My biggest fear was to get married into a family that would not care about my passion and educational career. I am living with this fear now.
I was eighteen years old when I got married, the age when I was supposed to complete the twelfth grade, but the circumstances demanded my unwilling "qabool hai” (my agreement to a marriage). The families acted on the marriage proposal in such a hurry that I even had to give my final exams during my wedding events. The only reason for this decision was poverty since I had eleven siblings and my father was a mere taxi driver. My parents thought the proposal suited me, for the interested family belonged to the same area as we did and my husband-to-be was a tailor with a good salary.
What my family didn’t realize was the difference in views between the two families. My father, on one hand, supported educating his daughters just as he did with his sons. He viewed that everyone should be independent irrespective of the gender. To get us all educated, he carried many burdens and even did night shifts of driving in-order to afford all our expenses. On the other hand, the family that I got married into didn’t give any importance to education, especially for girls. My husband had studied till eighth grade while two of my sisters-in-law completed their matric education recently.
But all of them were brought up with the same mentality that girls belong in the kitchen, are born to serve.
I am not a feminist, but I do consider myself a more liberal and open-minded girl who supports women's education due to my upbringing. However, my in-laws are narrow-minded and they have forbidden me from continuing my education or starting a job. All I do now is house chores, but I know I was never meant for this.
Before my marriage, my brother opened an online Qur’an learning academy, and I used to teach there. After my marriage, I started living with my in-laws, and they have not allowed me to teach even the Qur’an, or do any other job. From a Qur’an teacher to a housewife, life has not done justice to my goals.
My life saw a wild turn from staying in a family where people supported girls' education and work more than boys' to moving to another family holding totally opposite views.
A shift after eighteen years was difficult to accept but I know that I have to live with this reality now. I often ask my in-laws to change their mentality due to which they often get angry, but I think being straightforward and truthful is better than filling your heart with bitter feelings for those with whom you have to live until the end.
I have a son who is three years old, and I want him to be an exact copy of my brother. My brother, in my eyes, is the ideal man because of the values he has and the way he was brought up. My brother is currently doing a master’s degree, has an online Qur’an learning academy, and owns a house. All these things make him an inspiration for me.
Moreover, his thinking motivates me as he wants to study till the day he dies because he wants to grasp as much knowledge as possible. I want my son to follow the same pattern, just as my father taught us during our childhood. First, I will send him to learn Qur’anic teachings and then use this lens in guiding him towards the worldly education as I have already taught him many naatein and kalmy.
I expect him to learn the Qur’an by heart and be a Hafiz e Qur’an (Qur’an teacher). The other inspiration that I want him to take from his maternal uncle is to have piety for humanity and to help poor people. I have big dreams for him, the way my father had dreams for me.
I think education is important for a woman because both genders are equal in God’s eye and God’s creatures should not hold discrepancies for any one of them.
But I would recommend to all girls that they should obey their parents' decisions – your parents have a lot of experience and wisdom. They are also the most selfless people on earth who think the best for their children.
My view of society is a bit utopian since I want people to be good and avoid bad deeds. I have high hopes for my son that he will try to promote goodness in society. That’s why I don’t even allow him to go out, since the literacy index in my street is extremely poor. Young children are in the streets, physically and verbally abusing each other. I want my son to stay safe, and I want to protect his character. Even my in-laws want me to send my son out to have some exposure but I don’t want him to be like others in the town.
If I was able to change something, I would have stopped the vanishing importance of our religion, Islam. My major focus would have been on the awareness of education to tell people about its significance and how we would be accountable in the Hereafter. Secondly, I would have promoted education in our society to raise awareness in girls that they should find themselves and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with boys. I was not able to do this because my in-laws didn’t agree with my ambitions, but I believe my son will fulfill my dreams and more.
Written by Arooj Saghir
Edited by Ahmed Rahim Hyder and Adil Rahim Hyder