Islamic marriage advice and family advice

What is my role regarding my ageing Christian relatives?

muslim woman holding onto quran

As background, I grew up in a very rural farming community in the mid-western United States; the community and all those surrounding it were overwhelmingly Christian – but in name only – the rural communities have many troubles largely fueled by lack of education and cultural issues. My immediate and extended family had troubles including abuse, addictions, &c, so when I was offered a job opportunity in NYC after completing University, I accepted it knowing I had to take the risk of living alone in a big city rather than possibly wasting away in that rural community where jobs were scarce. In NYC, I did indeed succeed financially and materially, but suffered terribly emotionally because NYC is a challenging place to live alone – my experiences in the city had taught me that I would never be able to trust anyone and therefore I would perhaps have to accept living alone for the rest of my life.

I met my husband after 10 years of living alone like this in NYC (he is from North Africa), and after one dinner date he said he wanted to marry me – and if I declined he did not want to see me again. I had poor relations with my family and saw no need to consult with them – we almost never spoke – therefore I happily accepted his proposal, and his request that I become Muslim. He has been a bedrock of emotional support ever since; first teaching me about Islam, being a role model for patience and faith, introducing me to his family (who are so different than mine!) and with all this love and support, he indirectly helped me to untangle my own emotional scars from growing up in an abusive and disconnected family. We have one child together and I can’t imagine my life without the mercy God has given me.

My question is about my family. When they learned I married a “foreign Muslim” man, they were shocked and disgusted. My parents were divorced by that time, and my mother initially disowned me – and was hysterical when she learned our child would be given an Islamic name and not named after my maternal grandfather, etc. I did try initially to breach the divide at the time by making the trip back to my hometown, introducing my husband to the family members, and I even went so far as to give my grandfather (who was considered the most learned and “worldly” man of the family – because he was in WWII) a Qur’an. I heard later he was very offended by the gift, by my zealousness in my practice, and since that time my husband and I became outcasts to my family. For example, when I had my child no one came to visit, no one called – and as a rule no one ever checks on us, and when I call them I typically get voicemail but no returned calls. After years like this, and a few very poor experiences trying to visit with them, I now accept this situation because I think it must be what God knows is best for me – as though He is protecting me from something.

Some of my family members are now becoming very old and frail. My grandmother I understand is developing dementia, my grandfather is weakening physically in every way. I know my grandfather, my stepfather, and a few other family members dislike Islam very much. They watch the US news broadcasts which paint the Muslims as backwards / monsters, and the divide between them and I is greater than ever. So, it is inevitable some of my family members will die – and there will be funerals held, and speeches made about them in the town. I’m beginning to wonder what my role should be – should I be present at these funerals, should I attend any part of the services when they take place? It is not as though I haven’t tried to talk to them about Islam – and they would hear none of it. So what use is there in attending their funerals? What should be my thinking? Even my husband does not know how to advise me on this.



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3 Responses »

  1. You changed your religion, you relationship with your relatives is still the same. Do what ever you feel comfortable to do.

  2. Asalam alaikum sister,
    Mashallah that you have such a nice Muslim life, but I feel for you 101% in regards to your unaccepting family. It can be very hard to even be in the same room as people who loved you as a child and then emotionally divorced you from their love. But we as Muslims are still acountable to TRY to keep good relations with our parents, if no one else in the family. If I am wrong, please correct me, but I think you should go to the funerals of those you had the closest relationship with, like your grandparents. Say a dua privately for them, comfort your parents as much as they will let you, and MOVE ON. Your family may try to reject you but its the thought that counts.
    Insh Allah I have given good advice.

  3. Assalaamualaikam

    I'm sorry to hear that your family have been so negative about Islam - inshaAllah with time and seeing your example, they may become less hostile, but even if they don't, you know that you and your husband and child are following the right path.

    It might help to study and reflect on surah Al-Ankaboot. This surah was revealed to The Prophet (peace be upon him) at a time when Muslims were facing persecution and hostility from their own non-Muslim relatives and other non-Muslims. One of the themes it discusses is how we as Muslims should try to manage such situations, and how to cope with how such situations can make us feel.

    I think that it would be important to try to show your family support and respect, even if they do not do the same for you. If there is anyone in your family that you are on speaking terms with, you could maybe start by speaking with them about your concern that you feel estranged from your family and would like to build bridges there. We can't control what other people say or do, but make sure that you can say "I tried my best and acted according to Islam".

    Whether or not to attend funeral services is a tricky one. On one hand, it's a service to celebrate the life of and say goodbye to a loved one. On the other, if it is a religious service, there may well be un-Islamic activities going on. If it is a religious service, you'd need to think about what you feel comfortable with - some people may attend but not participate in the religious elements, some people may leave the room at the religious parts, some people may choose not to go at all and instead to say a private goodbye.

    Remember, though, that whether someone attends a funeral or not doesn't mean they loved or didn't love the person who has died. Don't feel you have to go if you feel it would be too distressing, and don't feel that it's letting someone down if you don't go to their funeral. They're not going to be keeping an attendance list - what matters is how you felt about them, and how you remember them.

    Midnightmoon editor

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