Friday, June 24, 2016

My Son Is of My Family

Asalamu Alaykom,

Today, we reached the eleventh surah in Quran.  That makes us sound very diligent about reading Quran this Ramadan.  The truth is that it has taken us three Ramadans to reach this point.  I read the Quran to El Kid, but we don't zoom through.  We end up discussing and exploring meaning.  Our discussions are what every parent dreams of, but our page count is not anything to brag about.

Surah Hud explores the idea that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.  Messengers (peace be upon them all) were sent with "glad tidings" or at least that's what it says in my Mohammed Asad translation.  Honestly, it makes me think of the Christmas carol line, "Glad tidings we bring to you and your kin.  We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"  Anyway, The Truth can be delivered to your community, but that doesn't mean anybody is going to accept it.

Prophet Noah/Nuh had the task of being a loner.  He was different.  Not many accepted his ideas.  I understand him---not even his own son agreed with him.  Recently, I've had dealings with my oldest son that have us looking at life from two different angles.  I can understand the amount of anguish involved with wanting the best for your son and not being able to make it happen.  Again, you can't force someone to accept what you want for them---in any regard.

There has to be free will.  We can always offer, but then we also have to accept when it is not wanted.  Often, the people we want to accept Islam the most are the ones who are the least interested.  We have to let it go.

Here is the section from Surah Hud which tells us about Prophet Noah/Nabi Nuh

In the beginning, Noah really tries:

25. And indeed We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people (and he said): "I have come to you as a plain warner."

26. "That you worship none but Allah, surely, I fear for you the torment of a painful Day."

27. The chiefs of the disbelievers among his people said: "We see you but a man like ourselves, nor do we see any follow you but the meanest among us and they (too) followed you without thinking. And we do not see in you any merit above us, in fact we think you are liars."

28. He said: "O my people! Tell me, if I have a clear proof from my Lord, and a Mercy (Prophethood, etc.) has come to me from Him, but that (Mercy) has been obscured from your sight. Shall we compel you to accept it (Islamic Monotheism) when you have a strong hatred for it?

29. "And O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but Allah. I am not going to drive away those who have believed. Surely, they are going to meet their Lord, but I see that you are a people that are ignorant.

30. "And O my people! Who will help me against Allah, if I drove them away? Will you not then give a thought?

31. "And I do not say to you that with me are the Treasures of Allah, "Nor that I know the Ghaib (unseen); "nor do I say I am an angel, and I do not say of those whom your eyes look down upon that Allah will not bestow any good on them. Allah knows what is in their inner-selves (as regards belief, etc.). In that case, I should, indeed be one of the Zalimun (wrong-doers, oppressors, etc.)."

32. They said: "O Nuh (Noah)! You have disputed with us and much have you prolonged the dispute with us, now bring upon us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful."

33. He said: "Only Allah will bring it (the punishment) on you, if He will, and then you will escape not.

34. "And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you good counsel, if Allah's Will is to keep you astray. He is your Lord! and to Him you shall return."

35. Or they (the pagans of Makkah) say: "He (Muhammad pbuh) has fabricated it (the Qur'an)." Say: "If I have fabricated it, upon me be my crimes, but I am innocent of (all) those crimes which you commit."

Then he realizes that he's never going to be voted Mr. Popularity:

36. And it was inspired to Nuh (Noah): "None of your people will believe except those who have believed already. So be not sad because of what they used to do.

He obeys the command to build the ark, even though he was laughed at:

37. "And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our Inspiration, and address Me not on behalf of those who did wrong; they are surely to be drowned."

38. And as he was constructing the ship, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they made a mockery of him. He said: "If you mock at us, so do we mock at you likewise for your mocking.

39. "And you will know who it is on whom will come a torment that will cover him with disgrace and on whom will fall a lasting torment."


40. (So it was) till then there came Our Command and the oven gushed forth (water like fountains from the earth). We said: "Embark therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your family, except him against whom the Word has already gone forth, and those who believe. And none believed with him, except a few."

