A western liberal atheist girl with a Middle Eastern conservative Muslim man was bound to be a bit of a roller coaster. When we met in May 2008 people told me he will want me to wear a burka within a year, that obviously never happened (in fact he isn’t a fan of them), but he did encourage me to learn about Islam, which I wanted to do anyway just to help me understand him.
I purchased a Dummies Guide and an English Quran and set to work. I never did finish the Quran and the Dummies Guide just left me with more questions. My Islamic studies were shelved and I decided that I had little need to know how a Muslim should be, all what was important was how my Muslim is.
Not exactly genius thinking on my part.
Islam was just a quiet voice in the background of our relationship, but that voice became a screaming importance when less than a year since we started our relationship, I fell pregnant. At times pregnancy felt like a negotiation as we worked out exactly how we will be raising our son.
In Islam children born of Muslim men are automatically considered Muslim, it is also believed all babies are born Muslim. So despite our eventual agreements that our son will not be raised specifically as Muslim but instead taught about Islam as well as other religions and my own disbelief, I know in my husband’s heart he is one.
At that point we still weren’t officially married. As our wedding day in England approached, there was another major Islamic problem: Muslims are NOT allowed to marry atheists:
“Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe. A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though if she attracts you. And not marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though if he attracts you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the fire but Allah beckons by His grace to the garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His signs clear to mankind; that they may receive admonition.- (al-Baqarah, 221)”
Boy did we desperately search for some sort of loophole for this. We never found one. My husband was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He chose me.
There is no perfect Muslim and yet when people hear of a Muslim marrying an atheist they act as if he had just broken the number one rule in Islam. Tell a Muslim that you haven’t prayed for a couple of days however and they shrug it off as unimportant, and that is one of the pillars in Islam!
So yes, my husband sinned, but so many seem happy to sin just for a glass of alcohol, he sinned to be with the woman he loved, mother of his child. If you are not going to be perfect, be imperfect in the things that will bring the most good and happiness I say.

So in this time together has Islam “rubbed” off on me at all? Possibly, ok not the belief, but some of the principles. Before meeting my husband if someone told me they didn’t drink alcohol I would actively encourage them to do so. I no longer drink myself (not due to being morally against it, I just realised that I wasn’t a “good” drunk, and made some very bad decisions). This decision has granted me some delightful “digs”, as apparently despite the fact even one of my closest friends doesn’t drink until intoxicated, my situation simply *has* to be because my husband wont allow me. Funnily enough, if I was a smoker and quit people would be rejoicing, quit alcohol and they act as if you have announced you have decided to amputate a limb.
Do I dress more modestly now than four years ago? Yes, but then when I met my husband I was a 21 year old university student, I’m now a mother and certain parts of my body are not where they used to be. Ok I’ve always been a big girl so not one for mini skirts, but I still don’t have any issue for those who do have it to flaunt it (within accordance to “time and place”). I’ve come across some of the most judgemental, nasty hijabis, and some of the sweetest, kindest uncovered women. Clothes in my mind are irrelevant to character.
The biggest difference having Islam enter my life via third party had to be on my view on religion and religious people. As I mentioned on my opening page, I was very anti religions and had many generalised view on those who followed religions. Now I have met many people, husband included, who do not fit my previous narrow and insulting view, I am far more tolerant. In that sense Islam as already help me become a better person, or at least certain Muslims have.
I never did really resume my Islamic studies though, at least not until my current cramming. Islam has just been a constant trickle in my life for four years, I now feel it is time to face the flood.

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