I graduated from Columbia University in 2005, which means I was in NYC on 11 September 2001. Three years later, I accepted Islam in the very same place. I finished class in December of 2005, and started looking for a job. On a whim, I applied to be a substitute teacher in the same school district I had been educated in, and fell in love with it. Later, in the summer, I got a last minute call from the imam of my masjid, mosque, inviting me to go with him to a conference. I had nothing to do, so an hour later, we were on our way to Houston. There I met an older brother who asked me what my job was. I told him I was looking for a teaching job. It just so happened he was the founder of a small charter school, and he offered me a job in Weslaco, a small town on the Texas-Mexico border.
But what about the marriage, right?
Well, I ended up renting a house that was next door to its owner, an older brother named Rana from Lahore. As his renter, we had done business together, and he knew people with whom I had traveled, so he knew me well and trusted me. Everyone did. We were a small community in a one-mosque town, all Pakistani except, well, me. I soon asked him to help me find a wife. He came back from Pakistan on winter vacation and let me know that there was a family near his home there whose daughter was coming of age. He asked me if I was interested- I said yes. Things went back and forth between my future father-in-law and me, via Rana, for a few months. Finally, he told me that to go further we would all need to meet in person. He invited me to visit Pakistan with him in the summer of 2006 and I agreed.
Our last conversation in America was that I would either get married right away, engaged for later, or one or both parties would decide they weren’t interested.
I arrived in Pakistan in the middle of a July night. I walked out of airport to hundreds of pairs of eyes searching for their arriving loved ones, and staring in the meantime at me. It would be a little easier to stare back at the sun. Luckily Rana walked up to me out of the crowd. Allah decreed that me, Rana, his, a driver, and all our suitcases would all fit into a car with no trunk, and there’s no other way we all would have.
Because of the 12-hour time difference, I couldn’t sleep until late morning. When I finally did, as if on cue, a skinny Pakistani boy woke me up. It was Fahiim, my future brother-in-law, and he didn’t know a word of English. I was nearly in a daze, but we managed to communicate by writing because Urdu is written in an adaptation of the Arabic alphabet, which I happened to know. Between that, hand gestures and a lot of smiles, we both managed to convince the other that we understood what he was saying.
Later, about 6 p.m., I met my future wife’s parents at Rana’s neighbor Saliim’s house. I thought we were going to do a chit-chat introduction, but it turned out I was already engaged!
Yeah, somewhere between my friend’s departure from Texas and my later arrival in Lahore, they decided that we would get married after all. Guess that’s how it goes out there.
The only question I was actually asked was, “Is Friday OK for a wedding date?”