Single, Muslim and Eligible. Now what?

“Are you married?” they ask as they glance at my ringless ring finger.

I have gotten this question from Muslims, Christians, whites, blacks, men, women, children and especially my students. This question knows no single demographic.

However, the degree of shock to my 30 years of singlehood is most dramatic within my Arab community – especially with my Middle Eastern students.

“What? You’re not married? I have an uncle you know…”

“You’re 30 and not married? Stop scaring them away, Ms. Saidi!”

“Ms. Saidi – I got your back. I made you a profile on eHarmony. You’ve already gotten 23 matches!”

“Don’t you want little Ms. Saidi’s in the world running around with red pens correcting grammar?!”

Each of these quotes has been said with the best of intentions, but it underlies a greater pressure for women (in any culture I think) to be married before 30. After this milestone year, people start to wonder what may be wrong with her (make that me).

I once had a potential suitor – after two days of courting – tell me that I was the one. However, after presenting his intent to marry me to his family and sharing that I was twenty-eight years old, his mother went from being elated to being concerned.

“Why isn’t she married?” mother queried. “Will she be able to have healthy children? Is she too career-oriented? She’ll be old by the time your children are ready for college. Did you think this through?”

Marriage is for better or worse and it seemed the mother convinced her son that he could totally control all factors to ensure that “worse” never came into the picture.

Thankfully, I grew up with strong Muslim women who never ever believed in the Maguire Principle: “You complete me.”

“Never need a man,” my mother would advise my sisters and me. “Never need anyone besides God and you’ll never find yourself in a miserable marriage.” My mother knew what she was talking about.

My mother’s father died while she was an infant. She was the oldest of six half siblings. She was married as a young teenager, brought to America without a driver’s license, illiterate in English and Arabic and only able to speak her mother tongue where no one understood her besides her husband who worked 10-15 hour shifts on the line at Chrysler.

Yet, with all these obstacles, my mother raised five children, got us all enrolled in public schools, found us tutors for our Arabic and Islamic studies, found the time to go to adult education classes to learn English, study and pass the US citizenship exam, and never failed to have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table and the house running like a machine with each of her children sharing in the responsibilities of being a member of a loving, growing family.

I barely remember my father as a child (he’s awesome in his own right), but my mother showed by example that independence breeds self-efficacy, power, and respect of self and others.

Some women may count on a man to bring them all these but therein lies the worst sort of dependence.

To my students and everyone who asks me if I’m married, I say that it will come when the time is right.

Marriage should be seen as a supplement to one’s already fulfilling life, not a necessity.


About Ammerah

Ammerah Saidi's life is a weave of her Muslin heritage, Detroit roots, and a commitment to guide others in their own transformation and development. Her identities as a Muslim and teacher have stirred her life with purpose and direction. Ammerah's work as an educator in under-privileged communities and volunteer as a youth and community organizer takes her from the classroom to the streets. The second of five children of Yemen immigrant parents, Ammerah's Islamic faith, Yemeni heritage, and American upbringing have shaped her perspective as a socially conscious citizen of the world.


5 Responses to Single, Muslim and Eligible. Now what?

  1. Khalil September 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    I totally get you, on this article. Marriage is such a tricky, slope and you tend to wonder, more often than not, if the person you decide to move forward with has your best intentions at heart and if you have their best intentions at heart.

    Having been in a dead-end engagement where I was told I was selfish, mean, stubborn and harsh-hearted, it was a real wake-up call and I quickly pulled away from the situation though the other side still wanted to get married as soon as possible.

    Suffice to say, I was and still am jaded. I’d like to think I know myself well enough to know that I don’t want to be cruel to anyone nor to make life a horrible experience for anyone, especially someone who would be my spouse.

    That said, I have decided being single is easier if the alternative is making someone else have a miserable life.

    All this to say, I totally get you on living the single life. It’s not great or glamorous, or even easy, but sometimes, it makes you feel you are at your best and you are better to others that way.

    So keep doing what you are doing. and I especially like the quote “You only need God”. Alhamdulillah, that is so true! If you are destined to be with a spouse, God will provide you both with each other. I wish you all the best. Thanks for writing this article. It put a smile on my face.

  2. Shaeema June 9, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    And it’s not only the Arab custom either! The Pakistanis, Indians… I’ve heard it plenty of times. But I totally agree with you, and I’ve never prejudged you for not being married. Perhaps its because I knew you so well, and saw how.. RIGHT you were– in every aspect! Nothing you did was considered wrong by me, and I always knew there was a good reason and intention behind it. Although I have definitely asked you myself about marriage often, I always remembered what you said to me when I asked you the first time. That time you came back from Yemen, and told me of the many proposals you received that week, and I had wondered about it, and you had told me. You would not marry a man whose faith was weak– that was your only requirement (oh and cooking! haha). It’s completely logical, someone whose faith was very strong, and I’m incredibly happy for you right now that you’ve found him. Wish you the best of.. life, and Allah’s blessings, and you always remain just as lively, independent, and brilliant as you are, Miss Saidi. Love you <3

  3. Nadia May 31, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    I completely agree! I’m married and have been for 4 years now but I’ve always said that I was “Whole” prior to marriage. I didn’t want my other half, but rather wanted someone who would complement my life. I am guilty of asking people if they are married but it’s with good intentions. Anyway, thank you for writing such a great article! I shall be passing it on to my friends.

  4. Qasim Ahmad May 31, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    Imam Yusuf Estes says otherwise.

  5. From Houston May 16, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Just thought, it’s not fair not to acknowledge the dad’s contribution if he’s working 15hrs shift to provide for the family…
    Otherwise, agree …

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