Visit the Gulf

I’ve come across two weblogs by American muslim expats that are wonderful complements to each other, Nzingha’s Soapbox from Saudi Arabia, and Life in Exile from the Gulf nation of Qatar, best known as home to the indispensable Al-Jazeerah network. Side by side, they are a great introduction to a part of the world I haven’t been to yet but hope to visit one day, inshallah. They also show the significant differences that exist amongst the gulf nations, which I might have assumed to be more or less the same before now.

Life in Exile shows life in Qatar to be a pretty enjoyable experience. The country is modernizing in its own way and diversifying its economy as best it can. Dervish of Life in Exile explains why he doesn’t dwell on controversy or on unpleasant aspects of life in Qatar. He has several reasons, including

According to the Qur’an, we are not supposed to speak of an evil unless we are a victim of it. There are exceptions to this when a problem affects society at large, however. An example of this is as follows. Say someone else commits a sin, and I become aware of it. If I tell others of his sin, I am committing a sin probably more grievous than his. On the other hand, I can speak in general terms against the type of sin that he commits, or, I can speak of his sin specifically, if society as a whole is harmed by it. I generally will not speak of negative things that do not affect me or society as a whole, as it is unislamic.

I’ve been holding to a general “speak no evil” policy for the same reasons here on this site. I have one more reason to keep silent on local controversy: I have no idea what is going on. It’s not that I don’t try to keep informed. It’s that the coverage of issues in the local media is remarkably superficial. It’s remarkable because the press is not actively censored here. It’s more like it is neutered to start with. If you thought the American press just passively repeats government press releases, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Front page headlines will often read like, “Get Act Together, People Told” or “Industry Must Raise Standards, YB Says” accompanied by glamor shots of politicians grinning and shaking hands. Our local top politician proudly calls it the “Politics of Development”, which basically seems to mean, as long as everyone’s fortunes are rising, nobody better rock the boat. And since everyone’s fortunes have been rising since indepedence, albeit perhaps not at uniform rates, the press seems content not to dig too deep.

Meanwhile, the news is less than encouraging from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Nzingha writes that now the religious police are forcing women to cover their faces in the two holy places while they pray! I’m no religious scholar, but I’m certain covering the face invalidates the prayer for those following the shafi’i madhhab. Not content to vandalize our sacred architectural heritage and prevent us via truncheon of receiving baraka at the Propet’s door, they are now compromising the performance of our sisters’ salat. Subhanallah. I was advised years ago to make my hajj as soon as I could, before they wreck anything else. I think I need to start taking my preparations more seriously.

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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  1. As Salaam alaikum

    Saudi is at a loss of how to preserve their historical past all the way around. I don’t find it unusual that they would knock down homes in Mekkah, or disturb grave sites out of a total lack of what to do when it comes to Mekkahs needed growth and their feelings of preservation over all.

    But do make Hajj as soon as you can, your not far away at all. Hajj season is in the cooler weather now. But do heed the advice to be careful, pick pocketers and other thieves are a very HUGE problem during hajj season as well as Umrah in ramadhan.

    I also didn’t realize I sounded so negative about Saudi. There are good things and bad things, perhaps its because most Muslims expect more coming from within Saudi than other countries. Maybe I’ll have to share more good things to balance out my negative rants 🙂

  2. Salams Brother Bin Gregory

    nice to to see brother out there communicating, May God Bless yOU & Your Family in All Your Endeavours

    “I’ve been holding to a general “speak no evil” policy for the same reasons here on this site.”

    you & brother Qatari Dervish are rightfully interpreting according to your opinion , state & station

    however I must disagree, from where I’m perceiving the world, here in the KSA brother, for as you say ‘evil’, is also often meaning ‘injustice’ and by that word we are commanded to speak out against injustice if you can’t change it by your hand & if you can’
    t speak, hate in in your heart”

    the hadith is sound

    and I am surrounded & drowning in injustices left right & centre, to do nothing is cowardly in my book, so I plug away truying to minimize danger to oneself

    certainly life is different for you in liberal Malaysiai if you decided to say/communicate nothing that is unsavoury, it’s your choice indeed, and correct but the beauty of Islam is that I fell perfectly islamiccaly justified in speaking out/acting against injustice, publically and privately & prefering to be more pro active about things by heeding the advice of our Prophet( May God’s Peace Be Upon him)as I understand it…after all it’s also common sense

    God Bless & Salams


  3. Salaam

    I have to agree with brother Mahdi. I’m a western ex-pat Muslim in KSA and not only do I see injustice left, right and centre, I experience it, too. And far too many people turn a blind eye to it all.

    And Allah knows best

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