Sanem and I took turns crossing the street to each other’s townhomes for afternoon tea, at least once a week, for seven years. In our nearly identical kitchens, we put out similar spreads, a smaller tea pot steamed above a larger tea pot, honey-colored tea served in little glass cups, warm bread, an assortment of cheeses and jams, and cookies for our kids. Sanem was from Turkey, my family was from Iraq, and our tea rituals mirrored one another. While our children played in the upstairs bedrooms, Sanem and I talked about our faith, our families and their impending visits. We discussed decisions we were trying to make, from furniture pieces and home improvements to clothing purchases and afterschool activities for our kids. We got through illnesses, births, and deaths in both our families. Some evenings we simply helped each other cook dinner, but our visits together always left us feel better about our days. On those afternoons, when our husbands came home from work, we weren’t bottles of pent-up emotion, ready to pop. We’d already poured some of our thoughts and frustrations onto each other.
Last year my family and I moved out of state for my husband’s work. Sanem helped me decide what furniture, clothes, and kitchenware to give away, what to bring. She brought us dinner after a long day of packing and breakfast the following morning. She was there when our moving van left, but she couldn’t bear to watch my minivan pull away.
In our new life in a new place, the afternoons stretched in front of me, a wasteland of lonely. I’d pick up my children from school, make them a snack, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was waiting someone to arrive, waiting for the company of a friend. The waiting made me itchy with restlessness, but there was no time to share these feelings with my husband when he came home from work. These were our family’s busiest hours, dinner, homework help, and bedtime. At the end of the night, my husband did his best to sympathize, but he could not offer me the same comforts, time spent over a warm cup of tea, the validation that comes with hearing another person say, ‘It’s the same for me, too.’
And just like that, I remember it all.
At the age of 25, after 6.5 years of marriage, my best friend died with my hand in his. Cancer transported his vitality too quickly into a realm better than life, facilitated by a roomful of angels whose countenances I couldn’t see, but whose warm wings and nur soothed my sore, bloodshot eyes.
He used to call me his “heat seeker,” borrowed from a Talib Kweli Reflection Eternal verse. Ha! Funny. I was anemic, occasionally. I’m cooler blooded anyways, it’s in my chi. When we slept together I hated wearing socks, but my toes were always cold. From my side of the bed I placed my feet on his back for as long as it took for my toes to became warm. He (almost) never minded. He always shared his warmth, his love radiating from within.
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Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah Montage, Coming of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MYRising features.
At the age of 24, I have yet to hear my parents utter the words, “I love you” to me, or to each other despite 34 years of marriage.
Growing up, I always felt like I did not know what love was because, unlike my American friends, I did not grow up hearing those three words. During my teens, I subconsciously battled with the concept of love. When my friends dropped the “I love you” line at the end of every encounter or long telephone conversation, I didn’t know how to reply. To make things more complicated, the media used the words “I love you” very loosely: songs, TV shows, and books all sold a story of love.
I convinced myself that “American” love and “Muslim” love were distinctly different. However, this idea vanished after I began college and met friends from different backgrounds. I was shocked to find that some of my non-Muslim friends related to my upbringing.
Humans of New York, one of our favorite photoblogs, was started in November 2010 by photographer Brando Stanton. What started as an effort to take candid portraits on the streets of New York – accompanied by short & intimate interviews with every day people – has turned into a global phenomena. Brandon is currently on 50 day, international trip in partnership with the United Nations, in an effort to gather portraits & stories and raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals- so far he’s visited Iraq & Jordan and is soon to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Vietnam & Haiti.
Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month. Tune in on Twitter to join the #MuslimYouthRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah Montage, Coming of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MYRising features.
“If it turns out that I have an incurable disease or I’m dying, will you still love me?”
Our bodies held on to each other while Twelve-to-Six whispered, “Of course.”
That day we didn’t go to our usual spot in Prospect Park to make out. We would walk deep into the greenery because I was always afraid that my father or some Bengali uncle or aunty would spot me without a bra and catch a glimpse of my luscious 36 double Ds.
When my husband, Hadi, and I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico, I volunteered at an internado for girls. It wasn’t quite an orphanage. Most of the children had a parent or a grandparent who were unable to care for them due to poverty or addiction. I believed then that my motivations for volunteering were selfless. It had nothing to do with the loneliness of living in a foreign country or being away from family for the first time. I simply had time on my hands, and I wanted to make a difference.
I did not know then that I was stepping into a bottomless pit of need, that the longer I volunteered there the more layers and layers of things I had no power to fix I’d uncover. The homes the girls went back to on the weekend were broken, the discipline system at the internado was broken, their schools were broken, their friendships with each other were broken, their shoes were broken, and their hearts had been broken time and time again.
During those years, I felt guilty for everything. My bed, my space heater, my shower, my clothes, my washer and dryer, my childhood, my education, my parents, my husband. I had so much. Too much.
Our Salaam, Love contributor Mohammed Shamma writes a post for Beacon Broadside about his love of soccer, instilled in him by his father, and his first Ramadan after his father’s death:
The World Cup and Ramadan aren’t always mentioned in the same sentence, but this year was different. The Islamic holy month started during the tournament’s knockout stage. In some ways, this was a fitting moment for the Muslim soccer players who had made it that far. They knew the Muslim world would be watching them as they pushed their bodies to their physical limits in the greatest moment of their careers. This was certainly the case for Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira of Germany, who helped seal German soccer supremacy for the next four years.
The last time Ramadan and the World Cup crossed paths was in 1986 and 1982 respectively. I’ll never forget the summer of 1982. I was in Egypt, visiting my father’s family on a much-delayed bereavement trip. My father had died of cardiac arrest in October of 1981. We buried him in a Muslim cemetery in Houston, Texas and had to wait eight months before we could visit our relatives in Cairo. Those eight months were tough on me, a nine-year-old boy who just lost his father, soccer coach, and mentor.
Read more, here.
Check out Mohammed’s story, “Echoes” in Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.