By way of introduction to a series I started a few years ago, Deen Clips is a series of glimpses of my experiences as a Muslim and how different Muslim women affected me in positive ways, ways that I hope have expanded my realization of this beautiful religion of Islam. Sometimes it happens by some little word they said, a look, a gesture. Below you will see how Khalah Safiyyah affected me. An urn is a very beautiful vessel that often holds valuable contents.
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I was so happy when they announced the opening of the first Qur’an center for women in Jeddah. I was in the hospital giving birth to Muhammed at the time. I couldn’t wait to be finished with post-partum bleeding to begin attendance. It was a real jihaad just trying to attend the Qur’an Center.
In those time-crunched days, my husband had started teaching nights at the university in Jeddah so that he could attend the Mahad in Makkah. He went to the masjid for Fajr and then just kept on going towards Makkah. My day started equally early as school here starts at 7, but the school bus would come at least 45 minutes before that. My day was organized something like this:
a. I had my usual household duties to attend which included time for nursing Muhammad (2 months old),
b. the day’s ayaat to memorize, (usually a page)
c. lunch preparation,
d. feed family — husband and children now home from school,
e. supervision of homework,
f. pray Asr
g. preparation of children & leave for Qur’an school immediately after Asr
My husband’s schedule was such that he wasn’t able to take us so that meant a 2-bus journey across town during the first few weeks of the Center’s operation. After a month or so, they had a bus to pick us up and return us to our homes. The first bus took us to Bab Makkah, the heart of the old souq, where we transferred to another bus to Kilo Thalaatha and Makkah Road. My children’s ages at that time were Falaqi 6, Rafiq 4, Tahirah 2 (Allah yarhamaha), and Muhammad 2 months old. Of course, by the time we reached Bab Makkah, everyone was alseep and that was so frustrating and embarassing to have to wake them up only to get on another bus.
Once there, Falaqi was the only one who would go to her class. They had kindergarten and nursery for the little ones, but Rafiq and Tahira were stuck to mama like glue. In the class, we sat on the carpeted floor wit little Qur’an tables in front of us. There were merely a flat slightly slanted surface on 2 legs that came up to the stomach when sitting down. It was just the perfect height for reading. Rafiq curled up on one side of me and Tahirah on the other. Instead of sitting with my legs extending under the little table, I sat crossed-legged (tailored fashioned) so that I could fit Muhammed under it. This is how it was: sleepy children, nursing baby, and trying to memorize Qur’an. Sometimes Muhammad would cry and this earned us stern stares from my fellow classmates and even comments (khalihum bil bait, ahsan) – leave them at home, would be better).
Khalah Safiyyah: I had seen her several times either in or near the office or in the hallway — old lady of African descent walking with the assistance of a cane. I didn’t know what she did at the Center until one day she came slowly walking into our room. She gave salaams and the teacher stopped immediately and ran to get her a chair. I wondered who this old woman was and judged her to be in her late 80s or early 90 by her slow, stiff gait.
She addressed us and began telling us something about the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. She spoke for 20 minutes or more and at that time my Arabic was not so fluent so I did not understand everything she said, but I could follow the events she was describing, being familiar with certain key words.
I found myself looking at her with different eyes — what we had so humbly sitting in front of us was an expert on Seerah! What amazed me was how she just continued to speak with no notes whatsoever (I’m lost without my notes whenever I give a lecture) and with such love and detail. She was like a grandmother telling her children stories of times long since passed about their beloved prophet; she was the historian, the storyteller. As I looked and listened, I couldn’t help but think that in America and other western societies, she would have been “retired” years ago and probably wasting away in a nursing home. But here she was, at her advanced age, still spreading knowledge, still giving her listeners a loving glimpse of the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Her language was pure and crystal clear. She came to the end of her talk, rose and turned towards the door giving salaams and on to another class. She would come in every few weeks with another segment of Seerah.
This was 29 years ago. I have assume that she is no longer living and I pray that Allah rewards her greatly for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge and the efforts she exerted to do both. As I become older and sometimes experience stiff and sore joints, I realize that she must have been walking with some amount of pain. Please make dua for Khalah Safiyyah, asking Allah to place her in Jannah and to give us a similar love of the Seerah of His Messenger, peace be upon him.