A Godmother and the Arab


Try to tell an Arab guy what is a Godmother and he will look at you like you have lost your mind.   Well, that is what I did with my wife several years ago when she walked in like she was on a mission and announced, quite clearly, that Saffiya needed a Godmother and ‘she’ decided who it was.

Yep, it was literally just like that.  And, if you were to know my wife, she usually talks before she thinks and completely lacks what she likes to refer to as a ‘filter’ (she is really great though!).  So, I left it to the fact that someone had done something or she read an article somewhere and this was her new adventure.

Godmother is defined as “a female arranged to be legal guardian of a child if untimely demise is met by the parents”.  However, Godmother is also defined as “a cocktail made with italian amaretto liqueur and vodka”.  So, I wasn’t really quite sure given her very ambitious plan (and the fact it was the weekend), which Godmother she was actually referring to.

This week, my oldest and my wife, made the journey to Germany to attend the wedding of her Godmother (not the cocktail), Kirstin.

First of all, this was a new thing for me.  It was the first time I was ‘left’ with just one little kid (normally I travelled with Saffiya to Egypt for visits or she was travelling for work and was home). And here was my oldest, trekking off to a faraway land with faraway people to attend the wedding of her Godmother (of which I’m sure there were objects of both definition here).  Now, she has jaunted off on an Airbus 380 (those planes scare me!) with my oldest baby – my first born – for 4 days of who knows what (don’t let me even tell you about the little bit that my wife actually LOST her in Germany!).

This woman, Kirstin, is just about the most amazing and adoring woman you would ever meet (she’s German so that, in itself is unique 🙂  ).  She has been one of the closest friends of my wife for about 15 years.  They room together at meetings, they talk about everything and nothing (not as often as they should) and they share a bond that my wife has valued for all of the years that she has known her.  And for me, from the first time I met her, I thought she was such a stunning and compassionate woman that I understood why my wife would choose the first definition of Godmother over the second.

Being Arabic, the reference to a Godmother is completely alien to us.  It’s just not sensible that you would just ‘delegate’ your child to someone that was not actual family.  It made no sense to me.  Because my wife knows me, she also knows that she has to ‘announce’ things so that I can process the shock of anything she ‘un-filters’ and then over the coming days/weeks, the conversations and compromise commence.

Godmother is predominantly a Christian reference.  And, although my wife is Christian and I am Muslim, the practicality of it did make sense at some point given we are not from the same country, our families are in different places and we live in somewhere completely different from all of the previously mentioned.

But I also had a hard time considering her arguments about what if something happens as an ‘untimely demise’.  Ok, fine, I go to the U.S.   I’ve been there, I like it. I love her family.  I don’t want to live there without her of course but I also know what my daughters would need as well.  And, its still something I think about often and I go back and forth about considering Egypt or the U.S. or whatever.

“Ok habibi, thats if something happens to me, you will go there, that fine” She goes on.  “But i’m talking about if something happens to both of us.”

Oh, the absolute horror of even thinking that.

“Stop thinking that way! I just have to leave it to Allah (God)”.  After all, that is what we say.  At the end of the day, whatever happens we have to leave to God.  And even for my wife, that is certainly true as well, there is really nothing you can do about it.  But, she made a pretty defined statement when she said simply “I don’t want our daughter floating around a system somewhere because we have no family close by as some government tries to figure out what to do with our child.”  That was painful.  The idea of something like that happening to our daughter was terrifying.

So, we agreed.  And, of course, my lovely un-filtered wife, informed her dear friend that this was what was going to happen (that poor woman!) and thankfully, she agreed.  Because we didn’t process this through a christening ceremony or anything, we did include this in our Will which we have had stamped in the various countries we inhabit.  And now that I write this, it reminds me to let my wife know she still needs to send one of the originals to Saffiya’s Godmother, but it is there.

The point of all of this is, tolerance in our society is of big importance now – especially in the times that we live in and the part of the world that we inhabit.  The fact that I am willing to accept my wife’s reasoning of having a Godmother for our daughter (again, not the cocktail!), that this amazing woman is willing to take on that responsibility in the event of the unknown (and that I wouldn’t see our daughter with a more amazing woman) and that my wife accepted my wishes to not go through the whole ‘christening’ ceremonial thing when it was just a practicality shows a lot about who we are as people, as a married couple and as parents.

In the meantime, our daughter is thrilled with having a Godmother – after all, there are usually regular gifts involved, the stories she tells friends about her ‘Auntie’, the trip she gets to make and knowing she has her picture on her Auntie’s desk.  Very simple for her and it’s all that she needs to know right now.

If our daughters can grow up in a world with this type of tolerance, compromise and simple human understanding regardless of what religion or nationality they are, then I hope that this foundation can stay with them and they can do something really big and important on this earth.

The funny thing is we now have daughter number two.  Its been almost 2 years since she was born and there hasn’t been any big announcement from my wife on Mackenzie’s Godmother.  Maybe she didn’t find anyone yet.  Maybe they don’t do it for the second one. Maybe Saffiya’s Godmother is far too scared to think my wife would ask her- I don’t know.  Maybe she forgot?

I really hope she doesn’t read this blog 🙂 .

8 October, 2015 – Dubai

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