The Big MPosted: March 27, 2013
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.