Being married to a Muslim

April 5, 2010 at 11:58 pm (Islam, personal)

“Blessed are those who yearn for deepening more than escape; who can renounce smugness and be shaken in conscience; who are not afraid to grow in spirit.” (From chapter 8 by John A. Buehrens in “A Chosen Faith”)

His Islam is all tied up with his culture and his identity. It is part of his happy picture of what has made him who he is. What I have lately been inclined to see as literally false and dangerous, he sees as metaphorical, enriching and comfortingly solid.

Maybe I need to start listening to what he is really saying through his language which he calls “Islam”. It is not at all the same thing that I heard when I read the Quran.

But to be perfectly honest, I am tired of being the only one able to do any listening.

And I resent the rigidity in his religio-cultural system. I resent the fact that he could hope I would change, yet couldn’t consider changing himself. I know it’s not his fault, it’s the nature of his religio-culture, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

I resent the fact that our kids would not be allowed to receive Christmas presents and would have to eat halal. I resent the fact that the happy mixed-marriage picture of taking a little from this and a little from that just never applies when Islam is involved. I resent the fact that so many of us have to put ourselves through painful wrestling to accept the rigid religion of our Muslim men.

And if we don’t have kids, I might end up resenting that too.

But if this means separating out our entwined lives, saying goodbye to half of myself, severing the connection to someone who has become family… if this is the upshot of this situation, this resentment… then I need to at least look for an alternative to resentment, before I can walk that difficult path.

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86 Comments

  1. Achelois said,

    I’m coming back to this post in a while. I need to think before I write.

  2. susanne430 said,

    I really like that quote! But the rest of this made me sad for you. No one should have to only give while the other takes. Your husband should realize the huge struggle you have and the huge effort you gave towards learning more about Islam. I really thought you would convert. I think he is selfish for not being open to hearing your side of things and compromising for the sake of a good marriage. What did he expect when he married outside of his religion and culture? Did he truly believe ALL western women were going to change their identities for the sake of men?

    I know this is tough for you because you do love and care for him. I pray that God will open his mind to truly showing he cares about you by being accepting that you are different. I pray he celebrates the differences instead of wishing you were exactly as he.

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing these things. I’ll be praying for you two.

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks for your support, Susanne. That quote was part of a re-interpretation of the Beatitudes! I liked it too.

      I think he hoped I would change, if not expected… I think it’s hard for him to not think that their religion-culture is the best and so maybe it did seem quite likely in his mind that I would naturally change. I think he is more realistic now about its flaws, he has even described religion as “myth”, but there is also a tremendous fear of letting go of any of it because it is all tied up in his identity. I’m starting to understand that.

  3. Sarah said,

    Sarah, I have had all these feelings before. It is really diffiuclt and I have pondered what you have suggested in your last paragraph but somehow I came to accept the compromises that I had to make and left the resentment behind. It was more piecemeal than anything else. Maybe you would call it attrition. You realise your husband is not for turning and he will resent it if you try to change his mind. If you did, you would rock his whole core. But you know this. Islam is unique because it incorporates all practical aspects of daily life. There is no separation like in other religions. So you will be hard pushed to find compromises on plenty of everyday things. So there is no need to feel resentment, because it’s inevitable.

    Some conceptual suggestions I made at the start of our relationship which seemed obvious to my liberal upbringing, seemed so ludicrous to him. Now I just leave well alone. I now know where he’s coming from, so just take him with a pinch of salt. Maybe I am a traitor to my old self, my own intellectual upbringing. But the question is how much this matters? I love my husband for his flaws, his steadfastness and his old fashioned values. We have slotted into our roles. It has sometimes been a fight to get there but it’s now who we are as a couple. I wouldn’t want to browbeat him into accepting Christmas. As much as I secretly would love to do it, I would feel sorry for him if he did. Like he was going against his nature (as a stubborn Algerian Muslim male!)

    You come to learn the boundaries in any relationship. But being married to men like ours, those boundaries are different to what we would have expected when we first embarked on the relationship. You have to ask yourself if you feel you have gone too far. Your husband was probably happy-go-lucky when you first met him, and now he wants to be more steadfast in his religion. Maybe he’s thinking about children. Some of the diapora are not so religious, but I find that they mostly always steer back towards Islam as time goes by. They reach a certain age and they become more serious. I think your husband half expected you to change or maybe he just didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t set out for marriage when I met my husband and neither did he. But this is not the usual order of things in Algeria. Marriage is planned from the start. Dating goes on and people marry for love, but somewhere along the line, the question is asked ‘Is this the right person to start a family with?’ It’s not just a case of you find love and so you get married. Love is a completely different concept. It seems sensible to me and people like you and me wouldn’t have had any quandary if we had planned everything from the start. But that is life and these men have enriched our lives. Complicated them. I hope you and your husband both find an answer to your own quandary. Sometimes love is not enough, sometimes it is. xxx

    • Sarah said,

      Sarah, thanks for popping in and showing that you know exactly what I’m talking about! We’ve had similar conversations elsewhere and you always make me feel a bit better just by understanding. You’re right, I just have to decide whether what we have is enough. And he probably has to decide that too.

      It’s so true that they do steer back towards Islam when they settle down. You don’t imagine, when you meet your man in a club, drinking alcohol and dancing and socialising freely, that there will come a time when he will not want you setting foot in a bar or socialising with men anywhere. It is a lot of small shocks to the system over a long time but as you say, it’s easy to find yourself adapting along with it. I guess it makes it easier if you are happy to go along with it, and I am happy to go along with quite a lot of it, but even if I’d turned completely Muslim I think in the back of my mind I would have known that it was my only way to an easy life, and maybe that would have bothered me.

      But yes, they do enrich our lives and I would never regret the broadening of my mind that has resulted. That’s a good reminder! 😉

  4. Sarah said,

    By the way, I’m not saying Islam is not intellectually sound – just some of the things I hear from my husband. I think this is culture. I find great peace of mind in Islam myself and this makes things a lot easier for me.

    Also compromises can be made – but not when it comes to Christmas and halal meat….! ;0)

  5. Miriam (Mrs.S) said,

    Did you discuss any of this before you got married, or was there the expectation that you would convert?

    • Sarah said,

      Whenever I write about this subject, there is always someone that pops up and says “did you discuss this before you got married?” Well, if it makes you feel better about my bad experiences – yes, it is all my fault, I was young and stupid. If this post helps someone else think a bit more before doing the same thing, then it’s worth the indignity of not hiding it behind password protection.

      • susanne430 said,

        Sarah, you said you met him in a club. Why would you expect someone not living according to his faith when you met him to suddenly change and expect YOU to change to be more like his folks back home? I don’t think you were “young and stupid.” He was being a hypocrite so what could you expect really?

