The Arranged Marriage (a brief story)

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The following is an excerpt from UZ Short Story Collection by Umm Zakiyyah:

To anybody else, at present was an abnormal day, even when a bit dreary. The floor was moist from a recent rain. The brown-green blades of grass glistened regardless of their imminent loss of life. Dirt blotched the untended grass in patches, making Mohsina consider the again of her father’s head. His ever-growing bald spot, the colour of aged chocolate like the remainder of him, typically made Mohsina consider the shameful bareness she felt each time she walked into her social-psychology class.  The professor grunted each time. And it stung each time. Though she was by no means fairly certain if the sound of unambiguous disapproval was as a result of she was instantly current or as a result of he was instantly upset for the time being she was current. But it made her tug uncomfortably at her plain, black shoulder abaya and run a hand self-consciously over the material of her off-white hijab, like her father would run his calloused fingers over that bald spot each time he was nervous or painfully self-aware swiftly.

“Bah,” Dr. Sherman would say in terse annoyance as he flapped his hand dismissively at Mohsina’s insistent, even when meek, protests in opposition to his Islamophobic tirades.

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“It’s not because of Islam that so many Muslim women suffer,” she would blurt out earlier than he gave her permission to talk. She feared if she waited for him to note her reluctantly raised hand and level to her, she wouldn’t be capable to say something in response, not solely as a result of the gray-haired professor was bigoted and closed-minded, but additionally as a result of Mohsina herself may lose the nerve. “Islam doesn’t allow men to enslave girls and sell them as virtual sex slaves into unwanted marriages.”

“You are naïve,” Dr. Sherman would say in a tone so subdued that Mohsina would squirm and look away from him. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I’m Muslim,” she would say, her voice shaking as she tried to talk extra loudly, extra confidently. “I should know.”

“Yes, you should,” he would say. “But you don’t.” Then he would take a look at her, eyes squinted from beneath the fuzzy gray-brown of his eyebrows. “Where is your family from again?”

Mohsina would swallow arduous and avert her gaze. She hated this query. It was nearly rhetorical. It was a merciless, even when delicate, announcement to all her white and brown-skinned “real” American classmates that she was inauthentic, an imposter. She was born in America and held a blue passport similar to they did.

Why ought to she be placed on the spot? “Where is your family from?” she wished to ask the pale-skinned, blue-eyed professor with soiled blond hair and an overflowing beard; the almond-skinned, darkish brown-eyed woman with braids plaited to her scalp and who all the time stored an iPod hidden on her lap; the tanned, used-to-be-white-skinned redhead who annoyingly picked on the blackheads on her chin—and the remainder of the conceited “Americans” who studied in furtive glances Mohsina’s creamy-coffee complexion and ebony eyes, and will solely guess on the size and texture of Mohsina’s darkish black hair tucked and hidden beneath the ever present hijab.

No, Mohsina’s mother and father had not been Americans when their worldwide flight landed in New York twenty years in the past. They had been armed solely with pupil visas and pathetic hopes and desires for one thing higher than “back home” (although that “something better” remained an elusive, if not mysterious, idea to their daughter even nineteen years after her start solely miles from the Statue of Liberty, a start that allegedly represented the majority of that “something better”).

Mohsina’s mother and father had exchanged the scholar visas for work visas and the work visas for inexperienced playing cards and the inexperienced playing cards for the coveted blue passports. But their solely mistake, in Mohsina’s view, was exchanging their student-work-green idealism for the bitter actuality they inadvertently signed their kids up for even earlier than they had been born.

But, sure, Mohsina’s mother and father had been American, similar to the households of those snobby college students, whose mother and father’ mother and father’ nice grandparents probably arrived in a much less flattering mode of transport than Mohsina’s, although with painstakingly equally silly concepts and tragic realities, the previous or latter description most becoming relying on whether or not they arrived within the higher or decrease deck.

“Why does it matter? Where we’re from?” Mohsina would handle to say in response to the professor’s endless query that challenged the validity of her nationality, the validity of her existence. And she knew her voice was shaking, however her hand was additionally trembling, and he or she didn’t like that. She hated that, truly. She hated that she let these self-righteous individuals get to her. “It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.”

“It should matter, and it does matter,” Dr. Sherman would say earlier than occurring together with his tirade as if Mohsina hadn’t interrupted him in any respect, as if Mohsina wasn’t sitting there in any respect, as if Mohsina didn’t exist in any respect.

The boring rubber heal of Mohsina’s shoe sank low right into a patch of mud she didn’t see after she had stepped over one other. She pulled her foot up fastidiously and frowned solely briefly as she glanced all the way down to see that the darkish brown muck had risen over the edges of her slip-on shoe and dirty a thick white sock. At least it’s just one foot ruined, she thought to herself as she pulled at her heavy ebook bag and readjusted it on her shoulder.

