Monday, March 18, 2013

Peace, finally...

It's an amazing experience to be in the midst of your worst fears and to find yourself fearless with inner peace. At times I wonder how, in the middle of tragedy, I could possibly be happy. Yet, here I sit: fearless and happy. 

Thinking back on the past 10 years I can't recall a time that I've felt both of these in tandem. And it's not to say that life is perfect. In fact, it's far from it. I'm jobless, my home is filled with donated items, and worst of all, I live every single day in a half-life without my babies by my side. If I sit with the reality of things, it's so easy to be overcome with emotion. Knowing that my children are in the custody of man I fought so hard to protect us from is a heartache I couldn't wish on anyone. So how have I come to this personal place of inner peace? Faith.

I don't know that I've ever prayed harder, hurt more, or felt more hatred in my life than I did last year. If ever there was a test of faith, I know I'm living it. No mother should ever be deprived of the right to nurture and raise her children. To have those precoius hearts that once beat within me in unison with mine, taken away in an act of evil manipulation left my world stunned. I still don't know from where the strength to fight came. Yet, fight we did - and continue to do. From days filled with phone calls, campaigns and protests, to nights filled with numbness, anger and despair - here I stand. 

I hadn't told anyone this, because, at the time, I was still fearful of having my whereabouts known. In November 2012 I returned home for 4 days. I had reached my personal limit of sanity and was past empty inside. We had finally gotten our judgement - which we'd been fighting for since January. I'd run around Tunis for 2 weeks before the trip, meeting with judges and the courts, government offices and worst of all, my ex monster, just to get an official copy of our judgment and have it served. At the end of that, I was so empty inside I couldn't even breathe the air inside my apartment. I was suffocated by the madness of everything; by the insanity of a system that cares more about paper and money than two precious babies and justice. I can only thank God that I had the sense to call my mom and dad and say: bring me home. It was a dark time, and to say that I was at the end of my rope is quite an understatement. Thank God they said come home. 

I left Tunis on Eid al Adha, wondering how I could go without my babies by my side. Despite feeling like a traitor, I knew I had to escape. I spent 4 beautiful days with family and a few friends (I'm deeply sorry if you are reading this and I wasn't able to meet with you. I couldn't risk, at the time, anyone knowing where I was). In spite of the fact that the worst hurricane in recent history came and went, that time was my renewal. I've lived off of those 4 days ever since! 

When I returned to Tunis, the air within me had changed. New opportunities presented themselves to me, new friends entered my life, and blessings began to abound. The news hadn't changed, nor the environment around me, but, somehow, I had. I began searching for the good again, and God led me right to it. And as I began to open up to goodness, I began to understand...

A dear friend counseled me months ago that while I shouldn't stop praying for the just outcome, I ought to start wondering why God placed me here. This gave me great pause as my initial thought was: I must have done something incredibly wrong cause He's punishing me! But after a few deep breaths, the wisdom of his words sunk in. God doesn't lead us to a place, He leads us through life. And a believer knows that whatever He brings you to, He brings you through. Our job is to grow through the process. And what my wise friend was pointing out is that I wasn't watching the growth; I hadn't sought the purpose.  

As the reality of having to begin another year in Tunisia sunk in, so too did the profound statement of my friend.

I took some time to sit with my thoughts in prayer, and I finally gave myself to God. All of me - all of this. I thought I'd done this at so many points along this bumpy road. In reality, though, I'd just wanted to give God control, but I kept my troubles with me. It wasn't until I finally released all of my energy and sought with an open and receiving heart for God to lead me, that I finally felt peace. And let me tell you, God moves mountains within before He moves mountains without. You may not understand these words, but I'm forever thankful that I've been blessed to express them.

Since 2013 began, I opened myself up to receiving God's plan for me. I've asked Him to guide my thoughts, guide my actions, and guide my circumstances. In this time, I've found purpose for myself. I've become excited about work and establishing an organization that I think I've been dreaming about and planning for since 2001! I stopped fighting being in Tunisia, and suddenly the best parts of this country opened up to me. I left my financial concerns in His hands, and suddenly opportunites to work came tumbling in. The words of one of my favorite authors, Joel Osteen, began to resonate with me on a daily basis: Bloom where you are planted!  This is all I've sought to do since.

With that, for the first time in too long, I am finally living a life without fear - and what a happy life that is. 

