Monday, 7 July 2008

Day 10 (Cont'd): The People of Tarim

Today we drove up one of the mountains that surround Tarim. A nerve-wracking, teeth-grinding 10 minutes in our bus and we reached Habib Umar's home in the mountains. I still have no idea how the bus tires don't puncture on the sharp rocks. You know how goats can clamber up mountains? Well, our bus clambers up roads like a goat clambers up a mountain.

The view at the house is incredible. From there, you can see all of Tarim, and I was right—it literally is nestled between awe-inspiring mountains. Some of them have names of Allah written on rocks in white chalk that you can see from far away. It was so dark I didn't even notice the mountains at first and was thinking "why does this horizon look so strange" for a good bit before I realized they were mountains. Unfortunately it was too dark to take good pictures, so this is the best I got:

I walked around the house with two Yemeni girls (the girls of Dar al-Zahra were also invited) and one of my housemates and I ended up sitting on the ledge of the mountain with them. There was a wedding going on nearby and it sounded exactly like the zaffa (wedding procession) in Egypt; I saw a car earlier that day decorated with "Mabrouk" (congratulations, the equivalent of "Just Married") and I assume it was probably for the same wedding. Anyway, we sat on the ledge and the girls asked Eva (who is from Bulgaria) to tell them the story of her conversion to Islam.

No many how many converts I listen to or how mundane they think their stories are, I will always remain in awe of them. Just remembering Eva talking about how her parents didn't even show up to her wedding or how she decided to put on the hijab (veil) in her workplace rather than applying for a new job because she saw it as Allah's test for her gives me goosebumps. And it makes my own problems seem petty and insignificant.

Every day, I am just bowled over by the kindness of the people here. Moneeba, our house mushrefa (supervisor) is one of the kindest women I have ever met. I forgot my books on the mountain and when she found out she made the bus she was on turn around to go back and get them, though it was the middle of the night and she must have been dead tired.
I will never forget how she greeted me the first day I met her in Dar al-Zahra when my family's neighbour took me over; she greeted me like a long lost sister, with hugs and kisses, and none of it was faking-she was genuinely happy to meet me.
She keeps telling us how khedma (service) is one of the most important things we could be doing. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) used to serve others, exemplifying a substantial principle of Islamic leadership: The master of the people is the one who serves them.
Ustadha Moneeba is the embodiment of her advice tp us. She never asks anyone for anything, and is instead always doing things for us herself, making us really ashamed of not helping around the house more. And she's not just any volunteer: she's a teacher with years of experience.
She's on the go 24/7, rarely sleeps because she's organizing stuff for us, and is always always cheerful. I've always hated constantly perky people, but for some reason I don't feel the same way about her. Perhaps because I feel that she's not only sincere but that for her, helping us truly stems from a love of us for the sake of Allah.
Khedma is something everyone here strives to do; I just learned today that our bus driver—who comes over twice every prayer to take us to class and waits outside for us in an un-air-conditioned microbus in the boiling sun —is not a bus driver, but a student at Dar al-Mustafa engaged in da'wa who is doing this for us voluntarily.

People here are so nice you think they must be faking, only there's something about them that tells you they're not. Their kindness makes me at a loss for words, unbelieving that they truly could have no 'barriers' put up at all, that they lay themselves bare in front of you. It forces you to reciprocate, and to, in turn, lower your guard.

Neighbors treat you better than family relatives do. The neighbors of my family here in Tarim have been so so so so kind it's unbelievable. Back home, I know the names of my neighbours and I smile at them when I see them in the elevator, and that's about it. And they've been our neighbours for almost a dozen years.

My family's neighbours in Tarim, an elderly couple, have been their neighbours for one week and their kindness puts us to shame. The man took my brother around the city (and he's a diabetic with a knee problem), introduced him to all the sheikhs, and walks to the market every day in the morning to buy my family fruit and fish though they beg him not to. This is him:

The woman has blood pressure problems and can't walk far and yet insists on walking my mother to Dar al-Zahra so she doesn't walk alone, lending her an iron, sending food upstairs, inviting my family for lunch every night, and basically everything she can think of. I spent one night with my family this week and when she found out she insisted she fry me some chips. And when I said no she still made them anyway, got her husband to walk to the dokan (kiosk) at night to buy me bread, and walked up three flights of stairs to give them to me. Honestly, they are so kind I don't know what to make of them. I have never ever met anyone like them in my life.

When I think of the companions of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) saying that the Prophet advised them about neighbours so much they thought he would tell them to include neighbours in their wills, I now only think of this couple. They truly implement the Prophet's teachings more than anyone I have ever met in my life, for absolutely no benefit.

There must be bad people in Tarim, it's not paradise and I'm not naive enough to think there aren't any. But here, you feel that the inherent goodness in people, the fitra (priomordial nature), is truly present, and not buried like it is with so many of us in this day and age. And it's a goodness that I'm sure needs no religion—an atheist could come here and still be moved by these people, who truly embody the spirit of al-Ethar so much more than I could ever dream of being: They give away what they have to others, even if they need it, and are happy about it.

There's a hadith that says
"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."
i.e. your iman (faith) is not complete until you truly wish that every good thing that happens to you also happens to other people. If you think about it, it's near impossible to do. But here, you feel that people truly wish only great things for you.
Today's Quote: Knowledge won't help you unless you implement it, just like water won't help a thirsty person until he drinks it. Habib Umar

1 comment:

sistahmimo said...

As-salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah..mashaAllah! the comment(s) you made about your family's neighbors in Tarim brought tears to my eyes. May Allah bless them and keep them safe. I feel such peace and love in my heart when I hear that there are ppl like this who exist..keeps me hopeful and inspires me to be better..thanks for your blog, Jazakee Allahu khairun.