brothers, marriage

Mahr shaming

Lately, I have noticed the trend of Muslim women significantly reducing or at times forfeiting their mahr (dowry). In Islam, the dowry is something that is paid by the man to his intended wife. It is paid to the wife, and to her only, to show that he has serious intentions to marry her and is not simply entering into the marriage contract without any sense of obligation or effort on his part. Based on what I have seen the practice of forfeiting ones dowry seems to be more common among African-American Muslim women. I am not sure why this is the case amongst our Black sisters but I do have my speculations.

When we talk about dowries in the modern-day your mind may shift to exuberant amounts of money and gold. For some, this sort of dowry may be a cultural expectation and the grooms family will generally pitch in and assist with providing this requested amount to the bride and her family. In most cases, if this amount is not paid then the marriage will not proceed.

Now, let a sista just keep it real and say that this is not the case in most Black Muslim families. We don’t collectively pitch in to pay dowries. In addition, our dowries are not ridiculous and overwhelming to the groom. Yet, many Black Muslim women still get shamed for requesting simple dowries.

Everyone gets married for different reasons with varied intentions. Since each of us walk a different path in this life we all look for different things within a marriage. Islam assists us in understanding our roles and obligations within a marriage and at the end of the day we rely upon our contractual agreement to guide us within the confines of a marriage. Now if we want to talk about true indisputable rights within a marriage then the dowry is pretty high on that list. With that being said I still find it odd when Muslim women, particularly Black Muslim women, are religiously coerced into asking for far less. At times, their dowries consist of nothing tangible.

Black Muslim women need to stop restricting their dowries for the sake of the men they are marrying. Who are you trying to please? Asking for him to memorize Quran and not requesting anything in conjunction with that is simply ridiculous.

You need something for YOU!

What about Quran in combination with some gold? Or how about a reasonable and fair amount of money with your favorite surah?

My dowry is not grounds for you to practice your bartering skills, especially when I am already being fair.

For my sisters, there is nothing pious about rejecting what Allah has specifically ordained for you. The rules of Allah supersede the wishes of any man who desires to be your husband. For my brothers, it is not in your best interest to go into a marriage negotiating a dowry or persuading her to negate it all together in order to follow whatever form of the “sunnah” you align yourself with. Even if women don’t vocalize it this leaves a very bad taste in our mouths. As a woman, I am telling you this!

Not to mention…

As women we give so much of ourselves in a marriage. You are bounding yourself to take care of this man, giving him access to your temple, putting your life on the line by birthing his children, nurturing and caring for him day in and day out. Muslim women, we are deserving of so much more and asking for a fair dowry is nothing in comparison to what you are giving this man, who will be your husband, in return. Requesting a reasonable dowry is not placing a “burden” on him. If he has to work a little harder to get you a fair and reasonable dowry then so be it. You work for everything else in life. So what makes you think you ain’t gonna put in any extra work for a righteous wife?

Our love and devotion is priceless. The highest dowry wouldn’t even amount to what he is getting in return, which is you.

My motto is essentially this:

If a man attempts to talk you down or out of your dowry (that is Islamically ordained to you by Allah! I repeat, by Allah!) run away and don’t look back. He doesn’t understand your value or worth and chances are you will have to negotiate everything else within that marriage. This just shows that he is not willing to put in the work for you and most importantly he doesn’t care about Allah.

Who has time for that?

Don’t deny what Allah has given us as a means of protection and know your Islam inside and out before you go into any marriage.

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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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Deep Roots

I rolled over in bed and quickly realized that was a huge mistake.

The whole side of my body morphed into fine goosebumps and I was awoken to the crisp Chicago night and freshly pressed bed sheets. Streaks of moonlight creeped through my blinds and splashed parts of my bed. It was eerie but serene at the same time. I pulled the covers closer to my body and gazed out the window. The warmth was rushing back towards my body as I bent my legs towards my chest to trap it in. I saw a silhouette of the tree standing in the front yard. During the day it stood in solitude and most of the time barely noticeable but tonight it looked intimidating, fearless and beautiful. The daytime suffocated her true self. She needed to release. The tree was simply stealing the night in order to display her true brilliance.

We all steal in one way or another. I thought to myself.

I took in a deep breath of the chilled night air and reflected on the desires of the human spirit. My chest rose as thoughts stirred in my mind. I needed the tree to share the night with me. So I stole a bit of it for myself.

I did so unapologetically and without shame.

_

Life feels full, but nonetheless very enjoyable. At 28, I feel like I am reaching a point of self-realization. I am growing into myself and feel more confident with the woman I am becoming. I have had opportunities to be independent, extensively travel and pretty much “do me”. It always amazes me the turns that your life can take. I always tend to think that I control the major and minor occurrences in my life. Now, don’t get a sista wrong… I firmly believe that Allah has ultimate control but I think we play a huge part in how our lives turn out as well. In my early 20’s I would have never thought that I’d be unmarried and globe trotting.

For real…

We all walk different paths that may converge with that of our family and friends and sometimes they never converge at all. People get married in clusters then they start getting pregnant in clusters too. Think of it like this, in every group of friends there is that one person who kinda does their own thing. The one who is going against the grain of expectation and normativity.

Society dictates what you’re supposed to have, when you’re supposed to have it and how you’re supposed to get it. Are people just cookie cutters of one another? Should people be labeled or pointed out when they don’t fit into what society expects of them? As women we get stuck with this big time. Once you reach a certain age (normally after 30) certain “things” are expected of you. It’s almost as though many of us have an expiration date that is shadowed in the fear of not fulfilling those societal demands. Once we get into our late 20’s we’re in a rush to get our lives “together”.

