The Power is in the Telling

This is my story. This is the one I tell.

This is how I ended my essay, “Even Muslim Girls Get the Blues,” in Love InshAllah.  I shared how I met, courted, and fell in love in my husband.

It was real love story, one that involved five children from his previous marriage and international travel from the United States to Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and back to the United States again. The relationship was a global affair.

But, to be honest, it was not the story that sat on the tip of my tongue or lived in the deep spaces of my heart.  What I wanted to say was this:

Oh Allah (swt), please give me the strength to leave this marriage.

Love InshAllah – the act of writing for it and the process of reading the stories included within — gave me strength to make that jump.

Here I was, a 38 year-old white American-Muslim woman with a passport full of stamps, knee-deep into an eleven-year marriage to a United Nations diplomat and Nobel Peace prize co-laureate. He was a wonderful husband, a good man from Afghanistan who risked everything to marry me. In doing so, he gave me an earth-sized life.

But, just over a decade later, I could do it no longer.  Spiritual depletion left me brittle and bone dry. As Virgos – earth elements – I believe we both suffered from an emotional drought. Our marriage tasted like chalk. The nature of dust is to settle into the cracks –-or, perhaps, its nature is to float through the air and land somewhere else.

While maps and boundaries may have defined my marriage, my own internal coordinates were shifting.

There are so many things I could say, but let me say this:

My marriage ended for the same reasons that so many marriages end. We grew apart. Our values changed. There were no scandalous scripts or misogynistic abuses.

When people discover that my marriage is ending, I see their moist-eyed look of sympathy expressing how awful it must have been being married to a traditional Muslim man.  It makes me  want to scream, “Please, people, traditional Muslim men are not bad!”

My husband never mistreated me. He was not unkind. I can say with affirmation that he is an honorable man whose fault is an inability to really see those he loves. And, in truth, for a very long time I could not even see myself.

The moment I really decided to jump is when my husband said that a man is responsible for his wife’s soul in heaven, even more than a father is responsible for the soul of their children. This made me shudder, and not because of the paternalistic nature of the statement.  I recoiled because this was not the Islam I held to be beautiful. The Allah that I sought would not burden any human being with such a monstrosity as to be responsible for another person’s soul.

To some, there may be something deeply romantic in this notion of soul bundling; a cosmic connection between a husband and a wife, a tender tendril that binds a woman to her man – but this was not the romance that I wanted.

My first thought was I need to get out of this marriage. My second thought was, What will the Love, InshAllah girls think of this?

And, of course, I thought, What will people think of me if I leave a perfectly good husband? Doesn’t that make me a scandalous Muslim woman?  

When I finally left, everybody said, “Well, it was about time! That marriage was never really you.”

The act of writing my story in cadence with the twenty-four other contributors has given me hope, as well as courage, to say this:

We are all Muslim and honorable, noble women no matter our approach to Islam, no matter how and who we love.  God takes care of us, regardless of how  “proper” a Muslim we appear to others. One contributor found another orthodox lesbian woman in the Muslim community to share her life with. Who can say that God does not accept us when He so willingly provides people for us to love and who love us?  God honors us when we honor Him by celebrating our personal authenticity.

Love InshAllah gave me the strength to insist that I have an obligation to the world and to God, to become my best self.

The act of writing, enunciation, and of exploring personal authenticity is a transformative journey. The power is in the telling, and Love InshAllah tells it in a way like no other.

Alhumdullilah (Praise be to Allah).

Deonna Kelli Sayed is an American-Muslim author. Her first book, Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts, & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits was released last year. She is currently working on a memoir/multimedia project about her spiritual journey. To learn more about Deonna, visit and follower her on Twitter @deonnakelli

12 Comments on “The Power is in the Telling”

  1. Reblogged this on PostModern Muslima and commented:
    Another great Love, InshAllah blog…

  2. Rebecca says:

    After reading Love InshAllah my first thought was “where are they now?”. Hope all contributors will consider a sequel.

  3. Umm Qahtan says:

    As salam alaikum ukhti.

    Very interesting post. I must get reading more inshaAllah. I feel depth in just these few words above.
    Am glad that you’ve written what you have because most people from non muslim countries think all muslim men are evils..but in all doesnt matter what faith a person is..there is good and bad in everybody.

  4. startraci says:

    I’m new to your blog and not a Muslim but I saw Amanda Q’s post on FB and came over. I am touched by your words. Thank you for sharing your story. Marriages fall apart for many reasons in all religions and I feel your frustration that so many dissolve it to a simple, pat and incorrect reason. Many men don’t see their wives (and visa versa) no matter how they pray. But in truth, I might have made the same quick judgment as wrong as I know that to be. I’m glad that you shared your story so that I can take another moment of thought before I jump to a conclusion. If we could all share our truths and receive them in truth, we would all be better off.

  5. Dear Deonna

    I am a friend of Nura and Ayesha and have met
    Several of the writers of the anthology.

    I love your new essay. It validates for me the healing power of telling our stories .

    I wish you the best as you begin this new chapter if your life !

  6. Huda says:

    Dear Deonna,

    Thank you for sharing so warmly and deeply.

  7. Chinyere says:

    Salaams, sis!

    First of all, don’t worry about the Love, InshAllah sisters think! It sounds like you made moves in the right direction by leaving your marriage. May Allah (swt) bless you in your next steps!

    As did the entire antho, all of your stories, something you said really resonated with me…about your husband’s Islam not being the Islam you found to be beautiful. So often in meeting other Muslims, males or females, I’ve found that our Islam is slightly different, maybe a different hue or twist or something. Early in my practice, I used to incorporate nearly everything that someone else who had practiced more into my own Islam, until I discovered that I’d lost the Islam that had brought me to practice in the first place. And I lost myself for a while, and it wasn’t a good feeling. Understatement.

    So I can totally understand why you would have to leave a relationship where your values were at odds, because losing yourself in someone else’s realm when it isn’t the realm that is most nutritious for your soul is not good.

    Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring once more!

    ws, ~Chinyere

  8. […] left my marriage the end of 2011.  The details are complicated. I spent 12 years raising an assortment of my ex-husband’s five children. The son […]

  9. […] There is power in the telling. Finding that authentic self is required to truly worship the Divine. I’m fumbling, of course, and I’m scared. Oh, but I am also ready. I am about to show up for me, which is also one way of showing up for Allah. Writing is invocation. It is magic; it is the purge.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. Read/Recite, in the name of your Lord. […]

  10. […] I struggled to resuscitate an Islamic identity, any identity, outside of marriage. Ironically, I left my marriage, in part, to be free to define my faith. Imagine when I felt that I was no longer worthy of God at […]

  11. […] honest gesture, a contributor for the Love, InshAllah book, Donna Kelli Sayed, followed up with a post about how her marriage ended shortly after the book was published. I was so moved by that. She did not gloss over the fact that […]