pt 2 Teaching in Qatar: Principal’s Office to the Police Station

Tell me: Did I put my foot in my mouth?

I worked in the Secondary school and the girls were required to offer salaah at a certain time of day and there was a musalaah for them. But many of them preferred to use the time to socialize with their friends, so they would rush through their salaah to get the free time. This made the prayer lines look all crazy and disorganized some girls in ruku’ and others in sujood all standing in the same line. They were really hard to control. One day when I was on ‘prayer duty’ I got sick of it and I shouted at them.
I told them this is the way that the Shi’aa (Shi’ites) pray; in a confusing way.
Well, have you ever heard the term ‘you put your foot in your mouth’?  Right after I made my comments some girls ran up to me upset, “Miss Nadiya why did you talk about Shia, they are our friends! You made some of the girls cry! ” The next day I was told me to meet the Mudeerah in the Social worker’s office. The Social Worker was a large Lebanese woman who wore ebaya over her clothes with no head covering.  She had a deep slow voice, “Miss Nadiya what you said is very hard… you know my mother actually is a Shia’ and my Dad is Sunni.” Ya Allah!” my head dropped and I wanted to disappear. My heart started racing. “You should not teach religious beliefs just moral values. This is better,” she instructed me.  She’s the social worker! What was she talking about? I teach Islamic studies and that includes Aqueedah.  Had she even SEEN the Islamic studies books issued from the government??  I looked at my Mudeerah to enlighten this woman. My Mudeerah was seriously Sunniya, her dress code, the way she talked the way she taught;  she mastered all the subjects of Islamic studies and Quran taught in the department. I had deep respect for her level. I expected more from her in that moment, but all she did was give me a nervous smile.  Am I sorry for what I said? Well, I can’t apologize for my beliefs but I did not intend to shock anyone or make anyone cry. And although I don’t have any ill will toward Shia people,  I do invite them to the Sunnah.

A couple days later, the Principal worte me an email, “I would like the opportunity to speak with you.” The Principal (the 4th one that school year) was a British Pakistani woman. “You made inflammatory statements we don’t tolerate that here. “  Did she think she was back in England? I wondered if I was the only English speaker in the school who had ever read the Islamic studies books.

Fined

When living as a foreigner in the Arab Gulf, or anywhere, it is very important to maintain your legal status; keep your ‘iqaama’ (residence visa) valid. I was working so I had mine but my daughter’s iqaama was delayed. I had to get special permission to sponsor her since her father wasn’t in Qatar yet and then the paperwork went back and forth a few times and between trips down to the Jawazaat (passport) office and flying out every 2 months for a tourist visa. At last! All the paperwork was finally filed.  I stopped flying out and I thought everything was fine. AFter the 5 month process I went back to Jawazaat office presented everything and I was told: As soon as you pay the 20,000 Riyal fine, you can sponsor her. What!? While waiting for the process a ‘graama’  (fine) increased by 200 Riyals a day on her passport, and a ban was put on my own passport.

The Police Called and said, “Give Us Vernell!”

Vernell is my birth name. It’s a good name. It was the name of my great-grandmother. It means green and flourishing. I was giving a class with my students when the H.R. lady called me on my cell. “Vernell!”I  heard this urgent almost whisper on the phone, “The Police called they want you NOW. Leave everything and go to al-Bahath wal Mutaab’iah!” I didn’t even know what was Bahath wal Mutaab’iah but I knew it wasn’t good. I knew I was in deep trouble. I left my class and went in a taxi. The taxi driver took me around in circles a couple of times, not knowing exactly where to take me. I told him the name of the department I needed but he didn’t speak Arabic, so he couldn’t understand. Finally, I saw the name on the building from far away and I pointed to it, “There it is!” I said.  Although he didn’t know Arabic (he was Indian) and couldn’t understand the sign, he eyes got wide when I pointed to the building. He asked, ” you wanna go there? But Madame,… that’s the jail! “

My heart was beating out of my chest as I went through the security check full of men. I didn’t know what to expect. I was ushered to the front of the line.  The building was surprisingly classy, lovely carpets and pure white walls with Arabian motifs. I passed a waiting room where Qataris were waiting to submit reports about runaway maids. I had to go upstairs to one of the head policeman. Surprisingly the policemen were polite “You’re American, and Muslim?” That’s always a discussion. I told them how I misunderstood about the rules, why I had the fine. Then I asked,  “So, do I really have to pay it?” The  policeman smiled at me very kindly and said, “yes, you do.”

I told him that I didn’t have the money and he said I should borrow it from the bank. I said I would try. I did try and I was denied the loan. Remember I was living as an American on an Egyptian’s salary. My rent to was too high, the bank lady said.  About 2 weeks later, the H.R. lady called me again in the middle of my class. “Vernell! The Police just called. They want you NOW. Go and leave everything.” Again I left my students and off I went. Again they wanted to talk about how I was going to pay the fine. I had no clue. They let me go again.
The next call I got from H.R. was for a meeting in the Principals office between myself, my Mudeerah, the Principal, and the H.R. lady. The Police Dept had called the Head of the Boys School. If I couldn’t pay, the school would be charged. Every one in the room wanted to ring my neck.

After that meeting I went home a nervous wreck. It was getting close to summer break time to travel, but I had a ban on my passport.  I decided to write a letter in Arabic about how I got the fines and how I misunderstood the rules. I wasn’t sure who to give it to at first. I will just say Allah ta’alaa guided me to the right person who helped me and instead of paying 20,000 I only had to pay 2,500. That’s all to be said about that. It happens that way sometime. They call it ‘waasitah’ someone to intercede on your behalf, talk to the authorities for you. Some people might call it unfair advantage. I call it a mercy from Allah AND it beats going to jail.

