In the name of God, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
Marriage doesn’t come easy. The reality for many young professional Muslims, particularly those with a limited social footing, either as a result of immigration or reversion, is that none has been allocated for them. Every encounter holds a desperate potential, and what starts out as juvenile impetuousness, morphs into spiritual crisis. People have fallen out of the fold of Islam over the choices they did or did not make regarding their intimate partners and the nature of that relationship. Islamic gatherings are attended, Sunday school classes are taught, events are volunteered, elders advice are sought and yet, one seemingly supersedes the qualifications for nikah or isn’t yet ready. Although the breadth of this topic covers every mode of cross sectionality and contemporary social experience, this article will delve into the particular issues faced by young immigrant Muslims pursuing marriage and what action items can be gleaned from them.
But before we start, take a deep breath. Inhale Exhale As Allah (SWT) says:
أَلَا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاءَ اللَّهِ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ لَهُمُ الْبُشْرَىٰ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ وَلَا يَحْزُنكَ قَوْلُهُمْ ۘ إِنَّ الْعِزَّةَ لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا ۚ هُوَ السَّمِيع
Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve Those who believed and were fearing Allah For them are good tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of Allah . That is what is the great attainment. And let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, honor [due to power] belongs to Allah entirely. He is the Hearing, the Knowing.
Surah Yunus Ayat 62-65.
As for the list, here we go:
1) What sets me apart from other members of the community?
It’s one thing to be a racial minority, it’s another thing to be a religious minority within that racial minority. Compound these factors with the additional stress of immigration, visa clearances, leaving family members behind, the circumstances necessitating that departure and a host of other blatant or passive incarnations of discrimination plus being a 1st generation immigrant is a challenge [to put it mildly]. Where children of immigrants have their own issues to face, such as cultural and religious preservation, the 1st generation immigrant is often a lone traveler, carrying the vivid intensity of memories from their previous lives and the stressful urgency of adapting to their new ones.
As it pertains to finding a spouse, the lack of a network in the US is the key problem. Brothers or sisters can regularly attend the Masjid or even MSA events and never crack into the inner circle of those communities, in spite of how valuable they are to those communities. As such, when relying on the community to search for a spouse and facilitate the courting and marriage process, the attempts often fall short of the desired outcome. Frankly, unless your parents know his or her parents, inclusion will be an uphill battle before and after the nikah contract is signed. And thus, is the dilemma of young, professional Muslim immigrants, despite one’s vast list of personal, academic and professional milestones.
2) Where do I meet a spouse?
This is an issue that affects EVERYONE. Of course, as iterated above, the absence of a suitable meeting ground for candidates is amplified for immigrants. For one, the few places where Muslim communities develop - the Masjid, local seminars, conferences, university campuses and ethnic/ Halal markets, require a lifetime membership of sorts. It’s simple, if people have seen you grow from adolescence to adulthood, a parental affinity will naturally start to stir in them. However, if the first time you enter into these institutions without a reference, you have to earn 18+ years of trust instantly. The barrier for entry becomes measured in feet instead of inches and you have the same community-issued climbing set as everyone else.
3) When do I start looking for a partner?
Finish your studies, find a job, get a better position, please your parents, raise your siblings, earn you Ijazaa, get emotionally ready, get spiritually ready. Get psychologically read. build credit, build trust, build a house... and the list goes on. Every person has their own unique set of goals they need to check off before they get married. As such, the very question of when to get married, even within an American context has moved from being a launchpad, into adulthood being a capstone for it. This norm fluidity is bewildering, especially for 1st generation immigrants. Whereas, mere 30-40 years ago, a guy just had to be willing to work hard and a woman just needed to be a home economist and virtually anywhere on earth, that was enough for them to get married. As we know, there is more sophistication in what constitutes the “right time” for individuals in 2018. In addition to this, for both males and females, there is a clock of sorts ticking within them. Brothers are running out of patience to stave off open temptation while sisters are counting down their biological and “desirability” clocks. In both regards, being an immigrant throws an extra wrench into the equation and throws even the limited timing off for both brothers and sisters.
At this point, marriage may seem not only daunting, but impossible. How could any individual surmount all these external obstacles independently? You can’t, that’s because you are always dependent on Allah. Despite all the issues that have been lain out here, it is Allah SWT who is Al-Qadeer. He is the author of fate, not society, not social class, not custom, not ethnicity, not immigration status.
Additionally, according to Pew Research studies, immigrant Muslims have a higher earnings and more educated than both the native Muslim population and immigrants in general. Those resources can be put to the general good of the Deen, Allah SWT does not waste the deeds of His believers. Everything before marriage is a gestation period of sorts, you have the opportunity to perfect yourself before your personal mistakes infringe on someone else's. Be patient, be diligent, be resourceful, be Muslim and despite the challenges, you will, no matter your background, find the spouse that your Creator, the One Who knows you better than anyone else, has ordained for you.
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This article was researched and written by Br. M Badawi for ilmnikah.com.