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How Physically Intimate Can a Couple be Post-Nikkah but Pre-Marriage / Rukhsati?

What is permissible Post-Nikkah Pre-Consummation (Rukhsati/Marriage)

Question:

I just had my nikkah done with my husband and we are having our rukhsati done soon (in the next few months). The reason for [the] delay is just mainly to prepare for the wedding and  [to] accommodate family members’ schedule [for] the wedding. After the nikkah is it permissible to do all the acts that are permissible between a husband and wife even if the rukhsati hasn’t been done?

Sincerely,
Getting married in my 20s
[This question has a second part, which will be answered at a later date, inshaAllah]

Answer:

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From a technical Fiqhi perspective, when a man and woman have their nikah, kitab or marriage contract (different terms for the same practice) done Islamically they are considered a husband and wife. It is permissible to delay the consummation of marriage (rukhsati or wedding) for a later and more convenient date with no specific time limit as long as they both mutually agree on it until the circumstances are right for them.

Allah Al-Mighty says:

“O You who have believed, when you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them, then there is not for you any waiting period to count concerning them. So provide for them and give them a gracious release.” [al-Ahzab 33:49]

In his tafsir, Imam at-Tabari rahimahullah said in regards to this ayah: “before you have touched them” means before having intercourse with them. He then added that it was the interpretation of the scholars of tafsir.

During this period between the nikah and the rukhsati, it is permissible for the couple to interact with each other in a manner that is permissible for a husband and wife including the actual consummation of marriage. However, if they do choose to be intimate with each other then the full rights of the wife become due upon the husband such as the full dowry and her right for housing and sustenance. What constitutes consummation of marriage is an issue of minor dispute among scholars. They all agree that having intercourse is a perfect definition but then some scholars say a perfect privacy is enough and others say being physically intimate in a manner less than actual intercourse is the minimum.

Some of the Fiqh rulings of non-devotional practices such as marriage are subject to cultural considerations. Hence, what is acceptable during that period between the nikah and the rukhsati is subject to the general culture, the culture of both families and the actual agreement between the two contracting parties. Therefore, if the general culture entails the absolute abstinence during that period then this should be maintained and respected.

Uqbah ibn Amer narrated the Messenger of Allah, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), said:
“The conditions which you have the most duty to fulfill are those by which you have made marital relations lawful.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

In addition to that the maxims of Fiqh -qawai’d Fiqhiyah proclaim:

“What is determined by custom is tantamount to a contractual stipulation” (Al-ma‘rufu ‘urfan kal-mashrutu shartan).

As a result of this, the young couple should respect the unpronounced stipulations that are in accordance with the cultural norms provided that these cultural norms don’t violate any established principle of Fiqh.

Parents and the families of the two contracting parties expect the young couple to be at the level of maturity to adhere to these cultural norms. To bring the fitnah in the streets as an excuse to break these rules is not really a legitimate excuse and it could backfire. It’s better to show a high standard of character even during those beautiful moments before officially moving in together.

Nevertheless, if the husband and wife do get intimate in the relationship prior to the official consummation of marriage they have not committed haram or sin, but it might cause some bitterness within the family because they might perceive it as disrespectful behavior.

One issue might arise; as a result of being too intimate prior to the wedding day is the power struggle between the father of the girl and her young husband. If the young lady still lives with her family while already living intimately the life of wife with her husband, she might have to deal with a confusion of authority situation. Her husband’s demands and her family’s demands might clash and she will be caught in the middle.

Unfortunately, the sense of chivalry among the youth today is not as great as it used to be. The sense of responsibility and commitment from them is not at the level where it should be. Therefore, it is definitely preferable to wait until the actual wedding date before the young couple can fully consummate the marriage.

May Allah give you all happiness, love and mercy. And Allah knows best.

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Sh. Yaser Birjas is originally from Palestine. He received his Bachelors degree from Islamic University of Madinah in 1996 in Fiqh & Usool, graduating as the class valedictorian. After graduating, he went on to work as a youth counselor and relief program aide in war-torn Bosnia. Thereafter, he immigrated to the U.S. and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He is also an instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, where he teaches popular seminars such as Fiqh of Love, The Code Evolved, and Heavenly Hues.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mahmud

    February 6, 2014 at 12:49 AM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    What is it that prevents people from delaying the nikah until the wedding date? Why do they do it a few months earlier?

