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Justifiable Objectification?

February 5, 2007

Snow White had her prince charming and Cinderella had hers.  Marlin had Dory.  Simba had Nala.  Beauty had her beast and  I have been raised in a culture of “love”.

I met my husband when I was 19 and we dated for about a year before he actually bought the ring and we set a date.  Now, dating someone for a year in Bosnia wouldn’t have been all that big of a deal, but here within the little “gossip-town” Bosnian community of Chicago it was the talk of the town for the whole year.  I wasn’t the only one to date from the Bosnian community, all of us dated, but what I didn’t do was lie to my parents about it or hide it from anyone.

As far as my upbringing goes, my father was liberal compared to the rest of the community.  That does not mean that I was allowed to do whatever I wanted and as a matter of fact, I wasn’t allowed to go out until I was almost 17, not even to a movie.

When I did start going out, I went to juice clubs, concerts and parties.  My parents always knew where I was and who I was with and if I was dating anyone, they knew.  There were no secrets.  There were rules which I abided by and you can ask any of the other girls from my community that I grew up with – I did the least experimenting out of all of us.

We often discuss this matter amongst ourselves as my upbringing was the most liberal, yet I turned out to be (by all of our parents measure of good) the perfect daughter.  I think what made me be that “perfect daughter” was that I had their trust.  They felt that I was able to make wise choices and I therefore made wise choices in order to not dissapoint them.  I would do nothing to betray their trust as there was absolutely no reason to betray it.  They had allowed me more freedom than most of my non-Muslim friends had.

Besides, the one time that my parents asked me “to just meet the guy” as his mother had follwed my mother around at an ISNA (I had allready recieved a couple of proposals and spent the remainder of the convention locked in the hotel room and made that my last ISNA convention) convention for the most part of the day and they couldn’t shake her, I was on my own in regards to marriage.  There was one rule and one rule only – he had to be Muslim.  Nothing else mattered to them, he didn’t even have to be Bosnian and he could be a convert but he had to be a Muslim. 

Anyway, my husband and I married almost 17 years ago now.  We found each other.  We dated for a while, initially without the intention of marriage (what I am saying is that I wasn’t looking for a husband and he was not looking for a wife).  We fell in love.   We announced our engagement with a Mevlud (the last one I have done) and were married almost three months later.

Now, I should mention that I used to have a little checklist of requirements of what I wanted in a husband and when I dated Bosnian guys, they had to fit in that criterion.  I figured that while I couldn’t plan falling in love, I could control the outcome.  It was silly little things, like I didn’t want his parents to be divorced.  I didn’t want spousal abuse to be a part of his family history.  I wanted him to have his own house, you know little things like that.  When I met my husband, I didn’t pull out that list.  The reason was that he wasn’t my type.  Sure, he was very intelligent and in that regard he certainly was my type as that was most important to me.  He was very attractive and he knew it – and that is where the problem was.  This wasn’t going to last in my mind.  Obviously destiny had other plans for us.

So while I did not end up in an arranged marriage I feel that I can make some statements in regards to objectification within the scheme of arranged marriages and when I saw this over at Haleem’s blog, I burst out laughing:

Look, I want to give you sincere advice, not from a religious perspective, but from the perspective of a female that has some respect for herself. I hate the way you talk about women, even in jest. You objectify women in a way that I wouldn’t have thought a self-respecting Muslim man could. You judge all these women so superficially – and you know, if you want to do that, go ahead, but don’t make it public like this, it’s honestly hurtful.

I love Haleem’s blog.  I love reading about this guy’s quest for the perfect bride and even though I still don’t quite understand the appeal of arranged marriages, I think Haleem’s blog actually gives me a glimpse into this world and I don’t think it is so bad.  I think Haleem is actually getting to know these girls and he while he admits every once in a while that he is drawn to those long batting eyelashes, a person can appreciate that Haleem wants more than just the pretty girl.  I find that admirable.  Haleem objectifying women?  Yeah he does and I find it humorous.

So why am I not gung-ho offended by it?  Well, my friends, because in the circumstances that Haleem finds himself, Haleem is just as objectified as the girl.

How?  Just as Haleem is thinking ““Well, uncle, coz I wanna GET LAID. And quickly too. In a halal way of course.” when asked why he is looking to get married, some Haleema is out there possibly thinking the same thing, but she is most definately scouring his resume wondering if he will make enough money to buy her that Mercedes S class and a square footage home to put her cousins home to shame.

The object of arranged marriages is the aquisition of a spouse and the process of aquisition within such circumstances has needs that need to be met.  The marriage comes out of want of a spouse or necessity, but it does not usually come out of desire to spend the rest of ones life with their Galbi.  They are both objectified.  Each would be spouse is looking for something from the other.  They wash each other out.  Wonderful how equality works at times, isn’t it?

Now, I think that Haleem and his crowd really need to read this if they really think that old-school ways the way to go.  I was amazed when I read it – I always thought that the arranged marriage was a true and tried method, what a shocker.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2007 5:12 am

    When I started reading this post in the morning, that was before you commented on mine, I didn’t know it had me in it 😀 so it was a pleasant turn of events. I didn’t comment then because I wanted to think about it a bit.

