Category Archives: Trinidad

The Ascent to the Heavens -27 Rajab

Al Qur’an, Sura 17 (Al-Isra) Ayah 1:

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night

from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa*,

whose surroundings We have blessed,

to show him of Our signs.

Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

  • – this has also been translated as ‘the Farthest Mosque’ and an interpretation is that it does not refer to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

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In Trinidad, miraj-un-Nabi is observed/commemorated, most usually, by lectures. In Barbados, I find it noted almost in silence.

The miraj is the Ascent of Rasool saws to the Heavens referred to in the above-quoted ayah, and debates abound as to whether it was a physical or only spiritual ascent. Many details of the Ascent are given in hadiths, and span the carrying of Rasool saws astride the winged steed Buraq from the Holy Kaaba to Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, his prayers with other Prophets a.s. to his ascent to the Heavens, his meeting with several Prophets a.s., his meeting with Allah swt,  the gift of obligatory salaah, and his return to Mecca via Jerusalem.

Allah swt says in Al Qur’an Sura 17 Ayah 44:

The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [ Allah ] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving.

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Row row row your boat

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Rowing was part of the water activities at Barrackpore Islamic Centre’s Family Day held on the Good Friday public holiday in Trinidad this year (2018).

Part of Surah Hud tells the story of Nuh a.s., and the command to build the ark, populate it, and sail. It also tells of how ‘family’ should be considered.

There are some hadiths that Rasool saws endorsed that the prayer of Prophet Nuh a.s., stated in Surah Hud (11) Verse 41 could be recited when embarking on a ship:

“When my ummah board a ship and recite the following, they will be protected from drowning:  “Embark therein; in the name of Allah is its course and its anchorage. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Allah swt says at Ayah 48

It was said, “O Noah, disembark in security from Us and blessings upon you and upon nations [descending] from those with you. But other nations [of them] We will grant enjoyment; then there will touch them from Us a painful punishment.”

Glorying in ascent?

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When Youngest & I were in Trinidad recently, we attended a masjid family day – activities for all ages abounded. Included in the activities was the popular wall-climbing. In preparing this post, I searched my memory for an inkling with respect to a hadith on climbing, and compliments that google search engine, I found the following Q&A at https://islamqa.info/en/164340. I’ve reproduced the information below:

Praise be to Allah.

Al-Bukhari narrated in his Saheeh that Jabir ibn ‘Abd-Allah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: When we went up we would say takbeer (Allahu Akbar) and when we went down we would say tasbeeh (Subhan Allah).

Abu Dawood narrated that Ibn ‘Umar taught him that when the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) got up on his camel, when he was setting out on a journey, he would say takbeer three times, then he would say: “Subhaan allathi sakhkhara lana hadha wa ma kunna lahu muqrineen wa inna ila rabbina la munqaliboon. Allaahumma inna nas’aluka fi safarina haadha al-birra wa’l-taqwa wa min al-‘aml ma tarda, Allaahumma hawwin ‘alayna safarana haadha watwi ‘anna bu’dahu. Allaahumma anta al-saahib fi’l-safar wa’l-khaleefah fi’l-ahl (Glory be to the One Who has placed this (transport) at our service and we ourselves would not have been capable of that, and to our Lord is our final destiny. O Allah, we ask You for righteousness and piety in this journey of ours, and we ask You for deeds which please You. O Allah, facilitate our journey and let us cover its distance quickly. O Allah, You are the Companion on the journey and the Successor (the One Who guards them in a person’s absence) over the family).”

And when he returned he would say the same words and would add to them: “Ayiboona taiboona ‘abidoona li rabbina hamidoon (Returning, repenting, worshipping and praising our Lord).”

When the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and his army climbed a hill they would say takbeer and when they went downhill they would say tasbeeh.

Those scholars who say that this is mustahabb (recommended) when going up the stairs and so on, say that one should say takbeer when going up and that going up stairs or hills is the same thing.

But others say that saying takbeer when going up the stairs and so on is not prescribed, because that was not narrated except in specific circumstances, namely climbing up a mountain and the like when travelling; with regard to going up the stairs and so on, there is no such report, even though this was something known among them and they used to do it (i.e., climb up and down stairs etc). If it were prescribed, the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) would have done it or he would have taught it to his companions as he taught them what to say when entering the house and when leaving it, and other adhkar (words of remembrance) to be recited every day and night.

