Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Yearning for Stability

It has been five years now. Five whole years. The promise of Canada. Uncertainty of immigration. False promises from the lawyer. Hopes of an undergraduate degree at McGill - the big university experience I had always dreamed of. Living without ever knowing where I would be in three months' time and hoping to finally make the move and start afresh somewhere new. And how I loved Montreal, my parents would be happy there too. Then in September of last year, five years after we applied to go to Canada, after finishing my degrees, securing a job and finally getting some stability into my daily routine - all the documents were ready for us to go to Montreal!! Sigh. The irony of life!

Now it's finally time for the move and I am filled with all sorts of emotions. After an insanely chaotic year of traveling back and forth from overseas as well as managing the move and all the time-consuming processes that come with it, I am facing the surreal possibility that I am finally going to be settled in one place for good! It feels as though I have been an observer of life for so long and have hardly lived it, just dealing with family obligations and taking life day by day. And it’s funny to think that I used to be (maybe I still am) this big career woman filled with ambitions and goals a rigidly planned out future! Maybe it was a lesson to learn. Allah gave me this year to slow things down and make me realize the importance of other things in this world... I want to start my life. Deep inside, I am just yearning for stability.

In the back of my mind a little by-thought always reverberates. Will I ever be able to attain that stability? Or will I always be a nomad of the world? With my brothers and sisters spread all over North America and the UK with the rest of my extended family in Libya, I doubt I will ever have a place to really call home. Maybe with marriage and a family of my own.. I can plant those seeds. Hmmm.. let’s store that thought away..

So now I find myself in my childhood home for the last time ever. Eighteen years of my life is in this home and every single room has a story. There was so much love, happiness and sadness within these walls and of course, so much familiarity and security. It has always been our little haven from the world. Wherever I travelled and whatever happened, I always had this house to come back to and it was always a relief. I remember that as each of my sisters got married, I would move into her room and relocate my belongings.. until now I am just spread out all over the house.. no place being uniquely mine but at the same time with all of it being mine. I should feel a sort of sadness to let it all go and while I do feel a glimpse of nostalgia already, I am numb.. and doing what I do best - looking to the future for survival.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Did you know that the word Spirituality comes from the Latin word for breathing?

Personal spiritual awakening is key for a peaceful life. As humans, religion gives us the richness in our lives that we crave and enables us to expand our awareness of this world. I understand peoples’ distaste for “organized” or “institutionalized” religion (as it can be referred to), particularly with all the noise that has always surrounded religion (particularly with Islam these days). But we are smarter than that. Let’s set aside today’s biases about Islam and all the propaganda that is being fed to each and every one of us, which is an obvious political tool with very little truth or reflection of Islam to it. When I say Islam, I am referring to a peaceful spiritual path, a collection of beliefs that endows us with a particular way of seeing the world – the knowledge that explains our place in the universe as believers.

Only recently did I come t
o fully realize how blessed I am to have been raised by practicing Muslim parents who worked very hard to keep Islam alive in the West while raising five children. I’ll admit that there were very difficult moments growing up and integrating into a society at odds with my beliefs and there were times I did feel stifled. Now that I think about it, growing up isolated from any religious community, I managed to form my own spirituality based on what I had read and learned without social contamination or prejudices. My Islam was private and pure. With time and trust, my parents learned to give me enough breathing space to maintain my own independence and formulate my own beliefs while standing beside me as my guiding lights through life. Little did I know while I was driving them crazy debating and discussing every issue you could think of throughout my adolescent and teenage years that my parents were providing me with one of the greatest gifts of mankind; my spirituality.. my Islam.

Growing up in Geneva
, surrounded by people who were financially blessed.. I came to realize the importance of spirituality even more. My interaction with others at university and at work blatantly taught me that the quest for material security alone does not ultimately satisfy, not even emotional security or great knowledge is enough. Without a view of the meaning of life or the bigger picture, financial wealth can actually lead to a life of misery and degredation. For a while at university, I lived with the frustration of feeling like I was the only “balanced” person out of these seemingly insane 20something year olds – was I abnormal? My experiences have taught me that as humans in this world, we were built to seek answers to larger questions and to pursue an innate need of personal development that takes us beyond the self and beyond this world.

