Monday, December 29, 2008
Your Place. Your Voice.
This blogger wanted to tell it all on Quest. So, I've posted the comments. If you have any words, ideas, expressions, thoughts, vent-words, art, poetry, lyrics (or anything else) about your take on marriage, email me.
FYI: SunniPath, an online Islam academy, is offering a course on successful Islamic marriage -- by a female teacher.
FYI: Sheikh Yaser Birjas has launched his matrimonial training/marriage site.
So Quest was kind enough to let me contribute to her blog. Thanks, Quest!
Along the theme of ethnicity in suitoring. Yay for all Arabs and Desis (men and women). You guys don't need to worry as much since your market is big, and there are ample varieties of choices. But sucks to the 'minority', non-Arab, non-Desi because everyone wants to marry their own ethnic group (sometimes it is the village!). So what do we non-Arab-Desi people do? Some sit and wait, some proactively go out and ask Arab-Desi friends to let them into their network, some look for reverts (but these reverts want Arab-Desi spouses themselves), some....... well, just give up.
Often times the current generation actually does not mind what ethnicity the other person is, but the parents do, so that's a no again. I understand that everyone has his/her own preference and reasons for his/her choices, but that's why this whole marriage trhing is so inefficient. You have women sitting at one side of the city lamenting over how difficult it is to find a suitable half, and men sitting on the other side of the city doing the same thing.
I mean, we non-Arab, non-Desis can't even get to the stage of evaluating a suitor's deen and akhlaq, because there ARE no suitors.
Frustration of the century.
Ying-Yang (Blogger Name)
Friday, December 26, 2008
Once upon a time there was a Muslim girl who after long thinking decided to put on the veil. She’s good for heaven. The End.
No, wait. Ends are cruel. Everything’s a beginning.
The day I Came Out
My brother screams in pain limping on one foot. Two men shoulder him up. He was playing basketball at the court in one of the Masjids that day while my mom, my sister and myself chat with some friends. My mom was wearing her head scarf, the one she wears always, everywhere.
I was wearing one too, my temporary scarf, the one I wore for Allah in the Masjid. But not outside. You see, mine came off away from the Masjid, in the midst of strangers, people I knew nothing of, but of whom I was highly aware. Their questioning eyes had a hold on me for most of my adult life.
We raced towards my brother’s screams, his knee was the problem. Into the car we all jumped and the next scene was the emergency room. They take him in. We sit down not a word said. “We need someone to help fill out some forms please”, she says.
The receptionist seems to look at me, so I go to her. “His first name?” “Ahmad”. “Age?” “Sixteen”. "Allergic to?” “Penicillin …you know he might be allergic to Morphine too”. “Are you his sister, dear?” “Yes".
The Doctor walks in. “Can I talk to Ahmad’s mother please?” “Hi. I’m his sister. I can translate to my mom”. “Yes, Ahmad has a fracture in his knee. Some bandage, a good doctor and Voila!, good as new!”.
The doctor was right. We were home in no time. Ahmad was sleeping peacefully in his bed that night. I went up to my room walking tired, deflated, at ease---but wait, wait, wait.
I look in the mirror. Oh my. I’m wearing, yes … I’m … still … wearing ... my ... head ... scarf, I’m still wearing my head scarf!
What? You mean it was on all the time, in the car, at the parking spot, with the nurses, the receptionist, the doctor, the policeman at the road check, the emergency room, the car park, the ill people at the emergency room, the healthy people, the guy at the vending machine --- all these people, you mean they all met me looking like a Muslim woman?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The next symptom to know if you're shaped by the suitor-ing business is this:
You Open Up
At one point, you begin to realize that who you are, from where you are, your upbringing, the language you speak, the ethnicity you belong to, don't always mean to others what they mean to you.
You begin to see your world interrupted from the eyes of a stranger who comes to quest for half his deen with you.
You stop seeing yourself, even if for a short while, from the eyes of your family, friends, neighbors, community and people you've been raised around all your life. You see a different picture of who you are.
