Friday, April 29, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 29 "Transformed"



Asalamu Alaykom,



                    The meeting of two personalities is like
                    the contact of two chemical substances:
                    if there is any reaction, both are
                    transformed.



I've just finished watching the royal wedding for hours on end.  I needed to watch it.  I needed to feel that transformation.  The time of mourning the death of a princess is done.  The time of jubilation for a new life has begun.  I'm so very happy for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  May Allah protect them and guide them.

It made me think of my own wedding 16 months ago.

The funny thing is that we really didn't have a wedding.  I mean, we got married for sure.  I'll stop the suspense.  We got married, alhumdulillah.  What we didn't have were all the trappings of a ceremony.  We just had each other.

The previous times I've considered marriage and wedding ceremonies, I wanted something out of it to be special for me.  I wanted a ring, or a dress, or a cake or a special song at a party.  This time?  I just wanted to be married.

We had tried for weeks to do the right thing.  We had made numerous trips to offices, lawyers, judges, the U.S. consolate, the records offices---you name it!  I had even left my apartment and taken up residence at Ahmed's sister's former honeymoon cottage.  I was ready!  Then suddenly in the really stressful time of running around Cairo, something viral hit my system.  Sadly, I was unable to make a move.  I had to stop running and lie low. 

Even on New Year's Eve, I had to stay put.  Of course, this location right next to the Pyramids is a pretty cool place to usher in change.  It is a unique moment whne you view 4,500 years of unchanging architecture.  It makes you feel like you are but a blip in history.  We stood there on the family's roof and hoped that 2010 would be for the best.

And then we heard Mr. Boo getting sick downstairs.  Yep.  He woke up throwing up.  Now, his body was fighting something.  I helped him out and at some point I'm sure I cried.  I only had left him for five minutes to go up to the roof that night.  How could he get ill the minute he was alone?  It took him a few days to feel better.  Alhumdulillah.

Those days were added to the pile of days which had come and gone during the Winter vacation from school.  I had thought that having those two weeks off (due to the H1N1 outbreak) and the three weeks of vacation would be plenty to get all the work done.  I certainly couldn't do it while school was in session.

Now, we were going to try again.  Our patience had been severly tested.  Yet, all good things come to she who waits.  So, off we went to Cairo.  The brother and the brother's boss were once again going to meet us at the offices.  We had our new and improved paper from the U.S. Embassy (which had been refused by the Egyptian officials because one blank had not been filled in).  We were hopeful...but not overly optimistic.

Couple after couple would arrive with their famillies.  Often times, a man from the family would emerge and ask for a witness.  There have to be two male witnesses on the marriage contract.  For some reason, there are many forgotten or expired cards which mess up the marriage contract signings.  I couldn't believe how much planning would go into such a day to have it fouled up by something so amazingly avoidable. 

We went in.  We were asked questions.  Our paper was shown---and "yes" we both held our breath.  It was OK'd.  Time for the witnesses.  We called in our two and sure enough the brother's boss had an expired ID.  OH MY GOD!  We were now one of these unlucky couples at the office.  We had to be asking the crowd if there was anyone who could witness us.  It couldn't be anyone who was witnessing another ceremony.  We tried.  We failed.  We laughed. 

I won't tell you too much about my life with my husband but I will tell you that we both know how to laugh.  

Subhanallah!  We were one step from becoming husband and wife and ONCE AGAIN we were foiled.  We stood there wondering at our next move, when a man rushed in.  He needed some kind of paperwork and we jumped on him.  Seriously, he might still have the bruises.  He could be our witness!

So, back in we went and we were married.  I wasn't actually sure we were married.  I had to ask.  Where was the sheik?  Turns out the man behind the desk acts as both the relgious and the civil official.  

Now we had to register the marriage across the hall.  The man asked me a question I didn't understand and my man answered.  I quickly figured out it was my mahar.  I had placed a $5,000 mahar on my head years ago and gotten someone to agree to it----though I ultimately refused that potential groom.  I had thought $5,000 sounded good.  On my wedding day with Ahmed, I got something different.  I didn't care. 

We walked out of that office husband and wife.  We went out for falafel and ate like two people who were finally able to enjoy life again.  We were naseeb.  Alhumdulillah.  We had done the right thing.  Alhumdulillah.

Our return to the honeymoon cottage was triumphant.  No longer did he have to wait at the door.  While he didn't carry me over the threshold, he did open the door for me and shut it behind us.  We could be alone.  We could kiss for the first time as husband and wife.  Really, a halal kiss is better than a stolen one. 

We started our life together.  We had only known each other four months.  I took a huge risk and so did he.  We really could have done it differently and yet we did it this way.  It made sense for us.  I do think that we have both been transformed and continue to grow and change.  Alhumdulillah. 

We are still surprised that we actually are married!  Subhanallah, the plans of Allah are not always ours but they are always for the best.  Alhumdulillah.

May Allah be pleased with our marriage; with us as a couple and as caretakers for our boy.  May each one of us benefit from this union and help others through our time together.  Ameen

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Humanitarian Yusuf Isalm




I love him.

I love him being a voice for peace and sanity.

Can you say a prayer that these two people get their relief from hardship?

Inshahallah your voice for peace and sanity will matter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marvels

     From Yasin,  Ayah 9






"And We made those who do not reflect on Our signs and revelations like those before and after whom We have erected a barrier so that they fail to see Allah's marvels around them


and in themselves"

Please don't think that Allah SWT only created glorious miracles outside of your shell of a body.  Oh no!  He is unlimited in His scope.  He doesn't stop where you start.  He flows wherever He wants to go AND He wants to flow in YOU!

YOU are a marvel created by Allah for something amazing in this world.

I used to get freaked out by what my marvelous moment would be in this life.  How do you prepare yourself?  I actually was so freaked out that I hid in a "normal" life---as much as Prophet Yunus/Jonah tried to hide on the ship.  I thought I could just weather out the storms of life by pretending.

