Bismillah,
It's been a very long time since I updated this blog!!! My sincere apologies to those who enjoy reading it. My only excuse is that I've been super duper busy and I barely get much time to myself online. So, I guess the first thing to do is give everyone a lil update:
1) I switched jobs and now am teaching in King Saud Uni. I really enjoy what I'm doing and I'm really happy at my new place of work, Alhamdulillah!

2) I went for Hajj this year.

3) I've been working hard to re-decorate our apartment and now I've gotten to a point where I'm really happy with the final outcome.

4) I can say that I'm finally settled and happy in Riyadh, and almost 100% adjusted to life in this dusty city.
So, now that everything's caught up with, I'm gonna go n fix up some dinner. Inshallah I'll post again soon with Hajj lessons, pics and perhaps some pics of our fully furnished apartment.
Till I post again...
Peace!

Bismillah,

Ramadan Kareem!

I'm back from my hectic and fun-filled summer vacation. It included a short stay with my parents in Oman, a week in Vancouver, a weekend in Ottawa, and 3 weeks in Toronto.
Highlights of my trip included: going to Canada's Wonderland, taking an Al-Maghrib class (tafseer Juz tabarak), meeting all my old friends, visiting Victoria, Whistler and Vancouver city. I do have lots of entertaining pictures from our escapades, and will be posting them up shortly.
In the meantime, I just wanted to fill you in on what I've been doing since I returned to Riyadh. Ramadan was in full swing on the day I landed (2nd day of Ramadan) so I ignored my jet-lag and got right into it. Cleaning up our place after a month and half of no activity was a serious chore. Without getting into too many details, I guess it's sufficient to say that it resembled a mass grave of 200 large, suicidal cockroaches...... Again, I'm not going to elaborate on that! After all that was sorted out, we decided that we'd have a lil iftar dinner thingie, which also went quite well, apart from a slight issue towards the end of the night, which resulted in me cleaning one of our couches. *sigh*
After we sorted that out, we decided to make the most of this month and we planned a road trip to Makkah and Madinah. We drove from Riyadh to Madinah in about 6 hours, and found a really nice hotel right across from the Masjid un-Nabawi. After spending 2 days there, we decided to head off to Makkah, where we spent 3 days. We managed to arrive in Makkah in time for Isha prayers, found a good hotel, and headed down the hill towards the Masjid-ul-Haram among a sea of worshippers, all of whom were headed in the same direction as us. It is at this time, whilst you are reciting the Talbiyah, that you feel a sense of peace and tranquility, a sense of excitement and awe, and a feeling of remorse that you might never return after this Umrah, this might be your last. After entering the gate of the Haram, you follow the path down the stairs until you catch your first sight of the Ka'aba. Subhanallah, that is a moment never to be forgotten… paralyzed in your footsteps and completely awe-struck with the sight of the most Majestic House, it is in that moment that you realise that THIS is what you've been waiting for.
It was after Isha that we began our Umrah, which we completed in 2 parts: we completed our Tawaaf during the first 10 rakaats of Taraweeh. Whilst many worshippers were praying the Taraweeh behind Shaykh Sudais, we had the opportunity to make our Tawaaf whilst listening to his beautiful and heart-rending recitation of the Quran. I felt at once how mankind is truly insignificant, an atom in a large sea of them, only differing by their beliefs and in their deeds. Each human is that one atom that comes and passes away, and very soon we will all be alone before Him, the One who gave us life and we will receive judgment and recompense for all that we have done. There we were, encircling the House of Allah, asking for His forgiveness, His mercy, and His blessings...
We then joined the last 10 rakaats of Taraweeh, and during the Witr we all heard and felt the tears of Shaykh Sudais as he raised his hands up to the sky and begged Allah for the forgiveness of His Ummah, quietly weeping and beseeching Allah- a witr I will never forget. Thousands of people standing behind him also had their hands outstretched and the sounds of sobbing and weeping rang out through the entire Haram.
After the Taraweeh ended, we completed our Sai.
We spent 2 more days in Makkah during which time I experienced breaking my fast at the Ka'aba. There are many blessings in the food of Makkah. The Prophet Ibrahim (as) made a dua for this city as he was building the Ka'aba with his son Ismail (as).

