Saturday, August 24, 2013

10 Years of Islamic Marriage

Happy Anniversary to me.  This week marks 10 years since I was at the wedding where I really was an unnecessary participant.  The Islamic Marriage or Nikah is a basic marriage agreement where at least 2 male Muslims participate.  Usually the bride selects a man in her family to represent her in the ceremony.  Since I didn't have any Muslim friends or family, Abdulhamid selected his best friend to represent me.  It was the religious ceremony but wasn't legally binding until we got the marriage contract and went to the courthouse to register the marriage.  That happened several months later, which can often be the case.  I look at the photo (below) from our wedding day and I think how young and naive I was.  So much has changed in the 10 years we've been together.  Lots of ups and downs.  You can imagine with kids from previous marriages and then a child with down syndrome.  Add to that all the cultural differences.

So what would I say to anyone considering the same situation?  I would likely do everything all over again.  I'd just understand a few things better this time around.  Basically, Muslim males realize that they are responsible for providing a home and basic needs for the family.  The wife does absolutely everything else.  Think of it as a business agreement, rather than a romantic relationship.  There are some rules about who's in charge...and it's not going to be the woman.  Once, I asked my husband when we'd be equals in this relationship, and he said that would never happen.  Get used to it in the beginning, ladies.  He is not my BFF.    He's not the type to be my Facebook friend or join in my google circle or linked in.  He's my life partner.  I do count on him to make decisions for our family that benefit US, not ME.  It often leaves me feeling empty, but it seems to work most of the time.

In this marriage I gave up my job, my home in Green Bay, my local friends, and moved into his house near Milwaukee with his kids, while mine went off to college.  Then I had a baby.  This is incredibly normal for nearly every Muslim relationship I know.  Many of the women have PhDs and had promising futures.  They put everything on hold to join their husbands, and do it willingly.  I am always humbled by the sheer genius and kindness of the Muslim women I meet when we gather. When everyone accepts their roles, it makes everything work better.  These are relationships based on respect and deep religious values.

The truth is that Islamic marriages thrive in this topsy turvy economy, because of the way they are created.  Even young Muslims today still rely on family members to arrange marriages for them.  When I was on the outside looking in, I thought it was incredibly medieval, but I've come around to thinking it's a pretty good idea.  Family members and friends who know us well will know what kind of a person would be good for us.  It's great to have others checking out the financial status and family of a partner before you spend the rest of your lives together.  Life is full of surprises, but you benefit when you know all the important stuff upfront.  It takes the emotion out of a decision, and in many cases, that's a good thing.  That doesn't mean that love doesn't come later for many couples.  It often does.
Me and Abdulhamid on our Nikah day 10 years ago

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