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Second Chances

She rubbed her stomach in a slow circular motion. Her fingers grazed her belly button with each stroke. She watched her hand rub, rub and rub some more. She rubbed with such an intensity as if the touching of her protruding stomach would somehow help ease her thoughts. It was like her hand had a mind of its own. She was tired and could barely get out of bed that morning. She threw on a pair of jeans and tossed a hijab on top of her uncombed hair.

Her eyes shifted to the door.

She stopped the mindless rubbing.

The nurse called some name and the girl next to her sighed with an undertone of impatience. The office looked like you stepped back into the 80’s. It smelled of moth balls and disinfectant. A plant that needed watering sat in the corner. The leaves were starting to turn brown and curl inward. She almost felt like getting a cup of water from the fountain nearby and pouring it into the soil, if only it was as easy to nourish the pain in her heart. Her soul needed watering. Everything around her was moving in slow motion, except for her thoughts. Her mind was racing at a mile a minute.

She had two options.

It was plain and clear.

Keep it or don’t keep it.

She knew what it meant to keep the baby. She would probably never get married. Her family would be shamed from here to eternity and her life would essentially be over. A form of suicide but the worse part about that was she wouldn’t actually be dead. She would still be living and going through the motions of life.

She would rather be dead.

Again, plain and clear.

Getting rid of the baby meant that she could go on as if nothing happened. This would be a hard secret to keep. She didn’t feel like her heart could bear to hold it. She had never been a liar and the thought of murdering her baby made all the blood rush to her head. She felt faint. Her eyes closed as her head fell back and rested on the wall behind her. She whispered “Allah” under her breath. This was a call for clarity mixed with a yearning for forgiveness. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Babies were never a mistake.

This baby was a manifestation of their passion. She loved him. He loved her. She knew exactly when she got pregnant but she was still in denial when she missed her period two months in a row. Your mind will convince you to believe anything. Afterwards, he rolled over and wrapped his big arms around her. She kissed him. He always liked to whisper in her ear after they made love. He would tell her how beautiful she was and thank her for giving him a piece of her love. She could always tell if he was being honest by the look in his eyes. The room was dark and strips of moonlight crept through the blinds. She looked at him and he didn’t blink. He knew she was looking for sincere eyes. Even as dark as the room was she could still look into them. His eyes were deep brown and bright as ever. His warmth radiated around her. She was nestled in him and at that moment in time she didn’t want to be anywhere else. Her eyes closed and she could hear him falling asleep. His breathing pattern slowed down. She rubbed her fingers through his beard. He still held her tightly as he fell asleep. This was love but you couldn’t convince their families though. She never understood why old people acted like they had never been young and in love. She swore up and down she would never become like them. They both pleaded with their parents to allow them to get married. By that point he had approached her father three times and each time it ended with a rejection and a culturally appropriate request not to return. She knew this hurt his pride but he was a man and would never admit it. They were going to be together regardless but like everything in life she knew there would be consequences.

She knew this was a possibility. Every time you lay up with a man you risk the chance of getting pregnant. This was basic knowledge but she got caught up with him. It started off innocent and sweet. She held onto her virginity the way good Muslim girls are taught. By the time she reached twenty-five it was getting harder to maintain herself. They would meet up at events, then that lead to dinners and eventually he began inviting her over to his place. In the beginning he even gave her his bed as he crashed on the sofa. At the thought of this she laughed under her breath at its stupidity. Shaytan did his work and had them both thinking they were in control. The first time they had sex there was a sense of remorse and guilt. Afterwards they immediately turned away from each other as though nothing had happened. The shame of sin had kicked in. She rolled out from under the covers and quickly put her clothes on. She couldn’t believe it had happened. As she left his house she could still smell him on her. She had held onto her virginity for all those years and to lose it that quickly almost seemed unfair. She had never felt so dirty but he ignited a flame inside her body that could only be cooled by him. It felt natural. She would try to ward off the flames of desire and sometimes she would succeed but when they became uncontrollable she needed him. Every time they vowed to never to repeat this sin but one thing led to the next and before she knew it she’d be wrapped up in his bed sheets once again. This is what had led her to this point.