    First, I learn a lot from your blog. Especially about Bosnian culture and Bosnian Muslim culture. For example, the other day a Pakistani female coworker of mine married this Bosnian guy. Their marriage was in the Etobicoke Bosnian mosque in Toronto. Had I not read your blog, I would have been shocked when the new husband kissed his wife on the lips in front of the imam, and everyone else, and the rest of the congregation was acting nonchalant… no big deal. lol. As a desi this is something you don’t see in our mosques.

    Second, learnt a new word of the day – Mevlud.

    About my blog, thanks for the nice comments. I try to be honest. The only boundary I keep is not giving too much personal details that someone could recognize themselves. Everything else that I write is exactly how I felt or saw the issue at that time – otherwise what is the use of such a blog if one censors oneself? It allows me to collect my thoughts and occasionally get some feedback.

    Your points on objectifying oneself in arranged marriage is spot on. It’s exactly that, you are sort of selling yourself while looking out for the best you think you can get. And in the middle of all of this, one keeps Islamic ideals and other matters in mind.

    It’s not that Islam has forbidden us to look at something else other than Islam. It’s just that the prophet said look at her piety first. To me Islam is a practical religion and several times the Prophet recommended to his friends to marry younger wives, or recommended to some woman against marrying this Companion because he was poor and could not provide for her (I don’t have sources on me at the moment but definitely read about these). However it has become fashionable now amongst certain Muslim classes to ignore such practical issues.

    Sorry for the long comment!

  2. February 6, 2007 5:30 am

    What an interesting mix of ideas! Lovely read.

  3. Jihad permalink
    February 6, 2007 9:12 pm

    Great post Samaha. Can I just say that you and your husband’s experience almost mirrors that of my wife and I, with minor differences. (No mevluds or bajrams involved.) Indeed, if we had not dated (in a Halal-ish way), and we had to depend on our *own parents,* we would have been, based on the combined track records of these well-intentioned individuals:

    If and when you and your family descend closer to the city, we should have you over…

  4. February 6, 2007 11:20 pm

    Haleem – I learn things from you as well and it is a good thing that I have educated you somewhat to Bosnian ways, my gosh, you could have passed out witnessing something like that within a mosque – lol.

    Even though you have somewhat made me rethink the arranged marriage situation, I can’t help but feel somewhat saddened that you wouldn’t have the time to get to meet this person, to fall in love with this person before you are married, to create a friendship with this person.

    I’m not saying that nothing compares to a love marriage, because I don’t know otherwise, as I said I have been raised in a culture of love. I keep an open mind. I kind of have to – I’m not sure what my daughters are going to spring on me in regards to this subject. They are exposed to so many different cultures and traditions, I wouldn’t be surprised if an arranged marriage was something my oldest daughter asked for. Never know.

    Suroor – glad to entertain you 🙂

    Jihad – lol – you even know more to this story than I have given up on this post. Our anniversary is comming up, so I am going to do a post about our actual ceremony in mid-March.

    Man, you’d think we live in Egypt or something – we’re not that far away (so I keep telling myself). We might come out for the CAIR dinner – so maybe we will all see each other then.

  5. February 7, 2007 4:47 pm

    A lovely post, filled with wisdom and love. Dear Sister, your husband is a very lucky man 🙂

    Ya Haqq!

  6. February 7, 2007 10:29 pm

    When I saw that comment on Captain Chaos’ blog I almost burst into laughter. Good post.

  7. Leibniz permalink
    February 8, 2007 9:47 pm

    Like Haleem I must also add that I have also learnt a number of things about the Bosnian culture. It just shows the diversity of the ummah. The world would be really boring if all of us were alike. 🙂

    Regarding the kissing in the mosque thing, I remember attending a wedding in the mosque where after the ceremony the imam said to the groom, “You may kiss the bride now.” All of a sudden all the people (mostly desis) were shocked and looked at the imam in disbelief. Then he laughed and said, “Just kidding folks.”

  8. February 9, 2007 1:12 pm

    Irving – Thank you

    Anonymous – welcome to my blog (if you haven’t been here b4.)

    Liebniz – I’m glad that you realize the diversity and part of all of this writing is not just because I am proud of my culture but it is to show exactly what you are seing. It is to show that there are different ways about things (I think I end up being on the far left, but it doesn’t matter). Through all of this we can all learn from each other and broaden our horizons, possibly give our children more opportunities from it.

    As for the kiss – that’s too funny. I should post vid of my wedding – for our anniversary. You’d all get a kick out of it. I just may put together a comical vid for hubby as a present. (inshallah he won’t catch this comment) he can’t keep up with my writting.

    Jihad – it’s a no go on the CAIR event 😦

  9. nadia permalink
    March 23, 2007 5:27 pm

    as-Salaamu ‘alaikum- i stumbled onto your blog and read this post- real sweet 🙂

    got any ideas for me to find a guy?… i’m still looking (in Toronto). my “checklist” isn’t long at all :S

  10. March 23, 2007 9:34 pm

    well nadia – i do have a brother, but he’s out here in Chicago.

  11. nadia permalink
    March 24, 2007 2:59 am


    you’re adorable! offering me your brother– i could be a weirdo, you know 😛 KIDDING!!

    pls email me at my addie- i’d be happy to fill you in on all my specs 😀

    bless u. i would appreciate any leads/ideas. i am serious about finding my soulmate.

    take care + have a super weekend 🙂

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