“And among His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”Quran 30:21
In response to a friend asking me what kind of person I hoped to marry one day, I told him that I thought it best she’d be another convert like me, with whom I could find some common ground. In my mind’s eye, I conjured up the picture of an English or Irish woman. An Irish girl would be especially pleasing, I quipped, because I love the Irish accent. Plus, she would then get on like a house on fire with my Irish grandmother.
Naturally, the Most Merciful had other plans for me. When I was ultimately introduced to the woman I’d go on to marry, she was described to me as a convert. It’s just that I had no idea then that there were still converts amongst minorities from Muslim-majority states. She had left her homeland a few years earlier a staunch left-leaning secular feminist, only to embrace Islam in the heart of London. Indeed, unbeknownst to either of us, our independent journeys of faith had followed remarkably similar trajectories.
For a time, we lived nearly as neighbours. I was living near King’s Cross, she was living near Angel. We may, at times, have shopped at the same supermarket. We both uttered our shahada around the same time. We would attend the same mosque, though our paths never crossed. We later both moved to West London. Indeed, I used to take a shortcut down her road on my nightly trek from Ealing Broadway to Hanwell. I remember stopping halfway to listen to the sweet song of a blackbird on a chimney pot one day; little did I know that I was standing outside her flat.
Perhaps I shouldn’t really have been so surprised by the Most Merciful’s plan for me. While living in Scotland for my Master’s degree, I was invited by a Turkish friend to join him for a family breakfast. Oh, that was such a beautiful experience, their hospitality touching my very soul. I remember praying that day, “Oh Allah, grant me a wife like this.” Of course, I forgot all about that dua until I looked into my beloved’s eyes after we were married and thought to myself, “Subhanallah, my Lord even granted her the same name!”
We were married late by Muslim standards — in those days anyway — but were married quickly. My beloved was my first and only. A strange admission for one who was approaching his mid-twenties, but it was true. Of course I’d had teenage crushes through the years leading up to then, but fortunately I always seemed to settle on those who utterly despised me. My first crush lasted four years, until I heard her utter the F-word; I didn’t like her after that. Another crush lasted two years, until I was told that she relished the idea of me meeting a sticky end; that discovery was quite cathartic.
Alhamdulilah, my patience through all those years was rewarded. We printed the ayat at the top of this post on our wedding invitations. We have always been guided by that verse: we embraced it absolutely. Some seem to go into marriage with fatwas and fiqh ringing in their ears, delineating their rights and responsibilities, treating it as if it were little more than a commercial contract. Well, each to their own, but we took to heart the guidance of the Book: “Do you think you will be left to say, ‘We believe’, and will not be tested?” You go in, with your eyes open, conscious that life is all a test; that’s our faith.
These days I find myself ever more cognisant of those signs of God: that He created for us mates, in whom we find tranquility, between which He has placed affection and mercy. Subhanallah, I marvel at this everyday: at my life with this soulmate of mine, who was once a stranger, who was raised in a little village thousands of miles away from mine. How extraordinary this bond between us. Each day, when I think what could have been: alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, all the way. When I think back to painful moments in my youth: wow, just alhamdulilah for rejection then to make way for this.
When you’re granted a soulmate, you’re blessed; so cherish them. Look for good in them everyday. Embrace them, tell them you love them. Forgive them their shortcomings. Ask them to forgive yours. Say sorry before you go to sleep each night; let salam alaikum (peace be on you) be the final thing you say to them before you close your eyes. Think of all the good in them; overlook whatever you dislike. You were strangers and Allah pushed you together. Perhaps Allah joined distinct nations and tribes through you.
“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct. Lo! God is Knowing, Aware.”Quran 49:13
Alhamdulilah, it’s twenty-one years since I was first introduced to that stranger by mutual friends of ours. What adventures we’ve had in the two decades since then. Each day I find I love her even more. If Allah wills, I’d like to grow old with her, though life is all a test and none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. Thus we make the most of the present, trusting in our Lord.
Travellers of the path: embrace the profound signs of your Lord. Embrace them all the more!
“And whatever blessing you have, it is from Allah…”Quran 16:53