Let’s just put it out there – I’m a hopeless romantic. When I was in kindergarten, an adorable boy told his mother that he wanted to marry me. From then on, I introduced him to everyone as my boyfriend. I love romantic movies so much that I’ve watched ‘A Walk to Remember’ more than 15 times. By the time I was 13, I had named all my six children. Pablo Neruda’s poems make me smile and cry. I used to joke with my best friends that I had my sophisticated, white wedding with crystal chandeliers and chiavari chairs all planned out. All I needed was to plant a groom beside me. Then, we would live happily ever after. And so I searched for my other half, the person who would complete me, the one who would make me whole.
Instead of finding ‘the one’, I went from one failed relationship to another. I wanted so much to be part of a magical couple that I started to lose myself. I allowed people to treat me like a mere option when they were my priority. I moulded myself to be more like what others wanted me to be. When someone commented, “Alia, you would be so pretty if only you were skinnier”, I ate almost nothing and ran up my 13-storey flat ten times a day. As I lost weight, I started being shown off as a trophy girlfriend. I got cheated on, by a guy whom I was convinced was my soulmate. I was never really happy. In fact, I felt lost and incomplete.
Then I realised that I had gotten it all wrong! Yes, marriage is wonderful and encouraged in Islam. However, when the same test (read: guys who were bad for me) keeps being given, it may be that I had not learnt the lesson I am supposed to learn. Allah is giving me a chance to make things right! To do that, I needed to figure out how to improve myself for the sake of Allah. I had to ask myself some tough questions. Did I want to get married for the sake of Allah or to gain acceptance and love from my partner? Had I prepared myself not only to bear children but to be the first madrasah to them? Was I knowledgeable enough to guide them to be Khalifahs of Allah? Is marriage the only means to complete my faith?
Let’s take the example of Sayyidatina Maryam (‘alayhissalam), also known as Mary. Before Sayyidatina Maryam was even born, her purpose had been set. Her ageing mother had vowed that if her prayer to have a child was accepted, she would ensure that her child would be dedicated to serving Allah. Fulfil her promise, she did. Sayyidatina Maryam wasn’t left to grow up on her own; she was placed under the care of Prophet Zakariya. She was raised in a room in a mosque. She was religious, chaste and modest. She did not mix freely with the opposite sex and confined herself within her prayer chamber. Whenever Prophet Zakariya entered Sayyidatina Maryam’s room to check if she was alright, he would be surprised to find that food had already been served. During winter, there were summer fruits. During summer, he saw winter fruits.
“Where is the food from, Maryam?”
“Allah provides to whom He wills.”
Sayyidatina Maryam was so pure that she was picked to bear Prophet Isa, without being touched by any men. The angels reassured her that Allah had chosen her and purified her and selected her above the women of the worlds. Fearing the reaction of people around her, she fled to deliver on her own in the middle of a scorching hot desert. Throughout her whole ordeal, she relied on no one other than Allah. She didn’t need anyone, not a husband or even her guardian, to be around.
Imagine how the people around you would react if you suddenly turned up with a newborn, without being married? Sayyidatina Maryam was given the difficult task of keeping quiet when she returned to her village. Naturally, everyone started criticising and cursing her. If you were in her position, would have remained speechless through the injustice that was being done?
Sayyidatina Maryam endured patiently and pointed to her baby. Then, Baby Isa stood up for his mother and informed the crowd that he was a Prophet. Subhanallah!
Without getting married, Sayyidatina Maryam was able to reach the pinnacle of piety. Her status was so high that she has a chapter in the Quran named after her. She showed us that she did not need a man; Allah Himself could defend her honour through His miracle.
How about me?
The purpose of my existence is to know, love and worship Allah. Every action, every step, every thought needs to be focused on Allah. To solve my problem, I had to go to the very root of it – my ever-widening distance from Allah. Am I looking for love because I am ready or because I am lonely? Am I praying on time? Am I conscious of Allah in everything that I do? Am I reading the Quran consistently? Do I perform taubah and istighfar regularly? What have I been doing to strengthen my relationship with Him? With each answer, it became more and more apparent that my Imaan was on the decline. Through the awful scrapes and burns and agonizing heartbreaks, I was moved to comprehend that, like Sayyidatina Maryam, I had to turn to none except Allah. I came to realise that my relationship with Him is the most important relationship of all.
Only Allah can grant me strength, courage, love, guidance, protection and patience. Only Allah is capable of making me whole. When I feel whole, I won’t rush to find a partner to complete me. When I feel whole, with Allah by my side, I would be able to walk bravely away from those who try to pry me away from Him. When I am whole, I would be better able to choose someone to share my completeness with and whom can accompany me on my path to Allah. A suffering that reminds you of Allah is better for your soul than a blessing that leads you to forget Him. Once you realize this, even your hardships can’t break you, in shaa Allah.
I’m not saying that I am perfect and that my level of Imaan is anywhere near Sayyidatina Maryam’s. However, things have picked up for me, Alhamdulillah. This year, I got married to a man, whom I trust, can guide me to be a better Muslim. A man who was brave enough to walk up to my parents and ask for my hand in marriage. A man who made me realize why it never worked out with anyone else. Only when I was brave enough to let go and be the best version of me did Allah grant me someone so gentlemanly that part of me still can’t believe that he exists.
So don’t you worry, my fellow seeker. Allah knows when you are hurt. Allah knows when you are bereaved. Allah knows when you struggle to get up because all you want to do is curl up in bed and hide from the world. Be sure, that when Allah takes away something from you, He’s only making space for something better. We just have to keep striving.