Turning Seven: Significance and Celebration

Turning Seven

Our baby girl is now seven. We’ve been prepping her for this new phase by drumming up the new responsibilities and opportunities awaiting her. She initially retreated from the idea, saying she wished she could remain six but as the new privileges came to light, she could no longer wait. I casually mentioned that in the Islamic calendar she’s already seven and from there, she was resolute in her readiness for life as a seven year old.

Practically, we had been discussing what might shift in our parenting, home education, and family expectations at the age of seven. We wanted to celebrate the significance of learning to pray (great article called entitled “Planting the Seeds of Prayer in Our Young Ones” here), express our academic, household, and personal expectations in a seven-point checklist, and tag on a whole new, unprecedented incentive—staying up late for a monthly movie night, on the condition that the weekly checklist is completed week after week.

Birthdays are not a huge celebration for us. We usually have a quiet, introspective time to reflect and express gratitude for another year of life and growth. For Z (because we can no longer call our big girl Lil’ Z), we usually ask her who she wants to share her birthday with and what she wants to prepare for her guests, so service and appreciation are valued more than self-centered adoration. The first three birthdays were spent with family. Four and five were play dates with homemade snacks that she prepared. But when she started attending the birthday parties of others, she wanted one of her own. For six, we had a costume party after spending autumn in the United States piqued her curiosity about costumes, but she still helped prepare and served her guests. Leading up to seven, we told her that future parties will celebrate a milestone or accomplishment, not just the passing of another year.

Our Turning Seven party was simple. I’m not an artsy person and had little time to plan, but we managed to pull off a memorable evening for her and her girlfriends between the ages of 6 and 8. We started with a welcome and invited her friends and their moms to share what they love about prayer and any advice for Z as she begins properly learning the daily rite. Then the younger girls were assigned to match prayer times to a diagram that Urbndervish designed and write a poem about prayer. The innocent spiritual awareness that comes around this age is so refreshing. Their little poem turned out like this:

I love to pray in the day

And if I don’t fight, I can pray in the night

I love praying. It keeps you close to Allah

And I like saying “Ma sha’ Allah” (what God wills)

It helps me be close to Allah

And when you’re praying you say the words of God

I like reading Qur’an. It’s good for you

It’s the word of Allah. God’s saying the words too

Maghrib (sunset prayer) is lovely. I love it so

I like all the prayers and I’ll never let them go

I love it because it helps me grow

The older girls had to prepare a skit on how to advise a friend to pray properly. It began with one friend praying improperly and the other two gently advising her on how to focus and pray appropriately. While the formal prayer may seem rigid, it’s one form of worship that doesn’t negate the sincere overflow of supplication from the heart. Ritual is part and parcel of our spiritual experience, with sincerity being the most important prerequisite.

After gathering for snacks, I recounted the day Z was born, we sang traditional songs of praise and poetry, and wrapped up with henna applied to our hands and smiles of satisfaction in our hearts. Parenting a seven year-old is a new phase for us, but we’re looking forward to the new joys and challenges of the next seven years of childrearing.

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you are my ramadan

Moulay at 5 weeks

sighting the moon as you suckle

cooing while i recite

nibbling suhoor* as you snuggle

changing diapers in the moonlight

 

my night vigil begins with your cry

your milky kisses break my day’s fast

your smiles are sweeter than dates

holding you is my i’etikaf**

 

comforting you is my remembrance

nursing you is my charity

thoughts of you are my prayers

tending to you is my hajj journey

 

selflessness is my sacrifice

God’s mercy is that which I seek

motherhood is a spiritual path

placing paradise beneath our feet***

 

*suhoor:  pre-fasting meal eaten before dawn

**i’etikaf:  spiritual retreat

***reference found here

 

for a grieving mother

i have no poignant words to share

nor wisdom to lift your grief

i have no proverbs or parables

to offer you relief

 

in the midst of sorrow and pain

we are left asking “why?’

not even time can heal some wounds

as the days go by

 

the woes of this life are plenty

and even in times like this

we must remember this is not our home

there is a greater bliss

 

this world and its disappointments

at times seem so unjust

but the nature of life is that it ends

parting is a must

 

there is only one constant, one truth

which we can apply

God never fades nor ends

on this we can rely

 

