Parents Oppose Our Interracial Marriage; What to Do?

29 March, 2017
Q Dear counselor. I’m from a country in Central-Europe. I got engaged to a nice man from Egypt. We had plans to get married this summer, however due to financial difficulties (mostly in my end) it seems we won’t be able to. We both are students (he is taking his first degree course and I’m taking master degree course), thus we are not able to take any job due to our busy class schedule. We wanted that he moves to my country for some time, but then my mother refused to give us accommodation until my fiancé gets a job or we could leave to another country for a better paid job. Also, so far my mother has been against our marriage due to age difference (I’ll soon be 27 and he will be 21 in sha’ Allah) and cultural difference (which to me isn’t a problem since I’m eager to adapt to my fiancée’s culture as long as it is in ease with Islamic teachings, especially if we would like to move to his country in sha’ Allah). We just wanted to spend some time in my country so my family could meet him and then move to another European country to gain some money, and then move to Egypt. My mother is not a Muslim and I’m about to revert to this beautiful religion in sha’ Allah. My mother told me I could marry him if I wish, however, since our plan hasn’t worked out, we started having doubts about our relationship. I asked my fiancée if we could live with his parents (since we wanted to live in Egypt anyway), but he refused and said he would like to stay in Egypt too, but we don’t have a place to live there and we cannot afford any apartment. He also said we couldn’t stay at his parent's house since he shares a room with his two brothers. Also, my fiancé’s parents accepted me at first and that he would stay away from his country for a few years and gave him some money to start with, but since my mother refused us to live with her, they started having doubts too and suggested him to forget about the marriage. I asked him to let me talk to his parents on the internet so that maybe they would have some advices how we could deal with this situation as I would value their input and life experience very much, but my fiancé refused to let me talk to them. We are still in touch and want to keep our promise we made to each other that we would get married, and we don’t want to break this if the only reason would be money. But now we don’t know what to do and when we could possibly get married. We’re very disappointed and cannot see a way out. I tried to cheer him up, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Can you give me some suggestions on how to cope with this situation or what actions we can then take? Jazak Allah Khair.

Answer

Answer:

Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

First of all, welcome to Islam!

It is always difficult to have a cross-cultural relationship. You are getting a taste of the problems with it even before you have married into it. This might be a blessing for you because it can help you decide ahead of time if this is what you want to go through in your marriage.

That said, I do not think that you should decide on marrying him based on your or his family’s ideas about how you feel about someone. I think people should decide for themselves who they should marry based on their own feelings about that person—with their parent’s permission, of course, and also with respect for their parents’ ideas and concerns. But our parents cannot feel what we feel when we love someone or have a connection with them. They have no way of judging that part of our world.

One of my teachers of psychology said that every relationship is a cross-cultural relationship. I found that to be a very wise statement because it points to a very important point: all people are different, so no matter who you marry, you are going to have to figure out how to deal with your differences. When the couple alone has to do that, it is enough to deal with. When the parents get in the mix, it can make everything so much worse. Much of this “getting in the mix” is cultural and not part of the teachings of Islam—which is a whole other problem.

I think you need to really ask yourself how you feel about this man. Maybe writing a list of the pros and cons of marrying him would help you make this big decision.

Do you feel that he is the only man for you? If you do, then I say, bite the bullet and go forward and deal with all these family issues. However, if you are not sure about that, figure that out first. If he is, then you will have the devotion and subsequent strength it takes to deal with all these family problems and interference. If he is not, your heart won’t be in it and your families will be able to sway you back and forth.

He too needs to figure out the answer to that question—and you need to know his answer. If he is also strong in his belief in your marriage, then together you can weather this storm, with Allah’s help. But if his devotion is mediocre, that is not going to work.

Now, if you decide to go ahead with the marriage, sorting out culture from Islam is a big problem that many Muslim faces, especially Muslims who were born into Islam and who live in Muslim-majority countries like Egypt. To new Muslims, this is usually a big shocker. So much of what people do in Muslim countries has nothing to do with Islam such as the prohibition of driving for women in Saudi Arabia or arranged/forced marriages in India, Pakistan, etc.

Beyond these cultural-family problems, you have financial problems too as you both need to finish school. But if you both feel that you have to be with each other, then I would suggest getting married so that you can talk freely with each other over the phone (in your long distance relationship) without having to worry about what you say.

However, that said, you have a lot to learn since you have entered your new religion. Maybe you should wait six months or a year to get your bearings in your new religion first and then see how you feel about him. Maybe you will discover that he is not as religious as you are, or vice versa. Or maybe it will bring you two closer together. Whichever way it goes, I would give it a chance to sort itself out before marriage, in Sha’ Allah.

May Allah (swt) make it easy for you.

Salam,

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About Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem
Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem, an American, has a BA in English from UC Berkeley
and is about to receive an MS degree in counseling psychology
(Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT) from the Western Institute for Social Research.
For over ten years, Nasira worked as a psychotherapist with the general public and in addiction recovery.

For the last few years, she has been a life coach specializing in
interpersonal relations.
Nasira also consults with her many family members who studied Islam overseas and returned to America to be Imams and teachers of Islam. Muslims often ask Nasira what psychology has to do with Islam. To this, she replies that Islam is the manifestation of a correct understanding of our psychology. Therapists and life coaches help clients figure out how to traverse the path of life as a Believer, i.e., "from darkness into light", based on Islam and given that that path is an obstacle course, according to Allah.