engagement-party.jpg(A continuation, started in https://foreverloyal.wordpress.com/2007/08/29/love-muslim-american-style-part-i-courtship/)   You’ve established basic compatibility and have spent a good amount of time with your prospective spouse.  You’ve observed whether this person keeps their word and whether or not they hold a grudge over small matters.  It has been established that you both want 3 kids and that it is vital to you that they attend muslim schools. Now what?  This person looks like they are “the one.”

Now what?

At this point, you’ve been together enough to have strong feelings.  The image of her face comes into your thoughts and you smile.  You have a hard time getting off the phone with him even if you’ve been talking for an hour.  You’re feeling all mushy.  You’re in love!

So now is the time to get serious.  Time to nail down those last few things before you announce a wedding date.  Time for full-disclosure.  If he’s not a virgin, you have a right to know.  If she has horrible credit, that has to be brought out.  Lay it all on the table because joining your life to another person’s is serious business.  You should both be tested for STD’s.  Yeah yeah, maybe you both are clean.  So no need to fear the test then, right?  And if one of you tests positive for something then at least you know so you can undergo whatever treatment is necessary.  This is not something to be skipped.  Each of you should also get a credit check and show it to your prospective spouse.

After that is out of the way, it’s time to sit down and draw up a plan, a contract for your married life together.  This is the time to work out the details of how you want to live.  Are you planning for the wife to stay home after the birth of children? Think now about how you can achieve that and live reasonably comfortably.  Maybe you want to be married for five years and save most of her salary before you have kids.  Work out the mahr.  Brothers, don’t try to cheap out.  Sisters, don’t try to squeeze the man dry.  All those questions that were asked during the beginning phase need to be revisited and you need to commit your plan to paper.  Life will throw unexpected events your way, but if you have a plan you have a common vision for what you want married life to be like.  This should minimize the fights that can come with differing expectations.

When all this is done, it’s time to get formally engaged.  Have a little barbeque and invite your family and friends.  You probably want to start life with your new honey as soon as possible, so don’t set the wedding date too far out.

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loveamericanstyle

This is my response to the call for solutions after Umar Lee’s 8/21 post, Sex and the Muslims Part III.

There really has been an understanding, popularized by some American muslims themselves, that American-style love romance is inherently bad.  This comes of course, from the view that pretty much anything American-style is an awful idea and should be replaced with the modus operandi of select countries with majority muslim populations.  Or rather, with what is perceived as the way things are done there.  Or the most austere version of the way things are done there.  You get my point.

As we know, love and romance isn’t the be all and end all.  Historians often argue that it never used to be a goal of marriage, and that marriages and societies were more stable that way. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,15468574-38198,00.html 

Marriage was not about bringing two individuals together for love and intimacy. Rather, the aim of marriage was to acquire useful in-laws and gain political or economic advantage.

Only in the past 200 years, as other economic and political institutions began to take over many of the roles once played by marriage, did Europeans and Americans begin to see marriage as a personal and private relationship that should fulfil their emotional and sexual desires.

As muslims we want to have islamic marriages, and courtship to some, seems incompatible with that.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Certainly we don’t want brothers and sisters hanging out alone at each other’s apartments, or parking the car at Makeout Point.  But we don’t need to go about marrying people after only 2 weeks of preliminaries, consisting the wali interviewing the prospective brother, a few phone calls, and one or two face-to-face meetings.

When you are looking to get married you can go through the usual channels to find possible mates:  family/friends, conferences, online.  When meeting we should certainly stick to certain protocols:  no going out (or staying in) alone, for example, no making out, etc. 

I think that we should bring a business-like practicality to the process at the outset.  Get all basic info on matters such as:

–level/type of practice:  If you break out your Mariah Carey cds every now and then you obviously don’t want to marry someone who thinks that music is haram.  If you hang family photos on your wall then obviously you are not compatible with someone who takes off running at the sight of a camera.

–financial compatibility:  Do both of you want to work for that bigger house/newer car, or do you prefer for the wife to stay at home full-time?  Do either of you like to shop often, whether it’s new earrings or the latest technological gadets?  How much value do you place on saving money and do you put your money where your mouth is?

–social compatibility:  Do you like to visit and go out with friends all the time, or are you a homebody?  Somewhere in the middle?  Would this person mind if you visit friends while they stay home or vice versa?

