Stretching Out My Blog

hammockWilyKit and I sleep on a hammock overlooking the jungle in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

In my years of blogging, I never had anything to do besides sit in front of a computer, reflect, and write down my thoughts.  Now that I’m married, own a house, have two children, live in a cohousing community, co-own an Orchard, keep bees, and have 10 garden beds I rarely sit down at a computer wanting to write.  I am so focused on producing the tangible– a happy marriage, two awesome daughters, a vibrant local community, vegetables, honey, fruit– that I have let writing slip away.  I’ve tried coming back a few times, and this will be my last and (hopefully successful attempt).

I’d like to write about all the things I’ve learned in the past five years.  Here’s a sampling

A. I learned how to cook well, and from scratch.  Now that I have children, I need to walk my talk.  We eat as few processed/boxed foods as possible.  I don’t think we’ve bought a box of cereal in 4 years.  I use fresh tomatoes when I make my pizza sauce.  I’ve never given my daughter ‘baby food’

It’s crazy!  And it just feels GOOD.

B. As a stay-at-home-dad I am constantly trying to tinker with organizational systems and cleaning regimens that make the house run smoothly and efficiently.  From robot vacuums to scanning and shredding– I am a lean mean organizational machine — who still leaves his clothes lying on the bathroom floor.

C. Living in cohousing has its ups and downs, but my experience so far has been positive.

My Time In Malaysia: No Smiles In Penang

penang

I got married, became a father overnight, and moved to a completely alien (to me) country. And then I stopped writing. I think we can all agree that that was really dumb.

So with the next few posts I hope to catch everyone (including myself) up to speed.

Living in Penang was not what I was expecting. As an American Muslim of South Asian descent, I had no cultural or linguistic framework for what I came across in Penang. I expected (naively) Arab-style hospitality– you know, where they see a foreign person on the street and then invite them for tea or dinner. That happened to me all the time in the Arab world (especially Egypt). Instead, about a month into my stay in Penang I noticed that nobody was smiling at me on the street, post office, grocery store, anywhere. In fact most looked away, and seemed to go out of their way to be unhelpful… especially the Malay Muslims.

I’m not that ugly, am I?

Read on »

Kickstarting A Return to Blogging: Love InshaAllah Give-away!

You know those historical reports (hadith) of Prophet Muhammad stating that mastering a certain verse or concept within the Qur’an, is akin to knowing all of your faith? Simply put, a surrender to God can be explained in a single concept within Revelation.  For me, that one concept is the Qur’anic view of the human soul.  It explains that the soul knows right from wrong.  The Qur’an continues, stating that the one who nourishes their soul is the one who succeeds.  Just as the farmer toils away at the land to produce a good crop, providing sunshine, water, and good soil, so should we be farmers for our souls.

For the past couple years, that’s the state of mind I’ve been in; putting that core principle into practice.   What better way to nourish my soul than by becoming the best househusband I can be?   Of course, I’ve made several mistakes along the way and those struggles pretty much threw my blogging out the window.  I’ll write about all of that in the coming months, but for now, I’ve broken up my househusbandly duties into five areas.. and I’m excited to shift the content of hijabman.com to reflect these aspects of my life:

1.  Raising our children.  WarriorPrincess is almost 7 years old now and as feisty as ever.  WarriorPrincess#2 is due in April.  And we have begun the process of adopting a WarriorPrince in the future.

2.  Nourishing our bodies through diet and exercise. We’ve done away with most processed foods (and the additives, ‘natural flavorings’ and crap that comes with it) and cook good, wholesome food throughout the week.   MrsHM attends zumba classes regularly, and I’ve been going to a fitness bootcamp 3x a week for the past year.  Next week, I start training for my first sprint triathlon.  My biggest fear?  Being a hairy pakistani dude.  WarriorPrincess wants to compete in a kids triathlon this summer.

3.  Keeping an organized house.  I come from a disorganized family– I know the ‘junk drawer’ all too well.  Training myself to create a system that I can work with has been a huge struggle for me, but I’m well on my way to banishing all the ‘junk drawers’ in my house.

4.  Money management.  With one kid edging toward tween-dom, one kid about to be born, and a couple big purchases coming up (more on that later), it’s become more important to track all of our finances and make sure we’re maximizing our savings.

5.  Time management.  While my official title is househusband, I do have a part-time work from home gig which makes my balancing act a bit more challenging.

