Originally posted on STB:
بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
If there is one thing I am learning this Ramadan, it is the navigation of the flaws of others in a way that is compassionate and wise.
Let me start by saying that we have a tendency, as Muslims, to romantisize Ramadan; to portray it as a month where everything goes right – the execution of prayers on time and with khushoo; delicious suhurs and iftars; bountiful energy; soaring levels of iman and taqwa; no arguments or disagreements, and so forth. The reality for many of us (maybe most?), however, can be captured in this statement that I came across recently:
“Not every day or night of Ramadan is one of spiritual uplifting and glowing soulfulness. Sometimes we will be overcome by anger, frustration, resentfulness, despair; sometimes there will be good reason for it, sometimes they’re more than the situation deserves…
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I was lying in bed last night setting my alarm for suhoor, when I realized that I turned six years old today. I reverted to Islam six years ago, on the first day of Ramadan 2009. When I looked back on what seems to be the giant circle I have made, I was actually moved to tears.
Since that first Ramadan, I have graduated college, gotten my first real job, gotten married, moved to Saudi Arabia, changed cities three times, gotten the legal marriage in Saudi Arabia, become certified as an English teacher, completed my Master’s degree, started a career as a free-lance writer, published a book series, and gotten divorced.
During these last years, I have not been kind to myself. I have deprived myself of things that make me happy, things that allow me to feel joy, and things that cause me to be grateful I am alive.
This is where that ends, and I begin.
I am going to make it up to myself, I promise. I have already begun visiting those friends that I wasn’t “allowed to”, doing those things I wasn’t “supposed to” and making up time with myself. It is perfectly ok that I will spend the majority of my Ramadan alone with my non-Muslim family. Al hamdililah I am so happy for this time.
This is where it all began. My parents raised me, coached me, taught me, and developed me into the woman that decided to say her shahada. Allah chose these parents for me to guide me on my path to Islam.
Allah also chose the environment in which I was raised. I was raised in a place where the water is visible from all windows in the house, and accessible through a short walk.
How did I think leaving it would not change me?
I plan on using this summer to return to all the places I have lost, and the people I have been unable to forget.
My next step is to visit Washington D.C., the place where my faith was the strongest. Ramadan is the perfect time for that. I know it won’t be the same, a lot of the community members that I once spent all my time with have moved on to different parts of the world, but the spirit is still there, alive if only in my memories.
Maybe it is simply nostalgia that is causing me to wander; maybe it is part of the mourning process, the process of starting over. I see it as a way of collecting the pieces of me I left behind, so I can leave behind the parts that I don’t need anymore.
This might be my seventh Ramadan, but I will always start again in this month. Every year I return to the place I chose this life, and every year I choose again.
I wish you all a healthy, safe, productive, and blessed Ramadan. May our fasts, prayers, supplications and charity be accepted and rewarded.
As always, salaam wa alaikum.
The good news is that I am no longer angry. I left Riyadh almost a month ago and the fog that enveloped my brain is finally beginning to lift. When I was preparing to leave Riyadh, I was so exhausted and emotionally drained that I wanted to go straight home. Apparently this wasn’t good enough. Due to the generosity of old friends, I was able to enjoy six days in three countries on my way back across the Atlantic. I am extremely grateful to have people in my life that care so much about my well-being and future. Those six days provided a much needed break between the ridiculousness of Riyadh and the deafening quiet of my return to the United States.
The most challenging aspect of leaving was packing. It essentially forced me to not drag anything that wasn’t truly important across the Atlantic because my baggage had to come out with me in every country (non-connecting flights). After trying to sort through my apartment, I came to the realization that it all had to go. I left a lot of things in that apartment that I really wish I could have brought with me, but it is just stuff. I am done hauling around things that weigh me down. J
Beautiful masha’Allah <3
Originally posted on The Secret Hijabi:
Loving a Revert means never doubting,
And never nagging.
Loving a revert means always loving,
always being patient,
and always forgiving.
Loving a revert means to live with a child,
innocent and new to the world,
curious and puzzled,
wanting to see and touch all.
Loving a revert means to see the world differently,
Loving a revert is difficult,
and to most a problem.
Loving a revert means knowing you love Allah,
and His Prophet (SAW).
Thank you to all those beautiful souls who love reverts. It’s not easy living with us, but we appreciate your efforts. May Allah bless you all abundantly and grant you a beautiful Akhira, Ameen!
To my Husband who goes through the struggle that is me each and every day, Jazakhallah Kahiran for being you.
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I turned the shower off and stepped out of the tub onto the bare tile. I didn’t even bother with the shower shoes. The floor was littered with my clothing; caked in blood and now soaking wet. Still shivering, I wrapped my body in a towel. I looked in the mirror and was taken aback by how normal I looked. My eyes were still the same almond shape, my skin the same pale pink, my hair was the only thing that had changed. Instead of my normally crazy curls, my wet tangles were plastered against my face and neck like an odd helmet. I looked completely normal. Even my face showed no signs of the most recent conduct. The only evidence of my role as a murderer, the scratches on my legs, would soon be covered. Staring into my own reflection, I began to feel lost.
Suddenly, the door to the bathroom swung open, causing my heart to skip a beat. My husband tended to walk into the bathroom unannounced, causing me to jump. Then I remembered Hamoodi had been the one to put me in the shower. I exhaled; knowing that who I thought it was couldn’t have opened that door and he never would again. A pinprick of sadness began to develop in my still rapidly beating heart. The word never was so final. Tears once again began to roll down my cheeks, just as they had when Hamoodi entered the apartment. I must have called him and told him to come, but I don’t remember doing either.
