Category Archives: Anonymous Posts

Life after 30 as a single Muslim woman

by Anonymous

If you’ve hit 30 and are still single, you’re probably not going to find your habibti/beta/canim.

Well then, now that’s I’ve gotten you all angry at the defeatist introduction, why not stay a while and read on yaar?

I remember reading an article once about women in their 30s missing from the marketing world, like they aren’t a desirable market to sell goods to – lingerie is for toned women in their 20s, domestic stuff is for mothers in their 40s and anything ‘cool’ is for the teen market. The writer lamented about being a demographic no one wanted to appeal to, like she had no market share valuable enough to target. It got me to thinking about how in Islamic cultures women in their 30’s are seen in the same light- you’re just not a marketable product to sell for marriage. Sorry hun, you’re like an iPhone 4…Apple don’t even want to sell you anymore.

I’ve had two friends in their early 20s actually say to my face they wanted to get married soon, as they were scared if they approach my age their prospects were next to none. As bi*chy as it sounds they honestly didn’t mean any malice by it; it was a sincere fear of theirs. This is what it’s like to be a single Muslim woman in your 30s-you’re not fabulous, you’re a warning sign that girls in their 20s will hear by their aunties not to end up like.

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Single, practicing Muslim women entering their 30s are a rising demographic. I feel like my generation of friends are the first to go through this new phenomenon, the battle between feeling like a suitable and eligible candidate for prospective men vs the shelf space put aside for you by everyone else.  I never realised moving to the next age box in a survey would dictate my self-worth so much.  I wasn’t taught this in school or at Islamic classes…

I’ve lost track of how many people have asked around about me casually and stopped as soon as they found out I was in my 30s. This means people had a good impression of my character from hearsay or having met me, or in the males’ case they clearly were attracted to me physically to want to pursue some more background information – the only thing that deterred them was my age. You can also forget the scenario where a brother is interested in meeting a sister for marriage and asks around – his requests always come with an age group – and you guessed it – 30 is the limit.

Our respective Muslim communities have failed us. Muslims living in the West are surrounded by other nationalities and religions in successful relationships with older / divorced women so it’s not a foreign concept to them. Our biggest male role model the Rasul (s.a.w) married older, divorced and single mothers – in fact the only younger wife was Aisha (ra). Men rush to lead by his example and grow a beard, use a miswak and give to charity… but when it comes to his example of marriage they simply have too much pride to consider a woman in her 30s, even then they are in the same age bracket too!

The shelf life of a woman is dictated by the elders in the community who reinforce the desirable ‘young beautiful virgin’ ideal to their sons, who are actually ‘old ugly and oversexed’ losers that frankly no self-respecting woman deserves to end up with. I’ve learnt long ago that just because community elders have lived longer doesn’t mean they know what’s best for your dunya and akhira, rather they were married off in a village at 16 and don’t really know any different to the lives they’ve led decades ago.  Can you count on your fingers how many Muslim women in their 30s have gotten married in the past year or so? Probably not even a handful, and most are to reverts who they met at work/social scenes who refreshingly don’t come with the cultural stigma attached.

Then you get told to have tawakkul and faith in God’s decree. It’s all ‘naseeb’, they tell you (after making you feel like and undesirable loser). Yes, definitely have tawakkul ladies, we do not know what it written for us, but I also believe in the ‘tie your camel’ story as a metaphor for how to then go about your life. I decided a few years ago to stop waiting for my knight in shining jilbab. I had too many dreams, and this life isn’t a fairy-tale. Start a relationship with your mind. Go back to studies if there are any topics of interest you’ve put off. Start dating your passport-instead of dinners, collect stamps and see the world! A honeymoon in Fiji shouldn’t be the only travel goal left for you. The world is too awesome to wait for someone to hold your hand and explore it with you. As lovely as it may sound, the longer you wait you’ll just end up renewing that passport with no stamps after its 10 year validity.

