Don’t succumb to the ‘colonialized victim’ mentality

Don’t succumb to the ‘colonialized victim’ mentality

Since moving to Qom, one of the interesting things I noticed was how enthralled Iranians would get if they found out we were from America, or that we knew English.

Of course to most of them the misconception was that being “from America” meant we were reverts to Islam. The first few times that it happened, and I was asked “how long I’ve been Muslim,” I had to explain that I was of Pakistani origin and born Muslim, and yes, all of my family is Muslim, etc. So from then on when I was asked, “where are you from?” I just started telling them I was from Pakistan.

It doesn’t help my case when my kids speak to me, or each other, in English.

I understand the “awe” factor when you see someone speaking in a different language and it’s one you might not know. Like when I had a friend who spoke French, English and Urdu, yet talked to her daughters in only French and Urdu. They didn’t know English, and I was always loved hearing their conversations in French.

But what disappoints me is when someone thinks a language or culture is superior to their own. Thanks to colonialism, this is a mindset I have seen way too often – whether it was among Pakistanis or Indians, or even now among Iranians.

One day a couple friends and I were sitting in a local park watching our children play. We were speaking in English, and before we knew it a young Iranian lady walked over to us and asked if she could join us to practice her English.

While it was a bit awkward, since we were just relaxing and being informal, nevertheless we said sure, and she sat down and asked us where we from. Two of us were from America, and one friend was from Canada.

She was quite impressed and then told us how she wished she could go to Canada because it was “so much nicer” than Iran.

So my friend told her, sure, it is a beautiful country but there is beauty in all countries, even Iran. She passed off the compliment and started complaining about all the problems there were in Iran.

Granted, there are serious economic concerns in the country, brought on by external sanctions and internal corruption, and other cultural issues. But really? You have nothing nice to say about your own motherland?

This lady, who had never been to either country, assumed both countries were like pieces of heaven on Earth. Yes, there are lovely parts of every country. I can’t deny that I love going back home. But we told her about some of the obvious problems we saw there: lack of gun control, crime, drugs, cultural issues regarding immodesty and drinking, or the abundance of inappropriate themes on television and movies for young children. She agreed that those were valid concerns, but felt that being Iranian was now a target for being hated.

She said, with an Iranian passport I’m looked at with disdain. And it doesn’t help that our kids in school are taught to hate America, and the West.

I looked at her in surprise. I felt myself heating up, and I had to calm down. You mean to tell me if another country steps into your country and facilitates a coup, or starts spying, that should be OK?

She just sat there bewildered.

I told her to look at the example of Pakistan. Always a lapdog for the U.S., and yet never given a break. It continuously aims to please the West and doesn’t get a bone in return. So, for what is this ridiculous obsession?

I asked her what do you think America would do if a country came onto their land and established a military base. Do you think America would say, “Welcome!” No. Never. They would wipe that country out with a nuclear bomb or two.

Meanwhile sovereign nations should just sit quietly by while the U.S. or England comes in and takes what they want. And if there’s even a peep – as in the case of Mossadeq – they will just take you out with a CIA-backed coup.

My slightly long retort was met with a sheepish grin and silence. Inside my heart was aching for a nation that watched so many of their young sons and daughters die for freedom. For real freedom. Freedom from the hands of the oppressors.

I told her that you should be proud of a leader who doesn’t allow anyone to come into Iran and take what they want. If that means financial burdens, then know that these burdens means you can at least live with your head held high. So you are hated because your country refuses to be oppressed. Live with dignity, and not with humiliation.

This is what the West wants to do with their sanctions and their threats. They want to make you beg for respite. They want to make you follow them around like a lapdog. And even then – as in the case of Pakistan, unfortunately – they will make you suffer. Is it worth it?

After the lady left to meet her mother, my friends and I discussed why so many are so ready to give allegiance to a country that is solely interested in wiping out their own.

“You know it’s easy to talk about how nice Iran is and how hard it is back home. Because we have a choice in the end,” my friend said.

I thought about that long and hard. It is somewhat true. Even though we also face the financial burdens here in Iran, thanks to sanctions and currency fluctuations, we also deal with our expenses differently. We might have dollars or euros saved, and most all of us have help from back home.

But it is the attitude that makes me think we have serious work to do. As foreign students, we are in the interesting position of being able to talk about both cultures and we should be able to discuss it in an unbiased, yet realistic, way.

Naturally there should be no problem in wanting to visit America, Canada, or England, etc. But to feel inferior if you can’t speak English? Or to think it’s something really great because I have an American passport? Or hate everything about Iran because you are naïve about the political issues facing your country?

I remember once being asked with awe and amazement as to how my kids knew English. I said you know how you were born in Iran and know Farsi? That’s how my kids know English. It’s just a language.

I am not Iranian, but just living in a country home to Imam Reza (as), his sister, Lady Fatima Masooma, and the many, many Shaheed who gave their lives so that their country could be safe from oppression, is an honor for me.

And I really pray that others — especially Iranians — also feel honor in this humbling association. I truly believe that the Almighty does not let the blood of a Shaheed go in vain. But we must honor that sacrifice and defend it with our blood, sweat and tears for it to last for the long haul.

When mom life meets hawza life

When mom life meets hawza life

I apologize for not updating the blog in a long time but I’ve been literally taking exams for the past month. And I still have two more to go.

