• Ayah

The Car

I remember not long after I gave birth to my child, my ex- husband came home with a slick two -door sports car. I was utterly unimpressed. Apart from being kept completely in the dark regarding this acquisition, the car symbolised the massive schism between our outlooks.


When we were getting to know each other for marriage years before, he showed me his parents’ home on Google maps. It was, and is, a huge, gorgeous house, with a lovely garden. However, being the outspoken and opinionated woman I am, I did not hesitate to share with him that I had absolutely no desire to acquire or reside in a large house, explained my values of simplicity and keeping a low profile materially. He assured me that he was on board with me.


One of the reasons I was drawn to him was he had been a student of certain scholars I admire, and knowing that he revered sacred knowledge and enjoyed learning, I assumed that I was marrying a talibalilm, a student of sacred knowledge. I had a specific and rigid construct in my mind what that would mean. Essentially, to me it would mean a shared life dedicated to continuous study, travel and a modest lifestyle.


My husband coming home with a flashy sports car was a trigger for me, because it was as if he had breached this imaginary, sacred contract we had in our pre-marriage phase. I was put off by loud, outward expressions of materialism in general. When I would hear the obnoxious roaring engine when he’d turn on the ignition, I’d feel a surge of vexation within. “Tread lightly on the earth”. What the hell was this? We have elderly neighbours, this is a most unreasonable and offensive car.


There were other reasons for loathing the car: My ex- husband still had a massive amount of school debt, and I was disappointed that he would lead a life of apparent luxury, despite still have looming debt. I also didn’t like the fact that it would inevitably be a head- turner. I told him driving that car was the equivalent of me stepping out of the home with no hijab, with heels and make-up. It would attract attention. He thought that was a ridiculous analogy, but he would admit to me that even cops stopped him on the road to praise and comment on his car, and I had personally seen people in the Whole Foods parking lot walk up to his car and admire it. How could he be comfortable with the gaze of other people on himself and his vehicle was beyond my understanding. From his perspective, he had an appreciation for the engineering and speed of it, and didn’t give a damn what other people thought of his car or of him, and he was just having some fun (the ultimate Sanguine). He also didn’t discuss the acquisition of it with me because he felt it was a personal choice and had absolutely nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with me?! I felt that exhibitive purchases affect the culture of our family, and is something we should at least have shura about.


Here we see what inevitably occurs in marriage: two good people who have good intentions but a different perspective on a matter. It’s not that we had grossly divergent values, but our perspectives of those values were so different. Generally in marriage, it is impossible to agree on everything. Now that I am divorced, I ponder what are the fundamental values I have that are non-negotiable, versus the ones on which I am more lenient? I don’t want to repeat the mistakes I’ve made in my future marriage (one day, in sha Allah). How rigidly do I need to stick to my philosophy of simplicity? I might be comfortable with my second husband having a ridiculously expensive, loud car, if he was financially supporting students of sacred knowledge and orphans. If he was not supporting others financially, I would feel embarrassed and awkward with a public and opulent display of his vehicle, despite his benign intentions. My expectations from a spouse will need to inevitably be reevaluated, and this is an ongoing process.


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