Monday, December 31, 2012

Female Shop Attendants

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

After much lobbying, it was finally approved for women to staff ladies lingerie shops, and various other shops that are mainly frequented by women. This means that they will be only staffed by women, as there cannot be a male attendant in the same shop at the same time as the woman attendant. The implications of this were not fully considered by us, but hubby had a taste of it the other day when we went shopping and wanted to go to The Body Shop, which sells ranges of body care products and fragrances for both women and men. He found he could not enter because it was staffed by a woman. The sign said, "families only," which means women or women with their mahrem.

This led to us wondering how a man could get a gift for his wife or purchase something for himself in such a situation. It is certainly nice for women to be able to go and buy underwear, etc. in a comfortable and halal environment, but this has made us wonder how many other shops will end up banning male customers if they aren't accompanied by a female. It will limit business if it extends to all womens' clothing shops, perfume shops, etc. It will be interesting to watch and see how it all works out, in shaa Allah.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Real Scoop

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa RahmatUllahi wa Barakatuh.

So many things about Saudi Arabia in general and the real issues and opinions held here can be found in the online newspapers. It is not always pleasant or encouraging reading, but it is very real and will put things in a better perspective for those who are seriously seeking to come here. The more you know about the reality of a place, the better prepared you are for living in it.

Saudi Gazette

Arab News

Saturday, December 1, 2012

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Special Announcement

Bismillah Ar Rahmanir Raheem

By the permission of Allah, brother Abu Abdur Razzaq Taahir Wyatt, who is currently enrolled in a PhD program in Madeenah, was selected  to be the first American ever to get a royal approval to teach in the Prophet's Masjid in Madeenah. This is an individual who was a non-Muslim 17 years ago, who was also born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa and now by Allah's permission has been selected and approved to educate the Muslims from all over the world in one of the most sacred and holiest places on earth alongside many of our well known scholars of the Sunnah. 

May Allah protect him
and preserve him and forgive us and him for our many shortcomings, indeed He is able to do all things

Your brothers in Islam 


Monday, October 1, 2012

National Day and Masjid an Nabawi

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

We had two days for for Saudi National Day, last Saturday and Sunday, although Sunday was the actual day. It is a spectacle that has caused my husband to make a point of staying in the house after Asr to avoid the fitnah of it all, wa Allahu musta'an. On the streets of Madinah, one will see the cars stuck in traffic for hours, as the youth dress in national colors of green and white, paint their faces and bodies, play blaring music from their cars, shout, sing, and dance on their cars and in the streets, and even young women can be seen without hijab. Allahu musta'an.

Oddly, the traffic was at a stand still the day following National Day, and hubby called to say that he was stuck in the traffic because King Abdullah was visiting Madinah. He returned home to find out why and learned that he was here because of the massive expansion project being planned for Masjid an Nabawi.  It can be read about here.

Photos of the planned expansion are below. The existing Masjid accommodates 200,000 worshipers inside, but the expansion should accommodate 1.6 million, mashaa'Allah.

Naturally there is a lot of destruction of relatively new construction involved. In the three years we have been here there has been continuous construction going on, but nothing to compare with this scale, mashaa'Allah. Now we are wondering if it will be like Makkah, with thick dust and construction debris all over the place for years to come. Qadr Allah wa maa shaa fa'al.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eid in Yanbu

As salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Please forgive me for such a long hiatus in posting on this blog. I was posting daily on my main blog during Ramadhaan and my father was here visiting for a couple of months. These are just a few photos of Yanbu, the beach with consistently breezy weather and beautiful clear waters of the Red Sea.

As my father so aptly noted, it is a beautiful and safe place for families. While it isn't a restricted area, and non-Muslims may go there, we have never witnessed any women on the beach without abaya and hijab/shayla/khimaar, and most also wear niqaab, mashaa'Allah. There are masaajid every 200 meters along the beach and a strip of play areas just behind them every 50 meters or so. Just behind them, there is a walkway and road, and another strip of grassy areas for picnicking and more little playground areas. This goes on for quite a long stretch and can accommodate literally thousands of families. There are horse and carriage rides to be hired out, pony rides, beach buggy rentals, and ice cream, coffee, and snack trucks patrolling the beach from around Asr prayer onwards.

