Our love today to the incredible, inspiring and unstoppable Ameena Matthews. Ameena, a community activist and violence “interrupter” with the Chicago-based organization CeaseFire, recently received BET’s #BlackGirlsRock Community Activist Award.
Learn more about Ameena and the BlackGirlsRock award, here.
Dear Love Inshallah,
I have been dating a man for a few years now and we’ve been discussing marriage. However, he is of a polytheistic faith. Although he is liberal in his practice, he has a strong belief in God. We have not had any problems with faith interrupting our relationship, since we have the same morals and values and we have been blessed to be very compatible and loving towards one another. He is also very active in taking part in my religious activities, since he is quite aware that I am a practicing (semi-liberal) Muslim.
We have agreed on a nikkah (in addition to other South Asian cultural events). He has also agreed to “convert”. This is where the problem starts to occur. He wants to be able to practice both religions, but will always have his way of worship in his heart, even when “practicing” Islam with me. We have also decided that the children will be taught to practice the Islamic faith in our home. Therefore, is there really a point in him taking the shahada? Isn’t it still zina after marriage, since the marriage is not seen as “valid”? And will he be seen as a shirk, which is said to be completely “unforgivable” in Islam?
I have been lucky enough to have had exposure to different religious events (i.e. church services, pujas, etc.) growing up, so I have no problem attending and respecting his family’s customs and beliefs. I know God is the most gracious and merciful, but are we going down the wrong path?
In Love with a Polytheist
Shy Desi Boy replies:
My roommate and I sat side by side on our couch, hunched over our respective laptops.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked her.
“Yes, I want to go to Cape Town,” she said.
I showed her my three Kayak windows, open in separate tabs before me. “Buenos Aires costs about the same to get to from New York, but everything will be way cheaper when we’re actually there. And look at these flights to Istanbul: they’re half the price, half the length, and nonstop.”
“I want to go to Cape Town,” she insisted. This being 2012, I don’t think I’d ever heard a broken record, but I imagine this was what it might sound like.
My roommate had seen a friend’s Facebook album from Cape Town the year before, and ever since we’d talked about traveling together, she’d been hell bent on getting there. It had always figured on my list of places to get to eventually, probably with a safari tacked on when I had kids someday, but wasn’t something I’d consider a priority destination. Not like Argentina, which I’d been trying to convince friends to accompany me to for years, or Turkey, which I was ashamed to admit I had yet to see. But she was adamant.
“OK then, if you’re sure. Bismillah.”
I clicked Book.
Author and academic Haroon Moghul – a contributor to our forthcoming book Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy - writes a provocative new column for Al Arabiya English on marriage, modernity, and Muslims:
In the Muslim world, we love to say proscribe. But to actually take the risk of addressing the real world?
‘Someone’s out there,’ I promised Tariq. Technically true. But cruelly. The very uncertainty that made our rapidly changing world a lonelier place—and thus us in need of more intimacy—makes it harder to find someone. By upending our remaining certainties. Denying us our traditional practices: If a religion cannot speak to changed circumstances, it’ll be left by the wayside.
Either we jettison our moral norms or change our social conditions so those norms become practical again. Did you catch that? We must cultivate the confidence to breed (pardon the expression) the minds who dare to ask: What would our economies, our education, our policies, even our architecture and our culture, look like if we took this mission to marry seriously? Because modernity is not going away, and the only way through it is through it.
But what works somewhere doesn’t work everywhere.
Read the rest of the column, here.
I am estranged from my father, and no, I don’t like talking about it. Why bring it up in the public sphere? Because I get too many intrusive questions about him in the private sphere, and this is my way of setting the record straight.
My parents’ love story went terribly wrong. They knew each other from school and got married when my mum was twenty-one, and my dad was twenty-four. I’ve seen the wedding photos, slightly yellowed with age. My mum looked demure and beautiful in her white dress, and my dad looked dashing in his suit. Their honeymoon took them to spectacular locations around the globe – impressive, given that this was over thirty years ago – but their marriage ended up in what I have coined “The Best Decision Ever.” My parents’ divorce, instigated by my mother, was the reprieve that gave us all the chance to heal after decades of waxing and waning heartache. I am the oldest of many siblings, and each of us has to negotiate the scars we all earned along the way.
Most parents mean well. I know mine certainly did. But the lesson I learned from was how much love can hurt. My dad warned me against the foolishness of women marrying their high school sweethearts. My mother warned me that men never change. They gave me so many warnings against love and trust. I grew up imbibing so much of what can go wrong, that it took me a very long time to be open to what can go right.