A couple of weeks ago I came across an account on Twitter called “Love, Inshallah.” I think one of my friends retweeted one of their tweets. Anyways, it seemed interesting and so I clicked on it. Turns out, it was a good thing I did. “Love, Inshallah” is actually a book written by two talented authors: Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi. They took the stories of 25 American Muslim women and published them in one book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the book, but I know that I had never expected to relate so much to the women in it.
I had expected the usually sugar-coated versions of love stories. However, these stories were so raw in the sense that they delved into the subject of sex and cross-religious relationships openly. For the first time in my life I felt like I was not alone in my struggle to find love. Some of the stories mirrored my own so specifically that I found myself crying without realizing I was doing so. The women in this book (as well as the authors) risked a lot in order to honestly tell their stories, and I appreciate it so much.
It’s not a secret that I have refused the idea of marriage. I was raised in a typical Muslim household, with the emphasis on no dating and allowing my parents to help me choose my mate. As I grew more independent, the idea of a traditional courtship held no appeal to me, and I couldn’t imagine meeting my husband in such a controlled and formalized setting. I wanted to be able to meet the guy on my own and then fall in love. It’s what every girl dreams of, right?
However, I have not been lucky in love. It may be that I am a difficult person in the way that I demand things done a certain way. I am not traditional by any means when it comes to relationships, whether you are Muslim or not. I believe both the man and woman need to still retain an independent life away from the other while married so as not to lose themselves in each other. I see too many women who give up their hobbies and goals in order to be someone’s “wife” and I cannot bring myself to do the same. It may be selfish, but to me, my hobbies and interests are who I am; they make me the person that I am and to take them away will strip me of my identity.
Because of my non-traditional views, I have always been seen as the rebellious one. Everyone has a comment to contribute when I bring up my ideas. I sometimes feel so much like a pariah that I try and convince myself to just get married and do what everyone else did…that it won’t be so bad. But then my mind thinks of the unforeseen obstacles down the line and I recoil as quickly as I approached the idea. I just don’t see it for me…at least not in the traditional sense. So I’ve floated along, alone in my thoughts, until I read “Love, Inshallah”.
The fact that there are 25 different women in the book is great because it gives you 25 different stories on love. We all know that love is not the same for every person. Each of us values something different. Some may want an unconditional love. Some may want an all-consuming love. Even some may want less love- such as an arrangement as a second wife. I used to judge the women who were second, third, or fourth wives, but now I know that some of them simply want a marriage- just not everyday lol. Being a second wife gives you the freedom to still be independent while married (although I still don’t think I’d ever do it myself.)
So stop trying to fit women and their love into a box. Society places such emphasis on the “right” kinds of love: chasteness, reserved, shy, etc….when in reality Muslim women are just like any other woman out there. We all want to be swept off our feet; we want romantic nights and special dinners. Being Muslim does not mean the absence of emotion. Yet when we admit that we feel these things we are labeled and made to feel ashamed. Why?
Reading this book has given me a perspective that I now feel more comfortable and confident in expressing my beliefs. Whereas I was once leery of being the outcast, I can now proudly hold true to my beliefs without fear of being categorized as a bitter, lonely singleton. I am a smart, driven woman who just happens to be single. It’s not a crime. And when my love is ready to find me, it’ll know where to look.