Muslim Lesbian MothersbySamuelx©
The universe definitely has a sense of humor, retired schoolteacher Adawiyah "Ada" Abbudin thought to herself as she walked through the crowded halls of the Eaton Shopping Center in the City of Toronto, Ontario. Coming out as a lesbian at the age of fifty four, after being married for more than thirty years and raising a daughter and a son practically by herself. Wow. Surprisingly, when she came out to her children, her sole supporter was her headstrong son Anwar, who remained steadfast in his defense of his mother's right to choose her own path, never mind that it conflicted with some of Islam's most sacred tenets. That's my boy, Ada smiled to herself.
Truth be told, when Ada came out to her children, her eldest and only daughter Bashirah reacted exactly as she expected her to. Her son Anwar's reaction she saw coming, though. Her sole male offspring Anwar wasn't just the only lad in the family, he was also the Black Sheep, the rebel and the one constantly in need of mommy's attention and care. Anwar had been a lot of things in his twenty three years. University of Toronto dropout, construction worker and now, security guard in the unsavory environs of Jane and Finch, in the "hood" of Northern York, Ontario.
Ada shuddered as she thought of all the times her only son had gotten into trouble. Anwar got busted for smoking weed in the washroom while in high school. He got arrested for shoplifting at Wal-Mart the summer after his high school graduation, though the charges were later dropped. The arresting officer, a blonde lady named Judith, chose to bring Anwar home instead of taking him to jail. Ada had been quite thankful for that, since she didn't want her wayward anywhere near hardened criminals and the officer assured her that she totally understood. After all, she was a mother herself. Before leaving, the officer gave Ada her card and assured her that the incident wouldn't go on Anwar's record.
Anwar had been extremely lucky that night. Most Toronto police officers weren't known to for their kindness toward visible minority males who broke the law, especially Black men and Arab men. Ada grabbed Anwar by the ear and told him that if he ever got arrested again, she wouldn't speak to him until the day she died. The trembling young man nodded soberly, for he could tell his mother meant every word. After that incident, Anwar seemed to tone down his wild ways somewhat. He got a job working at Tim Horton's for the rest of the summer, then started university in the fall. After three years at the University of Toronto, he decided he didn't want to study civil engineering anymore and went to the City of Boston, Massachusetts, to live with Donna, a White gal he met over the internet. For eight months, no one in the family heard anything from him. One day, finally, he came home in tears. Apparently, things hadn't worked out with Donna. She was not "the one" after all.
When Anwar came home that night, Ada had just gotten home after going to Masjid for prayer. It was raining, and she'd been too busy hanging her coat on a rack in the closet by the front door to notice Anwar, sitting in the living room, quietly sobbing in the dark. At the sight of him, Ada's heart leapt with joy. My son has come home, she thought. Mama, Anwar said, smiling weakly as she approached him. She should have been mad. For eight months he didn't call, he didn't write, and he didn't text or email, though Ada was no expert on anything related to the web. She did ask her nephew Mohammed to create a Facebook profile for her just in case Anwar decided to contact her, wherever he might be. For months, she hadn't known whether her son was alive or dead. Now there he was, alive and well. Wordlessly she went to him and hugged him fiercely. Praise be to Allah, she thought. My son has come home alive and well.
Though she would never admit such a thing out loud, if Ada had a favorite among her offspring, it would be Anwar. He was the charmer, the prankster and also the moody rebel. He got on your last nerve but he also endeared himself to you. You simply couldn't stay mad at him no matter what he did. Perhaps she'd indulged Anwar too much while he was growing up. Her daughter Bashirah she'd been strict with, of course. Bashirah was her daughter, and she had to protect her from the world, and from herself. Not for the first time she found herself fascinated by how different her daughter and son were from each other.
