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Yemeni Journey

Lessons at Dawn

Early morning, the time of the Fajr prayer, is one of my favorite times of day. This has been the case no matter where I’ve lived- in windy Wisconsin winters with snow tinted pink with the sun’s first rays, or in the foothills of the Rockies, where the mountains clasped hands with a sky alive with color. Some of my favorite mornings, though, were in the small villages in Yemen that we called home for several years. Not only were these villages beautiful, but in my time in them I studied under women who are still mentors to me, examples of living Islaam fully and letting it permeate every portion of my life.

When we first came to Yemen, I took classes at a language institute in Old Sana’a. My teachers were very good at teaching Arabic, but they were not particularly spiritual. Most of the women who work in such jobs in Yemen are looking for worldly gain and are not as concerned with religious matters. I took religious classes at a local Salafi masjid, including Qur’aan and two major books on Islamic beliefs. I was still feeling my way around the Arabic language, though, so I still felt very much the outsider and was afraid to participate in the classes fully.

The first village we moved to was Ma’bar, where Sheikh Muhammad al-Imaam , may Allaah preserve him, has a center of knowledge. This was a pivotal experience for me, as it cemented my steps upon the path to religious knowledge. The Sheikh himself is incredibly knowledgeable, and shares his knowledge freely through lectures, classes, books, and tapes. Here is a recording of his Qur’anic recitation, which I find incredibly beautiful and touching, mash’Allaah. He is a great defender and educator of women, may Allaah reward him, making clear not only their responsibilities, but also stressing their rights under Islamic law. But as much as the Sheikh influenced me, his wife, Umm ‘Abdur Rahman, influenced me even more.

At the time I was studying there, Umm ‘Abdur Rahman had several children, and had just given birth to another baby. She was full of energy, and taught three classes at the women’s school herself. From the first day, she expected me to have memorized and called upon me to recite the hadeeth. She made a special effort to meet me, and at that meeting she made me feel welcome. This meant a lot to me, as I was the first American to study there and I felt very much a stranger. When her new book came out, she gave out copies at the school and made sure that I got one. I still treasure that book, and have had cause to refer to it on many occasions. I was only able to study with her for less than a year, but she still influences me and has a place in my heart, may Allaah preserve her. Her balance of teaching, studying, and caring for her family is an example to all women who are trying to learn and live Islaam.

Damaaj was the second village we lived in. We were able to stay there for three years, alhamdulillah, and in the course of my studies I met several women who affected me deeply in so many ways. Umm ‘Abdullah, the daughter of one of the greatest scholars of our time, Sheikh Muqbil Ibn Haadi al-Waadi’ee, may Allaah have mercy upon him, taught a weekly class. Like Umm ‘Abdur Rahman, she had several children at the time and was working on her own projects, performing the balancing act with grace and success. Her weekly classes were always full, and her quiet strength and firm knowledge made a deep impression upon me.

I had other teachers as well, many of whom taught me lessons about life as well as Islaam. However, the one who influenced me the most was Umm Salama, who had been one of the wives of Sheikh Muqbil. Like Umm ‘Abdullah, she was the same age as me. When I first started studying under her, she had no children, though she had one baby while I was there. She taught a class five days a week, and I made it a point from the first day to sit in the first row, close to her right hand. Alhamdulillah, I learned more in her class about Islaam and what it means to be a Muslim woman than I would ever have thought possible. I studied outside of class, memorizing the hadeeths and answering questions concerning their meanings. After every class, sisters would stop Umm Salama as she left the masjid, and she always had time for a quiet word with each one. In the afternoons she would work in the women’s library, and I would bring my books as well and sit quietly behind a pillar and study. Again, I not only learned about Islaam, I learned about life.

Mornings like this, when I sit with my books open in front of me, studying by myself, I think of these and other women who have had, and still have, so much influence in my life. When I feel overwhelmed by all of my obligations I remember how each of them managed to keep the balance, and I ask Allaah to give me the wisdom and the strength to do the same.

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22 comments

UmmAbdillaah on February 7, 2012 3:46 am Reply

So beautiful maashaaAllah…may Allaah reward them with Jannatul Firdaws and grant us the ability to continue to benefit from them and their works, amin.

Khadijah on February 7, 2012 3:06 pm Reply

Alhamdulillah, the benefit of learning from the people of knowledge is beyond reckoning- so many things that you learn that you simply can’t learn from studying from a book alone…
Ameen to your du’a.

