The Journey to a New Beginning

Getting here was not easy, staying sane here is a challenge. Here, is this moment, this moment when I have achieved my goal of marriage. Here, is this country I so proudly called home in the past, Malaysia.

Before I tell you my present struggles, let me share my journey.

I had expressed my desire to marry at an early age, when I was in my early teens (~14 years old). At this age I already had the desire to be married and have kids. While other people wanted to become doctors and engineers I knew I wanted to excel in being a homemaker. I wanted to fulfil half of my deen.

Among His signs is that He created for you spouses from yourselves so that you might find repose with them. And He has placed between you affection and mercy. In that there are certainly signs for people who reflect.” (Quran 30:21)

For those who cannot understand why this was so important, allow me to try to express how I felt. There were two main reasons to my insistence of marriage.

In Islam, we are thought to abstain from intermingling between non-mahram. In Malaysia, typically this is taken lightly, you can go anywhere in a mall and see teens and adults intermingling with no regards to the teachings and prohibition of Islam. In my teens I had tried to avoid this but as I grew older it just seemed so common and soon ‘Okay’.

Have you not considered that Allah knows what is in the heavens and what is on the earth? There is in no private conversation three but that He is the fourth of them, nor are there five but that He is the sixth of them — and no less than that and no more except that He is with them [in knowledge] wherever they are. Then He will inform them of what they did, on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, of all things, Knowing. (Quran 58:7)

I did not want to continue living as such I knew I wanted to find a halal relationship so that I can have peace in loving a man.

The other reason, I can’t fully explain is my desire to bear a child. I had this desire in my teens and at 24 it had become painful for me to see mother and child among peers. I had to distance myself from friends who now have kids, and lower my gaze as I see families with young kids, because it was just too painful.

I am 25 years old now, I have officially been trying to persuade my father to allow me to get married for 3 years. I was previously trying to get married to a guy in my class back in International Islamic University Malaysia.

We had the desire to get married when we were 22 and I told my mother, my mother knew my father would not approve because we were still studying, I then asked my mother, what she expected for my “hantaran”, this is separate from a mahar, she said a minimum of 10,000 MYR.

I believe this blog explains it well if “hantaran” is unfamiliar to you —

“In addition to this obligatory maskahwin, in Malaysia, there is the cultural practice of giving wang hantaran. This is a certain amount of money — a gift from the groom to the bride — which is usually fixed by the bride’s family.”

So we worked on saving up for this, because this is a cultural requirement, I had agreed to help this man in obtaining the money. We would sell snacks in the study hall. Take on part time jobs whenever possible, this man also worked as a waiter for my father which we thought would be a good way to allow my family to get to know him.

We had earned half of it within a year while studying for our Bachelor’s Degree. His brother was about to get married, his parents then asked him if he had any desire of getting married. He told his parents, and his parents agreed to see me. His mother asked me if my father would allow me to get married I said that I know he hasn’t given his blessing but I will try.

I expressed my desire to get married to my parents when I was 23, I was in my final year of a degree programme. My father said no because I was still studying. At this point, I had actually finished all of my course work, and was about to start my internship period after which I would have completed the entire programme.

I tried to talk to my father, but he would never want to discuss it, my father has always thought us that what he says is what’s best and we should not question it. His parents disliked this very much they had tried to explain to my dad that: As parents, we should allow our children to marry to avoid fitnah.

My father took offence at this and viewed is as outsiders trying to ‘teach’ him how to raise his child. He said it was for my own good. I had no other reason I could present to him to go against his word and so I told this guy, please wait, let’s graduate first. All of the money we earned during internship went to our combined savings.

I then tried to ask my father again to please marry me off, he said okay, ask the man’s parents to come to seek my hand in marriage. We had appointed a date, and I had asked him several times if the date was okay and if we had confirmation from his parents. He always said, not yet. I later found out, his parents had resented my father for his disapproval and saw it as ignorance. I tried to meet his mother to ask for forgiveness and try to mend the situation. She said harsh words to me and expressed her disapproval for her son to marry me.

