Friday, June 29, 2012

Sweet Freedom

Asalamu Alaykom and Jummah Mabrook,





It is a quiet Friday morning in Egypt.   

I've watched a khotba on TV from Zakir Naik

I'm still full from our dinner out last night during which we feasted on fish, shrimp and calamari.  We went out to celebrate the end of an era for me.  I am done with my school; not only for the year but forever. 

I hesitate to write this part of yesterday because it caused tears and I don't have time for them today.  One the tasks I had to do on my last day was to collect my co-op share of 5,000 LE from the school.  During my son's first kindergarten year, when money ran out too quickly every month, I had to come up with this huge amount of money.  Somehow, I did.  With no one helping me, I paid 5,000 LE and it hurt.  It hurt because it meant getting my salary from one window at the accounting office and taking out gobs of bills in order to pay the co-op share at the other window.  I got my receipt that day and stashed it away with some feeling of accomplishment.

Yesterday, when I presented my receipt, it was discovered that my name was not listed.  I hadn't known that only my son's name was listed because it was all in Arabic.  By default, the cheque would be made out to his father (that would be the same man who hadn't paid one piastre of the amount).  However, the man in accounting was thinking of what's normal in Egypt:   dads pay the money and dads get the money. 

You single moms out there will feel that pain as I did.  You women who have to deal with the patriarchy of the Middle East will get that moment of brick wall immovability.  No amount of talking from me, a trusted employee of the school for three years would change this man's mind.  I was not going to get the money I paid.  I left the building fighting back the sting of zolm; injustice.  It took my supervisor coming down with me to convince him that I should get the money;  my money.



Before long, I needed to say my goodbyes.  The only time I really felt the pain of parting was with the dadas: the nannies.  These observant ladies are closer to me in Islam than anyone else at the school.  They pray and fast.  They remember Allah in everything.  They are the salt of the earth.  They wished me the best at the Islamic school we will be going to in the fall, inshahallah.  May Allah protect them. 

I walked out for the last time and saw the scene as if from a distance:  the people, the place, the memories.  It's done.  I'm done.  I'm done with the place which called me from America to Egypt back in the Spring of 2009.  I'm done with the people who have been my community (for good or bad).  I've ended an important time in my life.  Alhumdulillah. 

On the busy street, outside the enterance to the school, I eyed the donkey carts lining the road, loaded with fresh produce.  From a man in galabiya, I bought a bag of green and red grapes for 5 LE.  A little ways on, I bought a bag of oranges for 5 LE. 
It was my moment of freedom and I wanted it to taste sweet.  As I started to go, the older man told his son to give me two more oranges and I opened my plastic bag to receive the gift.  "Shukran, ya Hagg." I told the man, "Thank you, Sir."  for his goodness.

At 97 degrees, it was too hot to keep walking.  I hailed a taxi.  The first one said "no" to the short trip.  The second man who pulled up agreed and I jumped in.

What I love about Egypt is how I can get into the taxi with a little old man and hear the last bars of  Axel Rose belting out, "SWEEEEEEEEEET CHIIII---iiiiiiii----IIIIIIII----iiiiiiii-----IIIIIII LD of MIIII---iiiine."  It makes absolutely no sense.  Normally, I don't hear any American music on my taxi rides and certainly not with an old man.  It was totally random and I loved it.  He cranked up the radio one more notch when a reggae song came on.  This elderly driver still had life in him as he drummed his steering wheel through the streets to my home.  He got another 5 LE and an orange.  I gave him an orange because I wanted his life to be sweet too.

After getting out of the taxi, I started my short walk home.  Though, I lack Target and IKEA, I do have the luxury of a neighborhood juice store.  I bought a tall glass of sugarcane juice




and savored each drop.  It has become an afterschool ritual of sorts and it seemed befitting to have a drink to end the year.  I used to wish there was Gatorade in Egypt but now I'm thankful for acer asabClick here to read more about the health benefits of this drink and to see how they make it.  For those of you tallying up my tab, it was 1.50 LE.

I stopped at the new hole-in-the-wall shop.  A local lady had opened it a month ago.  I had spied an all-cotton galabiya in a dusty rose color (though of course everything is dusty in Egypt) with gold and black accents.  I had been wanting it for a month.  I'd actually been stalking it.  It used to hang on the right, just inside the doorway.  Yesterday, I had the money with me and the need to spend on something new.  40 LE later, I was the proud owner of a modest dress to wear around the house.



Today, I tried on the dress once more.  I ate some of the grapes.  I smiled at the bike we finally bought Mr. Boo at Tawaheed Al Nour (300 LE).  I relaxed in a way I haven't been able to for a long time.  I thanked God.

This is what freedom tastes like.  It is sweet.

Alhumdulillah for the innate desire for freedom, for ability to free oneself, and for the blessings from Allah which enable us to enjoy freedom fully.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't Abandon the Sisterhood

Asalamu Alaykom,





I've been thinking a lot today about the attacks on women in Cairo.  I talked about it a lot today. 

I started to think about a blog entry I wrote before:  Looking Good in which I said,

"I think about how that description would play out in the media were I to be the victim of a crime.  I know it's weird but it works in my head.  I think about how being a raped waitress is not as sad as being a raped kindergarten teacher---in the media not in actuality, of course.  In reality, every victim has incredible pain and suffering no matter their description on paper."

Basically, we are so ready and willing to find fault with misfortunate people.  We want to feel better by making them worse. 

"American?  Well, there you go!"

"OH!  They weren't wearing hijab?"

What?  They're blonde? Ohhhhhh.  That explains it!"

And we have neatly crossed off our list the reasons why someone's daughter got violated.

We have removed fault from the man or men.  They were not actually responsible for their actions because someone's sister should have known better and done better.

Someone's wife...

"WHAT?  Someone's girlfriend?  Ohhhhhhh."

I have been that American girlfriend not wearing hijab.  So have a lot of my revert sisters.  Now that we are married Muslimahs in hijab we MUST NOT turn our backs on our former selves---even if they are housed in different bodies.  We hate ourselves when we hate women who remind us of who we once were.