You can ask other questions such as these: 

Question 1: What percentage of our income are we prepared to spend to purchase and maintain our home on a monthly or annual basis?

Question 2: Who is responsible for keeping our house and yard cared for and organized? Are we different in our needs for cleanliness and organization?

Question 3: How much money do we earn together? Now? In one year? In five years? Ten? Who is responsible for which portion? Now? In one year? Five? Ten?

Question 4: What is our ultimate financial goal regarding annual income, and when do we anticipate achieving it? By what means and through what efforts?

Question 5:
What are our categories of expense (rent, clothing, insurance, travel)? How much do we spend monthly, annually, in each category? How much do we want to be able to spend?

Question 6
: How much time will each of us spend at work, and during what hours? Do we begin work early? Will we prefer to work into the evening?

Question 7
: If one of us doesn’t want to work, under what circumstances, if any, would that be okay?

Question 8
: How ambitious are you? Are we comfortable with the other’s level of ambition?

Question 9: Do we eat meals together? Which ones? Who is responsible for the food shopping? Who prepares the meals? Who cleans up afterward?

Question 10
: Is each of us happy with the other’s approach to health? Does one have habits or tendencies that concern the other (e.g., smoking, excessive dieting, poor diet)?

Question 11:
What place does the other’s family play in our family life? How often do we visit or socialize together? If we have out-of-town relatives, will we ask them to visit us for extended periods? How often?

Question 12:
If we have children, what kind of relationship do we hope our parents will have with their grandchildren? How much time will they spend together?

Question 13
: Will we have children? If so, when? How many? How important is having children to each of us?

Question 14:
How will having a child change the way we live now? Will we want to take time off from work, or work a reduced schedule? For how long? Will we need to rethink who is responsible for housekeeping?

Question 15:
Are we satisfied with the quality and quantity of friends we currently have? Would we like to be more involved socially? Are we overwhelmed socially and need to cut back on such commitments?

Question 16
: What are my partner’s needs for cultivating or maintaining friendships outside our relationship? Is it easy for me to support those needs, or do they bother me in any way?

This “interview” process may seem totally unromantic and that’s good.  What’s the use in falling in love with someone’s smile or pretty eyes if you aren’t compatible on the basics?  After all, their charm isn’t going to save the marriage if your bedrock values are too different.

After you get the basics out of the way, you need to spend some time simply observing your prospective wife/husband.  How does she react to peer pressure?  Does he have his own mind?  Is he logical or easily swayed by his emotions?  How does she handle conflict with the people closest to her?

This is the period in which you can do your “halal dating.”  Always use a chaperone.  This can be your brother, sister, friend, your mom, whatever.  Have dinner with each other’s families.  Spend time with them doing everyday things like grocery shopping and yard maintenance.  When you going out to dinner, the couple can sit alone at a table with their chaperones seated nearby.  Go out to the county fair.  Brothers, try your hand at a silly carnival game and see if you can’t win the sister a teddy bear.  Sisters, surprise the brother by mailing homemade cookies to his house. 

When you have established compatibility and then gotten to know the person’s character, you can have that romance, and the excitement of that “lovey-dovey” feeling.  The great thing is, you’ve fallen for someone with whom you can actually have a happy future insha’allah.

Like Cotton Candy

August 27, 2007

cottoncandy.jpgRiding in the car one day my husband sees the silhouette of a child in the minivan next to us.

“You can tell that’s a black girl,” he says.

As I turn to look the van pulls ahead.  “How do you know?”

“The hair,” he responds.  “No one else has hair like that.”

“Like what?”

“Fluffy, like cotton candy.”

Like cotton candy.  I’ve never heard 4a or “nappy” or “highly textured” hair described in that way.  Cotton candy reminds you of happy, sunny days at the county fair.  Of the excitement of carnival rides and trying to win a at “ring toss”.  It’s an exuberant confection, light and fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth.

Sweet.

My Guy

August 25, 2007

Sometimes I’m reminded of songs that make me think of my dh.  Today that song is “My Guy” by the legendary Mary Wells.

Nothing you could say
Can tear me away from my guy
Nothing you could do
‘Cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy

I’m stickin’ to my guy
Like a stamp to a letter
Like the birds of a feather
We stick together
I’m tellin’ you from the start
I can’t be torn apart from my guy
Nothing you can do
Could make me untrue to my guy
Nothing you could buy
Could make me tell a lie to my guy

I gave my guy my word of honor
To be faithful and I’m gonna
You best be believing
I won’t be deceiving my guy

As a matter of opinion I think he’s tops
My opinion is he’s the cream of the crop
As a matter of taste to be exact
He’s my ideal as a matter of fact

No muscle bound man
Could take my hand from my guy
No handsome face
Could ever take the place of my guy
He may not be a movie star
But when it comes to being happy we are
There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy

No muscle bound man
Could take my hand from my guy
No handsome face
Could ever take the place of my guy
He may not be a movie star
But when it comes to being happy we are
There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy

(What’d you say?)

There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy
(Tell me more)
There’s not a man today
Who could take me away from my guy

Muslimas Must Be Drab

August 24, 2007

burlapbags.jpg  So I’ve been doing some reading lately on the hijab issue.  (And for the record, yes I wear a long scarf and pin it under the chin, long sleeves and blah blah blah.)

I have come across the opinion that a muslima is not to wear bright colors or decorated scarves/garments.  Supposedly this defeats the purpose of the hijab by attracting attention.  The reasoning goes that if the scarf and clothing is beautiful, it’s a problem.

What I want to know is, where’s the PROOF?  Someone quote me the hadith in which the Prophet, sallalahualaihiwasalaam forbade women to sport embroidery or jewel-tone colors.  We have the hadith about only showing the face and hands.  The limits to the amount of skin that can be shown have been established in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Who claims the further authority and right to limit the expression of personality? 

On My Mind

August 22, 2007

deleted

That seems to be the new idea, anyway. 

It used to be argued that women were being oppressed if they stayed home to manage the household and take a more active role in parenting their children.  It was a kind of “darn those evil men” sentiment.  Then came the view that staying at home wasn’t all that important, but good enough for those women who chose not to engage their brains and have a real purpose.

I first came upon this latest idea while watching a discussion on the book “The Feminine Mistake” on C-Span.  The author had some really good points, but I digress.  What really caught my attention was the assertion put forth by one of the women in the audience during the Q & A session.  (Paraphrasing) she said that men were starting to want partners and not some parasite who was just going to live off of their hard work.

Parasite.

parasite180px-action715.jpg

Because if you’re not “earning profit,” as the Ferengei would say, then clearly you’re not worth much of anything and only serve to drain some of the life from your husband.

After all, being the only one to walk a screaming baby up and down the livingroom while your husband sleeps peacefully with the bedroom door shut is nothing.

Taking the time to shop for and prepare fresh, nutritious food for the family is nothing. More expensive, preservative laden frozen fare is better.  Exra points if you hit the drive-thru for dinner twice a week.

Raising your own babies and toddlers full-time rather than sharing that task with your local daycare center is just silly.

Reading to your children, taking them to kids museums and parks during the day, and teaching them to read and count before they even get to kindergarten is meaningless.  Having the time and flexibility to meet with teachers, pick up your children from school and volunteer for all the class trips and in the classroom? Complete waste of time.

And if you take care of all the maintenance on your car, make sure everyone has clean clothes and that the house never runs out of toothpaste?  If you are the one weeding the lawn, taking out the trash, waiting for the furnace repair guy, paying the bills, keeping spending under control?  You’re a scrub.

Are you a homeschooler?  Then you’re a waste of life. 

I also implore you to disregard the emotional support you give to your husband when he loses a family member or faces a tough situation at work.  Assign no value to those intellectual discussions about the state of our society or various ways children learn.  Pish on those late-night heart-to-heart talks after the kids are asleep.  If you don’t bring home a paycheck, you ain’t ish.

LV BagWe’ve all heard of or met the black woman who expresses disdain for black women who marry interracially.  She may think they are sell-outs, self-hating, or even just weird.  But, there is another type of black woman who is upset with this type of relationship.  Curiously, this woman has a white husband herself. 

She’s very pleased about it and will generally find a way to let you know the first or second time you meet her that she has married white.  She has on a sunny smile and a slight air of superiority when she lets this bit of information “slip.”  She expects all the black women around to be envious or impressed.  She will go on at some length about the inability of  the vast majority of black women to snag a white man, how you must be blah and blah and blah.  She is all too happy to share a few cautionary tales of black women who dated white men with high hopes, only to be slapped in the face with the fact they just didn’t have what it takes to marry one.  Of course she will phrase all of these assertions in such a way as to give the impression that she takes no joy in these observations.  She just wants to let other black women know not to get their hopes up.

