Thursday, 28 July 2011

What do ya say to Triangles?

At least 6 of those in my closer circle of friends are in plural marriages, and there are around 20 couples I know in my wider circle who are ‘second wives (for want of a better term). While no one can speculate about what goes on behind closed doors, from what I’ve seen the bulk of these families are deeply disjointed and unhappy!
This of course raises the issue of whether or not their unhappiness is purely due to the polygyny involved? Well, probably not entirely! In fairness, I do know of many polygynous families where every one is happy! But as a humble observer, here is my 2P on the subject!
It seems to me that a great many Muslim men have missed the point/points, when it comes to polygyny. Of course it is halal and perfectly permissible, even though many of us might prefer to turn our noses up at plural marriage, mutah etc, our likes/dislikes are not a reason to dismiss them. Similarly, our liking doesn’t seem like a reason to support the practise either! I.e., I can’t tell my husband not to take another wife just because I don’t like it, nor can he tell me he wants another wife “just because!). You may say that polygyny is halal (which it is), but so are many things! Night prayers are halal: nay, they are recommended! However if I’m not performing my 5 compulsory prayers, it is questionable whether my night prayers will hold any special value for me! Food is halal, but if I over-eat and damage my health as a result, that food may well become haram for me!
What I’m getting at here, is that often, polygyny feels like a symptom to me, rather than a solution!
Before even contemplating a second, third or fourth wife, men need to consider the following.
1) Equality!
Hadaith teach us that while polygyny is permitted, if you fear you cannot do justice to your wives, it is better for you to marry only one!
How can you do justice to a second wife when the country you live in does not even permit polygyny? Of course, there is nothing to stop you performing an Islamic ceremony and living as married, but your second/3rd etc wife will not be considered as your partner in the eyes of the law, she will not be entitled to welfare support/pension contributions through you, and will struggle a great deal when you leave this world as a result!
This brings me on to my second point:
2) Honesty!
How honest can you really be with your wife/colleagues, neighbours, people in the community etc. Polygyny carries a stigma, even within Muslim communities today. Forget the fact that often men take a second wife in secret, how will your lack of honesty impact on your new wife, and any subsequent children you have with her?

3) Family unity.
Secrecy naturally brings its own discord, but if your wives do not get along, your home is likely to dissolve in to pieces! Of course, your wives have the right to demand their own homes: which, if you live in a non-Muslim country, may be pretty impractical for you to afford!
4) (and most importantly!), benefit!
Whether taking a new job or buying a new TV, we all run through a subconscious analysis in our head: cause/affect! How will this job/purchase change my life? Will it benefit me? Will it benefit those around me? Can I afford it? do the disadvantages outnumber the advantages? Or vice versa!
How many men do this when it comes to a second wife! Maybe she is young, beautiful and more appealing than your first wife with whom you have tired, but of course, she too will not always remain like this; and what is there to sustain the 3 of you when she has a few children and is beginning to age herself! Will she enhance your physical/spiritual life? Will she benefit your first wife?

Now: relax all of you who are thinking that Reza is searching away from home! We did talk about polygyny and its not something he is in to! (Thank Goodness!).
Does this mean I am completely against the practise? No! however I think there is allot that men/women leave undone! A friend was asking my opinion on the subject yesterday and that’s what prompted this post!
The way I see it; if you have been married for a significant period of time, and especially if you have children, a plural marriage is something you both have to grow in to. You both have to be on the same page re: whether or not to go for it, your reasons and how to go about it. Living in the west means that your children will likely be unfamiliar with the practise and this too has to be considered in terms of impact. Frankly; if my husband wishes a second wife, I need to know about it; and both she and I need to be involved in the bigger picture, from searching for potentials to initial meetings. It is only fair that she and I meet in private before any thing is decided, so that she knows my feelings on the subject and I know her perspective. We need to be able to get along. Sure we may never become best friends, but we need a level of shared vision in order to sustain and maintain our husband and mutual family. All 3 of us need to have strategies in place for dealing with difficult issues, and be very clear about our own boundaries and how these will translate within the new domestic situation. Many revert sisters have the additional pressure of non-Muslim family, who may or may not know about their changes in circumstances! Only they can make the call as to whether or not their relatives can cope with the knowledge, but it often seems that this too is just another oversight on the part of many men!

