Arbaeen: Going to Karbala as a family

Arbaeen: Going to Karbala as a family

This year as a family we joined millions of people who walked on the journey of love, or safar e ishq. We traveled to Iraq for Arbaeen, or the 40th day after the day of Ashura. Ashura, or the 10th of Moharram (the first month of Islamic calendar), is the day the grandson of the Holy Prophet, Imam Hussain ibne Ali (as) was martyred with 72 of his family members and companions.

Ever since my husband went by himself for Arbaeen a few years ago, he claimed it wasn’t possible as a family. It’s just too difficult. The kids are going to have a really hard time. It’s too crowded. 

At first I was upset. Seeing pictures and documentaries of the Arbaeen walk made my heart ache. I wanted to be a part of that beautiful journey. But then I gave in. OK, it will be hard. I’ll just wait until they’re older.

But this year I told my husband, let’s just try. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. By the grace of the Almighty, everything worked out beautifully. And we set off on our journey.

I was skeptical the kids would cooperate all the way. But we set realistic walking goals, and after taking the blazing heat into consideration, we managed to part-walk, and part-bus it all the way from Najaf to Karbala.

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Even though we live in Qom now, my kids are quite accustomed to a routine and a relatively easy life, Alhamdulillah. (However, they are pros at the squatters now!)

But you can’t teach them about overcoming obstacles by just telling them. I find they grow stronger when they physically endure.

No it’s not easy, but taking kids on a ziyarat trip is actually a good way to teach them about our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his beloved family, and a good way to teach them about learning to overcome obstacles.

Sure we had some whining, long bus waits and there were plenty of hot days, but when we were in the shrines of Imam Hussain (as) and his dear brother Hazrat Abbas on the day of Arbaeen, I cannot even put into words the love and beauty I witnessed. There was no violence, no fear, no hate. Just pure love. Tears. Prayers. Light. Hope. And more than anything that I could explain to my kids about this, they witnessed it themselves. For the first time my kids had no questions. They saw. They saw the love for Imam Hussain (as). They saw the sadness of Karbala. They finally realized what I mean when I always say, “See how many people love Imam Hussain (as)? See the beauty of his ultimate sacrifice?”

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All during the walk from Najaf from Karbala my kids saw little ones like them handing out water, tissue, tea, fruit, etc. They were given gifts from random people who would pat their heads proudly at these little lovers of Imam Hussain (as). At one point I remember it was hot and there were some men who would spray mists of water at the people walking. My eldest ran to him and after getting all wet, started walking again and just said, “I hope another guy comes and does that again.” No sooner had she mentioned this, another man was standing in the middle spraying. I smiled at her and said, “See? If you walk toward Imam Hussain with a pure intention, Allah will make it easier for you. He answered your request.”

How can we expect our children to feel a love for our honorable Ahle Bait if we don’t make an effort to show them? Kids are very resilient, and with the right intention, Allah will make the trip easy for us. I remember being very concerned about certain bathroom situations (just holes in the ground) or sleeping arrangements in the mawkebs during Arbaeen. Imagine a big slumber party with strangers. But my eldest sat down and said, “It’s not so bad. It could be worse.” I thanked Allah from the bottom of my heart.  This is what I wanted her to learn.

Thank you Allah for giving us the opportunity to visit your beloved slaves. Through their love You honored us with this blessing. I pray we get to go again soon, and that our children always follow in their footsteps.

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A different kind of ‘change’

A different kind of ‘change’

A store owner owed me 300 tomans in change. 

But he didn’t have any, so I got something a lot more yummier than coins. 

This happens A LOT in Iran. While you definitely cannot pay for anything in chocolate/candy/sticks of gum/wafers, many stores have no issue doling out treats in substitute of money. 

To be fair, I’ve never seen them do it for change more than 500 tomans, and instead of coins weighing down my wallet, my kids are always ready and willing to take candy off my hands.

Are you ready for 1396?

Are you ready for 1396?

