Have you ever gone to a lecture on marriage in your friendly neighborhood Muslim community or some where else given by some guest student of Islamic knowledge or an Imam with tickets over $50, usually in the evening? It's always the same set-up, right? Sisters pack the prayer hall or community college or hotel, after spending weeks trying to find childcare, a ride, an outfit - or all three? Then when you get there and get comfortable you notice that all of the special guests are men over 45, speaking in a mono-tone voice (marriage isn't much exciting for some,eh?) for two hours to read/recite the same carefully selected hadeeth after hadeeth and aya after aya from his journal/notebook -- old college school book -- with little emotional or realistic commentary. All the while your over 30 self is fighting to stay awake, take dry notes that you will never revisit, keep your leg awake, check on the kids with the sitter, but still plenty mad that you wasted a sitter and outfit for night out that was really boring/dry that you can't connect with. But then it hits you why you are so bothered in the first place. In all two hours you realized the special guests mentioned every duty/obligation/responsibility/robotic given of marriage --- but never mentioned the word love?
Come now selector: REWIND!
She snapped, "Yeah, love! You know, l-o-v-e? Do you Muslim women get to have love in your marriages or is it just like some business set-up?" a non Muslim woman co-worker asked a group of us in the teachers' staff room full of Muslim women from all around the world. We were all beautiful and diverse and over educated. Some sisters were not covered at all while some were fully covered up to their eyes sporting the finest Japanese silk niqabs and gloves. A grimace tugged on my face as my head titled to the side as an mild American city girl attitude brewed! I pondered where she had gotten that idea? Yes, she was non Muslim, but she'd spent her retired life traipsing from Dubai to Doha to London and back. She'd knew more than enough flirtatious, rich Muslim men and Muslim women of every ethnicity to not fall for every Hollywood movie story line. Of course Muslim women had love! I saw love growing up in my home with my parents. I saw love in countless Muslim marriages in my community back in Massachusetts. I was in love with my husband, I thought to myself. But before the words could fly out from my throat, a Lebanese teacher from the middle school department schooled me back into a womanhood class I'd yet to take.
"No, no, dear! Muslim women, most Muslim women like me, we don't get love. We get babies, in-laws, house work or we stay hiding in university as long as we can trying to avoid the bad ones who will try to control us. Then sometimes we miss out on the good ones who would have loved us, too! We eventually settle for the old, leftovers. The ones who don't know love," she insisted. "Hamduleelah, we Muslim woman get some things that make us happy in life. But love? Where? How?" the elder Lebanese educator who'd been in Kuwait for 17 years reflected.
I saw heads of Muslim women from all over the world in the room shaking. I heard mumbled words of agreement being shot across the around the room like arrows. Each one with experiences that I had not experienced. Each with details, I hadn't thought to reflect on. Each one with tales of marriages devoid of love and understanding. I swallowed my words hard knowing they just wouldn't fit in that room and the lives those Muslim women lived. I couldn't speak for them. There were so many of them. That was their truth and they had the right to speak it and free it. The writer in me stilled my need to speak and begged me to listen and learn...for my daughters, nieces, and daughters of friends growing up Muslim back home in the States. For there were plenty we needed too. And in that commonality, I understood their frustrations.
Some times we spend so much energy as Muslims combating Islamophobia from every other group of people. We hate the stereotypes about Muslim women with a vengeance that any time we think someone is going in that direction, we are ready to react with a hard block. Hear me here: we can't block out our own sisters and their trials, tests, short-comings, or defeats. We can't deny our sisters a right to speak and share their experiences whether they are from "over there" in the Middle East or "down there" in Western "hood" communities!
Love is not a given for any woman, much less a Muslim woman! Good love --- real good love that we've all dreamed about since we had dolls - is even rarer for many women. But there seems to be a significant amount of Muslim women who go through womanhood without experiencing a fulfilling love - in whatever way they need and want to define it. And there also seems to be a battalion of Muslim women who break down marriage just like those boring, monotone brothers in the masajid who only sum it up to be nothing more than rights and obligations.
"As long he gives me my rights, I'm good!" so they told us.
But can we as Muslim women want more? Is it really haram or pointless to want to find a companion who shares your interests and needs? Can we be concerned about deen and late night spice from a partner? Can we desire a spouse who will laugh with us til our eyes tear! And is it possible that a husband can cheer you up with just his presence and understanding? Are Muslim women who want to feel butterflies in their stomach when they hear their husbands' voices shallow? Is loyalty over rated or just not happening any more? Has Disney truly spoiled and ruined our ability to decipher romance and love? Are we ungrateful if one date night every other month to the same restaurant and movie doesn't excite us for ten years? I know there is a sector of Muslim elders, leaders, scholars, male and female, who don't even think that love is a necessary for marriage to grow. You know you have heard them tell the tale: get married, consummate it and live happily ever after? But how are Muslim women supposed to be happy in their marriages without knowing how to grow happy with their mates? I too once thought it was all so simple and good love was easy to find and keep. And once upon a time, I was just young and naive as they come.
Is good love important to Muslim women? Is it still on our list of goals for things we want our marriages to create and fulfill? Are your Muslimah friends fulfilled and happy in their marriages? Do you even know? Do you even care? How do we as Muslim women support, educate, and mentor young Muslim sisters to be fulfilled in their marriages?
I've said enough! Let's talk sisters. Share what you know. Give it some thought and let's bring the truth so that we can all do better and live fulfilled, enshallah.
|Tried & Tested by Author & Educator Umm Juwayriyah|