Turning Thirty

Fatima M. Jaffer

I have been playing the role of two different people in one body for more than five years. There is one persona who is a strong woman, who is happy the way Allah has kept her, who does not care about what people say and is living her life to the fullest. This woman does not mind being alone.

But there is this others side where the fear of what-if-the-right-guy-never-shows-up is growing intense with every passing day. Sometimes, I am afraid that I am losing the hope of fulfilling my dreams. The idea of dying alone is breaking me from deep inside

***

Here is my story:  I am turning thirty-years-old in a week,  and that is going to make things more complicated than what they already are. At least, I assume that will be the case.

I am educated, ordinary-looking, and still single. I believe Islam is a wonderful religion and it does not allow us to fall in love before marriage.

Yet, I would love to have what is called a “love marriage.” The idea of a love marriage seems alluring, especially with the romantic love stories that are part and parcel of day-to-day media. However, I feel that this is not possible.

Islam is a far-sighted religion. It asks men and women not to interact with members of the opposite gender in privacy other than with those who are blood related because if a man and woman are alone together, Satan is present in between them.

For a moment, forget about Satan craftily hovering around a couple. Just imagine this scenario. You’re talking to or dating someone of the opposite sex. There are obvious chances that you will become good friends and perhaps, fall in love. And once you fall in love, you are much more likely to cross the boundaries set by Allah before both partners are united in the sacred bond of marriage, which then indeed would constitute a huge sin in the Sight of Allah.

Many people don’t follow Islam the way it’s supposed to be followed and accept the idea of dating and love marriages. They should not be judged by anyone because faith is a personal matter and Allah is the best Judge of our intentions. As far as I am concerned, I would follow my religion the way it is and that translates to love marriage not being a viable option.

So then, what can single Muslim women like me do? It seems the only options are family, cultural networks and the traditional ways, which unfortunately involve many superficial hopes.

***

Like several other girls of my age, marriage proposals have arrived, of course. I considered them with my parent’s input. Ultimately, I rejected some and some rejected me.

Now, as I turn thirty, the time has come when people have begun telling my parents, “You should have started thinking about your daughter earlier,” a statement when decoded means that they should have talked to various social workers and matchmakers about me, dressed me better, and allowed more eligible men to come to the house and interview me.

I knew this would happen one day and I had prepared myself so that society and its gossiping ladies wouldn’t say that I was too arrogant to meet people. Twice, I agreed to the chai meetings potential husbands. I did whatever I had to and hated it each time I did it. In reality, my mum just couldn’t say no when people said they wanted to come home to see me. On the flip-side, my father was and continues to be least worried about my marriage. He somehow has strong faith in whatever Allah is doing.

I was never someone who only dreamt of getting married; I thought being mature, acquiring education, and gaining intellect of my own just as important as a spouse.

But, does the society care about my hopes and dreams? No.

***

Women  came to our home to see me for their sons or other relatives. I did not bring a chai tray for them. I just sat and chatted with them. Both rejected me because they wanted a younger girl for their sons even though they knew my age and had initially indicated it wasn’t an issue. So now, I assume they probably thought I wasn’t the typical, pretty doll.

Then came a man in his mid-thirties from the United Kingdom, and ordinary looking fellow. He was the one and only guy I talked to via email and he stopped emailing after he saw my picture. Indeed,  my mum was informed that he didn’t like the picture! Really, my entire worth as a woman and a wife was summed up by a photograph!

Can people become any more shallow and life any more frustrating?

Another story. A man from Dubai, religious and educated, rejected me because he wanted to marry someone from USA, UK, Canada or Australia. When the matchmaker e-mailed him my profile, the “religious and educated” man said, “I politely decline this offer because the girl is not from any of the above mentioned countries.” What kind of a man would want to use his wife’s nationality to help him settle down in his life? Come on, be a man! Don’t use an innocent woman for your selfish motives!

All these fruitless outcomes finally convinced me to log on to a community matrimonial website. At first, when I saw some of the profiles of potential spouses, I thought to myself, “If they are so good, why are they here and not married already?”

I then answered myself: there are always some exceptional cases like me.

Eventually, I ended up in a conversation with a thirty-one-year-old man from Houston, Texas. During the first conversation, he suggested we exchange pictures. During the second conversation, he suggested Skype, a request which I politely denies. Then came the third and the final conversation where I realized he was a pervert and a sexually frustrated man. I don’t want to embarrass the readers with details here. In short, I immediately deactivated my account on that matrimonial website and realized that this method had proven futile as well.

I have more stories, but honestly, they are not as bad as what some other girls have had to go through. I am blessed with great parents who keep my self-respect first and never force me to do things just to get married. They just want me to have a good life, either with or without a husband.

***

Honestly,  now I am exhausted.  I have two different selves, and only Allah knows what this other side is going through. All of my younger cousins are married or engaged. Being the eldest unmarried girl in the family, I keep a happy smile on my face, do what cousin sisters do at the weddings of their cousins while I actually feel like just running away to Phi Phi Islands all by myself.

Words salt my wounds whenever there is a chance, be it my family doctor or a cousin on Skype from US or my aunts who keep asking me to travel and go to places to visit extended family. They want to create an opportunity for me to get hitched. Yet, then I think “I am a living human and not a toy for sale.” My self-esteem and my parents’ prestige mean a lot to me. I don’t want to give anyone a chance to say my parents made a mistake or they were not good parents because they thought of me and not of the society in which there seems to be a race going on regarding whose daughter will get married first.

The wedding of a younger cousin is coming soon and I will have to do all that again. I know I am awesome, but these rejections are making me feel terrible about myself.

