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Let me tell you a little about me…

I was brought into this world on January 29th, 1973. Born to a Nigerian dad, Dr. Sheikh Ahmed Lemu and a British mum, Bridget Anne Aisha Lemu. I'm the youngest of two children. My older brother is Nuruddeen Lemu. My dad had two wives. My step-mum was Aisha Matchima Lemu. May Allah have mercy on them all.

Looking back at my childhood, I can only say alhamdulillah for the privilege of being born into such a wonderful family.

We grew up as part of a beautiful love story as our parents' relationship blossomed over the course of 50 years. They had some family routines I will never forget. They always prayed together, read books together, had afternoon tea in the garden together and travelled around the world together. They both established a huge Islamic organization and wrote several books, travelled around the world giving lectures and attending conferences. But in spite of how busy they were, they always made time to be hands-on, present, and deliberate parents.

Our parents taught us about the deen.

e read the book by Ahmad Von Denffer, “A Day with the Prophet,” after our morning prayers and the book “Muhammad” (SAW). We read the meaning of the Qur’an together, the interpretation and its application. We read stories of the Prophets and many more books on the deen.

Though at that time, I was a very rebellious teen, so most of what I was being taught hadn’t sunk in. It took years before the seeds planted by my parents started to germinate. Alhamdulillah I am on the journey to finding the straight path. 

Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were of us playing in the rain together, going on adventures up hills and down rivers.

We went fishing, swam in rivers and lakes, went hunting for small animals and birds, and got to travel to many countries to experience different cultures and learn new skills along the way. I will never forget the fun we had playing badminton with our parents, going on picnics with them, riding bicycles and racing with our mum.

My mum taught me how to play 8 different musical instruments and taught us both how to sew.

She raised me on literary classics; Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats… She taught me a lot about animals and plants. She taught me about gardening and landscape design; we even learnt to plant our own veggies for cooking. She taught me how to drive at age 13. Yes, 13! She taught us about carpentry, painting, cooking, baking and rearing animals.

When I turned 15, my dad, who was deeply concerned about the negative influence my friends had on me, told me that he wouldn’t let me go to university unless I came forward with a husband. Our parents, in spite of all the fun we had with them, were extremely strict when it came to values and morals. May Allah bless them for being that way and grant them the highest status in Jannah.
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One of my school friends told me that her sister wanted to introduce me to their elder brother who had been living in the United States for about 12 years.

One day, I got a letter from Sa’id. I was beside myself. I was so excited and eagerly picked up the phone and called him. That was the beginning of our courtship. We exchanged loooooong letters and even longer phone calls. He would record love songs from the radio that captured exactly how he felt about me.
I finally met Sa’id when he visited Nigeria in 1990. I would either go to his sister’s house to visit him or he would visit me at our house. My parents did it the halal way. We had to sit in the living room to talk, while folks would be trouping in and out, past us. My dad always warned me not to allow the devil to be the third in the room. In other words, we should never be alone.

It was so hard and very unromantic, however, looking back now, I really appreciate that decision.

My mum and brother liked him instantly. Sa’id asked my dad for my hand in marriage and my dad asked him to give him time as he needed to do Istikharah first. It took several months before my father finally gave his blessing. An engagement ceremony was carried out in Sa’id’s absence as he had returned to the States.

I graduated from high school in 1990 and my mum sent me to England to take a cooking course at the Elizabeth Russel Cooking School.

I spent 3 months there and learnt how to cook over 200 French, English, and Italian dishes. It was such an amazing experience.

I returned in high spirits to prepare for the wedding. My parents did not bother with the pageantry of lavish weddings. My mum had my dress made while my friends took care of the wedding cake. It cost $5.25 in today's money, and Sa’id’s friends rented the hall for the wedding reception.

Literally the day after the wedding, Sa’id whisked me off to America where we spent the next 10 years together.
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Marriage was definitely NOT what I had expected.

 We had our first fight within the first two weeks of marriage, and I stupidly asked for a divorce. Yes, I know, it was stupid and naïve. I went into marriage with the expectation that my parent's seemingly perfect marriage was what all successful marriages were like. I'd never seen my parents' quarrel. I panicked that we were fighting over a very petty thing, when we were meant to still be head over heels in love.

Right there and then, the sweet nothings Sa’id used to say to me started to dwindle and they eventually stopped altogether. We went through a roller coaster of emotions. Love/hate, passion/disgust, disappointment/regret, you name it.

We fought for about 6 years. It was messy and at one point I truly couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had started to give up on the relationship because we just seemed to fight all the time.

When I was angry or upset, I would just say so, no filter. I used what I call my “greatest weapon of mass destruction,” my mouth, to say whatever rubbish that came to mind. I had no regard for Sa’id’s feelings or the effects of my words. When Sa’id was angry, he would shut down and refuse to talk. When I pushed him into a corner, he'd snap and he had a very volatile temper. It wasn't pleasant. We had both changed. We didn’t recognize each other and the beautiful person we each thought we'd married had disappeared. I had let the fights make me ugly. I focused only on what Sa’id was doing wrong, ignoring all the good in him. This is when I learnt that “what you focus on, expands''. The more I focused on his negative traits and his faults, the more they grew and vice versa.

Six years down the line, we had reached rock bottom and divorce was truly on my mind. Sa’id came home one day and told me that he didn’t look forward to coming home to me. 

I was hurt and shattered cos all this time, I believed he was the problem. I had never stopped or slowed down to look in the mirror. I was too busy trying to remove the speck in his eyes, while missing the log in mine.
I sat Sa’id down with one last ditch effort to save the marriage. I asked him to critique me. I asked him to give me feedback by asking three critical questions. This was the true turning point in our relationship. I asked Sa’id, “What is it about me you do not like or don’t find attractive that you want me to change? What is it about me that you do like that you want me to continue?” and finally, “What is it that I am not doing now that you would like me to start doing?”

It wasn’t until this stage in our marriage that we both felt we were ready to have children, by Allah’s will. 

Prior to this we had both agreed that we wouldn’t bring children into a world where there was no love or a world where they wouldn’t see the right example of how marriage was meant to look.

One thing Sa’id kept saying is that our children will be our witnesses before our Maker and we would each be held accountable for the examples we set for them in our actions, the things we teach them and what they witness in the home. That scared both of us.After the dust had settled, we finally felt we were ready and alhamdulillah, Allah blessed us with two lovely boys. 

Our relationship has evolved and matured from a very toxic, unhealthy union, to one that we are both constantly working on, constantly nurturing, and constantly adding value to. We now focus on “we” instead of “me” and things have honestly never been better. Alhamdulillah.
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We give each other the support we each need to do what we love. We have become each other’s biggest cheerleaders and super fans.

We go out of our way to make sure we fulfil each other’s needs, wants and fantasies. We have both put Allah first in the relationship. Because if we are God conscious and God fearing, we will ensure we do everything Allah wants us to do as a couple and fulfill our obligations to one another based on the Sharia. We will also ensure that we do not displease our Maker by doing anything that He has forbidden. In our relationship, our Maker comes first, then our own personal mental and physical wellbeing, and each other, and finally, the kids. This is the order of our priorities list. Everything and everyone else comes after this.
We have built a fence around this union, and we guard it jealously and ferociously. We are constantly planting seeds and nurturing each other’s spirit and soul. We constantly remove weeds, beginning with those within ourselves – our own bad habits. We have established trust over the years and are truly and completely loyal to each other, loyal to our children and loyal to the institution of marriage.

I decided to create this platform as a safe space where I can share with you the good, the bad and the ugly truths about how we evolved from where we once were, to what he has been able to build and nurture over the past almost 30 years. I shall insha Allah be sharing our best practices, our biggest mistakes, and my greatest regrets.
Looking back at how it all began, the fights, and where we are today, I share how important it is to start with the right foundation and to have certain key values in place before the marriage. There are many things I wish I'd known or done before I got married, and these things that I found out later on, are the things I learnt the hard way which I shall spare you from going through, insha Allah.

I strongly believe that what I intend to share with you will help many marriages start with a good foundation and develop and strengthen over the years.

 I also believe that our best practices will help those who are already married, add to what they are already doing.

Where are we today? We are at a place in our lives where we feel safe, where we trust completely, where we each feel we matter and are valued and where we are able to contribute, support and receive nothing but true, sincere, genuine love and affection. Today, we look forward to coming home to one another. To our sanctuary, the place we call home.

It is my hope and prayer that this platform serves as the one-stop-shop for everything to do with relationships and how to build a beautiful home, alhamdulillah.

I share our story with you because I aim to inspire you to never give up on a good relationship. Always have hope and no matter how messy it may get, never lose sight of your spouse’s endearing qualities. Your spouse may have changed, you may no longer recognize them, but trust me, they are still in there somewhere, and you will soon insha Allah find them once again. If you are going to fight, then fight to make the marriage work and if you have to go your separate ways, then part in a dignified manner, leave knowing you have done everything in your power to make it work and you have exhausted all options. May that never be the case. Amin.
May Allah bless you for trusting me to be your guide on this journey.

Love & Best Wishes, Jazakumullahu khayran,
Maryam Lemu

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