Sunday, December 25, 2005

Homesick

Inside my mind there is a door
To the life I lived in a time before

Each detail preserved in filigree
Etched into my living memory

I open the door and walk right in
My living reverie begins

Rooms, so orderly
Familiar, predictable

Truth is golden
People are readable

Each detail preserved in filigree
Etched into my living memory

Homesick and stateless
I walk right in
My living reverie begins

Things make sense there
But I’m not welcome

Allah hu akbar!
Religious oppression

Each detail preserved in filigree
Etched into my living memory

Memories run deep
But threats are large

Friends in jail
Allegations, no charge

Torture
Spies
And wire taps

Suspicion, hatred
a bloody mess.

Division in my own family
Harsh cruel reality.

Inside my mind I close the door
On the life I miss in the time before.

Each detail preserved in filigree
Etched forever into my memory.

I open the door and walk right in.Now reality begins.

Ten Differences between Spirituality and Religion

copied from Sufi Amenesis


1.) Religion tends to be heavily preoccupied with the world of concepts. These concepts- whether in the form of theology, dogma, philosophy, or personal interpretation, play fundamental roles in mediating and coloring an individual's understanding of Reality or Divinity.Spirituality, on the other hand, is preoccupied with the different levels and dimensions of the experience of Reality or Divinity. In other words, spirituality is advocating that one's spiritual experience, at some point, should not be mediated by concepts, theories or interpretations.Concepts may be acceptable up to a certain point, but the general consensus of the perspective of spirituality is that, ultimately, concepts lead one away from the truth, not toward it. This raises the problem of how one is to go about differentiating between, on the one hand, imagination or fantasy, and, on the other hand, truth or reality, but this is another matter.

2.) Religion often gives emphasis to issues of salvation. As such, one of the key motivations underlying many religious acts involves doing something because that action will help one gain heaven, while simultaneously helping one to avoid projected negative ramifications which come from sins of commission or omission.Spirituality doesn't deny the metaphysical realities or issues of salvation which are associated with the positive or negative consequences of our actions. The motivational orientation of spirituality, however, is entirely different.In spirituality, one's motivation should be to do things because of the intimate nature of our essential relationship with Reality or Divinity, and not because of what we might receive as reward or avoid in the way of negative consequences. The emphasis should be on doing things out of love, service, sincere worship and gratitude, rather than as a means to some further, personal end or desire.In short, religion is about what human beings seek from God. Spirituality is about what God seeks from human beings.

3.) Generally speaking, religion operates on the basis of trying to change people from the outside in. Spirituality concentrates on helping people to change from the inside out.More specifically, religion is concerned with imposing a doctrinal framework onto the individual. This framework must be internalized in order for the individual to be considered a properly functioning member of the religious collective.Spirituality is concerned with the realization of one's true identity and essential capacity. Proper intention, thinking, understanding, awareness and activity all flow from a realized inner nature, not internalized external doctrines.

4.) Religion tends to place great emphasis on the exoteric. In other words, one usually is required to perform rituals, irrespective of whether one understands the nature and purpose of those rituals. The important feature is to comply with the ritual and, therefore, conform to the letter of what is perceived to be religious law.In spirituality, the emphasis is much more on the esoteric dimension of whatever forms of practice one may pursue. One should try to be receptive to the spirit of a practice. One should seek to understand the nature and purpose of such practices, not just conceptually, but experientially.

5.) In religion, faith is, all too frequently, a matter of a blind, static, rigid, narrow acceptance of some belief, value or practice. In spirituality, on the other hand, faith is intended to be a dynamic, living, flexible, continuous growth of one's understanding of the nature of one's relationship with Reality or Divinity.Religion often equates faith with an emotional or conceptual commitment to a belief system. Spirituality treats faith as a species of knowledge rooted in realizations drawn from personal experience.

6.) Religion often becomes entangled in politics. This is so both within a religious collective as well as in the manner in which a given religion relates to the surrounding world.Spirituality, by and large, seeks to avoid the political sphere, preferring to contribute to society directly, and, where possible, anonymously. These contributions come through the beneficial effects of moral qualities such as compassion, patience, charitableness, tolerance, kindness, honesty, integrity, forgiveness and so on.

7.) Religion tends to gravitate toward a authoritarian modus operandi in which submission is demanded of individuals. Spirituality, on the other hand, is centered around the command and respect which a person's recognition of the authoritative nature of Truth brings. Submission is freely given.

8.) Generally speaking, religion is governed by rules, whereas, spirituality is governed by principles. In religion, one needs to know what the rules are before one can act, and in the absence of specific rules, one tends to become disoriented. In spirituality, once one understands the principles, one is able to deal appropriately with any situation even if none of the available rules seems to be relevant to the present situation.

9.) In religion, the participation of the individual often revolves primarily around interaction with an institution such as a church, temple, mosque or synagogue. Personal interaction with the leader of that institution tends to be of a secondary nature, if it takes place at all.In spirituality, on the other hand, participation primarily revolves around one's personal relationship with a teacher or guide. Participation in some kind of institutional activity is of secondary importance, if it occurs at all.

10.) The term "deen" in Islam does not mean "religion". Deen refers to those experiential processes which are directed toward helping the individual to realize various dimensions of the essential nature, or fitra, of human spiritual potential.When Muslims are informed in the Qur'an about God having brought to completion their Deen, it is not a religion which has been completed. Rather, what has been completed is the establilshing of the Divine means, method or way which, God willing, can assist human beings to work toward fulfilling and realizing the purpose and nature of created existence.

Monday, December 19, 2005

You can't have my "war tax" Money!



...One of the big reasons we are not living and working in the states right now....Bush can't take taxes out of my overseas income. Tax money goes to fuel Bush's pre-emptive wars. I don't support you, Sir King George. Money talks.

We actually took a pay cut to come for this job! ...It's all a matter of principles for us. Our reasons for emigrating are;

1.Religion; America isn't very nice to muslims these days!

2.As a political act; to not officially have to pay taxes which contribute to the wars, we were disgusted with the apathy of the American people, etc. Did so much demonstrating for peace, and still the carnage and apathy continued. We were pretty worn-out there at the end.

3.More time to be together as a family. I finish work, at the latest, at 2pm. The benefits here are obvious!

4.To live in a country where children are welcome pretty much everywhere one goes. (famliy-centered, not a money/economy-centered, society).