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      February 9, 2014 at 10:04 PM

      The main reason I’ve heard from younger Muslims why this is taking place is because
      after a Nikah it allows the couple to spend time together talking, getting to know each other, etc…and if they then find out they’re incompatible, they can break it off and there is less stigma
      attached to divorce because there was no consummation…and the sister below who warned Muslim girls not to give into pressure from men during this period is 100% correct. He will get away scott-free even if he breaks off the marriage for “incompatibility” later. It’s the woman who will get stuck with the typical double-standard label and the consummation will defeat the very purpose of this “solution” before arousi.

      This would not need to exist if Muslims got over their divorce stigmas to begin with, which
      disproportionately affect women. Knowing divorce has a stigma, many women have immense
      pressure that they have only one shot at getting it right…whereas men don’t have to worry ’bout
      it in most of the cultures. I think rather than complaining about this “solution”, Muslims should spend more time reforming the crooked cultural practices like stigma of the divorced so “solutions” like this
      wouldn’t be needed.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        February 9, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        The only divorce stigma I really have is my parents wouldn’t like it. Since they have so many rights over me, and since my mother has struggled constantly and showed patience constantly, obviously I’m supposed to show her constant gratitude. I really have to excel with my parents, and part of that is following their marriage wishes.

        So perhaps the issue you are talking about has a lot to do with parents.

        If my parents were ok, I would have no problem with marrying a widow or divorced woman. But they aren’t, so I simply can’t look there.

        This nikah before the rukhsati thing seems to be something which is an incredible hassle. I agree, if this divorce stigma is what spawns such inconvenient practices, we ought to get rid of the stigma.

        • Avatar

          ZAI

          February 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM

          Br.
          I was not referring to you personally.
          I was simply answering the question you asked generally as to why
          many people are carrying out nikah before walimah/arousi/rukhsati.
          It is because they feel they can get to know someone in a halaal manner and if it doesn’t work out, a divorce w/o consummation has less stigma then a divorce after consummation, wherein incompatibility is discovered much later.

          It is especially attractive to many women because a lot of women do NOT divorce more so because of stigma rather than because they want to stay in a marriage. Many, many horror stories brother of women who after consummated marriage discover their husband is a totally different person…an alcoholic, fasiq, atheist even. I even know one couple…the girl came over from India to marry a guy, and guy turns out to have a girlfriend on the side, whom he still sees and carries on with.They pretty much hoodwinked her….not that this cannot happen to men, but again stigma is stronger on women, so many feel they have one shot to get it right.

          In any case I was talking generally.
          Do not feel it was directed towards you.
          Salaamz.

  2. Avatar

    Imran

    February 6, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    JazakAllah Kheiran Shaykh. Really appreciate it.

  3. Avatar

    Mahmud

    February 6, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    What a strange tradition. I hope to have my nikah around when the wedding is.

    • Avatar

      Umm ZAKAriyya

      February 8, 2014 at 2:15 AM

      Yeah . It’s hard for the newly married.

      But not everybody in the indian subcontinent does this ( rukhsati). Many of us have walima immediately after nikah . So the marriage is over in like 2-3 hours .

      • Avatar

        Umm ZAKAriyya

        February 8, 2014 at 2:22 AM

        Some of the reasons why people do this :

        1)Education
        2)Family tradition
        3)some families like to have a nikah party(elaborate one)arranged by the girls fathers and walima by the groom. Having more parties is a status symbol.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        February 9, 2014 at 11:40 PM

        I’m Bangladesh and Indian myself, and I have absolutely no plans to do this. Nikah and rukhsati ought to be at around the same time.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad

      July 7, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Just because you’re unfamiliar with this concept does not take away the religious validity of a nikkah without the accompanying rukhsati. Also your unfamiliarity with it does not invalidate what may be a completely acceptable tradition in many other cultures. You need to be respectful and cognizant of the fact that there are a vast number of cultures across the planet that practice Islam, and as long as parties are not violating religious rulings, you have no right to pass a judgment on what order things ought to happen in. If one way works for you, that’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t automatically mean that every Muslim on the planet ought to follow the cultural norms you adhere to.

  4. Avatar

    sarahl

    February 7, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    I’m 17 years old and I will be (Insha-allah) having my Nikah this December. So when our Nikah is done, you’re saying I shouldn’t become intimate with my husband?? I’ve known him for a long time and our “rukhsuti” won’t be done until the next couple years because we’re both so young.. I just got really confused reading this article.

    • Avatar

      Umm ZAKAriyya

      February 8, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      It’s very clear . Once the nikah is done , you are legally husband and wife and therefore can do everything what husband and wife do.

      But if in your culture/family , if certain acts between spouses are not appreciated, before walima/rukhsati/public announcement of the marriage ,then it’s good to respect that to please your elders . But even if you do get intimate with the spouse ( say , due to difficultly in controlling oneself .which is obviously normal) , it’s not a sin .

