Interracial Marriage ~ My Story
I, Indonesian. He, Moroccan. Both Muslim. Love at first sight? No, not really. Respect? Yes. Why? Just after a few weeks of talking via phone he proposed his intentions to marry me. I accepted this proposal. Giving us 3 months to learn a little bit more about each other. By the will of Allah (SWT). We married. Too soon by many standards? Probably? Too soon from an Islamic perspective? I don’t think so. Push back from my family and total disbelief? Sure. I guess. Cultural hurdles? Yes. A lot. Expected to fail? Probably. Many thought how could two very different people with different backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, education and two different races be together? By the will of Allah (SWT), sixteen years later, two sons, and no pets, we are still married. Happy? Yes. Do we have differences? Yes. Do we constantly battle each other and push each other to grow? Always. But, we probably love and respect each other more now than we did in the beginning of our marriage.
My CCO asked me to write a piece about my experiences in an interracial marriage. I kind of find this funny because I really don’t think about the inter-racial part at all. I look at my husband — as I did the first time I met him — as a person. Not as a Moroccan man. I was more intrigued with his forthright and forthcoming character. Just blunt. I can’t help but smile. I had never met a man who knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to say it. Sometimes it comes out crude but I keep remembering what my mom said to me (she probably forgot she said it) but she told me to look for honesty in a man and for his faults. If you can live with those faults (aka, the bad stuff) then you can probably live with this man. Anyone can be together in the good times but not everyone can be with you in the bad times. This was my test. I thought to myself: a man who comes out of NO-WHERE and proposes and has good intentions also being forthright about his background and socio-economic status is probably a pretty strong man. Someone that wouldn’t cave under extreme circumstances. In hindsight, I was right.
I know you are still wondering about the “race” and “cultural clashes;” here is the low down.
Yes. There are differences. Some glaring more than others, but differences happen in every type of marriage. In my situation, culturally Indonesians are more soft-spoken and have tendencies to speak indirectly and Moroccans speak quite loud and are more direct. In the beginning of my marriage I kept thinking my husband was angry with me because of his booming voice and his directness which would create misunderstandings and a little bit of chaos. Only after my visit with his family — who all spoke passionately and quite loud — did I understand that this was a normal cultural tone. They only meant to be passionate and express their love and concern in a louder manner than those of the Indonesian culture. I had an “AHA” moment! From then on I realized that there were no bad intentions, just that this is how the culture communicated with one another. On the flip side, the Indonesian habit of not being direct drove him nuts! I think until this day he doesn’t understand why a person wouldn’t just say what they want and do what they say! I personally prefer to be direct as it limits misunderstanding. Interestingly, from an Islamic perspective, being direct allows for clear communication and the standing-up of ones rights (Hak).
As for other “cultural” differences, we both just put them to the side. We took the middle ground and used Islam as the basis of our relationship for how we treat each other from dividing responsibilities to how we raise our children. We didn’t have long discussions about making Islam our pillar in our marriage (sorry sisters we didn’t make a big deal nor did we make up drama about this). We also didn’t bring our families influences into our marriage. I feel that my late mother-in-law was the most ideal Mother in-law as she never looked at my degrees or my socio-economic background but rather played it smartly and embraced me (as she did with my sister in-laws) and taught me all she knew about her cooking, running a household, and speaking Arabic! I too didn’t put up a fight – just accepted and listened. The end result was that her son got to (and still does) eat Moroccan food and I too feel accomplished and satisfied because my husband is pleased! Insha Allah, Allah is pleased as well!
What I learned was that my gut spoke true. I validated my initial reaction to judging him as a person not by his race. I looked at his Deen and his character as well and not his habits or other “changeable” elements. These changeable elements consist of habits, socio-economic status, education, etc. These habits can be re-taught or re-programmed, but you can’t change a person’s character. Things such as positivity, respect, honor, lying, drive (or lack of it), cheating, being abusive, jealousy, being stuck-up, being pompous, taking advantage of others, weakness of heart, avoiding things and so much more. Characters don’t ever change. They might be altered, but they never change. I mean, can you change the style of spots on a cheetah? It’s their character.
Now, each woman is built a different way. Set your own criteria and benchmarks. Also, do listen to what your family has to say about the character of your spouse. I personally didn’t listen to my parents about cultural elements. I stuck to my gut and my mother’s advice about character. Yes, there was much head butting, but in reality (and 16 years later) it was/is character that has made this marriage work. And I made du’a. A lot of it.
Ok, so going back to character. How did I come to this conclusion? The million dollar question I asked myself was — What part of his character could I NOT live with? My answer was: I personally can’t live with a man who lies. I know he didn’t, but now could I live with a man who was just plain, dang blunt? Hmm.. bluntness over lying? This was the trade off.
And what habits did I want to influence – or if I could influence them. Now, I didn’t really know what his habits were prior to getting married, but if you let your gut talk you can probably pin point his/her character traits easily. How? Simple. Does this person do what they say? Is there a lot of fan fare? Is there pompousness in action, dress, voice? Watch their reactions in the worst of situations. I got to watch him in action as a police officer put a $75 ticket on his car while he was running out to his car. The Policewoman didn’t cut him a break. Lul. And to add spice to that story – he got that ticket because he was taking me to buy a rare book. Double Lul.
The essence of my story: be real and realistic. Use your gut. Ask Allah (SWT) to guide you because He will, Insha Allah. Differentiate between Character and Habits. Understand what those look like. And determine what you can/cannot live with. Be real. Be firm. It’s your life. Not your families’ nor your friends’ or your neighbors’. Interracial marriages are just typical marriages: the joining of two people who want to spend their lives together.
Allah Knows Best.
Below is a lecture by Brother Mufti Menk on Marriage: