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 

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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.

When it just isn’t meant to be

When it just isn’t meant to be

Disclaimer: This is not a blog post that waxes philosophical on the concept of fate and destiny. It is a simple story about a fan. Please stay with me… 

It is springtime in Iran, but apparently nature didn’t get the notice. It went from winter straight to summer. Where are those beautiful breezy spring days??

The sudden shift into summer weather meant finally packing away winter clothes, getting our cooler (aka air conditioner) running, and plugging in the ol’ pedestal fan.

We thought about getting another pedestal fan to help cool down the house in place of running the cooler on those slightly less warm days. But a new one costs about 250 tomans on average. (That’s about $67, according to today’s conversion rates). Which isn’t a terrible price, but you almost always can find a secondhand one for much cheaper, thanks to Iran’s version of Craigslist.

However, because Qom is a “transit” city there’s always someone moving away. We found one family selling their slightly used fan for 150 tomans. I immediately contacted them, and we were set. Or so we thought.

It just so happened that they were hoping to give it to us around the end of May. The family had guests coming and still needed the fan. Sigh. (But we need the fan now!) Nevertheless, we decided to not buy their fan, as we weren’t going to be in Qom at the end of May anyway.

As luck would have it another family also posted that they were selling a secondhand pedestal fan. And for a great price of 50 tomans! We went over to their house and picked it up. However after plugging it in and having it run for about 30 minutes, I happened to pass by the room and saw the fan wasn’t moving. I thought maybe one of the kids felt cold and turned it off. Upon getting closer I hear a slight whirring sound meaning it was on, just not functioning. And after turning it off I touched the back of the fan motor cover and it was burning hot!

I contacted the seller and she was completely surprised, telling me she had it in storage, and had turned it on before I picked it up to make sure it was working before giving it to me. She apologized profusely and told me to return it and take my money back.

A couple weeks later, after school while walking with the kids toward the local masjid for praying Zohr/Asr, I noticed another secondhand pedestal fan standing outside a small shop selling electronics and kitchen appliances. It was 55 tomans and looked like it was in decent condition. Although the shop was closed, the owner left a small sign with his number on it on the door. We contacted him and found out that there was a buyer who had expressed interest in the fan before us and even left a small deposit with him. However for the past three days the owner hadn’t been able to contact him. He told us that if the buyer still didn’t pick up the phone by the next day, we could get it.

Long story short, we didn’t get that fan either.

Sometimes kismat is a funny thing. There are things that just aren’t meant to come your way… and even when you do get it, thinking that it was meant for you, it goes away. At that moment when the owner told me “I’m sorry, but it’s gone,” I thanked him and had to smile a little. It just wasn’t meant to be. And as I sat watching the kids run and play before prayers, I thought about all the wonderful blessings we do have – a cooler that works, a pedestal fan that works, a home that keeps us safe from the burning sun. Sure, another fan would have been nice, but in retrospect we really didn’t need it.

One might say, well, just go buy a new one. And yes, we could have done that, and we are grateful that we are able to do that without any hardship. But knowing when to accept what comes your way is part of this faith. Personally, I take these small instances as signs that I should take a step back and reflect. About what I have, what I need, etc.

Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) for giving these beautiful moments where we can reflect on the things that matter and be thankful for all the blessings we have.

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.

Groceries delivered to my door? Yes, please!

Groceries delivered to my door? Yes, please!

On Friday I did something I have never done, even when living in America.

I ordered my groceries online! Yes, folks. This is the new Qom.

After using the mobile site, www.kowsareshop.com, I signed up as a new customer/user and submitted my order. Within an hour we got a call from a customer service representative who confirmed the order and told us to expect delivery within 1-3 hours.

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Here is our delivery! Comes with a free tote bag!

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Only a couple of things ended up going out of stock after my order, but the representative called again to let us know.

We were able to pay via card or cash upon delivery. Yes, the delivery guy comes with a card reader.

Did I mention this was FREE DELIVERY?

I found the site easy to navigate with a drop-down menu of all things related to shopping for household items. It was not only grocery, but as you can see I ordered wooden skewers and what you can’t see, is the laundry detergent (it’s in the green tote bag).

Looking forward to doing this again soon!

Getting schooled in a new culture

Getting schooled in a new culture

We really are creatures of habit. And especially when we come from the West, we get used to all the care and comfort of living in these countries.

When I say care and comfort, I mean customer service! And making lines!

This might have been one of the hardest things I had to get used to here in Qom. I bought a glass decanter one day. I brought it home, washed it, and set it down on the counter. And the bottom broke. I told my friend, who had been living here for a few years already, “Oh, can we take it back and get a new one?”

I’ve never heard someone laugh so hard.

“Welcome to Iran,” she said.

I wasn’t as upset, as flabbergasted. But it wasn’t my fault the glass broke! This is not proper customer service, I complained. Eh, you live and learn.

And you learn pretty quickly. The culture here is different. Is it wrong or right?

Sure, it isn’t right in Islam, to knowingly sell something faulty. But are you really going to fix a system going after one shop owner? And, to tell you the truth, if you do go back to some shops, they will help you fix the problem. I have had this happen to me plenty of times. Just don’t expect the iron-clad guarantees of Target.

But there are bigger issues than just getting ripped off. And that is getting used to a new culture. Most of us have come here for a reason – to learn Islam. That should be our main goal. Trying to fix how people talk, or drive, is really irrelevant.

It’s like what a coworker told me once about Chinese and why they are stereotyped as “slow” drivers. He said, in China most people use bikes, so when they finally get a car, they really aren’t used to driving it around. They are slower because they are more careful. Not because they don’t know how to drive.

Or lines, for example. Whether you are standing at a store counter or waiting for the bus, no one follows a line. Why is it always a mad dash? Because here no one is heard unless you come forward yourself. It’s because unless you fight your way to the front, no one will let you go. No one is waiting (it is rarity, though) to take your order or let you get on the bus. It’s the culture. It’s not really about right or wrong – it’s the way it is. We might hate it because back home everyone takes their turn. Of course, taking turns is fair, but over here everyone is used to this way. Although, I am always happy to enter a shop when the owner acknowledges who came first. It is refreshing.

After decades of following one system, you just can’t change it overnight. Imagine how Imam Khomeini brought the revolution. It took a lot of time to change the culture.

Sometimes I hear people complaining about how Iranians talk, about the rush at the haram, how they don’t make lines, how they always stall when it’s time to do work, etc. etc. Sure, it may not be right, but it’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they are part of a system that has made them this way. We need to focus on the bigger picture.

Badmouthing a culture really isn’t a solution, either. If you can’t fix it, then one shouldn’t just bash it either. And if you are here to study Islam, just focus on that. Unless you are here to do research on Iranian culture and social codes. Then that’s a different story.

Missing Qom life

Missing Qom life

It’s summertime and that means a break in the life of a seminary student. 

We have been fortunate enough Alhamdulillah to be able to travel back home to the states every summer since we moved to Qom.

It’s a nice chance to catch up with family and meet new nieces/nephews! 

But I’ll tell you, a small part of me misses Qom life. There’s something about the rat race-life of America that will have you longing for those quiet afternoons and relaxed atmosphere of Qom.

I think my kids’ moods also take a hit whenever we travel back home. All of a sudden they are thrown out of their routines and everything is upside down, from the environment to their bedtimes.

Is it good? Bad? How do we adjust? While I want them to be with their families and learn to live with extended family, I fear the constant bombardment of images/attitudes/thinking that don’t match the lifestyle we have adopted and wish to live by.

At any rate, I believe this is a work in progress. We live and learn, and I pray these life changes make us stronger, with Allah’s guidance and help.