Amatullaah Ummismaa'eel on February 7, 2012 8:48 am Reply

as salaamu ‘alaykum….fajr too, has always been my favourite time of day. i actually cant wait to go to sleep at 8:30 pm so that i can enjoy that time before it comes in and the duration. may Allaah reward you immensely for sharing these experiences with us! i can only still think and hope that maybe Allaah has prescribed for me and my family to have these yemeni experiences. i feel that i am so ready but at times scared. i think, some of the same experiences maybe you have felt at one time or another. inshaaAllaah…..one day.

Khadijah on February 7, 2012 3:05 pm Reply

I love Fajr time, mash’Allaah, as do the children. We have an hour for reviewing and reciting Qur’aan just after prayer, and it is a wonderful way to start the day, alhamdulillah. May Allaah grant you and your family success in whatever you choose to do in His behalf, Ameen.

UmTayymiah As-Salafiyah on February 8, 2012 7:26 am Reply

SalamuAlikum Warhmato Allahi Wabarkatohu,
Masha’Allah, this is my first visit to your blog and the first topic that grabbed my attention was this one, after i finished reading it..i realized few things, you have worked very hard to reach the level of knowledge you’re at today, you also had the honor to have these knowledgable women as your teachers, May Allah preserve them and you. This made me realize that i need to be harder on myself in studying and try my best not to waste time.
BarakaAllahu feeki for sharing this with us.

umm Abdulla on February 9, 2012 4:54 am Reply

assalamualikum sis.

sis could you share with us who are the husbands for shaykh umm abdullah alwadee and umm salamah? i always wonder about this.

jazaki Allahu khayran

Khadijah on February 9, 2012 2:30 pm Reply

Umm Abdullah’s husband is from the tribe of Waadi’ee…I am not sure of his name, perhaps Saalih? I would have to look it up. He is one of those who studied under Sheikh Muqbil, may Allaah have mercy upon him, and I believe he witnessed his will, as well.
Umm Salamah’s husband is the Imaam of the center, Sheikh Ahmad ibn Thaabit al-Wasaabee, may Allaah preserve them all. And Allaah knows best.

umm Abdulla on February 11, 2012 5:55 pm Reply

assalamualiki warahma tullahiwabaraka tuhu dear sis.

jazaki Allahu khayran kathiran for sharing this info. with me.
alhamdulillah to know finally who is the husband of shaykhah umm salamah, i asked others, one said shaykh yahya alhajoree, another was saying maybe shaykh muhammad ibn abdullah wahhab alwasabee. maashaaAllah.

Alhamdulillah very happy to know finally who it is. ‘smile’. jazaki Allahu khayran.

maybe you could look up and share the other little info. of husband of umm abdullah, just want to know who are the great husbands of these great women of islam. maashaaAllah. May Allah bless them and preserve them all. ameen.

Thurayah Stoehr on February 17, 2012 1:12 pm Reply

Khadijah, Spiritual leaders…such a blessing. I am so happy for you to have had them and then for so many to have been women, a blessing indeed. I have had one woman like that in my life, a mormom woman whose husband was a university professor in Platteville. My sons still don’t believe this, but they are mine and probably the closest to a woman’s champion I’ll ever know. Always, Thurayah

um almujahid on February 27, 2012 9:58 pm Reply

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I really enjoyed reading this post mashaAllah tabarakaAllah! First time on your site, barakaAllahu fiki sister!

Mai on March 10, 2012 1:51 pm Reply

As salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah.

This is what I had hoped for – for myself and my children – but it is not like that here in Madinah, or Saudi Arabia in general – Qadr Allah mashaa fa’al. We can hear lectures from the well known scholars at Masjid an Nabawi, but I have yet to sit with women who exemplify Islam in their lives and actions. I hope you will share what you have learned with us, bi ithn Illah.

Khadijah on March 15, 2012 2:08 am Reply

I will do my best, insh’Allaah, Mai. The blessings of sitting with the people of knowledge are tremendous, mash’Allaah.

Oum Assia on April 16, 2012 8:58 am Reply

Alahuma barik ; may alah bless Dammaj her scholars men and women , and her students .

Umar Ibn Uthmaan on May 7, 2012 2:10 am Reply

Salam O Alukum Ukhti, Inshalah I’m planning to make Hijraah to Ma’bar next year or the year after that inshalah. How hard is it getting into Ma’bar considering I live in UK? And I’ve heard a lot that if you say you’re ‘Seeking Knowledge’ they defenitely won’t let you.

