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.
When a daughter is born into a loving family, she is cherished and treated like a princess and dressed up like pretty little doll with colorful plastic bangles and trinkets.
The beautiful princess is told fairy tales before being tucked into bed. Her mother speaks about the knights that saved Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White. Then, this little girl begins to dream of her very own Prince Charming and she starts looking for him as soon as she turns sixteen years old. Some girls get lucky and bump into him without trying. Others have to face mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and cousins who love them as single women — until they hit a certain age. Then, some princesses find themselves unmarried or maybe divorced and still without children.
At that point, the fairy tales are over — unless you consider the types of mothers/aunties/cousins who are metaphors for trickster witches; it is often women who make girls feel miserable about the state of their lives. No matter how educated, talented and beautiful a single woman may be, she is always sidelined and frequently humiliated because she is unmarried. It seems that some women can’t imagine alternative realities for themselves or for their daughters.
I’m tired of fairy tales. We need new stories about our future that go beyond marriage saving us from a life of ruin and despair.
A titanic and towering swell of love lodged inside my chest after the birth of my first child. Here I was, just an ordinary woman of 25 years of age, but I had been entrusted with the world’s very best baby. In my eyes, he was perfection, the realization of my every dream. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why adoring someone so much left me feeling so destroyed. After I’d wrestled my baby to bed, I’d stand around our small high-rise apartment in Queens not knowing which of my needs or wants I had time to address before he woke up again. Could I get in a shower? Some exercise? Reading? Or should I give up and watch television, or maybe plant my face into the floor and cry?
In those small evening reprieves from childcare, I felt no relief, just heaviness. I’d imagined becoming a mother would endow me with the disposition of the sweetest, most energetic preschool teacher. I was going to be the kind of mom who crouched down to talk to my little one in an even and calm voice. I was going to be brimming with ideas for creative play and projects. But when my beautiful baby grew into an energetic toddler, I didn’t grow into the mom I thought I’d become. I didn’t get down on the floor and play enough. I raised my voice too much. I let him eat too many processed foods and watch too much television. And where was all the early education I had planned on—the language instruction and flashcards? Where were the crafts? I didn’t do nearly enough crafts.
At the time, my husband was in the midst of his first residency and his call schedule was brutal. A sense of urgency surrounded the nights when he was home. I only had a few hours to make him understand what a failure I was as a mother, how he didn’t know who he was leaving his child with everyday. Read the rest of this entry »
He came here full of hope.
It was 1981 and he was a twenty four year old graduate student sent from his home country of Sudan. He was told to make his country proud so he packed his belongings along with his dreams for a better life.
The ultimate dream of any person living in a poor country. He was starting a new life in America.
A land of endless opportunity and a place where anyone could make it.
My mom said women were always taken aback because he was exceptionally handsome. His nubian almond shaped eyes, strong jawline, and chocolate skin made women, from all ethnicities, gravitate towards him. His solid frame had him shy of 6’5. I always thanked Allah that I inherited his eyes and not his height.
He didn’t know it though. He didn’t realize how good looking he truly was because back in Africa he resembled any other tall and lanky East African guy walking around Khartoum.
Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of everything around you, until it all stops.
That’s where I found myself eight months ago when I fell ill and it forced me to take a medical leave of absence. In and out of the hospital for months, doctors sent me home with painkillers and without answers.
Eventually, my health reached a point where I could no longer work or do everyday activities like exercise, cook, or even drive. This was a struggle for me, as I’ve been a busybody for as long as I can remember. For the first time in my life, everything came to a standstill–my high-pressure job, bustling social life, and most importantly for me–my ambitions as a young journalist just beginning my career.
I had the moment my future husband would see me in my wedding dress all planned out. Although it wasn’t necessarily a Middle Eastern tradition, he’d be waiting for me at the end of an aisle. I’d walk in with my father, and upon seeing me in all my bridal glory, he had had one of the following options: a) cry with manly restraint b) open his mouth wide with surprise before breaking into a smile of wild, uncontained joy c) step back and clutch his heart so stricken by my beauty d) some combination of the above.
When I got engaged at eighteen to the son of our closest family friends, I was disappointed to discover that my fiancé, Hadi, also had an image of the moment he’d first see me in my wedding dress and it involved no such dramatic displays of devotion. He merely wanted to be the first one to see me in my wedding dress in a private moment that only the two of us shared.
I’d never seen a bride and groom meet before their wedding in any movies or television shows. I supposed Hadi could have the kind of the reaction I desired when it was just the two of us, but then our guests wouldn’t witness his outpouring of emotion. How else would anybody know that we were not getting married because of our families’ friendship but because Hadi loved me more than any man, in the history of time, had ever loved another woman?