Spiritual figures are an inspiration. Muhammad Assad who wrote “The Road to Mecca
” grew up as a Viennese Jew and left Europeto become a defender of Islam. Malcolm X (who wrote his own biography) was a criminal whose religious conversation transformed him into a voice for black empowerment. The great writer Herman Hesse who wrote “Siddartha”, a novel that is said to echo is own search for the path and the knowledge of God. Richard Alpert, also known as Ram Dass, was a professor of psychology in Harvard and gave up his career to become a master meditator and guru. Mohandas Ghandi became a symbol of selflessness and human freedom through his daily habits of simple living and celibacy. Their spiritual metamorphoses should inspire us and remind us of the possibility of change in human character and the importance of discovering our life purpose. Perhaps by understanding the basis of the transformation of others, we may be able to uncover ur own spiritual potential.

Enlightenment. I realize that it is only when I stop being a reflection of what others expect of me, of my culture and all those years of conditioning that I will begin to master my own mind and true spiritual healing will begin.
I want to be able to live in this world with a heightened awareness that we are mortal beings in a temporary world.. to live for Allah and Islam.. to have a constant awareness of my actions and my being and their significance. I get too easily swept up in the wave of daily life. My needs of integration and belonging and goals of career success distract me. But that is the struggle.. our own little jihad. With heightened awareness and the will for change, I believe each and every one of us can live the more spiritually whole and peaceful life that we crave.


Where to begin??

Friday, October 14, 2005


Yesterday, a good friend asked me what I would identify as the most important characteristic in a human being.. without hesitation, I responded "compassion". Mother Teresa, Princess Diana (may they both rest in peace), my mother.. all pop into mind when I am asked for examples.. I value people who are compassionate because they are not only able to sense another's feelings but react in the most loving and sympathetic of ways. The most amazing part of it all, is that you don't even have to ask for anything at all.. compassionate people are content with the sincerity of giving and their joy is derived from your own well-being... "Compassion - literally "suffering with" - is born out of feeling rawness of the heart, which also makes us more sensitive to others". -- John Welwood.

A husband acting out of compassion would help his wife in the chores instead of critising her cooking and cleaning - he understands that she is tired and that her work as a wife and mother is demanding. A compassionate mother would understand why her child is misbehaving and patienly tries to instruct her child instead of punishing him or her. Likewise, a compassionate observer feels concern when he or she watches the suffering of fellow man.. and has a desire for all the pain to be banished.

Compassion is also the basis of all morality and of great importance for all religious traditions as well as spiritual philosophies (buddhism, for instance). "Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment of emotional maturity. It is through compassion that a person achieves the highest peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment." --Arthur Jersild

Compassion is the highest form of love for ourselves and others. What human characteristic could possibly be more beautiful, pure and desirable?

A Few Quotes on Compassion:

Spiritual energy brings compassion into the real world. With compassion, we see benevolently our own human condition and the condition of our fellow human beings. We drop prejudice. We withhold judgment. Christina Baldwin

Part of her gift in bringing comfort to those in anguish lay in this sensitive awareness of when silence is best. She was not a voluble sympathiser, quite the reverse. At some point during an outpouring of grief, she would stretch out a hand or both hands and ouch the person on the arm or face. W.F. Dees, on a trip to Bosnia with Diana Princess of Wales.

It's not how much we give, but how much love we put in doing - that's compassion in action. Mother Teresa

Compassion is being in tune with oneself, the other person and the whole world. It is goodness at its most intuitive and unreflective. It is a harmony which opens itself and permits the flowing out of love towards others without asking any reward. David Brandon

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Libyan Arab Airlines
Here is a joke that I received through e-mail a long while ago, wanted to post it here to give my fellow Libyans a laugh...

"Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is your Captain Faraj Khalf allah welcoming you to the Libyan Arab airline. We apologize for the four-day delay in taking off, it was due to bad weather and some overtime I had to put in at the bakery.

This is flight 126 to Tunis... Landing in Tunis is not guaranteed, but we will end up somewhere in the West. And if luck is in our favor, we may even be landing on your village!