Khadijah on May 7, 2012 12:03 pm Reply

Wa aleikum assalam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakatuhu
Do you mean by that the Yemeni authorities, or the markaz in Ma’bar? If you mean the first, then yes, this can be an issue. We went on student Visas for a mahad in old Sana’a, and had learning Arabic as our purpose for being there. Eventually my husband obtained a work visa, alhamdulillah. If it was the second, the markaz in Ma’bar, then this is not true, mash’Allaah. Remember also, akhee, that it can be difficult to get to Ma’bar and stay for any amount of time due to the travel and visa restrictions. Make sure you contact them there, and have options in case that does not work, mash’Allaah. And lastly, don’t believe everything you hear- find a good, reliable resource for your information. It is sad, but there is a lot of misinformation that becomes repeated as though it is truth, may Allaah rectify the Muslims, Ameen.

Umar Ibn Uthmaan on May 15, 2012 6:15 pm Reply

Yeah Sorry I wasn’t clear enough. I meant the authorities, about the Visas and all that stuff. So I have to say I’m learning Arabic right? Can’t say I’m seeking knowledge to them because they won’t allow me. And inshallah by saying I’m learning Arabic, this will hopefully give me a Student Visa. And Inshalah I will be able to maintain a working Visa like your husband has because I want to stay there for long. And is Dammaj the same thing? Or is it easier? Hayyakal Allah.

Khadijah on May 23, 2012 9:02 pm Reply

I also believe that to get a student visa you have to enroll in a language school. When we went, about ten years ago, the school had to send someone to get us from the airport and vouch for us, mash’Allaah. I don’t know if this is still the case. It is not possible to actually be in Damaaj legally…so that is a whole ‘nother matter, mash’Allaah. Even with a Visa from an institute, you won’t be legal to be in Damaaj…

Faisa on July 2, 2012 8:23 pm Reply

SubhanaAllaah ukhti, please tell me everyone can go their and study our beloved deen? or do you need to write an application? Oh knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. may Allaah make it easy for me, you and all sister upon this deen & da’watus salafiyyah.

You sister Faisa Umm Muqbil from Sweden ^^ *Smiling big* because of this beautiful and inspiring article! Lots of heart <3
responed to me soon Insha Allaah, may Allaah reward you with good and increase you in knowledge! Allaahomma amiin!

Khadijah on July 2, 2012 8:38 pm Reply

Assalamu Aleikum Faisa,
No, there is no application. It is, however, a good idea to talk to the Sheikh or someone else there to get an idea of how the situation is with the visas and such, mash’Allaah. The difficulty would not be with the center in Ma’bar, but perhaps with the government. Single women also need to contact the Sheikh to go there in general, because their situation is very different from that of a married woman, mash’Allaah.

Amina bint Said on September 28, 2012 3:38 am Reply

JazakiAllaahu khairan, this was an eye-opening article.

Umm Abdurrahman on April 10, 2013 10:11 am Reply

Assalaamu alaikum ukhti it is so inspiring to read this article about your experience in Ma’bar.May Allah allow you to continue to write many more beneficial articles .
Sister I am from the Uk and I need some advice regarding my younger brother.My brother is 15 years old and he has started to display aggressive behavior towards his other siblings and hitting them .I am scared that my other brothers will follow in his footsteps as he is the oldest.He doesn’t listen to my mother and he has difficulties with learning .My mother is a single mother so there is no father figure in his life. What would you advise for us to do?We are planning to let him stay with family in Ma’bar so that he can learn the Qur’an.Would it be possible for my brother to go to the Markaz in Ma’bar ?Would they accept him?
Please get back to me soon ukhti BarakAllahu Feeki.

Khadijah on April 20, 2013 2:57 pm Reply

Wa Aleikum Assalam wa Rahmatullah
On a practical level, your son would have to have an iqaama to stay in Ma’bar. This is one of the conditions of Sheikh Muhammad al-Imaam at the markaz, and if one were to ignore it, he would not be honoring or fulifilling the conditions of study there, even if one could “get away with it” as some people try to do. How would your brother get an iqama to stay there? That is the first question you must resolve.
Secondly, the rectification of the child begins in the home, first and foremost. I would advise you to ask Sheikh Muhammad al-Imaam or one of those people he has put in a position of authority at the markaz regarding the specific case of your brother. As it is well known that people send “problem children” off to study on their own, and very often they end up causing fitnah in the place to which they are sent. So I would advise you to get the advice and then the permission of the Sheikh before sending him there. And Allaah knows best.