Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Agony Aunt: Her Muslim Boyfriend

Asalamu Alaykom,

Madonna and Brahim Zabat

It's Christmas.

I've been told by a sheik on TV not to wish anyone a, "Merry Christmas," but I certainly wished it with my mother last night.  If you are celebrating Christmas today, then I wish you the best as well.

I have an "Agony Aunt" question from a Non-Muslim mom:

I want to know whether or not you believe a Christian can be happily married to a Muslim man.  My daughter has a Muslim boyfriend from Turkey.  It seems to be quite serious.  They are very much in love.  I would not be surprised if they are discussing marriage.  I'm not against her having him as a boyfriend but I do worry about them getting married.

I've heard of other Christian girls marrying Muslims who then get very strict with their wives.  I don't want this for my daughter.  I don't think this would happen with this particular man since he is very well-educated and modern.  However, I'd like to know your feelings on it.

First of all, I think it's great that you are open to whatever direction your daughter's happiness seems to take her.  You are truly a good mom to allow her the freedom to explore life to the fullest.  It is hard to see our children go onto paths which could lead them into heartbreak.  I really can relate to that.  However, you are not an alarmist about her choices and that's really positive.  

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed

There's an oxymoron we need to deal with straight off the bat.  An "oxymoron" is a contradiction in terms.  You simply cannot have "a Muslim boyfriend."  There is no such thing.  Sure, men can allow themselves to be thought of that way but it's not possible.  The only person able to call him or herself, "Muslim," is a person who practises their faith. If a man is a practising Muslim then he can't be having a dating relationship with a woman outside of marriage.

My brother-in-law is a practising Muslim.  He just got promised to a local woman.  Thank God!  He really deserves some happiness.  I find his courtship of his new lady to be really interesting.  He didn't know her.  The families knew of each other.  My husband accompanied his brother (since their father is deceased) to make their family's interest officially known to her family.  The two possible spouses were then allowed to talk to each other.  They agreed to marry.  Now and only now does my brother-in-law go to her house for dinner on Fridays.  They do not go outside of her home.  It is a gradual process of about a year.  That is Islamic and it has nothing to do with being modern or not.  It has to do with being modest.

Obviously, there can be other ways of being modest with a marriage proposal.  I'm not suggesting this example from Egypt is the only way.  However, dating, sleeping together, taking trips together and living together are not allowable in Islam before marriage IN ANY COUNTRY.

Miss Finland finalist Anni Uusivirta with Mohamed Khalid Tukholmassa

Non-Muslim women wishing to marry a Muslim man should not be that man's dirty little secret.  There should be communication with his family; not just him with your family.  He should be treating her the way he would want his sisters treated.  Would he want his sisters to be sexual with a man before marriage?  No.  If he is not, "making an honest woman" out of your daughter then he is not valuing her as much as his sisters.

You are classifying your daughter's man as "Muslim" probably more than he does himself.  He's from Turkey. Turkey is not really sure if the European Union will allow it to be an actual Muslim country.  It's happy being Western and thinking that it's more advanced this way.  Is he believing he's Western?

Perrie Edwards with Zayn Malik and his family

Is he a practising Muslim as far as his prayers, Fridays and fasts?  Allah knows better than anyone.  My guess is that her Muslim boyfriend is not.  She hasn't, therefore, really seen or felt what it's like to be together with an actual Muslim man.  If they marry and he stays on the same course there isn't a problem for their relationship (though Islamically, there would be a problem for his soul).

Janet Jackson and Wissam Al Mana

Click here for an interesting explanation of who is a modern Muslim man from his own point of view.  I think it's good to be very informed; both for your daughter and you yourself.  Understand that her man will not drastically change from the the traditions his family holds dear.  How much do they practice their faith?  As he grows older, he is more likely to embrace the practices of his faith.  Do not bet on him converting to Christianity (though it's happened to others, it's unlikely).  Do not expect him to meet your daughter halfway.

There are five icebergs ready to sink their relationship
To know them means that she can navigate the waters better.

