Mountain Beauties


We were supposed to leave Sana'a early in the morning, but that didn't happen. We only hit the road at about 9 or 10 am after finishing with breakfast, loading the van with our luggage, and tidying the house. I could have had an extra two hours of much-needed sleep I thought to myself, only to have the better half of my brain counsel me to patience knowing that every successful journey must contain sabr - patience and perseverance.

Eager to begin the road trip, I settled myself in the back seat of the Hillux as four other children aged 8 to 13 took their places beside me, while the youngest of them all, aged 6, sat next to his mother in the front. We started with a du'a, and with mixed enthusiasm the children ran through their travel routine. The eldest of the boys, Muhammad, was the presenter necessitating that he speak into his hands where he held an imaginary microphone as he introduced his siblings who each, in turn, recited a part of the Quran and a hadith. "Wa Farzeen?" asked their mother. They all looked at me. I shook my head "no" -- La shukran.... Heya la tureed. I was a stranger to them, they were strangers to me. I promised myself to never do that which I wasn't comfortable with (a promise that I unfortunately broke on a couple of occasions), and I wasn't comfortable. This ride was the beginning of many more life lessons that I couldn't have imagined would come my way though I had every reason to expect them.

Three days, three cities, many miles, and many more eye-opening experiences and mental readjustments later, I arrived with this family at their humble home in a large village atop a mountain in the outskirts of Ta'iz, a developed city only about a four-hour drive away from the country's capital. It was my learning base for only six weeks, but it was probably the most internally distressful and unclear experience during my stay in Yemen. Perhaps it was fitting preparation for my next stop, Tarim. Whatever it was, I know it wasn't in vain. It was then that I first wished to return to my family after four months of being away from home. It was then when I first broke. It was then that I realized the depth of the blessings that Allah sent my way. It was from then that I had to force myself to look deeper at the person I thought I was and wanted to be. It was then and there that I failed my soul.


"La la la la la, layyyyyyy" ---- the young girl sang around the house as she teased my friend with the traditional wedding sounds that women like to make. My friend was getting engaged, and the festive, high-pitched wedding tongue roll only served to embarrass her more. "La ya Kareema!" she said in a weak attempt to scold the child. It was only an engagement, not a wedding she told her. The child continued. A well-loved young woman of the community was getting engaged to the girl's uncle. She had every reason to rejoice, and a little chastisement wasn't going to stop her easily.

During my travels to the village, I had already met her in-laws-to-be as they are the family of the doctor whose home I lived in and whose family I lived with. As a guest amongst them, I was the only non-family member present that night. I accompanied the doctor's entire family into town as we picked up boxes of hilwa, a gold ring, and a gold watch - traditional gifts for the bride-to-be. I had no idea that the many boxes that were loaded into the van contained hilwa (sweets), and I offered to help by carrying a box to my friend's house. I was warned that it was heavy, the truth of which I realized when I lifted the box nearest to me which then encouraged me to question the boxes' contents. Ma hatha?? Zhahab? -- What's this? Gold? Met by a hearty chuckle I was told it was hilwa, enough hilwa to give to many of the neighbours in the village and surrounding area.

What I witnessed that night I still carry with me. The groom-to-be was going to see the face of his bride-to-be for the first time. For my friend, it was a nerve-wracking experience as no non-mahram (relative) male had seen her face after her childhood. She asked me to sit next to her as her sisters left the room, leaving only the doctor's wife, mother, daughter, and myself in the room with her. With the exception of my friend, we all put on our niqaabs and waited for her father to enter with his son-in-law-to-be. My friend huddled closer to me, clutching my hand. The young man entered, his gaze lowered. He sat on the bed directly in front of us for no more than a few seconds, looked up at her quickly, said "masha'Allah," and stood again to leave. As soon as he was out of sight, my friend hid her face in her hands as she rested her head on my shoulder. I smiled to myself and probably outright too. The whole experience was really a beautiful sight from my perspective. I embraced her and offered words of comfort. But that was only the beginning.

What followed was quite confusing and distressing for me at the time, but I sought some clarification about it afterwards. Now it continues to inspire me to question myself, as I am counted as one of today's young Muslim women in the West. be continued, insha'Allah!


iMuslim said...

Intriguing stuff, masha'Allah... I wait patiently for part II!

Shireen said...


"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]



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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]