Anwar was tall, well over six feet, broad-shouldered and brawny, with dark bronze skin, curly Black hair and dark brown eyes. He was the spitting image of his late father Tamir, Allah rest his soul. Not for the first time Ada wished her husband Tamir hadn't died in a hail of gunfire when the grocery store he worked in got robbed by some thugs. Ada vowed to protect her son and daughter from all earthly dangers. This she swore before Allah, on her husband's grave. Like his father, he was impetuous and impulsive, but a gentle soul at heart. Her oldest daughter Bashirah was tall and slender, just under six feet. Like Ada herself she had light bronze skin, emerald and long Black hair. Her features were more "Western" than Arabian. For Ada's mother, Beyza Feridun was a native of the City of Istanbul, Turkey. Bashirah was hot-tempered and fearless, and her voice was strident enough to make even Ada cringe sometimes, though she would never show it.
Bashirah was smart and ambitious, and always got her way. Ada never pressured her daughters to either go to Masjid or wear the Hijab. It simply wasn't her way. Bashirah detested any type of "Muslim clothing" and was thoroughly westernized. Jeans, T-shirts and cowboy hats, those were her favorite things in the world. When she opted to study at the University of Calgary in provincial Alberta, Ada wasn't surprised. While studying in metropolitan Calgary, Bashirah met a handsome young man named Suleiman Amare, an international student from Ethiopia. That her wild and thoroughly westernized daughter would find herself falling in love with a foreign-born Muslim man who was very traditional amused Ada. Yet another example of life's supreme ironies.
Bashirah introduced Suleiman to her mother and younger brother during Christmas break of her freshman year at the University of Calgary. The tall, broad-shouldered and dark-skinned young Ethiopian Muslim student was very friendly and respectful. He wore dark blue Bisht robes and a Kufi hat. Around his neck hung a slender necklace with the colors of the Ethiopian flag emblazoned among its pearls. When Ada inquired about how they met, their answer surprised her. Apparently Suleiman was quite involved with the Islamic Students Association at the University of Calgary and had been handing flyers about interfaith dialogue on campus when he met the very lovely and secular Bashirah.
Upon being introduced to Suleiman that Saturday afternoon at the dinner table, Ada observed him carefully. The young man was smart, and earnest. He was respectful but always looked people in the eye as he spoke to them. When he addressed her, his tone was always polite and measured, but firm. When he spoke to Anwar, the man of the house in his late father's absence, Suleiman spoke to him as he would a grown man, even though Anwar was still in high school. A very prudent move because Anwar was quite protective of his older sister, though he quarreled with her constantly over everything from the remote control to doing the dishes. Either Suleiman had an instinctive grasp of their family dynamics, or Bashirah made sure he'd done his homework. Ada suspected the latter, knowing how methodical her daughter could be.
Of what she saw of Suleiman so far, Ada was pleased, though she reserved judgement. This was only their first meeting, of course. And judging by the adoring gaze he cast upon Bashirah every time he looked at her, he was definitely in love with her. After that first meeting with the two of them, Ada waved Suleiman goodbye, then pulled Bashirah aside to have a word with her daughter. As usual, Bashirah was argumentative and opinionated. She started being defensive and hostile even before Ada uttered a word. Ada grabbed her daughter by the shoulders, and told her to shut up. Bashirah raised her eyebrows, and her thin lips curled in distaste.
Finally I've shut her up, Ada thought. She took a deep breath, then said what she came to say. Looking her eldest daughter in the eyes, Ada told her that Suleiman seemed like a nice young man and that if Bashirah wanted to be with him, she had no objections. When Ada said that, Bashirah suddenly gasped. She smiled at her mother with tears in her emerald eyes. Ada smiled, and tenderly hugged her frequent verbal sparring partner and eldest daughter. It was the first time they'd hugged each other in years.
For weeks afterwards, Bashirah would go on and on about how worried she'd been about how the family would receive her beau, the handsome Suleiman. Let's face it, Bashirah said, a lot of Arab men have Black girlfriends but when an Arab lady goes for a Black man, even if he's Muslim, people seem to get mad. They were sitting at the kitchen table, having breakfast. The Prophet himself said there is no race in Islam, Ada intoned. Many of our people forget that, and treat the Africans and others as inferiors. But not all of us are like that. With that, she gently squeezed her daughter's hand and winked at her. Bashirah smiled.
