“Tigers are said to be bold and adventurous and are bestowed with initiative and charm. However, they have a tendecy to be risk-takers making them act before they think about the consequences.”
Ringing in January 1998, I was freed from the constraints of employment thus I was a Muslim on the loose looking to strengthen my brand new identity. Unemployment compensation bought me plenty of time to bounce all sorts of ideas around. I didn’t want to stay in the South, so where to go? How to get there? What to do once I got there? Little did I know the light of freedom that allowed me to entertain such questions would soon be dimmed bit by bit, fatwa by fatwa.
I was wearing niqab and the jilbab on a regular basis and most likely fasting for Ramadhan. As far as I remember, I spent a good deal of time at home during Ramadhan but also went to the masjid. Iftars were a nightmare back then with some of the most uncouth women I have ever met. Pushing, shoving, and skipping line as everyone wrestled to get a plate was the normal behaviour for grown women. Even after all of that, much of the food would land in the garbage. If a Muslim participates in a diverse Islamic community then they will surely come to know about the Arab-Pakistani food wars. Arabs would not eat the Indo-Pak food, Pakistanis would not eat the Arab food. Converts sat in the middle and watched(or gathered the leftovers for take home plates).
Praying in congregation was exciting for me but also brought out nervousness. Since I only got the chance to pray with jama’at mostly during Ramadhan and jumu’ah, I didn’t pray with others regular enough to know if I had all the steps correct. Much like trying to avoid missing a step while performing the waltz, I spent more time watching others out of the corner of my eye to make sure I had the next move correct than I did trying to gain khushoo. However, it is a little hard(at first) to achieve that focus when there are a bunch of derrieres in your face. Nothing in church ever prepared me for prayer like that.
I had to go to Michigan to take care of court issues during Ramadhan so I finished the month out there. This was the same state I went to college in and where my son’s family lived so I considered moving back and went with the intent to scope out the area. I spent alot of time between Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Dearborn all of them being a go-to hotspot for Muslims at the time. Wal Quran Was Sunnah(The Quran and Sunnah) Society in Detroit was all the rave, gaining momentum as the true Muslim movement. Somehow I managed to connect with a family in Detroit and they were gracious enough to spend time with me and show me around.
I attended the Eid in Detroit and got my first real look at dozens of Muslims. There were veiled women, women in an array of colorful get-ups, hijabi women, you name it. While the dress of the women was vastly different there was a common theme: the majority had at least 3(or more) children. There were few women without a stroller or diaper bag or bottle of some sort. Those who didn’t have a child were either pregnant, unmarried(like myself), or older grandmothers and we were the minority. According to Islamic law, all of us were in the back of the auditorium and the ants in the front were the brothers. Despite the cheery nature of the Eid, it felt very cold and a little sad. Many sisters struggled to contend with babies while the brothers moved about joyously without a care in the world.
I also considered moving to Toronto so while I was in Michigan, I took a trip to Canada. This was before visas were imposed so it was relatively easy to go over. My friend was not Muslim so we were singled out for a search even though 9/11 wasn’t anywhere in the picture. I guess we did look a little odd, me with my veil and jilbab and her with her makeup and tight pants. Toronto was uneventful and bland to me although the drive up there was beautiful. I met my first Sihk while shopping there but didn’t know there was a difference. I thought he was a Muslim with a very bad attitude, glaring at me and such. To date, I still don’t understand the Sihk/Muslim rivalry.
When all was said and done, I decided not to move to Detroit(or any of the surrounding areas). It was just too cold both climate-wise and people-wise. My son was still a toddler so I decided to let him stay with his family for a few months. The day that I was to head back to ******* I stopped to visit and bid the host family farewell. There was brother visiting them and there is never more the convenient time to arrange a marriage than when there are two single Muslims in such close proximity. This is when the Islamic wedding bells started to chime louder and louder.