We must love those women who are different from us and support them.  We must not allow them to be talked about rudely.  We abandon the sisterhood when we discriminate based on ethnticity, religion, colors of hair and skin, clothing, martial status, and even virginity.  We are condoing rape, assault, and harrassment based on the excuses criminals use for the crimes they commit.  We are revictimizing.

I have placed myself in the WORST situations imaginable.  I have taken rides from men I didn't know.  I have been alone with men I should not have trusted.  I have worn the wrong clothes, done the wrong things, and been the wrong person.  That didn't mean that I deserved to be hurt!  Alhumdulillah, somehow Allah protected me throughout those years.  Only through The Grace of God do I stand here today.

Promise me, Dear Sisters, that you will not throw labels on our survivors of sexual abuse.  They do not deserve the mistreatment.  If you are a survivor of sexual abuse (and again, I know you're there and God bless you), then know that YOU don't deserve it.  Whatever factors were there in the equation, they don't add up to dehumanization.

May Allah forgive us.


Read more on this from Egyptian blogger Jonathan Moremi

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Peace Doesn't Make the News-UPDATED

Asalamu Alaykom,



This was the scene on Sunday night after the election results were read.  I thought about my blog posting below, in which I written earlier.  I had worried about violence in the streets.

There was apparently no problem.  Everyone was happy!

I wondered how I had become an alarmist in Egypt.  No one likes the boy who cries wolf.  Had I become the blogger who cries chaos?

I thought about my co-workers pulling money out of the ATM.  I thought about offices, banks and stores closing early.  We were all bracing for the worst. 

"If Shafik had been elected, it would have been blood in the streets," said a co-worker the next day.

So, she had felt the threat of violence.

What stopped it?

God. 

God's plan didn't include this.  Alhumdulillah.  It's not that it wasn't there.  It was but The Most Merciful spared us.  Alhumdulillah.

On the other hand, today I've read once again about violence against a woman in Tahrir.   I will warn you that it is extremely upsetting to read.  If your sense of safety and well-being gets triggered by hearing about an attack, then don't read it.  It is so unbelievable that others are questioning whether or not it's true.  Astragferallah.  I will believe every single woman who says they were attacked. 

I believe Natasha Smith.  Here is the video of Natasha on CNN discussing the attack.

It's frighteningly reminescent of Lara Logan's account on 60 Minutes.

I've said it before and I'll repeat it that I am a sexual abuse survivor.  I say that because I know one of you reading right now is too.  I don't know your name but I know you're out there.  You're not alone.  If you've never told anyone, then find someone to tell.  If you have told someone and they didn't believe you, then tell someone else and keep telling until you find someone to say, "I believe you."

So, was it really peaceful in Tahrir?  No, not if Natasha got attacked.  We can't say it was a peaceful celebration.  Let's admit that in Egypt, as everywhere, we need Allah's protection.

What did Natasha do as she was in the midst of evil?

She called out for Allah.

Allah.

Allah protected her.  Alhumdulillah.  The Most Merciful spared her.  Alhumullillah.

May Allah bring peace to all the people of Egypt; including the women.






Now here is what I wrote on Sunday, June 24 right before the election results were read:






Asalamu Alaykom,




In half-an-hour the presidental election results will be announced in Egypt.  Workers all across the city have been sent home early.   No one knows who will be announced as the winner but we all know that Egypt will be the loser. 

There will be unrest in Egypt.

There will!

I don't know from whom exactly but I know that there are opportunists waiting to pounce on the tenuous situation.  They have been waiting for the right time and it's today.  The army presence is huge today.  I see it mobilizing on the streets (and may God protect all those young men who must serve this country).  Yet, whoever really wants violence is not thwarted easily.

So, I'm going to leave you with this truism:  Peace doesn't make the news.  Who said that?  ME!  I said that and it's absolutely right.  Just as I wrote earlier this week that 80 million Egyptians are not in Tahrir, not every person will be violent today.  However, that's what will be broadcast across the world if some photojournalist is lucky enough to capture the wrong action at the right time.  Most of the people will be at home praying for the safety of this great country.

It is a great country.  I haven't wanted to say it too much for fear of jingoism settling into my bones but I love this country.  I love the people of Egypt.  I do.  I don't want it to suffer these birth pangs of democracy but I can only hold its hand and tell it to push.

When you around the world see the images of screaming men throwing things, fights in the street, hangings in effigy, and so on, please remember that my family isn't doing that.  No one we know is doing that.  Most residents aren't.  It's a minority who protest violently.  They actually don't represent Egypt.

Pray for them.  Pray for us.  Pray for Egypt.  Pray for peace.

Ya Rab!

Now take a deep breath and listen to this

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mabrook Dr. Mohamed Morsy


Asalamu Alaykom,



And the winner is...


DR. MOHAMED MORSY


PRESIDENT ELECT
OF
EGYPT


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Free Patterns for Modest Clothing

Asalamu Alaykom,



Just a short note.  This looks to be a really good resource:


I found it on http://www.pinterest.com/ while I was looking for items to pin for Ramadan.  I'll be putting the link on the sidebar as well but I wanted to draw it to your attention right away.

Remember:  you don't have to sew these patterns yourself!  There are many sewers and tailors in your area who can do it for you.

Mr. Boo is sure today is going to be, "The best, best, best, best day ever!"  Inshahallah he's right.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Boat Are You Building?

Asalamu Alaykom,



I watched Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman on Huda TV this morning for my Friday khotba.  Mr. Boo watched with me.  Children love to learn the stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them all). Today we were hearing about Prophet Noha (pbuh).

I have become closer to this prophet lately.  We have times in our life when we feel an afinity for one teacher more than another.  It doesn't mean that any prophet is better than the next---astragferallah; God forgive.  They were all great!  Yet, different times need different lessons and different teachers.

