Saturday, May 30, 2009

Girlz. We be Stars

Must admit. I loved it. Wrote it up in my other Canada2beirut blog a while back but you know me. Gotta come with it here too. Sorry if it’s not completely related to what I say here. But. We’ll see meaning in it, nuh? We be good like that...

End of semester came. It’s the last class for first year English at University. They’re doing presentations. I’m sitting in the back listening. Taking notes. Thinking of possible grades to give.

Kids are good. Topic was on representations of Arab youth in middle eastern music. Got a whole range of artists in the presentations, all the way from French-Lebanese rap to Palestinian music from the occupied territories, to old Syrian classics.

One after the other. They got better.

But they were done. Had few minutes left so I went up there and I said “well, it’s over folks. Been a pleasure. I can’t thank you enough for such an amazing experience, and I’ve felt very welcome with you guys as this was my first semester in the country … “

They said thank you back. It ends there. No? no. It came.

Applause. Loud. Louder. Louder. Louder. Louder! With wooohooos and table stomping. On and on and on. Boy oh boy. Can’t express the feeling. You get. When. You hear an applause from the heart baby. From the heart.

That meant the whole world to me and everything in it. Maybe I like to be a star. On stage. Up in class. Performing in front of those eyes. Receiving people’s validation. Confirmation. Applause.

Maybe I’m cut like that. To survive on their love and growth and bonding.

Dunno. But if I die tonight, I die one happy girl. Who. Maybe. Loves being a star in her classroom.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Homes. An Email I wrote to a Friend


I read again your cool words you sent me a while back. on my study plans. your super duper delish advice on staying here versus going back for my studies, versus the 'depth' here and not back home in good old beaver land. and so on.

homes. I think your words came to mind because we were talking about homes. Me and my 86 year old aunt. She said something real cool. On the importance of having a house, or a family house in the mid east for us lebanese in the family who have migrated out in the west a long time ago.

Her point was that no matter what, this home will return the kids, and their kids to this place, a spot that pulls, no matter what.

... even if for a vacation. If the kids want to vacate, they can come here after their yummy fun trips to the world over anywhere out there. In the end, they have a place here they can call their own.

A house here, a home, is an inheritance but even more so a reminder. To think. Only think. Of a country that is their own. Yes.

and now my aunt just bought a home here, after having lived in Europe for over 30 years. Her daughters are now married and with their own children. So now the daughters -- who helped in the finances for buying this house, by the way -- now have a house here, and they will bring their kids here.

Sometimes i think if i end up married, and have kids, even if i don't buy a house here, just the fact that i can tell them i left everything to come back 'home', to one of my 'homes' in the world, is like establishing or building a house here, a symbolic house that will let the kids return to this place, no matter how distant they feel from it in the future. They might ask themselves, "why did mom come here in her lifetime?" The seed is sown.

just thoughts kid. just thoughts.

how are you these days? I want to do umrah with you.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

If I Marry, My Kids ....

There is no proof that I'm half Palestinian and half Lebanese in official documentation other than my mom who tells me my father's history. The paper trail is nothing I know of. Supposedly, my father has a Palestinian passport but not sure if he has the ID card. Mom has a Lebanese ID card ages old but I can't issue a Lebanese passport from it, because Lebanon does not allow a maternal ID transfer like that.

But I'm not the issue at all. For if I can half prove my mixed nationality, I predict that if I have kids, they'll have a much harder time with this. The Palestinian official documentation in the family is almost vanished. What my Palestinian aunts or uncles have for documentation serves their kids, not mine.

The Lebanese documentation, kind of restorable, but not sure either. The only solid thing I have going for proper documentation is my Canadian citizenship. That's the only tangible piece of ID I can pass on to my off-spring.

When I said this to a friend the other day, she said marry a Palestinian. That's the only way you can restore the Palestinian in the family, but then again he too will have no proper proof of his citizenship to "Palestine". Green card or blue card, too. Green if he's living on the Palestinian territories, and blue if he's living on the Israeli side of the land as a Palestinian. On and on and on in this vanishing point. Of identity, paper wise, only, but it matters.

Say I have a daughter in the future and she's at school and she says, "my mom is half Palestinian, half Lebanese. And my dad is Palestinian". "Prove it" -- comes a question from whoever. She can't prove it. And when I die and her dad dies, she really can't prove it.

