Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Years Later

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

My apologies for not posting in such a long time. Being back at school changes the whole dynamic of things, mashaa'Allah. Tomorrow I have my last exam for the first semester - on the Seerah of the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam - and then a nice break. Inshaa'Allah, it will give me an opportunity to add a few posts and some photos.

Here we are, two years and two months after moving to Madinah al Munawarrah and I can honestly say that much benefit has been reaped so far, al hamdul'Illah. School this year is opening up understanding of the Qur'an that I only ever dreamed about before. Believe me, all the work and confusion gone through in the Level 2 class (Madinah Books - Level 2) are all coming together in Level 3 and Allah's Perfect Words become less and less of a mystery. Al hamdul'Illah and mashaa'Allah!

I have an unfinished post about an execution hubby went to see before Ramadhaan, which I am hoping to complete very soon bi ithn Illah. Also, a post about how we are getting on with our composting and gardening experiments here is in the works, and more information on social life, restrictions, and benefits of living here bi ithn Illah.

Jazaakum Allahu khayran for your patience.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Explanation of Prejudice here

Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Anonymous.

Wa iyaaki and may Allah bless you and your family with even more than you have wished for us - ameen.

Although this can be said for the Khaleej (GCC) countries in general, I will elaborate on the prejudice here in Saudi on a few levels. My observations and comments are based on 18 years of living in the Middle East; 16 in Bahrain and 2 in Saudi Arabia.

Saudis are prejudice regarding color, nationality, socio-economic status, and materialism, wa Allahu musta'an. Within their own society, they will not marry someone of a different skin shade. I have discussed this with Saudi women, particularly those who are hitting 30 and still unmarried. Even in the face of our Prophet's Last Khutbah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) regarding our equality regardless of color, they do not deviate from their insistence that they must marry someone of the same shade. I asked if they could marry lighter than themselves and was told no. Here is the thinking, or at least part of it.

If I marry someone darker than me, then that isn't good. (Darker means lower in some way or marrying down.) If I marry someone lighter than me, then I'm not nice for him. (Remember, darker is not nice in comparison.) Once the teachers found out that I was married to an African American, they were quite dumbfounded as to why I would marry someone darker than myself when there is no problem with me. They nod their heads when I talk about deen being paramount and color being irrelevant, but they most certainly aren't implementing that in their own lives.

A true scenario was a case of a Saudi man wishing to marry again. He told my husband that he wanted to marry an American but stated that she had to be a white American, not black, as they might have children and you know how the people are here.

With such a mindset, darker shaded people are considered in some way inferior, of worker class, and are usually treated with less respect and esteem than those who are lighter. Similarly, nationality is almost a trophy here. To be Saudi, American, or British and white or very light skinned, you are at the top of the heap. To be from Africa, the Far East, or the subcontinent and dark skinned puts you at the bottom of the heap. This is to such an extent that if there are a group of people waiting for their vegetables to be weighed and priced by an Arab employee, the light skinned ones will be served first and the dark skinned left to the end. Many experience it from the time they land and stand in the immigration lines at Madinah Airport. I know it sounds rather outrageous, and it is more evident in some places and situations than others, but most certainly it is a reality.

A real example is the subcontractor's pay-scale for the teachers at Saudi Universities. Americans and British earn more than someone from South Africa, India, or Uzbekistan. Regardless of whether the employee from one of the less esteemed countries has more qualifications or is far better than his peers, his nationality alone warrants a lower salary.

As for socio-economic status, if you are holding a degree, especially if it is a Masters or PhD, and have a job of good standing that obviously pays well, then that raises you in the esteem of the people here. Having money and education are an offset to less attractive aspects like a "unimpressive" nationality or a less preferred skin tone.

Finally,  materialism is paramount for the majority of's all about how you look. If you drive a newer model GMC or better, are turned out in immaculate thobes, good shoes, nice watches, expensive abayas, a  vast and brand name riddled wardrobe of clothes, and accessories for every look imaginable, it will be considered a big plus for you. You will augur respect and manners just from your appearance. Just going regularly to the mall and shopping will augur VIP treatment from the shop employees and owners, as they can see you are conspicuously spending, i.e., you have money and you take appearance seriously, just as they do.