Marriage was what she wanted. It was what they both wanted from the beginning. She blamed her parents, her community and cultural bullshit. Islam was easy but Muslims made it hard. She was being pushed away but she needed her community. She needed to be reminded of where she came from. Hindsight is always 20/20, no doubt. She understood the consequences of her actions. Actually, they both understood the consequences of their actions but she was the one who carried the tangible manifestation of what they had done.

No one had explained these things to her though. Everything she learned about sex was from her peers and TV. No one actually sat her down and explained sex and its implications. Sex was always seen as a shame. As a woman you were not allowed to admit that you had the desire to be desired, even if you were within the confines of a marriage. It was often discussed with brides the night before their wedding in hushed voices behind closed doors. Some people said this was related to Islam but she had been educated enough to know that this was a cultural understanding. In Islam, women were sexually liberated and their needs were always acknowledged.

The door opened and the plump nurse walked out with a clipboard in her hand. She lifted her glasses and looked at it puzzlingly. She uttered something with exaggerated syllables that didn’t sound even remotely close to her name. She didn’t care and didn’t even bother correcting the nurse. She made eye contact and acknowledged her presence without words. Worried that the shame she was carrying deep inside her womb would surface she quickly averted her eyes to the floor.

Her mind had been made up.

______________

I remember when a friend of mine disappeared. I remember the pain and worry I felt when I couldn’t find her. Her number changed, her Facebook page vanished and I lost contact with her for nearly three years. I had heard that she got caught up with a brother and decided to take some time to recover from a failed attempt at getting married. Years later, I bumped into her and to my surprise she had a toddler strapped on her hip. I remember she looked happy and I was overjoyed to see her after years of not being in contact. I found out that in those years she had a son and had finally decided to come out and be part of the Muslim community once again. She said she did this for the sake of her child. She couldn’t raise him on her own and needed to be around other Muslims.

At the time, I had a mix of emotions. I was upset and hurt. I didn’t understand why she had to go into hiding but I began to understand the hard decision she had to make. She was all alone. My mind shifted to the feeling of loneliness she probably felt and the fact that she had very few people to confide in. I wanted to be there for her because as a young Muslim woman I understood the struggle of being single and alone. The reality remains that it is easy to get caught up and you have to be diligent and mindful of Shaytan and his tricks. I admired her courage for coming back but I admired her even more for keeping her child under cultural and religious pressures.

Muslim women who get pregnant out of wedlock need to be encouraged to keep their seeds but there is no way this can happen without collective community support. As women, we have to give each other a break and understand that it is very easy to judge a person when you haven’t been put in the same predicament. Each one of us navigate a different road in life. Life is full of challenges and we all face circumstances different from the next. I have witnessed Muslim men bring their pregnant girlfriends to the mosque. Absolutely no shame in their game and they aren’t reprimanded.

Let a sista repeat…

I’ve actually witnessed Imams encourage these men to bring their girlfriends to the mosque in hope that these women will convert to Islam. Yet, when a Muslim woman gets pregnant she goes into hiding or gets an abortion. Sometimes she leaves Islam all together. What about the child? What about her spiritual wellbeing?

The double standards are for real and I refuse to accept them.

The dehumanizing associated with Islam needs to stop. Muslims are people and fall into sin just like any other group. When did religiosity and infallibility become so closely intertwined? As sincere Muslims, we all hope to stay on the path of truth and righteousness but in reality sometimes we take a detour or some of us just take a break and get off the path all together. We would rather trample over each other and judge a person when they are having a difficult time getting back up. So rather than offering a helping hand we kick them down even further when they make sincere efforts to get back into our communities. What happens when Allah has allowed a person to come back? What happens when He has ignited their hearts once again? Lending a helping hand to a person who has fallen victim to life doesn’t mean you agree with their actions it simply means you are empathizing.