I feel for a man who was in a group who belittled him.  I feel for a man who kept working though it seemed pointless at times.  His incredible faith (strengthened by du'a) carried him through just as much as any boat.  In fact, he could not have had his boat without first having his faith.

What boat are you building?  Is there something you are working on (even if it's just in your head) which you feel will attract ridicule?  If you know that God is calling you to a task in your life, then go for it. 
When we were done listening on TV, we looked up more information on youtube from  Harun Yahya.  His videos offer a really good way to learn about the prophets (peace be upon them all).  There were so many simple answers to those questions we always had.  It's great to share this kind of learning with my son.

Mr. Boo then had to go to the masjid with Baba.  Each one of them had on their new made-to-order galabiyas.  Yes, both of them went to the local Pakistani tailor and got their measurements taken for these long shirts.  Each detail on a man's galabiya went into the making of my boy's galabiya.  Most galabiyas for boys aren't fully functional and my boy wished for not only a breast pocket but side pockets.  He wanted the high-quality.  He got it!  He is a total "Mini-Me" of Baba.  To see his pride when he puts it on these last Fridays is a joy.

Have you had enough joy?

If not, it's time to listen to God, build your ship and ignore the chatter (whether real or imagined).




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

80 Million

Asalamu Alaykom,




Egypt is bigger than Tahrir Square.

No matter how many people flood this public place, there are always far more who are away from the crowds, the bright lights and the TV cameras.  They are quieter and living simple lives.

It's the girl leading her little brother home on the donkey.  As they sit together on top their little beast, she tries to steady the mound of tall clover as well.  The clover falls.  She gets down to retrieve it.  She places it back on the donkey's back with her brother and she stays down.  She can walk and he will ride.

It's the grandma who cleans the streets every day from the night's discarded debris.  By nightfall, there will be another pile of chips bags and animal dung but she claims her street in the first sunlight. 

It's the driver willing to let the people walk in front his car safely without speeding past the intersection. 

It's the old cleaning woman who works to support not only herself but her daughter whose husband died last year.  Without that income, the grandchildren would starve.  The woman cleans slower than she used to but she tries to make up for it with kind smiles at those who underpay her.  She suffers daily but remains thankful and cheerful.  "Alhumdulillah," she repeats again and again.  "Alhumdulillah."

It's the fisherman who has gone to the Nile in the morning to catch the food he hopes others will buy for the evening.  He carries the basket through the village calling for buyers.  Occassionally, he rings the doorbells of the homes where he has sold fish before.  When someone invites him in, he crouches down and guts the fish before he gets paid.  It's hard work (as you can see from the bandage on his finger) and it's not guaranteed income.  However, it's halal risq so he keeps supporting his family this way.

It's the new bride and groom as they pass out juice boxes to every man who came to witness their wedding ceremony at the masjid.  The men don't drink it even though it's 100 degrees.  They bring it home to their children because no Egyptian man has greater delight than in making his children smile.

It's the boys on the roof flying their octagonal kites high in the sky.  Each kite is the colors of the Egyptian flag and the spirit of their nation soars above the Pyramids.  The boys pull their strings taut; each boy hoping to keep it aloft as long as he can.

It's the muzzein calling the believers to prayer.  Five times there is an actual man who has to leave his family and leave his work to ask others to do the same; not for him but for Allah.  His voice signals the passage of time and the dedication of souls.  In the darkest times, his voice brings hope.  In the happiest of times, his voice makes us remember not to forget our duty.

So many people are living their lives in Egypt.  They are living beyond your perception and maybe even beyond your understanding.  They are hot and tired this summer.  They are wondering who will be their new president. They are also thinking that it's one month until Ramadan.

And they all say, "Inshallah,"  God willing.

May Allah bless the people of Egypt.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bloodless Coup

Asalamu Alaykom,



It is another Election Day in Egypt.  This was supposed to be THE BIG DAY and now it isn't.  Oh, the polls are open but the Cairenes are less than enthused.  Why vote if our votes don't matter?

On Thursday, it was announced that Parliament was dissolved.  The Mubarak appointed judge ruled that the men and women elected by popular vote were not elected properly.  This was two days before the elections.  My husband couldn't believe me when I told him.  I had to convince him to turn on the TV.  It came as such a shock that we all haven't recovered from it yet.  It switched minds.  It broke hopes.

It's been called, "a bloodless coup". 

From Wikipedia:

A coup d'état (English: /ˌkuːdeɪˈtɑː/, French: [ku deta]; plural: coups d'état; translation: strike (against the) state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, illegal deposition of a government,[1][2][3][4] usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to depose the extant government and replace it with another body, civil or military. A coup d'état is considered successful when the usurpers establish their dominance. When the coup neither fails completely nor succeeds, a civil war is a likely consequence.


Only .26% of the Egyptian population is active on Twitter.  That's not even one percent!  It's a fourth of a percent.  And seriously?  Those seem to be the only people concerned that the military has suddenly taken control of the country. 

What I'm going to do is continue to Tweet with the others in this country but I won't be blogging very much about it.  This blog was never meant to be a political place.  It's meant for peaceful things and frankly there's very little peace in politics.

Meanwhile, I've started on pinterest and you can find me there.  As we have discovered, we can't control much in our lives but we can find little pictures we like and arrange them into some kind of meaning which makes enough sense for us to continue hoping that the rest of our life will eventually make sense as well.

Love and Light to All!

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Talk Show is Not a Khotba


Asalamu Alaykom,





I made a mistake.  I went looking for a khotba and ended up watching a talk show.  It was a panel discussion which included two Indian men I admire:  Dr. Zakir Naik (the founder of Peace TV) and Sharukh Khan (Bollywood Superstar).  I started watching and got drawn into the discussion.  Who is a Moderate Muslim? 



Was "My Name is Khan" a good representation of Islam in the media?

Honestly, the whole thing brought me down.  It was not what I needed.  I didn't need one more time picking at the scabs on the ummah.  We all spend enough time hearing about discrimination by association of Muslim-born terrorists, hijabs and kufis as unnecessary outward symbols, and non-practicing Muslims who can't believe their brothers and sisters are so tight with their faith.

