I can’t remember if I’ve said this before on the blog but here goes: Don’t give it up girls. If a Saudi or any man genuinely wants to be with you, he will preserve his chastity and yours by waiting until after marriage.
Thanks to “Cassandra” for sharing her story and please welcome her to Islam as she is a new Muslim masha’Allah. May Allah forgive her past, present and future sins (and ours) and grant her a double reward for reverting to Islam from Christianity ameen.
Tara Umm Omar
By “Cassandra” for FHWS
I wasn’t ready to meet Faris when he came into my life. I had endured the hard brunt of a man who could not return my affections in equal measure, and had decided to spend my time rebuilding my confidence and self-esteem. I was not looking for a man to be a part of my life, and I had spent months refusing offers from albeit nice gentlemen with the truth that I just did not feel I was ready for another crack.
My family raised me to be culturally sensitive and culturally aware. With parents in the medical and education fields, I had interacted with many friends of theirs who came from different backgrounds, different countries. I was raised to believe that people should be taken at face-value, and to reject bigotry and racial stereotypes. It is what I would have wanted from others, and what I was more than willing to give.
I met Faris’s uncle at a hookah bar who had asked that I would go bowling with him and his nephew, and I accepted the offer. His uncle is a well-educated engineer who has spent much of his life living abroad in different parts of the world, and I valued this in him as my friend.
When I met Faris, I quickly ascertained that his English skills were nowhere near his uncle’s, and not wanting him to feel left out, I sat beside him and joked with him as his uncle bowled. My heart felt for him. Here he was, in a new country, barely able to speak the language, and I knew how isolated and nervous he must have felt. Making him laugh with simple jokes, I felt, might put him more at ease. I didn’t know how many Americans Faris had interacted with, but I wanted to communicate that around me he would be free from condemnation or judgment. I wanted him to feel as if he belonged.
As I spent more time around the two, I began to learn about Faris – his interest in photography, his sensitive nature, his gentle demeanor. I wanted to be a person that he might feel comfortable asking any kinds of questions about American life that he might have – from a born and bred American. When he stumbled with his words, I smiled at him and made concerted effort to speak to him in words he might understand.
After he shared with me a penchant for photography, I asked if I could follow him on Instagram so that I might see his work. A few days later, he had offered his phone number to me in a comment and asked if I would text him. As we texted back and forth, we started to learn more about one another. It wasn’t long before he had admitted to being a bit smitten with me.
At the time, I was in the midst of some difficult family issues, and I expressed to him my frustration. He offered to come over and sit with me so that I might take my mind off of my troubles. Without really knowing much of anything about Saudi culture and customs, I agreed. It seemed perfectly normal to me, without any implications other than mere friends offering to be there for one another in times of need.
Faris asked to come around whenever he had a free moment, and I was happy to watch movies with him, teach him how to make American food, and answer his questions about American culture. When he probed me about my personal life, he sympathized with me and expressed that if he were my boyfriend, he would treat me like the princess he thought I was.
His words were kind to me, as I was still trying to mend the wounds of my previous relationship. But I didn’t think much of his pursuance of me. It wasn’t until he plainly professed his affections for me that I was alerted to the seriousness of his interest in me.
I was taken. His manner was so sweet, so gentlemanly, that I could not help myself. Never before had I been around a man who expressed such gentleness towards me. In the time that I had known Faris, he presented himself as a very sensitive, very genuine man. His saccharine appeals melted my heart, and when he worked up the courage to ask me to be his girlfriend, I felt in my heart that Faris was not like the men I had come to know. I felt safe around Faris. I truly believed that he was not capable of hurting me as I had been hurt, and the fortress around my heart quickly melted away for this knight that I had always dreamed of.
As we settled comfortably into our new roles, Faris admitted to me that he was a virgin. I had previously indicated to him that I was not, as he had many questions about American women and their desires, their romantic drives. I told him that I would be completely satisfied to have a relationship with him without sex until marriage, and the appeal came from my heart. If his virginity was important to him, I would be more than happy to preserve that with him until he decided that he was ready. If it meant waiting until marriage – which was thinking so far into the future – I knew that I could not hold it against him. His kindness and affection towards me were gifts enough to my broken spirit that I would have waited a century for him.
