The Slippery Slope of Interfaith Marriage
Interfaith marriage is not a topic most Muslims talk about. For me it is a very personal topic, because for a short while I was married to a Christian man. I thought long and hard about delving into such a topic, because it can be considered very controversial.
But then I thought maybe there is someone who went through this in the past, or who may be going through it currently. I spoke with a few Muslim women and below I have six problems that can arise in interfaith marriages between Muslim women and men of other faiths.
Case Number One:
She was taken by surprise. “When I met my ex-husband, he was introduced to me by his father, who was a Muslim, so naturally I assumed he was too. It turned out that his mother was Christian and she raised him and his siblings as Christians. After talking to him for a while I found out that he had not practiced Islam for years. I ignored my instincts and we started getting to know each other. The minute I found out he was not a practicing Muslim I should have left him alone, but we had so much in common that I was intrigued. However, at the same time I wasn’t taking it to be anything too serious. I thought there was no harm in making a new friend, and he was so shy and well-mannered that I got a good feeling about him.”
Case Number Two:
She fell in love with his family. "He was so unlike the guys of my generation, most of them want to play around and send mixed messages, but he was starting to look like a breath of fresh air." She expressed, "We were inseparable after that first day of meeting. We were so much alike that we got along as if we had known each other for years." When it came time to meet his family things only got better for her. "They were the kindest, most welcoming group of people I had ever met. I could tell how he came to be the person he was because of the family he had. I felt right at home with them, they were like my family. I was making a mental check list and he checked off all the boxes, all, except one."
Case Number Three:
She thought she could change him. When you fall in love your way of thinking changes, you start thinking that love can solve all your problems. You start subscribing to the stuff you see in romantic comedies, not considering how unrealistic it is that all of their issues are somehow resolved in 1 hour and 55 minutes and they always live happily ever after. When you’re in love all of that seems quite realistic until the honeymoon period ends and real life begins. That is when she started to see the differences between them, and realized that the rules are there for a reason. There is a reason that Muslim women are told not to marry non-Muslim men. It’s because the man is the head of the household and the woman is supposed to respect and obey him. But how do you respect and obey your husband when he is telling you not to wear hijab, or encouraging you to show a little skin? Or even trying to persuade you to have a glass of wine? That is where things can get tricky, and in that case what do you do? Do you obey your husband or your religion?
"...Eventually we had to sit and have a very honest conversation, because for some time we were both ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room..."
Case Number Four:
He took Shahada on their wedding day. Deciding what religion you want to practice should not be determined by someone else. It is never a good idea to change your religion as a criterion to marry someone, because it’s always unclear whether the choice to convert comes from a genuine interest in the religion or not. If it actually does they should convert and be practicing well before marriage to prove their true interest.
Case Number Five:
She made excuses for the red flags. After marriage he went back to Christianity. This alone would cause some women to leave, after all, he promised to be a Muslim, he took Shahada and then he went back on his word. Leaving her stuck in a position unsure of how to proceed. This actually happens very often, many men who have interest in Muslim women and find out that they must convert to marry them and appease their parents do just that, they convert to appease their parents with no intention of actually practicing Islam.
Case Number Six:
Married but feeling alone. I felt very alone she said, "At home I was praying by myself, fasting by myself, and feeling by myself. I got married to live in unison and practice my religion in unison with my husband, not separately. Ramadan made me seriously question if an interfaith marriage could work." I know for many living in the U.S. and all over the world living in an interfaith marriage is not a big problem. They have children and thriving families, but that situation is not ideal for everyone. Most of those families are not very religious, or maybe one person is and not the other, but in some cases, both are religious. "What would our kids be?" she said, "I was starting to see that it would not work."
So what is the solution for all of these cases? Should they walk away from their marriage? Communication is the key. One sister said it best; "Eventually we had to sit and have a very honest conversation, because for some time we were both ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room."
"What made it difficult," she said "was that he was an amazing husband, a beautiful person and a committed family man. He was not someone I wanted to lose and that was the very thing I was facing." Marriage is something sacred and I don’t know anyone who takes it lightly or jokingly.
"When my husband and I got married we had every intention of being married for the rest of our lives." She went on, "However, circumstances put us in a position to re-evaluate the promises we made. The thought of divorce made me feel like I was letting someone down, my parents, his parents, myself."
Is divorce the right thing for them? That is not for me to say, but I know in my case it wasn’t that simple and only the two people in the marriage can determine that. My aim was just to start a dialogue that might get people thinking differently, or at the very least reinforce what they already believe.
THE WRITER: MALIKAH AQUIL
I am a Caribbean American Muslim girl from Trinidad. I have lived in Brooklyn, NY for the past 20 years and I studied journalism at the University at Buffalo. I am currently a social worker and I love to write anything from poetry, to short stories to opinion pieces. Any form of creativity sparks my interest.
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