Learning Tajweed, Part Four


At home, we poured out the whole story to my husband, who then said,”I know the husband of the mudeera. I will go pray Isha with him and find out what’s going on.”

He was gone longer than usual that evening, but we were waiting for him at the door when he returned.

“Everything is OK now,” he said, “they will phone you tomorrow and ask you to come back.”

What?!”  For the second time that day, I was in shock.

Turns out, one of the madrassa teachers recognized my girls as daughters of an Egyptian woman who had been a teacher several years ago. She told the mudeera, who was then suspicious. Why were these Egyptian girls coming with an American woman who pretended to be their mother, and they pretended to be her children? Stranger yet, why did this American woman read Arabic but did not speak it very well? And where was the real mother of these girls?

The mudeera decided that I was a spy for the government, though for which government, she did not know. However, that was the most plausible explanation. So she kicked us out, not wanting any trouble.

When my husband told the mudeera’s husband that he had divorced the girl’s mother and sent her back to Egypt, and later married an American Muslimah, the other man understood, and explained the situation to his wife.

My girls’ dignity had been insulted to the extent that they said, “We’re never going back there!” but I said, “Let’s go back and show those people that they cannot push us around. We want to learn tajweed, so let’s make them teach us.”

The next day, a woman phoned and said, “Well, are you coming back or not?” and I said, “Yes,” and hung up the phone. No salaam, no sorry, just that question. I knew these women were not of a more fortunate social class, but I was surprised at their crude manner and narrow attitude. I needed all my courage to go back the next day and convince my girls to go with me.

We did. We were reinstated and everyone acted as if nothing had happened. That was fine with me. All I wanted was instruction, nothing more, nothing less, and I got it. We stayed for several months, but the biggest blessing was yet to come.



About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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17 Responses to Learning Tajweed, Part Four

  1. Solace says:


    Can’t wait for the next instalment!

    Was salam

  2. Shahrzad says:

    She thought you’re spy?!!! lol
    Crazy mudeera..

  3. Umm Ibrahim says:

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    I wasn’t expecting that twist to the tale! A governmet spy!

  4. WM says:

    The plot thickens…

  5. ~W~ says:

    I was waiting for the rest of the story before commenting.
    As I mentioned before, your posts are a study of the culture and behavior of Arabs 🙂 How interesting!

  6. WM says:

    I’m hoping that part five will include a car chase and/or a duel of some kind 😀

  7. Cairogal says:

    Her behaviour towards you on the phone might signal that you were given a bogus excuse about why they kicked you out. I sorta suspect this has more to do w/ anger towards you for the perceived “replacement” of his first wife (not saying that’s the case, but they might be sticking by their former colleague/friend).

  8. Marahm says:

    WM, the car chase does not belong to this episode. That happened in Jeddah, while I was with a friend, walking along the beach. Part Five is simply the resolution.

    Cairogal, What an interesting possibility! I hadn’t thought of it. Yes, they could have been reacting more toward the family dynamic than any far-fetched political theory.

  9. Aafke says:

    Still a very strange story.
    WM: LOL!!!
    Marahm, Aaaaah, no car-chase? Will you tell that story too please?
    Cairogal: interesting take…. Must be easy to get completely paranoia over there…

  10. delhi4cats says:

    Knowing what I do of the “insider” culture here in the Kingdom, I agree with Cairogirl and the women were being loyal to their fellow Arab muslim women and viewed you perhaps as the homewrecker and interloper.

    Geez….I can only imagine what some folks may think of me then as a former diplomat who married a Saudi and living here! (LOL)

    Always enjoy your posts even if I do not get to comment as often as I’d like.

  11. Marahm says:

    Sure, Aafke, I’ll tell the car chase story sometime soon.

    Carol, I’m glad you chimed in about the possibility of those women thinking I was the interloper. It’s not true, but they’d never believe it. Anyway, that explanation is more believable than the government spy story; all these years I’ve been wondering why anyone would think me a government spy. I’m just a normal American, who takes things at face value, and forgets an important fact– that when one is with Arabs, one must always dig deeper.

  12. delhi4cats says:

    There is a lot of sensitivity in the region and in KSA it is a culture where one may always feel under observation and being judged…hence that can also transcend (in some minds) that there are also governmental spies in abundance. (smile)

  13. Marahm says:

    That’s right, and who’s to say the suspicion isn’t justified?

  14. iMuslim says:

    Wow… I never knew Tajweed could be so exciting! haha. I loved my own Tajweed classes, even without the spy action… 😉

  15. This certainly explains her throwing you out but she should have totally given you the chance to explain yourself under the veiled words of an innocent question. Masha’Allah these Arabs can have intent of the slyest phrases you’d never imagine….. She could have casually mentioned seeing them before with an arab women… and left it open for you to go yeah I’m the new step-mom etc… that would have cleared things up enormously but i have to agree that they were sticking up for the former teacher. What a small world. Such Arab drama though. subhanallah.

  16. Ohh my the gov. spy attitude. I didn’t see as much about this in Lebanon because epopel were more open with their attitudes and thoughts but here in UAE Puleeeze. I worked at a nursuery and had to pose as “just the mother” of my daughter attending there, instead of the under the table paid teacher in case any gov spies showed up. I thought it was the weirdest thing.

  17. Marahm says:

    Now I feel really badly that she didn’t ask me outright– though direct speech is not in the Arab way of doing things. I hope she didn’t think I was a second wife! Aoozo billah!

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