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You are not ‘half a Muslim’ because you’re not married. The ‘half your deen’ statement pertains to the fact that half the problems you will face with your iman will be marriage-related, and that is the specific test for married people.  Allah created you as complete in every way, and if men can’t see that, it is a product of their stupidity. So just politely ignore the gossipy aunties at the next social gathering where you are quite frankly the most fabulous woman in the room regardless of how you are made to feel.

My husband is Shia

The ‘Muslim community’ (if such a thing can be said to exist) is highly divided and segmented along a variety of ethnic, sectarian and intra-sectarian lines. Sectarian divisions have been increasingly exacerbated by recent political developments, and as such,  the Sunni and Shia communities have largely conducted themselves as separate entities.  Of course, this doesn’t at all preclude individuals from either communities closely mixing on a regular basis, both as friends or potential partners. I’ll expand on the issue of differing religious practice within a relationship in a follow-up post, but I decided to get a first-hand account on what can happen when two people of Sunni and Shia backgrounds meet and fall in love. The following is an account from an anonymous author on her marriage to her Shia husband, and the trials and tribulations they faced along the road to marriage.

I love my husband with a love so fierce it is often overwhelming. It is an intense love, and when one has such intensity in love there is equal, if not greater, intensity in the hurt that comes with it. Marriage is a constant battle of love and forgiveness and sadness and happiness and everything in between. I love my husband, but our relationship has not been easy, for one main reason: he’s Shia, and I’m Sunni.

The start of our relationship was tumultuous, to say the least. It was filled with hurdles and blockades, all of which we overcame. I saw something precious in him that I had not seen in other young men. I believe he felt the same about me.

My husband and I met at University. He immediately proposed coming to my house to speak to my father, but I was hesitant. I knew they would not approve. I was right.

My mother was mainly concerned with public opinion, and the effect it would have on our family’s reputation. It was a very difficult time for her. Her siblings shamed her for allowing us to marry and were cruel and relentless, despite all of their imperfections. For some, I remain the she-who-must-not-be-named of the family.

My father also feared the public backlash, but more importantly was concerned with the development of our religion and the raising of a family.

Image from topics.fusion.net

 

Despite their concerns, my parents allowed us to make the life-changing decision to marry, and were and continue to be supportive of our marriage. They have an amazing relationship with my husband, who they love and who he loves dearly. My mother loves his complimenting of her food. My father loves to joke with him. And my husband loves them and craves their approval.

Our marriage has been happy and filled with love, and like any marriage, also filled with arguments and disagreements. But our disagreements have had nothing to do with our religious ideologies. We argue the way any married couple would argue: due to a lack of communication, different needs, emotions, work, etc. We have taught each other to love all Muslims, regardless of their beliefs and to respect the ideologies of others, although we may not agree with them.

We don’t have children yet, but if and when we do, we plan to raise them with the best of both of our traditions. I know that my husband’s parents probably assume that our children will be raised to be Shia, but we have our own ideas of how to combine the best aspects from both sides.

If you’re going to go down this path, make sure you have supportive families and friends and remember that it will be a difficult path. People may or may not get over it. But most importantly you need to have the same overarching beliefs with your partner or it won’t work. And be in love, because when you’re in love, arguments are easy to overcome.

Guys, man up

*The identity of the author has been kept anonymous.

I am a young man and I have a bit of a problem with the males in our community. In fact, saying that it is a “bit” of a problem may potentially be an understatement – I have quite a problem with a certain issue that I see in the community and I think that we, the males of the community, are largely to blame. Before I get into what the actual issue is, I want to put out a disclaimer; I have nothing against the Muslim community and in fact I strongly believe that there is abundant goodness in us. I’m not one of those Muslims who likes to bash the community at every possible occasion and I get thoroughly fed up with such antics. However, in saying that, I do believe that there is a glaring problem before us that we need to face. My problem is the treatment of our sisters.

I’m not talking about individual cases, I’m talking about wholesale and general attitudes. The problem is that we push sisters into a dark little predetermined corner. We expect that they will only ever speak about or address “womens’ issues”, that they will only ever think about matters of hijab, marriage and raising children. We tend to, whether knowingly or not, relegate sisters to being secondary members of the community, not primary members. They are forced, through the pigeon-holing of males generally, to occupy a thoroughly limited standing in our community. I have a very big problem with this.