Okay, this sounds negative...and the poorer the Saudi, the less some of these things will apply. We were blessed to have a Saudi Arabian neighbor who was one of these simpler folk. He is working class, living modestly, and has gifted us with dates, helped us move, and is generally pleasant and respectful all around.

But let's look at it from a different perspective. The people here have been raised upon tawheed. Shaytaan has no access to them, for the most part inshaa'Allah, in regards to this and the basic tenets of Islam. Therefore, he must get them from other angles and this prejudice is one of them. We all have our failings and imperfections; may Allah correct, guide, and forgive us all - ameen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Popular Questions Answered

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

These are some common questions that are asked regarding living here in Madinah. I'm posting them, along with our answers, to provide other readers with a clearer idea.

Is there any US, British international school in Madinah. No

What is the quality of education for chidren in Madinah. Poor

Are there co education shools in Madinah? No

What would be the fees per child per month for education in the best school in Madinah? School fees are paid by the year or semester (two semesters per year), not by the month. The best school is about 13,000 riyal per year.

What would be the costof living per month in Medinah for a family of 4. breaking up into:
This is a difficult question, as it depends on your lifestyle, but generally:

Cost per month of Groceries and food items.  1800 riyal

Cost per month for utilities like Gas, water, electricity, Telephone, internet, Cable connection.  Gas cylinders are 16-18 riyal each (last about one month), water is free if you live in an apartment (flat) if not 150 every 3 months, 50-200 for electricity, everyone uses a mobile phone (it's up to you how much you spend but the rate is perhaps 35 halala per minute (check the STC website for rates), 25 - 35 per text message.), 2200 per year for internet.

Cost per month for hiring a driver for the car.
500-700 per month if they own the car, and pick you up when needed... 2000 or more if they are a driver who lives in your house and drives your car.

Cost per month for recreation, like going out for sight seeing, dining ones a week in a decent restaurant: anywhere from 200 - 700 riyal.

Cost per month for general maintenance like house hold dishes, soaps, washing and cleaning item )assuming a large 3 bedroom type accomodation) 50 - 100 riyal.

Cost per month for rent for a 3 bedroom, Villa in a decent location close to Nabi (SAW) Masjid, or any other nearby residential area. 35,000 - 50,000 riyal per year.

What is the rate of taxes on salary earned in Saudi Arabia? There are no taxes on income in Saudi Arabia.

What is cost of medical facility in Madinah, visiting fee for a general physician, a specialist like eye or heart specialist? Are there good quality doctors and medical centre and hospitals in Madinah? A general visit is between 50-200 riyal. I am not happy with the general quality of the doctors or the hospitals here.

If there are no good schools what does the expatriates community do for the education of their kids, do they compromise heavily on education?
Many of us home-school. Some of us send their children to Saudi schools and home-school. Others compromise their children's education.

How is the social life on weekends there? Madinah doesn't have much of social atmosphere, it is a place of learning.There are many different nationalities. Please be advised, the Saudis are very prejudice. It is really a matter of making friends and then getting together for your own social life.

How much does a brand new car cost- Lets say Honda Civic, and Toyota prado. I'm not sure of the price of a brand new car, but you finance one for about 800 riyal per month.

What is the cost of litre of petrol there? 100 halala per litre for the best petrol.   It cost 17 riyal fill a small car (Honda Civic or Toyota Prado).

As i read in your blogs that spending more time in Masjid Nabvi is quite hard due to the visitors, then if some one just wants to move there to spend more time at Holy Prophet(PBUH) roza and in the Holy Mosque ideally praying 5 times there, how do u see that mean how practical it is.
It can be done, with some effort and giving yourself enough time to find a place to park and be there early enough to get inside to pray. During the Hajj period and for two months thereafter, it is quiet and residents can enjoy the Haram effortlessly. Afterwards, it needs timing coordination, and for jumu'ah prayers, you need to be there at least two hours before the prayer to get a place inside. Although many of us think and hope to pray there 5 times a day, with work and school schedules, that isn't realistic or feasible for anyone we know.

With regards to the schools, I will do a separate post compiling our various responses on that subject, inshaa'Allah.

I pray it benefits.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Around 200 bananas

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

After finally peeling and freezing the last of at least 35 - 40 kilos of bananas, I thought I'd let you know how things work here. When you find something you like, want, need, or use for your food or cooking, it is best to stock up. Things that are in the shop today, may not be seen again for months, years, or ever again.

In our first weeks in Madinah, when my husband came home with 20 packs of organic wholewheat pasta, jars and jars of fruit spread, and bags of organic sugar, I told him he was being excessive. Once we started getting low on those items and we found that there weren't any in stock anymore, I started to realize the wisdom in stocking up.

Bananas are usually around SAR 5 per kilo. Sometimes they are cheaper in the big supermarkets and go down to SAR 3.75 or even SAR 3. As we use bananas for our frozen treat, "Better than Ice-Cream", and also smoothies, we are usually on the look out for good prices and nice quality bananas. Last week Carrefour was selling bananas for the lowest price ever: SAR 1.95 per kilo. Subhaan Allah, hubby couldn't pass it up. He came home with around 10 bags full of bananas. There were so many, mashaa'Allah, that I had to find buckets to store them in. It took me 3 days to peel them, break them into chunks and pack them in buckets for the freezer. Now we have enough frozen bananas for smoothie every day in Ramadan, inshaa'Allah.

Of course, we are a family of six so we have to stock up differently than a smaller family, but after a very short time one learns that if you find it and you need it or the price is right, you need to buy it up!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Ramadhaan

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Madinah is a blessed place to be in Ramadhaan, but my reasons for loving it are not perhaps what you would expect. It isn't because we can go the Masjid an Nabawi, because the crowds are so great that we don't usually go there until the end of the month and Eid al Fitr.

The beauty of being here is that it is so hot and nothing much is open during the fasting day, we have nothing to do but stay at home. This opens the doors for a structured programme for the family. My day starts at 3:00 a.m. when I wake up to pray tahajjud. I get suhoor started, pray 2 - 4 rakaat, and then finish preparing suhoor and wake up the family. I have some fruit or a smoothie, leave the rest of the family to eat their suhoor, and finish my tahajjud and witr prayers. Then we pray fajr and the children all go back to bed. I wash the dishes, clear up the kitchen and then  settle down to read Qur'an in Arabic. I read up to about 6 - 6:30 a.m., at least 30 minutes after the sunrise, and then offer 2 nawafil rakaat of prayer. Then I usually take some rest for a couple of hours.

When we all get up, I read the juz for the following day from the Sahih International Qur'an Translation in English. I write out some questions from the juz and send them to the children through Skype. They also get questions on the Daily Sittings in Ramadhaan by Shk, Uthaymeen from my husband. Their primary goal during the day is to read their juz, answer the questions and send them to me for checking, and read the Daily Sitting and send their answers to their father. We are also slowly going though an aqeedah book, memorizing responses to fundamental questions in Islam.

Then the children are free to play, have an hour on the computer for some beneficial websites, etc. until it is time to break the fast. Sometime after Asr, I open up the kitchen and prepare the futoor (meal to break our fast). I have planned ahead to ensure that the meals during Ramadhaan are liked by all the family members, but do not take a long time to prepare. I am striving to improve both my focus and my use of time each year, inshaa'Allah.

We break our fast with dates and water. Yes, we have the great blessing of being able to drink Zamzam water every day and access to Madinah dates, mashaa'Allah. We all pray maghrib, and then settle down to eat our evening meal. After this, everyone relaxes until isha' prayer and then after the prayer, we all sit down to have a small sweet treat from the homemade biscuits, cookies, and biscotti I made in preparation for Ramadan. Then the children all go to bed, and I settle down for some Qur'an reading in Arabic before sleeping.

