What happened to that sister I used to know?

As Salaamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you)

Okay, this next bit that I just wrote I really hesitated to post.  It’s a fictionalized account of one side of a telephone conversation about a Muslim named Aisha.  I want to say beforehand that I know there are many many good Muslim marriages, and there are wonderful cross-cultural marriages (such as my own) where the husband and wife are loving, dynamic, confident about themselves, and who tackle the world as a team.  That being said, there seem to be a lot of unequal marriages.  Marriages where normally confident and dynamic women give up many of their dreams in order to fit into some little cramped box that is supposed to define what the role of a Muslim woman is.  That’s why I wrote this piece and that’s why I hope, before you start flaming me with comments, that you’ll see that I’m not condemning any group.  I’m trying to bring attention to what is THE foremost problem of this world, not just the Muslim world but the world in general, and that is the subjugation of women.  It comes in many forms and some oppression is worse than others, but it needs to be attacked in all its forms.  So, anyway, here it is:

What happened to that sister I used to know?

What happened to sister Aisha?  She used to come to the mosque all the time.  Remember how she was always at the sister’ study circle, and how she loved to bake fresh cookies for our monthly tea?  What happened to her?

I remember when I first met her.  It was at college, when she was getting her degree in, what was it, psychology?  I just remember thinking this gal really had it all together.  She was working while she was in school, too.  She’d zip into the parking lot, getting to class at the last minute.  She must have spent a lot of time in her car, shuttling back and forth.

She was so much fun to be around.  She could find humor in any situation.  I mean, even though she was really struggling financially.  College is expensive, but she was putting herself through school, had a cute little apartment over on the other side of town.  She’d budget everything, never waste money on Starbucks.  We’d tease her about making weak tea so she could re-use the teabags.  She told me she wanted to stay out of debt and not get any student loans.  She didn’t let it get to her, though.  She was focused on her goals and she was loving life.

Anyway, what happened to her?  She what, she got married?  When did that happen?  Has it been five years already?  Where did they  move to?  I mean, surely she’s not still around town or we’d see her.  I don’t remember a nikah or walimah or anything.  But, you know, that must have been when I went overseas to study for a while.  I guess I missed out on everything and when I came back, I’m ashamed to say I kind of forgot about her being here.  I guess I just assumed she’d moved away.  You know, on to bigger and better things.

So what is she doing now?  Is she working?  Oh, her husband didn’t want her to work.  That’s a shame, kinda.  I mean, she was really passionate about helping other people and I know she had planned to become a counselor.  Hmm.  He didn’t want her working with losers?  Well, that’s kinda harsh.  Is he even religious?  Well, it’s not how long your beard is, in my opinion.  I can understand a man not wanting his wife to work a cruddy “job” job but that was her career, her calling.  What do you mean, he told her it was haraam?  How can counseling people be haraam?  Sigh.  Still, if she wasn’t working she should have had plenty of time to come to the mosque.  He, what?  Sold her car?  Well, sure, if he’s the only one working they don’t need two cars to commute, but still, it’s hard to get out if he’s got the car all the time, I imagine.

Have you gone to visit her?  Yeah, I need to go see her.  Maybe I could pick her up to come to the class here at the mosque.  What do you mean, he doesn’t want her to come to the mosque?  Fitnah, how can coming here be fitnah?  Yeah, so we only have one big room and there’s not perfect separation between the men and the women, but still.  She lowers her gaze, guys stay up front, what’s the problem?  I mean, just being in the same building isn’t an issue.  Dang, it’s not like some brother is going to glance back at us and be overcome with lust and gallop back here and jump on us.  He really sounds strict.  What does her mom say about this?  I know her mom was a bit nervous when she became Muslim, but she really was starting to relax because Aisha was so kind to her and patient.  What do you mean she’s not allowed to see her mom?  He told her not to visit because her mom is a kaafir and has a dog?  Well, duh, of course she’s not Muslim, but that doesn’t mean you can break off family ties.  So what exactly does she do all day at home?  Do they have any kids?  Aww, sweet, a boy and a girl.  Well, it’s good that she has them to help keep her busy.  I’d love to see them.  Do you know if anyone has her number?  Oh, well, now, after what you’ve told me, I guess I’m not surprised that they don’t have a phone at home.  He doesn’t want some strange men calling the house.  Does she ever get out?  Man, I’d go nuts if I never got out of the house.

Wow, it’s sad, really.  I mean, she was so dynamic, so focused, so smart.  She was someone I admired.  Why in the world did she marry someone who was going to drop the hammer on her and be so controlling?  Didn’t she check this guy out before they got married?  I mean, so what if the Imaam highly recommended him.  He can pray every prayer in the mosque and fast like a maniac.  That doesn’t tell how he’s going to treat his wife.  What did she get herself into?  When did you see her last?  How did she look?  Not good, huh.  Kinda beat down?  Did she tell you anything?  No, she’s so sweet, she wouldn’t tell any secrets about her life, but you could tell she wasn’t happy?  Shame.  Shame shame.  I wish I could go talk to her, see if she would like some company.  I’d like to see the kids.  I’m kinda afraid to try, though.  Maybe her husband would think I was a bad influence because I work or because I drive.  Man, makes me want to run home and hug my husband.  He’s strong enough to let me be myself and he always encourages me to do things.  Just goes to show you, you have to be so careful to do your homework before you get married.  You could end up being a prisoner in your own home.  Yeah, sad, huh?  Well, I’ll make it a point to try to go see her soon, just to check up on her.  Poor thing, so much potential.  Now she’s stuck inside four walls with no friends because her husband controls every moment of her life.  What’s he afraid of?  La hawla wa la quwatta ila billah.  Maybe one day she’ll wake up and realize she didn’t stop being a person when she became a wife.  I hope she does it before it’s too late.

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