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Three Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Married

Sabrina Mahmood pens her top three tips on getting married.

1. Compromise forms part of daily life

Getting used to living with a new person is difficult, you each have your own way of doing things and have to get used to living around someone new. This can be especially difficult if living with in-laws because the initial few months do take work from both of you, and you need to devote plenty of time to this. Before you get married it’s so important to think about whether you are prepared to compromise. Will your potential partner accept that you wish to work, study, meet friends. Will you be able to share the household tasks, or is all this expected to be your responsibility. It’s all well and good before you get married, but once the Nikah is signed, the responsibilities become real. Are you ready to handle this?

Luckily for me, my husband and I share much of the tasks. As I am still studying, I often come home late. On these days my husband will prepare meals, and vice versa when he works and comes back late. Small things like this are so important, not only does it show an immense love and respect, it just makes life that bit easier when you are both making the effort to take care of each other.

2. Are we really compatible?

At the beginning, it can be really hard to determine this, because human nature means that once we like somebody or are interested in them, it can be easy to overlook their flaws. We can accept aspects of their personality which once you are married might become a lot more difficult to handle. I hear a lot of, once we get married ‘he will change’ but the best way to think is that the person you marry will be the same person before and after marriage, so don’t expect any major changes.

I’ll use an example to illustrate what I mean; if the potential partner likes to meet friends out a lot, at first this might seem insignificant. However, if you live with family (or even alone) after marriage, it is hard enough to find time to spend together. So, if the other person spends most of their free time out, how will this affect you? Will you mind spending many evenings/week-ends alone? It might seem a small thing, but later it can become much more troublesome, so it’s best to iron out these things before making any big decisions.

Another important thing here is whether you have the same inherent values. Does the other person believe in the same things as you. To me education is important, and female empowerment. My husband has always been supportive of these things, so when life sometimes gets tough I always feel supported and as if my opinions are valued. This is really important to build a strong relationship. If he thought the work I did to support women’s casues was pointless or insignificant, this would put a strain on our relationship. Is your potential partner mature enough to understand your needs and support you?

Remember, once you are a married you start to rely on each other and emotional support becomes really important. 

3. Communication is key

One of the key things in marriage is effective communication. We all know this but how does it work in practice? Are you a person that needs constant love and affection or do you need more of your own space. I’m the first of these, and I’ve had to communicate to my husband that a text or a small gesture goes a long way. Do you think you will be able to communicate your feelings to your potential husband?

What about the more serious things, like when you feel down or stressed. Will the other person be able to guide you and support you through these times, or are they more of a silent person who doesn’t tend to offer advice. Remember, once you are a married you start to rely on each other and emotional support becomes really important.

Lastly, and probably very important, how do you both react when you are angry. Luckily for me, my husband’s gentle nature will always diffuse my anger. But if you are hot headed and the other person is too, it can become quite difficult when you argue and say things in the moment you don’t mean. You have to be able to communicate through these times, talk through problems and come out stronger. If you know the other person gets angry easily, or likes to avoid dispute resolution, think about whether you can really live with them, because arguments between people that live together, even family, is inevitable!

By Sabrina Mahmood

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Altmuslimah (David Campbell)


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From One Single Woman To Another

66229616

There are many ways in which a woman may find herself single at any point in her life. Whether by choice or an inability to find a suitably compatible partner, by way of divorce or being widowed through a tragic loss – singleness can happen to any woman at any time.

Sadly, the vast majority of society places a great amount of pressure on single people, especially us women, to get hitched up and to do it soon. So it’s easy to feel like a despairing busker lurking on the outskirts of a city seemingly teeming with married couples, trying to explain to them all about how challenging single life really is – to get them to understand. But I want to say to you, stop. Yes, being single sometimes does have a few snags, your parents and aunts might find every opportunity to tell you how ‘worried’ they are for you, perhaps you turned down a man and your fear has you doubting yourself and your decision, well I want to say relax, trust yourself, it is going to be alright.

“You don’t owe anyone an explanation of your life and choices.”

