Growing up, I think almost every girl has dreamed of being married to the love of their life. We’ve probably played, imagined and replayed our fantasy wedding in our heads not just once, but probably at least a few dozen times. From the dress, the lights, the decor, the makeup - everything. I too was one of those girls. I imagined my wedding day to be perfect, and envisioned it to be the best day of my life.
But, then there is something called life. We plan and we plan, yet the complete unimaginable, happens. When I turned 23, my parents started talking to me about my marriage. *Eeks* I had mixed feelings. But, to my utter disbelief, my fantasy wedding dream was crushed in simply moments- when my father told me my marriage has been fixed with one of my relatives back home.
I refused. I rejected. I cried. I screamed, but no matter how much I conveyed my opposition to this marriage, the more I felt like a ghost. No one listened to me, no one heard me. My voice was silenced. I had NO say, even in my own marriage. Were these the parents that had raised me- I started to question myself.
Fast forward within a few weeks, I was sitting back home in Pakistan about to sign my life away to someone whom I had never even seen or spoken to, a complete stranger. I frantically looked for my father, hoping that maybe just maybe he would listen to the plea of his beloved daughter right before the Nikkah ceremony took place. To my utter disbelief, my father had said “yes” on my behalf, and there I was married to my distant relative. But, wait, is that even allowed? Is it even permissible for my father to agree and sign the Nikkah papers on my behalf? I had a million questions and wanted to scream at the top of my lungs until everyone heard me. Yet, all I could do was remain silent.
I ended up living in Pakistan with my husband for about a year and a half before returning to Canada. Each day with him felt like a living nightmare that would suddenly end and I would wake up from a horrible dream. Canada was my only escape that I looked forward to. As soon as I came to Canada I started contacting various scholars and questioned the validity of my marriage as my father had spoken on my behalf and accepted the marriage for me. Luckily, my instincts were correct. I was told that Islamically if a woman did not have a say and was not present during the Nikkah ceremony, then the marriage is nullified as it is done without her consent.
Upon hearing this, a sense of relief overcame me; Alhamdulillah. There was no way I was going to go back to my “so-called” husband back home. I wanted to get married to someone whom I actually loved. And that was my family friend; Ali, who lived in Afghanistan. Upon hearing the news that my marriage was invalid, I bought a ticket to Afghanistan and went to marry the man of my dreams. Although this is not how I had envisioned my wedding, but unfortunately my parents had left me with no choice. A few months later after being married to Ali, I realized that I was pregnant with my first baby. I decided it was time for me to go back to Canada, so that I can start the paperwork for my husband and we can start a new life together in Canada.
Life in Canada took abrupt turns. Of course, as expected, my parents were extremely ashamed and disappointed with my decision to marry the man of my choice. To them, my first marriage was still valid and I was nothing but a disgrace to them. As a result, they decided not to tell anyone about my marriage to Ali. But, they did have the guts to kick me out of the very house I grew up in, with my unborn child, and vowed to never accept me or my baby into their lives again.
Being extremely traumatized, I gathered my belongings and landed in a random shelter in Toronto. Over here I did not feel safe, but I had no choice. I stayed at the shelter for a few days, praying to God to help me out. Within a few days at the shelter, I gave birth to my child in the hospital, all alone. No one came to visit me. No one came to congratulate me or my baby. No one came to see if we were okay. Not a single soul. And that is when I realized I have to be my own saviour.
When I was released from the hospital, I ended up going to another shelter. However, the shelter would not allow me to stay longer than a few days as it was an emergency shelter. And my situation with my new-born baby seemed like it was more than just a short term solution, I needed long-term help.
Luckily, a caseworker at the shelter told me to look into transitional housing, and I came across Nisa Homes. Nisa Homes is where I finally felt safe, loved, and taken care of, after a very long time. While at the shelter, I tried several times to reach out to my parents and tell them that they have become grandparents. I thought maybe they would want to hold their precious grandson in their arms and their ice-cold hearts would melt. But, as always, I was wrong. I had to be my own saviour.
Nisa Homes helped me complete all the necessary paperwork towards becoming self-sustainable. While in the process of finishing my paperwork for social assistance, I was feeling very low and I ended up contacting my mother again. To my surprise, my mother was being herself again with me. She was speaking to me with so much love and affection, as if she genuinely missed her daughter and wanted me to come back home. My mother convinced me to come home and that they are going to be accepting of my new marriage as well as their grandson. Overnight, I packed up my belongings and disappeared from Nisa Homes back to my parent’s house.
The moment I left Nisa Homes, I regretted my decision. I realized my parents had just put up a facade with me and their true colours were evident when I was living at their house again. Upon my arrival all my devices that would help connect me to the outside world were confiscated. I was not allowed to have a phone, or have access to the internet/email. I was being monitored 24/7. I was not allowed to leave the house alone, or do anything without consent. I felt like a criminal within my own home. And even if I did need to step out, I was not allowed to take my son with me. They knew far too well that I would never escape without my son. Aside from my devices being confiscated, the most painful part amongst all this was when the abuse started from my own father. I was abused physically, verbally, emotionally, and mentally by none other than my very own father. I was heartbroken. Each day living in my parents home felt like agony. The mental torture, the backlash, the look of disgust was driving me into depression. I had never felt so incredibly numb, I needed to escape.
I slowly started planning my escape back to Nisa Homes. Occasionally, I was allowed to use my mother’s cell to make important phone calls, so I decided to buy myself my own sim card. Every time I had the opportunity to use my mother’s cell, I would switch the sim cards and contact Nisa Homes. I explained my whole situation to Nisa Homes and told them how much I regretted leaving them. It was very tricky to plan my escape as I never knew when I would have access to a phone or not. Luckily, Alhamdulillah, Nisa Homes still had space for me to come back.
One night, after endless prayers, I got lucky and my parents had fallen asleep. I quickly plugged in my sim card into my mother’s cell and called Nisa Homes at midnight. I contacted the Regional Manager of Nisa homes and fortunately she offered to come pick my child and I up in the middle of the night. I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I was to go back to Nisa Homes. It was about time I stopped relying on others and stood on my own feet for myself and the sake of my child. I had to be my own saviour.
Today, Nisa Homes has helped me transition into my own apartment. I am self-sustainable with my 4 year old baby, I work full time and provide for my baby. I have also filled the necessary paperwork for my husband to come to Canada and live with us. Alhamdulillah after a very long time, I feel like I might be getting my happy ending after-all. None of this would have been possible without an initiative like Nisa Homes. I thank Allah each and everyday for organizations such as these. They really helped me become my very own saviour.