This trip we drove right along the beach, past this most developed part, to areas where there was more private and quiet beachfront with deeper water more suited to swimming. There were also stretches of beach where it was rocky and unsuitable for swimming, where there were gazebos built for picnickers. The masaajid and bathrooms are far more spaced out in these less developed areas, but they are very beautiful mashaa'Allah. Following the road and beach along for several kilometers, takes you right up to the with private beachfront and various other facilities for families.

Yet another blessed and beautiful benefit of living in Madinah...having access just a couple of hours down the road to such a lovely place to relax and enjoy the beach, something we have to avoid in Western and non-Muslim countries due to the nudity and unsuitable environment for children and Muslim families. Al hamdu l'Illahi Rabbil aal Ameen!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hudood: An Execution in Madinah

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Shariyf went to see an execution shortly before Ramadhaan this year. He took the older children (11 and 13 years old) with him. Here is a general account of the process from start to finish.

There is a large area, the equivalent of a sand football field, that is designated for executions in Madinah. It is close to Mandarin Supermarket, for those who know the area. Executions are done on Mondays. The area is prepared from early morning, 7:00 a.m. perhaps. Several vehicles carrying the police officers arrive to set up the site and guard it. Tape is used to cordon off the area and keep the spectators at the allowed distance.

By around 9:00 a.m. (this is not precise, but somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. is the time slot), the vehicle arrives with the person to be executed. Shortly afterwards arrives the special car bringing the executioner*. He is greeted by various officials and people. Then there is an announcement of what crime the person committed and the family members of the victim (or the victim, if they are alive) are asked if they have changed their mind and want to take the blood money from the criminal for their crime or if they want him to be executed. In this case, they wanted him to be executed. Then the executioner speaks to the person waiting to be executed. Although we cannot ascertain what he says, it seems apparent that he is telling him to make whatever dua' he wishes, prior to his execution. The executioner then checks with the criminal to see if he is finished. The execution is both swift and professional. The Executioner makes one clear swipe with his sword and turns away in one smooth movement as the head is falling to the ground.The executioner gives his salaams to the various officials and returns to the waiting car to be driven away.

My friend reported that there was an execution a few weeks ago of a young Saudi, who broke into a house and killed the woman when she tried to defend herself. The family of the woman were present and were asked prior to his execution if they wanted to forgive him and take blood money (dhiya) instead of the ordained punishment, but they opted for his death. On this occasion, the head didn't severe completely and he had to make another swipe.

There is a certain feeling of "living" Islam when these executions take place. In a world where Islam is cut to fit into lives rather than lives cut to fit Islam, it is reassuring to see the enforcement of Allah's commands for such grave crimes.

*You can find an interview done by Arab News with English subtitles on you tube, if you want to meet Saudi Arabia's executioner and hear what he has to say.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our Simple Life

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

Our home is not typical of homes here...well, the actual house is perfectly common, but how we live in it is not. This is our ladies sitting room/family room.

Yes, mashaa'Allah, the room is very large and can easily accommodate 30 or more people. The seating is called masnad seating, being like a firm fitted sofa that is on the floor. The seating for a room of this size - cost around 2,800 riyal (around US$700/400 UK pounds). Just imagine a couple of laptops perched on the armrests and a few books on the seat beside it and that is pretty much how it looks with everyday use.

This room, and how we live in the house in general, is strongly influenced by Rasool Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam. He sat on the floor, ate on the floor, and disliked decorations and worldly things. To that end, we made the floor seating, kept the color plain, and chose natural, soft colors of terracotta fabric and sage green walls. All four bedrooms have plenty of empty space, as we all sleep on the floor on simple mattresses with just the necessary storage to keep clothes and things organized.

The thing we have the most of is books and kitchen things. We have the books because knowledge is paramount, followed of course with action, da'wah, and patience. As for the kitchen things, we cook and entertain groups of up to 40 - 50 people at times and we don't use disposable items so we have enough stainless steel platters, bowls, cups, and cutlery to accommodate everyone...and a few big pots! We have hand woven mats made from date palm leaves that we put down on the floor when we eat and large stainless steel platters so that several people can eat from the same plate.

