For far too long Muslim women have been the recipients of proposals, rather than the instigators. A friend of mine broke it down for me the other day in a brutally honest statement: the men go and find wives and the women sit at home waiting for husbands to find them. However much the defiant teenager in me argued against this, I have to admit, my friend was right. At 22, I am not exactly a veteran of courting á la Muslim, but I will unashamedly admit that I have been husband-hunting since the age of about minus seven. Not because I am obsessed with the prospect of getting married, but quite the opposite.
I do not plan to spend my 20s at home twiddling my thumbs and memorizing basbusa recipes so that one day I might cook my way into someone’s affections. This is why I am like a husband searchlight, focusing my beam on one candidate after another. Do not misunderstand; I am not referring to actual suitors. I am talking about that man at the conference who might have similar morals to me. Or wondering if bumping into a Muslim man in a town that is 100% non-Muslim is enough of a reason for me to consider him. If you are a single Muslim man and I have passed you in the mosque or street the chances are I have considered you as a potential husband, and I would like to take this opportunity to unreservedly apologize.
It is not that I am a thought-slut, if you will excuse my very un-Islamic language, it is just that when I finally do meet someone who I will be able to stand for the rest of my existence, I don’t want to be too busy twiddling my thumbs to notice. I also see no reason that women cannot reclaim the power of a marriage. Perhaps it is the control-freak in me, but I like to know where I stand.
Muslim marriages often come about through arrangement (not to be confused with forced marriage) of which I have heard great things from people who have chosen that particular route. Although perhaps not for me, neither do I want to fall into the category of women who (after some intense thumb-twiddling, of course) open their doors only to find an unannounced marriage proposal drop out of the blue. Not that I do not enjoy the romance, but why is it always the men who choose between meeting woman A, B or C? The Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Khadijah, proposed to him. What is that, if not a precedent?
For fear of perpetuating the BNP-commissioned portrait of Muslims, I must cover my Muslim behind by saying that not all female Muslims sit at home, learning the art of the jilbab and waiting for Prince Ibn Charming to come along. In fact, I would go as far as to say British female Muslims are far more eligible (and more awesome) than their male counterparts. For many of us, education was a way out of a sometimes intense family life: one reason why we are faced with an ever-increasing number of female Muslim professionals. All I am saying is that we should not wait for men to fall at our feet.
By thinking proactively about marriage, we can be on the “lookout” but still not be obsessed by the idea. It will allow us to seize control of the situation, should the right man come our way, without wondering if that Muslim man you met last week is thinking of proposing. Many Muslim girls will vouch for the fact that it is the most frustrating feeling in the world wondering what is going on inside a Muslim man’s head. So let them do the wondering.
Unfortunately I don’t exactly practice what I’m preaching. I would rather take baton-wielding police, home intruders or a pack of wild wolves over demonstrating an ounce of vulnerability any day. As much as I want to be the girl who turns these thoughts into actions, I am not sure that when push comes to shove, and when I do eventually meet a (dashing) nomadic Muslim poet, that I will actually have the oestrogen to get down on one knee. Come to think of it, twiddling my thumbs does not sound so bad by comparison.
Ruqaya Izzidien is the UK Correspondent for Bikya Masr. She is also a spoken word artist and is working on a novel. This article was previously published in the Guardian’s Comment is Free.