Will the Real Women Please Stand Up?

Are We Not Real Women?

I remember when my 1st husband first traveled to Saudi Arabia. I asked him about the women there. I was hung up on the fact that they had to wear all black and that they couldn’t drive. He said something I never forgot… he said, “the women here are not used to being anything but women.” I was instantly offended! I thought, what is he saying that we are not real women??

Yet over years of travel and meeting women of various cultures and through deep observation, I began to notice the differences between Eastern and Western women. The way we walked, the way we talked ,the way we sat, the way we handled our husbands and children, the advice that we gave our friends all was generally different.
I watched intercultural couples; American men who had married Eastern women and American women who had married Eastern men and I saw the differences in treatment on both sides.

I am a child of the 70’s

the years when American women first began to really spread their wings and have it be acceptable. There was a t.v. commercial for a perfume that used to come on, ‘Da da da da dum! I can bring home the bacon…fry it up in a pan… and never let you forget you’re the man! cause Im a woman!”

I grew up in a time when many of our mothers told us, go to school get a good job so you don’t have to be dependent on a man. We were told that women can do anything a man can do. everyone had the same responsabilities as male and female.

Interestingly though, men do not do everything that we do. They do not bear children, nor do most of them care for the children or the home and no matter how many hours a woman works outside the home, most women are still expected to come home and work inside. Why? because her value as the Nurturer The ‘Rabiyya tul Bayt’ is priceless.

As our Prophet said all of you are Shepherds and all of you are asked about your flock….so the woman is asked about the children and the home.  (Although the husband/father is asked over it all.)

The Man is Not Like the Woman

Dr. John Gray, author of Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars, wrote a subsequent book called Venus on Fire. He discusses the stress levels of women and how these stress levels are the result of being out of our feminine and doing men’s work. He talks about how men’s stress levels go down as they come home from work; home to the man is a place of refuge from work. In contrast, women’s stress levels go up as they come home from work, as they sit in traffic during their commute stressing over children, laundry, cooking and cleaning that is waiting for them at home.

in his book “Men, Women and Relationships” he teaches the physical, emotional ,mental differences between men and women. The information is astounding.

I have found this man’s work to be amazing because he explains from a scientific perspective the ayah in which Allah says
وَلَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ كَالْأُنثَىٰ
and the male is not like the female

But I HAVE to work…

If that’s your situation then here are 3 things you can do to stay soft and in a feminine flow, rather than a masculine grind:

  1. Make thikr more MINDFULLY. When we say subhaanAllah, let us feel in awe of Allah’s greatness. When we say al-hamdulillah, let us feel truly thankful for His blessings. When we say Allahu Akbar, let us trust and believe that He is Greater and Powerful over all things. Allow yourself time and space for pondering, learning, letting the verses of Allah settle on the heart. 
  2. Breathe more deeply. Pay attention to this throughout the day. Deep breathing with your feet firmly on the ground can bring you back to balance emotionally and mentally.
  3. Move a (just a little bit) more slowly. TAKE IT EASY WITH YOURSELF. As you go about your day from the bed to the bathroom, getting yourself and children ready, look for ease and support even in the smallest ways, Instead of being ‘on the run’, be ‘in your flow.’  Yes, you are in a cycle that is designed by men for men but if you move a bit more slowly, deeply breathe and stay in thikr, your intuition will have a chance to guide you more and your time will expand.
  4. Connect with other women you trust, give and ask for support.  As women, it is our nature to gather together and support one another. This collaboration prevents competition, because we appreciate each others’ gifts.

This softness of the feminine is so needed in our homes and in our communities; the energy that forgives, nurtures, comforts, and yes even loves…more on this later.

Join the program that allows you to nurture your own learning and become a teacher to your children.

My Shahada, Wedding, and Finding Myself

The shorts I wore the first time I walked into an Islamic Center,

looked something like these. I was a 22-year old confused Christian, who married a Muslim in summer of 1993. Yeah, the wedding day was really interesting. Imagine me in a low-cut white gown walking across the masjid carpet. I remember there were these older sisters who gently guided me into the bathroom and1024425_in_pp.jpg tried to cover me up with the lace veil. It was hopeless; I was exposed. I had no idea what was going on around me and I couldn’t understand why was it so important for me to be covered. Didn’t I just come there last week in my cut off jeans? After the wedding one of the ladies handed me a Quran. She said, “I heard that you study languages,”  “you may be able to learn the Arabic because that’s the original language of the Quran.”  She opened the Quran. I saw the English on one side and the other side what looked like a lot of lines, curves, dots and dashes, I thought, ‘Arabic looks impossible.’ 