What’s more important for you right now is to understand the reasons you’re in this position at this point in your life. It could be a gentle push from above, a loving nudge in the direction of The Almighty, encouragement to strengthen your connection with Him with no distractions. Maybe this is the time for you to realise your talents and figure out how to use them to better your life and the lives of those around you. Maybe this is the part where you learn patience and resilience and discover your self-worth, so you can validate yourself by yourself.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

Look to this as a blessing in disguise and embrace the period of solitude you’re lucky enough to have received, few others are in possession of such a luxury. You are in a place in your life where you can spend all your time, if you so wish, thinking about yourself and doing good things for you. The door to a new, glorious journey is in front of you and all your decisions lay at your feet.

Don’t feel disheartened at having no reply to those questions of ‘when?’ and ‘why?’ pertaining to your single status. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of your life and choices. Don’t ever feel like less of a Muslim by statements like ‘marriage fulfils half your deen’. This simply means that half the problems you’ll face after acquiring a spouse will be related to your marriage and the implications that marriage has on your imaan because quite often marriage is one of the greatest tests we are given. We already have various levels of imaan, we go into marriages with these, and it then either deepens and flourishes or lessens depending on us and the efforts we put into the partnership. There are many who go around scaring single people into rushed marriages with this statement, not fully comprehending themselves exactly what it means. You are not inferior to anyone because you don’t have a man at your side, you are and always have been a complete entity made with the purpose of praising God, solely, not made to acquire a partner or else. That is a bonus of this life.

Know, that no matter how long a period of time you’ve been single, in the grand scheme of your life, it’s not even a drop in the ocean even if it’s been ten years. Hold firm to your coveted cloak of autonomy and wear it with pride, a symbol of your individual strength. Because when the days of love come around once more, these finite moments will be memories to cling to during times of adversity, reminders always, of your personal power, your bravery, your courage.

Make this time of your life the best of your life.

By Fadila Henry

Fadila Henry is a creative writer currently working on a collection of flash fiction stories. She is interested in feminism, defending single women and foreign languages. You can find her on Twitter @apricotpinks or her blog fadilahenry.com
Image credit: https://memegenerator.net/instance/66229616
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Marriage Tips for Muslim Women (and Men)

Image of a Muslim couple

Image of a Muslim couple

I love married people, really I do, I am surrounded by them on a daily basis in both my corporeal and virtual life. Some of them are my closest friends, I work with them even and I feel that my approach to married people is largely tolerant and caring, despite everything.

I am one of those people that Mr Amin choses to slight in his article, I am divorced and over 30 and therefore not fit for giving advice on marriage despite the fact I have been married and I am part of a family. You could say I am the polar opposite to Mr Amin; not only am I divorced and unashamedly not married I am also unmarriagble, something I regard as a bit of an achievement. As a married friend said to me recently, and it was meant kindly, finding someone who I could realistically marry would be a miracle. Since Islam is not big on miracles I am not holding my breath.

I am often bemused at married people and how they communicate their marriedness to others. Usually they just get on with it and don’t make a big deal out of it and certainly never attempt to involve you in it. But there are exceptions and Mr Amin is one of them.

Mr Amin is what is known as a smugly married. One of those blessed individuals for whom life has been a series of making the right decisions. For whom life has simply been knowing the right thing to do and when it is done knowing that the right outcome will be achieved. Life is reduced to a series of choices in a geography of opportunity or a slightly complex recipe, if followed correctly and performed perfectly will achieve the satisfactory outcome. This result is then presented to the world for us to either desire to imitate or for us lesser mortals such as myself, to remind us of our poor decision making and our failures.

“Not only am I divorced and unashamedly not married I am also unmarriagble, something I regard as a bit of an achievement.”

For many of us life has not been so simple, and I am aware that there will be many married people out there who also grind their teeth in frustration when presented with the smugly married, because there are a lot of unhappily married people out there who made the right decision and the right choices, who married a desirable commodity but who found they had married a human being with all their failings and imperfections and who found that life is complex regardless of what you do and that for many reasons things didn’t go according to plan.