Marriage is not difficult but Muslims make these things more complicated than they ought to be. If two young people express interest in each other why aren’t we allowing them to get married? Then we wanna get mad and judgmental when folks get caught up in certain situations. The older I get I hear of far too many people getting caught up simply based on the fact that their community or parents didn’t allow the marriage to progress. This is a huge problem in many Muslim communities. It usually falls into these two categories, either the brother isn’t financially ready (so the family rejects) or the family doesn’t agree with interracial/intercultural marriages.

In addition, we need to teach our young people about sex. In an ideal world and according to Islam abstinence is taught but in reality folks are getting it in. Young Muslims need to properly understand sex and its implications. Contraception, STD’s/STI’s and pregnancies need to be discussed with a culturally sensitive approach. There needs to be no shame associated with this. If we aren’t teaching the youngins’ then they are learning elsewhere. Expecting people to navigate the roads of life without proper guidance is absolutely unrealistic. Our communities need to take some responsibility.

You will never know the inner struggles of a person. Kindness and empathy always overpower.

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marriage, stories

Secret wife = Glorified “side piece”

She married him.

She married him in secret, knowing very well that marriages never went down like that in any culture or religion. Marriages were celebratory and typically included an announcement of some sort. It didn’t have to be anything big or over the top but there had to be something. She knew that but had been convinced otherwise. From the outside Islam always looked so perfect. There was order and a sense of simplicity, but once she converted she quickly realized Muslims were far from that. They struggled just like everyone else and for her that was a huge disappointment. She slowly learned to see the human in people irregardless of their religious practice.

The first time she saw him he was in the mosque. He always looked so dignified. Clothes crisp and freshly ironed. He wore a lot of white linen and his kufi sat neatly placed on top of his head. He had the type of smile where all his teeth showed. He needed a wife, she thought.

Through the curtain she could see him bent over from the waist up offering his afternoon prayer. She looked around to see if any sisters were looking at her before she peered through the sheer pink curtain for a better peek. As her eyes found him her mind began to wander to intimate spaces in her mind. She imagined her body pressed against his linen suit. Pressed so tightly that her curves wrinkled his outfit. He would pull her in closer. She would pull back, not a “real” pull back but the one that translated into “pull me in closer”. She would feel his breath on her neck. Her body would breakout in goosebumps. His hand would rest on her arm but she would feel it slowly making its way down her back. She imagined his smell, which would be of sandalwood mixed with a hint of mint from the gum he was chewing…

She stopped herself and embarrassingly pulled the curtain back into its rightful place.

Little did she know that she’d already caught his eye. Later she would find out that he spotted her in a group of sisters chatting it up outside the mosque weeks prior. He would always laugh and say he spotted the orange hijab first. When she turned around though he knew that she would be his. Her face brighter and more beautiful than the scarf that donned her head, crowning it like a halo. Like any man he enjoyed women. He relished in the thought of conquering a woman, especially the ones who were young and feisty. The ones who swore up and down that they would never be second wives. He had a wife already and had been married for nearly ten years. His wife was not into polygyny. It just wasn’t her thing. He brought up the idea to her once and her reaction made him promise to never speak of it again.

He knew what he wanted though. It was selfish but he didn’t care.

The story of how their relationship began was nothing special or profound. He ran across her Facebook profile based on the mutual friends they had. He requested her. She accepted him. There were no messages exchanged for the first two weeks. Both waited anxiously for the other to say something. There would be occasional “likes” on both ends but it didn’t progress until he popped up in her Messenger. The innocent online messages progressed to meet ups at random cafes. He convinced her that it was permissible because they were in public. Not knowing too much she believed him. After two months of these meet ups he asked if she would marry him. At this point she was already aware of his first wife.

Her feelings were invested. She didn’t care. What if this was her only opportunity to get married? She would often hear of sisters complaining about the difficulties of finding spouses.

So they got married.