Our sisters are literally half of our community but we relegate them to being secondary, if even that? To be quite honest, that is simply ludicrous. Our sisters should be an active, vocal and central part of our community. By all means tackle women specific issues, but for goodness sake they should be addressing and thinking about far more than that! It is not as though our sisters exist in some kind of vacuum where they only ever have to deal with that very limited range of issues. They live in the same society that we males occupy and they will most likely face similar, or the same, issues. So yes our sisters should be politically aware and active, they should understand issues of ideology and society, they should have input in the direction of this community and have just as significant a say in our affairs as the males. They should be doctors, lawyers, teachers, academics and whatever else their potential may allow for them to be. To push our sisters into a metaphorical corner where they are to only ever cook, clean and have children is wholly unjustifiable and would only be to the detriment of our community.

I do admit here that I am speaking generally, so there will definitely be exceptions. I find few things more refreshing that seeing young, articulate, confident, outspoken, vocal, principled and intellectually charged Muslim sisters who defiantly push against pressures and expectations. They rock the boat and they rock the community as much as they’d be rocking a cradle. Such sisters are treasures of our community and their ambitions and aspirations should be facilitated, not nipped in the bud. In saying this, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that sisters should abandon their Islamically enshrined roles, responsibilities and duties that come with being a wife and a mother. There is no doubt that these are obligations and most all sisters are aware of that and don’t plan on neglecting them. However, just because they must adhere to these obligations does not at all mean that they should be limited to child rearing and household cleaning. Apparently women are brilliant at multitasking, so it shouldn’t be a problem for them to be engaged in community affairs whilst taking care of their personal responsibilities.

Brothers, I’d say the problem in this equation is us. We are unfortunately the ones who tend to impose these expectations upon our sisters. This may not be active, but we all know that we make kitchen jokes. We all know we make cleaning jokes and four wives jokes. We’ve almost got an ingrained perception that we socially strangle our sisters with. It is stifling to them and really not conducive to having our sisters be pillars of our community. I’m going to tread delicately here because I don’t want to step on the (pedicured) toes of our sisters but sometimes I feel that our sisters have come to accept and internalise this relegation. Not only accept it, but even sometimes give it justification. For example, at some community events sisters will not want to be vocal or visible because that is not seen to be Islamically appropriate. Allah swt reward our sisters as they are incredibly active behind the scenes in our community and they are the hands that get things done, but they aren’t in front of the scenes enough! I know personally that it is quite difficult to get sisters to be focal points in certain events and initiatives and often that is because the sisters themselves feel somewhat uncomfortable with the proposition.

It is unfortunate, but I feel as though the brothers have pushed our sisters into that little corner so consistently that some sisters now think that’s where they belong. A very real problem that arises from all of this is the ramifications that it has on our community from a marriage point of view. Brothers want a sister who will occupy that little cooking and cleaning corner and don’t really want a sister who is going to challenge him or push him. They generally don’t seem to want to marry a sister who is opinionated or assertive. I personally find that very odd – there is almost an assumption that being opinionated equates to insolence. I know that some brothers think that a wife who has a backbone might be a bit tough to “manage” and they’d prefer a sister who is easily compliant and effectively mothers him. Again, there are always exceptions but it appears to me as though brothers are intimidated by sisters with brains. To that I say that with marriage comes a partner, a personality, another human being, not a robot that might have an opinion every now and then but not enough to really bother you.

Brothers, honestly, in this regard I think we really need to man up. A sister with a brain is not a threat, she is a gift, if only we knew. Those exceptional sisters who aren’t satisfied being thrust into a pram and apron stereotype are the ones that we should ideally be pursuing, because they are the ones who will challenge us as individuals and as a community and thus force us to grow. Unfortunately, because of that intimidation factor brothers tend to go for the sisters who aren’t seen to be too confronting and when this occurs the whole cycle is perpetuated. The brother has a certain mindset and the sister falls into that and that is precisely what is going to be passed onto the future sons and daughters of that household. It has reached such a ridiculous juncture now that some sisters who are generally seen to be outspoken have to moderate or “dumb down” themselves so that brothers are not threatened and they become more viable “options” for marriage. Honestly, that is so tragically saddening.

