Friday, January 20, 2012

MAKING HIJRAH 40: Running My Own Race

Asalamu Alaykom,

The summer of 2010, school finished and I was on my own time.  I could do as I pleased once again.  I had made the decision long ago that I would not be traveling to America that first year.  I knew my expenses would not allow for it.  Besides that, I needed more time to perfect who I was---not that I'd ever be perfect.

A lot was weighing on me even though I was weighing less than I had in a long time.  I was thinking of getting myself ready for the one year anniverary of making hijrah.  I wanted to be better.  Better at what?  I wasn't exactly sure but I wanted to have achieved some kind of proof that I made a good decision coming here; some kind of concrete affirmation.

While I was sitting home, organizing my life for the first time in a long time, I was slowly getting depressed.  It was depressing to suddenly not have friends. My British gal pal had decided to leave and not come back.  She and I packed up her things in her apartment and talked over life and love, careers and futures.  It was a big moment for her but it really was big for me too.  I was saying goodbye to not only her but to her way of leaving independently.  I could not and would not be leaving.

My gal pal gave me a bunch of stuff to cart back to my apartment.  We signalled a taxi and loaded it up.  There was so much:  bags of clothes, kitchen goods, some food and even a vacuum!  I chatted with the driver a little.  He wanted to ask me about Obama.  I told him how good Obama was and commented that he himself looked a little like Obama.

The driver got Mr. Boo and I back to our house and the stuff was unloaded.  In the house it went, my husband paid and off the taxi went.  I kept trying to figure out where everything was.  Where was the vacuum?  Where was the frozen food?  I called my gal pal to ask if I'd left it at her place by mistake.

No.  She was sure that I'd been tricked by the trunk.  It had happened to her.  The driver loads the things he wants under the false bottom in the trunk and then when you're unloading you don't see it.  He was now the proud owner of shrimp and a Hoover. 

If I ever see him again...

but you know what?  I probably won't.  So, it's best to leave it to Allah.  I must not have needed that stuff.  Alhumdulillah for what I got.  I got clothes for me and for the nieces.  I got some spices.  Really, there was so much and it was nice to have it even if I couldn't have my friend.

What was depressing is that I didn't have internet either.  I couldn't connect with friends and family back home.  I didn't have internet because my laptop had malfunctioned.  There was a whole coping mechanism/addiction in my life which was removed at a time when I was also losing a friend and out of work.


That summer was a real test of who I wanted to be.  I got very quiet for the first time in a long time.  I did simple things like reading and writing.  I took walks and had talks and learned more Arabic.  I spent time having a little life.  It was boring!  I knew that I couldn't sustain it but it was okay for a short time.  I needed that slow lane to cool my engines.

We went shopping for used books.

We went to the village Kerdasa to see their market day. They are known for their galabiyas and I bought three.

Ramadan was coming.  I was beyond excited.  That turned out to be a problem.  When we anticipate too much, our expectations go too high.  I was picturing a life of family fun during Ramadan.  I had been cut off from friends and family that summer and really needed the family to rally round me.

They didn't.

They were used to their Ramadan routines and none of those included me.  They were busy doing their rituals.  I was not.  I wasn't really invited in.  No blame.  It simply was that clash of old and new.

I went to bed early...
but they stayed up late.

I ate suhour after I woke up...
but they ate suhour before going to bed.

I prayed fajr...
 but they were often too tired to wake up for fajr.

I spent my days busy...

but they slept alot.
I prayed magrib first before eating...

but they had the food on the table before magrib and then immediately ate.

I didn't like to watch dramas after the fast...

but they got engrossed in the special Ramadan programming. 

I prayed the night prayers at home...

but my husband prayed them at the masjid.
There were differences to put it mildly.  I was as alone as if I had been unmarried.  So, there I was a sad revert at Ramadan---and of course you know you're not supposed to be sad at Ramadan.  You're supposed to have this great connection with God.  Yet, my days and nights were full of wondering why I had made such an effort to come to Egypt.

Honestly?  I missed the masjid, "back home" in The States.  I NEVER thought I would feel that way but I did.  I was missing friends and connections; women who would invite me out or give me a hug in the parking lot of the local halal buffet.  I missed bumping into moms and grandmas of kids I once taught.  I even missed how my mom would suffer through Ramadan grumbling all the way.  I missed dunya.