God is never far, always close

to God, we must draw nearer

until the certainty of faith

makes it all seem clearer

 

our only lasting source of peace

and Giver of every good

has a greater plan for us

even if not understood

 

so cry your tears, grieve your loss

and recall the memories passed

but thank God for every moment

even if they did not last

 

keep gratitude on your tongue

until you feel it in your soul

and pray that God heals your hurt

and makes your heart feel whole

 

i pray that the joy you find with God

will outshine these dark days

and that you and your family remain

in God’s loving gaze

 

Loving Arabic, Loving Oman, Loving Arabic in Oman

if we were written in the stars

the script was Arabic

bound by a revelation

heaven-sent

a truth-bearing tongue

evident

its place in our hearts

eminent

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The study of Arabic has been a common theme in our lives.  From the fated conversation more than ten years ago when I casually asked Urbndervish about where I could learn Arabic, to our eventual move abroad to study the language, and now, our current residence in Oman, the home of a new Arabic language school that gives us yet another reason to love this place.  The Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-Native Speakers is a mouthful to say but a sight to drool over.  Their beautiful, new buildings erected in the quaint town of Manah, only 15 minutes from the nearest town of Nizwa, are inviting.  Each classroom is equipped with shiny desks and tables, SmartBoards, and colorfully, laminated images on the walls.

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Nestled in the center of the U-shaped hall of classrooms is a cafeteria with a ping-pong table for recreation.  The open courtyard provides benches for gazing at the mountains around you, with tables and chairs for the more studious.  A modest library with shelves yet to be filled is situated amongst the classrooms and the larger building in the forefront is for administrative staff.

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While some students would appreciate more dynamic teaching instruction, none seem to be complaining about the facilities and accommodations offered.  In a large mansion fit for the prominent, furnished rooms are provided, both single and double occupancy.  Three hot meals are served daily and students are shuttled to and from their hostel to the school.  Weekly afternoon lectures immerse students in the culture of Oman, tackling topics like economy, geology, and women’s status in society.  Peer tutoring is provided in the evenings and the weekends are filled with excursions to sights showcasing natural heritage and cultural enjoyment.

For those of us who sought to study Arabic years ago, the affordable options were not nearly as plush as what the Sultan Qaboos College offers.  It seems like not too long ago, we were researching Arabic programs throughout the Arab world and had to weigh quality and reputation of instruction against cost, political turmoil, environmental health, and race relations.  Fast forward to the post-Arab Spring state of affairs and your options for study begin to narrow.  The safety and stability of Oman are a welcomed oasis and a prime location for the study of Arabic.

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One of the most appetizing features of the Sultan Qaboos College is the affordability.  This program has been subsidized by the Omani government, appropriately so considering the school was established as per royal decree.  Eight-week courses consisting of 160 instruction hours only cost 200 OMR, about $520 USD.  Four-week courses are offered at half the cost.  Room and board are a mere 34 OMR per month for single-occupancy and 17 OMR for double.  In the future, home stay accommodations will further immerse students in practical language application and the inner dimension of Omani life.  Really and truly, the program is a steal but they’re not out to get your money.  There is a sincere interest in sharing the Arabic language and Omani culture to all who are willing to partake without jaded resistance or misguided prejudices.  Even practically speaking, classical Arabic is well-used here in Oman but dialect courses are offered if you want to chat it up over coffee with the locals.

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Until the school’s website is up and running, you can find more detailed information at their partner university’s (Deakin University) site here.  Take note of the upcoming course dates for 2013:

8 Week Course:  February 2 – March 27

4 Week Course:  April 6 – May 1

4 Week Course:  May 4 – May 29

4 Week Course:  June 1 – June 26

4 Week Course:  June 29 – July 24

For more info contact:  s.q.college@gmail.com

Update:  The site is up!  Visit here.

birthing revolution

Jamaica2011 078there’s a battle in the birthing room
a war on women
an assault on our agency
a moratorium on mothering

big business thieves are busy
forcing their forceps
scalpel-wielding scoundrels
electively cutting what is whole

vultures of vulnerability
silencing our groans
choosing to disempower and frighten
when we should be empowered and free

a birthing woman can be beastly
fierce in her femininity
courageous in her conviction
vicious in her vitality

she is saintly in her sacrifice
righteous in her rage
divine in her indignation
a champion for change

a woman should give birth
wherever she pleases
on a mountain, by the sea
in a bed, on her knees

a fearless delivery is safe
an empowered soul is cooperative
an informed intellect is intelligent
our wombs are rewriting history

we are birthing our future
we are delivering revolution
we are nursing change
and nurturing our salvation

pivotal is the place we stand
sacred is the struggle we wage
an end is in its beginning
and it’s time to start anew

Jamaica2011 065

the seamless seamstress

the seamless seamstress does more than it seems.

she weaves her heart into the garments she seams.

from hand-picking fabrics, like flowers in bloom

to selecting the choicest threads fit for her loom.

sorting through buttons that suit her delight,

complementing color scheme and function just right.

after basing the “frock”, she primes her machine

in the quiet hours when her attention is keen.

while dreamers dream, our seamstress seams;

wrapping us in prayer like spools in her ream.

prayers for a blushing bride in the gown she adorns;

prayers for a pregnant mother, expecting a baby to be born;

prayers for great granddaughters who whirl in their dresses;

prayers for the sons and grandsons that she blesses.

a tapestry of love in borders and hems,

each garment you’ve sewn, your touch has blessed them.

while loved ones may mourn or fear your transition,

we wear your loving legacy, and this was your mission;

to share something dear for all in your care

and blessing our lives by just being here.

so, to the seamless seamstress:

God has certainly blessed your living!

thank you for modeling a faithful life of giving!

Raggamuslims’ Travel Memoirs 2008-2011

From the time we started this blog way back in 2008, we intended to use this medium as a way of documenting our travels, reflections, and life experiences.  Fast forward three plus years and we were still relying on this blog as our journal- not good ole’ fashioned paper and pen but a digital web log with our pictures and documents stored in some unknown location in cyber-ville.  So, we finally decided to archive this work- not all of it (yet) but the most significant posts (to us) minus the recipes and restaurant reviews.  The compilation includes our travel stories, reflections, poetry, and a generous helping of all things related to Lil’ Z!  😀

If like us, staring at digital screens leaves you visually and mentally taxed, here’s a lovely little blog book that can serve as your companion while riding the bus, a gift to a travel-loving friend, or a nice addition to your coffee table book selection.  It’s condensed, revised, and edited for your reading pleasure.  We hope you like it!

heavenly peace

 

Lil' Z (nearly 4 months)

she sleeps in heavenly peace

she has a peace from heaven

she is a piece of heaven

not an angel, but angelic

so pure, you can smell it

so true, you can tell it

she dreams of sweet things that broaden her cheeks

expand her breast

giving tranquil rest

she wakes as the dawn breaks with the brightest of smiles

widest of eyes

glimmering with hope

in spite of the times

while the afflicted mourn

and hearts are torn

she reminds me that the sun still shines

babies are still born

smiles are still worn

we know the days will get harder

calamities will descend

but those who hold to this mercy

need not fear the end

the days will get shorter

for themselves all will fend

but those who follow this guidance

need not fear the end

the womb will continue quaking

cleaving wounds we cannot mend

but those who hold to this good

need not fear the end

devastation will continue

hardship will be widespread

but those who worship none other than the One

need not fear the end

when the lies appear true

and what’s right is hard to defend

those who give victory to truth

need not fear the end

when the dogma fades

religion no longer a trend

those who are sincere in their seeking

need not fear the end

every verse of the Qur’an

like a sincere letter to a friend

unveiling the path

to success in the end

so take this piece of heaven

take this peace from heaven

and sleep in heavenly peace

a beautiful reminder

Lil' Z (6 weeks old)

what a beautiful reminder you are!

your presence makes the passing of time so evident

your purity makes the need to improve so relevant

in your eyes, the future is reflected, so near

my faults, so clear

i see how far i’ve come

and how much further i’ve yet to go

how much further i’ve yet to grow

your every gesture is a sign of God

your yawn is pure grace

your smile, forgiveness

your breath, mercy

i breathe it in deeply

your inhalation is my inspiration

you’re my muse and my motive

my charge and my change

what will become of you in this delicious and difficult world?

this circus of life

i feared having you

knowing how vulnerable this love would make me

how any harm meeting you would break me

you are my heart

from my chest to my breast

some day you will drift

and i may not be able to catch you

you i hold so dear

with you, my prayers are made so sincere

theory meets practice

and planning meets action

i want to be all things beautiful, right, and true for you

but my shortcomings are more than a few

what in the world is a mother to do?

other than entrust you to care of The Divine

contemplate that you are not wholly mine

attach you to The Truth, unchanging with time

work and pray for the blessing of The Sublime

Precious Pearl

small and seemingly insignificant

like a grain of sand, innocent

placed to dwell

in dark warmth

nourished

protected

the anticipation increases

for the day you will emerge

a beautiful pearl

fashioned by God

a blessing to be witnessed

we are graced by your presence

we love you!