Ramadan Reflections '13, Day 10: To My Future Daughter

I often wonder how many parents instil in their daughter(s) what they "need to know" before they start their search for a life partner.  Thanks to Disney, which implants an unrealistic portrait of a suitor, and the Muslim community, which places outward religious practice at the forefront, the two ends of this spectrum does not meet most people's needs. And what I don't mean is conversations between parents and children that use the words "good paying job", "practicing Muslim," "highly educated" and "good family." It can be challenging to determine what qualities are truly important and how to hold your standards up to a self-approved level, especially when there's pressure and high expectations from your family.

So in the future case that Asif and I have a daughter as a child, I would want her to know a few things from another woman's perspective before she started her search for a husband. I would hope that she would keep us informed throughout the process! I also think that this topic is not covered in a single sit-down session, but one that is addressed from a young age through role models, stories and yes, many heart to heart chats. So from a future mother to a future daughter, here's some of what I would advise her.

Note: The following may seem bluntly stated (for the purpose of this blog entry!), but hopefully Allah will provide me with some tender motherly loving diplomacy so that I don't just throw the next ten points out at her!

Red flags:

1. If a potential suitor tells you that you're not religious enough for him, mark this as a red flag. Religiousness cannot be judged by outward appearance or from a person's words. Rather, spirituality and your personal relationship with Allah is what matters, and no one else can judge that but Allah. To practice Islam is one thing, but to keep Allah close in your thoughts and daily life is another. A man cannot tell you that you are not "good" enough in terms of religious standards, especially when they are made up by him.

2. If you're told that you need to wear hijab in order to be someone's wife, question his logic. Why is he asking this of you? What are his intentions, control or concern? He cannot place this condition over you for marriage, especially if it's not where you're at or if you don't agree with it. Do not even promise him that you'll  do this in the future. A man should accept you as you are and should look forward to a spiritual journey with you...not show concern over fabric that is missing from your head. Hijab is your choice and should not be a condition for marriage.

3. If he accuses you of something you know you're not guilty of, and does not accept your defence, cut all ties and move on. If he is suspicious about you, mark this as a red flag, especially if he barrages you with questions on your whereabouts. Guilt trips are included in this category. A man who is on the lookout for your flaws has many insecurities in himself. He is merely projecting them onto you. End things right away.

4. If a potential suitor is inconsistent with returning your communication efforts, and you've addressed it with him and nothing has changed, this is a big issue. If he's not able to give you the time of day now, what will things be like after marriage? DO NOT CHASE HIIM! I repeat...DO NOT CHASE HIM! He's not worth your effort.

5. Any form of abuse, including emotional and verbal in the "getting to know phase", should not be tolerated. The fact that he's already using such words towards you shows that he lacks basic respect and does not know how to treat another human being. Do not believe him when he uses Islam to put you down, this goes back to guilt tripping. Phrases such as "good Muslims do X, Y and Z" are not acceptable. Things will not change after marriage. You deserve much better and do not need criticism from anyone, lest your future husband.

Now, onto the positives!

1. A man who truly cares about you will show that he cares, and it can be in one of many ways. Through consistent and initiated communication; thoughtful and heartfelt gifts; respect and honesty; openness and trust; etc. Everyone is different with how they will show this, but it will be there. You shouldn't need to go digging to find how he feels about you.

2. You should feel a "click" with how things work out between yourselves and the families. While personality differences will always exist, there should be no animosity or lack of respect from any involved party. There are no serious doubts since you're spoken about many things...always keep talking, even about the big topics!

3. Your future husband wouldn't do anything to impact your happiness, and in fact, does the opposite to ensure that you're happy. I'm not talking about gift giving and expensive dinners...I'm talking about how he treats you. He treats you the way you've always wanted your future husband to treat you. While it's perfectly normal to disagree and have different perspectives, this doesn't turn into an argument, accusations, or silent treatment. You are able to communicate at a mature level to work things through.

4. You come first. While he has friends in his life, he's no longer placing them first over your relationship. You're both able to maintain the balance between your individual lives and the new one you're forging together. Shared and individual hobbies and interests is perfectly normal and healthy.

5. You see yourselves loving each other now and in the future. There's a sense of calm when you're together and this will continue. Your spiritual goals match and there's a clear direction since you're both in this for the sake of Allah. He will one day make a solid father and will play and equal and just-as-important parenting role. You're proud to stand beside him and call him your husband, and vice versa. Things feel right. The mere thought of him should bring a smile to your face.

While there is never-ending advice on both the positive and negative ends (and how our potential future daughter should be treating her potential husband!), I found the above to be the most hard-hitting lessons learned on my end. It is extremely challenging for anyone to be objective when they are emotionally involved with a potential spouse. And yes, Islamically we are taught NOT to become emotionally involved, but we are human. There's also something called "hope" (and sometimes desperation!), which may lead to us glorifying a situation that actually looks pretty dismal.

In my opinion, the best way to deal with this is to talk and keep talking, and to role model and to even use hypothetical situations. But at the end of the day, as my parents did with me, there's a point where you have to "let go" and see how your child is able to handle things. You just hope that the past number of years have taught them what they need to know, and you trust that Allah will continue to guide them. And yes, you'll always be there for them.

And Allah knows best.

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