The Quran became my best friend.

My first husband was still in the Army, so he was in Germany and I was in the New York , we were separated for months. I kept the Quran that the lady gave me after our wedding and it became my best friend.

I just opened it and started reading. There wasn’t exactly a ‘beginning’. At that time, I was reading the Yusuf Ali translation which contained many footnotes. Some of them under the stories of Prophets gave you the consequent Bible verses to refer back to. That was critical for me because the Quran was new.. I had not developed the trust in it yet. So it was helpful to refer back to the Bible and after some time, I put the Bible on the shelf…for good. I started using phrases like , what your hands put forth, and People of the Book. Every so often my eyes would drift over to the Arabic side of the page, and I would think, one day… one day…

When he came home from Germany, he brought Dr. Bilal Philips book on Tauheed. “You think you can believe in Allah any way you want to?!” that’s what my first husband said to me as he handed me the book. It seemed like he became so MEAN all of a sudden.  He wasn’t mean when I was wearing the cut off jeans though.  Now that he had made Hajj and had been to Medina with the students of knowledge, everything had to be just so…especially my clothes.

I moved away and put on all black plus a face veil

My first attempt at wearing a face veil was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while I was still in college. We fought about it for days. Finally he said, “You know, as your husband, I can order you to wear that veil.” I didn’t budge. The next day he tried another tactic,  he took out a bag and acted like he was leaving me, ‘that’s it!’ he shouted ,” you don’t know who’s the man around here.” Then I gave in,  put the niqab on my face… and I became the meanest wife in the Midwest. I’m laughing about it now; we were both so young and foolish!

We moved to Atlanta and joined a community where all the sisters dressed in black and covered their faces. I could see how that set us apart from other communities. I became another person, so different than the college girl wearing cut off jeans.  I was a Muslimah. I was wearing black. I was a part of the saved sect. My family would never understand. The religion and my new friends provided many reasons to stay away from my family…far away.  One day my Aunt Jan surprised me with a phone call. “you know, your Grandmother was very hurt that you didn’t call her on her birthday.” I said, “that’s against my religion to celebrate birthdays.” My aunt said, “she was your grandmother before the religion!” I kept my guard up. I was very good at numbing myself. (I realized later.)  I am upon the Truth, they just don’t understand, I thought. Anyway they couldn’t tell me what to do, they were in New York, I was in Atlanta. I was “free”.

Even farther away…

I remember one email I got from my younger sister asking me, ‘Will I ever see you again?”  She was in college then; she needed me. I tried to be oblivious to the fact that my family missed me especially the older ones. And then something happened, it was like my younger siblings and cousins just…forgot me. I became a non-issue, someone who did not matter. They didn’t know me…Actually…I didn’t even know me.  

From 1995-2004 I lived in Egypt and Saudi Arabia I studied, I learned I had countless adventures and have many stories to tell. But who was I? 

Then, September 11th happened

in my hometown New York City it was a shock. I used to walk through those buildings every morning to take the A train when I worked in the Village. It felt like a personal attack. I ran upstairs to my neighbors to watch the news. Then I went to the Call Cabin and got on the phone with Umm Medina; she was from Queens. We were both in shock. I asked her, ‘Do you really believe Arabs/ Muslims did this?” We both paused….‘Naaah! Get-atta- heya”  A part of me was like what am I doing here? I should be there with my people, my family! I was conflicted and confused.  By then my 1st husband had left for AFrica never to return (that’s a whole other story).

I was living in Medina, as an Arabic speaking American. Arabic was my everyday language by then, there was no English spoken on the street. All my neighbors and co-workers except 1 were Arabs or Arabic speaking.  I had been ‘adopted’ into my Yemeni family (another story) who I was with every weekend. Had I become an Arab? Who was I?  The wake up call was when I heard George W. Bush’s voice through VOA, ‘you are either with us or you are with the terrorists’. How can he say that?? The Iranian president came on the next night and replied ‘we are not with you and we are not with the terrorists! ” 

over the next weeks we got to witness the pseudo-investigation in America and the real  investigation in the Middle East from Syria, to Saudia to Egypt. Arab journalists were on it uncovering the lies.

