I am a twice divorced, by choice, single mother of two teenage sons. I am a woman who is educated by Western standards. I have had a successful career in the academic world and in the clinical world. And I struggle. I hustle and I struggle. I am not alone in my struggles. I know of several other sisters who are in the same predicament. The purpose of this article is to introduce myself and my sisters to a larger Muslim audience.
Who are we? We do not know. I, actually, had a discussion with a professor of a major university and was well on the way of developing research methodology to identify who we are. I am limiting this article to the women of North America and particularly the United States. There are no numbers on us. I contacted a major Muslim political rights group and suggested that I head a new department for women’s right. That went very far. I am writing this article. We do not know the number of women who are raising Muslim children singlehandedly in an economy that is plummeting rapidly, and not in our favor. We do not have the demographics to even identify who we are and where we live.
What is our socio-economic status? That is a worthy question. We have no data on this. We need to find out what our educational level is. We need to find out how many are having to go to the state for welfare. We do not have a clue as to how many are working outside the house. How many are working in the house i.e. babysitting or domestic work. We do not know the ages of this group of women.
Why are we single? Many of us exercised our rights to practice our faith. If the marriage for whatever reasons failed we divorced. Some have been abandoned by their husbands. The simple case of the man walks out of the door. There are many of us that have experienced homelessness. Yes, I know sisters with children that have been to homeless shelters. Places that non-Muslim men fear to go. There is the case of the immigrant wife who comes here and adheres to her faith but her husband divorces her for a new lover.
This brings me to the question of what is our biggest struggle. Our biggest struggle is very simple. We have been swept under the rug. We have no voice. We are the ones you see in the grocery store, you see us working in the service industry. You see us taking our children to the Masjid. You will see us at the school functions. We are usually the quiet ones.
We are the outcasts of Muslim society in the US. In the community functions we may not get invited. We are the ones who flock to the Masjids. We run to the Masjid as that is the only place we can really socialize. We meet each other if we can. We are usually too busy trying to make ends meet. We are the ones that hear of others getting married. Most of us are too tired to even try. We have no voice.
We have no voice because men discuss issues. Women talk to their husbands. We have no one to hear our concerns. We are told that the imam is too busy to see us. We are told the wife of the imam may meet us. It is the big may. What can a woman who is married know anything about what we endure? We are not angry. We just smile.
We are the lonely ones. Our loneliness speaks our volumes. We hold firm to our faith. Yes, there is the constant stress of money. We laugh as we discuss how we can make the dollar stretch. Anyone of us could become the secretary of the budget. We can make gourmet meals on the days when the Food Stamp balance is $2.19 and we have a week to go before we are given our monthly credit. Flour is good. We can save the few dollars to have Eid gifts. We find a way to clothe our children. We make ends meet. Some of us have not had a day without attending to the needs of our children in years. Day in and day out, I know of sisters who toil with their children. Never taking the time to take care of themselves, these sisters never complain.
So you say to yourself why she is writing this. I am writing this as an invitation to my other sisters in faith. My biggest struggle as a single Muslim mother is that I feel as if I have been swept under the rug by my Muslim family. Do not be ashamed of my circumstances. Befriend me. You do not see me. Recognize that I exist. That in itself will be a source of liberation for me.
In future articles I will discuss some of the individual struggles we encounter. I will discuss how to discipline your children. I will discuss how to prevent your children from forming friendships with less favorable peers. I will discuss the forgiveness process we have to overcome. I welcome feedback.