The ‘Muslim community’ (if such a thing can be said to exist) is highly divided and segmented along a variety of ethnic, sectarian and intra-sectarian lines. Sectarian divisions have been increasingly exacerbated by recent political developments, and as such, the Sunni and Shia communities have largely conducted themselves as separate entities. Of course, this doesn’t at all preclude individuals from either communities closely mixing on a regular basis, both as friends or potential partners. I’ll expand on the issue of differing religious practice within a relationship in a follow-up post, but I decided to get a first-hand account on what can happen when two people of Sunni and Shia backgrounds meet and fall in love. The following is an account from an anonymous author on her marriage to her Shia husband, and the trials and tribulations they faced along the road to marriage.
I love my husband with a love so fierce it is often overwhelming. It is an intense love, and when one has such intensity in love there is equal, if not greater, intensity in the hurt that comes with it. Marriage is a constant battle of love and forgiveness and sadness and happiness and everything in between. I love my husband, but our relationship has not been easy, for one main reason: he’s Shia, and I’m Sunni.
The start of our relationship was tumultuous, to say the least. It was filled with hurdles and blockades, all of which we overcame. I saw something precious in him that I had not seen in other young men. I believe he felt the same about me.
My husband and I met at University. He immediately proposed coming to my house to speak to my father, but I was hesitant. I knew they would not approve. I was right.
My mother was mainly concerned with public opinion, and the effect it would have on our family’s reputation. It was a very difficult time for her. Her siblings shamed her for allowing us to marry and were cruel and relentless, despite all of their imperfections. For some, I remain the she-who-must-not-be-named of the family.
My father also feared the public backlash, but more importantly was concerned with the development of our religion and the raising of a family.
Despite their concerns, my parents allowed us to make the life-changing decision to marry, and were and continue to be supportive of our marriage. They have an amazing relationship with my husband, who they love and who he loves dearly. My mother loves his complimenting of her food. My father loves to joke with him. And my husband loves them and craves their approval.
Our marriage has been happy and filled with love, and like any marriage, also filled with arguments and disagreements. But our disagreements have had nothing to do with our religious ideologies. We argue the way any married couple would argue: due to a lack of communication, different needs, emotions, work, etc. We have taught each other to love all Muslims, regardless of their beliefs and to respect the ideologies of others, although we may not agree with them.
We don’t have children yet, but if and when we do, we plan to raise them with the best of both of our traditions. I know that my husband’s parents probably assume that our children will be raised to be Shia, but we have our own ideas of how to combine the best aspects from both sides.
If you’re going to go down this path, make sure you have supportive families and friends and remember that it will be a difficult path. People may or may not get over it. But most importantly you need to have the same overarching beliefs with your partner or it won’t work. And be in love, because when you’re in love, arguments are easy to overcome.