When Oliver Twist becomes your new friend, sure life will be full of misery. But not in my case; Luckily, Oliver twist was like a language exchange partner except that I was only a recipient. Simply, that novel was my gate into English.
The page took me an hour; I used the dictionary for almost every word. Then I had to go through the page again to understand what the hell Dickens wanted to tell?! Finally I read the same page again just to enjoy the feeling of reading in English.
I had to be creative in finding ways to kill time during my last year in Al Kharkher. Sure I wasted hours staring in the mirror waiting for any change in the reflection! When nothing happened I had to turn my back and find something useful to do with my time. I read books, wrote pages, lost myself to the streams of thoughts then filled my mother’s head with complains, curses and questions. She had no answers but I was lucky to have such a good listener.
When the sun swallowed by the unknown I waited for him to show up. I was convinced that my friend changes his usual path just to see me, and cheer me up. In the Quran the moon is a masculine, the sun is a feminine, she enlightens him, gives him life; without her he would be dead, dark and forgotten. I loved his weakness and neediness; it reminded me of my loneliness. But It was his face that drawn me to fall in love, and how his head is tilted to cope with a tilted planet, or maybe he’s just looking at something we fail to see.
Everybody thinks the moon is perfect when he’s full. Well, I disagree. My friend is perfect when he’s incomplete, just like us.
Exactly the 16th and 17th of any month on the Islamic calendar, these were the days when he seemed the closest to earth. Exactly these days when I couldn’t get inside the house, when I couldn’t blink, when I couldn’t whisper to my friend, I just stared for hours.
In the morning I had a different life, I was a mad troublemaker rebellion in the school. Teachers hated my class because of me, even my classmates started to get bothered of my presence. It all started with a new group of teachers who were ‘’extremely religious’’. They organized events and gave lectures aiming to guide the girls into the right way to be ‘’good Muslims’’. Which seemed fine in the beginning then this right way to be a good Muslim turned to have a list of standards. We all should accept these standards, otherwise you know… one won’t be a ‘’good Muslim’’.
On the top of the list you should accept your inferiority as a woman and you’re your only duty on earth is to be obedient to your father then your husband, and the list continuous with similarities.
One of these teachers was tutoring religion, each class we both had a debate that ended with accusing me of being ‘’anti-Islam and full of doubts’’!!!
Fortunately I didn’t care and continued to ask questions, argue about their nonsense claimed to be the only way to God.
The truth is, this teacher (thankfully I forgot her name) succeeded to take me away from God. It was true that I was full of doubts, and for years I was feeling guilty as I saw myself as a bad Muslim.
One day I had a thought, why I define God through these people? What if I stop seeing God through their eyes? What if I try reading the Quran, and use my mind -God’s greatest gift ever- and implement his words by myself?! Why I had to depend on others to understand my religion? Why taking it from others instead of taking it from the source?! It doesn’t make sense. Let this search for a guru end, let me find the way myself.
Definitely it wasn’t an easy choice, and it took me years to wash my brain and adapt this new path, a path where I subside all I knew about God and Islam and start again.
Again my friend, the one who comes by the night, who tilts his head to see things clearly, the one who is perfect when he’s imperfect was my companion, he never answered my tough questions about God, never gave me a clue, but he was there every single night, he stayed still and listened, and maybe that was all I needed.
When I left Khakher I left with doubts, and thousands of questions. I thank this empty place for what it planted inside me; the seeds of change that grew to become sprouts later. Now I feel sorry for that teacher, who had limited her options, and surrounded herself with fences and walls, she couldn’t use her mind the way that gets her out of her prison. I feel sorry for a lot of women I met and still meet every day, those who accept inequality and embrace it to be ‘’good Muslims’’
We left Kharker forever in a sunny afternoon, we looked back too much. Our confusion when we entered the town for the first time is not comparable to our sadness when we left.
We stopped by a lake on the highway, although it was the same road, it was the first time we see this lake! As if it was the desert’s way of saying goodbye.
I said goodbye to my friends, good bye to a place I called home, good bye to sad and happy times. But I couldn’t say goodbye to the moon. I see it every day in the sky, but it’s never like the one I left in Al kharker.