This week, we’ve been discussing marriage between a non-Muslim woman and a Muslim man. I realize that I may come across as negative in this area, and I don’t mean to. It’s just that I have seen many “mixed” marriages fall apart due to different ideas about marriage, raising children, and life in general. On the flip side, I’ve seen several of these marriages thrive.
So, what’s the difference? Why do some interfaith relationships thrive while many others end in divorce? Is the issue love? Sadly, no, I don’t think that’s it. Of course, love does help and it is an important ingredient in a long-term relationship. However, if love is all you have, it just might not be enough. Love often cannot overcome a damaged foundation.
No, I think the real difference between successful mixed marriages and doomed ones is communication. In the successful marriages, both parties understand their place in the marriage and the world in general. Even more importantly, the two understand each other. They know what their spouse needs and they respect that. They are both committed to fulfilling their partner’s needs. Both parties’ happiness is important.
The parties have agreed on their expectations for marriage and family life. Ideally, these issues should be decided before a wedding takes place. The following are things that should be discussed prior to marriage:
1. Ideas about roles in the marriage. Will this be a traditional marriage, with a stay-at-home wife with and a working husband? Or, will both spouses work?
2. Will the wife be free to continue practicing her religion? Will there be pressure for her to learn about Islam? Is the husband willing to learn about her religion? Does the wife ever intend to become Muslim? Does the husband expect her to?
3. Will the wife be expected to live an Islamic life, even if she is not Muslim? Will she be expected to give up pork and alcohol? Will she be expected to dress more conservatively?
4. How will holidays be handled? Will both holidays be celebrated?
5. How will the children be raised? Will they be taught Islam, the mother’s religion, both, or neither? Will the children celebrate the holidays of both religions?
6. How will interactions with the opposite sex be handled? Will the wife have to give up friendships with men? Will she be expected to give up certain cultural traditions, such as hugging men, shaking hands, and dancing at weddings?
There are other things that should be discussed, but this covers the basics. We can get into finer details at a later time, en sha Allah.