‘Only bad things happen quickly.’

I read this in a book (‘Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart’, if you’re interested) and agreed wholeheartedly. Anything good seems to take time and effort to build up, but things can change in an instant for the worse. A car crash. A job termination. A careless word spoken in anger.

But this year, something wonderful happened quickly. I met someone wonderful. Within a fortnight, we spoke about getting married. And just a couple of months later, we were.

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We sometimes joke that we need to invent a more exciting story about how we met. Truthfully, there was nothing dramatic about how we came to be.  We’d seen each other around. We’d spoken a few times in the tentative manner of Muslim-not-yet-couples. I’d formed an impression of him as being serious, but sweet, and when the idea of us was suggested, we both ran with it.

I always wondered what it meant when people said ‘you just know’. I still do, actually. For me, it was less about ‘knowing’ and more about doing. Plenty of people can feel things for each other –amazing, powerful, fuzzy feelings. But things come horribly undone when it comes to doing. They’re vague about your plans together. They’ll say ‘it’ll happen soon’, but it doesn’t. They disappear, then reappear. They’ll say now isn’t the right time for that conversation and that confrontation, all of it masking the fact that you aren’t the right people for each other.

So if you want to know how I knew with him, here’s what it was.

Everything he said he’d do, he did.

He was always kind, and he always listened.

He had unshakeable faith in Allah.

He made plans for our future, not just the lofty fantasies, but the nitty-gritty logistical details too.

He trusted me, and I trusted him in return.

Such simple things. Such rare things.

It wasn’t a ‘fairy tale romance’. He didn’t ‘complete’ me. We were two complex humans with complex backstories when we met, which inevitably meant there would be bumps along the way. We’d been disappointed before, but this only made us more careful not to disappoint each other. The stories we’d lived through individually became shared ones, moments to relive and dissect and analyse together.

I’m married now. But I won’t presume to offer condescending pieces of advice like ‘it’ll happen when you’re least expecting it’, because some people can spend their whole life not expecting and then not receiving.

I won’t say ‘work on yourself first and it’ll happen’, because that implies that married people are somehow superior to singles. (They’re not, and I’m not.)

I won’t even say ‘it’s all naseeb’, because my naseeb could just have easily been to remain alone.

I will say this: this year has been a dark one in so many ways. Desperation in the sea. Indifference, cruelty and blind privilege on the land. The widening gap between rich and poor and the continual denial of #blacklivesmatter. I don’t fool myself into thinking that this will change any time soon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our personal triumphs, our little everyday joys, even as we raise our voice against injustice.

I pray that as this year ends, you find a companion, if this is what your heart longs for. I pray that you find peace and tranquility in company or in solitude. I pray that you keep fighting and keep holding onto your faith. I pray that you eat delicious things and see wonderful places while remembering those who can do neither. Most of all, I pray that you find the strength to keep giving and receiving love in all its wondrous, unexpected and beautiful forms.