        • Sarah said,

          Well, I’m certainly older and wiser now… 😉
          I have changed too, in ways I didn’t know I would. Maybe he didn’t know he would change either… who knows?
          There is only so much planning the future anyone can do, that’s certainly true. You can’t forsee absolutely everything and discuss it in advance. There is always an element of risk, but I know now that the risk of a Muslim changing and becoming more rigid is quite high.

      • Miriam (Mrs.S) said,

        I wasn’t asking as an accusation, or to lay blame. I didn’t realize that you had brought this up in the past. My mother is not Muslim, although her and my father discussed a utopian household ultimately my brother and I were raised Muslim and did not take part in my mothers holidays and such. I’m certain that although my parents went through their child rearing plans in detail my father wasn’t taking most of what my mother said seriously and naturally assumed she would either convert or fall silently in line. I’m empathetic to your plight. I knew there were moments my mother missed sharing with us and opportunities that would have been nice for my brother and I to take part in.

        • Sarah said,

          I’m sorry, I think I reacted a bit oversensitively!
          My marriage is one of the few big “leaps of faith” I have taken in life – I normally over-think and over-analyse everything. Sometimes there are side issues (such as legalities) that force you to make a decision sooner than you otherwise would. But as you say, even the best laid plans sometimes don’t work out as expected either. Thanks for sharing some of your own experiences. It seems this kind of situation isn’t so uncommon!

        • caraboska said,

          This is a great illustration of why it is SO important to have everything in black and white in the marriage contract. But of course in the process of making the contract, it becomes plain that it won’t work. To construct a marriage contract that will make a marriage with a Muslim meet Christian standards is, I am concluding, impossible – for the simple reason that the contract isn’t enough. The man must agree to this not because of the contract, not just for his wife, but because he believes in it for himself even if he’d never met her. It’s hard enough to come to the sort of agreement about the material of the marriage necessary to make a real marriage even among people who identify as Christians, much less anyone else…

          • Sarah said,

            I think imams discourage Muslim men from marrying Christians and Jews for similar reasons. It was so much simpler in the old days when marriage was just a contract, and kids automatically followed the father. It doesn’t work like that now and just because it’s halal to marry Christians and Jews does not make it automatically a good decision.

            • caraboska said,

              It is anything but halal, even if the Qur’an says it is. A Jewish or Christian woman who takes her religion seriously will know that she is obligated to raise her children in her own faith. In the case of the Jewish woman, the case is even clearer because the child is halakhically Jewish. In the case of a Christian woman whose denomination believes that one can be born a Christian, the same will apply. In the case of one who does not belong to such a denomination, the obligation to teach the child her faith and do everything in her power to lead the child to the Lord is still there. Not to mention that Islamic marriage differs sufficiently from both Jewish and Christian marriage that it is not possible to contract a religiously valid marriage. In the case of a Jewish woman, it is impossible to contract a religiously valid marriage with any non-Jew – so that she would be fornicating if she married a Muslim.

              In the case of a Christian woman, it is more complicated. Many believe it is an unqualified act of disobedience to marry any non-Christian. Even if a person doesn’t care so much about the label, the minute you have a man who is not willing to leave father and mother and acknowledge his wife as his highest earthly authority, the marriage does not even fulfill the first requirement for it to be a valid Christian marriage. So that from a Christian standpoint, it is a non-marital relationship even if it is contracted legally before witnesses. I could go on, but you get the idea.

              The bottom line is that a Jewish or Christian woman who takes her faith seriously is not halal to the Muslim, and he is not halal to her.

  6. Achelois said,

    When I got married we were both deeply religious and spiritual. Now he doesn’t like organized religions and doesn’t want to discuss religion at all, but he also wants the children to be raised religiously – Islamically! Imagine the conflict.

    It is always better to look at all your options, all scenarios and all paths before you start a family. He is family, of course, but once you begin to increase the family there are innumerable questions that need to be answered. Let me tell you that as Muslims your children will not be given options and choices you may wish to give them. It is a never ending struggle from Burger King to the chapel.

    But at a certain point in the lives of women it is more complex than Burger King. We grow up hating chauvinistic, head-strong and stubborn men and then we find ourselves loving them.

    Find out from yourself if you truly love him. If you do, then you will find an alternative to resentment.

    • Sarah said,

      I can imagine the conflict, Achelois. And your example shows that no-one can forsee all the twists and turns of how life is going to go. I don’t think kids is an option for us, and I will just have to decide whether I am OK forgoing that possibility. I do love him, and love is not rational, so every rational bone in my body is saying this doesn’t make sense and I should let it go… yet I think there is a fair chance I won’t let it go. 😉

      • caraboska said,

        Tell me about it… I’m having this problem with someone who identifies as Christian. Our respective beliefs about certain things, if taken to their logical conclusion, would tell each of us to view the other as serving the devil and on their way to hell. In such a situation, I feel the obedient thing to do (with respect to the Lord, I mean) is refrain from marrying him. But then what? Do I basically tell him that since I can’t give him everything, I’ll give him nothing? So I give him what I can. And this may mean I end up celibate ‘for the duration’…

        • Sarah said,

          If that’s the way it is, then like my husband, you’re probably better off marrying someone who is like you. There’s not much leeway for compromise with such rigid beliefs.

          • caraboska said,

            Who says I have to get married at all? I will be 46 years old this year, M is 56 years old, and on top of that, we are both only children. It is probably no accident that we are both never-married – and that, for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with our relationship. But I happen to believe that it is not appropriate to marry unless you are happily and contentedly single – because otherwise you’ll marry for the wrong reasons: it’ll be an act of lust and idolatry. So I am even grateful that God protected me from getting married thus far.

  7. LK said,

    Love is a painful thing. And it is really hard to be rational over it. I hope you two can find some kind of compromise so you don’t have to pick one over the other. But it is hard, they are very stubborn sometimes :).

  8. Mark said,

    Then divorce him. You are not joined at the hip.

    • caraboska said,

      Mark, I think I would have probably used some other description than ‘at the hip’ here. Rather, something about the spirit or the heart, or even the mind.

    • ellen557 said,

      “You are not joined at the hip”

      … Marriage isn’t some game where you tie each others hands together and just cut off the tie if you have some issues 😐

    • Sarah said,

      Typical guy response 😛 Problem solved!

  9. safa said,

    First , yes , why did you marry him!!
    Second Islam is not a religion where you can pick and choose what you want like a salad bar.
    A muslim who follows his religion will not compromise, the older you get the more you live your lfe tinking of the hereafter!

    • Sarah said,

      I guess in my culture we don’t expect people to change that much. We get to know each other before marriage, thinking we are actually getting to know the person.

      I find it interesting that you don’t ask why he married me.

