Saturday, September 25, 2010

MAKING HIJRAH 4 "Back Into the Fold"

Asalamu Alaykom,

Through the dark countryside I zoomed. 

Years ago, in 2002, it had been with my son's father at the wheel and me in the passenger seat.  We couldn't stop stealing glances at each other.  It had been four months we'd been a part.  In the interim, I'd taken my shahaddah and he'd gotten his final divorce.  We were on a clear path and we were very much together.

Now, in 2009?  I held the hand of our sleeping son as I placed my trust in a stranger.  I held Mr. Boo's hand not for him but for me.  I needed to know that I was not alone.  Obviously, I felt very, very alone. 

This was real.  I was actually living out my dream.  I had imagined this moment and now it was happening.  That's a powerful kind of birthing processs; the realization of hopes and prayers. 

The last time when I had traveled from Cairo to the coast, I had felt so much relief.  I had made it!  I had my man by my side!  I was going to get married!  I was going to live life as a good Muslim!

This time was different.  Maybe it was my age.  Seven years had come and gone and many harsh truths had come to pass.  I no longer felt the same hope.  I felt instead a kind of stoic determination.  I was making hijrah.  I  was going to carve out a life for me and my boy.

I did think of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). 

Was he happy when he left Mecca?  No. 

Was he feeling comfortable and well supported?  No.

His move from Mecca to Medina was not a joyous time.  It was a time of necessary hardship.  He knew it was the right thing to do and he did it but it was not about liking or loving it. 

In many ways, I didn't like what I was feeling.  I was scared.

I thought too of the movie, "Life is Beautiful."  It's one of my favorites.  The father can't show the horrible truth to his young son that the men who are "playing a game" with them are actually Nazis bent on destroying everyone in their path.  The father feigns happiness at the same time he really feels terrified. 

I looked at my wonderful boy, who felt no fear.  He was riding in a car for the first time without his carseat being buckled in.  I thought how I was putting him at risk in so many ways---and not just about the car either.  I could have cried but instead I prayed.  I asked for Allah's protection. 

Three hours, four flights of stairs and 70 dollars later we were in Mama's apartment.  I had paid the man extra to carry up the bags.  It was worth it.  I couldn't move another muscle. 

Mama was no longer the same woman whom I had hugged goodbye.  Her weight had dropped considerably.  She was no longer robust but rather she was frail.  She no longer scurried about making her husband happy.  There was no husband.  She was alone.

Ahhh but her voice!  Her beautiful voice was the same.  She spoke to Mr. Boo in some English and tried to get him to respond.  He just wouldn't.  The circuits were overloaded for sure.  She offered some food and a bed.  Alhumdulillah.

We slept as if under a spell.  When we woke, there was more food and thankfully a bath.  I could have stayed in bed all day but I needed some things---like a phone and computer access.

The funny thing was that Mama didn't want to let me leave!  She pleaded with me at the door until I started crying.  It was the heat and the exhaustion and the idea that I couldn't get what I needed.  She finally let me go.  Mr. Boo played happily on the floor.

I couldn't find a phone store.  I looked and looked.  Later, I learned that, in Egypt, the stores for one particular item are often grouped together.  It's very different from America where storekeepers want to be away from other simmilar stores.  So, for instance, all the phone stores were a block off the beach and I didn't know that so I couldn't find them. 

The other thing I couldn't find was a sports drink.  I had thought there might be some Gatorade-like beverage in Egypt.  I mean, people sweat!  Surely, Coca-Cola bottling is able to put some electrolytes in plastic.  I kept looking and never found it.  I felt so disorientated.  And I learned too that my Arabic actually sucked. 

I went back to the apartment dejected.  I had accomplished nothing.

After dinner, I took Mr. Boo out with me.  The night air was (and always is) a welcome relief for me.  I couldn't believe how beautiful the evening was!  All the stores were getting ready for Ramadan.  I heard the call to prayer and found a masjid. 

I was excited to pray in an Egyptian masjid for the first time.  I had never been inside any Egyptian masjid.  Mr. Boo's father never thought it necessary.  Later, I would marvel at that decision...or lack of decision.  Certainly, a sad thing to be a new Muslim and not have a Muslim husband who brings you to the prayer service. 

Amazingly, when I walked in, the ladies waiting to pray all turned to me and starting asking me when Ramadan was.  They guessed that I must know.  I could have laughed out loud!  On my first visit to the masjid, I was deemed knoweageble. 

I spoke the Arabic I could and then she asked me another question---like lay off, already!  I handled the first question.  Can't I relax now and just get ready for the prayer?

I did pray with the ladies.  All the prayer halls for the ladies look considerably less spectacular than the men.  That was a surprise to me. 

There are so many surprises in Egypt.  I kept finding new things and exciting things at every turn.

Chapter 5

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