(For All The Sitties And Josephs)
Forgive me, Mother, for I may have sinned. I am with someone.
You taught me to cover my head, which I followed all through my adult life. But one morning I grew impatient. I discovered it was less stifling to let loose some strands of hair. The wind was cold, so I let it through.
Sinned, in the language of Baba. But you, you did not teach me to guard my heart. You encouraged me, in your silence, to find happiness as long as I kept my virtue, especially my faith. I am keeping my word. Would sin then include welcoming into the fold a man who has willingly embraced our beliefs and customs? That he and I shall serve the Almighty together. I am always to remember that Jannah1 is beneath a husband’s feet.
[Photo by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz]
Forgive me, Mother, for I may have failed you. I chose someone for myself.
I know the story of Umm Sulaym and Abu Talhah2. I learned how she was told it was better for her that Allah guided one person to Islam through her. I followed the honorable woman of the past like a dutiful daughter. I know the standards, beginning with a man’s religious commitment, seconded by his attitude and then physical attributes and financial ability. Most importantly, I am empowered by our faith to choose my own husband.
I chose well, I must say. Would you still think me as a failure when he has passed the test?
You made sure I was wrapped with royalty. I assure you the sound of the kulintang follows me everywhere. Once, when I visited his home to meet everyone, I thought I heard an agong cheering me on.
They too are royalty. They talked casually about their jobs at topmost government offices and trips to Europe. I saw attractive wood carvings and fine china. The decorations on that particular December night were so refined I invoked Astagfirullah3 for yet again appreciating the season. I invoked Astagfirullah many times as I let myself hum along Christmas carols that danced around me.
How sophisticated they are and well-mannered, the crowd in Montiya would surely be mesmerized. They said my hijablooked delicate and beautiful as my skin. Would you feel betrayed if I say I like them better than some of our inquisitive relatives?
Mother, I wear my dignity like a crown. He has committed himself to Allah so that he can marry me.
Would you dispute the holy words now and blindly call me a sinful woman or a failure of a daughter?
Hear me. Hear this verse as it was constantly recited in the halls of matrimony, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts.”
Mother, I have already made up my mind. Please bless us with your consent and acceptance.
1 Paradise. Islam says a woman who prays her 5 obligatory prayers, fasts during Ramadan, and honors and respects her husband may enter Paradise by any of its gates she wishes. Islam likewise teaches the equal obligation of men to live with their wives in kindness and devotion—“the best among you are those who treat their wives well.”
2 One of the finest men in Madeenah during Prophet Muhammad’s time. He converted to Islam to marry Umm Sulaym.
3 Invocation for repentance
Arifah Macacua Jamil was raised in Lanao del Sur. She graduated from the BA English program of UP Mindanao. Currently based in Manila, she likes to talk to children.