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How to Build a Successful Intercultural Marriage

Written by Stephanie Siam

wedding-silhouetteMarriage is a commitment that requires unending devotion, conscientious effort, and a lot of patient practice. Selecting a suitable husband is quite possibly the most important decision a woman will make. So much rests on who she chooses to be her life partner:

  • Will he be kind and patient?
  • Will he support me through good times and bad?
  • Will he be responsible and mature when necessary?
  • Will he be a good parent?

Factor in religion, culture, and nationality, and a woman can just about go insane trying to satisfy her need to fulfill what many consider to be an obligatory rite of passage in Islam.

It’s no secret that many Western, female converts look eastward when searching for a husband. Perhaps their attraction to the dark, brooding males of the Orient is what initially drew them towards the study wedding-hennaof Islam to begin with – no, I’m not saying women convert to Islam for their men, reread the sentence.

While there are plenty of Western, female converts who find successful marriages with Western male converts (see: Corbin, islamwichs founder and person extraordinaire), an overwhelming number of women ultimately marry men from the Levant (Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine), Arabian Gulf Peninsula (UAE, Saudi, Kuwait), India, or Pakistan.

However, no matter where these men come from initially, almost all of them share similar traits as Husbands to Western Convert Wives. And these traits can sometimes – read: always be challenging negotiations when trying to merge two cultures into one marriage.

I mean, marriage is hard enough as it is.

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A Field Guide for New Muslims Part 3

Field Guide for New Muslims 3

Written by Kaighla Um Dayo and Theresa Corbin

Part 1 Part 2Part 4Part 5

Marriage?

For Sisters:

Don’t get married for at least a year. I repeat. DO NOT do it.

As soon as we say shahadah, there is a line forming of “suitable” young bachelors, ready to make our freshly-halaal dreams come true. Dear sister, we tell you: most of them are frauds, and another great portion have expectations of you based on what they’ve watched in movies or heard about from their more daring friends.

We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but if he is an immigrant, you will have a hard time distinguishing between faith and his culture after you marry him. Yes, even if he comes from a ‘Muslim’ country, there are still things against the religion. Take it from us: this can kill your iman faster than a speeding bullet.

brothers are lining up
get in line, bro

Contrary to what the aunties in the masjid try to tell you, no, it’s not haraam to be single. And no you don’t need a ‘good reason’ to choose to stay single. You don’t ever have to get married if that is your deal. This whole ‘Oh, but not being married is a great fitnah (trial) on the earth! Getting and being married completes half of our deen (religious obligations)is just bologna, through and through.

For one thing, that hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad) was declared ‘weak’ by Ibn Hajar and other scholars. This means we can’t be sure he even said it, and it’s likely he didn’t. (There is an entire science to how his sayings were transmitted over the centuries. It’s really complex. Learn about it. There are some resources down below.)

Now, think for a second: were you a seething bowl of sexy hotness, desperate to jump into bed with anyone of the opposite sex 5 minutes before you said shahadah? If not, you aren’t suddenly that way now. And even if you do get married, fitnah still exists.

Take as much time as possible to dedicate your heart to Allah. Be OK with being alone with Him. He wants to be nearer to you or he wouldn’t have guided you to Islam. Take time to learn the ins-and-outs, but stick to the basics.

When you have developed a solid sense of what the difference between religion and culture is, you’ll be safe from the frequent soul-crushing issues those of us less-wise have had to learn the hard way.

Kaighla was only a Muslim for 2 months when she got married, and when she married an Egyptian imam (spiritual leader, like a preacher or a pastor), she was expected to adopt– overnight!– the dress (above and beyond hijab), mannerisms, and habits of an Egyptian woman.

And if she did not comply, she was ‘displeasing her husband’ and Allah would be displeased with her. Friends, this is torture, it’s unfair, and it’s unnecessary hardship. Take it from us: resist getting married for as long as possible.

When you feel firm enough in your religion and ready for marriage, please refer to Theresa’s article on Aquila-Style before hitching your life to another person’s. It gives practical advice and much needed info about protecting yourself in your marriage.

