Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MAKING HIJRAH 39 "Really Living"

Asalamu Alaykom,

My father, God bless him, has had many women who have loved him but only a few of those women seemed to love me:  my grandma, my mom and Judy.  Judy was a lady love and a really caring "giver" who shone with serenity and continued to be a positive force in my life until her death.

It was Judy who listened to me the winter of 2001.  That was the year when I was contemplating so many life changes.  We sat together inside a log cabin deep in the Wisconsin woods.  The fire was burning (out of necessity not for quaint effect).  She heard me when I said, "One of my favorite movies is The Year of Living Dangerously.  I think that could be my motto for the new year."

Judy had gone through cancer and was doubly wise.  She had that gift of taking in my words and savoring them before speaking.  Not many people can actually love you enough to accept your thoughts.

"Why not, 'The Year of Living'?"

That was her response:  "The Year of Living".  It was as accurate then as it would be nine years later.

When I started Spring of 2010, it had been under strained circumstances.  I was a new bride in a new home within a family house and my new husband had just had surgery.  That's a lot of change---and stress.  It came at the end of a long line of stress.  Making hijrah is stressful.

By May, I had to admit that I was no longer in the process of making hijrah.  It was now in the past tense.  I had made hijrah.  I had forged a new life.  I was no longer living dangerously.  I was living.  I was living in Egypt.

This feeling of accomplishment gave me a new sense of freedom.  I no longer had to manically search for ways to stay afloat.  I could relax.  For the first time in a long time, I could actually settle down into a calm.  I knew where my next meal was coming from.  I knew where I would live.  I had a job!  I had money.  I had a husband.  Alhumdulillah I had a halal life.

So I stopped surviving and started thriving.  I began buying things for our new life which could never it in a suitcase.  We purchased that cool bedroom set with all the storage.  Nothing says, "I'm here to stay," like getting furniture.

We started going out to explore more of Egypt.  Sure, we had seen things together but we'd never taken a full day excursion.  Our first big trip was to the Step Pyramid of Sakara.  It was a quick bus ride to the remote location.  As we walked up the enterance, what a magical moment to see it appear up on the hill.  The museum was spectacular with the oldest royal mummy on display (but don't ask me whose).  The winding walk up the hill was going to be hard but alhumdulillah we got a ride.  There weren't many tourists.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely. 

The tombs of the rich families were amazing. 

I took so many photos because I couldn't believe my eyes. 

It felt so good to be doing normal things as a family.

One very normal activity was bringing a pet for show-and-tell.  We didn't actually have a pet per se.  We had a new baby goat which we named Snow White.  She was adorable!  I was on the letter Gg for my Jolly Phonics lesson so it made sense to bring her in.  Would my husband do it?

Yes, Ahmed would, though he was a little nervous.  He asked me what he should wear; pants or galabiya?  My husband Ahmed normally wears galabiya (the long men's shirt) while around the neighborhoood.  He wears pants when we go out of the Al-Haram area.  I told him, "It doesn't matter.  I married you; I didn't marry pants or galabiya."

It was going to take quite some effort that day to load Snow White in a taxi (along with some clover) and make his way to school.  I was so excited!  Not only was this a fun activity for the kids, this was going to be Ahmed's first visit to my school as my husband.  I could introduce him to everyone.

My class got ready to go outside.  The other kindergarten classes had been invited to come too.  When they saw my husband and the goat they decided against.  No one else came.  I was shocked.  I had a docile animal to pet and feed and yet the other two teachers declined.  I had to let it go.  My son was allowed to spend time even if his classmates were not. 

I loved taking pictures of the children enjoying something so simple and sweet.  Later, those pictures would be used in marketing the school.  I still get to see Snow White in those pictures even though she left us this Eid.

I was so happy with the whole event.  I was happy that my husband had gone to such lengths to make me happy and to make the children happy.  There was only one problem.

That galabiya on my husband had caused talk in the office.  Why had he worn a galabiya?  That's what they were asking me.  The only men at school who wear galabiya were the guards at the gates.  So, why would a teacher's husband wear galabiya? 

My righteous indignation rose up my spine and made me stand up straighter.  I started to understand why the other teachers weren't interested in giving their students a great learning opportunity.  There was an undercurrent of classism and a backlash against anyone who seemed too religious and far beneath the upper-middle class.

I smiled as I answered, "He was so nice to come to school.  It didn't even occur to me to tell him to wear something different.  I had no idea that it would be so surprising to others since...you know...we're in Egypt."

It was then that I received a most unwelcome comment.  I was told that Ahmed would be nice in my life for a couple years...maybe three...and then I could move on.  I could get my fun and then find someone else with more money.

I felt sad for sure.  I felt sad that Muslims could act and talk this way.  I knew the difference.  I knew that insides were more important than outsides.  I knew that our commitment was sincere and far above the level of silly diversions.  Honestly, I felt sad but not for me.  I felt sad that someone could be so shallow. 

Alhumdulillah, from that day I got a better glimpse of the life I was building.  It was a good moment to remember that there is no Muslim country really; there are only countries with Muslims in it.  So, I would accept another year's contract to stay in Egypt because I could find Islam better here---though not necessarily with every person I met.

Chapter 40; the last chapter


MarieHarmony said...

How I always enjoy reading you Yosra. I imagine your sadness, but as you say when we know the inside is what counts over everything it makes all the difference.

When I was in Egypt most of the people accepted the religious difference. It's true I feel closer to Islam now, but I am still in between the 2 religions. Some of the people I met were quite disturbed by it and would openly say things not nice about it and about our marriage. Some people are just like this, they don't have God in their hearts.
Take care and looking forward Chapter 40!

Inspiring Always said...