I don’t mean to have a rant against the male species over here; and I do know that many of our brothers act with taqwa in mind and with the best of intentions, but for every brother who does, there are 10 who don’t and the numbers of broken families we see today are the horrid legacy of such one-sided thinking!
The majority Pakistani community in which I currently reside, boasts many plural families: men, who married back home, but then took a Western wife on their arrival in the UK to “stay away from haram!”. Years later, wives/children come to know of one another; and the results have not proved favourable! Families are often cramped together in poorly maintained apartments, lost in poverty and loathing the sight of one another! Some say that the fact they remain together is testament to the strength of the marriage, and maybe so! Undoubtedly those women who show patience and perseverance in the face of such tests will Insha Allah be rewarded, but what of those who oppress them unjustly on this earth? Moreover, there are the tests sent to us by Allah (SWT), and there are the dramas we make for ourselves, which cannot be attributed to divine self-Development!
It is worth remembering that our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), never took a second wife during the time of Khadija (A.S), and those wives that he (PBUH) married after her death, were often performed out of necessity: to protect the dignity/honour of widows, divorced women and those without any other form of protection (there was no welfare system 1400 plus years ago!).
Justifying our wants and desires under the banner of sunnah acts is cruel and unjust, whether we are talking about polygyny, or any thing else!
To any one facing such a test, may Allah (SWT) grant all of you insight to be merciful and understanding to one another, and may you find the wisdom to distinguish between the right and the wrong in such a situation. As for the rest of us; at the end of the day, the key is to think before you leap; if you have doubts, leave it alone! And if you believe polygyny is right for you; think some more; the marriage should make 3 lives beautiful, rather than causing 3 car crashes!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ramadhan Preparations Begin!

With the blessed month of Ramadhan just around the corner, I decided to commence my preparations with a gift for myself! (nothing frivolous though, I assure you!).
While surfing TV channels this morning as I ate breakfast, I stumbled across an interview with Aurangzeb Iqbal! I didn’t know who he was or initially, what he was talking about, however something about his light, passion and magnetism held my interest. Aurangzeb Iqbal entered the Muslim consciousness earlier on this year, when he recorded the first ever audio Tafseer of Qur’an, exclusively in English!
Of course, there are plenty of print translations of the qur’an, as well as Arabic CDs with mumbled translations following a group of Arabic verses, however this audio version is something new. Aurangzeb Iqbal has recorded a continuous running translation of the qur’an in English only, taken from the Yusaf Ali translation. Its not just that he has read the qur’an in English, but that he has adorned his recitation with the appropriate emphasis, respect, passion, emotion, love, anger etc. His deep connection with the qur’an is evident in every word, and there are many junctures in the recording where he simply dissolves in to tears!
I had something of a twilight zone moment while watching him on TV today, as I recalled how many times during my early days as a Muslim when I craved something like this! Braille qur’ans were unheard of back then, and while you could read it online, most of the sites used flash, or imbedded the text along-side the Arabic which made them totally inaccessible to the screen reader which I use. The Arabic/English CDs are, in my experience, impossible to follow, whether for Arabic learning or for English comprehension! As it is, I have a separate Arabic only CD set with minimal adornment, but good tajweed! This enables me to learn new suras with ease! As I’m on the move allot, I really wanted a portable English qur’an which I could continually study during the month of Ramadhan, wherever I happened to be; and mashallah I found it!
The TV show was very moving, especially when viewers began to call in, commenting on the translation they had listened to. So many of them had never even heard the translations of the basic suras they recite in prayer each and every day, 5 times every day!
While there is no substitute for studying/reciting the qur’an in Arabic, the Arabic its self is completely useless without real understanding of the words being recited. How can we even begin to apply the qur’an in our lives if we do not understand its meaning? We need to understand the qur’an in our native languages, but most importantly, we need to understand it in the language of our hearts. Aurangzeb Iqbal commented on the numbers of non-Muslims who have heard his recitation. They have been struck by the rich language and poetic stanzas and have been drawn to find out more. He has even signed a deal to supply hotels, cruise liners and public transport providers with audio English Qur’ans; what a wonderful opportunity for Dawah! Later this year, the audio qur’ans will be made available to purchase via Amazon, as well as via Itunes and aps suitable for the Iphone. May Allah (SWT) reward and bless this dear brother for his passion, hard work and innovation, and may all who hear his recitation be moved, blessed and transformed by the power contained within the sacred text.
If you would like to purchase yours, or find out more about the project, visit:

Continuing the theme of preparing for Ramadhan, SR Masooma is re-launching the very successful group blog she administered last year during Ramadhan. To find out more or to join the blog’s writers for this year, Visit SR Masooma’s blog and sign up!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Building a bridge

Around 12 years ago, at the time of my first marriage, my mum called me late one night to say “you can’t get married, your Grandfather may have cancer!”. That was the height of the sentence, and the subsequent conversation! Now, any outsider looking at this would clearly see it for what it was, i.e., emotional blackmail! However, for me, as an only child, an 18-year-old with a small family and little worldly wisdom, it shook me to the core! I went ahead with the marriage, all be it with a great deal of guilt on my shoulders. There was no wedding party, no celebrations, in fact I spent the 6 days proceeding my marriage in floods of tears! I’d got it in to my head that my Granddad had cancer, was critically ill and that somehow, this was inextricably linked to my marriage: I’d not listened, I’d gone ahead and so his ultimate death would be exclusively my own fault!
Of course, he did not have cancer mashallah, and all lived to recount the tale! However remnants from that painful period in my adult history still haunt us all! 5 years later, while working in Pakistan, mum called me again, late one night. This time, it was to tell me that my Grandmother was in the hospital. I offered to come home, but mum insisted that it was not serious! I stayed where I was, mainly because I had neither money for a flight, nor leave to take from my job in Karachi! Yet every night I lay awake, listening for the telephone and being overcome by nightmares involving the deaths of my closest family members! Only when I returned home permanently a year later, did I learn just how serious my Grandmother’s illness was. She was in the intensive care and the family were called for on 2 occasions, as doctors believed she was breathing her last! Had she left this world back then, I would never have had the chance to say goodbye, never had the chance to do my duty by her. It was hard to forgive my mum for not sharing this knowledge, however I understood that she too felt guilty for the lies she had loaded upon me, all those years ago!
Last year, when I went to Azerbaijan to meet Reza for the first time, I learned that my Granddad was in hospital, just as I landed back in to Heathrow! Doctors were running tests on him, and we did not know exactly what was going on. My Grandparents had not known I was out of the country (they have the idea that blind people can’t travel and so, whenever I’m overseas, we have to tell them I’ve got work in London, or else they plague mum with late night phone calls filled with dread!). While there was some debate over why I’d not been to the hospital sooner, every one was happy to have me there and I was able to take over and relieve some of the pressure from my mum.
Why am I recounting all this you may ask? Well; one of my aunts on my father’s side past away 2 weeks ago, and her funeral was last Tuesday. SR Masooma had also been talking about the death of a loved one on her blog, which meant that these subjects were at the forefront of my mind. The day after my aunt’s funeral, my Grandmother went in to hospital for a hip replacement operation. This is a fairly straight-forward surgical procedure in most cases, however, if you are 81, diabetic, visually/hearing impaired with multiple ulcers and IBS, it becomes rather more complex!
The surgery went well, but in the subsequent 5 days, she has taken a reaction to the morphine, (which had me running to the hospital at 3 AM to try and calm her down and stop her hurting herself!), severe blood loss and a sky-high blood sugar level!
She is undergoing tests to try and determine the cause of the blood loss, which have revealed nothing thus far! Every day I watch her deteriorating, and feel a painful sense of foreboding deep in my stomach!
Losing a loved one is painful, and although my Grandparents are not dead, the process of losing them began a long time ago!
During my childhood, my maternal Grandparents largely brought me up! My mum started working and did not have time for me. My parents had all kinds of emotional/marital problems of their own, so it was in my Grandparents home that I enjoyed the real stuff of childhood: baking, planting flowers, daytrips to the seaside, lunch out; picnics, songs, stories and so much more! As their only Grandchild, they poured allot of love in to me. When I was sick, they took me to hospital, They did every thing they could to satisfy my childish desires; my Granddad even took me along to Indian dress shops to buy me bangles and ornaments when I began studying Hindi! They were also responsible for my religious education; and perhaps this is why I lost them, or rather, the reason for the severity of the loss!
My Grandfather was a religious scholar, and often took me along to his lectures and bible studies. My Grandparents belong to a little known Christian cult (The Plymouth Brethren), so its understandable that aspects of their doctrine did not make sense to me! However even in my early teens, I had begun to realise I had questions that Christianity could not answer, spiritual gaps in my world that the religion of my birth couldn’t come close to addressing.
The journey to Islam was slow and gradual, yet the absorption in to the faith was immediate, instantaneous and complete, hence the depth of shock experienced by my family. They could not accept my life changes and their rejection was as extreme as my own lifestyle change!
