This blog is published for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and the thousands of Muslims raised or reverts, or even non-Muslis, who might be living in areas where they are not able to experience Ramadan in a Muslim community; so we, at MWA, invite you to be a part of our community in Ramadan.

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong) Al-Baqarah 2:185

Established in 2006, Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) is an internationally-based collaboration of Muslim women writers and advocates working together to counter negative and inaccurate perceptions regarding members of the Muslim community and the Islamic faith.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A.C. for Taraweeh Please! A journal by MWA's Aishah Schwartz

To be honest? This is a totally impromptu post. I have three other member posts to publish, two other personal journal posts to finalize and another one burning my fingertips to get off onto my keyboard! But I said to myself, "This is a quickie." Well...we'll see about that. Here goes. [Don't laugh. I didn't get this published until July 29...ten days later!]

I'm a collector. I collect mobile numbers, names and receipts; oh, and plastic bottles.

It happened when I started visiting my favorite masjid for taraweeh prayers, that I noticed the women's prayer hall, which has two large air conditioning units, was so humid because the units were not being turned on in time for the prayers.

Uthman ibn Affan Masjid, Hurghada. ©Aishah Schwartz
One evening, I think it was after my July 13 visit for taraweeh prayers, oh, yes! I wrote about that! It was the evening I took photos from inside the men's prayer hall.

Anyways! It happened that the masjid's Imam, Sheikh Ahmed (who snapped that fabulous photo of me standing beside his recitation Quran), invited me for tea (with a few other people, of course), and so, I collected his mobile number. #SansMotive

The next evening before maghrib, I asked someone to write an SMS for me in Arabic asking for the air conditioning in the women's prayer hall to be turned on, signing off, "Jazakallahu khairan. Madame Aishah." Hey, whatever works, right?!
أرجو من فضيلتك تشغيل التكييف فى مصلى النساء .
أختك فى الله / مدام عائشة
 Then after the taraweeh prayer I send another Arabic SMS saying thank-you.  
شكراعلى يشغيل التكيف جزاك الله خيرا عائشة.
Tonight, after a light iftar of just water, a cup of coffee and one banana, and as I was preparing to leave my flat for the taraweeh prayers, I again sent my SMS, just as a reminder - people get busy, and they also are tired from fasting, so I'm just doing my part to be there for my sisters. *smile* 

A few minutes later my mobile rang; unknown number. Although it is my habit to leave unknown numbers unanswered, I found myself answering anyway. It was Sheikh Ahmed! Subhan'Allah! I was totally guessing that he was saying to me, yes, he will turn on the A.C., and confirming my arrival to the masjid. I think I answered, "Insha'Allah" like three or four times (my Arabic is limited), however, I could feel his smile through the phone. Satisfied with his mission, the call ended. 

Aishah's 'Gang' of cats; Buddy gets the special yellow bowl.
I left my flat carrying a one litre bottle filled with water to put in the dish outside the door of my flat for the building's cats (I had put food earlier); yes, the crazy American cat woman is sharing Ramadan with them.

Usually I toss scraps down over the balcony for the cats, but with all the construction mess downstairs, I've switched to using a large plastic tray for dry food and an empty plastic ice cream container for water, setting both just outside my front door, against the wall.

After replacing the containers twice because the security for my building tossed them when cleaning the hallways, I kindly asked him not to throw the last set of containers away as I was sharing Ramadan with the cats. He just shook his head in a combination of understanding and bewilderment, but the containers stopped disappearing.

I made it down the hill from my flat in search of a taxi after praying Isha. Another telephone call as I was preparing to leave earlier, took about twenty minutes out of my prep time for departure and I figured it was better to pray Isha right there in my bedroom before leaving because the Imam would finish the prayer before my arrival, this way I would make the prayer and just maybe be a few minutes late for the start of the Taraweeh prayers.

I never know for sure if my mind will change when a taxi finally stops for me as I venture out of my flat; it's just like that sometimes (hey, I am, after all, a woman!), so I am prepared in any case to let the driver know where I want to go from a paper in my handbag that has written in both Arabic and English where I want to go. Wouldn't you know it, I changed handbags before going down, taking the larger one because I was carrying my laptop and prayer carpet for after the prayers, so I didn't have the Arabic written note to give the driver so he would know where to take me. Al-hamdulillah, my system is also supported by photos of the masjid in my mobile. I've learned from experience that if you can detect the driver is not sure where he is taking you, it will take twice as long to get there because he will stop along the way to ask 10 more Egyptians where the masjid is located. That might sound like a stretch, but, believe me, it is not so far from the truth!

Upon view of the masjid photo the driver affirms he knows its location and off we go. 

I am wearing a prayer abaya with attached hijab. The driver asks, "Are you Muslim?"

Below are a sampling of responses this question received on my Facebook profile:
loooool ǀ duh ǀ Love to ask the obvious looool ǀ No I just like wearing hot clothes in 40 degrees Celsius weather and spending evenings in masjids. ????? ǀ welcome, lol, Ha ha ha...ǀ Ughh. ǀ I got that once on my first day at work from a bahraini colleague. I was in hijab and asking for qibla direction at the office. He asked, are u muslim? ǀ Seriousy? ǀ Maybe he thought you were a reporter or impostor who was collecting information ǀ Gee ǀ what was his first clue? ǀ lol ǀ In one of the government offices in saudi the officers after he saw my non arabic name asked me "r u a muslim?" I just have to answer him back "what's mohammed then?" ǀ did u ask him if he was a taxi driver! lol
Al-hadulillah, I arrived to the masjid in one piece – and I made sure to look both ways before crossing the street (a few nights back I was almost hit by an oncoming taxi before I got to the other side; "look both ways" reminder reinforced!).

One row night!
Upon observation of the collection of shoes at the entrance of the women's prayer hall, it was clear there would, again, be just one row of women praying.

I entered the prayer hall. Hmm. What to do? Sure enough, there was just one row of women for the taraweeh prayers; an awkward row at that... On the far left end there was a woman who had set up camp with her children using some cushions from against the back wall. At the far right of the line sat a young girl in a chair and beside it was a collection of book bags, hand bags, etc. Behind the small row I spotted a slender young girl (Rahma), standing alone. I said, "Ah ha!" and joined her. Subhan'Allah, just moments later the girl was flanked on the other side by her mother and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder as three.

Half way through the prayers the daughter and mother sat down when the Imam paused, but Al-hamdulillah the break was so brief and I didn't even miss to sit down myself. But when the Imam started to begin the prayers again, I noticed that the daughter and mother were not rising from their seats. "Well, there will be none of that!" I thought to myself. And I proceeded to tug on the elbow of the girl, as she was nearest to me. She looked up at my smiling face and rose to her feet. Mom followed suit. And we were, once again, three. Al-hamdulillah.

The recitation of dua at the end of tonight's taraweeh prayers (there was a substitute Imam!) was so beautiful, masha'Allah (even though I could not understand them), but on reflection this is my dua: May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala accept our fasting, worship and good deeds, forgive our sins and facilitate the recovery and mending of our collective bodies, minds, hearts, and souls this Ramadan.

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