Where Do I Belong?
By Noor Sa’adeh
Where is home? What is home? I struggle with this frequently and I am sure I am not alone. For me, three places qualify as home; the city and state of my birth and childhood, my adopted state of recent adult years and Jordan, of course.
Often home is where the family and particularly parents live. So many young people seek their futures and establish families outside Jordan, yet these same children still call Jordan home even though continents away. The sense of home can be triggered by food, aromas, even flora and fauna of the natural environment. I found the air I yearned to breathe again after many years was simply the combination of the river, lake and soil of my birthplace.
Whenever I depart Jordan for the United States, I end up a bit conflicted. Where do I belong and what place feels the most like home? I am often asked where I like it better, Jordan or the United States. Although there are beloved things in both places, I am never quite at peace in either one.
As a Muslim in the United States, I fit in but am never fully at ease: I am always on my best behaviour as a very visible ambassador of my faith wearing my long flowing jilbab robe and headscarf. Here in Jordan, with my accented Arabic and blue eyes, I am welcomed, but most likely considered to be a foreigner. “Where are you from?” Everyone asks on both sides. The question of home arises again.
Then some call home a place they have never lived. They long for the land of their forefathers, but return is fraught with great difficulty. With the ever-burgeoning refugee population in the world, the question of home becomes critical but ephemeral: just out of one’s grasp.
The ultimate answer must lie within our faith. Just like my Christian cohorts, Muslims believe that life is not the only home, but merely a passage to our eternal home, the Hereafter. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) told his companions to “be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller.” It’s temporary; don’t get too excited or too comfortable.
The phrase ‘stranger in a strange land’ fits. Although we put down roots, establish homes, relationships and work, permanence is an illusion. We say that from God we come and to God we shall return, but as humans we are forgetful and get distracted along the way. We put all our hopes and dreams into the future and create endless expectations and definitions of what a home should be. We lose our peace when things don’t work out the way we plan. We burn a lot of energy and spend great amounts of money to establish and cement our homes, but too often neglect the work that needs to be done to secure our ultimate and permanent abode.
While I seek to live my life to the fullest, even live large and well if I am so blessed, I keep one eye and my intentions fixed on the final ending: my final home.