Mawada, Rahma and Sakina by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Feminism and Religion Vanessa RiveraLast year I thought, seriously, of getting married. I know, it may be hard to believe, given my image of cranky feminist. But I still have an engagement ring in art-deco style with a bright ruby to show this was true.

He and I came across each other in 2011 and we talked about many things. Then, we got caught up in life and lost touch with each other. Exactly a year ago, he found me again and the universe granted us to meet and agree in time, place, intentions, and feelings.

From the beginning, I had faith that what I was living was a gift from God. I received it with thankfulness and opened my heart. I often prayed in gratitude and asked for guidance: “Allah, let me see his heart,” “Allah, grant us understanding.” God always answered me. We had beautiful moments of bliss and deep connection in which we disclosed our wounds and scars as well as learned to appreciate each other. One Sunday, after I showed him how to cook Tacos with Guacamole, he asked me for the third time. I accepted.

Then everything went as religion and custom dictate: Talking to my parents, gathering with his family, and meeting the Imam. He told me the story of his ancestors and I taught him to dance Cumbia. I knitted a pair of gloves for him, as he who loves hiking; I love Dhikr, so he gave me a Tasbih of his late mother. To use a popular expression, we were in mood to “Eat, Pray and Love”.

Until, one day, we split. It was devastating. Maybe Fear? Unresolved knots? Family prejudices? Past lovers resisting oblivion? A mix of all that to be true, but it is not important anymore. Whatever the reasons, pain has been harsh to deal with. Now, looking at the big picture, I have overcome grief, to gain lessons and a greater awareness that I can summarize like this:

Relationships can only be frutiful when they are firmly rooted in Honesty and Integrity. The beauty of human links can only be appreciated when we have the guts to be True. Only in this way, it is possible to join another lovingly. I want loving bonds in all my links: With my partner, my family, friends, co-workers and feminist comrades; ties based in Mawada, Rahma and Sakina, islamic concepts related, traditionally, to marriage that I consider worthy to incorporate in all kind of human bonds, because our union in marriage is an expression of our universal union with all humankind.

Mawada- Love

Love is actions we display as result of a state of consciousness that arises from our relationship with The Divine. We ARE love; our dignity as human beings come from this quality. To be in a state of loving for others we have to recognize this love in ourselves first, because no one can give nor appreciate what they don´t have and have never known.

If we fail in giving and receiving love it is due to the conditions of our relationship with God, rather than because of what others do or don’t do, their flaws, or their character. This has nothing to do with acting like a saint, being immune to pain, turning a blind eye to bad behavior, accepting hurtful things in silence, never feeling rage, anger, resentment, or not making mistakes, but with the belief that despite that, we are still creatures of love, made to love, worthy of being loved.

When we realize our loving nature and its source, we can see the actual beauty of the human close to us; we watch the beauty of God looking at us, laughing, talking, or crying. This realization makes the practice of empathy, acceptance, forgiveness, and authenticity much easier and fulfilling because God “… embrace[s] all things within Love and Knowledge (40:7)”

Rahma- Mercy

When people say that marriage is “Half of the Deen”, most interpret it from a materialistic and hetero-normative perspective, as equal to “Half Orange” romantic-bourgeois idea of love. For me, Rahma equals challenge; thus, increasing of our Rahma results from dealing with these challenges with compassion and creativity.

Quran says in 29: 2 “Do people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried?”. If we believe in a God of Mercy, how will we prove our Faith if we are not asked to show the Mercy we believe in? Every couple has problems; human beings are not perfect; we deal with personal limitations and traumatic situations. Partners we find are there to challenge us, otherwise, how could we engage in our duty of Jihad- al- nafs?

A Muslim knows that others are our mirrors. We recognize in others what we bring with ourselves, good or bad. Relationships are chances to “Complete the Deen” because in the daily living with others we are pushed to develop compassion, patience, faith and solidarity; we are asked to live the essence of Islam.

Sakina- Tranquility

It means “Peace,” “Divine Presence,” or “Serenity.” The Peace of Sakina, makes us think in Salam, the peace embodied by Islam, related to ideas of kindness, well-being, good relationship with others and doing good deeds. A peace expressed in concrete ways to make our world better, starting in our own households.

How the “Divine Presence” manifest in our relationships? My favorite verse of the Qur’an says: “Every day Allah manifests in a new and glorious way” or “Allah is everyday in a new task.” (55:29)  This should be an everyday call to renew our commitment with the people we love; everything comes from Allah and every day is a new opportunity to do it better, to appreciate and to give thanks.

Sakina is the feeling we are doing the right thing, an intimate conviction that what we are into is good, it does not harm us. The reliance to speak our truth; the tranquility that we did our best. Sakina gives us confidence that we are guided by a higher wisdom. There is a purpose and order in creation and everything we experience; it is appropriate place and make perfect sense: Allah is the best of planners. Sakina, the peace to let go and let God.

From my heart, I hold no grudges. Our souls have the ability to renew, expand and move forward. As a person of Faith, I trust a higher wisdom to guide me. Life is a test and gives us knowledge that is essential to increase our Imaan through the lessons we learn. Every opportunity to learn is a blessing, even if the outcome is not the expected. I will always bless him for what he taught me about myself. Beyond tears, despair, recriminations and loss, we all are children of a same womb; we are meant to Tawheed.

All sorrow we experience is part of the struggle we are facing in our return to the universal and immutable Oneness. May we be guided in that journey for Love, Mercy and Peace.

(Thanks to soul sisters Meghana, Laura, Amina, Araceli, Soraya, and Shehnaz . Your inspirational words were key for healing.)

Vanessa Rivera de la FuenteVanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Writer, Mentor and Community Educator in Capacity Building for Grass Roots Female Leaders and Advocates. A Muslim Feminist who is an Independent Researcher of Gender and Islam in Latin America on Feminist Hermeneutics, Muslim Women Representations, Queer Identities and Movement Building. She blogs in Spanish at Mezquita de Mujeres, a site dedicated to explore the links between Gender, Religion and Feminism as well to Women from the Global South as Change Makers in their communities.

Author: Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Global Consultant and Community Educator in Gender, Human Rights and Development.

21 thoughts on “Mawada, Rahma and Sakina by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

  1. Thanks for being so open and honest with us. You are not by any means alone among strong, passionate, activist women who desire and have not found “the” relationship they are seeking. We need to stop shaming and blaming ourselves, and others need to start honoring us too!

    Here is what I have learned.
    1. There are many forms of love. “The” true love is not the only form.
    2. “You should never bore each other.” –Dorothy Hartshorne In other words you must each have your own passions for life as well as shared passions for life.
    3. It is hard to have a really good relationship with a man (or any other person) who is closed off from their deep feelings (as far too many men are).

    So enjoy life to the fullest, and do what you can to promote its flourishing, that is my goal.


    1. Thanks for your comment Carol. I find it very difficult for a woman like me, to find a man who has enough confidence in himself to accept me as I am, with my life story, without trying to change me nor feel shame of himself or feel less worthy; with enough self-awareness to be honest about his apprehensions and open enough to confront and work on the traps of a traditional masculinity.


  2. You are experienced and knowledgeable. I think a feminist can absolutely get married. There are men who are feminists. A feminist speaks for rights of women and no matter the tag, they are human with needs. I believe your time will come if Allah so wishes. Until then, stay happy.


    1. Thank you very much. I think everyone is meant to love, but we have to find that love in ourselves. Happiness is not something to find in other person, a marriage, a man is not the ultimate validation for a woman. Life and its possibilities is enough joy to be grateful for and God never robs from their creatures; The Divine only helps you to organize.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing, I think relationships are very important, no matter where they lead. Just because you have a beautiful relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean marriage. I have a close friendship with a man much older than me. We share a lot of things, our relationship is platonic and not sexual, although there are moments when I love and he love a hug. I have recently taken the step of becoming a consecrated celibate and feel liberated by this step. I have had opposition by members of my own family but as I’m almost fifty, know my own mind. I hope that after the pain of splitting up, what you have gained positively from this relationship will live on in memory. It’s better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all.


    1. Hello. Thanks for sharing this with me. I consider what you say very important. I have been considered for some years to embrace celibacy, for many reasons. I have had rejected several marriage proposals before but in this case I felt we connected soul to soul. I also think there are many ways to love someone and to enjoy a heart to heart link, but not all people are open to them and for some marriage comes with the filling of social expectations. I have always said that there is nothing bad in solitude, and for women this could be a cherished source of self awareness, growing and empowerment, since we have been raised to compliment others lives so, in some ways, we have been denied out right to individuality. Solitude gives that chance, an opportunity of self discovering.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A great relationship is a work of art. And I think we have to understand the depth of the effort that has to be put into a relationship to make it so, and all that fine-tuning any friendship needs to deepen its riches. It doesn’t have to be sexual either to make it a love affair. That’s a truth we begin to realize as we get older. Of course, making love can be a ton of fun too, maybe just because it makes us feel younger.


    1. Thanks Sarah. I think relationships are about partnership to grow together. For that, honesty is a core. If someone is not honest then no relationship is possible and just results in hurting and suffering. But, no matter the outcome, we always learn from our links with other, especially, we learn about ourselves


  5. I really liked how you wrote:
    “With my partner, my family, friends, co-workers and feminist comrades; ties based in Mawada, Rahma and Sakina, islamic concepts related, traditionally, to marriage that I consider worthy to incorporate in all kind of human bonds, because our union in marriage is an expression of our universal union with all humankind.”

    I love how you think these concepts should be the foundation of all interactions.

    I might only add “adab” as in ‘courtesy’. Most of the time I only see this word being applied to pseudo-clergy who happen to show up in the right religious garb and have some kind of documentation of ‘spiritual’ pedigree. I would prefer we use adab in our interactions with everyone, particularly the people we are most close to, since we often forget the consideration due to them. It also seems that in this fast-paced digital age of clicking before thinking, we forget adab in our online interactions with one another.


    1. I agree wholeheartedly with you both -it absolutely makes sense that we should seek to have such grounded foundations for all our relationships and interactions – imagine the transformed world we would have…


    2. Thank you for your comment, as I am always glad to read them and know that you never lose my articles. On the adab, there is a recommendation in the Islamic tradition that says that if two people should be separated, “Do it on the best terms,”; to me this adab of romantic relationships or marriage not only refers to the material terms, the distributive justice, but there is also a dimension that I call “spiritual justice” and has to do with not dehumanize your ex partner and not drag their dignity.

      For me, while admitting my pain, this adab was always trying to “raise myself over my misery” and have an end, as far as possible, friendly, respectful, thankful, gentle with our in laws, talking honestly about what happened, you know, attempting to keep rahma, mawada and sakina beyond the romantic link.

      It didn`t work. I was hurt anyway by the “debris and shrapnel from the explosion,” but it was a learning experience for me and I now have a stronger conviction to apply these principles in my life; not that I will do it perfectly at first try but as long I keep doing it I will master them until incorporate it.


  6. Thank you for sharing what you have learned through the pain you experience, and “thank you” to your soul sisters who are there for close and personal support.
    I liked the flow of love, mercy, tranquility … something we all need in our relationships.


  7. As someone who once quipped that knitting a jumper for boyfriends
    seemed to spell the kiss of death to my plans to marry ….I am going to have
    to say: it was the gloves!


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