The following happened. So fast, really, as if a moment from a movie.
"Here you go! One extra large caffe mocha with whipped cream just for you!"
She looks at me. I look at her. She looks at me. I look back.
Nilo, are you about to take my life?
You never remember the whipped cream. Never. Unless you want to mellow me down before you say something really really big. Sedate n escape.
"okay Okay OKAY dang it woman I'm thinking of how to break it to you. Where are the exit doors around here?"
Aha I was right. You do have big news.
"I sorta kinda maybe somehow told aunty Naima, who told aunty Fatima, who told aunty Maha that you might possibly kinda maybe meet Meliha's son for coffee here with me and my husband. Today. At 6."
THIS PART OF THE SCENARIO HAS BEEN CUT DUE TO INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT
Scene Two: 5:50 pm
I can't beleive I'm doing this. I thought this stuff happens like at home. So I can come down the stairs. Powdered. Rehearsed. Knowing exactly what to do. what to say. where to sit. who to shake hands with first. when to smile. for how long.
I can't be thrown off script like this.
Nilo: "Don't worry. He likes Mocha too."
Muhammad, Nilo's husband: "There he is. Amir, over here man."
FREEZE. PROFILE THE SUITOR PLEASE.
Name: Amir Slovic
Age: 34 years old
Profession: VP of local Masjid Committee
Education: Studied Fiqh in Saudi Arabia. Currently finishing a Phd in Chemistry.
Height: 6 feet
Eyes: Dark Blue
Skin: Olive tone
Hair: Light Brown
Languages: English, Bosnian, Arabic (classical)
Preference for future wife: To be from the Middle East. Looks Arab. Cooks like Arabs. Speaks Arabic.
Additional Notes: "I really liked Saudi Arabia."
UN-FREEZE. CONTINUE SHOT. TEN MINUTES AFTER INTRODUCTIONS.
"Sister, MashaAllah, Muhammad tells me you are from the Middle East?"
Yes, my dad was Palestinian, and my mom is Lebanese.
"Do you speak Arabic?"
Yes, I do. yeah I like languages and you know
"Oh MashaAllah sister. MashAllah you speak Arabic. Takbeer!"
Nilo: "Allahu Akbar!"
"I tell you about me. After the war in Bosnia, I went to Saudi Arabia to study Fiqh. I was funded by the government there, and now they fund my education here."
The war must have been hard on you.
"Sister, it was terrible. But time passed, and now, I speak classical Arabic. Inti tatakallameen bil arabiyya?"
Yes, I speak Arabic.
"Ya Ukhtee. Barak Allahu Feekee. I am very happy."
Can I ask you a question? Why did you come to see me?
"You are so funny. In Islam, if a man wants to marry a woman, and if she meets his criteria, then he should marry her. You meet my criteria."
"Don't worry, I am a nice guy."
"I like Mocha."
Needless to say, the evening continued with more thrilling discussion on things Arab/Arabic/of Arabs/about Arabs.
You see, sometimes, it's the girls who take on the quest to get their sister married. Which doesn't necessarily mean that the guy will be better. Sometimes, the only difference is ... the type of coffee served.
But of course, I learned something too. Being Arab seems to be ... vital for some suitors in the west. I don't know what that means, but I suspect it has something to do with the language of the Qur'an.
I don't know if this is good or bad for me. I'm just ... thinking.
FYI: In Sacramento, a new matrimonial service has been launched. and ... yes, another one.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
He proposes. Her heart beats. and beats. and beats to the rhythm of her dreams, on and on and on, his voice seems distant now, did he say something?
“I live in the West. It’s different out here.”
She doesn’t hear his words, only the sound of music. It’s all music to her ears. She sees angels surrounding them both as they dance through life in this world and the hereafter …
Once upon a time, in a far and distant land where roses bloom and rivers bend, there lived a prince named Omar and a princess named Salma.