Later, I realized that you can't hide from your marvelous moment and actually your WHOLE LIFE is your marvelous moment.

This is my hand upon the Quran.  If you look closely, you'll see the brown birthmark on my thumb.  It wasn't my choice to have it.  I didn't want it; didn't want to be told by all my teachers to, "wash again".  Yet, it is me.  It is a part of me.  Alhumdulillah for all the parts of me.

This is my new prayer outfit in maroon, white, gray and gold.  I bought it last night.  Alhumdulillah.  I've been looking for just the right one all these months.  I kept returning to one particular shop to see the most recent arrivals.  Finally!  The perfect one!  I loved the colors, the fabric, the design on the fabric and the style.

I tried it on over my galabiya.  I felt so regal and angelic with those beautiful colors and big sleeves.  My husband sat in the chair ready to give a verdict.

"It's too short," said the voice in Arabic...but it wasn't him.  It was her.

Some nameless female customer in the shop decided to announce this to my husband.

My marvelous moment was interrupted.  Let's not do that to each other.  Let's not.

This young lady had no knowledge of who I was or what I was about.  She didn't know that this was the only prayer outfit I have ever tried to purchase.  My other prayer outfit was gifted to me from the masjid upon taking the shahaddah in 2002.  That was both heartfelt and  homemade and it's seen me through hell and back.  I had thought to wear it until I made Hajj and then to dump it in Mecca along with all the memories. 

Yet, being here in Egypt has made me see that I can't be marvelous while carrying the past like a cloak of shame.  I need Allah's beauty to be on me, in me, and to fill me up.  I wanted a prayer outfit which signalled to me and to Allah that I am done with the old and done with hiding from the new.

So, I said to her, again in Arabic, "If I want information from you, I'll talk to you."  I hope I said it without rancor.

When I made it home, I didn't want to put the prayer outfit on.  It felt contaminated with bad feelings.  This morning, I made a point to put it on (and as much as I didn't want to do it) I checked the hem in the full-length mirror.  It was mashahallah fine.  Though it smelled dusty, I wore it anyway so I could clean it first through my prayer. 

Alhumdulillah. 

I felt marvelous.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beautiful Azan




This azan is special.

I have heard many special azans.

Last year we had a once-in-a-lifetime hail storm Egypt. It was shocking to see---truly amazing. You watched the mountains of little ice pellets pile up in the street and mumbled, "Subhanallah" in a kind of daze. I have yet to convince the kindergarten children that hail is not snow.

The azan after the hail storm was special. It had a kind of aura of incredulousness. Allah's abilities and plans are way beyond our fathoming.

This year, we had The Revolution. Of course, everyone wants to say "25th of January" instead of actually saying the actual word, "Revolution." For me, it doesn't make sense to think of that date as special. It didn't seem like a turning point. It was a pretty ordinary Tuesday. That Friday the 28, however, was a hell.

To hear the azan from our local masjid while Cairo was in flames that night was so life-sustaining. To hear that voice channeling to us the basic tenets of our faith was the hope we needed.

God is The Greatest!

That night was full of anxious moments and horrible fears for our basic safety. The morning came and the azan remained. The city had changed, the people had changed but the promise of Allah  The Never Changing came that morning.

This azan in the video here is also special. No, not all azans sound beautiful. Some are croaked out. Some are warbled out. That's sad. This one is gorgeously wafted out into the stratusphere of spiritual bliss. Mashahallah! The sounds of this azan will send chills through your soul and give you goosebumps.

All the words are translated into English so you can see how basic our beliefs are. We honor God. We honor Muhammad. We pray.

The only thing I disagree with is writing Muhammadar Rasullulah as "Muhammad is the Messenger of God." I would prefer translating it as, "Muhammad is a Messenger of God." There were other Messengers: Moses/Musa with the Torah for the Jews and Jesus/Isa with the Bible for the Christians(peace be upon them). This is a very small change but it is more unifying and accepting.

I love that this video shows the iman being flanked by the Jewish and Christian leaders on either side. Those men stand respectfully and support the call to prayer. That's beautiful. Why can't more people see this video and understand that we are not fighting each other? We aren't!

Please share this azan.  Make it go out to your family and friends as proof of Islam's beauty and of Islam's place in the family of Abraham/Ibrahim (peace be upon him).

And may the peace and blessings of Allah be with you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stinky Socks Cure Coughs



Asalamu Alaykom,








I swear that I've had enough sleepless nights to last a lifetime.

It's hard being a working mom.

It's even harder being a sick working mom with a sick kid.  Alhumdulillah.  For the last week I've been Super Teacher by day and Super Mom by night.  It's tiring!  It's only for the last two days that we're getting any sleep.

I put menthol (like Vicks) on the soles on my boy's feet and slap on some socks.  He sleeps the night!  MIRACLE!  Subanallah!

Sure, there's a little more to it than that. 

From the moment he got feverish, I've been treating his symptoms. 
  • I eliminated all dairy and mucus producing foods immediately:  no milk, cheese, yogurt, no fish or banana. 
  • I gave him lots of clear liquids. 
  • I increased his intake of vitamin-C rich foods like fresh peaches and cantaloupe.
  • I had him really hanging over the bathroom sink blowing his nose out. 
  • At night and in the morning, I had him gargle with salt water and used a little of that in his nose. 
  • I insisted that he blow his nose all the time so he didn't suck it down to his lungs.
  • He got lots of rest propped up on pillows.
He hates to take medicine so I didn't force the expectorate/cough suppressant right away when he started coughing at bedtime.  The cough is always the last to go away in the life of a cold.  When he couldn't sleep and I couldn't sleep, I forced the medicine.  Yet, he still woke up hours later; coughing some more.

That's when I heard about this folk remedy.  I didn't want to try anything on my boy without his permission.  I'm funny that way.  Maybe I imagine that I want him to do the same to me when I'm old(er) and feeble.  So, when he was fully awake, I told him what I wanted to do.

