Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Old Omani Woman from Barka: one of the greatest Muslim women I met in my lifetime, in memory

To the first woman (Omani) who made me feel like I belonged here.  She was old, older than most who change themselves, and the world around them, and who accept new things. She could not read or write and was not educated but was wise, and educated some of the best Muslim men I have ever encountered (they are rare these days) through simply being mother to them [and even if she could not read, her son was one of the first Omanis to graduate from Harvard].

She preferred a small old crumbling house with some goats to the newly built mansion her husband and sons gifted to her. But it was she who welcomed me, not to her home, to her country, to her religion, but to her family. And everytime I met with her, she pulled some gift out of her purse, as if that simple plain bag were enchanted. "Here is a perfume, a prayer mat from Mecca... here is some incense, here is a pretty toy for your daughter..." .

I had to hide when I saw her coming because I never had something back to gift to her in return, not even news of some well-suited girl to marry her son.
She had asked me to marry one of her children, and he was not a passport snatcher, or lowly employed, or bad in character. He was simply not for me in the way my husband is. I will always remember how she asked so little about me, didn't care about my past, that I was not Omani etc... she simply cared for the happiness of others and wanted everyone to be safe, and happy, and protected, even if they (her son) wanted a different life than the one she preferred, she would help him, not try to change him, or control him.

And she didn't stop caring about me when I said that I couldn't marry her son, another thing rare in experience, from my experience. Her kindness, her helpfulness, none of it was selfish.
This was one old woman who did not see race or colour or one's past when she greeted a stranger. In fact, she was one, who did not see a stranger when she looked with clouded almost green-grey brown eyes at those around her. She veiwed muslims as relatives of her own, and non-muslim domestic staff, as those in need of her kindness and generosity and protection.

I will always remember the housemaid who was saving for the studies of her younger sister. She would try to save her salary for a computer for the relative so far away. This old woman learned of the girl's struggle, and informed her son, the housemaid's employer, and almost the next day, a new laptop appeared, to be sent afar to the struggling student relation of the housemaid, better than my own laptop even to this day.

Sweetness she had, and humility, and kindness. Kindness that pure one rarely sees.

My husband went to the funeral line and remarked how many brothers there were.

"Well, her husband had three wives," I inform him. {My husband's father had two].

I know for a fact, that this woman arranged the marriage of the third for her husband, which most will think as odd, but she really wanted women who would not otherwise marry well to have the same happiness she had.
"And," I remind my husband. "They adopted many orphans together [her husband and herself]. And raised them as their own."

"But they would have been together then and mixed," my husband said.

"They were," I said. "But you can see, nothing bad ever came from that, only good. Look at these good people come from such kindness."

Because my husband knows, of the best Muslim men he has encountered, and kindest, is her son, who is, like, my adopted muslim uncle, since I have no Muslim family beyond my husband's relatives, and certainly, none who care for my well-being no matter what.

From this day in Oman, more than 40 years after the fact that this woman who has now passed raised as she could, Barka's orphans as her own children, Omani families still do not wish to adopt orphans and raise them in their homes. They make excuses, about modesty, and hijab requirements, etc...and would never raise a poor innocent baby who through no fault of their own was born out of wedlock.
Despite the fact that some of the first Muslims were born out of wedlock, and the Prophet Mohmmed S.A.W himself adopted and fostered an orphan boy named Zayed.

But this woman, and her husband, 40 years ago, adopted many, and raised them equal with their own children, and saw them well-raised, and married to their own family and tribe, and had such a reputation for goodness, that no one can say anything bad about this, or say, this child came from this or that... Because she was their mother.

My Omani husband thinks that with this new generation in Oman much will change in terms of tribalism, but I feel that excepting rare people such as this Omani woman, now gone, who we mourn, and pray for forgiveness for her unknown sins (for her known are unknown to me), that we still need more examples. It is like, some great fire went out, and there are embers, but to take care of them and cherish such example, and memory... there is water in my eyes, and a spark she lit. I knew her so little in compare to others, but I can't help but almost cry and be passionate about her quiet passions: family, others, generosity, always keeping just enough and giving the rest away....

I am sad because a very great example was lost this week. May Allah grant her jannah, ameen. May Allah make us like her, ameen.
Everytime I smell a perfume I would not choose myself, or see a sajadah (prayer mat) stuffed into a purse, or see a housemaid or worker or lowly farm labourer struggling to save and on the phone with family, I will recall her generosity.

Every time I see a herd of goats cross the road, I will think of her humility and humbleness, for the little house she chose over a marble mansion.

Everytime I see the glint of gold, I will remember the woman who lent a new bride her own maher, worth more than that girl could afford in two lifetimes, and did not hate or hurt or when such treasure was lost and stolen.

Everytime I attend a wedding, I will think of her wishing the happiness and protection of other women.

Everytime I hear someone say they cannot have children, I will speak the example of her children, adopted and born.

Everytime I see someone alone in the room while others speak in groups, I will remember how even she could not speak my language, she included me as close as family.

And everytime I taste a certain flavour of Omani qhawa, familar to Barka and some other Omani houses, I will remember how she welcomed all, no matter their race or religion or reputation.
When I see an old woman in Omani dress but with abaya or long printed scarf bright and dazzling as a cloak, I will smile to myself, and see that at least in some parts and some places, people can change what is wrong, and keep what is good.

6 comments:

Miss S said...

I almost cried. What a beautiful human being she is. I wish I met her.

God bless her.

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

Miss S: She was.

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

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Allah yarhamha. I didn't know her, but you are lucky to have. Masha'Allah

Muslimah Delights said...

What a beautiful soul she was. May Allah ease her suffering in the grave and grant her Jannah insha Allah.
Ameen to your dua in the post.

TheAmericanMuslimah said...

Thank you for sharing. Reminds me of a friend I had, but Christian, same good Islamic values though.