In time, Faris expressed to me a desire to deepen the intimacy of our relationship. Because I sensed this to be an important subject with him, I proceeded with cautious trepidation. I wanted to make sure that this decision was his to make out of his own volition. Though I voiced my concerns openly with him, Faris insisted that his intentions were true. At the time, I had only a scant knowledge of his faith and the tenants it holds. Without explaining to me that this was against his religion, I had no reason to believe that relenting to his advances would be the noose around my neck.
The days progressed with Faris, and I started to learn more about his family, his religion, and his background. As a way to get my bearings, I purchased an English translation of the Qur’an. Because he claimed that so much of his character came from his religion, I wanted to study Islam so that I might be able to understand him better. I started reading online about Islam voraciously, trying to gather as much information as I could. Still, there was a cultural element that I could not readily understand. Although I come from a very conservative family – extremely conservative as American families go – I was surprised to learn about his absolute devotion to his family. He explained to me that he was in America to study on a sort of piggyback scholarship of his sister. She, a very bright young woman, was here to study Physics, while his purpose in being here was to watch over her, take care of her, and tend to her needs. He explained to me that, because his family is very strict, no female in his family should know that we were dating.
Although I was leery of his request, I agreed, as he convinced me that dating in secret was the best thing for us. He claimed that he would tell his family about us when the time was right, and I was compelled to believe him as he told me that his relationship with his family was “complicated” and something that I should leave to him. I was cautious to make sure that this was how he truly wanted the course of our relationship to go, and he assured me that this was best for everyone involved.
I never pressured Faris in this regard. He told me that his relationship with his family was something that an American wouldn’t necessarily understand, and I trusted him in this. My place, I felt, was not to disturb his relationship with his family. Whenever he couldn’t spend time with me because he was tending to his sister, or worried that she might be suspicious, I understood and was happy to see him whenever the opportunity would allow. Although it sometimes resulted in disappointment and canceled engagements, I did my best to put my trust in him and to not take out my frustration on him. Trust is not something that I have ever taken lightly, but I felt in my heart of hearts that I could put my faith in his decisions.
I did not realize that this was the first warning sign. As many writers have warned, a Saudi who refuses to introduce you to his family has something to hide. As time progressed, and our feelings for one another grew stronger, I began to have more questions as to how he anticipated this to work out between us. Would I always be a secret from his family? How did they feel about American women? Would they perhaps accept me if they learned of my background, my ambitions to get a PhD, and my loving care for their son?
Faris was rather evasive when it came to questions like these. My naturally skeptical nature started to nag at me, and I began researching online about the Saudi family unit for the information that he was reluctant to provide. Based on what I had read while leafing through various blogs, I started to question his seriousness. Faris was moving fast, discussing future plans with me – where we would live, how many children we would have, what kind of house we would keep, and what our wedding would be like. Faris’s end goal with me was marriage, and he often talked about wanting me as a wife. He constantly told me that I was his life, and that I was the woman he wanted to share the rest of his life with.
Still, the nagging feelings were tugging at my insides, and this led to some serious discussions between us. What exactly were his intentions moving forward? How did he see this playing out in his mind? Faris explained to me that Saudi culture is very restrictive, and dealing with his family was beginning to cause him more frustration. He told me that he wished to stay in America to finish his education, and after that would seek employment in America. In confidence, he said that he had no plans to return to KSA, that he wanted to become an American. He also explained to me that, because of his scholarship, he would not be allowed to marry until after his education was completed, as per the contract of his scholarship. We made tentative plans to marry after he attained his bachelors degree. We talked about the life that we would have together. Even if his family did not approve, he wanted to move forward this way.
In time, Faris began to pull back. After speaking with his family about hypotheticals, he told me that we would not be able to marry if I was not a Muslim. Being a Christian who had poor experiences in childhood with faith, I told him that I would look into reverting to Islam. I made no promises other than investigation. I told him that I never truly bought into the whole “father, son, holy ghost” trinity of god, but rather one incarnation of God. Even as a child, I had a difficult time grasping the concept of the trinity. I told him that I would research Islam, and I asked if he would take me to mosque sometime, which he was overjoyed to hear.
In spite of this, he continued to press for marriage, but told me that his family must approve of me. I offered any help that I could think of to assist in this process, but again he convinced me that this was his business and not mine. Often, he told me that if he were not in America for his sister’s sake, he would buy a ring and marry me the next day if he could. So serious was he that we started to look at rings online, and he inquired what kinds of styles I liked. Because he did not have a great deal of money saved up, he talked to me about putting away money each month until he could afford a down payment on a ring.
