Warning: this is very long!
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now, but keep stopping myself. I wasn’t sure why I wanted to write about it in the first place. I’ve known that sharing something like this is highly personal and I just couldn’t find a real purpose for it. But the other day when I thought about it again – straight away I knew why I wanted to share it – to give hope. Hope in something based on Islamic reasoning. Why? Because we live in a world that seems to think anything done for the sake of Allah is odd, silly and a waste.
To be honest there have been times that I thought the same. But just as the words of Allah guides us back on track, whenever I had such thoughts – I was brought back to reality – alhamdhulillah.
This arranged love story or marriage rather started over ten years ago. After leaving university I had decided I wanted to get married. I wanted an arranged marriage – thinking that is the best way to do it. I gave my parents a list of things that I felt were important for me in a future spouse. I might have been a little delusional – but my intentions were purely based on doing something the ‘correct’ way according to Islam. It wouldn’t have been very difficult to ‘find’ someone myself – but its something I really didn’t want to do.
So the search began. My parents asked around and using the traditional method of finding a suitor they received ‘proposals’. And here I want to mention that this isn’t an easy job. But they did a good job of it I think. Everyone my parents found, met the kind of requirements I said I was after.
After a couple of years of looking, Allah willed for another ‘proposal’. This time it was Abu Yusra. His mother came to see me first and a few days later it was Abu Yusra himself (with other family members). Like any of the previous meetings with suitors, this too was very awkward and lasted about 20 minutes. I somehow had decided that it will be a no from him and went along talking to him generally without thinking very deep about it.
My reasons for the negative thinking, was due to his lack of interest in actually knowing about me or asking anything specific. The ‘meeting’ ended and to my surprise it was actually a ‘yes’ from him. This obviously put me in a situation where I didn’t think I’d be in. I had a little think about it – did the required istikhara and also said yes.
Now the next part is the beginning of doubt and of course with it comes a thousand whispers of the shayateen.
I got married four months after that initial meeting with Abu Yusra – and in the four months – we didn’t meet or talk on the phone, there were exactly 3 email correspondences but even they were of very minimal use. The next time I saw him was on the actually wedding day, with the addition of the lovely tears majority South-Asian brides carry. Not a pretty sight I must say.
This might be a norm for brothers – I’m sure it isn’t, but for sisters it is a tremendously difficult thing to accept. I say this because we are still women who have been brought up in the West and feel there needs to be a certain level of conversation before we actually start a life together.
Abu Yusra showed no interest in getting to know more about me. This made me sad. I spoke to friends about it. Some told me to just end it then and not get married to someone so odd. Others asked me why is it so difficult for me to respect his wishes – surely I wanted to marry someone for their Islam and not for their level of conversations etc. I listened to the latter advice.
With a heavy and slightly confused heart I got married. I was still hopeful. Hopeful that Allah will help me in my marriage and I began a new life. It meant a new life in every sense; I left work, I left my home city. No friends, no family and I soon discovered a husband who wasn’t too keen on the idea of this marriage.
Abu Yusra wanted things differently and had kind of given up by the time we got married. He decided to give up his likes and dislikes and went along with what family decided – I was completely unaware of this, but soon understood little by little.
So our marriage didn’t start off well. He just wanted to live for the sake of it, and I wanted a marriage that meant something. I wanted to make our marriage work and make it tranquil. For me the marriage meant everything. I had high expectations of it. I was a delusional Muslimah, who thought real love came after marriage and was shattered to find out it didn’t. After a year of almost mourning my life, days of non-stop crying and moving couple of times to two other cities – we finally moved back to my home city. Abu Yusra got a job. He liked it. Soon I started working. And we started to live very separate lives. He did his own thing and I did mine.
There were more times when we thought we shouldn’t be together than we should – but we remained together. Why? Because we both feared Allah. We both feared what it would mean to just separate on no real basis. I had deep thoughts about this. Surroundings and influences didn’t always help. The surroundings that suggest we seek our own happiness – the happiness that is defined by us too. Those years were very unhappy. Something that has probably had an impact on my emotional state of being, but I think Allah made me a stronger person.
