The Samoosa Express- an Anthology showcasing Muslim Women

Story Covered By Sumaya Seedat

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters”
– Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

When an Indian, Muslim woman reaches marriageable age, it is not uncommon for her to be approached by elderly family members with the following question, “When are you getting married?” Often, the young woman is encouraged to “view” or “meet” suitable men in the presence of her family. Not only is this meeting a demonstration of her skills in the kitchen (she is often encouraged to serve her guests food and drink, samoosa’s being one of the savouries highly anticipated), but it is also a showcase of her beauty.

The question of whether or not this young lady will be happily matched to this suitor is often left unanswered. The challenges faced prior and beyond marriage is unchartered territory. The Samoosa Express to Marriage and Beyond is an anthology that aims to showcase the lives of South African Muslim Women before and beyond marriage. The manuscript is compiled of a series of thoughtful and light-hearted true-life tales of women who have been through a journey they wish to share with the world. IRTIQA interviews two pioneers of this project, Zaheera Jina and Hasina Asvat, to gain greater insight into the purpose and outcome of this endeavour.

Q: Briefly explain to us the title ‘The Samoosa Express to Marriage and Beyond’
Traditionally,eligible Muslim men go with family members to see the young lady at her house. This meeting is arranged through an intermediary and the young lady and her family prepare eats including samoosas for this visit. The “samoosa express” is symbolic of this meeting. Many Muslim women have experienced numerous of these visits before they meet their marriage partner. For most Muslim Women, marriage is the turning, defining point in their life and therefore the title “the amoosa express to marriage and beyond” represents this journey.

Q: What inspired this initiative?
The life stories of our mothers. Zaheera’s mum gave up her profession in nursing to be at home when she was growing up. She studied towards teaching and worked as a preschool teacher when Zaheera and her siblings were of a school- going age. Hasina’s mum, who is also Zaheera’s mother-in-law, was widowed at an early age and she used her skill in dressmaking to become the breadwinner of her family. Muslim women like our mothers have stories to tell of how they’ve managed to juggle their careers and trade with being caregivers and how they have maintained their identities as Muslim women.
Q. What will readers gain from the tales relayed in the anthology?
Our target market is women and the stories would appeal to people who are interested in gender issues, religion, psychology and sociology.
The reader can gain insight and inspiration from the real life experiences of Muslim women in various settings, including some of the expectations and perceptions that professional Muslim women may encounter.
Q How has this anthology assisted the contributors in acceptance of their life’s journey and in voicing their stories?
Many of the stories written are on relevant topics which are not often spoken about in Muslim society. Many people tend to shy away from their experiences or cover up some of them. Many contributors have expressed that writing their stories have helped them to come to terms with their experiences and assisted them in coming to touch with their real identities.

Q In your opinion, have we as Muslim women distanced ourselves from the way of life of our mothers – juggling life, love and everything else or have we managed to stay grounded to certain aspects?
Professional Muslim women in our current society have taken on a lot more in their lives compared to their mothers. They have taken on the task of juggling and looking after the home, their children and working. Professional Muslim women have not necessarily distanced themselves from the lives of their mothers, but they do have a lot more to deal with.

Q. Has the anthology been submitted to a publisher as yet?
The anthology has been sent to the publishers and we are waiting to hear from them.
Q. Once it is published, will you host a book review event?

Yes, definitely.
Q. Tell me more about the writers? Some writers were anonymous and some are not. How does it change the way readers perceive the narrations?
The writers are professional Muslim women from all over South Africa. Some writers have chosen to be anonymous, but their stories are the same as the others – honest descriptions of who they are as Muslim women, their journeys to self-discovery or their questions about their identities.

Q. Were there any obstacles along the way while compiling this piece?

No, praise be to the Almighty, we have received a lot of excitement in response to our quest for stories and one sister is quoted to have said that “it’s time our stories are told!”

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