My doubts were shoved aside by Faris’s genuine loving nature. He would shower me with compliments of how beautiful I was to him, and how pretty our children would be. He held my hand when we would go out, and always he treated me like a lady – just as well as any parent would want a man to treat his or her precious daughter. I believed in his love for me in a way that I had never believed a man could love and care for me. Whatever I needed, I never had to ask. He spent his time with me ensuring that I felt as though I were truly the love of his life. Despite my flaws, my struggles with my anxiety disorder, he assured me that he loved every little part of me with every part of himself, and that making me his wife was what needed to be.
Faris gave me, reluctantly, what he considered to be bad news. From out of the blue, his mother commanded that he come to KSA urgently, and before he could question the intent, she had already bought a plane ticket for him. When I asked him what he thought it meant, he told me that he thought his sister had brought this on. She was irritated that he was spending time away from her when his purpose was to tend to her, and he was certain that she had told their parents of his absence. He had also heard that his father wanted him to stop his education in American to enter into a program in KSA to become a pilot, his chosen profession for Faris. His greatest fear was that his parents would not allow his to return to America.
Both scared, we developed a plan. If it was true that his parents would force him to stay in KSA, I would wait for him until his three years of school there were completed. After, we would meet up and continue where we had left off, ready to begin our life together. Though he expressed a fear of deep depression in not being able to see me, I promised to him that we would make it work. We could Skype and text to keep in touch, and I would save all of my money from tutoring so that I could visit him in the summers.
I come from a family that used to be incredibly controlling and manipulative, complete with physical and emotional abuse. In my early twenties, I had essentially run away from home and did not speak to my family for almost a year. It was a drastic and very frightening measure, but I had come to a point where I knew nothing else to do to convince them that I could no longer live under their impenetrable rule. I told Faris the story of how I left home and how I had lived destitute for a couple of years while I grew into the woman I needed to be – someone who was in control of the decisions in her life, with the freedom to be the woman she needed to be. I told him that he too could find a life of freedom. If he was willing to put his faith in me, I could give him a life where he could discover what kind of man he was and what he wanted out of life. He was so incredibly distraught over the idea of his family controlling the remaining course of his life. I told him that there was another way. It would be hard, and it would be scary, but if his family loved him as much as he claimed they did, I felt certain that eventually they would come to accept his choices. I could not tell him when this would occur, but that it would spring from their love for him, if it was truly there. I believed it because it had happened for me. I came from a family that did as much to dictate to me what I was to wear and who I could hang out with, but now I enjoy boundaries and their respect for my ability to make good, adult decisions for myself.
Two days before Faris had to leave for KSA, Faris and I went to look at engagement rings. I was not anticipating to find a ring – the ring – that I wanted to wear for the rest of my life. He himmed and hawed greatly, and after much discussion staved me off with a promise that when he got back from KSA, the ring would be mine.
I believed in my heart of hearts that things would be alright between Faris and his family. Although he was scared of the worst case scenario, he indicated that we would find a way. I felt certain that he knew his family best, and would know best how to handle the situation with them. We agreed that while in KSA, he should inquire about a hypothetical marriage to an American girl, and gauge their reaction. He felt that if he told them outright about me, they surely would not let him return. But a simple inquiry, he thought he would be back to tell me the news.
The night before his flight, Faris and I had an argument about the ring. He explained that he did not feel comfortable getting engaged to me without his family knowing, and this led to his admitting that his brother had told him that his parents were planning on not allowing him to return. His knowledge of this fact had stretched for a week without a word to me, and I was surprised to find that he had kept such knowledge hidden from me. I told Faris everything, from the little details of my day to my biggest hopes and dreams and fears. I was shocked to discover that he had been keeping things from me. Still, I felt that I had some experience dealing with controlling families, as I had been a product of such an environment. We both agreed that easing his family into the knowledge would be best. Again, he said that he would present the hypothetical and wait and see. He promised me that he would not outright tell them about our relationship until he was safely back in America, as this could spell the end for us if they forbade him from ever returning. Thousands of miles distance could afford us a bit of safety, we reasoned. He told me that he wanted to be with me forever, and only me. Even if they forced him to stay and marry another, he would absolutely refuse. He was desperate not to jeopardize our future together.
I was able to see Faris for about an hour on the day he left for KSA. He came to me weeping in my arms, and I mustered up all of my strength to help him soldier on. I was not sad to send him away. With all of my praying, I felt deep in my soul that things would iron out and he would return to me. My goodbye was short. I gave him all of my love and assured him that he would be seeing me in just a couple of weeks, where I would be waiting anxiously for his return. Down to the very core of my being, I believed this to be true. My love for him was so strong and so true, I couldn’t imagine sending him away with false hope. The calm and the peace I felt was as real to me as any axiom.
As soon as Faris arrived in KSA, things between us changed. I had him promise to me that he would contact me at least once per day so that I would be assured that nothing major had gone awry. Instead, he was short with his responses and very distant. I told him that having him so far away in a country that I knew little about was also scary for me, and I asked him to be more forthcoming with me. Perhaps I was weak to lean on him for some comfort, but I felt that support is what people who love one another would give.
After a couple of days, Faris texted me in a panic. He told me that his uncle had offered his daughter for Faris to marry, and his father had accepted.
In between his open cursings of his family, my heart jumped into my throat. I quickly regained control of my emotions and tried to speak to him rationally. Was there a way he could refuse, like he had said he would? Faris has an older brother who fell in love with a western woman years ago, but was forbidden from marrying her. Instead, he was forced to marry a Saudi girl, and he had relented to the pressure. Faris told me that he was driving to talk to his brother in the hopes that he would identify with his plight and offer advice. I waited nervously, praying the minutes away as I had never prayed before in my life. I asked God to fill Faris with wisdom in his words, and to bring peace and calm to his spirit. Every minute that dragged by was like an eternity to me.
Faris texted me hours later to reveal that his brother had met him with anger, and had told him that he must marry the cousin that had been offered to him. Without knowing Faris’s brother, I could not tell if his advice had come from a sensitive area of hurt for himself. I pleaded with Faris to keep communication lines between us open, but he claimed he was too depressed to talk to me at all. He then blocked my number.
I was beside myself. Without a way to contact Faris, I had no idea what was going on. Every emotion you can imagine rattled me – anger, frustration, fear, sadness, and heartbreak. I spent a sleepless night praying to God to help Faris, to help his family listen to his reluctance. I alone could not open their eyes. But God is stronger than anything in hell or on earth. If there was any hope, it was in faith in God.
Faris later apologized for blocking me and told me that his mother was taking him to meet his cousin, shaming him for not wanting to marry such a beautiful Saudi girl.
I didn’t know why all of this was happening. It didn’t seem right to me that his family would just suddenly spring this marriage on him. I probed Faris for more information, to which he admitted telling his family about us. I couldn’t believe that he had gone against our agreement. He claimed that he had told them about me in frustration, thinking it would help. Instead, his parents – according to him – said that they could not approve of a marriage with a non-Arab girl. He told me that he explained to them that I was studying Islam and planned to learn Arabic, that I came from a wealthy family and was a good woman with plans to get a PhD. It made no difference to them. I was worthless in their eyes simply because of where I had been born.
I was incensed. I asked if I could speak with them, so that they could know that my intentions were pure, and he barked that if I did anything, he would hate me forever. I was taken aback. Certainly, people say things out of anger, but the danger is that words can be like bombs. Once detonated, the damage cannot be undone. I could never imagine being so angry with Faris that I would threaten hatred. Hate is an incredibly strong word, and while I am guilty of saying rash things in anger, I have always been careful never to use love or hate as leverage.
As he was leaving to meet his cousin, Faris told me that he would come up with any excuse he could to rescind the marriage. I was scared beyond belief, but I relented to trusting him. What else could I do? I felt completely powerless in the situation.
A couple hours later, Faris informed me that he was breaking up with me. His words were that he was “giving up” because obeying his family made things easier for him, and this is what he was choosing to do. I reiterated to him that, yes, this was his choice. He was choosing to keep them happy and destroy me in favor of our agreement. The rings were purchased, and he will be asking his cousin’s hand in marriage tomorrow.
I panicked. The future we had planned together was crumbling before my very eyes. Through bitter tears, I asked him how he would feel to marry a woman he didn’t love, to watch her walk down the aisle and exchange vows and know that he did not love her. I asked him how he would feel when his parents forced him to consummate the marriage, to lay down with a woman he didn’t love. He didn’t answer. I asked him if he had ever loved me. He didn’t answer. I asked if my life with him had been a big joke. He would not respond. He denied any way out. He refused to listen to my pleas, my promises to find a way to be with him. I offered money, I offered to go over to KSA and get him, to get whatever legal help was available to get him out of this situation. I begged him to listen to me. I pleaded with him, please, if you ever had any feeling for me, please don’t leave me like this.
He accused me of not being a real woman and acting like a teenager.
The reason why we could not marry, he said, is because I am not a virgin. His claim was that since we had been intimate, the only way to “fix” his sin with me was to immediately proceed forward with marriage to his cousin. As this blog states, a Muslim man who partakes in intimacy with a woman will not take her as his wife, instead preferring marriage to a devout virgin. He will ultimately hold this fact against the woman. Had I known then what I now know about the Islamic faith, I would never have shared this part of me with Faris. I would have obediently declined in honor of his faith. Faris knew this about me. Yet he showed absolutely no signs of remorse for lulling me into a false sense of security which, unbeknownst to me, spelled our ultimate demise.
I begged him to come and see me one final time so that I might be given the chance to say the goodbye to him that I never believed I would have to make. Oh, how I pleaded. I promised, I swore that if I could say my final goodbye to him that I would leave him in peace. I told him that I did not hate him, and that I still loved him, and all I wanted was the chance to see his face one last time. I implored him to please, please have a heart. If you feel anything for me, please, do not be unkind to me. Please. Please, Faris, please. I am hurting so much, please, please, God, please, hear me.
In the middle of my plaintive cries, he blocked me.
Today, on the day before he is to ask his cousin for marriage, I am left to pick up the pieces of a future that was nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Imagine that the path before you which had once been open has crumbled into a black chasm so deep that you cannot even see the bottom. What do you do? Which direction do you move? How do you make sense of any of this?
Faris was betrothed to his cousin before he had even set foot in America, nearly a year before he had come into my life. Knowing this, he had pursued me, kissed me, dated me, bedded me, and promised married life and future children to me. Like so many warnings you will hear, there are Saudis in the west who view western women as a conquest. This is their opportunity to live their double life, to use women for sex, to refuse contraception, to breed with them, and to return to the KSA to live out a good life with the virgin that had been promised to them all along. I am wholly convinced that Faris sought me out and would have said any string of words to bed me. He used my money, my food, my gasoline, my body, my good nature, my feelings, my love, and my heart. I never mattered to Faris. I was merely a pawn in the game of getting exactly what he wanted from me, and I foolishly opened my pen of sheep to the wolves for him.
I don’t mean to imply that all Saudi men are alike, but we must be cognizant of patterns, even when we toil tirelessly to blind ourselves to them. If you read the stories of other women just like me, you will find a trend emerging. We are educated, intelligent, and ambitious women. We come from good families, many of whom are wealthy. We come from conservative backgrounds, or we keep conservative principles. We are big of heart. We want to see the good in others, and we will fight the criticisms that contradict this. We are compassionate, and kind, and we love with pure honesty. We have good intentions. We are trusting. And we do not want to believe that we could fall prey to such a heinous web of lies.
Women, I urge you to listen to my story, and to read it well. You may believe in your heart of hearts, as I did, that you and your Saudi are different. I would have bet everything that I am and everything that I own that this could not have happened to me. I thought myself much too quick-witted and Faris much too kind for this to happen. When he looked at me with his big brown eyes and spoke so gently of his love for me, I believed it with the whole of my heart. I have always wanted to be loved and cared for the way I thought Faris loved and cared for me. But it was this desire in my heart that led me straight to despair.
Listen to me. I do not know you, but I care enough for you that I don’t want you to have to feel the pain I feel right now. I don’t want you to go through this agonizing heartbreak, this gut-wrenching reality. I want you to care enough for yourself that you would diligently protect yourself to the ends of the earth, because you are the only one who will care more for your well-being than anyone in this world. Do not give someone the permission to destroy you. If your Saudi wants to keep you a secret, you must flee, for any man who is willing to hide what he does with you from the light of the world must be doing wrong. Ask questions, and ask again, and check any sources that you can. Involve yourself with his family – if he refuses, you must run. Absolutely do not sleep with him, no matter what he says to you. Do not make promises. Don’t let yourself trust him until he earns that trust, on your terms. He will study you, and he will learn what your heart’s true desires are. If he is like my Saudi, he will needle his way into the very core of your heart, and he will tell you everything you have ever wanted to hear a man say. Do not fall. You are strong, and you are beautiful, and you are worth far too much to be used for his pleasure. I don’t want to see you go through what I am going through. If you do not care for yourself enough to protect yourself, know that I care enough for you to not want to see you in pain. I am begging you. Use my story as a lesson. Let me be the example that keeps you well from harm.
Photo credit: Fan Pop