41. And he [Nuh (Noah)] said: "Embark therein, in the Name of Allah will be its moving course and its resting anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Tafsir At-Tabari, Vol. 12, Page 43)

His son isn't going with him.  This is the part that chokes me up:

42. So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst the waves like mountains, and Nuh (Noah) called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart), "O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers."

I really understood better this year the last ditch effort Noah was making.  The son wasn't on the ship.  The waves were already rolling in.  Honestly?  It was too late.  Noah called to his son who was now far away.  Why?  The disbelieving son had distanced himself from his father; the father still reached out to the disbelieving son.

43. The son replied: "I will betake myself to a mountain, it will save me from the water." Nuh (Noah) said: "This day there is no saviour from the Decree of Allah except him on whom He has mercy." And a wave came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned.

It's not that the son doesn't understand there is danger; he simply can't follow his dad.  There is a BOAT in front of him with his loving father once again begging him to jump on, but he can't.  The son is so stubborn.  He tries to think up another way to stay alive.  THERE'S A BOAT! but the son tries to find a mountain.  Subhanallah.  

Before we all think of the people we know who won't jump on our boats, we have to acknowledge that there's been a number of boats we ourselves refused.  Life is so hard when we are hard-headed.  Sadly, Noah's son right there and then---pretty much in the middle of stating how he was capable of doing it differently---has a wave rise up and drown him.

Noah saw that.  Noah saw his son's face, saw his son's hope in finding a way out of the disaster (as long as it didn't mean listening to his father), and then saw the water pull him under.  That's horrible.  That's not easily forgotten.  

The flood subsides thanks to the Grace of God:

44. And it was said: "O earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withhold (your rain)." And the water was diminished (made to subside) and the Decree (of Allah) was fulfilled (i.e. the destruction of the people of Nuh (Noah). And it (the ship) rested on Mount Judi, and it was said: "Away with the people who are Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doing)!"

That is MAJOR drama!  The flood, the earth swallowing water, the sky ceasing its rain, the ship on a mountain?!  If you were making a movie from this story line, you'd been working for months on these special effects.  Remember that Prophet Noah is in the center of it all---manning the ship through turbulent waters and pounding rain, and finally coming resting on dry land .  Right after he is saved, he is told that alllllllllll the people who teased him are gone.

What is Prophet Noah's first thought? 

45. And Nuh (Noah) called upon his Lord and said, "O my Lord! Verily, my son is of my family! And certainly, Your Promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges."

No matter what monumental challenge Prophet Noah had survived, his heart was still connected to what he had lost.  This year, that really hit me.  I've always felt a special affinity for this story as it relates to me and my family.  However, this is the first time I cried over these words because they simply rang so true.  The fact that God had safely brought Noah through the hardest time in his life wasn't on his mind.  Despite all our blessings, we all do mourn whatever we have to let go.

Noah wasn't sounding 100% on board with what had just happened.  If he was a prophet, then why had God let his son drown?

God answers:

46. He said: "O Nuh (Noah)! Surely, he is not of your family; verily, his work is unrighteous, so ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge! I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorants."

God sets Noah's mind to right with wiping away his doubts.  No, that wasn't a son who could come to follow the straight path.  It wasn't going to happen.  Besides that, Noah needed to simply believe in God and accept God's ways.  That's actually funny.  

God tells Noah to preach to the people---he does it.

God tells Noah to build a ship in the desert---he does it.

God tells Noah to gather up the animals---he does it.

Noah is FULLY believing and accomplishing every task until it comes to his family.  This is why the Quran says that children are a trial.  They aren't really ours.  We have them on loan (same as our bodies).  Yet, we want to think otherwise; we want to hold on to them as if they are an extension of ourselves.  They have their own minds and their own paths which is already known to Allah.

Noah realizes that he's gone too far.

47. Nuh (Noah) said: "O my Lord! I seek refuge with You from asking You that of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have Mercy on me, I would indeed be one of the losers."

That's the moment of letting go.

48. It was said: "O Nuh (Noah)! Come down (from the ship) with peace from Us and blessings on you and on the people who are with you (and on some of their off spring), but (there will be other) people to whom We shall grant their pleasures (for a time), but in the end a painful torment will reach them from Us."