2 years, 4 years, 15 years went by; and some things have changed in that time. My parents, though unhappy, do accept the fact that I’m a Muslim; and that is not likely to change! They prepare halal/vegetarian food for me when I visit, and even buy Halal Turkey at Christmas! They greet me on eid and though they would never attend a mosque, have attended Muslim weddings or programmes in the homes of my close Muslim friends. Last year, my dad walked out with me in hijab for the very first time, something I know was a massive step for him. His family never talk about my Islam; it is the elephant in the room; and I don’t really know what they think; whether they expect me to grow out of it or if they think that just like a foreign disease, this too shall pass!
My maternal Grandparents however, have never got over it. Initially they were very aggressive, banning me from their home and making no secret of their disgust, sharing it with any one who cared to listen; be they neighbours, postmen or other church members. For years, I could not walk freely in my home town without being plagued by brethren, recounting my Grandparent’s pains to me. Talking did no good, it only inflamed; and silence seemed to make them think I’d given up on them entirely!
So, somewhere in the years that followed, I fell in to an indifferent space; I met them every fortnight and enquired after their well-being! I attended Christmas parties and other family celebrations, always feeling like the outsider I knew I was!
Then, things took an unexpected upturn when, while striving to improve my spiritual practises, I began attending my local Episcopal Cathedral! I didn’t tell my Grandparents about this, fearing that they’d view it as a rejection of Islam. My mum however, couldn’t wait to tell them; and the inevitable happened! They were delighted! You have to understand that, the Brethren, rather like Wahabis, believe that all other forms of Christianity other than their own are false! So accepting the Episcopal Church was a big deal for them! However, I guess on a scale of “evil” ness, it ranked higher than Islam in acceptability! So, I was accepted back in to the fold, (that is, for a time!). As soon as they learned that I attended the Cathedral as a Muslim, not as a Christian or potential revert, I was way back down the ranks to where I’d come from, that is, until this most recent hospital episode! See, mum works full time, and I work from home, only having to attend an office base for a few evenings per week! this means I’m on hand to call social workers, attend care plan meetings, run around town in pursuit of the best fitting incontinence pads, order medication, collect said medication, maintain the empty house, …., you get the picture! Sure there are times when I’d rather not do this, when hours spent filling Dosette boxes could be more pleasurable spent in bed with a good book, but I do it; and moreover, am glad to do it. Allah (SWT) is the best of planners, and somewhere between resentment and impatience, I started to see the wonder in what I was doing. I began to see these apparently mundane chores as a means for regaining a level of closeness with my Grandparents, a way of building bridges, a way to celebrate the common good/values that we can and do share. When my Granddad asked me to track down a particular book for him, I did so. I spent a ridiculous amount of money purchasing an original copy from Amazon, but it was worth it to see the joy on his face; and, last night, when I was about to head back to my apartment, I stayed an extra night in my home town, so that I could visit Gran in the hospital! She was ill and unhappy, yet looked pleased to see me; and somehow, I did seem to make her smile!
I realised something else too; I used to believe that, when my Grandparents accepted my choices, every thing would be OK! Moreover, the Wahabi fuelled version of Islam I initially adopted taught me that non-Muslim family weren’t really worth the effort if they weren’t interested in converting! Thus I subconsciously saw my family as a commodity, who received conditional affection subject to converting on request! Life is short, and the memory is shorter! The animosity that had built between us meant that I could no longer see the commonality which, in reality, our faiths gave to our respective lifestyles! Attending the Cathedral helped me to see that; and translating it in to action, as I’m now doing, enables me to use/live out my learning. I do not know if my Grandparents view all this as I do, but for me, if the time should come for one/either of them to leave this world, I’ll live easier with the pain knowing that I had a chance to repair our relationships; and to translate the present in to something comfortable, sometimes even beautiful, for all involved. I am married, in to an Iranian family. Aspects of my life now, and my life to come will no doubt prove different, or even difficult for my Grandparents to take on, but in this case, my Grandmother’s illness has proved a healing, not just for her, but for me as well. I have learned how to maintain routes that she can sit upon, while stretching out my branches wide enough to grow in to a better wife, a better Muslim and, Insha Allah, a mother some day.
If you are facing something similar, take heart/hope from the above, and remember the importance of building bridges. It is not necessary, rather, its impossible to knit your 2 worlds together seamlessly, but a bridge if well-built, creates a platform for both worlds to travel upon, and maybe even to meet in the middle. It might not be what you want, but the bridge will help you to find beauty in what you’ve got! Life is about stories; your stories, their stories; and how each universe crosses over to meet the other; after all; what is Islam, what is any faith; if it can’t stretch wings/bridges of humility out to the other worlds that surround?
…, PS: Please, do remember my Grandmother in your prayers/duas, and pray too that we, as her family, maintain the strength and patience to support each other, and to care for her, to the best of our abilities.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Intizar; a poem on waiting for Imam Mahdi (ATF)

