Tag Archives: marriage

Art is worship Part III: Relaxation

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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Assalam alaikum wr wb, sister or brother.

I am going to do something I don’t do enough. I am going to be honest.

Brother and sister, I am truly too exhausted to make art.

It’s been a draining couple of years. My life has felt like a train-wreck and I have been trying desperately with my petty mortal hands to control it.

I have expected situations to be different but they haven’t been. I have expected people to behave a certain way but they haven’t. Things have changed when I had hoped they would stay the same. Things have stayed the same when I have prayed they would change. But the details are unimportant.

My feelings are not. I have disappointed, sometimes angry, exhausted all the time.

I’m sleeping like crazy. I can’t eat. I can’t think. I have absolutely no creative energy to tackle anything long-form like a screenplay or a novel. The thought of a deadline makes me want to vomit.

Alhamdulillah I have written some poetry, though.

I think it’s about time that I took an extended period of rest. Regroup my spirits, learn to forgive myself and others, find my footing a little maybe. Or learn to just let it slide and accept Allah (SWT)’s plan for me.

As soon as I say that though, some strange demon in the depths of my belly stands jumping up and down, making scratch marks in my inside, shouting with the voices of my parents, a thousand teachers from over the years.

“You have no right to relax! People like you, less-than-geniuses, have to work your butts off to get anywhere – I mean ANYWHERE! – in life! Full tension every day all the time! That’s the price you pay for being born the way you are.

What have you achieved in your adult life? Nothing.

Has your writing changed anyone’s life? No. Not even your own.”

(This is not true. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself and others through my work. Though it has been private, it has definitely been transformative.)

“Have you made your mark on the world? Like your heroes, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye and Ani DiFranco? Have you made any of those mind-blowing films you keep dreaming of? Have you rivaled Mr. Scorsese or Mr. Kauffman? “

(Is it really necessary for me to change the world? I thought my work was for Allah (SWT). Then it simply is what it is, the story truer than the truth. It’s my duty to tell it, whether anyone cares to listen or not. Whether it changes anything or not.)

“What don’t you have enough of? Time.

What are you getting? Older. You’re 25 years old, 26 next month. Every day brings you closer to middle age and motherhood. Increased responsibilities, lower energy levels and your already poor time management skills will simply fall apart under the pressure.”

I ask real people for advice and it is always conflicting.

“You’re trying too hard.”

“You’re not working hard or smart enough.”

“You’re too young.”

“You’re too old.”

“You don’t give yourself enough credit.”

“You’re resting too much on your laurels.”

I find myself facing a mountain. Make this film. Write this screenplay. Find collaborators who are as excited about your work as you are. And for a while, I feel energetic. But then something happens, not really a discrete incident but just something else. Something outside of me. Maybe my father calls and or my mother or some boring administrative task takes up my entire day and my body just sinks beneath despair.

I feel like the world doesn’t want me to write or create. Perhaps Allah (SWT) is trying to tell me that my destiny is to be mediocre and house-bound like a not particularly cute cat.

I find myself fighting with the people I love. Not being able to tell them how I feel. How lost, alone and confused.

It’s time I took a little time off from the rat-race insha Allah. Whatever I’ve been doing hasn’t been working. This means finding a new path. Maybe recalibrating my beliefs. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing. On the contrary, I think the fact that I’ve written so little has contributed to my exhaustion.

I’ll worship a lot more. I need it more than I think.

I’ll exercise too. Take long walks in nature. Run around after children (will somebody please lend me their children kthx), kung fu, kickboxing, aerobics maybe.

I’ll spend a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to people and my interactions with them. Maybe I’ll try explaining spoken-word to my husband LOL. Yesterday, I showed him “When Love Arrives” and his mind just went blank.

And yes I think I will spend a lot of time writing. I will try insha Allah to rediscover the play in art, try to refill the well a little bit. Maybe I will work on a long-term project but as something fun, not as something that’s ever going to see the light of day.

I’m not going to be telling you how it’s going because the aim is not for it to be going anywhere.

I’m just going to be myself for a while. I’m going to find out what that means insha Allah.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah.


Happily married, unhappily wedding planning

Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb, my friends, married and single and in-between.

It has occurred to me that weddings are a lot like filmmaking. Except one is a complete and utter waste of time and one isn’t.

Guess which one.

When planning both, you have a checklist that just keeps on giving. Once you cross one item off, ten items seem to sprout in its place. Until the day of the great event – or shoot – it would seem that ‘stuff’ just keeps needing to be done. And the only person to do it is you.

Even though of course, time and time again, everyone professes that they will help, in reality, it’s all you. The bride. Or the director.

Of course, there are obnoxious overbearing personalities in both scenarios. Meddlesome relatives and producers have so much in common.

