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A Letter to My Muslim Son About Love

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FATHER SON
John Fedele via Getty Images

Don't look for it. It will find you. And if it doesn't, your aunties on your mother's side will find it for you in the form of a young Muslim girl, probably the daughter of a doctor or a lawyer, likely the last sister in her family to be unwed. She will be cute, but not the cutest, they will say, but she's a good, pious girl. We will all be invited for chai one day at her mansion in a gated community on a hill, but really they just want to see you, your demeanor, your ability to lead prayer in a stranger's home, everyone putting on their most Islamic face, their most Islamic dress. You will not fail this test, but your mother and I don't want you to take it.

We want you to be yourself. Walk your own slow, slouched, clumsy walk down the hallways of life and look into every classroom you can. Take notes. Learn what you can about how things work, but even with a Ph.D., son, you will never understand love until you feel it. You will see her someday walking across campus or laughing with her friends -- maybe after Juma prayers, maybe in a coffee shop -- and her smile will make you look twice. Maybe three times. If you catch your eyes drifting south of her smile, then you're on the wrong track. But if you're stuck staring at her smile so long that you start smiling too, you may have found something.

Now check-in with your body. Do your arms feel like wet noodles? Do your knees feel like sponges? Is your stomach doing that thing it used to do when you were a kid tick-ticking uphill on a roller coaster just before the fall? Okay. Don't be scared. That's just love's kindling barely starting to burn. Ask around. Someone knows her name. When you find out what it is, say her name over and over in your head. Close your eyes. Recite it like a poem. How does it feel swirling around in your mouth, on your tongue? Good.

The next step is the most dangerous. Most men will fail because they will not try or they will rely on tired clichés: a bad line, "Girl, your name must be Wi-Fi because I'm feeling a strong connection." Or a cat call, "Hey shorty, wuz crackin'?" Do any of these and I will injure you, son, even at 25 years old.

Instead, walk over to her. Empty your mind of fear and language. When you are standing before her, when her eyelashes are long and visible, her lips red and full, her eyes lit up like twin full moons, then open your mouth. Speak. Your heart is a dictionary and it will find the right words. You will say exactly what needs to be said, or you will get smacked across the face. Let's pray that you don't screw this up. Conversation will soon come easy. Love's flames will start to grow until your whole body resonates with heat.

Now come to us before you go too far. Your mother and I don't want you scampering around in the shadows with your new girl. Come out into the light. If you're serious about her, be public. Let the world know that she's the one. We will support you. And eventually when you're ready, we will have chai with her family. We will watch you struggle to look her father in the eyes and ask to wed his only daughter -- the girl he taught to ride a bicycle, to swim, to attend college when all her friends were getting married too soon. Your responsibility, son, will be enormous. You can never forget that. You have come so far now and the chai is getting cold. It's time to speak for yourself. Let love take the mic.

Marriage, Muslims say, is half of one's faith. So you better treat your wife like a goddess or you will spend the next half of your life in hell. But don't be afraid. Hug her every day. Pray together. Give thanks. Be grateful, and if someday you become a father too, you will know the power of love in the second it takes for your eyes to adjust to the infant in your arms. Your son. Your daughter.

Love, my son, is God's right hand. Reach up and grab it. Never let go. Love will pull you up to heaven if you do it right here on Earth.

Sam Pierstorff is a contributor to the groundbreaking anthology, "Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy."