Archive for the 'wishes' Category


going home

So everything set. The tickets bought. The bags packed. All the conditions set by my healthcare providers, met.

We are going home for an extended stay during the summer months. We will celebrate our anniversary where we first met and married.

We have tickets for the shortest route possible with as many accommodations as our wallets will allow.

My daughters will stay in NY because both have classes and summer jobs to maintain. Each has a few heavy duty state-board exams that must be completed by August 1st. So vacation for them will be, well, limited to say the least. My son has been stationed on the Pacific side so he will not be here to keep an eye on things. The girls are a solid pair- they’ll do what needs to get done with flying colors, as usual.

Since I may not be in ‘internet’ range (my blackberry has its moments when taken overseas), I may not be able to answer your comments if you have never posted before. All other friends will find they will not be under ‘moderation’ mode. The first chance I get, or firm signal to hit the peaks of Yemen, I will post some updates. Maybe even some pictures.

I thank a very special people who, a few months ago, eased my anxieties about this voyage for two very different reasons. You know who you are- I send you tons of warm hugs and kisses. Thank you again for everything. You are the best!

So my friends, without further ado, we head for the airport in the early morning, and venture into a land I love and by turns want to pummel its oddities. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it. Pray and make Dua, for those are of utmost importance to my continued well being- Allah will reward you. Insha’Allah.

Ma’salaama -Have a great summer!


my love affair with India…

My Hindu friends tell me that I must have been an Indian in a previous incarnation. Why? Well I truly enjoy Indian culture- its food, its internal variety of people, customs and languages; its social values, even the way that they keep their tradition (parampara, I believe is the word) and their religion in most everything they do. Also I have come to understand how Indians absorb others and give it their “twist” making everything they accept truly theirs. It becomes Indian. A very unique characteristic.

Like any society, there are pros and cons, but when you concentrate on the positives you tend to learn a lot. And if you are secure in who you are you will learn even more.

Believe me, many people wonder at my fascination; I can’t explain it. This fascination propelled me to try to learn to speak the language when I started watching Hindi Films, and later Hindi television. Why? Well, I’m a ‘cultural mutt’. I no longer have what some might categorize as a ‘pure blood-line’. And that alone allows me to explore and absorb. I can be very Spanish, very Arab, and very ‘American’ while still feeling completely at ease among a group of very religious and proper Hindu ladies. I have learned of the many similarities we share regardless of culture, religion, or even language.

The women I have sat with to embroider, have taught me about saris, about their views on marriage, child rearing, work, widowhood, and divorce. Their opinions about religious practices have taught me a valuable lesson. Beyond all the barriers we may put up out of fear or ignorance, or arrogance we are all human; feel the same emotions, and our thoughts are really very similar if we are willing to just talk. Simple conversations without the ‘mine is better than yours’ or the ‘I know more than you’- when we suspend these, the world opens up to us.

The other day I went to a Sisters’ Prayer Circle. All the attendants but two were Pakistani; myself and another Turkish muslimah married to a Pakistani completed the group. I enjoyed myself tremendously. One, because I have enough grasp of the language to participate in all the conversations. The other, because all these women, professionals in their own rights, brought ‘something’ to the event. They were all able to suspend judgments and honestly be present in the moment.

One of the social high points after readings from the Qur’an and prayers was, of course, home-made Pakistani food- the hostess is an absolutely, excellent cook! We gathered around to talk about social issues. Two of those present spoke of the work they are doing to bring to the US Afghan women’s art work and crafts- namely purses as part of a cooperative that started in Dubai, where one of them had been living for the past four years. We talked about marriage, about baby names-laughing about some of the oddest names out there. We talked of fashion, as two of the women are designers; one part time (she is also full time in investment banking) and the other who has an established and very well known International line. I have seen her work at the Kingfisher ‘Fashion Week’ events televised from India. That led us to Indian Fashion. Most of us agreed we had a penchant for Rajput era embroidery, beading, and quilting- I absolutely love the ‘coats’ worn over tight white pants and bejeweled nagras. And what’s Indian fashion without saris! The hostess remarked that I was the only non-Indian woman she had ever met that only used one pin in her sari. That called for a demonstration, the hostess bringing out a few saris in brocades, antique, and the modern tie die versions. So there I was teaching grown-up Pakistani women how to wear the various styles of saris I like- with only one broach pin! We all giggled over the fact that the older ‘aunties’ would be very angry with them, and probably shame them a bit because they had been ‘out-sari’d’ by a non-Indian!

