Skip to content

Reader Response: My Muslim Boyfriend Broke Up with Me

08/10/2015

Happy Monday friends!  This morning when I settled in at my computer to get some work done, I found this letter from a reader.

Hey, I recently came across your website and was hoping I could get your opinion or view on some of the stuff that I have going on. My boyfriend of almost 2 years just broke up with me out of no where, he said something about we can never be anything more than we are right now because he is Muslim and I am not. He was born and raised in Canada and I’d consider him to be very westernized, he drinks parties, dates all that stuff. We have talked about the future before and have always worked things out but suddenly he doesn’t think it will work anymore. I believe that some of it has to do with pressures from his family because ideally they would like him to be with a Muslim however they didn’t dislike me at all and they have told him that they will love and accept him no matter what. I know that he still loves me and cares about me but is trying to shut me out and forget his feelings for me. Do you see him changing his mind and doing what makes him happy instead of what he feels is the right thing?

I sent M this response and asked permission to get your opinion.

I’m so glad you’ve reached out. I’m sorry you are hurting right now. After spending 2 years of your life with a man it is very hard when they decide they need to make a change.

In my experience, most Muslim men who come from pretty strict families are rebellious in their younger years and then as they age, they return to following the sunnah more closely. It sounds to me like your boyfriend has come to a crossroads. His family may have upped the ante on the pressure for him to marry a Muslim woman. Even though they like you, and it is perfectly permissible to marry a Christian woman, if he is dependent on them, that could be extremely difficult. While he still loves you, he may be in the position of choosing between you and his family.

My advise to you is to let him go. Grieve your loss. I know it can be messy but this will be the kindest way for YOU. If he is still calling you, tell him you would like to remain friends (if you do) but that you need some time away from him to grieve your ending relationship and the loss of the future you thought you had with him. Give him a time period in which he cannot contact you. This will help you mourn and it will help him come to terms with his decision. You, in turn, don’t contact him. Do what you need to do to mourn this ending relationship.

For me, grieving has always been about watching a lot of movies and reading a lot of books. Talking to a counselor and then connecting with some friends. Do something cathartic. Allow yourself to heal. Then, after the time has passed, you can reach out to him and see how he is doing. You will always love him in some way, but it may hurt a little less.tulip stamen

Re-Post: The Side Entrance of Religion

08/10/2015

This piece was published on July15 as part of The Hopscotch Hijabi’s 2015 Interfaith Ramadan Series.