Life is not set up like that. There is no “set” age or time to get married, have children or even to be settled in a career. I’m sure those things work as motivators for many people but I refuse to live my life in the cloud of societal demands.

That’s mad stressful!

I think about my life and where I see myself in the future inshAllah. I certainly want to get married and have a family, but quite frankly I am enjoying my life. I’m living in the now and attempt every day to be conscious of the present. The past is long gone and the future awaits me, God willing.

Right now is what counts and it is the only thing I can control at this given point in time.

There is a time for everything in your life. I recognize the chances of me finding someone as mobile as myself is pretty rare. I will have to adapt certain aspects of my life and the older I get I understand that people become less flexible. So don’t misunderstand a sista because I know that time is precious and it must not be wasted.

One must strike a balance of living for oneself as well as understanding the realities of life. This balance can be hard to achieve and it is something I work on quite often.

Right before bed and in the early hours of the morning have always been a time of reflection and thought.

Many researchers have said that trees are some of the few plants that can show physical manifestations to outside stressors. Air quality, soil conditions and limited space can inhibit their growth. Just like the human spirit trees need space to fully flourish and reach their highest potential. If not they remain stagnant and eventually die. One must be rooted in the knowledge of self in order to grow.

Remember, there is no growth without firm and planted roots.

I take my time to grow and breath so that when love comes my way I am ready for it to plant itself deeply within my heart. Until then, I steal pieces of the night and patiently wait for the daylight to bring its lessons on life.

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Ice Cube & Jummah

Recently I was having one of those days.

You know the ones when you’re really feelin’ yourself.

Outfit was on point, weather was nice and I had a fly cheetah print hijab on. Not only that but it was Friday so I was in a really good mood.

There was nothing more I could ask for. My red car glistened in the sun as I drove down Stony Island Avenue. In my Ice Cube voice “It was a good day.”

I was thankful and blessed.

You couldn’t tell a sista nothin’…

I was on the south side of Chicago and I decided to go to jummah nearby. I rolled into a mosque I was somewhat familiar with and soaked in the sermon. After jummah, I gave the greeting to the familiar faces I saw put my shoes on and made my way out.

I was walking back to my car. I crossed the street and headed towards the open parking lot. First thing I noticed was that my car was blocked in by two vehicles. It looked like it would be a game of Tetris trying to get out of that lot. I thanked Allah under my breath for having a small car. I was strategically parked at the end all the way in the corner.

I pulled my keys out of my purse as the gravel crunched under my shoes. As I opened my door I heard someone say “Asaalamu alaikum sister.”

I looked over and realized there was a brother sitting in the car next to where I was parked. Like myself he was patiently waiting in the post-jummah traffic jam. He poked his head out of the window and smiled.

I returned the greeting and kindly smiled back before closing my door.

It was mad hot outside. I got in my car, started the engine and rolled down the windows.

“I like your car.” He said. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at my car or at me because of his huge sunglasses. One thing though, I could tell he was slightly nervous by the almost unnoticeable quiver in his voice.

“Thanks, its a good car. Very reliable” I said shyly.

I could hear the reggae playing in his car. He turned the music down.

“I’ve never seen you here before. So you come to this mosque often?” He asked.

I knew where this was going but I thought let me not shut the brotha down right away. He had the guts to initiate conversation and he did so after jummah for that matter! Plus, it would be kinda awkward ignoring him as I was stuck in the lot. A sista couldn’t run even if she wanted to.

Plus you already know the deal…

Muslim men say Muslim women (specifically hijabis) are hard to talk to. Muslim women say Muslim men never attempt to initiate conversation.

“Naw, not really. I was just in the area and decided to stop by. The khutbahs (sermon) always seems to be relevant here.” I said.

I looked in my rear view mirror to see if there was any progress. The cars were still empty. I guess folks were trying to get their Friday blessings in and putting extra sunnah prayers in.

I could see him in my peripheral. His body language indicated he wanted to say more. During the eleven minute hiatus he told me about his family and profession.

As folks headed back to their cars and the sound of engines echoed in the parking lot he said this, “Sister, I’m really just looking for a wife. I know its forward of me but I have to start somewhere. No better place to meet a sister than at the masjid after jummah, right?” This came out of his mouth with such sincerity.

The brother had a point.

After much thought I realized I wasn’t mad at him. He was simply doing what he needed to do in order to find a partner. He made his intentions perfectly clear.

No disrespect involved.

I know y’all ain’t gonna admit it but we’ve all scoped the scene out after jummah, Eid prayer and at lectures.

Stop frontin’…

You see, the way some men approach women makes us feel violated at times. Most women have felt like that at some point or another.

I didn’t feel violated or grossed out after our conversation ended. My dignity and self-respect was still intact.

Then I thought about how a couple of years ago I would have totally written this brotha off. I probably would have flipped my cheetah hijab, said “astagfirullah” under my breath, given him an eye roll (maybe with a neck roll for added emphasis) and zoomed off in my mini red car. Getting older, wiser (hopefully!), and experienced has honestly allowed me to see the “human” in people.

Many Muslims like to view themselves as the ideal Muslim (at least in public) but no one realizes that this is something we all aspire to become. We all want to reach a level of religious perfection and utter obedience.

But what does being a “good” Muslim really mean? Why do we deny ourselves the right to emotionally express our human needs and then equate that with religiosity?

It just doesn’t make sense to me. Acknowledge your basic needs as the human that Allah created you to be.

It’s not a weakness and at that moment I realized that,

I could not fault him.

I could not ridicule him.

I could only empathize with him.

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