على عهدي

a personal promise made personal blog – enjoy!

re senior year

Senior year is hard. It’s a year about planning the future. A year dedicated to what’s coming next. And yet – it’s the year you’re meant to enjoy the most as a college student. It’s the one that’s supposed to create the strongest of memories – to commemorate the friendships that have lasted over the past years; the break ups and “nice guys” that have come and gone; the regrets and the moments of sadness; as well as the times of celebration. It serves as the marked culmination of our college careers, and the terrifying beginning of the “rest of our lives.”

We’ve been waiting for the rest of these “lives” since we were children. When we were in elementary school, they warned us that certain behaviors would be absolutely unacceptable come middle school. In middle school, we were prepared for the serious workload of high school, warned about the AP classes and the unforgiving teachers coming our way. In high school, we were made to fear college. College was where we would have to do our own laundry, feed ourselves, and wake ourselves up to go to class. At the time, the prospect of making all of our own decisions was one that made us brim with glee. And yet today – four years later – that same prospect scares me.

Without the safety net of Emory – the relatively settled living space over the last four years, the community members and routine prospects encountered on morning coffee runs, and the predictably unpredictable weather – I find myself afraid of what’s coming next. I’m not necessarily afraid of moving, or of change in and of itself. I am afraid of making the wrong move. I’m afraid my wrong move will ruin the “rest of my life” that I’ve been waiting for, and that I’ll have no one to blame but me.

And here is where I am angry with public education and the society that has set me up for this. Why couldn’t I enjoy fifth grade without having to think about what would come in sixth? Why was junior year of high school such a terribly stressful time when I was only 16?! Why have I been worried and cried frequently this school year at the thought of the future when I am the happiest I have ever been? Why must we always lug around the weight of the coming “rest of our lives?” We carry this weight before we even come to understand what life is, or actively decide what makes it meaningful for us as individuals.

I have decided I won’t carry it anymore. I refuse to carry anything besides the clothes on my back and my keys. I will not think about the “rest of my life.” Instead, I will focus on the rest of my thesis (a whopping 60 pages), the rest of Breaking Bad (3 seasons), the rest of my rest (?), and the rest of the Halo ice cream in the freezer (half a pint). I am recommitting to the difficult task of taking life in small doses, and to not taking it too seriously. I have faith that I will be guided to the spaces I’m meant to be in. And I wholeheartedly believe that the first step towards reaching this space is stepping OUT of the imagined rest of my life, and paying attention – and expressing ample gratitude – to today.

Post Paris Post

I’ve been “over” blog posts for a while now, as some of you know. I just haven’t really felt the motivation or need to share my thoughts here. But I’ve found myself motivated to reflect a bit on my time in Paris this semester, so here it is:

I’ve had the absolute best time of my life in the last four months. And I think it’s hilarious that I’ve only just realized this now – as my time in Paris has come to an end. During the semester I was often stressed about Jahanamiya or other academic things, and the stress prohibited me from being able to fully enjoy myself. It prohibited me from immersing myself in the present. I was overwhelmed with worry and fear for my personal and professional future (and I’m that sure many of my millennial friends can relate).

My mother gave me invaluable advice half way through the semester, and I’ve thought about it every day since. She told me to take things one day at a time. Not to think beyond today, and beyond what the task or activity at hand is. She told me to “put everything on the shelf” that wasn’t what I was occupied with in the present. I began doing this for a while, and though I found it difficult at first, it was immediately helpful. A few weeks later, the November Attacks happened in Paris. The days after the attacks were very dark, especially with the social media craze of finger pointing and merciless, heartless posts that flooded my newsfeeds. Politics can’t rectify pain, not even when it’s in the search of justice.

The attacks and aftermath only reinforced what my mother had told me. They reinforced the importance of being present. Of simply being: of living in the now, and knowing that now is all we have. We don’t have the future; it isn’t tangible. We can plan for the weeks and years to come for ages, and we can stress about it all. We can try to protect ourselves, to prevent failure, to ensure we only make right decisions. Or we can recognize that we simply can’t do those things. We can, however, focus on the short-term. We can give our energy to what is at hand. To the days. The hours. The moments.