      One problem is that if some people do not know that you are legally married , then false rumor starts to spread if the spouses were seen to show affection towardseachother. This actually happened to a friend of mine in college . Her parents had done her nikah contract with her husband ,who happened to be her classmate. So when they were seen together , people started talking! Cuz they didn’t know she was married to him.

  5. Avatar

    Umm Saeed

    February 8, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    I was a new muslim when I wrote my marriage contract. I was totally ignorant about Muslim marriages and was told by the man (my husband now) that writing the contract would allow us to get to know each other in a halal manner. When I wrote my contract I did so with the understanding that the contract was equivalent to an engagement and the marriage would be later after a party was held and the marriage publicized.

    I was quite shocked after writing the contract when the Imam who also acted as my wali told us “everything is now halal”. As soon as my husband was alone with me he also insisted the same. I did not want this but he used all kinds of fatawa and stories from lectures to insist it was his right and I had to comply. At the same time he did not want to make the marriage public yet and gave me so many excuses why. I never knew my rights and feel that I was tricked into getting married and manipulated by my husband. I am telling my story as a warning to other sisters. Educate yourself and make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into, especially if you are a new Muslim and come from a different culture and background than your potential spouse.

    • Avatar

      timothywcrane

      February 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      His many excuses for not wanting his marriage public knowledge are disgraceful. Nikah is a contract of public knowledge, thus the requirement for witnesses (public knowledge is not upheld by a party, but witnesses to the contract in general). The fact that you did not know your were married is a violation of the standards of nobility and honesty in Islamic contract law even if valid under national laws. Public knowledge is matter of protecting honor.

      Even apostasy laws allow for the cause of ignorance as a way out.

      I am rather harsh on men who use guile and deception against women, yet inform the other of the male rights.

      I would have been rather harshly sarcastic, telling him that he should offer you a manumission at best, and free you if you give birth at least, for he obviously sees you as concubine and not a spouse, and no muslim, new or not can be made a slave, nor one who is captured illegally.

      Islam came as a mercy to all mankind, including women, and a warning to zulm (oppression) and those who practice it.

      My exhortation aside, I hope that you and he, for the betterment of both, have come to an agreement of truthful conduct and marital happiness.

      Divorce is the most hated lawful thing.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        February 9, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        I agree with Timothy. This crisis of mediocre/horrific husbands seems to be….everywhere. We need to make an effort to remove it.

  6. Avatar

    Jillian

    February 8, 2014 at 2:44 AM

    Good article. Rukhsati is absolutely culture, just like the Arab Walima…Basically a party to celebrate the marriage sometimes, not always after the couple has had intercourse. Think of this as a receptions, usually with nice clothes, dancing (sometimes separated by gender or not at all) and food. The Wedding Ceremony, religiously, is the nikkah just like the traditional christian church wedding, that is on part and the party is another. For some reason cultures with Islamic populations tend to split this two event up over month months or years. Legally you are married when you file the papers for the wedding, so for taxes, ownership laws, and hospital visitations in the USA nothing matters until those documents are filed. What is done intimately after only the religious part is between husband, wife, and God. BTW, I’m engaged and I plan to have the wedding (religious and legal) and the reception the same day or weekend this fall. Please keep my fiance and I in your duaas, and inshallah everything will work out well!

    • Avatar

      Omer Farooq

      October 26, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      “Rukhsati is absolutely culture, just like the Arab Walima…”

      I humbly want to point out that you are wrong. Please don’t state your personal opinion as a fact in deen. Please approach an Islamic scholar of your choice for an explanation with example of both “rukhsati” and “walima” from Prophets (phuh) personal life.

  7. Avatar

    Hamza Khurshid

    February 22, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    You have provided the answer in a very detailed and simplistic manner… thank You

  8. Avatar

    M.S.

    June 6, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Ina lilAllahi wa ina Ileyhi Raaji’uun.

    I sense this sister’s troubles may have more to do with other people’s expectations of the kind of wedding party they would like to see and attend, and whether it messes well with their calendar-year vacation and/or pre-planned weekend activities.

    I guess this is what happens when you try to infuse cultural expectations & insist on carrying the baggage of the fore-fathers, instead of opting for the simplicity & ease afforded by Islam and the Sunnah.

    It would have been really amazing if her relatives & extended family contributed and fully funded a whole year’s worth of rent, utility bills, furniture, and grocery expenses, instead of know-towing to the bride-zillas/groom-zlllas of the clan. Can you imagine the honeymoon, the happiness, and the mood these two would been in, if their kith & kin gave them financial freedom for a year (or two)? Allah knows best.

