Resurrected: This was written in March of 2003
As Salaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu
Subhanallah, I have been flooded with request for more information on Bahrain. Instead of individually replying, I did a group mail because many of the request were the same. We were only there for six months, under unusual conditions (go back and read my hijrah story), so we did not get to thoroughly check out all the benefits of Bahrain. Even so we still say it’s better than the Land of the Kufar.
Visas. I am not sure of all the visa requirements, you can do an Internet search for the Bahrain Embassy. I do know that unlike Saudi you can enter the country on a tourist visa. We did not have a visa until arriving at the Bahrain Airport.
Resident Permitt. In order to reside in Bahrain you must have a CPR card (Population Registration Card). This is applied for by your sponsor after having a medical exam. In our case my dh only needed to be examined as he was the only one employed, but in Saudi all adults need a medical examination before the visa is processed.
Employment. As with most if not all the Gulf countries, they are trying to cut back on importing labor. So this means that Bahrain is Bahrainizing, they are educating and training Bahrainis to take on the jobs that Expats have been doing. What jobs are available for expats? Bahrain is a little bitty Island, so there may not be many employment opportunities and the pay is not great, so low paid jobs go to 3rd world citizens (mostly Asians). You can find teaching jobs. Either teaching English or other subjects at the many English medium schools they have. Unlike Saudi which prefers the American English, Bahrain prefers British English, but do use American as well. Also there are other very competitive jobs that only an expat would be qualified for, like FIRE SAFETY, at the plants, or certain ENGINEERING positions. I have a friend whose husband was an Architect there.
Living Conditions. LOL!!! Bahrainis are American wanna be’s. If you got it in the U.S or the U.K, then Bahrain is squeezing it’s way though that lizard hole. Bahrain is very easy to adjust to and the living is easy and comfortable. The people are warm and friendly and mostly everyone speaks English (that’s why I didn’t learn anything but broken servant Arabic). If you have money saved and would like to rent a flat while staying on a tourist or business Visa then they are very affordable (compared to America NOT Egypt). Another thing is that women are allowed to drive (but not in niqab), so for those of you that are not ready or willing to give up that headache, this makes a good transition into Saudi living. The water there is salt water so you must buy your own water for drinking and cooking. We usually bought bottled water for drinking and bought what they call sweet water for cooking. Trucks come around daily to fill your containers or you can go to the store and get refills…very cheap. Someone asked if they have malls….EVERYWHERE!!! They even have PONDAROSA!!!
Are they Ahl Al sunnah wa Jama’a? Every person that wrote me asked if there were Salafi’s there. I’m sure there are, but as an established group I don’t know, just on an individual basis. In the gulf it is not that easy to tell until you have actually sat with the people to see what they are upon. I don’t mean hanging out with them, having dinner, or being social…you will not know until you get down to the nitty gritty. For one, not even in Saudi do the people who are salafi go around calling thmselves salafi. It’s given though their actions , speech and the circles they attend. Secondly, if they are not salafi, but they see that you are clearly not a dumb new convert that they can take under their wing, then you will find that they can be very diplomatic or evasive when it comes to religious discussions. Do the women cover properly? Well the Shiaa one’s do! Most of the Sunni women (even the nice ‘good’ ones) wore the French cut (form fitting) abaya/dress, front of hair showing, no niqab, make up, and much perfume! However the country is majority Shiaa, so you will see most of the women covered from head to toes – black like crows. Most of the men drag their thobes, and shave their beards, so the ones that wear their pants above their ankles and let their beards grow stand out and get a lot of respect from everyone. This is by no means a yardstick for measuring ones salafiyyah, but this is what the eyes see. As far as the mannerisms – typical Arab adaab – great hospitality, overwhelming generosity, very diplomatic in speech, and children that need some discipline. My husband met many brothers that he considered salafi, but my dh is no scholar or student and he has a hard time keeping up with whose salafi and whose not and what it is that took them off the minhaj. So by my husband’s definition of Salafi – then I don’t know. He goes off of what he knows to be the Akhlaaq, Adaab, and Aqeedah of the salaf and if he meets someone with those qualities and he sees that they are striving to follow the Quran and Sunnah as best as they can, then to him they are salafi. He is not in the position to praise or critise anyone, neither am I. But as far as Bonafide Salafis, we know that Shaykh Fawzee Al Athari is there. I heard he has set up schools. His wife is active in the dawah and I recently read on the homepage of www.troid.org about a Salafi Imam of one of the Masajid in Bahrain. So there is hope. Not to mention Umrah tickets are so cheap from there (bus ride) that you (your men folk) can go sit with the Ulema at least once a month, insha’allah.
Islamic Schools. That’s a good one! I have only heard of one good one, Al Iman School. They have a boys and girls school. The people are on the Sunnah. Again I can not vouch for their Salafiyyah, because everyday we are learning that people that we considered Salafee yesterday are hizbees today wa authoo billahi min dhalik! Unlike Saudi where you can place your child in the government school and know that they are getting the correct deen taught there, I don’t know what they teach in the Bahrain Government School. I did hear from one Bahraini friend of mine, that has been teaching in the schools for 20 years, is that they teach Islamic studies from both the sunnah and the rafadih creed. Most private schools are International. In the gulf this means, if your child gets kicked out of school or fails too many times, send them to private school, where your money talks. You will find the worst students there. They expect you to cheat for them. They are coed schools, with music classes and either very little Quran or no Quran at all. A lot of Bahrainis have opted to put their children in the many Catholic Schools there. However, there are some islamic schools there but you have to search. They are not advertised like the international schools, can you blame them?
Healthcare. Masha’Allah, I was very pleased with the healthcare in Bahrain. The facilities are adequate and clean (well they don’t change the sheets at the government clinics on ob/gy visits…so don’t be surprised it you get someone elses ultrasound gel on you…yuck!). There is one main government hospital, Salmaniyyah General Hospital and each community has a neighborhood clinic. If you have a CPR card then medical care is free. I did not get my card for 4 months, so I would go to the emergency room if my family needed help and we were given temporary CPR numbers. There are many private hospitals, but they are not equipped to handle trama and other very serious cases. The sunni muslims usually go to the private hospitals (the sunnis though few in number are the ruling party and the wealthiest..the shiaa are very poor). I was admited to the hospital on 3 diffrent occasions and had over 10 roommates….not one of them were Sunni (let alone salafi). It was funny because they would all come in with similar names. Fatima Ali Hasan or Fatima Ali Hussain, or Fatima Hasan Jafar (or any combination of those). Most of the Bahraini Staff (most support staff and evening nurses are indian) are Shiaa (but the private hospitals that pay more and charge more have sunni staff). I had a nurse ask me why I named my daughter Ramlah. I told her I named her after the wife of RasulAllah Alayhi salaat wa Salaam, Umm Habibah bint Abu Sufyan. She then informed me that Ramlah (along with zaynab) is one of the few names that both the sunni and shiaa use, because ramlah was the daughter of Al Hussain…I was like…ok.
I hoped this helped some. I don’t want to give the impression that I have the hook up on getting people over there. I don’t. I can only help answer some questions and maybe find out some information, but how to get there will be up to your families. We did not find Bahrain ideal and was even disappointed at times, but there is no perfect place and at least you childrens islamic identitity will not be hard to develope. Welcome to being a stranger among the muslims!