Breaking cultural barriers through marriage seems to be the new boogie monster. It is a deviance that is often spoken about but almost rarely executed. Tales of being disowned, dishonored, and doomed are oftentimes the climactic focus of such unorthodox behavior. Undeniably, such horrific tales do evidently exist, however the outcome is not always so disastrous.
As a 22-year-old Lebanese/Syrian Muslimah that is currently ever so happily married to an African American Muslim, I will be the first to testify that breaking cultural barriers through interracial marriage is actually a beautiful “deviance.”
I met my husband Darius at the age of 21. At the time, he had been a part-time employee at my local gym and was working as an opera singer at the cathedral in Washington, D.C. Darius was a devoted apostolic Christian and had come from a very strong religious background with little to almost no knowledge of Islam. The only exposure he had with Islam was through media and few distant, formal interactions. His experience was so limited that it never grasped his attention until a slightly traumatizing interaction changed his fate forever.
As a fitness enthusiast, I am always at the gym. Coincidentally, I happened to train at the same gym Darius worked at and though I never paid him much attention, it was ironic how Allah had destined for us to meet. It was a late night and the gym was almost empty. My best friend Tatiana had decided to bring her volleyball with hopes that we would find the basketball court empty for us to play in. The odds were in our favor and Tatiana and I rushed to claim the basketball court before a stampede of men could attempt to do so.
“Great, my ball is deflated,” Tatiana growled when we finally finished setting up. “I’m really not trying to go up there and ask to pump it,” she huffed slightly eluding for me to go do it.
I rolled my eyes and walked to the front desk and there Darius was, eyes locked on his phone paying me no attention and overtly neglecting his job as though he was just begging to get fired that day.
“Excuse me,” I impatiently waved. “Would you mind pumping this volleyball for me?” I asked.
He calmly looked up at me, got up, got the pump from under the desk then proceeded to figure out how to pump it. We had an awkward moment of silence that was quickly broken by the soft murmur of “So, what are you working on today?”
Darius is a very soft-spoken man and contrasting to my crazy and loud self, it was extremely hard to make out the words he was saying at the moment. As obvious confusion painted my face, I replied with a high-pitched “Huh?”
My loud voice seemed to have frazzled him as he replied with an even softer “Never mind.” Being the sassy annoying person that I am, I suggested that he enunciate more so that his speech would have more clarity and in the midst of my obnoxious suggestion a loud “BOOM” almost thrusted me to the ground.
My face was flushed as shock overcame me, the few faces at the gym were giggling as they saw what had happened. In the midst of our meaningless conversation, Darius had managed to forget that he had been pumping the volleyball and consequently over-pumped it until it popped in my face!
Luckily, I wasn’t hurt. But I was traumatized. Today, Darius and I laugh about it and often joke about how nervous he was speaking to me for the first time. But had it not been for such a dramatic interaction, I would have probably never looked toward Darius or even tried to get to know him.
I mean, think about it, what interest did I have as a Muslimah, to try and speak to a random guy that worked at the gym whom I knew absolutely nothing about, was evidently not of my culture, and surely wasn’t Muslim?
As I was leaving the gym later that night, Darius had stopped me one more time to apologize for causing such a scene and as my trauma began to wear off, I smiled and told him to be more careful next time.
I was just about to exit the gym when he inquisitively asked me: “Why do you always cover your hair?”
This was the conversation that had set the stage for what was to be our destined future. I sat back down and explained to him hijab and as we dove deeper into the conversation, I realized how little he knew about Islam. I explained the basic philosophy of Islam and tried to link it to Christianity, and though he had very deep conviction in his belief system at the time, he had naturally gravitated toward the conversation and became curious about Islam.
I had to cut the conversation short and as I was leaving, he asked me to give him a Quran and if I would be interested in reading his Bible. Despite explaining to him that I was well-versed in the theological aspect of Christianity, I still respectfully took it and gave him a Quran the next day.
A few months had passed since our conversation and on November 27, 2015 at Friday prayers, I learned that the same man I had spoken to a few months ago was taking his shahada.
I was overcome with joy and shock as I could not believe what I was seeing. I recited “SubhanaAllah” throughout the entire ride back home as I could not grasp how Allah had set the stage to guide this man through something as trivial as popping a volleyball in my face.
A few months later, that same man approached me and asked to speak to my father, and though I was extremely timid about a non-Arab man asking for my hand, I became very much interested in Darius. He prayed istikarah and I did as well, and despite my father’s doubtful preconceived notions, he LOVED Darius for the sole reason that Darius loved Islam and grew very knowledgeable in his conviction in Allah SWT.
Fast-forward a few months later, we got married Islamically through the same masjid and our journey has been nothing but bliss. Now, this is not to say that everyone who attempts an interracial marriage will have the same outcome, but I hope this does inspire you to allow the opportunity for interracial marriage despite cultural barriers.
Marriage is a beautiful thing and if you assess the most crucial aspects of your potential spouse on worldly things such as culture and wealth, you are truly missing out on having a gem that will take you to Jannah, God-willing. Always set your standards high in terms of deen and character and be more lenient with the things from this dunyah — such as culture and wealth — as I can truly testify to the fact that Allah SWT does bless a union that is done for the sake of Him.
For the Muslims trying to marry outside their culture but are dealing with tenacious family members, I will give my most blunt advice: If your union is being denied in the name of culture, and not deen, then the fault is not on you if you proceed with the marriage.
Often times, we are guilted with the concept of pleasing our parents in Islam that we are told we are doomed if we disobey them when it comes to marriage.
“We are guilted with the concept of pleasing our parents in Islam that we are told we are doomed if we disobey them when it comes to marriage.”
A hadith by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) states that no man can ever enter Jannah with even an atom’s worth of arrogance in his heart. This means that by assuming a culture is superior to another, our families are committing a grave sin and we should be the first to correct it by normalizing interracial interactions and marriages.
Islam teaches us that no race is superior to the other and that does not exclude marriage whatsoever. The Prophet himself married from different tribes and ethnicities and if he is the most superior and beloved of all mankind, what makes you and me so worthy to only marry exclusively from one particular region?
Yes, treat your parents first and foremost with the utmost kindness and respect, but recognize that even they are not infallible. Nevertheless, make sure that the union you are about to sign off to is worthy of such a battle, make sure that his or her deen is the focal point of your union, and lastly, make sure that the beautiful deen manifests in the character of the individual so that you may raise righteous children that can also combat the bigotry and racism we battle with every day in our cultures.
You will inevitably deal with demonizing stares and empty chitters of hurtful gossip and hatred, but I promise you, that if your union is truly for the pleasure of Allah, you will not be affected by any of the bigots in your way.
Be confident in your union and positive energy will transcend all the negativity. It is truly infectious when a couple loves for the sake of Allah and even those who once demonized your union will feel the love and mawadah.
“The only way racism will end is if we allow for the new generation of our offspring to embody and love different cultures and ethnicities.”
The only way racism will end is if we allow for the new generation of our offspring to embody and love different cultures and ethnicities.
Love hard, love deep, and allow for beautiful interracial unions to destroy the ugly institutions of our cultures.