At first their relationship was pure bliss but eventually the reality of its circumstances began to surface. Her desire to make the relationship public kept tugging at her. It was obvious that his loyalty was with his first wife. When she would bring it up he filled her with empty promises and one liners about how he didn’t want to cause fitnah (discord) in his community. She always heard the other sisters say that being a good wife meant you didn’t cause your husband undue stress, or at least that is what she had been told. “Allah will always reward the patient and those who perservere…” was a common saying of his. She got sick of him saying it. Quite frankly, she felt like slapping the shit out of him as soon as it began to roll off of his tongue. He was using Islam to fit his needs and desires. It only suited him to use that quote when it worked in his favor. That was not Islam to her…

Who was being patient here?
It certainly wasn’t him.

This was a quick way to religiously shut her down. She would nod in agreement and he would gently brush his hand on her face. Her eyes would close and her mind followed the tracings of his fingers. This would be followed by a kiss on her forehead. His touch would jolt through her body; like an electrical current sending sparks all throughout her being. He made her feel alive, even if that was only in a physical sense because deep down her soul felt dead and abandoned. The trail of touch would go up her arm, to the nape of her neck, between her breasts and eventually the feeling would gently settle between her legs. At this point he would want more and she would gracefully drape her body beneath his.

This became a cycle, one that never failed to repeat itself.

Her heart couldn’t find the courage to convince her lips to say how she really felt. Her body never failed to betray her. She succumbed to his every touch. The relationship was more sexual than it was anything else. He used her. Sometimes she felt like they used each other. He would often complain about his problems at home with his first wife. She would listen and not dare complain to him. She felt like she had a lot to complain about but she willingly put herself in this position. She just felt stuck and there was no room to move. There was no one to confide in and she understood that majority of the blame would fall onto her if this secret ever came to light.

She was the woman. She would be shamed. Her integrity would be questioned. This was the reality. There was only a matter of time before she would burst open.

So this cycle continued and she found herself in the same position that many Muslim women find themselves in.

Married yet alone.

_____

The rise of unmarried Muslim women has resulted in many considering and taking part in secret polygyny. When I use the term secret polygyny I am referring to “the intentional practice of covert marriages.” This practice, that some do state to be permissible within Islam, is more widespread than one would think. In most cases, secret polygyny involves vulnerable women such as recent reverts, those with very little family support and lastly those who are uneducated when it comes to the rights of women in Islam.

Now, before I get labeled as a sista who is bashing polygyny please hear me out. I do not have personal experience to back my claims nor to I have empirical data to support what I am stating. I believe there are several cases where polygyny works out fine, in most of these situations we are dealing with a brother who is extremely fair and righteous. These men who willingly take on multiple wives are far and few in between. Again, the honest truth. This is just the reality. Today, its hard enough to stay within a monogamous relationship and be successful at it. How are some men even considering second wives? Then, how do some men Islamically justify the deceit involved with secret polygyny?

Now as women we play our role in this saga as well…

Unfortunately, some women go by the motto “It’s better to have some man than no man.” This saying has greatly influenced how Muslim women approach the practice of polygyny. Many feel as though it may be their last shot at a relationship, even though polygyny was one that they had no intention of practicing beforehand. Whether or not polygyny still has relevance today, truth of the matter here is that it is extremely hard to convince someone who was raised in the West that it actually works and is practical. Then we throw in the whole “secret wife on the side” piece and you’ll really get conflicted feelings. Yes, we are Muslim but many of us come from different walks of life, culturally speaking, and some of those cultures do not practice polygyny.

I often think of my own experiences and having brothers who are already married approach me for marriage. One of the first questions I always asked was if their first wives were aware of their search. Some would reply with a yes but many more responded in the negative. I could see nothing but selfishness and deceit with these types of men. If they couldn’t honor their first wives, the ones that bore their children, then there was no way I would be respected and upheld. This is why even the mere thought of polygyny just turns me off. The misguided and ill intentions surrounding the polygynous marriages I have seen convinced me, as well as many other women, that polygyny is not where it’s at.

I can’t help but think who benefits most in these scenarios. I’ve personally known several sisters who have taken part in these relationships and all were given the false promise that their marriages would eventually become public. The way a brother treats you in the beginning says a lot in regards to how he will treat you in the midst of your relationship. The few who have come out have had their marriages exposed by others or by the accidental exposure that one risks being on social media.

