you had a nice group of friends, many of whom you have still kept up with to this day.

One of my best memories is when you and Saher came to visit me a few months after my wedding. We really got to spend a lot of quality time and I was so thrilled to have you guys by my side as we went up and down the East Coast. Shifa there’s been so much that you have accomplished and its unbelievable the things that you have done and your wide range of interests from learning German and traveling to Germany, your volunteering with different social institutions, your essays being published nd your amazing artwork. Shifa you are an amazingly talented woman who excels at everything you have layed your hands on (okay maybe not the Urdu subject) You are an extremely hard worker but most of all you are one of the most caring and loving person I have ever met. If you don’t believe me ask Humza!

So Shifa please forgive me for not knowing the details of the last 6 years  of your life.  You are and always will be my baby sister so even if im not there with you or don’t express it openly you are one of the dearest people to me and I really miss not being there with you to celebrate the beautiful person you are. May Allah bless you, make you amongst the righteous and make you the leader of the pious people as well as the coolness for our parents eyes – Ameen

The Man I Miss, My Dada Jaan

 

The one person that would be the most excited about me starting Biscuits and Banarsi would be my late Dada Jaan. That’s one reason why it’s been so difficult for me to write about him.

He would probably comment on my posts and would love that I posted the kids pictures, but if I asked what he thought he would probably say “Good, but you can write something better.”  I would chuckle at his response and would make sure I got a compliment out of him!

Shams Quraeshi was a talented man with a a passion for learning. An avid reader, my grandfather was known as the Godfather of the books business in Karachi, Pakistan. He instilled in us that love for books from a very young age.  He bought me some of the best books that I have read including the Famous Five series and  books by Enid and Grid Blyton that he would get from the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.

Almost every year my Dadi Jaan and Dada Jaan would visit our family. My Dadi Jaan would be dressed in a shalwar kameez with a shawl draped lightly over her head and Dada Jaan would be wearing Clark shoes and a suit with a muffler. As soon as my sisters and I spotted them, we would run into their arms. We were eager to help unpack his suitcase because we knew at the bottom of it were all the goodies. Usually  this meant,  delicious Cadbury chocolate from England and the latest books from his most recent book fair visit.  Dada Jaan would waste no time and open all his suitcases the day he arrived.

If I was to share all the memories I have of my grandfather it would fill up this entire blog. From him trying different ways to lure me into learning my multiplication tables (he was so disappointed that I was allowed to use a calendar) to watching martial arts Kung fu movies for hours together. He would put up with my whims and would buy me things that I absolutely did not need, like my first Tweety watch from the Warner Bros. Store.

The one thing that means the world to me is that my eldest son got to spend time with his great-grandpa, even though it was for a short time.  I am overjoyed knowing that both people who I love dearly loved each other just as much, if not more!

My grandpa would skype with the kids everyday and many times I would ask him to virtually babysit. Other times we would chat about everyday things including what I should cook and what he was watching on television. I miss those conversations.

I feel blessed that I was able to spend a few months before my Dada Jaan went back to his Creator. He lived to be  82 years old Masha’Allah, it was hard letting go of such a special man, but his health was deteriorating.  When my eldest aunt (Bari Phupo Jaan) broke the news to the family, she said “Allah has shown his mercy to Daddy, now he is in a better place.”

Innalillahi wa Inalihi rajaun

Love you forever,
Saman


A book review of Hillary Clinton’s autobigoraphy “Living History”


Hillary Clinton, is not someone I was particularly fond of… or knew much about. I know that she is very prominent in national politics as a former first lady, a senator  and the  now current Secretary of State. Still Hillary Clinton’s autobiography was not high on my list (disclaimer: I don’t think there are any books that are high on my list except for the Baby Elmo series that we have recently purchased from the $ deals section in Target.) However when I saw “Living History” at my Husband’s cousin’s house, my curiosity kicked in.

I was not curious about her accomplishments as the first lady or even what it felt like to live in the White House but instead was drawn to her autobiography to see what Hillary Clinton thought of her husband’s affair. (I know that’s bad but it’s the truth)

Living History a 562 page memoir is about the eight year term that  Hillary was at the White House. She starts of the book with both her and Bill Clinton’s family backgrounds and their early life.The first part of the book is particularly interesting and it is humbling to see the backgrounds of both Bill and Hillary. Both their families came from a working middle class families. Hillary spoke about the role faith plays in her life such as the youth group meetings and various church activities. Her early interest in politics came because of her father’s passionate support of conservative republicans. An enthusiastic conservative republican like her dad, it was not until she was at Wellesley College that she became a democrat.

Her college years at Wellesley and then Yale gave me background to a person I had no knowledge about and Hillary gave the readers insight into her personal growth from a freshman undergrad to a mature law student. At the same time she told us about her boyfriends, trips with friends and her first introduction to Bill Clinton at Yale. The book is a chronological look at her life; it takes us on a journey through her career, her marriage to and then their foray into state politics and ultimately the White House.

Hillary shares  her dilemma of trying to fit the mold as the first lady. She talks in great detail of  balancing the act of being a wife, mother, a career woman and also living up to expectations of society. She chronicles the times of going in front of the Senate in support of her Husband’s bills and then meticulously selecting the appropriate china and laying out the table for visiting dignitaries. The book is honest but at the same time in many places also reads like a PR piece in which I can’t help but to think that she is helping to pave her way for the presidency. It did feel a little too glossed over when it came to the Clinton administrations fight for their health bill.

The most fascinating part of her book was when Hillary would recount her experiences traveling as the first lady and hosting dignitaries in Washington. The pictures she included in the book are great and you feel like this woman from Stanford who is the Secretary of the State is really not that different from us. Hillary is relatable talking about her bad hair do’s over the years and then her experience as the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. Hillary gave the reader just enough insight into what she was feeling without highlighting the unfortunate incident. She was graceful and she showed the reader that although it was an earth shattering moment for her, she would keep moving forward. She talked about her faith,her friends and the women in her life that kept giving her the strength to move beyond the affair.

As I read the book I felt a deep connection and empathy for a woman who sometimes feels too stiff. The strengths of this book are that she lets down her guard and expresses feelings that make me relate to her. Also it was interesting to see that a woman no matter what level she has reached still struggles with some of the same decisions as women worldwide. Such as the decision to to change her last name  as well as giving up her career when Bill Clinton became President.

I must admit I actually enjoy reading biographies so reading the  autobiography was not the hard part. What was hard was trying to understand the complexities of the health care act that Hillary was constantly working on as the First Lady. Sometimes I would skip pages and get to the parts that I thought were more interesting, But I am glad that I read this book. Hillary Clinton is a force to be reckon with, we already have a African American president and I wouldn’t be surprised if Clinton will be our first woman president.