I don't need one more talk like this.

What I needed was a khotba.  A khotba is not for the general audience.  A khotba is for us Muslims.  It gets tiring to always be part of a minority being talked about by the majority.  It is a time for unifying; not dividing and dissecting.  It's a positive experience not a negative.  At the end of a khotba, there is a feeling of adding to one's spiritual life.  By contrast, the end of a religious and cultural debate feels alienating; not only from Non-Muslims by from Non-practising Muslims.

Inshahallah, this will be the last time I make this mistake.  A talking head does not a khotba make.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nothing Lasts Forever

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is labeled as a, "Bedouin proverb," but we all know that means, "Islamic," right? 




Not sure about the calligraphy.  It seems a little suspect.  It looks like someone who doesn't normally write Arabic tried their best.  Well, God bless.  The point is not the citation of the quote or the Arabic writing of the quote.  Take a look at it in English.

"The good lasts not forever,
nor does the bad."


Tonight, I need to remember that nothing lasts forever.  Tomorrow is my last day of school with the children.  They have been the closest people to me this past year.  I have no friends in Egypt.  I have no family in Egypt.  They are who I relate to and our time will be done.

At the same time as I mourn the ending, I am glad to be done with the little buggers.  They know it's almost summer vacation and they have already checked out of school.  Ah, to be a child on the last day of school!

It was a time of complete jubilation, wasn't it?  To feel the sudden surge of freedom?  It was this moment that you wished for and checked off a calendar day by day.  Yes, all good things come to she who waits.

Now, tomorrow is the day.

It's been hard.  It's been a hard time.  I'll still have two weeks remaining past the children's departure.  That will be even harder.  I'll be eyeing the door and knowing I have to be nice.

I'm not very nice.  I can claim many, many adjectives but I don't claim, "nice".  That word is akin to "inobstrusive" or "nonproblematic" and I am too much my own person to fit into someone else's definition of who I should be.

Inshahallah, I will be able to get free from a lot of twisted up, stuffed down feelings once I step away from the position I've held for the last three years.  I handed in my laptop today.  I cleared it free from my personality and gave it back like the foster child it was.  It wasn't mine; it was only on loan.

Nothing much is really ours.

Tonight, during dinner, a man's voice rose up from the street.  At first, I thought it was another cart rolling through selling something.  It was really a beautiful voice, mashahallah, so I wondered what he was selling.  My husband made a joke that it was the kofta my boy was whinning that he wanted for dinner (but wasn't on the menu).

Then, I realized that the man was reciting Quran so he would have money to eat.  We were eating salad, spaghetti, zuchini with sauce, and stuffed green peppers and eggplant.  There was watermelon when we were done.  He had nothing but his Quran.

I gave a pound coin to my son (who was refusing to eat anyway) and took him to the door.  I pointed to the man turning the corner onto the next street.  I told him to run and give it to the man.  Mr. Boo ran very quickly for a little guy with no food in his system.  When he came back, he had this huge smile.

"The man told me, 'Allah sahilik'!" 

The man blessed my son.

That money wasn't ours.  It belonged to the man.  We were only holding onto it for him until he came around to collect it.  I explained that to my boy.

Subhanallah.

Nothing lasts forever.  Not our jobs, our relationships, our hard times, our good times, our fortunes, our fame, our enemies, and our lives.  Only Allah is forever.  Allah endures.  That's why remembering Allah puts our lives into perspective. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Dreamt of Dying

Asalamu Alaykom,
Last night I heard from my father. 

Sometimes I fear that if I haven't heard from him in a while it's because he's actually passed away and no one has told me.  I fear that I'll open my emails and find one from his lady friend saying that my father is gone.

I know it's easy enough to call him and find out the truth.  Yet, we often don't do the very thing which would bring about clarity and calm.  We avoid and that avoidance means an anxiety builds slowly.  We only realize how much tension we've accumulated when it gets released.

Yes, my father is fine.  Alhumdulillah. 

I say, "fine," with the small caveat that his Alzheimers prevents him from knowing where I am or that I have a third child.  It's OK.  Alhumdulillah.  It's OK.

I heard from him last night and I went to bed in a kind of peace which a woman only gets from knowing that the first man she ever loved still loves her back.  I fell asleep from so much tiredness and in that sleep I had the worst dream.  I dreamt that my father was dying in front of me.

I was with him when he died.  That's a wish and a fear.  Maybe that's true for all of us.  We want to be with our parents when they pass but yet we don't know if we could really handle that intense reality.  I watched him, in my dream, go away from me.

As he was leaving me, I kept telling him, "I love you!  I love you, Dad!  I love you!  I love you!"

Then I knew he could no longer hear me.  He was gone.  I woke up in the dark.  My breathing was heavy and I was shocked that I was not with him. 

I was stuck there with this horrible moment of regret.  I had not told him to say, "La illaha il Allah wa Muahammadar Rasullulah."  I had not told him in his last moments what was truly important.  My love for him was what I had professed but if I had really loved him, I would have guided him to Jannah.

I heard the sounds of the street below me.  The baby was crying downstairs.  I was the only one awake in my house.

I got up and made wudu saying, "Oozabellahi min a Shaytan a Regime.  Bismallah a Rahman a Raheem."

I wanted Allah's protection from what is not real.

My father is alive.

Alhumdulillah.

Honestly, I don't know what I do with that.  I don't know what I need to do for my father a million miles away.  Will he always remember who I am?  Will I plan for a time to see him in a year only to find out that he forgot me before I arrive?  There truly might be a huge moment of one-sided regret as only one of us would realize what was lost.

What I can tell you is this:  if you have a father, find a way to love him.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

There is No One Like Me

Asalamu Alaykom,






Some of us listen to music and others don't.

I do.

I like good beats, positivity, and catchy hooks.


There is
no one like me!


This tune has it all---with the added plus of the group being named after one of my favorite movies.