The Libyan Arab Airlines has an excellent record for safety. In fact our safety standards are so high that even the terrorists are afraid to fly with us!

It is with pleasure I announce that starting this year over 50% of our passengers have reached their destination. If our engines are too noisy for you, on passenger request, we can arrange to turn them off!

To make your free fall to earth pleasant and memorable, we serve complimentary tea and biscuits!

We regret to inform you, that today's in flight movie will not be shown as we forgot to record it from the television. But for our movie buffs, we will be flying right next to Air Tunis, where their movie will be visible from the right side of the cabin window.

There is no smoking in this airplane. Any smoke you see in the cabin is only the early warning system on the engines telling us to slow down! In order to catch important landmarks, we try to fly as close as possible for the best View. If, however, we go a little too close, do let us know. Our enthusiastic co-pilot sometimes flies right through the landmark!

Kindly be seated, keep your seat in an upright position for take off and fasten your belt. For those of you who can't find a seat belt, kindly fasten your own belt to the arm of your seat. And for those of you who can't find a seat, do not hesitate to get in touch with a stewardess who will explain how to fasten yourself to your suitcase."

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I completed this survey following a request from lovely Red to do so.. I usually hit the delete button when I get forwards like these but I thought it was the least I could do after the warm welcome you gave me to the blog scene. So here goes, happy reading!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was laughing at the laugh of the guy sitting next to me more than at the movie. Sorry but was disappointed!

Right now, the Koran - Ramadan.

Cranium. Love it. Monopoly next.

Marie Claire and Oprah (shhhh).

Freshly baked bread. Ohhhh.. the joy!

Hmmm.. Sushi.

3oud (arabic instrument).


Have to wash up and pray.

Hmmmm..Sindbad - shawarma place in Montreal.

Natayla & Ibrahim.

I'd save it!

Absolutely, always in a hurry!

Laugh. Never, no.


VW Golf.

Any herbal tea. Verveine, Mint or Tschai.

I always make time for things I want to do so not sure how to fill this in! Plus being on this six month break doesn't help!

Always. Broccoli is a SUPERFOOD!

I wouldn't.. Natural all the way! (Might change when the grey hairs start creeping in!)

Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Montreal. (Does Tripoli count if I go once a year?!)


Soccer and Basketball.

I am doing one of these surveys that I generally can't stand so that says it all! Also she's a sweetie.. thanks for accepting me into your little blogcircle my lovely little pickle.

Morning person, no doubt

Not sure what we're talking about.. tanning or eggs? ;o)


Apple Crumble.. and Pecan.. and Strawberry.. Oh my, love pies!

OK, all DONE!!! :o)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Human Heart

Turning on the news, we see all the manifestation of this world's pain and suffering: wars, poverty, starvation, politics of hatred, intolerance as well as the abuse of the environment and our beautiful nature. All of these problems are man-made; there is absolutely no doubt about that. Every crime committed against humanity, against nature, against other creatures... every act of malice, cruelty... all of these injustices come from MAN. The heart of man.

My writing is inspired by an article I read about purification of the heart and the fact that today is the first day of Ramadan.. so perhaps the best time to isolate oneself and seek closeness to our Creator.

In Islam, we believe that there are different types of hearts: the healthy, the sick and the dead heart and that there are poisons that aggravate our hearts. Here is the gist of the article:
- Healthy heart: is a heart that if filled with Allah's (saw) will and whose life is dedicated to following His path, lovingly and willingly. This heart has complete love for Allah and it is this love that gives it life.
- Dead heart: is a heart that does not know Allah or worship Him or his commands. This is a heart that places great importance of worldly pleasures, lusts and desires regardless if they will incur Allah's wrath. It is a heart "drunk with its own fancies and its love for hasty, fleeting pleasures".
- Sick heart: is a heart with love for Allah, faith and sincerity towards him and reliance upon Him YET it also craves lust and pleasure and yearns to experience them. One part of its heart is calling it to Islam while the other is calling it to the fleeting pleasures of this world. Basically, the sick heart is a wavering one.