****

Let me conclude with something I remind myself of time and again. God has blessed me with a beautiful body and soul; I have a fantabulous life with the most amazing parents, awesome siblings and wonderful friends who make my life just perfect. So, I will do the things I love, be a writer and work hard to make this world a better place and last but not the least, I will lose neither faith nor hope that someday, I will find someone who will be sure that I am the one and will love me for who I am. I will fight the world and the hypocritical society but will not settle down for anything less than what I deserve. Yes, I might cry, at times and get frustrated, but I will pull myself up again and continue to move on as a happy single gal.

Fatima Mohammad Jaffer is a thirty-year-old single woman who believes that one should never allow their lives to be driven by what people say and should go by what our objectives, passions and ideals are. She feels one should never downgrade ideals in the moment of weakness. Fatima is a graduate in arts and a Montessori Diploma holder with keen interest in writing.


15 Comments on “Turning Thirty”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have been in this position for the last 7 years

    I empathise. Totally

    We are the lost generation

    Allah knows best🙂

  2. Dear dear Fatima, this does seem like a time of strife for you, and while it’s harder for girls because everyone thinks they come with an expiration date, you can’t just want to get married for the sake of marriage and not to any of these parade of fools!

    Don’t let being unmarried define you – Pursue your dreams, work, read, write, live and the rest will follow Insha’Allah.

  3. I am so touched by this. I pray Allah (SWT) answers your prayers very soon and grants you half of your faith in this life and in Jannah. It’s a beautiful wrie up.

  4. Dina A says:

    I turned 30 last week and have been struggling with the exact same feelings you describe in this beautiful article. I pray for strength and iman for both of us and the constant reminder that God will provide for us from places we do not expect (65:3) This is one of my favourite ayas that helped me survive some really tough times… God has come through for me every time before, and at an intellectual level I know he will again with this… but I know sometimes convincing my heart, that longs for someone now, of this can be very difficult!
    I also pray we continue to make the most of our lives now with the gift of time that Allah has given us without the responsibilities of a spouse to be active in our community, with our families and to allow our souls to grow in iman. Amen.

  5. RR says:

    More power to you for standing up for yourself and your beliefs. Marriage is not all its cracked up to be – especially if you get married to the wrong person in haste in which case you could be serving a lifetime of isolation, regret and pure misery. Live your life for yourself and don’t place too much importance on getting hitched! Good luck..

  6. Asma Gani says:

    23 years old.. going through the same… Insha Allah, u will find your soulmate soon. Never lose hope.🙂 All the best…

  7. konviktion says:

    You don’t know how much you touch the readers mind by such a wonderful piece of writing. It seems you are an independent soul and your parents have brought you up wonderfully. Another thing, to follow the norms and regulations of a religion strictly is a sign of a stronger soul, its not everybody’s cup of tea. So its absolutely fine if you have chosen the path of religion and not love. An educated mind will definitely appreciate a person like you. Wish you best wishes and keep writing!

  8. Did you ever consider the possibility that what you believe Islam is and isn’t is incorrect? There are various interpretations of Islamic law. I can tell you for 1, just look at the Ka’bah at Masjid al haraam. Are men and women segregated? No. Why not?
    Well if in such a holy place, if the sexes are unsegregated, would you expect God to allow the genders to be more segregated or less segregated?
    Common sense tells us that if the sexes are so segregated in a society that a lovely woman like you reaches the age of 30 and is still unmarried, there must be something wrong with the society.
    Go out and mingle. God does not want you to fornicate or commit adultery. Fornication has a cure in Islam and it is called mut’ah. Research it. Adultery is forbidden in Islam because Islam regards it very important that a person know his/her biological father and that kids get proper rearing. Aside from that, God does not have a problem with sex so long as one doesn’t have sex with any of the forbidden categories mentioned in the Qur’an.
    Lastly, I’d like to remind you that hadith were compiled about 250 years after the Prophet, not 50 years or 5 years. Hadith (Khabar al-Wahid) are only conjectural sources in Islam, not certainty sources. Muslims scholars have acknowledged this fact for over 1000 years but laypersons typically consider hadith as a certainty source. It is not. Only Mutawaatir hadith are certainty sources and perhaps less than 5% of hadith are Mutawaatir. The rest all fall into the category of conjecture. What does the Qur’an tell us about following conjecture?

  9. Anjum says:

    Thank you for this beautiful piece. It is hard out there for single Muslim women 30+. I’m with ya. Hang in there sister, it only gets better! IA

  10. Liked this, as quite a bit of what you describe resonates with me… I have to say, however, socialising with people from the opposite gender doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to find/meet a potential spouse!
    Also, believe it or not, there’s something quite liberating about finally turning 30! I promise you🙂
    Stay strong x

  11. Christina says:

    That was a beautiful write-up and I feel the same way since I’m close to thirty and single. I’m not Muslim, but I just came across this article, and reading it made me feel like I’m not the only one. It is extremely difficult to see my friends and cousins my age and younger getting married, and wonder why God not me. I know its not something I should ask “why not” since I have a lot to be thankful for. I guess all you can do is have faith that someone will come along and love you for you and vice versa. Hopefully it’ll work out for you too:)

  12. […] ____ Fatima Mohammad Jaffer is a thirty-year-old single woman who believes that one should never allow their lives to be driven by what people say and should go by what our objectives, passions and ideals are. She feels one should never downgrade ideals in the moment of weakness. Fatima is a graduate in arts and a Montessori Diploma holder with keen interest in writing. Read her previous Loveinshallah essay here. […]