A chilly wetness plopped on the tip of her nostril, and Mohsina instinctively swatted at it, inadvertently scratching the pores and skin of her higher lip. When three extra, then 5 extra plopped on her cheeks, it grew to become apparent to her that it was solely rain. She appeared up, her mouth agape as she shielded her eyes from the brilliant blur peering behind the darkening clouds. Her face was slapped with at the least a dozen extra, as if punishment for changing into aggravated within the first place. She turned her gaze again to the trail in entrance of her and swallowed the drops that had fallen on her tongue, shocked by their candy, salty style.

“We are not like these selfish, reckless people,” her mom had advised her a month earlier than. “We don’t marry for love. We don’t marry for our own foolish desires. We marry for our families. We marry for our cultures. We marry for Allah.” Her mom had mentioned the Creator’s title with such decided emphasis that Mohsina nearly believed her. A pang of guilt had stabbed Mohsina, and he or she felt ashamed of herself. Who was she to decide on love? Who was she to have silly needs? Who was she to disrespect her household, insult her tradition, and switch away from Allah?

“But he’s Muslim,” Mohsina had mentioned, her voice a cross between an unabashed plea and a pathetic whine. “Can’t you just consider him? How is that selfish?”

The slap was so fast, so intense that Mohsina simply stood nonetheless, blinking in disbelief because the strong white wall behind her mom’s offended, contorted face appeared to tip to at least one facet.

“Who are you to question your parents?” her mom shot again, apparently unaware that Mohsina was struggling to beat dizziness. “Do you know how much dowry he is paying us for you? Do you have any idea?”

Islam doesn’t permit males to enslave women and promote them as digital intercourse slaves into undesirable marriages.

“Or are you so drunk with all these stupid American ideas that you’ve forgotten who you are, where we come from?”

Why does it matter? Where we’re from?

“You are nothing without your family. You are nothing without your culture. You are nothing without your honor.”

It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

This morning, Mohsina had turned off her mobile phone and left it on the bus that rounded the faculty campus and on its fifth cease dropped her off in entrance of the tall, daunting, brick humanities constructing wherein Dr. Sherman taught. As she wiped her muddied shoe in opposition to the concrete of the sidewalk that early, dreary morning, Mohsina questioned if Dr. Sherman would grunt at precisely 7:58, the time she normally walked into class.

The rain got here down more durable and soaked the sleeves of her abaya, but it surely was the garments beneath—and in her ebook bag—that she was most anxious about. But Mohsina had been standing on the nook behind the college parking storage for less than two minutes when the acquainted automobile pulled up and slowed to a cease beside her, its windshield wipers working furiously in opposition to the pouring rain.

She opened the passenger-side door and received in with out a phrase and solely mumbled her reply to the salaams. Sadness tugged at her coronary heart as she thought of what she was giving up by shutting that automobile door, pulling the seatbelt round her, and snapping it firmly in place.

It ought to matter, and it does matter.

Oddly, this made her smile, only a bit. She would miss her bigoted professor and her father’s bald spot and her mom’s uneven mood. But she would write them, perhaps a yr later, when this was throughout and their hearts may solely bear in mind the great, after they would want they might do it over again and listen to her, actually hear their daughter when she spoke to them.

In the letter, Mohsina deliberate in her head, she’d say, “Thank you.”

Yes, she’d say, “Thank you.” And why not?

She would say type phrases, similar to those in Mohsina’s favourite music “Thank You for Hearing Me” by Sinead O’Connor.

Thank you, thanks for serving to me
Thank you for breaking my coronary heart
Thank you for tearing me aside
Now I’ve a robust, robust coronary heart

But by then—Mohsina let herself think about life past the rushed ceremony with the sympathetic American imam whom her mother and father refused to even discuss to as a result of he wasn’t from their nation—she would in all probability have a bundle of latest life in her arms (a son, perhaps a daughter, it didn’t matter) whom she may current as a peace providing, as their very own flesh and blood, to say, “See? It does matter. It should matter.”

Tears crammed her eyes at this thought, however she let herself think about the shock on her mother and father’ faces after they discovered of Mohsina’s personal “arranged marriage.” It would have been an identical to the one that they had deliberate for her, besides this one had been organized by Mohsina herself—with the assist of her future husband and a few “real” American Muslims—and after a zillion failed makes an attempt at diplomacy together with her circle of relatives, who coupled their self-righteousness with not in the least of respect for what Allah actually mentioned marriage was speculated to be.

“Why did you choose America, of all places?” Mohsina had requested, exasperated after a very tough day of anti-Muslim bullying when she was in center college.

“We couldn’t live back home anymore,” her father had advised her, distant disappointment in his eyes. “Times were tough, and it was destroying us. We had to take a chance and start life over again. We wanted better for ourselves. We wanted better for our future children.”

Mohsina wiped the unfallen tears from her eyes and leaned again within the passenger seat and exhaled in a single breath. It felt good to know that her father already understood, even when he didn’t comprehend it simply but—and wouldn’t comprehend it absolutely till Mohsina herself reappeared with the “blue passport” of her life firmly in her arms.

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