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!

🙂

Brave Girl, Chapter One

author’s note: this poem has elements of magic (entirely attributed to evil in the poem) that serve as metaphors in the story. What those metaphors are…is entirely up to you to interpret. But this story is meant to outline the journey from abuse, heartbreak, and trials to understanding and redemption.

Brave Girl,

She walked a path for miles

a path of brick and stone

tree limbs bending downwards

green leaves overgrown

Along the path she met a Lad

His eyes were cloudy grey

His hair was red and brown,

Yet glinted golden in the day

They linked arms and began to walk,

new love bubbling from their easy talk,

Easier and easier they began to be,

Walking over mountains and valleys,

and along the pale shores of the sea.

Within his eyes Girl saw her life,

And he promised with words that he would stay

So with fingers entwined like wanton vines,

They cast their doubts away.

One day on Girl’s hand,

Lad placed a glass band

that sparkled with his love

And with eyes wet and smiles wide,

The promised Groom and promised Bride

Both thanked God above.

But as years flit by, as dragonflies do,

the Girl began to doubt,

For as much as he was there with her

She began to feel without,

Girl felt love like burning fire

but began to fear her young Lad’s ire.

He said with words he loved her much,

And would never leave her side,

But often swatted away her touch,

And became defensive of his pride.

The path became no longer smooth,

It jutted rock and stone,

And though their discomfort she tried to soothe

Lad’s confidence was thrown.

He stumbled over root and stone,

Due to attention little paid,

When stifled by vines overgrown,

Refused the young Girl’s aid,

At last, for fear, there came a day,

When Lad’s color began to abate

His eyes and hair, his skin so fair,

Met the mirthless bite of fate.

For Lad lost hope,

and could not cope

with Girl or path no more,

And through the trees, he spied a space

And left through it like a door.

Girl cried tears bittersweet

For she knew she could not follow,

And though in her chest, her heart still beat

She knew within was hollow.

Girl felt a cold, thin vice,

upon her cold, thin hand

And looked upon with grief

At Lad’s still-sparkling band.

Girl continued on the rocky trail,

But often sat to weep,

Whispering his name brought no avail,

and memory’s wounds were deep.

But her grief was woven

with a stronger thread than she,

One night it drew an evil coven,

Of curious witches three.

Cackling, they asked her,

“What hath befallen thee?”

Girl jumped and walked much faster

So frightened now was she,

“We know the burden of your heart!”

Called the three magicians,

“Fear us not, let us help you,

For we are but mere physicians.”

But Girl kept her stride

And said “I have no money, nor trust for witches.”

And the witches, cackling, gleefully replied

“We offer only aid and have no use for riches.”

Girl then stopped and turned to face the Three,

For her heart was but pain and anguish,

And an end she could not see.

“What aid you offer, O stalking witches?

And what your price, then, if not riches?”

The witches laughed with victorious glee,

And at our Girl did smile,

“We wish to end your suffering,

And bring back your Lad a while.”

“Lad?” Girl cried, “How can you know?

Lad, who hath hurt me so?”

“My dear sweet Girl, your tale we know,

It hath been spun, so long ago.

It is an age-old tale, timeless and grand,

Our price, sweet Girl, is your sparkling band.”

Girl thought she felt a warning in her heart

Though Lad was no longer there with her,

With the band she should not part,

“Your band, my dear, is what we seek,

If it is Lad that you desire,

For the path does not favor the weak,

And companion-less made dire.”

Girl felt a pull inside her soul,

And Lad came to her mind,

His smile that had made her whole,

A love impossible to find.

“A question, witches, if ask I may,

before I give my band away?”

The witches looked at the sparkling ring

with hunger in their eyes,

“My dear, sweet girl, ask anything,

Anything that rests your mind.”

“What use have you of this sparkling treasure?

It is but mere memory,

It has no value beyond its measure,

For its meaning is known only to me.”

“Worry not of these things!

It is that which we require.

Forget your sentiments of that ring!

And we will bring you the one whom you desire!”

So with care she slipped the band away,

Off her cold, thin hand,

She gripped it, shining, in her palms a moment,

then gave away her band.

But the wind blew then,

a cold, strong, gust

That blew the band to the rocky ground,

and shattered it to dust.

Horrified and terrified, Girl began to retreat,

But the witches gathered around her,

And with vines  tied her hands and feet

“I cannot explain this! Let me go!”

Cried the Girl, fighting against the biting vines,

“I cannot explain it! I do not know!”

But the witches cared not for Girl’s cries and pleas,

they tightened the bonds and pinned her body

to the trunk of a leafless tree.

“Liar! Traitor! Deceptive thing!

We want the band, or you’ll dearly pay!

Repair that sparkling, shining ring,

Or we’ll cut your Lad’s head away!”

“It was a gift of mere glass,

No value had it, but sentiment!

I cannot repair the shattered thing,

You must accept its detriment!”

The witches gathered to consider this fact,

The band was gone, shattered to dust,

But the girl was whole and young and brave,

To claim her youth, kill her they must!

The witches, seething, drew a long knife,

Crooked and forked, and dripping dark red,

“If you wish to save Lad, you’ll pay with your life!

“Either pay with your blood, or we take his head.”

Girl trembled in fear against the tree,

And shutting her eyes she tried to see,

One last, precious memory…

End of Chapter One.

Nesha Usmani

2013

You tried.

rivers, forests, houses,

skies, mountains, horses,

Eyes that wept in laughter,

Hearts that beat fast with love.

Memories of before I really knew you,

Dreams I dreamt before I really met you,

And the whisper I heard in the thunder

of a heart about to break.

You stand by the door waiting

for some green light,

As if I’ve given you only pain.

Your hand is at the doorknob- wait!

Surely, this is a nightmare,

surely, I am being tortured.

But I know you are sick of hearing my pleas

And I know you care not for the ways I care.

I fall asleep as you turn the doorknob,

And when I awake,

I am alone.

A dried red rose sits patiently

in an empty glass.

I can almost hear you whisper,

“I tried.”

As I turn away, towards anywhere but there,

My hand is caught and I startle,

pushing and shoving, hoping

knowing

seeing

And I am wrapped in arms

I never

thought

possible

but remember you said

impossible.is.nothing.

?

You want so badly for me to let go

for me to be more like her

or be more like you

but i’m losing the words so I can only point

at an unlocked door. You can exit anytime.

turn the knob and either way

you can say

You tried.

 

Nesha Usmani

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

Moj Sumrak

Maybe the only way to love you,

is to leave and love you alone.

And the only way to thank you,

is to etch a farewell in stone.

If I put my regrets upon my back,

the weight would crush my bones.

But you just stand there watching,

and hating the load I carry

you don’t see how much I hate it too.

I know how tired and fed up you are

but I don’t want to say goodbye

Not after the mountains we’ve climbed

together.

Not after how much we’ve cried.

But if it will make you happiest, in the end,

I’ll take my leave, and I’ll tell myself,

that Loving is Leaving

And Trying is Dying

And Gratitude is best shown

with a farewell,

a finite etching in stone.

Nesha Usmani