  10. ellen557 said,

    I’m sorry things are getting difficult for you Sarah 😦 I know that M certainly still thinks that I’ll convert but that’s due to my actions more than anything else… but I mean, what you’re thinking is right – the older people (esp. men) get, the more they will go back to the religion. But something M and I talk about a lot is children – and the only reason we are ok with having them together is because I agreed a long time ago to raise them as Muslims. If I didn’t make that agreement, I don’t think that we could’ve stayed married… but my in laws are probably very different to yours.

    But you know, every situation is different and I am 100% sure that there are many women in your situation around who have made it work. In my experience, working together to make a compromise was what helped us. Like easter eggs and presents at Christmas, fine – that’s a part of my culture. Letting kids have a lenient attitude to alcohol (believe me, this is a huge part of the Australian culture), not fine. Not eating halal for myself, fine. Letting my kids eat it before they’re old enough to make their own decisions, not fine. Not wearing hijab (me), fine. Letting daughter decide if she wants to wear hijab or not without giving her my view: fine. Forcing her either way, not fine.

    The list goes on lol… I guess I wrote that just to show you the sort of things that M and I have come to a compromise on. Because even if I don’t become a Muslim, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m in love with one and I’m married to one. So a part of being married (to anyone really) is having influences from both sides. I know you know that but maybe it’d be good if you could tell him that again. It’s not all about him, you need to be comfortable with things as well. Good luck ❤

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks Ellen. I’m sure compromise is possible, but you know who would have to be doing the most compromise. When I got married I was basically a universalist Christian and I didn’t mind having Muslim kids. As you know, things have changed, and I no longer feel happy about the compromises that would be demanded of me in that situation. It’s not just the teaching them to believe things, it’s all these other ways that life would be affected. I believe my family would be very understanding, but I don’t know if my patience can stretch that far. 😉

      • ellen557 said,

        “But you know who would have to be doing the most compromise”

        …Yep 🙂 I really hate to say it but it seems that way in every marriage… the wife makes the compromises for the husband. Mine is no different lol!

        I wonder if, because he has changed his mind re the kids (or it seems that he has?) then maybe he would be more receptive to at least hearing you out. That sounds idealistic though, even typed out!

        • Sarah said,

          Well, we’ve had a few of those conversations, and I guess if he feels that strongly about it, I don’t know if I want to make him compromise, or spend his life feeling torn between me and what his culture/religion/family seems to demand of him. I’m sure he is not doing it just to be stubborn or spiteful, but because he genuinely is stuck where he is. I just wish I had known it would be this way, and how I would end up feeling about it, but hey… you can’t know everything in advance!

          • caraboska said,

            I think you absolutely are doing the right thing by not having kids together. On the other hand, sometimes the matter is out of our hands and we find a kid is on the way. The only way to be sure of not having kids is… permanent abstinence. Something to think about.

  11. coralbead said,

    I guess the hard part of it all is having the kids brought up not in the way you want them to…

    But of course I assume that when you married him you were given to understand that one.

    I was born into a family where the mother was a Christian (she converted out of her own accord) and the father is Muslim. We kids were raised up as Muslims of course.

    When it comes to Christmas, my parents have explained to my mother’s family why we can’t always be there and why they have to hide the ham when we come, and why we couldn’t give gifts and why they aren’t encouraged to give us gifts. They understand. One way that they do to work around this is just give the gifts (if they have) to us AFTER January so that it wouldn’t sound “Christmassy.”

    I agree with safa that there are things we Muslims can’t compromise with, sadly, I think you’d have to live with that.

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks for your comment coralbead. A lot of women do convert in these situations. It would make life a hell of a lot easier so I can see why people consider it. I considered it myself. You’re right, the big issue is kids, and I feel less compromising than I used to about it… things change, but Islam won’t bend, you are right.

  12. caraboska said,

    There are so many things one has to be on the same page about. I think it would be impossible for me to marry a Muslim because the respective concepts of marriage are so different to Christianity, and it would not even be sufficient for him to sign an aqd that contained conditions that would theoretically make the marriage valid – because it would only be acceptable before God if he was doing so not for me, but because he genuinely believed that was the right way to get married. And here the conditions (among others, that the choice of religion belongs to the children – because one cannot be born a Christian, only born again a Christian, by exercising *personal* faith in Jesus Christ) would be such that he would find it unacceptable before God to actually believe in them himself… Indeed, my reading of the Bible is such that probably even most men identified as Christians would not be on the same page with me about every part of the ‘material of the marriage’ – much less a Muslim.

    • Sarah said,

      There are many issues for any couple in having kids that might require compromise, but with religious people it’s so much bigger.

      It’s refreshing though to see someone saying that children should have a choice in religion. But even that probably wouldn’t help in my case. Where one parent has a strong desire for the children to be a particular religion, if they choose something different, the other parent will be blamed and resented.

      • caraboska said,

        Well, you’re talking about a situation where the other person believes the child has no choice – that s/he must be considered a Muslim from birth and brought up as such. That is a very different matter. Nonetheless, even a Christian who believes that religion is a personal choice will, if they are serious-minded about their faith (in particular, if they take the Bible seriously), view themselves as obligated to teach their children their faith and do everything they can to lead their children to the Lord (i.e. facilitate their making a decision to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and follow him). And in the case of a Christian, this will be true regardless of the parent’s gender.

        Now, there are Christians who believe that a child can be born a Christian. And these definitely believe that any child who has at least one Christian parent – regardless of that parent’s gender – is a Christian child. So it’s a very serious problem either way.

  13. Misschatterbox said,

    Interfaith marriages are very very difficult, especially one parent is determined to raise children their way!
    In my experience the christian woman (coz it’s almost always that the man is muslim) often shows interest in the man’s religion and often the man secretly thinks that eventually the woman will convert.Or either party isn’t very religious at the time and then becomes religious. I always says it was the children which makes interfaith marriage difficult – but these days I am thinking it’s not just the children – it’s the relationship between man and wife which is also affected.
    My Love and I are stuck at the moment- he is well aware that I would never convert. I know that the Bible says not to be unevenly yoked. Neither of us wants to get married in a fit of passion and ignore the consequences. At the same time we are not ready to chuck in the towel. So at the moment we are waiting… For an answer, for God to make it clear that it will work or won’t work.

    As for whether Sarah thought about it and discussed it before getting married – it really doesn’t matter! There are plenty of people who know that there will be problems, or it won’t work and push them out of mind and get married anyway. There are marriages where people change, marriages where people honestly weren’t aware of the challenges of interfaith marriage. At the end of the day they are all in the same boat! And it is a very difficult position to be in.
    Although I am not married I am also “stuck.
    Thanks for a being so open and sharing something so personal, Sarah! I won’t even try and offer advice, but you are in my prayers.”

    • Sarah said,

      Misschatterbox, thanks for visiting my blog! I had no idea you were in a similar position. You’re right, it does often seem to be women with Muslim men grappling with these issues, because for one reason or another we are more likely to be interested in his religion than he is in ours.