DISCLAIMER: slight swearing, some drug and alcohol references.

Despite any bad, the good outweighs it for me. I have really been uplifted by this song at a time when I needed to remember who I am.

I’ve been
caterpillared
into a butterfly.


Actually, there’s so many good sentiments that I wanted to share the video showing all the lyrics. See if anything strikes true for you.

Alhumdulillah, we have the ability to discern truths from wherever they spring forth.

Alhumdulillah, we are able to grow not only OLDER but WISER.

Alhumdulillah, I’ve lived to see this moment.

Thanks for being with me.

There is no one like you either.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tyrell Baymon-UPDATED

This is a story I will continue to follow and update.  I'm committed to it.  If you haven't read the story, start from the top.  If you are only looking for the update, then scroll down.
There is something about 4-year-old children.  They touch my heart in a way which other ages do not.  They are big enough to feel like superhereos...yet they still need moms and hugs.

I'm letting you know about a very sad story.

If you can't handle hearing about it today...that's OK...don't read.  Some days I can't handle one more sad thing.

For the rest of you, are you ready?

There is a 4-year-old boy who was supposed to celebrate his birthday with his cousin on Saturday.  They were going to the park with all the family.  His was holding his mom's hand as they stood next to their SUV.  A motorcyclist doing wheelies and showing off came by and...ya....the boy was hit.

You can read more about it here

Tyrell Baymon is the name of the little boy.  It's that a beautiful name?  He's in critical condition and he needs our prayers.  Please pray for him.  If you can, please send this story and prayer request to those in your internet circles through Facebook and email.  Tweet it with the hashtag #TyrellBaymon .

There are so many stupid things we send around...I know I do...but this one is meaningful.  Let's use our lives and our technology to be meaningful. 

Seriously?  If I didn't feel the power of prayer, then I would feel helpless.  We are taught, as Muslims, to do what we can with our actions.  If we are unable to act, then we are to speak.  If we are unable to speak, then we are to pray.  Let's pray.

While we are at it, let's pray for the man who hit the boy.  That man is in turmoil and I sincerely hope that he turns himself in because the truth will set him free.  God already knows that he did it.  God knows.  There is no escaping.  It's better to face up to responsibility for being irresponsible. 

This is a local TV news report on the tragedy.

Alhumdulillah I have never faced this hardship with any of my children. 

Alhumdulillah I have never faced this hardship as a driver.

Inshahallah, everyone involved will find peace and healing through these next days.

Ya RAB!


UPDATES:

May 21

A 25-year-old man has been arrested due to numerous tips.

In that same newspaper article there is now a picture of Tyrell Baymon.  Yes, he is a beautiful little guy; full of the joy and innocence of childhood.  Tyrell has a fractured skull, broken ribs and has undergone at least on surgery.

His mother has thanked everyone for their prayers.

I thank you too. 

It cost nothing and means so much. 


May 22

We can now see a photo of the accused.  We have learned more about him and Alhumdulillah he's in jail.

Tyrell, may God be merciful with him, is medically sedated while healing from his injuries.  I can only imagine how horrible that is for his family to not see his eyes open.

Yet, his uncle is gloriously quoted as saying, "All I can do is thank The Creator for the outpouring of support we've had from the community."

His nephew is lying unconscious in the hospital and he is STILL ABLE to thank The Creator.  Subhanallah!

Think if you have thanked God today for what you have.

Alhumdulillah.

A local radio station has posted the address for well-wishers to send cards to Tyrell and his family:


Tyrell Baymon C/O Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

200 University Avenue East St. Paul, Minnesota 55101

I am going to make a special appeal to those readers who live outside of the state of Minnesota, or even out of the United States:  please send the family a postcard.  There is something special to know that people from far away are keeping you close to their heart.  Be that person.  Send a postcard to the family and let them know how they are in your prayers.


June 6

I have an update.

The accussed man has plead guilty.  Alhumdulillah.  We can't ever go back in time to change the wrongs we've done but we can move forward and repent and make ammends.  Sincerely, I pray that this man lives a better, more thoughtful life after this tragedy.

Tyrell is able to move about in a wheelchair---not easy for a formerly active four-year-old.  Yet, he is no longer able to move as he once did.  He is impaired and will need physical therapy to increase his movement.

The great news is that his brain is able to recognize loved ones AND TO SMILE!

I want you to really stop and think:  how many times we frown and don't show a smile for little inconveniences in our day.  We allow ourselves to be moody while Tyrell has every reason to be sad yet he smiles!  Think how meaningful that smile is to his family.  They once feared he had been killed.  HE LIVES!

Subhanallah, Tyrell Baymon lives and lives to smile despite everything.

Yes, God is GREAT.  God is THE GREATEST!

Please continue to pray for regained strength and ability for this little boy.  If you are good at visualizing, please send healing energy to his left side which has been weakened.  Pray for his ability for clear speech to be realized.  YA RAB!  We can be a loving world which sends out positivity and care.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Make Your Path

Asalamu Alaykom
and Jummah Mabrook (Happy Friday),





MAKE
YOUR
PATH








This is what I saw walking towards me on a pink T-shirt.  I stared through my taxi window.  The heat was stifling yet I was suddenly refreshed.  Once again, like a linguist oasis, I had discovered some "Arablish".  This is what I call English in Egypt which is more kofta than hamburger.

In English, we have idioms.  Non-native speakers of English are horrible with idioms.  This is the way we Americans can continue to feel superior to someone trying so hard to speak two languages (while we can't).  We can laugh at their inability to make the right word choices in a colloquial phrase.

I'm constantly hearing:

"I made toilet."
instead of
"I used the toilet."

"I have twenty years."
instead of
"I'm twenty years old."

"Shut the light."
instead of
"Turn off the light."

And this phrase on the young man's shirt (yes, real Egyptian men wear pink) was yet another phrase which almost sounded like English.  Except, we would say, "Choose your path," or "Find your path."