 

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Becoming a Teacher in Qatar

I WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO GET THE JOB

When my friend in Qatar, told me that her daughter’s Arabic class had no teacher and that she was recommending me for the job I thought, “Nice idea, but it will never happen.” Why would Arabs hire me from the USA, to come teach Arabic in an Arab country? So 2 weeks later when she gave me the email address of the H.R. person and told me to send in my CV (and quick!) I did it …but I was still in denial. The head of the Elementary school, a kind lady from New Zealand met me on Skype and said, “we are looking for an Arabic teacher for our non-Arab students…you will be offered the full benefits package.” Was I in the Matrix? Did I just swallow the red pill? I kept my mouth shut, other than my family, nobody knew until like the week before my flight because I still actually couldn’t believe it. My brother was living in Qatar at that time, working with the military. Between him and the school, all my affairs were taken care of. I was on my way, just like that.

Sounds like a dream right? Ha! Little did I know I was in for the most challenging fight of my life! The next 3 years I underwent rigorous training ! My patience, perseverance even my self-esteem, was tested at every level. The years I had spent teaching at my dining room table in Philadelphia, were child’s play compared to the fire I had to walk through at al-Maha Girls Academy.
When I arrived, although I had been hired by the English department, I realized that I was actually a member of the Arabic department. I was the only non-Arab teacher of 42 mostly Egyptian, Palestinian, and Jordanian professionals. I knew I was in for it from Day 1 when I had my official interview with my Muna-ssaqah and my Mudeerah. ( I didn’t even know what the word Munassaqah meant when I was introduced! ) If only I had a dollar for all the times I felt totally out of place in that first year! I had no professional skills. I had 2 years of Arabic at the Fajr Centre in Cairo and 4 years of conversational Arabic with my neighbors in Medina. I had never been trained as a teacher in English and now I had to attend workshops and trainings in Arabic with people who were far above my level. My colleagues all had degrees from Arab countries specializing in Arabic and/or Islamic studies and some had Master’s degrees. They used terminologies I didn’t understand like ‘maeer’ and ‘tat-beeq’ and ‘taq-weem’ and ‘mih-nee’. When my Munassaqah (coordinator) presented me with 2 new students and told me to prepare an ‘Ikh-tibaar Tash-keesi” I gave her this blank look like , “huh?” It’s hilarious when I think back on it now. Yet, with all the professionalism and decorum, the department had no idea how to teach the 40 or so non-Arab students in the school. So although the first 6 months I was lost in the sauce, I hated staff meetings and I was terrified of the workshops.  I had to keep reminding myself that I am a specialist in my field I teach Arabic to non-Arabs and I am a non-Arab. I actually know things that they don’t know. I had to keep my head on straight and stop comparing myself to other people who had a different purpose.

Then there was the money issue. Everyone wanted to know how much I was getting paid.

You see in the Middle East the pay grade goes according to nationality. Anyone from the Khaleej (Arab Gulf) is always the highest paid, then US and UK passports second highest, then other European countries and South Africa, then the other Arab countries. Actually the teachers in the English department were paid a whopping 40% higher salaries than the teachers of the Arabic department. So what do you think they did with me? Well, being an American they had to pay me more than an Egyptian or non Khaleeji Arab. But I was in the Arabic dept so I couldn’t be paid as much as someone in the English dept. They paid me something in between and my American friends were like: “How in the world do you live off that???!” and my Arab collegues knew I didn’t deserve to be paid more than them since I was not at their level of knowledge. But that’s Middle East job politics.

In that 1st year, I went from amateur ‘shoot from the hip’ dining room table teacher to  ‘professional’.  I had no choice.

I learned to write lesson plans in Arabic according to the dept standards. I learned to prepare worksheets with proper objectives. Every teacher’s work had to be filed into her own binder for the Muderah to inspect at any time. My Arabic typing got faster, my professional vocabulary grew. I was on a roll…until mid-term exams. It was the first time I had to write exams for my students. The exam had to be written in a very exact way to be accepted by the Arabic dept. then submitted to the Education Council. I had to write at least 4 different exams for the different levels of my students. Of course the other teachers had a format that was given to them by the department, since they had a ‘ma-eer’ (standards). But ‘Arabic for non-Arabs’ had no set standards, yet I had to bring it up to the department standards. Otherwise it would be an ‘ih-raaj’ (embarrassment) on the dept, I was told. I kept making mistakes in the instructions or on the questions or on the title page or the page numbering. The Munassaqah sent it back to me 3 times and on the 3rd time she was sick of me, so she reported me to the Muderah. I was tired and felt hopeless. That night, I wrote to my friends back home like, “That’s it I can’t do this. I am looking for a job teaching English this is too hard. They don’t want me here. I’ll never fit in and I feel like I can’t do anything right.”

I carpooled to work with a sweet Moroccan sister who taught Islamic studies and I told her what I was going through.

She invited me to go with her group to help manage the girls during a Quran competition. That morning I sat in her halaqa listening to her remind the girls about how Allah had honored them and advising them about their manners. All along the bus ride I listened to the girls reciting Quran, and I just cried and cried. Although I was hurting, feeling awkward and overwhelmed with frustration, I knew that I was in the right place at the right time. I decided no matter how much I had to go through, I would stay on the job for as long as they would have me, which turned out to be 3 years al hamdulillah.

In part 2 I will share about, almost becoming homeless, getting called to the Principal’s office and run-ins with the police. Oh my, there is a lot to tell!

