What happens when a Jewish son brings home a Muslim girl and tells his parents he wants to marry her? There’s a kind of war that immediately starts up and the family on both sides respond likewise. As a Muslim myself I know the reasons parents of the couple would not like that to happen. Marriage is hard enough when there are no problems; it is doubly so when you mix faiths. But the Muslim and Jewish faiths are brother and sister faiths, you say; they are both desert religions, they are both Semites, they are both people who worship an Unseen God and despise idolatry, they are both named the People of the Book in the Qur’an; and they both have Moses, Muhamad, Jesus and other prophets in common. What then is the problem?
Firm identity crucial
Having been involved with a Jewish man myself when I was young, it was hard for me to accept. I understood it from a rational point of view, but my heart did not accept it especially as I was dating a man out of my faith and was looking for someone to agree with me that it will not affect our relationship. I was wrong. I was reminded by everyone that you just cannot change your faith and that the man’s Jewish family would feel the same way. Then my psychologist said something to me in one of our sessions in the nineties, ‘Rayda, when a child reaches three or four he must have an identity; he must know who he is – what place of worship he is going to. Is he going to church, the temple, the synagogue or the mosque? Where are you going to take him? Are you going to wait to make that decision when you’re older?’ It was something I could not argue against and words I never forgot. And ironic too, for my psychologist is Jewish and always gave me the best advice.
Importance of having a faith
Having a faith is an important thing for a child. It’s his starting point for all that he will learn, do and become. It is one thing you should never try and talk someone out of; everyone needs God in his life whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Hare Krishna. To tamper with someone’s faith is akin to throwing him out in the wilderness. Years later I met an old Indian man who was spending two weeks in Cape Town after heart surgery and we talked. He said something that night that stayed with me. ‘Marriage is a strange thing, he said. It is a chance you take with someone to live a life together. What I’m scratching my head about is how you will be compatible. What do you have in common? A fish cannot make his home with a bird. For a marriage to work you have to be compatible. And I don’t see compatibility here.’ The answer relieved me as I take an interest in the good teachings of all faiths. And yes, I sometimes go to the Hare Krishna Temple on Sunday afternoons; I love the chanting and the dancing and the selflessness of the Hare Krishnas. Whether we chant 109 times, say prayers five times a day, or talk to God while we are driving, we are all invested in wanting His Love. There are no favorites with God, and no one religion owns Him. As far as changing faiths, there’s an old saying that goes something like this: don’t tamper with a man’s faith unless you have a big net under him.