The Big M

Sakina

Last year, while I was interning in New York City and commuting via public transit daily, I had an awkward moment on the subway. An older Muslim woman noticed my Palestinian-flag bracelet and spoke to me in Arabic, asking me my age, origins (French and Moroccan), my parents’ work and then mine.

When I told her that I was an intern, she said, “Wow, your husband let you travel from Europe for a three-month internship?”

I answered, “I’m not married, but, yes, my parents are confident enough to let me travel on my own.”

A few stops later, she ended the conversation by telling me that I should take off my hijab if I wanted to get married – especially given my advanced age of 26. She said this in the way an aunt, khalti, khanu or mama would say it: solemnly and with my best interest at heart.

For many years now I’ve tried to avoid conversations about marriage and dating. First, because I haven’t met anyone who makes me interested in getting married. But, the real reason is because once you start this topic you either end up talking about people (which I try my best not to do), or sharing your own experience (which I don’t really have).

My experience is mostly based on my friends’ relationships and that spectrum is wide. On one end, there are forced marriages and on the other, an eight-year-long love affair and fight with opposing family members, which ended in a wedding. Nowadays if a woman isn’t married by 26 she’s either “too old” or a meskina (unlucky). For a lot of people in my Moroccan culture , we exist for the man who raised us or the one who will marry us. What if maktub (destiny) has just decided that marriage won’t be part of her life’s book?

In my early twenties, I had a deep conversation with myself regarding relationships and marriage. At that time, a lot of my friends from high school where either getting divorced or were involved in unhealthy relationships. Some people from my ethnic background considered me a near heretic because I started questioning them about the true meaning of marriage. To me, it was an important question about THE most popular topic on earth. This period of much-needed reflection brought me to my current understanding of why marriage is considered half of our deen. Indeed, being married for the Love of God and to elevate each other spiritually, building a balanced relationship through His Love, educating kids, and facing life’s obstacles together cannot be anything but the most important nafs (challenge) with the ultimate goal of pleasing Allah. Because of that realization, I really do want to experience it.

Now that I’m approaching my late twenties, everyone around me (except my parents) is asking me the annoying “WHEN?” question. I have an ideal picture of the spouse I want to meet, but, basically, I’m trying to keep it as real as possible. As far as how I want to meet him – I have a no-dating policy. Alhamdulillah, so far, I’m doing well.

Recently, I went for lunch with a friend who is as much a marriage-lobbyist as any aunty. She brought up the topic, telling me that I am too self-confident and independent and that may scare some brothers. She said, “Maybe you shouldn’t tell them that you’re traveling so much, that you love nice shoes and have international friends.”

Should I pretend to be someone else to find my soul mate? Should my marriage – a commitment between God and man – begin with a lie about who I really am? Is there no brother on earth who’s going to understand that my being ambitious is going to make me a mother who wants the best for her children and an encouraging wife who listens carefully to her spouse’s needs? No brother who is going to appreciate me for the woman I am, the wife I’m going to be, and the mother I want to become?

If the question is: do I want to marry a man who will make me feel safe in the darkness, strong in moments of doubts, and proud in moments of success and who brings me closer to Allah every day, then my answer to the question of when is “InshAllah.” That’s the real question to me!

Marriage isn’t just a ceremony during which the bride changes four times, and feeds and entertains guests all night long (the same guests who will later say how bad the food was or how ugly the bride looked). Unfortunately, a lot of us forget that marriage is a way to reach our life true goal: getting closer to The Turner of hearts – just like praying, giving charity, raising kids, studying or fasting.

The topic of The Big M should make us think about the real meaning of life. Are we getting married for the sake of social recognition or to please the Almighty? Are we getting married so that people can pride themselves about the beautiful venue for the ceremony and the yummy cake or to make a commitment that will last for eternity? Are we getting married to show off our diamonds or to become “beautiful apparel” for our partner (Qur’an 2:187)?

God knows best.