The brothers in this community seem to have become anchors that pull down our sisters and when you pull them down, you bring the community down with them. I’m not going to claim to have answers, but what I can offer is a word of advice – to my dear respected brothers, for the sake of yourselves and the community, don’t have your standards set such that you want a sister who is effectively a glorified carer. To my dear respected sisters, don’t accept to be relegated and forced into positions that are simply not appropriate for you. Push yourself and the community and if you do so, hopefully we will take notice and realise your worth.

 

My Marriage is Average

*Disclaimer: author’s identity has been kept anonymous.

Now I don’t really want to be a killjoy and dash people’s dewy-eyed hopes of what marriage is like, but I’m going to anyway. I use the word hope, because I don’t think anyone realistically expects a fairy tale marriage. But I think that a lot of us, really deep down, hope for it. We hope for romance, hope to find our ‘other half’. We hope to find a man even half as wonderful as Prophet Muhammad (saw) was to his wives, or a wife just as devoted and loyal as Khadijah was to the Prophet.
I am not trying to be a condescending married person, complaining about how tough I’ve got it. Nor am I an ungrateful sort of person. I’m not going to qualify the following generalisations, because there are plenty of exceptions. I’m just going to share pearls of wisdom (!) based on my own experiences.

Marriage is so hard. It involves work. I know that sounds painfully obvious, and you’re rolling your eyes thinking, ‘yeah, yeah, this spiel again’.  But it’s true! I’m still a newbie to marriage, but from personal experience, I’ve found three big reasons that young Muslims struggle to handle the challenges of marriage.

I believe that we have it really easy in Australia. For the most part, we’ve been raised in stable homes, with decent roofs over our heads and warm meals every night. We live in such a consumer-driven society, and we are used to getting what we want, and getting it now. Who on earth doesn’t have a smartphone now? Who doesn’t have their own laptop? It is very easy to walk away from commitments. You don’t like your uni course? ‘No problem, I’ll just transfer next year. It’s all going onto HECS anyway.’ You don’t feel fulfilled in your job? ‘No worries, I’ll find another job.’ What I’m getting at here, is that I think it becomes very difficult to deal with adversity. You can’t just solve marital problems with money (if only you could!) or walk away or transfer to another partner. We are not very accustomed to being patient.  It hits you in the face when you do get married, that it’s for life.

Another big factor is that for a lot of young couples, both the husband and the wife work full time.  People are too tired to work on their marriage. And you really have to put a lot of effort into making a marriage work. Another problem of working full-time is that things can get really boring. Routine will do that to a marriage. The other side of the coin is that when I come home from work exhausted, I can be short-tempered (it doesn’t help that I’m naturally a bit hot headed). I’m not sure about other people’s temperaments, but I am far less likely to be agreeable and much more likely to be snappy.

The third thing is social media. Many people point to social media for society’s woes, but I have to make this point. Check out this article (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2551615/Death-seven-year-itch-Average-relationship-just-2-years-9-months-social-media-blame.html )
I’m not sure if many men do this, but I know of a fair few women that splash the wonderful awesomeness of their happy marriage/engagement/whatever all over Facebook and/or Instagram. It is really, really hard to deal with your own problems when you see others raving about how fantastic their husband is, and what a great dinner he just cooked, and what a wonderful life they have etc. It is difficult not to resent your own partner for making you that ‘happy’. But the problem is that nobody is really that happy! I’m sorry, but social media is complete artifice. I mean, you take a million selfies and choose the best picture of yourself only to put it through a filter. Please. Everybody has problems, and that picture perfect couple that you see on your newsfeed has them too.

I know I haven’t offered any solutions to these problems, but that’s only because I’m trying to navigate my own way through them! I’m not unhappy, but I’m just ‘meh’.

The Love Actually World…

*disclaimer: The identity of this poster has been kept anonymous.

I was having a chat to a non-Muslim friend of mine about the differences and similarities between the Muslim “courting” world  (I’m using this word here because it’s probably the most appropriate way to describe it) and the non-Muslim dating world. We made some interesting observations that I’d like to share. To start it off, there are generally three types of people in the non-Muslim dating world: the uncommitted dater, the monogamist and the “Muslim” non-Muslim.

The uncommitted dater

This group is actually becoming more common than the monogamists. These people casually date multiple people without committing themselves to an individual. They may be intimate with multiple people at a given point in and do not see marriage on the horizon. Marriage is probably a word that brings shudders to their spine. Most people in this group eventually move to the monogamy category when they are “old” and have “been there, done that.”

The monogamist

This group of people may not see marriage in the near future or at all, but they are in a committed relationship or looking for a committed relationship. They tend to be older (although this is not always the case), wanting the emotional connection that uncommitted dating doesn’t offer, and searching for an individual to share their future with.

You also have the serial monogamists in this category. The individuals who, although they do not date multiple people at once, are constantly in committed relationships one after the other, without much uncommitted dating in between. They usually have many partners, but these partners are not concurrent. These guys are probably searching for “the one” but haven’t found them yet and are tired of disappointing relationships.

The “Muslim” non-Muslim

This is the non-Muslim who could almost be mistaken for Muslim because of their approach to the dating world. They are probably from a traditional culture or are religious. Examples that come to mind are Indians with traditional parents or practising Christians.

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In my opinion, the practising Christians have it tougher than us Muslims. They usually restrict themselves to getting to know someone who is also a practising Christian of their particular religious group, so a practising Anglican for example. Unfortunately for these guys, they are of a culture that no longer follows the “courting” tradition that was once common, so these practising Christians are left trying to find their a practising Christian in the huge non-Muslim dating world where no rules apply; the “Love Actually” world where the practising Christian may become attached to non-Christians and throw their requirements out the window in the name of love and in the hope that faith will come to their chosen partner. Or, remain single for a very long time until a religiously appropriate partner is found (I’m sure a lot of Muslims can relate to this latter point too). Luckily for us though, we don’t have to venture into the non Muslim dating world,  Alhamdulillah. So it’s easier for us. We have our own Muslim courting world that is still very much so embedded in our culture and widely accepted, unlike the Christians whose religion encourages courting but Western culture does not.

I think it’s safe to say that non-Muslims from traditional cultures have somewhat similar experiences to Muslims when it comes to all things love-related. It’s usually a box ticking exercise, it’s probably not ‘romantic’ and involves parental approval. Muslims tend to relate well to this group because besides the religion factor, these friends understand the logic to our supposed “restrictive madness.”

Actually, to digress for a moment (okay, more than a moment), this takes me to something that is forever brought up with non-Muslim friends. The idea that as Muslims, we restrict ourselves too much and care too much about the “Muslim” box being ticked, rather than looking at the content of the person’s character. I call bulls$$t on that, but let’s indulge in a discussion of it regardless. This is something that is endlessly on the debating table with non-Muslim friends. Putting the “haram” factor aside, since this is never an argument that non-Muslims take well to, this is how the conversation usually plays out:

Non-Muslim friend (John): “But why are you being so restrictive, shouldn’t the most important thing be that they’re a good person?”

Muslim (Fatima): “Of course that’s important, but why can’t they be Muslim AND a good person?”

John: “It’s hard enough these days to find someone decent, you’re being too picky. ”

Fatima: “Being Muslim isn’t just a label, it is my purpose and is a part of my everyday life. There is no point marrying someone who can’t share my lifestyle.”

John: “But a non-Muslim could still take part in your Muslim stuff and support you.”

Fatima: “Would you wake up at 5am every single day of your life to support your Muslim wife? Would you fast for 30 days every year?”