Ada gazed at the throngs of mall goers, for lack of a better term. After leaving her native Morocco for Canada more than thirty years ago, places like shopping centers still had the power to amaze her. A young couple sitting inside the food court caught her attention. A young man of African descent handed flowers to his girlfriend, a chubby blonde-haired White girl. She blushed, and kissed him after practically snatching the flowers from him. Ada shook her head. The girl obviously had an appetite for a lot of things, not that her boyfriend seemed to mind. Ada's gaze drifted from them to a young Black woman talking on her cell phone. The young lady's outfit raised Ada's eyebrows, and brought another smile to her thin lips. Red tank top and short blue skirt, in the dead of winter. This young lady was certainly adventurous, that's for sure.
Ada continued with her little mid-afternoon stroll, and walked into a bookstore. She stopped at her favorite section, which featured the works of her favorite author. The famed African-American erotica writer Zane, author of Shame On It All and Ada's all-time favorite book ( other than the noble Quran itself ) Purple Panties, an anthology of lesbian erotic fiction. Ada had devoured that book in two nights, reading it from cover to cover. The graphic love scenes both shocked her and appealed to her. This was lesbian erotica done right, she thought with a smile. That Zane lady really knew her stuff.
Of all the authors she read, and Ada read a lot, Zane was one of a few that she would actually like to meet, if she could. Zane and Stephen King, those were her favorite authors. Their incredibly vivid novels provided her with more than just escape, they transported her to other worlds. For a woman who spent most of her life as a housewife, caring for her husband and family, exploring other worlds and other ways of life, even if only in her mind, that really meant something. Ada continued with her walk, narrowly avoiding a young Caucasian lady who was typing in her cell phone instead of watching where she was going. Shaking her head, Ada rolled her eyes and kept walking.
Ada's cell phone buzzed, and she smiled when she saw who sent her this latest text. It was from Anwar, and the message read "I love and support you mama ". Ada smiled, and sent him a smiley face, along with her sincere thanks. Two minutes later, her phone buzzed again. This text was from Bashirah. "Mom, I am sorry for how I reacted. You supported me when I decided to be with Suleiman and I want you to know that I support you in your choice of lifestyle." Ada smiled, and looked at the sky through one of the mall's mirrored windows. Will wonders never cease? She started to reply, telling Bashirah that her coming out as a lesbian didn't change who she was, but instead she simply sent four words. Thanks, and I love you. Ada finally arrived at the Starbucks, where she found a familiar face waiting for her. The woman rose from her seat and went to Ada, smiling. Gently, Ada kissed the tall blonde woman on the lips and hugged her. Hello Judith, she said. Judith smiled at Ada, told her she looked good, and commented on the brand new hijab she was wearing.
I bought it yesterday, Ada said, smiling as Judith pulled a chair for her. The two women sat down, and held hands. A young Arab man wearing a waiter's apron stared at them with undisguised animosity. In perfect Arabic, Judith asked him if he had a problem. He gazed at her, swallowed hard, and shook his head. Judith rolled her eyes, and smiled at Ada. The other woman laughed. It had gotten to the point that such reactions from outsiders when she was out with Judith no longer surprised or bothered her. The sight of a hijab-wearing Muslim woman kissing another woman on the lips certainly provoked reactions, from both Muslims and non-Muslims. Ada didn't care, and neither did Judith.
Looking at Judith Rosenthal, the woman she'd fallen in love with, the woman who was her rock, Ada shuddered to think that if it weren't for extraordinary circumstances, they never would have met. Years ago, they met when Judith, then a Constable with the Toronto Police Service, arrested Ada's son Anwar for shoplifting at a mall. Judith, herself the mother of two young men, Adam and Ephraim, chose to bring the ruffian home instead of taking him to jail. Yeah, that was a long time ago but she never regretted that decision. Of course, back then, things had been so different. Judith was married to Jacob Rosenthal, a prominent Jewish lawyer from Mississauga, trying to balance being a wife and mother along with the demands of her job as a police officer. And she was also dealing with her repressed lesbian feelings, something no one knew at the time.
Years later, a recently divorced Judith would be recognized while on the subway train by none other than Ada, the mother of a ruffian she busted for shoplifting. All those years, and Ada never forgot her. The two women went for coffee, and became friends. Slowly, coffee dates turned into outings to movies and restaurants, and then these turned into more. Much more. The two women found themselves craving each other's company, and began spending more and more time together. And just like that, they began dating. To say they came from different worlds would have been the understatement of the century. At fifty-six, Adawiyah "Ada" Abbudin was still in the closet and hadn't had sex with anyone since her husband's death, more than two decades ago. She focused on raising her son and daughter. She put their needs first, and sacrificed much for their safety, happiness and well-being. Along the way she sacrificed her need for companionship, denied and ignored her sexual feelings for women, and basically felt like the loneliest soul on Allah's green Earth. Well, the day she ran into Judith on that train, it must have been fate at work.
How else could anyone explain it? Two women from different worlds, who had previously met, running into each other precisely around the same time both felt ready to start new lives. Sure, coincidences could and did happen, but sometimes, fate was at work. Ada thanked her lucky stars that she ran into the tall, blonde, blue-eyed and curvy Ottawa-born Jewish policewoman. Judith became her lover, her other half, and her guide into a whole new world. At first, Ada had been quite hesitant. Even though she admitted to herself that she was a lesbian and resolved to tell her son and daughter about her orientation at some point, she was still a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day and went to Masjid twice a week. She wasn't ready for flamboyant parades full of masculine women and girly men carrying rainbow flags and singing Lady Gaga songs. Much to her relief, Judith told her that she wasn't into THAT kind of stuff either.
Like Ada herself, Judith was a fiercely private person. The only people she came out to, other than her parents, were her beloved sons and Ephraim, who were studying at Seneca College. Judith was forty eight, and had recently gotten promoted to the rank of sergeant by the Toronto Police Service's Major Crimes Unit. Not for her were the parades, the gay or lesbian bars, or other "obvious" aspects of the life. Now, she respected the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals to organize their own events, and their places of congregation. Lord knows the often persecuted LGBT community needed its own "safe places". It just wasn't for her.
To Judith, being true to herself meant admitting that she was a lesbian, at least to herself and her immediate family, and embracing someone like her who wanted to be with her. And that someone was Ada, a mother of two just like herself, and a devout Muslim who wore the Hijab and went to mosque often. That's the woman with whom she cried out in passion while making love. The lady she enjoyed walking through the park with, hand in hand. Her sweet Ada. Ada was full of wonders. The passion that gorgeous Moroccan woman kept inside was amazing, and Judith considered herself lucky that Ada chose to share herself with her. And she wanted to be with her for the rest of her life. And now here they were, holding hands while having coffee and sandwiches at Starbucks.
With Judith by her side, Ada felt like she could do anything. Inspired by Judith's brave example, Ada decided to come out to her son and daughter. When Bashirah rejected Ada for being a lesbian, which went against the principles of Islam, Judith supported her. Judith offered her a shoulder to cry on. When Ada, for whom family was everything, wondered at her purpose with her family divided over her sexual orientation, Judith stood by her side and promised her that Bashirah would come around. And indeed, Bashirah was slowly starting to come around. It came as a blessing in disguise that Ada supported her daughter when she decided to share her life with an African Muslim man, something unheard of in Arab families. Bashirah realized her mistake, and offered nearly unconditional support to her dear mother.
Joyfully Ada showed Judith the text message from Bashirah. Judith read it and grinned. I was right again, Judith shrugged as Ada hugged her happily. Everyone comes around, Ada smiled, clasping Ada's hand tighter in hers. Ada looked around and frowned, which Judith took as their cue to leave. Time to get the heck out of Starbucks. They made their way through the mall, aware of people staring at them. They happily smiled and waved at the more offended-looking on-lookers. A hijab-wearing young Somali woman shot Ada a look of disgust as she nuzzled on Judith's neck, planting a kiss there. Ada winked at her, and the young woman scoffed and walked in the opposite direction. Judith raised Ada's hand to her lips and kissed it. Let's go home, she said. Upon hearing that, Ada purred in pleasure, anticipating the passionate lovemaking to come.