The one thing you learn pretty quickly as a hawza student is that one must always be ready for anything. Like having midterms a week before finals. (Don’t ask)

In between regular life, cram sessions, midterms, wiladat celebrations, fasting, and finals, I have realized life is really what you make of it. There have been days when I feel like just closing my books and quitting hawza. When I first started hawza with Farsi language classes, it didn’t seem so difficult to manage a home life with school. But now as I finish my first term as an official hawza student I’ve gotten just a glimpse into what it takes to learn about Islam.

Our classes are not a joke – Sarf (Arabic grammar), aqaid (beliefs), akhlaq (Islamic code of ethics), tareekh (history), ahkam (Islamic laws of practice), khanvadeh dar Islam (family in Islam), and some classes based on Shaheed Mortaza Motahhari’s books.

Attending classes this term felt like I was quenching this inner thirst. Our teachers opened our eyes to different concepts, helped us realize our true identities as Muslims, and what it means to follow the path we are on. Every time I felt like dropping out, I just told myself it’ll get better.

Our akhlaq teacher was one of the best of the bunch. She started every class with a verse from the Quran and encouraged us to read and understand at least one verse a day.

I didn’t just learn religion this term; I learned life. I learned about sisterhood, overcoming obstacles, prioritizing, keeping a schedule, and that going back to school is never a bad thing.

My kids wonder why I’m still in “school” if I’m a mom. They wonder why I get homework, and if my teachers are nice. I don’t dare do homework on my kids’ time – that’s just asking for trouble. I wait until they’re asleep to crack open the books and feel like an adult again.

Once you’re a parent you get really good at making life work and anything that comes in the way – school, work, etc – gets organized accordingly. You have no choice but to make it work, for your sanity.

It’s been a while since I’ve been back in the school grind, but I have to say I’m enjoying every moment. From getting new notebooks to eyeing the clock for the end-of-class dua, school life is truly magnificent.

The Holy Prophet told us to “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave,” and I’m humbled with the opportunity to be here learning, and hopefully pass this valuable information to others.

What is the date today?

What is the date today?

I used to be able to answer this question quite easily, but since moving to Qom, I am usually left searching frantically for my phone.

Today is the 5th of Dey. Year? 1395.

You see in Iran, they go by the Iranian calendar. The Iranian calendar coincides with the seasons, so the first day falls on the 21st of every Gregorian (or miladi) month. The new year, Nawrooz, starts with the first day of Spring, or March 21.

The countries of Iran and Afghanistan both follow the solar Hijri calendar. (But the Afghan months are named differently than the Iranian months). The year count starts with the migration of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) to Madina.

The year is divided into 12 months. The first 6 months have 31 days, and the next 5 months have 30 days. And the last month, Esfand, has 29 days in a common year and 30 days in a leap year.

I found this awesome app to help me figure out what day it is.


So now that I regularly converse in three different languages, I am also fluent in three different calendars – the Gregorian one, the Islamic one, and now the Iranian one.

Here is the breakdown of the Iranian calendar:

  • Spring (Bahar)
  • Summer (Tabestan)
  • Fall (Payeez)
  • Winter (Zamestan)

The different calendar makes for interesting conversations regarding birthdays or other important dates. Usually when you sign up for something you are asked for your birthdate or the day’s date. And it’s not the Gregorian one or the Islamic one they are asking for. To make life easier I have converted our kids’ birthdays to the Iranian calendar so I am not left struggling at the last minute.

Dates are really important in Iranian culture, too. Often you will see roads named for important dates, like 15 Khordad, 19 Dey, etc.


Back to Qom life

Back to Qom life

Returning to Qom after summer always leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. 

I hate saying ‘goodbye’ to family and friends and my home, but there’s an urge to return home quickly and get back to my routine. 

Now the countdown to the new school year begins. Since I started part-time classes, there’s a certain excitement of getting back to the classroom. 

I’m also looking forward to incorporating new things into my kids’ routines that we will do as a family. The goal, inshallah, is to keep us active, learning, and growing closer to Allah.

Here’s to learning new things, watching my kids grow and soaking in more of that Qomlife.

Welcome to Qom

Welcome to Qom

It’s been a little more than 2 years since we first moved to Qom, Iran. We being the Rizvis from Houston, Texas.

My husband and I had two kids then – two daughters aged 4 and 1.5. My son was born about a year and a half ago.

When we first decided to move to Qom so my husband could pursue religious studies, we went searching the Internet for articles or blogs related to life in Qom. There was a blog that did offer lots of information, but it was outdated and from what we heard, things fluctuate quite a bit frequently in Iran. Luckily we had a few good friends who had already moved here and they offered tons of useful advice about daily life, things to bring, life with kids, etc.

So this post essentially serves as an introduction to this blog, which will hopefully offer an inside look to a non-Iranian family’s life in Qom. I plan on blogging about issues centered around families and kids, and everyday things you face here when living as a transplant.

I invite anyone interested on moving here to pursue religious studies to ask questions. If I can’t answer them, there is a big community of students from the West who can help. I also welcome your suggestions to make this blog more useful.

With that said, there is another blog (about two years old) by a howza student from Canada which I think is well written:

Disclaimer: This blog is in no way connected to or associated with the seminaries in Qom, the city of Qom, or the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These views and blog entries are mine, and mine alone.

Thank you for reading. With the help of Allah, the Most High, I hope this blog offers prospective howza students and their families some useful information that will make their move to the holy city easier.

Iltemas e dua….