I am Ustaatha Nadiya Johnson, Teacher & Curriculum Designer, Arabic for Understanding al-Quran29249172_1722833444445582_5048873264149106951_n

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Homeschooling in Ramadhan by Umm Maimoonah

It’s Ramadhaan and what about Homeschooling?

We are approaching the grand season, we are counting days for the blessed month, and we are waiting to experience its goodness and its merits. Alhamdulillaah Ramadhaan is around the corner and we ask our Lord to help us reach it inshaa Allaah.

As homeschoolers for the last nine years, we have tried to use this month to concentrate on reaping its benefits. We stop formal homeschooling for this whole month. But that does not mean that learning stops! Learning takes place in different ways Alhamdulillaah.

Our school year is Ramadhaan to Ramadhaan, which makes it easier for us to relax during this month and gives us that much-needed break. Planning the school year this way helps our household and suits everyone’s schedules as well.

We have learned to be flexible and with every year we also learned that all that we plan cannot be executed especially in Ramadhaan with so much to do and the whole routine changing without any notice we just need to accept this.

Additionally, if you have a new entry into the family then things can get more difficult. Just like what happened to us. Maashaa Allaah, the little one who has just turned two has changed our normal routine so much, imagine the Ramadhaan routine!

So what have we done during Ramadhaan for the past nine years as homeschoolers?

It was such a pleasure to look back at my blog to recollect what we have done.

This has been our first Ramadhaan Activity Calendar plans, maashaa Allaah. Details here
http://ummmaimoonahrecords.blogspot.qa/2010/08/ramadhaan-plans-insha-allaah.html

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This reminds me how new I was for homeschooling and how much I was struggling to adopt something that suits our household, Subhanallaah!

A great hit in our homeschool during Ramadhaan during ages 3 – 5 has been the Ramadhaan Bulletin Board. Since Maimoonah is a visual learner these boards every year with a different twist have helped her to learn about Ramadhaan with ease and it also worked as a good reminder for adults.ummmai

 

We have worked on Journaling during Ramadhaan from a very early age Alhamdulillaah and this has helped in enhancing many skills. Journaling in Ramadhaan actually works as a beneficial revision of school work.ummaii

When Maimoonah was 4 years old we completed a successful kindergarten school year with a structured curriculum and she was able to grasp more information. In order to make her retain that work during Ramadhaan I came up with a fully-fledged Ramadhaan Activity Pack that basically covered almost everything she learned during that year in all subjects. We were able to integrate the Ramadhaan related issues into many activities into the pack. These Activity Packs are commended by educators to be the best kid friendly Ramadhaan Activity Pack to date and so far over 25,000 downloads and still going strong! Alhamdulillaah.

These Ramadhaan Activity Packs can be downloaded for free here

Ramadhaan Activitiy Packs

ummaiy

The followings years yet again we started making Ramadhaan Baskets for homescholing during Ramadhaan. The baskets included many Islaamic Books, Ramadhaan related books, craft items etc to be used during Ramadhaan.

 

As she was growing we started on learning the books of the scholars during the month of Ramadhaan. With the change of situation in the family, with a very difficult pregnancy, relocations and a new baby we did not have enough time to really prepare; therefore we used to read together from the books of the scholars related to Ramadhaan and make journal entries.

Alhamdulillaah now that we are settled we are preparing for Ramadhaan with this Nurture Islaam Series Ramadhaan Pack. Details of the pack here http://ummmaimoonahrecords.blogspot.qa/2017/04/ramadhaan-grand-season-packs.html

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And she has been busy doing the Sittings During the Blessed month of Ramadhaan Online Course and the scrapbook based on Shaykh Uthaimeen’s book.

 

We hope to continue with the scrapbook this Ramadhaan and revise the Arabic for Homeschoolers materials of sister Nadiya. Maimoonah has successfully completed 3 levels of Arabic with the best teacher so far and thoroughly enjoys her classes. Before we start the next level in the coming fall she would revise the levels during Ramadhaan Inshaa Allaah.

Concentrating more on Qur’aan, Arabic and Islaamic Studies during Ramadhaan has indeed been very productive for our homeschool. It gives you a break from the usual busy schedules and allows you to take a more relaxed approach.

Older kids who are preparing themselves for examinations during Ramadhaan may have to put up a flexible schedule to achieve their Ramadhaan goals as well as the examination goals during Ramadhaan.

Alhamdulillaah homeschooling is such a blessing that it allows you to take in charge and makes it easy to adopt the best possible approach throughout.

Sometimes homeschoolers may think they are missing out a lot of work during Ramadhaan by taking a break, but I feel homeschooling is not just school work, rather it is just a part of day to day life. Learning never stops, so homeschooling never stops too. If you do not have to meet certain mandatory schedules in your homeschool my naseehah to you is make use of this month to accumulate your rewards, for indeed Allaah opened the gates of Jannah and closed the gates of the Hell fire and chained the devils in order to make it easy on us to increase our good deeds and decrease our bad deeds. Subhanallaah, He has been so merciful to His slaves and taking this opportunity and enjoying this Mercy is what we should be doing and we should be teaching our children to bond with this grand season to be able to achieve the rewards Inshaa Allaah.

You can check all our Ramadhaan Activities here Ramadhan Activity Packs

You can also have a look at our Awesome Ramadhaan Reminders Activity Pack here  umaymo

May Allaah help us reach this Ramadhaan and aid us to make the most out of this blessed month and accept our fast and good deeds. Aameen

Umm Maimoonah
http://www.umm-maimoonah.com

How Does a New Muslimah Prepare for the Fast? by Sakeenah Green

As Salaamu Alaykunna.

