Thursday, October 25, 2012

Er ... Maalish

"Hey, this water from the shower is hot!"

"Um ... try turning the tap the other way, maybe that's the cold water."

"Well, this says this is cold water. It's marked blue as well."

"Why don't you try it?"

"OK ... um .... the water is just getting hotter and hotter."

"Er ... maalish!"

Welcome to the Middle East, where the shower has two settings, hot and hotter, and maalish is a word used to smooth over everything when you can't do anything.

"This car is actually driving on the shoulder of Dubai - Abu Dhabi highway!"


"The government first declared Eid on Saturday and now is saying it's on Friday! How can you just play around with the Islamic calendar?"


"I ordered 7 bananas, you only delivered 6!"

"Sorry, sir ... Maalish?"

(As an aside, you can actually get your groceries delivered to your house, for free. I am still trying to get my head around that one.)

Can this actually work in a Western context?

"Hey! You were supposed to have sent me this report three days ago!"


"You want to go for holidays for how many weeks?!"


"This blog post has absolutely no point!"


Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Blessing in Disguise

I am currently in Dubai for a much needed vacation.

Overheard the following conversation between two at Fajr prayer at a local mosque:

Voice 1: Oh, I love coming to the mosque. Look, there's some blessing inside here, inside this community. The prayer is over, but no one wants to leave. Can you feel the rahmat, the barkat, the blessing?

Voice 2: It's just air conditioning. You know it's as hot as a furnace outside, that's why you don't want to leave ...


Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This summer I had the opportunity to visit Boston. I had always wanted to see this city - one of the few American cities with actual history (the American Revolution originated in Boston in the 1770s). Our hotel was right downtown, and I found out that Boston is a very small, walkable city.

This was the Old Boston City Hall, one of the first buildings built in the USA in the French Second Empire style of architecture. Of course, it also housed a famous steak house (mmm ... steak!).

Boston has what is called the "Freedom Trail".

This is a red trail engraved (or marked) along the pavement that goes all around Boston and stops at each significant landmark connected to the American Revolution. So you can start anywhere on this trail and when you are done, you have walked around Boston and seen their most important sights. Highly useful for OCDC tourists like me!

Below is The Old South Meeting House (built 1729) that gained fame as the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, and the Old State House, where the British massacred Americans (not quite the "special relationship" then).

The weather was great, and I walked over the Feneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

It did not feel like I was visiting New England, as famous for its cold winters as it is for seafood cuisine. The temperature was in the high 30s (celcius) and everyone was out in the street in the bare minimums. There were street performers and everyone was eating on the patios. I felt like I was in Los Angeles.

Boston also has the oldest restaurant in the United States - the Union Oyster House.

I loved it so much I went there twice during our stay.

Speaking about food, I had some of the best seafood dishes I have ever had in North America. As a Muslim, you have to be careful though - even though all seafood is allowed in Islam, in Boston what passes for seafood may not be seafood! For example I was surprised to find that the famous clam chowder (which you would think would have, oh I don't know, clam) contains pork. So I had the fish chowder instead. Shown below is my favourite - the shrimp and scallops at Union Oyster House, the soft shell crab at this place whose name I don't remember, and the tuna special at Legal Seafood.


Boston is also famous for two institutions of higher learning, the Massuchussets Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard.


I was really impressed with MIT. I visited their labs (everything is open and you can walk in anywhere) and their research looked like it was 20 years ahead of the rest of the world. Then I realized the high, high, high tuition amount kids at these institutions pay to attend.

I love cities with rivers in them - it adds to a dynamic and vibrant scene, especially in the summer.

Overall, Boston is one of those American cities with a lot of character. It's small enough to be cosy, yet offers a lot to do in 2-3 days.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Confessions of a New Parent

Things not to say to your wife when she is in a 20-hour labour:
"Oh, man, this hospital doesn't have wi-fi!"

"I have been standing for an hour! My feet are killing me."

