The Promise of Issam

by Melita Rahmalia

If it is possible for women to not need any husband because of what her family already provides for them in material comfort, you could say I could be included in that category. But the feminine crave for the masculine, just like the masculine need the feminine. Women are created for the men’s company, just like they are created to accompany the women. 

This is the drive that I carried when I met Issam, a Tunisian Arab man who also has never been married before, through a Muslim dating app, when I was doing umrah. 

I spent 16 days in Haramain during the second-half of Ramadhan, and I was really focused on that prayer, to meet my divinely appointed masculine partner, and I thought Issam was a path shown by God. 

He speaks Arabic and French, I speak English, and we use Google Translate incessantly to communicate with each other, but it doesn’t matter because he speaks my love language very well that it seemed like he was a home for my heart – I never felt so emotionally connected to any men I met before Issam.

I have always dreamed of having an Arab partner – something about them catches my heart, and Issam was everything on that list. 

For me, his physical appearance, his smile, and facial features are exactly the way I want my husband to look like. 

He is “very practising” day by day, with Quran and prayers, and comes from a good family in Tunisia near Douz, in the Sahara desert. 

He always says the sweetest thing, he is consistent in his communication patterns – long calls on both days of the weekends with short check-in during some days of the working days – and says what he said he would do – like “I will call you in 3 hours. I will call you again in 3 days” and then he really did call after 3 hours and after those 3 days. 

He would watch my status and ask me to explain my activities and my life, what’s going on. 

He says the compliments in the most spontaneous ways – so it always seemed so sincere.

Little did I know – these are supposed to be the bare minimum and not the things you should be impressed with and make as a basis to decide to commit to a man for marriage and lifetime companionship.

The heartbreaks begin when he said he cannot visit me in Jakarta and that the only way for the relationship to continue is that we establish for me to meet him in his country. He wanted his wife to remain in Tunisia and remain with him wherever he is located. That’s when I should have ended the relationship – there and then. It was supposed to be a huge red flag for a healthy mind and heart. 

But I was captivated already by him and I remained committed and showed him my efforts – I started to plan for my trip to Tunisia to meet him. I studied Arabic to be able to talk to him in his mother tongue and his family. I remain available whenever he calls – whether it’s 10.00 am, 16.30, 21.30, sometimes even at 1.30 am my time. I found out more problems later that I felt shouldn’t be disclosed here, but I remain stubborn and obsessed with him – but throughout the time, I always pray my istikharah

Every night throughout the whole process, I mentioned his name to God and asked Him to give me His guidance, because my heart was captivated and I was really gonna go for him. 

Then something happened – I started to consult my mom, and my mom said I cannot move to Tunisia, and that Issam has to come to Jakarta first. 

The night before, I prayed to God asking for guidance (istikharah) and prepared my heart for whatever that happens. 

“Ya Allah, it’s all up to You – I’m ready for whatever happens. I really love him so much, but I surrender to Your decisions.” 

I relayed the update to Issam, expecting a more proper closure or an open communication to discuss further, and he proceeded to block me in all of our usual communication channels. 

The promise of Issam in my life has suddenly ended – his story in my life is over just like that. I was shocked and devastated – I felt blindsided and being pulled from under the rug. It was – disorienting, to say the least. 

Who is this man that I thought I could spend the rest of my life with? 

Who is this man that I thought I could build a life with? 

And how did I not see these possible actions? 

But looking back, I realise that I had a bad feeling after some talks with him and I could feel he was slipping away. I was expecting him to say the closing message with open communications, and instead, the only thing I have is just cold-hearted blocks. 

It feels like I have no value for him and that he couldn’t care less about my feelings. His comfort was always his number one – and I should have noted this before, and act accordingly.  

Blinded by my emotions, I wanted him to be true so much that I could not see he was only a mirage – an illusion of what I wanted him to be maybe, but currently not having the real capacity to do. 

I am glad God answered my istikharah in such a big way – the refusal of my mom to even speak to Issam, and Issam’s response once I said my update about my mom. 

It was never meant to be – and God wanted to protect me from bigger heartbreaks that might be ahead if Issam didn’t block me. If he didn’t block me, I would never understand the extent of my actual value to him. 

From the promise of Issam I realize my limitations – and that God will always be my safe place. 

Aalimul ghaybi wa syahadah” – The One who knows the unseen and the seen. 

In my surrender to Him, I am protected so much. 

The promise of Issam is also the promise of istikharah – He will always guide you and He will let you know what He decides is best for you, in such a crystal clear way that You have no options other than to understand it very well. While the promise of Issam was so broken, the promise of Allah will never break. The promise of Issam broke me, while the promise of Allah was the saving grace. It will never break me.  

The promise of Issam taught me so much – how much more validation I need to do first before I decide to commit, how a good husband material guy would really do and act to you, and how to guard my heart better next time. 

The promise of Issam made me realise how emotionally fragile I am – in the way of getting to know him, sometimes I would put other things second – I didn’t read Quran the whole time I was interacting with him, I didn’t even finish some of the things I should have finished because I was waiting for his call, having his call, and then buzzing after in my mind and my heart after the call, that I couldn’t concentrate properly on my tasks. I made him my number one the whole time I started getting to know him. I started making career and business plans around the idea that I would have to move to the African continent to be with him. It was like I paced it before the relationship was ready. I accommodated him the whole time – putting my life on the backburner because I was so committed to being married and I thought he was the one. 

The promise of Issam made me consult my closest friends about my feelings, and one of them – a gift from God to me –  taught me to realise that I need to put more effort into putting Allah as my number one in the midst of love. She mentioned my love affairs history and it was replete with stories of how I let my life just derail in the midst of love feelings. After my first serious love relationship ended, I had a three year light depression and felt sick with a chronic illness for almost 1 year, and then when I managed to get out of that rut, I waited for someone who clearly didn’t have any feelings for me and wasted 2 years of my life. And now, the Issam incident. “You can love people so much that it could ruin you,” she said, in a loving voice note full of concern she left in my WhatsApp.

It was my big homework. Maybe Allah wanted me to work on that first before. It was going to cause a bigger headache for me and my life if I remain in my situation – that I can still accommodate anything other than Him as my number one.  It was a mirror to my conditions – your dreams are not your number one. Your thoughts and emotions should never be the number one. Your beloved ones are not even supposed to be number one. 

Allah is number one because of the statement “Laa ilaaha illallah” – requires you to complement those words of affirmation with an act of service. How do you really act in service of Him? Is that congruent with what you say? Or do you still worship and devote your love to others in ways that should only be preserved for Him?

I guess the biggest lesson from the promise of Issam is this: 

My affectionate heart, a soft heart full of love, ready to trust and give people warmth, care and devotion, is a gift, it’s a strength, and a blessing – but it’s also a curse and a test. Everything outside of Him, everything that is of this dunya, can be both, and you should always be aware of that potential.

You will always be tested with things that felt most difficult for you (like Maryam a.s. being tested with pregnancy while unmarried when she was known as, and was, the purest woman in the blocks), and I felt that Allah tested me with singlehood for this reason. I could love someone so much that it’s just worrying and it would take over the rest of my life’s other aspects. The promise of Issam showed me my curse – but it showed me the spell that would break the curse, too. Alhamdulillah ‘alaa kulli haal. 

I accept the experience, I accept the pain, I accept the lesson, I accept the gift from the experience. 

I move on with grace and ready to welcome what life offers me next.

Spiritually backed with this prayer after calamity – or in my case, a heart calamity. 

A prophetic du’a was given to me by another good friend – also a gift from Allah to me – after she knew what’s happened:

– إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ اللهُمَّ أْجُرْنِي فِي مُصِيبَتِي، وَأَخْلِفْ لِي خَيْرًا مِنْهَا

We belong to Him and we return only to Him (QS. Al-Baqarah[2]: 156. 

Ya Allah, compensate me in this calamity and bring to me after it something better. [HR. Muslim]

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