    May Allah give you ease sister, shower His mercy on you and your relatives and admit us all to Jannatul-Fidaus al-‘Alaa.

  9. Avatar

    Tolga Ak. (@tolgz15)

    October 22, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    Jazakallah khayr for the insight, although there is more complex situations. This short article touches on the basics. May Allah bless us with a beautiful spouse insha’Allah!

  10. Avatar

    zainab

    November 30, 2014 at 1:35 AM

    If husband don’t fulfill his wife desires and they don’t have any physical relationship from past 1 year? who is responsible?what should wife do and if she do something wrong?

  11. Avatar

    asma

    May 26, 2015 at 6:02 AM

    Assalamu aliakum I got married on 31/1/2014 on skype through my husband was in saudi it’s almost 1 yr 4 months now I came to saudi to meet my husband due sm problems v can’t meet. But as I came I came to know he hd married another gal n he is avoiding I want to is our marriage is valid r not pls let me know dis answer

    • Avatar

      Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man

      June 26, 2015 at 12:41 AM

      Asma, Asalaamualaikum.

      I’m not a sheikh, but I’ve never heard of a nikkah or marriage over skype. You weren’t even there in person. Inshallah You should let him go and find another man who will love you for who you truly are. Stay friendly, beautiful, and read the Quran (in your country translation as well).

  12. Avatar

    rashida

    June 19, 2015 at 9:00 PM

    i am a girl of 18 yrs. i want to get married as well as continue my arabic studies in a different country. In Shaa Allah eventhough our families have accepted us. my brideprice will be paid in this or after ramadan. my husband studies in turkey and i ll soon be persuing my arabic studies in saudi arabia. my husband is32 yrs now. i cant go to study with pregnancy nor a child alone.
    my husband is demanding of sex after the brideprice. am afraid to get pregnant now. is there a way to prevent being pregnant for some time. i dont want him to commit zina and i am not ready to have a child now. what should i do? by Allah, help me.

    • Avatar

      Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man

      June 26, 2015 at 12:39 AM

      Rashida!

      Girl, you should tell him you don’t want to raise a child without a father and if that doesn’t work you should try to get some birth control. See if maybe you can get some condoms that he can try.

    • Avatar

      Sff

      November 30, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      It’s called birth control

  13. Avatar

    shaima

    November 16, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    Okay after a year of nikkah So when is valima done on the vidae day itself..?

  14. Avatar

    Nosh

    February 8, 2016 at 6:41 AM

    Please can someone help me.. I got khula 3 years ago.. Now a rishta came for me and the imam refused the khula and wanted ex husbands written letter signed.. So i did that too and got talaq from him then i got told i need to do idat.. But iv found out im pregnant with my fiance’s child (yes we did wrng it was a very emotional time it jus happned in the comfort).. My question is do i still need to do idat?

    • Aly Balagamwala

      Aly Balagamwala

      February 9, 2016 at 3:01 AM

      Dear Sister

      Our comments section is not geared for personal fiqh questions. I would advise you to consult a scholar in your community, check with a fatwa service such as islamqa.com or contact one of the mashaikh through their Facebook page.

      Best Regards
      Aly

  15. Avatar

    mind.will.evolve

    September 12, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    I recently did nikkah and planning for rukhsati in few months. I am male and i had to convince my wife`s family for nikkah. i had few reasons for this firstly, i wanted to verbally interact with her openly and freely which i consider is not allowed if girl is a na-mehram. Although interacting with her was not object able by her family but i always felt it was a sin and i should do nikkah.
    Secondly, i wanted to delay rukhsati as i m planing to construct a room and waiting for promotion on job . I think islam makes things easy and there is no one way of doing right thing. One should follow the principles and multiple ways are possible for it. Social and cultural norms should be valued ,if things work in positive and healthy directions they will automatically fit into islam. I love my wife by the way.

  16. Avatar

    Niki

    November 5, 2016 at 6:26 PM

    Im a christian living n japan but im not yet divorce i have a someone muslim beliefs living uk in my situation can we do nikah even im not yet divorce?
    I am allow to do nikah even im not divorce ?

    • Aly Balagamwala

      Aly Balagamwala

      November 11, 2016 at 11:02 AM

      If you are already married to someone then you can not marry another man (assuming from your name you are a woman). In addition, there are conditions whereby a Muslim is allowed to marry a Christian female. I recommend you discuss these matters directly with an Imam who can guide you better in your situation.