Things a nurse shouldn't say to you just because you are desi:

"You have a beautiful baby. Namaste!" Namaste?!!!

Things then you should (probably) do in front of said nurse (but will end up doing in private):

Say the Azaan in the baby's right ear. Ikamah in the left. Watch baby smile.

The time when your baby looks like you:

The time when your relatives see the baby to when her relatives see the baby.

Things you miss as a new parent:

Free time.

Going to the movies.

Free time.

Coming home from work to a fresh home-cooked meal.

A clean house.

Free time.

Ability to go out at will without worrying about feeding time and nappies.

Did I mention free time?

Why it's all (and much, much, more) so worth it:

When his first word is "Abbu" (father)! Well, my wife thinks differently but this is my blog ...

Every day I thank Allah for His marvellous gift and blessing (amongst others).

And remember! Your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If you are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; But if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.” (Quran 14:7)

We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: So We gave him (the gifts), of Hearing and Sight. We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will). (Quran 76:2-3)

And He gives you all that you ask for. But if you count the favours of Allah, never will you be able to number them. Verily, man is generally most unjust and ungrateful. (Quran 14:34)

Please keep our new bundle of joy and our family in your prayers, everyone.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Where are the Girls in this Mosque?

I was shopping in another part of Toronto the other day, accompanied by my siblings, and it was time for the Maghreb prayer. There was a big mosque nearby and we drove there. There was one entrance called "Sisters' Entrance", my sister entered from there, while my brother and I walked around the mosque to enter via the main entrance - aka the "brother's entrance".

It was a very nice, huge, ornate, well designed mosque. It was also quite new; the mosque used to be two portables fitting around 40 people before, now this was a proper mosque accomodating thousands. The main prayers were over; so my brother and I prayed by ourselves. The main prayer hall was divided into two sections - a glass barrier separating the dimly lit "private" space from the main hall - this is where we prayed. The sisters' area was upstairs.
As we finished praying, I noticed there was a dars (a lesson) going on. I sat down and listened for a bit. The speaker was an old bearded man, he sat in the centre of the main hall surrounded by kids and adults, and he was speaking in flawless English. The topic of the speech was taking lessons from the life of the Prophets and applying it to modern times. As I listened, I realized the speaker was really good, and the speech was excellent. The kids listened with rapt attention.
And yet ... take a look at the picture below.

Everyone shown around the speaker is a male. The adults were male, the kids were male, and of course the speaker was male. Where are the females.
"Oh, they are upstairs, listening too," Answered someone, when I asked them. "We have speakers and close circuit TV."
This is the problem, the big problem, in today's Muslim organizations. If you take a look at this picure, there is a LOT of empty space behind the men, in the MAIN prayer hall. Why can't girls sit here, in close proximity to the speaker, so they can personally ask him questions, or be inspired in way that only a face-to-face conversation can? Sitting behind the men will satisfy any requirements that orthodox Muslims can throw at them, and not to mention, teaching women this way is actually a sunnah.
I remember going to these classes, sometimes as a kid, often as an adult, when a well known speaker would come to the mosque, and being inspired by the Islamic knowledge imparted. If my sister or wife would attend, sometimes I would wonder why they were not similarly impressed. Hard to be impressed when you are looking at a curtain, I think!
I was reading Cartoon Muhammad's article "The Need for Muslim Women Leaders". He is on the mark on how certain segments of the mosque community (let's be candid - it's the more "religious" folk) who construct barriers (literally and figuratively) against Muslim women speakers.
However, the problem that I saw in this mosque, in this dars, prevent women from seeking knowledge in the first place. Muslim Student Associations all across Canada talk about Israel Apartheid, but we have to be honest and admit there remains an Apartheid system in many of our mosques that discriminate against half our community - the girls.
Contrast this to the times of Caliph Umar (the Caliph of the Muslim empire!) being corrected by a woman during a Friday Khutbah! Or even contrast this with the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. When I was there, the first few rows were occupied by men, and the next few rows were occupied by women. Sisters conversed with the imam (who was standing, in person, a mere 50 feet away from them). And this was no progressive "flaky" imam, this was Imam Hamid Slimi who also teaches at the prestigious Islamic Institute of Toronto.
If you are a woman, which mosque would you go to?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why I Prefer Chinese Restaurants over Pakistani

