My wife and I had agreed to meet up in the waiting room for what turned out to be our one and only session of marriage guidance counselling – we were already living apart. Looking back, things were terminal between us but we were going through the motions. We were the only two in there, and the atmosphere between us was decidedly icy.
In the session, she put it like this –
“When we got married, he was a Catholic, and now he’s a Muslim. He’s broken our contract. I didn’t want a Muslim husband, how could he do this to me?”
This completely blindsided me! My wife wasn’t Catholic, and when we met she was barely a churchgoer! My mind was spinning as to what she was talking about, and she spoke with enough disgust in her voice to make her anger obvious. After listening to both of us complain and denigrate the other, the councillor said he couldn’t help us, and in a way, I regarded that as the actual end of the marriage – right then and there, like a weird anti-wedding ceremony.
On reflection, I realised that her complaint was a way of criticising me for my change of faith in front of a third party. There had been no unreasonable behaviour as a result of my conversion. I had kept my faith discretely, still accompanying her to the Anglican Church and sitting quietly, sneaking off to mosque, and if she was in the house praying in the attic. Every time she came across evidence of Islam, it was met with a sneer or incredulity.
To my understanding, nobody sincerely changes faith without looking deep inside, and the more significant the change the greater the stimulus to change; in other words, you have to be taken to the edge, and I had been. My marriage was in ruins and my family life was in disorder.
Islam had not caused this, but my conversion was a result of travelling this emotional desert. It was a symptom, not a cause; and the symptom made matters worse, much worse at home and at work.
At home, it became another barrier between husband and wife, and at work an object of ridicule. To my supposedly educated and enlightened colleagues I may not be a potential fundamentalist, but was at the very least – a bit cracked – showing the strain.
Naturally, everyone sympathised with ‘his poor wife’. I am sure she still gets some sympathy now, and I don’t begrudge her one iota of it; a part of me can see her point!
Now it’s nearly 15 years since I became Muslim and more than a decade since I last saw my ex. I wish her well and as time has passed I have grown to realise that we can never all see the world in the same way. What is important to one is not important to another, and becoming Muslim is a very large step. To subjugate your entire being to the will of Allah is for me – to accept reality; to others, it will always seem bizarre, illogical or confused.
It is something that goes against the entire flow of our society. To some folks, faith or religion will only ever be peripheral to their existence, a comfortable hat or coat that you hardly notice once you’re wearing. I have learned not to judge, but to accept, as I hope to be accepted by others.
Muslim life is so completely different to what I had before. Life revolves around Allah, his messenger, and his message. It acts as an anchor to reality, to the human experience of living (and one day dying) in the real world and preparing for the journey to come.
The Qu’ran speaks so profoundly about humanity and how we all live out our different viewpoints, our highs and lows and why we should be truly grateful for the low points that have made us (with Allah’s mercy) the people we are today.