      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  17. Avatar

    Anonymous

    December 16, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    Um hey, I have a question. So I’m a revert, and I know my parents would be dead against arranging a marriage for me with a Muslim guy, let alone even letting me go to the masjid (even though i live with my great Aunt and I’m 18), so I am not sure what to do. I am EXTREMELY cautious of guys online, and rarely ever do, but there was this one guy that I talked to that I really like. I know that many guys are trash, and just want one thing, and will lie till the cows come home, but he seems really legit, and respectful, and even though he has admitted he cares about me he is still extremely shy. We have talked a lot, and we seem to be very compatible, and I think we would have a great marriage together. Our one big disagreement, is that if i were to live in Pakistan, sometimes I would want to go out in nature, and just be alone, and not always be Chaperoned by him. No one in his town would ever have to know, cuz we could go on a walk, and rendezvous at a given time and place. He thinks I should just stay in the yard, and also thinks that Pakistan’s strict cultural beliefs are synonymous with Islam. Both of us do not want to make a hasty move, or a wrong move, and do not want to get married if the other person will just be unhappy. He suggested that I visit Pakistan for a few months, and try it out. I am very interested in doing so, and of course we would make arrangements with his parents and the like, and facilitate this through them, but I am wondering how I am going to get to know him in person. Should I get Nikkah and have very strict standards? I know he will not push for sex, because he wants to be EXTREMLY careful and not mess up, and not make a decision that he or I would regret. Secondly, the only real obstacles between him and me getting married is me wanting to know him more (and in person), and living in Pakistan to see what it is like, and also his immersion in being pak. Is there a way I can talk to him, to let me just have some time alone on nature? Cuz that is something that is REALLY important to me. He says he is sure his parents will like me, so I do not think that will be an issue..and i would figure that out real quick when video chatting them about the circumstances. Also, considering circumstances in America, I’ll be saving up cleaning money ($16) and probably be going to Italy otherwise, and trying to get a job there, so I was already planning in leaving the country anyways. Although I shouldnt have chatted with him in the 1st place, what is the most Islamic ally correct way to proceed from here? Also, I wanted to see peoples thoughts on this. I ask that you please give me advice on how YOU personally would succeede. Thankyou

  18. Avatar

    NCD

    April 1, 2017 at 5:51 PM

    I don’t understand this at all, the post itself or the comments… is it Islamic advice or cultural advice? I don’t think it’s good to reinforce cultural norms that go against Islamic ones, and if parents would have issues post-nikkah with any level of intimacy then that doesn’t go with one of the main reasons that marriage is so encouraged- to allow a halal way for two people to be intimate with each other which is in everyone’s natural inclination to want to do so. If a father objects to this then he should not have allowed the nikkah in the first place because at that point he is no longer her wali. Secondly I don’t understand the comments about this gap between nikkah and consummation giving a “get out” clause if someone isn’t who they appear to first be. Divorce is divorce. It is crucial to get to know someone as well as possible PRIOR to nikkah and there is nothing wrong with doing so. Rushing into nikkah because you feel you can’t do this beforehand has no basis. There is nothing wrong with culture, but if those cultural norms conflict or prevent people to do what is encouraged or even necessary in Islam then they shouldn’t be reinforced.

  19. Avatar

    Akhtar Javed

    September 30, 2017 at 2:40 AM

    what is the method of separation for any reasons, incase if nikah performed but wife and husband never lived together, not even met each other after nikah

  20. Avatar

    Dhikrat

    October 29, 2017 at 4:42 PM

    Asalam alaikun waramotulah please coming together of both parent agreeing to the union and both d wife and the husband without any gift been involve can we also call it Nikkah?

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Raised by Converts

Note to the reader:  Some Muslims debate which term we should use for someone who has chosen to accept Islam. Is it supposed to be “convert” or “revert?”  In this article, I choose to use the word “convert.”  Before I start receiving comments from individuals who are convinced that the term “revert” is the only correct one, I would like to share this superb article on the issue written by Ricardo Peña, who says it better than I ever could.  

Nuha* thought she had found her soulmate and future life partner in Joel*, her co-worker. He was kind, hardworking, and charming, and the young couple wanted to get married.  Nuha’s father, however, would not give his blessing to the union because the potential groom had recently converted to Islam.  Nuha’s dad wanted his daughter to marry a man who had grown up in a Muslim family and therefore, presumably, had years of Islamic experience and fairly solid religious knowledge. He speculated about some of the things Joel might have done before embracing Islam and whether he had any habits that would be hard to break. He also thought it would be wiser for his daughter to marry someone from the same background; he doubted a white guy would really know how to relate to a Pakistani-American girl and her desi family. Most of all, he worried that Joel would not know enough about Islam to be a good husband, father, and imam of his family.  

Was Nuha’s father justified? Do converts make good spouses and parents? Can they ever truly move on from any un-Islamic aspects of their past and adhere to their new deen

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How do converts attain the knowledge necessary to raise children with Islamic knowledge, taqwa, and adab?

To answer this question I spoke with six Muslims who grew up in a household where one or more parents were converts to Islam. Their answers give insight into the true dynamics of what happens when converts raise children.  

Khadijah is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach from the United Kingdom. Her mother, a white British woman, converted when Khadijah was eight years old.  When she and Khadijah’s father had divorced, she had felt a need to find a deeper meaning in life. This searching led her to Islam.  

“My mum taught me Islam in stages,” explains Khadijah. “As she learnt things, she passed them onto me. We went to study circles together, and we learnt to pray together as well. She wrote the transliteration of the prayer on little blue cards for us to hold whilst we prayed. I wouldn’t say her knowledge was sufficient at the time, but whose knowledge is? I learnt valuable lessons as I watched her do her own reading, leaning, and questioning. I felt like we stumbled through together. As I grew up, this taught me Islam is a constant journey, and it’s ok to ask questions.”

Shaheda, a freelance writer from North Carolina, grew up in different circumstances than Khadijah, but the women’s stories have definite parallels. Shaheda’s parents are African Americans who were both raised in traditional southern Christian families. The pair converted to Islam in the 1960s when they were college students who were active in the Civil Rights movement. They began to learn about Islam after their introduction to leaders like Malcolm X.  

As different as her parents’ life experiences were from Khadijah’s mum’s, Shaheda enjoyed the same benefit of being able to see her parents growing and changing due to the love of Islam. “My parents were learning Islam as they were raising us,” explains Shaheda, “and so their increase in knowledge was tangible to us. We grew up in a community where you would see the physical manifestations of knowledge acquisition. The style of dress of the sisters became more modest, the separation of women and men became more pronounced in social gatherings, social gatherings took on a more religious tone, we began to attend Sunday school to learn Quran and Arabic.”

Though it may come as a surprise to some, in families where one spouse was a born to a Muslim family and the other is a convert, the convert is often actually the more knowledgable and practicing parent. Aliyah is a family counselor from the Midwestern United States whose Indian mother and white American father met when they were partners in pre-med.  “My dad had read about ‘Mohammedans’ and would ask my mom lots of questions about them,” explains Aliyah. “My mom was raised in a home that was only culturally Muslim. Plus, back then most immigrants just wanted to assimilate. She didn’t really know the answer to my dad’s intensive questions. One day she suggested he ask her father the same questions. My grandfather took him to the ISNA convention where he could ask more knowledgeable people. Alhumdulilah he got all his questions answered and converted!”

 She continues, “As a little kid we always looked at my dad as the sheikh of the house. We all agree that he’s the reason my family is even practicing. He would always patiently entertain and answer my questions, read me stories about the Prophets and Seerah, and really focus on aqeedah and comparative religions.  When I grew up and both our levels of knowledge needed to grow, we learnt together. As a teen, my dad and I would walk to the masjid together and attend the Friday night halaqa. In college, our favorite thing to do was attend al Maghrib classes. I would ditch my friends and discuss with him what we had learned during the lunch break.”

For Iman,* a stay at home mom who grew up between the United States and the Middle East, it was her convert mother — not her Arab father — who was her main Islamic influence.  “I was about 6-7 years old when my mom converted,” she explains.  “I grew up celebrating Christmas and Eid. We had a Christmas tree in our living room for the first several years of my life. My mother, who was raised a Southern Baptist, embraced Islam when my youngest brother was a baby, so for most of his life she was a practicing Muslim. We learned most of what we know from her.  I remember as a child seeing stacks of books on the dining table that she would check out of the masjid library to read and learn. She was a very intelligent woman who knew more about Islam than lots of born Muslims.”

Based on her own experiences, Iman asserts, “Generally speaking, I think converts are more knowledgeable than born Muslims. It can be challenging,” she adds, “when the convert is more serious about deen than their born-Muslim spouse.”

Anisa, a former teacher from Missouri, agrees with Iman.  “In some ways, I feel converts may have more Islamic knowledge than born Muslims because they have had to search for the knowledge themselves as opposed to growing up with it. Also,” she adds, “many born Muslims have grown up with so much culture mixed with the religion that the difference between the two can get blurred.”

