Marital problems due to differences...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Marital problems due to differences over religious matters with a non-Muslim spouse


My wife is a non-Muslim and I was not a practicing Muslim though I recently became more observant to religious rituals. This change is hardly acceptable by my wife and my children. What should I do?


When you have young children who still need long upbringing, divorce could add new problems to your life which may be more serious than the ones it solves. My initial reaction to your problem is that divorce seems to be the wrong approach. Your children will be more influenced by their own circumstances and they may easily put the blame for all the difficulties they will face as a result on your religious attitude. Thus, they will come to view religion as a dividing factor in family life. All of this will be more pronounced if they are told, which they will be, that prior to your moving to a more pronounced religious attitude, the family enjoyed a happy life.

You must also remember that the change you have introduced in your life is a profound one because it affects your social leanings and outlook, as well as the type of people you associate with. Your family may not have felt any of the needs that brought you closer to your faith.

How is your wife expected to fall in line with what you have introduced in your life when she does not really understand its importance? If you try to put yourself in her position, you will realize that she may feel that you have changed the rules in the middle of the game. This is not an easy feeling for any one. Moreover, you are living in a non-Muslim country where your children go to school. No child likes to be different. Suddenly they are asked to be different and this is not a welcome change.

Having said that, I can appreciate that what is important to you is that your children receive a good Islamic education to steer them away from the materialism and permissiveness that are characteristic of life in the West. You cannot really do this unless you re-establish a proper family atmosphere in your home. To do this in your particular situation, you have to remember that Islam looks at every individual alone. You are not responsible for making your wife and children follow the Islamic faith. Nor is it sufficient for any person to follow Islam because they are brought up in a Muslim family. The limits of your responsibility is to teach your family about Islam and to seek for them the best understanding of its principles and beliefs so they can make an informed choice of following it. However, you have to remember that this is their own choice.

I recommend that you start by re-establishing a pressure-free atmosphere in your family. Your wife and children should feel that there is no imposition on them as a result of your change. This does not mean that you give a false impression of accepting what is unacceptable.

Continue to make your standpoint clear on every matter, but without bringing any pressure to bear on your wife and children to 'toe the line'. On the other hand, you should begin, preferably after a cooling down interval, to explain religious principles to your family. This may be done at two separate levels, one for your wife and the other for your children. Your declared purpose should be that they receive sound religious education to enable them to choose their way in the future.
Your approach should be that of a caring farmer who provides all the necessary care for his plants during the cold winter months in order to have a splendid view of roses and flowers in the spring or a plentiful harvest yield in summer. If the farmer tries to precipitate matters, he will end up with nothing but if he is patient and caring, the results of his efforts will make all his hard work well worth the while.
And God Almighty knows best.

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