That all being said, welcome back to the web site!  For all you loyal fans of the site, I’ve decided to start a giveaway each month.  This month, I’ll be giving away the book Love InshaAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women… (MrsHM is one of the contributor’s, remember?)  All you need to do is 1. share this post on Facebook (Twitter, if you don’t have a FB account) using the FB button below and then 2. comment here, telling me what you’d like to see on hijabman.com.  On Tuesday Morning… UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, I’ll pick someone randomly!  Oh, feel free to like the FB page as well.

Have a great weekend!

Image1: BinGregory‘s son at the beach in Sarawak, Borneo.
Image2:  WarriorPrincess and I on Eid.

The Labels Halal & Zabihah And Why I Choose Local And Organic Instead

Organic Broiled Chicken
The Muslim community, in general, has become obsessed with the way an animal is slaughtered, despite the fact that our tradition actually speaks not just about the way an animal is slaughtered but how it is treated during its life.  Duh!  Why do we call meat ”halal” when only the last step of the animal’s life is according to ‘Islamic’ (Read: ethical) principles.  That’s right, the meat labeled ‘halal’ is most likely from the same factory farm as any other meat in the grocery store– just slaughtered in a different way.  Most people don’t realize that the ‘halal’ label refers only to the way the animal has been killed.

In the era of factory farms and hormone-fed animals, the label of “halal” has been watered down and exists only as an empty brand name.  If you are a heartless person who doesn’t care about the treatment of animals, consider this of your beloved label:

“75 percent of Halal meat in America produced in the year 2000 came from pork fed cows, according to Dr. Stephen Emanuel, from Agway Feed Company.” - SoundVision

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels that ‘halal’ doesn’t mean much.  Check out the new stream of ‘organic and halal’ meat suppliers like GreenZabiha, founded by Yasir Syeed. (Full disclosure: I photographed his brother’s wedding)

“Muslims are directed in the Quran to eat food that is Halal and Tayyib. Halal is defined as food that is permissible according to Islamic law. Tayyib means wholesome, pure, nutritious and safe. Traditionally, Muslims in North America have emphasized the Halal over the Tayyib when it comes to meat consumption, Hussaini says.” – SoundVision

(More disclosure: That quote was from 10 years ago, but the emphasis on the method of slaughtering of the animal over the health and treatment of the animal hasn’t changed much.)

Some Muslims like to use the excuse that when someone sells you ‘halal’ food you should take it at face value, as they are the one making the claim. I don’t buy that. Read on »

On Living Below Our Means, Reducing Bills, And Buying A House

Bride Gives Water To Homeless
Today, MrsHM and I locked in our interest rate at 3.125% for a 10 year mortgage with a 20% down-payment. In late May, we will move in and begin our monthly payments. MrsHM has a full-time gig, and we’ve decided that my work will be flexible, consisting of part-time jobs. We were pre-approved for a $250,000+ mortgage.

Instead, we bought a $135,000 townhouse after looking at all sorts of properties. We saw old homes, new homes, townhomes and single-family homes. One day, our real estate agent commented, “I don’t think you guys know what you want.”

Wrong. We just wanted to see what was out there. We knew exactly what we wanted:

- To live WAY below our means
- Something we could easily rent out
- At least 3 bedrooms
- A spacious kitchen
- Outdoor space for gardening
- Little or no grass to mow (What’s the point? I’d rather plant vegetable and fruit gardens!)
- Laminate or hardwood floors
- 2 bathrooms would be best (We ended up with 1 full bath and two half baths)
Read on »

Three Beautiful Things Thursday: A Space Invaders Prayer Rug

This *one* thing is so amazing that it takes the place of three beautiful things.

A Polish artist by the name of Janek Simon made this:

Is Islamic Sunday School Worth It?

A Real Education
HijabMan’s Note:  This article was previously published at Patheos. 

At the age of 12, my father decided to put me in Islamic Sunday School at our local mosque. Since I was new to Sunday School, the teachers put me in the kindergarten class. Within one year, I was skipped to second grade and then to fourth grade, before I was ultimately promoted to instructor in an alternative Saturday school. Can you say, “lowered expectations?”

It is not uncommon for mosque Sunday Schools to be staffed by volunteers as young as 13 who just parrot what they’ve heard. As for the content, I learned about how birthdays are prohibited in Islam, that only prostitutes pluck their eyebrows, and how a one-eyed monster will come and get me on the Day of Judgment. In short, I left Islamic Sunday School with the perception that God was a big scary being that was going to throw me into hell.

The experience, however depressing, did inspire me to read the Quran for myself. It was only then that I realized that the vast majority of fairy tales they teach you in Sunday school are not in the Quran—which, by the way, is what Muslims believe is God’s message to humankind. In fact, the lessons taught in my Sunday School growing up didn’t come close to capturing the spirit of the holy book.
Read on »