MAKE
YOUR
PATH

It struck me, in the way which only Arablish can.  It made sense to me.  I had just given my resignation to the headmistress at school.  Truly, I didn't feel I was making my own choice entirely on my own.  I felt that I was given circumstances over many months (and even years) which pointed to my incompatibility at my international school.  So, many people helped to show me that I was on the wrong path.

It was my son's upcoming seventh birthday which really made me wonder where we were going.  Seven years is a milestone in Islam.  See?  There's another illusion to traveling on a road:  milestone.  These used to be actual slabs of info stuck into the side of the path to tell you how far you had come.  At age seven, Muslim children need to start their life of five daily prayers.

Me?  I'm having a tough time at school performing them!  There used to be a small house of worship on site.  Not any longer; it's a storage shed now.  The book room used to be of service but then they started locking it.  So many places are occupied with people and at this school no one is allowed to see you pray.  No place to pray.

There's also no time to pray.  There is no time set aside to remember God.  It's harder at this school than any other school I've worked in to find time to pray.  There are no accomodations to keep child-teacher ratio while on breaks.  I, therefore, don't feel at peace praying while I know all hell is breaking loose in my kindergarten class with only my assistant to supervise.  I often wait until the children are gone at the end of the day.

So, how would my son do next year?  Could he be given help to pray?  Would anyone make an effort for his faith?  I didn't feel so.  I didn't feel like any other parent was concerned and I was tired of being the only one speaking up for our faith.  

My son had to be the one to tell his first-grade teacher that he would not be bowing to the audience at the end of their show.  "I bow only to Allah Subhana Wa Tallah."  He was very brave to repeat what I had told his kindergarten teacher the year before.  Why hadn't anyone remembered our stance?  Why did I have to talk to the Islamic Studies teacher for support.  Sadly, she was no help.

It's hard to be striving for Islam more than the resident expert on Islam.  Everyone respects this lady and I used to but I don't now.  Though other people were ruder and coarser in their behavior, I am saddest at this quiet, modest lady who refused to speak up for what she knew was true.

When the school was going to have a "fortune teller" at the Moulid Al Nabi (Prophet's Birthday) carnival, I was the only one who spoke up.  The Islamic Studies teacher refrained.  She didn't feel she could make a difference.  The fortune teller was removed from the line-up.  Alhumdulillah.

When a new teacher...Muslim by birth...began to wear tight, revealing clothes that were showing cleavage, I asked if this Islamic Studies teacher could speak up.  No, she could not.  The other ladies at work loved to talk about the immodest teacher behind her back.  I tried to talk to administration and was rebuffed.
"The children are too young to think anything about covering up."

I countered with, "Not my son.  My son saw a woman presenter on his MBC3 [a children's network] with a scoop neck top and placed his hand on the TV screen to cover her up.  He knows."

So many teachers began to wear tight clothes, skinny jeans, see-through tops (showing bra straps) and short tops that barely met their waist.  It was a daily barrage of indulgences which went unchecked, though it all went against our modest dress code. The new found freedom of Egypt became an excuse for unprofessionalism. 

This Spring, when a picture of "Christ the Redeemer" was placed on a wall display, I spoke up---with firm conviction but without rancour.  I asked the Islamic Studies teacher to please tell the administration that images of prophets (peace be upon them all) should not be displayed.  She said she would but didn't.

Here's an idiom for that:  Left hangin' in the wind.

I was.  I was without support from the people who should have been the most helpful yet they were lacking that righteous anger to fight for faith.  When I fought, I fought alone and it worked but it took a toll.

The "Happy Easter" card that my son brought home had me commenting to the art teacher.  This is someone I've shared deep, deep times with; not a casual acquaintance.  I said that she could have given the assignment as either "Happy Easter," or "Happy Spring," depending to whom the children were giving the card.  No harsh words.

This Spring, I felt so down.  I wrote on the blog how lost I felt.  I felt so devoid of energy.  I have since learned how many people were eating my flesh.  That's an Islamic idiom but its effects on a gossip victim feel very real.  Yes, I became the staff member which the others loved to hate.  I became the one that everyone ranted about.  Didn't matter if they were there when I told the principal about the picture of the prophet because the tale was blown around the school for everyone to chew up and spit out.  Wasn't a big deal if they weren't in the discussion with me and the art teacher, they FELT like they were there and could talk about it...no RANT about it as if they knew my mind.

Everyone decided I was "not accepting of other faiths."

This label was stuck on me without dialogue.  I love this quote from Kierkegaard, "Once you label me, you negate me".  In other words, you no longer see me; you only see the label.  It was forced on me despite me loving my mom the church minister.  Should I have done the old I-have-many-Christian-friends counter attack?  I doubt it would have mattered.  I had to be the scapegoat.  This was who I had to be in order for the conflict to not be examined.  No, I had no right to speak. 

It was told to me that the Christians at school have been putting up with Ramadan cards and Quran for years.  Yet, they choose not to complain.  That's their choice!  My choice is to be in a place where we acknowledge differences without adopting them. 

On my spectrum of interfaith interactions, there is:

Acknowledging differences
There are Muslim and Christian children at school with different needs.

Accepting differences
Not everyone celebrates or practices faith the same.
Whatever a family does at their home is up to them and private.
If school life conflicts with the way the family adheres to faith then it should be addressed.
Compromises should be readily made in order to keep a child's upbringing intact.

Adapting differences
When it's time to study religion, we separate. 
We take time off to celebrate all holidays.
Teachers give different assignments if needed.

Adopting differences
Christians must listen to Quran on the loudspeaker every morning. 
Muslims dress up for Halloween and give Christmas presents.

Where do I stand?  I believe that we adapt but we don't adopt.  Adopting another's practices means that you are snacking on the spiritual smorgasboard of life.  If I had wanted my son to take a little of this and a little of that, I would have stayed in America.  I brought him here so we could be free to practice our faith.

The Christians and Non-Observant Muslims in Egypt are so mad that the "Islamists are taking over".  Hell no, they weren't going to take over our school!  So, I was the one to repel even though I'd spent three years working alongside everyone and being admired for my teaching abilities.

Subhanallah.

Life changes on a dime.

Don't put any, any, any faith in people.  I swear to God WALLAHI they will let you down every time. 

That nice lady I always greeted, and joked with?  The one I cared about?  The one I listened to as she cried?  The ones I complimented on new wardrobe, or hair, or glasses or WHATEVER!  All those people I cared about let me down and ate my flesh from my backside. 

Time to move on.

Time to make my path.

Alhumdulillah, I have another school; an Islamic school with an American curriculum.  I will be starting up their new kindergarten program inshahallah.  I have hopes of being in a supervisory position---which was denied to me once again at my former school. 

"You are too direct," is one of the put downs my principal wanted to lob as I gave my resignation.

"For this culture," is my finishing of her thought.  This Egyptian culture is often two-faced and fake is not what I'm about.  I am direct but not usually abrasive.  However, if someone is making it impossible for my son and I to practice Islam, then I speak up.

Be prepared when you speak up to be told off.

Be prepared to move on.

Be prepared  to

MAKE
YOUR
PATH
 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ahmed Shafik Campaign Song

Asalamu Alaykom,





The run off election is fast approaching:  June 16 and 17.  The two men competing to be Egyptian FIRST elected president are former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik (old guard) and Dr. Mohamed Morsy from the Muslim Brotherhood (change).

For me?  I can't imagine voting for a man who served under Mubarak.  Even if Mr. Shafik's new airport project was a huge success, I wonder how a revolution can result in a 70-year-old crony getting into office.

I'm not saying that Dr. Morsy is a perfect choice.  He's not a statesman!  However, the 60-year-old is promising changes towards a more Islamic nation.  Since 90% of the population is Muslim, it's worth a try.  Let's see if adhering better to Islam allows for a more productive society. 

The video is not Dr. Morsy.  He doesn't have a catchy tune on TV.  Mr. Shafik does.

REALLY catchy!

Like...don't listen to the video if you don't want it stuck in your head forever.

We've all come to love it and laugh with it---even if we don't want to vote for the man it's lauding.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Story About Suzi


Asalamu Alaykom,
Hair accessory

There's a story I heard last night that I want to tell you.

I have four sisters-in-law.  The poorest one had the nicest yellow cloth bag.  How could that be?  I looked at its fabric.  There was something so elegantly beautiful in its tiny print.  I wondered wher it was from so I asked and got the answer.

"Min Suzi." 

From Suzi. Who was Suzi?

"Suzi min Jaban."

Suzi from Japan?  Was that the name of the wife of their cousin the rug seller?

No.  Suzi used to be in Egypt but she left. 

Like a true yarn which unravels a ball, the story began...

Suzi came to Egypt for the first time as a tourist.  She wanted to see the sites and as she went around she got to know her tour leader.  They would speak a little in Arabic, a little in Japanese and quite often in English.  It was fun.  It was endearing.  Before she left, she decided to come back and marry him.  It was like a dream! 

The tour leader was used to falling in love.  He had fallen in love once before but the cold, calculating Egyptian woman had found a better offer and left him.  It's difficult to break-up but even more so in Egypt where serious relationships are expected to end in marriage.  His didn't, so when he met Suzi he was more than ready for a girl who wanted to follow him instead of lead him by the nose.

Suzi returned to Egypt with a Japanese wedding dress.  The small girl was dwarfed by her big skirt.  She wanted to be married with all the trappings. My sister-in-law became the one to help get Suzi ready at the salon.  From that important day the two became fast friends.  The rooftop party was fun for everyone and their married life together began.

Though the Japanese are used to close living quarters, Suzi had to put up with a room in a house.  I don't mean an apartment in a family house like us.  I mean, within an apartment, they had one bedroom to call their own; the rest was shared space with her husband's brother's family.  Can you imagine two children under two?  She put up with it!  She agreed.

The new groom had to know that not many Egyptian women would agree to such an arrangement.  He could have thanked God to get such a beautiful bride who appreciated him for himself and not for his money.  Suzi only wanted love.

From being around all the Muslims, she came to Islam.  She just wanted to fit in with the people.  She wanted to find what she was looking for.  She accepted easily.  There was no need to fight against something which could bond her better to those she loved.

She became pregnant with their first child.  This is what every Egyptian man wants.  He wants children.  When she was three months pregnant, she lost the baby.  Maybe Suzi was a little underweight.  Who knows?  Allahu alim.  The sadness of the loss hurt her and she couldn't find the quiet in her noisy home to fully come to peace with the miscarriage.  She wasn't able to be the same fun girl she used to be.

Could they go to Japan?

No.

Her mother-in-law put her foot down.  She did not want her son going overseas.  She did not want to lose him.  Her oldest was already working away from home.  Maybe if he was in town...but since he wasn't, she demanded that this other son stay. 

They stayed.

At the same time, the tour leader's former love came back into the picture.  This Egyptian lady had been married but no longer was.  She was ready to find her former flame.  The connection was so intense between the two.  They spoke the same language and they had the same cultural upbringing.  They could understand each other in ways that Suzi never could. 

The plot twisted away from a fairy tale into tragedy.  The man could divorce Suzi, since they really weren't made for each other.  All the family members cautioned him against divorce.  Suzi was nice.  She was beautiful.  She had come to Islam!  Why not stay with her?

They divorced.  He divorced his Japanese wife so he could marry his Egyptian lady love.

It didn't matter what was actually right or wrong, astragferallah.  It didn't feel good any more to be married.  It didn't matter the commitment Suzi had made to him, to his country and to his religion.  She was soon gone.

Before she left, she gave a few of her things to my sister-in-law, whose help and friendship she had relied upon.  The yellow cloth bag was one of those things. 

This could be a sad story, yet I won't let it be.  Sad stories make us cry when we feel someone else's pain.  Surely, there was incredible hurt at her husband's betrayal.  Yet, I see the beautiful opportunity Suzi was given to come to Islam.