I wanted to share with my new sisters to the beautiful religion of Islam, some easy ways to get through the Blessed Month of Ramadaan. Whether you are young or older the concept of not eating and drinking for 10-14 hours sounds really hard. imagesD3BWF6U4Speaking from experience, I felt the same way some 17 years ago when I became a Muslim. “I can’t eat? Can I chew gum? Can I drink water?” And it was no to all of those questions, MashaaAllah.

So my next concern, being a new Muslim is what do as a fasting person. Ok I can’t eat or drink, sexual intercourse wasn’t my concern because I wasn’t married. Of course, I read up on the fasting but Ramadaan was almost over that 1st year I started to fast. I brought a set of Sahih Al-Bukhari my 1st year of being a Muslim. I was told to stay away from the smaller books due to the false information that may be in them about Islam. That 1st year was hard but the week of Ramadaan I was doing OK, not good but OK.

The next 2 years, I spent reading out of Sahih Al-Bukhari and the Qur’aan. In this set of books, are different chapters (but are called books themselves) on various topics such as: prayer, ablution, fasting, hajj, menses, marriage, so and so forth. As you can imagine, I was definitely busy with learning my religion.Summraized-Bukhari

Then the third year of my Islam I was introduced to a class here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called “THE NEW SHAHAADAH CLASS”. I still remember the day like it was yesterday February 6, 2005. Until, today I am involved in this class. My teacher Na’imah Thomas (rahimahullah) really helped me with further learning about my religion. One of those many topics she helped me with is fasting during the Blessed Month of Ramadaan.

When a person thinks of fasting, the first thing they think about is not being able to eat and to control yourself with that aspect of not eating. Not eating or drinking or having sexual intercourse is only a part and some would say a small part of fasting during the month of Ramadaan. Fasting is an act the will get you closer to your Lord if you do it correctly, with sincerity and devotion. Fasting is one of those acts of worship you really can’t show off with because it’s really a secret between your Lord and you, even if you tell someone that you are fasting. Do they really know that you are fasting!?! And the not eating is really mind-over-matter.

Your brain is telling you that it can’t handle not eating for 5 hours let alone 12-14 hours. But we are going to learn that the self always wants things whether good or bad. Always, remember that this is an act of worship and this particular act of worship is special because there is a special reward for the one who does for the sake of Allah seeking His Face and Pleasure.

Ramadaan is the month of the Qur’aan. We should spend our time reading and reciting the Qur’aan if possible. Also, reading the tafsir (which is the explaination of the Qur’aan) will also help you to occupy your time and may even take your mind off of eating and drinking. When reading also we should contemplate on what Allah is trying to tell us in the qur’aan. If you can get your family together some parts of every day to read something from the qur’aan that would be great.

During this Blessed Month, we are also trying to acquire as many good deeds as possible for our deeds during this month are doubled. Some examples of good deeds are: can be helping your family to get themselves prepared for the days fast such as preparing the pre-dawn meals. Remembering not to have such a big sahoor(pre-dawn meal) because it may cause you to want to sleep most of the day and when you eat a big meal it can also make you hungrier faster inshaaAllah. We can also, give charity whether it is money, clothes, knowledge and/or a kind word or even a smile. During this month we should also work on our patience with people, with our family, our co-workers, people at the stores, everyone. During this Blessed Month you want to come out of better than you were before the month.

Some people like to stay busy either at work or cleaning the house, the 1st week or so you may want to do that just to keep you mind off of the not eating and drinking. I usually advise sisters to try to clean your house or workspace before Ramadaan so that you dedicate that time for benefit during this Blessed Month because before you know it Ramadaan will be over and you missed out on a lot of good deeds by wasting time with things that will not benefit you. And Allah knows best

But the last 2 weeks or so hopefully you start to realize that fasting isn’t that hard and it becomes easier. You no longer crave to eat big meals for iftar. No longer say I’m going to make baked chicken, mac and cheese, string beans, cornbread, mashed potatoes and apple pie for dessert because you realize when you break your fast with the dates and water you really aren’t that hungry.1200px-Soul_Food_at_Powell's_Place You may have a small piece of chicken and some string beans and you are full after that. Some people spend hours cooking, wasting time and food. Some people take this month as a month of food ironic is it!?! What am I going to cook tonight? And you have food left over for the previous night(s). When we should be reflecting on the blessings that Allah have given us of food and drink, in most cases whenever we want them subhaanaAllah. When going shopping especially for food, make a list and stick to it. You don’t want to come home and you have cakes, ice cream, cookies, potatoes chips and candy and you don’t have anything for dinner.

May Allah aid us in cleansing ourselves through worship of Him. 

Sakeenah Green has been teaching the “New Shahadah” (New Muslimah) course in Philadlephia, PA, for several years.

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Blasted! Just in Time for Ramadhan! by Nadiya Johnson

In Philadelphia on a breezy beautiful summer night, my husband and I decided to take a walk with the baby. We walked around the LaSalle University campus; spic and span the streets so pristine you could eat off them. So well-lit in the summer night that we stopped and sat on a bench near the football field to take in the night breeze. After about 15 minutes, we began our descent into the darkness down the hill to our home on Church Lane. Me pushing the baby carriage, I turned my head to the right of me and looked at the ground and then turned to the left of me. I could see them coming down the street in formation running fast as if racing us down the hill. Without any words spoken between us, we picked up our pace. In rank and file these 8-legged brown soldiers moved quickly around us. It was as if they were our body guards and we were rock stars they had to get to safety. What do they want?! Where are they going?! We made it inside the house! Whew! But were we safe? One a night would be caught inside the house throughout the summer.

