On Being in an Inter-Ethnic Marriage

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

On May 23rd 2015, I married a person that Allah has made, to and for me, a mercy, a companion, a confidante, and the other half of my deen. And in the 108 days since, he has become so much more to me, alhamdulillah.

My wedding was a more simple take on a traditional Pakistani wedding. Unlike most, I had a nikkah ceremony at my house, followed by a reception the next day. Those two days were filled with a happiness I have never felt, alhamdulillah.

The wedding was different. There was no dancing, no rukhsati under a Qur’an, nor was there a Pakistani groom!

My husband, you see, is Bosnian.

Have you ever stolen a Bosnian groom’s shoes at his wedding, and held it ransom as his Bosnian family tried to haggle it back? (hilarious)

Or sat among a group of Bosnians, smiling, and having no idea what was being said aside from “Hoces li kava?” or “hvala” or “hajde”

Or tried very hard not to be an absolute animal when your mother-in-law makes burek or pita (but you failed)

These past three months have been such a learning experience for me. Personally, I think I have it much easier than others who decided to marry outside their ethnic pool. It’s especially gratifying to introduce my husband to different Indian/Pakistani foods, and see his palate change from meat-and-potatoes to biryani, samosa chaat, korma, tikka masala, firni, and the like! My mother-in-law won’t say no to samosa chaat, either!

And of course, since I currently live with my in-laws, I’ve been taught how to make a a mean cup of Bosnian coffee, make baked mushrooms and eggplant, and uhh eat a lot of pita (haven’t learned that yet).

My relationship with my father-in-law (svekar) is really special, I think (inshAllah). He knows more Bosnian than English, but can understand and hold a conversation easily. Since living with my husband’s family, I have picked up some Bosnian, but I can understand a lot more than I can speak. But even so, we manage to talk a lot. As a result, his English has gotten better (or I’d like to think so) and my understanding of Bosnian has improved, too. Though, I’m not confident enough to speak it, yet!

It’s a very different household from the way I grew up. I think that’s where some of the challenges have been. Every household has different rules, and when you move into your husbands place, you have to adapt. You have to.

For me, not knowing the language has been the greatest obstacle, but making a sincere effort to understand and learn is probably the biggest respect I can give them. That, and adapting to the way they do things. It’s still challenging, and sometimes it feels insurmountable.

But, the journey is in the challenge, and the reward in sincere effort comes from Allah.

I have already enjoyed the fruits of my efforts, alhamdulillah. I feel close to my in-laws, and have basked in the glory of having received the coveted approval of my husbands 4 yr old cousin… he may only like me because I let him play Spiderman and Temple Run on my phone and Kindle. Even so, the smile on that kids face when he sees me makes me feel pretty awesome.

InshAllah, I’ll be able to continue writing about my life in this regard, and may Allah reward and protect the precious marriages that are made for His sake, Ameen!

🙂

Keeping Promises to Myself

Since I was a child, I feel like I have been analyzing the people around me, comparing them to the state of their families, neighbors, cities, and the rest of the world. I’ve wondered why people talk so much, why some see little beyond the center of their vision, not even glancing at the peripheral.

I know the value of friends – I do, I really, really do. I have turned from an introvert, to an extrovert, to an introvert again through years of schooling and friends that have all had varying degrees of influence.

And I have interacted with them in various different ways, too. Sometimes being overly nice to compensate for not fitting in, and sometimes shutting myself out; too afraid to talk to anyone for fear of humiliating myself or feeling awkward, ugly, fat, stupid, conservative, liberal…what have you.

As is obvious, there are very few people in this Dunya I can truly relax and be myself around.

Maybe once I thought myself as someone who could cope with many friends, someone who loved people and could get along with anyone. Allah adjusted this for me. Gave me those I thought I could trust and showed me they could break me in half with barely any effort. He gave me those that love me unconditionally, and showed me that I could inflict the same harm upon them, sometimes obliterating their trust in me. Sometimes taking me out of their heart.

I realized the importance of silence in the face of empty words that take up space and offer no benefit. Is that not the nature of the worst of people, the worst of habits, even the worst of foods?

They fill up the space, but at best they offer nothing else. At worst, they metastasize like a malignant tumor and poison the things around them. They squeeze into the seats reserved for better things. Things that reciprocate and last, things that make an impact. And when the time comes for you to make the better choice, to choose Salah over sleep, or carrots over cookies, or wisdom over gossip, it has become habit. You are used to choosing the poison; the consequences diminished by the opiate force of routine.

Promises to Myself.

I cannot count on any number of fingers or toes the amount of promises I have broken for lack of respect for myself. Maybe for lack of self-esteem. Maybe motivation. Or maybe simply the habit of speaking words that carry no weight. Empty shells pretending to mean something.

