Thursday, December 23, 2010

Coming Full Circle

At first I was freaked out that nothing, and I do mean, nothing about Zakariyya Park had changed. We drove into the parking lot, found a parking bay. I admit, I was uncomfortable about the fact that I’d come sans niqaab. Was I merely inviting people to pass judgement?

Fleetingly, the thought had crossed my mind before leaving home: Should I adhere to Madrassah rules and wear one to go in?

But I figured that hypocrisy is so not my thang, and if I had any hope of preserving my integrity, then I’d best go as I am. And let people say what they will. Since Allah’s view of me is the only one that counts any way.

So I passed the ‘hallowed’ green gates, slipped past the curtain (it’s new – change 1).

And inside, everything looked exactly as I remembered. I was filled with a sense of homecoming. I had loved being here with all my heart. It will always be the home to some of my happiest memories.

And then I saw Change 2 – They were organized! Impressive!

I did the registration thing and made my way to the kitchen where the programs were being held. It was packed!

I saw many familiar faces, but the ones I really longed to see, still eluded me. Farzana and I found a comfy spot, sat down. And listened. Kaar Guzari. First Maputo, them Malaysia, and then France.

Already, I began to find things that prickled. That niggled. That screamed at me all the reasons for why I no longer belonged.

And when my ex Apa stood up and said “Strong Words” about those who leave madrassah and abandon their purda *shock* or worse, their scarf *shockhorrorgasp*, I knew the battle was lost.

I sat there marvelling at the South African ability to sum up all of a person’s deen by what they look like. At our fixation with the external. But surely, it’s the spiritual cleansing and growth that should be the emphasis?

And then, the play.

I have never wanted less to sit through a Drama Production than I did that day. Written by the fifth years nogal! The naiveté. The monochrome view of the world. I’d be loathe to present that to a group of preschoolers!

So I bowed out gracefully. Located the sisters I had come to see, amongst the crowd, asked them to join me outside. And we did the catch up thing.

That was the highlight for me. The only one. The relationship we had shared had always been Al Hubbu Lillah. Love only for the pleasure of Allah. And I felt blessed to see that that bond, that thread that bound us, one to another was still intact. Alhamdulillah.

But never in my life had I been asked as many times, by as many people about how many children I have. At some point, I figured that the organisers would have done humanity a service had they just included a list of kids names and ages on the name tags we were issued. Would have made life so much easier. And of course the longer the name tag, the more impressive.


Yes, you, my dear sister, of the name tag that reaches your navel, you’ve done the Ummah a phenomenal service!

Really? Is the true measure of a woman, her worth, to be gauged by how many babies she’s had? Is she really nothing more than a baby making machine?

Don’t answer that!

Especially those of you who know I have five!

Going back home I gave Farzana a headache with my diatribe on Palestine, on the need for people to read more, to educate themselves. With my thoughts on the fact that being a religious scholar is no excuse to be so wholly out of touch with the world.

With my story about how I chose to remove my Purdah.

And with my confusion as regards just what it is we’re producing in our Daarul Ulooms.

The students are far too young (most of them) to appreciate the gravity of what is being passed on to them. Only now, some 15 years later have I begin to see the wisdom and beauty of some of the things I’d learnt.

How much of the learning to we internalize? And how much of it breeds little more than arrogance?

At any rate, I'm thankful that I went. I've come full circle. And that's never a bad thing...