Part VIII. Finding God
I was brought up in a lightly conservative home. Dad wasn’t the kind of guy who goes to a mosque, or even pray. Mom was a reflection of women of the 60’s, the mini skirt and the funky hair style. But slowly, she became closer to God, and she started wearing the veil when I was almost 16 years old. Nevertheless, I may have developed a rebellion mentality and did the opposite of what they were. I was praying all 5 prayers in the mosque in the neighborhood in al-ain. It was probably a quarter mile away, and I was the only person who was praying in our house.
Prayer was a funny thing for me. I mean I was praying 5 times a day, yet, had that funky hairstyle of the eighties, and the old style jeans. I was very religious and fully convicted in God and Islam. My life style was not of that a religious Muslim, but still, I was so attached to defending the principles of islam. I even fought with my dad when I was 17 years old, because he was doing banking and getting interest from the bank. Of course I lost the battle, but didn’t seem to make me back off.
In one Ramadan, and that’s when my dad prays only, he was to be the imam. So he started to pray, and I refused to pray behind him, and prayed alone. I was 16 years old back then. When dad finished his prayer, and before saying the esteghfar, he jumped on me and kicked me a couple of kicks. Of course I didn’t like that, and decided to walk outside and eat somewhere else.
Then suddenly, and few weeks before my departure to the states, I started hanging out some guys who were going to dubai for pleasure (they were Lebanese back then, and I hear they are Russians now), and party in the intercontinental hotel in al-ain. That’s when I was introduced to beer. I started liking this new life style of mine. It was cool.
I carried on with me this life style to America. And to make matters worse, I started hanging around a group of leftist arabs at some point in time, and started adopting their mentality. They were kind, very kind and very active, but the majority didn’t believe in God. I kept my faith even when I was drinking or doing the forbidden matters. Then I started debating these guys and gals. “what the hell do you mean that there is no God?” I asked. Their answer was a simple “sure sure..the egg came from the hen who came to life through evolution, that happened after the big bang”. That’s when I got smart and asked them where did the big bang come from, or who caused it. They were smarter (at that time) and said “sure..God created the big bang, but can you tell me where did God come from?”.
To be honest, this question bothered me a lot. I then started drifting and not believing at all. God can not be an unjust God, yet we see death, crimes, oppression, and God is watching. He hence doesn’t exist, because if he did, he would’ve interfered since he is a just God.
It never stopped at that. I started preaching the non-existence of God amongst some of my friends. Some laughed at me, some left me, and some hated me for such belief. Now, I have very few friends that stood by me after my change of belief. I started drifting more and more toward my new friends from the left. I mean they were fun. Drinking and dinner parties, they had it all. Not to mention the cute arab girls of the left, this was another factor for me.
I started hating all muslim students. There was an MSA group at school, and I worked against them for most of my time there. Why not when they would never shake my hand and publicly say that I’m an infidel. I would even make fun of them and their appearance. At one time, I was parking my car in the visitor’s parking lot, and the guy who was working the booth was one of the MSA guys. He refused to let me in saying that I’m a student. We argued back and forth and I then heard him telling me “If I am able to kill you, I will oh you infidel”. He was hinting that just because we live in the states, he can not, but if this was Jordan or Kuwait, he would’ve slit my throat. I didn’t like that, and went straight to the booth, grabbed his neck, and hit him a couple of punches on his face. I then lifted the bar, drove my car in, and told him if I see a ticket or if my car is towed, he would pay dearly.
Sometime late 1998, and while I was working on my masters degree, two students who I worked with on a project were going to the Friday prayer in the 4th floor. They asked me to come with them, and I said sure, why not. I went up stairs, and saw different faces from different countries. Women, men, all were praying. I was sitting outside, but looking through the window. To be honest, I was just looking at the girls faces. This prayer never moved me an inch closer to God, but made me at least respect and acknowledge those who worship him. This is a major change in my life, for I wasn’t even considering any believer to be a sane person.