This is where the story ends, but Allah speaks to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in what has to be the most amazing story summation. 

49. This is of the news of the unseen which We reveal unto you (O Muhammad pbuh ), neither you nor your people knew them before this. So be patient. Surely, the (good) end is for the Muttaqun (pious)


Don't be afraid to build your ship, to board it, and prepare yourselves for the future.  Your family---especially your children---are to be invited on your journey of faith, but they can't be forced.  

Stay buoyant this Ramadan and always.

Monday, June 20, 2016

MayFly Birthday Flew By

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is a pic from the 48th birthday.  That's funny!  I should have written MY 48th birthday.  I guess I'm still not fully claiming it.

What you're seeing is the dessert tray I brought out after iftar.  I didn't feel like a birthday cake.  There was a time when I actually believed that blowing out birthday candles on a birthday cake was mandatory.  Now?  It can be homemade strawberry ice cream (well, homemade from a powder packet), Rice Krispie bars, along with vanilla nougat and candy berries.  Honestly?  That's so me---on an IKEA platter no less!

What I realized, after writing about my birthday, is that this year has been a confluence of many milestones at once. 

The birthday---whichever one it was (I can't remember)

The end of another school year

My eldest son graduating from university (alhumdulillah big time)

The start of Ramadan which is a super-duper reflective time for everyone

The anniversary of us making hijrah

Even though, we came in August of 2009, it was indeed Ramadan.  To enter into another Ramadan means to remember coming here when the decorations were up and so were everyone's hopes for a better life.  

In some ways, I came to Egypt when Egypt is at its best.  Going out at night and feeling the energy in the streets is different at Ramadan.  There is such a relief; a collective sigh of a burden lifted.  Subhanallah, that I saw Egypt that way almost seven years ago.  Of course, I also saw my husband at his best since we first met during that Ramadan as well.  You can read "Making Hijrah" if you wish.

This year, I am working.  It is the first Ramadan since I was pregnant with El Kid to be teaching.  We have shorten days, alhumdulillah.  If I don't have duties, I can leave as early as 1:00.  That's a blessing!  Of course, in the States, there are no shorter hours and no understanding of the limitations a person feels while fasting.

Unfortunately, some days I couldn't leave until the later bus, which brought me to my neighborhood, but not to my street.  In the heat of the day, I had to make my way home.  Micro bus?  Tuk-tuk?  Both fine options.  If either had been there when I was dropped off, I might have taken one.  However, I stepped off the bus onto a quiet street (an oddity in Egypt) and I walked peacefully home making tasbeeh all the way.

Keeping track on my finger joints of every praise for Allah, as I went step-by-step home, I noticed the world around me which I normally I might take for granted.

I am forever loving the artwork on vehicles.

Mashahallah, this family builds a mini-mosque every year and places it on this cement corner.  You cannot tell from this angle, but there's a speaker in there.  Sure enough, that mosque plays Quran!

This other family doesn't have enough money to buy a brand new fanoos, so they make one from that year's discarded text book.  I hope it was math and not English!

The streets are decorated with these plastic streamers.  They blow in the wind and sound like rustling leaves.  It may seem silly to you, but to a Midwestern gal who was used to TREES, the desert is a better place for having this soft swooshing sound.

Here's a combo of streamers AND homemade fanoos.

Later, a vegetable cart set up shop in the shade.

Then, just because Egypt is weird, there was a camel rib cage.  It is the only time I've ever seen the butcher have it on display.  Usually, there is meat hanging, but not bones.

Sure, the sun had been hot and the walk was a little longer than I would have liked.  On the other hand, I wouldn't have missed this opportunity to see the world with appreciative eyes and remember how blessed I am to be a part of it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mayfly Birthday

Asalamu Alaykom,

It's been a while.

It's been almost 48 years.

That's a lot of years and a lot of birthdays.

Actually, Prince (God bless him and grant him peace), believed he had only one birth day.

It's amazing to be alive at all.  15-25% of pregnancies do not survive.  Alhumdulillah for those that didn't and alhumdulillah for those that did.

