We received a letter from Huwaida in Sudan on Saturday. She is one of the children we sponsor through Plan USA/International. (To learn more about Huwaida you can read my introductory post with a 2007 photo).
It made the weekend for me just to hold the scrap of paper with her handwriting on it.
She refers to the "key hanger" we sent as a gift, which I found fascinating. It was actually a hand-carved Myrtlewood tree with a prism in the center, and was hanging on a wire. When I send little things to her I always wonder which might be favored over others. You never can be sure. You can never be sure that all gifts ultimately reach their destinations, or that all thank you notes find their way back to sponsors. Case in point, I sent two scarves similar to the one she's wearing in this latest photo that were never acknowledged. This might actually be one of them. Because she is a young Muslim girl my gifts have required different thinking than ones we send to our little guy in Ecuador. I'd love to shower her with her heart's desire, and I have a feeling that would mean some very simple things. You'll note that she mentions wishing she had a camera, and I'm going to follow up with our sponsor agent to see if there is photo processing near the village where Huwaida lives. Also note that she speaks about how green her village is now, leading me to speculate that the photos here (received three months ago) were taken before the rainy season came. It's wonderful that she has some seasonal greenery to enjoy.
This is beautiful Huwaida some months before her 17th birthday with her handsome brother. Aren't they marvelous?
I was interested in the Islamic greeting at the top of the translated letter, especially since it was not translated. My curiosity was set into motion and I found the information below in a forum on introductory information about Islam. I changed one phrase into red lettering to indicate that it is the closest I was able to come to a translation.
One of the main reasons I selected Plan-USA five years ago is because it is child-and community-centered, not religion-based. I have no desire to push Christianity or any other religion on any part of the world which has its own beliefs. How could any evangelist instill one ounce more dignity and grace into these two children? It's not their souls that need help.
By keeping a Live and Let Live attitude we are blessed to be a blessing in some small way for Huwaida and her family. Her village has benefited from training for children on health issues and the promotion of registration and issuance of birth certificates for children. A bridge was constructed over the canal that runs through Huwaida's village. Children no longer have to take a seven kilometers detour around the uncrossable canal to reach their school during rainy season. And I'm so pleased that information for the regular updates on Huwaida and her family are collected by Huwaida herself as a "community volunteer." She's a bright spot in this world and in my life, most definitely.
The importance of saying "Assalaamu 'alaykum" and returning the greeting
All people have the custom of greeting one another, and every group has its own distinctive greeting that distinguishes them from other people. . . .
. . . When Islam came, Allaah prescribed that the manner of greeting among Muslims should be “Assalaamu alaykum” [not salam or salams or whatever] and that this greeting should only be used among Muslims and not for other nations. The meaning of salaam (literally, peace) is harmlessness, safety and protection from evil and from faults. The name al-Salaam is a Name of Allaah, may He be exalted, so the meaning of the greeting of salaam which is required among Muslims is, “May the blessing of His Name descend upon you.” The usage of the preposition ‘ala in ‘alaykum (upon you) indicates that the greeting is inclusive. . . .
. . . The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also explained the reward earned by the one who says salaam, as was reported by al-Nisaa’i in ‘Aml al-yawm wa’l-laylah (368) and al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (586) and by Ibn Hibban (493). They reported from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that a man passed by the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) whilst he was sitting with some others, and said “Salaam ‘alaykum (peace be upon you).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “[He will have] ten hasanaat (rewards).” Another man passed by and said “Salaam ‘alaykum wa rahmat-Allaah (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allaah).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “[He will have] twenty hasanaat.” Another man passed by and said “Salaam ‘alaykum wa rahmat-Allaahi wa barakaatuhu (peace be upon you and the mercy of Allaah and His blessings).” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “[He will have] thirty hasanaat.” . . .
. . .It is clear that it is obligatory to say salaam and return salaams, because by doing so a Muslim is giving you safety and you have to give him safety in return. It is as if he is saying to you, “I am giving you safety and security,” so you have to give him the same, so that he does not get suspicious or think that the one to whom he has given salaam is betraying him or ignoring him. . . .
- Iman Way Forums