In Toronto we are blessed to have such high quality Pakistani and Chinese restaurants, that too halal, in a major Western city. Over the last few years though, I find myself saying "Chinese" whenever someone asks my vote for a restaurant to go to. The other day I was at a Pakistani restaurant, and I found myself (much to The Wife's chagrin) mentally composing a blog post on why Pakistani restaurants suck and why Chinese restaurants rule.

Here's the top three reasons:

1. Where's the beef (or chicken, or lamb)?

I was at this Pakistani place and we ordered 'butter chicken'.

The dish cost something like $8 and there was 4 pieces of small boneless chicken in it, and the rest was the gravy. Yes, four. So, in essence, I paid $2 for each nugget-sized chicken piece.

Now compare this to what you get when you order a chilli chicken dish (around the same price - $8).

Not only do you get ALL THAT chicken, but most of the time they also give you a plate of rice to go with it!

2. No Tension Eating

The acute problem of portion sizes makes itself keenly felt when you are eating at a Pakistani restaurant. At one corner of your mind, you have to remind yourself that you have approximately x2 area of naan left. This has to go with y3 volume of butter chicken gravy remaining, divided by z number of people, so eat accordingly.

At a Chinese restaurant, you just eat. There's enough for everyone. Hell, there's enough for everyone PLUS you get to take some home AND have it for lunch at work the next day.

3. Chinese food is something different.

You see this food?

I have no idea what this is, but I know it's halal, and tasty. Pakistani food, well, while exotic, it's something I can make at home.

Yes, the taste may not exactly be the same, but Shaan Masala Zindabad. With that, you can make ANY thing. Chinese food, no matter how much you try, is good only in the restaurant. Plus, I did try to make chilli chicken at home once. It costs more to buy the meat and ingredients and factor in my labour cost than to just drive to the restaurant and order a take out (the concerns that raises might be a post for another day).

So, bottom line, why would I pay more, to eat less, of what I can make in my kitchen anyways? That's why I love Chinese restaurants.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I was so nervous today

So Sachin finally scores his hundredth 100, and it's the SECOND piece of news on Cricinfo ?! hehehe ...

Shabash Bangladesh!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Chicken or Egg Paradox and Islam

Me: "You know, I have NEVER understood the chicken and egg paradox."

Wife: "Oh, it's simple. Which came first, the chicken, or the egg? It's it's the egg, who laid it? If it's the chicken, and all chickens come from eggs, so ..."

Me: "I understand the paradox all right. I am just saying it's NOT a paradox. I know the answer. It's THE CHICKEN."

Wife [puzzled]: "So how can you be so sure? Prove it."

Me [with an extremely self satisfied smug]: "Easy. This paradox depends on a non-defined starting point. Well, we all know Allah created everything. He started everything. So, He created a pair of chickens. They then laid eggs, and so on. Ergo, the chicken came first. QED."

There was a pause. This was it, I thought. A seminal moment in history. The age old paradox solved by Islam. Islam - the religion that has the answer to everything.

And then ...

Wife: "What if Allah created a pair of eggs?"

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Why Muslim Feminists Don't Win

Amongst my friends, I have been told that I have what can be termed as "traditional" or "conservative" views. I don't think Islam needs any reformation (now Muslims are another story), I don't think it's a travesty women cannot lead a mixed gender congregation, and so on. Yet, being of this generation, I am more liberal than say, my father.