"NO!  I'll stink!" was his first reaction.

A few coughs later, I did what I had to do---and it worked!  He slept peacefully.  He's sleeping now.  Alhumdulillah. 

This is much better than trying to put it on his nose or chest.  I've tried that before.  This was easier and more effective by far.  Let me know if you've ever tried it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Egypt, Helwa Ya Baladi



Egypt is flush with patriotism. You can't turn on the TV stations here without hearing a nationalistic ballad. I live here but I am not carried away by flag waving. I wasn't into that in America, so it's unlikely I'll feel that here. Alhumdulillah, I'm a Muslim.

I've had quite a few people talk to me like, "If you're lucky you'll turn into an Egyptian!" Which is laughable. I'll always be me---and I'm Muslim-American with European ancestry.

Having said all that, I do like Dalida's voice. Go ahead and enjoy this song along with the great images of Egypt. This country does have it all: the scenery, the city life, the history, and culture oozing out of every crevice.

If you like Dalida, try viewing  one of my favorite songs from her. You'll get a chance to see this lovely lady. What an amazing beauty! She was half Egyptian and half Italian and she got the best of both. Mashahallah. May Allah forgive her sins and award her Paradise.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fast Fasting!

     Asalamu Alaykom My Sisters,






I don't have to include the brothers in this one.  Men and women in are different and Islam recognizes this.  All the men did their fasting during Ramadan.  Us?  Nope!

Most of us had to take some days off during Ramadan since we don't fast during our monthly menstrual cycle (our period; a visit from Aunt Flo).  We also don't have to fast if we feel unable during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  Time off is a mercy from Allah---God be praised!

However those days must be made up later. 

Some sisters like to make up all the days right away after Eid Al-Fitr.  God bless 'em, that ain't me!  I need a real break after a month of hardship. 

Some sisters chip away at the days by fasting sunnah on Mondays and Thursdays.  These are days the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) fasted.

A great time to fast is during the week of Hajj; in the days leading up to Arafat.

Others try to get the days done when the time of fasting is the shortest, i.e., the shortest days of the year in the winter.

Then, there's me.  I have my Post-It Note on the refrigerator with numbers crossed out

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

but as you notice, two of those days remain. Yes, I've made it to these days in Spring with two days left of fasting.  How did that happen???

Okay, so today I'm fasting, alhumdulillah.  I'm fasting from 3:57 am to  6:23 pm.  Inshahallah, I'll fast tomorrow too since we're off from school due to the Coptic Palm Sunday. 

I knew I needed to fast and not just to make up the days from Ramadan.  I felt overwhelmed by recent events in my life.  After the initial enthusiasm wore off, I felt scared by possiblities for change and advancement.  I felt tired by what Allah might be asking from me and I needed strength.

Isn't that an oxymoron?  How can it be that allowing yourself to be in a weakened state makes you stronger?!  Yet, I know it to be true.  Somehow, when I fast, I stop relying on the energy from food and water and even from myself.  I go beyond my physicalness and reach a spiritual place of quiet acceptance of my limitations.  In that place, I find my best connection to The Power.  Alhumdulillah.

This is a friendly reminder to my sisters to get those fasting days done before the sun stays longer and longer in the sky.  Though today is a challenge, I know that it's going to be much harder come June. 

May Allah accept all our fasting and prayers.

2

Friday, April 15, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 28 "Not Possible"

Asalamu Alaykom,




It was not possible for me to stay in my apartment.  That idea of moving out was scary if I was going be out on my own.  It made me scared and excited if I thought of moving out and into a new marriage.

In many ways, we were already functioning as a married unit.  If I went out, I informed my man.  If he was going to the market, he asked if I needed anything.  On Thursdays, we'd go out and celebrate the weekend.

Except Thursdays were ending with a good-bye a block away and I'd go home alone.  We were engaged and not yet married.

If you've been reading, you know all this. 

There were moments when I almost laughed with joy at the pure bliss of being together. 

There had been the drying rack caper.  That was when I decided that I had to dry my clothes inside the house inside of from the line.  My downstairs neighborhood had sent her big son to pound on my door and yell at me for dripping water on her pavement.  I didn't feel like a repeat so we went out shopping for a drying rack.  I saw the one I liked and was set to buy it but Ahmed didn't feel the "fixed price" was cheap enough so he passed on it. 

Another week I went without that drying rack until the next weekend when I insisted we go back to the supermarket.  There were none left!  I've since learned to strike while the iron is hot in Egypt; if you see and want it BUY IT NOW!  So, we searched and searched the nearby stores to find another.  I didn't get mad at him and he didn't get mad at me---even though there was some stress in the situation.  We we found one eventually.  It was from the same little old man I'd previously bought my iron from and he stopped being grumpy long enough to sell a drying rack to me.

The three of us (assume Mr. Boo is always with me like my little shadow) carried that drying rack through the streets like firefighters ready to rescue with a ladder.  It was comical really.  About half way home, I realized that this wouldn't fit in my suitcase.  I was gulp!  buying something BIG.  It felt like such a commitment.  Was I ready for such a new level of living in Egypt?  I guess I had to be OK because we had arrived with it on my street.  I carried it up the stairs alone.  Remember that my man could not be seen accompanying me any where in the vacinity of my apartment.  It was those moments when I wished for a relationship that didn't end at the corner.

As the end of December loomed, I knew that I didn't want to stay in the apartment into the new year.  I wanted out.  I was nervous though to talk to my landlady.  I didn't want any problems.  I mean, I had problems like no hot water, the family's clutter which remained around me, the furniture which fell apart, and the noisy dirty street which was actually being completely torn up.  I just wanted a quiet retreat from all that.  So, for the first time in my life I made a secret plan to escape.

