After all, Saman Akhtar needed to know what Mohammad Islam was thinking. “I actually asked him directly: do you like me? What’s wrong? ”She said.
By this point they had been spending time together in New York, Washington, and San Francisco, texting every day. But apart from fluent conversation and a hug at the end of their time together in the Bay Area, nothing romantic had happened.
This was not due to a lack of interest from Mr. Islam. On the contrary. It was he who visited Ms. Akhtar in New York in 2014 at Iftar in the Park, a charity event she helped organize during Ramadan. And he was the one who went out of his way to get her number from mutual friends in Washington, where they both lived at the time, so they could see each other before moving to California to get a job at Threshold Ventures, where he is now is a partner.
A call from Mr. Islam out of the blue after moving to the west coast was particularly puzzling to Ms. Akhtar, 35. “People don’t call you from across the country for no reason,” she said.
“I took my time,” said the 31-year-old Islam with a laugh. He stated that when he first met Ms. Akhtar he knew he was leaving Washington and did not want to be disrespectful by pursuing a short-term relationship.
During their visit to San Francisco to see friends a year later, the spark he felt in 2014 was still there – it had become even stronger thanks to their ongoing communication. But the distance problem persisted and Mr. Islam did not expect Ms. Akhtar to uproot her life or interrupt her career to move. In retrospect, her platonic farewell was a “missed opportunity”.
Fortunately, Ms. Akhtar felt more comfortable being more direct. Shortly after asking Mr. Islam for clarification, they made their relationship official. They traveled between the Bay Area and Washington for about a year, sometimes just for a weekend, and made trips to Seattle together. Austin, Texas; London; and New York.
When Mr Islam decided to do an MBA at Stanford while continuing to work at Threshold, his ability to travel was limited and the couple knew they had to change something or risk losing what they had built together.
“One thing that I knew very well about was that he didn’t want me to move for him,” said Ms. Akhtar, who received her Masters in Social Work from Columbia. “He wanted me to move because I found something I loved.”
For her, it meant finding a school that would enable her to contribute to a local community and develop as an educator. Alpha Public Schools, a network of charter schools in San Jose, California, was a perfect fit. She joined in 2017 and is currently the headmaster at Alpha: Blanca Alvarado, a primary school in the Alum Rock district.
In 2020, the couple got engaged at Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds region of England. They had planned to get married either in Florida, where Mr. Islam grew up, or in Morocco, a destination that Ms. Akhtar had moved to. After the pandemic broke out, they decided to hold their wedding at Ms. Akhtar’s parents in Richmond, Texas instead.
They were married on March 6 in front of 10 family members in a ceremony led by Imam Mohammed ElFarouqi of the Baytown Islamic Center.