There are also a lot of single people who know that their chances of marriage are hugely reduced or non-existent but we chose to never consider the fates of these individuals. Individuals who in Mr Amin’s capitalist marriage market do not constitute a desirable acquisition, such as women over 30, the disabled, people from the wrong type of family, the divorced obviously.

In Mr Amin’s world these are people who simply didn’t make the right choices.

The reality is that a happy marriage is an accident for which there is no explanation. As an observer and a great listener I am often amazed and delighted at the variety of ways in which people have found contentment with another human being, and how many people, even undesirable acquisitions have, despite the prejudice, also achieved this. Often it is the stories of these individuals that make for far more interesting and relevant reading.

“Divorce is a necessary release and is often the beginning of a far more positive and meaningful phase in a person’s life but again, this is something that is taboo to discuss in positive terms.”

Muslims should weary of the elevation of marriage to a state that it is only accessible by the economically and physically perfect that excludes and divides; it causes misery for those deemed not perfect enough to marry and misery for those who are married but find themselves suffering with that particular misery that can only be found in a relationship. Marriage can also ruin and cost people their lives. Divorce is a necessary release and is often the beginning of a far more positive and meaningful phase in a person’s life but again, this is something that is taboo to discuss in positive terms.

Mr Amin, what us elders should be talking about is how to have emotionally healthy loving relationships and also educating young people on what is unhealthy. We should be giving people the permission to know when a marriage is at an end and that divorce is not in fact the end of life. This would be far more productive and caring than creating the illusion that you can control all your outcomes and that people are simply commodities that are more or less valuable to be traded in.

By Mrs Rumiyya

Image courtesy of Cara_VSAngel on Flickr

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Dear Asian community – It’s time to discuss the F-word

Fertility

Let’s be honest my friends, many in our community will think nothing of a 45 year old man pursuing and, in some cases, successfully capturing the attention of a 22 year old woman. The lucky suitor will be applauded, receive an encouraging ‘mashallah beta’ pat on the back from ammi and be lavished with ‘atta boy’ high-fives from his cohort of aging chums.

As a voluntary matchmaker, I have met countless single Asian men in their late 30s/mid 40s who will unashamedly ask me to recommend a 25 year old woman. Somehow, this never fails to surprise me, despite it now becoming a fairly “standard” request. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but although these older blokes have taken the trouble of acquiring a wardrobe worthy of the GQ front cover, hired a personal trainer to hone their drooping moobs and taken out shares in ‘Just for Men’, they frequently fail to bag said 20 something year old lovely of their dreams. Even the world’s most eligible silver fox George Clooney eventually married an ‘older’ woman in the form of the delectable, successful and formidably intelligent 36 year old Amal Alamuddin. Yep, the smart man chose the smart lady.

I wanted to fully understand why some older men are so obsessed with younger women. I decided to explore some psychological and biological theories and after some digging around I found that this penchant for the 20-something year old woman is not simply a case of ‘Creepy Old Man Syndrome’ but instead all down to the F-word. No, not that one. But rather, f-f-f-fertility.

Apparently, the pursuit of a younger woman is a deep seated subconscious urge that evolution has wired into the male psyche. Ladies, I apologise on their behalf because they simply can’t help themselves. Rationale though tells them that relationships should be based on love and companionship and not solely procreation. So whilst thinking with their testicles instead of their degree educated brains, they actively hunt out women who glow with the signifiers of ripe ovaries (facial symmetry and youthful bloom being significant ones) in favour of more important but less visual attributes that form the basis of a healthy marriage.

I have spoken before about the undeniable fact that Mother Nature is not a feminist and we know only too well that fertility declines dramatically after the age of 37. However, far too many men wrongly assume ‘older’ women simply can’t safely have children. So, because we women have not heard enough of our biological clocks already, please allow me to remind you all of some basic facts that you may find pleasantly surprising.

Fact 1: The probability of a 19-26 year old becoming pregnant after 2 years of sexual intercourse without using contraception is 98% and in the older age group of 35-39 year olds, the probability is 90% [1]. Pretty good odds don’t you think?