Tired and lonely, stress on her face,
Light hardly lives here, not even a trace.

Trying to make sense of the purpose of life,
Why all the suffering, the sorrow, and strife.

Try as she might, she can’t stay on track,
Haunted by the past, she always looks back.
Yet behind her tears, one fact remains true, This slave in her darkness, is waiting for you.

She wonders in silence, what its all about,
The pain leaves her empty, unable to shout.
She’s so cynical, sinful, she’s lost the straight way;
She’s so ashamed of herself she feels embarrassed to pray.
Still, through unemployment, hardship, and separation too, this slave remains constantly waiting for you.

This slave didn’t know what it was to be blind,
Till the light of alIslam she could not find.
Things used to be simple, every thing was alright, till the tests just got harder, and she dissolved in sheer fright.

Even the strongest souls can, lose their iman,
Corrupted and poisoned by that old devil Shaytan!
But this slave is reminded, by this night and its truth, by the Secrets she learned from Ahlulbayt in her youth.

Tonight, she remembers the light of the earth, as the world gathers to celebrate your birth.

They pray, read qur’an, recite and prostrate;
But this slave is different; she stays silent, to wait.
She listens intently to the sound of the sky,
Hoping for a miracle, a smile or a cry.

She prays for a sign you are close at hand, she won’t beg, will not question, she won’t ask or demand.

She’s no one to ask you for the things she desires,
To earn your closeness is all she aspires.

Ya Imam, Ya hujjat, forgive me, I pray,
May my heart and my spirit be sacrificed in your way.

Grant me the wisdom, to tackle this test, so that even when I’m losing, I’m still doing my best!

Teach me, guide me, enlighten my stride,
So that one day you might look upon me with pride.

Grant me the knowledge to understand the unseen,
Elevate my soul to your chosen 313.

Ya Imam, in my prayers, my working, in all that I do;
I’m waiting, and waiting, just waiting, for you.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Where the Persian cat sleeps ...

