Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Moving: The Challenges

When I was a young military wife, with every move I would fume at AdventureMan “You walk right into a job where everyone knows who you are; you have a life all cut out for you! I have to find the right grocery store, the right dry-cleaner, the right tailor, the right key-maker, (blah blah blah, whine whine whine)”

This move, by the Grace of God, has been so much easier. Honestly, God sent angels to smooth the way, even the delay in travel was a protection against the heartache of losing a beloved pet. Having my good friend here, who passed along transformers, lists, phone numbers, a great cleaning woman, recommendations – priceless. Having maintenance people show up the very first day and take care of all the little things that can take months – priceless. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of at least three great supermarkets – priceless.

I have two large supermarkets very near, two more relatively near, and two more within maybe 15/20 minutes, depending on the traffic.

At the LuLu, which is HUGE, I found these wonderful local eggs (this is just the wrapper, and yes, I am that shallow, I bought these eggs because they are local and because I love the wrapper, I think it is adorable:


At the MegaMart, I am blown away by how much Skim Milk they have. In Kuwait, I would schedule my trips to the market by when milk was delivered in order to get my skim milk:


The MegaMart also has a huge Japanese food section, a slightly smaller Philipino food section, and holy smokes! Look at this:


Not just taco shells or “taco dinner” kits – a whole section with a huge variety of Mexican food supplies. Hmmmmm. . . .I think I know what’s for dinner tonight! 🙂

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Cooking, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Shopping | 2 Comments

Turkey Central

Going back to Turkey Central on Merqab Street in Doha, was both like a home coming, and a big surprise. It was the second place AdventureMan took me when I arrived the first time in Doha (Fakr al Din, the first place, is no longer there), and it was a place a lot of people hung out.

Through the years, it has had a roller-coaster reputation, sometimes closed for renovations, sometimes closed for health / sanitation violations, but – when open – packed with people in search of reasonably priced, outstandingly tasty dishes.

It’s not one of AdventureMan’s favorite places, but it is one of mine! 😉 So the night we went to the Doha Clinic to get our blood-types – beginning the endless process of paperwork and hurdles for our residency in Qatar – he agreed to take me to Turkey Central.

Oh, YUM.

In the first place, when we walked in it all looks immaculately clean. Cooks and servers are wearing hats to keep stray hair from falling into food. Tables are now granite, chairs are comfy.

The food is wonderful. The place is packed. Our old friend sees us come in and comes over to greet us. We feel at home.

We decided to try some new mezzes (appetizer / salads) instead of our same old, same old hummous, tabouli, mouttable. We tried the chili salad (made of sweet red peppers, not the hot kind, and excellent), the baba ghannoush (actually, we have had this before at TC and love it ) and the moussaka (no meat moussaka) which we both agreed was THE BEST.




The best part of all is the Turkey Central bread, hot, fresh from the oven, and covered with sesame seeds:

AdventureMan ordered the Mixed Grill:


and I ordered my old favorite, shish taouk (marinated, grilled boneless chicken pieces):


Too much food! I walked out with a big bag of leftovers, enough to cover a week of lunches!

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Qatar | Leave a comment

John the Baptist / Yahya ibn Zakariyya

Most westerners don’t have a clue that John the Baptist, as well as Jesus, are featured prominently in the Qur’an.

Today’s reading in The Lectionary starts of the magically lyrical Book of John, and, if you read between the lines, you get a clue to the mystery of the holy trinity – not three Gods, not at all, but three facets of the one God we people of the book believe in:

John 1:1-18

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.

(This is the tomb of John the Baptist / Yahya in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria)


So we ask ourselves, what exactly does the Qur’an have to say about John, and going to Wikipedia, I found the following (I have added paragraph separations to make it more readable):

According to the Qur’an

According to the Quran, Yahya was the son of Zakariya, and was foretold to his father by the angel Gabriel. Yahya is called a righteous, honorable and chaste person, as well as a Prophet of the Righteous ([Qur’an 6:85], [Qur’an 3:39]). He came to confirm the Word of God ([Qur’an 3:39]). His story was retold by Jafar to the Abyssinian King during the Migration to Abyssinia [2].

In his recent article, Agron Belica say’s the following: this prophet has been overlooked and misrepresented. One reason he has been overlooked is because there are five words used in the Quran to describe Prophet Yahya that have been misinterpreted in translations of the Quran. The first is the word hasur which is usually translated “chaste.” My research shows that the Arabic word hasur does not mean “chaste” with regard to Yahya; rather , it means “a concealer of secrets.”

Why the mistake in translation and commentary? As there was no extensive information given in the Quran about the life of Prophet Yahya nor in the hadith, the commentators then turned to Christian tradition and simply repeated what they found there. Nonetheless, the commentators of the Quran have placed considerable emphasis on this word.

Al-Tabari interprets the word hasur to mean one who abstains from sexual intercourse with women. He then reports a hadith on the authority of Said ibn al-Musayyab which has Prophet Muhammad saying the following: “Everyone of the sons of Adam shall come on the Day of Resurrection with a sin (of sexual impropriety) except Yahya bin Zechariah.’ Then, picking up a tiny straw, he continued, ‘this is because his generative organ was no bigger then this straw (implying that he was impotent).’” Does this mean that even the prophets outside of Yahya will be raised up with this sin of sexual impropriety? How can we accept that this was said by such a modest human being, comparing a straw to another prophet’s generative organ? Was Yahya impotent?