“Our Lord, make this a city of peace and sustain its inhabitants with the fruits of the earth…”
To this day, you can witness the fulfillment of the dua, as I noticed that just a handful of dates and a glass of Zam Zam, and you feel like you've just eaten a full meal! It is an amazing sight to see thousands upon thousands of people be all accommodated with dates and water for iftar. As I sat on the ground, with strangers of different nationalities and languages, I realized that we all share only one thing in common- that we are all fasting in obedience to Allah. Everyone is the same, rich and poor, black and white, old and young, thousands gathered together and sharing the same food, and smiling at each other. I met some really nice girls from Riyadh who were staying in the neighboring hotel, and I hope to keep in touch with them.
We drove back to Riyadh from Makkah, in a record 7 hours and we've been trying to rest ever since we got back (yesterday). Now the last 10 days of Ramadan are upon us, and my husband is going for Itika'af so I'm gonna be relaxing and doing my own Itika'af at home inshallah.
I also am glad that I've been able to pray a lot more of the Taraweeh prayers in the masjid, and that I was able to pray behind some amazing Shuyukh such as: Sudais, Shuraim, Ghamdi, Kalbani, Dowsari, Luhaidan, Khalid Jaleel, Johani, and alhamdulilah many more. It has really lifted my Imaan and made me appreciate Saudi Arabia a lot more than before. It is really true that Ramadan in Saudi is one of the best times of the year here, and compared to Ramadan in other countries, I believe it definitely is much better. Alhamdulillah.

As we all prepare for the last 10 nights of Ramdan, I'd like to share an informative article with you that I'll also be using to prepare for the upcoming 10 nights:

Plan for the Last 10 Nights of Ramadan

Ramadan is coming to a close. Like the last half-kilometer of a 10km race, the finish-line is in sight. This is the time to pull out all the stops and to sprint, flat-out. This is the time when Laylatul-Qadar, the night where deeds are multiplied by more than one thousand, hides.

Are you ready for it?

Maybe you felt like Ramadan breezed by. Maybe you felt like you didn’t do enough. Well, this is your chance to make up for it. You need to finish strong, insha’Allah.

So take five minutes and make an action plan. This plan will, insha’Allah, help you milk the end of the month. Grab a piece of paper and write “Ramadan Plan” on it.

First, list two categories of historical items:
  • The Good: List all the things you did, that you’re happy with. You read Qur'an. You prayed Taraweeh. You donated $100. And so on. You need to ensure you keep doing these things.

  • The Bad: Maybe you didn’t pray tahajjud. Maybe you didn’t even pray Fajr in the masjid! List all these things. Don’t hold back.

Then, create your action plan: Pick as many items as you think you can handle, the best of The Good and whatever you can take from The Bad. Using the example above, your action plan might include: Read Qur’an, pray Taraweeh, pray Fajr in the masjid.

Then, list all the things you need to stop doing to get this to work. Maybe you watch 2-3 hours of TV a day. Or you spend six hours daily on Facebook. Whatever it is–list it, and aim to get rid of it.
It’s crucial to realize that you need to sacrifice in the short-term. You want to maximize Laylatul-Qadr. Do so, even if you’ll drop behind on things hereCheck Spelling and there for a few days.

Insha’Allah if you do this, you’ll have a strong, action-oriented plan for the last ten nights. And remember to stretch yourself. Go beyond your comfort limit. That’s what Ramadan is about–breaking the limits.

If you have any other tips, insha’Allah list them in the comments. I’d love to squeeze more benefit out of Laylatul-Qadr. May Allah give us all the tawfeeq to catch this awesome night with the best good deeds.

Bismillah,
I know I've been away for a while and its mainly because I've been extremely busy. I'm on a short vacation in Oman, visiting my parents and sister, and tonight Insha'allah I'll be flying to Canada for a much awaited summer holiday. I should be staying in Mississauga for the most part, and Inshallah a week in Vancouver, perhaps a weekend in Ottawa. I'm quite excited since I have a direct flight (thank you Etihad airways). The best part is that I'll be reuniting with my old friends, and doing all those things that I loved doing these past 8 years in Toronto. This year it'll be different since I'll be sharing all those things with my husband (my new BFF) and I'm sure that we'll have an amazing time Inshallah.
I'll try to do a couple of posts from Canada but I can't guarantee anything.
I do hope everyone's having a wonderful summer Inshallah.
Bismillah,

Under_Construction_Sign_Image by uberbeam via Flickr



I'm updating my blog layout and theme, please bear with me!

And feel free to comment on what u think of my new style!


Bismillah,
Allah (swt) says, in Surah Ma’oon:



أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ
فَذَلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ
وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ
Translation:


Have you seen the one who denies the Repayment? For that is the one who drives away the orphan, and does not encourage the feeding of the poor.
[Surah Ma'oon, verses 1-3]



Notice the connection here–verse one, the one who denies Ad-Deen, the Day of Repayment. And verse two and three? He drives away orphans, He doesn’t encourage feeding of the poor.
It’s not that he doesn’t feed the poor. It’s that he doesn’t encourage feeding the poor.


If you’re a Muslim, and you practice your five pillars, you’re giving zakah, and chances are it’s going to poor people (two of the eight categories of eligible zakah recipients).
But are you encouraging feeding of the poor?


This is something very serious we need to think about. It’s not enough just to feed the poor; Allah is linking denial of the day of Repayment, the greatest day that will ever be … with not encouraging feeding of the poor. So we all need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask the question:
Are you encouraging feeding the poor, and goodness in general?

