My wife recently sent me an article posted in Love, InshAllah by Mezba Mahtab, How I Met My Son’s Mother, along with contrary views in My Problem With Traditional Desi Marriage and Reflections of a "Good" Girl.
I’m responding in a loving way to my brother Mezba who is married (congratulations!) and has offspring (wonderful!) but is nevertheless about to enjoy the benefit of my sincere, unsolicited advice. I imagined what I would say if a young man came to me with this attitude intending to become the father of my grandchildren, whether it’s my son or someone who would like to become my son-in-law.
It’s especially easy to respond to this article because Mezba is so honest, so naive, and so unapologetic with his outrageous generalizations. Mezba, bro veteran, tell it like it is!
“There were no good girls in Canada.” I’ve never been to Canada, but there are many good girls in America! Either Canada is some kind of country-wide brothel with a small oasis of righteousness, or you weren’t looking hard enough, Mezba! Besides, what is a “good” girl?
“Many of them had been in previous relationships.” I’m tired of the attitude that women should be blamed for the relationships they’ve been in, and I’m frustrated that dating implies sex in the minds of so many Muslims. Spending some time with members of both sexes can be done in a halal way, can lead to a successful marriage in the best case, and (if nothing else) is a healthy way of developing comfort and a mature attitude towards relationships – a time investment that pays off when you get married and when you choose to pontificate later in life.
“They were too old.” Too old for what? Too old for sex? Too old to have babies? The frank truth is that men die younger than women on average, and the limits of childbearing years for women are exaggerated in our communities. Do I really need to bring up Khadija (as)?
“If [raising a proper, Islamic family] meant not keeping up with one’s professional peers, so be it.” A little compromise here goes a long way; what if a woman’s career is more promising than her husband’s? Shouldn’t he be willing to put his career on hold and be the house-husband for the sake of raising a “proper, Islamic family”? Isn’t that a conversation worth having?
“An arranged marriage is where a guy gets a girl he would never have a shot with in real life.” I hope this is a (distasteful) joke! Mezba, arranged marriages are still real life! Why ever would a girl consent to an arranged marriage when she can do better by meeting guys the old-fashioned way?
Reading articles like this reminds me of an episode of “Red Dwarf” where they go to an alternate dimension which is exactly the same as our universe except that men and women are swapped. The humor comes from the protagonists seeing their attitudes towards the opposite sex reversed. If you’re unsure if you’re being a misogynist, try imagining a role-reversal and see if it seems funny or strange.
Let’s put aside romance for a moment and work this out logically: ideally, women should aim to have their first children when they’re 27 or 28; hence, they should get married to a man when they are 25 or 26. This leaves them time after college to take it easy, go on road trips with the girls, chill, and enjoy life a little before settling down with their husbands, enjoying them for a year or two, and then having that first kid. It doesn’t make sense for her to marry someone who’s also 25 or (God forbid) older: a man with a career of his own won’t want to take time off to stay at home and raise the kids, and, let’s face it: women want a man who is young whom they can enjoy and who won’t leave them an elderly widow at the end of life. An attractive, 25-year-old, career-driven, upwardly-mobile woman should be trying to marry a hot, 21- or 22-year-old man who is just finishing college and who’s willing to sacrifice his career to raise a “proper, Islamic family”.
See what I mean?
The truth is, finding a spouse is tough. People look for so much in a spouse: a companion, a confidant, a parent for their children, a good family member to their family, someone to make babies with, have sex with, and to show off to everyone else – in some order, depending on one’s preference. An arranged marriage can help get you there, but it’s not a magic bullet. Finding The One is a challenge for all but the extremely lucky in every culture.
Our community needs to revise its attitude, lest we leave many Muslim women in the west with only one option: accept that you’ll be judged and marry a non-Muslim, someone that has a shot with you in real life. As it is, after reading such a piece, they must be asking: are there any “good boys” in Canada?
Ali Mohammad is an Iraqi-American software engineer, laser-shop proprietor, and former radio host. He lives in Cambridge with his wife, a writer whom he met the old-fashioned way: on the internet.