Looking back, I remember so many priceless moments. Moments that made me hurt with laughter and joy. Moments of Monet’s flowers and the crunch of fresh apples. Moments of sadness and fear that meant I was alive. Secrets and pain shared, vulnerabilities exposed. Moments of freedom and youth that I know I’ll look back on and smile at. French Santas on motorcycles, skipping down wet streets like little kids, and limbs sore from rope swings and climbing endless steps to see breathtaking views.

It’s been a semester of new. Of new loves – new friends and conversations and ideas. I’m new and different, and I’m grateful for that. I want to thank every person who was a part of this semester. Those who were a part of it from a distance, those old friends who supported me in the dark moments. And those who were here. Those who who laughed and danced with me, who finished the bread and cheese, and who were happy to be lost in the streets of Paris alongside one another.

I met so many genuine, driven, and beautiful people this semester. I refuse to look back and feel sad, to feel loss. I will continue to stay in the now and when I do look back, I will smile. Smile for all of the moments, and for the incredible chance I’ve had to have experienced them all.

On vulnerability & giving

I am trying to teach myself to be more vulnerable. Trying to learn to let go of ego in the moments it inhibits us, prevents human connection. I’m convinced that growth stems from the smallest spark of connection – a stranger’s smile or a line of poetry. The ego functions like a wall, blocking that spark from traveling further through the body, from nestling into a corner of the mind, and from becoming a source of new light.

I’ve always been someone who intentionally builds a wall around herself, someone terrified of getting hurt or humiliated. I rarely ever “let people in.” Of the few people that I have let in – those absolutely closest to me – I’m still afraid. They probably don’t know that I’m afraid of them, or that I don’t let them all the way in. They probably can’t even feel it. But that is precisely what’s so exhausting about keeping such a wall up – only you feel it. Only you know the burden of each block added to it over time. Only you carry it, feel its weight grow with every day of every month of every year. It harms no one but yourself. No one but me.

Working on Jahanamiya over the last year has forced me to open myself to new things and new people. Especially in the last month, being in Jeddah and preparing for our launch, I’ve met with countless people who want to contribute and give to the project, to nurture it just like I do. As grateful as I am for them, I’m scared of them! Jahanamiya is my baby. It’s part of me, and I now have to let that part of myself go. Let it be held by hands other than my own, be seen by the eyes of strangers, and nestle in minds I’ll never meet. I have to let part of myself go in order to give. And from giving, I’ll grow.

I used Jahanamiya as the example because it’s what’s on my mind lately. But letting parts of ourselves go happens every day. When we take a moment to show another soul we appreciate them, we let a part of ourself go. Whether we say “thank you,” or we give them a genuine compliment, we become vulnerable because we push our ego aside in order to make room for gratitude. We push the fear of what they will think of us away in order to thank them for touching us in whatever way they did. When we ask for help, admitting our weaknesses and trusting in others, we let a part of ourself go. Again, we push our ego aside for the sake of learning from one another, for the ability to open ourselves to the arms of another, and be present in the embrace.

If I’ve learned anything from loss, it is to be more myself and to love more. To love both myself and what surrounds me. To love the ugly world anyway. Isn’t that all we can do? Loving isn’t easy. It means letting forces touch you and touching them in return, even if it hurts. It means accepting the hurt – the risk of pain – because you’re aware of the benefit, of the growth that will come. Vulnerability lies in recognizing our human sameness – our frailty, flaw, and emotion. Despite this internal sameness, external difference is what moves us. It is what sparks change and novelty. But it takes bravery – a readiness to be vulnerable – to openly embrace what we do not know. And we know practically nothing.

This has been an ongoing process for me. Self-teaching vulnerability. Bravery-training. Loving the ugly. Embracing honesty. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a difficult process, but one that I know I need. One that I’m proud of myself for beginning, and one I hope to continue to learn and practice. I hope to continue to accept my own weaknesses, and to realize that by sharing them I am not weaker. I hope I continue to show gratitude when something touches me, to learn from gratitude. I hope I continue to let parts of myself go – to give knowing nothing is ever lost.