What you can do:

  • Start Giving Back. Find some community project–a soup-kitchen, a Feed The Streets (if you’re in Canada), a food-drive, clothing-drive … something, anything. This will, at least, get you to the level of helping the needy. Be consistent in it.

  • Call Others To It. Tell your friends, your family, your relatives, about the cause and how they can help. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised at who helps out.

Wallahu ta’ala ‘alam.

Taken from "Tafseer Juz Amma by Muhammad Al-Shareef"


Bismillah,
The last couple of weeks have been going really well Alhamdulillah. My job is winding down to a close for the summer and my husband and I have some pretty awesome plans for the summer holidays! So far we've decided on spending a week in Vancouver, a weekend in Ottawa and the rest of the time in good ol' T. dot... a place that was my home for many years. On my way to Canada, I should be stopping at my parents place in Oman and spending 2 weeks with them- for some R & R and just to get a break from it all. I guess I'm the type of person who loves a change! Alhamdulillah my husband and I have that in common :).

My business plans have been temporarily suspended due to lack of capital, so until I save up enough cash to invest in it completely, I will not be doing much in that regard. I could technically ask my husband for the cash but if anything goes wrong, I don't think I would forgive myself.
In the meantime, I'm expanding my collection of unique and stylish khaleeji abayas and will eventually showcase them, Inshallah.

So getting back to the title at hand, what is the best advice to give to someone suffering in an abusive relationship? Without revealing too much, I would just like to say that this person is someone very close to my heart (not myself alhamdulillah!). I have known this person for a very long time, and witnessed her marriage and subsequent problems. I didn't know about the problems until recently and it seems as if the abuse is escalating (isn't that what always happens?)
How do you tell someone to end their marriage? How involved can a person be, in a situation that's clearly personal and sensitive in nature. A lot of people in this situation would consider the best advice as being: patience, make dua to Allah (swt) for guidance, be forgiving, think about your offspring and don't end the relationship. They have a lot of proof to back up such statements, including text from the Quran and Sunnah, which is fine, however, where does one draw the line between patience, tolerance and forgiveness, and ending a relationship which is detrimental to some one's mental, physical and emotional well being. Is it enough to stay in such a relationship due to lack of financial capabilities and for their child's sake?

Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran:
A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness. (Surah Baqarah, Ayah 229)

What if they don't hold together on equitable terms, yet the husband is unwilling to release his wife?
Maybe I'm overstepping the line. but then again, maybe I can be the sound of reason, and not emotion? There are times when I lay awake at night, and wonder how she's doing, just because I fear for her health and safety. Am I wrong to voice my opinion (to leave) or should I stick to platitudes and tell her to be patient and forgiving etc?

I'm totally confused at the moment...
Bismillah,
As promised, here are some of the pictures that I took on my trips around the GCC including my latest Umrah trip.
Hope you like em :)

Strange, large fish at Dubai Aquarium

Fish kissing shark? Or heading for collision
Madinat Jumeira at night
Driving through Dubai
Road to from Dubai to Oman going to Muscat Marina
view of the Marina
On the speedboat, heading out
A dolphin fin emerging from the water
Private Island beaches in Muscat
hotel resort on the sea shore
Old Nizwa fort
Falaj (irrigation) systems
Ruins of an old village in near Nizwa
Wadi running through mountains
From the top of Jebal Shams
Beautiful mosque in Abu Dhabi

In front of one of the gates
Friday afternoon at the Ka’ba
The Ka’ba at Asr time
Close up
Crowds gathering for Maghrib salah

Bismillah,

In a short answer: everywhere!!!

Let me expand. Since I last posted on my blog, it seems as if my life here in KSA got slightly hectic and interesting! Well, to be more accurate, you can say that I actually have a bit of a social life now, and just since last week, I seem to have landed myself a job as well. So Alhamdulillah things are moving forward in the right direction!

I've been travelling a little this past month. It all started with a road trip (YAY!)

I luv road trips, especially those that involve me being in the driver's seat for a while. So this road trip was my first "official" vacation as a married woman, n lemme tell u, it was AWESOME! Alhamdulilah.

My husband had a 1 week spring break holiday in the last week of April, so we decided we would drive down to Oman, via UAE.

We started off driving East, through Riyadh until we reached the Saudi-UAE border, which took about 5 hours. At the border we switched places and I got behind the wheel (much to the horror of all the other Saudi cars in my vicinity!), we set off then, heading straight for Dubai. After reaching Dubai, which must've taken another 3 hours approximately, we checked into a hotel, freshened up, and then navigated our way (via our handy GPS) to Dubai Mall for some long needed chilling/lounging. At the mall, we ate, drank coffee in a NON-segregated Second Cup (i luv lounging in those couches) and then walked around the place to check out the swanky stores. Of course, we had to check out the Aquarium and the wildlife center, which was lots of fun. The next day we took a quick tour of the Palm Jumeira, Ibn Battuta, and in the evening ended up at Mall of the Emirates where we caught dinner and a movie on the big screen.

The next day, we set off, bright and early in the direction of Oman. We reached Oman in about an hour, but then the drive from the border to Muscat took about 4 more hours. We reached my parents' place in time for lunch, and after a quick reunion we fell asleep there. In the evening, my parents took us out for a bit of shopping and dinner. The next day my mom, sis, husband and I went to the Muscat Marina and took a speed boat out for some dolphin watching, which i must say, was absolutely amazing. Subhanallah, I've never seen such friendly and adorable sea life. The next day we went on a private tour of the Interior of Oman - mainly the Nizwa area, and we also drove up the tallest mountain in Oman - Jebal Shams. It was truly spectacular and awe inspiring. We saw some old ruins, falaj (irrigation) systems that were originally invented by Omanis and we also visited an old Fort in Nizwa. That trip took up most of the day and we were pretty exhausted by the time we got home. We left Oman at the end of the week and headed back through the UAE. This time we decided we'd drive through Abu Dhabi instead of Dubai, so we could check out the city. We did see quite a lot, although there was a dust storm blowing through so our visibility was reduced. We spent the night there and the next day, began the drive back to KSA. I remember not wanting to give up the wheel to my husband, so I drove right up to the UAE - Saudi Border and waited to see if someone would say anything... No one did, but i did get some angry glares from Saudi bound cars that were behind me in the line. I had to give up my spot after the border crossing, but by then I was tired so I fell asleep on the drive home.

When I got back, I received a halaqa invitation, which was lots of fun and it allowed me to meet a lot of sisters, mainly reverts, who've been living in KSA for a very long time. It was through them that last week, I received an email about a teaching position. When I called to inquire about it, I was promptly called in for an interview at the school, and was then given the job of teaching Grade 9 and 10 Physics for the American high school diploma program. Alhamdulilah its going quite well so far and Inshallah I hope to continue in the school next academic year, probably teaching other subjects as well as Physics.

Last weekend, my husband surprised me by booking 2 tickets fr Jeddah, for our long awaited Umrah trip. And so we set off on Wednesday night and flew to Jeddah, then drove to Makkah. Masha'allah it was the most amazing trip ever, especially since this was my first Umrah as an adult, and it was really the most spiritually uplifting experience I've ever had. We spent the entire weekend in Makkah, mainly in the Haram area, just sitting, reading Quran, making dua, dhikr and salah. I've never been so happy and so content before. I felt like i could just sit and stare at the Ka'ba all day long... subhanallah I can't wait to go back. Alhamdulilah we completed our Umrah and we returned to Riyadh on Friday night.

So I'm back! And now we're planning for our summer vacation, which will be commencing in the first week of July. Insha'allah we're planning a trip to Canada, via a week's stay in Morocco, so it should be good.

I have tons of pictures to post, of both trips so Insha'allaah you can see for yourself.

I do apologise for the delay in this post, I've just been busy, unpacking, packing and planning... and now working along side my normal household stuff.
I also know that there are a lot of comments that I haven't replied to, Insha'allah now that I'm back on track, I can get back to everyone whose been commenting on my blog.


Bismillah,

The following is a really intersting article that I found online about happenings in Saudi... At first, after reading it, I laughed!
To be honest, I've heard some really over-the-top stories about the Hai'a, or as they're more "affectionately" termed, the Muttawwa! And I've also witnessed some of their "da'wah" techniques in malls and other public places that are not so pleasant to describe.
So after laughing hard for about 20 seconds, I thought to myself, awwwww, how sweet mashAllah! I especially loved the last part of the article.
I'm still quite shocked at the outcome, and I guess it just proves that you can't slap a general label on a group of people without realising that there is khayr (good) in everything.
I don't want to keep you in suspense any longer, so read on and do let me know what you think!!!


Hai’a nabs young couple – and leaves them happier than ever!

Baha – A young Saudi couple out on a date and caught in illegal seclusion by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was clearly in for some serious trouble. But, as it transpired, the officials of the Commission, commonly known as the Hai’a, not only gave them a patient hearing but also got them married off on the same evening here in the Baha region, southwest of the Kingdom.
“I never expected to get married just like that, so easily,” said the groom who is unemployed. The Hai’a officials were moved by the young couple’s love and plight – they had no money to finalize their marriage ceremony – and so offered to help. They called the girl’s father who approved of the marriage and even offered to bear some of the expenses.
That settled, the Hai’a then got the two to take and clear the mandatory pre-marital tests for hereditary and life-threatening diseases such as AIDS, and conducted the wedding ceremony that very evening.
Sheikh Abdulmohsin Al-Qarni, chief of the Hai’a Office in Al-Irdiya Al-Junoubiya in the Baha region, donated the dowry amount.
“Had not the Hai’a offered to help me, I would have never got married,” the groom said. Okaz/SG

Taken from the Saudi Gazette
Bismillah,
I've been incredibly busy these days and am now at a point where i can share my news with you!
*deep breath...*

After the overwhelming response to my abaya collection, I've decided to take the responses to a new level.

I am launching a new website business, Insha'Allah, that will showcase my abayas to the world!

Anyone can order any of my abayas from my website, and I will be able to ship them directly to the person.
All of the abayas on my blog will be featured on the website, as well as others that I've collected since then.

Customers will have the option to customise the abayas, according to their specifications.

My email will also be available to everyone so that they can contact me with special requests or anything else that they might need.

Sooo, my website will be up and running, Inshallah in about 3 weeks, all going well!

I will keep you updated, and ofcourse, I'll be posting up the link as soon as I get it!

Sisters in Canada, if you'd prefer to save on the cost of shipping, then you might like to wait till this summer, when I make a trip to Toronto!

Non-Muslims are all welcome and I know a lot of Western women in the Gulf like to wear trendy abayas, regardless of their religion.

Please make dua for me, Insha'Allah this business venture goes well. By the Mercy and Blessings of Allah (swt), I would like to be able to expand my business to a larger product portfolio.
Keep your comments, requests and input coming... I'm making a list of all of those who have contacted me "you know who you are!" and I will be contacting you personally, as soon as my website is up!


Bismillah,

It started raining in Riyadh on Wednesday. At first it was light, but then yesterday it started pouring and slowly the streets started filling up. The road outside our building turned into a river of fast moving water, and I watched in fascination as it thundered and poured all afternoon and evening. People from the surrounding buildings were all standing outside, watching the rain come down and roads that were slowly turning into deep lakes and rivers. My husband's friend had come over for lunch after Juma, and he stayed with us until Ishaa. Around 9pm, we decided to drop him home and we drove to his building, which is only a 5 min drive from our place. That drive slowly turned into a moving disaster. Getting to his place wasn't too much of a hassle, as the main highway was clear. After dropping him off, we drove back in the direction of our building, unfortunately we couldn't take the highway back, so we decided to go through the side streets. It got much worse as we tried to navigate through the water-filled roads that were about 1 and 1/2 feet deep in certain places, and yes, we have a sedan so we weren't happy campers at all!

The worst happened when we tried to drive by a construction site, and due to the high water level, we didn't know what the road underneath looked like. All of a sudden, we heard a horrible grinding noise, and the front-left side of the car sunk into the water, at a freakishly steep angle; we were properly stuck... We then noticed smoke rising from our hood, so my husband turned off the engine, switched on the hazard lights, and tried to figure out what to do. We had apparently driven into an unmarked ditch of some sort. We tried opening our doors and exiting the car, but the water was too deep, so we couldn't go anywhere. My husband started calling various co-workers and family, but strangely enough, no one was answering their phone. After about 20 minutes of sitting and trying to figure things out, a car passed by and slowed to take a look. The car had about 5 young Saudi youth who were in their early 20's, dressed in traditional white thobes and shemaghs. They spoke to my husband in Arabic and he explained that he was stuck in a ditch and the car wasn't moving. They immediately pulled over on higher ground, got out of their car and took off their sandals, pulled up their thobes and held it in their teeth, rolled up their underpants and started wading into the muddy, dirty water towards us! At this point I was feeling a mixture of embarrassment and relief.

My husband remarked to me in the car, "these guys are too skinny, they won't be able to pull the car out, we need a tow truck." In any case, they instructed him to put the car in reverse and they tried pulling from the back, lifting and pushing from the front, and a variety of other tactics that included all five of them, at one point, climbing into the trunk of the car and jumping in it...
Luckily, their presence was extremely beneficial, as an SUV happened to drive by with towing capabilities and a tow rope, and they were able to stop him and ask him for his services. He pulled us out of the ditch and didn't even wait for our thank you, just drove away as if it were a normal turn of events!
And when we tried to thank the Saudi guys, they were too busy wading in the water and trying to cover up the ditch in order to prevent others from suffering the same fate!
We did manage yell out a thank you, which they promptly waved off and quickly returned to the water to finish off their job.

We reversed out of the lane and drove back onto the main road, in an attempt to return home with minimal problems. Just when we thought we were in the clear, we noticed that the only road that leads to our building, was now full of water, almost about 2 feet deep and that all the traffic that was attempting to drive down the road had two wheels on the sidewalk, and two wheels in the water. It is also important to mention that all of the traffic were either SUVS, pickups or passenger vans.
My husband maneuvered the car towards the side of the road, right next to the sidewalk, where the water level was the lowest, and we slowly tried driving through the water. We passed a few cars that had gotten stuck and had turned off in the water, and we slowly reached the end of the road.
Thankfully we made it home without any problems and our car was alright, but it was an extremely close call. I keep on wondering what would've happened if it wasn't for the Saudi youth that were so eager and quick in their desire to help us, regardless of their own circumstances. Alhamdulilah, I'm really grateful to them for their help and it is really comforting to know that there are people like them in this country.

