Sunday, January 27, 2008

A modern retelling of an old tale

My 10 year old had to make a poem of a traditional story for her homework. She chose Rumpelstiltskin and we worked on it together. The following is what we came up with. Quite a formidable duo we make, methinks! LOL


Once a miller boasted to the king,
That his daughter could make gold in a ding,
All she’d need was plenty of straw,
In order to give him gold galore!

The king was rich and far from needy,
But alas he became much too greedy,
“Gold!” he drooled, “And lots of it!”
I could even have a golden throne on which to sit.”

He filled a room with straw, and in he pushed the girl,
“Hurry and spin by morning, so go on, give it a twirl!”
Desperate, the poor girl sat and wept,
When suddenly, in a little man crept.

“Aye, aye,” said he, “You look like you’ve had a fright.”
Weeping, she told the man of her plight.
He agreed to help, they struck a deal,
Then at once he got spinning at the wheel.

In the morning, the king came in,
“Ahh, I see, you spun it in the night within!”
He was happy to see the room filled with gold
But thought, “I need much more since I am getting old.

He gave her still more straw to spin into gold.
Again the little man came to her and thought , “This is getting old!
They made a deal; “I’ll spin the straw but if you and the king should marry,
I want your firstborn child, but just don’t call him Harry!”

The straw was spun, the girl and king were wed,
In time she forgot the promise she'd made,
And soon she was blessed with her very own child,
The man reappeared looking quite wild.

“You must keep your promise and give me what’s mine,
Unless,” said he, “You can guess my name then it’s fine!
If you guess my name in the next three nights,
Then keep your baby and there’ll be no fights.”

She guessed and guessed, “Charlie? Bob? Dave?”
Each time he said, “No way, that’s not it. Behave!”
A messenger helped her and gave her a clue,
She knew it was right and knew what to do.

The last day came and she said, “Pot Belly? Cherry bun?”
Until, she said, “Perhaps RUMPELSTILTSKIN is the one?!”
He shouted in fury and went quite red. “You cheated!”
He spun and spun right through the floor and was defeated.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Never too early...

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

One question I notice mothers of small children, asking frequently is "When should I start teaching my child about Islam?" I say, it's never to early! Start from birth saying 'Bismillah' aloud when you begin to feed your child; say other phrases such as 'alhamdu Lillah' upon sneezing or completing a meal and 'assalaamu alaikum'; pray in the presence of your child and so on.

My youngest daughter is 14 months old and now she will even pause from breastfeeding to say 'dandada' (alhamdu Lillah) with me if I sneeze and she always says it when she sneezes. She makes ruku' in front of me at salah times and now seems to be practising the juloos (sitting) position, masha'Allah.

Children are little sponges and readily soak up and copy all our good habits but beware because the opposite is also true!

Old Dir'iyyah - Riyadh

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

My home is just a 5 minute drive from an area of Riyadh known as 'Old Dir'iyyah'. There are grassy areas shaded by trees and it's a nice spot to take the children for a picnic when the hot desert summer draws to a close. They can enjoy running about freely in the gardens which seem a world away from the modern Riyadh as we know it today.

Ad-Dir'iyyah is located on the North-Western edge of Riyadh and is the original seat of the family of Sa'ud. It is also the base from which the great reformer Sheikh-ul-Islam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab made his da'wa and he was instrumental in dragging this part of Arabia out of the bid'a (innovation) and jaahiliyya (ignorance)into which it had fallen.

It is mentioned in the editor's preface to Ibn Abdul Wahhab's Kitab Al-Tawhid that the people had fallen into such polytheistic practices such as the veneration of graves, stones, caves and evil spirits; all those things that the prophet Muhammad, salla Allah alaihi wassallam, had been sent by Allah, subhanahu wa Ta'ala, to eradicate.

Amir Muhammad ibn Saud greeted Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and said "This oasis is yours and do not fear your enemies. By the name of Allah if all Najd was summoned to throw you out we would never agree to expel you. Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab replied, "You are the settlement's chief and wise man. I want you to grant me an oath that you will perform Jihad against the unbelievers, in return you will be the imam, leader of the Muslim community and I will be leader in religious matters. (1) Amir Muhammad Ibn Sa'ud presented himself as a student to Ibn Abdul Wahhab along with some members of his family. Dir'iyyah became popular as a place of learning and as such was transformed into a centre of Islamic education and Da'wa and people began migrating in great numbers.