How can we value someone else if we do not value ourselves? How can we keep a promise to another human being, but easily break promises to our own selves?

Maybe a broken promise to someone else will be forgiven. But broken promises to oneself usually go unrecognized, unpunished. They turn into the norm and we inflict harm upon ourselves quietly but steadily. The broken promise turning into addiction, abuse, sickness, lack of motivation, lack of esteem….the list goes on.

No mobile app or diary will amount to the loss of potential when we betray ourselves.

But maybe in silent reflection and quiet determination, in the meditation of self, we can find ourselves again. Sift through the loud, chaotic debris of the lives we lead, and just make one, quiet promise. One to keep.

i was not a part of history – as was the browning leaf that rode the wind

into the bleeding battle fields, bolstered by the cries of fighting men,

i remember not the golden age, the years of trade; those days of peace,

I do not recall the followers, the travelers, those that caught the words

resonating, captivating passersby [but they were never meant to be as such],

and unsettling gluttonous kings and corrupted men.

I felt not the loss of dear friends, all of them martyrs, those mothers, brothers, daughters, sons.

I did not place the cloth over them; too short to cover both head and feet.

I did not stand with the mighty as they prostrated to Allah.

Vulnerable in the night, suddenly turned small.

I did not see them, those immaculate servants.

One whose wings filled the sky, and yet walked into a sacred house.

i was not of those who witnessed his, Salalahu Alayhi Wa Salam, passing,

but I am of those who mourn his loss, left us in a Quiet.

I am of those who, though so far removed from the age,

fear the day a trumpet is blown and all is uncovered.

All is shown.

 

Nesha Usmani

 

 

 

Dunes

Imagehere, I walk in wonder

where the earth shifts and changes

Mountain ranges crumbling

rising, rolling, blowing away

with every whispering rush.

how can I walk without sinking?

And how do the bushes plant their roots,

in such a transient place?

When the sun sets and the moon rises,

and the heat is replaced by ruthless cold,

I recognize this place as a sign from You, ya Rabb.

Here, the ground is not solid, and yet I walk,

Here, the path changes and the hills move away,

and direction flees like a frightened bird,

Here, the heat does not relieve,

unless its a fire in the night,

And here, the cold does not refresh,

unless its water in the day.

And the wind may greet you with a kiss,

or it may blind you, bury you.

leave you lost.

There is no balance, no mercy, no guide.

No crutch to lean on, no neighbor.

None but You,

No path more solid or straight,

No reward more refreshing,

No mercy more relieving,

No word truer than Yours.

Allahu Akbar.

“Ya Muqallibal Quloob Thabbit Qalbee ‘alaa Deenik.”

“Oh, Turner of the Hearts (Allah, Most High),

Keep our Hearts Firm on Your Religion.”

Ameen

Nesha Usmani

Self-Pity.

Assalamu Alaikum wa-rahmatullahi-wa-barakatu

I’m in my last week of winter break; my next semester begins in 10 days. I regret that I haven’t been posting much, but sometimes, you just don’t have the words.

Alhamdulillah, I’ve done pretty well academic wise in my first semester of grad school in the very busy and chaotic city of Chicago. Has it changed me? Oh, yes. I’ve realized how important my family is. How much it sucks being away from home, even though I’m the heart-stopping old age of 25. I just…love being home with my parents and siblings, and I pray inshAllah that this love I have for a homelife only benefits me as I get [even] older.

Living on my own has not afforded me the confidence, curiosity, and ambitious swagger that I see in other people. Often, I find myself retreating, wanting to surround myself with familiarity. Maybe it’s the cold. Maybe it’s the endless expanse of concrete mountains, anxious cars, and gluttonous consumption. Maybe I just fear being lost in a city of millions. Or is it all a heavy cloak of denial and excuses, simply not wanting to venture out, simply because I fear loneliness and rejection?

Once, a very long time ago, I wrote a letter to an Islamic scholar. In this letter I revealed my deepest insecurities, fears, and emotions, and begged for answers, for help, for guidance. Why had my well of friends run suddenly dry, when I could remember a time when making friends was as easy as saying ‘hello’? Why did others have so much more than me, why can’t I be more like them?

The response, at the time, did nothing for me. In very kind words, I was told, in a nutshell, to say Alhamdulillah, because I had more time to reflect on Allah, and more time to improve myself as a Muslimah, without the distraction of an active social life. Now, these words reverberate with force of an earthquake. I no longer have an excuse. Perhaps, my loneliness and insecurities will always be a part of me. Perhaps, they are there to remind me that I cannot depend upon what I see, who I love, where I sleep. It’s all simply creation, it’s all from Allah. Whether I’m lonely or not, depressed or not, whether I have 50 insecurities or only 1, it’s the same. The importance and need to be grateful and conscious of Allah never decreases. In fact, it increases in both directions. Whether you have a lot or a little, be grateful, because in everything there is a test. In everything there is mercy, and in everything there is a reminder.

