A Response to the ‘Open Letter To A Single 25 Year Old Asian/Arab Girl’
by Ayisha Malik
I’m not sure whether I should respond to this as it’s a letter addressed to 25 yr old single girls, and so, being 33 I’ve missed the boat. Both on the letter and a man, apparently.
Except I was urged by fellow tweeters to express my feelings so I thought hey, why not! I’m a writer, it’s the least I can do. In fact, I’ve had to take time out of my evening from writing; a career I’ve been trying to forge since I was sixteen (probably younger). If only I hadn’t spent all this time honing my skills, getting a degree and masters and had instead focussed that energy on finding a husband, I’d be happily married with three (or more! Happy thought!) kids. I’d not have a two-book deal with a new and dynamic publisher, nor would it have been optioned for adaptation for TV (a story, by the way, about a London-based hijabi, who’s sick of the dating game). Damn I miss that marriage and three kids. No, but I do. In fact, I’ve been dating seriously for about seven years. My dad (may God rest his soul) wanted me to fulfil my dreams, my (thanks to God alive) mother wants me to get married. I’ve been trying to do both. Crazy thought, eh! Do both? So I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to reconcile dreams with reality and along comes a lady who (with, I honestly believe, the best of intentions) has told me I’ve been doing it all wrong.
But, hang on, she does recognise the window is narrow and unfair. So, I want to know why the framework within which we live and find ourselves isn’t being challenged, rather than the women who are trying to push that framework, widen it for future generations of women who can (I pray to God) dare to have it all without worrying about dying alone.
No! Don’t be ridiculous. We don’t change the system (or mentality). We should be the good Muslim girls we were raised to be and instead push and squeeze ourselves (not just into our designer clothes) but into this unfair framework.
My dad didn’t raise me that way, though. He said chase that which your heart desires; be bold and daring. In fact; be fearless. And then there’s this letter, which exploits the very fear every woman (and man) has: that of being alone forever. Scary stuff, ain’t it? The thought of ending up All by Myself (sing it, Sista). Who wants that?
I believe the lady that wrote this letter had the very best of intentions. I believe she’s trying to help people find happiness in marriage and may Allah bless her for it.
But she has gone against the ethos that every woman of our generation should have: to not be afraid; to rage against that which society dictates to us; rage against the injustice and hypocrisy. Even if it means you make the sacrifice, and you end up alone. As a woman of faith that is when we say, Allah hu Alim. And He knows best. So, put your trust in Him. Be aware of your intentions, strive for what you want, but don’t believe that marriage and dynamism are mutually exclusive, though it might be rare. Don’t believe that we can’t change things through dialogue and literature. And I really do beg that the women who are single and doing extraordinary things: do not mould yourself to fit into an ideal – an ideal that is both wrong and unjust. What is that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote?
‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’
That’s what we should be encouraging women to be – trailblazers.
Ayisha Malik is a writer and managing editor for a leading literary consultancy. Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is her debut novel about the life of a hijabi Londoner, published by Bonnier, Jan 2016. Follow her on Twitter @Ayisha_Malik
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.
Image of Unwed Bride roaming Cairo courtesy of New Age Islam Blog