A Russian convert’s story: Single mothers don’t have to settle for less
I asked God, “Please ignore my criteria and demands, and just give me the one who is better for me in this life and hereafter”. Only then did I get what I was asking for, and not a single day earlier.
When I was 24 years old, and my daughter was 3 months, I made one of the best and yet hardest decisions in my life. I filed for divorce and became a single mother.
After the divorce, I came back to my parents’ house with a baby. During the first year, my daughter would not sleep more than 30 minutes in a row, so I started to look like a zombie rather than anyone’s marriage prospect. But as time passed by, things became a bit easier, and the thoughts of starting a new family with a new husband didn’t seem scary anymore. I wasn’t feeling completely at ease at home because I had converted to Islam a few years before, and my parents had a very negative attitude towards Muslims. They surrounded me with care and attention, but their uncompromising attitude towards me being Muslim often caused tension and arguments.
I was trying my best to follow my religion without upsetting my parents, but I felt that with every concession I drifted away from my faith. Things got even more difficult when my daughter grew up a little and I started to teach her the basics of Islam. I would say that only God could give her whatever she wanted, but my parents advised her to write letters to Santa. I would say that drinking alcohol was bad, but wine was consumed in our house on a regular basis. I would try to bring her up in compliance with my beliefs, but there were no other Muslims around who could serve as a proper practical example.
There were only a few ethnic Muslims in my city, and the practising ones were even fewer. The practising Muslims were mostly Tatars, Caucasians, or immigrants from the former Soviet countries. They tend to marry girls from the same ethnic background in order to avoid disagreements caused by cultural differences, and to also please their parents by bringing in a daughter-in-law to their liking. Besides, since I had already been married and had a child, my value in the marriage market plummeted. I was considered to be a “second-hand item”, and nobody was tempted by the “buy 1, get 1 free” offer (that is, to marry a woman and get her child too).
When I realized how hard it would be to find a husband in my country, I decided to expand my search geography and registered on a few marriage websites for Muslims. In the beginning, these websites failed all my expectations. I was flooded with messages from Turks, Arabs or Africans who looking for relationships without any responsibilities or trying to catch a naïve, “well-off” lady. The fact that I was Russian also counted against me, thanks to the stereotypes made by some fellow Russians who gained a very unsavoury reputation abroad because of their behaviour. Tired of weird or explicitly inappropriate messages, I opted for two different websites: the British Purematrimony website and the American Halfourdeen website.
Things got rolling. Finally, I managed to see that there were practising, educated, polite, and intelligent Muslim men out there. Unfortunately, as a divorcee with a child, I was still not very competitive. Even those who didn’t mind marrying a woman with a child would back out because I didn’t have a European passport (again, thanks to the “Russian brides” for the reputation). Some of them were reluctant to proceed because they knew their parents would oppose such a marriage due to cultural prejudices, and honestly speaking, I cannot blame them for wanting to please their families. On the other hand, having a child had its advantages too: it scared away light-minded candidates and saved the time that I would have otherwise spent communicating with them.
Since the very beginning of my search, I received dozens of proposals from married men looking for a second (or sometimes third) wife. I know that polygamy is permissible in Islam and I cannot contest it, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to share my husband’s love and time with someone else. After I declined all these proposals, I was battered by a flood of harsh messages; saying I was not sincere in my faith and that I am rejecting the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw). Most of these men tried to “set me on the right path”, by trying to convince me that I was a lost cause and that I’d better agree with them before it gets too late. In their opinion, as a divorcee, I should be happy to marry whoever deigns to propose to me, even if it is someone random without a job or education. However, I couldn’t understand why I would settle for less just because I was a single mother. In my opinion, despite all the inconveniences and hardships of single parenting, it was a valuable experience that made me stronger as both a person and as a Muslim.
When my daughter was four years old, I got a proposal from a good friend of mine. He was a decent and kind person, who was very gentle and attentive with my daughter and was ready to do everything for us. I prayed istikhara, asking Allah to help me make the right decision, and just when I thought my search was over I found myself neither physically nor mentally able to accept this proposal. Every time I was about to say yes, my tongue would turn numb, my mind would go blank, and it felt like there was a wall inside me stopping me from going ahead. So I said no. Those who knew about my situation said it was extremely stupid of me to miss this opportunity, but this time I decided to trust my inner voice.
Only a couple of months later, I met my husband and everything fell into place. When my parents found out that he was a resident of Saudi Arabia, they were shocked. They were sure I was running into the same trap for the second time. But when they met him personally, they changed their opinion not just about Saudi Arabia, but also about Muslims in general. They are still not too pleased with me being a convert, but they seem to have come to terms with it because they see their daughter so happy. My husband’s parents also opposed his choice in the beginning, but he stood up for himself and persuaded his family that he made the right choice. Despite not being previously married, my husband never treated me as a “second-hand” wife. In fact, he considered me and my daughter as the most precious gift in his life and surrounded us with love and care. I thank God every day for not allowing me to get married too early out of despair, and for having given me enough patience to wait for my husband.
There was just one simple thing that I had to understand to get what I wanted. I spent five years searching, choosing, comparing, and weighing the pros and cons. It took me five years to realize how useless that was, and it was only then that I asked God: “Please ignore my criteria and demands, just give me the one who is better for me in this life and hereafter”. Only then did I get what I was asking for, and not a single day earlier.