Fact 2: The sensitive issue of Down syndrome: there is 0.07% chance that a 20 year old pregnant woman will give birth to a child with Down syndrome. This increases to 0.1% in a thirty year old woman and increases again to 1% in a 40 year old woman.[2]Just to make it crystal clear that’s 99% chance that a 40 year old woman will NOT give birth to a child with Down syndrome.

Fact 3: The number of live births to mothers over 40 has tripled over the last 3 decades. [3] This is partly due to social factors such as increased participation in higher education, delayed marriage and partnership formation, establishing a career, ensuring financial stability before starting a family etc. The good news is that advances in fertility treatments now mean that some women who are unable to conceive naturally, are now able to have healthy pregnancies and babies.

Fact 4: Studies have shown that children born to women over 40 tend to be healthier and brighter than those born to younger women. [4]

With my medical doctor hat on, I regularly read clinical papers on the decline in female fertility. However, for those of you not acquainted with him I’d like to introduce you to the less talked about ‘Father Nature’. He’s been lurking around since the dawn of man yet no one really seems particularly interested in him. Perhaps it’s because good old Father Nature isn’t particularly pro-Men, or much of a “Menist” either. It seems that some men wander the world blighted with a misplaced sense of Peter Pan-ism when it comes to their own ability to ‘get the ball in the net’. Many blithely consider themselves untouched by the aging process and are, for the most part, completely oblivious to the effect that Father Nature has on their sperm production. So ladies, let me arm you with some facts so that next time a man decides to come along and throw the F-word at you, grab it by the balls (pun fully intended) and kick it right back!

Fact 1: 30% of all cases of infertility in the UK are down to ‘male factor’ problems and a further 25% are completely ‘unexplained’ (no identified male or female cause).[5] 

Fact 2: The volume, motility (ability to move toward its destination, an awaiting egg), and structure of sperm all decline with age. [6]

Fact 3: The older the male partner, the more likely a pregnant woman is to miscarry regardless of how young or healthy she is. [7]

Fact 4: Children born to older men are more likely to have autism (x6 in men >40 years old compared to men <30 years according to one study) [8], schizophrenia [9] and bipolar disorder. [10]

Fact 5: The incidence of Down syndrome is also influenced by father’s age and not exclusively related to maternal age. [11]

Fact 6: With regards to sperm donation: current professional guidelines state that sperm should not be taken from men aged 41 years and over [12].

So, there you have it. The spousal search is full of enough complexities as it is and women have definitely drawn the short straw when it comes to cultural prejudices. My previous letter was urging younger women to try a little harder when searching for ‘the one’, but that’s not to say women in their 30s should be shunned. Despite it being 2015, there is huge stigma attached to being a single Asian woman in her 30s yet the same aspersions do not apply to men. A woman is ‘blamed’ for being too independent, too focussed on her career, too fussy and most of all – too sub-fertile!

On the other hand, older men are praised for their professional successes, maturity and financial independence. Factors which place them pretty close to the top of the rishta ladder. Yet no one dares question THEIR fertility.

Men, most of you are intelligent and progressive thinkers. Educate yourselves and those around you. Read these facts aloud (ideally within ear shot of your mum), assimilate them so that you are as familiar with a prospective female’s fertility as well as your own. Only then can we put an end to this archaic mentality that continues to fuel this ‘ageist’ fire.

Ladies, in light of these fertility facts perhaps it’s time to shift the cultural stigma by and focussing your search on a younger millennial man! We all know too well that fertility declines with age but rest assured your ‘biological clock’ is not about to strike 12 just because you’ve finished blowing out the candles on your 33rd birthday cake!

