I have pondered deeply whether to seek advice, yet somehow feel I need some help. I am an English revert of some 15 years, al hamdu-lillah, and I am married to an Arab. I was raised Catholic and I have a nice sense of respect and caring, something my own mother passed on to me. In all my married years, I have found it difficult to adapt to the change in lifestyle and mannerisms of my husband's culture, but with my nature and sabr, (patience) I have been adamant to provide a good Islamic home and marriage.
Relatives, it seems, are the biggest trial that apparently come attached to one’s husband. For six years I have maintained good ties with my husband’s relatives, catered for them politely, and worked extremely hard within the home to make everyone feel special. I catered and prepared a wedding alone for my sister-law, who came from abroad. I really wanted the occasion to be a blessing for her. After three months of hard work, admittedly along with my house and children, I was near to exhaustion. I had families sleeping on my floor, a second sister-in-law to look after, and still I found little help from those around me, yet I didn't mind. I believe all good is rewarded, and I could see that soon it would all be a happy memory.
Well, the day before the wedding, a cousin of my husband, whom I've known and have been friends with for six years, came for the wedding, and simply caused havoc. In brief, she raged at not being more in charge of the wedding, and not having enough video coverage of herself for her family back home. In short, I found her to be jealous, she reminded me that I was the English woman. This is the brunt of my pain. I was not Muslim in her eyes, I was the outsider, and her Islam from that point was a piece of cloth on her head. Much was said that I do not want to repeat, I am not a show off; I love my God and my faith too much to behave in, unfortunately, the Arab way.
I want to ask, I know my God sees and hears all things, and I know I did no wrong before my husband and his family, yet I have been so hurt by her remarks that I cannot hold the ties of kinship with her anymore. I feel so tired making such an effort with my Arab sisters in general and I can never seem to find the real care and faith that I was raised with. Am I wrong to hold these views? Thank you
In this counseling answer:
• All good is rewarded by Allah (swt), so why are you confusing people with Allah (swt)?
• Take strength from you good deeds and all your efforts.
• Be mindful that we are all going through different realities as Muslims, and some have more experience and understanding than others in associating with people from different cultures.
As-Salamu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh my sister,
You are a good example to all Muslim women, whether they are born Muslim or revert to Islam. The virtues that your mother instilled in you are only as Allah (swt) intended.
You have managed to nurture a blessed Islamic environment in your home to nourish all those who live in it or who are related to the residents. Of course, to exert such effort on a daily basis will make you exhausted, that is why in Islam, regardless of cultural norms, Muslim wives are not expected to do everything, for a wife’s essential role is to look after her husband and her children.
Yes, all good is rewarded by Allah (swt), so why are you confusing people with Allah (swt)? You are not, you may say, but to expect others to respond to you in the way that you respond to them is setting yourself up for disappointment. We all have our life transaction with Allah (swt), and our commitment to that transaction changes daily, according to whom we are with and according to the situation we find ourselves in. In other words, sometimes we are better than at other times. This is human nature. Alhamdulillah, those relatives who see you regularly, know you and your intentions well.
“A man asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) which of the merits (is superior) in Islam. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked, That you provide food and extend greetings to one whom you know or do not know.” (Muslim)
They have benefited from the way in which you see your role and have accepted the bountiful love that you have to offer. You took on the humongous task of organizing, single-handedly, your sister-in-law’s wedding, which showed familiarity with their customs. You worked to make everyone feel special, but your husband’s cousins were not a part of the process. They turned up and probably did not feel as special as they had expected. Sometimes, it is more productive to be in the background, even when you play the central role. It is best not to be so visible with people who have strong cultural traditions.
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So, you may ask, who is going to do everything? You would be surprised at how quickly family members spring into action. Your husband should have been aware of what his cousins might expect in order to prepare you.
“Faith has over seventy branches, or over sixty branches, the most excellent of which is the declaration that there is no god but Allah, and the humblest of which is the, removal of what is injurious from the path; and modesty is the branch of faith.” (Muslim)
So, jealousy raised its ugly head and suddenly you were no longer a Muslim. Only Allah (swt) knows our true intentions which are why we are accountable to Him (swt). No one else can make that judgment, so you should not allow yourself to be upset by such callous remarks; besides, you are English, is that anything to be upset about? Did you associate being English with being a non-Muslim or did she? Is this what you thought she meant although she did not express it? Your husband’s cousin only insulted with a remark that is true. She played on your emotions and the insult had the intended effect, but it did not change the good that you have done and who you are.
If you feel that I am not interpreting the situation fairly, let me remind you that I am neither an Arab nor a born Muslim, and I have been insulted in many different ways on the assumption that I do not know my Islam. It hurts, but what you have to remind yourself of is,
“O you men! Surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know one another, surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” (49: 13)
So, sister, take strength from your good deeds and all your efforts. Be mindful that we are all going through different realities as Muslims, and some have more experience and understanding than others in associating with people from different cultures. They may not even comprehend why, with all the freedom of the West, you have chosen to live there, and only you know the realities of that myth of freedom. You are living in a world that is being forced to face the prejudices of the outside world. Being from the outside world you will be tested, and, as a test of your understanding, just try to see what they see. With modesty, they may be able be a little more accepting, in sha’ Allah.
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