The Iranian new year, or Nowruz, is starting March 21. Iranians world over will ring in 1396 with their loved ones, enjoying the beginning of the season of spring, around the sofre haft seen. A setting made of seven things that start with the Farsi letter “seen” or س.

Living as a foreigner in Iran, I’m not too keen on the traditions, but I’m looking forward to my 2 weeks off from school, getting to sleep in and relax. 

Right now we are fighting crazier-than-normal traffic, and stocking up on essential food items. Because during Nawruz break there will be less good produce and fewer items on the shelves. Iranians love their Nawruz. And they should – it’s the celebration of the season of spring and new beginnings. 

Interestingly this year the first of the new year also coincides with the birth anniversary of Lady Fatima Zahra (sa). It falls the day before the eve of the new year. 


Hoping this new year brings more blessings to everyone, and helps us come closer to the Almighty! 

Here are a few pictures from around the shrine of Hazrat Masooma in Qom.

22 Bahman in pictures

22 Bahman in pictures

Today marked the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We went out for the rahpaymah, or procession, in Qom.

Below: “The movement continues…”

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Today those of us in Iran answered Trump’s threats by coming out on the streets in large numbers.

No, we don’t fear you. Bring it on.

Saying ‘no’ with your eyebrows

Saying ‘no’ with your eyebrows

It caught me totally by surprise. Here we were newly arrived in Qom, and we had to visit a local shop. I asked the owner if he had a certain item (can’t recall now what it was). He didn’t have it, but instead of saying “no,” he just raised his eyebrows.

So I started looking for the item in another direction.

“Na, na daram.”

My husband (who knew a little Farsi before we moved to Qom) says to me,”He doesn’t have it.”

Sometimes if you’re lucky, the raised eyebrows are accompanied by a little click from the mouth, and moving the face in upwards.

My younger daughter has, of course, learned just the eyebrows.

“Marium, did you put away your toys?”

All I get are raised eyebrows.

One day, after Fatima Zahra had started school in Qom, she came home and responded to one of my questions with the click and eyebrows. Uh no, not in this house.

I calmly told her that in our house when you need to say no, you will say no.

Suffice it to say, I have never had to remind my kids again.

It definitely takes many people off guard, especially those with no prior experience with any Iranians.

While I first found it quite rude, especially when my daughter responded to me in that manner, since almost everyone does it, you pretty much get used to it.

 

The day we met a Sunni in Iran…

The day we met a Sunni in Iran…

And contrary to what mainstream media tells me, he actually was happily living here.

Back story: We were driving back home to Qom from Mashhad, and stopped in Aradan. In the village of Deh Namak there was an old fortress used in the time of Shah Abbas (according to the manager it was some 500 years old) which had been turned into a hotel/restaurant/rest stop, called Caravan Saraye Deh Namak.

It was a beautiful fortress. We went inside and the hayat had gardens and small fountains. There were individual rooms you could rent for the night. I wish we could have stayed longer.

But we were hungry and ready to just hit the road and get back home. We met the manager who led us inside the restaurant. It was a sunnati, or traditional, restaurant, which means they serve the typical kabab platters (koobideh, joojeh), deyzi, among other dishes. The seating arrangement was quite lovely – you go up these small steps to private areas furnished with rugs and cushions so you can relax and eat on the floor.

My husband struck up a conversation with the manager and finds out he is Ahle Sunnat.

“Do you find yourself being discriminated against here?” my husband asks.

“No, not really,” the manager says. “I find no trouble at all.”

He has leased the fortress from the government and is currently living there with his wife while he tries to finish renovating it. He has two kids – one is a university student and one is married.

My husband then tells him that we often read articles about how Sunnis are discriminated against in Iran, a predominantly Shia country.

The manager again confirmed that he has no problems here, but that there are plenty of people who exaggerate these issues for their own benefits.

“Extremism on either side is a problem,” he said. “A person who doesn’t eat at all is harming his health, just like someone who eats too much.”

So now if someone tells you Sunnis are being discriminated in Iran, at least you can say you know one who says this is not the case.