      I don’t normally write such personal posts, but for some reason I did this time. Thanks for your support, and good luck with your situation – I hope whatever is for the best is made clear to you!

    • caraboska said,

      Misschatterbox, You and I are in exactly the same position, with the exception that my guy identifies as a Christian. But we still have doctrinal differences significant enough that if we take them to their logical conclusion, we are not practically speaking of the same faith. He believes water baptism is necessary for salvation and introduces a spiritual reality to one’s life (even if one is too young at the time to personally confess Jesus Christ) that did not previously exist; I believe it can only be a symbol of a spiritual reality that already exists in the person’s life, so that if they choose to have themselves baptized, it is an act of obedience and nothing more (and obviously this means I believe that baptism, if it takes place at all, should happen only when the person has actually made a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ). Think about the implications of all that… See what the problem might be there?

  14. cairolusakaamsterdam said,

    Tough situation 😦

    All I can say is that kids will definitely complicate things much more. Yes, Muslim men usually get their way but this is partly because the women they marry let them. I think my own mother could have stood up to my father more than she did.
    Despite this, I chose to be a Muslim, even though neither religion (Christianity or Islam) was forced on me when I was younger. It is VERY important to distinguish between culture and religion, especially when it comes to Islam. I used to think all my dad’s shortcomings were due to his being a Muslim, but then I realized it had more to do with Egyptian culture.

    (hugs)

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks Cairo. Yes, religion and culture is all mixed up and I’m trying to be careful to note that it’s the whole inherited package I’m talking about, not the religion itself. I do stand up for my own thoughts and values more these days, but you’re right, a lot of us don’t do that as much as we could.

  15. Jasmine said,

    I would say that it takes a lot of time and energy to get upset about people’s thoughts and beliefs – not least of all because what people think they believe is different to what they really believe (but dont realise it) which is again totally different to what they actually do.

    The truth is – kids grow up to do what they want no matter what their parents wanted and hoped for them as they were being raised.

    The truth is, your husband is not a real-life embodiment of what you dislike about Islam, he is a whole person with good and bad who happens to also be OK with the Islamic way of life and doesn’t really question too much, and doesnt want to question too much. I would take comfort from this because he’snot hardcore and doesnt plan to become knee-deep entrenched in religious practice and so you dont have to worry about all those things you have studied and learned about and dont like.

    You’ve studied and learned some things, made a decision and now you are looking at him and his ways in a new light. However thats not really fair because he doesn’t have multiple wives right?

    • caraboska said,

      Jasmine, Two observations:

      1. I don’t get what multiple wives have to do with the matter at hand;

      2. What we *really* believe is unerringly reflected in what we do. Even if we say that we did something out of human weakness and not out of actual belief, that still implies a belief that human weakness is an acceptable excuse for behaving in a manner contrary to what we think we believe.

    • Sarah said,

      Jasmine, nice to see you!

      You’re right, it would be totally wrong to make assumptions about him based on my impressions of the religion. But after 6.5 years of marriage, I would hope I wouldn’t do that. One thing that has really become clear is that his picture of Islam – which is combined with his culture and other parts of identity – is totally different from mine.

      It’s just that it’s very rigid, that’s all. He just said this evening that it’s like having a million in the bank and every little part of his culture/religion that his kids would discard for something else, gradually eats away at it until there’s only a few thousand left. It would break his family’s heart if he didn’t carry this identity on with pride and he would feel the same way about the next generation. This just isn’t something I can easily relate to, although I am thinking about whether I can try and accept it.

    • Jasmine said,

      Sorry – I posted this before I fully edited it from a large text I wrote hence he random ending lolololol!
      Sorry! the later comment is the real one
      LOL

  16. Jasmine said,

    In my humble opinion, the truth is that kids grow up to do what they want no matter what their parents wanted and hoped for them as they were being raised and your husband is not a real-life embodiment of what you dislike about Islam, he is a whole person with good and bad

    Sometimes we project our dislikes onto an easy target and have unneccessary fights with them expecting this person to be a fully educated ambassador of their religion. But to believe that every Muslim has fully studied and dedicated themselves to truly knowing everything there is to know about Islam is really idealistic. Same with Christians, same with even political parties. People vote without reading policies, and people pray without reading scripture. – this is life.

    This doesnt make them bad people, or give any cause to be upset with them- it just means that religion is only a part of their life and not the whole of their life which in my eyes is a good and healthy thing.

    So when you walk up to such a person and demand answers from them, and educated answers…you wont get it because its not even on their radar.

    And then we get angry because we make a value judgement:

    “it SHOULD be!” and we get pissed off

    But the truth is, why should it? If someone has found a way of being at peace with life and belief, why should we resent them and be angry with them for it? Its not worth the time and energy Wrestling! Its not worth it – its better to spend time and energy making our own peace with the world – not bring the war outside into our living rooms, relationships and homes! Better to make peace – because winning arguments and discovering facts, and fighting an intellectual battle of minds is not going to create harmony in your life.

    Peace, that exists regardless of difference of opinion, is what will create harmony in your life.
    So rather than trying to change minds we should be working to enable them. We enable them by first of all giving peace and acceptance to them. We give peace and acceptance when there is peace and acceptance of reality in our own hearts and minds and this…this! is what is worth energy and time.

    Getting pissed off about what someone thinks and how someone thinks is just a massive time waste – because people change their mind every three seconds anyway. By the time you’ve even managed to articulate what bothers you – they’ve changed and adapted it already. So its like running in circles.

    Dont run in circles Wrest, it’s just gonna make you tired.

    • caraboska said,

      I don’t know that getting angry is the right response either. On the other hand, peace of mind can’t be our ultimate truth. If it is, it’s an idol. And if someone purports to adhere to a religion, but does not take it seriously, study it, practice it, why bother saying that they adhere to that religion? The fact is that they don’t. Obviously nagging someone about this isn’t going to help – all you can do is perhaps mention it once, and then have your view and only discuss it when absolutely necessary. And then, as you mention, focus on our own spiritual life – which is what we are responsible for before God.

    • Sarah said,

      I hope I didn’t say that I resented him. I resent the religio-cultural mindset a bit, with its insistence on being rigidly passed on from one generation to the next. But I sympathise with him because he didn’t choose it. And I don’t want to change him, because how do I know whether he’d be better off being more like me?

      The dilemma is mainly about whether there is a basis for a family, and it’s on both sides. He said today that he can’t picture a future any more. He wants kids and I am too much of a threat to what he wants to instill in them. Even though I’ve suggested that I might be able to view it positively, if I don’t get on board myself I don’t think that will be enough for him. I will represent a risk of the kids not following his way. I said I would fast Ramadan, but he said my going to a church on Sundays would confuse them.

