October 31, 2005
~*Sister Aishah's Journey Continues...Reflecting on Ramadan 2005*~
Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatuallahi wa Barakatuhu! It seems to be one of those mornings when a new chapter in Sister Aishah's Journey is tickling my brain and pushing my fingers to the keyboard, so here goes. (Time out...go ahead and get your box of tissue!) *wink* *Sigh* I am really sad to see Ramadan passing...it has been very nice this year, my first Ramadan in Egypt, Al-hamdulillah. There were days that just seemed to pass in the blink-of-an-eye... There were days that I grieved for not being able to be with loved ones back home and in KSA. I remember one evening in Taraweeh standing in line as the Imam began the first rakat, head bowed, eyes closed...and the sound of my sister Samera's voice came into my ears as if she was standing right beside me calling, "Y'Allah, Aishah! Come!" The ringing of her voice bouncing off the walls of my brain sent tears streaming down my cheeks and I went through the entire first rakat silently sobbing, my heart so overwhelmed with longing to see her. There were days that I felt so blessed, and in remembrance of the presence of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in my life, I had to keep a tissue handy to catch the falling tears. No truer words were ever spoken of myself than, "Aishah you're a baby". *smile* There were days that I got frustrated and had to beg for the forgiveness and mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Astifergullah Al-Azeem. There were more days spent reading the new Qur'an my daughter Hanane's husband, Mohammed, gave to me just before I left the United States. There were days filled with contemplation... There was lots of dua. There was a wonderful visit to the Conveying Islamic Message Society offices where I got to meet a wonderful young brother, Mostafa that I had known from online and subhan'Allah, had the opportunity to meet in person on the first day of Ramadan! He invited my husband and me to the center and we met many of the other volunteers. Al-hamdulillah; what wonderful visit it was! There was the long-awaited first in-person meeting with my internet-friend, Sister Lobna, who is such a dear. *hugs* There was the evening I met new friends from a sisters e-group organized for expats (and some locals) living in Alexandria, that held planned iftar's every Saturday of Ramadan, Al-hamdulillah. There were nights when it seemed I couldn't sleep at all... And one of those sleepless nights I found my daughter, Hanane, on instant messenger and we got to chat for like, thirty minutes. Al-hamdulillah. She had had a dream about me the night before that compelled her to find a way to get online...and there I was...waiting for her. Subhan'Allah. We're just somehow connected that way... *smile* and there went those darn tears again... There were the sounds of the young boy passing through the neighborhood tapping his drum and calling us all to awaken for suhoor... And there was also the boy that would wander through with his cowbell letting you know to "Y'Allah! Come on down and get your fava beans! There were new experiences, like going to the souk and seeing how they make knafe (shredded dough used to make a tasty Ramadan treat). The process amazed me like a child seeing something for the very first time! This amused my husband, of course! *lol* There was the aqeeqah for the baby of my husband's nephew, and getting to meet and spend the afternoon with so many of the other wonderful members of my husband's family. Al-hamdulillah! There were colorful and brightly shining Ramadan lamps hanging from balcony ceilings and storefronts. There were strings of multi-colored lights crisscrossing between apartment buildings and silver tinsel framing balconies that danced in the evening breeze. There were two times when I completely forgot myself when I (1) sampled a nut in the grocery store; and (2) I turned around right after praying fajr one morning and immediately picked up the glass of water left sitting on my nightstand, and as I gulped down a swallow felt my husband's slap on my ankle from where he still sat on his prayer rug followed by the exclamation, "Aishah, what you are doing?" *lol* Al-hamdulillah, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala must have known I needed it at the time! The Messenger of Allah (SAW) says, "If he forgets and eats and drinks, then he should complete his fast. It was Allah who fed him and gave him the drink." (Bukhari) There was Hurricane Wilma back home and the earthquake in Asia. LAA H'AWLA WA LAA QUWWATA ILLA BILLAAH. There were evening walks alone when I just absorbed the sights and sounds of my new city. There was the beautiful, almond-eyed young girl that brought me juice and dates one afternoon at the masjid before Maghrib who stayed to pray with me, and claimed to not speak English, stating matter-of-factly, "I don't like it." *lol* She asked me if I would come back the following day; and I did. Al-hamdulillah, she was waiting for me. On another visit to the masjid there was a young girl with a white scarf tied around her head, who, sitting beside me knee-to-knee in her pink pajamas, read a few ayahs of Qur'an aloud in Arabic; in exchange for me reading them to her in English from the volume I had in my lap. When I finished reading she was off with a smile, never to be seen a second time. There was hot fudge sundae after Taraweeh at the neighborhood McDonalds! Thanks my dear husband! There was the discovery of some mesmerizingly beautiful Qur'an recitation on the internet that was truly a blessing to me, and Subhan'Allah, lulled me to sleep on restless nights. (http://www.alafasy.com/en/) There were the sisters at the masjid that, even though they couldn't speak English, and I couldn't speak Arabic, found a way to communicate with me through their smiling faces and warm embraces when I would enter the prayer hall at Isha. Al-hamdulillah. I wish I could remember their names, but they're all Arabic! With the exception of a brightly smiling sister named Maha who did understand and speak English a little bit. I'll always remember the name 'Maha' as one of my sisters in Saudi Arabia (sister of Samera). And there was the sister at the masjid that seemed to have a fondness for pinching my chin with a giddy look in her eyes. This same sister also came to my rescue one evening at Taraweeh when a giant black beetle blew in through the opened doorway beside which I was sitting. It landed on the floor beside my right knee, and before my brain had a chance to completely register that this ghastly, ugly looking creature was going to completely freak me out, my dear sister snatched a loose tissue up from the floor in front of her and quick as lightning, used it to snatch that bug right up from beside me, and