Not that she MUST be Palestinian or Lebanese in her identity or personality. Allah knows many of us live out in the West and we carve our own sense of self. All's good. But the question must be asked. What is this leading to? Take away passports, countries, lands, ID cards, roots, homelands. What happens to the equation?

A child screams mum I'm Canadian. American. Australian. Italian. British. Spanish. French. German. I was born here, mum, raised here, I don't speak your language, I don't have your cultural values, I don't have your memories. I'm not like you, mum and dad.

No tragedy in this. But nonetheless. The question must be asked. Because what runs in our blood is not just Islam.

Especially if we're thinking of marriage.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perfect Strangers - Part Seven

How do you survive the loss of a child?
. . H. R

The girl had a grandma. Every summer the family travels to Europe to see grandma, uncle, aunty and cousins, all seven of them. Little girl rides a bike, goes to the old European markets, eats shawarma at the Turkish shops, rides dumbo the elephant while mummy shops at the mall. But best of all, little girl eats grandma’s fresh baked bread with olives, home-made cheese and zaatar.

When she grows up, the girl understands why olives zaatar and bread are her favorite flavors. Her body remembers.

Breakfast ready at 8am. A small house. Full of family. But everyone eats together. Little girl is eight now. Been seeing grandma once a year all her life. Sitti (grandma) belonged to daddy, the girl would say.

And to her aunties and uncles. They all lived together once. In Palestine. Sitti belongs to daddy because he makes her laugh. She makes him laugh too. Sitti belongs to daddy because they talk for a long time. Sitti belongs to daddy because he makes jokes only she can understand.

Daddy belongs to sitti because he solves her problems. Daddy belongs to sitti because he takes care of all her eleven children. Daddy belongs to sitti because he loves her. And she loves him. Daddy belongs to sitti because they both love Palestine. And their memories there.

Daddy belongs to Sitti and sitti belongs to daddy even when he went to Jannah one day. And left her like a perfect stranger in this world not her Palestine not her memories there not her son who smells walks talks breathes sounds like her sweet home Palestine. And little girl never saw grandma again.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Perfect Strangers - Part Six

Faith. You know. That thing we do. There is no iconography in Islam but the girl looked at Jesus too many times. Blue eyes. Wavy blond frocks. On a cross. Half naked. Hurt. Bleeding. Head down. To the side. On her bestfriend’s necklace. He comes back in her adulthood one too many times. Everywhere. Even when mummy said “we’re Muslim. No pork. No setting foot in church. No Ave Maria even if you sing it for fun little one. We’re Muslim”.

When she grows up, the girl understands her comfort with churches and cathedrals. All déjà vu. Her body remembers. But for now she was to be a Muslim girl. It was mummy who’ll tell her what Muslim is. So mummy had to go find out what Muslim is.

Meanwhile little girl kept alive. Driven by nothing by the life that runs through her veins. So one day, mummy said, “you can’t talk to boys”. But mummy, my best friends are boys. I don’t like girls. So when little Olaf asked her to race him in the school-yard, she looked down and walked away. Her temper. More silent. More rage. Ate her up inside. Mummy said, “only girls at your birthday party”. But mummy, they wear dresses.

Still. She only invited girls in her classroom and she looked down, hurt, when little Olaf or Michael passed by, uninvited. Never knew what to say to them.

Day by day, little girl grew a frown on her cute little face. With a pout too. I don’t like you mummy, she said one day. So the next day, daddy came and asked the girls to sit down. He was holding a big piece of paper in his hands, with pictures and black words. The girl learns it’s called a newspaper. Daddy carried one of those all the time.

He starts reading: “sometimes girls make mistakes with boys and he touches them in their body parts. Sometimes bad girl friends encourage good girls to know bad boys who do bad things to them. This happened to a young girl in Morocco where the country is hot by climate. One day she went to school and…. “

Daddy kept talking and the girl got nothing. But mad. At boys. Who are bad. Bad boys. All boys. But daddy …

Sports day came. She was the finalist up against the best runner in school. She was nervous. Little Olaf was on the benches looking down, then up, then down at his friend who won’t talk to him anymore because he’s a boy. Up. Down. Unsure.