إلى دانيتي

My mother is my idol because she has taught and raised me through her example, never simply by saying “no” or by spanking me. My mother is my idol because she has never acted without the best of intentions towards her work, her family, or herself. My mother is my idol because she doesn’t stop seeking improvement, or looking ahead. She is the strongest woman I know. She challenges painfully sick ideologies and braves the backwardness of what is nearly an entire society each day – solely for her belief in actively creating a better tomorrow.

My mother fights these forces with her limbs, her words, and her very intentions. Though she often fights them alone, her strength never fades nor wavers because it is rooted in what she believes is right. Her strength and bravery come from the inside. Her inner light and energy bring tangible light and opportunity to my life each day. For this, I will never be able to repay her. I know, however, that she doesn’t want or need me to repay her in the first place. She doesn’t do this for me, or for anyone else. She does this for herself.

I love you more than you can ever know, Mama. Below are twenty of the most invaluable things you’ve taught me by example in the last twenty years. There is so much more I could have added to the list, but I tried to list only what feels most significant in this moment. I pray that you will return to your complete health soon, and that God never deprives me of your guidance, love, example, and support.

  1. You taught me that only by loving oneself first can one give adequate love to others.
  2. You taught me that nothing is more valuable than hard work.
  3. You taught me that the work we produce and the choices we make carry in them parts of ourselves.
  4. You taught me to form informed beliefs, never just to follow those of others.
  5. You taught me to always ask questions and think critically.
  6. You taught me to speak up for myself and for others.
  7. You taught me me to always listen to my gut, taught me that my gut knows right from wrong.
  8. You taught me that difference does not mean trouble, but that it creates more opportunity than similarity ever could.
  9. You taught me not to fear change, but to embrace and actively seek it.
  10. You taught me that with love comes discipline and sacrifice.
  11. You taught me that integrity is one of the most important things to possess – to be conscious of in each moment.
  12. You taught me that you have many flaws – that we each have many flaws.
  13. You taught me not to lie to myself, that lying to myself is more dangerous than lying to others.
  14. You taught me the difference between sincerity and show.
  15. You taught me that wisdom lives beside humility.
  16. You taught me to bite my tongue and to act when resolved, not when provoked.
  17. You taught me to be proud of myself, and to trust my instincts.
  18. You taught me to always want more, want better for myself and my community.
  19. You taught me to never settle.
  20. You taught me that only by loving oneself first can one give adequate love to others.

Metamorphosis and the city

Today I’m writing from NYC, mostly writing to avoid working on the major assignment I have due soon, but also writing because I need to make myself do this. To be more specific, I am writing from East Manhattan. (I have learned that there is an East and West everything here, and I’ve learned not only to ask my phone but to ask at least three strangers, as well, when on my way anywhere, so as to avoid getting too lost). Unfortunately, I’m having to accept that my sense of direction is perpetually broken. Acceptance is crucial to growth, you know. Don’t feel sorry for me.

Beyond being directionless, I’ve been taking classes as part of an NYU Creative Writing Program, which is why I’m in the city in the first place. The program is going okay so far. The classes themselves aren’t as stimulating as I’d hoped, but the evening events/readings that are part of the program have been great so far. And the people I’m in classes with are great, too – such incredible writers and thinkers. I’m realizing a lot about myself by being in this program, and in this city.

I’m realizing that poetry is the form of writing that challenges me the most, and that I want to pursue it more seriously from now on. I’ve realized this in a somewhat roundabout way, as I’m studying Creative Nonfiction in the program (not poetry). Being forced to write memoirs and essays for class is only making me produce more poems on my own time, and  teaching me to appreciate writing them.

I’m also realizing something particularly important about my identity. I’ve struggled to really “claim” Saudi as my home for the longest time, because I feel so different from “most” Saudis. I feel that my beliefs and practices don’t coincide with what can be called the cultural norm. I’m realizing that this isn’t true. That my beliefs and personal choices do not inform how “Saudi” I am, and more importantly that there are countless Saudis that share my precise beliefs, and that also want to work to transform the society (slowly but surely) into a more progressive, communicative, and healthy space. Beyond the existence of those that share my beliefs though, I am realizing how silly it is to think one belongs to a group simply because one is similar to them.