"Dunya," is Arabic for the world.  It has a connotation in Islam of loving the things and the people more than Allah.  Astragferallah.  As Muslims, of course we can love good food and good friends but we can't love them more than God.  At Ramadan we re-evaluate what is a priority to us and inshahallah we chose our faith. 

In my imaginings, I thought that Ramadan would bring my husband and I closer but instead we were at odds.  I jumped at the invitation from a co-worker to join her for iftar dinner.  I was absolutely sick of the dysfunctional way things were going at our house.

When I went over to her posh apartment full of antiques and old money, it was very quiet.  Though it was late in the afternoon, everyone else was asleep.  It was only my friend and the servant.  After a while it was one sleepy boy and then another who came out to greet me.  Right before the sunset, her husband woke up.  As a smoker, he needed to handle Ramadan that way.  My friend had spent the day alone in a house of sleeping people.

"It's not a cultural difference, Yosra," she told me.  "It's not about you being American and your husband being Egyptian.  Look at us!  Each family deals with the month of fasting in their own way.  Even within one family, each person does it differently.  Some sleep all day and some don't.  I don't but my husband does.  The kids do.  And some watch TV afterwards while some go to the masjid.  I take the kids to the club." 

I'm not sure if you can visualize me in that moment but something clicked in my brain.  There were maybe even a few clicks.  I realized some huge aspects to my Islam were in need of adjusting.  I was not going to link up with a man or with his family and become a better Muslim.  I was not going to be able to "fix" them and their ways of observing.  I had to run my own race.

Yes, even though I was now part of a married Muslim couple, in an observant family and in a country full of believers, I was alone in my Islam.  Though I had looked at that as a negative, I started to really see that as a positive.  Each one of us is to be judged alone by our merits.  I didn't have to be the same as everyone or make everyone the same as me.  We truly could be different people; different Muslims and let Allah decide who did their best.  I could let go of my efforts to be a bandleader who knew all the notes.  I could be a solo act.

Having said that, when I let go, I started to love everyone more and love Ramadan more.  I accepted life as it was.  These people had put up with a lot from me and my son over that first year.  I didn't have to be upset with them.  In many ways, they had accepted me and respected me.  I needed to find a way to do the same for them.  That process connected us better over time.

It hurt to let go; to stop trying to control the world.  Yet somehow the world kept functioning fine with me settling down into my  new life.  I did have a new life. 

Alhumdulillah for a new life and a new chapter.  Even though I'll end this series on Chapter 40, I'll keep living this story.  I'll keep figuring out a way to be a little bit better today than yesterday.  I'll keep praying that I don't leave this life until I've reached my highest level of iman.

Ya rab.

Thank you for reading and for being with me in spirit.  If you wish to make hijrah in your own life then I pray that Allah makes it easy on you.

Alhumdulillah, Allah made it easy on me.

After hardship there is ease.


Anonymous said...

Asalamu Alaikum Yosra, Ive been following your blog regularly for many years now. I just want to tell you how proud I am of you and how much I admire you. You have been through so much yet you seem to only grow in your iman and as a person. Your constant self relection and self change is a gift from Allah and something not many people are able to do in life. You truly seem to grow and flourish with time....through hard work you were able to come to this place of peace in your life and I hope Allah continues to bless you with higher iman and more wisdom. You have opened yourself up to much criticism and judgement through this blog (many times I was the one yelling at the computer and judging) but you truly are helping people by sharing your struggles with us. For that jazakullahu khayr:)


Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Laila,

Of course I'm so please with what you've written. I should back up and say that I'm pleased that you've READ ---and for a long time.

Really? The blog only makes sense if you understand the arch I've been on. It's a learning curve, for sure. Alhumdulillah that you get exactly why I write.

I really do write with the hope that my journey makes sense to someone else---not necessarily to do the same as me BUT to take that leap of faith to be authentic; make choices and even to make mistakes; to live for a highter purpose and to suffer and to strive. Inshahallah, that we have Allah pleased at the end of our lives.