I started going more and more with these guys to the 4th floor. Then one time, I was embarrassed by one of my friends there who asked me “do you know how to pray?” I honestly forgot the prayer, and I told him that. So he asked me to come to his house, he’s having a party, but no alcohol or women. That’s ok anyway, I gave up alcohol and women sometime ago, so I went to his party. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet my future wife there. The party was nice, guys and girls, sitting around, with the boys on one side, and the girls on the other side. Some girls were wearing veil, and some were wearing mini skirts. Then it was time for prayer, and only few prayed. So it’s not bad after all, I mean it’s not one of those muslim gathering where they bore me about life after death. The food was great, and the topics of discussion were so sweet. Nothing about religion at all. It was about cars, parents, life, jobs, and that sort of things. Then the host said “do you guys want to watch a tape?” I was shocked…tape? What kind of tape? Where am I?. So he put the tape on. The tape was for an imam called “alzanadani”. He was talking about the miracles of science in the qur2an. I found myself so attached. I felt weak. My heart was pounding faster. I asked for the tape, but there was a long line ahead of me. I decided to wait for my turn, #6 on the list.
Nevertheless, my friend may have wanted to cash on the opportunity. He took me aside, and whispered to me “I have another tape for you”. It was another tape for this imam zanadani, but a longer one with scenes of scientists declaring their shahada upon hearing the translation of some verses from the qur2an. I took the tape home, and quickly played it. I played it again and again..and felt my heart is starting to question my own belief. I’m leaning toward believing in God once again…but there was something that was keeping me away from him.
I returned the tape to my friend and he asked me “so whats up? Are you good?” I said “of course I am, what make you think I wasn’t?”. He then pushed me a little strongly against the wall and held my Tshirt and said “how long are you going to be an idiot? Whats the matter with you? Unless you believe that an illiterate arab named Muhammad wrote this qur2an that talks about science, then you are just an idiot. Tell me that Muhammad wrote the qur2an, go on tell me”. I pushed him away. He shook his head saying “you can’t be that stupid, think man, think” And that’s what I did.
I started asking for tapes from my friend..and he was happy to give them to me. Then I asked him if he has a small book about prayer, or teaching kids about prayer. I could swear that this is the first time I see someone laughs so loud, yet cries in the same time. He put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me to the lab to show me how to pray. I knew the movements, but didn’t know what to say.
The next Friday, we both went to the 4th floor, and I asked him to watch me pray first and monitor any errors. I prayed. He informed me that I had an extra “rokoo3”. That’s ok..I can feel myself looking and feeling different. I started reading more about God, and listening to Tariq swedan, and amr khaled, and these guys. I started reading books about the history of Muhammad PBUH. I found myself so attached to prayer, and to God.
I really appreciate what that friend did to me. He stood by me when I needed a friend the most. He never gave up on me, and kept trying. I could see he cared. He didn’t want anything from me, as he was leaving to Kuwait anyway. I can never forget him or what he did for me. Sometimes I look back in time and start believing that indeed God sends messages through people. I gave up on God, yet he never gave up on me, and stood by me even in times when I was cursing God.
Islam in America has another taste, a different taste than what it is in the arab world. During Ramadan, and on Saturday and Sunday, so many families will cook food and bring to the mosque, for single people like us to eat and feel home. They would hang out with us, and we get to know them, men and women, and appreciate what a good life to be amongst people who care for you. It wasn’t like they are giving charity, no, not at all. They were cooking and eating with us together as a family. That made a difference.
Looking back at time, I sometimes smile at the cycle that I went through. I started a strong muslim, then went through a phase that don’t want to even remember, and now back safe where I belong, closer to God.
Part IX. Love in America
I left my family at an early age (17 and a half is early). Every young man will go through such moments of love. Some of them make sense, and some don’t. I had my funny moments with love.
I loved this arab woman. She was probably 35, and I was 18. I met her in an arab party. I actually met her and her husband together. I somehow loved her. I was always searching for occasions where I could see her face. It never occur to me that she is married. I wasn’t after any unlawful relationship, or that sort. I just felt my heart pounding every time I see her face or hear her voice. This one sided love lasted maybe 6 months. I finally told her that I love her. She looked at me weird and begged me not to do anything that harms her marriage and to leave her alone. That’s when it occurred to me that she was married and we can’t be together. I know I know….
Then I was dragged into my darkened world, and never tasted love again, till I married my wife. I was deprived of living love moments that normal people do during their twenties life. Maybe I chose to stay away from love. I may have been punishing myself for what I was doing, or maybe I despised all women and felt they were made for my satisfaction. I frankly don’t know.
But I’d like to go back in time before I left to America. Kind of a funny story, but sad too. When I was 15 years old, I loved the cousin of one of my friends. She was the most beautiful girl I ever met in my life. I was just crazy about her. I would call her and hang up. I wanted to be with her so bad, yet I was so idiotic in my approach. I started writing her letters, and have my sister slip the letter to her without knowing. I was slick when it comes to writing love letters, and I may still be. Then I started calling her, and expressing my love to her. She would never hang up on me, but she never speaks. She just listened to my love words.
Then I started visiting her home with her cousin. She never showed attention in me, yet she was always around us. I tried to reveal to her that it was I who is in so much love with her…but I was a true chicken. Then came the time where I was supposed to depart to the states. I had to speak to her. I called her cousin and told him to bring her, and I wanna speak to her. The meeting was supposed to take place in Hardee’s in the main street in Al-ain, by the bridge. I went there first, and sat down. They came then and sat down. She didn’t suspect anything, but she looked happy. We ordered pepsi, and then my friend left us both alone. That’s when she started suspecting something. I could still remember her face, so beautiful, so magical. She asked ‘whats going on?”. I had to tell her everything, so I did. She was just listening, and shocked. I could see that she is preventing her tears from flowing. Then I told her that I’m leaving in 2 days.
She laughed so loud, and looked at me and said “so you loved me more than 2 years, and you never told me that you do, and now your saying that your leaving in 2 days?”. I said “ummmm yes”. She laughed again and said “don’t worry, I never loved you anyway, and frankly, would never love you”. She got up and walked away. I tried to see her face one more time, but couldn’t, as she got in her cousin’s car quickly and asked him to drive her home fast.
That kind of hurt me a little. I was wishing that she loved me too. But it’s ok, because if she loved me too, I could be the biggest idiot, and would leave her in pain”. So I wanted to be an idiot more than I wished to see her hurt. I was relieved somehow, that she didn’t love me.
However, my sister told me that indeed she loved me and she was waiting for my move. She was fearing that she may have been loving me from one side only. That was a year after I came to America. I was devastated. I called her, and spoke to her. Only if I made my move 2 years sooner, I could’ve lived the best love story of my early life. I mean she loved me more than I probably loved her, and she didn’t want me to feel the pain of saying goodbye, instead, she chose to look like the evil one till I settle in the states. Now I am the biggest idiot God ever created.
To me, that was the only love story, real love story I ever lived, or witnessed, prior to meeting my wife. Which in turn, was a love story that I don’t think I’ll forget either. Although we didn’t see each others a lot prior to marriage, we some how developed the respect and love toward each others. I could remember that before I proposed to her, I told her about my past, everything, and every detail, boring detail too. She of course was shocked, and asked me to give her till tomorrow to think. I honored her wish, and did that.
I was fearful that she will refuse me. Still, I had to be as open as possible with her. It was a gamble on my behalf, but had to be done. I couldn’t sleep the night, for the though of her rejecting me was haunting me. Sometimes I hear a voice telling me “you idiot, she was ok, why did you have to open your mouth?” I had to. The next day, I went to her house, and asked her if I should go through and propose to her dad. She agreed but asked me to never go that route again, and I promised her never.
Then I went back to the states alone, and was with her on the phone almost every other day. I just had to hear her voice. Now, love, women, family are all coming together. Women are not so bad after all. They are not a pleasure item. They think like me, talk like me, feel like me..damn..this great.
So I guess love wasn’t a big factor in my years in America. It seems that my mind was so occupied, and my heart was blocked from love. That’s ok…I have won the love game in the end.
Crazy & random thoughts
8 years ago