I think of my own family, for example, of my parents who I love more than anything and who love me in return, and of the countless differences between myself and them. Even just between the two of them –  their differences do not take away from their love for one another, or from their commitment to one another. Their differences propel their relationship forward, and have done so for the last twenty-two years (Happy belated anniversary my loves!).

Difference is what moves us; it is what creates tension, which is necessary for survival. We are even different – divided – within our own selves. Our personalities, interests, and emotions are constantly divided. Part of me likes to be silly and the center of attention, but another part of me relishes in solitude and in deep, painstaking thought. These parts consistently move against one another, changing themselves in the process.

None of us are the same person we were two years ago. None of us are even the same person we were yesterday. These natural changes in our selves are subtle, like the differences in color on a single leaf. On a day-to-day basis, we don’t notice them, but upon returning to them after a prolonged period of time, we are able to make out the changes. I like that being here is making me think this way. That with each new day there is a new me, too.

Baby Steps & Summertime

First of all – I recognize how awful I have been with posts this semester, and I apologize! In my defense, I held back from posting because I haven’t exactly had good or nice things to say. This semester has been really difficult for me emotionally as well as academically. It’s consisted a lot of me piecing myself back together (or at least attempting to do so). Grief is just so much easier to talk about than it is to deal with – to comprehend.

For the longest time, I was really angry. Angry with myself and my family and god and so many other things. Prayer seemed hollow – words were hollow. Everything was void of meaning, and my anger ensured that everything stayed that way. Once I realized that I was the one holding myself from moving on, I started making small changes. I slowly became ready to put anger behind me, and to try to work towards some version of comprehension of grief/of the way of the world. This process took months, and I am still working on it. Baby steps.

Thankfully, I am starting to feel like myself again – a new self, but myself nonetheless. I am sure the weather has something to do with all this, too. I feel good. I am 22 days away from being on the beach with my sweet Mama. This means that in the next three weeks I will finish and submit all my final research papers and assignments. After the beach, I’ll be around for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll head to NYC where I’ll be part of an intense, month-long Creative Nonfiction program. I’m really excited to get back into prose; I have been almost entirely reading/writing poetry in the last year, and I’ve completely neglected myself in terms of other forms of writing.

After NYC, I’ll head home, inshallah. I’ll spend Ramadan with my lovely family and friends, in my sweet and humid Jeddah, spending my weekends enjoying my Red Sea and all the sunburns and aloe vera that come with it. I am ready for the next three weeks, as much of a whirlwind as I know they will be. I am ready for the beach with my favorite person. I am ready to learn new things, to make myself uncomfortable, to meet new people.

I’m ready for a long summer focused on me: healing me, helping me, loving me. Sending the warmest spring vibes to all of you <3

2015, Twenty, & Jahanamiya

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I’m writing from bed; it’s almost tomorrow and being a sentimental person (and needing a way to start this post), I am contemplating my life so far, musing at the thought of what the next year will bring. In an hour and a half today will be over by the say of the clock. Tomorrow will be here and just like that I’ll be twenty instead of nineteen. Funny, isn’t it?

I have had an absolutely beautiful last few days. Since the 31st, to be precise, I’ve been living on a high. It’s like I’ve opened my eyes for the first time since late September, let myself see more than what was below my nose, let myself breath in the good. I can’t help but – yet again – marvel at God’s timing. I am so grateful for his plan and the conversations and moments I’ve shared with priceless people in the last days.

The new year came in while I was sitting at our kitchen table with my Uncle Emad, Aunt Erica, and my parents. It was perfect, especially given the strife our family has been through in the last months. To start a new year looking at the faces of those who mean the most to you – to have the privilege of sitting with them in person, in health, in peace. What more of a blessing can one ask for? Of course, we only feel the weight of this privilege after we have felt loss. And of course, all moments we share are bitter sweet now, because we wish the one we lost could still be with us. Because we miss him, and will always miss him.

