Monday, July 21, 2014

Making Hijrah (i.e moving for Islamic reasons) to Oman?: OPNO's thoughts

One of the questions our inbox fills up with the most is, should I make hijrah to Oman with my family/can you girls/OPNO tell me more about whether or not I should make hijrah to the Sultanate of Oman?

To the expats who are not Muslims readings this, hijrah is migration or moving for Islamic reasons. The Qu'ran tells Muslims that they do not have to stay somewhere where they are being hurt or persecuted, and may move to somewhere safer to make their lives. Islam doesn't require suffering for God/Allah. It is about service and devotion, and striving for the sake of, which is different than suffering for the sake of. Suffering for the sake of suffering is actually a notion our religion preached against.

The first early Muslim-followers of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) migrated from Mecca (where they were being tortured and killed and economically and socially segregated through sanctions enforced by the Quraysh tribe {which was, in many cases, their own tribe}) to Madinah, in what is now the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia didn't exist as it does now. Many of the early Muslims recieved reward, the Qu'ran says, for making this migration, as when they did so, it was to be able to practice their religion without fear of torture or without having to hide their faith.

Many people say I made hijrah when I moved to Oman. I don't really think of it like that per say...

In my own country, Canada, I openly practiced Islam. I went to friday prayers at the Mosque, learned to read Arabic, bought Islamic books online, wore abaya, hijab, and even niqab. I fasted, I could make umrah, and apply for Islamic loans which were actually more Islamic in structure than the Islamic banks here in Oman... I was not tortured, and I could practice my religion. I went to school. I had a job.

That's not to say, that any of that was not a struggle. I am an out-going person, who at soul, is a fighter. I used to also be patient and idealistic. That's worn off now, but being put down upon by others' ignorance is never anything I allowed on myself or others'.
Young Canadian men did rip off my scarf, a group of men threatened to rape me {because of my dress}, I had a pop can filled with pop (like a rock) thrown at my head, and people constantly {especially women} decided I was intellectually inferior to them because of my beliefs. I got told to move to Saudi Arabia very often (usually by people who had been in the country less time than my own ancestors...who were some of the earliest Europeans to settle there). Usually, none of this bothered me. Like I said, I am a fighter. I felt sorry for these people. That they knew or allowed themselves to know so little of the world.

Then one day, one woman, simply refused to be served "by people like me" and that broke me down. I don't know why. that one woman's simple, non-violent prejudice, broke me, but it did.

I decided, why the hell not move to Saudi Arabia?

The reason is, there is no such thing as an Islamic country. There is no truly Islamic government (unless you somehow think Iran is one... and I don't since they don't elect according to the best qualified and their courts are a mess--- not truly Shariah, and they don't handle non-Muslims the way Shariah should). Saudi and Afghanistan are horrible examples... Neither country's governments are run on Shariah law---only claim to be, taking whatever portions of shariah law as they see fit or beneficial to their ruling parties.

Even some of the earliest Islamic governments are not Islamic, historically, since they favoured a tribe or family or bloodline over the tenents of Islam, which were always, that the best qualified should run the government.

I guess that's why Oman looks attractive to some, getting back to the questions we OPNO girls are asked.
Oman is a Muslims majority country. That means, if anyone tries to pull off your scarf here, or doesn't allow you to work, ect... they get in trouble with the police.

They also [currently----who knows about the future], nicely support a lot of non-Muslim rights in understanding to Islam, so that Islam is not forced upon others in terms of dress and behaviour. Which I prefer personally, to Iran or Saudi Arabia where I'd feel hypocritical in faith to the way it is enforced.

But that being said, Muslim majority doesn't necessarily mean Islamic. In fact, the Muslim communities I was in touch with in Canada were more visibly practicing than the majority of Muslims here. Here Islam can be confused with culture, and tribal and family considerations override Islamic notions often and in many cases. Marriage is one (racism abounds). Legally, many things are not according to Shariah law (although there is a shariah basis).

In terms of general safety, Oman is pretty safe.

But when it comes to creepy guys per say, abaya and hijab doesn't protect one like it does in Canada, where abaya made me feel like a Princess by most Canadian guys (not the hick prejudiced neo nazi ones of course, but they are a minority). I am serrious. There, what I wore meant I was looked at for my thoughts and actions, not what I looked like. Here, it doesn't have that power, and it means "female", not necessarily always a good thing. Here female behaviour is still tribally a source of "honour" as pathetic as that is, although the government has tried to make headways into changing these pre-Islamic mindsets.

I personally, don't know what this means for my daughter. I'd like her to grow up with the Canadian/British-convert Muslimah ideal of what a female is supposed to be in terms of society, yet be as legally protected as she is to practice her faith as she is by the Omani government at this time without all the tribal-jahiliyia mumbo-jumbo.
I would like her to see races and nations as extensions of herself, something beautiful, to marvel at, to know about, not to derive borders and barriers from, or be afraid of, or to be faced with legal or familial sanctions on.

If you are thinking of moving to Oman for Islamic reasons, know that Oman is still segregated on nations and races. Passports are not given fully based on merit, nor are marriage permissions. Visas can be difficult, limited for single females, investments depend on sponsorship in most cases, and shariah law is not the basis of all laws... Corruption exists here in government, there is no true election system (Sultan Qaboos is, in many, things, pretty awesome, but not even he would ever try to label himself a Caliph).

The country is an Ibadhi majority (which the majority of Muslims worldwide are not). Still, the shiite community here is very well treated compared to Iraq and Bahrain... So I'd think about it if I was Shia for sure, not willing to consider Iran a good example.

The economy in Oman is rocky. It is not fully developed to the point it can support itself without oil reserves, and policies favouring Omanis doens't always ensure even that aim...

Education is expensive if you are not Omani (and relatively of poor quality if you are Omani). Healthcare is also expensive if you are not Omani. If you are not Omani, there are only certain places where you can buy and own property. These are things to consider.

Sure, there are Qu'ran schools, Mosques, and abaya retailers. There are public holidays for Eids, and reduced working hours for Ramadan.

But that to me, does not make Oman ideal for hijrah. In many ways, Canada could be just as Islamic in principle, although perhaps a little less safe (though Muslims I know from Toronto always subscribe to love for that city).
I'd probably advise UAE (one of the smaller Emirates like Sharjah or Ras Al Khaimah) if one was looking for a legally and economically sound Muslim majority Khaleeji country to immigrate to that suited my means and education, or even sections of U.K. if you had the income, or Malaysia, if Khaleej wasn't your thing.

But there is no Islamic country, or Medinah of the early days, to make hijrah to anymore.

I chose Oman because I love it here. I have the patience for the prejudice I do encounter. I can stand and fight here, if I have to. My income is enough, as per the cost of living, but then, I am not living your average expat immigrant to Oman situation, as my husband is Omani and other OPNO girls all make well over the average expat salary for Oman being PHDs or successful business owners. I don't think I can advise others to move.

I chose Oman randomly, after I realized UAE  (Abu Dhabi at least) didn't suit the person I wanted to be as a career woman. I'd had history here. The culture, which will never be my own, is ingrained in my psyche. I can leave the bad, keep the good.

I think often, in the concept of hijrah, of the kind of woman I want my daughter to become. I think of what society or a nation ingrains into her consiousness. I decided I want her to be a citizen of the world, and be learned enough to follow Islam of the earliest history, not of consequent generations of fatwas of muftis and sheikhs of today. She must learn Arabic for that, so any Arabic country can provide that. She must also travel, to be aware of Allah's creation, not man's interpretation of its meaning. Oman is our base. It is not ideal, it is not Islamic, it is not even safe at all times, or sure in politics or economics, but it is simply the base.

My only advice would be, is hijrah is impossible. Making a better world around you, is possible in some places, at certain times, considering political, economic, social, and Islamic factors. Making yourself better, is possible, anywhere, at any time.

That's all I've got. Sorry for the long rambling post.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. What will you do if your daughter says that she isn't interested in Islam or decides she would rather be some other religion instead?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous: I would feel I had failed as a parent of course, but depending on what path she chose for herself, I would not cut ties or try to alienate her. My family did that with me for a little while and it really hurt so I would never inflict on another human being what I wouldn't wish to be done upon myself.

A lot of people believe you are born Muslim... and in a way that is true... but there is the point where one dedicates themselves to the religion.... and that can't be forced. But once that vow is made, I kind of believe in sacred oaths. I believe in marriage vows, and dissolving them before breaking them ect... Same goes with religious ties. Which is why I'd want her to understand fully what she was promising herself towards when she vows to be a Muslim. It isn't a changeable thing to me once the intention of belief is there. If she did change after, I would not hate her, but I wouldn't consider her an honourable person, and I'd tell her that.

I'd probably suggest she choose another country to live than Oman though;) if that ever happened (God forbid she chooses not to be a Muslim) since here life would probably make her hate Muslims who would hate her ect.... The culture doens't always act as the examples in Islam tell us we should. My inlaws (her family) might not react as I would. Many would be openly angry and hostile and she would be shunned. Some people would threaten to hurt her (probably not close family). I don't think that would be the example of Islam however. Fighting against Muslims once one was a Muslim who has renounced their faith is something condemned. Doubting one's faith and looking for the truth (even in what I consider the wrong places) is not.

Crazy in Kuwait said...

Great post. I also moved from California to Kuwait with my 3 kids so they could be raised in a Muslim country and as you said although people are Muslim they don't seem to be close to it like reverts are. I see homosexuality, rape, crime and corruption in a Sharia compliant country. When I first came 10 yrs ago there wasn't as much but now it's ok for a transvestite man to walk around like nothing.

This month of Ramadan I notice the youth cannot wait for night to come so they can put on their make-up and guys drive around with music so loud you can hear it in your own car. It's difficult to tell your children something is wrong when a Muslim born person is doing the opposite.

I guess we can only pray and hope for the best.

Zaynab said...

I agree with you that hijrah is impossible now. There are Muslim-majority countries, but no *Islamic* countries. But whoever moves for the sake of Allah and his religion, even if he wasn't aware of the reality, will be rewarded as if he had made hijrah. And hopefully won't be too disillusioned.

We say in Arabic that every human is born "ala fitrah", with the same basic nature that inclines him or her towards believing in God and monotheism etc, but that is not the same as being born Muslim, as some people say it, because Islam is a system of laws and principles that requires knowledge and practice, and nobody is born knowing those things.

Anonymous said...

Wow, my eyes were glued to the screen as i read through. I'm being serious... This is my short story, all my life as a male expat growing up in Oman and i felt something is out of sync. Something isn't quite right but i couldn't pin point what it was. I did all the things you talked about and much more. Its just extremely delightful to see someone i do not know say exactly what my thoughts were leaning towards. It can feel a bit lonely when not many people express themselves and the current situation as you did. May God bless your efforts and bring it to fruition.

Anonymous said...

Salam,

You've always emphasized 'quran and sunnah' in your posts - but how do you reconcile that with the idea of apostasy, and the 'traditional' punishments for stuff like that in the ahadith? I'm surprised that, after how strictly you wrote about hijab etc, you don't seem to support 'islamic hudood' and all of that.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anon: I believe if for example, I left Islam, I should be stoned. I chose Islam. I pledged myself to it. Not many born Mulsims get to do that. And most ppl who leave Islam do that well before adulthood when I'd consider their decisions more permanent and mature.

I support hudood for how it was meant in the Qu'ran and sunnah. FOr ppl who try to hurt Islam and the Muslims. Not just for people who are looking for the truth and don't know where to find it yet.

A lot of Muslims follow later generations of Muslims rather than the example of the Prophet Mohammed himself. Look at anyone he ever stoned to death. They weren't just looking for another truth with genuine concern for right and wrong were they?: I love history too and find it important. A little bit of knowledge is dangerous. History is required before making rulings and fatwas ect...

Hijab I've studied very well. So I care about it and can be strict;)

Nathan Linley said...

As salaamu alaikum sister,

I came across your making hijrah to Oman article and thought it had a nice balance of many different aspects of Hijrah. You are correct in saying that there really isn't a 100% Islamic environment, however there is always some good and bad everywhere and the needs of every individual are different. Insha Allah, any muslim that tries to improve their situation will get a chance to do so. I recently started a project, a forum site (https://www.makinghijrah.com/forum), which is aiming to try to bring together a lot of the scattered knowledge on various Muslim majority countries. I'm hoping that putting everything in one place, with a standardized format, it will help others who want to make hijrah. Since many hijrah attempts end in failure, I think having a good place to compare and contrast different destinations would help the Ummah. At the moment, getting contributors has been slow. So, I wanted to send you a personal invite to ask if you would help in contributing your knowledge to the Oman boards (as well as any other countries you have familiarity with). Any help you can provide with this, or sharing the site with friends, is greatly appreciated.

Jazak Allahu Khayran