Planning my wedding has thrown up challenges I didn’t expect to face. I never thought that I had any – I mean any! – expectations of my wedding at all. I wasn’t ever someone that spent hours in my girlhood dreaming about my wedding. Dreaming about the love of my life and our beautiful happy marriage, yes. Definitely not the wedding. Unless I’m telling jokes, I really don’t like being the center of attention.

But here I am, attacked on all sides with tradition, some verging on Shirk, some blatant shirk, and other people’s expectations, and I find myself becoming a bride-zilla.

I’ve worked hard on controlling my rather horrific temper. But lately my patience and my defenses have been weakened.

It is because Shaitan is using the element of surprise on me.

Going back to the filmmaking analogy I used earlier, my husband and I are both directors on this project. We agreed a long time ago on one thing – marriage is a test, a commitment, a responsibility, a fulfillment of half our deen but not for free. We need to work hard to protect it, as with all things that are precious

But we’ve recently discovered that we have been on different even conflicting spiritual quests. This has surprised and upset me a great deal.

Suffice to say, I’ve lost my temper far too many times at far too many people.

I have also learned some shocking things about myself. I think fun is wrong. I find it really hard to ask for what I want or even fight for what I want. Anger seems to be my default emotion. I find it really hard to conduct a constructive conversation.

My mother being ill has made planning this wedding all the more difficult. You see, I’m not very good at planning and secondly, I really don’t care very much about my wedding. I’d rather get it over with and be married already.

My mother however was the human organizer. And she has spent a good long time fantasizing about my wedding, so she has the enthusiasm to push through the mire. She should be the one at the helm of this project.

But she isn’t. It’s all me. And as much as I’m trying not to hate every minute of it, to try and have fun with this ridiculous process, I do hate it. I do hate what people become around family weddings. I do hate the lack of agency the bride is allowed to have at her own wedding. I hate the lack of respect for the couple’s wishes. I hate the obscene wastage of money and the arrogance.

In both a deen (religious) and dunya (worldly) sense, it would seem that my wedding is a bust.

Still, unlike when I was looking for a groom, I have lowered my expectations at least in the dunya sense. I’ve asked my hubby to fight some of my battles because he is better at confrontation.

All in all, I am celebrating my little successes. Being conscious of my blood boiling. Holding my tongue. Being conscious that I have much to work on and insha Allah and Alhamdulillah, the energy to work on it. Alhamdulillah, this attitude is definitely an improvement on spontaneous combustion.

Remember me in your prayers.

Peace, love and God’s protection,

The (almost happily married and) Happy Muslimah.

A Bride-to-be’s Prayer

I seek refuge in You, Allah, from the accursed Devil.

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Especially Merciful,

I ask You, oh Allah (SWT)….

Save me from my wedding!* It’s driving me crazy!

Why, why, why, why? Why do I need so many clothes? I have only one body!

Why is the agony of choosing my wedding dress greater than the agony of choosing my husband?

Why, why, why, have I now spent more time with Meena Bazaar clothiers than I have with my husband-to-be? Daggummit!

I’m trying so hard not to curse, God…please bless me for my efforts.

In fact, God…please, oh most Patient One, bless me with patience.

With the mother who recites a to-do list in my bedroom at the crack of dawn every morning.

With the father torn between mourning my loss and practicing the wedding playlist. Oh Allah (SWT), please save me from my father’s singing and my uncle’s dancing.

(Don’t really do that. It wouldn’t be a wedding if my father didn’t sing I Married a Female Wrestler and my uncles unintentionally do the twist.)

With the relatives that ask embarrassing immaterial questions about my fiance’s wealth or looks. Allah (SWT), give me patience and grace as they micro-analyse my clothes, my weight or lack of, the gifts exchanged, the food, the hall, the décor. Oh most Patient One, give me the suboor not to clock them like Muhammad Ali.  Oh most Patient One, give me the strength not to cry – my mascara will run and my false eyelashes will fall off.

Forgive my sharp tongue and my resentment– it is my parents’ wedding really, more than it is mine.

Oh Allah (SWT), oh Giver of Tranquility, give me stillness to let this beautiful change sink in. In my moments of anxiety – am I doing the right thing, is this the right guy, am I good enough for him, will we always be happy, will I always love him and will he always love me? – Allah (SWT), give me an answer from unexpected places, as You always have. I am only human. I know only what is now – I don’t know the future and I can’t change my past. Allah (SWT), have mercy on us, guide us to repentance and put love and mercy between our hearts. Only You can protect us from Shaitan. Only You can show me just how stupid my fears were by making our life together more wonderful than I could have expected. Allah (SWT), I surrender my will, my destiny and my marriage to You.