I am un-mosqued. Every mosque I’ve ever been in feels like a side entrance. It doesn’t matter if we walk through the same door as the men, or sit directly across the latticework barrier from them. To the non-Muslim parent of Muslim children, the mosque feels unwelcome.
To be fair, I am also un-churched. Every church I’ve been in since entering my interfaith marriage has left me feeling unwelcome. Even when the church is progressive and open and welcoming to people of all walks of life, they don’t recognize Islam as a credible religion. To the Christian mother of Muslim children, the church feels unwelcome.
What do we do when we enter interfaith relationships and build a life with someone who has a different belief system than your own? You could convert. Your spouse could convert. You could recognize both religions, educate and celebrate them equally with your children. You could ignore your religion in an effort to raise your children with once centralized religious practice.
In my life, I chose to have my children grow up with once central religion. I have learned about Islam formally for many years, and continue to learn on my own. But Islam has never called me. I am filled with a strong spiritual connection, but I have no place to worship that fits my life. I have no community with whom I can worship.
For the first 10 years of my life attending the Mosque, I would sit aside trying to decipher the Arabish that was coming through the speakers. Sometimes I would listen from the hallway, and other times I would listen from the balcony. Most of the words were in heavily accented English, with random Arabic words thrown in for clarity to the majority. If you are like me, once an Arabic word is thrown into the lecture, I’m stuck because my brain goes off trying to recall the meaning, or I’m lost because I don’t know the meaning. The lecture looses focus and I never regain the message.
During this time when I was actively searching for Islamic knowledge and guidance, trying to listen and understand if I was being called to become Muslim. I would listen to the Khutbah Kast from the Islamic Center at New York University. Imam Khalid Latif became my Imam. He spoke American English and he grew up in New Jersey. Imam Latif used Quranic scripture and connected it to everyday life in a way that I was used to hearing from attending church and listening to sermons. I learned how Islam could grow and adapt and help the American Muslim community. Then the podcasts ended in favor of YouTube videos I don’t have time to sit and watch.
These days, the mosque I attend has an English Jummah every Friday. When we attend this service, we are allowed to enter the same door that the men use, and we sit at the back of the main prayer hall. Most of the leaders are high school boys who are born American English speakers, Muslim scholars in the making. I am often the only woman there, sitting in the back with my daughters. I can see the speaker and I can sit in the same room as my family. It isn’t ideal but its fine. It’s progress.
In my struggle to discover a religious practice that fits my life, I have studied the major World Religions. I have read about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While Christianity does not have all of the answers, it does have characteristics that marry well with my Islamic life. There are denominations and churches that recognize that God’s message doesn’t end with Jesus.
Discovering that Unitarianism sees the logic and wisdom of every religious practice has been a revelation and a relief. Through my search, I found The Dublin Unitarian Church Podcast. After listening to the Reverend Bridget Spain talk so eloquently about a central topic and incorporate lessons from Christianity, Islam and Judaism in a single sermon made my heart full. Finally, I found a source of spiritual growth.
I am still un-churched. My approach to my religious practice often feels like I’m going around the side entrance of the restaurant to get the scraps and piece together a meal. Now at least my soul is being fed on a regular basis.
(I edited this post for spelling errors.)

Repost: Uninvited

08/04/2015

This post was first published on July 8th as a part of Hindtrospective’s 2015 My Mosque, My Story: A Side Entrance Ramadan

If there was ever a time I felt completely at a disadvantage while parenting Muslim children, it is during Ramadan. I am so often embarrassed when we go to the Mosque during Ramadan that I would rather just not go.

Kristina uninvited2I am the only non-Muslim that attends Jummah on a regular basis at our Mosque. We go every Friday because I take my children and I sit with the ladies and we listen. I cover my hair and wear a prayer skirt out of respect for my family and because it is what is appropriate. I’m not out-of-place there because people are used to me. They know I sit there where I can see the speaker. I listen to the khutba and my girls are dressed appropriately. We are attentive participants. We don’t talk when the speaker is talking. We Listen. Once the sermon is finished and the prayer begins, I move to the side and wait until everyone is finished praying. Everyone who is a regular knows this. They know me. We say ‘Hi’ to each other. People ask me to watch their babies while they pray.

But during Ramadan, people come out of the woodwork to attend Jummah Services. It’s the same at churches, during Christmas and Easter, there are members who only show up on holidays. The Arabic Jummah is packed with people trying to reestablish their place as a member of the mosque. The English Jummah is also filling up because people are just learning about it or they are holiday Muslims.

People who don’t know me are showing up, taking my spot on the carpet, and eyeballing me when I’m not praying, judging what they do not understand. Watching us like we are the strangers there, not them.

Because I am the regular, and because I’m so used to new people being welcomed at church, I introduce myself to anyone to appears not to know anyone. I approach them. I say hello. I welcome them to the mosque so they don’t feel out-of-place. I have mentioned before to my husband and friends that I would love for there to be a welcoming committee so that there is at least one person at every prayer to be on the lookout for new people. Or the regulars should have name tags. That way you would know at a glance if someone is just at a new service or is new to the mosque.

Kristina uninvitedI approach them, welcome them and ask if they have been to this mosque before. Or, sometimes I remember meeting them someplace before and I mention that and draw the connection for them. I want the new person to know that they are important and its good that they are there. I want them to feel welcome. After I do all of those things, the first thing they say to me that isn’t a response to my welcome is, “are you fasting? – Do you fast?”