      Maybe I will stretch my tolerance and be able to see the good in an Islamic upbringing… and maybe he will overcome some fears and feel confident about doing this with me… but will it be enough? What about the pressure on kids who cannot become anything but moderate Muslims without seriously distressing one parent prompting recriminations towards the other?

      We could just not have kids. Married people don’t have to see eye to eye on everything or share every passion. Maybe there is enough without religious harmony. But then he admits that he has felt like crap since I decided not to convert. It seems like there was a whole lot of love tied up in the hope of religious harmony.

      Anyway, so that’s what it’s about. *sigh*

      • Jasmine said,

        I see.

        Tough. The only thing I can do is put myself in the situation which would go as follows:
        If I were in your shoes I would feel that I deserve to be loved as I am and that if my husband who is nearest and dearest to me can’t accept me and love me as I am, my husband who I have been with for 6 years – if he cant find it in HIS heart to let me be, then what does that say about the wider Islamic community? It is saying to me that they cannot tolerate people who are not the same as them, and it may just be that one day my children will be different to them and then what will happen to them? Will they be subjected to all of these pressures throughout their life, causing my children to either rebel completely or become robots under control?
        And naturally, I would test this through conversations with my husband that go “what if my daughter coverts to Judaism?” and “what if my son is gay?” which of course are extreme questions in the midst of argument, and he would say something equally extreme like “I would throw her out of the house and never speak to her again” or “I would kill him” – because you know, men say these things and don’t realize it means A LOT to us when they say this.
        And then I would get really upset and decide that there is no hope – because I don’t want to get more religious and think like he thinks because how he thinks doesn’t make me feel good for the future. And how I am thinking doesn’t make him feel good for the future and so now we cant even see a future.
        If my husband is a man I can speak with, I would sit down and say “we have a problem” and I would say the problem is that I need to know that you wont randomly reject me or hate me or my children the day we do something you disagree with. And I need to know that in hard times you will use more than religion to get the results you want such as love, and talking, and discussing with me like an adult. And I need to know that you will do that, and see us with clear eyes and see me with clear eyes and know that even when I am disagreeing with you I am still being a good wife to you and I need you to acknowledge that and love me for that.
        And then in return I will support you and uphold your traditions and customs, and events, we will celebrate eid and have your identity in our home, and my identity and this societies identity also.
        And then I would invite him to make a pact with you that even though you are different to each other, you want the same things fro your lives and your futures and then see what he says.

        • Sarah said,

          Great suggestion. I think we will have to have a few of these kind of conversations and see what comes out.

          I think it could have worked nicely for me with someone of a different faith if they were prepared to accept that my way was not worse than their way and that both had something to offer a child and neither one would diminish the other. I believe there are marriages like that. But with men of my husband’s culture, his way has to dominate, and the most successful marriages seem to be the ones where the woman converts and yields completely to his way. It just isn’t in my power to do that so who knows.

        • Sarah said,

          (This continues my earlier comment which I left in a bit of a hurry)

          I think if the worst happened and his daughter became a Jew or son was gay, he would find a way of accepting it, but it’s that depleting-the-millions-in-the-bank thing – it would just make him very sad.

          The safest way for him to avoid having to be sad is to cocoon them and surround them with an appropriate community and direct them into what he believes is the right way. And there’s a great deal of fear involved. One of his friends is raising kids in France, and even though his wife is Algerian, there’s still a great deal of fear in them about the influences on the children and what direction they will take.

          (Of course there are an awful lot of bad things children can learn in Algeria, but it doesn’t seem so bad because it’s familiar.)

          I’ve heard of other Algerians that are a bit more laid-back about children but my husband isn’t one of them. He is a worrier and has an acute sense of responsibility.

          I feel that the risk of him being unhappy is quite high because I am not fully on board, I will not be able to cocoon them with the same fearful zeal, I will simply not be able to. Because for me it wouldn’t be a disaster if a child chose their own religion or came out as gay (let alone anything less dramatic), and I wouldn’t be able to pretend that it would be.

          I don’t want him to be unhappy, and yet I don’t see how I can make him happy. And I’m not sure if I can lock so much of myself out of the family, in pandering to his happiness. I would worry that at a certain point I would snap and not want to pander any more. Can I continue to admire a man whose happiness depends so much on preserving and transmitting what is to me not much more than a set of cultural memes? For what – setting up another generation to go through this painful struggle to preserve and pass it on?

          Maybe the real decision is his to make and not mine – a decision between loosening up and going home to have a traditional family life.

          • caraboska said,

            If his happiness depends on what his kids are doing or what you are doing, he does not understand where the line of responsibility before God runs, and he is committing idolatry. That his circumstances have to be a certain way for him to be happy. There is nothing admirable about this. You are right to ask that question.

  17. caraboska said,

    Particularly worrisome here is the fact that he really wants kids. And that he’s not willing to entertain anything different from what he was brought up with. You’ve done your bit, you have your convictions. It seems that his ‘convictions’ are just based on tradition. That is probably an even worse problem than just the difference in religion. And it’s a problem I have too – M is what he is because that is how he was brought up, while I am a convert. He thinks holding to tradition is good, I think it isn’t. For the moment – and maybe for longer than that – we aren’t getting married.

  18. coolred38 said,

    Been there done that with my own marriage. Husband got more religious (way more) AFTER marriage..but was determined that I was the one that should be the MOST religious and follow all of HIS ideas of what constituted Islamic practice…while he was fairly lenient with his own practice.

    In this case it feels as if religion is used more as a weapon for control then for any real sense of religiosity.

    You have to decide what is your limit of compromise..and if you have reached it or not. His compromise seemingly was limited to marrying you…and nothing more. Sounds typical..and yes..thats a generalization but one well founded in experience of just such marriages.

    Just remember…life is short…too damn short to sell yourself short.

    • Sarah said,

      “In this case it feels as if religion is used more as a weapon for control then for any real sense of religiosity.”

      I know what you mean, although my husband isn’t as bad as yours sounded. At times there have been certain things that seemed like he was imposing religion on me but was actually more about his own insecurities and cultural sense of how things are supposed to be in a marriage. What they think of as protecting, we feel is controlling, and it’s the only way they know how to deal with a perceived threat. I think it’s the same thing on a societal level with the censorship in Muslim countries and the extreme reactions to the Danish cartoon and so on. It’s fear of losing this thing that is so precious to them… their religion, their culture, their sense of pride, dignity, reputation, all of that. That’s how it seems to me anyway.

    • ellen557 said,

      I really agree with you coolred, that we all have to decide what is our limits in terms of compromise.

      Definitely a good thing to keep in mind Sarah 🙂

  19. aynur said,

    Wow this topic kinds of hits me in the gut!

