Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Raising Children Muslim

Debbie is a Christian and Hani is a Muslim (Egyptian). They were raising their children Jasmine (8) and Karim (7) as Christians. This was the agreement they came to when they were in the US. Because Hani was not a practicing Muslim at the time, he agreed to let Debbie raise the kids Christian and take them to church with her. Hani even went on a few occasions.

The family moved to Cairo in January of this year and Hani found himself living apart from Debbie for work reasons. Though he was still in Egypt, he did not see his family that often.

Hassan and I never posed the question on what religion the kids were because let's face it -- it's none of our business. Debbie had told me early on that the kids were being raised Christian and I thought that was really strange, because if a Christian woman marries an Egyptian man the children must be raised Muslim -- no two ways about it.

Debbie is a real independent woman. She decided to start taking the kids to a community style church in Maadi where there are a lot of non-Egyptians. Debbie felt an instant bond and even commented on how uplifting it made her feel. I was pleased she felt a sense of belonging in her new church and with her new friends she had made.

Not too long ago, maybe a few weeks, Hani started listening to and corresponding with a sheikh or professor of some kind in Islamic Studies. Hani started talking to Debbie on the phone non-stop about how the children were to be raised Muslim now that they are in Egypt and how Debbie must be convinced to convert to Islam. Debbie had a really difficult time with Hani's behavior. She felt as though she was being beat down by something -- a battle between good and evil of sorts.

She asked me for advice. I told her that after all these years, and no matter what I thought in the past as free-thinking as I may have been, it is very important to raise the children in the same religion as the parents. To have parents of two different faiths confuses children who end up not believing in anything.

After Hani's persistence, Debbie agreed to let the children convert. And she felt she really didn't have a choice in the matter. I believe she did have a choice in the matter, but it is easier to be Muslim in Egypt than Muslim in the US.

Debbie asked for my copy of the Quran. How could I refuse? Someone long ago had been generous to give me their copy. It was now my turn to pass it on to someone else who searching.

Debbie doesn't know if she will ever convert to Islam, I just tell her, "take it slow. Be careful. Study." I told Debbie that Islam teaches tolerance, respecting "people of the book" (Jews and Christians). There is no compulsion in Islam, everything in moderation. As I try to find answers for Debbie, I am finding answers to many of my own questions about Islam.

I told Debbie that Hani's just trying to right a wrong he made in letting the kids be raised Christian in the US. He wants to make things right, and what better time than now? Hani's intention is right -- but perhaps he came on a little too strong for Debbie.

Maybe that's what it's all about. Sharing what one knows with another, and learning and growing along the way.




Millie said...

I can understand your friend's feelings about religion. I was a Christian when I married my husband who is Muslim and remained so for another 3 years before I converted to Islam. I was a very "strong" Christian and was convinced that I "had it right" and eventually my husband would see the light. Interestingly enough, I decided to just pray that God would reveal himself to me in a way I could understand. I also asked my husband to do the same. Well, GOd did reveal His truth, but apparently it was I who was not "in the know"! Long story short, I did convert and since have 2 lovely children.
My advice to your friend is to encourage her to 1. pray for God to reveal Himself to her in a way she can understand 2.speak with other muslims,especially converts, about their faith. 3.research Islam, Karen Armstrong has a good book about the Prophet (pbuh).She needs to see Islam in its'rawest and purest form, not traditional Islam which can vary country to country.
The biggest struggle I had was accepting that Jesus Christ(pbuh)is not God but Prophet. The first time I actually said that aloud I swear I thought a lightning bolt was going to strike me! Didn't happen of course.
I didn't involve my husband in my search because I wanted to convert because of knowledge and not to feel like I was converting because of him or to please him.
Be supportive and a friend, apparently you are already both of those things!

Marian said...

Thanks for your advice and sharing your experience. I agree with you -- Islam in its purest form is very beautiful -- removing the cultural traditions that each country adopts to Islam certainly will put things in perspective. Debbie is praying for guidance and for an open heart. I think if she read the Quran I gave her it would all come clear. Ma'salaam, Marian

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Jordana said...

If Islam is so tolerant about religions, and there is no compulsion in religion, then why is it ok for this man to deceive his wife to get married to her, allow her to raise her children in her faith THEN change his mind later and demand they all convert? This is so contradictory, does no one see the pain and obvious deception in this? Would Debbie have agreed to marry him if he was honest from the beginning? This is very disturbing.