Papers  Yes, he could only be interested in her for papers.  That's sad and I'm sorry to bring it up.  The truth is that there are a lot of desperate men out there who need a way out of poverty or lack of opportunity.  They use their good looks and charisma the same way desperate women have used theirs throughout history.  No one is using anyone else; it's simply a trade-off.  No one gets hurt as long as it's understood...however it's often not understood by the woman.

Renewed Faith  Muslim men feel Islam in their core---even if they deny it for years.  This core feeling gets reignited at times of deep pain like grieving a death or experiencing illness.  Often, when a non-practising Muslim searches for meaning at times of uncertainty they re-find Islam.  If he were to suddenly enter into observance again, could she handle that?

I would recommend she read up on the obligations of Muslims.  She should know the five pillars of Islam, what a real Ramadan entails and what a Muslim husband expects from a wife and children.

Children  Often there isn't a big problem in a marriage---and I mean ANY marriage---until there are children.  Why?  Because children represent our highest hopes.  Those hopes, once again, emanate from that core of our being.  He might seem like a regular Joe but he isn't.  He has hopes residing in him from a long line of Muslim family members.  Your daughter does not have this in her.  There are clashes with most couples when it comes to raising children.  It is even more so with cross-cultural, interfaith couples.

She should know that he expects the children to be Muslim.  There is no, "giving them the options and letting them decide for themselves later."  That's very Democratic but not Islamic.  These would be your Muslim grandchildren.  Are you ready for that?  Even if your daughter gets to name them something Anglo, they would have to adhere to some of his family's deeply held beliefs.

You might not be able to have some of the times you dreamt of:  decorating a Christmas tree, having an Easter egg hunt or taking them to church.  You might! But be prepared for not being able to have everything you wished for.  It would be his right as the father to raise them as Muslims.

She should read and understand what raising a Muslim child is all about.  What are the differences?  They should discuss options, ideas and ideals BEFORE getting married.  If she doesn't agree with him about children then she shouldn't marry and therefore should stop seeing him.

His Family His family might not welcome her.  That doesn't mean that they are closed-minded bigots.  They simply might view reality differently than you and your family.  Being open to new ideas in some cultures is asking for ridicule and harassment.  They probably never dreamt of having a Non-Muslim daughter-in-law (and this is doubly true if she's divorced with children from before).  

If they had a deal with another family to marry him to their daughter, then be prepared for that to be a burden on him that he might not be able to break.  A lot of "starting a family" the Muslim way has to do with strengthening bonds between families not individuals.  It starts with the parents' decision and not the children's.  

Many Muslim men, like many men in general,  fool around before settling down.  They have their fun and then have their families pick the mother of their children.  No one wants discord or divorce.  There is a feeling that a "love marriage" can end when the love fades whereas an "arranged marriage" lasts forever.  "Arranged" doesn't mean that the man goes kicking and screaming to the ceremony.  Many men view the intervention of their mothers, aunts and sisters to find a bride as a helpful blessing.

Reverting  Lastly, I am going to mention what sunk my "Muslim boyfriend" boat.  It was increased faith---mine not his.

Once upon a time, AbuBoo was my Muslim boyfriend.  I came to Islam independent of him because of my beliefs in Allah.  I thought, however, that by me entering into Islam we would become more unified.  It had the opposite effect.

Often, women who are drawn to Muslim men are actually trying to find Islam.  They get introduced to the faith through faithless men.  That's the reality and it's from Allah Subhana Wa Tallah.  However, once interested in Islam, these same women research it, explore both the religion and themselves and come up MORE connected to Islam than to their husbands.  At that time, the marriage could succeed or fail but it's up to their man to change for the better.  Men rarely change for someone else (just like they rarely ask for directions or read instructions).  Only a Muslim man who wants to grow in his faith with his more religious, revert wife can hold a marriage together .

For myself, I can explain the six years I had like this:

The first year, 2001, I dated my Muslim boyfriend.  It was the big love; the crazy love; the love of my life.  He already was getting his American citizenship so it had nothing to do with papers.

The second year, 2002, I reverted to Islam and we married.  His family did welcome me.  We were now halal in many ways but not all.