We sat at the table, Time’s Square flashing on the TV in the background, my parents making fun of the kissing couples, and I swear I felt a change come over me, though I didn’t know what it was. I still don’t know anything about it except that I feel different – good different. I was the last one to bed that night. I stayed up, trying to think through all that I was feeling. I decided to write about it in a private journal entry. I started my entry in a way that I never have before, and in a way that surprised me even as I was typing the words out: “Dear Ahd…”

I didn’t pause to think about what I was writing. I didn’t worry about the fact that I was talking to myself on paper – documenting my own uncertainty. I didn’t hesitate – it just felt right, and the words kept coming. I wrote to myself about the emotional highs I’d felt that day and about the closeness to God that seemed to have suddenly reappeared in my life – an intimacy I have been severely lacking since late September. I found myself writing about my hopes for the coming days, then my hopes for the coming year. A few lines later, I made a promise I intend to keep. I promised to make “self love” my motto in 2015. I promised to write a letter to myself every night, long or short as it may be, and to be honest with myself in that letter. Honesty is the only way we can change ourselves, the only way we can ensure our own progress, and the fulfillment of our goals.

I have many goals for 2015, and for my twenties. The first of both is to launch Janahamiya, an online creative writing magazine for Saudi women. I’ve been working on Jahanamiya since last December, and our launch was scheduled for December of 2014, though given the emotional toll of the last months, I stopped working on the project completely. I am ready to work on it now though, and I hope that the next blog post I write will be introducing all of you to what I know will be an incredible way to look at Saudi culture and life, to an array of phenomenal Saudi female voices that have contributed to the magazine thus far. I hope to cultivate this magazine, to encourage the study of Saudi culture through art, to encourage giving our attention to Saudi women, and to show the world that Saudi women are much more than the tired image of the oppressed, subservient, burka-clad woman.

I know that 2015 and 20 will both bring beautiful things. I know they will bring fear and tears and anger, too. I know they will bring growth, and I pray that what grows the most is my relationship with God and my love for myself – two things I believe strongly interconnected.

May your new year be filled with the fulfillment of your goals, with the presence of your loved ones, and with the awareness that we are always loved and guided – even when undeserving of it – by God.

Reflections on Growing Pains & Loss

I haven’t been able to write anything since my last blog post, which I also feel was very forced. I felt obliged to write something at the time, and it was too soon after loss to really have been able to process any of it. My views are different now. My feelings different. Still sad, but a different type of sadness. Maybe a deeper sadness.

What’s changed in the last three months is that the world isn’t the same. Big words and cliché phrasing – I know, but it’s true. I don’t see anything in the same way anymore. Everything is temporary. Everything is relative, nothing concrete – not even the words we use to comfort ourselves, the prayers we utter, the tears we shed, or the emotion we feel. It’s all interconnected and subject to change.

I’m glad this semester is coming to an end. It’s stressful to think of how quickly time is passing, so I won’t. But I will say that I am ready for a new year and new resolutions. Another new me. Change – growth – remains the most meaningful thing to come from any of this. Regardless of inevitable endings, partings, goodbyes – we grow with every new day. We learn. We do things for the first time, meet new people, take fresh breaths.

That’s what there is to appreciate about being here, now: that this hasn’t happened before. Now is new to the history of the world, and we are new in every moment. I am tired of thinking about death, loss, and the past. I truly want to believe that the future holds happiness, but I can’t think about the future now, and I can’t think of “happiness” either, because it feels like nothing but a silly ideal of the ignorant. I can think about now though, and I can admit my feelings. I can try to make meaning of what I have.

Sometimes I wish I were still oblivious to the pain in the world – to the devastation that is part of being alive. I wish I’d experienced this later in life, but then I think about how much more I feel now. I feel stronger about everything, and everyone that I know. I feel more than I ever have, and that feeling – that emotion – is what pushes me to continue. Emotion propels passion, and passion is what I believe to propel truth.

I want to live for my truth – that’s what this blog was all about when it started. I can honestly say that I never expected truth to taste this way, or for this type of post – these types of thoughts – to end up on the blog. I am glad to have learned what I have learned, and I am ready to keep learning, to keep bearing the feelings that come with new experience, the feelings that come with growth.

