Biryani’s Love for Jollof

by Samrah Chand Akhtar

I looked into Khalid’s warm, kind calm brown eyes and my heart was pounding as we exchanged our sacred vows during our Nikah, I became overwhelmed with a new found rush of respect, love and excitement, “I accept to marry you, according to the book of Allah, the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)”, our promises to one another, plans for this life and the hereafter…

As a millennial, I didn’t really consider or vision myself as somebody who would tie the knot and I even used to joke about marrying myself! I transitioned from a commitment-phobe to recently having tied the knot Islamically (because ya’ll know I’m playing hard to get for that civil ceremony marriage). For real, I honestly never planned to find or be in love like this, Allah’s plans caught me completely off guard whilst I was living my best life to an even better life. So marriage in Islam is considered to be completing half of one’s deen (Muslim way of life), Allah “created us in pairs”, and for me it’s been so much more than completing a jigsaw. It’s felt like I’ve added to my heart and life, a person and plans that I never foresaw.

What makes Khalid even more beautiful for my marriage and I is that we aren’t from the same race, we are two people who have been able to come together regardless of our noticeable differences. He’s mixed Nigerian and Somalian and I am Pakistani. Islam, the unity of one brotherhood and love for Allah, has been a solid foundation for us to know that our different cultures are nothing less than beautiful and exciting. His favourite dish may be Jollof rice and mine tends to be Chicken Biryani. So we’ll make both during Iftar, Eid, birthdays, rendezvous’ etc. Even better! Our cultural beliefs and upbringing may have been slightly different, that’s cool. No biggie. Our love for Islam, practises and personal morals remain aligned.

This past Ramadan, Khalid and I had the pleasure of attending some of Ramadan Tent Projects biggest Open Iftars, this was so amazingly overwhelming to see Muslims from all over the world and different faiths come together to experience the beauty of one of Islam’s main pillars: Sawm (fasting from dawn to dusk during our sacred month). I sat with African Muslims, Caribbean Muslims, Malaysian Muslims, Middle Eastern Muslims to name a few! London is the hub for diversity and breaking fast in Trafalgar Square with what felt like a Geography book of the world’s nations was honestly one of the most amazing experiences ever.

This relationship has been an educational journey for me, whether that’s the maturity of being accountable for somebody other than myself, the meaning of love or finding newfound likes and enjoyment from another culture. I didn’t know much about Afro-beats, Wizkid was alien to me (and I’m talking before “Come Closer” 2017) but now my Apple Music has an entire separate playlist which appreciates the beats and uniqueness of this cultures art. Then at the other end of the spectrum, Khaild has become a sucker for Bollywood, his favourite actor is Sharukh Khan, he’s known to sing the Khabi Kushi Khabi Gham soundtrack and he’s definitely watched more of these films than I probably have!

Whilst Khalid has had to compete with Damon Salvatore, Chuck Bass and Derek Shepherd, at 25 and 26 years of age, in London, we’ve been able to bring together our deen, British vibe and native customs together. He’s the Jollof to my Biryani. Serendipity man. It trapped me. We’re so young Alhamdulillah and it’s an exciting journey for everybody who is part of our lives. What really assures me is that I didn’t expect anything, I had painted a completely different idea of what my life and marital status would be, yet Allah surprised me with His plans. So I trust in that. I trust that Khalid and I, our families and inshallah future to come, will be able to overcome whatever differences we may face from our cultures, ethnicities and our saviour will be being grounded with Islamic views.  

I can imagine that it is difficult to “bring home” or introduce certain family or friends to some potential relationships and couples. It can be daunting to hear from the people that you love, that the person you love doesn’t fit the family ‘requirement’ because of a difference of ethnic backgrounds or culture. Do not let this stop you. You must fight for what you strongly believe in and love in this lifetime. Your choice of spouse should not be limited to a skin colour, ethnicity, area code or village. I proactively encourage the beauty of being united, I shared the following on our Nikah Thank You notes: “An important part of marriage and relationships is accepting, sharing and celebrating our differences as Allah has, “created us male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you” [Quran 49:13]”.

I have come to learn (a rollercoaster of realisation) that love is patient, love is kind, love is epic, love is growing together in your own lanes but next to one another, love is a team, love is supporting one another even if you don’t get it, love is not always trying to “get it”, love is selfless, love is not judging one anothers faults, love is forgiving, love is challenging, love is reasonable, love is finding the solution together, and love is fighting for one another. That is love, at its very least. As Love is ever-growing. Love always wins…

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