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There is a time of day, between waking and sleeping, between dream and reality, between one breath and the next, when I feel Yemen as close as my own heart’s blood. The years we spent in the mountains there, breathing ancient air, walking ancient paths, clasping the past and present in one hand, has changed us all, shaped us in more ways than we can possibly imagine at this point.

I’ve been thinking about change, about distance, about journeys, about home. I remember a bright early morning in the small mountain village we lived in for three years. I was walking to class, my books in my bag, my step light as I went over the texts I had memorized for the day in my head, over and over. Even now I can hear the fall of the ax, the cracking of branches as the old women gathered firewood. I can smell the earthy aroma of bread baking in tanoor ovens, the fragrance so strong, so familiar I can almost taste it. At that time, in that moment, I felt like I could stay there forever, as though somehow I could make that small part of that foreign country, my home. The sounds, sights, and smells brought back feelings of my Wisconsin childhood, and made that past startlingly, achingly, present. I felt whole, the little girl that I had been, looking through the eyes of the woman I had become.

Different times, different places, I have felt the sense of wholeness, of the completion of the circle within. Since coming back to America, it has happened more than once, usually as I am walking through pre-dusk coolness, the tang of woodsmoke in the air, the rustle of wind through bony tree tops, the call of some unseen bird cutting through the almost-silence of that time between day and night, light and dark. Sometimes it comes late at night, when the rain rushing against the window panes reminds me of the rainy season in Ma’bar, a time that encompassed both a further spiritual awakening in my soul as the world of knowledge opened up before me, and the breaking of my heart as I re-learned the precariousness of life, and the value of trust.

I find myself searching, now, always, for ways to teach my children the meaning of home, of place, of connection. Their world has been turned upside down, and I know that if I feel this uncertainty, like a stranger looking for a light in a window, that they must feel it as well. We find comfort in our faith, in our knowledge, in our Arabic language, and in our experiences. There is strength in the rope that stretches back, generation to generation, to the very beginning of the call to truth. It holds us up, holds us together, and gives us the strength to always, moment to moment, breath to breath, reach out and carry on, bringing past and present together to make us whole and more able to face whatever the future may bring.

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Umm Abdillaah on March 10, 2012 12:55 am

SubhaanAllaah, so touching….I can feel what you have written. May Allaah make it easy for us to pass the test in this life and bless us with Jannatul Firdaws in the next, amin.

Khadijah on March 10, 2012 11:07 am

JazakAllaahukhairun Umm Abdillah, as always, it is so good to hear from you. Ameen to your du’a!

Mai on March 10, 2012 8:59 am

I find my heart constricted at the concept of you leaving such a connection and the beauty of it behind. However, Allah is the most Perfect and Loving of Planners. As you say, you take your Arabic, your knowledge, and the gift of living Islam with you. It lives on in you and your family, and inshaa’Allah, with the knowledge you have and what you are inspired to, you will be blessed with a similar beauty that is reminiscent of that simplistic, focused life – ameen.

Khadijah on March 10, 2012 11:07 am

It’s funny how going to Yemen was one of the toughest things I ever did, and leaving it was ALSO one of the toughest things I ever did. Ameen to your beautiful du’a, Allaah is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.

Sahar on March 10, 2012 10:28 am

Ma sha’ Allah, ukhti, you have a wonderfully rich writing style. And, being from Wisconsin myself and currently living in a Muslim country, I can relate on a very personal level. If you don’t mind, could you tell me where (north, south, east, western) particularly in Wisconsin you grew up? …it’d be nice to find out that you are from a place near my home…

Khadijah on March 10, 2012 11:00 am

I grew up in Gays Mills, WI, in the Kickapoo Valley. It’s about an hour from LaCrosse, a couple of hours from Madison. I went to Viterbo College in LaCrosse for a year, then went on and finished my degrees in Eau Claire.
Where were you from in Wisconsin? What Muslim country do you live in now?

Susan J. Tweit on March 12, 2012 2:37 am

Khadijah, I have never been to Yemen, I don’t speak Arabic (but I must say I love the sound of it spoken and on the page), and I’m a Quaker, not a follower of Islam. But I feel the tug on my heart of your words, and that deep connection to place (or places) and the need to be part of something that stretches on for generation after generation. For me, that’s the community of lives that shape this very Earth. Blessings to you and yours!

Khadijah on March 15, 2012 2:06 am

Thank you Susan! The connection to the past is one of the greatest blessings that I have received from becoming Muslim. I’ve always felt it, even before, stretched out under the stars in a Wisconsin meadow…

Kate (seekingtaqwa) on March 12, 2012 8:36 am

Assalaamu alaikum Khadija,

so often your writing moves me to the point of tears..
I pray that you find comfort and joy wherever you are, ameen

Khadijah on March 15, 2012 2:03 am

Ameen to your du’a, I’m blessed that you have taken the time to make it for me.

Chery Kendrick on March 14, 2012 8:13 pm

Khadijah, as always your words flow beautifully and convey a depth of emotion. Your journey continues to be educational for us all. I am honored to know you and continue to read your words with such admiration and love~ Blessings always to you and yours dear sister

Khadijah on March 15, 2012 2:02 am

Thank you, Chery, for your sweet words. It’s so good to see you here…

Mary M-S on March 20, 2012 3:41 pm

Khadijah, your words carry the power of your feeling and Truth, taking one to another time and place, while feeling their existence within, here, now. I read your words and remember being in ancient India, the sights and sounds and smells unique, framing the inner spiritual experience. Often in NYC I’d be walking down a street and suddenly, for a split second, would be in India again – some scent in the air, usually of some wood burning, would often be the catalyst. It happens rarely now. And especially in the time between breaths, in the closeness of now, in the presence of here, I find ‘it’ lives within me. Your words are beautifully written, transcendent. I pray your family’s journey in this phase be peaceful and uplifting. with love to you and to them,

Thurayah Stoehr on April 13, 2012 3:16 pm

Dearest Khadijah, Some days it seems as though if we are paying attention all of life is a circle and entwined. I think all the ancients knew this. I am glad you do too, and I am learning. I love you! Always, Thurayah

Khadijah on April 14, 2012 1:43 am

I know I’ve always felt this at such a basic level, mash’Allaah, even as a kid. It was one of the things that really attracted me to Islaam, alhamdulillah, the strong connection between the ages…