Sakina Ghani was born in France and lives in Belgium. After her studies in marketing and communication management at HEC Business School she interned for a summer in New York. She is currently working as a consultant in strategic business and communications management. Sakina is also involved in civil societies organizations. She was vice president of the Euro-Arab Students Association of Brussels University and is currently an active member of the International Think Tank for Studies and Researches on Women in Islam, communications manager for the European Forum of Muslim Women and events coordinator for Empowering Belgian Muslims. She blogs at The Diary of a Frenjabi.


8 Comments on “The Big M”

  1. Shakera says:

    Wow! May Allah bless you immensely for posting this! i LOOOVVEE your question, “The topic of The Big M should make us think about the real meaning of life. Are we getting married for the sake of social recognition or to please the Almighty? ”

    I am 22 and almost all of my cousins my age are married. My parents and external family are genuinely concerned and really want me and my sisters to get married…
    I am considering just going through because I am losing hope on finding love because I have a no dating policy either…..
    When I asked myself why I would go ahead and go through…it would mostly be for social recognition and acceptance from family rather than pleasing the Almighty….astagfurullah

    I really need to have some deep reflection like you yourself did!

    Jazakallahu khayrun sister!!!

  2. Alan Howard says:

    Never, ever doubt yourself or compromise what you wish to do in this dunya, period. The day that you compromise to please someone else (future husband, parents, friends, etc.) you become part of them and their vision and less of yourself. There are good, decent men out there who “get it” and will want you to succeed and blossom and will not hold you back. But they are few and far between, sadly. At the end of the day, your life is all you have to build a bridge to the akhira…..if that means you build the bridge with your own hands without marriage then so be it…..in the end we all walk across the bridge whether we want to or not. As you stated above Sakina, if you marry only for the sake of having this experience….then you will lose precious years and will be tested with heartache potentially (I don’t wish either scenario on you). Stay true to yourself.

    • This is so true. I went through something similar during my parents’ search for The One. Once you give in to what parents and relatives want, what you want, or rather need gets blurred in the process. I lost sight of myself and felt worthless and depressed. Nothing ever made me feel better. But prayer and faith in God is the only thing that will get you through an experience like this.
      And as you said above, ‘Stay true to yourself’. I wish someone had told me that long back.

  3. Most hijab wearing women suffer from what I call Mary Poppins Syndrome. If you want to get married, the #1 thing that that gets a man interested in you is sexual attraction. For most women hijab blocks that, so unless you are into the arranged marriage thing, you are going to have a hard time finding a husband. As for the hijab debate, we have started a page on fb to educated Muslim men and women about how weak the argument for its obligation is in Islam.
    http://facebook.com/no.to.forced.hijab.niqab
    Please visit it and offer your feedback. Thanks.

  4. […] Continue reading here: The Big M | Love, InshAllah […]

  5. Bride 2 Wife says:

    Reblogged this on All things Karachi Weddings and commented:
    A wonderful blog i read about marriage. Hope you find it as meaningful as i did.🙂

  6. Rush says:

    I”m not Muslim but WOW what an amazing post. It’s really nice to read some truly deep-diving thoughts about not only marriage, but the purpose of life as a whole. It’s a welcome change, especially when I go on facebook and see all my friends these days (I’m in my mid-20s) either getting married or having children; that in itself isn’t bad, of course, but there’s a lot of focus on the ‘glitz and glam’ of marriage, instead of the real substance. It’s like people forget to look at their own parents and see what long years of marriage are really like (if their parents are still together!), and what compromise it takes to get there. A ‘bed of roses’ it certainly ain’t, at least for most. I applaud you, Sakina, for bravely contemplating an institution that materialistic society often turns into a circus, when it is really about inward fulfillment and Divine purpose. To that end, if it turns out you decide to remain single, then I wish you Godspeed in your marriage to Allah.

  7. Muslimah529 says:

    Beautifully written!!! It is inspiring to see someone who understands and can articulate what the true purpose of marriage is. May Allah SWT reward you for speaking so eloquently and spiritually uplifting all of us with your words.