So the other day we were talking about our local mosque. To my surprise, he agreed it's a travesty that women are put behind a barrier (or on another floor), where they can't directly see the imam. There was a problem with the microphone and close circuit TV last Friday, and the women couldn't follow the prayers. We both like to go to IIT, where the prayer hall is a large open hall and the men pray in front of the women, with no dividers. Another time we attended the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, where the women pray directly behind the men and again, no divider. The imam listened to the questions posed by the women and answered immediately, without any notes being passed as in our local mosque. Both my father and I agreed that it was a joke that our mosque tried to make women and men exit from separate doors when the mosque was packed (and it was a fire hazard). They allowed men and women to enter from the same doors, so what is the trouble? And if I wanted to attend a lecture in the mosque with my wife, why does she have to sit in another section?

So when I see the legitimate concerns posed by many women frustrated by their treatment in South Asian or Arab dominated mosques, I feel their pain. However, if change is needed, they need to win over the support of people like us, who believe in traditional teachings and yet see room for a lot of improvement within the Islamic framework.

So here is why I think Muslim "feminists" are not taken seriously.

1. They don't present a credible image.

It's hard to take someone speaking about Islamic daleel and fiqh and jurisprudence when they look like this. Like it or not, you have to make yourself presentable and look credible, otherwise no one will listen to what you have to say. Any Muslim will agree that modesty is one defining character of a decent Muslim, men AND women. While no one is arguing everyone has to be dressed in a scarf or niqab to be taken seriously, sleeveless blouses and short skirts give the idea that you have another secret agenda not limited to women's emancipation in mosques.

Think about why the above feminist may not be taken as seriously, as say this next one:

It's about presenting a credible image.

2. They think men and women are the same in Islam.

Strictly speaking, technically this is not true. Islam discriminates against men and favours women. For example, on the Day of Judgement, Allah will not ask a mother why she didn't provide for her child. It will be asked of the child's father. He will be questioned as to why he couldn't impart Islamic teachings to his children. A woman is not asked about Jihad or why she didn't go to the mosque and watched Humsafar instead. We men don't have Paradise under our feet, women do. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) promised Paradise for a father of two daughters. No such promise was made for a man who fathered two sons. And so on.

So when you try to make a woman equal to a man, you have to be aware this was the fight of the Western feminists. For example, this text is from the Catholic Encyclopedia today:
The female sex is in some respects inferior to the male sex, both as regards body and soul.
As can be seen, the Old Testament blames women for Adam's fall from Heaven (as a result of which she is "punished" with child birth and menstruation pains). This was the prevailing attitude that Western women had to fight, when they were considered inferior in every way.

In Islam, the battle is different. Women have certain God-given rights, such as access to the mosque, access to the imam, legal rights, decision making rights etc. that have now been taken away from them (hello Saudi Arabia and your stupid driving ban). Those are the fights the feminists need to fight for. There is no need to make women to be equal to men, we need women to exercise their own God-given rights.

3. They pick the wrong fights.

By trying to say a woman can lead a mixed gender prayer, you are picking the wrong fight. A women's position is neither elevated nor her difficulties decreased by making her the imam. Technically speaking the imam is responsible for all the mistakes made during prayer, while those that follow get all the rewards of the prayer. In strict Islamic law, certain responsibilities (and its pitfalls) are for men alone; bringing a women here does her no benefits. Rather, the fight should be as to why she can't see her imam or ask him a question or is being deprived of an Islamic education from a learned scholar.

Similarly some are upset that a brother gets more in inheritance than a sister, from the same dad. The same feminists also acknowledge that when a man gets a property, he can be responsible for supporting his mother, his sisters, his kids, his father, and in some cases, his grandparents and his aunts. When a woman gets a property, she does not have to support anyone. If you want to give a woman equal rights to inheritance, are you prepared to also put on her all those claims of support? So in effect, you are burdening her more than Allah has burdened her, and this is supposed to benefit her?

This is because you have picked the wrong fight. The proper fight is when brothers take over their sister's inheritance, because she "is of feeble mind and cannot manage it". The proper fight is when a wife is not given her due Mahr because her father or brothers "forgave it" from the husband. The proper fight is when a woman is not allowed to own a business or run her monetary affairs without her husband's permission.