5.I wanted to work for a while.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Socially Inappropriate


A lot of things my former culture considers "normal behavior" are actually considered extremely socially inappropriate (" 'ebb") by Qatari society.

A woman eating an ice cream cone in public is basically considered profanity!

Other things (Qatari) women would apparently be mortified to be seen doing in public include eating a sandwich while driving the car, smoking in public, and laughing loudy!

Well, of course I do all of these things. I guess a lot of Arabic women embrace these norms too. People think I'm bizarre because I don't. I think a lot of folks confuse culture with religion. They think that because I am muslim, I will act just like them.

Well the last time I read it the Quran said nothing about these things!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

My oldest child is taking horseback riding lessons. He and I both passionately love horses. We are having a great time, and he also has made friends with a little girl in his class.

He absolutely loves this little girl. I love the little girl. I met her parents and they are ok. In my previous life, before I got serious about Islam, before I came to Qatar I guess you could say, I would have no reservations about letting him socialize with her, about myself socializing with them.

But now, I do, and I feel like such a goon for even feeling this reservation. I hesitate to socialize with them because we don't share some important core values (they're American, aren't Muslim). On the one hand I feel totally justified and like I'm correct; on the other hand, I am like, "what harm can it do?" We have to face the "outside world" someday, right? I can't live in this bubble, away from America, away from everything I used to know, forever, right? But then again, it's my duty as his mother to protect him from influences I disapprove of. They celebrate Christmas. We don't anymore. My son remembers our life "before", when I was still Catholic. It's been really hard for him. He misses America (which he equates synonymously with those old Christian traditions), so much.

They want to invite us to a "solstice party". Omigawwwwd, it's a pagan party! I used to be so flexible about this stuff, now I'm totally mortified. No way.

Other issues can arise here too; It's extremely possible that they consume alcohol, which is totally not something I need to be around, let alone for my kids to see (uh, can we say inappropriate modeling?). It's ok for them; they aren't muslim. But I am, and man I really don't need that temptation put in my face.

Oh, I am so sick over this. I hate hate hate to make bad impressions on people, I hate it if someone doesn't like me, getting rejected is one of the most difficult things for me to take. But I have to stand my ground on this one. The possibility of a relationship with them hurting me and my kids spiritually is potentially too great.

Man, I'm such a prude! But all for the sake of Allah....If God is happy with me, then I suppose I can handle the rejection.

Maybe we could invite them over to our place. Then we would be more in control of the situation......Hmmm what do you guys think?

Oh, what I am going to do when we visit the states the next time? I think I will be in serious culture shock. Both sides of our families drink alcohol. It will be their first time seeing me like this, absolutely no alcohol, wearing hijab, etc. Ohhhh, and the food there won't be halaal. It's not only not halaal, most meat in the states also isn't Tayyib ("pure", basically means it's not organically grown). So I'll be "vegetarian" effectually while I'm in the states. My third-generation-of-German-butchers family on my mother's side will really understand!

We probably will go back this summer, as long as Bush isn't putting all of the muslim Americans in concentration camps or something by then! So, I have some time to mentally prepare myself for going back.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Free Al Arian, a Political Prisoner



Dr. Sami Al-Arian's TrialJury deliberations began on Nov. 15. We are praying for a just outcome. Thank you for the beautiful expressions of support we received from around the world.

A Political Prosecution:Closing ArgumentsClosing arguments in the case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendants began on November 7 with prosecutors admitting the evidence in the case was circumstantial.

The government has alleged that Dr. Al-Arian's legitimate organizations---the Islamic Committee for Palestine, World and Islam Studies Enterprise and Islamic Academy of Florida-- were fronts for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. While they attempted to prove that Dr. Al-Arian and his three co-defendants had "criminal intent" to further the unlawful goals of the PIJ, all they have shown was mere association and involvement in nonviolent, charitable activities.

To cover the fact that there is no evidence pointing to criminalactivity, prosecutor Cherie Krisgman asked jurors to "use theircommon sense" to "connect the dots." On Tuesday, Dr. Al-Arian's lawyers, William Moffitt and Linda Moreno, argued that the government failed to prove its case against Dr. Al-Arian and present any evidence to back up its claims. Moreno said "when Ms. Krigsman asks you to use your common sense, she's asking you to take a leap of faith, to suspend your disbelief."

More importantly, Moffitt and Moreno argued that the case is about nothing more than First Amendment-protected speech. They made impassioned pleas to stand up for the principles upon which the United States was founded and to defend Dr. Al-Arian's right to speak out against the brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinians.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"God is enough for me and is an excellent guardian".

(title expression is said usually when someone has done a bad thing towards you/cheated you etc.).

Translation of the Quran;

AL-MUTAFFIFIN (THOSE WHO GIVE SHORT MEASURE)
THE EIGHTY-THIRD SURAH Total Verses: 36 PERIOD UNCERTAIN

..from the english translation The Message of the Quran, Mohamed Assad.

*THE FOLLOWING COMMENTARY WAS NOT IN THE ARABIC I POSTED. THIS IS THE QURAN TRANSLATOR'S OWN "TAFSEER", WHICH IS LIKE INSIGHTS AND/OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION WHICH HELP THE READER UNDERSTAND THE VERSES MEANING BETTER AND/OR THE CONTEXT FROM WHICH A VERSE OF THE QURAN WAS REVEALED TO THE PROPHET MOHAMED, may peace and blessings be upon him.
Introduction

MANY AUTHORITIES - among them Suyuti - regard this surah as the last Meccan revelation. However, a number of authentic Traditions make it clear that at least the first four verses were revealed shortly after the Prophet's arrival at Medina (cf. Tabari, Baghawi, Ibn Kathir): some commentators go even further and ascribe the whole of the surah to the Medina period. If we take all the available evidence into account and disregard all speculations based on no more than theme and style, we may assume that the main body of this surah indeed represents the very last Meccan revelation, while the opening passage (to which the above-mentioned Traditions explicitly refer) belongs to the earliest Medina period. Thus, the surah as a whole stands - like surah 29 (Al-Ankabut) - on the threshold between these two periods.

...here begins the translation of this verse of the quran;

IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:

83: 1
WOE UNTO THOSE who give short measure:

83: 2
those who, when they are to receive their due from [other] people, demand that it be given in full –

83: 3
but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due!