    My situation isn’t quite the same as yours, but in some ways similar. I’m Muslim, and I would never consider going back to Christianity. Although, the Unitarian church sounds interesting, I don’t see myself going any other way. And as you know (if you can remember), from my postings I don’t necessarily see things the way a traditional Muslim does, so this causes friction between us.

    When I’ve said stuff to hubby in conversations linking something from what I learned growing up Christian, he scoffs at it. For example, he was saying he had to go to Friday prayers because of a hadith that says if you don’t attend you’re ‘not one of us’ according to Prophet Muhammad (saw). I related one of the 10 commandments, that says ‘remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy’. I was trying to explain that maybe if Friday prayers are ignored it wouldn’t be a special occasion where people could come together to pray … and he says that Christianity is all messed up, blah blah blah. Not even trying to hear what I was trying to say.

    I am also tired of being the only one listening. But I’m trying to accept it … it’s the way he is, he is getting older and I don’t foresee him changing. I really don’t have a choice.
    I do mildly resent the fact that he won’t let the kids celebrate any cultural holidays, I don’t care about the Christian holidays but it would be nice to be relaxed about birthdays or other minor events without worrying about him getting upset about me wanting to celebrate them…. (and then just flat out forbidding any further celebrations of that sort).

    But are our religious differences enough to part ways? For me they’re not, not at this point … we see eye to eye on so many other topics and there are many things I admire about him.

    • Sarah said,

      Aynur, of course I remember! Your situation isn’t easy either, but at least you agree on enough to make it work. That’s a good thing. Maybe you are even growing closer together over time and the things you say might be getting through to him more than it seems.
      Thanks for commenting!

    • Sarah said,

      (again, continuing an earlier rushed comment)

      There are many things I admire about my husband too. I don’t feel madly in love any more, but we do get along really well most of the time and even though we don’t share passions and have completely different approaches to a lot of things, I am realistic about how much of a perfect match can be expected. None of these differences matter right now, they don’t contribute to this issue, and they are even beneficial in some ways. I would gladly accept these differences if only we could agree about expectations for a family. I do feel like he’s a part of me and I can’t imagine having to be without him. It’s an awful thought.

  20. Indian Pundit said,

    Hey Sarah

    How r u doing?
    Honestly , so much obsession with religion here!!
    I never understand all this.

    Dont make ur life complicated……keep it simple.
    If religion makes life difficult and needs constant wrestling…..then its better to let it go.

    Take care.

    • Sarah said,

      Hi Indian Pundit, thanks for commenting. Honestly, I am spiritually happy! But thinking about religion is an obsessive hobby, you are right, and I think it will have to give way to other more important matters. It’s perhaps a way of avoiding other things which I shouldn’t be avoiding.

  21. Indian Pundit said,

    Sarah,

    Few points:

    1)r u a devoted faithful wife?
    2)do u take minimum amount of care of ur husband as expected from a wife??

    If the answer to these questions are YES……..then he is totally unjustified in “complaining”!
    i mean why should anyone care what u do or believe in as long as you perform your duties as a wife????

    Compromises must be there….but only upto a point!!

    As i said previously:
    ” If religion makes life difficult and needs constant wrestling…..then its better to let it go.”…….same applies to relationships as well!!

    • Sarah said,

      You make it sound so simple! I don’t think he has any complaints about me as a wife, but he would like a fully Muslim family environment for his children, which is impossible with me unfortunately.

  22. Achelois said,

    Religion is an unhealthy obsession. Indian Pundit’s words made me think as well. It is unhealthy for the obsessed religionists and even for those who don’t belong to any religion but think about them all the time.

    I think that is what is scary – we are terribly lonely people inside, Sarah. We want someone who thinks like us and is as interested in God and religion as we are, but without the confining boundaries of a particular religion. And we are in relationships with people who are actually happy persons being blind and unquestioning followers. I envy them and feel lonely.

    • Sarah said,

      Oh God yes, I get terrible bouts of loneliness. That’s probably why I spend so much time on the blogs! But even here, it seems our deepest most thoughtful posts often fall flat and get little response – precisely because they are so deep and they represent a unique thought process that only we have been on. Everyone can relate to shallow stuff and personal drama (see this post lol), but the deeper thinking is a very individual thing. It would be asking a lot for anyone to “be in the same place” enough to engage with us as much as we long for (or I do anyway).

      A friend told me a while ago, “no-one can ever truly understand you because they are not you”. In a way it makes me feel better to think of that, because it reminds me that at least I’m not alone in being alone, if you know what I mean!

      Yes, it would be easier to not be so deep… I guess bouts of loneliness are the price we pay for being this way… not that we have much choice I don’t think!

  23. Sarah said,

    I came across an interesting article (and the essay it links to) about choosing not to have children. It made me realise that I’ve never really thought through how I feel about having kids, and I probably should.

    I have a question for anyone who wants to answer it: how would you feel about raising children with a spouse who doesn’t share your religion? (If you can’t imagine ever marrying someone of a different faith, imagine you married someone of the same faith and they left the faith. That could happen to anyone.) How worried would you be about your children? What would you insist on in terms of what the children were taught, and what could you compromise on?

    (If this *is* your situation, feel free to decline as I’m not trying to pry into anyone’s personal lives especially in a public forum!)

    I know what my husband’s attitude to this situation is, but I wondered whether other Muslims felt the same way, and whether believers of other faiths felt the same way.

    • caraboska said,

      This is hypothetical, since I am not even married, much less a parent. But here is my thinking: I’m obligated to teach my children my faith. My husband is allowed to teach them his. My teaching will include the idea that they are ultimately responsible for the content of their own faith, so that they need to take the matter seriously and think about it, not just leave it aside. They will be told quite plainly who Jesus is and what he came here to do, and they will be told in exhaustive detail what the evidence for that is. Indeed, probably they will be learning all of the original languages of the Bible from early childhood (say, age 3). They may well never read the Scripture in anything but the original language, unless they need to in order to speak to someone who does not know Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic. And we will also discuss what [hubby’s new religion]’s critique of Christianity is, what answer can be given to it, what if anything can be learned from it, what it might tell the Christian to pay more attention to in his/her own faith. And again: the responsibility issue. It will be made very clear to hubby that he will not prevent me from doing this – secretly if need be. If they show signs of wanting to be Christian, we will discuss the price that might have to be paid for that – the necessity to memorize as much Scripture as possible as quickly as possible, so that it can never be taken away, the possibility of very serious persecution and what to do about it. Perhaps even the necessity of accepting martyrdom if that is the lot God gives us.