Since childhood, the prince and princess felt destined for each other. Many times the court citizens at the royal palace would say: “ the future of this kingdom is in the hands of prince Omar and princess Salma. They shall bring the royal families together. Hail prince Omar! Hail princess Salma! Hurrah!”
Secretly, in their pure hearts, prince Omar and princess Salma had a dream. They wanted to live … a normal life. Like normal people. Happily, in a happy world, where they’d make friends, and live happily ever after.
Then, one dark day, prince Omar and princess Salma were destined to part. It was writ that prince Omar would go away to far and distant lands to fetch gold and treasures for his royal family, to enrich the kingdom and secure its future.
For many nights did princess Salma weep, sob and cry for her young prince: “oh woes me, my fair prince shall leave me. Alas, this world is cruel”.
The fair prince bid his princess farewell, and promised to return to quest for her in marriage. She looks at him with tears streaming down her cheeks: “I’ll come to you, even if to the end of the world”.
Many a long days and nights later, ten years in counting … things changed.
Salma is now a twenty nine year old woman who lives in the Middle East. She enjoys the outdoors. Is very athletic. Works in the ministry of education. Owns a small apartment. Travels to Europe frequently. Speaks five languages. Owns a cat named lulu. Her father died when she was young. Her mother still lives.
On the other side of the world, in the Americas, charming Omar owns a small business in interior decoration. Enjoys sports. Prefers to look good. Buys designer clothes. Lives with his family. Changes cars frequently. Sports a ‘six-pack’ and a complementary sun-tan. His father died when he was young.
As they plow through busy lives, Salma and Omar remember their heart’s pure dream. Which, unlike their lives, did not change.
One day, Omar tells his mother: “… she said she’d come to me even if to the end of the world. That she wouldn’t mind traveling this far to get married. She figures living in the Middle East can’t be that different than living here. As long as she’s with me, it doesn’t matter”.
Things were planned. Salma and her mother fly to the Americas for a month visit. The first days went well. Then, one afternoon, Salma says: “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do in this America”.
Suddenly, Omar discovers his temper: “if you don’t like it, pack your things and go!”
The days go on. Salma and Omar get over their differences. In their pure hearts, they still want to live happily like normal people do.
One day, Omar’s mother calls him to the bedroom: “Omar, she’s too westernized! She pretends she wants to wear the hijab to humor me. I can’t stand her!”
Omar’s heart broke to pieces. He really loved his mother, and he really wanted to complete half his deen with Salma.
The families were supposed to come together, thought Omar. Salma is my cousin, my mom and her mom will now be enemies, my mom will side with me, and Salma’s mom will side with her.
This was supposed to be easy, thought Salma. Omar is my cousin, but I can’t stand this America. Nor living with my aunt.
Then, a day before her flight back, Omar proposes to Salma. Her heart beats. and beats. and beats to the rhythm of her dreams, on and on and on, his voice seems near now, did he say something?
Yes. Yes, he did. “ … but I live in America. It’s different out here …” – she hears words, not music, there are no angels anywhere, and yes, she agrees with him. They see struggle surrounding them both.
… Many a long days and nights later, five years in counting, Salma marries and has a boy named Ahmad. Omar marries and has a daughter named Nadia. Late at night, when angels whisper in children’s ears, Salma’s pure heart whispers to her sleeping prince Ahmad: “ … go to her to the end of the world”.
Somewhere else, in the dark of the night, as he puts his princess to sleep, Omar’s pure heart whispers to his princess Nadia: “… go to him to the end of the world”.
Ps: This piece is dedicated to my brother and his (our) cousin.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
When a girl is told a suitor is coming (aka suitoring), something extraordinary happens to her.
When the word 'suitor' slides in her ears, her mind makes a general announcement to the body: "Attention Please. Attention Please. We are experiencing a slight security breach that requires our defenses to gear up. We will execute emergency protocol Suitor 101 immediately".
If the girl doesn't know what she's doing, or doesn't know what the process is about, really - other than herself, her needs, herself, her feelings, herself and the sweet power to say No to somebody -- then most likely she'll play it by ear, because she simply wasn't told how this works. In fact I sometimes suspect some parents weren't told about it by their own parents either.