83: 4
Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead

83: 5
[and called to account] on an awesome Day –

83: 6
the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds?

83: 7
NAY, VERILY, the record of the wicked is indeed [set down] in a mode inescapable!


83: 8
And what could make thee conceive what that that mode inescapable will be?

83: 9
A record [indelibly] inscribed!

83: 10
Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth –

83: 11
those who give the lie to the [coming of] Judgment Day:

83: 12
for, none gives the lie to it but such as are wont to transgress against all that is [and are] immersed in sin:


83: 13
[and so,] whenever Our messages are conveyed to them, they but say, "Fables of ancient times!"

83: 14
Nay, but their hearts are corroded by all [the evil] that they were wont to do!*

* Lit., "that which they were earning has covered their hearts with rust": implying that their; persistence in wrongdoing has gradually deprived them of all consciousness of moral responsibility and, hence, of the ability to visualize the fact of God's ultimate judgment.

83: 15
Nay, verily, from [the grace of] their Sustainer shall they on that Day be debarred;

83: 16
and then, behold, they shall enter the blazing fire

83: 17
and be told: "This is the [very thing] to which you were wont to give the lie!"

83: 18
NAY, VERILY - the record of the truly virtuous is [set down] in a mode most lofty!

83: 19
And what could make thee conceive what that mode most lofty will be?

83: 20
A record [indelibly] inscribed,

83: 21
witnessed~ by all who have [ever] been drawn close unto God.


83: 22
Behold, [in the life to come] the truly virtuous will indeed be in bliss:

83: 23
[restingJ on couches, they will look up [to God]:


83: 24
upon their faces thou wilt see the brightness of bliss.

83: 25
They will be given a drink of pure wine whereon the seal [of God] will have been set,

83: 26
pouring forth with a fragrance of musk. To that [wine of paradise], then, let all such aspire as [are willing to] aspire to things of high account:


83: 28
a source [of bliss] whereof those who are drawn close unto God shall drink.*

* Cf. 76:5-6 and the corresponding notes.

83: 29
BEHOLD, those who have abandoned themselves to sin are wont to laugh at such as have attained to faith

83: 30
and whenever they pass by them, they wink at one another [derisively];

83: 31
and whenever they return to people of their own kind,* they return full of jests;


83: 32
and whenever they see those [who believe,] they say, "Behold, these [people] have indeed gone astray!"

83: 33
And, withal, they have no call to watch over [the beliefs of] others. . .


83: 34
But on the Day [of Judgment], they who had attained to faith will [be able to] laugh at the [erstwhile] deniers of the truth:


83: 35
[for, resting in paradise] on couches, they will look on [and say to themselves]:

83: 36
"Are these deniers of the truth being [thus] requited for [aught but] what they were wont to do?"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hessbiyallah wa 'ana malikeel

Sura AL MUTAFIFEEN, or Dealing in Fraud; (#83)


بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُطَفِّفِينَ {1
الَّذِينَ إِذَا اكْتَالُواْ عَلَى النَّاسِ يَسْتَوْفُونَ {2
وَإِذَا كَالُوهُمْ أَو وَّزَنُوهُمْ يُخْسِرُونَ {3
أَلَا يَظُنُّ أُولَئِكَ أَنَّهُم مَّبْعُوثُونَ {4
لِيَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ {5
يَوْمَ يَقُومُ النَّاسُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ {6
كَلَّا إِنَّ كِتَابَ الفُجَّارِ لَفِي سِجِّينٍ {7
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا سِجِّينٌ {8
كِتَابٌ مَّرْقُومٌ {9
وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلْمُكَذِّبِينَ {10
الَّذِينَ يُكَذِّبُونَ بِيَوْمِ الدِّينِ {11
وَمَا يُكَذِّبُ بِهِ إِلَّا كُلُّ مُعْتَدٍ أَثِيمٍ {12
إِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِ آيَاتُنَا قَالَ أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ {13
كَلَّا بَلْ رَانَ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِم مَّا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ {14
كَلَّا إِنَّهُمْ عَن رَّبِّهِمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ لَّمَحْجُوبُونَ {15
ثُمَّ إِنَّهُمْ لَصَالُوا الْجَحِيمِ {16
ثُمَّ يُقَالُ هَذَا الَّذِي كُنتُم بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ {17
كَلَّا إِنَّ كِتَابَ الْأَبْرَارِ لَفِي عِلِّيِّينَ {18
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا عِلِّيُّونَ {19
كِتَابٌ مَّرْقُومٌ {20
يَشْهَدُهُ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ {21
إِنَّ الْأَبْرَارَ لَفِي نَعِيمٍ {22
عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ يَنظُرُونَ {23
تَعْرِفُ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ نَضْرَةَ النَّعِيمِ {24
يُسْقَوْنَ مِن رَّحِيقٍ مَّخْتُومٍ {25
خِتَامُهُ مِسْكٌ وَفِي ذَلِكَ فَلْيَتَنَافَسِ الْمُتَنَافِسُونَ {26
وَمِزَاجُهُ مِن تَسْنِيمٍ {27
عَيْنًا يَشْرَبُ بِهَا الْمُقَرَّبُونَ {28
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا كَانُواْ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يَضْحَكُونَ {29
وَإِذَا مَرُّواْ بِهِمْ يَتَغَامَزُونَ {30
وَإِذَا انقَلَبُواْ إِلَى أَهْلِهِمُ انقَلَبُواْ فَكِهِينَ {31
وَإِذَا رَأَوْهُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّ هَؤُلَاء لَضَالُّونَ {32
وَمَا أُرْسِلُوا عَلَيْهِمْ حَافِظِينَ {33
فَالْيَوْمَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ مِنَ الْكُفَّارِ يَضْحَكُونَ {34
عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ يَنظُرُونَ {35
هَلْ ثُوِّبَ الْكُفَّارُ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ {36

Friday, November 25, 2005

Do-it-yourself is not so easy!



Using my masonry drill today and bent both the 3mm masonry bit and the drill. Darn thing isn't spinning straight now; giving off sparks inside if I try to use it. Guess I have to buy another drill.

Oh well, this one was a real pain in the patutti anyhoo; Must be because I bought it at Carrefoure! I will be sure to get a battery-powered drill this time, not one with a blasted cord!

Look out, Bob the Builder! Here comes Rockin' Hejabi!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Baby Tomato Plants


My 3-year-old daughter planted these. Lovely, eah?

Advice needed; do I need to separate these as they gr0w larger? If so, how many plants-per-container?

Thanks for any help!

-Rockin' Hejabi

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Carrefoure is full of Scams!


Carrefoure here in Doha is full of scams. I have had it with this store.

Every time I go there and buy something on sale (which is what I go there for- the sale items), the price I see where the item is displayed is always wrong when I go for the checkout.

This is a case example. This picture clearly illustrates what items are displayed, and how the items are displayed; rows and rows of huggies "goodnights" with a hudge sign "20 riyals" over them.

Well, I got to the checkout and they rang up as QR23; still 6 QR less per item than normal, but not the price I saw displayed.

Most people here would have settled I suppose. But as an American, I believe that this is a big problem. This is "false advertizing," and is a Cardinal Sin in that corporate culture from which I was raised!

So, I pursued it with the management. They guy argued with me, saying there was no way this item could have possibly been priced at QR20, that I clearly must be mistaken; I said, "Oh great, so now you're calling me a liar?" and dragged his butt across the store to where the items were so very clearly displayed under the QR20 sign.

So, he digs back, THREE ROWS behind the huggies goodnights, and pulls out a (buried) bag of huggies pull-ups and tells me that these are the items that are on-sale.

I let him have it. I had an audience! I really was yelling, and apparently here that is a real insult to these people. Insulting is basically the worst thing you can do to someone from the Arabic culture, and I did plenty of it.

It's a basic rule of thumb where I come from that you don't falsely advertise a price; here, people accept it, I draw-and-quarter the manager for allowing it to happen. They really didn't understand why I was so upset.

It's only speculation, but perhaps there is some embezzelling going on in this store. The price on the books is QR20; but when you ring it up, it comes up QR23; most people here don't contest the wrong price, because it's still 6 riyal less than the normal price of QR29; the guy at the top keeps the QR3 difference on each item sold.

In the end, they "so graciously" allowed me to purchase the 5 bags of goodnights I had for the price they had (incorrectly) displayed, which was QR20/bag. In the States they would have given the items to me for free. ...

No more Carrefoure!

Some days, it seems like there's no place like home.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

'Eid Mubarak

This is a special ‘Eid for me as this was my first Ramadan where I actually fasted. I have been a Muslimah only for 4 years! I was pregnant and/or nursing a baby the first few years there. Alhumdulillah! I did it, even though I am still nursing my sweet little ten-month-old.

Ramadan was great. However, it was like the moment we spotted the ‘Eid moon, I turned into the exorcist. I went from being spiritually uplifted, centered, present, feeling purifyed from the month of fasting, to being a complete biiiiiyatch the moment Ramadan ended! Anybody else ever experience anything similar?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Off to his new home at Doha Fishing Docks!


He immediately hopped onto one of the fishing boats ("Dhow") there on the left. Boy was he freaked out!

Tomcat Being Released

Feral Cat Catch & Release


Here is the Tom Cat right before we let him go.

We got our kids a young male cat, and feared this aggressive stray Tom in our neighborhood would kill him.

So, we got the Tomahawk cat trap from our vet and caught the guy!

We took him to the Doha Fishing Docks. Figured he'd have easy food there....

Monday, October 31, 2005

This is still a very tribal culture. The rules are not fixed in stone (and they certainly are not on paper!) as they are in my home country.
The rules change here, according to who you are, what country your passport is from, what you say, how it might effect the reputation of the person helping you, who you know/knows you and will speak on your behalf, and how the guy in charge is feeling at that particular moment.

Now, this can work for you, or against you, depending on the situation.

Examples;

More than once a stranger has paid for our dinner. I mean like we’re in a restaurant and go to pay our bill and the waiter says … “it’s already been paid, by that guy, over there”!!! So, my husband goes to him to give him salaams, and discovers that the guy paid for our dinner because he is so excited to see Americans who have become muslim. Subhanallah!

I have also heard stories from other American reverts living here who have requested exemptions from the Qatari immigration department. These exemptions have ranged from getting fines waived to not having to get their children’s blood taken for the residency visa. Apparently it didn’t matter what their empirical reasons were for the exemptions. Every time they asked for an exemption, another Qatari standing in line or on the periphery would step forward and say something to the effect of, “Look, here is an American who has converted to Islam! Praise God!”… and the immigration officer signed their approval!!! Just like that!

The government rules regarding who is allowed to import a housemaid have recently been tightened. Now, any non-Qatari who wishes to import a maid must work for a Qatari government ministry AND make an income of at least QR 15,000 per month.

An expat friend of ours was having trouble getting his agent from the manpower company to stay on-task in helping him at the Qatari immigration department. After several attempts at re-directing this guy nicely, he had to get Arab on his @#% and yell. This attracted the attention of an elderly Qatari gentleman standing next to him in line. He asked our friend what the problem was and he kindly explained to the man that he’d been denied a housemaid visa, etc. and on top of it all this guy from the manpower agency wasn’t staying on-task. So the Qatari man decided to help him. They cut to the front of the line and pled his case together to the immigration officer. All the Qatari man did was say, “Look! He’s an American Muslim. Give him a housemaid!”….and poof! They granted him the visa!!!!

It’s crazy because he had rehearsed all of his legitimate reasons why he needed them to give him another maid visa; the wife works, they have so many children, etc…. None of that mattered. Just that they were an American family, who had converted to Islam. WOW.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rules? Say What?

I despise how everything we do in the States is regulated/legislated. We really are a "rules-oriented society". A lot of that is driven by the threat of lawsuits I suppose.

Here in Qatar, the rules are very few, and the ones that exist are certainly not written down!

I find this to be a refreshing break from the insanity of American society. However, I am also experiencing culture shock. I love it and am maddened by it simultaneously!

For example, some of the things that are difficult for me as an American to adjust to living here (even after almost 2 years) include;

Driving; people here drive wherever they want to, whenever they feel like it.

They;

… pass you on the left while you are starting to make a left turn (CRAZY!).

… drive across the median because traffic is not moving fast enough for their personal taste (when in my reality as a driver accustomed to traffic because I am from a big city in the states, I perceive that traffic is flowing and fine).