      While I think of it, isn’t it odd that ‘martyrdom operations’ can have such a different character in different religions? In one religion, one dies while actively destroying others’ lives as well; in the other, one dies at the hands of others for one’s refusal to compromise one’s faith. Surely there are signs in this for thinking people…

      • Sarah said,

        Thanks for your answer. A couple of things made me think:

        The idea of them being responsible for their own faith. My husband has said more than once that his kids would not be his responsibility once they become adults, but before that, they would. Very disturbing. It’s like, as long as you’ve done your responsibility and can defend yourself about it on the day of judgment, who cares how they actually turn out? This is what rewards- and punishment-based morality looks like, I guess!

        The other thing that stood out to me is what a difference education level probably makes. If you are in a position to teach your children biblical languages and discuss sophisticated religious arguments with them, maybe that makes you feel less worried than if, like my husband, you don’t even know your deen yourself and you have to farm them out to mosque classes and surround them in an Islamic environment to influence them the way you hope, and even then, since you might not be able to answer their questions or even understand all the influences on them, there would be a certain level of insecurity. If you were raised in a rigid and controlled cultural environment, that is the only way you would have any confidence in, and it would worry you if you felt you couldn’t ensure that.

    • Ellen said,

      For my husband, he really wants our children to be Muslim (as you know, we have different religions and even then, different views on Islam too). I don’t have any issues with that, so in terms of what our children will be taught, they’ll be taught about Islam but also about other religions. For myself, it’s important to me that they know their own religion but also understand others.

      I am not worried about the children we (God willing) will have together. Because the role models they’ll have when growing up will be us and his in laws (in terms of Islam) and they are wonderful people.

      The only thing I am insisting on is choice because I know first hand that you can be brought up in a religion and decide it’s not for you. My husband is okay with that but it might be hard for my in laws to accept if my children ever left Islam.

      • Leyla said,

        Ellen, lets say you have a daughter, and she turns 15, and your husband says its time for her to cover her hair and wear abaya.
        You’re alright with that?

        My husband is Muslim – he wants children and he wants the children to be raised as “ideal” Muslims, i’e: the girls will be covered from age 9 onwards so they get used to hijab and get arranged marriage at 17. The boys? Well, they have to go to Mosque on Fridays and learn prayers. He will be strong, intelligent and able (or as yet unborn son) and have freedoms, whereas our as yet unborn daughter will have significantly stricter rules, stronger dress codes and ultimately she will be made to marry someone she doesnt know.

        So my situation is I dont mind as long as we have boys – but I dont want to do that to my daughter. As a woman, as a female – I cannot accept it.
        And I wonder if the mass culling of unborn girl children is really because girls are considered less valuable or if its because mothers dont want to put any more women through that life.

        And he wants this desperately, in spite of the fact that he met me in unorthodox ways, courted me in unislamic ways, and married me in a big white wedding ceremony, where I wore a big white dress. So?

        And I think to myself, if all of those things are so essential to you – why didnt you marry a strict practicing Muslim woman?

        So you have to consider whether you really are comfortable with your children being raised Muslim or no.

        • Sarah said,

          Leyla, welcome and thanks for commenting. It sounds like you are in a tough situation too, very similar to mine. Why do these men think they can begin a relationship like that and then change the rules down the line? Grrr!

          I guess the good thing is if you don’t have any kids yet, you have time to negotiate or even decide not to have kids or even decide not to stay married. I feel it would be much worse if I already had a child.

          • Leyla said,

            I had a very open and honest talk with him and explained that whilst I am happy to observe halal food, Friday prayers, eid and modesty – I don’t want to force my child into a uniform because she is a female and I want her to be able to participate in sports days, swimming clubs…what if she is an accomplished athelete for example and to advantage her we would have to get tennis lessons from a male coach? Or what if she is a very talented signer / dancer? Are we going to ban her from it because of religion.

            He himself doesnt seem incredibly clear on what it means to be Muslim in his particular way – and he sees issues such as hijab and abaya as very basic, simple, not-interfering-with-a-womans-life-that-much thing. Of course he thinks that – he’s not a woman.

            I asked him what he liked about me, and he listed a long list of skills and attributes which attracted him to me such as education, being streetwise and business acumen to which I replied that I have those things because I did not have strict limitations placed on me – and would he not wish that our daughter also have a good education, that she be streetwise and good at business?

            He responded yes, he would like our daughter to have those things.
            I then questioned him about why he did not marry a devout woman to which he replied “they are very boring, they rarely have anything to say – no opinon and I felt that I would be bored and never be inspired in that, and besides I’m not THAT strict” To which I responded: “and thats what you want to make our daughter?”

            And it got him thinking to the stage where he relented a little and we agreed that yes, we are a Muslim family who observe Muslim rules – but simultaneously we are 21st century people, who live in Britain as well and that’s important if you want to successfully progress in society (you know, to be part of the world you are living in and operating in, and educating in, and job hunting in)

            So this is how we are speaking about it and in truth my single objection is the dress code for girls. Because ultimately we do live in England, and we are British as well as Muslim and we must get on with our society who raised us, fed us,provided hospital cae for us, have a police force that protect us and all of the rights and priviledges that come with that. I dont want my daughter to be discrinimated against by her father, or her neighbour or her teacher or anyone and if she grows up and one day she decides to cover for herself then thats fine – but I refuse to teach it to her, becase I find it very questionable. I have tried it myself at one point and I just couldnt deal with it at all, and I would feel awful if I “had to” wear it, rather than “choose to” wear it.

            Thankfully my husband is the kind of man with whom I can have such discussions with, but one must apply reason to these things, and of course it is a concern. But I told him we can either agree on something, or disagree with everything and agreement requires both sides to give – and as long as my children are good, confident people on the inside I dont really care what they wear on the outside

            • Sarah said,

              It sounds like your husband is willing to reason with you which is good. He does sound a little confused, maybe it comes from drummed-in expectations conflicting with his own reason and his own personality?

              I think it’s the same with my husband, he appreciates a lot of things about life in Britain, and he doesn’t think I’m a bad person even though I’m British and not Muslim, and yet there is this automatic thinking that kicks in when it comes to kids… all of a sudden Britain is a threatening, immoral place and it would be a disaster if they turned out like me! Or if they did half the things he’s done in his life. It’s like a complete double standard, kids must follow much higher standards than he is happy with for himself or me.

              There is just so much I find it hard to understand… 😦

        • Ellen said,

          No Leyla, as I said up there ^, the thing that I do insist on is choice. So if she makes an *informed decision* to cover her hair, then that’s her choice. If it’s not her choice then no I would not be okay with my husband saying that.

      • Sarah said,

        Thanks for your answer. I wonder if your husband is at all worried? I guess if he is comfortable with them having a religious choice, then he can’t be that worried. I think younger men are often more relaxed actually. (Watch out for when he gets older lol!)

        • Ellen said,

          Noo, he’s not worried 🙂 But we both had decided that from the beginning. Like it’s *marriage*, there would’ve been no point in us getting married if he had even a smidgen of an objection lol and (at this stage of his life), he recognises that he’s not perfect so has no right to ask others to try and be so. I think it’s because he’s gone through a lot where he was the minority and so he’s become more and more adaptable.