The third year, 2003, I was fully in Islam as a praying hijabi.  He then made the choice to follow me into a deeper, more meaningful Islam.  As much as he had helped me to come to Islam, I also helped him.

The fourth year, 2004, was feeling like our best year together because we were connected to each other and to Allah.  We were both working meaningful jobs helping the community.  It was at this time that we agreed on having a child.

The fifth year, 2005, our son's impeding birth brought out the Muslim boyfriend from the man I had married.  I had lost my Muslim husband even as I was pregnant with his child.  His attempt to stay rooted in Islam had failed.

That last year together, 2006, was very painful.  It was full of hope for what I wished our lives to be and what was reality.  I had to face the fact that my son's life needed me even if I felt I was inadequate to raise him alone.  I had to be alone.  We had been left to fend for ourselves.  That was December, 2006.  Six years ago today, I remember being very, very alone in my new apartment with my baby and my faith.

That apartment is six homes ago---and on a different continent no less.  That handsome boy is now seven years old.  Mashallah.  My faith has grown.  Alhumdulillah.  I am married as a Muslim to another Muslim and "yes" it is easier though marriage itself can be a very difficult gig.

So, to you, the mother of the daughter with the Muslim boyfriend, keep loving your girl.  Stay open to her path even if it causes her pain and takes her in directions you never would have chosen.  My mother never would have chosen my life for me but she loves who I am in this moment...

and so do I.

I am who I am from a sum total of everyone and everything I've experienced...

including my Muslim boyfriend.


khaki said...

Assalamu 'Alaykum Yosra!

I just loved reading your reply, the way you have touched upon the basic obligations of men as

Love and light to you.

Its always so insightful to read your blog.

You are always a source of inspiration.

Stay blessed always. Ameen

Noor said...

MashAllah what a cool blog you have. I can not believe I am just finding it.

Btw if you have time we would love to have you: http://s3.zetaboards.com/Cafe_Muslimah/index/

Marie said...

My dear Yosra,

I always love your answers, full of respect and wisdom and it makes me think too.
I never thought marrying a Muslim man would take me to the place I am now, nearly the same place you were in 6 years ago - on my own, waiting to give birth to my baby boy.

I wish I had your strength and faith but these days I can only cry and feel desesperatly alone, even though I have support and love around me.

It is not because it did not work for me it won't work for others, but I would definitely recommend women to have a closer look at Islam and talk talk talk with their husbands-to-be before getting married. It would save many from the hardships of divorce and much pain.

Much love to you and your family.xx

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Khaki,

So nice to see you. You really got the ball rolling with this series so I should thank you with each.


Glad that you found my answer adequate. It's tough to give information without clobbering someone over the head. It's much easier to shout and rant and rave but it gets us nowhere. So, my attempt is to be gentle, truthful and informative.

Love and Light to YOU as well :)

Asalamu Alaykom Noor,

Thanks for the compliment. Alhumdulillah for anything good you find here and astragferallah for anything bad. The good is from Allah and the bad is from me.

I hope you pass by here again :)

Love and Light!

Asalamu Alaykom Marie,

I wondered if you would read this. It's been a while since I've seen a comment from you. I know you've been hurting.

Hold on...

If anyone reading this wants to spare a prayer for Marie, go for it. She needs some love and light in a big way. I'll wait until you're done.

Did you?

Okay, thanks, Readers.

Marie, I'm back.

"Life is not for the faint of heart," is one of my mom's favorite phrases. It works. It's true.

I've had a hard morning here. I didn't expect it but it WHAMMED me upside the head. I think it's harder at the holidays too because I've left precious people to have a new life. Why have a cruddy life AND not be with them?

Yet, now I can find the calm again. I'll survive a blip. My upset has to chill so I can do all the things that need getting done.

Stayng busy and focused helps. It really does. A friend of mine in the States has a theory that the pioneer people were less psychotic than modern people because they simply didn't have the time.

I wish you didn't have this time on your hands. I wish I could take it away and return you to "normal" life. I can't...so I guess this life you've got now is better than what was going on before. Allah knows best.