Anisa’s mom, a white American woman who was raised Christian, met some Muslims at Oklahoma Baptist College back in 1970.  She started conversations with them in the hopes of converting them to Christianity, but ended up intrigued by their faith. She took an Islamic History class and read whatever books she could find at the library. She decided to become a Muslim at an MSA conference and made her shahada in 1973. “By the time my mother was raising my sisters and me, she definitely knew all the basics of Islam and was able to teach us,” says Anisa.

“She was the main parental source of knowledge for us, although we also attended Sunday school.”Click To Tweet

Mustafa is the child of an Egyptian dad and an American mom. He was born in the U.S. but raised primarily in Egypt where he was surrounded by Muslims, and yet his convert mother was a huge inspiration to him in his faith. “I know that I loved my mom so much,” Mustafa says.  “I felt that she had done the decision-making process for us. That if someone so smart, clever, and precise figured out Islam was the Truth, it must be.” 

“My mom became Muslim in the early 80s,” explains Mustafa. “She learned about Islam from her students while completing her Masters at the University of Illinois-Champagne. She was teaching English as a second language to Malaysian exchange students. She also ended up living with them and learning about Islam from them. People always assumed my mom converted for my dad,” muses Mustafa. “She didn’t even know him when she converted!”

As positive as their experiences were, overall, with the guidance of their convert parents, life was not always easy for the children who grew up with one born-Muslim parent and one convert. Many times, stereotypes about race, ethnicity, and cultural differences complicated their relationships with extended family members and outsiders. Both as children and as adults, many of them had to cope with people’s misconceptions and tactlessness.  

“I was always teased,” confides Aliyah.  “I’ve been called ‘half Muslim,’ ‘zebra,’ and ‘white girl’ in a derogatory way. Aunties always questioned if I was taught Islam properly. People would assume my dad converted for love (the pet peeve of my whole family). I would hear talk in Urdu in the masjid kitchen that I couldn’t cut an onion because I’m white. It was hard for us when we were getting married to find someone that clicked with us because we were so culturally different than everyone we knew.”

“Kids are rough,” adds Mustafa.  “Muslims can be ignorant, stereotypical, and not know what is offensive. Someone asked my sister, ‘Did your dad marry your mom because she wore a bikini?’ We were oddities at school in Egypt when people would see my mom pick us up from school. I was actually embarrassed to be seen with her for a while growing up, just because of all the attention it got me.”

I was “the white girl” in a Muslim school,” explains Khadijah, “and whilst that made the other girls very aware of who I was, there was always an element of separation there. I didn’t feel white. I didn’t feel Pakistani or Gujarati. I don’t feel like it affected me in either a negative or positive way. I got used to not completely belonging and forged my own ‘culture.’ I married an Afro-Caribbean brother, so my children have such a mix of cultures around them and I think it’s pretty beautiful. Whether my upbringing influenced this or not, I don’t know!”

While Shaheda did not feel any religious tension within her extended family, (“I understand from firsthand experience how people of different faiths can coexist in love and mutual respect,” she says), she does experience some difficulty from her brothers and sisters in Islam.  She reports “having to repeatedly validate my identity as an actual Muslim to those who don’t have the same experience. The assumption that there may be something missing or not quite Muslim enough is troublesome.” 

Wisdom to Share

These children of converts with their unique experiences and courageous dedication to their faith have excellent wisdom to share with the Ummah.  

Aliyah, whose work as a counselor focuses especially on Muslim families, has advice for Muslim parents whose marriage is mixed, either culturally or racially. “To youth,” she says, “identity matters SO MUCH, especially in this day and age when that’s all anyone ever talks about. If you’re a white convert parent of brown/black kids, identify your privilege that comes with that. If your kids are brown or black…learn about what that means in America. When I was with my non-Muslim relatives they would just make me feel so ‘other.’ They would focus on my exotic look and beliefs and just make me feel like an alien.” 

She continues, “Research things to consider when you are raising a child that is a different ethnicity than you. Ask your kids how they feel about it. Have an open conversation. Teach them about valuing both their cultural backgrounds.”

Khadijah’s advice to Muslim parents is,

“Learn WITH your children. Let them see that you’re still learning and struggling as well. Let them experience the journey with you. They’ll learn more that way than through lectures. You don’t have to act like you have everything figured out.” 

I believe the constant cycling in of converts into Muslim communities is a great blessing,” offers Shaheda. “And with that blessing comes a responsibility. We owe them our support, wisdom, and love, and I think we should take that responsibility very seriously. We should create bonds. These individuals who Allah has chosen as believers among disbelievers are special, and they keep us on our spiritual toes. There are multitudes of blessings when a community gains a new convert.”