John: *dumbfounded*

Fatima: “Yeah. There you go.”

Okay, so the conversation is usually a lot more detailed than that but putting the sarcasm aside, this takes me to the #dontevengothere mentality that non-Muslims generally do not understand. I’m talking about the “uncommitted dater” and “monogamist” types mentioned above, not the “Muslim” non-Muslims. Generally speaking, dating and relationship stuff in the non-Muslim world is a free-for-all. No one is off limits. It doesn’t matter which religion, culture, situation, or even gender that the person is, pretty much every person that you find attractive is date-able. This is definitely not the case with us Muslims. We have what I like to refer to as the “don’t even go there” mentality. We are excellent (for the most part) at restricting ourselves to what is (usually, Allahu Alam) good for us.

Non-Muslims are always in the #dontevengothere group for us, as well as sometimes particular cultures. We may #dontevengothere seemingly suitable Muslims who might not be at the level of spirituality that we feel that we need. Or we may #dontevengothere girls who don’t wear hijabs or men without beards. Some of these  restrictions may not be Islamic, but I’m simply trying to illustrate a point. We are (usually) really good at limiting ourselves to choices that we believe are good for our worldly life and the hereafter. We are disciplined. Non-Muslims aren’t because they don’t have to be. There is no other-world punishment for their romantic choices. Their objectives are different. And so our restrictive approach is always something that rarely translates and seems to lack substance in the non-Muslim’s mind since, when it really comes down to it, our objectives in this life are vastly different.

And that’s what it comes down to boys and girls. No matter how much we analyse this, no matter how much non-Muslims are perplexed by this, it always comes down to one thing: why are we here?

How I Met Your Brother (in Islam) # 3: Cyber-love

A lot of people, Muslim and non-Muslim, tinker with the idea of meeting a partner online. Everyone’s heard of RSVP and eHarmony, but many Muslims have also heard of Half Our Deen and Pure Matrimony. If you haven’t, check out this video from Pure Matrimony for an example of how it works:

But there’s still a stigma attached to trying your hand at these sites. It’s often seen as a last resort, something you only do when you’re getting ‘desperate’. For many people, the idea of getting to putting yourself out there in such a proactive manner is undignified. They also worry about the caliber of people on these sites, surmising that only ‘desperate’ (that word again) people would be on there.

I’ve always been intrigued by this method of meeting a partner. It’s fascinating to see how these services try to cater for Islamic sensibilities, such as by having a feature where the woman’s wali can also be registered on the website. (Three’s a party, right?) Some Muslims I’ve heard of have even signed up for sites not specific to Muslims, such as RSVP, and I’m reliably informed that there are plenty of Muslims on there. Again, the perception of there not being enough guys to go around has led many girls to consider this option more so than they would have in the past, though not many will admit to it in public.

In this spirit, here’s a tale of a sister who found her naseeb on the interwebs.

1.) How and when did you first meet your husband? What were your first impressions of each other?

Husband and I met via a muslim matching website (the new black!). I remember thinking, there’s got to be someone else in Sydney or surrounds who is looking for a partner and is struggling via traditional means. I created profile, had a good look around the site (and a few laughs I must admit). Nothing much happened, and then about 6 months later, I get an email. And the rest is history, Muslim dating style. First impression, based on the short email I received, was that he was funny. And refreshingly to the point.

2.) How did you guys commence getting to know each other? (I.e. who expressed interest and how it was conveyed)

After that we swapped some emails. I remember I was quite jaded about the whole muslim dating scene at the time I received the first email. I thought, okay I’m gonna have some fun with this. I shot back a sharp and sarcastic response and signed off with an internet name. I actually think this caught his interest, because he certainly dished it back to me! I think we both were honest with each other from the get go. I made it clear that I didn’t join a muslim site to find friends. And he was the same. I think as the emails became more honest and flirtatious (within halal bounds :P) we knew there was interest on both ends.

3.) How did you get to know each other? (i.e. phone, email etc)

It all happened pretty quickly. We went from email, to instant messenger (oh many an hour spent on that medium), and then within a few weeks, we met up in person. First time was crazy – felt like I had to get to know him all over again. But by the second time we sort of fell into a groove. I had to remind myself that I did in fact know this person and so became more comfortable.

4.) How long did you get to know each other before you got married?

We did katb kitab in about 3 months, and the wedding followed 2 months later.

5.) What were the main obstacles, if any, as you got to know each other?

One obstacle was distance – he lived quite a bit away from me. After our KK we tried to meet as much as possible post work. So there were long drives involved. We made it easier by meeting half way. Other obstacles were ones I’m sure a lot of people have experienced, such as being 100% honest with each other in terms of expectations. It can be difficult to navigate the more serious issues while you’re in that silly romantic period

6.) When were you certain that you wanted to get married to each other?

It’s hard to pinpoint an actual time. I’d say I felt comfortable with the thought of marriage pretty early on in the piece. And the rest felt a bit like a whirlwind. One minute I was single, the next I was hitched!

7.) Did you have a social engagement before your wedding reception? (i.e. some kind of party/exchange of rings)

We exchanged rings at our KK party, which was hosted with close family.

8.) Did you do nikkah before your wedding reception? If yes, then what influenced your decision to do so? If not, was there any reason you decided to leave it until the wedding reception?

Yes we did do a nikkah. We did this firstly because we felt ready. I was in my mid 20s and he was in his late and we felt we were ready to take on this step. Also for practicality reasons – we wanted to be alone together, travel together. Makes wedding planning that much easier.

9.) Do you have any advice for single people on the process of meeting someone/getting to know someone?

Trust your gut. If something feels “off”, ask yourself why. If you feel comfortable, don’t second guess it. Be open, be honest, be prepared to put yourself out there. Make dua every step of the way.

Would you ever consider meeting someone online for marriage? Why/why not?

An Arranged Love Story Part 1

*Disclaimer: author’s identity has been kept anonymous.

I hardly gave any thought on how I would meet my man. Or actually, I didn’t know if I would meet a man that fit my simple criteria. See, I didn’t care that I only wanted a few necessary things on my criteria list. However I did care enough that if I chose a man, he would fit my criteria to a T.  I’d begun to open up to the idea of marrying someone in my late teens. As a female, my parents would remind me about marriage but suggested that I finished my degree first without too many distractions. So they weren’t prepared to outwardly look for me until I hit my 22nd birthday. I wasn’t too caught up in looking for myself either with university, internships and work taking up most of my time.

My rebellion within the notion of marriage didn’t come from the idea of marrying someone. My rebellion came from my parent’s idea of marrying someone from our own culture. We disagreed for over a year on this issue, so much so that our local ethnic community caught wind of it. As someone born and raised in Australia, I wasn’t too keen on marrying someone from my roots- not if they weren’t already living in Australia. And that was almost impossible, considering how ‘connected’ our ethnic community was.

So I decided to take matters in my own hands. My friend and discussed the idea of joining an Islamic marriage circle such as Mission of Hope’s The M Word. I was and still am very honest with my parents, so I wasn’t going to enter into this without the consent of my parents. I wouldn’t say it was a bad idea to tell my parents, but maybe it could’ve been handled better. Cue World War III. After that very intense discussion, I realised, fine, I wasn’t desperate to get married right here, right now. So I decided to place my trust in my parents and allow them to look for an appropriate guy, no matter how sceptical I was that they would actually find one that fit my criteria.

After one of my best friends got married at 20, my family was hit with marriage proposals- from around the world. They were all from our cultural background and they were mainly older men- so if I ever said yes to them, there would’ve been a good 7 to 12 year age gap. My parents and I weren’t too keen on that, as well as the fact that I wanted to remain in and work in Australia.

So it was a surprise to everyone when a proposal was brought to my dad by a younger, newly married family friend. This family friend was proposing one of his BFFs as a suitable partner for me. What surprised my dad was that he’d subconsciously taken note of the proposed guy at the local mosque for the last 3-5 years during Ramadan. The proposed guy had been living with flatmates in Australia as an international student for the last 6 years.

