Love, InshaAllah

Love, InshaAllah August 7, 2012

Ohmygosh, Ramadan is kicking my A**!  I’ve not been this tired for more than 2 days consecutively since 2005.  Usually when I get this little sleep, there is a squishy, sweet-smelling baby in my arms.  No such luck.  I do have a very appreciative husband and son though, so I try really hard to be gracious.  They have the more challenging task.  Husband is actually getting the same or less sleep than I am and fasting, and going out of the house to work every day, plus maintaining his ‘Fun Baba’ status with the short people.  This amazes me.  Yes, he needs considerably less sleep than I do, but seriously?

I follow a lot of blogs on Facebook written by Muslimahs, or whose target audience is Muslimahs.  I also follow a few boutique clothing designers who create beautiful Abayas, Caftans and Jilbabs as well as hijabs.  So, I don’t quite remember where I came across this book title, but I do remember it was announced pre-sale, and I was very interested in reading it.  But as things go, I looked up the book title, followed the fan page on Facebook, and kept on going.

A few months later, I found the book for sale on Amazon, and put it into my wishlist…then a month or so ago, I bought it.

I didn’t really know what to expect.  The back cover reads:

In this groundbreaking collection, American Muslim women writers sweep aside stereotypes to share their real-life tales of dating, longing, and sex.  Their stories show just how varied the search for love can be – from singles’ events and college flirtations to arranged marriages, all with a uniquely Muslim twist.

My experience with Muslims dating is a bit skewed.  When I dated Khaled, his religion posed no real effect on how we navigated our relationship.  Once we got engaged, I learned a little about how marriages happen in his family.  They maintain the chaperoned family visits once the prospective spouse (and their family) is vetted.  Both of his brothers married without our knowledge until after the fact.  I was shocked.  We married with my family and a few of our close friends as witnesses.

My SIL, saw her husband on campus while she attended college.  She told her mother, who inquired with the young man’s family, then (I’ve been told) a series of family visits occurred.  We traveled to Egypt for the Nikah, and then we returned for the formal wedding celebration.

The last few years, I’ve met a few converts who are Hijabi, and single.  I wondered how someone would go about navigating the dating world while maintaining the plain and simple mandate — you’re not supposed to interact with the opposite gender unless there is a need.  As it is today, I have a very difficult time speaking to men who are not in my family just because my life reinforces this mandate on a consistent basis.

So, how do Muslimahs date?  The other thing I have a problem getting past, is that I have this preconceived notion that Hijabi = Nun = Virgin Mary.  Yes.  Now you get it.  In my head, I equate a hijab with celibacy.  I imagine there are a lot of people who share this notion.  It is possible that this is why people see the hijab as constricting and shaming. (I’m just hypothesizing here.)

A couple of the single Muslimahs have used the internet to meet men.  One has a married man from the community to represent her when she meets her prospective dates.  She also takes chaperones with her when she meets someone face to face.  Another friend dates in a very typical way, meeting the person online…chatting for a while, meeting in a public place for coffee, potentially lunch.  I ask questions all the time, but since I’ve never seen it happen in action, I still cannot fathom how someone who wears hijab full-time, can meet a stranger and end up dating.

Love, InshaAllah is a book that compiles the love stories of  25 American Muslim women.  The stories take place during their teenage struggles with dating and sexuality, their experimental college years and during the courtship with their husbands.  If you got a room of women together at any conference, and asked them to share their most pivotal romantic stories in confidence, you would get similar themes.  Regardless of their religion, these women shared the same palpable angst, romance, tentative love and powerful connections as anyone.

One of my favorite stories is by Angela Collins Telles.  Her story tells of how she was on vacation with her girlfriend, and fate brought her together with her husband, Marcelo.  I also love A Cairene Kind of Love, possibly because it is set in Cario.  I’m a sucker for anyone in love with an Egyptian.  Both of these stories were written by women who converted on their own, then met men who were not Muslim, and fell in love with them…the husbands eventually took their Shahada on their own accord, challenging the idea that Muslimahs cannot marry non-Muslim men.

The final story in the book is written by Yasmine Khan.  She has a beautiful love story to share, and placing it at the end of the collection leaves you with a happy outlook on all of the future relationships for American Muslimahs.  The final paragraph she wrote is so poignant, I’ve reread it many times as it could apply to any of our relationships.  It also describes my story with Khaled.

This is not just a love story about a man and a woman. It also a love story about a little girl. It is not a story I would have had the imagination to write for myself, nor a story I would have believed I’d have the openness and capacity to live. This is a story only God could have written. And it is already beautiful.

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