That question shoots me back to that place where I am the odd one out all over again. Invariably I am stunned into silence. I can’t believe that they are so rude to ask. Everything that I plan in my head to respond to their rude behavior flies out of my mind because now I feel like everyone is looking. The spotlight is on me and then I tell them no. I confirm their suspicions that I don’t belong there. They belong and I do not. I’m not part of the club and I can’t masquerade as though I am. I don’t know why I’ve bothered.

I know that the girls are watching though. They see me do this thing, this welcoming. I’m hoping that when they grow older, they will do the same as what I’ve done. If they do, it will be worth all of my embarrassment because the difference will be, when they approach the new person; they will be ambassadors from inside the clubhouse. I will have made a difference here. The mosque will be more welcoming.

Repost: What I Contribute to Ramadan

07/27/2015
This piece was published on June 24 as part of The Hopscotch Hijabi’s 2015 Interfaith Ramadan Series.
In 1998, I married a Muslim man. That December I tried to fast Ramadan. I wanted to do that solidarity thing that married people do. I wanted to show Khaled that I was his family.
I don’t remember what was happening that day other than it was a Sunday. We might have worked, for some reason we hadn’t spent the majority of the day together. I remember Khaled coming into the apartment tired, but happy to see me. The first thing he said was that I needed to eat something.
I argued. I was fine; I wanted to be supportive, I explained. He looked at me very carefully and told me that the best way I could support him was to take care of myself. If I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be able to help him.
That was the first of many times over the last 17 years I’ve tried to fast. I don’t understand how I cannot fast. In college I used to work two jobs and go to school while surviving on diet cokes and water for 12 hours at a time! Some years, I would try to give up caffeine. Other years I would try to only drink and not eat any solid food. I usually would last until 1:00 and then I would start to get sick. Every year Khaled tells me the same thing. “It doesn’t make sense for you to fast Ramadan. It makes you sick, and you are not required to fast. Take care of yourself so you can take care of us.”
So, that’s what I do now. I am the support staff, the keeper of schedules and maker of meals.
I eat when my family is sleeping or in anther room. I keep a cup of tea on the counter to take sips from. I don’t want to make their fasting any more difficult so I don’t eat anything that smells, or that I have to cook. I have a yogurt, or maybe almond butter and fruit, leftovers from suhoor, nuts and seeds, hardboiled eggs and many cups of tea.
I am asked about my faith more often during Ramadan than any other time of the year. Muslims stop me at the grocery store, the library and the mosque and question me if I’ve converted and why I haven’t. They ask me if I fast with my children.
I used to over explain. Responding with my story and then having them respond that I’m just not trying hard enough. Several years ago I stopped answering their questions. When they ask if I’m fasting, I respond, “I’m doing the best I can,” and I leave it at that. Most often, that is enough.

Inside an Eid Prayer Service

07/24/2015

Last Friday was the Eid Prayer.  As you remember, we’ve been attending our little mosque’s Eid Prayer for several years and each year it the attendance keeps getting larger and larger.  Why?  Well, I think that the community likes to pray behind our Imam.  I also think that they like to pray outside.  I think that our youth group does a really great job of organizing the event, from parking attendants to entertainment and the food.

This is from where I was sitting before the prayer started. Men up front, women in the back on prayer rugs they brought. This field is usually used for indoor soccer.

This year, the youth, in cooperation with the Imams of 5 of our mosques, organized 1 huge Unified Prayer Event.  It was a beautiful thing to be able to pray with all of our friends.  The khutba was in English first and Arabic second.  There was more than enough room for everyone.  We had a parking shuttle, a photo booth and food trucks!  I took many pictures, and even a video of the prayer so I could show you.  I’m having a difficult time uploading it though, since it is 8 minutes long.  If anyone has advise on how to upload a video that size, please share.