Kind regards,

Farah Kausar

Voluntary Matchmaker and GP

References:

  1. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156/resources/guidance-fertility-pdf accessed on 9th Sept 2015.
  2. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/screening-amniocentesis-downs-syndrome.aspx#closeaccessed on 14th Sept 2015.
  3. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/birth-summary-tables–england-and-wales/2013/stb-births-in-england-and-wales-2013.html#tab-Live-Births-by-Age-of-Motheraccessed on 14th Sept 2015.
  4. BMJ. 2012 Aug 21;345:e5116. The health and development of children born to older mothers in the United Kingdom: observational study using longitudinal cohort data. Sutcliffe AG et al
  5. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156/resources/guidance-fertility-pdf Accessed on 9th Sept 2015
  6. Hum Reprod Update. 2004 Jul-Aug;10(4):327-39. Epub 2004 Jun 10. Reproductive functions of the ageing male. Kühnert B1, Nieschlag E.
  7. Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Aug;108(2):369-77. Paternal age and spontaneous abortion. Kleinhaus K et al
  8. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;63(9):1026-32. Advancing paternal age and autism. Reichenberg A et al
  9. Schizophr Res. 2010 Feb;116(2-3):191-5. Epub 2009 Nov 17. Later paternal age and sex differences in schizophrenia symptoms.
  10. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Sep;65(9):1034-40. Advancing paternal age and bipolar disorder.Frans EM1,
  11. J Urol. 2003 Jun;169(6):2275-8. The influence of paternal age on down syndrome. Fisch H et al
  12. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/sperm-donation-eligibility.html, accessed on 10th Sept 2015.

Dr Farah Ahmed is a London based GP and mum of two boys. She  is a Global Ambassador for ‘Mothers 2 Mothers’, a charity that trains and employs Mentor Mothers to provide essential health education and psychosocial support to other HIV-positive mothers, on how they can protect their babies from HIV infection. Farah enjoys running, writing health articles and matchmaking in her spare time. 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website. The copyright remains with the author, any reproduction of this post should accredit She Speaks We Hear.

Image courtesy of: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs054/1102184430637/archive/1105419786759.html


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An Open Letter to Happily Married SuperMums (Who Got Lucky…)

Dear Happily Married SuperMum,

Hi there.

You already know me so I won’t go into too much depth describing myself: I’m basically the antithesis of everything you are – the all-too visible single brown elephant in the room. You know, the +30-year-old “bogey-woman” who looks like she’s having way too much fun being single to get married and who, instead of being the heroine little girls used to be told to look up to, is now used as the subject matter for multiple horror stories (“warning little would-be astronaut: this is what happens to you if you’re TOO outspoken/opinionated/intelligent and don’t get lucky like your mumsy did. You die ALONE”).

Image courtesy of Akeela Ahmed

Image courtesy of Akeela Ahmed

It’s hard being me.

No, really.

It is.

Mainly because the likes of me are constantly being compared to the likes of you. As though in between looking after ourselves and our families, holding down jobs, paying our taxes and mortgages, looking after ageing parents and basically surviving how we can, we’ve been sleeping away the years instead of attempting to reach that supposed pinnacle of human endeavour: marriage.

And to be honest, it’s exhausting.

Because at the end of the each and every day, what we are essentially having to defend ourselves against is a serious case of victim-blaming. We’re the victims – nay survivors – of a world (be you Muslim or not) that still places women’s worth on their marriage v singledom status. We’re not the ones at fault here. Trust me. And here’s why:

  1. There’s not a woman I know, be they in their late twenties, thirties or forties and who is still single, who hasn’t tried EVERYTHING to find a man she won’t end up throttling 24 hours post meeting. Online dating? They came UP with the concept! Intestine-curdling “marriage events”? They’ve been there, done a thousand and puked up after most of them. Shaadi/Elite Singles/Believe-My-Lies.com? Tick, tick, and major tick. Agreeing to meet men who are ‘players’/ ego-maniacs / ‘religious’ stroke other-types-of hypocrites / bores / intellectual misnomers / straight out liars / happen-to-have-had-twenty-girlfriends-in-the-past / so-vain-it-hurts? Of course – in fact, they were starting points! In short, there is nothing that hasn’t been tried – every stone has been turned over so many times they’ve been worn away to mere pebbles. So to suggest that a woman in her thirties/forties is single because she hasn’t been trying hard enough is like telling Stephen Hawking he could walk – if he just had a little more willpower! It’s beyond insulting.
  2. Our careers are important to us, certainly – but mainly because it puts food on multiple tables and roofs over multiple heads. Please don’t use it against us. We need to work to pay our way in this world – whether it’s because we have a choice or not is our business. Some of us have ailing parents to tend to. Some of us don’t have parents at all. Some of us are solo bread-winners thanks to high male unemployment rates. Some of us work because we find home-making too hard and tedious and want to contribute to the wider world. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter, nor does it mean our job is the one solo thing we give our lives over to (we can do more than one thing at a time, remember?). Would we give it all up tomorrow to trot the globe at leisure and fill our days with afternoon teas? Hellz yeah – if we could afford to and not risk being dependent on anyone else. To suggest those of us who are single and working are placing our careers ahead of every other desire in life is to be grossly negligent of who we are, what we’re about and what we both need and want out of life – not to mention the financial pressures we face (which hint, hint, are the same as men’s). It’s tragic that in 2015, single women earning are still looked upon as wilful rebels. My male counterparts would never have to justify their economic activities in relation to marriage. If men don’t have to put up with searing judgements for simply being employed, women certainly shouldn’t. And if we should happen to be enjoying our careers as an added bonus, surely that’s a good thing? Isn’t it? Or do we need to be miserable on all fronts as a ‘punishment’ for being single?
  3. Ah! The Ultimate Classic Boogey-Card: babies.  There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t hear the words “But don’t you want children?” Er, yes. I do. But only if I meet a man I would want to procreate with (so far numbering at zero). And besides: why is MY stance on the spectrum of motherhood of concern to you? Ah yes! Because it’s a viable threat to hold over my already over-burdened head! Well, let’s put this one to bed: fertility is SUBJECTIVE. There are women in Germany giving birth at 65, whilst I have friends as young as 22 who are having fertility issues. What part of children being a part of God’s blessings bestowed as is His/Her will is hard to understand? And who is to say that if I had married at 19 I’d have had no problems conceiving? Sure, my body would have been firmer/more adept/hotter, but then so would have my supposed hubby’s. And just in case you haven’t heard, men have age-related fertility issues too. So they may be able to produce sperm until death do them part, but the older they become (and the wider the age gap between them and their partner), the longer it will take for them to be able to impregnate an egg. Charlie Chaplin may have had Mavis at 76, but that’s probably because it took over a decade for his barely alive message to reach the mother-ship. Get it? Besides which, I’ve always found any discussion around “fertility” in relation to marriage abhorrent: call me whatever you want (fool, naïve, a gonner), but I want someone who wants to be with me for me – not for what my body may or may not be capable of producing. The last thing I want is for love to be conditional. Should I lose my legs or limbs or womb due to an accident or cancer or war (God forbid), I’d want my partner to…I don’t know. Stick around! Not scarper off and marry the next “fertile” woman he can get his hands on. Any children would be a blessing – an enrichment to a relationship that should be strong enough to survive with or without them. So please. Enough with the biological blackmail. I’ve seen this threat be used countless times to force both men and women into marriages they weren’t ready for, and the only thing given birth to is misery and divorce.
  4. 25 is NOT the perfect age. Hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing. People are instinctively attune to when they’re ready for marriage – for some it hits young, for others it hits later in life, and for some (gasp!) it may never hit at all. It all depends on a whole world of things and again, is subjective. I’m a completely different person in my thirties than I was in my twenties and know myself far better – so my idea of what I want in a life partner is far clearer (and saner) too. The things I would have looked for a decade ago (basically a mix of Frodo and William Wallace) seem hilarious to me now.  And how many of us have friends and family who married too young because of family/societal pressures and are now traversing the earth in a state of Divorcedom? Time to let this myth go too: we have enough to be getting on with already.

 

So, to all Happily Married Supermums out there, I offer my congratulations. You got lucky – extremely lucky, and I’m truly happy for you. But your circumstances were/are not the same as mine, so nor will my life-path be.  I didn’t meet the love of my life in/before/straight out of university. Nor did I encounter him in my work-places or through my family’s attempted arrangements. So instead, I’m simply getting on with my life – refusing to marry men who I know I could never love and who simply wouldn’t “get” me. I don’t deserve censure for the way my life is going – nor do I need to be constantly treated like something that needs to be ‘fixed’.

