Telling the tale is the hardest part. The stories of love and life and dreams and trials and victories and no defeats because the Believer is indeed unique, in that in every situation there is good for him. The stories of searching and striving and laughter and tears and mountaintop shouts and swallowed tears. So many stories to tell, but I find that in the telling there is remembering, and memories give new life to old dreams.
I’ve been working on my Yemeni Journey book for two years now, in fits and starts as the words come easily or slow to a trickle struggling to get past the jagged rocks in my hand grasping the pen. Somehow it seems fitting, that – letting the words slip from the tip of my pen to the pages of my journal, then typing them into the little notebook computer that was with me for the last two years of my stay in Yemen, the one I wrote my first two books on, bit by bit. Funny how the pages of my last few journals show a certain amount of dichotomy as I switch between my life then and my life now, reinforcing the ties that bind past to present that flow through the current of now.
Journals. Held hostage in Yemen right now are our books – over 3,000 of them, all neatly packed into cigarette boxes and labelled with title after title. We’d hoped to have them sent over soon after we returned, but a stop was put on packages coming from Yemen to America. So, forty boxes of books, books full of Islamic knowledge, books that we used in our studying, writing, and teaching. Books that we read to the children and encouraged them to read. Books collected one by one over ten years. They sit now in a storage room in the southern village of Shihr, waiting until we can somehow have them sent home to us.
News of our library always preceded us to whatever place we moved to. We were known as the ones with all the books. People would stand and watch as box after box of books came of the pickup truck, along with our few other belongings. Booksellers would rush to our side when we came into stores, showing us the latest works of this scholar or that, knowing that we would probably not leave the store without buying at least one. We would purchase books before so many other things, hoping to provide our family with a sound foundation and a resource they could turn to again and again. We only bought books we knew we would use, knowing that they were meant to be read and studied and, ultimately, that what we learned from them must be put to use. Whenever a child seemed to be missing, we would find them in the room with the books, lost in the stories of the companions, or a book of rulings, or the explanation of Qur’aanic verses.
Among the forty boxes of books is the box that contains my journals from those years, as we travelled from village to city to village seeking knowledge in whatever way we could. The thought of those journals, and the stories they tell that I have forgotten, stops me from writing my own book, again and again.
We are hoping to have our books sent, someday, insh’Allaah. With the chaos and strife that is rampant in Yemen now, that could be a very long time, mash’Allaah.
If anyone has any ideas how we could get our library shipped back here to America, please do let us know, insh’Allaah, and the success is only from Allaah, alone.