Friday, August 27, 2010

"i do. yes i do. yes i'll make the beans. yes i'll make the rice"

It’s not my aim in life to spend all my days thinking of ways to make each other as miserable as possible. I don’t want that kind of marriage. If that is the case, then why bother getting married at all.

I don’t want the kind of marriage where my husband’s actions or inaction turn me into the nagging wife. I’ll never be that woman.

And I don’t want to lose myself. Change is inevitable yes. Priorities change. Schedules change. Our needs change. But that doesn’t mean that I have to give up who I’ve become without him.

That is all.
*Title taken from a line in an episode of Martin starring Martin Lawrence as Jerome.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fools For Freedom & Justice

Its not that I don’t believe in the concept of Freedom of Speech, I just question the validity of it. And yes, all speech should be free and fair… but I have to wonder, are there any barriers that we shouldn’t cross? After all, some barriers exist for a reason.

Over the past decade or so, that freedom to say what we like on a public platform has taken on new meaning. We find that people can now openly mock our Prophet’s (Jesus, Moses and Muhammed PBUT), and they can openly question or ridicule God and His word. They can openly disrespect others, why? Well because they can, and they’re free to do so.

That said, I honestly don’t believe that we’ve ever really had freedom of speech, or that we ever will. The way I see it, that freedom is only ever afforded to certain people in certain sects, in certain social or political factions and it’s always been this way. If we look at the history of free speech, we will see that at any point in time, while speech was deemed free to some, it was not considered so for others.

For instance, in the Apartheid era, the governing whites had the right to refer to all the blacks as “kaffers”, both in private and on public platforms, like the media. But at that time, the blacks were not afforded the same rights or free speech. Today, it’s almost illegal to say the "K" word and those that still do are regarded as vile racists with no respect for human life. But barring a few minor protestations, it’s largely deemed ok for blacks to say white racist remarks. The tables have indeed turned… and while speech is free for some, not all have been afforded that privilege.

This is evident in almost every society or nation that we encounter. Mention any of the Zionist atrocities and you will be labeled as Anti-Semitic. But it’s ok to go around branding 1.7 Billion Muslims as terrorists even though terrorism, or any of its constituents, doesn’t even exist in the laws of Islam.

I often think of Facebook and Twitter as great examples of how censored we are. No one in their right mind, (whether they're Muslim or not) would ever post statuses about the texture and consistency of their feces, or discuss what it means to bleed at every menstruation, or thank their partners and go on detailing the previous night's exotic antics because it’s largely considered vulgar and immoral. But it’s not immoral to disregard the laws of Islam and disrespect its followers by drawing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and mock him. It’s immoral, despicable and downright evil to call people “kaffers” or “niggers” or to “hail Hitler”… the mere thought of a status with any of these offensive words is unfathomable... but it’s perfectly ok for depraved people to scorn the religions of other’s, disrespect their civil & human rights and hold their practices in contempt.

A part of me believes that we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we ever really HAD freedom of speech. Free speech has only ever been afforded to some and sometimes I think that we will only have free speech when people can hate each other equally without one or the other seeking to intervene or intimidate the other into silence or compliance. Most of the time, it seems that speech is only ever free when it serves a greater political agenda.


Speaking of politics, I was looking at the Ground Zero Mosque debate the other day and personally, I can understand the sensitivity surrounding the issue. Many people feel it’s disrespectful to the memories of their loved ones and they’re entitled to their feelings and opinions… I can understand that. What I fail to understand is how they can blame 1.7 Billion of the Worlds’ population under the banner of Islam for something a few men did. I find it insulting and offensive, as well as an affront to worldwide concepts of intelligence.

For all the knowledge in the world (as I’ve said before, we have never known as much as we do today) we still have people thinking & behaving in a way that I believe is either the epitome of stupidity or the single most grotesquely ignorant thing I have ever witnessed in my life. I had this conversation with two Americans recently, one of whom is a friend and the other, an acquaintance of this friend.

The acquaintance dared to quote some of Islam’s so-called “terrorist laws” to me, citing passages of the Qur’an out of context with absolutely no knowledge of Tafseer etc… knowledge that she no doubt acquired online on one of the hundreds of dodgy sites seeping with inaccurate information or from uneducated sources.

Now, I know my religion. I don’t need some secular individual telling me what I believe in, based on tidbits of non-information that she picked up here and there, then quoting what can only be described as information so grossly inaccurate, she might as well have made it up out of thin air. It was surprising to her to find out that fundamentalism and terrorism exists in every religion and in almost every society on the planet.

I’m part Irish right… it’s a small part but it’s still definitive. You don’t see me slandering Catholics or Christianity as a whole every time the IRA decides to blow up some or other landmark for their cause. You don’t see people drawing blasphemous cartoons of The Virgin Mary every time ETA (who are blatantly classified as a terrorist organization by Europe and America) decides to attack the public transport system in Spain leaving hundreds dead in their wake. You didn’t see people picketing with Anti-Jesus slogans and burning bibles every time the Klu Klux Klan went out of their way to commit the most atrocious, heinous acts with their huge crosses emblazoned across their white robes.

Even today, when the Apartheid Zionist regime kills hundreds of people on a daily basis, the knowledgeable know that it has nothing to do with Judaism and no one is disparaging Moses and drawing offensive cartoons of him, or burning Torah’s.

I informed the acquaintance that she would be more than just a fool to believe that the terrorist/fundamentalist war with America has anything to do with Islam at all. Islam is its cover, an excuse to wage a war that has everything to do with politics, oil, power and foreign policies.

And if there is anything 28 years on this planet has taught me, it’s that nothing is ever as it seems.

Monday, August 23, 2010

JULY & AUGUST

So while I'm pondering what to wear under this dress (black polar-neck, or pink...), I'm going to do a quick recap:

Over the last two months I've been seriously channelling my inner fashionista. Well that’s not entirely true. These were borne out of necessity and in one instance, out of just plain curiosity.

It began in the middle of June believe-it-or-not when I saw this gorgeous wool and had a sudden urge to knit a scarf. I know how to knit, but I’ve never actually knitted an entire scarf before and boy it took me forever, I mean FOREVER to knit this damn thing.