What 9-11 did for me was bring me a certainty…That  I was really a Muslim. I was so happy to be in Medina a that time, being there during that time really grounded me. So at least I knew that I was really Muslim, not because of my first husband, not because of my friends, not because of the clothes I wore, but because I believed.  

At least I knew that much, yet many layers were to be pulled back and examined.

Are you a re-vert Muslim? What’s your Shahadah story? Share it below or on our Facebook group.

 

Hijrah: Cutting Off Family Ties? by Nadiya Johnson

‘Our only mistake was coming to this stupid country!’ She sounded like Jaden Smith in The Karate Kid.

One day it came out, just like that, raw and unfiltered, my daughter’s pain of being somewhere she does not want to be. For almost 2 years she wore a heavy sweater that I hated. I kept telling her , ‘its too hot for that take it off.’ It was much later she told me ‘Grandma gave it to me. I wear it because it reminds me of her.’  My bonus daughter gives more subtle hints like, ‘I sure miss Granny’s salmon cakes! I sure miss Granny’s corn bread!’ 

The reality is that in order to have what we consider a ‘successful hijrah’ we may inadvertently cut our children off from their lineage.

Listen here

I found this hadith just recently:

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عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا ، قَالَتْ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ .الرَّحِمُ مُعَلَّقَةٌ بِالْعَرْشِ ، تَقُولُ : مَنْ وَصَلَنِي وَصَلَهُ اللَّهُ ، وَمَنْ قَطَعَنِي قَطَعَهُ اللَّهُ ” . أَخْرَجَاهُ

Related on Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said.

The Messenger of Allah (prayers and peace be upon him) said: The womb is connected to/suspended from the Throne of Allah and she says, ‘ Whoever connects to me, connects to Allah and whoever cuts me off then Allah cuts him off.’ 

There are families that leave the West permanently and never return

Some families are able to travel back every year to visit. Some families have the position that this is wrong, why would you travel back every year to Dar ul Kufr after moving to the Muslim lands. And from my observation; those families that are really serious about hijrah do not travel for years at a time There are families that leave the West permanently and never return. They raise a whole new generation of grandchildren in the new land and their family back home is basically a memory. These are the ones we consider the Hijrah Success Stories. At one time I thought I wanted that but I don’t think I counted the costs.

I am the oldest on both sides of my family;

I am the oldest grandchild, the oldest of all my cousins and the only Muslim in my family. Do I not have a responsibility?  As my grandmother ages I feel the guilt of not being around to help care for her as my mother would have done if she were alive.   I have been watching my nieces and nephews grow up on Facebook; the baseball games the basketball games, the graduations. There are many precious moments that I missed.   And one day I felt it. I had a nap on the sofa and I woke up in pain. It was this intense feeling of emptiness that I had never felt before; the pain of not seeing my father for 2 years.  Some hijrah families have been blessed that their parents came to visit them in Egypt or the UAE. My father never came and it disappointed me but the truth is: He is the parent I am the child, it is not his duty to come to me.

 

It is not my intention to turn anyone away from hijrah my intention is to present the ‘ouch!’ points that most of us don’t want to discuss.  This is from 15 years of my personal experiences and observations living in 3 Islamic countries.

 

I Want to See My People Rise by Nadiya Johnson

If you are a teacher or a homeschooler then you are familiar with the word “standard”.

In education, it is knowledge that a child is required to have at each grade level. For example, 3rd graders must know all their timetables and 4th graders must know long division; those are Math standards. Fifth graders master higher levels of spelling and can write persuasive paragraphs; these are English standards. So as American Muslims, what are our standards for Islamic education? Can we say that a 10-year old who cannot yet read the Quran in Arabic is ‘below level’? Can we say that that a Muslim high-school student who does not understand basic Quran vocabulary has ‘fallen behind’? Actually, no we can’t say that because we, as a community, have not yet set Islamic studies ‘standards’. So how can we know where we stand if don’t have standards.