Not that she has less financial responsibilities and you want to burden her with more.

This is why feminists in Saudi Arabia (of all places) were spectacularly successful in getting rights for women to work (which they have in Islam but are denied in some Muslim countries) in lingerie shops, because they asked for their rights as women to be respected within Islam.

So, in conclusion:

Provide a modest, credible image.

Be well verses in Islamic knowledge and jurisprudence regarding women.

Pick the right battles.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Few Facts about "Honour" Killing

After a gruelling 10-week trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict in the Shafia "Honour" Killing murder trial in Kingston, Ontario. A father, a mother and a brother were found guilty of killing their own family members, all female. Despite the horrific nature of the crime, the usual suspects are already out claiming that "honour" killing is an epidemic in the Muslim community.

Tarek Fatah has already targeted multiculturalism, saying "everyone wanted to protect multiculturalism — not the lives of these young women" and that "Muslims consider women the possession of men". Given that Fatah and the MCC enjoy the ear of the Conservatives, it was no surprise to see Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, announce "the Shafia trial was a wake-up call to a lot of people that thought honour-motivated violence doesn't exist in Canada".

So here are some facts about honour killing and Canada.

  1. Since 2002, there has been 13 cases of "Honour" killings in the whole of Canada.

    13 murders. 10 years.

    To put that into perspective, in 2011 the city of Toronto had 45 homicides (down from 60 in 2010). By March of 2012, already 20 people will have lost their lives to murder.

    To recap, more black young men will lose their lives this year in the streets of Toronto than women who will die due to honour killing in the last ten years in the WHOLE country.

  2. Do you think it's only Muslims who have an "Honour" Killing problem? According to a poll done by the BBC’s Asian network, 1 in 10 of the 500 Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims surveyed said they would condone any murder of someone who threatened their family’s honor. So it doesn't matter if you are a Christian or a Muslim, the number of people in your community that condones "honour" killing is the same.

    And you think it's an Eastern problem? The survey was done in Britain. So to recap, Christians in Britain have an "Honour" killing problem, just like Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.

  3. Women are killed only in an "honour" killing.

    Think again. In 2010 in Canada, there were 89 victims of homicide by an intimate partner, with common-law spouses accounted for 45% of homicides committed by an intimate partner, followed by legal spouses and dating partners, both at 28%.

    To recap, the guy you are casually dating has a higher chance of killing you than your father in an "honour" killing case. Even if you are Muslim. Especially if you are Muslim.
So, to recap

Honour killing is a horrible crime. It is a dastardly and cowardly act.

However, it is NOT an epidemic in Canada.

It is NOT even the most serious crime against women in Canada.

It is HARDLY on the radar when cold hard statistics are taken into account considering crime in Canada.

Worldwide, it is not focused or prevalent in the Muslim community.

I am really sorry about those Shafia girls - but seriously, stop blaming me or my community for something one man did.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How To Plan A Trip To Europe - Part 1

I get a lot of hits on this blog searching for "Europe vacation planning" or seeking specific details of an European trip. They are probably attracted to my Europe posts. Even though this is a bit earlier in the year, it's never to early to plan your European vacation! Here's some advice I can give to anyone doing a tour of Europe.

Everyone Should Do It
Travelling through Europe via the train and experiencing all the diverse cultures is everything they make it out to be, and much more. It had been one of my life's to-do items, and I wasn't disappointed. And you won't be either. There's no vacation like an Euro-vacation.

Start With a Map
Europe is big!
When we started planning our vacation, I wanted to visit everything! Germany, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, you name it - I wanted to see it! I wanted to visit all the big cities and little places! Soon though, we realized with the limit of our holiday time and cost, we had to prioritize. So my first suggestion would be - get a map of Europe.

That way, you can see how far apart the places are that you want to visit. Some cities are of course a 'must-see' (it depends on you) and some are 'nice-to-visit'. With a little bit of googling for travel times, you can have an idea of what cities you can reasonably visit with the time you have. For me, it meant omitting Germany and Netherlands as they were too far away from the other places I wanted to see.

Early Planner vs. the Impulsive Traveller

While there is some romance in the idea of not knowing your destination and deciding it on the day, I root for being the early planner every time. I travelled to Europe in July, but by March had all my hotels, tickets, etc. booked. While this does have some drawbacks (I wanted to later add Napoli to my trip, but changing the air tickets was not possible) I saved over $1500 by my calculations by booking in March rather than waiting till May. Basically the earlier you book, the cheaper some hotels and rail/air tickets are. I knew exactly what dates I would be travelling from one city to the next and had my route/trip planned to the minute.

Rail Passes vs. Tickets vs. Reservations

Rail travel is the way to go around and see Europe. Unless you have some specific place you want to visit that has no public transit (impossible in most of Europe) or you want the possibilities that a car gives you, rail travel is the way to go in Europe. The network is well connected, super fast and you get to see a lot of the scenery as you travel.

Buying rail passes for Europe can be complicated. You have to know the differences between tickets, passes, and reservations. Here's the primer:

When you buy a tickets from A to B, you can journey from A to B. For example, buying a ticket from Paris to Basel will allow you to travel from Paris to Basel only, on the day and time you bought the ticket for.

When you buy a multi-day pass, you can use one day of the pass to travel on that day on any participating train in any participating country. When you buy the pass, you can choose the number of days, the countries the pass will be valid in, and the class (economy or first class, etc.) and pay accordingly.

However, and this is the big however, some routes ALSO require you to buy a reservation if you are using a pass. So for example to travel from Paris to Basel using one day of the pass, you also have to buy a reservation on that route. Your pass will NOT BE VALID on that route without the reservation. A reservation costs way less than a ticket, but you still need it (for specific routes).

You can visit to get started.

To Be Continued ...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Things I Learnt From The Movie Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

  1. You can make a fully functional website for a hotel chain of hotels AND have it be on the top of Google search list, all in one day.

  2. If you walk into a Punjabi gangster's house in the middle of the night with his drunk passed out daughter in your arms, declare yourself as her boyfriend who has been clubbing with her when she is supposed to be at a friend's wedding, the gangster is likely to buy your house and pay by cash.

  3. In India, everyone buys land and property by exchanging bags of cash as deposit, without checking the land value, or even the title deed. After all, how can you not trust this face?

  4. If you are a steel titan and earn over $30 million a year, you will sell a painting for cash on advance to save Rupees 30,000 in tax.

  5. The ringtone that is one the biggest Bollywood hits of the decade has only 7 downloads in a country that has over 881 million cellphone users. And downloading a ringtone is the ONLY way to install a ringtone on today's smartphones.

  6. When you have a photo of the man who conned you out of your savings, AND 3 witnesses of similar cons, AND the present location of the man, do NOT go to the police.

  7. Everyone in Goa is at the beach with well oiled abs. In a city of 1.3 million, it's easy to spot one man on the beach.

  8. In India, to get billionaires to invest in hotels you are planning to build on an already saturated market, it is important to throw a big party. Business plans, market evaluations, cash flow statements, revenue predictions etc. are for suckers. And you don't even need to finalize a site for the hotel. You just need a party on a boat. WTF.

  9. Then, after 8 billionaires DO decide to invest in your scheme (WHY?), you decide they are not really necessary, as your dad is rich enough.
More Bollywood Lessons:

Things I Learnt From The Movie Race

Things I Learnt From The Movie Train

Things I Learnt From The Movie Vivah

Monday, January 09, 2012

Wife Space

Wife to Husband: We need a new wardrobe. All our wardrobes are so small. I need some where to store my new clothes. Right now they are all in a box. We need a new wardrobe. A big one. Are you listening to me?

Husband dutifully goes out with wife and together they select a new wardrobe. Husband lugs the furniture back to their place and spends the weekend assembling it.

Husband (proudly displaying the assembled wardrobe to wife): What do you think?

Wife: Hmm ... it's too big.