He came here full of hope.
It was 1981 and he was a twenty four year old graduate student sent from his home country of Sudan. He was told to make his country proud so he packed his belongings along with his dreams for a better life.
The ultimate dream of any person living in a poor country. He was starting a new life in America.
A land of endless opportunity and a place where anyone could make it.
My mom said women were always taken aback because he was exceptionally handsome. His nubian almond shaped eyes, strong jawline, and chocolate skin made women, from all ethnicities, gravitate towards him. His solid frame had him shy of 6’5. I always thanked Allah that I inherited his eyes and not his height.
He didn’t know it though. He didn’t realize how good looking he truly was because back in Africa he resembled any other tall and lanky East African guy walking around Khartoum.
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As a nurse, I get personal with people real fast. At times, I can be a self-proclaimed personal invader. I have countless stories ranging from walking into family arguments to calling parents to inform them their drunk underage teen needs to be picked up. With all the drama involved with being an ER nurse, sometimes I get the pleasure of hearing peoples life stories. Stories are part of the human connection. Many people like to share their life stories and find a deep sense of pride in sharing their accomplishments, especially some of my older patients.
One day, a frail, elderly Japanese woman come into the hospital complaining of dizziness. As I was doing her assessment I realized she was in her mid-nineties. She laughed while telling me that she was in nearly perfect health minus a couple aches and pains she curbed by doing her aerobic exercises every morning. Soon after my initial examination, her husband – also in his mid-90s – rushed in to her side. He kissed her on the forehead and handed me a list of medications she was currently taking.
With a big smile the husband proudly told me they had been married for nearly seventy-one years. They met while he was delivering mail to the salon where she was working. He told me that he fell in love with the “pretty girl” who sat at the front desk. He said he always made sure her salon was his last stop so he could stay longer without delaying the rest of his deliveries. They were married a month later. She smiled as he recalled the story.
Recently, one of my friends informed me that her ex-husband was getting remarried. My first thought was that he was already married. Didn’t he just post pictures of himself and his wife on social media? Before I could even ask, she blurted, “I wonder what sister he fooled this time.”
He was on his third marriage within a five year span.
A “serial husband” is one who takes on a wife and divorces her shortly after only to repeat the cycle again. It is not uncommon for these men to jump from marriage to marriage while never taking accountability for their failures and mishaps along the way. As a result of this erratic behavior a trail of broken families and shattered women are left behind. Some of these women remarry. The patient men who skillfully piece these sisters and families back together are some of the backbones in our community. Dealing with a spouse who has been through a traumatic divorce requires open communication and understanding topped off with love.
Some Muslims treat marriage as though it’s glorified dating. In Islam, spouses have rights over one another and any sort of mistreatment can have dire consequences both emotionally as well as spiritually. A partner is not disposable based on your needs and desires. Any marriage you go into, regardless of how long you’ve known the person, is a long-term commitment.
I’ve mentioned before that I am a hopeless romantic and write often about relationships, marriage, and “love”. However, we often associate the word “love” with romance, while forgetting that love comes in many different forms.
Today, I want to talk about the admiration and, most of all, the love that I have for my sisters. These are the true sistaqueens in my life. Now, I want you to keep in mind this is not a word I use sparingly; it is reserved strictly for those who know and fully grasp their true status as queens.
As a daughter of a woman who converted to Islam, I grew up around many women who acted as a great means of support to one another. Our house was opened to sisters who needed a place to stay during rough times. These women represented the true sistaqueens in both behavior and appearance; they had an air to them that, as a young Muslim girl, I was always drawn to. Their bright, colorful hijabs sat upon their heads like crowns with an elegance and style that my younger sister and I often tried to mimic. Their courage, trustworthiness and dedication to one another were a great example for me and epitomized the true meaning of sisterhood.
I would come to recognize the true meaning of sisterhood in my own life.
All I heard was the word “friends”.
Everything after that was muffled. To be quite honest, I wasn’t really listening. He could have told me the building was on fire and I would have just kept smiling and nodding.
I was in the friends zone.
Maybe intentionally. Maybe not.
Regardless it was a smack in the face. I thought this is how Biz Markie must have felt. I should have just busted out in rhymes in the middle of the restaurant.
I zoned back into the conversation. As arrogant as it might be perceived I had enough friends and I didn’t want anymore. If my lips could have uttered what my mind was thinking than that is what I would have said. I was looking for a husband, not anymore friends.
I couldn’t say that, it would have sounded absolutely ridiculous.
He had no shame. I think that made the situation worse.
I asked him the question I have asked most brothers I am interested in.
“Have you been in any relationships outside of your previous marriage?”
He looked at me and nodded.
Sadly, it didn’t surprise me because this seemed to be the reality for a majority of brothers my friends and I encountered.
Brothers who acted a hot stakin’ mess…
Sex before marriage, babies out of wedlock and not even hiding it in the slightest.
What makes matters worse is many of them are not reprimanded.
Jummah by day and the club by night.
Posting it everywhere for folks to see.
Listen, I ain’t got the time…
Ya’ll know I keep it real all day everyday.
She sat across from me crying into her hands.
I rubbed her back trying to console her. The more I rubbed the longer her sobs became.
“I juu-usst need to be patient.” Her eyeliner was starting to smear.
She needed support. She needed a friend, not someone to scold her and ask why she stuck around so long with a man who was abusive, even while they were courting.
She ignored the signs. Her silence gave him the idea that she accepted the way he was treating her.
But now, she’d had enough and was prepared to leave, infant in hand. She said her perspective changed once she had a daughter. But he refused to let her divorce him. To make matters worse, his Imam encouraged her to stay even though she was being both physically and verbally abused.