This is the most correct view concerning this issue.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked the following question: It says in the hadeeth that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) used to say takbeer when climbing a hill and tasbeeh when going down into a valley. Is this takbeer and tasbeeh only when travelling, or did he say takbeer – for example – at home when going up to the second and third floor? May Allah reward you with good.

He replied:

During his journeys, when the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) climbed up a hill he would say takbeer, and when he went down into a valley he would say tasbeeh. That is because the one who is above a thing may feel proud and think that he is great, so it is appropriate for him to proclaim the greatness of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, by saying: Allahu akbar. And when he descends, he is going down to a lower level, so it is appropriate for him to glorify Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, when going down. This is the context of saying takbeer and tasbeeh.

But there is no report in the Sunnah (prophetic teachings) about doing that when not travelling. Acts of worship are based on tawqeef i.e., they are limited to what is narrated in sound reports. Based on that, when a person goes up the stairs in his house he does not have to say takbeer, and when he comes downstairs he does not have to say tasbeeh. Rather that only applies in the case of travelling.

End quote from Liqaa’aat al-Baab al-Maftooh.

And Allah knows best.

 

 

Every footstep to masjid

In my childhood, my grandparents lived 2 buildings away from the masjid. We walked to masjid for salaah.

Abu Hurairah (RA) reported:

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) said,

“He who purifies (performs Wudu’) himself in his house and then walks to one of the houses of Allah (mosque) for performing an obligatory Salat, one step of his will wipe out his sins and another step will elevate his rank (in Jannah).”

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Abu Hurairah (RA reported:

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam)said, “Shall I not tell you something by which Allah effaces the sins and elevates the ranks (in Jannah).” The Companions said: “Yes (please tell us), O Messenger of Allah.”

He said, “Performing the Wudu’ properly in spite of difficult circumstances, walking with more paces to the mosque, and waiting for the next Salat (prayer) after a observing Salat; and that is Ar-Ribat, and that is Ar-Ribat.” [Muslim].

 

Flashback to Eid ul Fitr 2017 – strawberries & sawine

My posting has indeed been sparse this year, but I was going through my photos and voila – we have a post. Sister H ever so often has specials on imported strawberries, blueberries & cherries. This year, these played a major role in our Eid ul Fitr celebrations – part of the usual impromptu potluck buffet for the post-Eid salaat, part of the food gifts for various friends. I think BD baked a pineapple upside down cake or three, but memory is a little hazy on that part this year. Sawine (boiled and sweetened and spiced vermicelli pasta) is part of my Trinidadian heritage. Each year at Eid ul Fitr, my mother, whose culinary extents were limited by herself but whose flavours remain my favourite, cooked up and distributed pots of sawine to the neighbours on our street. Elaichi (cardamom), clove, raisins, sweetened milk (condensed milk), and the vermicelli. And at every Muslim home sawine was a given, and expected. Some added finely chopped nuts, some boiled with the fruits, some put out individual little bowls of the fruits & nuts so that you could garnish to your taste. My middle maternal uncle made the sawine in his house. My children expect it, and sporadically over the years, I have been prescient enough to obtain it and prepare it. Nowadays, you can purchase already parched sawine in the supermarkets in Trinidad. (Already parched (or is it patched?) sawine means that some ghee or butter or oil has been heated in a wide bottomed pot, the elaichi and sawine added and sauteed, then removed from the heat, allowed to cool, and bottled until ready to boil on Eid morning. Ah ha – it is toasted, or braised!) This year, I had to check with my Trini sources on what to add as my trusty Naparima Girls’ High School cookbook (the staple of Trini cooks:)) suggested cinnamon sticks – I did not remember that as an ingredient my mother added, and she either forgets or pretends to forget her recipes since she has happily given up cooking since my father passed away. And neither of us could get to her recipes – handwritten from her two extremely domesticated friends who wrote down the recipes for her when she moved to live independently of her parents – and which are kept in a clasp purse in one of the kitchen drawers.