So please, the next time a 25-year old comes to you for marriage advice, tell them what I tell their counterparts:  love and marriage will come, if and when God wills it. By all means look and be open to it, but don’t forsake your own life – or careers – or sanity waiting. Men certainly aren’t expected to. Women shouldn’t have to either.

Yours sincerely,

Onjali Qatara Rauf

Onjali was the former Assistant Editor for emel Magazine; Campaigns Manager for Women for Women International UK, and is Founder and CEO of Making Herstory: a self-styled human rights organisation working to end the abuse, trafficking and enslavement of women and girls worldwide.  She was shortlisted for the Care2Impact and Emma Humphreys Awards in 2014 for her works in the women’s rights sector. You can follow her on Twitter @OnjaliRauf  and follow  @MakeHerstory1 too

 


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A Response to the ‘Open Letter To A Single 25 Year Old Asian/Arab Girl’

by Ayisha Malik

@Ayisha_Malik

Unwed Bride, Samah Hamidi, roams Cairo in white dress to challenge social taboos .

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


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An Open Letter To A Single 25 Year Old Asian/Arab Girl

Image courtesy of Shiraz Chanwala

Dear 25 year old single girl,

Congratulations! You’ve completed your degree, landed yourself a stellar job and are well on the way to carving out an exciting career.

So… shall we talk about the elephant in the room? Marriage!

When it comes to finding ‘The One’ some of you may feel that NOW is the time to begin your search but are unsure on what to do next. The rest of you may simply feel that you’re not ready; you still have your career to think about, you want to travel and you’ll worry about all that later.

As an educated, ambitious woman myself, with friends of similar ilk, I can see where you’re coming from. I totally get it.

But sadly, life isn’t necessarily going to fall into place as neatly as your #HudaBeautyLashes. The reality is that there is an (un)fairly narrow window of opportunity in which to secure your future husband and, from my experience, I’d say it hovers around the age of twenty-seven.

Image courtesy of Ed Garcia

There is no magic formula on how to go about finding ‘The One’ but having spoken to many 30-something year old single women, here are a few of their thoughts.

1. The Search MUST start today and not tomorrow

In my role as a voluntary matchmaker, I’ve come across hundreds of brilliant girls who were in your beautiful designer heels a decade ago. These girls are now in their 30s having grown into successful, strong, independent women who have realised every feminista’s noughties Western dream. They’ve seen the world and they’ve spoken to it. Yet they have fallen victim to the traditional Asian/Arab marriage system, which is inherently biased in favour of men and pressures women to be a certain way. Although, the rules are changing, progress in glacial. But that’s a whole other letter.

The biological imperative remains as unfair as ever. Mother Nature was not, is not and never will be a feminist. And to add salt to the wound, most South Asian/Arab men do not live in an era where they rank a woman’s intellect over her fertility and beauty.

So IF you do want to marry AND have children before the age of 35 (when you begin to enter the realm of ‘higher risk pregnancy’) then I would suggest starting your search much sooner rather than later.

2. Deal breakers and barriers

I have received countless matchmaking enquiries from young women (AND men) that are mind bogglingly specific. For example, one particular 25 year old female teacher was looking for a Gujarati doctor. Or dentist. Or accountant. But strictly NO lawyers. They’re just ‘too argumentative’. Ideally of East African descent although this wasn’t essential. No younger than 27, and certainly not a day over 30. A practicing Muslim; whatever that means these days (she didn’t know either). Facial hair would be ‘acceptable’ but she was averse to ‘full-on’ beards and volunteered her irrational phobia of hairy backs. Speaking a European language was also a plus point, but not a deal breaker.

I kindly advised the young lady that although I know many lovely Muslim doctors who sit comfortably within her specified age bracket, I am completely oblivious on the state of their body hair and general grooming habits, and to be very honest, I prefer to maintain my ignorance. That’s not to say that I’m dismissive of personal preferences relating to things like hair, hygiene and horrible habits, or the ‘3 H’s’ as I like to call them. But regardless of how highly they may sit on your tree of disgust, it’s certainly not a great way to start (or even end) marriage talks.

