In celebration of LOVE & the DIVINE
Good morning to the beautiful curious creatures that have awaited my intimate reflection during this holiday break. In celebration of my becoming, I have put together a few sacred entries on the traditions celebrated in Islamic marriages, highlighting the Imam Zamin. While nourishing my own sense of self-worth and having advocated for those around me that were voiceless, I realized that there weren't enough voices supporting the diversity of Muslim marriages in the wedding industry, which is why I have put this journal entry together.
Having worked in the wedding industry as a Henna Artist, a healer for my Brides as an energy worker, I found myself short of breath in expressing the traditions, love and honouring the spirits that made the foundation of my faith. Due to Islamophobia and segregation within the Muslim world; media and politics, I felt that a remedy was needed to help heal the wounds in the hearts of those who were unaware of Islam and its beauty.
I will be making references to the traditions witnessed in a Shia Muslim wedding; the Nikah specifying the importance of the Imam Zaman.
Please note that this is not an article to convert your beliefs, but to lovingly share the heartfelt messages of the Divine light while I reminisce and share one of the most beautiful days of my life.
My name is Saira Hussain and I am human.
I was raised in a Pakistani, Shia Muslim family and the origin of my existence and the purity of my heart are from God who I am forever grateful for.
My ancestry is HUMAN and DIVINE.
July 4th 2019.
The most anticipated day of my life was here.
As I arrived into our airbnb in Schomberg, Ontario I witnessed a clearing of thoughts in my mind that transitioned me into a space of newness; a moment of time that was made for me.
Today was our Nikah.
Entering into the space of transformation, I was greeted by my adornment team; Windy and Justin who were setup in our second hallway where Ammi and I would get ready together. My to be husband was arriving soon and I couldn't wait to see him as he was who I had waited so patiently for these past fourteen years to marry..at least that is what I had told my heart.
FOURTEEN years is a long time to wait for someone.
To Shia Muslims, the number fourteen can be seen as representation of knowledge - deen - carriers of the messages of Islam.
FOURTEEN BRANCHES of LIFE & SACRED LINEAGE.
In reference to angel and spirit numbers, the Ahlulbayt and their family are seen in representation of the TREE OF LIFE - the branches that extend from the house of God; the Divine light. They also represent the knowledge and the arms of our deen (faith) and carriers of Islamic knowledge. These are the enlightened members and lineage of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) leading up to our present 12th Imam (who was last seen at age 5, c.873) and will arrive before the end of time to help bring back the enlightenment and power to humanity.
Again, this journal entry is not a scholarly article, but a love letter which I have written in memory of a day that I found great significance while witnessing a sacred step in my well-being.
As I began my process of transformation, I was quiet. As I was trying to embody the sensations that I had read about in every wedding publication before. '..this would be the most magical day of my life and I would be the happiest and most beautiful bride in the world...today'....I couldn't help but feel restless as I had worked every hour till my wedding day. I had completed 2 bridal henna appointments on July 3rd and arrived home at 7 PM (12 hours before I had scheduled my wedding day to begin). But to not overwhelm you, that blog entry will be scheduled for another date.
My inner critic was battling with the exterior hairs that Windy was working on; plucking away as I hadn't the time to schedule in a much needed threading appointment. As I was awaiting my groom and as Tara (our wedding day photographer and friend) was capturing the most beautiful images of our ensembles and intimate ambiance, he arrived. I remember this vividly with his expressions, which lit up the space that would be our home for the next 48 hours. My upper lips were half mowed, but he remembered my dragon fruit tea from Starbucks and to be there on time. That was enough to keep me fuelled for the next few hours till our guests arrived.
In recreation of my well-being through a rose-water hydration mist, a soothing tea and having my friends arrive to help with setup, I recognized that there was a lingering discomfort within my fascia that left a chill within my bones. Difficulty would be the safe word chosen here in representation of the state that had overcome me. As I looked at myself in the tall standing mirror in my custom made Nikah gown, I felt a sadness come over in which led to the following questions...
'...Did I rush into this marriage without reflecting upon my Nikah-nama? Who would be there to guide me? What if the wait for the longing of love wasn't enough to keep me happy? Who would address the feelings within me and who would guide me to carry forward the faith that I so deeply wanted to connect and build my future with?..'
I simply felt as if I didn't give enough time to studying the beliefs of what I found as encouragement to seek a partner of similar teachings. Were we the same? How would we ever prove this to our creator? Love had already changed, but why today? I reassured myself that these were simply butterflies of the inner critic inside me.
All of our guests had arrived and as my train was being adorned with the baby's breath that I had ordered for the spiritual entrance of my becoming (symbolism and ambiance are two parts of a marriage that I believe make or break an emotional release). My sacred space of reflection was suddenly disturbed by my father who was processing agonizing emotions that were seen in the unsettling nature of his half combed hair and grey frown on his face. He was giving away his eldest daughter. If I was to say rushed, I would be underestimating the lack of time that the Maulana selected had provided me and my family on our Nikah day.
Before moving forward with my Nikah and the Imam Zamin, I wanted to share with you that I cannot write this reflection without some humour and the very real emotions that took place that day.
All this time I had been planning the most sacred space in witnessing what would be the most divine celebration of our love and here I was separated in a room away from the man that I built this relationship with. I knew that there had to be a reason why I was being tested, even after awaiting more than a decade to build our home together. For me, witnessing our marriage side by side by a form of symbolism in our mirrored emotions, our heart's will to strengthen and never give up on our relationship. This was not followed through.
Traditionally in a Nikah, the woman is inside a room where the Islamic family tree are represented in beautifully garnished Alams (flags embellished with their names in Arabic - Ali, Fatima and their children and grand children) with fresh florals, candles radiating with their light and rose water filling the room with cleanse and clarity. This space is considered an altar; a place of prayer and reflection. As someone who loves aromatherapy and building sacred altars, this very representation was dearly missed during the process of our Nikah. Traditionally, in Pakistani households, the Nikah is commenced out of the bride's home (with her rooted upbringing of love and belongings) or a spiritual home - a mosque in which her divine guardians are there to guide and protect the couple.
Having closed my eyes under the veil of Ammi (my mother)'s dupatta, I connected with my heart to mould the rented guest room into the space of prayer and divine blessing with the women closest to me. If I could suggest one thing, it would be to lessen your expectations of the perfect marriage as this does not exist. What is perfect is the essence of your being and th0e messages in which you are seeking for clear, conscious alignment within your marriage. But again, nothing is ever linear in reaching this destination. So be gentle. All marriages have their challenges, which are placed in strengthening the faith (for the self, God or the Universe) of each individual on this journey. I knew I had to let go of control in this very moment or else I wouldn't have been able to move with my heart's consent.
As I was about to react to the anxiety within my mind, I witnessed the intricate threads of gold and luxurious scarlet red that redirected me on my present chosen path.
During our Nikah...
My radiant Ammi came into the room and she tied the Imam Zamin, the beautiful words of Bibi Fatima (the first lady of Islam) onto my right arm, nearest to my heart. This was the second act of transitioning into my marriage - the ritual seen as a symbol of love and eternal blessing of our divine and Ahlulbayt. This is seen as the oath in taking responsibility of the Alams (the flags of our spiritual leaders) and continuing their message - to continue with peace and prosperity here on earth with love, equality and compassion for one another.
I was now adorned with the sacred name of Lady Fatima - the Prophet's daughter) and mother of the root of the family tree. Having her name on my right arm ignited a powerful light within me that reminded me of my responsibilities as a woman first, then a daughter, then wife. I was a voice for the voiceless, a woman protected by the ancestry of courage, patience, and immense sacrifice to carry forth the messages of well-being in the best way possible.
As I had my ritual blessing, my husband too had his earlier in a separate room with the holy name of Imam Ali (a.s) tied on his arm by his mother. His name represents the strength of our faith, lineage and courage - some excerpts from Islamic verses quote him as the LION or most powerful next to the Prophet (peace be upon him) within Islam. These two names associated with our Imam Zamin were jewels gifted to us in the beginning of our celebration as husband and wife (traditionally seen in marriages). We were now blessed by the holiest marriage witnessed in Islamic history - this moment was awaited not only by me but in the hearts of our two families coming together.
