Thinking about Tehran

Thinking about Tehran

It’s summertime and alhamdulillah we are able to spend another summer visiting family back in the states. The month of Ramadan started soon after we arrived in New York, and we were busy fasting and trying to keep the kids busy while in vacation mode, when we heard the devastating news out of Tehran.

My husband told me right around the time of Fajr prayers.

“There was a bomb in the parliament building in Tehran.”

And a few minutes later…

“And a bomb blast at Imam Khomeini’s shrine.”

My heart sank. I couldn’t believe my ears. Bombs? Deaths? Injured? During Ramadan? Why? Who?

Slowly as the news reports came filing in, I couldn’t stop thinking about Tehran. First we heard 6 killed, then 12, and finally 17. There were dozens wounded. Closed circuit TV tapes showed Iranians running for cover with an armed man following them at close range with a gun.

Afterwards when I saw coverage of the funeral processions for those killed, my heart bled. I could only think about the families left behind with questions. Those killed who were fasting. They died a senseless death. And all thanks to the powers who only think about themselves, and what can benefit their own countries.

“Millat Iran darad harkat mi konad va peesh mi ravad; een tarqebaazi haaye ham ke imrooz shod, een ha ham dar iraadeye mardom taseeri nakhwahad guzasht.”

“The people of Iran are moving and going forward. These firecrackers that happened today, these also will not have any effect on the will and determination of the people.”

-Rahbar e moazzam, Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei 

 

Yes, I am not Iranian. But for the past almost 5 years Iran has been my home. It’s where my kids go to school. It’s where we have made a community of many like us who have traveled from all over the world to study Islam in Qom.

I have to say I never ever thought about this kind of stuff happening in Qom. We live in relative peace in Iran. Sure we heard of the stories of Iranian guards stopping Daesh cells at the border, or potential attacks in the country, but that was all. With all Iran is called these days they do a pretty damn good job protecting their own. We don’t have to worry about a random crazy person shooting up a school, or a grocery store. We don’t have to think about a cop stopping a driver and beating them senseless. We don’t think about kids bringing weapons to school and hurting other kids.

It’s just not a problem we have to worry about.

And it is also one of the issues I have with some Iranians who often wonder with awe why we bothered to leave the “great nation of America” to live in Iran. Well doesn’t every country have their issues? Doesn’t every nation have their strengths and weaknesses? Why is it that Iran must be terrible because of rules of hijab and America is great because there is no hijab? You have Imam don’t you? You have the blood of shaheed that saved your country from being a toy in the hands of imperialists. Doesn’t any of that matter?

Thinking about you Tehran, and having just passed Imam Khomeini’s shrine about a month ago. We were going to visit but didn’t have time….

There will never be a perfect country. There will always be problems and issues that will make the other side look a whole bunch greener. But every country has to strive for a better day. And every country should fight those who try to meddle in their affairs. Every sovereign nation has a right to pick their own leaders, and deal with their own issues their way, without having another country funding dissent, or overthrowing leaders or supporting terror attacks.

I will say this: Sanctions stink, but they have made Iran stronger. They have showed the true resolve of the Iranian people. They have taught them that you might have to struggle but at least you won’t have to succumb to lapdog status.

And that, in itself, is a victory.

“Millat Iran darad harkat mi konad va peesh mi ravad; een tarqebaazi haaye ham ke imrooz shod, een ha ham dar iraadeye mardom taseeri nakhwahad guzasht.”

“The people of Iran are moving and going forward. These firecrackers that happened today, these also will not have any effect on the will and determination of the people.”

-Rahbar e moazzam, Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei 

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.

Lady Ma’suma (SA), the heart of Qom

Lady Ma’suma (SA), the heart of Qom

Salaam alaikum dear readers! We would like to introduce a guest writer on the Qomlife blog. Sumaira Fatima is a student at Amir-ul-Momineen Islamic Seminary in Qom. 

In the West, as you walk through the downtown of any relatively big city, you encounter tall buildings reaching towards the sky, grand shopping malls carrying expensive brand names, the hustle and bustle of people hurrying about their day to earn their incomes – in short, a polished, glittering manifestation of materialism.

But where I live – the blessed city of Qom, Iran – “downtown” is something entirely different.

If you look at a map of Qom, you will see that it is a fairly small city in the approximate shape of a circle, about 10 km in diameter at its widest point. Right at the very center of the circle lies the haram of Sayeda Fatimah Ma’suma, the blessed lady of Qom.

In the traditions of our Imams (as), this shrine – and in fact, the entire city of Qom – has been referred to as the “haram-e-Ahlulbayt (as)” (sanctuary of the Prophet and his Holy Progeny).

The haram is a place of worship, of remembrance of God and the purpose for which He created us, of contemplation upon the verses of God, and of conversation with the beloveds of God.

This blessed place lies at the very heart of the city – a constant reminder to us Qomites to always keep God at the center of our lives.

No matter where you live in Qom, reaching the haram via public transport is an easy task. Every single public bus route eventually leads to the haram. From every main street, you can find shared taxis that will drive you there. It is as if the city is designed in such a way that those who truly wish to go towards Truth will easily find themselves at the haram, in the presence of the blessed lady, at the place best suited for spiritual cleansing and growth. This is a reminder of the beautiful Islamic principle that if one truly wishes to find God, He will open ways for them to reach Him.

Compare this to the structure of cities in the West. The placement of symbols and products of materialism at the center of these cities encourages citizens to put their worldly desires at the forefront of their lives. Islam teaches us that mankind’s perfection lies in self-discipline which leads to self-purification, whereas western liberal ideology encourages us to work for physical wellbeing limited to this world only and to make our desires our gods.

And so, in a dizzyingly beautiful way, the structure of Qom reflects the city’s importance in being the spiritual and intellectual epicenter of the Shi’a Muslim world and thus a place of spirituality and attention towards the divine. In the same way, the structure of western cities pays tribute to the increasing drive of the West towards the material.

Therefore, living in Qom is amazingly, incredibly effective in purifying the heart and clarifying the mind, not only because it is a city of knowledge and piety, but also because even its physical structure is in accordance with the Tawhidi outlook on life.

What a truly blessed place this is, that even something so simple as its layout can serve as a constant reminder of God!

-Sumaira Fatima can be reached via e-mail at: Sfahmed313@gmail.com

 

The winding road of Chalus

The winding road of Chalus


Took a nice road trip with a few families to the north, or shomal, of Iran this past weekend. We visited the Roudkhan Castle in Fouman and stayed in Chamkhaleh.

The kids especially enjoyed their dip in the Caspian Sea, and making sand castles with friends. 

But perhaps one of the best parts of the trip was driving back home through the Alborz mountain range in Chalus. The Chalus River goes through the range and ends at the Caspian Sea. 

The winding road gave way to scenic views of the rushing river, snow capped mountains, and lush greenery. 

All along the road, there were chai stops, fruit sellers, restaurants, hotels, etc. We were supposed to stop for famous shomali ice cream, but it was too crowded.

But we did make a stop at the aash kadeh for a warm and yummy bowl of aash. 

Aash in the mountains, anyone?