Mashahallah, if you read that I'm doing better in my thoughts and ways then I hope that Allah sees this in me too. I feel it. I hope it :)

You are absolutely right that I have done things that were counter to what others would have chosen for me. Looking back, I'm not sure which moment I could have done without. Since it was Allah's plan...I guess I needed it all. Alhumdulillah I'm here in this place of my life and not before.

Alhumdulillah I have readers who understand me...and send kind words.

I deeply, deeply appreciate your comment.

May we meet in Jennah.

Anonymous said...

sis Yosra,
i spend about 2 days reading all your making hijrah experienced so many things. .and for that i admire your strong will and faith in Allah.i love these hijrah post and i hope you will cont to write them.and someday maybe publish them with your own book.i love yr wrting thogh..hope everything is well with the fmly and all.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Reader,

Subhanallah how I never know when people are reading what I've written. It's always a bit of a surprise to learn that someone like you got wrapped up in my hijrah story.

When you wrote, "you experienced so many things," I had to stop and take a drink of my chilled Nescafe. Did I? It made me take stock again and remember that I have. In our daily life, we tend to forget that the spot we're in isn't where we've always been. We've been on a journey and YES we all have experienced many things if we were brave...or stupid...enough to really interact with life.

I know what you're saying about the hijrah stories continuing. I know that others have wondered too. For me? I feel like my whole time here in Egypt is hijrah but that I have to really live my life and not become an observer of my life. That's the danger when we expose ourselves in our writing. Instead of really living a moment, we think, "I can't wait to write about this!" And I don't want to become that person (again). I want to live fully without that critical eye searching for what would make a good story later.

A book? I used to think I'd like to get published. I approached one literary agent. She said my writings weren't funny enough. LOL! So, I've made peace with that idea and I've come to see that this writing on the 'net is open 24 hours a day to anyone who is searching. I'm read by hundreds of people a day and thousands of people each month. Alhumdulillah! If I were to be in a book form, I really don't know if my numbers could be any better.

My goal in writing the hijrah story is to give hope and guidance to anyone thinking of making this life-changing decision. It's possible. There will be problems and there will be tough times BUT with faith in God and good intentions all things are possible.

I'm so very pleased you liked what I wrote. Please share it. And come back to find more you like inshahallah.

Alhumdulillah things are good with me and my family. It's morning time in Egypt---the quietest time of the day. My husband is reading Quran in the big armchair. Mr. Boo is still asleep. I've had a wonderful breakfast of cornflakes, and oat flakes, covered with cut apricot, apple and almonds. It's my last day at the school I've taught at for the last three years. Thank God for all the blessings.

May Allah bless you and ease for you whatever journey you take.

Um Abdullah said...

Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa billah (there is no might and no power but from Allah).
I am very sad to hear your story !
You were on te right way my sister in Islam. But being among mushrikeen made you influenced by the mushrikeen.
Our prophet said: "A man follows the religion of his friend. So each one should consider whom he makes his friend." (Abu Dawuud 41:4815, model behavior)

And another more important thing: don't make pictures of your self. That is shirk. Allah forgives any sin accept shirk. (Qor'an surah An-nisa 4:116 + 48 en 5:72)

And our prophet said: "Every image maker will be in Hellfire.
A soul will be breathed in every picture made by him and it shall punish him in the Hell."
(Muslim 24:5272, Clothes and decorations)

May Allah gide us.
As-salamu alaikum.

imenbouyahya said...

Salam Alaykum Yosra,

Let me first call you dear Yosra, I should! throughout my two-day reading of your Hijra stories, I felt that you are sol close to me, I could touch your hand and feel your heart beat in moments of fear and joy..You're such a friend, a big sister to me dear Yosra. After reading every chapter I could not help thinking about you, your analyses, interpretations and conclusions.
Alhamdulilah for leading me to this precious nook in the virtual world! I have literally lived every and each moment with you, praye for your safety and health though those incidents are a past now! You're writing is AMAZING and Yes, so funny, so thoughtful and deep. I congratulate you for being so brave and strong in tough situations, I see through you every muslimah taking her Islam in her both hands and struggling to be better everyday..
Egypt,Oh Egypt, is so much like my own country Tunisia, but Egypt is Egypt because Egyptians are a special kind of human being. Allah SWT knows best by leading you to Egypt, It's the place where you can be a better muslim on eveyday basis than any other place in the world, and I see you got why..I am happy for you Yosra, happy while reading your valuable conclusions. Our every single step is meant to happen, and we're the happiset once we seem to understand the hidden meanings and messages Allah send us.
Keep it all up dear Yosra, you faith, your courage, your chin, your good deeds and thoughts, and your valuable blog posts.