I wanted to share with you the range of people as they are dressed. Some in abaya, some in skirts and short sleeves, some in skirts and jean jackets.

There were large crescent shaped balloons and children all over the place.

We we got closer to the prayer, the room really filled up! There was still a lot of place to pray. Those people who cannot sit on the ground are using chairs. The can pray sitting in the chairs.

I love all the colorful scarves on Eid.

I also love to see all of the different styles of hijab being worn. Some completely covering the torso, some just over the hair. Some covering the neck and some exposing the neck and earrings.

Re-post: Fasting for Faith

07/19/2015

This piece was published on June 23 as part of The Hopscotch Hijabi’s 2015 Interfaith Ramadan Series.

Fasting For Faith

I’ve been thinking a lot about fasting for faith these last few months. The seed was planted last year when my daughters began to get excited about Ramadan approaching. I had never understood it before, this anticipation. To me, Ramadan was all about hardship. Fasting. Feeling sick and tired. Pushing yourself to the limits. Giving up and giving away.
But then the seed began to sprout and I came to realize that they were excited about Ramadan because aside from all of the difficulties, it was a time for focusing on God. It was a month long retreat into the glory and power of God’s grace. Absorbing as much of what God’s lessons were teaching us. Focusing on internalizing Gods words so you could put them into action in your life. Realizing the joy of prayer, and how meditative it is when you are not distracted by daily life revives your focus.
Once I started seeing this truth about the gift of Ramadan, my focus began to change. The way I supported my family during their fasting shifted from begrudgingly to joyfully serving. I care for them so they don’t have to think of anything except for praying and focusing on the word of God. My work becomes meditative and the mindfulness feels like prayer.
Since last Ramadan, I’ve been searching for a way to bring that meditative focus into my life. As a non-Muslim, non-practicing Christian, I don’t have a spiritual family to turn to as a guide. I find inspiration from different sources and incorporate them into my daily communion with God.
Last April, as the Christian world prepared for Lent. Two things entered into my world almost simultaneously. I learned about the 40 Days of Faith, and I learned about the Muslims 4 Lent movement. I had known of Christian and Jewish faith leaders participating in Ramadan fasting because of being active in interfaith circles on Twitter, but I had never heard about Muslims reaching across to their Christian friends in a show of solidarity.
Just like I had never really understood the spiritual focus of Ramadan, I also never really understood why Christians fasted during Lent. My religious education never afforded me this detailed insight. Lent was always about giving up something in penance. So, when I learned about the 40 Days of Faith, I thought I would give it a try. Maybe praying in such a focused way would help me experience that meditative focus that I’ve been searching for in my spiritual practice.
So, March 2015, when Ash Wednesday came around and I was reminded of the Lenten Fasting, I decided to participate in Muslims 4 Lent by praying. The 40 Days of Faith has a handbook and a user’s guide and a whole community because it is church centered. But my life isn’t church centered. It’s just me. So, I didn’t follow all of the components. I didn’t attend church. I also didn’t engage with a Daily Bible Guide. I didn’t participate in a special website. I did, however, pray every day. I was able to deeply connect in communion with God during my 40 Days and I talked about it with the woman who introduced me to the 40 Days.
During those 40 days my spirituality flowered into something that I hadn’t witnessed before. The after effects have continued on and are renewed each day in my prayers. I now feel like there is a glow and silken pleasure to every day. Even with the distractions and irritations, things just seem to flow better. I have reached a new bend in my journey and that path is not a deserted wasteland anymore but a field of beautiful blossoms that are blooming and reseeding to multiply and flourish.
During the 30 Days of Ramadan I am choosing to embody agape. I am choosing to bow deeply in prayer in the presence of God and be thankful for my life. I am choosing to pray specifically for the people who are named in my meditative practice, I am choosing to joyfully serve my fasting family and celebrate their renewed spiritual strength and focus. Insha’allah.