In the past, the words of the Qur’an have never had much of an impact for me. Yes, I read the translation as well as the Arabic, but apart from a somber, emotional recitation, I did not feel the weight of the words. Recently, alhamdulillah, that has changed. I won’t go into detail, since it is quite personal, but I feel a strength and a might from the Qur’an, from Allah, that I didn’t know was possible, Allahu Akbar. I still need to work on my dedication to certain important tasks, but Alhamdulillah for the knowledge that has been revealed to me, and May Allah increase the Ummah in Taqwa and Imaan, and bestow mercy upon us, Ameen.

This life can be the biggest trap. It can ensnare you in its hamster-wheel pursuit of wealth, property, possessions, status, and title. Balance your means of survival with a means for Jannah, and break your daily routines with salah filled with as much khushoo you can muster. You will feel a peace that will sink your sorrows, and blow away loneliness with love.

It’s not easy. It’s not easy being 25 and unmarried. It’s not easy being 28, married, and pregnant. It’s not easy being 35, married, with two kids and another on the way. It’s not easy being 45 with four kids and not a lot in the bank. It’s not easy being 50 and experiencing health problems, and watching your husband go through some of his own. It’s a deeper pain to have never been married at all.

But each life experience is customized by your decisions and the Qadr of Allah. Each experience can be a way to torment, or it can frame your path to Jannah. Everyone talks about arrogance, greed, deception, and ostentation as major character flaws in a Muslim..but one of the most least talked about and most dangerous?

Self-pity.

Why? Because you’re crippling yourself. You’re removing any chance you have to see the mercy, generosity, opportunity, and love Allah has for you in one swift stroke. You tell yourself you can’t. So you don’t. You tell yourself you don’t have time. So you don’t. You tell yourself you’re not worth it. So you become worthless. You tell yourself no one likes you. So you become a person no one likes, simply by not trying. You tell yourself you’re better off on your own. So you become lonely, resentful. You let your grudges and your fears pile on top of each other, repeatedly, like a winter snowstorm, until you’re suffocating yourself. And it’s too late. You’re in the throes of depression. It’s easier to cry than to believe there’s hope, an answer, and it requires an effort on your part. It requires submission and a will to change.

Self-pity is an insidious quicksand. I firmly believe it is the gateway to become worse things.

What you want and what you need are two different things.

They can both come to fruition, and often its a result of your patience and belief in Allah’s infinite Mercy and Wisdom that can make the path smooth and the walk shorter and less tiring than you expected.

Until next time,

Nesha

Weakness of Emaan (Faith) & its Cures – Yusha Evens

“Hasan Al Basri (rahimullah) said that Emaan is not the substance of your hopes and wishes. It is not just what you aspire to be. You can aspire to be the best Muslim that you want to be. You can dream about making salah all day long. You can dream about Qiyam-ul-Layl all day long, and dream about being the best Muslim (sic). But that’s not Emaan. He (Hasan al Basri) said Emaan is what settles itself in the qalb (Arabic for heart), and then becomes manifested through the actions. ”

Emaan is 3 parts.
1. Belief
2. Belief that is affirmed in the heart
3. Belief that is affirmed in the heart, and then manifested through actions.

Ghazal of Ice

Despair is a cancer, a malignant drop of coldest ice,

 You shake your head, and so I know, you don’t know this kind of ice.

it lies in the loss of what you knew

and, reaching, grows like vines of ice

In my dream, your eyes were closed, and yet,

your gaze pierced my heart; turned my blood to ice.

You were impossible, magical! No- a blessing,

and yet your loss is the slowest burn, like flesh that sits too long on ice.

I wrote you and wrote you, painted my past with my tears,

And you were beauty and mercy; your eyes the bluest, purest spheres of ice.

I could give and give in eternity layered thick with love,

To freeze time, and give to you; I wish I had that kind of ice

To thank you, to repay and love you,

for warming my heart (By the Grace of Allah) , for melting the blackest kind of ice,

But I feel you distant, or are you asleep?

I knocked on your door, when the path was frozen, covered in ice.

I saw the fire through the window of your house,

The woods wearing winter, the tree branches slick with ice

I see you still, the reluctant figure, turned towards the door,

But I can’t be sure, the window freezes under vines of ice.

They look familiar, those translucent vines,

What I can never give – reflected in ice.

But the door is still warm and I knock again,

But Allah is the only refuge from this kind of ice.

Nesha Usmani

September 28, 2013