I've just been reading about baby traditions around the world.  Celebration timings vary from the first week to the first tooth 

---and you have to watch the Armenian ceremony when the baby chooses his or her work tools for the future.

In Bali, it is the 210th day that is special since only then is a baby let down onto her or her own feet.  Mashahallah.  Imagine the commitment the whole family makes to ensure that baby is always held.

So many babies don't make it to their first birthday.  For every 1,000 babies born in the world, 6 die before they reach a year.  Subhanallah.

Now, once again I need to remember that I have survived those perilous months-- many, many, MANY times over.  I am blessed.  Alhumdulillah.

It's easy to feel those 576 months weigh down on me like kilos---especially when people assume I would rather shed them in a kind of anni-ectomy.

To everyone who has said, "You don't look 47," I want to say, "Obviously, I must because I am and soon I will be 48.  This is what 48 looks like."

Other birthdays have a cute nickname.  There is the Golden Birthday when your new age matches the date you were born.  There is Sweet Sixteen when you finally get kissed by Jake Ryan.

See Molly and Michael from 32 years ago ?

I went to summer camp with one of the extras who stands in the school bathroom with Anthony Michael Hall and John Cusack to admire undies.  That young actor housed me secretly in his DePaul dorm room (completely platonically) in Chicago so I could audition for their drama program.  I didn't get in.  There are many times I didn't get what I wanted, and I'm grateful for all those disappointments ---at the time I wanted to disappear off the face of the earth.  I didn't.

I'm still here.

I'm here, and I have made up a cute nickname for my 48th birthday.  I got to thinking that 48 is really the number we think of as 48 hours---and then either the TV show or the Eddie Murphy movie.

It's the equivalent of two days.  I wanted to make a connection between two days and my 48th birthday.  What lasts two days?

I thought of the mayfly.    That's a mayfly at the top of this post.  I thought they were rather ugly until I saw this macro picture.  The wings are disco-diva iridescent.  While a mayfly doesn't get the same admiration as a butterfly---they aren't as "nice"---it truly is an amazing creation worthy of admiration (as it alllllllllllll is).  

A mayfly isn't known for its longevity.  Two days is the maximum.  It is such a temporary creature that it hardly seems fair to kill it, even if it swarms in with hundreds of others. A mayfly belongs to the genus, or family name, of ephemera

Ephemera, noun (from Greek emphemeros) things that exist or are used for only a short time.

However, there's another definition which states, "something of no lasting significance". 

That's vastly different to me.  I have accepted that I will not exist on this earth forever, but I do hope and pray that my life will have lasting significance.  This is why I am a mother and a teacher.  

There was this precious conversation I had on the school bus with my boy this week.  We talked over the connection between Rip Van Winkle and Ramadan.  Washington Irving's story is actually Surah Al Kahf in American trappings and Ramadan is the month we can chose to be like Rip, mindlessly idle, or like Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) fully engaged in a daily betterment program.  I tried to impart 7:20 AM wisdom.  Did he "get" it?

"So, " El-Kid, at age 10, questioned, "if I listen to you and do a good job with my life, then you will get good sins?"

"Deeds not sins, " I corrected.  He apparently was also feeling the 7:20 AM.  "What's really great is that, even after I'm no longer alive, I can collect good deeds if you help other people learn any of the good I've taught you---and taught the kids at school.  Subhanallah, right?"

I am here for a short time, but I am determined to make it significant.

Therefore, I will look at my transformation into a 48-year-old as my Mayfly Birthday.  Yes, I know that it sounds nasty to name a celebration after a bug, but keep in mind that both halves of that compound word have double meanings.  May can be the month in spring or it can be a modal verb meaning "possibility".  Fly can be the noun, the insect,  or the verb, meaning to travel through the air.  That idea of possibly sailing from where I am through the atmosphere to another higher level is another reason to have a May-fly Birthday.


What makes it even more important to me this year is that this is the first time in 30 years that my birthday will be in Ramadan.  

The lunar or Islamic/Hijri calendar takes 30 years to move around the solar or Christian/Gregorian calendar.  I haven't had my birthday in Ramadan since I was turning 18.  

