Inter-cultural Marriage – A Word to the Brothers

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Salaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah

Marriage is hard.  I don’t care if you grew up on the same street, fell in love in grade school, have the exact same ethnic background, and have a million dollars and mansions in five countries.  Marriage is hard.  When you marry someone from another culture, marriage is harder.

I’ve spoken about marriages between people of different faiths from time to time.  In general, though men are permitted to marry chaste women from among the Christians and Jews, I’m against it.  It’s not like it was back in the time of Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.  But that’s a discussion for another time.  I’m talking now about a marriage between a man and a woman, both Muslim, who are from different countries or cultures.  And I want to talk to you guys.  Arab guys, African guys, Indo-Pak guys.

Okay, first things first.  Marriage to, say, an American in the year 2011 is different than marriage back in the olden days.  First of all, she doesn’t need you.  I mean, NEED need, like if she doesn’t marry you she’ll end up a beggar in the streets or selling her body to get money for food.  American women are educated and talented.  Even a woman with no more than a high school education can usually find an adequate job and can get a place to live, put food on the table, and manage to rent the occasional $1 movie from Redbox.  So consider that.  If you end up being a dirtbag and a wife-beater, she doesn’t have to stay and put up with you because she’ll starve otherwise.  She can leave you and go get a job.  So you have to bring more to the table than simply being a provider.

That cute American girl that you saw waitressing at the local pancake restaurant is also not a quiet, submissive woman who believes that men should talk and women should say “aiway Bey”.  Yes, she’s Muslim, but she’s an AMERICAN Muslim.  She brings to her religion a background of independence and outspokenness.  She will listen to what you say, but if she disagrees she will let you know it.  She expects you to consult her before you buy a car and before you drop $5,000 on some business venture with your cousin.  You know that cousin, the one who always has a great idea?  Yeah, that cousin.  He lives in his mom’s basement and eats government cheese.

The American Muslimah will bring the idea that men should participate in household work.  Oh, and she’ll have the daleel for that, too.  Didn’t YOU know that Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, used to do work inside the home when he wasn’t busy with affairs of state?  You can bet she’ll know it.  The American Muslimah will expect you to take out the trash and sometimes wash dishes and – gasp! – change a baby’s dirty diaper.  Why?  Because in America, that’s what men do.  And if you stick stubbornly to a culturally ingrained habit of having little to do with babies exept for the occasional toss in the air, if you think you can sit behind your newspaper or chill on the couch watching al Jazeerah while she does every speck of housework, well, you’re going to have one pissed-off little missus. 

You’re going to have a woman on your hands who will not let you get away with living an unthinking life.  She will challenge in many respects.  Not by standing there wagging her finger in your face, but with words.  American women are really, really good with words.  Islamic words, too, because she’s read the Qur’an and Sahih al Bukhari and Riyadh as Saliheen and been to Paltalk lectures and has Yusef Estes as a Facebook friend.  So if you want to tell her to do something, or you want to do something, or you want to get out of doing something, if you try to put the label of Islam on it you darn well better be able to back it up. 

She will want you to talk to her.  Really talk to her, like you are friends.  See, I don’t want to characterize all, um, traditional men this way, but so many of them don’t relate to women as their friends.  I’m not talking about going to lunch with the cashier at the grocery store.  I’m talking about having a good relationship with your wife, talking to her about all the important and unimportant things going on in your life, sharing your fears, hopes, and dreams with her, and giving HER the same attention you give your buddies down at the hookah place.  The wife is not just some mysterious creature who irons your shirts, feeds you, gives you marital rights, and births your babies.  She is your friend and companion.  Think about that for a minute.

Okay, I know I’ve given you a lot to chew on, and I have to take my kids to swim class in an hour so it’s time for me to run, but let me close with this:  There’s a lot of you single guys out there, and a lot of divorced guys, too.  You really  want to be married but you don’t always think long term.  Marrying someone who is not from your culture is a challenge, and if you are weak in your religion you won’t be able to substitute religion for the culture you’ve been carrying around your neck all your life.  If you can wake up and learn, then alhamdulillah, you can make an inter-cultural marriage work.  But if you are too traditional, too cultural, too set in your ways to learn how to talk and work and play and live with a woman whose outlook on life may be far different from yours, then at least don’t screw it up for the American girls who might fall in love with your handsomeness and not realize in time that you’re a caveman.  Marry someone who has the right expectations of you so you won’t have to fight this fight.  Because it can be a really nasty fight and no one wins in the end.  Word to the wise.

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