Ameen, summa Ameen!

*Not my marriage. Just my wedding.

The Happy (and a little bit stressed out) Muslimah


The last one

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Peace and blessings and the Mercy of the one God Allah be upon all of you, from the tips of your toes to the heights of your soaring spirits!

I’ve been trying to write about other topics but my dear husband-to-be seems to pop up quite frequently in all of them. I figured that Insha Allah, I’d give you a tiny introduction, as all things considered, I think you and I both are going to get to know him very well over the years.

So let me tell you about him. The last one. The one and only Insha Allah.

Subhanallah, a couple of months ago (early September, to be quite exact), I was very much at my wits’ end when it came to the traditional arranged marriage process. Things between my mother and I had reached a head and we were screaming at each other almost daily, probably entertaining our neighbours a great deal. My mother’s illness had me suffering slightly from caregiver’s syndrome. I was fed up and ready to bail. Not really characteristic of me, but in this situation, I was bang out of resources, spiritual, moral and digital.

I literally had no one except Allah (SWT) to help me. So I had taken to praying a lot. Mashallah I woke up for Tahajjud frequently and made du’a a great deal. I was already knee deep in a proposal who seemed to like me but whose feeling I really didn’t reciprocate.

And then well, he came along. His proposal, that is. My mother told me his name and as usual, bugged me to Google him. I did and we found his LinkedIn page. “Oh,” I said. “He looks like a duck with ears.” (He does in pictures, though he’s dashed wonderful in person, bless him from head to toe. Most gentlemen don’t tend to be very photogenic. So I try not to take too much umbrage at their faces.)

And then I moved on. I had better things to worry about than something I thought would be a failure.

He wanted to meet at KFC to keep things casual. I agreed with the sentiment though not really with the choice of KFC as a venue. I would later find out that KFC is considered a middle-of-the-range family restaurant in Sri Lanka, somewhat like Chilli’s or Applebee’s.

So KFC and casual it was. I didn’t think much at first as he walked in. My stomach dropped out of nervousness a little. “Here we go again,” I thought.

Within the first few minutes of meeting a proposal, either online, on the phone or in person, my gut usually tells me whether or not this guy is a potential. Up until now, it has told me a decisive no. What happens next is simply a case of figuring out whether or not my gut was right.

With this guy, however, it said yes. As I watched him talk to my aunt and uncle and interact with his own family, I felt something else, a different kind of nerves. It was more like butterflies.

I wanted him to like me.

This was most embarrassing.

At some point, his mother hinted at him to talk to me in person. We walked away from the little group of elders and sat down to talk.

For the little while that I spoke with him, the world seemed to make sense. I felt calm. I also felt goofy, inebriated, yet as humble and clear as God-given mountain spring water. Truth be told, we both did everything wrong. I grinned like a fool and blurted out the most vulnerable parts of me – the previous engagement, the screenwriting, the comedy. I was my most volatile emotional self. When we spoke on the phone later, he was somewhat abrupt, business-like and slightly arrogant. While I was slightly surprised, I figured that either a) he really doesn’t know how to talk to girls or b) there’s something about phones that transforms him. Either way, I thought it was adorable.

We watched. We waited. We listened. I for one made a lot of dua.

“Rabbanā Hab Lanā Min ‘Azwājinā Wa Dhurrīyātinā Qurrata ‘A`yunin Wa Aj`alnā Lilmuttaqīna ‘Imāmāan. Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.”

One week after we met, he asked me what attracted me to a man. I said that while looks definitely sweeten the deal, the clincher was always the strong, true, intelligent, interesting Taqwacore inside.

He asked me how I thought we were faring so far. I said I wouldn’t tell him because that might put me in a vulnerable position.

He said that he liked me very much too.

Most men don’t understand jack. This one practically reads my mind Mashallah.

It hasn’t all been rainbows and skittles for sure. There have been moments of nerve-wracking doubt. Happiness, that insidious little animal, took up residence in my life and I didn’t recognize it. I got scared. I wondered whether this was indeed the right man. Giving your life entirely to someone is no small gift to give. I was going to leave everything and everyone I knew and come live with him – a stranger in a strange land i.e. Sri Lanka. I didn’t know the language. I knew only my relatives and the social code is very different to what I was used to. The things that I hate about myself – the low self-esteem, the sensitivity, the emotion – I assumed he would hate. If I didn’t have patience with myself, why would he?

But I hadn’t come this far to doubt Allah (SWT)’s plan now. I prayed my Istikhara many many times. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became by the possibilities. A whole new country for me to explore. I am a foreigner but really not foreign, because, whether anyone likes it or not, it is my country. A mother tongue Mashallah, that I finally have the chance to learn. A whole new family for me to get to know. People who love me in every nook and cranny. And there’s no one to whom I would rather give my life than him. All of the things I thought were rather irritating about myself, he thinks are wonderful. The cat’s whiskers. The bee’s knees. I kid you not.

Now happiness sits beside me purring like a contented cat. I’m not taking it back to the shelter; I’m keeping it. And I’m happy. Not thrilled. Not ecstatic. Not crazy. Just calm, loved and hopeful about the future. That’s all I’ve ever wanted really.

I don’t know much about my Deen and I’ve practised only what I can, though I try really hard to push my own boundaries.But Subhanallah and Alhamdulillah, Allah (SWT) has answered my prayers beyond my wildest dreams.

All’s well that ends well, Alhamdulillah.

The (very very very) Happy (and humbled) Muslimah.

Unreasonable expectations

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb,

Today I read a blog post that really made me livid.

I suspected then that the Devil was making vain sport with me. That he was making me relive past ills so that I could turn on my family, myself and the Ummah (Muslim community)

I’m not interested in attacking anyone anymore. As a community, we Muslims are always on the defensive, from each other and the world at large. We can never advance as a community because we’re always retreating.

I am not married. I am told this is because I have unreasonable expectations of men.

As if good marriages were ever based on sound logic.

As if anything good ever came from being reasonable.

Michael Phelps put his body through unreasonably intense work-outs. And look, he’s a world champion.

My parents married each other, in spite of the fact that most of their relatives were against their marriage. They were being unreasonable. They left everything they knew and came to Dubai to make a better life for my brothers and me, having very little idea of what was waiting for them in this desert. That sounds pretty unreasonable to me too.

But you see, they married each other because they loved each other and they thought they could rely on each other. That’s a perfectly reasonable way to go about marriage. When they left Sri Lanka, they left behind the shackles of racism and civil war, a war that’s lasted over 30 years. Again, perfectly logical.

What sorry states we would be in if Allah (SWT) was “reasonable” with us and gave us our due punishment and reward?
Expectations. This is another curious word.

The Muslim world expects us to be great mothers and sisters and daughters – we should cook like MasterChefs, clean like Martha Stewart and be bashful and submissive around gentlemen as well – some lady that’s bashful and submissive around gentlemen.

We are expected to be fair and slim and well-dressed. If we’re not naturally so, we must torture our bodies into being so. Our emotional and physical health matters little.

Yes, Islam liberates women, but Muslim women don’t seem to be liberated.

We are also expected to overachieve at school and then, if we manage to not be married off by that time, we must over-achieve at work.

The secular world of work requires us to be bold, to take the initiative, to lunge and parry with people of the opposite sex. To be individual and be part of a team at the same time. To dress conservatively but not so much that we alienate our peers (in other words, no hijab).

We are surrounded by unreasonable expectations. And yet all the Muslim women I know have risen to the challenge. Not only have they faced their challenges, they stick their tongue out at it and spank its backside. They accept the contradictions of their worlds and even manipulate it to their advantage with glee.

Of course, I expect things of men. Shouldn’t I? Should I have low expectations of them? Am I supposed to consider it impossible to find a man equal to me in all respects? Wouldn’t that be insulting?

But I have no desire now to attack. I have instead a very strong desire to pray for forgiveness.

Forgive us Allah, the Most Merciful. Forgive the family friends that try to humiliate my father because, at the ripe old age of 24, my “time is running out”, and it is, by committee, his “fault”.

Forgive the friends who’ve told me the same crap in different eras.

Please, Allah (SWT), forgive the aunt and uncle who love me and are besotted with me, who hurt me with their constant questions and embarrass me in front of my cousins.

Forgive the cousins that lower their expectations and expect me to lower mine.

Forgive my parents their litany of sins, too many to enumerate.

Forgive me, Allah (SWT).

Forgive me my impatience, my desire to fight fire with fire and rage with rage. My desire to run away from it all or hold my ground and fight when I know that pain only begets pain.

Forgive me my blindness. I have looked my friends and my brothers in the face and told them that I don’t need them. And they have looked me in the face and told me that I’m not enough. And we have broken each others’ hearts time and time again. We have torn each other down when we should have built each other up.

Forgive us. We do not believe that You will take care of us, so we look for security in the weak hands and hearts of your creations instead. We are all acting in blind wretched fear.

Forgive us and help us to take responsibility for the actions of our tongues and our hands, before You take them from us.

I want to start again.

I’m putting down my weapons in the gender wars. It’s time we all put down our weapons and faced our problems like the Prophet (peace be upon him) told us to.

I want to find someone whom I can help and help them. Whether they are man, woman, or child.

And my deepest desire is to say yes, but when I say no, I mean no.

Fee Amanillah,