In her book ‘The Golden Cage, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi compares the lives of 3 Iranian brothers; an Islamist, a communist and a royalist. While hailing from the same family, residing in the same country, each chooses a dramatically divergent path, only to be brought together in the end by their sister Pari’s innate understanding that each path would ultimately lead to ruin, simply by nature of its exclusive separatism!
The book, based on a true story, offers an incredibly accurate portrayal of the challenges and ethical dilemmas facing contemporary Iranians today. It is a very welcome departure from the Iranian exiles who have cashed in on the West’s appetite for novels documenting how awful Iran is (lipstick Jihad being an excellent case in point!). The book traces the tightrope between honesty and resignation, between culture and religion, between individuality and conformity; questions that Reza and I have begun asking ourselves, and on behalf of our unborn children!
The challenge for us, and arguably for all exiles; is how to depict the culture of the homeland accurately and without dubiety, especially when we have so obviously made a conscious decision not to live there! Will frequent visits home do the country justice? Is Persian TV really enough? Or do these sanitised experiences only further marginalize and showcase the country, reducing it to nothing more than a pastime, an old tradition observed with no apparent rhyme or reason!

It would be fine if we hated Iran or had chosen to reject all that it stands for. Similarly, it would be easy to confined Iran if we were choosing an Iranian life outside of the country! There is an entire Iran located in North London, and that seems to work for most people! The thing is; despite the many social/political, ethical and economic barriers that ostracise so many Iranians today, my husband loves his country! Sure he recognises the things that are wrong with it; and makes no secret of those when discussing Iran; but all the same, he is passionately patriotic about his homeland. He keeps up with the news, he adores the Persian language, literature, music, poetry and arts. He encapsulates the values that underpin the real essence of Iran; and, while our relationship would have meant that Iran would always be on my radar, I don’t think I would have adopted it with such love, or been so adamant about taking Iranian Nationality were it not for that passion! Of course; much of my understanding comes through my family lens; a perspective that can easily be past on to our children. By creating a home full of Persian art, food, language and beauty as we have done, would almost certainly create a pure fluffy image of the Persian cat that is home! Only, just how real would that be! I’m all for celebrating the positives, but keeping it real is more important to me! It is frankly impossible to talk about the beauty of Iran, without acknowledging all that has gone wrong! Just the same as its impossible to criticise Iran without recognising the wonder contained within it.
At the beginning of this post, I recognised that many exiles face this problem, however I notice that within most Muslim communities there is a tendency to celebrate culture through expressions of faith. This can bring its own problems (i.e., adopting practises in the name of Islam which are not actually requirements of faith), however it can bring many positives as well! This is not really an avenue open to us. For a start, Iran was never an exclusively Muslim country! Though the extremists hate to acknowledge it, Iran is made up of Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, suni/shia Muslims and a number of other religious sects on top of that! Iranian culture is not necessarily Islamic culture, as some Arab cultures may claim to be, and the government in their wisdom (or lack thereof), tried to integrate Islam in to the core fabric of Iranian political conscious by eradicating aspects of Persian culture! Sure; I’ll be raising my children Muslim, but there is a strong prerequisite that demands Iran and Islam are kept as far away from one another as possible! Many Iranians now reject Islam because their lack of knowledge has lead them to believe that adherence is equal to support for the regime!
Iran doesn’t enjoy a fantastic place in the Western media spectrum at present! Sure this may change, but doesn’t it only make my praise for the Nation seem fake and misplaced? I have lots of logical, thought-out answers for my children, but kids don’t want/grasp rhetoric; they can only do realism; vibrant, lived examples!
When thinking about why I chose to take on Iranian Nationality; it was primarily for convenience! With an Iranian passport, I could come and go to the country as I liked without headaches over visas and continual pitch battles with the Embassy! My children and I would always share one common nationality, wherever we ended up living, and, though I hate to think about it, if any thing unthinkable separated Reza and I, no one could force me from the country! The issue of not living there however, is one we’ve also had to challenge! We are not living there now; and it doesn’t feel neither safe nor practical to do so right now. If our visa application is rejected, we may need to review our stance! And even if we do settle more permanently in Scotland, I don’t want Iran to be the place we visit, maybe, twice in a lifetime! In my experience the children who adjust well in mixed race marriages are those who flit seamlessly between the 2 countries and cultures. Both are fully incorporated in to the fabric of their every day lives. I may even want to take my children to Iran for a few years, so that they regard it as home, just as Scotland is home! But having said that, I need to get more “homely” with Iran myself! I’m learning Farsi and that helps, but I haven’t found a niche for myself in Iran yet, as I did in Pakistan! Now that Iran is covered, what about Scotland? While this country might be more developed in terms of human rights, disability equality etc, it has its own problems! There isn’t a vibrant Muslim community to speak of, the weather is awful, we have a massive sectarian issue (catholic/protestant), and a world-famous drink problem! Scotland, too, may not be the best place to raise our children! Reza may not even like it! its home to me, but not necessarily to him! Home may end up being some neutral corner, where we both start over fresh, on more of an equal footing. It may be that our children buy in to one culture more than the other, and one of us may lose out! I don’t necessarily mind that, just so long as I know that I’ve not closed any doors on them and have given them an ‘access all areas in to both! I think mixed race children often find themselves lost in a curious fusion sub-culture that is unique to them and makes sense only to them. I’ve seen a good few visually impaired people doing the same thing and don’t think its particularly helpful! This is the real world; it’s the real deal and its all we have got! Carving a place in it doesn’t only come through autonomy or having a face that fits, rather it has much more to do with confidence and a sense of belonging! That is what we have to somehow inculcate in to our children! Shirin Ebadi doesn’t describe the golden cage with a door! Its easy to get in to, but will take a lifetime to get out of if at all! I pray we can give our children golden wings (well, they’ll save on flights!), but above all, they’ll learn that the air that holds them up remains the same, wherever they are; and they’ll learn that home is as much about what they bring with them, as what they find, both above and beneath those wings!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Big 12 Month Mark!