So this year, Mum brought up a packet or two of already parched sawine, and I proceeded to prepare one on Eid morning. So BD, NoS, Youngest and I, partook of the sawine, and probably Aunty D. too. I added strawberries (now you see the link between Sister H’ specials and my post, don’t you?:). Enjoy. (I see that some cooks add grated ginger to the parching process as well – may try that – and we use a thicker (as if that were possible) vermicelli than the rice vermicelli or mung bean vermicelli. Some trivia – vermicelli is Italian for ‘little worms’, is thinner in diameter than spaghetti, is sometimes referred to as angel hair. Some cultures include sago in the sawine mix as well.

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Ramadan – the red beans recipe

Following on from the last post, here’s the recipe for Trini style red beans –

red kidney beans (dark red preferably)

garlic (finely chopped or minced)

green seasoning (ha! got you there)

pumpkin (I have not yet gleaned the reason for this ingredient)

onion

tomatoes

hot pepper (scotchbonnet, or habanero or any other hot pepper)

(I might add coconut milk & spinach)

I am adding two links to two chefs whom I find invaluable when I’m looking for a Trini recipe:

http://www.simplytrinicooking.com/red-beans-and-rice/

http://caribbeanpot.com/tag/trinidad-red-bean-recipe/

Ramadan – Trini style red beans for iftar

Unfortunately no photo. But that may be intentional – I have sort of decided to refrain from snapping photos of food for a bit.

Last Saturday, we joined brothers and sisters at Masjid e Quba, in Barbados, to share in the breaking of the fast. A centipede or two also joined us! Masjid e Quba is set along the base of a hillside and amongst cultivated gardens of vegetables. There are few trees, if any, and the …. easterly seaborn breezes (I wanted to use zephyr but apparently that is a westerly wind) sweep across those fields (pastures would be a more Barbadian colloquialism albeit rooted in Her Majesty’s English) with pure majesty to perpetually cool the masjid. Well, the brothers’ section and the L shaped patio at any rate. We have adequate sisters’ space (almost equal to the brothers’) but the partitions are to be modified to give us more air:). At this time, we are less green but adequately compensated by whirling fans electric.

While in the past, we have sat at dustakhans (sheets of newsprint unfurled in long lengths and set on the floor) of the masjid to share in the breaking of bread, this Ramadan we have utilised tables set along that L shaped patio.

So, you remember the mixture of ethnicities and nationalities in my family. What type of menu emanates from that melting pot of persons? (I have a non-Muslim friend who was horrified that the menu was not ‘Indian’ and I had to laugh – Islam and Ramadan span across all races). I had a Muslim friend who was looking forward to Trini roti and red beans. And we had a brother and sister who were allergic to milk (I have not quite classified their allergy – evaporated milk and coconut milk but not mayonnaise or cheddar cheese). You see the dilemma.

So, dinner yielded:

  • Dates
  • Pholorie & cocktail aloo pies with tamarind chutney
  • Water
  • homemade Chai
  • Pleasant surprises of watermelon, strawberries & sweet cherries

Post-maghrib, we had:

  • the ubiquitous macaroni pie
  • potato salad using mayonnaise & apple cider vinegar (elicited from a you tube video on recipes over the weekend)
  • chicken pelau without coconut milk
  • red beans Trini style (with some red stalk spinach thrown in)
  • grilled fish
  • orange cranberry cake (store bought by BH who dislikes store bought cake)
  • mint cheesecake brownies (this was delicious and made by BD but totally offset me by its fully chocolate appearance – I expected swirls)
  • homemade sorrel
  • homemade ginger beer
  • home mixed mauby

This really sounds like a lot, but really, portion sizes were reasonable, variety was good, and there were enough leftovers to share.

 

 

 

Trini reflections on a birthday – be-Fog-ged

The prettily decorated cupcake & server tell their own story. Especially in conjunction with the title of this post. And if I were silent, each of you would create your own story from your own inferences, selective knowledge, and personal views. So many times we colour our silences or our utterances because of knowledge we peculiarly hold. But just as many times, those colours can be filtered or shaded when that knowledge meets the light of reality.