Their comments bring tears to my eyes. I'm so sorry that they are being judgmental in their remarks based on examples they may have seen in the past. What they expressed is not Islamic at all. I'm so ashamed. You seem a better Muslim that some of us. Just remember, not all Muslims are like that.

You are special. Out of the millions of people you are one of the privileged few who has been chosen to receive Allah's Light. Thousands of miles away from me I feel much love for you, as a sister in Islam.

Consider it as a test from Allah. Will you be shaken, irritated, surrender or become much stronger in your faith and belief. Rumi said, "How will you be polished if you are irritated by every rub?"

May your journey be smooth and may you always come out stronger in every trial and tribulation.

I may have said too much here but I just want to reach out to you.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Dear Sisters,

My goodness! Both of you have left such moving comments! How can I even start to address all you've said? It's really very touching and I feel how sweet you both are.

Let me start with Maire:

You are so nice to keep reading and keep enjoying. I am glad where I see that you've been by and that you've gotten something out of what's I've written. Alhumdulillah.

It was a strange new kind of sadness I had that day. I still really love the person who said it. I see her everyday and yet I don't hold a grudge or any anger. I do feel I've reached a kind of peace about that shallowness. We read time and again about some people being blind ---not literally but in there understanding. I feel this about what she said. She wasn't trying to be awful...she was just blinded. It wasn't by lack of faith, though, it was by her love of culture.

I hear everyday about people who would get married BUT they don't have the right house. They would get married BUT they don't have a dining room set. It's all about the money. 30,000 EP for gold jewelery in addition to the mahr. WHAT?! It's crazy!

So, I am really going against the norm here by marrying with nothing YET Allah rewarded both of us by marrying for the sake of Allah. Alhumdulillah, it's been two years now and everything we have is greater than when we started.

Maire, I never think of you as being anything different from me. If you are unsure of what name to call your worship of God, then stop trying to name it. You can't birth the baby and watch birthing the baby. Do you get what I mean? Let it be. Let the transformation take place and don't try to figure it out too much.

You are one of the nicest readers I've ever had on my blog. I don't care what you want to call yourself. You are wonderful. Leave it at that and relax into acceptance of what is---don't worry about what isn't.

Your husband is blessed and then some to have you as his wife. Anyone who doesn't understand this is not worth talking to.

Inshahallah, I'll get to the last chapter in the next week.

The LAST chapter!!!! I never thought it would take 40! Subhanallah I'm long-winded!

Now, for Inspiring...

You are so tender-hearted to be so connected to the sadness of my recounting. Alhumdulillah it was a while ago. I'm not in a place of sadness now. Inshahallah, no one will get too upset by what I've written.

It's really true that Muslims shouldn't say these things...but they do. I wish they didn't! They have had so much (Quran throughout their lives, modest clothing available, halal food) but yet they throw it away for what feels good (materialism,showy clothes, and junk food).

I do think that I prove to a lot of Muslims here that Islam is NOT an Arab thing. It's on the soul level and I do have a deep appreciation for the change in my soul. Alhumdulillah.

It really is a test from Allah if I will be a cultural Muslim or a Muslim in my true self. On the Day of Judgement, I will learn how I have faired. Alhumdulillah, I know I am living cleaner and better since I've been here. Inshahallah, that is how I will be judged.

Ameen to your du'a.

You said just the right amount of words and never hold back from what you need to say. I appreciate the time and effort you took to be kind to me about someone else's disdain.

May Allah reward you and bless you and keep you on the straight path. May your kindness live on even after you die.

Sudaniyyah said...

assalamu alaykum, Alhamdulilah for all of your successes and may Allah make them more and more for you and your family. I was also coming to Egypt Im sudaneese, However with the racism that goes on against dark Egyptians, African Americans and any other person of color we have since gave up on Egypt for this reason. My husband is White. I was told they treaty caucasions well but dark people horribly I have 10 friends in Egypt all white they say the same thing. Every place is not for everyone. I believe its a place to go if you can live comfortably as it apperas you are doing well. we should in Islam want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves and I truely pray the blessings of Allh reach you for a long time in Egypt and that you prosper in his name *ammen*

Nafeisa Abdalla- Abdurahman Abdallah

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Sister Sudaniyyah,

Thank you for being another voice. I do realize the sadness in which you write. It is sad that your skin prevents you from the same opportunities as me. I'm going to be very honest and admit that I know you're correct in your statement. Yes, there is racism in Egypt and I benefit from it. Astragferallah that Muslims, who were once called to prayer by Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) now are predjuidiced against others who are like him.

In many ways, I think it would be harder for you being a mixed couple. There would be stares for your hub being white...stares for you being black and WHAT?! They are together?! I wouldn't put it past Egyptians to make jokes about it. They are good people but definately stuck in a 70s sitcom attitude about race.

I do believe there is a wonderful place in store for you and your husband...if not in this life then the next. Allah will reward you for all your hardships in trying to make a halal life. Allah will read of who mistreated you based on your skin. Have no worries. It will all be fine in the end. I wish better for you than you even wish for yourself.

Thank you for your du'a. I wish Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Not really related, but it's true of Islamic schools, too. After my second year at an "Islamic school" I had to admit to myself and others, that no, this is just a school for Muslims, and isn't based on islamic principles at all. I'm sorry, but 45 minutes of arabic (more like Algerians pounding on the desk, shouting, demanding quiet for the majority of the class) islamic studies, quran, and making the girls wear a scarf and abaya doesn't make a school "islamic" per se. The same goes for countries. I'm a bit jaded, sure, but I still giggle a bit when people talk of Saudi as a great islamic nation, or any of the other middle east nations. I wish! InshaAllah one day :)