Apart from our latest mis-adventure, things are really starting to settle down and are looking good in Riyadh. I do have other interesting topics to discuss soon, and I am hunting down a good tailor these days, so that I can start answering lots of those abaya requests that are waiting for me!
That's it for now
Bismillah,
I'm up and blogging again from Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

The past two months have been super hectic and completely crazy, but now that the dust has settled (literally and figuratively speaking), I've finally got hi speed Internet at home, and I'm really excited to be back in the blogger world.

Important achievements:

- I survived the wedding and all the post-wedding parties without too much trouble!
- I managed to haul all my belongings across the globe without any loss or damage!
- I have set up my place and it looks mash'allah very nice!
- I am thoroughly enjoying married life!


Alhamdulillah for the many blessings of Allah (swt) on myself and my family, if it wasn't by His decree, none of this would have been possible.

I am contemplating posting pictures of my new home, but I am not quite comfortable with the idea yet, maybe later inshallah.


About Riyadh:

I landed in Riyadh on a Friday afternoon, after the Juma Salah, so it was quite peaceful in the city at the time. Our home is close to the airport and it was only a 15 min drive to our place, which was of course completely empty and covered in dust when we entered, due to the prevalence of sand storms in Riyadh, and the fact that its a ground floor apartment, and has huge gaps under the doors, perfect for dust and lil creepy crawly creatures.

The following week, we started driving around the city and ordering our furniture and other necessities. I guess the first thing that hit me was the "no women driving" policy that i found absolutely absurd in the beginning. The second thing that hit me was the vastness of the city. I'm from Muscat, Oman... which by comparison, is just a lil town. Riyadh is a huge sprawling city, similar to Toronto in size and population. After maghrib, the city comes alive with people, lights and lots of traffic. There's a perpetual rush-hour situation on the roads in certain areas of the city, and compared to Oman, everything in Riyadh is "super-sized".

There were times when my husband would have to close my jaw coz it was hanging open at the size of the buildings, malls and grocery stores.

Another thing that i appreciate about Riyadh is that everything closes for Salah, which is fantastic coz it forces you to go to the masjid and pray, even if that wasn't the first thing on your agenda at the time.

I've prayed in many different masajid in the city, from the biggest masjid in Riyadh, to the smallest neighbourhood ones. I've found that the Imams in Riyadh have a very beautiful and passionate recitation style that moves me in a way I've never really experienced. There is a beauty and rhythm in their voice that hits my soul and there are times I've experienced such an imaan high, I've felt like I could just stand and listen to the recitation all night long. During such times, there's a peace and tranquility that descends upon the members of the congregation; it's a very beautiful and spiritual experience. My husband and I make a point of praying at least 1 salah in the masjid everyday, mainly the Isha salah, and I guess I owe it to him coz he knows where all the good reciters are, so we always end up in their masaajids.

Another aspect of Riyadh that I have experienced and loved, is the quantity and variety of their restaurants. Since I'm not the world's best cook, and also since my husband doesn't want to burden me with the prospect of cooking on weekends and when I'm tired, we've been dining out quite a lot! There are some really nice and classy places on Tahliya Street, which is like Riyadh's version of downtown Toronto. The food has always been scrumptious and the waiters are well mannered and very respectful towards women.

I have lots more to say but I'm gonna save it for another post soon. Topics that I'll be discussing are: my views on gender segregation in restaurants and food courts in malls, as well as dress codes in the city, and the answer to the question people have been asking me quite often, "so how is married life treating you?"

All that and more, insha'allah soon.

I'm putting up some pics of Riyadh, not taken by me. I will be uploading my pics of Riyadh, inshaallah soon.
As Salaamu Alaykum one and all!
I'm re-surfacing for a short post about my current situation, and since this is the first time I'm able to check my mail since I left, I thought I'd let everyone know how I'm doing!

First of all, I'd like to thank EVERYONE who commented on my last post, I can't reply to everyone personally, so I'm hoping u guys get this message: Thank you for your kind words and duas, may Allah (swt) accept it from you and grant you all Jannah. Ameen!

Ok, so about me:
Well, I'm currently in a 3rd world South Asian country. I go through 8 hours of no electricity per day because the government shuts down the power since they can't afford electricity 24/7. Because of this, I'm forced to survive by candle light after maghrib and I don't have running water in my taps most of the time, since we need electricity to pump water around the house. Hence, I'm fairly miserable! We also had a major water crisis a couple of days ago, due to an internal piping problem which caused SEWAGE water to flow through our taps in the washrooms and kitchens. For 2 days we suffered with dirty stinky water, and then, in order to fix it, we had our water lines shut off for 2 days and we were living out of buckets. Subhanallah!