4 Weeks Down

07/16/2015

Happy Thursday!!!

How have you been? It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Eid. Does it seem to you that this Ramadan went by pretty fast? I don’t know what happened. It seems like just the other day we were ramping up for the first week and now Poof! Its finished.

I started this post on Monday, and because the days were super busy preparing for Eid weekend, I didn’t get it published until today.  GO Figure.  I should have stopped time so I could have 1 more hour to upload and tweak my post.  Lets still take some time and review what went well this Ramadan and what didn’t work out so great.

Suhoor – I saw this online a few days ago and I thought it was soo true. (Theirs said something about eating Kunafa for breakfast.) Suhoor week 1 – Scrambled eggs with beef, Cheese, Melon, Milk . Suhoor week 4 – Milk & Juice.  Today, the last day of fasting, I made beef and duck bacon with pancakes.  Only Mr. Fox ate.

Iftar – We are unlike a lot of families in that we don’t really change our eating habits during this month. We don’t cook big, lavish spreads. We eat leftovers. We get takeout. We eat breakfast for supper. The only differences are when we eat Community Iftars and when we invite Mr. and Mrs. Imam over, we cook a lot more dishes.

Community Iftars – Nothing to report. Seriously! Week 1 I took Watergate Salad. Week 2 we took Mango Kunafa and Macaroons. Week 3 we skipped. Week 4 we took Pig Pickin’ Cake. (Google it, I’m not lying.)

Every week, I sat with Mrs. Imam and a bunch of ladies that spoke English. Usually there was a bilingual speaker sitting with us in case Mrs. Imam was missing out on the conversation, but otherwise it was really a nice atmosphere. Last week, I was even asked to help with specific tasks.

Our community Iftars are set up segregated family style. Women on one side of the room, men on the other side and some out in the hall and prayer room. Most of the time Khaled sits in the same room with us. Baby Steps. Right?

I do know that there are community Iftars at the other mosques and even the community center in town, but I’m just now comfortable with our home mosque event. I’m not sure how well it would go if we went someplace else.  I don’t want to risk it. Y’no?

Eid Shopping – I ordered abayas before Ramadan even began so we are all set for that. No last-minute shopping. I also got them some small gifts that I knew they would like, and we picked up some books. I’m taking my ladies for Eid Manicures this week as part of their present. We are also going to be doing a bunch of special stuff this weekend so we are super excited.

Decorations – We have our lantern collection out, and I forgot that I picked up some new lanterns when I was shopping over the last year. Plus, we added those sweet Crescent Star lights and some colorful faerie lights we picked up on Christmas clearance.Activities – We kept our activities to a minimum. It wouldn’t seem like it based on my constant driving rotation, but Arabic & Quran class, Guitar, volunteering and exercising. This year we did something new and organized an activity for a bunch of the kids who were fasting. I went to a paint your own pottery place that we often go to that is locally owned and arranged for the kids to cut out crescent moons and stars. Once they were fired, we went back and glazed them and then the next week we picked them up and turned them into garlands. It was a wonderful experience. We basically took over the place. Next year I’m going to arrange it on a day where the studio is closed to the public.

 

Display at the Library. I love that our library does this every year.

Inside the glass case. I’d love to find some of these decorations. I think they came from EidWay. I’ll have to shop there next year. Help me remember will you?

Failures – I ran out of ideas on what to feed everyone. We didn’t invite as many people over as we would have liked. I woke up late one day and everyone had just 10 minutes to chug some drinks.   We didn’t listen to Quran before Iftar this year, and didn’t attend any tarweeh.  Despite my running everywhere it seems like every day…they were bored.   Our off days were filled with reading, games and a few bike rides thrown in for good measure.  I kept working and doing what I needed to keep the family comfortable.  I know it wasn’t super exciting, but really, there weren’t enough hours in the day to do any more.

How did this Ramadan go for you?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 872 other followers

%d bloggers like this: