I’m going to be very Twenty Fifteen here and post a listicle. It won’t be utilitarian like “50 life hacks everyone needs to know”, nor numbing like “21 Magical Harry Potter Kitchen Items You Need Right Now.” I’m simply going to share some relatively easy, surprisingly good options that exist when one isn’t feeling cookies or biscuits.
There are certainly no limits when it comes to tea. The british celebrate it with an array of snacks including cucumber sandwiches and jam biscuits. Others enjoy it with fresh made bread and yogurt. But we live in America. The race for life leaves little time to prepare a high-tea spread let alone homemade naan in a wood-fire oven.
Consuming 2-3 cups of tea per day, with and without milk, I’ve come to collect a few easy favorites that go well with tea:
1/ French fries
Sweets aren’t all that make tea time swell. A small bowl of crispy french fries, even some potato chips, can taste great with a cup of sweetened tea or chai.
(Tip: specifically try thick, crinkly french fries with earl grey tea)
“Who eats chocolate with chai?” my mom asks. My brother and I do. Of course there’s some technique involved. It could be a hershey kiss if that’s what you fancy, but chocolate with a little more substance works better. Half a Bounty bar, some variety of dark chocolate, one of the many Cadbury creations—it’s worth it to try a few kinds to see what you like.
And then how is it done? Also up to you. Taking a bite of chocolate, letting it sit and then drinking a sip of tea over it is great. This works especially well with dark chocolate. Dipping the chocolate in the tea for a second and taking a bite is good too. The chocolate will be slightly melted as you have it then. Or you can simply alternate bites of chocolate and sips of tea.
3/ Apples with peanut butter
It’s a healthy one! Pick your favorite kind of apple and slice half of it (or full, but it gets to be a lot especially if you’re having milk tea). Take out a few spoons of peanut butter and dip the slices into it.
(Tip: if you don’t mind ‘chunky’ peanut butter, it’s a lot easier getting it onto the apple than the smooth variety)
4/ Rich chocolate cake
The benefit to this one is that you can easily omit the tea in your sugar because the richness of the cake and/or frosting will compensate for the lack of sugar in your tea. Also, cakes taste great with tea!
5/ Cake rusk
This one’s from the heritage. If you happen to be near an Indian or Pakistani grocery store, there’s something called Cake Rusks in the cookies, baked goods section. Simply put they’re a hard, biscotti like creation made by baking strips of cake until they’re firm and golden.
What’s the big deal? Well, once you dip a cake rusk in your tea, it absorbs some of the liquid, making the dipped part spongy like a cake. If it’s a good cake rusk, it will also give your tea a very slight but nice flavor.
There are several brands and I’ve had some very good and some very bad ones, but unfortunately haven’t collected brand names yet. I will update this post as soon as I do that. If you live in Chicago however, the cake rusks sold by Tahoora are probably the best I’ve had.
(Tip: Cake rusks are a lot better in milk tea)
The importance of salah is emphasized indisputably in the Qur’an and sunnah. And the very significant prerequisite to our salah is Wudu. We are encouraged to make wudu throughout the day. In addition to cleansing us physically, it has great spiritual benefit. Our Prophet alayhis salam taught us that perfecting wudu is half of faith.
In one hadith, Prophet Muhammad alayhis salam said: Were it not for the fact that I know my ummah would have found it difficult, I would have commanded them to do wudu every time they prayed. Therefore even if we have a valid wudu, the Prophet alayhis salam would have encouraged us to make wudu again before praying the next salah.
We are told that wudu cleanses us of impurities that cannot be seen, that our sins are expelled with every drop of water that drips from us. Abu Umamah narrates that the Prophet alayhis salam said:
“Whoever stands up to perform his wudu, intending to offer salah, then cleans his hands, the sins of his two hands fall out with the first drop of water. Then, when he rinses his mouth, and draws water into his nose and expels it, the sins of his tongue and two lips fallout with the first drop of water. Then, as he cleans his face the sins of his hearing and seeing fallout with the first drop (of water). Then, when he cleans his two arms including the elbows and his two feet including the ankles, he becomes free of all his offenses and sins, just as he was the day his mother gave him birth.” He (then) said: “When he stands for salah Allah elevates his position and if he (merely) sits (without standing for salah) even then his sitting is free of sins.” (Musnad Ahmad)
Yasir Qadhi, in his khutbah on wudu mentioned that when wudu is made perfectly, the beauty of the believer on the Day of Judgment will be shown and demonstrated wherever the wudu was perfected. There will be light emanating from those limbs that were washed during wudu.