In 1986, when I was 18, I didn't have any idea that I would be a Muslim teacher in Egypt.  If you had told me that, I would have laughed.  I was going to be an actress.  18 is a turning point.  It is adulthood when you have to make real choices for your future (not just on an Armenian table top).  It seems that making the wrong choice will flip your world upside-down from which you will never recover.

My eldest son is 20, graduating university this month, alhumdulliah, and feeling that his next step must be a good one---no, a great one!  "One small step for man..." and all that.

At almost 48, I can testify that I have goofed up, flubbed up, and screwed up a multitude of times to the nth degree, yet through the Grace of God my life is exactly what it was always meant to be.  Alhumdulillah.  It doesn't mean that I'm always happy about it, or that I can easily accept what I'm given with gratitude.  No, I get caught in stinkin' thinkin'.  

This year has had a lot of that and I am sorry that I wasted time.

For the year ahead, which starts with a month of fasting, I will inshahallah re-focus on....

This blog is in need of an overhaul.  I will be making sure over the summer that it still an accurate extension of who I am and who I want to be (not just who I was).  If you are a reader of this blog, like Shafaq and Deanna, then thank you for being here.  I am sorry that I haven't been here.  

Just as I only take photos when I'm happy, I only blog when I have something to say---at least more than 140 characters on Twitter.  I haven't been here because I didn't know what made enough sense to anyone else.  Hopefully, there will be something that speaks to you----if it does, then that's from Allah; if it doesn't, that's from me.

Love and Light! 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chinese and Islam

Asalamu Alaykom,

When I was teaching at an Islamic school in Florida, I was appalled at how the Muslim children in my English class couldn't read a story about a Chinese-American boy without making fun of Asians.  No matter how much I stopped and corrected, the ill treatment continued.  I am a firm believer in teaching children (and adults) not to make fun of anyone; act only as you would if they were standing in front of you.  That fifth grade class got a surprise writing assignment:  write a page on Chinese Muslims.

Here's an article from Emel if you'd like to read more in depth on them.

One of the more interesting facts we discovered back in my classroom is that there are actually 10 million Chinese Muslims which means there are more Muslims in China than there are in Saudi Arabia.  Think about that!

Maybe from that time of standing up for my Chinese brothers and sisters, I have developed a special affinity for them.  They have NO REASON to be Muslim other than they feel it necessary for their soul.  These days, there is a crackdown in China which is squeezing them and testing their faith so please make du'a for Chinese Muslims.

Today, as I research some Chinese language for my upcoming lessons on Hung Wu, the founder of the Ming Dynasty.  Hung Wu helped to build The Great Mosque of Xi'an which is really an amazing testament to the spread of Islam.  I once again became enlivened by Chinese Muslims.

Take a look at this:


I find that character quite simple and beautiful.  I found it when I was looking up the word for "to answer".  Yes, it has that meaning but it also means

to circle
to go back
to turn around
to return
to revolve
Hui ethnic group (Chinese Muslims)

It's the word for Chinese Muslims!

Isn't that great?!  It is like "revert" in that it is someone returning back.  The symbol looks exactly like what it is--a turning around in a circle.  It is like tawaf; the ritual circling of the Kabbah.  If you think of it as such, then see how the inner symbol is a square THE KABBAH.  Subhanallah.  I see that.

I found it on and, being the curious person I am, started to search for more.

Here are some of the most important words in Islam written in Chinese.

This is actually how to write Kabbah

Traditional 克爾白

Kè ěr bái
Ka'aba, sacred building in Mecca


Ān lā
Allah (Arabic name of God)

Traditional 伊斯蘭

Yī sī lán


Kě lán jīng
Quran (Islamic scripture)

Here's something that blew me away.  The word for the Muslim Holy Book in Chinese is not "quran" because that word already has meaning.  If you say "quran" in China, it means quiet, still and silent. 

Traditional 闃然
qù rán
still and silent

 How amazingly true is THAT?


qīng zhēn
halal (of food)


cháo xiàng

Qibla (Islam)

The Qibla is the direction Muslims face while praying and it is to the Kabba in Mecca.
To me, it looks like the faith of 回 has an open door to reach the inside and isn't that a beautiful way to think of the qibla?