Another dear friend of mine asked me a few days ago if I was having too much fun to want to come back to the U.S. My response came out in tears. Because in answering her, all that I've tried to express above finally sunk in:
I know this battle has been won for us. I know that Eslam, Zainab and I are a million times better people for this experience than we ever would have been without it. I don't know in which ways yet, but I have no doubt in my mind that God is preparing us for something amazing, and I can't say it hasn't already begun. I can see things happening that reflect my secret or long held ambitions. 
I don't know that I can explain it, because, as I've always said, my prayers and dreams seem to manifest in my life in the most unimaginable ways for me. All I can say is that from the moment I fully (I mean FULLY - not just believing, but actually did placed my life in God's hands and gave Him the control and left Him to guide me and lead the way) all I've had are blessings. An unwavering conviction, and unbelievable blessing. 
Please don't ever doubt my faith in the end result. Don't ever think I've given up. I think I've just been opened up to the fact that there is purpose in all of it, and seeking the purpose in the event has led to so many beautiful things, and it's only convinced me more that justice and victory are with us. 
I hurt every moment I allow myself to think about the affects of all of this on my sweet babies. Zainab calls me in tears about how much she misses me and wants me with her, and all I can say is "honey, you know mommy is always with you no matter what. Just close your eyes and feel my hug and kisses and I'm there." It's the hardest thing in the world to have to teach your kids to live without your love, affection, know they're not being properly cared for and just stand by and wait for someone somewhere to do something to save them.  Because you know that no matter how much you want to take it all into your own hands, the danger is greater for you and for them if you do. It's maddening. 
But somewhere in this madness, insanity, and heartache, God gave me light, and love, and happiness, and a place to make peace and rest in His command of all things. I would never lose faith, hope, or belief in the end result. I wouldn't be a mother if I did. Don't ever doubt my mind or conviction on this. But I have to live to seek a greater purpose, and pray that in our struggle there is benefit with a far greater reach. Otherwise, all there is for this entire experience is misery. 

The story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (AS) serves a clear example of God's amazing blessings through life's great tests. The Holy Quran tells us that with every struggle, there will follow ease. What is so easily missed, but so incredibly important to realize, is the growth that happens in the in-between. And though I'd give anything to have saved my children the hurt they've experienced this past year and half, I wouldn't trade the blessings through this struggle for the world. My total reliance on God assures me that although I may not see it, His road always leads to blessings. And, to date, I've found no greater peace than believing to that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be still, and know...

Some days it will seem as if God has left you, and no matter how hard you pray for his signs, all you can rely on are his promises.  Sometimes, in the midst of darkness, you must create the light to get you through.  It is always from God, and always available, but it’s a personal job to see the flicker.  You must believe, even against your desire or judgment, that God is in control.  There is a hadith that says Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said: If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials. (Salih Bukhari, Vol 7, Book 70, 548). 

Our lives are full of these trials.  And, if we are aware, faithful, and seeking Allah, inchallah there from the blessings will abound.  The Quran says: Verily in remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. (Holy Quran, 13:28)  This single message will at times be the flicker you need to go on.  I personally find strength in times of despair with remembrance of another quote:  Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms46:10).  Sometimes, all you have to move forward is this knowledge of Gods permeance that you hold within.  When nothing on the outside seems to reflect what you know on the inside, you must hold tight to this inner knowledge.

This has indeed been my saving; my sanity where I’ve got none left.  Sometimes, I tell Allah: I trust you, I believe in you, but right now I’m simply angry.  I know you’ll take me through this, but I want you to know I don’t want to go through it. 

I’ve never before been in the position I am in today.  A place where I am so clueless, so unable to help myself.  As I write this, I’ve no inkling what my purpose is.  No idea what role I’m supposed to play, what work I’m supposed to accomplish.  I keep praying that God will make it clear.  And all I have is His promise that He will not leave me. 

A dear friend of mine often sends me Today’s Word from JoelOsteen – an email subscription offered by Joel Osteen Ministries.  One message, When You’re In the Deep, focused on this passage: Psalm 107:23, “They that go down to the sea and do business in deep waters, they will see the wonders of God.”  Joel’s message from this was: If you feel like you are out in the deep today, if you feel like you are overwhelmed, remember, you are in the right place and God is with you. You will see His wonderful deeds in the deep, and you will fulfill the destiny He has in store for you.  Today, I feel as if I’m in that deep.  And all I know is that my only certainty is reliance on Him to show me the way. 