For Brothers:Love for Allah's sake

If you are of marriage age, unmarried, and can support a family; don’t delay your search for a suitable partner. It can be difficult for male converts to find a Muslimah mate. Muslim families tend to want someone from their own tribe for their daughters. Even if that mate from their “tribe” isn’t as stable or religious as you. It is stupid. We know. And we are sorry.

My (Theresa’s) husband- a fellow convert- had a hard time finding a born Muslimah whose family was OK with her marrying a convert. Try looking in the convert community for a Muslimah who converted over a year ago. It worked for my husband.

But if you are one of those fortunate brothers that find a potential spouse sooner rather than later, hold off on tying the knot until you are well-grounded and able to distinguish the religion from culture (yes, even Western culture).

Don’t let anyone pressure you

Islam was revealed to the Prophet over 23 years.

The first 10 years of revelations were about faith, the oneness of Allah, and his majesty, love, and mercy. The first revelations to the Prophet Muhammad and his followers were not rules and regs. Only later when faith was firm in the believers hearts did Allah reveal to the Prophet what rules we should follow so that we will not harm our own souls.

As a new convert, you should focus on learning about Islam, learning about Allah, learning how to pray, what the prayer means, increasing in faith and knowledge. And take on only what you can handle.

When I (Theresa) was considering Islam, my biggest hangup was the hijab. I didn’t want to wear it. I was interested in fashion and thought it would cramp my style. I was also terrified of not knowing all that was required of me as a Muslim.

craw-walk-run-

That was until someone told me “You aren’t going to be able to run before you crawl. If you believe, say you believe. Become a Muslim then start learning. The rest will come.”

I did. And did it ever! After I said I believed (shahada) all my reservations seemed silly. I started learning and LOVING Islam. That was until I entered a community that expected too much too fast. It made me bitter and resentful.

I (Kaighla) actually loved hijab before I was Muslim, and it was one of the things which attracted me to Islam. The concept just made sense to me. But, I had my own reservations, as well. For one thing, I could not accept the concept of polygyny being something Allah was OK with. To this day, that is a sticking point for me, but that’s because I am living in it, unhappily.

As well, the whole ‘music is haraam/makrooh (forbidden/highly disliked by Allah)’ argument set me back, big time. But ultimately, when I realized I was already a Muslim in my core beliefs (oneness of God, etc.), I realized neither of those issues was a deal-breaker or game-changer.

If anyone forces you or pressures you to take on too much too fast, kindly remind them that Islam was not revealed all at once and you are doing your best. Allah knows your situation.

Check out my (Theresa’s) article on OnIslam.net about the first steps a new Muslim should take.

Check out our podcast, here and here, where we discuss these issues further

Preventing Bitterness a New Muslim's Guide 3

Resources:

Prayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDit-zlSp7g

Quran: www.quran.com

Hadith: www.Sunnah.com

Explanation of the Quran: http://qtafsir.com/

Learning Arabic: http://bayyinah.com/

Answers to tons of questions: http://www.ifoundislam.net/revert-supports/

New Muslim Support Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RevertSupportGroup/

Find Prayer times and a Mosque near you: http://www.islamicfinder.org/

Ask a question: http://www.onislam.net/english/ask-about-islam.html?start=1420

Ask us: islamwich@yahoo.com

New Muslim Care: http://newmuslimcare.org/

Theresa Corbin is the founder of islamwich. Look her up on the About page, or on Twitter @islamwich

Kaighla Um Dayo is a writer and story-teller extraordinaire. You can find more of her work, as well as her podcast, at her blog, Lemonade For Bitter Souls. Her work was also published in Al Jumuah Magazine, in 2011 and 2012. She is a momma of four, currently living in small-town Egypt. Before embracing Islam in 2009, she was an evangelical Christian who attended Bible college before traveling the world as a missionary. Her favorite things are procrastinating, eating chocolate, fixing things, making things and taking risks.

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Like the post, share it, pin it, comment on it, and/or do whatever social media magic it is that you prefer. Find out more about us in the understandably named “About Us” page and browse other posts in “Table of Contents”.