throwing her arm across the front of my chest, whipped it right back out the door! Subhan'Allah! When the prayer ended we pantomimed out the episode again and let out the laughter we had previously had to hold back!!! I don't think I'll ever forget how quickly she had come to my rescue! Al-hamdulillah! There was a reminder not to chew gum during salat in the masjid. *lol* There was the coolness of the sea breeze wafting through the balcony doors of mom's parlor where we would sit to have our tea and sweets after iftar. There was a favorite TV program to capture the attention of my husband and his mother for an hour-and-a-half each evening. Al-hamdulillah. There were the morning wake-up calls from my husband's sister, Lula. There were ice cream cones when Lula would visit. *smile* There was Taraweeh and a tour through some neighborhood shops with sweet, young Sister Asma, who is the same age as my daughter, Ashley, and made me feel like Ashley was with me as we strolled through the five spiraling floors of a corner shopping mall. *smile* There was the legless man who, one morning before fajr, pushed himself along the streets of our neighborhood with gloved hands as he lay on his chest across a wheeled-board...imploring anyone who could, to extend charity to him. There was thanks to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala for my good health. There was the discovery that three dates and a tall glass of ice water carried me through the day of fasting without a single rumble in my tummy, whereas on the mornings that I took a filling meal for suhoor I found my tummy grumbling up a storm by 11 am! The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah)." (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/139). "Suhoor is blessed food, and it involves being different from the people of the Book. A good suhoor for the believer is dates." (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 2345; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/448.) There were new recipes to try and even some to invent! I duplicated my favorite samosa from last year's Ramadan in Saudi Arabia to perfection! And it turns out that I do something with pasta that everyone just loved! It's a mystery to me! *lol* Oh, and on the evening of the 31st it was announced that I had mastered the art of making Qatayef!! (A mini-pancake filled with nuts, raisins and coconut; folded in half to form the shape of a crescent, deep-fried, dunked in syrup, sprinkled with coconut and enthusiastically munched down by all with steaming mini-cups of hot tea poured from the teapot my mom in KSA gave to me as a gift.) And one night when the sweets cabinet was bare, I created a concoction of crumbled up maamoul cookies, layered with chopped walnuts, raisins and coconut, half-covered with hot milk, dribbled over with honey, splashed with a dash of cinnamon, and finished off with small pats of butter scattered all around. Put that in the oven for about 20 minutes and you would be surprised at how yummy it was touched off with a tiny dribble of melted peanut butter! Oh, my goodness!! The only name I have for that is what I commonly refer to as "Chef's Surprise!" *lol* But talk about good!! Mmmmm! There was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s grilled chicken from down at the souk and tabouli salad. (Not as good as my KSA mom's tabouli!) Al-hamdulillah my husband allowed me a cooking periodically as it seemed after the first week of Ramadan mom retired and I was left to take over the kitchen! My dh was also a real trooper in taking turns helping out with suhoor, and he is a champion dish-washer! But he has dishwashing incentive, rest assured! *smile* While he is at the kitchen sink, I am preparing the tray of sweets and hot tea that he'll be running off to consume as soon as he finishes with his chore! There were the three brothers at the masjid who always greeted me with a smile; unlocked the door of the sisters prayer hall; and on the days that I happened to go down before Maghrib, even brought me dates, water and/or juice to break my fast, and after praying Maghrib brought me food for iftar and hot tea afterwards. Subhan'Allah! There was the joy of finding those same three brothers standing together just outside the masjid on Ramadan 27 when my husband was with me and I had, for the first time, a spokesperson through whom I could communicate to them how much I appreciated everything they had done to make me feel at home in their masjid! (And now my masjid, too!) There was the blessing of being accompanied by my husband to Taraweeh on Ramadan 27. Al-hamdulillah. And, finally, what brought the end of Ramadan right up in my face was the Eid cookie delivery from the family of my husband's eldest brother living in Cairo. Here sit eight boxes of the finest selection of sweet treats that you could imagine, and I just know before it's all said and done that I'm going to be at least another five pounds heavier! The Kahk cookie box has my name written all over it! *Sigh*...yes...it has been a blessed Ramadan...and I am truly sad to see it end. I know there are many who have spent Ramadan alone; or have been ill, or had to work too hard, or were maybe even grief-stricken by loss, be it personal, financial, or material. But I pray that, insha'Allah, maybe by walking through these reflections you've been able to catch a little bit of the essence of Ramadan, and paused for a moment to smile; laugh; cry; reflect, or hope...and that, insha'Allah, this coming year will deliver you from any pain or suffering that may have cast a shadow over your Ramadan this year. The time in this dunya is short...so keep your chin up and remember that it is in our striving for the cause of Islam and the hope of paradise that we find reprieve from the sometimes chaotic twists and turns of our daily lives. Allahu Alim. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala shower you with peace, joy and blessings this Eid! Ya Allah, You are the embodiment of forgiveness, You love to forgive, Please disregard my shortcomings, O Forgiver, Ghafoor, the Forgiving Lord. Oh Allah, make it easy for me to do good and help me avoid the bad in all situations. Oh Allah, grant me success in all of my affairs in this life and the Next. Please increase me in knowledge and bless me with excellent teachers. Ya Allah, let me die in the highest state of Iman. Oh Allah, bless this Ummah, guide us, and unite our hearts. Ya Allah, lift my heart, relieve my burdens, and make me of those who put their full trust in You for all of their affairs. Oh Allah, please bless me with the opportunity to see many more Ramadans and to perform much better worship of You than I have done this year and in the past. Amin. Copyright © 2005, Aishah Schwartz Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.