If we look at other cultures: Indian and Pakistani parents enroll their children in

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weekend and after school Islamic studies to make sure their children are ‘up to the standard’. And if there is no program around that is suitable, then they hire a Sheikh to come to the home and teach to make sure their children are ‘up to their standard’.  It is tradition in Indonesia and Malaysia that children recite the whole Quran by age 11 and this is considered a ‘rite of passage’ between childhood and adulthood. Somalians are known to memorize a lot of Quran.   I always get a little bit concerned when I have an Asian or a Somali student in the class because I can feel sometimes that the pace is too slow for them. Somalis, Indians even Turkish have many Arabic words in their language so they don’t really need to spend much time on ‘hatha baytun’ ‘hatha kitaabun’. When you come from a people who have Quran on their tongue you are not exactly a beginner. I’ve had Indonesian, Malaysian students say ‘I am a beginner.’ But they did their ‘khatam ul Quran’. I can see my people are behind the rest of the Muslim world.

We have to realize that we are behind the rest of the Muslim world. It is not our fault, but it is our responsibility.

When Islam was spreading to various parts of the world, the Arabic language was also being spread because the people wanted to understand the Quran. Many regions accepted Arabic as their official language or Arabic words were enmeshed in the native lughah that was already there.  For some reason that did not happen when Islam came to us in the West. There is no visible influence of Arabic on the English language today. In order to set our standard we have a lot of work to do but we keep looking for others to do it for us. We keep looking for others to take the responsibility of Islamically educating our children.

Many American Muslims are thinking the answer to move ‘overseas’ to the Arab world. Some of us are thinking ‘if we could just get into that environment, we’ll get it.’ Only few are successful.

In my personal experience, living in Egypt, Saudi and Qatar, observing and talking to many families, being on internet social groups and emailing groups over the last 15 years.  I will guess-timate that less than 30% of families living in the Arab world, have children who achieved a mastery of Arabic and Quran skills.  I will guess-timate that the highest number of them were or are in Yemen and Egypt. That number may surprise you and there are several reasons for it that I will speak about in another article entitled: Hijrah; Life in a Bubble.

Our next solution is Islamic schools. They try. but as they seek accreditation from the authorities and try to keep up with the Common Core standards, secular education takes more precedence over Islamic education. There are only so many hours in a school day.

Many of us have a picture in our mind of what we would like to achieve with our children and how we like to see them enter adulthood but we need a plan of how to a get there….

Follow this link if you are ready for Arabic to flow into your home from WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW

Compassion for the Creation, even the Homosexual?

When I was in college,

I lived in the large house of an older woman who sort of ‘rented’ out rooms. In one room, was a young divorced woman trying to ‘fix her life’. In another room another young girl who was her relative. I, a student at the University of Wisconsin at the time had my room. And the last room belonged to ‘D’. That’s what we called him, short for Demetrius. He was her foster child and she was earning a sizable income looking after him because nobody else wanted him. When I met him he was 13 and at first glance, I assumed him to be a girl. After all, he was wearing a dress, lipstick, walked with a switch and had his hair layed out! I didn’t know that he was a boy until someone told me. (SubhaanAllah)

D was very flamboyant,

he needed lots of attention and there was no way you could ignore him. He talked loud. He laughed even louder and he squeaked and squealed! Being from New York City, I had seen transvestites from afar, you know walking down in the Village in lower Manhattan or coming from a party uptown. but actually knowing one persoanlly and living with him was crazy. One day, we were all sitting in the living room watching t.v. and he came sachay-ing into the room like a model, wearing these beautiful light blue bell-bottom jeans. (He did quite a bit of shoplifting and had an amazing wardrobe!) We were like, ‘D, go sit down somewhere!’ He said, “So how do I look?” I said, “I like those jeans, can I have them?” He squealed and said, “No I mean how do I look up here?” He shimmied his shoulders. “Oh my God! He has breasts!” The boy had taken small balloons, filled them up with water and put them inside of the bra. We touched his ‘breasts’, they felt real!!

The Queen of the house used to just laugh at him, so we did too.