In all these situations the women have been blamed in one way or another.

We often blame the women for even considering taking part in these marriages without paying attention to the main culprits. What about the imams and religious leaders who marry these individuals? What about the Muslim men who intentionally prey on vulnerable women? Have you ever heard an Imam give a khutbah about that?

Nawwwww…..

These subjects, that are greatly affecting Muslims, are totally bypassed.

More of the concern should be focused on who is marrying these individuals in our community because often these men are repeat offenders and shuffle through vulnerable women intentionally. They leave behind a trail of heartbreak, broken women and in some cases neglected children.

There is nothing Islamic about this.

With all that being said, I need my sisters to take responsibility and become more conscious of the men they decide to wed. Any act, including marriage, out of desperation should probably be left alone. Paying close attention to the signs early on in a relationship will give one a very clear idea as to where the relationship is heading. Being practical about marriage can be very challenging when feelings are involved.

Side note to the brothas, when you bring up polygyny to a Muslim woman and her face amazingly warps into that of the Incredible Hulk now you know why.

So I end this with saying a secret wife is a glorified side piece. If you respect her and the sanctity of your relationship it will be made public.

The truth never lies.

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brothers, love, mosque, personal, segregation, stories

Black + Muslim + Woman

“It’s because you’re black.”

He repositioned himself in the chair, then looked down at his cup of coffee and grabbed the handle. I could tell this conversation made him uncomfortable.

He was from the subcontinent but had the swag of a black brotha. He said he was having a hard time find a sister from his background because he couldn’t relate to them.

“I’m sorry, it’s just my family wouldn’t be happy…” He said this apologetically while taking a small sip from his drink.

I looked at him from across the table before proceeding to give him a piece of my mind. But then I stopped myself.

Why was I shocked?

I thought about how this would have played out totally differently if I was a white girl, and laughed under my breath. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand my white sisters have their own set of problems when it comes to marriage. With that being said, I firmly believe that Black women get the shorter end of the stick. Bottom line.

Muslims like to boast about how Islam is such an accepting religion. We refer to the Prophet’s (pbuh) Black companions, such as Bilal, all the time. The stark reality is that many Muslim communities across the U.S. are blatantly prejudiced, insular and unwelcoming to Black folks. The rhetoric we hear in Friday sermons – being brothers to one another and one united family – is often absolutely hypocritical.

As a result, many Black Muslim women remain unmarried and chronically single.

I know many of these sistas.

I am one of them.

In many communities, Black Muslim women are viewed as the most undesirable women as far as marriage prospects. Black people are plagued with stereotypes and generalizations, and these attitudes have seeped into the fabric of our communities. Growing up in a predominantly Arab community, I understood racism at a very young age. As a girl, I was told that Muslims should marry from their “own people.” I realized early that I would not find a husband in that community but thankfully was able to disassociate my negative experiences with my understanding of Islam.

But the question still remains: who is accountable for the horror stories involved with being a Black Muslim in certain communities?

I hold the leaders responsible. Muslims are notorious for sweeping serious issues under the carpet, turning a blind eye, and pretending as though problems such as racism do not exist. We would rather focus on interfaith dialogue than address intrafaith issues or admit that we are the source of some of our problems.

Community leaders need to properly address race relations specifically when it comes to marriage. The Islamic concept of equality needs to not only be spoken of but actually implemented through the support and encouragement of interracial marriage. Leaders need to take a hard look at the demographics of their mosques and address diversity gaps and segregation. Open dialogue and constructive criticism is the key when it comes to addressing this crucial issue.

Like the brother I met over coffee, I know there are many Muslim men out there who prefer chocolate sistas but refrain from venturing further with those prospects due to family and cultural expectations. It is ok to have preferences when it comes to potential spouses but at the same time one must be open to new possibilities.  If your preferences are solely based on race, that’s a huge problem. Remember that Allah might send you what you need rather than what you want.

Don’t block love. An open mind and receiving heart will never lead you astray.

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