Psalm 23:4 says: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  For someone who has always been self-sufficient, I am indeed in a scary place.  But the scripture says I walk through the valley.  It never says I stand in it.  I may be dragging my feet at times, because I don’t want to be in this particular valley, but I’m holding tight to the rod and staff.

Through my fear, my uncertainty, and my lack of clarity, I do my best to be still, and know that He is God.  May we all find this place of stillness and through it receive the abundance of God’s power, presence, and mercy in all things.   Ameen.

For further background of our family's current situation, please visit: or

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I know why the caged bird sings...

 - This one gets deep, so forgive me if there's no cohesion...I've done my best! Perhaps I will come back and revise this in time, because there's surely much more to the thought process than I'm able to fully express at this time.  -

Like all else in creation, we were born free.  But in life, we will all experience some time when we find ourselves caged.  Be it by fear, injustice, or true enslavement – we will each of us experience the confinement of being enclosed by what seem to be immovable bars.  But God blessed us with free will.  He blessed us with a mind to grow, to dream and to choose. 

In any struggle, it is fair and normal to succumb to anger, rage, and despair.  Those are all fair and human.  But at some point, we must realize that God created us for something more.  You see, what is unchanged from the first book to the last in God’s message to man is this: Seek and ye shall find.  Call on me and I will run to you*. 

These messages weren’t meant for the creatures of the earth.  They have no choice in the matter.  But to man, God spoke, and continues to speak.  The test of entrapment is not the physical bars, it’s the inner ones.  Break free from the cage within, and the bars without will melt away.  Free your mind, and the rest will take care of itself.   

When the bird is caged and when it’s free, it still sings.  Despite its circumstances, it sings.  It does what it was created to do.

Man was created to praise God.  To do that, faith must certainly exist.  The trouble with man is that thoughts often complicate the simplicity of that for which we were created.  Over centuries, through countless prophets, three messengers, and three books, God has been speaking to man this one thing: Rely on me, and praise me, and I will take care of you*.  But the intellect we were blessed with challenges that concept, over and over.  It’s inevitable.  And God intended it that way. 

For those who can transcend the trappings of the psyche, and establish themselves firmly in their faith in God, they will never experience the bars of entrapment - because, despite their circumstances, they are already free.   

I realize now, what I could never have understood before.  I know why the caged bird sings! Because, be it a bird or man, when he is caged, he will only sing when he knows for certain, that for which he was created. 

*These are my interpretations of the message of God.  Please review The Torah (Tanach), The Bible, and The Koran for your own understanding of the message.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trials and Triumphs: Refining faith

Many of you may know, but some may not: On November 11, 2011 my ex-husband kidnapped my two small children as he exited his life in the United States. He returned to Tunisia broken from failed attempts to make a life in the U.S., and in a last effort to stick it to me, took my babies with him.  Due to laws and protocols I dislike to understand, the journey to bring them home is longer than any mother would like.  But this isn’t a blog about international relations. For more information, see 

This is a blog about faith.

Webster’s defines faith as: belief that is not based on proof. 

I heard once that there is a refining purpose of trials.  That refining purpose is to test one’s ability to overcome; to stretch oneself to increase reliance on what is unseen.  Faith.  This is not to say that there are not times where we weep in sorrow for what is, or question our sanity for believing in what has yet to occur.  It is to say, though, that in the end, faith is believing God has determined our victories at the start of every adversity and choosing to believe that, no matter what happens from day to day.  It is up to us to believe in the outcome, and proceed toward that end.

God places trials on our path for various reasons.  Sometimes it’s to test us, and sometimes it’s to challenge those around us.  One must be certain that no thing that exists is by coincidence.  What God sets forth for man, he sets forth in full.  There is no accident in his plan.  But there are absolutely mistakes in our meandering through the journey.  But how can we change, grow, or affect the lives of others if we do not walk the trail, stumble, and then get back up?

Sometimes it may seem unfair the number of adversities we must go through, or the kind may seem too harsh.  But if one firmly believes that God does not burden a person with that which he is unable to handle, then one has the assurance that whatever comes to him, God has made the way.  The challenge of faith, of course, is not simply in having it, but in exercising it.  And one thing that must also be present is patience.  An insightful man explained to me that we can be assured of a victory in faith, but we must also respect that victories come in God’s time. …God’s time…phew…that’s a hard one…

While I wish beyond belief that I was not being tried in this way, I have to pause and thank God in so many ways.  Sounds weird? Bear with me through a quick story, and maybe it’ll make more sense:

Last month I had to run from court to court to get certain things in place.  While at the restroom sink one afternoon, I heard a woman screaming in the corridor.  Clearly the woman was mad – possibly in all senses of the word.  I was happy to continue applying lipstick until I was sure she was gone. 

