This is my story. This is the one I tell.
This is how I ended my essay, “Even Muslim Girls Get the Blues,” in Love InshAllah. I shared how I met, courted, and fell in love in my husband.
It was real love story, one that involved five children from his previous marriage and international travel from the United States to Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and back to the United States again. The relationship was a global affair.
But, to be honest, it was not the story that sat on the tip of my tongue or lived in the deep spaces of my heart. What I wanted to say was this:
Oh Allah (swt), please give me the strength to leave this marriage.
Love InshAllah - the act of writing for it and the process of reading the stories included within — gave me strength to make that jump.
Here I was, a 38 year-old white American-Muslim woman with a passport full of stamps, knee-deep into an eleven-year marriage to a United Nations diplomat and Nobel Peace prize co-laureate. He was a wonderful husband, a good man from Afghanistan who risked everything to marry me. In doing so, he gave me an earth-sized life.
But, just over a decade later, I could do it no longer. Spiritual depletion left me brittle and bone dry. As Virgos – earth elements – I believe we both suffered from an emotional drought. Our marriage tasted like chalk. The nature of dust is to settle into the cracks –-or, perhaps, its nature is to float through the air and land somewhere else.
While maps and boundaries may have defined my marriage, my own internal coordinates were shifting.
There are so many things I could say, but let me say this:
My marriage ended for the same reasons that so many marriages end. We grew apart. Our values changed. There were no scandalous scripts or misogynistic abuses.
When people discover that my marriage is ending, I see their moist-eyed look of sympathy expressing how awful it must have been being married to a traditional Muslim man. It makes me want to scream, “Please, people, traditional Muslim men are not bad!”
My husband never mistreated me. He was not unkind. I can say with affirmation that he is an honorable man whose fault is an inability to really see those he loves. And, in truth, for a very long time I could not even see myself.
The moment I really decided to jump is when my husband said that a man is responsible for his wife’s soul in heaven, even more than a father is responsible for the soul of their children. This made me shudder, and not because of the paternalistic nature of the statement. I recoiled because this was not the Islam I held to be beautiful. The Allah that I sought would not burden any human being with such a monstrosity as to be responsible for another person’s soul.
To some, there may be something deeply romantic in this notion of soul bundling; a cosmic connection between a husband and a wife, a tender tendril that binds a woman to her man – but this was not the romance that I wanted.
My first thought was I need to get out of this marriage. My second thought was, What will the Love, InshAllah girls think of this?
And, of course, I thought, What will people think of me if I leave a perfectly good husband? Doesn’t that make me a scandalous Muslim woman?
When I finally left, everybody said, “Well, it was about time! That marriage was never really you.”
The act of writing my story in cadence with the twenty-four other contributors has given me hope, as well as courage, to say this:
We are all Muslim and honorable, noble women no matter our approach to Islam, no matter how and who we love. God takes care of us, regardless of how “proper” a Muslim we appear to others. One contributor found another orthodox lesbian woman in the Muslim community to share her life with. Who can say that God does not accept us when He so willingly provides people for us to love and who love us? God honors us when we honor Him by celebrating our personal authenticity.
Love InshAllah gave me the strength to insist that I have an obligation to the world and to God, to become my best self.
The act of writing, enunciation, and of exploring personal authenticity is a transformative journey. The power is in the telling, and Love InshAllah tells it in a way like no other.
Alhumdullilah (Praise be to Allah).
Deonna Kelli Sayed is an American-Muslim author. Her first book, Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts, & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits was released last year. She is currently working on a memoir/multimedia project about her spiritual journey. To learn more about Deonna, visit www.deonnakellisayed.com and follower her on Twitter @deonnakelli