To go on Hajj has an interesting connotation. 

Traditional 朝覲

cháo jìn
to give audience (of emperor)
retainers' duty to pay respect to sovereign
hajj (Islam)

Isn't that kind of interesting?  The same words for hajj are what you'd say if you were going to visit a head of state---like an emperor...or a caliph.

Traditional 哈里發

Hā lǐ fā
Khalīfah or Caliph (Arabic: successor), head of state in Caliphate  

It brings an earthly understanding of how important going to Mecca is.

Traditional 麥加

Mài jiā
Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Traditional 聖地

shèng dì
holy land (of a religion)
sacred place
holy city (such as Jerusalem, Mecca etc)
center of historic interest


Yē lù sā lěng

Someone who goes on hajj gets an honorary title and here is that.


hǎ jí
haji or hadji (Islam)

This is getting ready for the Eid at the end of Hajj.

Traditional 古爾邦節

gǔ ěr bāng jié
Eid al-Azha festival of sacrifice on tenth of twelfth month of Muslim lunar calendar

If you're racking your brain on which Eid is "Azha", it is known as Eid-Al-Adha here in Egypt or as the Eid Kabeer the big holiday when the sheep are slaughtered at the end of Hajj.

There are the other observances of Islam like fasting in Ramadan. 

Traditional 封齋

fēng zhāi
fast (in several religions)
Ramadan (Islam)
see also 齋月|斋月[Zhāi yuè]

Traditional 齋月

Zhāi yuè
Ramadan (Islam)

Traditional 爾德

Ěr dé
Eid (Islam)

Traditional 開齋節

Kāi zhāi jié
Eid ul-Fitr (Islam)
Hari Raya

There are the words for the observance of prayer.


qīng zhēn sì

Traditional 教長

jiào zhǎng
imam (Islam)
see also 伊瑪目|玛目[yī mǎ mù]

When I looked up "wudu" this is what was brought up.

无毒 Traditional 

wú dú
lit. not poisonous

I love this!  I don't know if this is what you'd say to speak about the Islamic absolution but it's very cool to think of the literal meaning as not poisonous.  I always imagine my wudu as cleaning off the toxins of the day so this has real meaning to me.    

I looked but couldn't find "hijab".

This may or may not be what a hijab gets called.

Traditional 蓋頭

gài tóu
head covering


cháo xiàng
Qibla (Islam)

The Qibla is the direction Muslims face while praying and it is to the Kabba in Mecca.
To me, it looks like the faith of 回 has an open door to reach the inside and isn't that a beautiful way to think of the qibla?


Traditional 頂拜

dǐng bài
to prostrate oneself
to kneel and bow the head (in submission, supplication, worship etc)

Traditional 唸珠

niàn zhū
prayer beads

I looked up the prophets (peace be upon them all). Not all were listed and for many I used the Christian names for them.


Yà dāng

Traditional 諾亞

Nuò yà


Traditional 亞伯拉罕

Yà bó lā hǎn
Abraham, father of Judaism and Islam in the Bible and Quran
same as Ibrahim 易卜拉

Just from seeing a few names, I can guess that 亚 means prophet or something like it.


Yī sā gé
Issac (name)


Mó xī

This one made me laugh.  I know it isn't pronounced exactly the same, but in English, "moxie" means a force of character, determination or nerve and that CERTAINLY was Nabi Musa/Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).

Traditional 亞倫

Yà lún
Aaron (name)


Yǎ gè
Jacob (name)


Yē lì mǐ
Jeremy or Jeremiah (name)

Traditional 約瑟夫

Yuē sè fū

Joseph (name)

Traditional 約納

Yuē nà

Traditional 施洗約翰

Shī xǐ Yuē hàn
John the Baptist


Yē sū


Mù hǎn mò dé
Mohammed (c. 570-632), central figure of Islam and Prophet of God

It is incredible how Islam spread to China.  We can thank Abi Wakas (ra) who went to China and died and was interned in China.  Read more about him here and about the mosque he founded here.

