Since moving to Qom, I get this question a lot:
So, how is life there?
Usually it is asked with a hint of disdain or followed with a sympathetic touch. It’s a common reaction, though.
And because of this I have to remind people that we chose to move to Qom. My husband chose to pursue religious studies at the seminaries here, and that is why we came. Eventually we have to leave. Naturally our experiences here as students from the West will be different from Iranians who have been born and raised in Iran.
I have only been here for about 3 years now, but I am pretty much adjusted. There are a lot of things we take for granted, like just opening the tap and drinking the water, or having a dryer for my clothes. And the biggest thing for me is not being able to see my family – at times it hurts a lot to be so far away. Thankfully there is FaceTime.
The talabe community here from the West can all relate to these issues. So we have become a family for each other. I can’t say I like being away from home, but I am very grateful for the new family Allah has blessed me with here in Qom. We are each other’s support and lifeline. There is always a place to go when your kids are getting bored or when you are feeling homesick. And the best thing is when you are feeling down, they remind of why you are here, and the bigger purpose.
It is said that true friends remind of you Allah. And in that case, I have amazing friends, alhamdulillah!
With that said, here is a short list of 10 things that I love about life in Qom.
1. Lady Masooma e Qom – for all those times you just need a spiritual pick-me-up or some one-on-one time with God. Nothing beats a trip to the Haram. There is always Qur’an being recited, or a lecture. Just the hum of others praying makes you feel at ease. And every bus makes a stop at the Haram.
2. Parks galore – With kids, you always need a place outside of the house to relieve sibling tension/boredom/lack of fresh air. You name it. Qom is filled with parks, small and big. It is so easy to just grab a few snacks and sit down while the kids run around. Not to mention a great idea for a picnic lunch in the spring.
3. Taxis – I don’t drive here, and while I like the bus system, it can be a chore with kids. So thank God for the taxis! Cheap, reliable and all over the place. Not to mention the ladies-only taxi service (with only female drivers) is also a plus, although it can be a bit pricier than regular radio taxis.
4. The corner stores – Back home, a quick run to the store still meant getting in your car, driving a distance, finding a parking spot, etc. Here it literally could mean running to the corner and back. And if you’re lucky, your corner store, or foroushgah, will literally have everything you can imagine all stuffed in a tiny space. It might not be kid-friendly, but it beats driving and parking!
5. Naanwais – Just a guy making fresh bread three times a day. Enough said.
6. The learning environment – There is always something going on. Classes, seminars, conferences. Mostly in Farsi, but you can find them in English, Urdu, and others. And in all kinds of subjects: Akhlaq, marriage, child rearing, ahkam, philosophy, etc. And free. It’s especially nice for people like me – stay-at-home moms with some flexibility. Right now I take a class in the evenings when my husband can watch the kids, and two when he is off from school.
7. Respect for cleanliness – I remember the first time I heard the street sweepers. It was about 1 a.m. and I hear this loud brushing sound outside our bedroom window. Come to find out it is the street sweeper. They come out around midnight or later sweeping the streets. I also appreciate the recycling bins you can find on the sidewalks. Even the haram bathrooms are always being wiped down. (Unfortunately some people don’t take others into consideration, but that’s another thing).
8. Feeling of safety – I can’t say I have ever really felt at harm walking the streets or taking the taxis. Now of course I don’t mean there is no crime here, nor anyone with any evil in their hearts. I mean, just the driving here is insane. But Qom is a relatively safe place. You don’t hear about kidnapping, theft, murder, rape, etc. as commonly as you would in the West.
9. Organic fruits and vegetables – They just taste better. They make my food taste better. My kids like them more than back home.
10. Simple living – Now, of course I say this as a transplant from the West. Life is just simpler here. You aren’t surrounded by so many artificial things, and yes, it is your choice. But even then, there just aren’t that many distractions to begin with. It’s nice to turn on the TV and not worry so much about what you will see. My kids have more opportunities to learn and grow, instead of just burying their heads in their electronics. I have more opportunities to learn instead of just shopping or going out. We eat more healthier at home. I bake from scratch instead of opting for store-bought options. We spend free time going to a park or visiting a friend. A nice treat – not a necessity – means going out to a local fast food place.
While we are here as students the biggest thing on our heads is remembering our purpose here: to educate ourselves and be better prepared to face the world as we spread true Islam’s teachings. We aren’t here to replicate our lives from back home, or surround ourselves with comfort. Even with our kids, we try to teach them how to live simply. I pray Allah helps all of us in this endeavor, no matter where we are in the world.