Ahmed's sisters came over and proved how strong women are here.  Don't let the galabiyas fool ya!  Those ladies carried really heavy suitcases down to the waiting car.  It was crammed full of stuff!  How did that happen?  How did I go from four suitcases to a carload?!  It's human nature, I guess to acquire junk treasures.  The only thing that couldn't fit in the car was...

the drying rack. 

So, for the second time, I helped carry that metal monstrosity through the streets.  I thought for the second time how it was really BIG.  I wondered if I was doing the right thing.  We arrived at the house and I couldn't think any more.  I had to do too much; unpack, organize, figure out, clean and collapse.

But I had done it!  With a LOT of help (may Allah bless them all), I was able to get out of an unpleasant situation and into a peaceful place.  It was still going to be us alone.  The plan was that it wasn't going to be us alone forever.  Inshahallah, we would get our guy just as soon as the marriage ceremony took place.  All my hope rested with that.  I wasn't 100% sure it would happen---because I'm Muslim and we always put in our heads the possibility that Allah's plan might be different. 

It was.  It was different.  It hurt.  It really, really hurt those moments right after Ahmed told me in Tahrir Square that maybe we weren't "naseeb" or destined for each other.  I cried that day because I had started to believe the hype.  We had been playing family.  We had moved all my stuff to his sister's former home.  Everything was riding on us getting married.  I was there alone and lonely.  As much as I felt troubled by my former neighbors, I suddenly felt immensely isolated.  To think that I had done all that to be rejected on the street was so harsh.

I couldn't handle it.  I couldn't.  BREAKING POINT!  We all have one.  I found mine that day.  When I returned to his family's home that afternoon, I had not eaten.  I just wanted to sleep.  All the people around me thought they could fix me.  I felt broken.  I felt so sick.

I was sick.  I was very sick.  Somehow I made it back to my new home and Ahmed's sister stayed with me.  She helped put my clothes away in her former armoire as I slept on the bed.  Her kids played with Mr. Boo.  I would get up, pray, and go back to bed.  That's it.  I felt awful.  My energy was gone.

The next day was much the same.  That night they loaded me in the brother-in-law's boat of a Buick and drove me to the doctor.  I hate going to the doctor.  If I am going to the doctor then it's serious.  This was serious.  I was not able to function.

After questions and examination, he wrote a prescription and we left for the pharmacy.  I still don't really know what it was.  I was ready to take any pill he prescribed.  It wasn't a pill.  It was a shot.  Here, in Egypt, they often do injections.  Though I had very little fight left in me, I tried my best to get out of it.  NO, it didn't have to be a shot.  There had to be a pill for this----right?

Nope.  What's worse is that the doctor at the pharmacy would need me to drop trou in the back room so he could stick the needle in my gluteus maximus.  Oh, man!  So, I was now scared and embarrassed AND because we were not married I was going to do it alone.  I told Ahmed that in no uncertain terms he would go with us into that backroom, close his eyes and hold me while the shot went in.  I had not eaten and was so weak.  There was no way I could handle that alone with a man I didn't know.  NO WAY! 

That shot hurt like hell.

So did the next one the following day.

I was supposed to get a third shot but kind of disregarded it.

By that time, I felt better.  Ahmed felt better about me and about us.

Once again, Ahmed had been with me when I needed him.  Did that mean we were destined for each other?  If someone is with you at a time of need, it doesn't mean you have to stay with them forever.  I knew that from before.  Not every man who opens the door for you is meant to escort you in.

I looked at the days on the calendar.  Soon, school would be starting again.  I had such a short time left of my winter vacation.  I felt that we really had one chance left; both in terms of time and in terms of endurance.

If our attempt to marry didn't work this next time, then we couldn't keep bumping our heads against the wall.  It would mean that we didn't have naseeb.

If you want a man and Allah wants him for you, then mountains will move to bring the two of you closer to each other.  Your name will be written all over him and his name will be written all over you.  That is naseeb.

If you want a man and Allah doesn't want him for you, then no matter how many plans and plots you cook up, it will never happen.  People can smile and say, "You look so good together!" but only Allah knows if your hearts are made for each other.  Submitting to that idea is tough.  Realizing that your plan may not be God's plan is tough.

That December, as I recovered from a move, a heartbreak and a sudden illness, I readied my soul for what Allah wanted.  Allah's plans are always best.


Chapter 29

MAKING HIJRAH 27 "Sick of Running Around"

Asalamu Alaykom,






There are few things worse than the red tape in Cairo.

When I first tried to marry in Egypt back in 2002, the red tape tangled us up so much that we gave up being legally married until we reached the States.  This time it had to go well.  I didn't have that option to avoid the red tape. We were here in Egypt and there was no possibility of marrying as two U.S. citizens. If I was going to marry this new man in 2009, then it was going to take a lot of patience to go through all the hassle.

Ahmed and I had gone to Al-Azhar.  We actually had to go and come back in a week.  My shahhaddah paperwork would be ready in a week.  That seemed kind of crazy to me that they couldn't just get it ready "while you wait," like a prescription at Walgreen's.

This time we would go without Mr. Boo.  His little legs, though powerful kickers, weren't much good at climbing that big hill to Al Azhar.  And I had learned that my husband-to-be wasn't much good at carrying him.  Sure, Ahmed could do it but his body suffered afterward. 

The man I was marrying would need an operation.  It was nothing life threatening (alhumdulillah)  but his ability to be on his feet, walking long periods of time and carrying heavy loads was diminished without the surgery.  We would marry in the Winter (inshahallah) and he would get it done in the Spring.  In the meantime, he would have to avoid those activities which caused him pain---unless he was running around Cairo trying to get married.  This was tough on him and I hated to put him through it.

Leaving Mr. Boo behind meant the first time we were alone together.  Oh, no one is ever really alone in Cairo but to be a couple instead of a little family was really a unique experience that day.  Once again, I had to thank Allah for giving me something I didn't want but needed to have.

