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Reader Response: Advise and Trying to Reach Out

07/01/2015

On Monday, I received this letter from M:

I recently got engaged to an Arabic muslim man, he was born in Jordan but came to Canada when he was just 5 years old, he basically grew up here, however I can see that he has Arabic culture strongly rooted in him. I myself come from Mexico and just came to canada 7 years ago. Although Canada is a multicultural place mexico is a very Catholic rooted country. I am not extremely religious, I have seen a lot of injustice happening in the Catholic Church so I don’t really believe in the institution of religion but I am an spiritual person and I do believe in God. I met him at work and right from the bat we started having these discussions about his beliefs and my beliefs and where do we stand because I didn’t really want to be wasting my time with someone that I could not see my self having a future.
He is a more liberal muslim, he has had pre marital relations before, he drinks, parties and all this. He was a little bit of a party boy and a flirt with girls. Although I am not very religious in the sense of going to church and all that I have very strong morals and I am more on the conservative side. And I believe that is one of the main things that he found attractive in me, that I am a caring loving person, more conservative etc. We knew each other for a year as simply friends and started dating a year and a half ago, we moved in together last October and recently got engaged. I have already meet all his friends and family, actually this happened 6 months in the relationship. The parents doesn’t know we live together but they know me and I have spent time with them, they call me from time to time, and they welcomed me to their family. He has also known my family etc so in those terms we are Ok.
Where I need advice is to understand more about the religion and culture, there are things that I fully don’t approve of or fully understand, and some things that do make me uncomfortable.. i do not approve wearing the hijab because the way I have been exposed to it all my life has been as a way to diminish women, so I wanted to understand your views on that. I do not believe you need to cover your hair to be close to god, I am more on the idea that being a good person will bring you close to god but not being as strict and covering your hair. He has told me he would never expect me to do it obviously as well as he would never ask me to convert or anything like that, his mom does wears it and as much as I try to respect it it still feels a little uncomfortable knowing that if I ever have girls they could be immerse into wearing that which I really don’t like. So from a woman’s perspective I wanted to understand what is your view on that.
Secondly the Ramadan festivities I have a hard time understanding them as well, since my views are that it’s unhealthy to not eat or drink for over 15 hours. Which is what is happening now, he is fasting and here in canada the sunrise is at 4 am and gets dark around 9pm. He told me he would never ask me to fast but i am just overall having a hard time understanding it and in my mind it feels very unhealthy. Also as a latin person I do need to feel contact to feel loved and appreciated so not being able to have a good morning kiss or goodnight kiss before going to work or when we come back from work really annoys me, because having some acknowledgement and a reminder that we love each other is very important to me. I am not asking to make out but just as a show of care..
This was my response:
My first question is this, how old is your fiancee?  I’m asking because In My Experience, a lot of Muslim men who come from fairly conservative backgrounds spend a good amount of their time in their twenties and early thirties rebelling against the strict, conservative nature of their parent’s home and drink, smoke, sleep around etc.  The good ones get this out of their system once they’ve decided to commit and they begin to find a middle ground between the conservative and permissive.
This might be the case with your fiancee.  It’s not something to be afraid of, but something to definitely keep in mind and to talk to him about.  Often, the men will begin searching for a middle ground and pick and choose what parts of the religion are most important to them and what they feel like is a grey area, it is very good to make this picking and choosing an open dialogue between the two of you.  The more you know about Islam, the easier it will be for you to discuss these things with him.  I’m not suggesting you convert by any means. I’m saying, get educated.
With regards to hijab.  My feelings are this, based on the education I have about Islam.  Islam requires its followers to be modest.  The thing is, that patriarchy has taught us that the burden is on the women to be modest.  When in fact, modesty falls on the shoulders of both the men and women.  The Muslim must be modest in their thoughts, modest in their mind, modest in their actions, modest with their behavior, modest with their clothing and THEN, wearing a head covering should come into play.  I have been told by many converts that once you have been able to be modest in all of these ways, and you are meant to wear hijab, you will feel naked without one.  Not everyone reaches that level and that’s okay.  But some do.  It is a personal decision. It is a big commitment to wear hijab and not to be taken lightly or just because you look cute in one or because it’s the fashion.  So, In My Opinion, it cannot and should not be forced.
With regards to Ramadan.  I know it is really weird for people who have never experienced it before, but people have been fasting for thousands of years.  People who grow up Muslim train for this from the time they are very little.  Fasting is more about what is going on in your mind than the number of hours from eating and drinking.  Children begin fasting for an hour or two to 4 hours and then increase the time each year.  As the child gets older, they let their parent know when they feel like they are ready for the challenge of fasting the entire day.  There are methods of eating and drinking to make sure you are well hydrated and don’t feel very hungry.   I assure you, if your fiancee has been fasting his whole adult life, he knows and understands how to regulate himself so that he does not get sick.  This is something parents teach their children. If he is in good health normally.  If he isn’t, then he needs to speak with his doctor on how to go about fasting or if he should.
I realize now that I didn’t address the question about needing affection, so I’ll do that now.
Affection is permissible during Ramadan!  You may hug, snuggle and kiss during the daytime.  There is no reason in the world why you should not be able to touch your fiancee.  Then, from sunset to sunrise, you may participate in intimate relations.
Dear Readers, Do you have any advise for M?
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rachael Salahat permalink
    07/01/2015 5:54 PM

    I agree with everything in your response. That’s exactly what usually happens in men that live in America but are still rooted to their home country. They want the best of both worlds. Although my husband doesn’t or hasn’t ever drank(he is Muslim/Palestinian), he does struggle with not having the support of other Muslims, so he loses touch with is religious side in that sense, when living in America. We now live in Palestine, so it is much easier to stay on course with his religion because everyone you surround yourself with are doing the same things.
    It sounds to me like he is finding his middle ground, but I will say, to be cautious, that his mind can change at anytime, and that’s something you should be prepared for. I’ve seen it happen many times. When husbands decide to become more religious and would like their wives to change some aspects about themselves (like not drinking etc). I’m just saying this to prepare you, not to scare you. And usually it’s because as a Muslim person gets older, they want to become closer to God and try to follow as closely as possible to their religion (not because they want to be controlling or anything) and also pressure from family members.
    I think you def need to make sure you discuss everything with him, before you make any more commitments.

  2. Safira permalink
    07/13/2015 9:27 AM

    Run for your life. I am a born Muslim and I married an Arab and it was the biggest mistake of my life. His true colours will only show after you have children…they are very controlling and Arab culture have a low view of women, NOTHING to do with Islam it is based on their culture. You will always come a distant secind to his mum and he will try his damndest to turn you into her. Run run runnnnnnnn

    • 07/13/2015 7:51 PM

      I’m so sorry you had this awful experience, but not all Arab men are like the one you married.

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