Firstly, I started over 3 or 4 times... so I’d knit like ten or twenty rows, and then my OCD impulses would take over and I’d find some fault with it, and then begin all over again. Then the fluff of the wool made it incredibly difficult to knit fast and accurately because the stitches weren’t quite visible which made the task very annoying and frustrating but I was determined to complete it. So in between traffic jams and Gossip Girl, I knitted. And when it became too irritating, I gave it a rest for a few days and then began again. And finally,I saw the result of all my hard work. Unfortunately, the pics documenting the process were on a computer that crashed, so this is all I have for now:

Then I had to attend a dinner and went around to the shops looking for something sparkly, decent and cheap. key word being CHEAP, but to no avail. So I decided to take an old-ish top of mine and do some hand-beading on it myself. Thing is, I was not prepared to spend hundreds on a be-dazzled top that I would probably never wear again – I like to keep my wardrobe functional remember, I hate hording like that. And again, it was one hell-of-a-process, but I found that I enjoyed the beading much more than the knitting:

And finally, I bought this plain black suede pump for next to nothing and thought of jazzing it up abit. I’m such a girly girl like that... just point me to all that sparkles. I then went to the haberdashery store and bought a packet of sequins and some fabric glue and with a tweezer, I got to work. It went much faster than the beading, even though I still had to wait for the glue to dry on each row before proceeding to the next. And this is the result:

Now I’m done playing Coco Chanel, but may still dabble in it here and there, as needed or required :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LIVING Islam: Some Moderation Please

I strongly urge readers to look beyond the surface and beyond any notion of "personal attacks", that you take the message and see the meaning behind what I'm trying to say.

My late maternal Grandmother’s first cousins are Arab. When we were younger, we used to joke and say that they’re very very Arab, because they are direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and can trace their lineage right back to him (lucky cows). But they will be the first to tell you that this fact does not make them better than the rest of humanity and that they hold no favours with The Almighty. They believe that character is a very important part of who you are as a Muslim and that we will also be judged by the kind of people we chose to be here on earth.

I believe that if someone wants to follow in the Prophet’s SAW’s footsteps and live by his example, then they should by all means go ahead and do so in peace, as long as they are aware of the reasons behind what they’re doing and are not following blindly. Every Hadith has a conflicting Hadith because each dealt with different situations in different contexts. For some reason, people don’t seem to understand that we do not live in the year 632AD in the middle of the desert… and yes, while many adhere to the Sunnah out of respect and reverence, they may not all apply in our contemporary context.

For instance, there is a Hadith that states that any man wearing his pants below his ankles, i.e. dragging on the floor, has pride and Allah SWT dislikes those with pride… and I can hear remnants of past conversations, where people were dooming, and cursing and condemning everyone who’s trousers weren’t folded up above their ankles.

Now firstly, the Prophet (SAW) mentioned that in a specific context, which at that time concerned the wealthy and affluent people of Arabia who wore their robes down to the ground as a sign of status, arrogance and pride. In my opinion, that rule would not apply today, for the simple reason that EVERYONE wears their pants/trousers down below their ankles, not only the rich and affluent. But I still believe that if a man wants to wear his pants that way, then he should go ahead and do so freely, knowing why he’s doing it. I do not however, agree with those who go around condemning people to hell for not adhering to this.

Disturbingly however, I find that the situation has actually reversed. I’ve seen men with their pant’s-slash-trousers rolled up mid-calf, walking about and looking down on others who don’t follow suit and they judge them arrogantly. I've mentioned previously that my late paternal Grandfather was a pious, passive man and an Imam. He passed away in Sujud/Sajdah (Prostration) on the holiest day of the week, while leading the congregation, something that is regarded as an honour in Islam. Thing is, he never wore his pants rolled up above his ankles and he wore a suit half the time. So I don't see how he could have been condemned to hell for wearing his pants to the floor, when The Almighty chose to take him in the most blessed of ways. 

The same goes for the Niqaab/Burqa (veil across the face). I personally don’t believe in it and think that it’s purely cultural, mostly because the Prophet SAW never explicitly commanded the women of Arabia to cover their faces. But I still believe that people should be given the right to wear it if they like, regardless...

I see people everywhere, making life difficult for themselves… threatening each other with eternal damnation. And it’s amazing how many people can quote Hadith or the Qur’an out of context because they heard it from this guy, or that Moulana. Some are so fanatic about their leaders in their societies, that no one stops to question them. An example would be the recent World Cup debate where a certain Islamic radio station just fell short of calling the WC Haraam, but guess who was at the Opening Ceremony?

Everything these so-called Islamic authorities say or do is not Gospel. Try using your own brain, or if in a bind, make like Who wants to be a Millionaire? and phone a friend. People tend to idolize these public figures of Islam, then want to get upset when their kids idolize Hollywood or Bollywood stars… its all the same thing – different genre.

I’ve come to understand that people will do all these weird crazy things, in the belief that it will bring them closer to God (and who knows, maybe it does). Like my grand-uncle for example. He refuses to go anywhere overseas except to Makkah or Medinah. I’ve tried convincing to come with me to London and almost booked a ticket, but he refused making all sorts of excuses. Then I suggested he go to Palestine or Jordan… anywhere… and he also declined. Then one day, I told him that I understand that he has a solid bond with these places and that they reinforce his beliefs and feed him spiritually, but that doesn’t mean he can’t go anywhere else. He will not betray God if, for instance, he wanted to go to Jerusalem. And having been to Arabia several times, he’s not doing God any favours by not going anywhere else. We are, after all, supposed to seek knowledge “from the cradle to the grave” and how will he see beyond those horizons if he never goes anywhere else?!

I find similar patterns of behavior in others… it’s like the need to move to fanatical extremes is motivated by their belief that it will bring them closer to Allah SWT. And this is how terrorists think… they don’t see murder, they see a cause that they justified in the name of God.

I don’t see this fanatical, dogmatic approach to Islam as something that brings us closer to The Almighty, instead it takes us further away from Him. I’ve heard of a father who left his sick wife and newborn baby to go out in Jamaat for 4 months… seeking God. Little did he realize that he would have more than doubled any reward he would have attained on his path if he stayed at home and took care of his family.

In addition, I find that for every one person this autocratic system of belief attracts, it repels at least 10. I’ve mentioned before, with one of the World Cup posts, that as Muslims, we cannot isolate ourselves and make ourselves the "other" or a seperate part of a collective because we all co-exist simultaneously in One world and form some part of a collective conscious. This kind of approach is dangerous because it pushes people away, it divides and excludes, rather than accepts and includes – and it is potentially the worst thing we can suffer as Muslims under the banner of Islam. Everyone is so worried about their connection to divinity, that most have lost their humanity.

There are no compulsions in Islam other than the 5 basic tenets which are Tauhid (Belief in the One-ness of The Almighty or Monotheism), Fasting (If one is in good health and able to do so), Zakaat (Alms and charity if one can afford it), Hajj (Pilgrimage if one can afford it) and Fardh Salaah (Compulsory prayers 5 times a day). Everything else we do, EVERYTHING is for our own benefit. Most contemporary Muslims (especially here in SA) seem to think that if they adhere to these 5 tenets, it makes them good Muslims. I’m sorry to say but don’t think you’re doing God any favours. Your 5 tenets or Pillars of Islam is what we owe… it’s like our rent… rent money for oxygen. And whether or not people choose to follow them, that is between them and an Oft Forgiving and Merciful Almighty, it is none of our business.

