To Wed or To Wait: The New Muslimah’s Dilemma

To Wed or To Wait: The New Muslimah’s Dilemma

“ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT GETTING MARRIED?”  That was the first question I was asked after I said my shahâda. It took a whole two seconds for the witness of my testament of faith to ask me the question about matrimony. I was nowhere near thinking about getting married and responded with a resounding, “No!” And then several more No’s as the witness persisted with more well-intended marital questions.

A large proportion of new Muslims are young, marriage-age women[1], and the general thinking of the Muslim community is that since new Muslimahs will need support and guidance, they should be married sooner rather than later. For some, this is a good idea.

It took me about a month to change my mind about marriage. After beginning to live as a Muslim and feeling intensely lonely as the only Muslim in my family, work, school, I craved support. I needed to have a partnership with someone who could truly understand me and help me as a person of faith.

But as soon as I had decided on entering into a marriage, I read a book for new Muslims recommending the new Muslim wait and study Islam for at least a year before they get married. And for some new Muslimahs this is the best advice.

I was married less than 6 months after I converted to Islam. Today, my marriage is about to turn 14, Alamdulillâh. But everyone is different. Everyone’s situation is unique. The only person who can say they are ready for marriage is the new Muslimah herself. And community pressures to marry should not be a factor.

When you first convert to Islam, there are so many things to consider when thinking about mixing marriage into the mountain of life changes you are already facing. Here are some pros and cons to think about before taking the plunge.

The Pros

Guidance

When you take your first steps into Islam it is hard to know what is a misstep and what is the correct path. When you get married, you have a built-in support system in a spouse. You may have one or two or even a great group of Muslim friends who are ready to help, but no one will be as invested in you learning your dîn as a spouse.

It is a huge help being married to a practicing Muslim who can answer all your questions, like how to make wudu or when is the right time to break your fast. Being married affords you the opportunity to have someone living with you day-in and day-out who can teach you all that they know and even give you the scoop on stuff you didn’t even know you didn’t know.

Companionship

Converting to Islam is an amazing experience, but it can also be very lonely. As you start to tell those around you about your choice to become a Muslim, you may feel isolated and rejected by those with whom you feel closest. This can be traumatic and can make even the most fiercely independent person feel the need for companionship.

Marrying a religious Muslim can be an answer to crushing isolation felt by many converts. Knowing you have someone who will give you an extra nudge to wake up for morning prayers is a comfort. Having someone to get excited about and share meals with you during Ramadan can make your fast that much more fulfilling.

Having someone to remind you to be patient and guide you through the rough patches of life is literally a “Godsend.” Being in a marriage with someone who is looking out for your best interests in this life and the next can help you become grounded in your faith as a new Muslim.

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [Sûrat Al-Rûm, 30:21]

Having Muslim Family

Another perk of marrying is that you will likely have a built-in Muslim family in your in-laws (if your spouse is not also a convert). You won’t have to celebrate Islamic holidays alone. You won’t have to feel awkward about going to the women’s side of the masjid by yourself. You can go to a mother-in-law or sister-in-law for all the women’s questions that come up when learning to pray or fast.

By marrying, you will not only have a spouse, you will have a group of people who have your back and are invested in your growth as a person and a Muslim.

The Cons

Culture Shock

Marrying a Muslim more often than not means marrying someone from a culture that is different from your own (unless you marry a fellow convert). Navigating the waters of an intercultural marriage can be difficult in itself. But it gets even more complicated when you are trying to also learn a new way of life as a Muslim.

Some Muslims from different cultures confuse their culture for Islam itself and will expect you to revere their culture in the same way. In this kind of environment, you can get confused and feel intense pressure to change who you are.

There will also be culture shock of sorts for your spouse. It is important to incorporate Islamic practices at a pace with which you are comfortable so as not to become overwhelmed. But when you marry a person raised in a Muslim family —  one who is not familiar with the conversion process and the time it takes — this growth period can create impatience or confusion for your spouse.

Some new Muslimahs find that figuring out who they are as a Muslimah, who they are as a wife, and learning what is expected of them as a wife within another cultural is just too much to handle all at once.