I really don't know how we (you, me, women in general) make it through life. It's really a journey. I'm sorry that you understand completely my moment of being pregnant and alone---even though I didn't move out while I was pregnant. In many ways, I died during those months---or my spirit died. I wish that I could have loved my then-husband less at that time because it would have hurt less.

I wasn't strong enough. Marie, you simply have to ask God for strength. That's the only way. I am not strong every moment. I certainly wasn't this morning when I learned I wasn't invited to an important party. Sure, the decision was reversed but the hurt was deep. Why am I here if no one wants me? Then, I have to forget about people and remember Allah. I'm here because ALLAH SWT wants me here. I'm here because this is my life and I have a right to live it the best I can. What wrongs I've done, I ask Allah to forgive me. What wrongs others have done to me, I ask Allah to forgive them. This is how I gain strength.

Marrying a Muslim man is a choice. I've made that choice 2 1/2 times (don't ask about the half). I found it a challenge the first time but obviously I kept going back for another try. For me, the rewards are enough. I found a deeper love and understanding than I had found previously. I've had the chance to leave Islam and to leave Muslim men AND I stayed with both.

For all my problems getting my life sorted, I have to admit that God has protected me every step of the way. I was never forgotten. Alhumdulillah.

Keep remembrance of Allah, Marie, and you will find yourself moving closer to goodness and calm. It's there.

Love and Light to You and Baby Boy!

Thankful Slave said...

Assalam Aleikum Sis. Yosra,
Interesting post...as I always say, marrying is the easiest part, keeping the marriage afloat is the real challenge.
There are always good and bad marriages in every religion, Muslim, or non-Muslims, it is not certain that the christian girl marrying a christian man would be happier than the one marrying a Muslim man.
The comment the lady made: "I've heard of other Christian girls marrying Muslims who then get very strict with their wives. I don't want this for my daughter" is pretty surprising. Well, we've heard of many Christian girls marrying Christian boys and the marriage ended in a fiasco much worse than would have happened with a Muslim husband. Newspapers are just full of horrifying stories supporting this argument.
Rich people divorce, poor people divorce too, celebrities divorce, common people divorce, there are no easier / happier marriages (in any religion) but there are challenges that Allah would put in the marriage life of His creatures...The successful marriages would be the ones built onto the fear of Allah, that we shall be asked one day on our duties & responsibilities..


Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam TS,

Nice to see you again. You always have some good perspective to add.

Yes, you are right in what you say and I like how you said it.

What I really keyed in on was the idea that a dating relationship with a "Muslim man" was going to rooted in some kind of goodness. I just don't feel that. I feel the dating is him not owning up to his responsibility to God which therefore can't be a good sign for his any future responsibility to a wife. Someone who professes to love Allah but does NOTHING to show this love is not a good candidate for human love. I don't know the extent of his practices of faith so I can't say more than this.

I do understand the mom's concern. You're right to point out that marriage is a problem all over. However, I don't really see this as a marriage of a Christian and a Muslim since he's probably non-practising. With that in mind, a non-practising anything is a bad choice. I've been married to a non-practising Christian and that didn't work either.

Wishing you and your family the best in 2013!

Asalamu Alaykom Readers,

These "Agony Aunt" answers really work best if we have a dialogue in the comments section. I really want to rely on readers to add their thoughts. I'll respond and if you out there feel so moved, then you respond too. Deal?


Khadijah said...

Salam aliekum Yosra,

I'm going to share this with a revert group Omar and I have here. I really think you've touched on a lot of key points about relationships and marriage that our sisters and brothers may be able to benefit from. As always, I enjoy reading of your experiences and Insha'Allah I can join you in Misr again soon.


Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Ms. Khadijah,

Nice to hear from you! Hoping that you and the boys (big and small) are doing well.

Great idea to bring these points up at your meeting! They could make for an interesting discussion for sure.

I think it's wonderful you are using your time and talents in helping others. You have so much to offer. Inshahallah, you'll be back in Misr when the time is right.

Love and Light!