There is a hadith (although of only deserving the grade of "fair" believability) that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Seek knowledge, even as far as China."  For certain, Islam encourages knowledge and learning about other languages and cultures helps us and helps the ummah.  Why China specifically?  It is unfathomable that it could have been brought to such a far flung place by a sahabi...but it was.  Subhanallah!  If a sahabi (ra) can travel so far a distance, when travel was so long and dangerous, to such a diverse group of people and BRING ISLAM and have it remain for centuries in their hearts, then what can't be done?!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Quest in Egypt

Asalamu Alaykom,

Living in Egypt is good for your faith.  It tests your patience and makes you pray to God more.  Even simple tasks or shopping trips become a myriad of tasks so complex that you feel like you're on The Quest for the Holy Grail.

This week, with coconut halves in hand, we set off to find elusive ink cartridges for my printer.  In the States, you head over to Best Buy, CompuServe, Savers, Target or any other big chain store and you pop in and you pop out with purchase in hand.  In Egypt it's a different story.


After El-Kid's morning swimming lesson and the Jummah prayer, we  went to Mall of Arabia on Friday.  It was December 25 (and as the song goes) it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The mall  has seven likely sellers of ink cartridges but none of the stores carried what we needed.  We did, however, find two blouses for me

and a nice sweater for my husband at LC Waikiki 

...before eating a late lunch at Chili's.  That never-ending basket of chips was what we all needed!

It was getting late and I hadn't prayed duhr yet.  The mall has prayer spaces for both men and women.  This doesn't mean that everyone takes advantage of this blessing.  My Egyptian husband often feels like he'll "pray when we get home."  I dutifully remind him that we might never make it home; we certainly were not going to make it home before magrib.  He made one last grumble before I laid it on the line.

"Look, if I asked you for one more store, you could say 'no'.  If I asked you for one more restaurant, you could say, 'impossible.'  On the other hand, if I say I want to pray on time, that's between me and Allah and there's nothing you can say to stop that."

We left the restaurant and started the search for the prayer space.  He kept eyeing the door.  Then, he saw a free give-away.  It was a bottle of Fairy dish washing detergent.  Even though we needed to find the prayer hall, we stopped for the sales spiel.  Minutes were ticking by but I feigned interest so we could get the bottle.  My husband really wanted that teaspoon too and I had to make a request for it before we could grab it and run.

I reminded my husband that it was only because I wanted to pray that we had found the give-away.  He laughed.  God blesses us in many ways and somehow prayer does open up channels to receive.

Finally, we turned the corner and there the doorway stood.  My guys sat on the benches outside with the shopping bags while I went inside.  I took off my shoes and was going to tuck them inside my over-sized purse when my husband called to me to let him watch them.  I know I should trust praying women NOT to steal my shoes (but I don't).

There is something beautiful about praying with strangers who made an effort to leave their day to worship.  The mall has so much dunya and easy ways to forget Allah---especially with all the Christmas paraphernalia.  Yet, we stood in that quiet space for a short time as the sun would soon be setting.

I took one last incongruous picture of Santa in a Muslim country surrounded by snow in the desert.  The azan for magrib sounded and I felt some kind of bliss of being me.

We walked out in a good mood but I knew we'd probably have a fight.  There is something about the stress of getting home which always puts us at odds.  I want to take a taxi.  He wants to save money and take the bus.  The drivers started to fight over which bus would take us home.  I then walked away quickly and had another bus driver yelling at me to ride his bus.  My husband tried to pull us across the street and I yelled in fear at the approaching traffic.  The whole thing was tense.  

I've gotten used to it being as such.  This is part of living in Egypt.  No matter how much fun you have while you're out, the transportation back and forth can be a real torture. 

Alhumdulillah, we made it home safely.  I had made extra remembrance of Allah as we went (and held on to El-Kid next to me).  By the time we walked in the door, we were all over our upset.

That night had us watching A Charlie Brown Christmas (which my husband stayed awake for) 

and It's a Wonderful Life (which my husband slept through).  

It was a good mix of both worlds and a meaningful way to end a long day.