My younger sister accidentally ingested some of this sewage water whilst brushing her teeth one morning, and because of that, she suffered from a severe form of amoebic dysentery. We had to rush her to the hospital and she spent the night in E.R with all sorts of IVs attached to her. Now, in 6 days, I'm supposed to b getting married... And all i wanna do is run away screaming...

Subhanallah.

I'm only human, so I complain about my situation, but when I stop to ponder about everything, I do find myself to be extremely grateful and thankful for one thing: I'm not forced to live here against my will, unlike so many of my extended family members.

It is such a humbling experience, to go from a comfortable and luxurious life in the GCC, from a free, safe and open environment in Canada, to a country like this, where even the basics fundamentals of life are not available readily. It is such a struggle to go through a day here, with all the dirt and lack of water, electricity and hence clean clothes and a clean home. A hot water shower is a luxury that I only get once in a while. I realise that I take so much for granted and have such high expectations from life, and then i feel so grateful that its not worse than it is. Alhamdulillah!

The crime rate in this country is incredibly high. When I leave my house, I can't expose my cell phone to the general public in case someone sees it and wants it... all they do is point a gun in ur face and demand u hand it over. I don't wear nice shoes, nice clothes, or any kind of hand jewelry. If i wear rings, i have to twist my rings around so the nice part is in my palm. When i go shopping, I only take a terrible hand bag and i don't show how much cash is in my wallet. I also can't speak in English too loudly coz if people pick up my accent, they will over-charge me by a mile, so i speak my native language which i'm terrible at... or i end up keeping my mouth shut.

And did i mention that this is a "Muslim" country? Its a sad situation here, very little deen and if there is deen, it's looked down upon and ridiculed or it's an extreme form of something that I don't know how to explain. Its also full of cultural bid'ah customs that make it very impure.

Alhamdulillah I've been able to keep myself from getting ill so far, and Insha'allah it will be over soon, but I feel extremely sorry for everyone here; all the beggars and all those who struggle to raise families and live in a country such as this. I always wonder about what I've done to deserve a life like mine, and not like theirs, which could've been possible.

I wish i had time to type some more but I have to go now. I'll be back up and running when I arrive in Riyadh Insha'allah and I will Insha'allah, update everyone when it's all over :)

Bismillah,

Insha'allah, in about 10 mins, I'm gonna be heading out the door to catch a plane and will be travelling to a mystery location (u hate my secretive behaviour) for my walima, and then arriving in Riyadh by the end of this month.

Hopefully, I'll be able to blog from my secret location, otherwise you'll see me back online and blogging frantically, from my new home in KSA.

I haven't forgotten my sisters who want abayas and Inshallah will be working on that as soon as I get time.

I leave you with a dua from the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet sallalaahu alayhi wasallam:
O Allah! I ask You on this, our journey, for goodness and piety, and for deeds that are acceptable to You. O Allah! Lighten this journey for us and make its distance easy (short) for us.
O Allah! You are our Companion on the road and The Guardian-Protector of the household. O Allah! I seek refuge in You from this journey's hardships, and from the disagreeable sights in store and from finding my family and property and children in misfortune upon returning.

Till we meet again...
As-Salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu

They came from opposite sides of the wire - one a prisoner, the other a guard in the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp. But today Moazzam Begg and Christopher Arendt have met as friends. It's a remarkable symbol of unity in the week when President Obama signed the order to close the camp that shamed the US.

The ex-inmate and the ex-soldier are now on a lecture tour, continuing in Leeds tomorrow and going to Hull, York, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast before ending in Cardiff. Moazzam, 40, from Birmingham, was held as a terror suspect for three years, before being freed without charge in 2005. Christopher, 24, served with the Michigan National Guard, on a year's tour of duty at Guantanamo. He now works with lobby groups in the US.
Today, they tell their stories to Dennis Ellam, from The Sunday Mirror.



