Review: Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Title: Love in a Headscarf: Muslim Woman Seeks the One
Author: Janmohamed, Shelina Zahra
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher / Year: Aurum Press / 2009
Source: Borrowed from Carina
Why I Read It: I was running out of reading material on vacation, and it sounded interesting.
Date Read: 10/04/12
What would it be like to agree to an arranged marriage? In this book Janmohamed takes us along with her on her journey to find love through the arranged marriage networks of her community. Through this we experience her faith, culture, and desires and the ways in which all of these interact.
Janmohamed is a Londoner of south Asian background and her culture as well as her Muslim religion have much to say about love in all forms. After agreeing that she would like to find a husband through the network of friends and relatives, she embarks upon a journey that changes her view of love and of relationships, as well as that help her grow and mature in her own life and faith. Along with her on the journey, we get to see the ways in which this search for ‘the one’ enriches her life in ways she couldn’t begin to imagine.
On page 97 she says:
I found this process amazing. It gave you access to the most instinctive behaviours of another person and then allowed you to see your own unmediated response first-hand. The raw humanity of addressing the issues of spending life together made it the ultimate learning experience.
And it is so true. The process she describes is one where families together take it upon themselves to search for someone kind, respectful, full of faith, and more that will allow two families to mesh together. The lack of pretence or games means that every action counts in a way that it doesn’t with casual dating – instead of overlooking flaws you stop wasting your time and move on. You talk about goals and dreams and fears. I’ve always thought it would be better if life were always like that and you could be upfront about expectations and desires – for example, if one person eventually wants to live in the country on a farm and the other is a city dweller through and through, no matter how much they may like each other, one will have to give up their dream. It seems to me that this process of looking for one whose dreams and goals can mesh with yours is a sensible way to at least start a search for a relationship, and that it is always important to talk about these things.
She discusses as well the difference between religion and culture, and the ways in which culture has set up so many rules and pressures that are no where in the Islamic religion, and the importance of sifting through and finding what is true and what is not in terms of religious requirements. She says on page 135:
Such contradictions finally forced me to understand that faith and culture were completely separate, and I would have to learn to deal with them as separate things.
Although I am not Muslim, I still found much to admire and learn from in Janmohamed’s story of love and how it relates to religion. Her path is one that many would like, I think, to tread – coming to know yourself better and having family and friends there to support you in your search, but one that many are distracted from. I think anyone interested in religion, in love, or in relationships would really enjoy this read.