You need to accept that Mr Perfect doesn’t exist. He is simply a romantic Holly/Bolly/Lollywood myth. Focus instead on finding ‘Mr Suitable’. You find him by making a rational list of the characteristics you’re definitely NOT willing to compromise on. For example: Someone whose strength of faith is not aligned with yours. Someone who lacks humour. Someone who is too intro/extroverted. Someone with a criminal record. Someone with a history of cheating/lying. Outside of your main ‘deal breakers’ the rest is negotiable and I promise you that there are PLENTY of Mr Suitables around. I often hear from them. They are surprisingly lovely, so give them a chance.

3. Don’t rely on your parents

Before I have every auntie in the country wanting to beat me with her stick then please read on.

Far too often I’ve heard of successful mid-30 year old women who had exclusively depended on their parents in the spouse hunt, only to be disappointed later on. Unfortunately, whilst every parent does of course have their child’s best interest at heart, it is important to recognise that their social networks are limited to a smallish pool of friends and therefore a finite pool of eligible bachelors.

As an aside, I have also witnessed A LOT of parental “not-good-enoughery”. This is truly disappointing as many great suitors are being sidelined in the vain hope that the perfect son/daughter-in-law is hiding just around the corner. The reality is that the corner can sometimes be a very long and tortuous road and takes several years to turn, if ever.

4. Always try and look your best.

In an ideal world, a guy would immediately fall in love with your ‘inner beauty’ whilst Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” would be playing proudly in the background. In an ideal world. After all, it IS your character that truly matters in promoting the longevity of a happy and healthy marriage. And so, how I would love to say that ‘looks don’t matter’ but for all the rights and wrongs of it, it’s simply not true. It’s a biological fact rather than rocket science: men and women are attracted to physical beauty. Therefore, first impressions can be last impressions and so I would suggest that you make every effort to look presentable in the same way that you would for your dream job interview.

And for the love of God please STOP pouting in your ‘Rishta photos’!

5. Don’t prioritise career over marriage

It’s difficult growing up in a world where the cultural mantra of marrying young has finally, and refreshingly, been replaced by encouragement to postpone marriage (ever so slightly) in pursuit of high ideals – education, career and true love. However the two can run in parallel as opposed to sequentially.

Life doesn’t stop once you have a ring on your finger. You can pursue your goals AND be in a fulfilling marriage. It’s simply great to have someone with whom to celebrate your successes and it’s even better to have him holding your hand through the difficult and daunting times.

Be open to attending social networking functions, marriage events and accept invitations to private parties. The thought of attending on your own can be a bit daunting. What if you wear the wrong thing? What if you get stuck in the corner sandwiched between Vain Zayn and Awkward Abdul? BUT, what if you end up having a thoroughly enjoyable time and meeting someone great? You may not know anyone else in the room but I’d say that’s all the more reason to go.

Sign up to matrimonial sites and download the various marriage apps. I know they’re a bit hit and miss but what do you have to lose? Tell your friends and relatives that you’re actively looking so that they may suggest suitors within their networks. Of course, none of these measures can guarantee Mr Suitable knocking on your door at a time of your convenience, after all these things are pre-destined, but following this simple advice may be a good starting point.

Finally, remember there is absolutely no shame in putting yourself out there and actively searching for ‘The One’, in fact I’d say it suggests a degree of maturity. Stop worrying about what so-and-so might think. This is about YOU and NOT them. It’s time to woman up and take some control.

Yours sincerely,

Farah Kausar
Voluntary Matchmaker

Dr Farah Ahmed is a London based GP and mum of two boys. She  is a Global Ambassador for ‘Mothers 2 Mothers’, a charity that trains and employs Mentor Mothersto provide essential health education and psychosocial support to other HIV-positive mothers, on how they can protect their babies from HIV infection. Farah enjoys running, writing health articles and matchmaking in her spare time. 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Images courtesy of Shiraz Chanwala and Ed Garcia