A Whatsapp Convo with… A Muslim Woman in an Inter-Religious Marriage
As a child and even well into my adolescence, I was taught to believe that a Muslim woman marrying outside of her religion was the worst thing she could do. Deep inside, even from a young age, I questioned such ideologies however, and never really understood many of the beliefs that were being imposed upon me, especially when many of them just seemed downright ludicrous.
Having reached a point in life where I now finally understand myself and my own relationship with God, I feel that many questions I have always been so confused about have been cleared up just through listening to my own, deep inner voice and through my own personal connection with my Lord. Feeling now that a Muslim woman can and should marry whichever man she wants (as should everyone – and vice versa), I was compelled to interview a Muslim woman who has done just that.
The Universe brought the following lady into my life that is Muslim and is married to a Jewish man, and honestly, she has just been a complete breath of fresh air. I’m so glad that she, and many others like her, exist!
Here’s what happened when we exchanged a series of Whatsapp messages regarding her inter-religious marriage. I found the whole exchange hugely interesting and even enlightening, and I really I hope you do, too. Enjoy!
(Please note, I am aware that having children in an inter-religious relationship is something that many people would be interested in knowing about, however due to personal reasons this particular participant was not comfortable speaking about this, so of course, we must respect this. This is the reason why there are no questions around children in this interview.)
So to begin, I understand you’re married to someone of a different religion. Can you tell me what religions you both follow (or were brought up around) and how you both met?
I am indeed. I was raised Muslim and my husband was raised Jewish. I would say I’m more religious but he’s more culturally Jewish, if that makes sense?
We met when we were teenagers at school. So, we’ve known each other for a very long time but didn’t officially date reconnected again in our late twenties. When we reconnected, we just made so much sense as a couple. It all seemed beyond our control.
Ah, interesting! Before we talk more about how you met, could you tell me a little more about your upbringing? What was your family like in regards to religion? Did you come from a strict Muslim background or quite an open one?
I come from quite an academic household so our approach to religion has been cerebral as well as spiritual. We believe but we all also try to interpret, understand and contextualise. We didn’t wear hij’ab (head covering) but I would say it was fairly strict in terms of boys and girls mixing socially etc.
What were your feelings towards religion growing up?
I had quite a complex relationship with my faith when I was younger. I think I was viewing it through the foggy lens of teenage angst, which only saw its restrictions on my person.
However, as an adult I find myself falling in love with my faith. Without me realising, all these years, it has given guidance, comfort and a solid foundation that I can cling to when weathering adversity and any hardship in life.
Ah, that foggy lens! I think we’ve all been there in one-way or another.
Had you ever thought about what would happen if you happened to fall in love with someone of a different religion, growing up? Did your family or the community around you, ever tell you that this was something that couldn’t happen?
My parents always told me that I could marry anybody “of The Book” so Muslim, Christian or Jewish. I hadn’t really thought about it. To be honest, I never really wanted to get married.
Yay! It’s nice to meet a fellow odd person! People have given me so much hassle about this my whole life!
Ughh! I totally get it!
So what about your husbands background? You said he was more culturally Jewish – can you explain what you mean by that for the readers? What kind of religious upbringing did he have?
His upbringing was more about his community. Single faith primary schools (I’m not a fan of these at all), mixed faith secondary schools but only socialising with children of the same faith, religious obligations like Bar Mitzvah, Friday night dinners (Shabbat) etc. Friday night faith based youth groups throughout high school, tour of Israel at 16 etc.…
My husband’s family, for example, don’t socialise with anyone outside of their faith. At all. It took me so long to notice!
But I find it very troubling, to be so isolated. It can lend itself to one having a polarised view of the world. But I also understand the need for this type of community cohesion, especially after all his community has endured. So, it’s a quandary of sorts.
Now having understood both your backgrounds better, can you tell me about how you reconnected in your late twenties, how you fell in love and how you then decided that you wanted to get married?
I’m not entirely sure… It just sort of happened! We have friends in common, went out for a catch up and just felt at ease with each other. Our friends came to join us and it was a party! We dated for a few years, met each other’s families, and got engaged J Standard stuff really!
Lovely! How did your families react to you both being of different faiths?
People always ask me about it like there was some big drama, but honestly it was just so simple. Our families were fine with it. We kept expecting it to be an issue, but the issue never arose. The biggest problems we’ve had in our marriage have been the same boring things every other couple has in theirs. The most functional part is that we’re a Jewish Muslim couple!
