Saturday, April 9, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 26 "Coming Full Circle"

Asalamu Alaykom,

In 2002, I came to Egypt and went through a marriage ceremony witnessed by the groom's family at their home.  We tried to get the marriage done legally and it didn't work.  We waited until we got to the States to have the legal marriage performed.

That was then.

This was now.  This was a new man and a whole new experience.  Ahmed was determined to do things to the letter of the law--which necessitated actually going to a lawyer. 

We boarded a tuk-tuk and wove our way through an area of town I'd never seen before.  This would be an experience!  I never know exactly what is going to happen when we go out but I know it's always going to be interesting.  We couldn't find the place at first.  It was down an alley, up some stairs---no wait, not those stairs, through this door and

obviously we'd found it because there was a waiting room of other Muslims wanting legal advice. 

"Asalamu Alaykom," my man greeted them all.

"Wa alaykom asalam," they returned.

I had to ask him if I was supposed to greet them too or just him.  It's just him.  I had already become an appendage.

We went into the little room and the learned scholar of both law and Islam sat behind his desk ready to hear my tale.  I didn't really want to tell him but I had no choice.  If I wanted to marry, I had to explain about my former marriage and the eventual divorce.

Yes, my son's father and I did marry legally and Islamically in the U.S. and divorce legally and Islamically in the U.S.  There was no paperwork on our marriage in Egypt.  Yes, I had brought the U.S. paperwork.

I passed it to him. He looked it over.

"I have physical custody of my son by the laws of the U.S.  We have joint legal, " I explained.

There was a conversation in Arabic between the lawyer and Ahmed.

"And you are Muslim?" He asked the obvious.

"Alhumdulillah," which is always the best answer, even if you are mad at someone so learned not seeing the hejab on your head.

"You will have to go to Al-Azhar and get your shahaddah paperwork." He counseled.

"Oh!"  I dug around in my large plastic file.  "I have that paper!" 

I passed that to him as well and he spoke some more in Arabic to Ahmed and then in English to me.

"You have to do it again."  I immediately took umbrage and started to rebut that, but he went on, "This is under your name before Islam.  It might cause problems in the court here.  Get all the paperwork organized before you go for marriage."

He wished us well and off we went.

We did travel to Al-Azhar during the Winter Break from school.  I wore a pink top over a jean skirt and remembered the day I wore wedding white to meet the sheik.  I had gone there to get shahaddah paperwork in 2002.  I knew where the building was.  I knew and it hurt that I knew.  Since it was my intended's first time for everything, I really didn't want to be so smart about the place but when we got lost (as we always seemed to), I had to let on.

Mr. Boo was tired and Ahmed carried him up the hill, past the ancient masjids with patterned domes. 

I took a picture of them.  I felt a lot of love for the two of those guys trudging along.  There is something so pure in watching a man love a child for the sake of Allah.  That boy was not his.  That boy was a burden and yet that man carrying him knew that he was responsible for him---and for me.

We went in through the gate of Al-Azhar, the oldest existing university in the world. 

I climbed the steps.  I knew I was overwhelmed by the past and the present coming together in this moment.  I had returned to my history.  I entered in. 

I stopped in my tracks.  There, in front of me was the largest Quran I had ever seen! 

Subhanallah!  I hadn't seen it before!  It was really amazing.  That's my pink shoulder on the left side so you can understand how large it was.  I couldn't read a bit of it so I asked my man which chapter it was open to.  "Ar-Rad" was the answer.  In English it means, "The Thunder".  To me, it was a sign from Allah that everything was going to be OK.  Coming over in the taxi, that surah had been on the radio.


We entered into the private study of one of the sheiks of Al-Azhar.  I waited and wondered what ever happened to the man who had listened to my shahaddah.  Truly it wasn't my first shahaddah that September of 2002 as I'd already said it to a different sheik almost two weeks before in America.  We had just needed the paperwork; same then as now.

In 2002, I had said my shahaddah, all dressed like a bride, and felt the immense joy of the man across the room; the man who wanted to marry me legally.  It was, he said at the time, the biggest joy of his life to watch me take shahaddah.  I saw that on his face.  I knew he wasn't lying...or at least...actually, I never could separate what was true and what wasn't (so that every nice word became tinged with bad). 

I shook the past out of my head.  I took pictures while I waited.

When the sheik returned, he was ready for us.  He looked over the paperwork I provided.  He listened to Mr. Boo recite Al-Iklas.  He was slow, careful, and kind.

I decided to ask him what I really wanted to know, "When I was here in 2002, there was a sheik who heard me take shahaddah.  He told me that I was going to be, "An Ambassador of Islam".  That really helped me through the hard times."

The sheik's eyes met mine and for the first time I really looked at him, "Did you forget me?  I didn't forget you."

It was him.  Subhanallah!  I felt that I had come full circle.  I had left that man years ago and gone out to do my best.  I had succeeded some and failed some but I had returned.  There was such a blessing in being able to return.  Maybe that's why we leave; we need to feel the return.  If I hadn't gone for this marriage, I never would have met with that sheik again.  Subhanallah for the gifts from God which come to us when we least realize how much we need them.

I bought a prayer rug that day.  I bought it because I hadn't brought mine from America.  I had brought Mr. Boo's tiny one so I could save on suitcase space.  For sure, I thought I could buy one in Egypt.  I had not seen any in my area---none at all!  Only being near Al-Azhar  made me realize how segregated the little shops in Egypt were.  The shops near the Pyramids sold only Pharonic items while the shops near Al-Azhar sold Islamic items.

I bought my rug happily for 20 LE.  That afternoon, when we returned from Cairo, I prayed for the first time on that rug and prayed that the challenges ahead would bring us closer together; together in marriage.


Marie said...

This is a fascinating post Yosra and I really pray God will bless you and your family with beautiful gifts.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Marie,

Thanks for reading and commenting. It's hard to write such a big moment in your life into a few words. Once it's all out on the blog, I wonder if it makes sense to anyone but me.

Ameen to your du'a. I also want our family to remain intact and to be together for the pleasure of Allah SWT.

DSK said...

MashaAllah my dear sister, quite a touching story! Very much loved reading it. May Allah swt make your life easy and beautiful and peaceful with your loved ones surrounding you! :)

janice said...

Thank you sharing with us, especially the picture you created with your loving recollection. I can imagine the beautiful photo you have of your husband carrying Mr Boo.

I don't want to seem knit-picky, but the University of Al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco is the oldest university in the world.