Having Family of a Different Culture

Another drawback of marrying right after you convert is that you will not only have a spouse, you will have a group of people expecting you to cook, dress, and act in a certain way. You will most likely be expected to understand Islam through their cultural lens and this may mean that you end up feeling like you are losing your sense of self in the process.

Unsuitable Suitors

Unfortunately, there are many Muslim men in the marriage market who are not as religious as they sell themselves to be. And often these men seek out unaware, new Muslimahs because they think the new Muslimah is easier to trick into thinking they are honorable.

As a new Muslimah, it will be difficult to tell who is religious and who is not. After all, as a new convert, you might not know the Islamic standards for a good spouse. It could be advantageous to take a minute to get acclimated to who is who and what is what.

[…] Good women are for good men, and good men for good women; such are innocent of that which people say: For them is pardon and a bountiful provision. [Sûrat Al-Nûr, 24:26]

If you jump right into a marriage, you might end up marrying a man who thinks it’s optional to fast during Ramadan or thinks it’s OK to skip prayers. You want to be able to grow into your faith and your marriage. If you marry someone who does not take their dîn seriously, either your marriage will suffer or your faith will. And that is risky business.

You just made the biggest life-altering move of all times: converting to Islam. You might need to take a moment or two to get adjusted to that. It could be a good idea for you to find out who you are as a Muslim before you throw another huge life-altering change on top of that.

Or you could be the kind of person who needs a lot of support and guidance through your journey. It could be advantageous for you to find someone right away with whom you can grow in faith and build a partnership with a mutual goal to reach Jannah.

WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE TO DO – to wed or to wait—do not feel pressured by your new Muslim community to get married if you are not truly ready to take on this commitment while growing and holding firmly to your new-found faith.

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[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1343954/100-000-Islam-converts-living-UK-White-women-keen-embrace-Muslim-faith.html

Written By

Theresa Corbin is a New Orleans native who came to Islam in 2001 after many years of soul searching and religious study. She is a freelance writer and public speaker who focuses on women’s issues, conversion, the ridiculousness of stereotypes, and bridging the ever widening gap between peoples in the human family. Corbin holds a bachelor’s in English Lit from the University of South Alabama and has a black belt in baking. Visit her blog, islamwich.com, where she and her contributors discuss all things American and Islamic.

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10 Comments

  • Should definitely wait. Converting/reverting is a difficult journey where the individual needs to find where they fit and stabilise themselves. A new marriage on top often leads to disastrous consequences. Plus the spouse inevitably comes with loads of cultural expectations and a new Muslim is not necessarily able to distinguish between deen and culture, therefore not able to protect themselves.

  • I’m curious why this article doesn’t give concrete advice about how to deal with the challenges– I found this list accurate in my experience but I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to help new Muslim women tread the treacherous landscape.

    • The reason why I did wrote it with a pro and con list and not a resounding yes or no was in the intro “Everyone’s situation is unique. The only person who can say they are ready for marriage is the new Muslimah herself.” Thank you for reading.

  • I think it’s strange how quickly our revert sisters get married? and honestly, I don’t agree with it.

    At the stage of taking shahaada, there is an ocean of knowledge to gain, from wudhu, salaah, the Arabic language, duaas, surahs, and most importantly, rights and responsibilities!

    And because they aren’t to well versed wrt rights and responsibilities, most times, the men take advantage of this and unfortunately the women get the short ens of the stick.

    And many times, because these guys are such pathetic examples of Muslim men, revert sisters end up going back to their former faiths.

  • Waiting is better as reverting is already such a huge step into learning and committing to new way if life. Once relationship with Allah is strengthened, then its better to look for someone. And plus Islam is not restricted to only certain cultures although dominant in some. There will be people out there that will have culture similarities, but again if the person is religiously strong culture is only a minor issue.

  • That never stopped for me. From the second I converted and 12 years of “so when are you getting married?”, Even from non Muslims lol. But of course, little to no actual deeny support in other areas. I started telling people that I’m deliberately avoiding marriage forever and to quit nagging me. Marriage is not the ultimate goal in life. Jannah is. (married now tho alhamd)

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