Anyway, Suitor 101 protocol is something like the body of an expecting mother. When the baby is about to come out, her body is 'ordered' by the mind to literally change shape, so she can go into delivery mode.
But suitoring is somewhere between beautiful and scary. Especially in that moment when Mr. Lucky comes to 'check out the goods'.
Anyway, how to know if protocol Suitor 101 is installed in you? Here are three symptoms to check for. If they're not in you, I'm afraid you are Suitor 101 free.
You Step Up
Your body automatically knows or remembers what to do. Which shoes. which skirt. which concealer. which powder. How to go down the stairs. How to walk. How to say your salams. When to shake the mother's hands. When to smile. For how long. Where to sit. Across from whom.You Talk
In some cultures, the 'couple' (or not) break off from the rest of the family so they can talk. They sit a few feet away from the rest of the crowd (read: mothers) who pretend not to see, hear or sense the couple's presence.
If this is about the tenth time you're suitoring in your life, it takes about five minutes to know if you're not interested, that it's a "thanks you're nice, but not thanks". In this case, you find yourself not ... thinking too hard. You start talking to him with ... nothing specific in mind, really.
Meanwhile, you retreat into your mind and wonder if you should have used the cheaper concealer and if someone facebooked you.
But, if your impression of the man is "I think there's something here" - a maybe category, then you start doing something quiet extraordinary. You start thinking. Of questions to ask him.
Finally, if your impression of the man is "Lord have Mercy!" just five minutes in the conversation, and you're rushing towards a yes, you do something you've heard people talk about plenty of times, or read in a book somewhere. It appears to go by the name of "bonding". You both start talking with a purpose in mind -- marriage.
You Grow Up
For some of us with biological brothers, post-suitoring night can look like this:
Brother: "Hey, you can't say no to him! he came aaaalll the way to your home. With his dad that's like huuuge! you're such a snap".
Sister: You pull a school-girl attitude and you say: "em. like. so just cuz he comes to my house I have to marry him? to not hurt his feelings? Maybe I should marry the post-man then or the pizza delivery guy you door knob".
Then, one day in the future, you put two and two together. You undergo something that can be described as an awakening. A spiritual awakening.
You walk to the kitchen, as if you're floating on thin blissful air. You sit at the table across from your mother - who by now thinks you're sleepwalking. You look at her with a loving smile and you say something ... very real to you:
"You know mama, all you had to do that first time is tell me that it's hard on the guy too. I would have understood".
... To be continued ...
FYI: In Sacramento, a new muslim matrimonial program has been launched.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Then this happened.
To the tune we danced, me and my little sweet niece. Getting ready for Eid Al-Adha. I’m ironing my clothes and she’s dancing some more. Then I hear it. I get a skype phone call on my laptop.
“Look. I need to say this to someone and it’s going to be you”.
“Tell it girl. You know it’s good. Wait … k … got my chocolate, hot cup of tea brewing and the kid is gone. What’s up?”
“I’ve been working with Ahmed on my Phd dissertation for six months now. We’re covering the same research area. So we’ve had to work with each other. At one point we both sensed it happening. So I’d go home and pray until my knees can carry me no more. I’d ask Allah to guide us both to the right path. Please Allah, I’d say, don’t let this happen. He’s married”.
“ whoh dear lord. Let me get this straight. You’re attracted to a married man?”
“Astaghfirullah. (Hind is crying … long pause ...). I feel so filthy. I’m 29 years old, living out here in Montreal all by myself for five years now. F-I-V-E years. I’m the eldest one in my family of four. They’re all back in Tunis expecting me to finish my PhD, come home as Dr. Hind and make them all proud. They raised me with love you know. They don’t deserve this”.
“What’s hard about being the eldest?”
“If you haven’t been there you won’t understand. I have to take care of my family financially. Make ‘em proud, even if I’m a girl. But they don’t understand that I’m all alone out here – I need emotional support, I need to be taken care of like that. Otherwise I’ll find comfort in the wrong places”.
“You know me sis. I’m not a bad girl. I’m connected to my deen. But I’m human. See this Eid? If it weren’t for you I’d feel so lonely”.
“What about singles around? Any good brothers in icy cold Montreal?”
“ Not only are they scarce, but for a 29 year old Phd student I’m like expired yogurt! Make dua for me sis. I need you”.
Hind and I continue talking. I don’t know what the solution is, and I hardly know what causes such a problem.
FYI: In Sacramento, a new muslim matrimonial program has been launched.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Hanan is a practicing Muslim living in the west. One day she met Mr. Right. A bit later they were married.
They’re both practicing Muslims – they pray, fast, and think of Allah all the time. In school, they’ve taught Ayesha to pray duhr and Asr. She asks her teacher to give her a separate room until she’s done praying. Ayesha goes to Sunday school to learn Qur’an and Arabic.
The other day I get a call from Hanan.
“My Ayesha is changing. Guess what? I think she has a crush on her teacher. Dude is young, about 30”.
“No way! Is he Muslim and is he single baby girl?”
“just kidding just kidding. okay okay. Tell me more”.
“Well I was volunteering at her school the other day. I haven’t been doing this for over a year. Now that I'm back I can see things from a fresh point of view.
I saw it all. We’ve all been girls. You know how it’s like – first she giggles a lot around him, she blushes when he jokes around her, and her little girlfriends keep teasing “Ayesha is going to marry Mr. Ammar and then they giggle like this .... hhheeeeheeeheee”.
“wow. crush-signals for sure”.
“I keep thinking how my baby girl’s growing up and experiencing new feelings. I don’t know what to say to her when I sit her down for a talk … should I sit her down for a talk? What do I tell her?”
Me and Hanan continue talking. I could see that yes, this is a parenting issue, but it’s also a girl thing too … a sister thing for us too.
We’ve all been girls. Many of us have been to Muslim schools. And yes, many of us probably had a crush on someone.
~ Fast forward in time ~
Ayesha is now 27 – single, a practicing Muslimah, and is now ready and thinking about marriage. She’s at a Muslim conference, or has joined a Muslim student Association, or is active with the local Muslim youth center.
She meets a brother that she thinks would make a good husband for her. What does she do? What does she say?
Let’s pretend her parents took her out of a mixed school as a kid back in the day, so she doesn’t “see” the other gender, and presumably not have any crushes.
Okay. Good. But now she’s an adult. And we’re back at point zero. She’s interested in this brother for marriage and NOT as a crush. She wants to keep within the Islamic boundaries that she was raised to abide by. What does she do? What does she say? How to approach it all?
… do you start by telling your mother? Have we grown up beyond little eleven year old Ayesha who didn’t tell her mummy about Mr. Ammar? …. Or are we still in ‘little Ayesha” mode hiding our crush, taking our girlfriend’s teasing and never talking about it… until it goes away ….
FYI: In Sacramento, a new matrimonial service has been launched.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I log on to one of these sites and it says I have to write about myself, and then what I’m looking for in my future husband. I was like, wow, I’m not sure what to write. And some of these sites kind of ‘know this’ – because there’s the option of choosing pre-written ‘descriptions’ such as “I want a man who doesn’t drink or go clubbing”.
Like, maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t this a MUSLIM matrimonial site?
Anyway, when I first wrote up a profile about what I want in my future husband, I thought the following would cut it: I am a young Muslim woman who is looking for a brother who wants to complete half his deen. He prays, performs all the duties of Islam and is fun, interesting and ready to start a family".
Apparently, that's not enough. I was told I need to have something called "criteria". What am I looking for in a husband?
Looks like I don't have it ready ... other than what I wrote up there.
Let's so how you guys do. To try out an M Mat, visit (these are some of the many out there):
FYI: In Sacramento, a new matrimonial program has been launched.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
gotta start from somewhere. here's where i went: http://www.askaboutmarriage.com/