Rafed English

Following the Path into marriage When Two Become One in Islam

From the first moment Jodi and Reza told us they wanted to - get married, they made it clear that they intended to live in his homeland, Iran. It was at the time that American hostages were being held captive in Iran, and relations between Iran and America were not good. That was really frightening to me. The fact that he was Muslim seemed less important because we anticipated that he would probably convert to Christianity. Besides, we really respected and liked this young man. The dreaded day had finally arrived. Reza was taking Jodi to Iran to live just as they said they would when they got engaged. They had made a trip to Iran early in their marriage, but now that Reza had his bachelor's degree in engineering plus a master's degree in industrial technology and Jodi had completed her bachelor's degree in nursing, they were ready to go. The war between Iraq and Iran was still being waged. It just didn't seem safe. So far away-would I ever see her again? The scene from Fiddler on the Roof again flooded my mind as I pictured Tevya with his second daughter at the train stop waiting to send her off on the train to Siberia to be with her husband. I heard again the words of his daughter's song, "Far From the Home I Love."

Jodi and Reza sold everything they had except for what they could carry in the four huge suitcases that they would take with them to start life in Iran. They spent the last night with us. They were so excited and happy! Seeing them off that next morning at the airport was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I felt like Jodi was going out of our lives for good. I wanted to lie down on the airport floor and kick and scream. But I kept control until we got to the car where I could safely fall apart. She was gone. I would never see her again. It was as if she were dead. This marriage had torn her from me, taking her to a strange, war-torn land.

But life went on, and I went off on a work trip to Canada. Joe called me there to tell me Jodi had called. A dam had broken in a mountain above Teheran, and the water had come through the area where they were living with Reza's parents. Over a thousand people had been killed by the surging water and mud slide, and among the dead was Reza's father who had been drowned in the basement apartment where the family lived. Most things in the apartment were ruined as it was under several feet of mud and water. The family rescued their father's body from the water, cleaned the apartment, and tried to save what they could. I felt a deep sadness. Yes, I was sad about Reza's father, but I was also overwhelmed with another kind of grief. If Jodi had lost everything she had taken with her to Iran, how could she ever remember who we were or her former life? She had nothing left to remind her-all her pictures were gone, all her keepsakes, her papers. I was sure that she would forget, over time, who we were and who she had been. Now her family would be Reza's family, and no doubt we would eventually lose contact.

Three months later we received another call. Jodi and Reza were coming back to the United States. The economy in Iran was difficult as a result of the war. They began to realize that they needed more time to build their financial strength before making the commitment to live in Iran. What a celebration for us! They were coming back. We would have our Jodi and Reza back. We have had many years now together in the same metropolitan area. The respect and love we had for Reza from the beginning has grown and matured. The role Reza seems to express in his family with his wife and children is similar to that of conservative Christians who feel the responsibility to be head of the family. He takes seriously that leadership for the family while at the same time encouraging Jodi to be a participating partner in their decisions.

If we were to describe all Muslim husbands by the model presented to us by our son-in-law, we would tell you they are gentle, strong, kind, intelligent, courteous, happy, dependable, nurturing. We are amazed at his knowledge and commitment to practice his religion, his desire that his children grow up to be practicing Muslims and be protected from bad images on TV or movies, his feeling of responsibility to be sure his family is cared for, and his dependable handling of finances. There is also his strong feeling for his family of origin and connectedness to his country of origin. Just as the value of a strong male role model in the home and family is important in the Christian family, so is this strength fostered in the Muslim family. The husband is encouraged to be a strong force in the family, to provide the financial support for the family, and to give leadership in decision-making and religious practices.

Some of the women questioned converted to Islam while they were still single, and they said it was important to them that they marry a Muslim. On the other hand, a non-Muslim woman's introduction to Islam may have come at the time she married a Muslim man. In other instances, a prior interest in Islam may have opened the way for a non-Muslim woman to develop a relationship with a Muslim man.

The husbands in my survey came originally from a variety of Countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, India, Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, Kenya, Afghanistan, Oman, Tunisia, Morocco, and United States of America. Many of the men now hold United States or Canadian citizenship and all are well-educated. Some plan to take their families back to their country of origin or are already living there; others are committed to living in the United States or Canada with hopes of being in a city where there are large Muslim communities in which to worship and to raise their children. One of the women who was single when she responded to the questionnaire wrote later to tell me that she had married a wonderful Egyptian man who extended to her and her family care and respect.

+You are probably wondering why I am telling you all of this. I just want you to understand that in Islam the institution of marriage is what has helped me to practice my religion to the fullest amount possible. As an American convert, I found it very hard at first to be a good Muslim and follow all the changes I had to make in my life, even though I did do it gradually. Now with my husband, I feel even more fulfilled. In my heart I know that I have made the right decision. I am most lucky to not have to decide between my family and Islam (because Islam would have won), but I am most lucky because Allah has guided me to the right path. I am not saying I have no problems, but all I do now is look into my heart and read Qur'an and I feel that all is better. The couples met in a variety of settings just as is common in America-at college, in the job setting, at social activities, or through friends. Here are some stories of those meetings.

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

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