Monday, October 18, 2010

The Magic Engagements

As salaam alaikum,

I just ran into one of the med school Muslims in the hallway...found out he was engaged.

Because of B, I could be really happy for him without the pang that so often existed when I learned that a Muslim my age was engaged or getting married...the pang of the ever-more present realization that I could not have that.

Heh, as soon as B told me that we should hang out, I forgot that not two weeks before I had essentially given up on all relationships, Muslim or non-Muslim. I made an exception for him, but I've found recently that I have a background overall disillusion with the whole Muslim courtship thing such that I'm convinced that me ending up with a Muslim who actually matches me would require nothing short of a miracle and the hand of God.

So yeah, I've effectively given up on that. Not because I think I'm going to end up with B or a non-Muslim in general, but...that expectation was no longer healthy for me, and I don't think it ever has been. B, like MQ, may be an agent in my life more than a permanent fixture to get me to another place, I don't know.

Things can't happen until they happen, and if you expect them every morning and are disappointed every evening when nothing happens, then life becomes a two-dimensional misery, reduced to happen and not happen, and you miss out on the richness and wonderful experience that is actually your life.

Being with B so far has widened my world back to three dimensions. I've been better at realizing my blessings because my worldview, perspective, vantage point...all three are less blunted because for all intents and purposes, something has happened that could in fact be the it I was waiting for. Everything is open, anything could happen, opportunity is ripe, I don't know.

So all of the Muslim men in my class, in fact, may be engaged to be married to Muslim women. Mabrook to them all. There are two of us sisters that are not currently engaged (there are only three of us in the class), and I know for a fact that the other, whenever the time comes, will have people who will help her with the process. She is generally unconcerned, from what I see, because it's not so much of a question as it is for me.

I have no cultural system in place. For marriage, I'm at the mercy of the elements. That we're all at the mercy of Allah (swt), whether arrangements for marriage come easily or hard for us, almost goes without saying, if His remembrance weren't key to everything we do.

I guess, then, more than being at the mercy of the elements, I have more of an absolute uncertainty about how it'll pan out since there is no system in place.

I guess the thing is...I'm very unconventional. I always have been, from the way that my family is Muslim to the way that I am Muslim to the way that I practice. I guess I'm more unconventional than what seems allowable for someone who is almost a revert who wants to still be considered by the masses as Muslim. I guess I've always been sensitive about that in the way that I've presented myself to...everyone, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

But Muslims, those reading, whoever else need to know...we aren't always welcoming, are we? Not nearly as much as we wish we were, as much as we purport, as much as we want to be.

I have to wash my hands of worrying about being accepted. In a certain sense, I rarely will be. Any time another black Muslim sees me at iftar and thinks that I'm just there to support my Muslim friends, after seeing me at iftars for two years, being the same brown that I am, being Nigerian like I am, not knowing me from Eve, really, not knowing my name, not knowing even that I'm Nigerian, not knowing my story...I give up.

There have been few times when Muslims accept I am Muslim just because they are told. Hijab was one of those times, which is part of why that existed, but pretty soon after, I fell back into obscurity. The other time happened right after Ramadan, when I met a friend of a friend, a guy at the business school. If he hadn't kissed me on the cheek at the end, thus ruining the entire memory of the encounter (an act which I recounted in this journal and now I reflect on the irony of my regarding that as an impropriety), it would have been one of the more meaningful encounters of my life, actually.

I thought back to him and I realized...he's one of the few Muslims who accepted that I was Muslim without asking questions about my background, being confused that I didn't have a Muslim name, any of that. I had gone out salsa dancing, and he was there, a friend of a friend. I think my med school friend must have told him I was Muslim. He asked me if I had fasted all of Ramadan, and I said yes. He said he had, too. He told me how he'd come here from Pakistan in 2000 for college, graduating in 2004. I got confused and told him I came out of college in 2003, which I later remembered was when I came out of high school. We talked about what it was like for us to be Muslims at the fringe (we didn't call it that, but both of us, by being out with friends at a salsa dancing establishment, obviously were). And that was that.

I realized how nice it was to not have to constantly explain myself when my name and ethnicity don't predict my religion.

I wash my hands of worrying, because there's nothing I can do. B is awesome right now, life is even better. It's true, I'm not worried about the future right now, not because he'll be in it, but because he's occupying the part of now that was worried about the future. I'm focused more on now, which is a wonderful now, in which I've worked through a constant fog of fret somehow alhamdulillah to be in medical school, public health school, and I have this story that I'm writing and almost done with, it's amazing.

Anyway, I have to get up in 6 hours. I probably should sleep. I get to observe at the developmental disabilities department at Children's should be interesting.

Life is ahead. Life abundant, as promised.


  1. Hey salaam Chinyere,
    I'm so happy for you and wish you happiness...however it comes. You know at first I was always wondering why you felt the need to justofy your Islam, your way of practicing, etc...and then I remembered what it felt like to be Muslim in the U.S. or even the U.K. to a lesser can asphixyate anyone, especially when Black and from an African family....but then agin I've gone (and still go) through that.

    As someone who really started practicing Islam in 2004 and who chose to wear hijab after, I also know I'm's been a bit hard to find the middle way and to be true to myself. I've had debates and confusion about shaking hands, kissing to greet, dressing up, wearing heels and make up, hanging out with people who drink, etc...I've come to the conclusion that I need to do what feels right (even when I have slight pangs of guit) to evolve in society...

    So yes, I go out for lunch/dinner w/ dudes, I kiss them as a greeting, I wear heels and dress up but at the same time I'm modest, I keep everything halal and everyone knows my position on nearly everything, lol. On the one hand, some Muslims will disapprove b/c I'm "straying", other will disapprove b/c I don't go far enough (no dating/fornicating/clubbing).

    I've yet to meet a Muslim like me, who is dveoted but can also be wordly...and in the dating department it's even more complex. Like u, I can't do this rigid way most (Western) Muslims see dating simply b/c it's not natural for me...yet I'm quite pudic so until we're sitting in front of the imama and u put a ring on it, forget it dude, lol. But finding an educated, ambitious, pious, nice guy who knows Ghazali and watch T.V., who can recite Quran yet are well read, who go to the masjid and also go to get togerthers, etc.

    May God help us all find the right way of pleasing Him while being true to ourselves and may we find awesome dudes who follow through...

  2. Salaam, sis!

    I love this! Thanks so much for helping me feel...normal.

    I feel like a lot of us don't talk about this, but yeah, coming to medical school, I've had to learn to find my own moderation. At this point in my life, I feel like I've been at both extremes of least, haha, as extreme as I'll allow myself to go.

    I remember when I first started wearing hijab, I didn't wear heels or makeup, never got to the point of not shaking hands...and now, on the non-hijab side, there are still particulars that I'm not used to...thus that dude cheek kissing me, haha, I was like, whoa. But if he were Latino, I wouldn't have been surprised. In fact, I forgot, one of my classmates, who is Cuban, cheek kissed me that very same day, and I didn't think anything of it...!

    Yes, may Allah (swt) guide us both on our chosen middle paths, that we may not stray from the straight path, and may he be pleased with our intentions! And ditto on the dude thing, I so agree with you...that's hard to find. Ameen!

  3. Is there a way to differentiate between expectation and hope? Because we associate expectation with reality coming crashing down, but as a Muslim hope in Allaah swt should be superior to however we're affected while alive. sure the heart will feel what it will, but we can't allow that to chip away at hope. hope for the best of things and always keep in mind and heart that what we believe to be the best Allaah swt might have something even better in store.

    after weeks of trying to get a hold of my doctor she called me at home early this year and told me i have every right and ability to lead a normal life like other people my age. when she told me that i wanted to cry. i spent maybe half a year realizing that i had given up on things unconsciously. and she called me at a point i was trying to turn that around. she didnt give me any immediate solutions, but that i even got a call and that kind of message, subhanAllaah, she really meant it and it really affected me.

    i get all sorts of pangs because i am so behind in life whether it's the non-muslim or the muslim i am seeing before me. i dont want to be behind. i dont even want to be up to par. i want to be ahead. but i cant seem to be anything but stagnant. when i think about that, well, it hurts. and it hurts writing this. but when i think about the possibility of change, of a future, of the things i've heard, that Allaah swt is true to His word, the only pangs left are under the scope of my own actions or lack thereof. but the sense of vigor of just one good thing is far greater than those pangs. i cant count on myself too well to hear reminders to that one good thing, whatever it might be, so i try to be around the people who might, if not in real life then online.

    i haven't learned yet to be proud of being a Muslim. some sort of positive pride, a humbling sort, because really we're *chosen*. and with that learning process... i feel there's something amazing i've been depriving myself.