Shops are open from after dhuhr until perhaps 4 or 5 p.m. and then after the isha' or taraweeh prayer. Such timing means that I am not planning to see a shop until the month is over! The fresh meat, especially the chicken, on the supermarket shelves are emptied each day with it being hard at times to find anything if your timing isn't right. It is a month of giving food, providing for the fasting, hoping for the blessings and rewards of feeding a fasting person. Tablecloths are spread outside each masjid, with food provided for anywhere from 50 up to several hundred worshipers. The iftars at Masjid an Nabawi have been beautifully depicted on Al Miskeena's blog here.

As we approach our ninth day of fasting and the first third of this most beloved month is almost over, I already feel heart-wrenching sadness at the speed of it's passing. I already feel an impending mourning over it's loss. I already have tears in my eyes, because I know how quickly it will be gone.

There is great beauty in the fact that for the believer, we can slow that rush through silent contemplation and communication with Allah. 24/7 communication with our beloved Therapist eliminates so many of the distractions and fitna of this dunya.

My precious readers, may this be our best Ramadhan ever. May the gates of Ar-Rayyaan stand wide open for us and may we meet Allah without account - ameen!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In Wonderful Madinah...Can it be?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Many get the impression that Madinah is a small heaven on earth. They imagine that it is a beautiful city filled with Muslims brimming with emaan, taqwa, and exemplary ibadah. They believe that, with so much opportunity for learning and Islamic growth, that those living here are well grounded in their Islam and all are pursuing learning. They think that there is little or no crime.

None of these things are true, Qadr Allah. Madinah is polluted, with public places strewn with rubbish. Not Masjid an Nabawi with it's extensive staff to clean and maintain, but the streets and parks are always heavily littered. A large proportion of the Muslims here have very poor manners -  a bleary reflection of weak taqwa - and many have even less Islamic knowledge than those of us from the West. Many are simply living and working here, without attending any Quran or Islamic classes. There is crime: theft, attempts to bring in drugs, and vandalism.

Our family vehicle, a Chrysler Town and Country, had a mechanical problem that rendered it immovable and sitting parked in front of our apartment building. Literally, on the day  my husband intended to go down and see about getting it fixed, he went to find the windshield and two of the rear passenger windows smashed in by big rocks. We were shocked.

We learned that it was some local teenage boys, but nobody will identify them. The police came to take a report of the incident, but offered no words of hope regarding them looking for the vandals. There is no insurance coverage for such things. Insurance here is to pay for you damaging someone else's car, not for repairs to your own car. Basically, when something like this happens, you say Qadr Allah, mashaa fa'al, and you have to find the money to fix the damage yourself. In our case, as it will cost thousands to fix the vandalism and have the van up and running again, we have had to rent a car for the past three months.

These truths are not told to devalue Madinah in any way. They are told to remind you and ourselves that there is no heaven on earth and that even the most blessed of places will have great fitan and injustices. Why? Because we are not meant to love this dunya and we need reminders and tests to make us yearn for Jennah. Such things are blessings from Allah, reminders that nowhere on this earth can compare an iota with our ultimate goal.

May we all strive for Jennah al Firdaus and keep it as our primary goal when we face the trials of this dunya - ameen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moving House

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Please forgive me for not posting in so long. Subhaan Allah, life is busy here.I started writing this when we were in the second half of the second semester of school and exams were looming. Now we have just finished the summer Qur'an programme and are on vacation until after Eid al Fitr....two months later!

Anyway, we decided to move to a villa (a detached house with a wall around it). One of the things about living in Madinah is that if you live in an apartment the children won't have anywhere safe to play. It is madness to let the children play in the street with the irresponsible and maniacal driving. In fact, there isn't anywhere for them to ride their bicycles either. As we approach the end of our second year here, mashaa'Allah, we decided to move to a house with a good outside area for the children to be able to play in. We first thought of Iskan, where the majority of expatriate families in houses live. The price of the houses there ranges from SAR 30,000 (if you're blessed) to 50,000 per year. Of course you can find more expensive than that if you like! However, after living for 2 years in an apartment, we realized that it would make a huge difference to our lives, and especially the lives of the children, to live in a house. For this reason, we searched in Aziziya, which is just outside of the Haram area. It is far less expensive, mashaa'Allah, with far better and nicer housing for the price than town center.