It was just like when I lived in Medina, Saudi Arabia, one big cockroach a night. I shared an apartment with another teacher who had made the mistake of taking a ground floor apartment. One brown creature a night was the average. They had 2 points of entry, sometimes from under the front door and other times through the bathroom wall fan. No matter what they had to be stopped from entering the bedrooms at all costs because we both slept on the floor. Imagine my horror when one Friday morning during a routine cleaning I found one dead, smashed under my blanket.
Egypt was no different. We had a lovely apartment in the 7th district with 2 big balconies with glass French doors. We kept the doors open and our biggest concern was the mosquitoes at night and an occasional bird that lost its way and would fly through the apartment. But sometimes for some reason, water would flow through the streets and THEY would run wild. I told the owner’s sister, “We had roaches in our ‘shaqqah’ (apartment) this morning.” She said, ‘ minal moyah! Minal moyah!’ (From the water), she pointed to the water that was flowing down the streets.
And just yesterday, at my home here in Qatar, what prompted me to write this story, I heard men in my back hoosh (yard) and I smelled something awful. I opened the kitchen window to see 4 Indian men, masks over their faces, one with a hose in his hand spraying what we call ‘soomm’ (poison). Exterminators! I watched from the window in horror as they opened the drain in the ground. You know when you cook popcorn on the stove and you lift the top while it is still popping and popcorn pops out everywhere? Well instead of popcorn, imagine big brown ‘sa-raa-seer’ with legs popping out of the drain in the floor when the Indian man opened it. “Too much! Too much!” he shouted. I slammed the window shut. They died all around him as he sprayed the ‘soomm’.
You know as I sit here and write I feel there are no end to the stories I could tell about ‘sa-raa-seer’. They have been a silent creepy part of my whole life and have followed me around the world. OK just one…maybe 2 more stories.
I was sitting with a group of Syrian sisters outside the Masjid in North Carolina, eating Iftaar in Ramadhan. Enjoying our food after a day of fasting we were talking and chillaxing, when suddenly a cry went up, “Sar-soor! Sar-soor!” (Although I was used to the word pronounced “Sir-saar” I knew exactly what she was talking about.) Everybody jumped up from the picnic benches we were sitting at. We looked around in suspense at the darkness of the ground, we all wondered, “where was it?!” Finally! A shoe was raised high and then came down with a smash! “Kha-laas! Kha-laas!”  Someone announced. Then everyone sat back down. Had they followed me from Church Lane? Or Medina? Or Cairo?
And in a place I least expected…when I visited my father in Virginia Beach last summer I noticed even in his high-end townhouse, little plastic traps set just under the kitchen counters. “What’s this?” I asked. “Traps for roaches, they come in here sometimes,” he said, “I don’t know how they get in… big ones too! ” “Yeah,” my uncle explained, this whole area is surrounded by water, they like it here.”
“They like it everywhere,” I thought, “Will they always find me wherever I go?”

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I know that they are a creation of Allah and Allah has created all things with a purpose. but somehow, that is just not that comforting to me.

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My Egypt Stories 3: Finding Friends and Surviving Fajr Centre

Malaysian & Somali Friends

While I was studying in Misr (Egypt) I had very few American or British friends.

I was so interested to explore relationships with other nationalities and cultures. Noriani (نور عيني) meaning “light of my eye”, was from Malaysia. She was a student of Shari’ah at al-Azhar but she like many other Azhar students, came to our school because she wanted to strengthen her Arabic speaking skills. Noriani did not know English and I didn’t know Malay so we were constantly practicing our Arabic on one another. On the weekends, she used to invite me to her apartment for spicy Malay food ( which I wasn’t used to). She lived with 7 other roommates, all students at al- Azhar. They were very soft, yet firm in their deen, and I admired their character. And they walked together like a pack! You never saw one Malaysian girl out on the street alone. If you saw 1, you saw 4 or 5. I liked being around them because  they were a tight, strong group, and I was always alone. They wore very soft colors like sky blue, gray, or beige; some covered their faces and some did not. When I used to visit, a few of them would get nervous because they knew they would have to speak Arabic with me, and some of them weren’t very good at it. One time I was there and it got late so they said, “just spend the night.” They had one mirror that they shared, which was on top of a dresser/bureau. Before sleeping, each girl, one-by-one, would stand in front of the mirror, put on sweet smelling lotion and brush her hair. They were so feminine mashaAllah.

My other close friends were Somali, and to me they were The Quran Specialists.

We had a group that used to gather at Umm Luqman’s house, she was an elder Somali sister whose husband worked in Canada. She was very strong and I learned a lot from her. She was, you could say, our leader. She held duroos (classes) at her house in Aqueeda and Quran. Everyone who came to her house left wearing niqaab and all black. She also arranged marriages between male and female students who were at her house from different countries.  She was a Mother, an Auntie, and a big sister at the same time حفظها الله

What I admired about Umm Luqman was that her children absolutely loved her. Well everyone did but especially her children. If she left the house to go to the market, they would spend a whole 5 minutes just kissing her good bye. She had a maid and after dinner, while the maid cleaned the kitchen she would be sitting on the balcony reading Quran to her children. I said, if I become a mother I want to be just like her.

I stayed in her house for 3 weeks when we were changing apartments.  Wallahi I only saw her hit one of her children one time. And it was because of me! Her oldest son Luqman had turned 9 or 10 and she was teaching him not to walk in on the women without knocking first.  I was were staying in a room that he was used to walking into all the time. He walked in without knocking and as soon as he did it, he looked shocked because he forgot. I told Umm Luqman, it was an accident, she said, no he has to learn and not forget. Well, I felt so, so bad, subhaanAllah and actually his spanking was a Whole Family Event. Everyone gathered around to witness it.  She had a thin stick but she didn’t hit him hard.   I had never seen this before. Everyone stood around in a circle to watch him get hit. They were a very close knit family. They had a spacious apartment, 4 rooms, living room and large kitchen. But when bed time came, they pushed all the beds together in one room and they all slept together, even the maid. I laughed the first time I saw this but then I thought, “MashaAllah how safe they must feel all huddled together!”

I learned from the Somali sisters about having a good relationship with the Quran through memorizing and reciting it. They did not play when it came to Quran!  One time this sister named Natheefah came over, and she was reciting with this African rhythm that made me think of grass huts and women at the river with pots of water on their heads. She had me rocking! I thought her tilawa was so nice! But Wardah was like, “yeah she has a nice voice, but her tajweed is not so good. Those sisters really pushed me in memorizing the  Quran mashaAllah, and once I moved away from them, I felt myself becoming weak subhaanAllah.

This is the importance of having companionship with those who push you to move forward and better yourself.  I hope we can do that for each other online inshaaAlalh.

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ِثَنَاء وَالحَفْرَةُ فِي الجِدَار My Egypt Stories: 1. Sanaa and Her Home in the Wall

When I lived in مصر Misr (Egypt),

we lived in a very nice apartment building. MashaAllah.  It had 4 floors and was owned by 1 family. The apartment was spacious with Louis the 16th style furniture and tall French doors leading out to a large balacoonah (balcony) overlooking a main street.  Sigh… I loved that شقة  shaqqah (apartment). When we would go out and come back in, there was always a 9 year-old girl who would follow us into the building and ask, “Awzah haagah?’ I couldn’t figure out what that meant for the first 5 days. “Do you want/need anything?” The girl was a part of a family that lived in a home in the wall or more like a hole in the wall, on the side of our apt building and her father was known as the البواب  ‘Bawwaab’. ..the ‘Doorman’. Me being from New York City, Doorman to me means a man in a suit and hat, standing in front of a fancy apartment building. Well, …it was not quite like that. They are there to serve the middle class people who live in the building. They opened doors for us, carried groceries for us, cleaned our apartments, even shopped for our groceries. We could give them a tip of like $2 and they were happy.

Sanaa was 9 years old. She did not go to school.

She was too busy helping her mother clean houses and see to the needs of the residents of the عمارة (imaarah) building. Sanaa, her mother, and her sister, cleaned our apartments, did our shopping, cleaned the halls and stairs and carried our groceries. Sanaa’s mother was a very strong  قوية  (qawiyyah)  little woman. One day our gas tank ran out in the kitchen. I heard the gas tank guy clanging downstairs on the ground floor so I ran to my balcony to catch him. He didn’t hear me and rode off on his bicycle. Sanaa’s Mom took off running down the street after him. I was expecting her to bring the guy back with the gas tank. Instead, she showed up at my door with the FULL GAS TANK on top of her head! She had walked the block and up 2 flights of steps to get it to me!! I tried to help her get it from her head to the floor and that thing felt like lead! ” Laa Laa! Madame Nadiya!” She said.  gas.png

Sanaa started cleaning our apartment once a week. She was very good to be just 9 years old, and strong like her mother. When she would finish cleaning I would give her a snack. She used to clean my house from top to bottom. I gave her money but what she really wanted was croissants.  She loved croissants with strawberry jam. I tried to pick up as much Egyptian dialect as I could from her since we were only allowed to speak fus-ha at my school. Sanaa and I became best friends. One day after she did her cleaning, I asked her if she could recite Quran she said no, she could not read. It was very strange teaching alif-baa to an Arab child but I didn’t care about that. I felt like she deserved to have an education and reading Quran is a minimum education for a Muslim child. So I would teach her to read Quran (which is really proper Arabic) and she would teach me Egyptian Arabic.

I was so curious about the hole in the wall though.

I would see them disappear around the corner and I was so curious about their hole in the wall. What was it like inside? Did they have furniture, a stove, refrigerator, electricity? Finally, Sanaa’s mom invited me inside. I wasn’t supposed to go in there. After all, I was an American Lady living in a lovely apartment building and I had a “status”. What was I doing going into a dark hole in the wall? But curiosity got the best of me!  I went in. It was one room with a curtain as a door and you actually couldn’t stand up completely or you would bump your head. It was kind of dark.  There was a bed and a carpet on the floor. I guess the 4 kids slept on the floor. A small portable type of stove for cooking and all bathroom facilities were outside in the back of the building, looked like just a water hose.  But it was clean and Sana’s mom served me tea. She told me about where they came from in the country but my Egyptian wasn’t really that good so I only got bits and pieces. They were a family trying to make it the best they could in the big city of Cairo القاهرة.

I grew up poor, but I had to learn rules of classism.

Rule #1: don’t be too friendly with the help.  One time, Sanaa finished cleaning and her 2 little brothers came knocking on the door for her. I offered them all some fruit and let them sit on the balcony to eat it. The sister of the building’s owner happened to drop by and she saw them on my balcony eating. She gave them a look, they all looked down to the ground then she turned to me and smiled like everything was fine. But I understood perfectly.  “They’re kids!” I wanted to shout. “Let them have a childhood, SubhaanAllah!”