He found me in the living room on the floor, furiously sobbing, and dragged me to the bathroom and put me in the bathtub. He placed two blunts on the side of the tub, next to a yellow lighter and then grabbed my face between his two hands. His eyes scanned mine, pleading for me to speak. I couldn’t get my mouth to work; I just covered his hands with mine and nodded. He planted a brief kiss on my lips and left without a word, shutting the door behind him. I wasn’t sure how long ago that had been, if any time had passed at all. How could he fix this?
His words brought me back to the present.
“Everything is finished. We need to get you out of here.”
Although I knew he made sense, I felt irrationally irritated by his words.
“Leave? Where am I going to go?”
I should have wanted nothing more than to leave the scene of my worst moments, but I felt oddly rooted in place.
“You need to go to the airport.”
“Hamoodi, how can I go to the airport?” I don’t have a ticket or an exit visa. I have nothing packed.”
His voice rose a little higher. I noticed for the first time that he had been sweating profusely. I looked down at his hands. Although his palms and fingers were clean, his nails were crusted red brown. My legs began to quake beneath me. I clutched the sink in an effort to stop the room from spinning and swallowed hard. My stomach swiftly clenched, causing me to spill the day out into the sink. After I stopped heaving, I stayed there for a moment. I was already bent over, so I let my cheek rest on the cool porcelain.
Hamoodi began rubbing my back and whispering to me in soothing tones, but I couldn’t focus on his words. He sounded so far away and distorted, like a recording being played backwards. I stared at the white walls, hoping my stomach was finished. My eyes drifted a bit, to the two toothbrushes on the sink, one blue and one pink. The pink one was standing upright in the holder, the blue one carelessly tossed onto the edge of the sink, collecting dirt. This small simple act of neglect had irritated me day after day, month after month. I then realized that I would never again fight for that toothbrush to be in its proper place.
…What had we done?
I walked through Hayat Mall one last time as a way to say goodbye. I spent so much of my time here walking alone; I thought it was a fitting end to my time here. You have given me a lot of things and I wanted to make sure you knew that I was grateful.
Riyadh, I’m not sure if we will meet again, but I’m glad we did. I experienced immeasurable romance, indescribable joy, tremendous pain, and unspeakable misery within your boundaries. Your heat, sun, and wind carved me up like a desert rock and I am forever grateful.
Here’s to all there is to be and all there ever was.
Two nights ago I had a horrible dream. My subconscious swirled with darkness and despair as I spun around being chased by biting insects. I was in a dark place with shallow puddles of water, almost like a sewer. My husband (ex?) was there in some capacity, although I cannot remember what exactly his role was.
I had been ruminating on whether to leave Saudi Arabia on a final exit, to leave my options open to returning or simply leaving on an exit/re-entry and burning my options here to the ground. A voice kept repeating the name of the employer for which I had considered returning. My soul was weighed into this dream and I had difficulty returning from it. I was completely shaken and disturbed by this dream. I retrieved my husband from the living room so he could lay with me until I fell asleep. I was feeling very vulnerable and scared and I was so terrified by the dream; I told him I would decide to burn down the bridge for the job as opposed burning down the bridge to him.
In situations like these, we can only do our best to make decisions with the information we are provided at the time. Everything changed for me when I was contacted that morning by an old friend. This friend had known me since I arrived in Riyadh and we had lost touch since I had moved away. They were visiting Riyadh and wanted to meet up for a walk. I decided to take the sign of someone suddenly returning to my life as an opportunity, so I met them in the Diplomat Quarter for a walk. They had some trouble getting into the DQ because of the new security protocols so it was well over an hour before we started walking. As I started to explain my situation, my friend was overcome with emotion. The words that were spoken to me were a shock of perspective.
“I still cannot believe you are still in the same situation you were in exactly three years ago.”
I realized then and there that three entire years of my life were spent in an emotionally unfulfilling relationship. Although this was partially due to circumstances, it is completely unacceptable.
In a remarkably succinct occurrence of fate, the ex-husband stumbled across the “I’m in Love with the Driver” series. The very pages that had served to save me from my pain, illicit desires, and overwhelming grief had been called to serve an even higher purpose. Confronting me this morning with accusations of infidelity, homosexuality, Satanism, and probably even veganism; he illustrated perfectly how little he knew about my life in general.
Instead of playing into the drama, I simply responded with, “I’m done.”
I am done fighting for the sake of fighting.
I am done with sacrificing my very essence.
I am done with separate lives and dreams.
I am done here without happiness.
I am done here alone.
I am done here.
I am done.
I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to seriously leave your Saudi, but be prepared for an emotional war. Men that were cold and distant will suddenly become affectionate and loving husbands. Sub7an’Allah! Why would you ever want to leave them?
I truly cannot take the back and forth and want to flee the country. However, I want to leave with a clean slate so I can come back on a work visa if I shall desire.
Why in the world couldn’t he care so much about my well-being before I had reached the end of my rope?
Despite my warnings, pleadings, and clear ultimatums; he did absolutely nothing until I pushed for the divorce and final exit.
I actually heard this statement this morning from the man who refused to discuss every single problem in our marriage, including our fertility issues:
“You know if you go on a final exit and come back on a work visa; our kids won’t have the nationality.”
Why would he assume that I would still be married/involved with him?
Even if I did stay with him, we had tried for two years to have children…and since he refuses to discuss it or go to the doctor…where are these children going to appear from?
Am I missing something here?
Perhaps I am extremely pessimistic and bitter, but it seems like a low blow to me. An emotional bullet meant to weaken my resolve, not an actual concern.
However, I have been told that cognitive processes are hindered by elevated levels of stress and that definitely applies to this situation.