To give an idea, hubby saw two 5 bedroom apartments that looked like the Meridien hotel and they were only SAR 24,500 per year. Yes, I did say 5 bedrooms. There would also be a kitchen, at least 3-4 bathrooms, and two sitting areas for guests at minimum. In any case, they didn't have any area for playing and we wanted something simple, so we rented an older, large, 4 bedroom villa that has a huge courtyard area including a small planted area with date palms, a gravel patch for a tent and/or pool, and plenty of tiled area to play and enjoy the outdoors, along with a complete walled roof for riding bikes and running wild. The cost? SAR 23,000 per year, mashaa'Allah.

I have been exploring the area with my daughters and found nice quality cotton clothes for a fraction of the price of those in the malls and stores closer to the Haram. The general atmosphere is far more relaxed and pleasant, as this area isn't swarming with Umrah visitors and tourists, mashaa'Allah. Al hamdul'Illah, a new chapter of living in Madinah....with a new level of sakinah (peace/tranquility) and some freedom to enjoy the outdoors within our own private walls. All praise be to Allah, the Perfect Provider of all needs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Studying Quran

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

All the tahfeedth programmes here start the students with Qaidat an Nooraniyah. It a very simple and effective way to learn to read Arabic - especially Quranic Arabic - correctly and accurately. The shaykh we are told to listen to for our memorization is Sheikh Ibrahim Al Akhdar. He is the former Imam of Masjid an Nabawi and mashaa'Allah, tabarak Allah his recitation is incredibly clear and precise. You can hear every technique of tajweed, count exactly the harakat for each madd, mashaa'Allah. If you would like to listen to him, check out, inshaa'Allah.

The other shaykh we are told to listen to, second to Ibrahim al Akhdar, is Shaikh Al Hudhaify, the current Imam at Masjid an Nabawi. Perhaps we are told these because they are from Madinah? I don't know. However, I must stay that listening to Ibrahim Al Akhdar has improved my recitation dramatically, mashaa'Allah. May Allah reward him with lofty places in Jennah al Firdaus - ameen.

We are told that every day we should memorize something, even if it is only one ayah. Otherwise we are giving in to shaytaan's whispers. We learn the tajweed rules in the first three levels of the Arabic programme, but in levels 3 and 4, they learn the makhaarij (correct pronunciation) of the letters, mashaa'Allah. At each level, we learn more and our Quran recitation is checked for more of the tajweed rules and correct makhraj.  We work backwards in the Quran, in order. That meant that whatever suwar I knew in my hodgepodge  way had to be ordered and I had to learn any that I was missing in between as I went in order backwards for Juz Ammah.

Exams for Quran are by Juz, and the bigger exams are for 5, 10,15... Ajuz. In these, the teacher will select one or two surahs from each Juz and have the student recite a part of it from any ayah they instruct them. For this reason, it is very important to do revision of the suwar that have been memorized on a daily basis as well. These must be rotated and always kept up so that they aren't forgotten as the repertoire of suwar grows, inshaa'Allah.

There are so many excellent programs online to learn tajweed rules and the makhaarij of letters that really one can do excellent home study of the Quran. Of course, it is important for your recitation to be checked regularly by someone who is qualified to do so, but most surely you can do a lot by yourself if you are motivated. I find that even when we have a vacation now, I take time to memorize a new surah and keep my revision up, mashaa'Allah.

May we all learn the Quran so that we feel it in our hearts, implement it in our lives, and seek it for our souls - ameen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Halal and Tayyibaat Food

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Prior to moving to Saudi Arabia, we had been living a very "green" life, mashaa'Allah. We took seriously the amanah of our bodies, our earth, and our environment from Allah. We ate organic, unprocessed, whole foods. We were concerned about being able to eat healthily here in Madinah, especially knowing how limited good quality food is and not knowing what kind of regulations Saudi Arabia had on the types of pesticides and insecticides permitted for agricultural use.