As I listened to the words of Maulana Shirazi (who was not my chosen Maulana) I had some difficulty with my breath in finding alignment or compassion for his rushed recitation of what was meant to be the most beautiful awakening of the divine within. I put my hand onto the Imam Zamin and could smell the roses and holy water that had uplifted me from what was first associated with anxiety and emotional outpour. I sat there, facing the bounties of the earth from the window that framed me with the light of the sun. This was the marking of time that had not only celebrated the prosperity of humanity and its well-being, but our responsibilities as man and wife.
1st - google source
2nd - our engagement (2017)
Imam Zamins are also seen in multicoloured fabrics and metal and jewelled upper right arm dressings. Above are a few examples.
Our ornate Imam Zamins were hand crafted in Karachi, Pakistan and in Lahore, Pakistan. My khala (mom's sister) had designed two for us as did my mother-in-law. They were both beautiful and are kept as emblems of our marriage. Traditionally, in south asian marriages, the Imam Zamin is worn on the right arm to protect the bride and groom. As they are congratulated by their guests and family, Sadqa is also taken out for the bride and groom to protect them from the evil eye and other energies that no longer serve them. Historically, it is said that Imam Reza was the first of the 12 Imams to express the need to protect those in the lineage of the believers of Islam. Due to political restlessness in the Caliphate dynasty, many believers of the Ahlulbayt were disregarded and killed. To protect the lineage, the Imam Zamin was created to protect the believers of Islam and their kin when traveling. Today we can see protection rituals in the performance of safe, planting an amethyst crystal in the front of your home, praying and creating boundaries. Similarly, we can put ourselves in the shoes of a devoted mother as she prays for her child's well-being when they depart home. Her heart doesn't know how to let go of her kin, but she prays for the safety of their journey in the next period of their life. The Sadqa and Imam Zamin were created to protect the believers of Islam; peace within humanity and those connected to their divine light - God. Even though, times are now different (what we see in North America), any parent would have difficulty when their child is leaving home. This departure is culturally called 'the Ruksati' in South Asian Muslim communities..
Above images: My Ammi (mother in urdu) tying the Imam Zamin on my right arm with the sacred name of Lady Fatima.
As the words of sacred union continued to express the minutes used to pronounce Ayaz and I as husband and wife, I found myself reliant on the sounds of embrace to announce that this sacred procession had completed. As my My veil was lifted carefully by my mother and aunts and everyone came in to share their congratulations upon the union of our love.
Even though my husband had been awaiting my arrival in the sacred space that was created for our marriage rituals, I felt as if I had already received his loving oath of faith and willingness to protect and guide our relationship with the holy blessings of God through the Imam of our time. The foundation of the Imam zaman pronounced its powers in reawakening my spirit, even though I began the day with unannounced anxiety and blockages in my vision. The symbolism of the coin on our right arms with the embroidered names of Bibi Fatima and Imam Ali (a,s) were enough reassurance that the divine is watching over us; guiding us along our journey ahead.
This was when I transformed into the woman of my time and rose next to the standing tree of life within my deen to pay gratitude for they had sacrificed their lives to provide us the opportunities to speak freely, with courage and love as believers in the creator. The battle of Kerbala will forever remain in our lives as the moment that changed history in humanity. Being a Muslim today is a responsibility, but so is to be any good-hearted human with the time to build awareness and use knowledge as power. We all have a commitment when in marriage of the self or with a partner who we choose. The Imam Zaman is not only seen traditionally in south asian Muslim weddings today, but also is seen when Muslims travel throughout their lives (travels to and from other countries), tying coloured fabrics on their luggage and right arm for protection for a safe & healthy journey. The Quran and the Ahlulbayt were left from our Prophet (p.b.u.h) to seek further guidance. As with the relationship of love is the divine relationship with the self. When you are protecting yourself with boundaries, you are too making a commitment with yourself on the path of justice, peace, and compassion. The overall message of this journal entry began with the story of love, which I have shared with you now. I hope that my story in celebrating my marriage and the traditions practiced in Shia Muslim marriages inspires you to move ahead with faith in the self and the divine light inside you.
***Many more details to come in celebrating love and the learned lessons of our first year of marriage together. To stay connected and to hear more stories, kindly share your email with me and leave a comment below.
May your holidays be full of the light that you need you heal your past wounds and welcome the divine that lives inside you.
I am human. I am a creator. And I am a believer in the divine light within.
With love & gratitude,