Guestblogging at HijabMan, Rawiya writes about her mother’s surprising advice on marriage. Both her parents expected their six children to marry a Muslim, and preferably a Pashtun. But this didn’t work out so smoothly:
My parents were seasoned stoics when yet another sister, Farah, told them over the phone (again!) that she had fallen in love with a non-Muslim and that they were getting married. Only this time, there was no mention of conversion. Farah had been dating an atheist for years, was living with him in secret, and finally outed herself when he proposed to her. I watched them, resigned, and was hurt for them. I saw how much they loved their children, how little they asked of them, and how disappointed they were. But still, they stood by their children, dealing with censure and ridicule from family and from our community. I was determined to give them what they deserved. I closed off myself to any possibility of marrying a non-Muslim. I vowed that I would find someone that they accepted and approved of, and felt estranged from my siblings and their “selfishness.”
Rawiya goes on, talking about her siblings’ marital moves and how when she hit 27 she thought she was becoming an old maid among Muslims, and all this leads to her mom’s advice to “marry a Jewish man.”
Tradition and innovation, Muslim and non-Muslim, have caused stress to her children in terms of marriage. There are no more ground rules of, “you must marry a Muslim.” She just wants me to find someone who can truly be my partner in life. Traditions, rings, dowries… these things are secondary. She watches in admitted surprise as Farah’s marriage to a non-Muslim seems to be the most stable and rewarding marriage of all of her children’s marriages. As much as I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m surprised too. I feel ashamed at being so judgmental of my siblings and their choices. It’s not easy. We all have ideals and values and expectations in terms of who we want to end up with. But life isn’t that simple. God takes us on twists and turns and I have to believe that S/He knows best. So while it might seem a little strange for Mom to say, “marry a Jewish man,” I know it’s her way of saying, “I won’t judge you if you marry outside of the faith. I know how hard things are for you.” I’m still not quite ready to let that go yet, myself. But I’m thankful that I have the support of incredible parents who understand just how difficult it is for us, living on the margins of multiple societies, battling with complex identities that we choose for ourselves and that are imposed upon us, to find a marriage partner.
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