Wishing you all blessed holidays, and thanking you for your support, friendship, and readership. <3

In Memory of Khali Abdulaziz |رحمة الله على خالي عبدالعزيز

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I’m writing from the British Airways flight from Jeddah to Heathrow, the first of two flights on the way back to Atlanta – back to school and back to “reality.” I’ve been in Jeddah for the last week, and it has felt like a complete daze. Nightmare is actually a more accurate word. My dear Uncle Abdulaziz Alagili – Khali Aziz – who is three years older than my mother, passed away in a motorcycle accident Friday, September 26th 2014. We heard the tragic news via phone – the shocking, stabbing, surreal news – and we got on the first flight for Jeddah, not arriving there until Sunday.

I have two uncles on my mother’s side of the family and I have one aunt on my father’s side of the family, and I hold them all so close to my heart. I’m blessed to be close with each of their spouses, too. I learn so much from each of my uncles and aunts and I truly relish their presence, their stories, and their love. I am always happy to see them – giddy to spend time with them – and eager to make them proud. It is a privilege to have an entire team of mentors, an entire family ready to give love, time, and support to us (the cousins) unconditionally, simply wishing to help us grow.

My uncle’s death is the first actual “tragedy” to befall my immediate family. It is not my first taste of death, though it is undoubtedly the closest loss I have experienced. It’s a kind of loss that remains in your mouth as an aftertaste – bitter – and that haunts your thoughts, lingering. More than my own loss, however, it is a loss to my family – to the people I adore and put first in my life.

My mother misses her big brother, someone who was always there for her, someone who always had advice to give, help to give, time to give. My grandmother cries out for her firstborn, her crutch, and her companion: “Will I really never see that precious face? That precious son?” My grandfather says that Aziz didn’t die, but that he was snatched from us – that this isn’t death, but theft. My Aunt Hadeel mourns the loss of her confidant, her partner, her lover. And my four beautiful cousins – Juri, Rafal, Lilium, and Ebrahim – before all, are now faced with the bitter reality of a life without their father – without their role model, their cheerleader, their protector and their best friend.

I say it was a daze because it feels distant now that I am on the plane, flying away – like it didn’t really happen; except it did. That realization keeps hitting – this is real; he is gone; they are in pain; this is pain. It is what stings the most in such a sudden and immense loss – that it is really permanent. Is it the shock that makes it so hard to swallow? So excruciatingly painful? Or is it the gap we know will be left in our lives? The gap in our family lunches and in car rides, in weekends at the beach house and trips abroad, in meals at his home and in social gatherings empty of his kind face and witty comments.

Despite our deep sadness, despite our shock, and despite the inevitable gap, I am proud of the way my family has dealt with this catastrophe. I am proud of the way we have pulled together, prayed together through our tears. I am proud that I witnessed each of us say Alhamdellah – thanks to God – and mean it. Acceptance of fate – of the will of God – is one of the most crucial components of Islam. We accept that this was his fate, simply his time, and we accept that God knows better than any of us ever could. There is no imaginable good that comes from the passing of a loved one, and yet, none of us can comprehend the plan of God. We can only have patience, and accept His will. Patience and acceptance are the markers of believers – they are all we have when faced with adversity, challenge, and grief.

What is life but a challenge, after all? And what in life do we actually control but the very moment we live now – the moment I type and you read, this inhale and exhale. We barely control that. In the case of death, Muslims console one another with the following verse of the Quran: “Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return” (2:156),” reminding ourselves that death is a reality of life, that it’s arguably the reason behind life itself.

Here I sit on the plane, unable to sleep, pondering the fragility of life and the magnificence of faith – the power of belief, and how grateful I am to have it in my life and heart. I know my uncle lived a complete life, alhamdellah. I know he reached many of his goals and that he helped countless people throughout his life. I know he never stopped moving, planning, working, or smiling. I know he gave with his entire heart and that he continuously taught himself new things, sought new adventures, took on new opportunities. I know he pursued his passions, and that, perhaps, I admire the most.

