Dear Salma: my family doesn’t approve of the man I love

Dear Salma,

I was born in Pakistan, but grew up in the US. My parents however still live in Africa, and I am staying with my aunt. Some time back,  a close friend of mine who happens to be a revert to Islam, had asked for my hand in marriage. I have known this man for about five years and have gradually fallen in love with him. Despite my feelings and his devotion to Islam, my family refused him. My aunt, who has never met this man, managed to convince my parents that if I marry him, I will embarrass my family. Her dislike for him comes from pure racism (she has gone so far as to call him a “shaytan”) and my parents are now threatening to disown me if I marry this man.  

I have spent a great deal of time praying about this matter and my supplications always lead my heart to the feeling that this person is the one for me. Through it all, this guy has been nothing but supportive and respectful, advising me to pray to Allah to soften my parents’ hearts. I am reaching a breaking point; I think my next move, and perhaps my only option, is to marry this man without my family’s blessing. How do I convince my close-minded family that piety takes precedence over culture?

Confused
——

Dear Confused

Your situation is understandably difficult. You are right, it doesn’t seem fair to have to choose between making your family happy and marrying the man you feel is right for you. It is important for your family to be on board if at all possible, so here are  a few steps you might pursue before giving up.

Is there anyone who could convince your aunt to at least meet the man you are interested in marrying and then decide what sort of person he is? Try to think of anyone in the community or extended family who your family respects and who might have some influence over your parents and aunt. Sometimes, the Imam is a good option; he might be able to persuade your parents and aunt to realize the value of considering a religious husband and the danger of making a decision based on racism and/or culture.

I also recommend that you and the man you are considering for marriage arrange to meet with an Imam for some consultation and a possible intervention. From an Islamic point of view, parents should not prevent their son or daughter from marrying a pious individual who can meet the responsibilities required of a spouse (i.e. financially supporting a family). The Imam might be able to drive this point home to your family.

You can also find some additional guidance in the book, Before You Tie the Knot: A Guide for Couples, in particular the chapter addressing the role family plays in one’s marriage. The book should also provide you with some useful information about things to consider before entering into an intercultural marriage, since cultural differences require significant adjustments and compromises from both parties.

Ultimately, if you move forward without your family’s blessings, you should be prepared for the loss that will impact you for as long as your family refuses to accept the marriage. Sometimes families do come around after a while, especially after children (grandchildren) are born, but that’s not a guarantee. For that reason, I encourage you and the man you are interested in spending your life with to seek professional counseling to help you make the best possible decision.

 

May Allah bring you what is best.

Salma Abugideiri is a licensed professional counselor with almost 20 years of experience. She is also a founding board member for Peaceful Families Project, a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence in Muslim families. More information is available at www.peacefulfamilies.org andwww.wellnessthroughcounseling.com

Salma Elkadi Abugideiri
Licensed Professional Counselor
8233 Old Courthouse Rd, Suite 340
 

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1 Comment

  • Jenica says:

    I, a revert, was engaged to a Pakistani Canadian guy, for a couple years, on and off. We suffered the same problems that you are (though with a gender reversal). I would go as far as to say I was whole heartedly, madly in love with him. I truly believed that good always wins and as such, love would win too.

    Alas, it didn’t. He proposed marriage and then broke up with me and ten did it all again. The final breakup happened while I was spending Christmas with my family in another province. The emotional toll that this took on me was beyond what I ever fathomed it could be when it happened. Still now, 3.5 years later, there is a part of me that is filled with great sorrow. I have recently had to spend over $2000 on professional counselling and am still hurting, tbh.

    One primary learning of mine was not to trust all imams. I thought all Muslims believed that children are not to be prevented from marrying someone pious, regardless of ethnic background. My ex fiancé did go to see an imam and that imam ended up lecturing him on disobeying his parents (for wanting to marry me). My ex was 33 years old so by no means was the imam’s counsel appropriate nor was it Islamic. After the scolding from the imam, my ex went in to a deep, deep depression because the imam just exacerbated the guilt he already felt.

    Please sister, choose wisely. If it comes down to having parents in your life who choose to put their selfish, non religious desires above the Islamic sanctioned happiness of their daughter vs having a man in your life who will continue to support you in trying to rekindle the relationship with your parents, who would you choose? My ex choose his parents and it literally broke me. It also made me hyper aware and sensitive to all of the racism in the Muslim community that ultimately turned me off to the point of distancing myself from the religion. At this point, I associate Islam with pain.

    Do I still consider myself a Muslim? Mostly no.

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