On your marks. Get set. Go!! She runs. runs. runs. The field is too big. The other girl is too fast. Oh no! She’s losing. Suddenly: “Go! Go! Go! You can do it I know you can Go Go Go!!” – came the voice of her friend Olaf who was jumping like crazy on the benches yelling in her direction. She turned. Looked at him. But daddy said ….

Girl won no race. She floats between her beginning and her end looking to the side-lines at all the Olafs in her life, a forbidden iconography. Boys everywhere like Jesus in a Catholic school but little girl is a perfect stranger in there. Ain’t no tragedy in this.

. . ." A moral sense should be developed not through sanction, but gradually, gently, exactingly, understandingly, and at a deep level" (Tariq Ramadan)


Monday, May 18, 2009

Perfect Strangers - Part Five




"Arab culture played an essential part in the Phoenician era. So Arab identity is acutally a mixture of Arabic, Islamic, Christian and Phoenician roots. This highlights the importance of the integration of elements within a given Arab identity". (Ruba A).

The girl was unbound. To the point of comedy. Like this. At a certain point in her childhood, every morning, her Catholic school would line up hundreds of its elementary students, boys and girls in sharp white and navy blue uniform, with a tie around their neck, to march up to the huge Catholic church across the street for mass.

At first, she didn’t mind the instant silence that dropped in the entire school block when she stayed behind. As if aliens abducted earth and she was the last one standing. Utter shhhh silence. Nobody. Was there. But her sister. She could even call her all the way to the end of the school block and she’d hear her, even see her like a small speck in uniform in the far silent distance.

Then one day, she decided to go too. Tucked neatly in the rows of children, she walked in that huge building that had benches lined up kinda like the seats in her classroom facing the front, and with cool colorful big windows. And a man dressed in a white robe with a big hat on his head and a shiny golden necklace with a cross on it. He looked friendly.

She wasn’t scared. Her turn came. Her tummy was eyeing that yummy round white thing that he was putting in her friends’ mouth. She wanted one too. Under her tongue it went, and the nice man made some hand gestures, something about Jesus, she wasn’t sure, too busy decoding the flavor of that yummy white stuff in her mouth. Icing sugar?

Back to the row she goes. And since then, the little one, who adapts easily to wherever you put her, would take holy communion and consume the flesh of Jesus every morning at 7:30am, and march diligently like a good soldier to and from the big nice building with colorful windows.

Until she discovered that the store next door sells communion candy for 5c each, 10c for the colored ones, which she bought in bulk and gave to her friends at lunch, pretending she’s the friendly man in a big hat and a white robe who made hand gestures and wore a shiny necklace and gave out candy. be continued ...


Perfect Strangers - Part Four

It’s always hard to write up the girl.

Little girl got curly black hair dark like ebony. They always said she took the good set of hair from her mother’s side, though her daddy’s sisters have black strength on their head too that stands strong with curls that no machine can ever take away.

Or so she learns when she grows up. In school she loved sports, was good at it, and sometimes she sported a silent but dangerous temper which she discovers when she grows up. One day, her older sister comes to her complaining about another girl. So she beat up the older girl. Then she made friends with her after a good fight.

Her teachers agree that she was bright. Fast quick and creative. She picked up the local language better than the locals, so her daddy took her out of language class so she doesn’t forget her Arabic. Behind her daddy’s back, the language teacher let her stay in class. See, the teacher couldn’t resist the spark of a young foreign cub reciting local poetry better than the rest.

In math, she did bad but one day she wrote a play. Got her friends to perform it with her and the comedy was so good, young chubby Olivia almost gagged on her laughter, tears and some more laughter. Everyone applauded the girl. She started to like attention. Applause. Mass validation. Performance. The taste of being a star at her game. Still had no clue what her game was. But. She knew she had something going on…. …

… …. One day, the school counselor said to her daddy: “that little one, she can adapt to any place you put her in, but the older one is a bit closed up”. The girl was a child in the true sense.

She did what her arms legs body mind soul heart wanted her to do. Heck even what her little rosy red mouth wanted. She was truly driven by nothing but the life that runs in her blood.

