You know what I love? I love when something we’ve created touches another soul. I love when our efforts give life to discussions in exactly the way we intended. I’m thrilled that one our readers reached out to me and graciously shared her story with us. There are many precious gems hidden in her story. I am in awe of how someone so young can practice love with such wisdom and grace. I hope her story and her compassion touches you as much as it has touched me inshaAllah.
Sofina Begum is a 20 something year old mother of two. She’s currently living in Orlando, Florida, with her husband, kids and in laws.
What message to do hope to share with our readers?
I reached out for one particular reason. I’m quite saddened by the level of selfishness in our community today. I’m referring specifically to the younger generation to which I also belong. I want to talk about tarbiyah and sabr and sacrifice; values which seem to be sidelined by our personal desires. I want to remind everyone, myself included, that we are in this world temporarily. This dunya is nothing but a test. Why are we trying to create a paradise on this earth when we know it won’t last forever. Why are we trampling on the rights of others for our happiness, which by it’s very nature is fleeting.
I’ve seen many homes break apart and marriages end because we’ve stopped practicing Islam in the way that it was brought to us by our Prophet (peace be upon him). Rather than solving our differences in the light of Islam, we’ve opted to follow our desires as a road map. I’m referring to the increasing rates of divorces and infidelity. I’m referring to children who leave their parents’ homes once they are married and to parents who leave their children with babysitters and at daycare canters in pursuit of their careers. I understand the need to put food on the table but honestly, our needs have exceeded those simple necessities.
Can you give an example?
When both parents enter the house at 8pm and their kids are already in bed without goodnight hugs and kisses, how can we expect our children to provide love and support for us when we’re elderly and in need of their time? How much quality time do we give our children when they are young? I don’t have all the answers but I do know that, when our life is devoid of the love of Allah and His Prophet, our relationships will eventually suffer.
I want to share an example from my own life, where I gave up my desire for an “ideal life” for the sake of my husband’s happiness and agreed to live with my in-laws after marriage. I try to practice patience on a daily basis so that I can create a peaceful environment in my home.
So you’re not living your “ideal” life. You sacrificed your happiness for the sake of your husband’s happiness? Were you brought up to believe that this is what’s required of Muslim women?
No, I wasn’t brought up to think that at all. I don’t think Muslim women have to sacrifice anything, least of all our happiness. It was a personal decision I made. I was born and raised in this country. I consumed my fair share of mass media and had heard enough in-law “horror” stories to know what it’s like after marriage. I made up my mind early on that I would never live with my in laws after marriage. I used to joke, “I will never let my in-laws to mistreat me. I will never give up my independence.” Naturally, we mature and change with time. So do our decisions.
What changed with you? You said you were always against the idea of living with your in-laws.
Yes, like most girls today, I was strongly against it. But then, one day reality hit, as it always does. I got my first official rishta (marriage proposal). I wasn’t even close to being ready to get married when someone called my mom about the proposal. It seemed as if this rishta had infiltrated our lives. It was everywhere, part of every discussion, awaiting patiently to hear our final verdict. I couldn’t find anything wrong with it, except for the obvious red flag: I would have to live with my in laws! That alone should of been enough to say “No way! I’m young! I can wait to get married. I won’t settle!”
Then these unfamiliar thoughts started entering my mind. What if we had sent a proposal on behalf of my younger brother? What would I want another girl in my shoes to do? Should she reject my brother because my parents came with the package? How would my parents handle life if my brother decided to move out of their house to start his new life? I found myself conflicted and uneasy.
I naturally started questioning my own take on living with in-laws. I shocked myself because a decision which had always been a no-brainer had now become my biggest source of inner conflict. How can I say no to living in a “joint” family when I would hate for anyone to reject my brother for the same reason.
What helped you resolve that inner conflict?
What helped me the most in my final decision was my strong belief in Allah’s mercy. I had been studying Islam more at this time. The more I studied, the more I wondered what would would be most pleasing to Allah swt? Would this one sacrifice on my part be something our Prophet (peace be upon him) would encourage?
I was sure of one thing. Our sabr and sacrifice for the sake of Allah does not go unnoticed or unrewarded. There are greater rewards in the next world, God willing.
I had an otherwise perfectly good proposal from a wonderful Muslim man but it required a huge sacrifice from me. So even though the situation was not what I considered ideal, I decided to accept it anyway. I knew that I would be the one sacrificing but constant reminders of how temporary this life is helped me find peace with my decision. This and knowing that I am giving my husband something that I hope, one day, my brother’s wife will give him; happiness.
You’ve been married for a few years now. How has life been living with your in laws? Are you happy?
Check out part 2 of my interview with Sofina Begum. We will continue our discussion on what types of challenges she has faced since getting married. We’ll touch on changing family dynamics once you add kids to the equation.
Please leave comments and add to the discussion! What is your take on the topic?