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4 Dec 2022

‘My wife left me when I became Muslim’ – How Islam changed my life

‘My wife left me when I became Muslim’ – How Islam changed my life

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‘My wife left me when I became Muslim’ – How Islam changed my life

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.

Her implied solution was for me to do the decent thing and convert back. I was floored, her views made no acceptance of my soul searching, or the journey I had travelled. I knew that she had found it hard, if not impossible, to reconcile with but this made no acknowledgment that my Muslim faith wasn’t anything other than a trivial matter and easily undone – preferably before the neighbours found out.

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.

As a white English middle-class professional male I was used to being on the top of the pecking order subconsciously, and it came as a shock to feel ridicule and prejudice.

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.

Incidentally, once I became Muslim my life did indeed become significantly worse; but for the first time in years, I actually knew real and profound peace. Everything fell apart, but inside I was secure. My mental health began to improve. I ended up living out of a suitcase in a rented bedroom in a shared house, but this was one of the happiest times of my life. Allah had allowed me to hit my low point physically, but not spiritually – I was in full recovery mode!

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.

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