Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of Mice and Men and Interfaith Marriages

As salaam alaikum,

First of all...

Ramadan Mubarak!

For my Muslim readers, may Allah (swt) bless us all during this month with good health, and...may all of our prayers come true!

Haha, I know that sounded bootleg, but over the years, I've run out of inspired things to say. I usually say something along the lines of, "May this Ramadan be a good one for you insha'Allah," know, more eloquently than that. I feel like I need to say something like that with wishing folks a good Ramadan...I guess it's not implicit in that statement.

Anyway, that's clearly not what the entry is evident from the title.

My mother and I were talking about marriage the yesterday, a subject that we broached after discussing my friend's wedding this weekend. That conversation and the wedding got me to thinking about the union in a different light.

When I first heard that my friend, a Muslimah, was dating a Jewish guy, I was intrigued by how such a relationship came to be and continued working out, if not a little amused at the irony of the situation. They were falling in love as the Middle East conflict raged on, as Muslims and Jews were portrayed as the quintessential enemy by the media, all of this. When they began living together, I concluded that her parents had become more liberal since their middle child came out as a lesbian.

When they were engaged, I began really thinking about the implications of their relationship.

To the outsider, they were a Muslim and a Jew getting married. As a Muslim, this was a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim, and therefore in and of itself momentous.

This was going to be the wedding of the year for me. For one, it's the only wedding that I was invited to this year (the people I'm closest to are either not getting married or are going international on me *tear*). And, I couldn't wait to see how they were going to pull the interfaith thing. I used to joke that they were going to have a nikkah and then break the glass, and that I'd shout both mabrook and mazel tov at the same time...

...and then I went to the wedding, and I heard the couple talk about what they loved about each other, and people, in their toasts, talked about what each party said about the other, and it was apparent--this was a match. This was a good match. This was compatibility at it's best, and their religious difference actually didn't feel like a caveat. It was a lavish ceremony, but those types of things don't impress me as much as the character of the two people marrying.

I'm always more excited about the marriages than the weddings themselves.

They said that they married each other's best friend and described their mutual love of human rights and their dedication to humanitarian efforts. They felt like they were each other's one; neither felt like they were settling. My friend did not feel like she was settling for a non-Muslim, though I'm not sure whether or not such a thought crossed her mind. In my estimation of her, I don't think it ever did.

Of course, we can't know what's really in people's hearts or what the future holds, which makes me shy away from frank envy, but I do pray that whoever I end up with is the best possible match for me as they seemed to be for each other. As I said to one of my friends during our infamous (to only ourselves) 25-and-single lament, "Things work [out] because they work." An outside Muslim may argue that the match would have been the best if both parties had been the same religion with all of the character traits that they loved about each other, but somehow I feel like...that's a moot point.

Maybe part of the reason they fell in love with each other was the respect, understanding and compassion that they had for each other's religion and culture, and that wouldn't be as much there if they were both of the same culture or religion. I mean, I know someone could argue "What's the value of that if you don't share the same religion?"

But really, how religion?

I know that sounds like a funny question, but bear with me.

How religion? You can have two Muslims who believe and practice very differently, who may not respect the way the other practices or believes. You can have two people of any given religion that practice and believe very differently. Just religion does not equate compatibility. Mutual respect, striving for understanding and compassion for this, the most delicate of differences in our lives, is the most important thing, I think, for a marriage, just as two people who are of the same religion must attain this about their individualized beliefs, not only within the realm of religion but also worldview.

I'm saying a lot of things and this is a bit on the defensive, just because I feel like most Muslims that read this will say, "But the Qur'an specifically tells us that a Muslim woman should not marry a non-Muslim man, astaghfirullah!" Like, this is nothing that any of us should strive to do, and going against what is fard is...why ever would I want to do that?

But I don't want to.

I don't want to because I see my parents and I don't want to be them. Their marriage is a great one, filled with mutual respect (to a degree that was not extended on my own choice of religion, but that's neither here nor there right now...well, actually, it is relevant, but I digress) and compassion, and the understanding bit is I think an ongoing process for them in their lives, kind of like Islam is for us Muslims. I want my marriage to be even greater than theres, insha'Allah, if I'm not brazen in saying such a thing. I want a husband who I can pray with, one who strives to submit his entire self to God, no matter what name he calls himself or what religion he understood himself to be from birth or at any time of life. Someone who is content with me as long as I also strive in the way of God, someone who doesn't try to convert me...

But you know...the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a gley. Insha'Allah, I will have this marriage because this prayer of mine has been years in the making, as I have been years in the making, the maturing, the understanding of what this union means. Just as this friend, my friend, wouldn't have been able to guess when I was 14 and she was 15 that, in 11 years, she would be marrying her best friend--I won't be able to guess, to construct, to construe, to imagine...any of own path.

I could go into this thing imagining myself with a "liberal" Muslim and end up with a man who has aspirations to be an Islamic scholar. I could imagine myself with a "born" Muslim and end up with a revert. I could see myself with only a Muslim and end up with someone who, for all intents and purposes, is Muslim but does not call himself by that name. I don't know. Allah (swt) knows best.

So Muslim is no longer the top of my list. True Muslim is more apt, but that's something that I can't tell from outward appearance or chance encounters. I want to end up with someone who loves me, yes, will come to love me more, respects me and my beliefs and worldview and who finds them engaging for conversation and the purposes of mutual learning. Someone who strives to understand the parts of me that he doesn't understand. Someone who fits with me in only a way that Allah (swt) can plan, in a way that I can't even begin to articulate, as no one knows me better than Him.

And I pray that I can be the same for him, insha'Allah.

I've been fasting for hours now and ironically, as Maghrib approaches, I feel less hungry. That will probably go away once I set foot in the market to buy my milk and dates and am tempted by isles of food. I'm only at home for two more days before my fam and I head to Boston for their week-long vacation.

But once again, Ramadan Mubarak! May we experience peace during this blessed month, may Allah (swt) have mercy on us and forgive us, both for what we know and what we don't know, and may we attain to a greater faith, greater sense of purpose and thereby greater closeness to Him as we fast this Holy month.



  1. Rammadaan Karim!

    Oh, interfaith marriages, I think you're spot on. It's funny, My step-dad is home right now, so my mom made sure to call him to see how his first day of fasting went, I know it works, I know it does...

    sigh. It's like you wrote, it's about the personalities so much more than anything else. funnily enough faith just like economic background, or ethnicity or life goals are just one facet of the love and marriage conundrum...

    on a side note, there is an imam in London that performs interfaith marriages for Muslim women and non-Muslim men, I don't know what his reasoning or proofs were, but eh, it's food for thought.

    I hope you find the peace and contemplation you need this month.

  2. Thanks, sis! :)

    Yeah, my friend had an imam present who, for about 30 minutes, gave justification for their marriage, based upon past examples of Muslim women married to non-Muslim men (during the ceremony). It wasn't really based in Qur'an or Sunnah as much as historical references, but yeah.

    I feel like they did it like that both to educate the non-Muslim attendees and as a defensive move for the more conservative Muslim relatives in attendance. They did what they felt they needed to do, hehe, I guess...when I get marrried, I'm not explaining ANYTHING! People are gonna have to take that mess at face value! :D

  3. i got here through gazelle's blog! this post is really interesting. personally i have no problems with interfaith relationship because they were all around me when growing up so i had already formed positive opinions before i learnt they were supposedly forbidden in Islam. it must have been due to this that it was and still is difficult for me to believe that their union was a sin.