For us Muslim ladies when it comes to marriage, it is pretty much a family affair…and even at times a communal one. Most of us rely on family and community connections to meet potential future husbands. While I’m sure some Muslims engage in what is commonly known as dating, for those who choose to go the traditional/religious route there will be no random dates with some equally random dude. No Sir, the prelude to marriage is a carefully planned, well orchestrated process that requires nerves of steel, and a knack for diplomacy. While every community adds its own cultural flavour to the proceedings, in essence the precepts that shape the process of marriage by and large emanate from the same Islamic values.
I’ll be honest, the whole thing eludes me completely. I think that I’ve probably missed some crucial course on human interactions somewhere along the way. It is not that I don’t like marriage, I do. I love the idea of people coming together, creating families, finding companionship, and all that Jazz. What I don’t get is the underpinnings of most human pairings. The how and why most people choose to be together is always bizarre to me. Human intimate interactions are as mysterious to me as they would be to any visiting alien from another planet. I’ve had the pleasure of playing the role of the chaperone for my closest friends during their courtship, and I absolutely enjoyed being a confident, a counsellor, and a comic relief (when needed) for each one of them. I’m honoured that they trusted me as their friend and their sister in Islam. While I would gladly chaperone for anyone, when Geeky Muslimah is the object of said courtship things tend to….well….go awry.
While I’m a total science fiction geek, I also happen to be on the more orthodox end of the Muslim spectrum. THIS is often difficult for some brothers to reconcile. From my appearance, my opinions and practice of Islam, they often ascribe a certain personality to me. A personality that is unidimensional and bereft of depth. Most of the proposals I’ve received were made to me because apparently from afar I seemed like the “perfect Muslim wife”. This was of course based on my appearance and nothing more.
I’m so far removed from what most men would consider an ideal wife, it is quasi comical actually. If I could have my own personal coat of arms the motto on it would read “I do not cook and I barely clean”. I’m not exactly a hermit (yeah I am, who am I kidding?), but I’m not exactly the socializing type either. I prefer quiet nights at home doing something useful like catching up on the latest episodes of Mr.Robot. Entertaining people (family included) is what I call cruel and unusual punishment; the small talk, the smiling, the constantly running around serving people and being a good host….please just put me out of my misery (Umm….maybe I have a problem after all guys, but that is a discussion for another post). I’m obsessed with reading, in fact if I could pretty much do just that, I’d be living in my own personal utopia. I’m not particularly affectionate, displays of emotion make me rather uncomfortable actually. If we could all just take up Kolinahr like the Vulcans, I’d be totally fine with that (Science fiction geek here, you’ve been warned folks)
Another problem is that I just don’t perform well under pressure. A certain prototype of Muslim woman is what is expected to make its appearance when the party making the proposal shows up at your place. I’ve been told more than once that this is when you put your best foot forward. What does that even mean??? Apparently I just do everything wrong. First of all I hate dressing up. There is a reason why my wardrobe is full of black abayas, I can’t be bothered with developing a fashion sense. But somehow now I’m expected to be Miss stylish Muslimah??? Not gonna happen folks, you’re lucky I’m not wearing my Doctor Who T-shirt on top of my black abaya (to accessorize 🙂 ), so just back off already.
Then there is the conversation with this person who could possibly become the one you will share the rest of your life with. Once you’ve depleted the obvious topics (family, profession, education) what else do you talk about? I love talking politics, science, literature, history, and religion (and yes I will totally judge you for having the wrong opinion), but apparently my eagerness to talk about these topics often comes off like an interrogation. I actually once rejected a proposal after a heated conversation about the role of the IMF and the World bank’s structural adjustment programs in the impoverishment of the Global South (I’m sorry but if we do not share the same basic Islamic values of social justice, and you see nothing wrong with the gutting of entire nations in the name of pure greed, you can just keep on trucking. I will not raise a guinea pig with you let alone actual little human beings). Of course it didn’t help that this brother actually worked for the World Bank, a detail that was mysteriously omitted from the description I was given of him (my family and closest friends know how I feel about certain institutions).
So when brothers find out that my ideal husband is a man I can grow with spiritually (I totally see us having our own Qur’an competitions at home….winner gets a chocolate mouse cake), who is willing to live a principled life according to the precepts of Islam, but who would also be willing to binge watch Star Trek with me, and go to Comic Con ( Cosplaying as Worf and Jadzia…#RelationshipGoals), they just don’t know what to make of it. And I don’t blame them, I am a hodgepodge of contradictions, and a patchwork of inconsistencies. So when the inevitable denouement of these situations arrives it always ends with the same phrase “Sorry it didn’t work out, but look I’m probably not the girl for you anyways. I’ll be making duas for you, please do the same for me“, usually followed by a nervous giggle.
Look at the end of the day what matters is that each and everyone of us finds happiness. I, Geeky Muslimah, found happiness and a sense of purpose in what I affectionately call the singlehood. I just wish we stopped looking at women as incomplete, depressed, or lonely if they are not married. Our personhood is not the byproduct of our marriage status.