Missing You, Nicole <3

 

I have been crying for the past hour thinking about this post, let alone writing it.

Bismillah…

Nicole Hunter-Mostafa has been gone for a year as of today, Allah yarhamha.  365 days without her light on this earth.

When I think of her, the only words I can get out are “GOD, I LOVED HER.”

And, I really did.  I think of her every time I see anything here in Riyadh that reminds me of her.

The restaurants we went to together.  The Kingdom Tower she always photographed.  And old Saudi couple holding hands.  Just, everything…

And then I start to feel guilty for this pain.  I realize her amazing mother, who she loved more than anything, and her sweet father, who she absolutely adored more than anything and couldn't stop telling stories about, and her perfect children, who she also loved more than anything, and her husband, who she loved more than the entire world, are going through such a deeper, harder pain.

I’m ashamed to tell you this.  Nicole was the first person in my entire life that when I knew she was dying I prayed to God to take me instead.  I prayed for it because I knew she had this incredible love for her family and this amazing spirit that deserved to be here.  The world NEEDED her. The world still needs her.  Unfortunately, we didn’t deserve her.  She was literally too good for us. I’ve never met someone so pure.  I feel guilty being here without her.  

Ya Nicole:

We miss you.  

We miss you.  We miss you.  We miss you.

I miss you.

You should see how much this place has changed, subhanAllah! Saudi is so much more open minded.  On National Day there was a mini rave! Women are going to be driving.  It’s improving, and yet… you’re not here to celebrate in it.  It makes it feel like all of these victories are not quite as sweet.

Your death is an absolute tragedy, but you were too good for this place anyways. 

Thank you.  Thank you for making the world so much better.  Thank you for choosing to always be positive.  Thank you for sharing your life and your family with us.  Thank you for sharing your beautiful memory with us.  Thank you for your daughters who will no doubt be as fierce as you.  Your passing introduced me to you absolutely LOVELY mother and the rest of your family. Thank you for all of your words and all of your time that you selflessly gave us.

Most of all, thank you for being an amazing friend and an even better role model.  

I never look at the NJHM together on my keyboard in a little square without thinking of you.

May Allah (swt) grant you the absolute highest level in Paradise.  Hope we can be neighbors there to catch up <3

WALLAH, I LOVE YOU

 

P.S.: Please don't forget to continue reading her blog to keep her memory alive: The Same Rainbows End

STOP JUDGING ME. It's Between Me and Allah.

“You wear too much makeup” “You’re a fitna” “Cover the top of your foot” “Perfume is haram” “Do you want guys to give you attention?” “OMG you listen to music?” “Stop acting so Americanized”

“You’re wayyyyyy too conservative” “Don’t you know niqab is cultural and not required in Islam?” “Show me your face… I bet you’re hot” “I don’t want my kids to be around girls as conservative as you” “You’re sooooo boring, Hannah” “Stop acting so Saudized”

I have literally heard all of these statements said about me IN THE PAST WEEK.

Every single one.

So, which is it? Am I too open or too conservative?

Guess what, I’m neither.  The best part about religion is each person has his or her own religion. 

What I do is between me and Allah (swt).

If I decide to parade the streets tomorrow in a bikini, that’s something I have to answer to Him for.

If I decide to wear gloves and abaya alrass, again, it’s between He and I.

Stop judging me, people.

I’m not too Americanized and I’m not too Saudized.  I’m not too wild and I’m not too conservative.  I’m moderate.  Some things I am conservative on and some things I’m open minded about.

At the end of the day, Alhamdulilah, I can say I’m a good person.  I know both sides and I am on a perfectly moderate path towards Allah (swt).

I know it’s difficult not to judge people.  I am quite judgmental at times myself.  But, I really do believe that what we do is between us and Our Creator.  I can disagree with you and still respect you enough to shut my own mouth. From Him alone do I seek forgiveness for anything I have ever done to displease Him.

Case in point:

Today, I was sitting outside of a hardware store with my friend.  I am wearing niqab, black abaya, a black long dress underneath and looking perfectly normal.  Yes, I wear makeup… and yes, you can see it on my eyes.  My friend was with me who happens to not wear niqab, in a pink abaya, but looking perfectly acceptable as well in terms of Islamic dress for women.  A woman walked up to me and told me what I’m wearing and putting makeup is a fitna and Allah is watching me and blah blah blah.  I understood 80% of her rant about how I look (in Arabic), but I stopped her to tell her I don’t speak Arabic just to make her realize how silly she sounds. How absolutely ridiculous it is to come up to someone and tell them about how what they are doing is sinful when really I’m not doing anything wrong.  I wanted to tell her to go to any mall and give the same speech to girls that don’t cover their faces nor their hair.  There were others around me less conservatively dressed, and yet I am the one lucky enough to get the comments.  

I’m not offended by her.  I’m mad at her.

I don’t believe I should be held to a lesser standard of Islam because I’m a convert.  That’s something really important to me.  But, if I was a weaker person who perhaps had recently converted, what would this comment do to me? This could change my opinion on the whole religion.  Our words - and especially our criticisms - are more powerful and hurtful than we realize. 

I'm mad because she could have really hurt me if I was anyone else. I'm mad she had the nerve to say something so judgmental without knowing the first thing about me. 

A few hours before that, I was talking to someone who I was potentially going to work with and the work would involve children.  When the client found out I cover my face, he said he was very much against this and that he did not believe in niqab and it is just cultural and blah blah blah.  So, in this case, I’m too conservative.  He laughed at me.  Told me I was essentially crazy for wearing it and that this is not Islam.  With tact, I responded that this would not be an environment that was suitable for either of us and I wished him the best of luck. 

I can’t win, guys.

I have a million flaws.  I am far from the person I hope to someday be. But, if you want to notice my flaws and take time to really think about them, please keep that information to your DAMN self.

I don’t say this enough, because I know it sounds like I’m narcissistic, but, Alhamdulilah I am SO EXTREMELY PROUD of the person I am.  I have been through HELL in my life.  I have been hurt beyond belief.  Allah continues to give me these tests that take me to my limits.  I have suffered through so much.  And, I have handled myself with grace and patience and humility EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  

I have had the kind of life people write books about because the number of trials I have had - that I don’t talk about here - is unbelievable.  

So, when you look at me and see someone who is flawed, know that I am doing perfectly well... I am amazing… and, most importantly, I am just as Allah (swt) created me.  

He's White So He Can't Be a Terrorist... Right?

I wanted to wait to post this because I do not think it’s appropriate to post immediately after a tragedy about the selfish thoughts that I have.  I am sure if it was my family member killed the last thing I would care about would be gun laws or religious ideals or the universality of terrorism.

So, he was white.  

He had no ties to Islam.  He wasn’t following ISIS on Twitter.  He didn’t say “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is the Greatest.”  

So, he’s not a terrorist.  

But, he did kill 59 people and injure 515...

Still, he’s just a “crazy dude” who had a difficult past.  He was not on a watch list.  "Nothing about his activity would have made him seem threatening."

I'm Muslim.  If I sneeze, it's considered a threat.

I've nearly cleared a post office when I was in line shipping a big box of my homemade cookies to a friend and my athan (call to prayer) went off from my phone in my back pocket with, "Allahu Akbar!"

It blows my mind who is considered a threat and who isn't.

When the Miami shooter terrorized Pulse over a year ago, I saw the Facebook posts of friends of friends and I wanted to go into hiding. 

One woman in particular said that Muslims did not deserve to be in the country and that America was not for people like us.  It killed me to know that someone close to a friend of mine would have such a terrible perception of us as Muslims.  I responded to her comment with love and mercy.

She responded back that we should apologize as Muslims.  That there was something wrong with us.

That broke me even more.  I thought, 'how can she think I am responsible for this in any way? I don’t have an ounce of hatred in my body.’

When I heard about the tragedy in Las Vegas, I was praying for the safety of those people, but at the same time I was praying the shooter was not Muslim.

I know that is incredibly selfish, but it’s the truth.  

When I found out he had no ties to Islam, and was not being called a terrorist - although by Nevada state law, his actions fall under the definition of terrorism - I was relieved and heartbroken at the same time.  

I was relieved that it didn't add fuel to the fire of Muslim hatred in America and around the world. But that relief was minimal as the aftermath broke my heart that he was not given the label that he so deserved.

It truly is just a game of labeling people who are different than you.  For me it is such a confusing dichotomy.  When I wear my “full gear” as my family jokingly calls it, I am clearly Muslim.  In America, I’m the “other.” When I take off some pieces of cloth, I’m an American in appearance.  I’m “one of us" to Americans.  

I wish everyone realized there are bad people in this world on all sides.  There are crazy people who use religion for evil.  They manipulate it incorrectly.  They are conditioned to only see the bad.  Perhaps they - like the Vegas shooter - have something in their past that broke them or have some mental disease.  The Vegas shooter is considered a “lone wolf.”  So are all of the Muslim terrorists.  They’re all lone wolves.  They’re all negatively impacting our religion for their own personal gain.  

When I reflected on the shooting, I realized that the LAST thing on earth that would make me feel better would be for that lady who insulted me on Facebook to apologize to me for what happened.  She has NO connection to this Vegas terrorist (yes, terrorist) besides their race.  Similarly, I have no connection to Muslims like the Pulse shooter who have committed horrible attacks or acts against humanity except a religious label.

Every person only represents himself or herself.  Let’s all remember that.

May God be Merciful with those who died in the Vegas shooting and may He grant them Paradise for their meaningless demise.  We are all brothers and sisters under the same God. May He have Mercy on all of Humanity.

 

WE'RE DRIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA, BABY!

Alhamdulilah.  Alhamdulilah.  Alhamdulilah.

Thank you to King Salman, who has finally allowed for women in Saudi to drive, Alhamdulilah.  

Prince Faisal bin Abdullah said it best, quoted in this article, when he said:

“Let me tell you about our leadership’s view on women, never mind driving a car, which is coming, no doubt ... I want her to drive society.”

While this is kind of a bad time for me to get this news as I just sold my beautiful car last month assuming I would never be able to drive it here, I am still absolutely thrilled for this news.  

Honestly, there was no reason for women to not be able to drive in Saudi and it was much more cultural than it was a religious issue (women rode camels in the time of the Prophet (saws)).  Accordingly, it was about time we had the option to drive.

Will I be driving? Probably not.  Or, at least not often.  I'm not comfortable in the backseat here, let alone the front seat. I clinch the "oh sh-t bar" as my grandma calls it, and pray for survival in dicey traffic.  Still, my friends and I are famous for cruising 24/7 in Los Angeles, so I'm sure the tradition will be relived in Riyadh.

I will say that one person who I will be thinking of every time I do drive is Nicole Hunter-Mostafa, Allah yarhamha.  She would be so proud of Saudia for this huge shift.  I wish she was here today to see and to celebrate in this landmark decision for the country.  Still, I can't wait to see Lavender and Juliette, her daughters, driving down the road a few years from now and singing along to her favorite tunes with the amazing same spirit.

Congratulations, ladies.  See you out on the roads June 2018 ;) 

 

Happy National Day to My Favorite Place on Earth

The only place on this earth I have ever been that my heart feels whole is Saudi Arabia.  For many Westerners, this place is far from ideal, but for me, this is the happiest place on earth.  Disney World who? 

I cannot explain my fascination or my captivation with Saudi Arabia to you.  It all started when I met some of my dearest friends, who happened to be Saudi.  After learning about the culture - both the good and not-so-perfect aspects - I fell in love.  I knew I HAD to live there, but I also knew that was nearly impossible.  So after two years of trying constantly to move to Riyadh, I finally fulfilled my dream in 2015.  

I’ve been all over Europe, everywhere in America, all over the Middle East, and the only place where I find myself wanting to return over and over again is Riyadh.

Some people think I’m crazy.  

Most people think I’m crazy.


But, this is my home.  InshaAllah, if Saudi will have me, this will be my home forever and ever.

Thank you to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed for the changes you are making to improve the lives of those who reside here. May Allah keep you for your people and protect you.

I cannot wait to raise a family here and to spend my days growing old here, inshaAllah.  I have seen it change, improve, grow in just two years of being here.  I can’t wait to see what the coming years have in store.

Alhamdulilah for the blessing of feeling at home though I am 8000 miles away from where I was born.

So, Saudia:  I love you.  I am honored to live within your borders.  Thank you for helping me learn Arabic.  Thank you for upholding standards of Islam.  Thank you for progressing.  Thank you for not apologizing to anyone for your traditions.  Thank you for the wonderful people that were born and raised within your borders that are more than friends, but have become family.  Thank you for accepting me.  Thank you for finally - after 25 years - making me feel like I belong somewhere.

May Allah (swt) protect Saudi Arabia - it’s people, it’s culture, it’s traditions, it's values, it’s royal family, and the Two Holy Mosques.

Happy 87th National Day, Saudia.

 

Love Always,

Your Favorite Extra Saudized Amreekya

 

 

The Significance of My 27th Birthday

Today is a day I have thought about for the last thirteen and a half years.  I remember sitting in the bathtub and dreading my twenty seventh birthday as a thirteen and a half year old.  I know that sounds crazy, but on the day I turned thirteen and a half years old, my mother died.  It was - and will always be - the greatest loss of my life.  She was my mother, my father, my best friend.  I pictured her with me at all of life’s events - at graduations, at weddings - and she has never been there.

 

As of today, I have been alone - without her - longer than I have been with her.  More than half of my life, she has been gone.  

People would always tell me they were sorry for me, but that it would get better.  It never got better. In fact, it only gets worse as time goes on.  I try not to compare myself to those around me, but it’s hard not to.  I see my friends making their parents into grandparents, and I shudder at the fact my kids will never meet my parents.  I see all of the love a mother adds to one’s life and can’t help but feel this huge void.

Alhamdulilah, I have my amazing grandparents who I love more than life itself, but no one NO ONE can replace my mother.  

One of my life goals, since that time, was to ensure that by my 27th birthday, I was not alone.  I did not want to spend more of my life without an immediate family than I did with one.  EVER.  I was sure by today I would be married with kids.  And still, that has not panned out.  In fact, I’m probably further away from that today than ever before.  

Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed beyond measure, Alhamdulilah.  Most importantly, the thing that has filled that void in my mother’s absence has been my closeness to Allah (swt).  If it wasn’t for this loss in my life, I may never have been open to exploring my faith or the depths of my heart.  It has taught me that nothing is permanent.  Your biggest source of comfort, which was my mother for me, can disappear in a blink of an eye.  

Allah is the only One who is permanent.  He is our Companion in all times.  He never leaves us.  He is always with us.  He sees and He hears.  He draws us nearer to Him in bad times and in good.  He is irreplaceable.  He is our Creator.  He is our Destiny.  His love is the only love that spans all times and all locations.  He is never lost.  He never dies.  He found me an orphan and He comforted me.  He found me completely alone and He cared for me.  My greatest pleasure in this life is knowing Him, loving Him and to constantly strive to please Him.  And, if He shows Mercy on all of my many mistakes and downfalls, meeting Him someday in Paradise - hopefully with my mother - will make all of the pain of this world, the loss, the loneliness, worth it.

So i will leave you with wise words from my mother that she wrote before she died, unaware of her death:  

 

“Because even if I don’t see you, or talk to you daily, it doesn’t mean we are not special to each other it means no matter when, what, where, how, or why - we are always together in our hearts - and that is a special, happy place.” 

Why Aren't You Married Yet?!?

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Alhamdulilah I'm back in Riyadh - this time for good inshaAllah.  I feel more protected here than I do in the States, and while that breaks my heart because I do love my country in many ways, I decided I need some time here for things to cool off. And I've fallen desperately in love... with my neighbor kids.  From the two year old to the fifteen year old, and all five others in between, these kids are all extremely special to me.

I should start this off by mentioning that since I was three years old and understood what being a mommy meant, I have had no other life goals than to become a mommy.  When I was growing up and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say, "a mommy."  Like, even in high school, with a near perfect GPA, I still had no plans of being successful at work and would terrorize my teachers when I responded to that question with "housewife."  Sincerely, I wanted to be successful in my marriage and children... before anything else.

Perhaps I had such a great mommy that I couldn't picture myself as anything else... may God be pleased with my amazing mama

The neighbor kids, who unfortunately are motherless and cling to me like saran wrap, remind me how EXTREMELY important that role is to me and how bad I want someone to call me their mama.

At least five times a day, someone asks me, at age 26, as a normal, somewhat successful person, and as a Muslim girl, 'HOW COME YOU'RE NOT MARRIED YET?'  

Did you know that every time someone asks me, it takes everything in me to not burst out crying?It happened just yesterday at the park, with two of the little ones.

A woman, a perfect stranger, asked why the children call me "Auntieeeee Hanaaaaa" (as they say it)? I explained they're not mine, they're my neighbor kids. After four follow up questions, we came to the point that I'm not married... and I had to explain why...

I'm going to be blatantly honest, I ALWAYS LIE when people ask me.

I say, holding tears back, it's because "I'd rather wait" or "inshaAllah someday soon..."or "oh, you know, I'm so picky!"

But do you want to know the heartbreaking truth? I'm not married yet because Allah (swt) has not written it for me to be married now.

Alhamdulilah for everything Allah has decreed,but I can't say it's not heartbreaking.  The ONLY thing I have ever wanted - to be a wife and mother - seems to never come.  Alhamdulilah, I have success in business and success in many other areas of my life, but these are almost meaningless to me.  You can have them.  While my friends are all on their second or third child, mashaAllah, I'm stockpiling baby clothes for when someday my dreams come true inshaAllah.

So what is wrong with me?

Not to boast, but I have almost daily proposals, from mothers and their sons, but I also have standards that I do not plan to give up on until I'm far passed 26... (he will be the father of my children, after all, so he better be extremely special)...

And, I have met "the one" before, only to be rejected by every member of his family - after three years of trying, we gave up so I could someday fulfill my dream of being a mom.  I've met others that I have accepted until their parents have had a change of heart.  I have tried to open my mind to others, only to be rejected for other similar culture-related reasons...I'm really trying... and still, because Allah has not written it for me, I am single as a Pringle.

I'm going to get really real... perhaps too real... and real personal.  Today, someone I had been "moving forward with," with the blessings of his parents and family, who I had to make several compromises for to get to that point and was honestly pretty excited about... told me out of no where he changed his mind.... without any reason.

It hurts.  

The rejection actually doesn't hurt me - at all.

What hurts is that it means that I am back to the starting point, far away from being a wife and a mommy, when just yesterday I could almost see the finish line.  What hurts is that I'm terrifiedmy grandparents will never see my husband or my children... something that is very important to me as they are my only family.

Still, Alhamdulilah.

I know my nuseeb (soulmate) is out there and I hope he is bettering himself to someday be the father of my children until he meets me...and that is the only thing I find comfort in...

And NO, I do not want you to read this and think I'm desperate or that your son/friend/brother/pet sitter's sister's friend's uncle is probably the one for me...

And also, I KNOW 26 IS NOT THAT OLD.  I get it.  Really, I do... but when you want something this bad since you're 3, it's an eternity... please save those comments.

Sorry for my realness. Sorry if it bothers me when you complain about your children.  Sorry to admit I cry about this on a daily basis. Sorry for my honesty.

Whatever you are praying for as much as I am praying to complete my faith by marrying and having a family, may Allah grant you that.  I feel your heartbreak.

And someday, when I am gagging while cleaning up my kid's diaper, with another one hanging off my back, and another throwing Cheerios at me with precision accuracy and three more screaming at the top of their lungs running around and making a mess of the house while my balding husband simultaneously nags me, I can't wait to read this post and remember how it was all worth it... inshaAllah. 

Happy 4 Year Blogaversary

Just wanted to take a minute to wish my readers and my humble little blog a happy four  year anniversary.  Alhamdulilah for all of the blessings that have stemmed from these words I would have otherwise simply held in my heart, from the television show to the new converts to marital matches for readers... I'm honored that anyone ever read this.  I'm honored that you're reading it now.

Here's to another four years, my brothers and sisters.

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.