The real good is NOT WHAT WE DO, it’s WHO WE ARE. It’s the kind of person you are… the kind, generous, helpful, compassionate soul… that’s what really counts.

There are some non-Muslims in my extended family that have better dispositions than most of the Muslims I’ve met, which I find appalling. My mother’s cousins’ father-in-law (my second cousins’ grandfather) is a great example. The man is Chinese and lives in Hong Kong, and has one of the most stellar character’s I have ever seen… wise, humble, pleasant, kind, gentle, calm and very quiet. He does not believe in gossip or talking unnecessarily. He is a monotheistic believer and when you look at him, you can see that this man is with God. His aura and being radiates light.

I don’t need to highlight the stereotypical example of the SA Indian Muslims that are punctual when it comes to Salaah and Hajj etc.,yet but they treat their staff and employees like Dog poo… often over-working and under-paying them, degrading, humiliating and verbally abusing them in front of others. I’ve never seen such atrocious behavior anywhere else in the world. Even those Chinese kids in those sweat shops that get $2 a day are treated better.

Everything we do outside of our compulsions, is for our own benefit and protection and we will reap the rewards as such. There is a reason behind every action that is recommended for us. Each sunnah and nafl salaah we make, every time we read Qur’an, every prayer we offer our Creator, it’s to protect us from calamities and adversity and to erase the sins that we accumulate knowingly and unknowingly. Women are supposed to dressed modestly and cover their hair, why? To protect them from the amorous advances of male Jinn (human men too, but mostly the Jinn because the Jinn generally possess by entering from the hair). We consume Halaal food to ensure our good health. We abstain from those things and substances that will bring us harm and make our lives difficult.

Our real acts of Ibaadat and Imaan are not the 5 obligatory tenets that we have carry out, but the little every-day mundane things in life. Every day that we take care of our families and spend time with them, every day that we go out to earn a livelihood, every day that we engage with our neighbours with gestures of goodwill, every day that we take care of the ill, every day that we choose to help those in need, every day that we impart our knowledge to benefit others… these are all forms of Worship. These are the ways that we LIVE Islam.

Ask any scholar with true knowledge on Islam, Doctors/ Professors/ Historians from Walter B. Denny (The University of Massachusetts), John Renard (St. Louis University), Michael Sells (Haverford College) to Taariq Ramadan, on the nature and character of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and they will all tell you the same thing. That he was a kind, reasonable man… that he never condemned or cursed people for not following him and prayed for them instead… he allowed every person to make their own decisions and respected their wishes. When one of his daughters approached him, wanting to marry a non-Muslim, he advised against it but asked her to think about it thoroughly and told her to make her own decision. When she decided to get married anyway, he respected her wishes. THAT was the kind of man that he was and THAT is the role model that every holier-than-thou should aspire to be.

Navigating through life, I’ve come to believe that when it comes to religion people are either inclined to move to the fanatical extreme or they reject it outright. I see myself as more in the middle and more spiritual that religious… spiritual because my connection with God is for Him alone, not to impress the masses and I’m an ardent believer in moderation. I discard the cultural projections and political agendas, dogmatic rigid approaches and negative stereotypes associated with Islam.

I’ve stated in the comments section on one of my earlier posts that an old, very pious, very wise Arab woman once told me that Islam by nature is not dogmatic, it is at its very core all about Moderation, governing the senses. Everything has a time and place. You can be sad, but don’t become too sad. You can have fun, but don’t over do it. As Muslims we are not even allowed to be isolated for too long, we should be engaging with people because if done so correctly, your mere presence is a form of Dawah. It’s all about Balance. She said that the best form of existence is in equilibrium, centering oneself, because that is where we are the strongest against Satan.

To me, Islam is beautiful and tranquil. It is perfect and flexible, so flexible that one can abstain from fasting if one is ill or a traveler, provided that the fast is repaid. Islam is simple, its people and their cultural hang-ups make it complicated. Like Muslim Musician Lupe Fiasco said very recently on his twitter account “Islam is PERFECT. Muslims are NOT. Nor are ANY humans or their ideas or institutions or politics. Perfection is a quality of God alone”.

I don’t see Islam as a religion as such, I see it as a way of life. And most times I think that if we stopped PRACTISING Islam and started LIVING Islam, then maybe this world would be a better place.

Please note that these are my views and opinions relating to certain aspects of Islam and the propagation of Islam in South Africa. I have visited a few of these concepts before and frankly I’m tired of sounding like a broken record, so this is the last time that I will visit these issues and address this subject on a public platform.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Maybe We Should Stop Practising Islam & Start LIVING Islam Part 2

I’ve heard that a woman is not supposed to dye her hair black. When I enquired as to why, I was told that it was deceptive… because having black hair automatically makes one look younger. I pointed out that according to Islamic principles, a woman’s hair should be covered at all times and no one except her Mahram’s (Father, Brothers, Husband, Sons) should be gazing at it so I don't see how the justification applies. And considering that all of them (her Mahram's) are most likely to know her age and status because of the capacity of their relationships with her, they are highly unlikely to be deceived. I also enquired after what should a woman do if her husband wanted her to dye her hair black, so that she is attractive to him, and was met with no answer.

In our societies, especially here in SA (unfortunately I have no information on the status anywhere else in the world) we have a huge problem regarding Sihr (Black Magic) with a staggering number of people either knowingly or unknowingly indulging in Sihr and Shirk to bringing back lost loves, to remove bad luck, to prevent their husbands from leaving, to hurt or kill their enemies, to get money etc. etc. So they may consult dodgy Nigerian or Malawian “doctors” and some will even consult with *some respected people in society… Sheikhs and Moulana’s whom they trust.

To these people, mostly ladies, they aren’t doing anything wrong. They don’t think that robbing someone else of his/her choices is them trying to play God, or them seeking illicit “help” from these people to control sectors of their lives is Shirk (associating partners with Allah SWT) and the most severe sin in Islam.
*Note: not all Sheikh’s, Imam's and Moulana’s are complicit in these evil deeds. A lot actually do good work. But only a person with knowledge on these matters will be able to tell, as I've discussed extensively on my other blog)

I’ve been a spectator and occasional participant in the endless debate surrounding what’s considered Haraam (forbidden) and Halaal (permissible). Apparently, most of the time all you need is a couple million rand to have something certified Halaal. I was even approached and chastised for eating sweets with Bovine Gelatine listed as an ingredient. The woman who approached me didn’t even know which factors determined whether something was Halaal or not.

I enlightened her and said “Ask yourself, what makes something Halaal?”. She looked at me blankly and I continued, “In Islam, when it comes to meat, the meat has to be a) NOT slaughtered in the name of a PAGAN God and b) NOT be slaughtered in an inhumane way and c) it should be “bled” right… that is, all the blood should be drained from the animal’s body.

When the concepts of halaal and haraam came down, those products that were considered harmful to ones health, for example consuming animal blood or meat cooked in blood was considered Haraam because it is bad for ones health. Alcohol was made Haraam in stages, because of its negative intoxicating effects on the mind, as well as the harmful effects it had on the body, the liver in particular. Pork was also made Haraam because they are scavengers, and as a result, their meat is not considered clean or healthy. In fact, the Prophet (SAW) used to be invited to dine with Jews on a regular basis, do you think he worried that whatever they were serving came from a Halaal Butcher?

I then asked her if she even knew what was Bovine Gelatine made of. I got another blank stare because she, like most people, had absolutely no knowledge of the extensive chemical process that’s involved in the production of Bovine Gelatine… a process that involves chemically cleaning and pulverizing animal bones in a system that’s so complex and intricate that they cannot even trace the end product back to its original component. The end product, the Gelatine, is not only chemically cleaned, but it has no nutritional value and zero health risks.

And I concluded, “So you see, this packet of gums that you say is Haraam can actually be contested as such. I don’t consume pork or pork products, or meat from unknown sources… but you can be sure that I will consume these fruit flavoured gums and anything else I see fit”.

… and in the back of my mind I couldn't help thinking to myself “You’re one of them… you have no qualms visiting your practitioner, beating the drums, reading selected verses from the Qur’an backwards, calling Satan’s emissaries (the bad Jinn), indulging in Shirk to get rid of your daughter-in-law but you’re standing here telling me I can’t eat this packet of sweets from Woolies because it’s Haraam?!?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Maybe We Should Stop Practising Islam & Start LIVING Islam Part 1

I’m not the kind of Muslim that believes that from all the people on earth, only Muslims will go to Heaven. And every now and then I will encounter someone who tries to change my mind by quoting some or other Hadith etc. in some attempt to make me “see the light”. But I refuse. In fact, the only time I will believe that only Muslims will enter Jannah (Paradise) is when The Almighty God Himself summons me and tells me “Listen here Azra Sabreen, no one other than Muslims will enter paradise ok?”.

The thing is, apart from knowing many monotheistic believers who have better characteristics and habits than most Muslims I know, I don’t believe that our Creator is cruel or unreasonable. Allah SWT does not hate because he doesn’t need to. He created everything you see before you, and everything you can’t see and have no knowledge of, so why should He hate when he can just destroy that which He created?

And I have many people, quoting Hadith to me like they were there when the Prophet (SAW) imparted those words. The problem I have with that is that you have to ask yourself, who recorded (and re-recorded) these Ahadith? The answer is Men. Who interpreted them? Again, Men. Who wrote books and shared their opinions and have had those opinions quoted and mis-quoted throughout history? Men. And humans are flawed by nature, and only see or hear what they want to see and hear.

Now I’m NOT saying that I disbelieve in the Ahadith… all I am saying is that people are too ready to believe everything that is said in the name of the Prophet (SAW) and don’t take a minute to step back and think for themselves.

So I have people who will tell me that only Muslims are going to Heaven and I ask them “What about everyone else?”… and the answer is almost always “Well, they don’t believe in Allah SWT and His Messenger”… and I say, “That’s all fine and dandy, but what about those poor sods who lived in the mountains of Machu Pichu or Mongolia in a time when there was no ADSL and telephone lines or television… how do you know that they were informed about Allah SWT and His Messenger… that they had a chance to make the choice to believe or disbelieve?”… and there’s always no answer.

I have heard people quote Hadith stating that music is Haraam and that we’re all going to die and go to hell and what-not… but they either don’t know, or conveniently forget to state other accounts where the Prophet (SAW) would attend celebrations and actually watch the merriment (folk dancing) with his wives. In fact, there is also one specific incident where the Prophet (SAW) and Omar (RA) were invited to attend a wedding/celebration and as they approached the house, they heard music playing from therein. Omar (RA) got upset and wanted to put an end to it when the Prophet (SAW) stopped him and said something like “Every culture has their own traditions, let them celebrate”.

I’ve heard people go on and on and on about the Beard issue. A few months ago, there was an incident on Facebook where one guy actually cursed another for not having facial hair.

In a recent discussion with a group of men in the company of my father, I even heard someone say, “Well, it’s not Fardh (compulsory), but it’s a Great Sunnah” before he continued ‘quoting’ how the Prophet (SAW) will turn away from those without beards on the Day of Judgement and how everyone without one is going to hell. I interjected… “Excuse me, but do you honestly believe that on the Day of Judgment, you’re going to stand before The Almighty and He is going to commend you on the fantastic beard that you managed to produce during your life on earth? Or is He rather going to be concerned with HOW you lived your life? And *sarcastic* shame, what about those men who can only manage to cultivate peach fuzz… doom for them and their follicular failures eh?

Man1 told me, “No, no, if you can’t grow the beard, that’s another story but you shouldn’t cut it”. I replied “So I guess those Orthodox Jews and those 60’s Hippies and those inbred HillBilly’s will all be especially pleased to have warranted the Prophet (SAW’s) gaze upon them, although I don’t see how that’s gonna help them since they’re all going to hell for not being Muslim anyway right?”.

Man2 then said, “But it’s a GREAT Sunnah…” and before he could continue I enquired “Tell me about the other Great Sunnah’s? When was the last time you checked up on your neighbour’s to see that they are well and that they have food to eat? When was the last time you visited the sick? You don’t even speak to your own brother!”. And the million dollar question, “And do you have any intention of selling your Mansion and 2 Mercedes’ and giving most of what you have to charity for a small simple home and a trusty 1991 Toyota Corolla that can take you from point A to point B hassle-free… since living a simple life free from Ribaa (Interest & Usury) is considered a Great Sunnah too?”.

Man3 interrupted, “But the Hadith says…” and again, before he could continue I said, “Look I’m not saying don’t grow the beard… by all means, go compete with GandalfI just don’t think its right to sit there in your ivory tower, looking down upon others, cursing and condemning people to hell on an issue that is not even compulsory. Who died and made everyone God? Having a beard or not having one never hurt anybody, it never robbed anyone of anything.”

I continued, “Tell me, you agree that a woman should look her very best for her husband right?”. They all agreed. “So if her husband wants her to look a certain way for him, she should oblige right?”. They all agreed again. “So is a man not supposed to look his best for his wife too… to be attractive to her?”. They agreed that he should. “So what if a man’s wife grows distant from him because she doesn’t like his facial hair, when she married him he didn’t have any, and it irritates her skin, so she doesn’t want to be near him and wants him to shave before she will let him touch her?”.

Man4 told me “Allah SWT will punish her for not allowing him to practice Islam for sure!”. And then I said, “But surely, we do not control what we like or dislike, some of us like Chicken, others prefer Beef. The Prophet (SAW) himself had his preferences and stayed away from that which displeased him (he didn’t make it Haraam, he just refrained). And why do we have preferences? Who bestowed them on us anyway? Is it not genetic, a part of our Biology? Is The Almighty not responsible for our Biologies… those parts of us that are innate and form part of our core characteristics? So you’re telling me that The Almighty, Most Merciful, will punish her for that which He bestowed upon her in the first place?

*Room falls silent and they promptly change the subject*

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Origin & Birth of Islamophobia

This appeared very strange to most of my Western friends. They could not quite picture to themselves how a man of Western birth and upbringing could have so fully, and apparently with no mental reservations what-ever, identified himself with the Muslim world; how it had been possible for him to exchange his Western cultural heritage for that of Islam; and what it was that had made him accept a religious and social ideology which – they seemed to take for granted – was vastly inferior to all European concepts.

Now why, I asked myself, should my Western friends take this so readily for granted? Had any of them ever really bothered to gain a direct insight into Islam – or were their opinions based merely on the handful of clichés and distorted notions that had been handed down to them from previous generations?

Could it perhaps be that the old Graeco-Roman mode of thought which divided the world into Greeks and Romans on one side and ‘barbarians’ on the other was still so thoroughly ingrained in the Western mind that it was unable to concede, even theoretically, positive value to anything that lay outside its own cultural orbit?

Ever since Greek and Roman times, European thinkers and historians have been prone to contemplate the history of the world from the standpoint and in terms of European history and Western cultural experiences alone. Non-Western civilizations enter the picture only in so far as their existence, or particular movements within them, have or had a direct influence on the destinies of Western man; and thus, in Western eyes, the history of the world and its various cultures amounts in the last resort to little more than an expanded history of the West.

Naturally, such a narrowed angle of vision is bound to produce a distorted perspective. Accustomed as he is to writings which depict the culture or discuss the problems of his own civilization in great detail and in vivid colours, with little more than side glances here and there at the rest of the world, the average European or American easily succumbs to the illusion that the cultural experiences of the West are not merely superior but out of all proportion to those of the rest of the world; and thus, that the Western way of life is the only valid norm by which other ways of life could be adjudged – implying, of course, that every intellectual concept, social institution or ethical valuation that disagrees with the Western ‘norm’ belongs eo ipso to a lower grade of existence.

Following in the footsteps of the Greeks and Romans, the Occidental likes to think that all those ‘other’ civilizations are or were only so many stumbling experiments on the path of progress so unerringly pursued by the West; or, at best (as in the case of the ‘ancestor’ civilizations which preceded that of the modern West in a direct line), no more than consecutive chapters in one and the same book, of which Western civilization is, of course, the final chapter.

When I expounded this view to an American friend of mine – a man of considerable intellectual attainments and a scholarly bent of mind – he was somewhat skeptical at first.

‘Granted,’ he said, ‘the ancient Greeks and Romans were limited in their approach to foreign civilizations: but was not this limitation the inevitable result of difficulties of communication between them and the rest of the world? And has not this difficulty been largely overcome in modern times? After all, we Westerners do concern ourselves nowadays with what is going on outside our own cultural orbit. Aren’t you forgetting the many books about Oriental art and philosophy that have been published in Europe and America during the last quarter-century… about the political ideas that preoccupy the minds of Eastern peoples? Surely one could not with justice overlook this desire on the part of Westerners to understand what other cultures might have to offer?’

'To some extent you may be right,' I replied. ‘There is little doubt that the primitive Graeco-Roman outlook is no longer fully operative these days. Its harshness has been considerably blunted – if for no other reason, because the more mature among Western thinkers have grown disillusioned and skeptical about many aspects of their own civilization and now begin to look to other parts of the world for cultural inspiration. Upon some of them it is dawning that there may be not only one book and one story of human progress, but many: simply because mankind, in the historical sense, is not a homogeneous entity, but rather a variety of groups with widely divergent ideas as to the meaning and purpose of human life.
Still, I do not feel that the West has really become less condescending toward foreign cultures than the Greeks and Romans were: it has only become more tolerant. Mind you, not toward Islam – only toward certain other Eastern cultures, which offer some sort of spiritual attraction to the spirit-hungry West and are, at the same time, too distant from the Western world-view to constitute any real challenge to its values.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Well,’ I answered, ‘when a Westerner discusses, say, Hinduism or Buddhism, he is always conscious of the fundamental differences between these ideologies and his own. He may admire this or that of their ideas, but would naturally never consider the possibility of substituting them for his own. Because he a priori admits this impossibility, he is able to contemplate such really alien cultures with equanimity and often with sympathetic appreciation.
But when it comes to Islam – which is by no means as alien to Western values as Hindu or Buddhist philosophy – this Western equanimity is almost invariable disturbed by an emotional bias. Is it perhaps, I sometimes wonder, because the values of Islam are close enough to those of the West to constitute a potential challenge to many Western concepts of spiritual and social life?’

And I went on to tell him of a theory which I had conceived some years ago – a theory that might perhaps help one to understand better the deep-seated prejudice against Islam so often to be found in Western literature and contemporary thought.

‘To find a truly convincing explanation of this prejudice,’ I said, ‘one has to look far backward into history and try to comprehend the psychological background of the earliest relations between the Western and Muslim worlds. What Occidentals think and feel about Islam today is rooted in impressions that were born during the Crusades.’

‘The Crusades!’ exclaimed my friend. ‘You don’t mean to say that what happened nearly a thousand years ago could still have an effect on people of the twentieth century?’

‘But it does! I know it sounds incredible, but don’t you remember the incredulity which greeted the early discoveries of the psychoanalysts when they tried to show that much of the emotional life of a mature person – and most of those seemingly unaccountable leanings, tastes and prejudices comprised in the term “idiosyncrasies” – can be traced back to the experiences of his most formative age, his early childhood? Well, are nations and civilizations anything but collective individuals? Their development also is bound up with the experiences of their early childhood. As with children, those experiences may have been pleasant or unpleasant; they may have been perfectly rational or, alternatively, due to the child’s naïve misinterpretation of an event: the moulding effect of every such experience depends primarily on its original intensity. The century immediately preceding the Crusades, that is, the end of the first millennium of the Christian era, might well be described as the early childhood of Western civilization…’

I proceeded to remind my friend – himself an historian – that this had been the age when, for the first time since the dark centuries that followed the breakup of Imperial Rome, Europe was beginning to see its own cultural way. Independently of the almost forgotten Roman heritage, new literatures were just then coming into existence in the European vernaculars, inspired by the religious experience of Western Christianity, fine arts were slowly awakening from the lethargy caused by the warlike migrations of the Goths, Huns and Avars; out of the crude conditions of the early Middle Ages, a new cultural world was emerging. It was at the critical, extremely sensitive stage of its development that Europe received its most formidable shock – in modern parlance, a ‘trauma’ – in the shape of the Crusades.

The Crusades were the strongest collective impression on a civilization that had just begun to be conscious itself. Historically speaking, they represented Europe’s earliest – and entirely successful – attempt to view itself under the aspect of cultural unity. Nothing that Europe has experiences before or after could compare with the enthusiasm which the First Crusade brought into being. A wave of intoxication swept over the Continent, an elation which for the first time overstepped the barriers between states and tribes and classes.

Before then, there had been Franks and Saxons and Germans, Burgundians and Sicilians, Normans and Lombards – a medley of tribes and races with scarcely anything in common but the fact that most of their feudal kingdoms and principalities were remnants of the Roman Empire and that all of them professed the Christian faith: but in the Crusades, and through them, the religious bond was elevated to a new plane, a cause common to all Europeans alike – the politico-religious concept of ‘Christendom’, which in its turn gave birth to the cultural concept of ‘Europe’.

When, in his famous speech at Clermont, in November 1095, Pope Urban II exhorted the Christians to make war upon the ‘wicked race’ that held the Holy Land, he enunciated – probably without knowing it himself – the charter of Western civilization.

The traumatic experience of the Crusades gave Europe its cultural awareness and its unity; but this same experience was destined henceforth also to provide the false colour in which Islam was to appear to Western eyes. Not simply because the Crusades meant war and bloodshed. So many wars have been waged between nations and subsequently forgotten, and so many animosities which in their time seemed ineradicable have later turned into friendships.

The damage caused by the Crusades was not restricted to a clash of weapons: it was, first and foremost, an intellectual damage – the positioning of the Western mind against the Muslim world through a deliberate misrepresentation of the teachings and ideals of Islam. For, if the call for a crusade was to maintain its validity, the Prophet of the Muslims had, out of necessity, to be stamped as the Anti-Christ and his religion depicted in the most lurid terms as a fount of immorality and perversion.

It was at the time of the Crusades that the ludicrous notion that Islam was a religion of crude sensualism and brutal violence, of an observance of ritual instead of a purification of the heart, entered the Western mind and remain there; and it was then that the name of the Prophet Muhammad – the same Muhammad who had insisted that his own followers respect the prophets of other religions – was contemptuously transformed by Europeans into ‘Mahound’.

The age when the spirit of independent inquiry could raise its head was as yet far distant in Europe; it was easy for the powers-that-were to sow the dark seeds of hatred for a religion and civilization that was so different from the religion and civilization of the West. Thus it was no accident that the fiery Chanson de Roland, which described the legendary victory of Christendom over the Muslim ‘heathen’ in southern Frnace, was composed not at the time of those battles but three centuries later – to wit, shortly before the First Crusade – immediately to become a kind of ‘national anthem’ of Europe; and it is no accident , either, that this warlike epic marks the beginning of a European litreture, as distinct from the earlier, localized literatures: for hostility toward Islam stood over the cradle of European civilization.

It would seem an irony of history that the age-old Western resentment against Islam, which was religious in origin, should still persist subconsciously at a time when religion has lost most of its hold on the imagination of Western man. This, however, is not really surprising. We know that a person may completely lose the religious beliefs imparted to him in his childhood while, nevertheless, some particular emotion connected with those beliefs remains, irrationally, in force throughout his later life –

‘ – and this,’ I concluded, ‘is precisely what happened to that collective personality, Western civilization. The shadow of the Crusades hovers over the West to this day; and all its reactions toward Islam and the Muslim world bear distinct traces of that die-hard ghost…’

My friend remained silent for a long tome. I can still see his tall, lanky figure pacing up and down the room, his hands in his coat pockets, shaking his head as if puzzled, and finally saying:
‘There may be something in what you say… indeed, there may be, although I am not in a position to judge your “theory” off hand… But in any case, in the light of what you yourself have just told me, don’t you realise that your life, which to you seems so very simple and uncomplicated, must appear very strange and unusual to Westerners? Could you not perhaps share some of your own experiences with them? Why don’t you write your autobiography? I’m sure it would make fascination reading!’

Excerpt taken from The Road to Makkah: The Story of a Story by Muhammad Asad, also previously known as Leopold Weiss.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

May Your Days Be Filled With Love & Light...

So Ramadan is upon us and I’m ecstatic because I absolutely love this month. It’s the one month in the entire year that I feel most like myself. It’s the one month that no matter what happens, my spirit, aura and environment is infused with a sense of serenity and peace. I’ve come to love this month so much, that I actually get depressed when it’s over… like I have to reach for the 5HTP kinda depressed.

But I wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I used to dread this month. A time when I felt like I was missing out on things, like Ramadan somehow held me back from life. And then there was the fear, I can’t quite explain it. I used to be petrified all through the month because I always felt that God was going to come to me at some point and that scared the shit out of me.

I can remember, about 7 or 8 years ago, when I was one of the people going out the weekend before Ramadan, trying to cram in all these activities because I thought that it was the norm and that Ramadan meant that we’d never be able to do them again. So I’d go and watch all the movies I could, or eat out as often as I could… all in anticipation of what seemed to be this HUGE mountain of restrictions and prohibitions that would sit heavily on my shoulders.

Thankfully, these days the sentiment is different and I’d welcome The Almighty with both arms, in fact I’d beg Him to visit, if I could. There’s no fear, only a deep respect and reverence and boundless love. In the past 5 to 6 years, I have come to understand that Ramadan is not this burden I have to bear. Ramadan is not a curse I have suffer. Ramadan is not a pain to be endured.

Instead it is a gift. It is our gift from our Most Merciful Creator. He has given us this month to take a step back, reflect and reconcile. This is the month where we assess our responsibilities and establish our true priorities… away from the confines of a material world. This is the month in which we grow spiritually and try to become better people, people worthy of The Almighty’s endless blessings. I wish everyone observing, a blessed and auspicious Ramadan. I sincerely hope that we all take this opportunity to make the best of it.

In addition, as a conscious practicing Muslim, I'm always mindful that these are blessed days for others too. All the best to my Christian family & friends who observe/celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the 16 August and the Nativity on the 8th of September. All the best to my Hindu friends celebrating/observing Ganesh Charturthi on the 23rd of August and Krishna Janmashtami on the 2nd of September. And all the best to my Jewish friends celebrating/observing Rosh Hashanah on the 9 - 10 September and Yom Kippur on the 18 September. 

May your days be filled with love and light...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prophetic Or Not, I Say Nothing

Intrinsically, I have come to believe that there is some part of me that must be a natural healer because I tend to gravitate towards people in need; or they find me… I don’t know how it happens and cannot really explain it but it happens.

Every so often, I have prophetic dreams of some sort… dreams or visions that tend to come true. I don’t, however, believe that I’m psychic or that I have any special “gifts” of that nature. I’m rather inclined to think that most people receive messages or warning signals in the form dreams, intuition, visions etc. but that some people pay more attention to it than others.

Most of these dreams are almost always negative, warning signs of sorts. They may either apply to me, or to my family members, or to friends, or to whichever society/place/country I’m living in at the time. And then there are times when, every now and then, I dream about people I don’t really know and have never even met before. Various people fit into this category, including a number of bloggers.

Yes I’ve had such dreams, numerous dreams, of various bloggers over the past couple of years. Sometimes I see the obstacles they face in their personal lives long before they come to know about it… but most of the time, I see them in a way that most don't. I see beyond the façade and the brave face they put on for the world.

I see the grieving, the helplessness. I see the gaunt, distraught face twisted in agony. I hear the soft murmurs, scared and incoherent. I see the suffering, the indecision and the inner conflict. I see their cross-roads and hesitation punctuated by self-doubt. I see some desperately searching for answers, yearning for enlightenment. I see some harbouring fears and others facing them. Sometimes, I see potential dangers… an accident, a calamity on its way, a loss.

And all the time I want to say to them: “I know what you’re going through but don’t worry, this won’t last forever”. Or, “don’t worry, help is on its way”. Or, “relax and take a breath, things will sort themselves out”. Or, “don’t stress, the situation isn’t what it seems”. Or, “don’t take that route for a week and be careful”. Or, “stay away from so-and-so or from this situation”. Or, “go ahead, you’re doing the right thing”. Or, “don’t hold on to this because the more you do, the harder is becomes for everyone involved”.

But then I always think that it’s not my place to say anything. I think that they wouldn’t appreciate my input or intrusion and that it’s none of my business anyway. So I say nothing.

Instead, I say a little prayer. Wherever you are and whatever you’re going through, may The Almighty calm your waters, blow His strength in your sails and help you navigate through your personal storm because:
لا حول ولاقوة إلا بالله
"There is no power or strength except with God."

They're Living On The Edge, Are You?







All images courtesy Google.com

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In The Eye Of The Beholder

I always think that good looking men, unlike women, are the real deal because men don’t have to moisturize or wear make-up or pluck their eyebrows or stand for hours on end drying and styling their hair (although the rise of the metrosexual; men-tapping-into-their-feminine-side; makes them the single largest exception to this rule BUT even if he decides to moisturize, he still doesn’t HAVE to).

So when you see a good looking man, or any man for that matter, you know that what you see is what you get. You know that if you woke up next to him tomorrow morning, he may be a bit ruffled around the edges, but he’ll look exactly the same.

Now with women, it’s an entirely different story innit. There’s the make-up and hair and nails (for some)… and for most it is a schlep and the end product is almost entirely different from the natural woman residing beneath those layers. Like they say, there are no ugly women in the world, only ones without make-up.

So in essence, the man never really knows who he’s going to wake up next to. It’s a gamble. He could strike it lucky and find a ruffled version of the woman he knows… or she could turn out to be some kind of Godzilla with dragon toe-nails and false eyelashes strewn across a base/ concealer/ lipstick stained pillow.

I definitely think that there are different types of women in this regard. Like for example, some women love accessories and can be seen sporting all the latest stuff on their ears, around their necks and wrists etc. They even have a special suitcase for their accessories when they go on holiday and will be seen on the beach and swimming in the ocean with matching earrings, bracelets and necklaces etc.

Now you’re either an accessories chick or you aren’t. Nothing wrong with being one, people are just wired differently and some can do it while others can’t or don’t want to. Similarly, you’re either a make-up chick or you aren’t. And you’re either someone who goes to the hairdresser regularly or you’re not. But no matter which way you look at it, being a woman is hard work and for most, it requires some effort to look decent.

I attended a wedding this past weekend and accompanied my cousin to the hairdresser to take care of her baby while she was getting her hair done. Now this is something she’s done many times. In fact, she goes to the hairdresser at least once a month. In comparison, I must have been to a hairdresser three times in my entire life... mostly because I learned how to do my own hair from an early age and never thought it necessary to go to one, whereas she can’t do it by herself. 

But when it comes to make-up it’s the reverse. She almost never wears make-up and even though I’m not a base-concealer-powder-lip-liner-false-eyelashes-lipstick-wearing gal, I will rarely leave the house without a little eye-liner.

I do wonder sometimes, if I got married, what would I look like to my husband in the morning? Would he also see a Godzilla of sorts with my hair all over the place like cousin IT from The Adams Family? Or will he be blinded to all that and only see the woman he married? 

I’m not too concerned though... because with my skills, I can go from this...

....to this...


...in no time ;D

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Girls Behaving Badly: The World Cup Edition

Warning: This post is 3 weeks late and may not be suitable for sensitive readers.

So what do you get when you have a bunch of women, each bound to each other genetically, sharing the same eccentric DNA? Let’s just say that we’ve been very, very wicked. Due to conflicting schedules and work commitments for some, our numbers tended to vary on a day to day basis; with one of our members busy avoiding a couple of Russian human traffickers for 2 days on a business trip to Sun City and another opting to have lunch with her new BFF, Miss South Africa, 3 days a week at her new plush job.

Then there were those activities that we wanted to do but never got around to and those that we actually did.

For instance, we wanted to go to the same upmarket restaurant that Paris Hilton and Leonardo Di Caprio were dining at in Rosebank, order from the menu, then demand to see the manager and head chef to complain about the quality of the food, before whipping out a packet of frozen McCain Ovenbake Chips and asking them to “pop” it in the oven for 15 minutes.

We wanted to approach a couple of sweet and naïve Americans, tell them that they could see Lions, Giraffes and Zebras “just down the street”, and then take them to the Zoo.

Inspired by my neighbours love for animals (he had a tiny kitten cuddled in his jumper one day), I wanted to go to one of the largest Supermarkets on it’s busiest day, pretending to be pregnant and in labour, carrying a similar tiny kitty strategically tucked away while the others help me “push” and give “birth” on the floor,  pulling out said kitty, holding it up to the sky and shouting “It’s a Boy!!!”.

We wanted to go to a random block of residential post boxes, choose a random post box number and write the address on an envelope, stuff a bra inside and toss it in the “re-post” section.

We wanted to take the Gautrain from the Airport to Sandton during peak hour and when the automated voice announces the next station, look up shocked and mutter “God?”.

We wanted to boycott and protest outside a few wedding receptions, with banners and placards stating “Death to Fairytales” and “Happily ever after se moer”.

We wanted to go to all the other swankier posh weddings, stand outside the gate and sell faux entrance tickets to the wedding reception for R5 each to the general public.

We wanted to commission a camera crew, pretend we’re part of the press and go around on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings interviewing unsuspecting people sitting idly about or waiting in their cars or having breakfast at McDonalds, with mic in hand going to and fro in the conversations… I imagined some of them going like this:
(Saturday night)
Me: Good evening gentlemen…
Them: Evening.
Me: Just a quick word… it’s a beautiful evening out, you guys enjoying the World Cup?
Them: Erm yes, yes it’s great…
Me: Fantastic. So does your mother know you’re here?

(Outside synagogue on a Saturday)
Me: (serious and in full hijab talking to the camera) We’re here on this Sabbath venerating The Lord Almighty, supporting our Jewish brothers… *knock-on-window-of-first-car-with-passengers* Shalom Shalom… so… erm… tell me… do you enjoy being Jewish or do you ever secretly wish you were Muslim?
Does your mother know you’re here?

(Sunday morning)
Me: Good morning ladies and gentlemen! Sorry to disturb you, how’s your breakfast run going? *shove-mic-in-closest-face*
Them: Err…
Me: *don’t-wait-for-a-response* That’s great! *change-to-lower-tone-curious-concerned-voice* So... erm… tell me… aren’t you suppose to be at church and what do you think God will say about that?
Does your mother know you’re here?

But there was so much to do... so little time. And while Mother spent her time thinking Kakà was so cute that she wanted to brush his hair, give him sweets and send him off to school packed with lunch, we indulged in other activities instead…

We saw strange, peculiar, hobbit-like Argentinean guys walking along the N1 Highway, horribly lost, and drove them to Greenstone.

Inspired by Lady Gaga, we christened every single Spanish-speaking male that we came into contact with, as Alejandro.
Me: Ok Alejandro
Him: My name is Ricardo
Me: Whatever you say Alejandro

Me: Nice to meet you Alejandro
Him: Is Miguel
Me: Ok Alejandro

We tried to be accommodating, and spoke to all the Asian-looking people we encountered using all the Chinese we learnt from Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour movies.

We negotiated terms with the head waiter at an upmarket bistro so that he could shield us from the public as we licked all the Nutella residue off our plates.

We bought apparel… jackets, scarfs, etc… supporting various teams. On instinct (my notorious killer instinct), I adopted Spain as my team knowing absolutely nothing about them prior to the World Cup (prior as in 10th of June 2010). I didn’t even know what Fernando Torres looked like, or that they had won the Champions League, or that they were picked as the favourites to win the WC, or that David Villa even existed. I had to do homework.

We rallied in unison with the Brazilians on ESPN, imitating them and then abandoned them two minutes later to rally with their rivals.

We jumped with joy and sang with the Spaniards, making up Spanish lyrics as we went along, on a live broadcast on one of their networks, while they put their hats on our heads and draped their flags around us.

We were thoroughly impressed with the Mexicans for their sheer numbers and unpretentiousness, (and because we all have the same curly hair), and then befriended and danced with them long after the game was over.

We helped a few bea-uuuu-tiful Argentinean women and spent hours chatting, coo-ing and gawking at each other.
Lorena: …and then we broke up.
Me: Why would anyone want to break up with you? You are stunning.
Lorena: No. No.
Me: Yes. Yes. I love your skin. It looks so smooth and flawless.
Lorena: Thank you. I use Nivea. I love your hair. It’s so long and soft.
Me: Thank you. I use Pantene Shampoo and Conditioner. I like your nose too. It’s so dainty.
Lorena: Haha. Thank you. You have beautiful eyes.
And it went on and on and on…

We befriended a producer from ESPN and he told us many tails of his travels, encounters, experiences and adventures in the sporting world and beyond.

We spent many evenings huddled in cosy corners, in long conversations about life with new friends.

We were interviewed by 16 different television networks from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Vietnam, with me speaking in my finest Spanglish and often making utter fools of ourselves with a total lack of football knowledge, trying to remember the player’s names:
Reporter: So which player do you like?
Cousin: Vela, Vela from Spain.
Me: Vela is from MEXICO you idiot.
Cousin: Oh yes, Me-hico.
Reporter: (to me) And who’s your favourite player?
Me: Well I like David Villa and erm… I can’t remember his name. Oh wait, it’s something Santa Cruz, (Roque Santa Cruz) he plays for Chili, or is it Paraguay?

We joined that lone man, when he was the only one flying the Chilean flag in a sea of Brazilians.

We assisted some German ladies who were shopping for gifts and thermal underwear and my brilliant sister thought that they’d understand her better if she spoke to them in English with a German accent… much like the time she thought that the lady (who spoke no English at all) at our hotel in Paris would understand her better if her English was in a French accent.

On some days, we spoke in our British accents and on one particular day, we went to the Supermarket to buy ice-cream and an old little Italian lady (foreigner not local) heard us talking and took it upon herself to guide us through the Supermarket, explaining where to get the drinks and snacks and how to pay for them, in her broken English. We felt terrible afterwards. Bless her.

We laughed all day when a reporter from Brazil wanted to interview my cousin in Portuguese, assuming she was Brazilian because she was wearing the team’s jacket. He approached her and said:
Rep: Bom dia, como esta?
Cuz: Bom dia, muy bien
Rep: Rambles off in Portuguese, asking a question.
Cuz: Erm, I think I skipped that class.
Rep: (looking confused and asks accusingly) You’re not Brazilian?
Cuz: No, sorry. But I’m supporting the team.
Reporter looks at her with an utterly betrayed, hurt (like she intentionally broke his heart), “how-dare-you-wear-the-Brazilian-colours” look in his eye.

We got mistaken for various nationalities. Everyone assumed I’m Spanish and would ask to take a photo with me. I had no intention on setting anyone straight and didn’t want to disappoint and as a result, there are over two hundred people from all over the world posing with the Spanish-version-of-me in their World Cup albums.

We met the Spanish team (only about 8 of them). I would have liked to attribute it to my stalking skills, but it was completely by accident… being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I still ardently believe that it was Destiny, seeing as I only supported them on that gut feeling and was all Moorish-Spanish for an entire month. Iker Casillas is the friendliest and Torres blushes like a girl.

We approached anyone who looked foreign and confused, offering help. They were easy to spot and were usually the ones looking quizzically at a map or board signs, eyes searching and pointing in some or other direction. And most were dressed like it’s the middle of Summer. We met, accompanied and drove many people to their destinations and provided centrally located accommodation to those who were looking for or had problems/issues with the location/distance/condition of their booked accommodation for free by getting a set of keys from my aunt and converting my cousins six-bedroom palatial home into a temporary hotel while he was in Cape Town.

And then there were the Canadians, the Serbians, the Japanese, the Ghanaians … and that time we introduced those Paraguayans to the mosque and Muslim life in SA... literally hundreds of stories to tell my kids one day. Good times man, good times.

Those waiting for their update can find it here.