Imagine this:

You meet a man. He’s humble; he’s honest; he’s hard working… he’s wonderful. Swearing and fornicating is something he abstains from, partying and drinking doesn’t even cross his mind. He lives his life “by the book”.

His book: the Bible.

He is a Christian.

In a world where good men (or good people, for that matter) are becoming increasingly difficult to find, what happens if you meet this man who is essentially a better “Muslim” than numerous Muslim men you have previously met? What do you do?

I am a Muslim, Pakistani female and I know that – ideally – my family want me to marry a Muslim, Pakistani male. Growing up, it was indoctrinated within me that there will be some restrictions around the man I choose to marry. This wasn’t something I felt singled out by; it was exactly the same for all my friends and cousins. For the vast majority of us, we knew we were expected to marry a Muslim; for some of us, it had to be a Muslim from the same country as us; and for an unfortunate few, they would have to find their dream man in a smaller pool of Muslims, who also belonged to the same “community” as them. However, these days I can’t help but wonder if these restrictions are really relevant in twenty first century.

For starters, Islamically a woman is permitted to marry a Muslim from any cultural background – yet there is still such a strong stigma associated with marrying someone of a different race. Pakistanis marrying Bengalis, Bengalis marrying Afghans… whatever the mix, it causes havoc amongst the whole family. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the older generation who breed this segregation; this mentality is innate even within the youth. A Pakistani girl could have been with five Asian guys and it’s okay, but tell everyone she went out with one white guy and she is labelled a slut. What is it about our society that allows us to befriend, appreciate and integrate with all cultures and yet when it comes to marriage, we must stick to our own and no one else is good enough? My goodness, can you imagine being a Pakistani girl who wants to marry a fellow Muslim… black man? I cannot imagine the humiliation that would bring upon your entire existence. But why? Not only would the cohesion of two cultures be a beautiful thing, but it would support the unity amongst Muslims that Islam encourages – so I don’t understand why humans have put a barrier on something which Allah has not.

But let’s step away from culture for a minute and look deeper into religion, because that is what I’m really conflicting with recently. As we have always been told, a marriage between a Muslim woman and a Non-Muslim man would not be accepted in the eyes of Allah. So does this mean that the same Allah who created every single one of us – and loves us all equally and unconditionally – would prefer for us to marry someone less moral and less practising, who makes us less happy, just because he was born a “Muslim”? I just don’t understand how the same God who asked us to love… would punish us for loving. Surely God wants to see us happy – but does that come with restrictions of who is allowed to make us feel that way?

And if so, then does that mean it is better to just continue dating, despite the fact that you want to do things the “right” way?

Well, I guess there is a solution. By popular demand… you make the man convert. Simple. Conversion is the easiest and most common way to make your family (reluctantly) agree to your marriage. Apparently, it’s not actually important whether the man is genuinely converting for Islam or not. Everyone knows that more than often, the conversion process is just a sugar coating to help keep everyone sweet and to save the family reputation. Yet we continue to force people to change their religion by name, simply to save the slander of our name.

I researched into this a lot, and the only reason I found for Muslim men being allowed to marry a Christian or Jew – but not women – was because of children; the intent of the law was that children would be more inclined to follow the religion of their father, hence the father had to be a Muslim. But this seems like an archaic fact. In what century did kids have to take the father’s religion? I’m sure it’s not now. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is more likely today that children will grow up to follow the faith and teachings of their mother, rather than their father – hence this rule becomes redundant.

I love my religion more than I could ever love any man and I don’t think I could ever feel complete knowing I was living in sin; but I don’t know if I agree that the righteous partner Allah has picked for each of us has to be a Muslim for a woman – but a Muslim, Christian or Jew for a man. I like to think of Islam as a gender-equal religion, so if Muslim men are entitled to marry women “of the book”, surely the same right must be afforded to Muslim women too.

Don’t get me wrong; I am very well aware of the other side. My ideology may well be utopic. Perhaps this amalgamation of religions and cultures doesn’t actually work. As life goes on and you live together, you have children, you integrate with each other’s families, cultural differences may prove to be too much. Special occasions become a competition; it becomes Christmas versus Eid to try and convince your child which is most important. When your kids can’t communicate with your parents, watch Bollywood films with you, pray with you or eat your favourite food, maybe all this “liberal thinking” becomes futile. Perhaps, in the end, it isn’t really worth the fight. Perhaps, in the end, converting really is more successful than converging.

All in all, the big question is, would you defy your family for the man you love?

And the bigger question is, would risking your religion for the man who makes you happy, ever truly make you happy?

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