          But anyway, I’m not going to take up your blog with praises for my husband lol! I think younger men can definitely be more relaxed. My husband is not so young anymore, but yeah he’s definitely calmed down a lot in a sense since we met a few years back. But for me I think a lot of the influence is from his family – and his father is pretty much exactly like he is now. If his father was a very strict man then we’d probably have some trouble but thankfully that’s not the case (for us anyway).

          • Sarah said,

            My husband’s father is deceased but he has one very religious brother and one quite secular brother, and his friends are a mixture I think. I really don’t know which way he will go. It’s so complicated and hard to predict.

  24. Achelois said,

    “how would you feel about raising children with a spouse who doesn’t share your religion?”

    I think I would be really worried. We have talks on the subject. I worry often because I want to give my children choices I never had. So far it hasn’t been too difficult since we are very eclectic in our approach to religions. I want my children to have choices. I would hate it if they were forced to do something they didn’t like or want.

    • Leyla said,

      I think thats the problem though – because a sincere believer would have no two ways about it right? I mean if you were 100% that Jesus was the son of God and the only way to heaven is by accepting him as your saviour, then one would not think “I want my child to choose this” – it would be “this is the absolute correct way of life”.

      So what we get is someone who probably really deep deep down is not 100% and someone who is, and its trying to get them to agree on something. For one party, the risk is uncertainty that their child will follow a path to destruction and confusion and brainwashing, and for the other party the risk is hell. Thats a big problem.

      So if religion is concerned then someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong – and the deciding factor is a scripture. And this is it – its not something you can change or negotiate, its scripture – done and dusted. This is particularly the case with Islam as it’s allegedl y unchanged – and thoughts to the contrary are vehemently rejected and labelled as heresy.

      In my situation I am lucky as my family is non practicing Muslim by nationality – so its nothing new or strange to us to have halal food, no alcohol and no pork – even the most lax of Mulims will avoid alcohol and pork. But for someone who comes from, lets say, an English family with English culture of gin and tonic, strawberries and champagne and similar things – then you start to really agonise.

      I have cousins who club and pub, and at a birthday party recently my husband just could not get comfortable in the environment. My cousins were showing their holiday pictures in their bikini’s, they were wearing small dresses and smelt like heaven and he saw it as “they were showing me naked pictures of themselves” – and this is the thing. For me, its endearing and OK, because I I like it that he (in himself) in modest and upholds his own modesty and I respect that about him. But similarly, we can never go on holiday as a family now because everyone will be “naked”

      In Christian / White culture wine and beer are very important- and reconciling these things with success is nigh impossible because for one person to be right, the other has to be wrong – there is no middle ground with relgion. With the same religion, there is middle ground in application and practice – but with different religions its really really hard.

      • caraboska said,

        Leyla,

        There are people who will disagree with me on this, but many Christians – me included – believe that the Bible says that no one can be born a Christian. One can only be ‘born again’ a Christian. And that happens only by personally coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. ‘Saving faith’ means it isn’t just intellectual – it becomes your prime motivating force in life that influences everything you say, do, decide, etc. So while you may even believe that Christianity is 100% the right way and the only way to salvation, you still acknowledge that being a Christian is something that can happen only by choice – not by any other means

        Clubbing and pubbing, on the other hand, are not at all important among serious-minded Christians. The Bible prohibits drunkenness and lewd behavior. It does not, however, prohibit being in such places – particularly if you are doing it with the intent of preaching the gospel in order to rescue people from a life of profligacy by offering them the choice that can lead to their salvation if they take the opportunity.

        But that having been said, there are many Christians – not me, but others, even ones I am close to – who believe that consuming even one drop of alcohol is categorically forbidden. Or even if they don’t believe it is prohibited, they still ‘feel unclean’ if they consume anything that was prepared using alcohol in any way. They will give up their favorite cake if they discover that it contains even the tiniest bit of alcohol – so little you can’t even taste it, much less get drunk on it.

        I myself normally do not drink unless I am sure that every person I am with in doing so is moderate in their use of ethanol and appropriate in their thinking about it, so that the situation is completely devoid of even the slightest implication of substance abuse. And even then, I only partake in very small quantities. If a friend proposes we go out and have a beer, I treat that as an occasion to talk while drinking something with bubbles in it. In my case, the something will be some kind of juice, and the bubbles will come from the addition of sparkling mineral water. Food or medicine prepared using alcohol, I have no problem with, especially if the item is cooked or baked after the addition of the alcohol, so that the alcohol evaporates.

      • Sarah said,

        Very true! There can be no compromise if someone seriously believes there is one way to heaven and they are on it. I was reading a blog of a woman who grew up in an interfaith home and is now married to someone of another faith and doing the same thing, and it’s a very positive thing from her perspective because it’s life-enriching to have these different influences. But a fundamentalist believer will never see it that way, and that is the one big frustration that I have. I could happily be part of an interfaith family as long as both faiths were valued! But in effect that just means I would need to be with someone who had a universalist philosophy like me. Which for a lot of religions, like Christianity and Islam, would basically have to mean they didn’t really believe in the religion in a literal way at all…

        Re your cousin’s birthday party, I go to a lot of social events alone for these kind of reasons. I don’t think that would be any easier with children either, that’s for sure.

        I think it probably is a bit easier given that you were brought up as a Muslim because all the customs and holidays are not foreign to you and you don’t have extra ones of your own. For me, never having Christmas is something I feel quite sad about!

        • aynur said,

          It’s similar for me – like I recently went a friend’s birthday party – my excuse for him was that he came home from work late … (he does work on Saturdays, but he just didn’t want to go).
          Even though I went with my 2 girls, he still was not liking that I stayed longer than I thought I would, and said to me the next day “but there were men there” (OMG, right?) … I said “everyone was married, and I didn’t talk to any men”.
          Which was true (sort of, I think maybe on of the older guys was single, but I didn’t pay attention), I went to see my friend and the kids ran around and had a good time. Plus, there were some people drinking there and I didn’t talk about that because I know he would’ve been upset. They always have a few friends who come over just with the express purpose of drinking, I guess it’s like ‘free alcohol, woohoo’ for them.
          So now I have to worry about whether or not he’s going to be okay with me going to the next get-together for these friends or not.

          • Sarah said,

            Yes, I can relate to all that! I feel that if I had kids it would quite likely get even more difficult to socialise. He wouldn’t want them growing up to see mixed socialising and alcohol etc as “normal”.

    • Sarah said,

      Even someone with a liberal upbringing like I had, I still was forced to do things I didn’t want sometimes, still had my opportunities dictated to some extent by my parents’ values… that is unavoidable. But it is hard when one parent believes in choice more than the other. I can imagine that!

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