Suzi had thought of Egypt as The Land of the Pharoahs with very little interest in Islam or Muslims.  In the end, she herself was a covered Muslim lady speaking Arabic in her prayers.  Alhumdulillah.  She began her journey to Islam in this country of many non-observant Muslims only to leave a faithful servant of Allah.  Allah saved her from unhappiness and haram.  Alhumdulillah.

Do you know the best part?  Years later, Suzi came back to visit everyone.  She was still in hijab though her home country has so few Japanese Muslimahs.  She was still thankful for her time together with kind people.  She still was Suzi.

She is a real person.  This is a real story. 

May Allah bless Suzi. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mubarak Verdict and Me

Asalamu Alaykom,




This was the scene earlier today at the reading of the Mubarak verdict.  A "mother of a martyr" waiting for justice outside the New Cairo courtroom hears Judge Refaat and releases some of the pain she's felt.  Her deceased son's motionless face stares out at you as she can only look upward.

Life in prison for Mubarak and his Interior Minister.

Subhanallah!

What times we live through!

There is so much pain and anger.  There is so much uncertainty.

Later, the courtroom would erupt in rage as it became apparent that not everyone charged would suffer the same fate.

It's OK, people.  It's OK.  We don't need to kill ourselves protesting that someone didn't suffer enough.

This is not the only judge these men will face.  Yaom Al Deen; The Day of Judgement will come to everyone.  This setence for them will only expedite some of their sins.

Hate is a poison
you mean to give to someone else
                         but end up taking it yourself.

It was 2005 when I had to make a decision in my trial.  I was suing my former employers for harrassment and wrongful firing due to my religion and my associate with my Egyptian husband.  I was pregnant.  I wasn't showing too much in my loose-fitting dress but I knew that I was carrying a new life and the promise of a new start. 

Of course, I had no idea that within days my husband at the time would tell me that he wanted to "take back" his former wife.

That Spring, over seven years ago, I thought about settling out of court.  A court date would be while I was recouperating from childbirth.  It would be while I was breastfeeding on demand.  I thought about what mattered to me the most and I simply wanted justice.  I wanted them to pay for what they did to me.  I wanted them to feel some impact on their lives; which meant in their pocketbook.

So, I decided I would settle.  Thousands of dollars were discussed from my room with my lawyer to their room with their lawyer.  It was a game of blindman's bluff; each trying to figure our where the other one stood.  In the end, I settled for enough money to pay my lawyers and to pay off the extra loan on the house.

It was the loan which was eating away at me.  I had taken it out before I understood about riba the haram way of making money off of money.  I needed that haram to be gone from my life so I had prayed during the trial that I would have enough to pay it off.  Alhumdulillah, I did.

Of course, I had no idea that before a year was up that loan would be used again by my then husband who wanted to do a business deal.  I lost it all.

At the signing of papers that day I settled out of court, I was at peace with my decision until it hit me:  I wanted them to say, "Sorry".  I wanted to hear some remorse for all the name calling, the back stabbing, the cruel treatment, the firing, the loss of wages, and the loss of my sense of goodness in the world.  I stalled.  I called my lawyer to me.

"I want them to appologize."

She told me they would not.

"The money is the appology," she explained.  "It's never going to repair what's happened.  Take it and know that it's symbolic not actual.  It is a fair settlement.  It's better than if you never tried at all.  It's over and it's best to acknowledge it's over and start to move on."

I wasn't happy that day.

Or the next.

Or the next.

The third day after the trial was when I really needed my then husband's support but he lobbed the bombshell of "returning" his wife.  It was a tough time to be five months pregnant.  It was a tough time to be me.

This week, I went back to a place which figured prominently in my trial.  I went back to eat at Chili's.  Egypt has this restaurant chain but I hadn't eaten there this whole time.  The last time I had eaten at the Tex-Mex eatery was back in The States.  Actually, I only ate there once.  It was the day I had planned a gathering of office support staff to go out for lunch.  We gals chit chatted over a Bloomin' Onion and laughed about funny stories from first jobs and the worst jobs.  I simply wanted a sense of community at my workplace. 

During the trial preparation, it was recorded that the administration thought I was, "planning a mutiny," as I wolfed down chips and salsa.  They actually wanted others to hear their strange thought of me turning into  a kind of Fletcher Christian ...or rather, "Fletcher Muslim".

So, I returned to Chili's last Thursday ---not a mile away from my former office but thousands of miles away in Maadi (the ex-pat enclave of Cairo).  I sat and ate happily with my son and my new husband, knowing that I had won.  I won, even if I settled out of court.  I won because I could remake myself and move on and change and evolve.  I could be at peace.  Alhumdulillah.

This trial verdict today is a time to admit that no one hands us a sentence, a check or a "sorry" which sets our pain free.  We need to do that ourselves.  It might take days, weeks or years but we are the ones who release or withhold.  Withholding only hurts us.  Let it go. 

And enjoy the salsa---it's delicious!



Friday, June 1, 2012

Fridah Khutbah: Marriage in Islam

Asalamu Alaykom,




Time for another khotbah.

This soft spoken preacher is someone I can listen to easily. The subject is something we all need to learn about: married life in Islam.

For the first two minutes, it’s entirely in Arabic. Please keep listening to Yahya Cazalas because he’ll translate it right afterward. Throughout the khotbah he’ll use Arabic and explain it---got to love that!

One word he uses which made me smile is, “Mawada.” This is not a word we use a lot as Muslims…unless you live at our house. It’s the name of the little girlie I see everyday. Mawada is my husband’s neice and my former rent-a-baby (but now I have her little brother for that).  Once you hear the meaning of the word, I believe you'll want to recommend that name for the next baby girl in your life.

Subhanallah, that in my searches for khotbas I always find the right one.

See if this is the right one for you today.

I wish you better than you wish yourself.

If you are married, I wish for peace in your home.

If you are not married, I wish for a home to be established between you and a God-fearing man.