Written By: Ahmed Ibn Mohamed Aduib
Alhamdulillah I recently had the pleasure and opportunity to visit my wife’s homeland, Palestine. I was lucky enough to walk through the beautiful streets of Al Quds, and drive through the winding mountainous roads of Ramallah and Nablus. Most importantly I was able to pray at Masjid Al Aqsa with my wife and her family, and let my daughter run around throughout the beautiful grounds. I feel that this amazing experience deserves a post or at the very least needs to be written down, so I decided to write a letter to my daughter to explain to her what this trip really meant.
Dear Zainab Bint Ahmed Aduib,
Since I was a little bit older then you are now I was always taught to stand with the oppressed. It was a basic principle in our religion and something my parents lived and fought for. Two causes stood out to me as a young child. First was the oppression happening in Libya under the brutal dictator, and second the unjust occupation of Palestine and the theft of the Holy Land. My parents, both Libyan, taught me the importance of Masjid Al Aqsa in Islam and the land of Al Sham (Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan). But most importantly they taught me that the killing of one innocent person is like killing all of humanity and that the saving of one human is like saving all of humanity. I was taught to not look at people who are fighting for their land, their history, their culture, and their religion as terrorists, but to see them as freedom fighters that fought for a purpose and had no other choice but to do so.
My love for Palestine grew when we moved to a small town named Bridgeview right on the outskirts of Chicago. I personally believe that this town is, by far, the closest you can get to Palestine without actually being there. My love grew because of the people I met, the individuals that raised me and took in our little Libyan family as their own. Actually at the time, my best friend’s father was illegally imprisoned in the occupied lands by Israel, so I took the cause a bit more personal. We attended rallies, fundraisers, and events (you name it) and we were there– always present, showing our support for the people of Palestine.
Fast-forward a few years and naseeb took its course. Your beautiful mother and I were married at a time when change was sweeping across the Middle East. The day we were Islamically married was the first day that would start the Libyan revolution. Then you blessed our life, a mix of American, Libyan, Palestinian and Italian with a personality so big you can embrace all four cultures with ease. Life changed. More importantly—how I viewed oppression and killing of innocent children changed. Those children in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine had a face now. As the third war in 7 years raged on in Gaza, and indiscriminate bombing killed scores of children, I would watch videos of fathers carrying their injured, and most of the time, their lifeless children. All I could think of was you and what I would do if someone unjustly ripped you out of my life.
I made a decision, that Inshallah, with Allah swt’s protection and mercy, that this summer would be the summer I would finally visit Palestine. Many questioned my decision to travel there during such instability but I made my intentions, prayed Istikhara and we met your grandfather in Jordan to begin our journey. I will never forget the day we made our way to the border crossing. I really didn’t know what to expect; there was so much protocol to cross a border. When we arrived at the border, there was no clear instruction on where to go or what to do. I held you through it all–the un-organized lines, the excessive questioning, the 7 hour wait, facing the disrespectful occupiers who even when you would smile or wave couldn’t get passed their hate and see a cute innocent child. Maybe they could sense what I know of you Zainab—that you will grow to be a strong beautiful woman who will speak up to oppressors like them, Inshallah.
As we entered Palestine, everything changed. It was after Asr so the sun was still up and was preparing to set so we decided to go straight to Al Quds and begin our journey right, by praying in the masjid first. The weather was beautiful, the air fresh, scenery majestic. We soon entered Al Quds and the driver took us to the top of a mountain promising us the best view of the Old City. And he didn’t disappoint. Everything was there right in front of us, so much history was bouncing off the walls and streets. We stood there holding you, looking down at a land that so many Prophets walked across, where the Prophet Muhammad made his miraculous trip from Mecca prayed with the Prophets and then ascended to Heaven. Subhanallah it was all there, right there in front of my eyes. Finally, after all those years of protesting, fundraising, speaking and fighting for truth, finally it all made sense. It was clear what Palestine meant and will continue to mean to me and to the world.
The greatest feeling was walking with your grandfather and holding your mothers hand while traveling throughout your lands. Even better was watching you play around the beautiful Olive trees in Aqraba, walking around the streets of Nablus, and running and playing with everyone in both Masjid Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock.
I grew up in a different time than you my sweet daughter. My parents were exiled from Libya and they fought on the side of all oppressed everyday. They could not travel to their country, and so their battles became my own. You see Zainab, I never really had a homeland. I was born American, but I was never really viewed as an American because I was clearly different. My dear, I was never really a Libyan either since I knew little of my family, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. All I knew of Libya were cuisines, some music and a little broken Libyan dialect.
For you (and your soon to come brother) it will be different Inshallah. You were born in a time when change shook the world in favor of the oppressed. Your mother and I will do everything in our power to keep you close to your lands. And in this way, you will lay claim to all of the lands of your ancestors. By the grace of Allah swt, you will enjoy both your grandparents’ homes in the US, your grandmother’s small town in Italy, your lands by the sea in Libya, and your olive tree hills in Palestine. You will truly be free. But no matter what happens in your life, remember to always stand for the oppressed, to speak up for those who cannot be heard, and to respect others the way you wish to be respected.
Love you my angel,