Yesterday’s blog announced the demise of another one of my dreams – the dream of living in a Muslim country, this particular UAE one. For numbers of reasons the dream was not fulfilled and I shall depart either upon or prior to the ninety day extension of my tourist visa. I am dreadful at math but I will have been in the United Arab Emeritus for eight months, Residence in Abu Dhabi for most of this time, about a month in Dubai and then a rather ill fated trip to Qatar for four days. There was a return to California for two weeks to pack up my troubles, put them in storage and return for what I viewed, at the time, as the rest of my life. However, it was not to be.
Dr. Azeem in the Epilogue of Islam The Status of Women in Islam studied He begins with the harsh fact, that Muslim women in the Muslim world do not receive the noble treatment promised by Allah.
He begins: It has to be made clear first that the vast differences amon Muslim societies make most generalizations too simplistic.. There is a wide spectrum of attitudes toward women in the Muslim world today. Theres attitudes differ from one society to another and within each individual society. …All Muslim societies have, to one degree or another, deviated from the ideas of Islam with respect to the status of women. These deviations have, for the most part, been in one of two opposite directions, The first direction is more conservative, restrictive, and tradition-orientated, while the second is more liberal and Western-orientated.
The societies in the first direction treat women according to the customs and traditions inherited from their forebears. Women are deprived of rights granted to them by Islam , treated differently than her male counterparts, less likely to go to school, u=she is under constant surveillance, has little say in family affairs or community interests,
But there is the other side to the coin. “There are Muslim societies (or certain classes within some societies that have been swept over by the Western culture and way of life. These societies often imitate unthinkingly whatever they receive from the West and usually end up adopting the worst fruits of Western civilization. A women’s top priority is to look good, to enhance her physical beauty, caring more about her charms than her brains, spending all her time realizing her ‘femininity not her humanity.”
That is indeed the case here in the UAE, and to a lesser extent perhaps in Qatar – although I am familiar with the history of Qatar, and have met many its people I have only been there for a brief visit and was quarantined in my hotel – it was definitely a thwarted visit. Thwart is a verb which definitely defines the visit: foil frustrate, balk, stand in the way ofl; scotch, derail,, block, prevent, defeat, impede, obstruct, snooker, oppose, hinder, hamper; upset the apple cart, spike someone’s guns; aid to, put the stopper on, put the kibosh on, do for, stymie, cook someone’s goose; scupper, put the mockers on, queer someone’s pitch.
So being stuck in a Qatar hotel surrounded by massive construction did indeed cook my goose, queer my pitch, upset the apple cart and snooker all of my plans. Qatar remains a mystery to me.
Listen to this profound sentence. “There is a wide gap between what Muslims are supposed to believe in and what they actually practice” This has been true for generations, he asserts out, but is ever widening. This gap has disastrous consequences in all walks of life there is political tyranny and fragmentation, economic backwardness, social injustice, scientific bankruptcy, intellectual stagnation and the use of social media to tell outright lies. This too is a sentence that rings with profound truth. “The problems of Muslims in general are not due to too much attachment to Islam, they are a culmination of a long and deep detachment from it.”
But back to me. When suffering a blow I retreat from the world, lick my wounds and then when the sadness is brought under control, emerge ready to continue on, to fight on. That has been true of the last two or three days.
I have been totally secluded, because of Ramadan but also because of my retreat from people, places and things which buttresses me, heals me and I return to a proactive position. But in my retreat I thought of a San Francisco socialite a San Francisco socialite who retreats from the world and became a Carmelite nun. Determinedly found her name and story, Ann Gilbert Miller. It is a fascinating story. – this took place, in the 1980s. . Her name was Ann Gilbert Miller. She died at the age of 92, secluding herself as a Carmelite nun for thirty years. Here is the story, told by her youngest son, youngest of ten children.
“A 92-year-old nun, who took a vow of silence, solitude and poverty, has died at the monastery where she lived for the past three decades – however the full story of Sister Mary Joseph’s life is far from traditional.
Until she dedicated herself to a life of prayer she was known as Ann Russell Miller, a wealthy San Francisco socialite who hosted lavish parties, had season tickets to the opera and was the mother of ten children.
Born in 1928, Ann had dreams of becoming a nun, but she fell in love instead.
At 20, she married Richard Miller, who became vice president of Pacific Gas and Electric, a utility company.
“By age 27 she had five kids,” her youngest son, Mark Miller, wrote in a series of tweets at the weekend. “She went on to have five more – a basketball team of each sex. Planned Parenthood she called it.”
“She had a million and one friends. She smoked, she drank, she played cards. She became an open water diver
“She drove so fast and recklessly that people got out of her car with a sore foot from slamming on the imaginary brake. She gave up smoking, alcohol and caffeine on the same day and somehow managed to not commit homicide as a result.” Ann raised their family in a nine-bedroom mansion overlooking the San Francisco Bay and was known for whisking friends away on skiing holidays, Mediterranean yachts and archaeological digs. At one time she was a member of 22 different boards and raised money for gifted college students, homeless people and the Roman Catholic Church. Her husband died of cancer in 1984 and it was then she began the long, considered bid to join one of the strictest orders of nuns in the world.
Five years later she gave away everything she owned to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Des Plaines, Illinois. The monastery didn’t allow many visitors, and those that did come were separated by metal grilles.
The Carmelite nuns are a cloistered and ascetic order, living largely in silence. They do not leave the monastery, except when necessary, such as to see a doctor. The nuns only speak if it is essential, leaving more time for contemplation and prayer.
She was an unusual kind of nun,” says Mark. “She didn’t sing very well, she was frequently late to her required duties around the convent and she threw sticks for the communal dogs which was not allowed.
“I have only seen her twice in the last 33 years since she joined the convent and when you do go to visit you can’t hug or touch. You are separated by an offset pair of double metal grilles.”
She slept on a wooden plank covered by a thin mattress in a cell and during the day she wore a coarse brown habit and sandals, a far cry from her former life filled with silk parasols, Hermes scarves and Versace shoes.
On her 61st birthday Ann threw a party for 800 guests at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco to say farewell to her friends and family. They ate expensive seafood, listened to live orchestral music and Ann is said to have worn a flower crown and had tied a helium balloon to herself which said “here I am” so people could find her to say their goodbyes.
She told her guests she had devoted her first 30 years of life to herself, the second 30 to her children and that the last third of her life would be dedicated to God. The next day she flew to Chicago to live at the monastery as Sister Mary Joseph.”
I have no idea why Ann Gilbert Miller came to mind, me in a hotel room in the Middle East
In seclusion and fasting during Ramadan. But in the beginning days of my Muslim faith I spoke to Wise man about mystics – thinking I was perhaps becoming one.
He: Mystics have two qualities. They are usually women and they have a a great deal of empathy.
Me: Well, I fit the bill, I guess
He: You do.
This lifestyle is not working for me. That sort of life, a contemplative faith based existence is starting to look good. But a vow of silence? Silencing the loudest laugh in the whole world (most probably) ? Perhaps it is back to the drawing board.
The attached photos find me smiling and laughing. One my grand entrance into the Grand Mosque, the other laughing in front of a large photograph of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at the fish market. I was looked for a photo of my laughing or at least talking. I predicted it would not be hard to find. It was not.