I pleaded to my father to allow me to marry this man, me and him had decided to get married without his parents and then ask for their forgiveness and blessing as husband and wife. My father said, he is not desperate to marry me off to a family that did not want me. He said I did not have A’qal for trying so hard to get married to this man and harsh things which I understand I cannot hold against him, no matter how painful his words were. He said this man has nothing special, I should look for a better man, a more pious man. I was so heart broken, the thought of killing myself crossed my mind, but I knew that was not right as this is a great sin in Islam.

I work as an Application support engineer at a multi-national company. At the office, I came to talking a man, from Nigeria. With all that my father had said, I tried to think of the possibility of not ending up with the guy that I had loved for 3 years and open my heart to someone else.

I was a racist, so frankly, when I initially thought of a relationship with this man, in my head, I said ‘Eww’. After a short period of time, I then thought to myself maybe Allah s.w.t does not will me for this man I am trying to marry, maybe my father was right, I should find someone better. I then said to myself, I want to marry this Nigerian man for the sake of Allah.

This is a good man who is reminding me of all the stuff I had not paid attention to, like how I speak to colleagues and men, among others. I am not delusional to say this man is the perfect embodiment of Islam, he has his flaws.

We see ourselves as partners to help make us better people, better Muslims. The problem with my desire to marry this man, is that he is Nigerian. My family is very racists, the first few things my father said to me when I told him I wanted to marry this man is that he said Nigerians are the ‘Barua’ of the world.

To a lot of Malaysians (that I know) ‘Barua’ is used to describe disgraced levels of people. People that do the dirty work and have no dignity actual definition can be found anywhere else on the internet.

I cried harder when I heard this. This was normal to my family, to say another race is bad, evil and disgraced, I had been so used to this that if it were said to anyone else I wouldn’t have batted an eye, but because I knew this man, I knew this wasn’t true. I felt ashamed of how we lived, I hear my parents and my siblings say stuff about other races all the time. I used to have that same mind set. I remember my mother was once watching TV and Chloé Kardashian was about to marry Lamar and she said how can a woman want to marry a man so black.

Aside from that, my dad says Nigerians are bad people. He referenced all the scams, all the stuff we see in the news and a situation he witnessed in his 20s, where a Malay woman had married a black man. The man left her with kids with ‘really curly’ hair (the only description they could come up for these kids) and the kids were not taken care of by the mother, barely fed and my aunt (father’s sister) gave them food. He did not want me to end up in the same fate.

I understood this concern, but I believe that based on what I know of this man; I see him as a good man, a good Muslim. Is this not enough for me to trust to marry a man for Allah? This was not based on blind faith, this man was a valedictorian in a local college in Malaysia was working with a prominent partner software company at our own company and part time as a IT consultant for a Nigerian software company remotely.

This was a man whose thirst for knowledge is contagious and desire to spread it, loved. I couldn’t understand why my father refused this man, refusing to get to know this man and say that this man is a trickster, scammer, scumbag just did not make sense to me. I tried to comprehend this, was there any logic to this? Any Islamic basis to his insistence that this man was evil.

O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you (Quran 49:13).

The only criterion of preference, Taqwa, is not measurable by human beings. Indeed God is the One Who knows and is aware of everything so we should leave even this criterion to God to decide instead of human beings judging each other.

O people, Remember that your Lord is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor a white has any superiority over black, except by piety and good action (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character (Taqwa). Listen to me. Did I convey this to you properly? People responded, Yes. O messenger of God, The Prophet then said, then each one of you who is there must convey this to everyone not present. (Excerpt from the Prophet’s Last Sermon as in Baihiqi)

I couldn’t find it, I couldn’t find anywhere where Islam teaches us that we should beware of a man’s skin colour.

And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for those who know (Quran 30:22)

Based on the evidence “Zahir” to me, this man is a good man. I believe he should not be treated less than any other human being. I am told to believe that because this man is from Nigeria, he is a bad man. Even when all apparent evidence points otherwise.

That is when I decided to fight, despite all that the people around me were saying I believed in my heart, that Islam does not condone racism.

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