We returned to Al Azhar and the papers weren't quite ready yet.  We would have to come back later in the afternoon.  So, we left. 

I saw the dome of a mosque nearby and pleaded with my man to pray dohr in Cairo.  Normally, when we would be out on the town, he would delay the prayer until we got home.  I am not of the same mind.  "Until we got home," is something that might never happen.  It's always better to do the prayer when you know you are given the chance.  Plus, I wanted to enjoy the gloriousness of a big masjid.

Joke on me!  All big beautiful masjids seem to have a "less is more" attitude when it comes to the women's section. 



I wondered what great Islamic architecture Ahmed was enjoying upstairs while I was in the basement with the women.  Alhumdulillah, we ladies found fellowship in our worship despite the surroundings.

After the prayer, we met up again.  It was really joyful  to see him again.  There is something about our relationship which always seems new.  I was (and still am) surprised at our partnership.

We started our walk back to Al Azhar when Ahmed saw a hospital entrance.  I was not looking forward to going into another Egyptian hospital.  A week before we had tried getting our medical paperwork stamped in a dark, over-crowded hospital.  The price was very high as well.  This time the hospital was light and bright and could have been mistaken for any U.S. hospital (except for the kitten running around). 



I wondered what kind of lab work was going to be needed and tried to do those deep breaths to keep from fainting.  Before, I have literally fainted when my blood was drawn.  I sat and waited anxiously. 

Another couple came by and the woman sat down next to me while the man went up the stairs too.  She and I were very different people.  Yet, we were both trying to get married.  She was actually more nervous than I was so I talked to her.  I was kind.  She calmed down.  Seeing her calm down made me happy. 

I was happiest of all when Ahmed came back and announced we could leave.  No blood drawn!  Money was paid (which was less than the previous hospital) and our paperwork was stamped.

We made it back to Al Azhar and got my new and improved shahaddah certificate. 

I thought for a moment to ask the sheik just HOW IN THE WORLD could Al Azhar in 2007 allow a couple who had divorced three times another chance?! Would knowing that the man was actually now married to another woman (me) with a baby (Mr. Boo) had made any difference?  Then, I thought of how the past isn't our present for a reason.

We left and debated where to go next.  The Embassy had already closed its walk-up service for the day. Can you believe it was only open until 11? Now, it isn't open at all.


I saw the Citadel in the distance. 
 
 
 

We took a taxi over and tried to get in only to hear that my entrance fee was 50 LE.  After marriage, I'd be 6 LE.  I fussed and fumed and left.  I really didn't have the endurance to keep going anywhere else. 
 
We had to return to Cairo and the Embassy another day.  In the beginning, I had thought that I wasn't going into Cairo enough.  There was so much to see and do, yet I stayed in Giza.  Now?  I was really not interested in going so often but we had to.  We left Mr. Boo again.  We had to leave early and make it to the Embassy right away in the morning.

As Allah would have it, there was another couple getting married that day.  A wacky American and her Egyptian from the 'net were trying to marry.  I heard how she had only known him a month (which beat my crazy short-term relationship of four months).  I was surprised she was handling it all so well.

"Oh, my medication helps," she said with a smile which meant she was going to feel OK no matter what.

My husband had bad feelings about her intended husband but there's nothing you can say or do in a situation like that.  People only believe what they want to believe.  I thought that it was very nice of her man to help my man fill out the complicated paperwork. 

It took only four sheets of paper to get it right.  LOL!  I screwed up three sheets with typos and he screwed up one.  In the end, we thought we had it all right and took it to the window.  Time was ticking.  Soon the doors would be shut.  Alhumdulillah, all the blanks were filled;  Arabic, English, numbers, and names.  From the other side of the glass, I told an Embassy worker with long blonde hair how I wanted to marry and she stamped her approval and smiled as we left.

We went by taxi to another building to get another stamp.  We thought we'd see the other couple there but we had just missed them.  They were on their way to the marriage hall that day so they were zooming through the process. 

Us?  We thought we would get that stamp and get married another day that week.  No hurry.  No need.  There would be plenty of time for us to be married during my Winter Break from school.  We got the stamp and returned before rush hour.

Later that week, we made plans to get married with Ahmed's brother and his boss as the witnesses.  We jumped in the taxi and went downtown again.  I had stopped counting how many times this was.  Al Azhar twice, Embassy made it three and now this was fourth.  This would be our final time inshahallah.

And then it happened.  CUE THE VIOLINS!  We went in to the room to stand in front of The Guy Who Marries You and he stopped.  No, he could not marry us.  There was one blank not filled in on our U.S. Embassy form.

One  blank.

ONE BLANK?

Are you joking?  Okay, so we hadn't filled it in but the Embassy had approved us so it didn't matter, right? 

No.  It mattered.

By having the guy Ahmed didn't like help us fill out the form, we had let down our guard.  We had trusted someone else to be smart and allowed ourselves to be stupid.

I asked to speak to someone else.  Ahmed and I waited and conferred as we waited.

I got to speak to the supervisor.

He told us we would have to go back to the Embassy.  Of course, it couldn't be today.  It would have to be after their Christmas break. 

Oh, no.

I asked to speak to someone else. 

Ahmed was now ready to throw me out the window but I persisted in my oh-so-American, can-do attitude.  I wanted to see the head of the department.

Sure enough, I saw him and I pressed my case (like the good lawyer Mom always wanted me to be).  I got the judge to sympathize, laugh, and agree to many things BUT in the end he told Ahmed to take me away.  Good thing I didn't go to law school, Mom.

We returned to the Embassy.  This was now trip number five.  No longer fun at all, those trips to Cairo.  A drag.  A horrible dirty trick drag.  All those times, to think that I was going to get married.  To get ready like that day would be "the day" only to find out that it couldn't be was too sad.

The Embassy was closed.  It had a different schedule than I had understood.  Holiday hours.  I was deeply dissapointed.  Ahmed was silent.

