Book Review: Love, Insha Allah

Book Review: Love, Insha Allah

The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women

Though Islam is growing in America, one bumps up constantly against ubiquitous incompatibilities between Islam and Western culture. Nowhere is this incompatibility more prominent than in an American Muslim woman’s search for a mate.

The stories in this book reveal the problematic position of American Muslim women who would like to get married. They must either make compromises, or take a hard line with respect to their religion, further limiting their chances for finding a mate in a society that is still composed of mostly non-Muslim residents. Some of these writers have shaved the edges off Islamic teachings , even to the extent of doing haram behavior, knowingly, deliberately. The instinct to find a mate and establish a family often takes precedence over familial and religious dictates regarding how to do so.

Islamic customs, which relied heavily on community relationships, now operate in an anemic facsimile of their original effectiveness. American customs for dating, sex and marriage, are not officially available to these women.To make matters worse, Muslim communities in the United States are composed of people from varying cultural and linguistic traditions. American Muslim women sit between a rock and a hard place; even men tiptoe across a loose tightrope when courting them.

When the Abrahamic religions were being codified, the human life span was much shorter. Young people did not have to navigate a prolonged period (named adolescence) between childhood and adulthood.  Mating occurred at  physical maturation. These days, physical maturation plays second fiddle to religious mores that were not written for adolescence or homosexuality. Add to that the economic and educational demands of today that also postpone marriage well beyond the best physical stage for it.

At least one of my readers will remind me that Islam is applicable to all peoples for all times, and to that reader I say, “Then it will have to find a way to reconcile human nature with the unnatural frustration arising out of modern  adolescence. It will also have to accommodate an increasing incidence of homosexuality.”

Homosexuality, by the way, does not recede when it manifests in a Muslim, and several of these writers are brave enough to talk about it. One would think that if Allah hated homosexuality enough to forbid it, He would give us better tools for coping with it in a halal manner, but this is not the case. Homosexuality will prove to arise from physiological  and genetic predispositions, and therefore will never be responsive to blame or volition on the part of those who find themselves claimed by it.

I respect the women who’ve told their stories, and I admire their courage in trying to find a third way, a way to live as Muslims and as Americans, partaking in the blessings of both identities and navigating the inherent troubles. Some women have tossed Islamic teachings out the window, while others have have cut themselves off from the benefits for which people choose to live in America.  None, however, have turned their backs on Islam, itself, and most have become stronger in faith as a result of their trials, regardless of whether they succeeded in finding a mate.

Not all the essays are marked by conflict or frustration. Several of the women met their husbands in the traditional Islamic way, through the help of parents and relatives, without having to date and sift through a succession of boyfriends. These women are the lucky minority. Several others met their husbands by means unconventional in either American or Islamic cultures; their stories prove that finding a mate need not conform to a strict prescription.

The women represented in this book are pioneers, and through them, especially with respect to how they raise their children, a stable American Islam will develop.  Oh, I know. There’s no such thing as “American Islam” or “Saudi Islam” or, or… Well, yes there is. How do you suppose Islam, or any other religion, survives over the centuries, migrates to different continents, and serves populations that have never have heard of one another? An Islam that thrives in the West is still evolving.  This book forms a link in the process, and will eventually be regarded as an historical document. I hope the children of this book’s authors will read their mothers’ stories with a sense of relief because they will not have to blast through the moral and social difficulties endured by their parents.

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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7 Responses to Book Review: Love, Insha Allah

  1. Issam says:

    I just admire your talent in summarizing and presenting any book.Good review.

    Genetic homosexuality is not unlawful. What is unlawful is voluntary homosexuality. That is a person who is straight yet still chooses to engage in homosexual behaviour. The people of Prophet Lot were not genetically homosexual. They were straight people who also engaged in homosexual behaviour. An evidence of this in the Quran is Prophet Lot’s wife who was obviously straight yet still engaged in homosexual behaviours.

  2. Marahm says:

    Thank you, Issam. You raise an interesting point– that a minority of homosexuals are capable of functioning as straight people. Does that mean that they choose homosexual behavior? Superficially, yes. Most straight people, however, are mortified at the thought doing anything with someone of the same gender, so where does the “urge” come from? It’s not natural to those of us who don’t have it, but perfectly natural to those who do.

    While genetic homosexuality is not unlawful, as you say, voluntary homosexuality is haram. Until science idenitifies the means by which individuals develop as genetic or voluntarily gay, only the involved individuals can honestly determine where they belong. The story of Lot teaches us on several levels.

    While some people interpret it as condemning homosexuality unequivocally, others can say that it tells us we must face the situation objectively, learn all we can about it, especially from the physiological perspective. Those who behave as Lot’s people behaved would be better equiped to decide their paths.

  3. Safiyyah says:

    “None have turned their backs on Islam.” That’s one of the key points of our book, Alhamdulillah! Thanks for the wonderful review!

  4. Marahm says:

    My pleasure, Safiyyah. Mabrook– congratulations– to you and all the others who’ve told your stories honestly, and did not reject Islam even when it seemed to make your lives more difficult than necessary.

    The fact that none of you left Islam is as interesting as the stories themselves. Other women in the same situation have left Islam. What’s the difference between them and you-all?

    I don’t know, but I do know that most Muslims love their religion, and get blessings from it outweighing the advantages of securlaism or other religions.

    • Safiyyah says:

      If one is a revert. I think it is about the intention. If a woman converts for marriage she is more apt to leave the religion if the marriage fails. If she comes to Islaam for Allaah, it is a bit easier IMO to view it as a test or a necessary means if character development.

      Heck, I never had trouble getting a man 🙂 Until I was a Muslim. Then all of a sudden there were too many things “wrong” with me. It can be a self esteem killer if a woman doesn’t have a strong faith in Allaah and herself.

      • Marahm says:

        LOL! I never thought about “getting a man” before Islam vs. after Islam, but now that you mention it, there is a difference. I think the difference is not about the woman, but about the available men. Here in America, the pickings are slim, even for young, unmarried women. My daughters settled for men whom they might have passed up had we been living in Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

        As you suggest, a convert (I know, I know…some of you say “revert”) for marriage may not be as committed as one who was Muslim before marriage. All the women who contributed to the book were Muslims, either from birth or conversion (I know, I know why some of you say “reversion”. I don’t agree with the term, so I don’t use it, but that’s OK. We know what we’re talking about!)

  5. susanne430 says:

    Thanks for this review. Sounds like an interesting book!

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