The poisons of the heart include talking excessively (gossip, backstabbing, lying, quarrelling), unrestrained glances (it is believed that the shaytan enters with the glance which may result in disillusionment and forbidden actions thereby distracting the heart from more important concerns), overeating (as it promotes laziness and may inhibit a person in his/her worship to Allah), and negative companionship (befriending those with dark hearts can lead to our own destruction, regardless of how strong we are). These must be avoided at all costs to maintain virtue of being as we continue in the path to becoming better people and purifying our hearts.

In the history of Islam, the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was known as the most virtuous and pure of human hearts. Through his goodness and his virtue, he transformed the world mash Allah. If we would follow is example and teachings, maybe just maybe we could actually smile and feel pride when turning on that TV and watching the news...

Ramadan Kareem to all - I wish all Muslims across the world a wonderful Ramadan and pray that Allah accepts all of our prayers and fasts during this holy month. As we deny anything that our bodies crave, we are elevating our mind and showing that our will is stronger than our desires. So may Allah help us to clarify our thinking, purify our hearts and have a greater awareness of ourselves so we feel closer to Him. Ameen.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Will I ever belong?

When I think of Libya.. I get an image of a hot hazy place and the image of sand.. the image is blurred and my feelings are uneasy and anxious..

How do you belong to a place that you do not know? And mind you, it is worse when you go there so often than when you've never been.. I've come across many Libyans who were born and raised in Canada who have never been to Libya, they are excited, curious and you can feel the hope in them.. That is good because you can make of it what you wish. For me, I grew up going there once a year so my visits to Libya are tied in with family fueds and mistrust, getting sick from EID meat and being bored out of my mind at home within the confines of our gated villa with no one to play with - I would spend hours staring out the window at the little boys playing soccer on the street on Fridays. How do you belong to people that you do not understand or connect with? You see your family members and as much as you look alike and share your heritage, you still feel so out of place.. and different...

Born and raised in Europe, educated in culturally diverse Geneva with parents that are highly conservative and very proud of their berber (not only Libyan) heritage, I would spend the entire year in Geneva and then spend the summer in Libya. I was two different Nuras. In Geneva, I was "that Muslim girl Nura", constantly explaining to my classmates why I fasted in Ramadan, why my mother wore the veil, why my parents took my out of the compulsary one week field trip, why I didn't go to their parties and why I didn't "date" that boy who liked me while making sure that my tone was confident so did not betray the difficulty I was having. Most were understanding, although you learned to deal with the few "that's stupid" comments.. Then in Libya, I was "that European girl" who was born in Europe, spoke all these different languages but what a shame that I was much more olive-skinned (samra) than my sisters (what a shame, how odd that a girl born and raised in Europe was so dark) and really too chubby for someone living abroad. I would serve drinks, sweets and tea green for daddy and mommy's guests, smile very warmly at everyone because we wanted people to "get to know me". They always found a mistake in my Arabic to make fun of or if my Arabic was immaculate, then it was something about the way I looked.

Meeting Libyans abroad, I felt the same thing. Yet the disappointment was surprising the the hope of making Libyan friends quickly began to diminish. Everytime my father met someone new I would ask the famous question "Does he have any daughters my age???". It was a quiet desperation of connecting with someone.. meeting someone who understands. The girls I did meet were either way too liberal - doing all the things I would explain to my classmates and friends that I couldn't - or just too.. Libyan (adhering to all the social practices that I just don't understand or like). Even up until this day, at aged 23.. I have only come across a handful of Libyans in my life that I feel like I would want to deepen my interaction with.

I never really fit in anywhere.. just had to adapt to wherever I was and find my own sense of identity. I read it somewhere that being unique is a lonely prospect, and I can't agree more.

Still, one day.. I'd like to belong.. I want to feel such excitement when I say "I'm going home" and mean Libya and not Switzerland. I want to be able to make some sort of a difference to that place.. to put my education to good use so that my little baby cousins and all the children are hopeful about their future.. instead of repeating their parents' dialogue and growing up with so much cynicism.. and mostly so that my children are truly proud of their heritage, instead of making excuses for it. I want to feel like I have a home.