When someone in the group informs her that your husband is white too, her demeanor changes.  It’s actually quite amusing to watch.  Her smile becomes tight and her entire manner cools a bit. Suddenly she is all up in the business, wanting to know how much he makes, what is his family’s social class, what is his profession.  Trying in a subtle (or not so subtle) fashion to imply that her husband is better, somehow “higher” than yours.  If you indulge this line of questioning and your answers reveal that he doesn’t make as much money as her husband, her relief is palpable.  At least she’s got that over you.  But don’t let her find out that your husband’s income is equal or better than her husband’s, and/or his profession is “higher status”.  Her reaction will not be pleasant.

To this type of woman, the husband is a status symbol not unlike an expensive handbag or luxury car.  If lots of people can have one, the item loses its value.  When that happens to a handbag or car, one can simply switch to a newer, more costly purse or splurge on more rare vehicle. Husbands, however, aren’t as easily “upgraded.”  And so this woman does not want too many other black women having white husbands, because then she will have too much company.  She will no longer be “that special sort of black woman.”  Pure comedy. 

Dive in!

August 8, 2007

suitYes, muslimas observant of the standard dress code can swim.  Shocking, ain’t it?  It’s just a matter of finding the proper gear.  I just picked up one of these little numbers from Splashgear for my upcoming vacation.  Decidedly un-sexy, which is exactly the point. Anyways, the nuclear unit and I are meeting up with some of the extended family for a few days of splashy fun.  I can’t wait.

In the past I’ve always been on camera duty,  capturing the rapturous faces of cousins engaged in splash battles and toddlers testing out their water wings.  This time I get to come down the water slide, wage a splash war, and help my son learn to float.  It’s my turn to make a splash.

“Black women have been duped into believing that if they date out or seek their own happiness first then the Black community will literally fall apart. Well my first question would be why is the BC being held up by Black women only? Why have Black men been let off the hook? I’m telling you sistas, you have all been played lovely. “–from Brown Sista Blog

 “I think as woman, we have been socialized to think that we are cultural bearers of our community. Anytime a bw chooses to marry outside of the community, people question their loyalty and identity. People assume that she hates herself and that she will not help black people. Those who say that they prefer Black Men may be trying to assert their loyalty to their community and their pride in their identity by saying that their first choice is a Black man. But was this “choice” something that came from their heart? Or was this something that comes from what we are taught.” –Margari Aziza Hill

OK.  So what will happen to the community if YOU, black woman, marry out of it?

To answer that question perhaps it would help to ask another question.  What will happen to the community if you marry within it?  Let’s assume of course that you marry a black man who shares your religion as well as your take on it and degree of committment to it, who is educated, fiscally responsible, kind and attractive. Assuming that you have similar traits, you will be happily married and produce a few happy, well-adjusted children.

So again, what will happen to the community if you marry out it?  Assuming you marry a white/asian/etc. man with the same traits as the hypothetical man in the previous paragraph, the result will be the same.  A happily married you with a couple of happy, well-adjusted children.

“But,” you may protest, “We are talking about the community, and not about me.”  True enough.  But a community is made up of individuals.  So what are you as an individual doing to better the “community” right now?  If you are mentoring students, heading a book club at the library, and raising money for scholarships, why should that change just because you marry a man who isn’t black?  If you make it your business to patronize black-owned establishments and services as much as you can now, do you think that you will suddenly forget to do so?

I imagine some of the black women who marry white/other are not loyal to the black community.  Some of them likely do hate blackness and are trying to “erase” it in themselves and their chidren.  Maybe they have no love and pride in blackness.  They are making a conscious decision to discard their heritage.  The question is, is that true of YOU?  And if it isn’t, what are you worried about?

I think that Margari’s statement is true.  We have been socialized to think we are the cultural bearers of our community.  And I think that we are.  Much of that has to do with being women. For more on this, see “Fear of a Borg Life Part II, disappearing heritage.”

Our children would also have a love and attachment to the culture of their fathers, as it should be.  But culture is largely passed through the mother.  We are the mothers, regardless of whom we choose to be the fathers of our children. Wouldn’t that mean that the community is where we are?