Make Allah reward you Al Ferdaws and be pleased with you and your son.

You're such and isnpiration madame!

Looking always forwad to reading you.

Imen from Tunis.

Assalam Alaykum.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Imen,

I got your terrific comment today. Thanks so much for reading and understanding what it meant to go through that first year. It was a trial but it did make me stronger. I am glad that you felt so positively after reading. It means a lot to me.

I haven't been posting very much lately but I need to. Comments like yours poke me into remembering that I have things to say.

Ameen to your du'a.

Love and Light to Tunis from Egypt!

Asalamu Alaykom UmAbdullah,

I realized now that I never responded to your comment. You were sad to hear my story? I'm not sure if that's exactly what you meant. I'm not sure if sadness is what I was aiming for! Yet, that's what you got out of it so I guess that's a valid response.

As for images, we all make decisions based on solid evidence. You have your reasons for not showing images of yourself. I respect that. For me, I do not see my photograph as being shirk. In the end, we will all be judged. You have done your duty in warning me as you saw fit and I have heard you. No hard feelings as there is no compulsion in religion.

Ameen to you du'a.

Love and Light!

Shell said...

Assalamu Aleikom! :)
I made it! I made it here! I had to skip a lot and got all crazy worried at one point because they started to turn into more recent posts and I thought that somewhere in my marathon blog reading session, I must have accidentally skipped over the next one-I figured it out... and also figured out I could just click the next chapter(duh)--which you so conveniently provided the link for below that entry(thank you!!!) instead of opening ten new pages at the top and moving from to the next.

I feel... I don't know if I can explain it. I certainly adore you though. I admire you. I feel like I know you--especially since I've spent a couple of days laughing, crying, sitting on pins and needles waiting etc etc etc with you.

I pray for you! God bless you and your beautiful family--the whole family. Each and every person you have introduced to the world.

I don't know what else to say at this point. I want to pick up the book again and keep reading, but, me, the 'don't you dare even think about giving me a romance novel' person is actually contemplating everything I've just read. I can tell this much, I feel like I love my husband more. I feel like I want to go do wudu and pray. I feel like I want to start doing it again every day. I feel like I need to hold my kids tighter, hug them more, tell my Momma and Daddy how much I love them. I suppose I could go on, but this is really odd for me--this whole writing to stranger who has pulled every emotion in me that I've never met--so I guess I will go give my 7 yr old son his milk and cookies(nightly ritual before bed) and put on my jammies and just think...think.. think...about the thoughts and info I have gained ...good thoughts though!

All my best to you!
Peace and Blessings,

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Shelly,

Alhumdulillah :) I'm glad you made it through! Those 40 Chapters were my effort to put a BIG year into perspective. I learned a LOT. When I re-read this chapter, I actually re-learn what I once wrote. It is a bit like I'm a different person now.

Thank you for your prayers and blessings. I really do appreciate it. I hope that my time on the earth will leave things better not worse. If you feel more love, hope and appreciation for your blessings then alhumdulillah. In a way, your feelings are an answer to my prayers because I do want to have a positive affect on others.

So much of my years in Islam was breaking free from the past. At this point, I feel like it is more and more behind me. The revert in me is quietly subsiding. This week will mark (inshahallah) 12 years since I took shahaddah. It's long enough to get me to where I am, but not long enough to get me to where I want to be.

I wish all the best to you and your family. Make your own stories come true just the way you'd like. It sounds like you have everything you need to make that wonderful life happen; a young son, hugs, milk, cookies, and jammies all make a good start.

Lastly, please don't think of me as a stranger. We are both in Islam, so therefore we are sisters.

Light and Love from Egypt :)