Rafed English

Entering Into a Muslim Marriage

+My parents were unsure about my husband as they didn't get to meet him in person until the night we married. We purposely spent a few days (after our marriage ) with them so they could get to know him better. They have grown to love him dearly. In fact, in my father's eyes, he is the son he never had. My mother has confessed that she couldn't wish a nicer husband for me. Considering their veritable objections when they first discovered how I found him, my family has espoused my husband as one of their own. If the couple survives family objections during the courtship period, they prepare to enter into marriage. It is often difficult for the parents of the woman marrying a Muslim from another country. They may feel suspicious of the man's intentions and express fear for their daughter. First-time meetings between the male suitor and the woman's family may be strained. However, in many cases among this sample of women, the family, too, grew to accept and establish a friendship with the husband.

In the survey I asked for positive stories of those converting to Islam. This is not to ignore the reports of the poor relationships that exist. One woman called me on the phone after receiving the questionnaire and said she couldn't give her name or answer the questionnaire because her experience had not been positive. In fact, she had been married to two different Muslims, both well-educated and one a physician. Both beat her and abused her badly. She was in hiding, afraid for her life.

It is not my intent to glorify Muslim marriage, but I certainly recognize that all Muslim marriages are not catastrophes as the media would lead us to believe. My intention in writing this is to share some positive experiences which contrast with the negative stories in order to present a more balanced picture. Among Muslims there are good, bad, and in-between marriages just like that of other religions and cultures, and abusive relationships may be found. There are even those men from other countries who marry only to have access to the green card (allowing the non-citizen to stay in the United States and work).

+I joined a pen pal club from a newspaper ad and got a letter from an Arab college student. He proposed and I fell for it. He basically married me to get my virginity and his green card. After our divorce I was living in Tennessee. Friends introduced me to another Muslim. He was a religious, simple guy-answered all my questions right, and I wanted a husband and children of my own. My parents were skeptical before our marriage because they didn't think he was any different from my first husband who was Muslim. They accept him now and our three-year--old son. We had a simple marriage ceremony at the Islamic Center. Then we went out to eat at Ponderosa Steak House. The reception was fancier but only attended by a few friends of ours. I had a sisters' bachelorette party the night before-fun! It was traditionally Islamic. Then we went to New York for two weeks for our honeymoon. +I was married before to a Muslim and had a very bad marriage. For five years I was physically and emotionally abused. My advice for anyone who wants to marry is to have a wali to check the brothers [brothers are the Muslim men] that want to many. This marriage was bad. After we married he prayed once, got his green card, flirted with women, and finally became a citizen. He has a restaurant, married a Muslima from Singapore and brought his family here-all thanks to me being born in the U.S.A. I am now happily married to another Muslim.

A Muslim marriage for the women surveyed was by and large very positive, beginning with the ceremony itself, which often differed significantly from traditional western styles. Sometimes the wedding ceremony itself added to the fears and hurts of the family. Families dream of walking their daughter up the aisle of the church and having the minister join her to a man of whom they approve. It will be a sacrament in the Christian tradition with the reception and gifts and fellowship following. The stories of weddings between a non-Muslim and a Muslim, however, illustrate many differences and varieties of situations. Some did have the large weddings (often blamed on satisfying the parents), but there were also elopements, small weddings before the justice of the peace, and/or Muslim ceremonies.

+We had a special ceremony for a Muslim marrying a non-Muslim (informal) which is called a term marriage. Our term was for ninety-nine years. It was just us and two friends. Then we had a wedding for my family in my parents' church. My father married us and did not refer to Jesus. He was respective of my husband's needs. It was very nice and family-oriented. There were not many problems because I was not Muslim and my husband was not strongly practicing. We also had a third wedding after I became Muslim to celebrate our permanent standing as two Muslims married to each other. +My family never expressed any opposition to my marriage or to my husband. We were not close. My mother only asked me if I was happy. When I answered yes, she said so was she.

Our marriage was performed by a Baptist minister. Because I had not belonged to any church for many years, I didn't know a minister, so we asked the minister from the church that my roommates attended at the time. It was very simple. We asked to read the ceremony beforehand. The only change we asked for was that the minister replace the words, "In Jesus' name" to "In God's name." The nicest part was the Arab tradition afterwards with singing and dancing. +We were married by a justice of the peace at a courthouse without my family and with only friends as witnesses. Then a few months later we were married by a shaikh [Muslim religious leader] in a short ceremony with only one witness.

+There were no cultural elements in our wedding such as cutting and eating cake or sprinkling sugar over our heads. Our wedding was the most basic Islamic marriage, where two people find the need to become partners in life and agree before God to live and work together in harmony and stay away from sins. He read the words of the marriage ceremony in Arabic and I agreed to the marriage. For my dowry he promised to give me my own Arabic Qur'an, which he gave to me sometime later. He gave me items for prayer, including a prayer carpet. After we were married, according to the law of Islam, we went to the county courthouse and were married by a judge. (In Islam, Muslims are advised to follow the rules of the country in which they reside as long as these laws are not contrary to Islam.) +We had a ceremony at my church not geared to any particular faith. We also had a nikkah performed at the mosque the day before our wedding ceremony.

+Our marriage ceremony was beautiful! Perfect as others describe it. The day was perfect, sunshine and cool. A string quartet, mansion for a venue, and excellent catered brunch buffet. I understand that it is typical to have Arabic music played at a reception and both of us were in agreement that most of our guests would have been put off by it so we decided on strings. Other than two items, our ceremony was an entirely Islamic ceremony. The two elements that made it not completely Islamic were my father giving me away and that we had guests attend the ceremony. I am glad we had Christian guests at the ceremony because then part of the mystery surrounding Islam was removed.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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