Rule #2: don’t get too comfortable with poor people who perceive you as being rich. One day there was some problem in the kitchen and Sanaa’s father brought up a fix it man but everyone seemed to be interested in what was broken. When they all left, my gold watch – a gift from my Dad for my college graduation – was missing.  I never said anything about it. It was my own fault for being too trusting.

Well, something very strange happened in this story. You could say a surprise ending.  Eid ul Fitr came around and a woman who I had never seen, showed up at the hole in the wall. I heard her and Sanaa’s mom shouting at each other.  The whole building could hear their shouting. The shouts became screams. We went out to the balacoonah where we could see downstairs to the ground floor. And there was Sanaa”s mom running down the street after that woman, holding a thick long tree branch in her hand. I’m not kidding it looked like she had yanked that tree right out of the ground! The woman was running for her life. ‘What in the world is going on?’ we thought.  The next day we woke up, and Sanaa and her family were gone. I asked the owner’s sister what happened to them and who was that we had seen the day before. Well! Sanaa’s Dad had another wife!!  زوجة ثانية She was the strange lady who showed up and got chased down the street with the tree. We stood there with our mouths hanging open. The owner’s sister and sister in-law chuckled. I just sat there wondering, if he had this family living in a hole in the wall, where in the world was she living????   Many-Croissants-On-Basket.jpg

Then I thought of my little friend Sanaa, and I hoped she had a better home wherever they went. I still remember her laughing in delight when I gave her a special Eid gift…a basket of croissants and a jar of strawberry jam. “I love you Madame Nadiya Wallahi! Uhibbuk! ”

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Pondering the Quran

As a  Muslim I can talk to Allah, The Most High in my prayers but if i want Allah to talk to me, I must read His Book. This is for those who want guidance to be made clear to them. This Quran has stories, advice, warnings, information, comfort for the oppressed, beautiful and frightful descriptions, that make us hope for His reward and fear His punishment. When we read the Book of Allah, our hearts can be guided if we listen and reflect.

Allah asks a question

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَآ

Do they not ponder/deeply reflect over the Quran or do their hearts have locks on them? (Muhammad 24)

SubhaanAllah. We are ordered toread the Quran and deeply reflect over its verses applying them to ourselves and the world around us.

“Pondering” or “reflecting deeply” does not mean that we give the ayaat a different meaning or our own meaning.

Pondering or reflecting is not ‘tafseer’.  Tafseer has to do with the situations in which certain verses were revealed and the laws that are understood from the verses and other than this.
Pondering means that we open our hearts to apply Allah’s speech to ourselves and seek understanding of about our lives.  Deep reflection leads to wisdom about the world around us and our role in it.
So for example, if I read about how Allah created the sun, moon, and Earth and how the Earth rotates in its due course and how the night turns to day and how the seasons change, and how all this happens in fixed times. We can see that SubhaanAllah, He the Most Mighty and Majestic has set order and organization to this entire universe. So perhaps, I should set order and organization to my home, my activities, my life so that I can reach the goals that I want to reach each day.

Great examples can be taken from the stories of the Prophets as well.

So you and I may read the story of Musa and Pharoah and get 2 totally different benefits from it. For example I may read it and reflect upon how strong of a man Musa was as a Prophet whom Allah spoke to directly. Yet, even after Allah showed him miracles to strengthen his heart, he still requested that Allah send him support by way of his brother, Harun.

قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي (25) وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي (26) وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِّن لِّسَانِي (27) يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي (28) وَاجْعَل لِّي وَزِيرًا مِّنْ أَهْلِي (29) هَارُونَ أَخِي (30) اشْدُدْ بِهِ أَزْرِي (31) وَأَشْرِكْهُ فِي أَمْرِي (32) كَيْ نُسَبِّحَكَ كَثِيرًا (33) وَنَذْكُرَكَ كَثِيرًا (34) إِنَّكَ كُنتَ بِنَا بَصِيرًا (35)

“He said, “My Lord expand my chest, and make my situation easy, and untie the knot in my tongue, that they may understand my words. And appoint for me a Send a ‘wazeer’ (Minister/ Representative)  from my family. Harun, my brother so that we can glorify You together and remember You much. Indeed You are Ever Seeing over us…” (surah Taha: 25-35)

No matter how many times I read this story I am always amazed with Musa and how Allah blessed him with miracles and spoke to him directly. Yet, he still had fear about this responsibility that Allah placed upon him.  So he asked for help. He asked for support. He asked that his brother Harun go with him and be a ‘wazeer’ for him. SubhaanAllah. if this great Prophet (alyhi salaam)  was not too proud to ask for help, then who am I?

We also read of  Allah’s Beautiful Names and Majestic Descriptions in Quran; that for example Allah is a-Sami’, the All-Hearing.

If I know that Allah is all Hearing and I ponder this, ,then I would watch what I say because I know that Allah is Hearing AND the angels are also writing as Allah says:

كِرَامًا كَٰتِبِينَ – يَعْلَمُونَ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ

Noble writers who know what you do (surah al Infitar: 12) 

so when I read such an ayah as this I must be aware that my words and actions are recorded and try to be on my best behavior at all times as our Prophet sallallahu alyhi was sallam had said,

مَنْ يَضْمَنْ لِي مَا بَيْنَ لَحْيَيْهِ وَمَا بَيْنَ رِجْلَيْهِ أَضْمَنْ لَهُ الْجَنَّةَ ‏”‏‏.

If you can guarantee what is between your jaws and what is between your legs, I guarantee you paradise. (Sahih al Bukhari) 

When I read an ayah such as

يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُسِرُّونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

He knows what is in the skies and the Earth and he knows what you keep secret and what you make public and Allah knows what is in the hearts

I should then be afraid to harbor evil thoughts and intentions.  I should want to cleanse my heart by asking forgiveness, pardoning those who harmed me, and recommitting myself to obedience to Allah.

