By Kristine Julika
It all starts with a single ‘Allahu Akbar!’ in the distance. Soon, other voices from other mosques join in. Then, one by one, the Muadh-dhins finish their Adhans, until there is just a single voice left again concluding the choral call to prayer: “La ilaha illa Allah!”
Prayer is a central and very influential part of life in Saudi Arabia; everybody and everything stops for the sake of the Creator (swt). The shops are closed; people stop working to remember the true meaning of this ephemeral world.
My story of Islam in Saudi Arabia is mainly a story about a relatively new Muslim revert, who has lived in both Western and Eastern societies. Since Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Islam and the Muslim civilization, it is the dream of every Muslim to live there or at least visit once in a lifetime. This is because Saudi Arabia means no obstacles in enjoying a really Islamic life.
In every European country, I felt like a freak. All the stares and whispers made me feel uncomfortable, even in my native country. Although I wasn’t wearing an Abaya or Niqab, the headscarf did the trick. In Saudi Arabia, however, I don’t feel any different from other women. Everybody has a black Abaya (in most cases, also the Niqab). In contrast to the Western countries, here, you might get some uncomfortable looks, if you do not wear Hijab – at least, in Riyadh. In Riyadh, whenever I put on my Abaya and Niqab, I feel so safe and protected, hardly a feeling I had in Europe.
The same thing can be said about food. Here, I don’t have to be extra careful, when I am in the supermarket buying food. I know that all meat is Halal. In general, I can eat whatever I like!
The amount of shopping malls is unbelievable, and they all tend to be really huge, maybe because this is (almost) the only form of relaxation, entertainment and socialization for Saudi women, and people want to make these places as huge as possible.
The Saudi youth, with their iPods and iPads, are more prone to cultural invasion, because they have lots of money; for some of them, Islam seems to be only a tradition. They love travelling to Western countries. But, at the same time, they also love this country because “this is where I was born” (an answer a student gave me in one of my classes).
However, we should remember that Saudi Arabia is not a flawless place to be. It is not Jannah, after all. Although everybody is said to be Muslim, there are some people, who are just following Islam by tradition or default. For example, some behave contrary to Islamic norms of behaviour; they might be arrogant or forget about being kind to other people. If we live with the right attitude in mind – one that is not judgemental of others – and enjoy life in the country where the Prophet (sa) was born, then it really seems a perfect place to be. Alhumdulillah for the great opportunity!