Silent men are not good for me. 

When Ahmed spoke it was some blocks later when we were entering Tahrir Square.

He spoke in Arabic.  He told me that it was obviously not our naseeb to marry.  Why would God place all these problems for us if He wanted us to marry?

I couldn't take it any more.  I broke down in public---in the most public place you could be.  I broke down hysterically.  I sobbed and moaned and almost wailed.  My spirit was sucked out of me and replaced with sorrow. 

I barely made it to the bus station with Ahmed that day.  My head was lowered and I kept tearing up at the misfortunes.  Why would life be so endlessly unfair?  How could it be that other couple got married last week when we didn't?

I entered into his mother's house.  She was the one who didn't want us married in the first place.  She would be happy at this turn of events, I thought.  The food was still on the table from lunch.  I touched nothing.  I was so tired.  I felt horrible.  I felt dizzy and out of sorts.  The bottom of my life had fallen out.  I went to lie down in the other room and my body felt racked with a dull pain.

All I wanted to do was sleep.



Chapter 28

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Should I Show More in Pictures?

The tribe has spoken!





Nineteen of you responded with, "Your eye is enough. Keep private."

I think this is because many of you are into thoughts and inner journeys.  Showing my outward appearance isn't really what you're after.  Either that or you're really afraid to see me...I'm going to hope it's the former.


Only one reader wanted to see my face.

LOL!  Okay, dude.  This seems like a dude response  Men are hungry for visual stimulation---can't fault them since it's biological.

Do I even have any dudes reading me?  They'd have to be some really quiet dudes for sure because I have not gotten one comment from a man since I started blogging in Egypt.  Not that you guys have to start!  I kind of like having a "GIRLS ONLY" commenting section.

Five readers wanted to see me with my family. 

I have to say that I am the most concerned about keeping my boy's pictures off the blog.  I love him dearly and could not bear it if my eagerness to share caused him any evil eye.  You never do know who is trolling the net.

Also, my husband is a dear man and I wouldn't want to see him through the eyes of others.  I only want to see him through my loving eyes.  He continues to be a present I am so very surprised to hold.

Seven readers say, "I really don't care at all. I come here to read."

I understand, Readers.  I come here to write.  So, let's each keep up our part of the deal and enjoy what we have.
 
Sure, I'm no Matt Logelin but I'm OK being Yosra.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Unseen



UNSEEN FORCES


ARE WORKING


IN YOUR FAVOR


That was the saying on the little black plastic ball I found in the snow a decade ago.  It wasn't a Magic Eight Ball.  It was more of a faux Magic Eight Ball with only one saying.  "Unseen forces are working in your favor."  It was true then and it's true now.  It's true for me and it's true for you.  At the time, I didn't fully understand how amazing the results would be but now I do.  Sitting here in Egypt, I know.

Life is amazing if you remain steadfast to Allah.  Allah has knowledge of the seen and the unseen.  People are so used to "Seeing is believing" but truly in Islam it is, "Not seeing is believing."

I've just had an email tonight which blew me away.  I mean blew me away like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Subhanallah!  It came to me exactly when I needed it.  It's all good.  Alhumdulillah.

Keep the faith.  Your deepest desire is known to Allah.  You can't hide it from Him!  Keep that desire burning and keep making du'a!

While you're at it...make some du'a for me if you can.  I am hoping and praying that the email is the answer to my prayers.

Ya rab! 

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.

Subhanallah.

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.

Friday, April 8, 2011

You Know You're a Muslimah When




...you have a nightmare and it's about painting your nails.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teaching Kindergarten

Recently, a friend of mine got a new position:  kindergarten teacher.  She asked me for some advice.  Here's what I said:


RUN!

Oh, no...I mean...LOL! Okay, here is the advice:

Classroom Management

Use "Give me FIVE!" as your attention tool NOT yelling. Don't yell or rant. Use few words. Speak slowly and with total command.

Don't treat them like babies but rather as very capable people. Urge independence and group helpfulness.  Think how this year is a process and appreciate the slow progress.

Transitions are key. Have rituals for getting from one place to another. I like line songs. These can be as simple as "Down by the Station," or "Wheels on the Bus". Currently, our line song is one which teaches the 7 continents and the 4 oceans. This is HARD but it's somthing to work up to. I've also done the Spiderman theme song which is beyond difficult but because the children love it so, they learn it.

Discipline

Have a time out of one minute only. Don't talk to the child before they've sat for LITERALLY one minute. Show no emotion while telling them "One minute" while showing them one finger (not that finger---the index finger). They sit. You remain congniscent of them in the chair. If they are extremely aggitated, you remain next to them. If they try to leave the chair, you sit down in the chair and put them on your lap.  In the beginning, you might have to stand there and count to 60 very deliberately. When you reach the minute:

1. Name the problem in a firm but not angry way "You were throwing sand".

2. Name the rule, “There’s no throwing sand at school.”

3. Say, “You need to say “Sorry.”

4. They say “Sorry.”

5. You change your total demeanor and say, “Give me a hug!” You do NOT say one more negative. That is turned off as the child’s day is re-started.

6. If their action affected another child, you escort them over to apologize to him or her.

7. With an extremely hard child, you might have to give several time outs to think over the course of the first days. This is a testing time and to be expected. Keep on top of the behavior you are helping to curb. Only chose one hard behavior to focus on.

Try to catch the child doing well rather than try to catch them being naughty.

Monitor yourself to make sure you are not constantly calling his or her name.  It's annoying rather than helpful.  Think if you would want someone to do that to you.

Have natural consequences rule rather than prizes which get awarded. I hate reward systems. I love natural consequences. Only those following the rules get to have jobs. Only those sitting nicely in their chair get their math workbook. Only those lined up are going outside. 

