Dr Mona Abul-Fadl passed away

Dr Mona Abul-Fadl

Dr Mona Abul-Fadl

Dr Mona passed away today after more than 2 years of battling breast cancer. She was sweet, gentle and lived in her own world. She gave genuine hugs when she met you, not those polite, shallow ones that people give out of courtesy. She held your hand when she spoke with you.

An author and professor, she lived for her research on women, Islam and the Tawhidi episteme. She called her husband “TJ”, he called her “Mun-mun”. When she called he would interrupt his lecture and answer the cell phone.

She loved her plants and worried when she left them in the care of her husband. She didn’t let many people drive her car but she trusted hubby to do so. She did not like visiting people at their homes very much but still came to ours for dinner. She was extremely possessive about her books but still lent them to us. She was a private person who did not like people intruding in her personal space.

She was proud of her mother’s legacy and strove to preserve the memory of the incomparable Zahra Abedin.

She was traumatized by the US agents who raided her house and held her at gunpoint without even letting her cover under the false charges courtesy of the current administration. She left her country and her teaching when she no longer felt secure in her own home. She taught again in the country of her birth until her health no longer allowed her to do so. She had a passion for her work and a great sense of humor.

She gave up fighting when she could no longer see due to treatment side-effects- if she couldn’t read or write, she had nothing. She passed away oblivious to the world around her, with the sounds of her husband’s Quran recitation in her ear.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajayoon.

parking lot picnics

Once again I find myself in transit so what better way to spend time than writing!

As you might know, Riyadh does not have many options for legal family entertainment. They have a plethora of malls, restaurants, a single museum and a zoo that has different entry days for men and women so families cannot go together. There are no cinemas, no public parks or anything else that might be a way for families to spend some time together.

Part of the reason is that this is the middle of a desert and there will always be constraints about what outdoor activities are possible. Part of the reason is the culture- the Kingdom seems hell-bent on ensuring that there are no public spots where people will meet within the larger cities. They even banned the walking of cats and dogs recently as it provided an opportunity for the different genders to interact.

Those who can afford it go to Bahrain for the weekends, however the working class cannot afford to do so. The local substitute we saw were parking lot picnics! It was an amazing site. Late one night in the IKEA parking lot I noticed a family having a picnic. I commented to hubby that it was rather strange. We moved down the aisle and that is when I noticed that it was not just the single family, there were tens of families doing the same thing. They had spread blankets on the ground, and had coolers of food and drink. Kids were playing soccer and tossing around balls.

It was rather surreal and really brought home how desperate families must be for a little bit of low-cost, high-quality, legal family time.