Salaam, Maher Reham!Posted: January 15, 2014
Our new book, Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy, will be released on February 4th. In the lead up to the release, meet our 22 contributors.
Today, meet Maher Reham!
An excerpt from Maher’s story, “Just One Kiss”:
We loved each other, but we didn’t like each other. I respected her passion. Her discipline. Her generosity. She was a good person. She knew I was doing everything I could to take care of her. We often said, “I love you, and I want to make this work.” That we’d never found anyone else like each other. Despite the lack of sex, we showed affection through frequent kisses and hugs. But we couldn’t be a in a room together for more than a day without a world war breaking out.
For years, I kept thinking, “Is marriage supposed to be like this?” I sought advice from elders in the community, but no one gave me anything concrete. It was always, “Marriage is a struggle, gotta deal with it. It will get better.” But when?
I felt a tremendous amount of injustice. What am I getting from this marriage? My sexual frustration coupled with my humiliation and failure as a man made me tense all the time.
The last straw came six years into our marriage.
To read more, order Salaam, Love today!
Q&A with Maher
Tell us about yourself
Born Muslim in the US. Currently an engineer. I love poetry, the movies, and sports.
Why were you drawn to this project?
Because I like “love poetry”, I found these projects intriguing and relatable. Too often as Muslims we shy away from the subject of “love”. It’s seen as a taboo, yet it is such an important part of every human’s life, Muslims are no exception. Even Islam as a religion itself does not shy away from love or sex, it acknowledges it’s a part of everyones life, it just puts parameters around it, even rewards for loving in the correct manner. Yet Muslims treat it as something “dirty” or “private”. I believe due to this lack of understanding, it exacerbates our confusion of relationship issues. Not only do we not know how to deal with them, we don’t even know how to think of them. These project are first hand accounts that educate us and are relatable – Muslims can find narratives about love/sex that they can identify with.
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Though I’m writing under a pen name, it was still a challenge to be as candid as I was. It was also a challenge to recall and rehash details as well as feelings of something that took me so long to move forward from.
If you’re writing under a pen name, why?
While I try not to put so much value on my reputation (since it really doesnt matter what others think of me, only what Allah thinks), I do place some value on it. I felt my story was too extreme for my community and friends to accept about me, and while I don’t mind individually talking to friends and family about my story/challenge (especially if they need advice from my experience), I wasn’t willing to risk exposing myself publicly to my whole community all at once (though if it does happen, it’s the will of Allah). More importantly, I wanted to protect the identity of those involved in my story and protect their reputation. It’s already hard to live in a judgmental Muslim community when there isn’t a sensational story behind you.
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
The experiences I went through were the hardest tests of my life and have defined me in so many ways. They continue to define me and I continue to struggle. I felt like the issues I’ve dealt with were of such a large magnitude, that it would be a shame if only I benefitted from them. I wanted to share my experience to benefit others. To show that, like the reader, I’m a practicing Muslim, but I’m not perfect. I’m not a sinner yet I am a sinner. I am a Muslim and I’ve been through what they’ve been through, ye twas fortunate enough to find a reasonable solution to my challenges. And like everyone else, I will continue to struggle with my challenges. I hope they leave thinking, “That was intriguing.” “I’m moved.” “There’s not something wrong with me – I’m not the only one who’s been through something like this.” Most importantly, “If he’s okay, I’ll be ok.”
Update 2/3/14: Salon excerpted Maher’s story from Salaam, Love. You can read it online, here!