Occassionally (not even once a week), I pull out stickers to reinforce immediate tangible reward.  For those stickers, I try my best to make sure everyone is on task and able to get one.  Seriously, though, I might make it seem like not everyone is going to get one.  I might give one table the stickers and then watch for the behavior to improve, see that it has and award it to everyone after that. 

Effective Communication

Give more non-verbal commands than verbal. Be very precise with your hand commands. Use the same ones again and again. Don’t alter. Yes, you might sound robotic at time but there is comfort and safety from sameness at this age.

Get a cavalcade of finger plays, songs, and rhymes ready to pull out of your hat whenever you need.

Keep teaching time to 15 minutes or less. Get them up on their feet doing something in between activities.

Find special moments to love up the kids. Tie shoes, zip zippers, wash hands and give the extra love in small amounts that are real connections. Don’t fake it. Kids know.

Write notes to parents in a book which goes back and forth from school to home. Balance both good and bad; social and academic. Date everything. Check it daily though you don’t have to write in it daily.

Structure in the Day

As children arrive, teach them with every interaction.  Don't think that the teaching is only once the bell rings.

While taking attendance, use the time to really connect and to mold each child's behavior and response.  Talk to kids about sitting up straight, smiling, speaking loudly enough, attendance if they have missed the day before, appearance if they are needing help with that.  Make loving and helpful statements as you call names.

Have a morning meeting and a closing meeting to frame the day.  The morning meeting helps children adjust to coming back into the world of learning you're creating together.  The closing meeting helps reinforce concepts and ideas right before you send them away.

Keep a schedule posted on your board with graphics for what will be happening in your day. Keep referring to it.

Refer to the clock and talk about time as if you are keeping aware of it--which you are!

Do a 5-minute rest time each day after a story. They don’t have to sleep. They just have to be quiet with heads down. Those who can’t be quiet will be the last to pick what to play at center time.

Rules

Have simple rules which you refer to---actually stop and refer to the rules posted. Here are mine:

1. Eyes on the teacher

2. Ears listening to the teacher

3. Sit nicely in your chair

4. Raise your hand to talk

5. Speak in English

There are other rules like "Only one person at the bathroom at one time.  That person comes back and another can go." A rule like this must be followed---however exceptions can take place out of compassion.
Try to treat them as you would like to be treated--yep, The Golden Rule.

If children aren't following rules very well.  Take a moment and correct it right away.  Use, "Give me five!" to get their attention before re-directing their behavior.

Technology

Take lots of photos throughout the year.  Start with photos on the first day of school.  This helps to break the ice.  One of the best presents you can give parents is a photo of their child at school.

Look into creating a classroom website which can extend the affect you have on the child all the way to their home computer.
Use youtube videos which give them an educational experience.  I spend hours each week grabbing the best videos I can find and saving them by theme on my computer.  The children have their favorites.  I show videos throughout our day.  The video length is very short---usually under three minutes.  I do not agree with showing movies or TV shows---not even half an hour.  Children get enough screen time. 

I show a special cartoon on the last day of the week (Thursday).  That is the only day I would show something longer.  I think it's around 15-20 minutes total to show around two or three cartoons.

Attitude

Make the choice to really be the person which changes the life of child each and every day.  Remember the FISH!  Philosophy.  You will absolutely make a huge difference.  Work to the best of your abilities because this is a huge responsibility which Allah will ask you about on The Day of Judgement.  Inshahallah, you will have earned hasanette.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 25 "Engaging"

Asalamu Alaykom,




2009 was coming to an end and I didn't want to start a new year without knowing some details of my future.  I am a planner.  In my weeks off from school, due to the H1N1 outbreak that late fall, I was contemplating my ultimate goals.

I needed a better place to live.  I felt very ill at ease in my apartment.  My feelings of safety had been compromised.  A man, who gained my trust enough to be let into my place, took it very wrong. He made a clumsy play for me.  It was so shocking to me that his congeneal help had turned into octopus-arms lust. 

Now, looking back on it, I realize that a woman living in Egypt should never let a man in her apartment for any reason.  It's absolutely normal in the States to let men in to do work or to help you with the understanding that you want nothing else than that.  Here?  NOPE!  Especially if you're a foreigner, you'll be misperceived. 

At the time, I broke down into tears.  I really was mad.  I couldn't believe he had tried something without any permission or inclination on my part.  "Why do this to me?  There are lots of girls all over the streets who want this!  Why do this to me in hejab with my son sitting right over there?  And you know that I'm discussing marriage with someone!"

"I think I may be falling in love with you," he offered.

"That doesn't give you any rights on me!" I was indignant. 

And I was scared.  I realized that as long as I lived in that apartment, I would be on this man's radar.  After that, he would knock on my door to try to see me and talk to me.  

At first, I didn't feel I could say anything to my man, Ahmed.  I didn't want him to flip on me and accuse me of something false.  That would have hurt.  I also didn't want him to haul off and injure that guy.  So, I withheld the info completely, which was wrong.  I got very aggitated; wanting to move.  Then I realized that I had to tell him.  I didn't give all the details.  I simply gave enough to help him understand why I wanted to move out.

The two of us went together to the apartment which we had seen in September with my co-worker.  Once again, I saw how it was beautifully furnished, comfy, cozy and just what I wanted.  It felt safe and a definate improvement from my apartment.  It was quiet. 

I imagined Ahmed and I staying here together once married.  In fact, within every room I could visualize our life:  us watching TV, us eating at the table, us bringing the groceries into the kitchen, us fighting over the closet space and so on.  The whole place felt like a honeymoon cottage. It was away from everything and everybody---almost secluded on that tree-lined street. 

I couldn't imagine just Mr. Boo and I in that place.  I couldn't!  I didn't want to stay there alone as a single mom.  I was scared of that too.  I wanted that to remain a honeymoon cottage.  To stay in it without Ahmed would just be depressing. 

