September 2016: my in-laws, who are from America, were in Canada and drove 2.5 hours to Kingston to tell Hubby that they wanted him to pursue his PhD. On rare occasions they had visited Toronto but had never actually come to visit us in our home. They encouraged Hubby to choose whichever school he wanted and offered to help with whatever we needed so long as it led to a PhD in his chosen field.
I thought it was a great idea for him to go back to school despite having a toddler and a baby on the way. Hubby had wanted to get a PhD before I met him but for one reason or another never had the chance. Eventually, Hubby decided he wanted to take Islamic Studies in Pakistan. Why there? First of all, the university fees are significantly cheaper in Pakistan, especially because he is a Pakistani citizen. Also, we agreed that his specific program would be better taught in an Islamic society compared to a secular one. Arguably, you can’t explore and fully appreciate the depth of a religious text when it is taught in a secular framework as it takes away from the passion and devotion.
Of course this was not an easy decision. There were many downsides to consider. The most important being that we would be away from my family. I especially felt guilty that my mother would miss out on the baby, toddler, and preschool years of my children. Furthermore, safety was another cause for concern – not just because of bombings, much hyped up by the media, but more so of robberies, harassment, kidnappings, etc. Finally, having to deal with inconveniences such as: adjusting to the climate, food and water, and a new language and culture.
I wanted to tell as many people as possible in person because it was big news for us. My family was mostly sad and a bit worried but I think mostly they were happy for us. Many of our Muslim friends were very happy for us, some maybe a bit jealous. Although they love Canada, I think a part of you will always miss your homeland. I imagine them wishing they could have both worlds as one. It became harder to tell others as I started to receive a lot of negative reactions. Many people were overly concerned and I could see they felt sorry for me as if I didn’t have a choice to move. A distant relative of mine in Canada accused me of putting my children in danger by moving to Pakistan despite the fact that threat to one’s safety also exists in Canada. Many people insinuated that Hubby had an ulterior motive to oppress me with abuse or even separate me from my children. This was the most offensive.
Although we make most decisions together, we both know that we wouldn’t be here if I had said no. I didn’t want to let the fear of what could happen hold us back. Our lives are enriched by the different experiences we have had. I wanted us to experience a new culture, to be humbled by another way of life, and for my children to benefit from embracing their Pakistani heritage. Besides, this is the opportunity of a lifetime!