Saying relationships are not easy is an understatement. Even if you get past the initial courtship and tackle wedding planning, once the honeymoon period ends, the real work begins. It is now much harder (and more expensive) to just walk away.
Patience is an important component to any relationship, marital or otherwise. We don’t quote the “Piers Plowman” line “Patience is a virtue” for nothing! Patience, or sabr, is mentioned 90 times in the Qu’ran as well as in numerous hadith. God would not just ask us to be patient without giving us opportunities to practice, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when my turn came.
I grew up in a Christian home but, in my early teens, began to explore my religious beliefs and search for answers to the questions I had. Over the course of 20 years, I finally found the answer to my spiritual needs: Islam. My path was certainly not straightforward and ironically enough, my path to discovery included majoring in Ministry at a Christian college.
Along the way to Islam, I met my husband. Before we got married, we started attending church together where he was eventually baptized, fully accepting Christianity. I finally had someone to share my secular and spiritual life with and I couldn’t have been happier.
Our wedding vows to love each other in sickness and health were put to the test quite early. We both had the flu on our wedding day, uttering our promises to love, honor and obey each other through waves of nausea. Our reception lasted 15 minutes before we took the obligatory cake cutting and bouquet tossing photos so we could rush home to sleep off our illness.
Within the next few years, our marriage faced even more trials. Through my chronic illness, his employer closing and eventually having to move out of our first home together, we persevered. I say we, but really my husband pulled us through. He patiently stood by my side when most men would have ran for the hills, all without a word of discontent.
As our lives got back on track and I began to recover, I rekindled my search for my religious contentment. At this point, we had been married for about six years and were alternating working midnight shifts through the week, so we did not always have a lot of time to spend together. During my nights at work, I would study for my religious studies course and pursue my own religious answers.
I came across the book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Evans Wood. In this book, Wood lives her life as commanded by the Bible for one year, including covering her head. I was intrigued by her journey and immediately began searching for other evidence of God’s commands for head covering. If it was a command in the Bible, why didn’t more Christian women wear it?
Naturally, I came across the hijab in Islam. It was like a match had been lit in a dark room. I remember reading something about Islam about 13 years ago when I was dating a Muslim, but the Qur’an seemed hard to understand so I thought it wasn’t for me. I decided to try looking at it again.
This time, the words and their meaning made sense and seemed jump off the pages. So many of the teachings synced with Christianity. If things like dietary restrictions and clothing were mentioned in both, I saw it as a sign that it must be God’s word. Soon, I started adopting various components of Islam along with stricter Biblical rulings, like dressing more modestly and covering my hair.
Within a few months, I was ready and on Oct. 30, 2013, I said my shahada or testimony of faith, converting to Islam. I was exhilarated — I had finally found the destination of my journey and a contentment I had never felt before!
The most exciting and nerve-wracking part came the next day: sharing my conversion with my husband. He is my best friend and life partner, who else would be more excited that I found happiness than him, right? I seriously underestimated how wrong I would be.
After telling him I decided Islam was the right way of life for me, my soulmate shut down. He stopped speaking to me for several days. Beyond what was necessary to function and make sure our kids were taken care of, he did not converse with me. I was crushed!
What had I done? What did I need to do now? We couldn’t go on like this, merely existing under one roof as two separate units, we were supposed to be a team! I began to look to my new faith community for help.
I received so much “advice,” ranging from telling me to leave him if he doesn’t convert in three months to having him to just say the shahada and pray he eventually believes it. While some people produced compelling evidence that I should leave, I refused to give up that easily.
I turned to the proof of God’s guidance: the Qur’an. There, in black and white, I found all the guidance I needed. Surah Al-Baqarah 2:256 told me there is no compulsion in religion. I didn’t choose Islam overnight or by being pressured, so why should he?
As I reflected on this, I thought about my wedding vows. I made a promise to God in front of my family and friends to love and honor my husband through sickness and health and in good times and bad. I was not about to throw away a perfectly good marriage to a man that constantly reminded me of the kind and gentle properties of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) I was learning simply because of the opinions of chat room scholars.
If I walked away from him solely because he hadn’t been guided to Islam, would he ever choose it? What kind of impression of Islam would he have? Knowing my husband, if I had walked away, he would have become bitter towards Islam and never accepted it.
Instead of leaving, I stayed and prayed. I repaid my husband’s patience with my own. Knowing that God is the Best of Planners and that the future is already written, I opened myself up to the possibility that our relationship would continue to crumble and we would divorce or that we would persevere. I chose to accept my fate. Every time I said a prayer, I begged for a good Muslim husband, the patience to wait for him, and for God to use me as a guide for others to Islam.
As we opened Christmas gifts that year (my kids were still Christian and I was not about to take that away from them), I unwrapped a package from my husband. Inside were a dozen beautiful Pashmina scarves and a prayer rug.
My eyes filled with tears and my heart began to melt. This was the husband I knew! My prayers were paying off and God was rewarding me for my patience. I would love to say he chose Islam right there, but he didn’t.
Two years later, we were discussing the possibilities of finding new jobs and moving when my husband looked at me and said, “I think I’m ready.” I assumed he was telling me he was going to turn in his two week notice or start looking for a new house. After asking what he was ready for, he told me it was time for him to say shahada.
I pinched myself. Was he for real? I asked him if he was sure and quizzed him on the basics of Islam. He had already given up pork and alcohol and was ready to wholly accept Islam. As I helped him pronounce the Arabic words with his sweet southern accent, I felt complete. God finally made my good husband, my good Muslim husband.
It has been two years and we continue to learn and practice our faith together. Sharing Islam with him has helped me grow in my knowledge and faith. I look forward to growing old with him knowing that if we can have patience through a complete upheaval in our religion, we can make it through anything.