We have no television, no fancy bought rugs, wall units, coffee tables, although we have computers (of course) and a CD/tape player for playing Qaidat an Nooraniyah tapes, Quran, and lectures.

Above is our local masjid, which is literally outside our front gate, across the street and over that dirt lot; it is 129 meters from our house, mashaa'Allah. I see those mountains against a varying backdrop of sky every  time I look outside or go to the roof to do the laundry.

It is 5 miles/ 8.29 kilometers from our house to Masjid an Nabawi.

Our little "escape" to get in touch with fresh air, camping, and nature is no further than our front courtyard - our "khayma" or tent. We sometimes have a barbeque and eat dinner out there on pleasant evenings. As a fun treat, we all camp out in the tent on weekends. It is used as a clubhouse for hubby and his friends from the Islamic University of Madinah and his colleagues from Taibah University. We even piled about 30 girls and women in there on one of our monthly girls' reading club nights.

Our little planted patch of green with three date palms, has benefited from some permaculture practice. We spread two bales of straw on the sandy, cracked, and dry-looking soil that the date palms, a lemon tree, and some fragrant bushes are planted in. 

We also set up a compost heap. The straw has turned everything around, subhaan Allah. It retains moisture and keeps the moisture in the soil, so things are growing like wildfire out there now, mashaa'Allah. We have planted melons, all the date seeds that fell last year have started shoots (too many of course, we will have to take them out eventually and give them away or plant them somewhere else.) 

There are no worms here, but another University professor brought some in and gave us some, so we introduced them to our compost heap about two weeks ago. Inshaa'Allah, it will be something to behold how they get on in there. For all the extreme heat and aridity, our little patch of green has become the "place to be" for families of sparrows and busy little bees buzzing from flower to flower in the date spadix.

This post has been a long time coming, and perhaps you will like or dislike our lifestyle depending on your tastes and preferences, but I ask that you please say upon seeing this glimpse, "Mashaa'Allah, tabaarak Allah" (With the will of Allah, and with His blessings).

Barak Allahu feekum, dear readers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Madinah has to offer...and it's price

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

People come to Madinah for different reasons. Some come just to work and earn money. Others come to study Islam or to live in this sacred city where Rasool Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) lived and is buried. Yet others come seeking the barakaat of prayers in Masjid an Nabawi or the security of this place from the Dajjal. So many readers yearn to come here, yet I wonder if they are seeking the biggest thing that Madinah has to offer for their aakhirah - purification and perfection.

There is a hadith from Sahih al Bukhari that is very striking:
Volume 3, Book 30, Number 107 

Narrated Jabir:
A bedouin came to the Prophet and gave a pledge of allegiance for embracing Islam. The next day he came with fever and said (to the Prophet ), "Please cancel my pledge (of embracing Islam and of emigrating to Medina)." The Prophet refused (that request) three times and said, "Medina is like a furnace, it expels out the impurities (bad persons) and selects the good ones and makes them perfect."

Well, if you really want what Madinah has to offer, then prepare yourself to be tested - and know that it is nothing but blessing and benefit for your aakhirah.

People have car accidents, serious and fatal ones here. In fact, our good friends had a major accident just a few days ago, Qadr Allah mashaa fa'al. Several people we know have advanced cancer, fatal diseases, and chronic health problems. People face financial hardships, lose money, go through marital difficulties and divorce, and struggle to raise good Muslim children. Children drown, are electrocuted in seemingly harmless play areas or rented istarahas. But what does that mean in relation to Madinah?

Inshaa'Allah, it means that they are being purified, their sins are being expiated, and their religion is being improved and strengthened. Inshaa'Allah, it means that there is a beautiful hope of being moved closer to Ihsaan (perfection - as far as we mere humans can be perfected). The tests and trials faced here are to be embraced by the believer, with hopes and prayers that they are one of those selected by Allah to be purified and perfected in this blessed city

Some may think that Allah has blessed them with living in Madinah because they are good at heart...and inshaa'Allah they are. But human failings are great and multitudinous and purification doesn't come without its price.