My dad decided to let me know about this proposal. I was fine with them looking into someone, but boy was I super skeptical. After much investigation into the guy, his family, his friends, his life- my parents told me that everything was fine and that if I was still open to the idea, to see him. I’ll forever remember the first day I saw him- Eid-ul-Adha 2012. There were a lot of anticipated and unanticipated things that went down that day…

Image c/o  jscreationzs at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image c/o jscreationzs at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I was about to see the man who could potentially be my husband. I was also going to see my best friend’s husband for the first time as he had just come from England and it was the festive day of Eid. Colourful clothing, presents, socialising- the exciting atmosphere in our ethnic community was everywhere. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next- the shocks, the excitement overload and a bit of betrayal thrown into the mix.

My first drama was seeing the ‘proposed dude’ as I called him. Despite many attempts by my mother to lure me closer to him, I was overcome with embarrassment and shyness- which was new for me. Anyone who knows me knows how talkative and confident I can be. After a while, I relented by detaching myself from the protective circle of my friends and into the lion’s den. My mum and I awkwardly met the friend who initiated the proposal, his wife and kids and his proposed friend. We didn’t want to make it obvious to the community that something more official than Eid socialising was going on. There was a decision to keep it between close relatives, close friends and any family involved for now- in case the proposal was unsuccessful. I was happy just discussing my thoughts with my newly married friend, otherwise being alone in this would’ve driven me crazy.

I could barely look at his face, and I was sighing in relief when the chit-chat was over. I  made a beeline back to my friends where another unforeseen drama was unfolding. Another friend of mine had announced that she was engaged. I was so happy and excited for her- particularly because we had no idea that she would be ‘the next one in line.’  The engagement was a quick process for her, and was kept under wraps. However at the previous Eid, I did suspect something might have been going on for her and commented about my speculation briefly to my mum. Little did I know what impact that would have.

We were congratulating her and after a while, I noticed her walking over and talking to the guy that was proposed for me. Cue shock number 2. I was looking at them wondering, what on Earth!? This guy, whom I had just met for the first time today, wasn’t heavily involved in community activities and had no way of being on chummy terms with a girl my age, since there’s strict gender segregation.

My other girlfriends and I were watching her curiously (me being the most curious) until a friend informed me that the guy my engaged friend was talking to, was her fiancé’s first cousin. Say what!? I think I was so shocked that we were both ‘investigating’ future spouses at the same time from the same family. After the shock, I became angry and betrayed. There was no way this piece of information could have gotten past my parents.

As I looked for my mum, I was really upset- why didn’t they tell me, why did they keep it a secret? These were some of the questions repeatedly running through my head. I had a severe discussion with my parents in the corner of the park for the following 10 minutes. They told me that 1, they didn’t tell my friend’s family that we were looking into her fiance’s first cousin as a potential for me and 2, after my friend’s family’s insistence, my parents had promised my friend’s family that they wouldn’t tell anyone about my friend’s engagement because she wanted to tell me and the rest of our friends herself on Eid.

After I had mentioned to my mum last Eid about my suspicions, she’d kept that in mind. While my parents were looking into the proposed guy it had gotten around to my parents that the proposed guy’s first cousin was already ‘settled’ with another girl in our community. So in true CIA style, she did a bit of investigating and found out who the other girl was.

In my raw hurt from being kept out of this piece of information my reflex action was to slam the proposal back in everyone’s faces crumbling up months of invested ‘research’ into family compatibility by everyone involved. But after (unashamedly) listening in on his conversations in the park with other people that day, I realised he truly was a nice, genuine guy. I couldn’t let my emotions get in the way of my judgment of him and the possibility of a future with him.

After another long discussion with my parents, I expressed my dissatisfaction with their choice (despite the fact that I knew they had no choice as they had a promise to keep). I also told them that I’d give the proposed guy a shot. So a date was set for a chaperoned meet-up in Bicentennial Park- and that led to self-discoveries more than I could’ve ever imagined.