There is an amazing amount of very poor quality, cheap, chemical-laden food here. Junk food such as chips loaded with MSG, artificially colored and flavored everything with all manner of additives, no apparent regulations on the ingredients of cheap candy for children, with the exception of it being technically halal, and shelves full of empty, harmful calorie snack and processed foods. Sadly, the diet of the majority here is very poor. It is the subcontinent workers, who cannot afford all those little convenience packs, who seem to eat more healthily as they have to actually cook. They are the ones who we see carrying bags of vegetables back home on Jumu'ah, mashaa'Allah.

We researched before coming and found that there was a Saudi company committed to organic foods, Al Watania, mashaa'Allah. On arrival, once settled into our apartment, we found that the supermarket right over the road from our apartment building had a diet section with a small but good range of organic foods, such as wholewheat pastas, brown and red rice, raw sugar, fruit spreads, etc. After checking out the other supermarkets, we found wider ranges of beans, grains, apple cider vinegar, etc. Al Watania chickens were easily available, as were the eggs.

Then, just a few months after we arrived, an Al Watania shop opened in Madinah, where we can buy organic flour, wholegrains such as barley and wheat, organic meat, dates, honey, pasta, beans, herbs, produce, and even soap. We later learned of another shop called Kul Thimar, which sells locally grown produce and some natural foods. Another source of natural foods is a shop we finally located about a month ago called, Beit al Gheethaa. It has many things for natural health, including bancha tea and twigs, different whole grains and flours, real soy sauce and tamari sauce, seaweed, natural body products, books, acupressure sandals, and fresh herbs. 

There is a big fruit and vegetable market in Madinah where a wide variety of vendors sell produce. Beside it is a meat market and also a fish market. There is a strip of shops that sell freshly deep fried fish, which is delicious. There is also a chicken and bird market, where live birds can be bought and chickens or turkeys can be selected to be slaughered and defeathered. There are women selling the natural, organic eggs from those birds as well. The women also sell the handwoven palm leaf mats that we bought to eat on, baskets, and palm leaf brushes.

After more investigation and looking at the size of the animals here, we learned that Saudi Arabia doesn't allow genetically modified products into the country, mashaa'Allah. They also do not appear to use any form of steroids on the animals. We have never seen a big fat animal since coming here, LOL. Even the chickens are tiny compared to what we were used to. A standard weight for a chicken here is 1 kilogram, perhaps 1.3 kg at the most.

It takes some effort to find the various things we need as usually you have to go to 4 or 5  different shops to complete our whole list, but truly Allah has made it easy for us to maintain a good standard of healthy living.
In addition, we found that there were many like minded Muslims here. They are well-educated, religiously committed, and consider healthy living part and parcel of their Islam, mashaa'Allah.  The wife of a student at the Islamic University holds classes once a month on health and nutrition, reminding and teaching the sisters about living according to halal and tayyibaat. Many families are increasingly health conscious and environmentally aware, mashaa'Allah.

Subhaan Allah, we came here thinking we might be the odd ones out, but we find that people are seeking us out for advice on where to find healthy, safe food and on natural living. We have traveled to this blessed city and found people from all over the world with like minds and hearts, wa al hamdu l'Illah!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is Hijrah Forever?

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

This is a post that may have a sequel, however hubby and I have sat and composed this to address the outlook and reality for others who desire to make hijrah to Muslim countries, and to Saudi Arabia - Makkah/Madinah specifically.

It is important to think about the meaning of hijrah and whether the place you move to is somewhere you will be able to stay or not. When we got on the plane to move to Madinah, we came with the understanding that this isn't our country and that with the immigration laws so difficult here, it isn't likely we will be able to live here forever.  Anyone who comes here, unless they are a national of the country, can end up leaving at any time. Even if you are a national, your citizenship can be revoked.