Honestly, that is so wonderful! Really heart-warming to read. Did anyone from your Pakistani community ever say anything or make anything an issue?
Nope! 😊 We were so unapologetic about it. And we were so respectful of our families and were very clear that we wanted to honour both our faiths in our home.
This is making me so happy!
My parents were both Pakistani but from two completely different parts and spoke different languages, so they were a cross-cultural couple. I think that’s why it wasn’t such a big deal in my family. Because my mother and father had faced a great deal of drama themselves – my paternal grandparents never approved of my mother – so she was mindful of never making my partner feel this way.
How beautiful! She sounds like a wonderful woman.
She is! She’s become my best friend.😊
Myself, I grew up with quite toxic Pakistani thoughts and opinions around me. Being taught in mosque that Jewish people were ‘bad’, and then even at home over-hearing that ‘we didn’t like Jews’ but never understanding why. Did you grow up aware of any tensions between the Muslim and Jewish communities?
Oh yes, this tension is everywhere isn’t it? It’s so ignorant. I tend to shut this talk down, whoever it’s about. It’s one thing to be against policy, it’s quite another to be against an entire group of people. If we tolerate this kind of behaviour, it makes us no better than alt. right loonies who think we need to be “punished” just for being Muslim.
Yes, exactly. I agree 100%.
Sooo moving on to the wedding! What was it like? Did you follow both Muslim and Jewish practices and customs?
We did! We had a legal ceremony and then an interfaith ceremony with a nikkah (Islamic religious ceremony) and elements of the Jewish marriage ceremony. We had readings from the Qur’an and Torah by members of both our families, we did Israeli dancing at the reception, danced to bhangra and got hoisted up on chairs. It was really fun and lively.
Your wedding sounds like it was amazing! Moving on then to married life together… I’m assuming you both still follow your individual faiths? How do you make it work at home?
We weren’t necessarily very practising respectively but creating a home together forces you to become a great deal more deliberate about which elements of your faith you’d like to form as part of your day to day life.
For me, a lot of principles of Islam have stuck with me, particularly around honesty, integrity, hospitality, charity etc. and I bring those into our home. But in terms of traditions and practices, these are mainly structured around our religious events and families. So we celebrate each religious festival together and attend Friday night dinners at my in-laws’ etc. We don’t tend to go to shul unless there’s an event like a wedding and I’ve never really prayed at the mosque growing up, so wouldn’t do this. I pray everyday but not in the traditional sense, however I find myself coming back to namaz these days. Incorporating elements of who we are and how we were brought up has been the easiest part of being together.
Your home sounds wonderful! It seems like you both fully accept each other to the point where your differing religions and upbringings don’t even come into play – you accept each other completely. Just going on from that, have you ever clashed over anything to do with religion?
Not really. The only major difference is that we love Jesus in Islam but he’s not too popular in Judaism. Otherwise everything lines up quite nicely with both religions e.g.: dietary requirements, funeral conventions, circumcisions…etc.
Lovely! What would you say to those people that say that only Muslim men are ‘allowed’ to marry someone outside of the faith?
I would probably say, I was raised in a household that permitted both its sons and daughters to marry “people of the book”. My parents raised us to believe, but also to study and analyse our religion with a discerning eye. As a Muslim woman, marrying someone Christian or Jewish was never going to be a problem for me, especially with my family’s blessing. So, my conscience with God is clear. I would also say, stop telling women what they can and can’t do. Islam is one of the most feminist religions in the world. Now, shoo!
Haha, love that last bit!
So finally lovely lady, what advice would you give to a Muslim woman in an inter-religious relationship and wants to marry her partner, but is unsure about it?
This is a big decision, possibly the biggest of your life. Try to block out cultural pressure if you can. There’s a great deal of noise surrounding these situations and far too much chatter concerning what you ought to be thinking, feeling, and believing. Search your heart and consider your own relationship to your religion and your relationship with God. If you are satisfied, and you feel you can build a life together that honours who you are and what you believe, then it sounds like you know what you want to do already. Parental approval is subjective. Some of us need it and some of us can forge ahead and marry without it affecting our lives whatsoever. So, take the time to consider what you want for your life and what you can live with and do what’s right for you, the life and home you want to build with your partner, and, ultimately, your happiness.
Such a carefully worded and well-thought out answer, as they all were. Thank you SO much for this hugely insightful chat. Wishing you the best in everything. 💛
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Read a Whatsapp convo with a queer Muslim here.
Read a Whatsapp convo with someone who has had an out-of-body experience here.