… speed constantly.

…don’t’ put children in seat belts, let alone in the back seat, or in a car seat, EVER.

… pack 15 people into a vehicle that is only supposed to hold 8 people.

Everything here is communicated by word of mouth.

It doesn’t matter what the truth is; only how things appear. Reputation/saving face is more
important
than telling the truth. I have realized that as an American, I feel that the truth is the bottom line. In American culture, the truth is golden. It is so different here. I frequently find myself feeling like people are deceptive/superficial. However, I am slowly realizing that perhaps this is my culture talking.

There is no new employee (or any employee) orientation handbook at work.

There are no written rules and regulations/policies and procedures at work.

There is no policy or system of checks and balances at work. (like to empirically check to ensure that everyone is doing their job correctly, ethically, etc.).

Eveything must go through "the chain of command" at work. If you skip a person in the chain, you are a troublemaker. You must think you are hot stuff. You must think you have wasta (connections), which is an immediate slap in the face (makes them look bad) to whomever you have skipped in the chain of command.

It's bad to have big, good ideas, especially if they involve changing anything for the better, because that will make the people above you in the chain of command look bad because it wasn't their idea! (*As an American, I find this one extremely difficult to swallow. We come from a society where we are rewarded in our careers, especially in the field of education, for new ideas, for changing things for the better, etc.).

There is not a written job description for anyone's position at work.

There are no written guides or directions which outline the steps for tasks that involve the government (*maddening!);

-how to get your health insurance card,
-how to get your driver’s license,
-how to get your visa,
-how to request a different villa if there is a problem with the one they give you initially,
-how to book your airlines tickets home every summer, etc.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sunday, October 09, 2005

ICE CREAM JIHAD

Apparently the umma is up in
arms over some art on Burger
King’s new ice cream, claiming it
looks like the name of Allah in
arabic.

Well, I say; SO WHAT?

Is this what the umma (muslim community) has been
reduced to? That the written name of God is now some holy
object, that can’t be on our ice cream? Don’t we muslims
have something better to do with our time than threaten
a corporation with jihad over ice cream?

This is just a bunch of Shirk (idol-worship) and nonsense, if

you ask me!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Traveling in Turkey with Children; Summer 2005.

Summer 2005 was one of the highlights of my family’s year. We took a 15 day trip to Turkey.

Traveling with children really changes the way you do things when you travel, in many good ways. The number one benefit is it really makes you slow down. No across-the-country and back in 3 days; no 165 Istanbul tourist traps in 24 hours (Thank God! That’s really not my style anyhow).

We spent a lot of time just hanging out. Children need space to run and play. They don’t do well getting dragged here and there constantly, which is a strange and bizarre vacation activity most American Tourons (Tourist+Moron) like to torture themselves doing. So, my husband and I reaped the benefits of letting our kids linger. We really got to know the country and it’s people this way. This system also really helped us to relax. We learned to enjoy ourselves and the moment.

We began each day with 2 hour breakfasts which consisted of a bottomless pot of Turkish Chai (that’s tea in English), Turkish olives, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, (lightly salted) Turkish feta cheese, baguettes, butter, Vishne jam (cherry), Vishne juice (cherry), and hard-boiled eggs. This is served everywhere in Turkey, thus the name, “Turkish Breakfast”.

We’d go back to the room for a potty break, then head out to sightsee. We walked a lot. Child #1, who is 5, walked all day alongside my husband and I, which really helped to wear out his innately hyperactive tendency. Child # 2, who is 2, was stroller-bound, (usually pushed by Baba, who is her favorite), and I pushed and sometimes wore in the sling child #3, who is still an infant.

Istanbul’s Sultanahmet area is extremely safe and geared for any type of Touron. Unfortunately, it’s pretty un-handicapped-accessible (I feel handicapped pushing a stroller), especially in the Mosques. The solution for us was to snag one of those annoying trinket-sellers outside of the Mosques to help me carry my stroller up the stairs (my husband “he-manned” his stroller up the stairs). These guys were always willing to help me, I think mostly because they are under the impression that if they help you, you’ll buy something. No can do, but you still get lots of points from Allah for the Good Deed. Thanks, Buddy!


By about noon every day we were hungry, so we’d grab some of Istanbul’s wonderfully kid-friendly Street Food. It’s cheap, portable (you can eat it with one hand), fresh, and always served with a genuine smile. We couldn’t get over how sincerely friendly the Turks are. There are sandwich stands all over the place. In Sultanahmet, it’s best to get away from the main drag right in front of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The restaurants there are ok, but overpriced. The atmosphere is great. I loved The Dervish Café. However, these places always were out of Lamb and that really was annoying.

I loved the Doner (Lamb) Kebab in Turkey. Beef was wonderful as well. Down at Eminonu, the Fishing Pier in Istanbul, are the most wonderful fried Fish sandwiches. They are served fresh, on a giant baguette, with fresh sandwich veggies. Check out the stuffed Clams there too. They are stuffed with clam meat, rice, and various spices (mint?) I think. My kids, even my 8-month-old infant, couldn’t eat enough of those clams!

----------------------------------------------------------------

Other parts of Istanbul, like the area around Taksim Square, are not-so-friendly. The gypsy pickpockets are oozing out of every corner other than in Sultanahmet, it seems. Geez, I must’ve really looked the role of a Touron, because they hit us up twice in one day! Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, we were robbed! Right before our very own eyes.

They prey upon people with small children, particularly with strollers. We were an easy catch. Four or more of them distracted us, by asking if we needed help with our stroller around a tight place on the sidewalk. They also made sure to make a big deal about how cute the baby was, etc. My husband let his guard down and turned his back on our digital camera hanging on the stroller while he helped them get me around the tight spot in the sidewalk. That’s when they hit us. Then, once they were finished “helping us,” they disappeared into the crowd, leaving us to discover that we were just looking into the eyes of thieves, not good citizens!

It’s really unfortunate the gypsies are playing this card, because most people in Turkey who talked with us were genuinely loving, kind, and interested in our children. It’s not uncommon to let people hold your baby, people that you’ve never met before, just standing in the street. The Turks are really wonderfully loving, and hospitable people. Everywhere we went, all across the country, we were invited into people’s homes for tea, food, conversation, and friendship.

The second band of thieves wasn’t so fortunate. One girl was offering my middle child, a toddler, some seeds to feed the pigeons, and something told me to turn to my right. I did, and Alhumdulillah! I caught this chick red-handed, with her hand down my purse on my wallet, and I started yelling “Harami! Police! Help!”…My husband came running, the girl broke away from my grasp, he chased her, and ended up catching her and her 2 partners with the help of some undercover police officers!

We escorted them to the jail, where they were sentenced to jail time and a beating. I have to admit it felt good to catch them!

Our time waiting in the jail was also one of the highlights of our trip, believe it or not. We had to wait for almost three hours for a translator to show up and write our report for us from English to Turkish. In those three hours, we were served tea several times by the police officers! They also hung out with my son, who was running wildly around the station (did I mention he has a tendency to be hyperactive?).

The whole time in the station, we were sitting one room away from the gypsy thieves. They were not under lock and key yet; they were sitting right there, in the next room with the door slightly ajar. I could see them, they could see me. I was fuming angry. One of them came out to go to the toilet, and I told the police officer on guard that if I saw her again I was going after her. Well, not 2 minutes later there she was again.

The show was fantastic. I was holding the baby, but for some reason that didn’t deter me from attempting to kick the @#$#^ out of this chick. Well, Allah likes to make a fool out of me when I am angry. Instead of the quick, strong kick I set out to make, my dress caught my leg and I ended up doing the most amazing Jackie Chan “Flying Drop Kick” ever recorded in the history of Kung Fu. My leg went up, I went completely horizontal to the floor for one second, and then violently bit it on the floor. Ouch. My left elbow took the entire weight of the blow. I think it will hurt forever. By the way, all of this happened while holding my baby. Alhumdulillah, she was totally fine. From that point on, the gypsies were terrified of me!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Welcome Home


Welcome Home!

After a long summer hiatus, it feels good to be back home, here in Qatar.

This is one of our favorite spots; the beach in Al Wakra.

Inshallah, I will be posting more regularly now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

HOUSEMAID HORROR STORY

Well, don’t I feel like such a sucker. All of my Qatari friends (who have lived with housemaids their whole lives and are very good at understanding how to treat them) warned me that I was being too nice to my housemaid…Taking her on outings, letting her buy herself a mobile phone, paying her medical bills, buying her clothes when she needs them etc. They warned me that if I give her an inch, she will take a mile…

Well, it turns out they were more than right!

We got a knock on the door last night at about 11pm. It was the security guard of our compound (it’s like a gated community). He kindly apologized for bothering us, but he felt he had to inform us that he had just observed (not for the first time, either!) our housemaid, Norkaida, leaving the compound in a car full of Indian men!

Now, this is the Gulf; Arabia; The Khaleej. This is perhaps the most conservative society remaining on the planet when it comes to sex.

You have to understand that this kind of behavior is forbidden in this country, and especially in my household. It’s actually illegal in Qatar to commit fornication, and this is an offense that gets both men and women put in jail, perhaps beaten by the police, and ultimately deported.

A housemaid is especially restricted when it comes to what is acceptable behavior. She isn’t allowed to go anywhere unaccompanied. She must be accompanied when going from the house on outings by her sponsor (uhm, that would be ME).

I have gone over this rule many times with my housemaid. She always nods her head and says “yes madam, I understand, I will do as you say”.

I take her EVERYWHERE with me; Parties at my girlfriends’ houses, the mall to shop with me, to restaurants, everywhere. She is with me or a member of our family from the moment we wake up until I go to sleep.

Norkaida even told me in a conversation once, nonchalantly over tea while we were cooking together in my kitchen, that she became a housemaid because her family wanted her to get married. She decided that kind of thing was not for her; a man, babies, etc.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.
I feel so betrayed and angry.

My husband even had a long talk with her when she first began working for us, about how she’s forbidden to have a boyfriend(s), that she cannot go anywhere without us, etc. She nodded her head and said “yes sir, I understand, I will do as you say, no boyfriends and I don’t go anywhere alone”.

Blah blah blah, the short of it is this; we have proof that she has been sleeping around. This is more than a big problem.

As one of our favorite Qatari friends stated, this is more than a big mistake,
this is a disaster!

She confessed to fornication with (at least) 2 men; I have proof that she has called (on my land-line, to mobile phones) over 40 men since she began living in our house to work for us as our Khedama.

God only knows what she’s been doing.
So, I looked inside her mobile phone ( I'm so stupid for letting her have this). Inside the phone is the proof; She's been sending pictures of herself all sexy, posing in her underwear (that qualifies as pornography here). The list of transgressions seems neverending...
It really makes me wonder why she came here, and not Saigon or Bangkok? I guess that's just my anger talking. I'm pretty adrenalin-ized right now. 24 hours of it raging can make one delerious. Perhaps I should just call it quits and drink some chamomile tea and go to bed.
This all makes me so freaking angry. I haven’t slept in about 24 hours now. After the news last night we confronted her and she lied. Too many lies, lies lies lies.
It’s all over. I can never respect her or trust her ever again.

With the MERCIFUL and KIND advice of our dear Qatari friend who made us come to our senses from our cloud of anger and resentment, we decided not to have her arrested/jailed/beaten by the police.
Instead, we will ask the immigration department to blacklist her and deport her. She will leave Thursday night, Inshallah.

I have so many emotions and thoughts racing through me;

Anger,
Resentment,
Betrayal,
...and most of all guilt for getting this job and for putting my sweet babies in the care of a

WHORE!

GOD, HOW COULD I BE SO BLIND?

Astaghfirlallah for my bad thoughts, and I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

ORRY THE ORYX, MASCOT OF THE ASIAN GAMES, 2006

WORKING IN QATAR

I heard recently that Westerners being hired to come to work in Qatar by the Asian Games 2006 are not being offered free housing, free electricity, or free water.

The people doing the hiring must work for a Western company that totally doesn’t understand how things work best in Qatar. I know the Qataris would take care of their workers; they always have, and I assume that they always will.

A British girl contacted us through the internet a few days ago, asking for advice about her job offer with the Asian Games 2006. They offered maybe a 5 % higher salary in an attempt to compensate for the housing benefits they were not going to provide for her.

These benefits have been the golden standard that have lured Westerners here for a very long time. These free benefits are a major part of what makes living in Qatar so wonderful for most Westerners.

I advise anyone offered a higher salary in an attempt to lure them to come to Doha, instead of these free housing benefits, not to come, unless it’s double the original salary offered (pretty rare).

The housing here is getting very expensive, even for Qatari nationals. A lot of my Qatari friends are waiting until after the Asian Games to start construction on their new houses, hoping that prices for construction labor will go back to normal. Inshallah.

Prices for everything are going up because of high rent.

It used to be, even a year ago, that getting furniture made by hand from the carpenters was more economical and of a higher quality than buying ready-made furniture. Not so now.Even the lowest of the low in Doha must pay rent, and they have to compensate for the rent increases somehow….so, it comes in the form of higher prices for their labor and products.

I heard also from this same girl offered the job with the Asian Games that they were telling her she could find nice housing for between QR 1,500-3,000. Now this girl is British….I doubt anything she can find at that price will suit her standard of living! She would have to live in the very poor squatter-town or else have 1 or more roommates to get this price.

Very misleading….Shame, shame, shame, on the Asian Games!

Monday, July 25, 2005

His Highness the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani


I wonder if the image of His Highness staring back at him from the window of my car had anything to do with the man I hit being so kind to me?

It's difficult to be rude with His Highness watching you, I suppose!

Alhumdulillah!

One more reason in a long list of reasons to adore Qatar's Emir!

Friday, July 22, 2005

QATARI MERCY

I had a fender bender today. I was looking for a parking space at Hamad Hospital, which is notoriously short on spaces to park (isn’t all of Doha these days?).

I was in a row of cars on the fourth level of the parking garage, searching for a space, when suddenly I saw on my left that a big Toyota Land Crusier was backing out and was headed straight for my door. I didn’t have time to think, I just reacted. I threw it into reverse to avoid certain injury when thump! I hit a car I couldn’t see that was waiting behind me!

I jumped out, totally expecting what in my culture would have been a normal reaction; for the guy to be angry, to say how stupid and careless I was, blah blah blah. Of course, he would demand my name, number and insurance information so that I would pay for his fender’s repairs.

This Qatari man’s actual behavior totally shocked me. Instead of yelling at me, he asked if I was ok, then refused to take my information. I pressed the point, insisting on exchanging insurance information, contact numbers etc. He refused.

Now, even the "kindest" American back in the States would insist on getting my insurance and contact information. Most likely, they would also try to sue me for (fabricated) "whiplash injuries" or "pain and suffering," or whatever else they and their lawyer could conjure up to convince the court that they deserve money out of me.

But what does the Qatari man do? He tells me “Halas, it’s finished. Your car’s damage is much worse than mine,” and politely excuses himself, blesses me (it’s a muslim courtesy to say “may the peace of God be with you,” a courtesy that I couldn’t believe he was granting me after I had just smashed his fender!!!!!), and drives away! Alhumdulillah!

The Qataris, both men and women, never cease to impress me by their kindness, graciousness, and generally impeccable adab (“manners”). This was just one example of Qatari mercy.

Mashallah, what a wonderful nation of people to have the opportunity to live and work with.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What Is Islam?

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.
Oh Allah, guide my words to express your Truth. If any of the following information is wrong, it is only my human error, not God's. Amen.

The practice of Islam; “the surrendering of one’s will to the will of God.”

The word “Islam” means to surrender; yield; to be at peace.


"Muslim;“a person who surrenders (his/her will to God alone)”.

Muslims” ; “the people who surrender (their wills to God alone)”.


Qu’ran 3.19

Behold, the only (true) religion in the sight of God is (man’s) self-surrender unto Him; and those who were vouchsafed revelation aforetime took, out of mutual jealousy, to divergent views (on this point) only after knowledge (thereof) had come unto them. But as for him who denies the truth of God’s messages-behold, God is swift in reckoning!

Qu’ran 3:84- 85

Say: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the (other) prophets: we make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we surrender ourselves.”

For, if one goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender unto God, it will never be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the lost.

Qu’ran 3.20

Thus, (O Prophet,) if they argue with thee, ay, “I have surrendered my whole being unto God, and (so have) all who follow me!”-and ask those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime, as well as all unlettered people, “Have you (too) surrendered yourselves unto Him?”
And if they surrender themselves unto Him, they are on the right path; but if they turn away-behold, thy duty is no more than to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in (the hearts of) his creatures.

Qu’ran 29.46
And do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in a most kindly manner- unless it be such of them as are bent on evildoing- and say: “We believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, as well as that which has been bestowed upon you: for our God and your God is one and the same, and it is unto Him that We (all) surrender ourselves.”



Why Islam?

I can’t say that I have a typical conversion story. My conversion happened slowly, it was more of a lifelong way of thinking, seeking, and asking for more.

In particular, more explanation, consistency, and logic to Theology.

After many years of my life seeking and posing my questions, Islam was, and is, the answer.

I embraced Islam because of the Quran. Period.

I read it, I meditated on what it says, and that alone is why I converted.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Declaration of Independence

While contemplating the sins of American's current "regime", I thought I would do something positive today since it's July 4th and read the Declaration of Independence.

Wow, does this sound familiar? Is Bush trying to emulate King George or what?

The Declaration of Independence: IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
*exerpts...

He has made…repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures

He has obstructed the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners, and has refused to pass others to encourage their migrations here.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.


He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.


He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.


He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.


He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; he has given his Asessent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.

He has quartered large bodies of armed troops among us, and has protected them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of this land.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Palm shot, gulf-style henna design. Henna is the hand and fingernail decor of choice in this culture because the people here believe that since water can't penetrate fingernail polish, their wudu would be considered invalid. Since henna is a stain and penetrable by water they consider it acceptable. Posted by Hello

Gulf-style henna design. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005


Khaleeji-style Niqab (facial veil). Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Junk Mail

I look back at all of the mail that used to bombard our household every day when we lived in America. I can’t believe the piles of mail I used to have to go through. It was like a full time job.

First, you have to go get the mail from the mail box. Then you have to open all of it. Then you have to divide it up into the appropriate piles; Which things are junk and need to be thrown in the trash? Which bills should we pay first (most Americans cannot afford to pay all bills at once)? Which ones must be delayed until next pay cheque? Which ones are overdue?

Then, you must carefully write out all of the cheques, record the amount in the cheque book, return-address each envelope, stamp each envelope, and file all bill records into the appropriate files, mainly for tax purposes.