It isn't wise to put all your eggs in one basket. Ideally if we could live here and do all the things we want to do in the States here, and have the assurance that things could go without trouble then we would stay. However, we are expats - here to work. Once we don't work or aren't of any service to the government or private sector, there is no compelling reason to keep us here. Unlike the countries we are from, we are very familiar with the job market, retirement, and things needed to live but we don't have the fear of being kicked out of our own country.

If we look at the life of the sahaba (radhi Allahu anhum), we see that very few of them are buried in Madinah. They scattered throughout the world giving da'wah. How can we justify living in a land that is not ours after we have acquired knowledge? Shouldn't we go back and benefit the people that are like us and didn't have the opportunity we had?

For a scholar who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia to come to the United States or the UK for example and give da'wah to educate the people, it would very difficult. He is not familiar with the common problems in Western society, such as drug abuse, blended families, deviant racist branches of so-called Islam and a whole style of life that is not conducive to Islam. However, we are from these lands, we know the problems such as when the Muslim drug addict comes to the masjid and steals the money from the zakat box...or the woman who is a stripper during the evening but attends the masjid for jumu'ah. The simple answer that the scholars give of "fear Allah" is not what the hearts of these people need. However, those who have lived amongst those people have a better understanding of the trials and tribulations they go through. In that respect we are better suited to help the negative nature of these Muslims and help them strive towards the straight and narrow path.

If I sit in Saudi, who am I giving da'wah to? Who am I teaching? For us, it is a life of service and you cannot serve until you learn, so this is our school.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Rowdah

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Yesterday, Thursday morning, I went to the Rowdah Shareefah with my daughters. It is the first time I've been there since I arrived in Madinah, Qadr Allah. It was also one of my last chances to get there before the Umrah crowds return. Subhaan Allah, it was so easy. The light green section of the carpet is the area of the Rowdah to pray on....and we prayed easily, mashaa'Allah. I remembered every one of you in my dua', al hamdul'Illah.

The graves were sectioned off so we couldn't go over to give salaams directly in front of them, but I gave salaams for all of you - my followers. I also gave salaams by name for certain of you who asked, and certain of you who I knew would want me to. If you are wondering why the graves are sometimes open for ziyaarah and other times not, I believe it has to do with which Umrah groups are visiting, the volume of people. You see, some people don't understand that we do not worship the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, or pray facing the graves, etc. Many things are done here to protect the Muslims from themselves, their misunderstandings, and innovation. When the Umrah groups are not here, apparently both sides are often open, and Allah Knows best.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Life for Women

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

I have had a couple of people ask me about social life and what women can do with their time here. There are various options.

If a woman wants to work, she can easily get employment as a teacher of English if she is a native speaker. If she doesn't have a degree, she may get a job in a private school or nursery school. If she has a degree, then she may have a wider choice of places to work. If she has a degree and a TEFL, CELTA, or similar certification, then she can apply to work at Taibah University. There are several companies that hire English teachers and then subcontract them out to different universities and institutions. If you sign a contract with one of those companies, it is possible when they are desperately trying to fill positions, that they will take you even if you don't have the ideal qualifications. There is a great difference in the salaries from perhaps SAR 2000 for a private school with no degree, to SAR 9,000 with benefits for a job at Taibah.

That said, if a woman wants to work without the headache and structure of a formal job, tutoring is very big business here. I cannot count how many times I have been asked to teach English privately. It is lucrative, you can work as much or as little as you like,  and you can set your own hours. If a visa and iqama (residence permit) aren't an issue, this is the route I would recommend. However, if you need a job to get your visa and iqama, then usually the low paying jobs won't provide them. It would be something you would have to ask about straight away, before anything else.

Of course, I already said that there are plenty of opportunities to learn Quran, Arabic, and about Islam mashaa'Allah. However, don't expect much else when it comes to learning or programs for women. There aren't many libraries, there aren't classes to develop interests or learn new sports, and you really have to get together with people of like mind if you want to do any kind of crafting circle or organised activities.

Socially, we cannot drive so our drivers, aka our husbands,  are the ones we have to "book" for any outings or events. As this is the way of life, the men are usually accommodating. One sister established a monthly talk on Fridays on health and nutrition. We had the idea of having a monthly activity for the children - similar to a scouts concept. Sisters get together at parks and each others' houses. We like to meet up at Masjid an Nabawi on Jumuah. School or tahfiz programs often give us another outlet for socialization as we make and meet friends there. Of course there are always the malls, where sisters could go and browse and then stop for coffee. We have Starbucks, Costa Coffee, etc. here and they have separate sections for sisters.

Just like anywhere, we are usually busy with our families and lives so we are always trying to find time for socialization. That is the plight of the woman...wherever she lives, LOL!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Studying and Learning in Madinah

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

There are various ways to study Arabic, Quran and Islam here in Madinah. The most famous is the Islamic University of Madinah, which takes applications from all over the world. Although there was much rumour that it only accepts students under 25 years of age, we can now say that is not true.  Construction is in progress for a brand new Women's Campus at the university, so sisters will soon be able to apply as well - whoopee!

In addition, for men who work, there are free evening classes at Islamic University for Arabic. They use the Madinah books and do all four levels.

For women, there are two main programmes for Arabic language/Quran/Islamic Studies. One place is Mount Uhud School, which takes only married women. They teach at a fast pace and the course of studies is wide, varied, and intense. They teach from Lughat Al Arabia Bayna Yadayk Books  and complete one book per semester. That means two books per year. On top of that, there are fiqh, aqeedah, hadith, and Quran memorization classes. There is a great deal of memorization of hadith and Islamic information involved and the sisters I have spoken to that attend or attended say it is difficult, mashaa'Allah. One sister said it is excellent if you already know Arabic reasonably well.

The other place, that I am attending, is Dar al Haafidhaat al Thania. It is really a tahfiz school for Quran memorization, but for years they have been teaching Arabic as well, mainly for the wives of the Jamiah students. They have Nursery, Pre-K, KG1, and KG2 classes for younger children, a special class for elementary school age girls which teaches Quran, tajweed, a bit of Arabic, and some Islamic studies, and the women's classes. There are  levels and an ordinary tahfiz programme as well. The tamheedi level teaches from the book Lughat al Arabiya Bayna Yadayk. This is for those who need to get speaking the language. They also teach some basic tajweed and, of course, Quran memorization. The first level teaches Madinah books - level 1, the second level teaches Madinah books - level 2, the third level teaches Madinah books - level 3, and the fourth level teaches the second half of Madinah books - level 3.

Everywhere, in every area, neighbourhood, or district you will find tahfiz programmes. They run in the mornings and the afternoons and are free for all. If you want to memorize Quran, every facility is available for you, mashaa'Allah.

Alternatives for learning are to learn Arabic and then study at the foot of a shaykh. Several Jamiah students have said this is a much more effective and efficient way to study. There are classes held in Masjid an Nabawi, Masjid Qiblatain, and various other locations. Dr. Muhammad Al Jibaly holds classes for teenage boys once a week. Wives of shaykhs and qualified sisters hold classes for women, also.

This is a place where it is difficult not to gain 'ilm. Rather you bump into it even when you aren't trying. Just imagine, my husband called me at Asr time to tell me that there was a lesson on Quran recitation, the rules of tajweed, being given at the little masjid by our apartment. It was on the loudspeaker, so I could even open the window and hear it, mashaa' Allah. Truly, there is no excuse not to learn and grow.

Even though my husband is teaching here, he has gained immense knowledge just from his talks with his friends who attend the Jamiah or used to attend. These are brothers who have degrees in Shariah, Hadith, Fiqh, Aqeedah, and  Da'wah. Some have Masters and some are working on their PhD's mashaa'Allah. May Allah give them tawfeeq and may we, who are so blessed to be invited to the home of our beloved Rasool, salla Allahu alahyi wa sallam,  gain all the benefit Allah is offering us from this - ameen.