The blog has been a bit silent lately and for that I apologise! The reason? Well, …, I was out of the country!!
And why? Well!! Regular readers may just recollect; the 19th June was a pretty significant day for me and my other half; …, yeah; you guessed; our first wedding anniversary! Mashallah 1 year gone! To share and celebrate the occasion, I flu to Azerbaijan to be with Reza (as most of you know we are still facing visa limbo). So: what did we do? Well, quite simply; nothing! That is to say, we did nothing special, yet we did every thing special! Because of the distance, and the bazaar situations we’ve had to face this year, all of our time together thus far has been about weddings, preparing for weddings, then 1 wedding, the second wedding, the visa battles, etc! All we both wanted was to spend our anniversary close together, in real time, doing real things! And that is exactly what we did! We couldn’t travel much (Reza was working for most of my visit!). All the same, we cooked, cleaned the house, watched TV, walked, visited the seaside, ate out (alone, and with friends), prayed together, called home together, studied Farsi (well, Reza taught, I studied!). It was a brief, but beautiful visit; and one I’ll remember forever. Leaving was intensely difficult. I felt physical pain during our further separation and cried all the way back on the plane, doubtless drawing a great deal of attention to myself! We are still in this forgotten hell that is the mercy (or lack of it: shown by the UK Border agency! That’s not easy and causes us both a great deal of stress, anxiety and pain. Despite the obstacles however; this first anniversary still felt like a really significant day for us, and a real cause for celebration. As we drove through the familiar streets of Baku to our tiny studio apartment, I was overcome with emotion, remembering my first visit to Baku last February. It had been a beautiful trip, but one fraught with anxiety, tension and questions; would we really get married? Would the family really accept our decision? How would we overcome the distance? It all seemed so remote then, so far off, so impossible, yet 1 year on, by the grace of Allah (SWT) and the duas of so many, known and unknown, we are married; we are united; and we have survived this difficult and testing year! Every one says the first year of marriage is the hardest, and in our circumstances I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that! Its tough; very tough! But we felt tranquil; somehow routed: ultimately, if we can survive this, we can survive any thing!
Sure we have tests: lots of them! But who doesn’t? and when I look at some of those in my circle of friends and the hardships they are battling, I often find myself thanking Allah (SWT) that I’ve got the tests I have and not bigger harder ones that I wouldn’t be strong enough to take!
Many friends and acquaintances have asked me through-out this year: “how did you know Reza was the one?”. Its an interesting question! I think your understanding of your spouse evolves; growing and developing as your understanding of them increases and vice versa! I’m sure I can write this here (its an open secret really), but when I first met Reza, I really didn’t like him much! I felt that practically, I couldn’t be bothered with a foreign husband: I’d been there, done that and it all felt like a very big headache! As I got to know him however, and he me, our understanding grow and my perception of him changed! We spoke on MSN for about 6 months before we spoke on the phone; and by our first telephone conversation, I knew Reza was the one. Sure: at that stage I knew I needed references, I had to research, take time, think, do istikhara; but put it this way; my mind was made up; unless evidence convinced me other wise. Reza tells a similar story. I can’t assume that every one has such “click” moments all the time, especially about something as significant as marriage! However I think most people probably do! I met a great many rishtay/proposals before Reza came along, and while I kept an open mind and gave them a chance, I think I knew deep down they were not for me. Some rejections directed at me were hard to take, and didn’t always make sense, but I knew if the feeling was not reciprocated, then why pursue things any further!