That little mouth, it said it all, ate it all, sung it all, spoke it all, it even talked to her little insect friends at night when her siblings got too tired to talk still. And she had four siblings.

Her thoughts exceed her words. Or so she discovers when she grows up.

... to be continued ...


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perfect Strangers - Part Three



… … She’s always been a princess. Pampered lush extravagant girl who is taken care of starting from her hair-style down to the pedicure on her feet. This was before the hijab. But even after she came close to Islam, she wanted plush and lush and poshness. Once a princess always a princess, she’d later tell her daughter.

As days went by, this Cinderella had a child and then another, and then another. Before she could catch the next lip-gloss fab, she found herself on her knees giving the tiles a good scrub, while the food cooks on medium heat while the baby takes his afternoon nap before her husband comes back from his political meeting right after she has a minute to steal a quick shower so he doesn’t smell the lingering onion or garlic on her clothes.

Worn down hard by domestic reality, this princess had no spirit left in her to listen to poetry at the end of her tiresome day, nor did she care about the world’s situation nor today’s news or ways to get involved in the community. If anything, she would attend halaqas – she’d choose the ones that offered an extra few minutes after the lesson to socialize or notice each other’s new shoes, shirt, hijab or purse.

At times, she’d catch the new Arabic series on her satellite dish but before all of this, she made sure the kids were fed and rested, the house is spotless, her looks in place and the rest mattered less and less and less. He takes care of their minds, she’d say, and I’ll take care of their physical needs.

In this spirit of discipline to her role as wife and mother, she sensed that her life was a sacrifice. One sacrifice. After another. To her children and husband but Islam kept her intact like a sedative she needed. Islam saved her from pain so big if she felt it the world would crumble, thirty years worth of crumbles.

How come he’s not close to Islam? She didn’t like that in him. No matter how much he reads that poetry of his or engages in the question of injustice towards his people, or raises his political community to higher social action, it all doesn’t matter, she’d later tell her daughter, if he doesn’t pray.

So she prayed for him. And prayed and fasted and read the Qur’an and listened to halaqas. And then it was time for him to die. So she said, “ it’s all from Allah. I must accept it”.

Who can say if it’s right or wrong for two people to live like perfect strangers in marriage?

when my
mama asks me will
it change?
I say yeah but it
Could always be the
Until the end of time
until the
End of time


Monday, May 11, 2009

Perfect Strangers - Part Two





To my unborn child
Since I only get one
Life to live
Hope you understand
My love letter
In case you never see
My face

Daddy was a soldier

… … …
… the Lebanese beautiful woman in town marries the Palestinian man, and from day one her mommy and daddy grew into perfect strangers.

… Until the fifth child, she sported golden streak highlights, wore tight jeans and decked the dark eyeliner around her warm chestnut eyes. Her silky white porcelain skin would shine under the sun. He had no worries about that.

One day, out of nowhere it seemed, her children watch her cover her hair with a scarf, and her skin, white as snow, showed no more. Her daughter would say to her, “mommy mommy, it’s too hot, don’t wear that”. In time, her daughter would learn to obey her mother’s discipline when it’s time to memorize from the Qur’an, or go to the masjid, or play with the sheikh’s kids.

… … He was hardly in this picture. While she washed, cleaned, raised the kids and kept pretty for him, his heart and mind and spirit grew elsewhere. Not with her. Not one with her. He joined the Palestinian political party. Later on, he’d sit on weekends at a quiet place to read the news or discuss pressing political issues or explore his words of poetry – sometimes while she was there with him.

He would read and read and read to her all the poetry his heart can bring, all ideas about the world his mind can think. Force it daddy, the little daughter would think in her little mind wise beyond its age.

Daddy, keep going, she’ll like it one day, she’ll get it one day. I’m sure.

He kept his head up, he kept pressing her into his world just in case it’s true that two can become one. Even on his death bed, he kept his head up strong like a king. And for over thirty years, it never became true that two can become one. From dusk to dawn, I hope you understand, Daddy was a soldier.

…. To be continued


From Yin-Yang: Maman, Je T'Adore


A bit of a divergence from the usual posts about love between spouses, marriage etc, this post is about another type of love that is just as important, if not more: Mothers' Love.

In light of Mother's Day, I thought I would post something about it. By the way, Happy Belated Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and mothers-to be!

I was driving my colleague home the other day and chatted about what we were doing on Mother's Day. I told her that inshaAllah I will be chilling with my mother during the day, and making dinner for the family and my grandmother at night.

She was surprised and said she does not plan to cook for the family as she dislikes cleaning after the fact.

I asked her about her age: 22. I then said: "Your mom has been caring for you and the family for 22 years, what is one day out of that?"

My auditor mind began to calculate: 22 years * 365 Days/year = 8,030 days.

1 day/ 8,030 days = 0.01%

This brings about the topic of a mother's love. A mother's love is selfless: caring, loving, supporting without conditions. My mom doesn't say 'I love you' to me everyday (actually, maybe she does, hehe), but from her actions, I can tell.

Anyone can say 'I love you', but it takes a real man or woman to show this sincere and genuine love in actions. This is indeed true love. Love in its practical form that requires the most patience and selflessness.

(But let me tell you, women do like to hear and see love in action, so if you haven't said 'I love you' to your mom, do so to bring a smile to her face.)

This patience is not only for one day or one year, but many years until the end of your life on this earth.

I am not sure about you, but I am definitely falling short of what I can do to show my mom that I love her via my actions and words.

As they say: just do it.

Note: If anyone is against the celebration of Mother's Day, I respect you. I am not here to debate, in fact, my debating skills are indeed poor. However, if you do incline to do so, consider yourself having won the debate. (and congratulations).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Perfect Strangers

Being both an orphan and poor was an initiatory state for the future Messenger of God. Other than feeling for the underprivileged, this taught him a lesson that is valid for each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn it all into a positive teaching for oneself and for others.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived in the desert, a nomad, forever on the move. Nomads learn to move on, to become strangers.

Such is the experience of a believer which the Prophet was to later describe in this way: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer” (Hadith –tradition- by Al-Bukhari)… …

The daugther was born in one place, raised until her teens in another, then spent her adulthood elsewhere too. Languages, she knows a lot. People, she met plenty. Cultural conflict, she’s known it well. Identity, it’s complicated.

But she thinks of her parents now. Perhaps, the first place where a child lives is in the world of his parents. What was it like? Their identity. Were they also strangers not only in this world, but to themselves? There is no tragedy in this, but a training for her in all that she’s been through, just like the Prophet who turned his experience into a positive teaching for himself and for others.

The Parents

… He was a bright, handsome young man with an attractive leadership quality. They say he took it from his father – a Palestinian “Fallah” (farmer) down from the orchards of Acre, Palestine. He was the eldest of six children, and even though he belonged to the Fallaheen (the farmer culture), he had a love for education. Under the dim light of the lamp-post in the middle of the night, he’d later tell his daughter, I’d read my books and do my homework.

1948 hit, and Palestinians were dispersed like nomads in the world’s desert. He landed in Lebanon at the Palestinian refugee camps in Ayn al-helwe and Rashidiyyeh. In time, he attended university in Beirut.

…. She was a beautiful one from a well-to-do rich, affluent and reputable Lebanese family. She was the eldest of two girls and she had three brothers. When she was two months old, her father passed away, so she was sent to live in Jordan with her father’s family. She grew up and sprouted into a young woman who knew her grandparents more than her own mother – and later step father.

She came back to Beirut to continue her education. Her mother showed her off to the entire affluent Lebanese community – the beauty of the town! A girl like her, she’d later tell her daughter, would only marry the best of the best. Heck a Prince! A King!

A leader in so many ways, he excelled not only in his education but even in his political journalism. After school, he’d interview prominent figures in Beirut and publish about them whenever he could.

She joined the student Dabkeh (folklore dance) club, and he covered a story on one of their performances.

He was Palestinian, she was Lebanese. Palestinians were, and continue to be perceived as third rate minority citizens in Lebanon.

Her mother did not like how he proposed to her daughter who is supposed to marry the best of the best. Her mother said, “look, there are three suitors asking for your hand”, she’d later tell her daughter, “ you have to choose one”. Frustrated, she said, “I don’t want any of them. I want the Palestinian”.

…. To Be Continued ….


Thursday, May 7, 2009

From Yin-Yang

In my quest for the one, I ask myself, what is love? Is it something one can achieve, or ...? (i.e. a noun), or is it a process (i.e. a verb)?

I spoke with my good friend, an Arab, who is married to an East Asian. They have been married for 11 years, and alhamdullilah, going strong. It's so beautiful to see them together each time.

What is keeping them together, and still so in love, despite the differences in culture etc?

He told me three things:

1. They are best friends (vs. just spouses).
2. Most people have a deluded perception of what love is.
3. Lack of financial worries.

1. Best friends (below are his words)

There’s some sort of loyalty that we feel towards our best friends. For example, if my best friend wronged me, I will confront him/her, rather than go find another friend and talk about the issue behind his/her back.

Somehow, people feel it’s acceptable nowadays to cheat on one’s spouse. Being disloyal to one’s best friend (lying to your best friends about your weekend plans to go hang out with some other friends) is almost unheard of, unless they’re not your best friend.

I’m even honest about finding some other woman attractive: I actually tell my wife! You’d tell your best friend, but not your wife. Guess what? My wife IS my best friend so I tell her everything.

I have an open honest relationship with her. She appreciates that I told her at least. We both learn from it. Of course, since I’ve grown quite cynical about the world around me, I don’t actually find any of these shallow women attractive in the least so that doesn’t happen anymore.

Normal spouse: that’s self explanatory. The wife is just that: a wife, emphasis on the indefinite article ‘a’, meaning nothing special, and whatever connotations the title ‘wife’ carries in the west: boring, nagging, possessive, intrusive, motherly, not fun…etc. Wife as your best friend is something completely different.

2. Perception of Love:

Love is that unquestionable affection you feel towards someone. There’s no doubt in it; only certitude.

It’s something you know for a fact yet cannot quite explain or encapsulate with words. When you love someone, you love everything about them, both the beauties and the blemishes (you love them whether their breath stinks in the morning, or just came out of the shower sparkling clean). When you love someone, bonding with them becomes easy yet complex (true love isn’t simple, which means it’s not problem free).

Any relationship is just a series of exchanges and compromises. I reached that conclusion about two years ago. A relationship fails because of at least one of the parties refuses/complicates an exchange (feelings, actions, words) or is unwilling to compromise.

I have a short temper, and sometimes I say something I don’t really mean to my wife. She compromises by letting me get away with it. I then apologize (I too compromise, and we exchange gratitude).

Problem solved, we’re both richer for the experience, we grow more mature and more appreciative of one another in the end.

3. Financial dissatisfaction promised me this, you never give me that.

I think part of the reason why my spouse and I get along so well (mashaAllah) is because we both have one thing in common about money: we care about it less than average.

Neither of us longs for a house. Neither of us cares about brand name products. Neither of us worries about money. AlhamduliLlah, so neither one of us has unmet financial expectations.

I am not sure if any married couples or singles have any thoughts on this?


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Quest for the Right One

I quest marriage, true. But it seems to me that the quest for the right one may have also been the quest for the right ‘me’ within me. In other words: self-knowledge.

I read a book about Prophet Abraham and the messengers. The question was: are trials in life a tragic experience? Is life and its difficulties a wretched condition?

All the messengers have, like Abraham and Muhammad (PBUT), experienced the trial of faith and all have been, in the same manner, protected from themselves and their own doubts about their faith by signs, inspiration, visions and words from God.

My quest for my right one, if I may put it this way, includes my self-doubt, my tribulations, my vulnerabilities as well as my enlightenment and glory. It is all written in the spirit of educating myself about myself. In this, comes an education in faith, inshAllah. And perhaps I’m not entirely at loss, for how can I possibly make a good wife or soul-mate to a man out there if I approach marriage without knowing myself?

I doubt I’d have anything beautiful to offer the marriage. And so, I await the dawn of oneness with myself, and if in Allah’s will, with a future husband. And so, the quest continues.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's not Difficult

I have to find it! You don’t understand. I’ve been raised in Malta which is an Island in the Mediterranean. And now I’m back to it in Lebanon which touches the Mediterranean. I. Must. Be. In. That Sea! I heard of this women-only beach.

“Yeah it’s across from the Hard Rock Café. I heard there are lesbians and some like take off all their clothes to get an even body-tan”.

Ewwwwwwww! Then I’ll go to a normal beach and wear a burkini.

“Don’t forget the flippers!”

Dolpin style baby with pride.

“There are pools you can go to. There’s one at the Meridian, there’s one downtown too at this hotel. It’s above the penthouse floor on the rooftop”.

Is it only for women?

“No but it’s on the roof”.

I smile.

“okay just take off your hijab. There’s nothing in your religion that says if a woman wears the scarf and then takes it off, that she’ll be punished or persecuted by religious law”.

Not that I can recall a verse. But it doesn’t matter for me. I put the hijab on because I want to. Not because I’m afraid of punishment by people.

“So if there’s nothing wrong with it in your religion, just take it off. It’s stopping you from doing so many things”.

They’re challenges I can overcome. I’ve done it before all my life. Plus I think if I take it off, it’s like taking off my skin …

…. ….. I can’t remember what else we said that day but we kept walking. I guess I should have seen that my Catholic friend was trying to help me by ‘saving’ me from what appeared to her as a problem. I’m guilty as charged. I guess I did sound like I was complaining.

Did the conversation go like this: A quest for a way to swim with a hijab = a difficulty, and a good friend would help her friend from this perceived difficulty?

Later that week, I opened a book and it said: “He (God) has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion”.

It makes no sense, then, to simplify life and turn it easy, because it’s not difficult. Wrong tool for the job. Just change the tool.

Some take off this or that rule in Islam so they can go do more things in life -- like swim, sunbathe, dance, exercise, explore new knowledge, eat more food and drink, or get intimate physically to know love.

Religion – Islam or otherwise – cannot be approached with the feeling that it’s difficult. Trust this.

To myself, no need to suddenly feel like I’ve had it hard all this time. All I need is my memory. Remembering. When I stood strong. Atleast once. We’ve all been solid atleast once. It’s not difficult.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

In the Spirit of Love

A book once said: ‘ Say (O Messenger): If you love God, follow me. God will love you’”.

There is no way to reduce the infinite love and deep respect Muslims have continued to show the Last Prophet (pbuh) through the ages.

Deeply, simply: he who cannot love, cannot understand. Could this universal love start in small doses, in something as simple as people’s monstrous ability to kill love whenever they feel it?

___Once upon a time, Jade was a vibrant student. Her energy not only filled the classroom, but it filled his heart. A good devout young Muslim. He looked, and looked, and looked in her eyes until he could take it no more, so finally one day he burst towards her, close, close to her eyes as if to scream and scream with all might and glory his plea that he’s in love. And wants to do this the right way.

Then, out comes her ignorance: “umm, kamal, the MSA needs to order more pizza. Take care of it please. I’m going to class”. Even at his nikkah in a Masjid full of brothers and sisters, he gives her one last final look as if a man gasping for one last breath of air before he falls into what he perceives to be a loveless marriage. All he could see, still, was her. Again, she kills the love in his heart and looks away.

____Once upon a time, Fatima was great in extracurricular work in school. She even wrote in the school’s paper about her work as a role model to her peers. He connected with her humanitarian spirit, though he wasn’t Muslim like her.

When she found it hard to come up with new ideas for her projects, she’d go to him for advice and guidance. He offered plenty – as if a teacher guiding a student without realizing that he too was changing. Slowly, his heart beat fast except Fatima was Muslim, and he was a good person but not a Muslim.

This is wrong, she thought. But this time, he kills his love in his own heart because he knew it would never work. Slowly, Fatima watches him die out of her life. She never stops him from killing his love in his heart.

Time goes on and then, how can a woman or man love and understand – when all they’ve been good at is either killing love in their heart or watch it die in people who love them?

It is indeed a moral requirement to follow in the example of the Prophet in daily life, and it all amounts to a series of stories about love to people as ordinary as a girl in school, or a man at work. There is something for us out there to understand, and without true love, we won’t make it. The Prophet’s life is an invitation to a spirituality that avoids no question, no matter how hard it is, especially that of love between people in the right Islamic way, without turning us into loveless ice. Eventually, your heart will be so healthy it will know how to follow the guidance of the Prophet.

The result is God will love you. Find love in the footsteps of the Prophet before life finds you, and teaches you the wrong things the hard way. Bismillah.