In A Taxi With Allah

     |    Thursday October 14th, 2010

When an Arab meets a countryman – in my case, a countrywoman – a flood of curiosity is sure to follow. Where are your from? Do you speak Arabic? Why not? Have you ever been to Palestine? And so on… Usually such interludes are of short duration and I can wriggle my way out of them fairly quickly.

My grandma and I are in a taxi. Hassan , the driver, is camouflaged in an Argentinian soccer jersey. When my grandma says my name, his ears prick up.

“Hey, that’s an Arabic name!” -”Yes.”

“Do you speak Arabic?” -”No”

“Not a single word?” -”No.”

“Where are your parents from?” -”This is my mother’s mother and my father is from Palestine.”

“Palestine!?” The taxi driver’s eyes begin to dance. “I’m also from Palestine!”

This starts a whole slew of questions about family, background, and religious belief. Questions I’ve heard before.

“Sainab, do you pray?” -”Sometimes.”

“Sainab, Allah is great! Allah gives you everything you desire. But, it doesn’t happen straight away. You have to give something in return.”

My grandma pipes in: “My daughter has converted completely. She wears the headscarf. ”

”Masha’Allah, that’s fantastic!”

My grandmother isn’t so enthusiastic.

“ And now, just the daughter is left” , says Hassan.

“That phase of my life is already behind me” I say.

“And do you want to marry an Arab?

“No”, shoots out of my mouth.

“No?? But, why not? Not all Arab men are the same”. He thinks for a moment. He thinks I probably have had some bad experiences with Arab men. That’s probably it.

“You know what, Sainab, Allah does not permit women to be slapped. By God, I have never hit my wife. That’s not right. Sainab, a hand has five different fingers!” He shows me his open hand. “Five different ones! Not all of them are the same! Don’t believe that religion allows it!”

Hassan is talking at me. I laugh but I don’t think badly of him. He sympathetic and wishes me the world. He helps us get out of the taxi.

“Sainab, Allah knows that you are taking care of your grandmother. He sees that you are a good person. Allah is great and kind. Oh my Sainab, dear, I am so happy that I met you today! Really. I wish you the very best!” Hassan laughs, his eyes are smiling. In such a short time someone has taken me into their heart. Hassan the warmhearted.

Sainab