Yes, the cake was served on my birthday. It’s a chocolate chiffon cupcake with homemade whipped cream, fresh strawberries & blackberries & chocolate drizzle. Compliments of BakerDaughter. So yes, my birthday was the occasion, but not the occasion. Be-fog-ged yet? Let us de-mist – the anniversary of my birth date was the time on which the cupcakes were served, but my birthday was not the reason for the cupcakes.

In Trinidad & Guyana, indentured servants/labourers were the replacement labour source for the sugarcane plantations, upon the abolition of slavery in the 1800s. 143,000+ indentured labourers went to Trinidad, almost 209,000 went to Guyana. These emanated from British India. The Fatel Razak which landed in Trinidad in 1838 is reputed to have brought the second set of Muslims to the Caribbean. Indentured labourers also went from other colonies.

It is reported that the ratio of males to females were 3:1 and in some cases 2:1.Despite the labour intensive days on the plantations and the many rules restricting religious and cultural practices, those practices (perhaps modified) survived. It is believed that both Hindu and Muslim labourers attended their respective religious ‘schooling’ on evenings after a day in the field. From one article I’ve read (and I cannot speak to its validity as a source),  those Muslims who congregated to observe their Eid prayers at the Palmiste Estate were flogged for offering their first Eid prayers in Trinidad. On another occasion, defenceless Muslim immigrants attempting to carry out a peaceful observance of a religious occasion  were shot by a platoon of armed policemen. Another source confirms the flogging but provides conflicting information – that Muslim religious practices were controlled and the building of mosques and the Friday congregational prayer discouraged – that Islamic community life was not transported, and the ‘Indian’-originated Muslims in Trinidad were called ‘madingas’ – in recognition of those African Muslims of the Madingo tribe. While used in a derogatory manner, the coining of that phrase by non-Muslims unknowingly reflects the recognition of racial equality amongst Muslims. This second source also states that Muslims succeeded in maintaining their religious practices by practising the fundamentals of Islam and gathering on various occasions. It is these gatherings that the author of the second source describes as an amalgamation of Hindu cultural practices with Islamic traditions.

A third author (Suresh Pillai) states: “Out of the recesses of their minds and memories they pieced together their religious and social practices and philosophies and recreated the institutions that sustain a civilization.” Pillai says: “Koran sheriff was the source of inspiration for Muslims. .There were Muslim scholars who could recite entire Koran sheriff from memory. The story of one Hajji Rukhnudeen of La Plaisance estate in Trinidad was inspiring , for he taught entire Koran to his fellow Muslims from memory under the moon light.” I had to search for the meaning of the term ‘Qur’an shareef’ as I think ‘Koran sheriff’ (a colloquialism perhaps attributable to Indo-Trinidian Muslims) was meant to be. It means the Honourable Qur’an. 

So, for the past 2+ centuries, Qur’an recitation in social gatherings has been occasioned. In Barbados, despite the number of memorisers of the Qur’an, it is not as prevalent, but that may be due to the paucity in comparative numbers. Some persons frown upon it as being innovative.

So, you wonder what any of this has to do with ‘fog’ and my birthday. (And let us accept without contradiction at this time, that the ‘celebration’ of birthdays is frowned upon in Islam because of the rationale that we ought not to be celebrating the nearing of certain death and the uncertain hereafter. It can however, be a time of reflection for us, as can any other random day. What have we done with the object of attaining one of those levels of heaven and how can we improve?)

Each of us has ‘comfort food’ – food for the soul. Each of us also has ‘comfort’ practices. My comfort practice was to invite some close friends to gather in my home to recite the Qur’an and to have lunch with us. Not everyone accepted the invitation. The fog, it appears, may have been in ascribing to me intentions that may not have been mine. A celebration of a birthday instead of a giving of thanks and sharing. An occasion not occasioned by my birthday.

My thanks to those who attended (and ate some Trini-style food). And to those whose efforts assisted in the easy-going camaraderie and fellowship. And that includes my ‘fogged’ friend.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fog/

 

Mellie and Mandela

On practically every school outing during my early years, we visited the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens in Port of Spain. This summer, I was able to revisit with BH, children, Nieces and YoungerBrother in tow. Pictured here are the Emperor Valley Zoo’s latest acquisition, 7 year old Mellie and Mandela (so much for originality). And again, we praise Allah swt:

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” (Qur’an, 6:38)”

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