I guess when you feel comfortable in any culture and learn while you experience it, you become a Global Citizen. My aim is to go through cultures assimilating the best of each, absorbing it, making those good parts a part of me.

A lot like being Indian…


veiled voices… a film by Briget Maher

On Link TV- a publicly owned channel for unsensored, and unbiased television programs from around the world, broadcasted the short film ‘Veiled Voices’ by Bridget Maher. This film documents the life of three public, and influential, women of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt who are making strides in empowering women through their teachings of Islam in mainstream, contemporary Arab society.

Each of these women is different from the other in age, social status, and family composition, yet all share a common passion and goal to empower Muslim women through their teaching of Islam- Qur’an, Jurisprudence, etc.

From Egypt is Dr. Su’ad Saleh- widow, mother to a journalist, and grandmother. She is a high standing graduate of Al-Ahazar University, teaches, has her own talk show, and even put in her application to be considered for the category of female- the first, Mufti. Sadly her application only received one vote, but I find it a remarkable accomplishment because it was not rejected outright. She states that Islam means a balance to everything, to be in Islam you need to balance all aspects of inner and outer, public and private life. She says she is sadden to see the potential of Islam reduced to hijab, niqab, beards and men. She has about 20 books published, teaches regularly -saw her in action as they filmed one of her classes- she is no joke. She says Islam has been so reduced that women limit their studies to the superficial level of anything because they have been taught they won’t be able to realize their full potential. Her daughter, who is married with children and is also a full time journalist in economic affairs, says that having her mother also work full time during her childhood taught her self reliance. That a working woman can be an excellent or terrible mother based on her personality alone. Dr. Saleh states that even those women who dedicated their whole lives to their families must also be considered as important and should not be belittled or feel belittled- each has a responsibility; each fulfilling it to the best of their abilities. That no woman should be forced to be one or the other exclusively.

From Lebanon is Sheikha Ghina Mahmoud, mother of twin girls, divorced, and head of a female Islamic Center- she teaches and organizes charity work to benefit women. Her classes are always full. This woman as dowry ask her husband to not stand in the way of her calling to teach Islam. Sadly, at the peek of her career she divorced and her daughters were taken away. Her husband being the instigator of malicious rumors that cost her, her daughters, her students, and her following. Since then she has rebuilt her image and reputation, but she states the stigma of being divorced is so strong- as high in intensity as the divorce rate. She cries over the situation of not having her daughters and states there is nothing in Islam that allows for this separation of mother and child. One of her twin girls when asked, started crying because she misses her mother terribly. Sheikha states Islam doesn’t force women to marry who they don’t want to. That parents should talk, discuss the issues and giving advice but never forcing. But having experienced first hand what happens to women when they divorce, she now feels a woman should try at every cost to maintain the marriage. She also does private tutoring. One of her students, who does not wear hijab, stated she trusts the Sheikha because she is a teacher first and foremost. That even when she knows, in this woman’s case, that hijab is out of the question; she still teaches her all other aspects of her religion. The Sheikha states that her calling is to serve, to teach and not pass judgments on anyone- that it is not her prerogative.

The third is Huda Al-Labash from Syria. She is married with children, one of her daughters is studying International Affairs in a University in Georgia, USA- . Al-Labash teaches and encourages open dialogue from her students because it allows for deeper understanding of any concept in Islam. She does travel quite a bit and her husband says that he is supportive because he believes in her work. He says that many a times she can be gone for a month traveling to other Middle East countries and he does everything that is required in the household in her absence. Her daughter says that living abroad has taught her that we don’t educate people enough about Islam, because we do not study it with enough intensity to be able to have meaningful discussions; and that her professors know even less of the regions they supposedly teach about, meaning the cultural and religious aspects that complete the picture of Muslims [and therefore make them three dimensional] . The Mufti of Syria says that no where in Islam is it stated a woman cannot be a public figure. The only thing she cannot do is lead the Friday prayers in Jummat. He reiterated that while there is nothing in Islam that limits the role in society a woman can perform, she is given the commandment like men to maintain her modesty.

So tell me then, when did the female scholars of Islam start to lose their importance, when the wives of the Prophet SAW taught some of the very scholars whom Muslims read and respect. Among the top three scholars of Islam is Aisha. Her ahadeeth are the strongest based on her intimate and immediate connection with the Prophet SAW. So what happened, when did things slide into oblivion? Why did they slide into oblivion? I remember seeing a video of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf where he cried as he denoted with decreasing numbers the female scholars, teachers, and scribes that disappeared off the annals of Islam in the last 1400 years, century by century. And he said he was ashamed of the level to which women have been relegated in Islam, saying truly Mohammed SAW knew who were and would be the best among his people.

We are not who we’re suppose to be, simply because we have taken away (and have allowed it to be taken) a precious component of the synergy in Islam- a woman’s place in it.

These women of mainstream Islam with their hijabs and jilbabs look no different than their contemporaries, but their minds are founts of wisdom and learning that I wish I were able to tap. I remember many years ago studying with a group of Jordanian women who were as strong in conviction and passion as the women depicted in this film. They were as inspiring because theirs was a gentleness of approach but a thoroughness in delivery, that you couldn’t help but to want to be in their presence.

Now these are truly Muslimat!


service…be the change

I’ve been thinking in the ‘small wave”, wake-effect of the “Lactation” fatwa, of what some ‘scholars’ are doing to our religion, and the changing face of Islam they are presenting. The differing of opinions in my mind are good for creating dynamic discussion. But when one person or group undermines our humanity and tries to curtail our quest for understanding, belonging, and being in this world; putting us into spaces we would naturally feel uncomfortable or oppress and debase us – then I question that person or group’s intentions.

From the little I know about, for example, of Saudi society; I get the sense that there are two undercurrents flowing in opposite directions. Is it a reflection of the rest of the Arab world? I’m not so sure. Because other societies of the Muslim world are more open. Even in Yemen where there is still considerable illiteracy you still know of women in the public sphere- politically, socially, economically, etc. Women who work and are not stopped from striving. But then again, for everyone of these women who received an education and can fully function in society; there are countless other who don’t or can’t. In Saudi Arabia where education is at a higher level, it seems to be much harder to fully function because of all the ‘man-made’ additions to how Islam is practiced there. You would think this should not be the case. Unfortunately, as the ‘Lactation’ fatwa demonstrates- the basic problem created by such strict sex-segregation has a few ‘learned’ creating convoluted propositions to get around the fundamental issue they imposed on a society that no longer needs it, and would greatly prosper from it being loosened- sex segregation and tight control over the population’s ability and potential to create their own space within the structure of Islam.

Personally, I have stepped away from people or institutions that preach women are confined M&M’s -married and mothers only. Why? Well because these people are out of touch with reality. The world as we know it is far beyond tents, sands and prodigious amounts of offspring roaming the desolate and sometimes barren deserts. We have to understand for example that if a woman becomes a widow and she has no children from that marriage, she should not be subjected to total loss of the family and possessions she had come to care for. She shouldn’t have to feel obligated to completely fend for herself or remarry just because. Her new station means in Saudi her life loses meaning and she is left with memories only. The same goes for divorced women. Why should a woman lose rights to her children, even partial custody can be lost. Why should she be ostracized when divorce is a natural option in Islam, where the condition that now is never met is that of separating in a kindly manner without force or oppression. With Roman Catholics divorce was totally forbidden, in some countries until recently you couldn’t get a divorce if you had had a religious wedding ceremony- getting an annulment was nearly impossible- because it was literally ‘until death do us part’ married. But in Islam divorce is codified- so why do we castigate women when clearly it states both men and women can seek to sever their ties to their spouse? The ones that always seems to end up with the short end of the stick that is to beat them, are women. This concept is very non Islamic.

As Ummah, for it to mean something more than mere letters, we need to create spaces of inclusion and acceptance. Come to understand every situation by putting yourself in the shoes of others to gain some insight. Not blindly accepting every thing that is force fed to us- either by questionably motivated clerics or by social stigmas that have no bases in Islam. The other critical piece is this holding on to our nationality like a vice that only serves to isolate and strangle us; unable to hear the voices of sound reason. I say this because many people blame the West for all their problems, and at the same time use the West for all its endeavors- be it to keep us angry and humiliated or ignorant and despondent. To say ‘I’m 100% Saudi is meaningless. What does it really mean? That you are pure 100% Arab of the Arab Peninsula? Well good for you! But what does saying it do for your fellow Man? Does it help the destitute? Does it help empower the youth that have no avenues to let out steam by creating their own way in life? No, it doesn’t. All it does is just state you are separate from the rest of humanity. You’re isolating yourself from the rest of the Ummah, only seeing the walls you are building to confine and limit yourselves.

There are countless ways that a 100% Saudi can also be 100% Muslim of the Ummah, and 100% human of the planet Earth- its called inclusion. The are many more Muslims out here than there are 100% Saudi Muslims. Wake up!!! Smell the coffee! Yes, I know you don’t like Yemeni. But what did they do that you haven’t already done? I happen to want to learn more of this Saudi society with a penchant for closed doors and high walls. No wonder no one understands them completely- they won’t let you in! And at the same time they throw rocks from their inner walls as if they were being besieged. Not so…the world is smaller now because so many of us occupy space. The Village of Earth is very small indeed- you guys must be claustrophobic in there!

When I ask what would, could Saudis do to help themselves- some just point back to us as the culprits, using side tracking techniques of highlighting our short-comings and therefore trying to hide theirs. Well if we are the culprits, when will you pick up the courage to stop being the victim? What are the concrete things you can do to better your society? Not the individualistic mind set answers please. Even the ‘let the women do what they have to and we men will do what we have to’ is already creating a rift. Why? Because it rips apart a society, fragmenting and weakening it further. A House divided, Shall Fall.

No truer words have been spoken. And our houses are divided. We divide everything we do into ‘we versus them’. That is just as ‘individualistic’ as ‘every man for himself’.

-So if you’re so full of ideas, what would you do?- you might rightly ask. Well start with what you have. Start where you are right now:
If you have circle of friends, pool your resources to serve the poor.
Buy food or clothing for those who can’t. Create ‘soup kitchens’ for the hungry and destitute, and empower them by helping out to cook and clean- an honest day’s work for an honest meal.
If you have cars (this would apply to the men who are the only ones currently allowed to drive in mainstream Saudi society) get together and do a ‘Car Wash Day’ in another less affluent area and have the teen boys volunteer their time, donating the funds to the kids soccer team.
Heck put together ‘little league’ soccer teams!
Create cooperatives that would in turn benefit women in creating cooperatives of indigenous crafts that can be sold at markets.
Donate some of your time to teaching kids a new skill-
Since you men all drive why don’t you a group create a “Remedial Driving schools’ in your area for new teenage drivers teaching them the correct way to handle cars.
Men again could be better voices for their counterparts- stop the young guys from prowling- give them something to do- and while you’re at it- teach them better manners, be examples- role models.
Those of you who have studied or worked abroad hold informal meetings or ‘socials’ to answer basic questions your younger set may not know- Mentor them!
Get permission to do a street by street beautification drive- clear the trash-see a piece of paper or rubbish on the floor-pick it up and through it in the trash.
If you see a street hasn’t had its trash picked up, call the company that is suppose to and state the location; have your friends call too!
Finished eating and there is still lots of food on your plate- prepare or ask for it to be packaged for take out and give it to the first elderly and hungry person you find.

Fellow bloggers take a corner of your blogs to dedicate to posting any and all ideas you have to create an atmosphere of giving, of being better humans, better Muslims in the Ummah and the world.
Encourage others to do good for their fellow citizens and ask them to ‘Pay it Forward’ coming up with more ideas and implementing them.
Have brainstorming sessions, at home, with friends, with colleagues on a few things you can do today to make someone feel empowered, appreciated, loved.

Let the ideas flow, some will be possible now, others will become possible when you believe them possible. Help others and you’ll help yourself. Dare to be different- dare to believe you can benefit society even in the smallest of action, and ask the person down the line to pay it forward.

I’ve started a page to connect us to other people around the world. There are two ‘vehicles of change’ I recently joined that are extremely helpful, created by groups of friends that want to be of service. Teach, learn, strive- if you can’t change the system change yourselves. ‘Be the change you would want in this world’.
Its all about Random Acts of Kindness and Paying it Forward

Global Oneness Project
Helps identify and highlight all the global thoughts out, by theme, on giving all of us a chance to be one and to be of service. ‘Think globally, act locally’

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


Gandhi… and becoming a Great Soul

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” said “Mahatma” Gandhi who led India to independence and inspired human rights movements worldwide.

Spirituality & Health magazine’s March/April issue delved into the nurturing of a great soul. What it means and how to go about it in your daily life. Not all of us are destined for “public” greatness, but we all have the potential for “personal” greatness. “What ever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

The Simple Foundations of a Legacy: Gandhi seemed, or did not aspire to greatness. He did however, hold on steadfastly to simple practices. He did not want us to lose our faith in humanity:  “Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

While believing and trying to have the freedom to fully express his own personality, he warns us that even the wisest can take a wrong turn. “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom.”

We are asked to:

  • Recognize that we are always changing
  • Recognize that we are not always the best judges of ourselves
  • Reach out to get help and to inspire others

“What we practice is who we are”

Excerpts from “Three Bold Steps to become the Great Soul You Are.” by Stephen Kiesling Editor-in-Chief of Spirituality & Health

the family that eats together…

One of the things I’ve always liked about my father and mother in law was their ‘no exceptions’ on eating together. Just past Dhurh for the noon day meal, any of their children and their spouses that were home at that time sat together to eat as a family. There never was this ‘women in one room after the men ate’. They all ate at the same time, or nobody ate.

I thought, mistakenly, that was the norm in Yemen. I would find out soon enough, that if anything, my in-laws were not the norm by any stretch. Not even within their tribe, nor among the extended family of their own in-laws. My mother in law would repeatedly state, ‘they’re too Saudi for my taste’. Sorry, she blames the Saudis for everything.

The realization dawned on the day after my 30th day of marriage – the official ‘honeymoon over’ time. As is custom for their tribe, we could go ‘visiting’. Bang! I got hit with a feather. Every where we went the women ate either in the kitchen, or the inner family room if they had the means to afford it. We would understand when there was no blood relation to the women, but even when all were first cousins it would still be separate. So much so that ‘they might as well be strangers’, as my father in law would lament.

Both my husband and I were not happy at being separated, and I certainly missed the fun, relaxed meals we had at home. All the joking around, usually at my father in law’s expense. He is still a major prankster! It was the time we discussed everything under the sun. Making our meals particularly long affairs we were all loath to leave. Leave for those diwans and the Qat chew.

You see my father in law never goes to the diwans to chew Qat. The few decades old social custom of the Yemeni. In reality the use of it is more recent than what most are led to believe. Qat has been around for a long time, but only until recently when it spurred on particular industries did its popularity skyrocket, much to the demise of the Yemeni water table. In my in-laws mountain-peak home, that privilege is reserved for the wife’s company. My father and mother in law are always together. To separate them is to cause one of them to get sick, my father in law can’t stand the idea! They brought their children up to be like them. The only one, ‘son of a Saudi’ as both father and mother would gravely announce, was the eldest son. Now there’s a man the Muttawa would be proud of. Some apples do fall far afield…

When he married, the eldest didn’t allow his wife to sit next to or in the same room as his brothers, father, or any woman for that matter. He kept her locked up in her room from the first day she arrived. Not allowed even to cook, wash or anything in the company of anyone. She was not allowed to bond with anyone. The situation got so bad that one day, my father in law hit the roof when his son asked for the hundredth time, in as many days, to have his wife’s food served on a platter that he would take to her when he finished eating.

What would rile my father in law was the amount his son stated had to be on the plate. ‘Since when do we price the rice by grain, or the meat by sinew?! Everyone here eats until the food is finished and had their fill. What you have in that plate won’t feed one of our chickens!’ He shouted at his son while grabbing plate and throwing it outside into the yard everything scattering, scaring even the dogs. ‘You think she’s an animal? Then she would have to eat off the floor! But before you even do that, leave this place where I can’t see or hear you, because you will surely hear the words not the meaning!’ Yemeni can be very ‘poetic’, especially when angry!

A few days later his eldest moved out with his wife. My mother in law stated as they left, ‘well at least the poor woman will have a house for a prison instead of a room’.

I married into the tribe a few months after, and this scene was recounted in all its disturbing details when we returned from the first visit outside the compound. ‘Their ways are not ours.’

In fact, because of my eldest brother-in-law the next two sons in line, right after their brother married and started this inhumane treatment of his wife, took jobs away from their mountain so they could not in any way see something they had no power to stop. For my father it signaled a horrible death for his family, it was disintegrating in front of him. Only when we were married, my husband and I (he’s the fourth son), did things return to normal and the air was again relaxed and joyous. The other two sons returned grateful they could enjoy their home. What had happened for a few months was an anomaly. When these two sons  married two years later, they kept to ‘Al-Bayt traditions’, to everyone’s relief.

The eldest, sadly, is banned from living on the compound, because he has not mellowed one bit- on the contrary ‘he seems more foreign everyday!’

Once or twice they have tried to reconcile their differences, but my brother-in-law remains a stubborn mule. To the point that his children prefer to spend most of their lives at their grandparents, than at home. When my in-laws see on TV or are read to from newspapers and magazines (neither read nor write) they cry at the injustices of people neither allowed nor allowing each other the true comforts of family living. Which is one reason my mother in law blames the Saudis: ‘Ever since our men went there to work, they have come back with the worst manners and thoughts. How can your mother, sister or wife be treated as if she were haraam?!’

Life for them was never easy, true – but they tried their hardest to at least have peace and joy in their home to be shared by all. It has not always worked in their favor; ostracized by their own brothers. But for them, it is what Allah will ask of them with regards to their own children that matters. ‘Allah knows I had no hand in making my son so foreign!’

My father in law believes and lives the motto of the ‘family that eats (and pray) together, stays together.’

Indeed we do!


late 60s & 70’s- a world gone mad or an un announced WW III?

Reading The Nation’s article “Heroic Impatience” by Diego Gambetta about the Baader Meinhof Gang or RAF; I couldn’t help but recall those years. I was too young to voice my opinion, if I had any at the time they were colored by the life that surrounded me. But the images that came back from that time are most certainly clear and fresh. I had been recently ‘shipped’ to Dominican Republic to study. My mother’s idea of saving me from the urban warfare in NYC.  She plump plopped me in the middle of chaos! Now years later, sitting with my boss over coffee discussing the things that went on during those years, all over the world, I know the world had gone mad.

I remember vividly leaving in the middle of class because at the near by UASD -Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo another set of tear gas bombs had gone off. Of running not knowing why, but knowing those were gun shots behind me. Of hearing my uncles quietly discussing the latest radio or tv black out- at the time I think there were only three or four channels. “Calla, o manana amaneces con la boca llena de mime”! Was an often harshly whispered threat or advice to university students and professors alike. “Keep your mouth shut, or tomorrow flies will fill your mouth”. My youngest uncles where I lived, were newly minted university professors. One was in the department of chemistry at ‘la UASD’. The other at UNFU -Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena, in the department of engineering. Their gatherings never held anywhere near the ‘galeria’ that might face the street and therefore a suspicious target for the ‘calie’ of Balaguer… That would definitely be your “disappearing ticket”.

The day that sticks out in my mind was the day I learned about Sagrario Diaz, an economics major at UASD; brutally shot in the head as she ran from another raid by the militarized police sent into the Campus to stop a protest rally. The police shot at her as she dived for the floor in one of the hallways trying to flee… It was, and is still a very sore spot in Dominican Republic and a symbol of what was happening in other parts of the world to university students alike. To this day I still get chills when I hear shots fired, shouting, running and cars screeching in the middle of the night…especially the running.

Below are the images that I found of those times, from every corner of the earth: USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Dominican, Republic Peru, Argentina, Spain, Europe, China, Vietnam, Middle East, Africa…

The world gone mad or was it an unannounced third World War?

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