No one told you it would be this hard. This is how you imagined it would be: school, college, university, graduation, get job, insert image of self carrying tray of tea and samosas and shyly meeting gaze of future beloved, get married, have babies.
Instead it went something like this: school, college, university, graduate, got a job, multiple tea-and-samosa-carrying episodes, no shy gazes and certainly no future beloveds. Only a great big gaping hole desperate to be filled by yourself and the husband-hunting squad, aka your family, friends and anyone else feeling sorry for you.
And if it wasn’t enough that you end up meeting only the oddest specimens (where on earth have all the normal, nice men gone?), your friends are now dropping like flies into the marriage net, all the aunties in the community keep asking when it’s your turn, and your mother constantly cries about how you’re getting ‘old’ and will never marry or have children.
It’s all too tempting to throw in the towel and scream “I can’t take this anymore!” Melodrama aside, this is obviously a serious problem: there are hundreds of us sisters in the same predicament, not only losing hope of ever finding our other half, but even falling prey to that satanic voice in our heads, taunting us that perhaps we are deficient and don’t deserve to be married. This is absolutely untrue: as soon as we allow our doubts to engulf our minds and hearts, our confidence – both in ourselves and Allah (SWT) – will come crashing down, turning us into the most pessimistic, resentful and despairing creatures to ever inhabit the earth. You know what I’m talking about, ladies!
Keeping a firm grasp on your confidence is key to your survival through this journey: it won’t guarantee finding a husband, but it will definitely ease the situation. The confidence crisis begins when we internalise that ‘ideal man’ list we have all conjured up – the list that harbours all the qualities we want our future husband to embody. It’s disheartening to discover that the man we have for so long dreamed and hoped for might not exist, but is it really surprising that the brothers we meet have no chance of fulfilling our wish list?
Can we blame anyone but ourselves when we cannot make the distinction between needs and desires? Our ‘ideal list’ needs serious revamping if we want to preserve our sanity (and get married!). Try this exercise: jot down an exhaustive list of the qualities of your dream husband. Review this list, crossing out anything that is essentially superficial or a little fussy. Next, remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Review it again, leaving only the few qualities that you could not compromise on. Finally, number the qualities in order of priority. If you’ve listed more than four or five qualities, your expectations are probably too high. It’s important to remember that your future husband will have faults: he is human after all, but will have the rest of his life to grow into an even better man. Reflect on this quote from Kahlil Gibran: “To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved but at what he aspires to do.”
Often, when we internalise this ‘ideal man’ list, we forget to reflect this list in ourselves. If we wish for husbands like the Prophet (SAW), we should be wives like Khadijah (RA). Make two lists about yourself, one with your good qualities and another with your faults. Be honest, be severe, but remember to give yourself credit where it’s due. Compare this with your ‘ideal man’ specifications: can you honestly say that your qualities match up with this dream husband? If yes, then you have done well to keep your ‘ideal man’ list realistic and humble. If not, then let this be an exercise in self-reflection. Don’t scrap your ‘ideal man’ list; instead, make a conscious decision to be the best Muslimah that you can be in order to receive the best reward from Allah (SWT): a husband that you truly deserve.
Having said the above, the sad reality is that not all brothers will have ‘ideal lists’ as unprejudiced as our own. We will find ourselves being discriminated against for our height, weight, skin-colour, ethnicity/ caste, even the choices we’ve made in life such as education and career. It’s tragic to see that, despite being educated in both deen and dunya, Muslims are still not fully immune to cultural backwardness and superficiality. There is, regretfully, not much we can do about this except to reinforce our own ethics. Remember that you are above this: anyone who judges you for any of the reasons listed above or similar, is not your match. You are a Muslim woman who should be appreciated for your commitment to the deen and your character above all else.
The hijab issue
So, if we didn’t have enough of a confidence crisis going on, some of us may find that the hijab that once boosted our confidence and sense of liberation may suddenly feel like a burden. Few of us are blessed with beauty that outshines the hijab; although one would argue that this is the point of the hijab, the onset of the marriage hunt will very likely highlight exactly how much it hides beauty: prospective brothers, unable to see this beauty, may turn you down because they aren’t attracted to you. For many of us, this can turn into a major limiting factor in the success of our search. The thought that removing the hijab would make our search easier may cross our minds. Some of us may painfully resist, some may succumb under the stress and frustration. This is probably the most difficult obstacle we may face in our search for a husband: it can strip us of all our confidence and make us question our commitment to our deen. We cannot allow the superficiality of some brothers to break us. It’s true that men are visual beings: we should look the best we can within the limits of hijab. However, we should always dress how we feel comfortable and what we believe is right in the eyes of Allah (SWT) . If a brother is unable to look beyond the exterior to your inner beauty, it exposes his own
limitations, not yours. It is a privilege that Allah (SWT) asks us to conceal our beauty so we may be judged for our actions, our mind and character.
Also remember that hijab and modesty are a tool of liberation and also a means of pleasing Allah (SWT) – not another human being. We shouldn’t remove our hijab/ jilbab/niqab because some brothers don’t like it, nor should we decide to wear hijab/ jilbab/niqab just because another brother requires it.
The greatest boost of confidence comes from being happy with yourself. Brothers will have their lists, but our aim is not to embody their list. Taking on characteristics, personality traits, interests or hobbies just because that is what brothers are looking for is deceiving not only for others, but also ourselves. Be true to yourself, always. There will be someone who accepts you for who you are. The longer the marriage search takes, the more obsessed we may become in our endeavours to find ‘the one’, which naturally increases our levels of frustration. We must remember that marriage is not our end goal: culture may have raised us to believe marriage and motherhood is a woman’s sole purpose, but our real purpose in life is to worship Allah (SWT). There are many other ways of worshipping Allah (SWT) besides marriage: caring for our parents, serving our community, through daily ‘ibadah and nourishing our souls. There is no guarantee that you will get married and have children, or how long it will take, so don’t put your life on hold waiting to complete one half of your deen when you could be nurturing the other half.
Strength through du’a
The search for a marriage partner can be a long, arduous and lonely journey. Even when it feels as if there is no hope, the worst thing we could possibly do is stop making du’a to Allah (SWT). Performing istikhara as many times as needed during the course of the process, even if it’s only to decide whether or not to consider a brother, will keep your confidence strong. It will help you feel that you’re not making these decisions by yourself and that Allah (SWT) is supporting throughout this journey. Rejections and disappointments can be crushing; but know that your fate has already been decided and that Allah (SWT) knows best when you will be ready to enter marriage and when to reveal the right person to you, so trust in Him. It may feel as if your life is in limbo right now, but this is a lesson of sabr and shukr.
Be content that this state is what Allah (SWT) decreed for you, a test that will surely be rewarded by Allah I in this life and the next. If you are losing confidence in yourself, put your confidence in Allah (SWT): submit yourself wholly to Him and accept whatever He holds in store for you. Allah I is the giver of sabr, so make du’a constantly and accept that He is the best of planners. May Allah (SWT) bless you all with righteous and loving spouses.
Soraya Soobhany-Chohan explains why we are marrying so late and what to do in the meantime.
In part one of Hafsah Zamir’s series, written just for SISTERS, we meet the witty and tested, bride-could-be Samiah.
Amina Hennah Khan shares her experience and lessons learned to help you pick Mr Right.