The Dir'iyyah area is now undergoing extensive restoration as can be seen from the photographs; some parts are still virtually in ruins and are deemed unsafe to venture into whilst other parts have already been rennovated. Original building materials would have included dried mud bricks, limestone, wood (athil), palm leaves and branches.
(2) The restoration has been very faithful to the original style of building. In addition to building restoration there is plenty of green space on which to picnic and trees offering shade. A very welcome alternative to the usual chaos of Riyadh city centre. I took the following photographs back in October 2007.

Further online and offline reading:

Dir'iyyah and the First Saudi State by William Facey

A History of Saudi Arabia By Madawi Al-Rasheed

Dir'iyyah in Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogger in Arabic...

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I wanted to make a new post this morning after a couple of weeks of blogging silence and not really knowing what to blog about. Cold, wet weather in Saudi provided my topic but I couldn't work out how to make my new post. All the links on the Blogger page were in Arabic and none were taking me to where I wanted to be to make my new post. Aaargh!

Eventually I clicked on the little orange and white 'B' logo which took me to yet more Arabic but I noticed a pull down menu of 'lughaa'... languages, alhamdu Lillah and was able to switch back to English.

So the news on the Blogger page is that 3 new languages have now been added: Arabic, Persian and Hebrew. Just my bad luck that living in Saudi made the default for me Arabic and 7am was too early in the morning for working out how to get back into English!

National Obsession...

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Mutirnaa bi Fadhli Llahi wa Rahmatihi
It has rained by the Bounty of Allah and his Mercy

If you keep up with some of the other Saudi related blogs you may have noticed a common topic over the past couple of weeks or so… yes, the weather. It seems that those of us who live in this normally hot country with little variation in the day to day weather suddenly have an obsession with the weather. Well, you can hardly blame us; after baking in temperatures of 45 degrees and upwards (sometimes soaring to the lower 50’s) cooler temperatures and rain are welcome guests at this time of year.

Umm H.A.Y. has been enjoying much more tolerable weather over in Jeddah masha’Allah whilst Suhaa has been wondering whether it is really cold enough to bundle her children up winter coats over in Madinah. Even the Arabnews has been reporting our favourite subject and mentions that 0 degrees Centigrade… yes FREEZING, was recorded in Riyadh this month!

So, the weather has become the national obsession and today it’s my turn to blog on this subject and the reason for my excitement… I have woken up to wet road! Yup, it rained in the night. Alhamdu Lillah. I have been receiving SMS messages from my mother in the UK about the over-abundance of rain there, the flooding, the gales and the general misery caused by the unrelenting wet weather whilst here in Riyadh, mosques (and indeed mosques all over the Kingdom) have been calling people to prayer to supplicate Allah Almighty for His blessing in the form of rain:

Oh Allah, give water to Your slaves, and Your livestock, and spread Your Mercy and revive Your dead land.

Living in such a dry country where we see no rain at all for much of the year has really opened my eyes to the blessing contained in rain and how much of a gift from Allah it really is. When I visit the UK, I love to drive through the countryside and enjoy the greenery… over grown green fields and trees in abundance and yet here in Riyadh orange is the predominant colour… sand! How amazing it is to take a short drive into the desert after rainfall and see little streams formed in the sand and a hardy little bush bursting into leaf. Allahu Akbar!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chatting with strangers...

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

One of the nice things about living in Saudi Arabia is the way locals act towards me when they realise that I am not a born Muslim. Funnily enough this is the thing that annoys my mother-in-law as she thinks people are being nosey when they suddenly drill me with 101 questions but I find quite sweet and funny really.

I'll be in the masjid or musalla of a shopping mall with my brood of kids, wearing my abaya, hijab and niqab just like everyone else and no-one will take any notice of me... I finish my prayer and turn to one of the children to speak, in English. Suddenly all eyes are on me, puzzled. Then someone will bravely ask, "Muslim?" (Funny, because not only am I clad from top to toe in Islamic attire, but I also just did salah!) Next I will be asked if I am from Bosnia, Syria, Turkey... then the surprise when I say I am "Min Baritaaniya" (from Great Britain) and the conversation will continue depending on how good the lady's English is or how I am able to manage in Arabic.

Just today, I was in a supermarket with my two youngest children and my son fell over, I turned and said to him, "Are you alright? Come here and hold my hand." An old Saudi lady who had been looking at the bread came to me saying, "Masha'Allah, masha'Allah," and grabbed my hand to shake and then kissed the baby!

I know there are many, many convert sisters in Islam across Saudi Arabia but when we go out covered up we are hard to spot so it seems like such a novelty for the born Muslimahs in this country. It is so nice seeing how happy for me these people are, when they discover that I accepted Islam of my own volition (I converted before I met my husband). Alhamdu Lillah.

... إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ إِخۡوَةٌ۬
"The Believers are but a single Brotherhood..." (Qur'an 49:10)