He lived life to the fullest of his ability, and he shared that with all those he knew, bringing light into our lives with the brightness of his personality, with his liveliness, and his kindness. I want to treasure these memories as lessons; I want to continue to learn from my uncle, even after his death, and to watch him live on through each of those he touched. He will live on through his children, through his wife, through his parents and his siblings. He will even live on through his colleagues and friends. I have no doubt that all who knew him and loved him have an entire list of traits Khali Aziz embodied that they will now strive to imitate, to carry on to make themselves better people, and to remember him in doing so.

We fear forgetting like we fear death, and we tie the two together, often linking them so intricately that we can’t begin to disassociate them from one another. I don’t fear forgetting, though, because I don’t believe that the heart forgets. Emotion cannot be forgotten, no matter the span of time that passes. In my eyes, remembrance is directly associated with life: every action we carry out and each thought we have is a result of the influence of another. We are constantly remembering and feeling, constantly acting from memory. That is what it is to be alive – it is to remember. We know what it is to be alive, but we know not what it is to be dead. What we do know – what we believe – is that prayer is heard and received by a merciful and gracious God. And so, we pray.

May God bless all of those who have left this life for the next, and may we be reunited with them one day. May He have mercy upon their souls and may He give us the patience and strength to continue on without them. May He ever strengthen the faith in our hearts, and the love we hold for Him, helping us to accept His will and helping us to remember that there is more to our existence than this fragile, temporary realm – that though tomorrow in this life is not guaranteed, the tomorrow of the afterlife is. That distant tomorrow is what we live for; it is the reason we believe. Rest in peace, beloved Khali Aziz. الله يرحمك ويغفر لك يا رب

A Counterargument to Hussein Shobokshi’s “Saudi Tweets!”

This morning, I read Hussein Shobokshi’s article in the Saudi Gazette, Saudi Tweets!. I myself am an avid Saudi twitter user, and was in agreement with much of what Mr. Shobokshi said until I came to the last two paragraphs of his piece:

“Twitter has “exposed” Saudis to the world and the world to them like nothing they have seen before or were used to. With this comes a series of growing pains as freedom of expression becomes freedom to insult without enough rules, laws and awareness to protect the users. The experience can easily turn ugly and destructive. 

Twitter, with its limited 140 characters per tweet, has become the de facto strongest source of news and information and with that comes huge expectations which unfortunately in Saudi Arabia seems far away from attained.”

Twitter has not merely “exposed” Saudis to the world, but it has more importantly exposed Saudis to one another! In a society where gender segregation is heavily in place and where talking to strangers – even smiling at them – is a strong taboo, Twitter provides a window to get to know members of society. Neighbors, distant cousins, even coworkers – they all get to know each other by way of Twitter.

These people may see each other a few times a year and keep their conversations formal (as is custom in Saudi with anyone who is not a member of the immediate family), but it is through their tweets – their 140 character long blasts of frustration, gladness, pondering, or admiration – that they truly get to know each other. That they truly discover how their fellow Saudi citizen’s mind works, thus learning more about their nation and culture as a whole.

I wouldn’t call Saudis experience on Twitter “destructive” – because there is nothing bad about discovering the intricately intertwined truths that form our society. The backwards ideologies that exist and manifest themselves in extremely rude tweets of chastisement are what Saudi society needs! They are what will push us to change, to question those ideologies by tweeting even more, to debate, to challenge, to continuously educate ourselves. Just as the negative tweets will push us to change, so do the positive ones. It is only on Twitter that Saudi’s can find other like-minded Saudis and get to know them and the projects they are working on, the passionate visions they hold for Saudi’s growth and future. Twitter is a tool for collaboration, an invitation to get to know the people we share our world with – in this case, the Saudi world.

Saudi consists of a largely fractured society, though we often deny this and hide our flaws behind the perfect whole that is Islam. Twitter, through the insults “without enough rules, laws, and awareness to protect the users,” in the words of Mr. Shobokshi, is precisely what we need to recognize the problems that threaten our society’s development. Only upon recognizing these problems and getting to know each other can we work together to steadily move upward, tackling one problem at a time – one tweet at a time.