In another hadith our Prophet alayhis salam said:
“Whoever performs wudu, making wudu well, then says: (Ashhadu an la ilaha illallah, wahdahu la sharika lahu, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan-abduhu wa rasuluhu, Allahummajalni minat tawwabin, waj’alni minal mutatahhirin) ‘I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone, there are no partners for Him. And I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. (Allahummaj-‘alni minat-tawwabina, waj-‘alni minal-mutatahhirin) ‘O Allah! Make me among the repentant, and make me among those who purify themselves.’ Then eight gates of Paradise are opened for him, that may enter by whichever of them wishes.” 
This hadith means that whoever perfects his wudu and then says the above dhikr, our Prophet alayhis salam said that all eight doors of Jannah will be flung open for him just after one wudu and dhikr made in the proper manner. This hadith shows us that the wudu is so beloved that the doors of Jannah fly open for the person who has completed it correctly.
A couple of Ramadans ago my friend ran across a video explaining the method in which the Prophet alayhis salam would make wudu. After trying it out, we spoke to each other about the difference we found it made. From a worldly perspective it takes so much effort to complete wudu in the way shown that we are less likely to be frivolous in our actions afterward. On the same note, it makes us more conscious while doing every step of the wudu, in turn making us more conscious during salah.
Additionally, the video shows that not a large amount of water is needed to make wudu. In my own experience, making wudu with a smaller amount of water, especially when placed in a container as opposed to flowing from the tap, resulted in a much better wudu. With less water we become more aware of what we intend to do with it in the first place. It gives the water a purpose and we are more conscious to cleanse our skin better because of the limit in quantity in contrast to a thoughtless outpouring of water. The limitation makes us more conscious, cleanses better, and saves water.
The method is shown in the video link below:
Additionally, Yasir Qadhi’s explanation on wudu was very interesting and much more comprehensive. Much of the material in this post has been extracted from his talk on the subject. For further viewing: Yasir Qadhi’s khutbah on wudu
As the New Year approached, and listicles started appearing on social media, I thought of what New Years-y post I could do. Maybe one or two cell phone images from each month would be a nice summing up.
But how presumptuous of me—first to forget just how many pictures I take from my phone, and second, to think I could add up the year in a few minutes. As I went through the image history on my phone, Nietzsche’s words on self-discovery rang in my head: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?”
Looking at my phone left me flummoxed. What should I choose to say uplifted my soul? The otherworldly lushness of the summer I came back to in June, or the most lovely autumn I’ve ever seen in my 13 years in Chicago. Should I be thankful for a dream come true visiting Vancouver, or four trips to Canada in one year, each one so dear. What about Ramadan this year, what about the qir’ah recording from Fajr that one day? And April? April and all its poetry. And Adele’s Hello, but also Vespertina, also Hol Baumann, Yelawolf, Hiltop Hoods, Islands. What about the day in January I felt broken, but wasn’t left to break. What about the Surah Kahf series and Beginning and the End. That book from Annan I recommend to everyone now. The movie that felt so good I saw it twice on screen. All the tuna. All the runs to Lago. Stranded on Prairie. The city again. Friends returned, or maybe me. All the art that was made. Writing. Exchanges. Unexpected, wonderful encounters. Muhsen—he’s a moth. The day of Arafah. Learning, living that Allah is Greater. Neural nets. AI. Vectors? Really? Apple picking happened. The animation show of shows. Lost and found. All dressed chips and the lengths traveled. Inside a novel. Tea. Maple syrup. 118 illustrations. Crossing paths. Across borders. Across seas. All the many homes. Leaving all of them. And what elation, to breathe again, after years? Allah is Greater.
I don’t know. I can watch the eloquence sail away from me as I type. Two nights ago I started writing all the things from this year that were so great, extracted from my phone, conversations, writing, memory and incomplete by far still. This is the third night I’ve sat and thought about 2015, each time completely weak at what the year was. I feel so grateful.
No ode to 2015 like the year itself. Allah is so much Greater.
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.