It was Boxing Day and I had to explain to El-Kid that the holiday had nothing to do with prize fighting. It was another swim lesson and afterwards another attempt to find the ink cartridges.  I really wanted to get them so I could print nifty labels for my spice jars.

It is probably haram how much I love my little spice jars.  I bought a specific jam for years just to amass the company's glass containers with squared sides.  I would soak off the labels before writing my own.  I even spray painted the lids green.  There they sit on my IKEA white metal spice rack.

They needed professionally printed labels so off we went again.

After another swim lesson, we stood on the road trying to get a ride.  My husband once again wanted a bus and I once again wanted a taxi.  None of the buses were going our way so a taxi it was!  A little further up the road was a frightening reminder of how dangerous Egyptian roads are.  One of the buses had crashed and victims were sitting in shock on the curb.  Subhanallah but for the Grace of God go I.

We were going deep into 6th of October.  I learned how really scummy the backstreets of 6th of October are.  Everyone talks of living in the suburbs---as if that is the answer to all of life's problems.  Really?  Every area in Egypt has high class and low class in close proximity.

The driver didn't actually know where the store was.  He dropped us off where it should be----but it wasn't.  We headed down the road, but then realized that we weren't where we needed to be so we bought some juice and Cracky snacks to sustain us as we retraced our steps.  The sun was shining and it was a pleasant day.  It was almost like being a tourist (except we weren't in any place you'd want to be).

We headed up the road and I started to think of the last time we'd been on this stretch.  That's when I saw the Syrian sweet shop.  YES!  We had spent a small fortune the last time we'd been there.  It was wonderful to see it again.

Sample after sample welcomed us back.

I felt badly that we had ever spent money on any other sweet...

when we could have gone to Salloura's.  

We bought three boxes of sweets and treats.

 At the cash register, my husband spent a long time talking to the man in charge.  His intention, I know, was to reach out and be kind.  He told the man, "We are all Egyptians."

I piped up, "I'm not.  You don't have to be Egyptian.  Being good here and wanting good for Egypt is enough."

Really?  Those Syrians who run the store and I have a lot in common.  Ya Rab they find happiness and peace here.

We walked on.  Even though we found a stationary store, it wasn't the one we wanted and they didn't have any printer ink.  It's a funky store that I was in two years before.  They sell all this strange merchandise you never see any where else.  I bought a smiley face board eraser (!) and a wooden model of the Cairo Tower to make with El-Kid.

Cleverly, my husband had spent the whole time getting information from the employee of that store on where to go for printer ink.  It would mean another bus ride.  We were headed far away.

When we reached, I swear that I didn't want to get out of the Suzuki.  It didn't look right!  It was all industrial equipment:  tools, chains, machines.  This was the place for computer ink?!  In we walked amid the gruff men.  My husband learned that we had to go up the stairs.  I held on to my son as we climbed.  I half suspected we'd find a dead animal on the landing.

At the top of the stairs was a doorway into a narrow passageway.  As soon as they saw us, many people began beckoning to us as if they hadn't seen any customers in a long time.  It felt a bit like a creepy hashish den from the movies.  El-Kid spotted the word, "Cannon" and we headed left.  Sure enough!  As sure as if it was a shining golden chalice, there hung the box of printer ink.  In fact, there were many boxes and I wanted to buy three.

They were 150 LE each.  We had spent so much at the Syrian sweet shop, my husband told me that we could only get two boxes.  Life is funny, isn't it?  I talked with the man about how hard it had been to find him.  While Egypt seems to have everything you could ever want, you certainly do have to make some effort to get it!

Once again, we were out on the street, too tired to argue about bus or taxi.  When a nice vehicle pulled up, headed for the Pyramids, we took it.  When we reached our area, it was one more micro-bus home.  He had Bert and a sphinx on his dashboard.  He brought us back to our street and it was as if we'd been gone for days and days.

Our quest was over.

If you really think about how simple my needs were and how hard it was to get those needs met, then you'll feel how it is to live here.  At the same time, that push to get out and get something gave us two days of excitement.  It wasn't all easy but it was all real.

That's a good way to end my posts for 2015.

It wasn't all easy 
but it was all real.