One commentator, Ibn Kathir, a renowned Islamic scholar , rejects this view and adds, “This would be a defect and a blemish unworthy of prophets.” He then mentions that it was not that he had no sexual relations with women, but that he had no illegal sexual relations with them. Indeed, the whole discussion is unseemly. It is known that prophets of God are immune from major sins, so this statement makes no sense at all when interpreting the word, hasur. In addition, I would like to mention the fact that in his commentary, ibn Kathir says he (Yahya) probably married and had children. He said this on the basis of what was related in the Quran of the prayer of Zachariah. There are at least three reasons why interpreting hasur in this context as “chaste” is a misinterpretation: First of all, there is another word in the Quran for “chaste” and that is muhasanah. As God used a different word with hasur, it must mean something different. Secondly, God says in the Quran that Islam did not bring monasticism but that it was something that they (the Christians) invented. Therefore, God would not have sent a Prophet who was celibate. In addition, it is contrary the exhortation in the Torah to “go forth and multiply.” Thirdly, Yahya’s father, Zechariah prayed for a protector who would provide descendants (dhuriyyat) for his family. “There Zachariah called to his Lord; he said: My Lord! Bestow on me good offspring from Thy presence; truly Thou art hearing supplication.” (3:38) God gave him Yahya.

God would not have sent a son to Zechariah who would not carry on the line of Jacob’s descendants because then God would not have answered the prayer of Zechariah. The word hasur is used only one time in the Quran and that is in regard to the Prophet Yahya.

A major Arabic-English lexicon, that of Edward William Lane (Taj al-Arus) states that when hasur is used alone, it means “concealer of secrets.” In his translation, of Ibn al- Arabi’s Book of the Fabulous Gryphon, Elmore also translates the Arabic hasur “as consealer of secrets.” In the referenced passage, “chaste” would not have been appropriate. (Gerald T. Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time, Brill 1999, P. 482)

The second word that has been misinterpreted is waliy (19:5) which in this verse and many others in the Quran means “protector” not “heir or successor.” In this specific case, Zechariah prays to his Lord: “And truly I have feared my defenders after me and my wife has been a barren woman. So bestow on me from that which proceeds from Thy Presence a protector (waliy).”

The third word that is misinterpreted is that of fard in (21:89): “And mention Zechariah when he cried out to his Lord: My Lord! Forsake me not unassisted (fard) and Thou art the Best of the ones who inherit.” It is usually translated as “heir,” but the same reasoning applies as above. The word “unassisted” refers to the fact that Zechariah did not want to be left alone without any protector. He feared for those who would defend him and his honor after he died, that they would be left without a protector and thereby could not defend his honor.

The fourth misinterpreted word in relation to Prophet Yahya is sayyid. Prophet Yahya is referred to as a sayyid, chief in the Quran. The commentators have interpreted this to mean that he was a scholar of religious law, a wise man, a noble wise and pious man, and so forth. This was a prophet of God. Knowledge and wisdom were given to him by his Lord. The title given to Yahya by his Lord shows that Prophet Yahya is one who has authority over his people and not “noble” or “honorable” as this word is usually translated. Honor and nobility are good qualities but they fail to indicate that Prophet Yahya is given a role of leadership by his Lord.

The fifth word is hanan which means “mercy,” which is part of the compound name Yu’hanan (in English “John”), meaning “God is Merciful.” The word hanan is used once in the Quran and that is in reference to Prophet Yahya: “And continuous mercy from Us and purity . . . .” This is singularly appropriate to the circumstances of the Prophet Yahya. The names Yahya and Yuhanan are not the same as many assume. They have two entirely different roots. Hanan and hanna both derive from the Semitic root h n n. While the word hanna means “mercy or tenderness,” the root word for Yahya is h y y. It means “life” or “he lives.” One does not need to be a linguist to see the obvious. In addition, I would like also to mention that this name and attribute given to Prophet Yahya can also be found in Sabean literature. The Sabians are mentioned in the Quran in verses (2:62), (5:69) and (22:17).

In their canonical prayer book we find Yahya Yuhanna. It has been known that it is the practice of the Sabians to have two names, a real name and a special name. According to the Sabians, this prophet’s real name was Yahya (he lives) and his lay name was Yuhanna (John). Prophet Yahya is the only one given this name as the Quran clearly states: “O Zechariah! Truly We give thee the good tidings of a boy; his name will be Yahya (he who lives) and We assign it not as a namesake (samiyya) for anyone before.” Again, another word that we need to pay attention to is samiya. It is used twice in the Quran, once in reference to Yahya (19:7) “O Zechariah! Truly We give thee the good tidings of a boy; his name will be Yahya and We assign it not as a namesake (samiya) for anyone before.” The other time it is used is in reference to God. “. . . Knowest thou any namesake (samiya) for Him [God]?” (19:65)

In the famous Arabic lexicon Lisan al-arab the root word s m w means elevation or highness. “Then the angels proclaimed to him while he was in the sanctuary that God gives you good tidings of Yahya-one who establishes the word of God as true- a chief and a concealer of secrets and a prophet, among the ones who are in accord with morality.”(3:39) See The Sublime Quran Pocket Size translated by Laleh Bakhtiar (2009)

So here is what I am thinking this morning . . . We have so much to offer one another. We use each other’s books – Jewish, Christian, Moslem – and studies to illuminate our beliefs. Why are we niggling over trivialities? If we were to clasp hands and fight together against the forces of darkness, what a mighty force for good we would be!

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Random Musings, Spiritual | 10 Comments