Friends also ask me what makes a successful marriage! Well, for us, it has been love, time, understanding, patience and as many laughs as we can fit in! Our marriage is definitely routed on our faith; and it is our shared prayers, our commitment to Allah (SWT) and love for the Ahlulbayt (A.S), that gets us through the really dark days. No man/woman is perfect; there are things about Reza that bug me, and I’m sure he’d say the same about me! Of course we fight, we disagree, we irritate one another at times! We do have some rules however; all arguments must be put to bed by magrib time; and no one has the right to stop talking; no matter how serious the matter is! You can take a few minutes out, but after that, you must talk and sort it out! In my experience, most marriages break down when the talking breaks down. While its not always easy to keep talking long-distance, it is the only way to combat stress and thrash out difficult issues. Its true; I didn’t want to marry a foreign man, didn’t want the headache of it! but I knew Reza was worth fighting for. I knew our family was worth fighting for. Every day, I’m touched by the love shown to us by friends, family and in particular my in-laws. Honestly; without exaggerating, I gained parents, not in-laws when I got married; and the fact that they are routing for us, even when we can’t look ahead ourselves brings such confidence, comfort and peace. All people will be tested; and for now, distance is our test! Its been hard, really hard and only gets harder! That said, this test has brought us closer in so many ways. We’ve realised each other’s strength and weaknesses on a level so elemental, so profound that I’m not sure we would have got so deep had we been in closer proximity. Moreover, we’ve become determined, empowered and strong! This is a painful fight, but it’s a fight worth fighting! We don’t know if/when we will win, but we do know we will give it all we’ve got! We’ve also learned that our time together is sacred and beautiful, and that these moments confirm for us that we will make our marriage work wherever we end up living: be it Britain, Iran, or a box in the middle of nowhere; we can do it! Tests are so much easier if you are together; and the beauty of where we are now is that, no matter what hits us in the years to come, if we can fight it together, hand in hand, it will feel so puerile next to this first year of difficulty.
After every hardship comes ease; and ours will surely come Insha Allah, if only we keep fighting and be patient. I read a beautiful quote recently “pray like every thing Depends on Allah, but work as though every thing Depends on you”. Good advice, and advice which, if we follow, will surely bring us success!
I want to thank our friends, my blog readers and all those who have commented, prayed for us, or just kept us in their thoughts over this year. Thanks to all those who have provided hands-on support: Masooma, Mariam, Kanwal, Nazlina, and all those who I don’t name! A special thanks to SR Otowi for her beautiful gift to me earlier on this year, which filled my time and kept my mind active through some dark days. Do continue to pray for us and support us on this journey to be together; with your love and help, Insha Allah we will enjoy many more fulfilled and blessed years together.
A song for Reza:

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