In all of this – something happened. We both practised Islam together. We both encouraged each other to be better believers. We might have been and still are very different people – but we both want to please Allah. We both want to be close to Him and the Quran. So even though we didn’t live to make each other happy, we actually did it unknowingly. We would attend Islamic talks together more than go on dates. We would meet after work to pray Isha salah at the masjid. We even started working together at a local Saturday Islamic School.
We stopped expressing how much we didn’t want to be in the marriage and started to live a life that we could bear without grudges. We were tested, sometimes with external matters and sometimes with some of our own issues, one of them being our test of delayed parenthood.
We didn’t turn out to be a couple who lived a ‘romantic’ life of gifts, dates, flowers and exotic holidays. But we became a couple that loved the arrival of Ramadan. We loved our hajj trip. We loved our stroll down the old city of Istanbul – appreciating and discussing the beauty of Islamic heritage.
We didn’t plan our future. We were renting a shoebox, we had no plans of what we would do in 10 years time. But we could spend hours discussing the affairs of the ummah, Islamic fiqh, or tafseer of the Quran. I even made Abu Yusra read couple of the fictional books that I was besotted by.
Why do I share all this. Because we didn’t have a love marriage, or a love filled marriage to start off with. I remember a friend telling me “you got married like my grandparents did.” But we built respect for each other. We stayed together for something that is much bigger and better than human emotions. We stayed together for the sake of Allah. Maybe that wasn’t the initial reasons – but it definitely became the reason afterwards.
Some of us sisters grow up thinking we’ll marry the perfect bearded brother, someone who will have sunnah romance in him. Someone who will sweep us off the floor and fill our lives with the things we gave up because we wanted to be Islamic when growing up. And I’m sure it happens for lots of people. It didn’t for me. I could have very easily walked out of my marriage. And I now know that wouldn’t have been a good idea.
Basing life’s happiness and expectations on what society regards as ideal or best isn’t the happiness a Muslim soul seeks. A Muslim soul seeks more than that. Proclamation of love doesn’t have to be in the form of red love hearts and endless presents. It can be in the shape of taking care of my 3 year old when I go out at 8pm on Friday night to a sisters circle. It could be listening to me talk about my obsession of juzz ammah.
And I can’t forget the power of dua in this journey of mine. A tool when used can bring sukoon, results and reward – either here or in the life after. Dua is the tool that is never overused or wasted.
So we didn’t ‘fall’ in love, we learnt to accept what a Muslim life is about. And who has the right to define love. I know many people would read this and think, that we both remained in something very gloom, but we wanted something more than just worldly satisfaction. We want that pearl palace in jannah. And I’m not saying that everyone should remain in an unhappy marriage to achieve his or her palace in jannah. I’m saying, giving a marriage another chance or maybe more than one chance isn’t such a bad idea.
Do I sometimes want to turn the clocks back? All the time! But I also sometimes sit at home and think, could I have found someone like Abu Yusra if I went looking. I may have found someone who willingly and happily married me, but does that guarantee a life-long happiness. Because life is witness to love marriages having problems too – its all a part of two people living together. Instead, I made an intention to do something for the sake of Allah. And even though I wasn’t able to see the fruits of it for many years I can see it now. I can see it when I randomly read out an ayah from the Quran in English and Abu Yusra is able to recite the Arabic of it.
I didn’t find this person. The wedding and marriage probably didn’t happen according to the norms of the society we live in. But we’re still together. And alhamdhulillah after 8 years, we have grown to enjoy each other’s company.
We are worlds apart. We have very different likes. Abu Yusra likes to spend hours reading factual articles, never plans his time and loves working out scary looking equations. I like reading escaping fiction, I’m an obsessed list maker who tries to live a regimented life. But it has worked. And Allah blesses the one that does something for His sake. It might not always be something we witness straight away or even in the dunya, but nothing, absolutely nothing is wasted in His cause.
I said I’m writing this to give hope. Hope to those sisters who might be thinking about embarking on an arranged marriage and hear all the frightening stories. I want to tell you, that not everything is horrible. When Allah blesses us with His Mercy, it can be in all shapes and forms and it is very possible for an arranged marriage to turn into an arranged love marriage. InshaAllah.
Marriage and faith have existed since the time of Prophet Adam (as)
and will continue in the Hereafter.
~ Ibn Abidin ~