Alhumdulillah, living out of the States is teaching me that there is Another Way. I had stressors there I wasn’t even conscious of! You would think a simple thing like the mail would be just that, a simple thing. Now that I don’t have any, I realize how unnecessarily stressful, the mail is in the States.

Here in Qatar, I go to the post office and get my mail, hmm, perhaps one time every 2 weeks. There are usually 3-4 letters; usually something from the family back home, a bank statement once in a while, and maybe one advertisement. Qatar does not provide home delivery of mail. Everyone has P.O.boxes, and there are no zip codes.

We don’t pay rent. We don’t pay utilities (electricity, water, and trash are paid for by my employer). We get a phone bill once every three months, which we pay for in-person, with cash.


It feels so great to be free of all of that mail. Wow, how could we stand it?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Oppression

I became Muslim less than a year before September 11th. Just like everyone, September 11 really effected me. I saw the hatred in the attacks, but then also so much hatred towards anyone of foreign nationality who might appear Muslim in America. For goodness sakes, they shot dead some poor brothers who were Sikhs!

At this point in time, a lot of Muslim sisters in my city were (justifiably) afraid to come out of their houses for fear of hate crimes towards them. I was one of these sisters. However, being a “revert” to Islam, I had the “advantage” of not being a foreigner. I could just take off my hejab (headscarf and modest manner of dressing) and “blend in", so to speak, and “seem normal” to everyone (a.k.a., exercise my “white privilege”). But the fear of rejection goes deeper than just the fear of my community rejecting, ostracizing, or even hating me. I was also gravely afraid of telling my (Christian) family that I had embraced Islam. Yes, I hid the fact that I was Muslim from my parents for 3 ½ years after I formally embraced Islam. Actually, I’m not sure if my father even knows I’m Muslim, I’ve discussed it with my mother and just assumed she told him. But that’s another blog posting.

We moved to a new neighborhood in our city right after September 11th. I decided to create a new identity there as a “normal American”, not as “one of them”. My behavior was completely motivated by fear.

When I took off my hejab in the fall of 2001, it was as if one moment I was an African American and the next moment I had become White. People treated me in a dramatically different, racist manner with my hejab on. For instance, I got a lot of uncomfortable stares from total strangers, and a couple of times strange men drove up to my car while I was stopped at traffic lights and yelled obscenities at me. The whole point of wearing hejab/modest dress is not to attract attention to oneself, and now it was attracting what I felt was too much attention. So, after experiencing that oppressive treatment, I have to admit that it felt good to take it off and be “invisible” again.

I went back to what was “culturally comfortable” and did what I had perceived to be “more safe” by attending the Catholic Church and singing in the choir (there actually was a plot against our Mesjid to blow it up). Also, a wonderful Muslim man in our community, and other articulate Muslims and the lawyers who defended them, started getting put in jail purely for their political beliefs.

I continued practicing Islam. The pillars of Islam include believing that there is no other God but God, and that Mohamed (peace be upon him) is a prophet of God; making the five-times daily prayer; giving to the needy; fasting during Ramadan; and praying that someday God will make it possible that I could make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the site of the first house of God built by father Abraham and his son.

Technically I was still practicing Islam; Sociological orientation, i.e. looking “Muslim” or looking “Midwestern-American” has nothing to do with what is in one’s heart. Attending a Christian church because it’s unsafe to attend the official Muslim place of worship, the Mesjid, doesn’t make one an unbeliever. My heart and my mind were still firmly rooted in Islam. Once a person can see past the literal interpretations of other religions, there is actually a lot one can benefit from by contemplating upon their symbology. Although I don’t believe Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) was God, I do believe he was a very special prophet of God. Christians, especially Catholics, meditate quite heavily on the idea of the crucified Christ.

This idea bears profound spiritual concepts that were exceptionally comforting to me during this time of my life. Most importantly, I learned to surrender my Ego and trust that God will come through no matter how terrible life seems at the moment; not to lose Faith in God, and to remain Hopeful. Although Jesus was totally innocent of the crimes he was accused of, (in fact he was a remarkably perfect human being), he was treated unjustly, and brutally tortured, to the point of death. When he was receiving the 39 lashes, did he curse God? No. When his friends betrayed him, did he lose faith? No. When he suffered the most painful torture by being nailed to the cross, what did he do? He prayed and asked for God to forgive the people doing this to him!

Still, I couldn’t help feeling oppressed, really disappointed, and angry that the responsible and safe thing to do was to outwardly hide that I was Muslim.

Perhaps a good analogy of what happened to me is that of the caterpillar. She is a caterpillar, and as a caterpillar, all she knows and feels is that she must eat so she can grow strong. Since she is an insect, without a will or conscious thought, she has no knowledge of what she is to become. She only knows her present urges and instincts. How could she imagine the beautiful creature she is to become, or what it will take for her to be transformed? Then one day she is nice and fat and her instincts tell her to spin a cocoon, so she spins it around herself and is stuck inside.

Now, all of this time while she is inside the cocoon, what is she thinking? “Why did I do this to myself? I was so happy out there as a caterpillar, eating those leaves! It’s too dark in here. I can’t move! I have an itch, and I can’t scratch it”, etc., right? All of this time, her Ego blinds her to the fact that it was Allah’s will for her to be in that cocoon, at that precise place at that precise moment. To be in this crystalis, to metamorphosize, was her destiny.

Alhumdulillah (praise God), after one year here in Qatar I feel like I am a butterfly that has just emerged from her cocoon. This is a wonderful place for many reasons, especially because here I am able to “open my wings and soar”, without fear, flying freely as the beautiful butterfly Allah has transformed me into.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Invitation

Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated.

Since I was cut from the reed bed
I have made this crying sound. Anyone
separated from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing
and the grieving, a friend to each.

But few will hear the secrets
hidden within the notes.

No ears for that.
Body flowing out of Spirit.
Spirit flowing from body.

No concealing that mixing,
But it's not given us to see the soul.

The reed flute is fire, not wind.
Be that empty.

Hear the love-fire tangled in the notes
as bewilderment melts into wine.

This reed is a friend to all
who want the fabric torn and drawn away.

The reed is hurt and salve combining.
Intimacy and longing for intimacy, one song.

A disasterous surrender
and a fine love, together.

-Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi