Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Retreat with A View

One of my mom's favorite movies is E.M. Forster's "A Room with A View" Two quite famous British actresses, much younger than they are now starred in it: Maggie Smith and Helena Bonham Carter. I remember liking the movie many moons ago, when I was less aware and naive. However, I probably would not like it at present with a more conservative world view. Despite the fact, that I may not care for the Literature, the title is rather catchy. . . and besides, who wouldn't want a room with a view?

Well, I had that and more this weekend, I had a Sister's (Muslim Women) Retreat for 3 days in a resort village in Virginia with a View. Alhumdulilah. It was superb, the sisters were superb, the food was superb, and having time to myself was superb. God is so much better than Superb, He is Supreme.

I started my weekend out by being picked up at my house by this beautifully tall Muslim sister, whom I think she said is 5'11. My teens were filled with super models like Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer as the ideal, so I always wanted to be at least 5'9", unfortunately I had to settle for 5'6 and 1/2". Then we picked up another sister who had the most fascinating story about how she met her Moroccan husband in France. My overly romantic side absolutely loves a great love story.

Out of the 12 sisters who were expected, we arrived first to the Resort and had first dabs on the rooms. There were many rooms, however, I wanted the open loft with the most space and a view. I was willing to share, sleep on the floor, anything to stay up in the loft. Not only was it spacious for me to spread out my prayer rug, it had a private 1/2 bath, a desk, couch and futon chair all to relax.

Our chateau was called Edelweiss, if you haven't seen Sound of Music then you won't understand the significance this song had on a young girl's (my) childhood. However, for me and the sister who found her Moroccan husband in France, and later with the arrival of another Sister, we were having a great time singing it and reminiscing. I grew up on Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, The King and I, Mary Poppins, & White Christmas among other Musicals. My children watch more movies than I was allowed to as a child and they only watch on weekends, far less than most American children. So you can only imagine how much television or movies, I was exposed to as a child. We mostly watched Disney, which I no longer let my children watch based on the subtle push of immoral lifestyles. However, there were some MGM classics and other musicals that were encouraged by the Church based off the love story or the idea of Soul Mates (Richard Bach quote on soulmate), hence where my romanticism comes from. Two famous MGM couples were Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers and Nelson Eddy-Jeanette McDonald . Later, my mom stopped attending the church and went in total reverse by letting me do whatever I wanted with no boundaries. I tried to adapt to the pop culture of the 80's with Debbie Gibson and Cyndi Lauper. However, after being teased by African-American girls for being too white, getting into fights with poor white "ghetto" girls, and although I was more "cultured" in classical music, literature, and etiquette than many white people as the daughter of a single Black mother I could not economically compete (not to mention the set backs I experienced from racial prejudice and jealousy), I went on a long search for my Black roots. (This is the story of many Middle Class African Americans whom are more talented and/or better educated and "cultured" than their white counterparts, yet are mistreated by both whites and blacks, can I say Gabby Douglas?) And in that process, I adopted some of the most horrible Black music like DJ Quick, Prince, and even the beloved Tupac. I was not uplifted by these musicians or their songs, nor did I benefit from the kind of perverted love they were selling. It was only later when I was introduced  to the Sounds of Blackness and other Gospel music and even later with Native Deen and certain other Muslim artist did music move me as it once did when I was a child. Except for thikring and qasidas, no music has made me feel as happy as I did when I sung "These are few of my favorite things." with two of the ladies at the retreat. One of these ladies has grandchildren, married children, has been through life's ups and downs and she is so happy with so much fight. If her secret is in the song, maybe I need to start singing the songs of my youth again. So Humble Dad, if you catch me singing these strange songs around the house, just let me be ♥

Besides the singing, there was another sister I connected to at the retreat because of homeschooling. She shared some beneficial information and it is always great to talk to another intellectual. She has written some curriculum on the Ottoman empire and other Islamic history and was willing to email it to me. She talked to me about my children and how I should make sure that I check in with them and ask them about their needs. She reminded me that homeschooling is not for everyone. This triggered my thoughts on being focus on the goals and not so much on the ideals. I can get sidetracked by the ideals and InshaAllah, God Willing, this school year will be about being more goal focused. I do need to put that on my prayer list, so it remains my constant du'a. I really did gain alot from being in her company, however, the best part of meeting her was that she shared a book she was reading, A Journey to God with Ibn Ata' Illah by Jasser Auda. The only problem is that I could not find the book in the US, although the first 80 pages can be downloaded free from Jasser Auda, his website. I was devouring that book, there are 29 chapters for each day of Ramadan. Each day serves as a reminder and a way to purify the heart.

Depending on the Madhab or school of Islamic law you follow, Muslim women are not required to pray in congregation as the men are and in some Madhab women are discouraged to pray in a women only congregation. Many times, I would pray solo on my prayer rug in the quietness of the loft. Although, many of my actions could have been viewed as anti-social, I really just needed the seclusion that being in a retreat allowed me. I was tired, emotionally and physically and I wanted to sleep, do my hair (which is a luxury for me), and spend quiet times praying to God and reading books that would bring me closer to God. On Saturday Morning, two groups of sisters left on different adventures, one group went on a hike and the other to a flea market and I had the chateau to myself. It was the best couple of hours that I have had in a long time, just so peaceful and serene. Another luxury, this homeschooling mom of 4 rarely gets.

We had one sister, that I called the drill sergeant, she really wasn't that bad. She was just a fantastic leader, that not only kept the sisters on their prayers, reading our Juz and in remembering Allah, she encouraged physical fitness also. She made smoothies with avocado and other greens and organized the Saturday hiking trip. She made this awesome kale salad and please believe me when I tell you that she massaged that Kale to perfection. There were other yummy food also, like a great fruit salad, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Moroccan pancakes, Blueberry pancakes, and Salmon. It was definitely a multi-cultural group of women and it was represented in the food and talk. I learned so much more about Jamaica, Morocco, and Kenya. Actually the sister from Kenya, had many great stories that I really enjoyed listening to and laughing to. The whole chateau was filled with laughter much of the time. It really was a beautiful time with the most loveliest of sisters and this final picture tells it all.

More Ramadan 2012 posts:
Preparation for Ramadan
* Ramadhan Interior Decoration
Ramadan for Intelligent People
Gingerbread Masjid
I'm Fasting
Ramadan for Children
A Retreat with a View
The Post of Eid Past (yes, this title was influenced by Charles Dickens)
Eid al Fitr 2012

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