THE INMATE :


I was kept in solitary for the first two years. I saw no one, spoke to no one, except my guard. We were locked into these tiny cages, steel with mesh sides and bright lights. All I had in there was a sheet and a roll of toilet paper. I would be shackled, sometimes so tightly I couldn't feel my hands or feet. When I asked for something I could use as a prayer mat, they brought a thin camping mat and that became my mattress for the next two years.The only time I was allowed out of my cell was to be interrogated. It was often in the middle of the night and I never knew if it would last for five minutes or 24 hours or longer, with interrogators banging on the desk to keep me awake. They would ask plainly stupid questions, like: "When did you last see Osama bin Laden?" And they told me: "You'll be imprisoned for life, or you could face execution, or both - execution after a very long time."Everything was designed to dehumanise. To keep myself sane, I read and re-read and memorised the Koran. I wrote poetry with the two-inch stub of a pencil they gave me. I cracked up a couple of times and smashed my cell - but only twice in three years. Every day used to begin the same way, before dawn. After two years of solitary, I had to file out of my cell with the others in our orange boiler suits and flip-flops and line up for prayer. Then we prayed, shook hands and went back to the endless routine... breakfast of bread and cheese, lunch of cereal, crisps, raisins, peanuts and a typical evening meal of white rice and beans, with fruit. In between there would be set periods to shower, exercise, meet with doctors and lawyers, and write mail - under supervision. But every day was the same... hopeless and pointless.


I have nightmares about the physical abuse I suffered at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where I was first kept. This is important - because while President Obama is closing Guantanamo, the "ghost" prisons around the world, like Bagram, are staying open.


Meeting Christopher was a very special moment for us both. It was emotional, sure, it couldn't be anything else, but we were just proud to share this chance to get together. He began saying how sorry he was for everything that had been done to me and the rest of the prisoners - I interrupted him. I told him it wasn't necessary to apologise. I met many good men among the guards at Guantanamo, who had begun to question what they were doing. It helped to pass the days, chatting with them about family and politics, and the difference between the UK and the US. Christopher's a great friend now. There is no lingering hostility, or regret, there's no reason for forgiveness. I understand why he did what he did. In a way, he was as much a victim of the Bush regime as I was. It's fitting we should be together this week as the new President Obama has taken a very big step towards righting the wrong of Guantanamo. On his first day, when he just suspended the military tribunals, I worried he wasn't about to go all the way. Then he announced its closure, and I was overjoyed.The only disappointment is that it might take a year before it's finally gone - a year will be a long, long time to all those men who have already spent seven or eight years caged in there.

Guantanamo will haunt me for a long time. I still wake at night and see it. I lost three years with my children when they were growing, which I can never recover. It's taking a long time to readjust.One reason why Christopher and I can be such good friends is that he's one of the few who knows what it was really like. He saw it too, albeit from the other side.




THE GUARD:

I came to see Moazzam to make my apologies. And to meet the man as a fellow human being, without bars or locked doors or people looking over us or bureaucratic forms, without one of us in an orange boiler suit and the other in a soldier's green fatigues.

All the time I was in Guantanamo, I watched people being treated just as if they were cattle. To de-humanise, that was the principle behind it. I didn't know Moazzam in there, but I guess I might have delivered the essential supplies to him - toothpaste, toilet rolls, soap. That was my job, after I made it plain in a letter to my commanders that I didn't want to be posted there because I didn't see myself in the role of oppressor. They sent me anyway, and just gave me the menial work, walking up and down the blocks. You might wonder why I signed up in the first place. You have to realise that recruitment teams would tour the trailer parks and the working-class schools of America, telling young folk that the Army offered a good salary, a secure living, a chance to extend your education, plus an 8,000 dollar signing-on bonus.

I was 17 and keen to escape a small-town background. It seemed like a very tempting prospect. Of course, most Americans at the start had no idea what Guantanamo Bay was, or even where it was - we were simply told that this is the place where we would be shoving the terrorists, after 9/11. I remember that event very well indeed and faces of the men being blamed. That planted it in the American mind. Men of Middle Eastern appearance were guilty as hell.

I told myself the CIA guys were smart, that the interrogators were specialists in their jobs, and so they must have information on the prisoners they were holding, for them to be inside. Now I know they had no idea what they were doing. As I talked to the prisoners, I came to realise they had one thing in common, they didn't know why they were there. I was helping to guard 650 men and none of them had been told why they were being held in those blocks. Worse, I could see them losing their minds. That state would come closer and closer, for all of them.

Once I was manning a gate, next to the psycho ward, where all the detainees who had finally lost it were being kept. All night long I could hear this guy screaming and screaming and screaming. And I can hear him still. He had been brought there with his mind intact. Now he was incarcerated without hope, his family were an ocean away and he hadn't seen them for years. He didn't know why this was happening or how long it would last. And the crazy thing is, Guantanamo Bay is actually a beautiful place. First thing in the morning, when the sun was coming up over the ocean and the detainees were at prayer, singing together in Arabic, it was a very intense, very moving experience. Later in the day, you just knew, someone might be beating the s*** out of them.
It seemed all the more terrible to be wearing that uniform, with the stars and stripes on the shoulder, the flag of freedom. All we were defending was the freedom of politicians, to advance their careers while we did their dirty work. It's hard for anyone to understand what happened in Guantanamo.

But Moazzam and I, we know...


Taken from The Sunday Mirror : www.sundaymirror.co.uk
Article written by Dennis Ellam