At that time, back in 1993- 1994, She used to pull rank on us all by saying’ “Don’t play with me I’m almost half a hundred!” It’s funny that I am almost that age now. When you reach middle age you start to look back on your life and collect lessons; well I do. D came to my mind just before I prayed Fajr (Before Dawn) prayer today and I had to shed a few tears. I had not thought about him in many, many years. I think my memory got jogged by something I heard a psychologist saying a few days ago, about the percentage of homosexuals who had been molested as children. D was in foster care because his mother was on crack and his uncle had molested him. Now I see why he was the way he was, he was calling out for attention to his plight, but nobody heard him. I imagined him in front of me and giving him a big hug. No, as a Muslim, I do not condone homosexual behavior and it carries a heavy punishment if 2 are found engaging in these actions. I am also a human who believes in the natural order of creation in this universe, I believe male was created for female and vice versa.  However, I do understand something about human pain. As I rested my forehead and nose on the carpet, my heart went out to D and I ask Allah to guide him wherever he may be. I ask Allah to put compassion in my heart for all His creation.

 

Hijrah Discussions pt. 2: Education in the Arab World

Yaa Akhwaatee!

My goal in these articles is to share my personal experience as well as what I have observed from other families over the years. However I am not saying:  Do not move to the Muslim lands. That is not my intention as our Prophet sallallahu alyhi wa sallam said:

وَعَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ – رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ – قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ – صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ – : “ لَا تَنْقَطِعُ الْهِجْرَةُ حَتَّى تَنْقَطِعَ التَّوْبَةُ ، وَلَا تَنْقَطِعُ التَّوْبَةُ حَتَّى تَطْلُعَ الشَّمْسُ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا ” . رَوَاهُ أَحْمَدُ ، وَأَبُو دَاوُدَ ، وَالدَّارِمِيُّ .

Narrated Mu’awiyah:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: Migration will not end until repentance ends, and repentance will not end until the sun rises in the west. (Sunan Abi Dawud: Book of Jihad)

As I said in part 1 of this discussion, traveling as an adult to study or live is different than traveling as a parent wanting to raise and educate children. So I want to give a summary of the types of education offered in most Arab countries; that is North Africa, the Arabian Gulf (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait) and Jordan.

Types of Schools in the Arab World

  1. The Government Schools:  these are schools set up by the government, public schools. The official language of the public schools is Arabic, so all the subjects are taught in Arabic. There will usually be some level of Islamic studies and Quran taught as well.
  2. The ‘International’ Schools:  These are schools set up to educate Arabs in a Western language, most likely English, there are also French schools. These schools are usually owned by non-Muslims as private businesses or may be under a Western embassy.  Usually, the more ‘high class’ the school is, the more they are pushing Western culture and values. There are International Schools owned by Muslim families who do try to keep the Islamic values along with teaching the English. Many of these schools create within them a whole different culture. Al-hamdulillah, many Western Muslims are going to teach in these schools and helping to bring the balance.
  3.  The 3rd type of school is the Private Islamic schools. These are Arabic language schools, privately owned by religious families, that focus on creating an Islamic educational environment. I have heard mixed reviews about these kinds of schools so I can’t report.
  4. Quran Centers; in most or all of the Islamic countries, there are Quran Centers in every neighborhood or district of each city. Some are better and more progressive than others. If they are private they charge fees, if they are government run then they will be free or for a small fee. In general, they all operate in Arabic, the registration, the classes, the books. Sometimes you can find a center that has an English section but this is something that will take research.
  5. Homeschooling; many Western families living in the Middle East are homeschooling their children in English. It is always an option and many families prefer it or do it out of necessity to avoid the high fees of the International schools and the bad behavior and bullying of the government schools. The question is; how to fill the gap of Arabic/ Quran learning? How can you raise children in the land of the Arabs without them learning Arabic?  Can you afford the fees of bringing in a private tutor? Can your children learn in an Arabic speaking Quran Center? (Well they probably can,  but are you willing to put them in that sink or swim environment).

This is why it’s so important to do the research.  Whichever type of schooling you choose, you will have to be ready to fill in the gaps.

And…what if you just can’t get overseas at all?

I want to show you the program that will work from where you are right now.

The Ramadan Course that will bring Arabic into your home and raise the level of your family.

 

 

 

Hijrah Discussions: Raising Kids Who Speak Arabic WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW

This Ramadan, I will be sharing some “secrets” or perhaps little known or told information about living in the Muslim countries and

how you can raise an Arabic-speaking family WHILE YOU ARE RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, You see,
I keep getting emails from sisters asking me ‘how can I get over there?’

(I have been Qatar almost 8 years, and on my way back to the U.S. ) HOW CAN I EXPLAIN THE REALITY? WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST FOR 10 YEARS AND STILL DON’T KNOW ARABIC OR QURAN AND NEITHER DO THEIR CHILDREN???

So we think going overseas to the Arabic speaking countries is the answer and we start to dream. Some of us even pack up all our stuff, give up our Western life and move. I did that, more than once… The first time to Egypt back in 1995, then Saudi Arabia from 1999 – 2004. But I did not have any children then; different experience.
In 2011, I got a teaching job in Qatar. I HAD MY IQAMA (RESIDENCE VISA), MY ‘GOOD JOB’ AND FREE TUITION FOR MY DAUGHTER
We made it to the Promised Land !
Well, kind of…

You move to the Land of the Muslims with sincere heart and people don’t realize, it may be a struggle to maintain that sincerity…

My professional experience was pretty amazing! I learned so much!

But my daughter’s experience was something very different…

Being the only 1 of 3 non-Qatari children in the whole grade level (Years 1, 2, and 3) I realized the bullying was a problem towards the end of the 1st year. So before the 2nd year I had the Enrollment lady put the 3 foreigners in the same class; my daughter and 2 Egyptians. People talk of Racism in the U.S.A. but this was so much more than colorism. The Egyptians were vanilla skinned and just as rejected and bullied; didn’t matter… they were outsiders. There was one little Qatari girl, Aisha al-Ka’bi, Allah yah-deeha, she was a big girl and she used to say to the other girls, “If you love me, then hit Aamina!” So they would do it.  Getting my child into the classroom in the morning became traumatic at one point, she would cry because she didn’t want to go into the class.

Then there was the academic issue. After 3 years, her spoken Arabic was good, she had also memorized some Quran, hadith and poetry, and she could understand 3 different Arabic dialects.  There was a lot of memorizing but at the end of year 2 I realized my child could not actually read; not Arabic, nor English. I didn’t concern myself too much with the English literacy at that time my main concern was the Arabic.

The best part of the primary school was the Quran teachers, several were from Syria and they had a beautiful way of teaching. And when the budget cuts came in the 2nd year, they were the first to be cut. Everything went downhill from there.

I HAVE TO BE HONEST, THE SITUATION WAS EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING

We had to learn 2-3 different Arabic dialects in order to learn Fus-ha, the pure Arabic of Quran. You see, in the Gulf Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) the native kids speak Najdi dialect, but the teachers are Egyptian or Jordanian, so the kids also have to understand their dialects.

This along with the BULLYING and bad behavior, teachers who are there for a paycheck and always comparing their low pay to English teachers high pay. (I talk about this in another blog post).
The sacrifice of my child’s character and self-esteem at that tender age JUST to get the Arabic language and EVEN THEN WHAT SHE GOT WAS NOT NEARLY WHAT SHE WAS GETTING BEFORE LEAVING THE U.S.!!!

It took 2 1/2 years in homeschool to undo the damage. (Wallahi, I wish I was exaggerating)
إنَّا لله وإنَّ إليْهِ راجِعُونَ
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raa’jioon
I had to humble myself and realize my mistakes and realize that I had  actually been onto something before I left the U.S. ….  

Well, I will continue tomorrow inshaAllah, you can read, comment if you like.

This is the course I will be teaching during Ramadan to show you how you can RAise Children Who Speak Arabic (even if you don’t).  Take the first lesson for free if you like:

My Ramadan Course

Ustatha Nadiya Johnson

Curriculum Design

Arabic for non-Arabs.

Hijrah Diary: My Yemeni Neighbors – “Jeerani minal Yemen”

When I lived in Medina I had neighbors in the upstairs apartment who were from Yemen but they had been in Medina for 3 generations 

When you are living in any foreign country, even a Muslim country, one of the worst things that can happen to you is the feeling of loneliness. It is a feeling that results from the belief that ‘I do not belong’. It is a feeling that many of us do not anticipate when we make the journey over. We have so many ideas in our mind about having a better life in the land of Abu Bakr and Umar رضي الله عنهما I have witnessed that when people carry this feeling over a long period of time it festers into resentment and disgust with the very people who you said you wanted to live among…the Muslims. I hope to delve into this discussion at a later time because it deserves its own time.

On the other hand, the best thing that can happen to you , in my opinion,  is what happened to me when i lived in Medina. I was ‘adopted’ by an Arab family.  When I say adopted I mean they accepted me as a part of their family and made me feel that I was one of them; that I belonged to them.

It started with my upstairs neighbor Sabah. One day she sent her 8 year old daughter Imaan to knock on my door and invite me to tea. I went So I went. I was really glad she could speak fus-ha (proper Arabic) because I didn’t understand dialects at that time. she had 6 kids and don’t ask me how they all lived in that apt but they did. she asked me all about myself and where I came from and how long I had been Muslim and how did I become a Muslim etc. That was the first week. the second week she invited me again. but this time she said , every Thursday we go to my moms house I have told her all about you and she wants to see you. I thought that was very strange it made me feel a bit uncomfortable at first because I was thinking what did she tell her mother about me? I didn’t get a chance to answer before Sabah said, “khallas! after Asr Thursday we go”. I said, “Tayyib.” 

So Imaan and little Ameen came knocking frantically at the door after  salaah both of them knocking at the same time as Sabah was coming down the stairs, Yallah Yallah yaa Nadiya naruh inda Umminaa! ( Come on! We are going to our Mother!)

Sabah’s mom had 8 daughters 5 of them married 1 engaged , 1 daughter divorced and 1 still in waiting.  All had to be there.

Everyone sat in a circle facing Umm Sabah. she was a strong little Yemeni woman with a very kind and loving face, but she didn’t play when she asked you ‘ Ish akh-baar-ak?‘ (what’s your news?) she wanted to know! There was no such thing as ‘that’s my business’ There was no generic answer like, ” oh everything is fine.” No, everybody had to spill it! Even me! They talked about husbands, money, kids, everything.

Week after week I was there drinking tea, eating laham (meat) and that’s how my Arabic speaking skills really became stronger.  Nobody spoke English at all! Sabah could speak really good fus-ha so fi I didn’t understand something in the dialect she would translate for me. But after a while I didn’t need translation I could understand almost everything and I was a part of the gang. If there was a birth I was there, if someone was sick I was there, if someone was getting engaged, married, or even divorced I was there.  I remember when one of the sisters Samar got married to a Pakistani.  He was from Medina and had lived there all his life just like her. I don’t know how they met but it was a very interesting mix of the 2 cultures. He had a first wife and 2 children so she was marrying as a second wife. When we went to the shabka, ‘ the engagement party’. In Saudi Arabia, that’s when they actually write the marriage contract, but without living together yet they start ‘halal dating’.  The ‘shabka’ is just for the 2 families to meet each other so his mom, and his sisters and the Yemeni sisters and mom were there…and me. I was the only one who didn’t belong nobody treated me that way.  I kept waiting for someone to ask, who are you? what are you doing here?’ but they never did. MashaAllah!  During the party, everyone sat and talked for a while and then the first wife walked in! Everyone is kind of stopped and watching her everyone was watching for her expressions. She was so elegant! She was wearing this kind of cultural dress that sparkled with beautiful colors and she had gold that was unbelievable. IT was the the kind of gold that if I saw it in the window of a gold shop I would think it too much but it looked so good on her. So then the Pakistani mom and the eldest sister they had these empty water bottles and they started beating on them and the other starting singing and before I knew it we were all going round in a circle dancing and giggling and having fun! The wedding was the next month and a couple of weeks after the wedding, it was another Thursday and we were all at Umm Sabah’s house, Samar walked in, now a married woman. And when she took off that ebaya,  she had the same amount of gold that the Pakistani first wife had!  It was different style but it was the same amount. I thought, MashaAllah! These people know really know how to do polygyny!  

This was not the only polygynous marriage that happened in the family, the youngest sister Amberiya who liked to be called ‘Abeer’ also got married as a second wife. They did the contract /shabka, and they started ‘dating’. But while her new husband was preparing her apartment, the first wife gave the man an ultimatum. “Its either her or me!” Since he had 4 children with her, he chose her. So poor Abeer was jilted but she did get to keep the dowry which was 20,000 riyals! (about 5,000 dollars).

I enjoyed my time with my Yemeni family. I learned a lot from them.  I felt blessed to be with them because at that time I was alone in Medina so I felt very happy that I belonged to them.  I think this feeling is very important wherever you are. Where do you belong?  Who do you belong to?