Moments later a young lady entered the rest room.  She stood at the sink quietly for a few seconds, caught my eye in the mirror, and then started yelling.  Oh yeah, it was her!  What to do? Do I excuse myself kindly and quickly? I didn’t know.  So, I froze…and I stared back at her in the mirror as she yelled. 

Suddenly I stopped tuning in to my own thoughts and started tuning in to her words.  She was hurting.  She was angry…at a man.  From what I could gather; she had offered a service for money, and then was put in jail, and her money was taken away.  That’s all I cared to get. 

I could not judge her, could not blame her…I could only hear the words of a woman who was hurting.  So I turned to her, looked her in her eyes, and whispered, “it’ll be okay”.  And I meant it. Why? I don’t know. Why a whisper? I don’t know.  I know it calmed her down.  I half suspect she assumed my hijab indicated I was a nun instead of a Muslim, but she clearly identified me as a woman who could pray for her.  So she asked me to pray for her.  

She gave me her name and then asked me what to do. I told her to leave.  Whatever it was, leave.  She thought about it, asked me to pray again, and then asked for a hug.  I gave her one.  A big one.  And I reassured her that she had the power to control her life.  Then I left. 

In the midst of what I was going through - anxiety, missing my babies, wondering if the courts would help - I was thankful for nothing else than that I was NOT in that woman’s shoes.  And so it hit me.  Like a bolt of lightning I got it:  God prepares for us the trials that he prepares us to overcome. 

If I were to wish for someone else’s adversity, I’d have one far worse than I can imagine undertaking.  The same would be true for anyone looking at what I’m going through.  Who could possibly want to experience this!?

And so, I thank God, for the trials he gives me, and pray for the overcoming of all of those who carry a burden I’d never wish to have. 

I thank God that my children are physically safe.  I thank God that they are not ill.  I thank God for the deep faith he allows me to have for their return.  I thank God for the lessons I’m learning.  I thank God for the example he has allowed us to be.  I thank God that in a time of need my circle of friends has not diminished, but increased in an amazing way.  I thank God that every day he blesses me in so many ways, that I can’t look at what I am going through and say, why me?  And mostly, I thank God for the faith that tells me that though I don’t know the reason, I know the answer:  It was meant to be.

In life and adversity our emotions change from day to day.  Our mental and physical health fall prey to stress and anxiety.  Our humility gets tested, and our egos suffer.  The trick, I believe, is to place our trials back in God’s hands, and lead from where he guides us.  And if we follow his direction right, we may even have the chance to positively impact the lives of those who follow.  And what greater victory can there be than that? 
At least that’s what I choose to believe.   

There are many facets of faith that I could still explore, but this is the direction in which I was led today.  What does faith mean to you?

If you wish to support the return of my children, please sign our petition at: 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Your kindness, your mercy

I had a random opportunity to help two older gentlemen obtain metro tickets today. It seems like such an easy task, but these men were simply unable to maneuver the machines. I offered to help and in 3 minutes they departed on their merry way.

This experience seems totally insignificant, doesn't it? Except, the feeling I had as I walked away was light and happy. I had taken maybe 20 steps in this elated state before I realized, I'm smiling because I helped two elder men get fare cards.  Am I mad?

How often in the course of the day does Allah (SWT) provide us the opportunity to extend ourselves to assist others? How many opportunities to lighten another person's load do we seize? From the smile on your face, to the trash you pick up, or even the fare card you help someone get, the smallest gestures offer the greatest reward.

There are many places in the beloved Quran which speak to the benefit of doing for others.  The message is most simply put in Surah ar-Rahman, 60: Is there any reward for good other than good?

I believe what we often fail to realize is that the simple kindness we extend to others is the greatest mercy unto ourselves. We ought to remember that little acts of selflessness on a daily basis could earn our way to Jennah.

So, as I walked away contented, I thanked Allah for the random opportunity to extend a moment for someone else. Nothing is better than doing for others. But what a beautiful gift from God that being a blessing unto others allows us to be a mercy unto ourselves.  Yes indeed, I was smiling!

What kindness will you extend today?