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?
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.
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