Egypt Stories 2: I didn’t go inside the Pyramids

I’m Adventurous but I didn’t go inside…
I didn’t go inside well after all, the pyramids are….graves. Amazing feats of architecture they are, but nonetheless, graves.
What I did see was the Pharoah/ Fira’on in the museum along with a princess and a few other royals pulled from their graves encased in glass. The only word I can use to describe it is …macabre. Interesting English word that originates in Arabic something frightening, gruesome, sickening, coming from the grave ‘qabr’ . That is the best word to describe literally seeing the bandages ripped back off the MUMMIES like …in the movies. Much of their skin did not decompose and back in my college days I would have been proud to report Yesss! They were carmel-colored like me! and chocolate-colored like my Mom! but as a Muslim knowing what they worshipped, statues of creatures half-men and half hawk. They worshipped snakes, dogs and other animals made of pure gold. They worshipped their kings who they buried at the top of the pyramid with the belief that the King was always looking down on them. I couldn’t feel proud standing over that glass container. It was …macabre.
“هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَى إِذ نَادَاهُ رَبُّهُ بِالوَادِي المُقَدَّسِ طُوَى إذهب إلى فِرعَونَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى”
Did you hear the story of Musa, when his Lord called him to the Valley of tuwa and told him, ‘ Go to Pharoah for he is surely astray.’surah aNaziat

 

The Heat of the Halaqa

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين

It’s your turn to read. Your heart beats a little faster. You put together the letters, vowels and other symbols in your mind and as quickly as you can and try to make the sounds come out as  correctly and as smoothly as possible. Then a word comes up with both a ghain and a khaa, you can’t control your throat. The next word has a yaa at the end … or is that an alif maqsoorah? While you try to decide you know your classmates are waiting, patiently for their turns. The teacher reads the word for you and you repeat, but you’re thinking: I should have known that.  You feel yourself perspiring under the heat of the halaqa. Maybe you know how it feels. When you are sitting in the halaqa (learning circle) learning to recite the Quran there is this pressure and heat of being ‘on the spot’.

The Halaqa in Medina

When I lived in Medina, I used to sit (unofficially) in a large halaqa with a teacher named Us-tatha Soraya, an Indonesian by birth who grew up in Saudia. She was very tough, would not let you get away with the smallest mistake. All the students sat in a circle and each one would come up and sit in front of the Us-taatha face-to-face to read when it was their turn.  One day an Egyptian sister came up to read for Soraya. She was reading surat ul-Adiyaat. She couldn’t get out one word without Soraya stopping her ‘Laa! Laa!”  Now if you can get a feel for the situation, This halaqa was not inside of a classroom but in the al-Masjid aNabawi (Prophets Mosque) sallallahu alyhi wa sallam in Medina. If you have ever been there you know how huge it is.  So not only are there 15-20 Taalibaat (students) around listening to you be corrected. There are also people passing by, praying, walking around, drinking Zamzam water, etc. You really felt that you were on display. After being cut down harf by harf (letter by letter) in the first 3 ayaat, the Egyptian sister couldn’t take any more.  She stopped reading. The halaqa was silent. Her lips began to shake and the tears started to roll down her cheeks. I really felt it for her. You would think the teacher would take her by the hand and give some words of encouragement. But No! The Us-taatha sat unmoved watching and waiting for her to finish her cry. Then she said, ” Lets’ continue.”

The Online Halaqa

is a virtual place to learn and not quite as pressurized as being in a huge masjid but there can be anxiety and frustration.  a reason some sisters prefer one-on-one classes and that is understandable. Although there are bonuses from with a group

1/ benefiting from the mistakes of your classmates

2/ pushing yourself to catch up with a stronger student

3/ seeing other students struggle with the same challenges that you have

These benefits you will never get from sitting one-on-one.

Whether you are reading one-on-one, with a group, or on your own with YouTube, the focus is to read often enough that reading becomes easier and flows more naturally.

Are you are reading Quran in Arabic, even with difficulty? You can take yourself to the next level as we are starting some 2 and 3-month Live courses for the Winter season. The Beginner’s Quran Recitation     is a basic course in Tajweed to train the parts of the mouth and throat to give each letter its right. We also invite you to Quranic Arabic course using Everyday Arabic to Understand the beautiful speech of Allah.

Have a look using the links above and I hope to see you in class!

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