When we reflect on Allah’s verses we understand  more about the world around us.

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. (Rum: 41) 

Pondering means that we read the Quran with an open heart so that Allah can bless us with wisdom about our own selves and the world around us. This block between the one who is committing major sins

Ummu Aamina, Nadiya Johnson

Arabic Language Curriculum & Instruction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Muslim World: Upper Asia and Indian Subcontinent

China and Upper Asia

Islam reached this farthest, most remote areas of this region by way of the Silk Road. The Eastern part of China, and countries like Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhastan, Afghanistan, Chechnya; these are all Muslim lands. Many of them used to be under the control and influence of Russia, so many of them speak Russian in addition to their traditional language.

But this region that Ibn al Battuta called Asia al- Kubraa, has a long tradition of learning Arabic language particularly for the purpose of understanding the Quran and the religion of Islam. Imam al Bukhari and Imam Muslim, who are the major collectors of Hadith were from this region of Upper Asia. Uzbekistan and northern Iran.

Throughout the history of Islamkomplek-makam-saad-bin-abi-waqqash in China, Chinese Muslims have influenced the course of Chinese history. According to China Muslims’ traditional legendary accounts, Islam was first brought to China by an embassy led by Sa’d ibn abi Waqqas that was sent by Uthman, the third Caliph.  Emperor Gaozong, the Tang emperor who received the envoy then ordered the construction of the Memorial mosque in Canton, the first mosque in the country, in memory of Muhammad.

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The Indian subcontinent consists of 3 countries, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh

With a huge population of 1.3 billion, India is officially a Hindu country with about 170 million Muslims.  For centuries Hindus and Muslims lived together sometimes in peace and other times in bitter conflict.

Trade relations have existed between Arabia and the Indian subcontinent since ancient times. Even in the pre-Islamic era, Arab traders used to visit the Konkan-Gujarat coast and Malabar region, which linked them with the ports of Southeast Asia

Arab merchants and traders became the carriers of the religion of Islam, and they propagated it wherever they went.

 

Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, with over 100 million speakers, contains many Arabic words like other languages throughout the Muslim world.

Urdu also uses Arabic letters. There is a Pakistani news station I watch from time to time, which subtitles are written at the bottom of the screen. I can read a good portion of the script which is so much like Arabic, but I can only understand bits and pieces.

Arabic words found in Urdu language:

fazal [urdu], fadal [arabic] – Divine favor/ grace
rehmat, rehmah – mercy
barakat, barakah – prosperity
zaroorat, daroorah – necessity
hajat, hajah – need
‘izzat, ‘izzah – respect/ honor
‘uzar – excuse
islah – correction
ghalat – wrong
khata – mistake
insaan: A n.m. man/human being/mankind
auqaat: A n.m. times (plu. of waqt)
auqaat: A n.f. status/position
awwaal: A adj. first/excellent/best
aulaad: A n.f. children (plu. of walad)
imaan: A n.m. belief/faith/creed/conscience
saheeh – correct
manzil – destination/ residence
du’a – supplication
ayyam – days
khiffat – light weighted/ fade
sanad – record
Read more at http://www.pakpassion.net/ppforum/showthread.php?177399-Arabic-words-used-in-Urdu-Hindi-amp-Punjabi&s=495e54609bc8ee5506c62437a3118a9b#V4GxRrkHgzxZcscJ.99

Quran in the Indian Subcontinent

BK4573-500x500Qaidah Nooraniya

Nur Muhammad al-Haqqaani of the Punjab, made a great contribution to Quran learning by authoring the book al-Qaidah aNooraniya. This book has spread all over the Gulf countries; Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries and even spread to the West.

 India-Youme-Tasees-15102011-Program-04

 

Arabic Vocab. for Thul Hijjah

Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allaah, nor greater in reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice.”, ..

عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ( مَا مِنْ أَيَّامٍ الْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ فِيهِنَّ أَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأَيَّامِ الْعَشْرِ

فَقَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلاَ الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ؟ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) : وَلاَ الْجـِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ الله…  (صحيح البخاري وصحيح سنن الترمذي)

He was asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah, Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah?” He said, “Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah…”

 Umrah:

Ihraam: إحرام

When the pilgrim reaches a certain distance closer to Mekka, he/she must assume the Ihramstate of ihram. It is a state in which certain things become ‘haraam’or forbidden. The Muslim cleans his body, clips body hair, nails, etc. After going into the state if i’hram removing body hair or nails, wearing perfume are forbidden. Other forbidden things are conducting a contract of marriage or having any intimate relation with one’s spouse.

The men wear 2 large white towels. Women are not restricted to any colors but must be pure and stay away from what is forbidden.

الطواف –  الطواف حول الكعبة      aTawwaf – aTawwaf hawlal Kaaba.

h=300The pilgrims or Hujjaaj go around the Ka’aba  7 times in a counterclockwise direction. Wearing no shoes, they walk making du’aa, remembering Allah and showing patience to those around them.

 

السعي بين الصفا والمورة      as-Sa’ee bayna Safa wal Marwah

“Running’ between the 2 mountains of aSafaa and al-Marwah, as Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim did (peace be upon them both).

images              سشبش

Prayer at Ibrahim’s station and drinking Zamzam

مقام.gif            zamzam

 

 And now, the absolute easiest way to memorize the Islamic months; for children and adults too!

These are the months in Islaam…