As salaam alaikum,
Let me take a few moments to reflect on the (to me) fast paced events of the last few months. Maybe that will help increase the illusion that I have two feet on solid ground.
Back in September, B, who is now my intended, told me that we should "hang out." I agreed, only because I knew he was interested in me, and this piqued my interest. He knew I am Muslim, he knew details of that story because I told it during book club (which was weird...can't remember how we got on the subject), and I was amazed that this Igbo Nigerian guy was still interested in me, even though he knew I was Muslim.
I accepted to "hang out" just to see what he was all about. I've "hung out" with other guys...in the time since I'd met him, there had been three or four, if you count the Muslim guy that I talked to for a bit. So there was nothing novel here. I would feel him out, see how Christian he was (because I was certain that all Igbos were Christian), and see where the relationship went.
We talked more and more, and I got the feeling he wasn't Christian. Every time I mentioned that I was Muslim, he took it in stride, listened attentively, didn't change the subject as many guys do and didn't seem perturbed. Come to find out, he believes in God but follows no organized religion. He has great respect for Muslims as one of his best friends is Muslim.
This man was a bold one! He knows about Muslims to a level that we went out to eat and he asked if I ate halal (I have to tell most people what that means), and expected me to follow some code of modesty...and he still asked me out?
At this point, I had convinced myself that he was a fool.
We went out for a month and a half, and come November, a few days after his birthday, I wondered what we were. It was awkward talking about it in public, where we'd go to a concert or a movie and he'd return me to my place, standing chastely outside of my apartment, wishing me goodbye (no kissing)...so I figured I'd invite him over while my roommates were home (seemed innocuous) so they could meet him and so we could talk more privately so we could decide where we were...
And, as often happens, our intentions lined up and he had the same question of me. I found myself suddenly and startlingly in a relationship with B, a God-fearing yet non-Muslim man.
Those of you who have read since then have read through me processing the hell out of this! That day in November (which was, in fact, Wednesday, November 17)...I felt in over my head. There have been a couple of missteps, a couple of poor decisions along the way, things I wasn't ready for, like our first kiss, frankly, even though for that month and a half I was confused why he hadn't tried to kiss me...haha, I was a big talker but when the time actually came, I was confused and a bit scared.
I handled things totally not how I thought I would handle them...how I've always imagined things in my head. And I realized, to a point, I've never really imagined myself in a relationship with a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Once I got myself there, I had no idea how I would drive it, what things we would do together to hold it together, when the turning points would be...meeting the parents, talking about marriage...how we would handle engagement, etc. So now I find myself with someone, and much unlike what has been my style so far in my adolescence and adulthood...I've had to make things up as I go. I haven't had time to ruminate and wax philosophical about what I think should be done...
But I'd been thinking about it. Both of my parents are happy. My mother is happy that I've found a God-fearing man so I can finally stop being so lonely and believing there was no one out there for me. My father is happy because I'm not only with a Nigerian, but an Igbo...he has a schema for this and not for anyone else, probably not even a black man, that I'd bring home. He's so content with that, he hasn't yet asked about B's religion...which I think will come later. B's concerned about that...I am less so. So, on the home front, B's like, pretty much best case scenario.
I knew I'd cross this road when I got here, but I often worried, abstractly, about whoever I would end up with asking my father's permission to marry me. I could imagine that ending badly if he were Muslim, especially if he weren't Nigerian or at least black. This man would have to really be invested in me/love me and have great diplomatic skills to win over my father.
I once considered arranging my own marriage, but I would feel no way comfortable doing that with the situation with my father.
I was between a rock and hard place because I do want the blessing from both of my parents when I do marry, and I feel like me starting out a marriage in opposition to my father would just amplify Daddy issues and introduce tensions into my married life that might be hard to overcome. My nuclear family is my rock, and though my father is Christian, he loves me (though you can't get a Nigerian man to say that), protects me, supports me...has raised me, with my mother, to be the woman that I am. He cares for my brother. His relationship with my mother hinges on their religious coexistence and harmony that is upset whenever I mark my religious territory, so I stopped.
B seemed like the best fit, but I do not love him for that.
I was determined not to "settle" for that. I mean, there were other reasons why I grew to like him, but there were two reasons that I would not let factor majorly in my feelings for him and decision to go forward with him along the marriage trajectory. One of those was my relationship with my father. Being with B has made the relationship with my father feel smoother, because with B, I'm more Nigerian, and I feel like he can know on a level higher than my lip service that my being Muslim is not forsaking my Nigerianness. However, there is no way in hell I would use B just to square things with my father, so I put this off to the side in considering our relationship.
The other reason I would not factor in is his kiss, let's say. We are obviously physically attracted to each other, and that's enough for me to know. I was concerned with other things, and my decision to marry him ultimately will be based on other compatibilities...spiritual compatibility, our friendship, confidence, trust...I had to know if this guy who does not call himself Muslim was worthy of me fulfilling half of my religion with him.
And that was the toughest part to reconcile. He doesn't call himself Muslim. Why do I say it like that? Hah, I feel like I'm setting myself up to be an apologist, but so be it.
I think about this guy who I met out in Cambridge when I went to a salsa club with my friends. He was Muslim. He drinks socially, regularly, and accidentally switched my drinks such that I almost consumed alcohol, which I've never done. He fasts alcohol for Ramadan. I mean, I'm not one to judge, because here I am, in a salsa club, something that I wouldn't have done years back. But he was Muslim, and he seemed absently interested in me, as he cursed, as he described his drunken debauchery, all of this.
Then, about a month later, B asked me out, and I discovered that he believes in God. He volunteers in the city and I've seen him give charity with his right hand, discreetly. He says grace over his food. He's abstained and is a virgin. He avoids alcohol and drugs. He doesn't curse.
And as I've discovered over the last couple of months, we're so very compatible in so many ways...in our interest in Africa and the African diaspora, current events, news, our tastes in documentaries and comedies and the way we watch these, the meticulous way we wash dishes to the things we find funny, the way we speak. At first I felt like it wouldn't be so but we've evolved such that we can talk about anything, everything...I can tell him what's on my mind, down to my trying to figure myself out as a Muslimah and what my relationship with him means for that. I mean, everything.
I'm more comfortable talking to him about these things than I have been comfortable talking to any Muslim besides my mother.
Given what I knew about B at baseline, the charity, the no alcohol, his ethics...add Muslim to that, and I would have had no question. But I realize that I'd been operating in such a way that being Muslim was enough on so many levels with no real thought to the brother's personal ethics and his possible compatibility with me.
To some, this will seem like a cop-out, my ending up with a non-Muslim, being a Muslimah, especially since I've intended to end up with a Muslim for so long, that which inspired me to become more practicing in college...so I could form myself into what would be a good Muslim wife. But in this experience I'm learning (because the lesson isn't over yet) about God and I'm learning...He knows what's best for us. I'm still struggling with the possibility that Allah (swt) could possibly intend for me a man who is not a practicing Muslim...struggling not in the sense that I'm losing sleep, but struggling because, against everything I once believed, it seems to be so.
But from that time, in March, my second time seeing B, getting that sudden and overwhelming feeling that I was "going to end up with him," not knowing what that meant, denying it for a wihle, and still not knowing anything about this man, until now, I know...I know in a way no one outside of my body can know, this is what Allah (swt) intends for me. It is with this man that I intend to grow and realize my purpose in this life, as a Muslim and as a citizen of this world.
I didn't write for a while because I felt like my entries and this very journal lacked the bite that it used to. So much of my persona here was fueled by righteous indignation, despair and hope. Faith in the face of doubt, and my primary doubt was if I was ever going to marry, if it were even possible for someone to love me. I know it to now be true. That doubt is gone, but in the process of living this doubt, living this despair, living this loneliness, I've learned so many things about my relationship with God, and I continue to.
I'm also learning what it really means to be Muslim. Because, as we all know, people who call themselves Muslim are not the only ones who submit themselves to God. And while I'll always identify as Muslim, and it's always my goal to become a better Muslim...I think I previously limited myself in what ways I could be Muslim because I thought I had to...but now I'm learning other ways to be...I'm making mistakes along the way, astaghfirullah, but at the end, I think I'll be where I need to be...
Allah (swt) doesn't lead astray those who come to Him, so I'm not afraid as long as I pray.
Yeah, some of the bite of Invisible Muslimah is gone, because I'll likely gripe about gender relations between Muslims less, I'll no longer speculate about relationships and what paradigm I'll work through because I'm in one, making it up as we go along, because B and I, we're in this together...
...but Invisible Muslimah will not cease to exist. I'll probably focus more on humanism and humanitarian issues, current events...and relationship/marriage issues will probably be more concrete.
Anyway, that's all...well, that's not all, but that's a lot of what I've been thinking through over the past couple of months.
Oh yeah, and it's clear to me now...if I ever publish RMD, I'm going to dedicate it to my mother. She has to read it first and help me fix it. B will help Mo sound more like a guy for me, and yeah. Though, he's already weirded out by the first two pages...I'm concerned, haha!