Saturday, April 2, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 25 "Engaging"

Asalamu Alaykom,

2009 was coming to an end and I didn't want to start a new year without knowing some details of my future.  I am a planner.  In my weeks off from school, due to the H1N1 outbreak that late fall, I was contemplating my ultimate goals.

I needed a better place to live.  I felt very ill at ease in my apartment.  My feelings of safety had been compromised.  A man, who gained my trust enough to be let into my place, took it very wrong. He made a clumsy play for me.  It was so shocking to me that his congeneal help had turned into octopus-arms lust. 

Now, looking back on it, I realize that a woman living in Egypt should never let a man in her apartment for any reason.  It's absolutely normal in the States to let men in to do work or to help you with the understanding that you want nothing else than that.  Here?  NOPE!  Especially if you're a foreigner, you'll be misperceived. 

At the time, I broke down into tears.  I really was mad.  I couldn't believe he had tried something without any permission or inclination on my part.  "Why do this to me?  There are lots of girls all over the streets who want this!  Why do this to me in hejab with my son sitting right over there?  And you know that I'm discussing marriage with someone!"

"I think I may be falling in love with you," he offered.

"That doesn't give you any rights on me!" I was indignant. 

And I was scared.  I realized that as long as I lived in that apartment, I would be on this man's radar.  After that, he would knock on my door to try to see me and talk to me.  

At first, I didn't feel I could say anything to my man, Ahmed.  I didn't want him to flip on me and accuse me of something false.  That would have hurt.  I also didn't want him to haul off and injure that guy.  So, I withheld the info completely, which was wrong.  I got very aggitated; wanting to move.  Then I realized that I had to tell him.  I didn't give all the details.  I simply gave enough to help him understand why I wanted to move out.

The two of us went together to the apartment which we had seen in September with my co-worker.  Once again, I saw how it was beautifully furnished, comfy, cozy and just what I wanted.  It felt safe and a definate improvement from my apartment.  It was quiet. 

I imagined Ahmed and I staying here together once married.  In fact, within every room I could visualize our life:  us watching TV, us eating at the table, us bringing the groceries into the kitchen, us fighting over the closet space and so on.  The whole place felt like a honeymoon cottage. It was away from everything and everybody---almost secluded on that tree-lined street. 

I couldn't imagine just Mr. Boo and I in that place.  I couldn't!  I didn't want to stay there alone as a single mom.  I was scared of that too.  I wanted that to remain a honeymoon cottage.  To stay in it without Ahmed would just be depressing. 

I told Ahmed and his sister that I liked it but I thought it was really for a married couple not for me and my son alone.  I walked away from a good deal because it wasn't a good deal for me.  I wanted it to be for us later. 

I wanted to sanctify our intentions.  We really were these nice people but I felt that over time we were going to turn into the very people we didn't want to be.  We were going to delay a marriage and end up dating and dumping.  I didn't want that ever again in my life. 

I wanted to stop all the talk of "Habibi".  I actually stopped him from calling me this because it couldn't be true yet.  I felt like all the radios here could blast HABIBI non-stop if they wanted to but I wanted something deeper.  I wanted something real.

I wanted to stop any casual touch.  Those little touches build.  Really!  I knew that each touch was haram.  Neither one of us wanted the ultimate haram---zina, astragferallah.  Wallahi, I wanted this to be the marriage which was built on halal.  If either one of us crossed that line, then I was prepared to call the whole thing off.  I wanted no part of a man who couldn't control himself.  It was a true test of our faith to feel the love and interest grow and not to lose ourselves to it.  However, I saw how self-control had a limited amount of time before that intensity of feeling could backfire on us.

I pulled away from him a few times.  Like a true Muslim, he responded with gratitude for my eforts at modesty.  I really harped on the need to fear Allah when I felt that we were acting like we were already married.  He heard me and was very introspective about us.  This was getting so close to being real that I didn't want to mess it up.

We decided to get engaged.  I can't say that I remember the moment.  I don't think there was a moment.  It kind of fell into place.  We started talking about where we could live.  It was decided that his brother's partially finished flat would become ours.  We would get the rest of the work done.  While the work was being done, we would be living in the honeymoon cottage together.

My instincts had been right, alhumdulillah.  If I had agreed to live there alone, I don't think his impetus to do the right thing would have been the same.  In other words, if I had settled for less then he would have too. 

The night of the engagement I was feeling fine. I was once again at his mom's house for dinner.  The whole family was coming over.  It seemed like any other Friday night until all the kids started singing celebratory songs.  The kids, whom I love very much, were freaking me out!  This was real.  I was getting engaged.

The house got more and more crowded with family all wanting to see us recite Al-Fatiha "The Opening" verse from the Quran.  The idea of once more telling a group of people that I wanted to spend forever with a man seemed suddenly crazy. 

We stepped out into the night air---just the two of us.  We needed some sweets to serve to everyone.  It was this really beautiful walk in the moonlight.  We didn't talk.  We seamlessly strolled.  I did take his arm.  I did feel sky high in love with him.  We picked out an assortment together.  I remembered how well we worked together.  It felt right to walk back and become engaged.

So, we walked back and the chaos ensued.  The house full of cousins would not settle down.  I couldn't believe the noise!  It was insane!  They were so excited about the party that they almost made me cancel it altogether---for real!  I hadn't imagined our holy union being such a circus.  I walked out of the room and prayed. 

People freaked. "Why is she praying?" 

I know it didn't make sense to them. It didn't have to.  I needed Allah to be with me.  I felt caught up again with wondering about the family I was marrying into.  I was becoming part of a family and I wasn't really getting out again.  It doesn't work that way in Egypt.  That thought needed some serious calming and the house had the same decibel level as a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.

My intended came into the room and he started to wonder if I was getting cold feet.  To see him get worried made me sober up.  I didn't want to cause him any upset or have him lose face with his family.  I asked him if they could calm the kids.

So, I went back.  Yes, I had walked out of my own engagment party to pray and now I was walking back.  And I was going to be a good girl from here on---


No, no, no, no, no.  There had to be a man in the family to give an announcement to the proceedings.  They were asking the one man in the family I didn't trust (don't ask) to start off our union.  I stopped the whole deal.


Oh my goodness.  I can't really believe I did this--but I did!  I stopped the talking and asked Ahmed if we could have his brother-in-law with the bum leg to give the speech.  There was some hemming and hawwing about which man was older and such.  But I was firm and in the end, I got my way. 

Why was it so important to me?  I was scared.  I was scared that one wrong move would mean a bad marriage.  I didn't want anything touching it which could harm it.

So, get this...

the intro is done nicely by the man I liked and trusted.  Everyone in the crowded room knows we are going to say Al-Fatiha together.  All the kids are sitting nicely.  It's the moment I've been waiting for.

I'm moving a little slowly through the steps because I never did any of this before.  I never saw anyone else to it either.  Everyone in the room has their hands up to recite Quran and I remember in slo-mo to put my hands up too.  I'm going to start reciting with them.  I put my hands up and

"Sadakalahu alazeem"  They are done.


How did that happen so quickly?  They breezed through it and are now congratulating and I say,

"I didn't say it."  I can't remember if I said it in English or Arabic but I felt I needed to say it.  I worried that the whole deal wouldn't "stick" if I didn't recite with Ahmed. laughing yet?  I'm cracking up as I type this. 

The whole room gets quiet again (a minor miracle) and Ahmed very patiently and slowly says Al-Fatiha again so I can feel engaged.  Afterward, I felt like I was a big goof.  I felt like all my fears about doing it exactly right haunted me until everything went wrong.

I ate the sweets, sat and visited and then I left.  I had to get away from all the people.  I was actually very confused.  How could something so anticipated get so screwed up? 

I remember sitting on my couch with the laptop chatting away to a friend that night to find some sanity.  I needed to tell someone from my culture about what had just happened.  I needed to figure it out.

Again, hindsight is 20/20 and I think it was a big culture shock for me to go through that engagement party.  It was so very cultural!  And I didn't know what I was doing.  I wanted to control something which I knew nothing about.  Not very easy!  And that struggle hurt me and it hurt Ahmed.

I figured out from that how I had to let go of the things which really didn't matter.  I had to keep in mind those ultimate goals and not get bogged down by temporary challenges.  I had to trust Ahmed to be the person I had come to know and love.

I was engaged to him now. 


ellen557 said...

"I had to keep in mind those ultimate goals and not get bogged down by temporary challenges. "
Exactly sister! And I think that's the same in marriage, too. But regardless, I remember feeling the same when I was getting married. Everything was so big, but everything had to be *right* - even now, I worry that if something tiny goes off, things that depend on it may not work as well. But alhamdulillah, you know? We've got to give it up to Allah SWT lol.

khaki said...

i really love reading your blog.i got engaged a while ago and insh'Allah, am going to get married in a couple of months..the problem is i really find it hard to resist thoughts that go beyond what is permissible..can you please give me some tips to help myself..i don't communicate with my fiance' regularly..

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Khaki,

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Alhumdulillah you have made a move towards finding the other half of your deen (marriage).

I'm really glad that you threw in the "inshahallah" with getting married. Nothing is real until it's real. Remind yourself that in Islam there is no engagement. That is bida. When we know we are supposed to marry, then we are to not delay.

So you've got some months between you and your marriage. This is the only time you will NOT be married inshahallah. The time will end so see it as finite. Use it to improve yourself and prepare yourself for such a big leap. Decide who you are before trying to mesh with someone else.

Your future husband (inshallah) will feel your sincerity as a Muslimah more if you keep your modesty now. You hold the key to your modesty. You are in charge---not him---during this time. If you find that a certain situation gets tricky with the two of you (whether it's talking late at night or webchat) eliminate it.

Don't give him more than you would give any other man in this world. Sincerely, he is NOT your and you are NOT his until you are married (which has to be both legally and Islamically). If you give him more (love, sweetness, flirting, skin, closeness) then he is going to be a typical man and think that you would give that to any man. He is not going to see that you were giving from your heart. Men don't understand how tenderly a woman can feel and how giving to the man she loves feels like a special sacrifice. He won't get that. So don't sacrifice your modesty before marriage.

Nothing is real until it's real. The sad truth is that not every spoken union ends in a signed contract.

Keep yourself true to God only. God is going to be there no matter what. Men come and go. God is forever. Your relationship with God is more important than with any man.

If you really are having a tough time, do some fasting. Seriously, fasting kills your nafs; desires.

Avoid listening to music and watching TV which triggers your romantic feelings.

Lastly, keep focused on your goal to be the best Muslimah you can be. Don't lose yourself for any man.

khaki said...

assalam-o-alaikum Yosra!
JazakAllah for your reply.
You are right in every sense. Insh'Allah, i'm going to practice what you've said. I'm going to ask Allah for strength and protection from satan. At times it gets really hard and i get really desperate, thats when i need Allah most. But our deepest love should be for our Creator..jazakAllah again..