One of the pressing challenges that the Muslim ummah faces on a global scale today is the establishment of happy, productive, love-filled and lasting marriages that overcome the trials and tribulations that sometimes commence from even the first days of their inception.
Challenges Faced by New Reverts
Single men and women who revert to Islam in Western countries, such as North America and Europe, have to face many post-reversion challenges, such as alienation from their immediate, biological families; marital discord or divorce (if they are married); losing their children’s custody to their ex-spouses or extended families, hostility at work, and social isolation, to name but a few.
However, to say that finding a spouse, getting married and staying happily married isn’t one of the greatest challenges they face, would be a lie.
Hailing from a past devoid of Islamic belief and its practice, they are sometimes avoided warily by born-Muslim immigrant families in their area that are seeking suitors for their adult and single offspring.
Even though their reversion to Islam wipes out their past completely in the eyes of Allah, born Muslims are not as big-hearted, benevolent and open-minded in their forgiveness and acceptance of reverts’ non-Muslim past backgrounds and upbringing.
The major options for completing the remaining half of their Deen that lie before them – and admittedly there are not too many of these to begin with- are whether they should marry a revert from the West like themselves, who will share with them not just a similar non-Muslim past and extended family dynamic, but who will also possess the same cultural habits and mindset; or whether they should consider proposals from born Muslims who hail from a totally different cultural background?
The Born-Muslim Mindset
Many a time, born Muslims are not as ardent about practicing Islam at a superlative level or in enthusiastically doing full-time da’wah, as new Muslims are, because they were born into Islam, and grew up observing its fundamental rituals more as a habitual and cultural part of life instead of something that they passionately and proactively adopted by making personal sacrifices.
Born Muslims did not strive hard and swim against a social tide to become Muslim against all glaring odds. They did not sacrifice their family, homeland, lifestyle, or careers to embrace and practice a new Deen and to adopt it as a 24/7 way of life.
The nonchalance of born Muslims towards Islam might therefore come as a shock for a revert who gets married to one of them, because they might have expected their born-Muslim spouse to share, if not exceed, their own passion and fervor for Islam.
A revert who has been raised in the West might have to resort to a considerable amount of adjustment if they choose to marry a born Muslim, especially in how much they’ll need to assimilate into a new cultural setup and learn to live in a tightly-knit extended family situation where there is often very little to no personal privacy, especially in living spaces.
Reverts who are by nature easy-going and flexible; who love meeting new people and forming new relationships, should not have too much trouble in adjusting after marriage to someone who is a born Muslim and an immigrant to their country.
However, those reverts who enjoy close bonds and emotional attachments with their biological, non-Muslim family even after embracing Islam; who love living in the country in which they were born and raised; who value solitude, independence, privacy, autonomy and stability in life; who make friends only with few, like-minded people sharing their local customs, language and culture should consider marrying a revert from their own region, or any other Muslim who is willing to completely assimilate into their culture and environment, instead of vice versa.
If a revert marries a born Muslim, they might have to deal with and accept the fact, that their in-laws might probably refuse to regularly meet and greet their biological, non-Muslim family, much less get along with them in a friendly, frank and easygoing manner for the remainder of their lives.
Where to Live?
Whether a revert Muslim marries a born Muslim or a revert like themselves, the issue of relocating from a non-Muslim majority country to a Muslim majority one can always come up, given the abruptness with which persecution on the basis of the Islamic faith (also referred to as Islamophobia) arises in any part of the contemporary world.
Regardless, the ever-present dynamics of the upbringing of their children might make any Muslim couple – whether or not one or both of them are reverts – always consider moving to another country in the world where their unique personal circumstances might allow them to raise their children the way they want to, or live the kind of Islam-based lifestyle that they aspire to.
In such a scenario, any revert Muslim born and raised in the West who marries an immigrant who has his heart attached to his “homeland”, might need to always keep in mind the imminent possibility of moving back to the latter at any point later in their marriage, and should deeply ponder upon whether or not this move will be acceptable to them or not, before entering the marriage.
Muslim majority countries offer a rejuvenating, year-round Islamic community spirit; halal food and restricted (extremely taboo) alcohol consumption; complete lack of nudity and public displays of affection; and manifold opportunities to acquire in-depth Islamic knowledge from schools and universities under the direct tutelage of Islamic scholars.
However, most Muslim majority countries significantly lack the overall quality of life, peacefulness, efficient law enforcement, environmental cleanliness, political stability, stellar opportunities in higher education, and civic orderliness that is prevalent in Western countries.
If a new revert is willing to make the huge adjustment to living amidst political turmoil and chaotic civic infrastructures in the tropically hot, humid, dusty and the often strife-ridden Eastern Muslim majority countries, they can marry a born Muslim and relocate to start and raise a family and hopefully enjoy a very happy married life till the end of their days.
If they however prefer living in the West and do not think that they’ll be able to make this huge adjustment, they should give preference to marrying a local revert, or a third-generation born Muslim whose family has been settled in the same country as theirs, and who has been born and raised there.
As always, exceptions to every rule or trend always exist, and we cannot always adhere to or stand by sweeping generalizations, because few issues are clearly black and white, much less those related to the wide spectrum of modern-day Muslim marriage.
Each and every singleton and married couple in the world is unique, and what works for one might totally backfire and cause pain to another, which is perfectly understandable.
This is why Allah has made the earth vast, and filled it with a variety of races, temperaments, languages, climates, customs, habits, foods, terrains, auras, means of livelihood and ways of living.
As the global Muslim family grows in size because of the refreshingly consistent and unabated influx of our newly reverted brothers and sisters in faith, let us try to tear down the self-erected walls of culture, ethnicity, race, language and custom that keep them from becoming a part of our biological family through the sacred and blessed union of marriage.
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)