My dearest daughter and son,
While you’re both fast asleep in your beds napping, I’m thinking about the two of you, here in a hospital bed waiting for spinal surgery. All kinds of thoughts are running through my head. You both are always my first concern and I can’t help thinking of what were to happen to you if something God forbid, went terribly wrong in the operation and you would be left without a mother. All mothers have probably thought about this scenario at some point, what would happen to their kids. So I need to write this “letter” , just in case the unlikely happens and you’re orphaned and for a peace of mind before surgery.
I want you to know how much I love you, but I can’t find the words to describe it. I want you to know I will always love you. I want to be sure you always know that you are both very special and beautiful to me. If you were to have to live your life without me here there are some important things I want you to know.
What worries me a lot is you living in Saudi Arabia without me, which is especially worrisome when it comes to you my dearest daughter. As a Saudi girl and woman you are going to face many many hardships in your life and even more so if you live in Saudi Arabia. Unless the laws change, legally you will never become an adult, a man will always make the ultimate decisions in your life. Right now it is your father, but later on, ironically it could be your baby brother that becomes your “guardian”. I want you to go out and see the world, travel and learn new things. You will find out why I love traveling so much, and it will open your eyes and your mind.
My deepest concern is that this country and the current mahram system will hold you as a prisoner both in the physical but also the emotional sense. You my daughter, unlike your brother when he becomes of legal age, will not be able to freely leave this country to study or explore the world. You won’t even be able to visit your family and relatives in Finland if your guardian, whoever it is, decides so. Naturally I have discussed and agreed with your father that you’ll always be able to visit Finland, your other home country. If God forbid, something happens to him and your guardian would be someone else from the family, I fear it’s highly likely you won’t be allowed to leave freely anymore for reasons I’m not going to into now.
This is why it’s of utmost importance that you know who you are and where you come from. You’re just as much Finnish as you are Saudi. Never ever forget that. Don’t let people tell you that there’s something ‘wrong’ or bad about your mothers culture and country. Know that you should be absolutely proud of your Finnish roots, just as much as your Saudi heritage. Finland is the world leader on so many arenas, always making it into the top ten lists when comparing countries worldwide. What makes this even more remarkable is that Finland is a nation of only 5 million people. So you can and should be very very proud.
Learn about Finnish history, how we fought ourselves free from the Russian rule on our own and how the entire nation came forth together to build it again from scratch. Know what SISU means. Sisu, ultimate resilience and perseverance, is what got Finns through tough times and how we survived hardships. My Finnish sisu has helped me through a lot too and I can already see it in both of you. Never give up on your dreams, you can do anything and become anything you want to. If Saudi Arabia does not give you that option then you should go to your other home country to pursue your dreams.
Never become anyone’s puppet or doormat. You should respect your parents and elders and take their advice, but remember that respect goes both ways. Whatever you wish to do and what makes you happy should make your parents happy too. Don’t fall into the trap of people telling you something is ‘haram’ or unislamic, when in reality it’s your Saudi patriarchal, tribal culture speaking. It’s of utmost importance for you know the difference between these two.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re a ‘bad’ Muslim,or that your mother was not a ‘real’ Muslim, or an infidel. You are not a bad Muslim. Your mother is not an infidel just because she wasn’t born Muslim or doesn’t dress or act in a certain way. Only God is your judge, not your relatives or your neighbors, always remember that. Don’t be afraid to use your brain and find out, this is what God tells us in the Quran. There is so much ignorance surrounding us here in Saudi Arabia that we need to learn to ignore it and see the true Islamic values from the tribal mentality.
My dear daughter, don’t ever let a man decide on what you wear, ever. You are not owned by anyone, you are your own person and your thoughts matter. Whatever you choose to wear is your decision alone. Respect the culture and abide by the laws, but never, ever let anyone force you. Family honor is not dependent on what you wear, or who you marry; everyone is responsible for their own actions.
My dear son, growing up as a Saudi male in Saudi Arabia you will live a privileged life, much easier than your sisters in many ways. You will on the other hand be handed big responsibilities at a young age. You might be taught that you are to watch over your sister. Never take advantage of that situation. Respect goes both ways. As much as you will watch over and protect her, she will watch over and protect you. You are equal, never forget that. She is just as capable of making decisions on her own as you are. Never undermine her decisions or feelings, or underestimate her capabilities. Always support each other, you are a team, not enemies.
Read and learn about our religion, don’t blindly follow what those before you did, for maybe they were wrong, as God clearly states in the Quran. This means that you should find out for yourself, use common sense and not accept something just because a certain person told you so. If I hadn’t used my brains, followed my heart and listened to common sense, I would never have found Islam. What you will see happening around you is people turning their brains off when it comes to religion. Always keep yours switched on.
As much as I am proud of my Finnish culture, I want you to know that I came to this country because I wanted to learn about and experience the Saudi culture. Most expats will say they came for money. I did not come for money, but to explore. You will learn that your mother did a lot of things differently from others, and that is because she is different. And that’s not a bad thing at all. You, my children are also different. Don’t be ashamed of being different. Take pride in your mixed heritage and don’t let anyone tell you either culture is better than the other.
I want you to also learn about your Saudi roots and history. Explore and get to know the heritage and traditions of different regions. You will be amazed at how colorful and beautiful clothing people used to wear, it wasn’t all a sea of black until very recently. Don’t fall into the trap of the rotten tribal attitudes and thinking of one region or tribe superior to another. Be proud of your Najdi roots, but in a healthy way, not to the point of mocking others. And if you ever hear someone using the term “tarsh bahar,” vomit of the sea, when referring to a person, then do your mother a favor and punch them in the face.
As a Finn, it’s very important to me to keep in touch with nature and animals. Both have always been a big part of my life. The nature and wildlife is very different and beautiful in its own way in both your home countries and you are privileged to be able to experience them both. Always help and be kind to animals. You will find out why your mother is more attached to animals than to many humans. A pet will love you unconditionally, they will be faithful and loyal and never leave or hurt you. God created all animals, they are not unclean to have as pets or evil in way. If anyone tells you otherwise that is superstitions and culture talking, not religion.
I have so much to say but little time. I hope both of you are dreaming beautiful dreams right now, and when you wake up you will continue to dream, and never give up those dreams even when you grow up from your little tiny baby beds.
With my deepest love,
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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 75 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram: instagram.com/blueabaya