I told Ahmed and his sister that I liked it but I thought it was really for a married couple not for me and my son alone.  I walked away from a good deal because it wasn't a good deal for me.  I wanted it to be for us later. 

I wanted to sanctify our intentions.  We really were these nice people but I felt that over time we were going to turn into the very people we didn't want to be.  We were going to delay a marriage and end up dating and dumping.  I didn't want that ever again in my life. 

I wanted to stop all the talk of "Habibi".  I actually stopped him from calling me this because it couldn't be true yet.  I felt like all the radios here could blast HABIBI non-stop if they wanted to but I wanted something deeper.  I wanted something real.

I wanted to stop any casual touch.  Those little touches build.  Really!  I knew that each touch was haram.  Neither one of us wanted the ultimate haram---zina, astragferallah.  Wallahi, I wanted this to be the marriage which was built on halal.  If either one of us crossed that line, then I was prepared to call the whole thing off.  I wanted no part of a man who couldn't control himself.  It was a true test of our faith to feel the love and interest grow and not to lose ourselves to it.  However, I saw how self-control had a limited amount of time before that intensity of feeling could backfire on us.

I pulled away from him a few times.  Like a true Muslim, he responded with gratitude for my eforts at modesty.  I really harped on the need to fear Allah when I felt that we were acting like we were already married.  He heard me and was very introspective about us.  This was getting so close to being real that I didn't want to mess it up.

We decided to get engaged.  I can't say that I remember the moment.  I don't think there was a moment.  It kind of fell into place.  We started talking about where we could live.  It was decided that his brother's partially finished flat would become ours.  We would get the rest of the work done.  While the work was being done, we would be living in the honeymoon cottage together.

My instincts had been right, alhumdulillah.  If I had agreed to live there alone, I don't think his impetus to do the right thing would have been the same.  In other words, if I had settled for less then he would have too. 

The night of the engagement I was feeling fine. I was once again at his mom's house for dinner.  The whole family was coming over.  It seemed like any other Friday night until all the kids started singing celebratory songs.  The kids, whom I love very much, were freaking me out!  This was real.  I was getting engaged.

The house got more and more crowded with family all wanting to see us recite Al-Fatiha "The Opening" verse from the Quran.  The idea of once more telling a group of people that I wanted to spend forever with a man seemed suddenly crazy. 

We stepped out into the night air---just the two of us.  We needed some sweets to serve to everyone.  It was this really beautiful walk in the moonlight.  We didn't talk.  We seamlessly strolled.  I did take his arm.  I did feel sky high in love with him.  We picked out an assortment together.  I remembered how well we worked together.  It felt right to walk back and become engaged.

So, we walked back and the chaos ensued.  The house full of cousins would not settle down.  I couldn't believe the noise!  It was insane!  They were so excited about the party that they almost made me cancel it altogether---for real!  I hadn't imagined our holy union being such a circus.  I walked out of the room and prayed. 

People freaked. "Why is she praying?" 

I know it didn't make sense to them. It didn't have to.  I needed Allah to be with me.  I felt caught up again with wondering about the family I was marrying into.  I was becoming part of a family and I wasn't really getting out again.  It doesn't work that way in Egypt.  That thought needed some serious calming and the house had the same decibel level as a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.

My intended came into the room and he started to wonder if I was getting cold feet.  To see him get worried made me sober up.  I didn't want to cause him any upset or have him lose face with his family.  I asked him if they could calm the kids.

So, I went back.  Yes, I had walked out of my own engagment party to pray and now I was walking back.  And I was going to be a good girl from here on---

WHAT?

No, no, no, no, no.  There had to be a man in the family to give an announcement to the proceedings.  They were asking the one man in the family I didn't trust (don't ask) to start off our union.  I stopped the whole deal.

Again.

Oh my goodness.  I can't really believe I did this--but I did!  I stopped the talking and asked Ahmed if we could have his brother-in-law with the bum leg to give the speech.  There was some hemming and hawwing about which man was older and such.  But I was firm and in the end, I got my way. 

Why was it so important to me?  I was scared.  I was scared that one wrong move would mean a bad marriage.  I didn't want anything touching it which could harm it.

So, get this...

the intro is done nicely by the man I liked and trusted.  Everyone in the crowded room knows we are going to say Al-Fatiha together.  All the kids are sitting nicely.  It's the moment I've been waiting for.

I'm moving a little slowly through the steps because I never did any of this before.  I never saw anyone else to it either.  Everyone in the room has their hands up to recite Quran and I remember in slo-mo to put my hands up too.  I'm going to start reciting with them.  I put my hands up and

"Sadakalahu alazeem"  They are done.

WHAT?

How did that happen so quickly?  They breezed through it and are now congratulating and I say,

"I didn't say it."  I can't remember if I said it in English or Arabic but I felt I needed to say it.  I worried that the whole deal wouldn't "stick" if I didn't recite with Ahmed.

So...you laughing yet?  I'm cracking up as I type this. 

The whole room gets quiet again (a minor miracle) and Ahmed very patiently and slowly says Al-Fatiha again so I can feel engaged.  Afterward, I felt like I was a big goof.  I felt like all my fears about doing it exactly right haunted me until everything went wrong.

I ate the sweets, sat and visited and then I left.  I had to get away from all the people.  I was actually very confused.  How could something so anticipated get so screwed up? 

I remember sitting on my couch with the laptop chatting away to a friend that night to find some sanity.  I needed to tell someone from my culture about what had just happened.  I needed to figure it out.

Again, hindsight is 20/20 and I think it was a big culture shock for me to go through that engagement party.  It was so very cultural!  And I didn't know what I was doing.  I wanted to control something which I knew nothing about.  Not very easy!  And that struggle hurt me and it hurt Ahmed.

I figured out from that how I had to let go of the things which really didn't matter.  I had to keep in mind those ultimate goals and not get bogged down by temporary challenges.  I had to trust Ahmed to be the person I had come to know and love.

I was engaged to him now.