I have two matters troubling me of late, so its time for a double post!
The Difficulties of Public Muslim-ness
I have been trying to slowly integrate Muslim rituals into my daily life in order to see if I can get comfortable with the practices. In private, its been remarkably easy: I love wudhu (so refreshing!), I’m learning to say the Opening surah in Arabic (beautiful – at least when other people say it), and although I’m not praying salat yet, I am praying informally throughout the day, which has been a subtly powerful experience. The problems for me seem to arise outside the home… primarily at work.
I’m not going to go into detail about what I do for a living. Its retail and I hate it, and I’m going to leave it at that. The women’s bathroom has a sink and two stalls. The stalls have latches, the door to the bathroom doesn’t. It is used by employees and customers alike and its usually pretty busy in there… lots of people coming and going while a person is at the sink. I try to do wudhu as fast as I possibly can, but it feels like I’m being sneaky and it certainly doesn’t make me feel very spiritual. Also, this bathroom is pretty gross – it doesn’t get cleaned nearly enough for the amount of traffic it gets, despite multiple complaints. I REFUSE to take my shoes of in there to wash my feet. Even if I had guaranteed privacy, there is no way I would feel clean afterwards. Performing ablutions at home only helps a little; I work 8 hour days, sometimes more… sooner or later nature calls. The other problem is finding a place to prostrate. There are no private areas at work. The best I could do is to find a corner of the parking lot thats slightly obscured and hope it doesn’t rain.
I just don’t feel ready to be “out”, so to speak. I’m still trying to figure out if Islam is right for me, but I feel I have to try living as a Muslim to know that. Even if I was ready, I don’t think my religion should be a public display. For those who would advise that I find a different job – believe me, I would if I could. The economy sucks right now, and I’m making more than average for a retail job. Until I finish school, my prospects are pretty sad. I’m really not sure what to do.
On the Matter of Love & Marriage
This is going to be a bit more personal (so try to remember my life has been pretty non-religious until recently – and don’t get all judge-y). I recently read a thread on Free-Minds.Org about Islam’s stand on premarital sex and it got me thinking. I want to know: how is marriage defined in Islam? Is a couple considered married if they are legally married by the state? Is a couple considered married if they meet some other standard, even if they don’t get legally married? Is marriage about paperwork, or about the promises exchanged between two people?
I have a boyfriend. We’ve been together nearly 7 years. We lived separately for the first couple years, then I started staying at his place about half the time, and the last 3-4 years we’ve lived together. And yes, we’ve been sexually intimate for the vast majority of the relationship. We’ve also been faithful companions to each other, supporting each other through hard times and enjoying each other in good times. We’ve talked about getting married… I guess both of us just have trouble seeing how it would change things. We both have divorced parents and have seen friends and family jump into loveless marriages – the act of marriage didn’t improve things for them. And on a practical level, marriage is not cheap! Finally, a long time ago I promised my mother I would finish college before I got married… neither of us predicted it would take me this long to get through school, but I try to keep my promises.
I guess I feel that in the ways that matter, he is already my husband. We’ve exchanged promises about our lives together and our future, we’ve got dozens of friends and family who have witnessed our devotion, and we’ve outlasted several actual marriages. He’s part of my family and I’m part of his. I can’t believe that the life we’ve had together – sex and all – is a bad thing. But would it be considered bad in Islam? Thats what I hope to find out.