When I asked them if they would have any concerns about their own children marrying converts, all of the interviewees answered a firm “no.”  They realize that a person’s dedication to Islam is not guaranteed by being born into it, or even raised with it. 

Converts — people who chose Islam as mature adults after a great deal of research, soul-searching, and personal transformation — are among our Ummah’s most passionate, educated, and sincere members.  

*Names have been changed

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#Culture

The Beginnings Of The Darul Islam Movement In America

I was raised in the Darul Islam movement; my father Shaykh Abdu-Karim Ahmad, was one of their Imams for a time in Philly. So was my cousin Shaykh Ali Ahmad. Both who are still alive today. There are many narrations yet to be told, that shed a little light and context, about Muslim America today.

Much of the history about Islam in United States of America and of the pioneering Muslims upon who’s shoulders we stand, has never been told. Some of them unfortunately may never be told and may die with the death of those who were there. When it comes to American Muslim history, the narratives of those who lived it is more poignant than that of those who only heard about it. As in the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “He who is told is not like he who has seen”.

Much of what is written about Black American Muslim Sunni pioneers is written about us but not by us. 

One story that has remained largely unchronicled is that of the Darul Islam movement. Darul Islam was an early indigenous Sunni Muslim community made up of Black American Muslims and converts to Islam. At its height, it comprised 25-30 Muslim communities and masaajid across the country. It was started by Rajab Mahmood and Yahya Abdul-Karim, who were formally attendees of the famous State Street Mosque in Brooklyn, New York in the Atlantic Ave area west of Flatbush. The State St, Mosque which was started by was Dawud Faisal, a Black man who came to the United States from the Caribbean to pursue a career in jazz music, became a beacon for early Muslim immigrants as there was already a spate of Arab businesses along Atlantic Ave near third street, not far from the Mosque. My father used to take us to Malko Brothers bakery on Atlantic Ave in the early sixties where we would buy pita bread and halal meat from one of the other stores. It was one of the few places you could buy pita bread on the East Coast and there was no such thing as a halal store in America then.  

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Partially because Shaykh Dawud was black, and perhaps because of his jazz background and affiliation, the Masjid also attracted Black American converts to Sunni Islam. Many early Sunni Muslims were associated with and came from jazz musicians.  The Legendary John Coltrane was reported to have been a Muslim, he was married to a sister named Amina and his daughter was named Na’eema. My father performed her marriage in New York in the 1980’s. It’s rumored that he never publicized his Islam because it would have damaged his career as it had done to so many others. Hajj Talib Dawud, who started a masjid in Philadelphia (not related to the Darul Islam movement), used to be a trumpet player for Dizzy Gillespie. 

Meanwhile, , there was a chasm between immigrant Muslims who were new to the country. Converts to Islam, who were overwhelmingly Black, were new to Islam.  In 1960, Shaykh Dawud hired a teacher who was Hafiz al-Quran named Hafiz Mah’boob — he was associated with the Tabligh Jamaa’ah movement— but he was Black or looked black. The young African American converts, Rajab Mah’mood, Yahya Abdulkarim, Suleiman Abdul-Hadi (my uncle and one of the founding members of The Last Poets), Muhammad Salahuddin, and others. were drawn to him, He was “down” with educating the brothers from America and he used to teach them Arabic and Islam. It was a different time then and the immigrant, mainly Arab Muslims, and the Black American converts to Islam were from two different worlds. There was an unspoken uneasiness. Eventually Hafiz Mah’boob suggested that the African American brothers go and start their own masjid.

Rajab Mah’mood and Yahya AbdulKarim eventually left the State Street Mosque and started their own Masjid in Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s toughest neighborhoods, they named it Yasin Mosque, and that was the beginning of the Darul Islam Movement in the United States. That’s also just the beginning of the story.

I was born and raised a Sunni Muslim in Philadelphia, PA; my parents converted to Islam in the 1950’s.

I was raised in the Darul Islam movement; my father Shaykh Abdu-Karim Ahmad, was one of their Imams for a time in Philly. So was my cousin Shaykh Ali Ahmad. Both who are still alive today. There are many narrations yet to be told, that shed a little light and context, about Muslim America today.

History matters. 

Taken from the Upcoming Book. “The History of the Darul Islam Movement in America” 

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Civil Rights

Daughter Of Hagar: A Mother Reflects On The Cry That Has Shaken The World

Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah (Sahih al Bukhari 4090)

“Mama!”

“I can’t breathe.”

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A gut-punch and a sudden rush of panic erupted in my body. I was watching yet another Black Man transition from this life. I heard the voices of my sons echo in my ears. I felt helpless because I could and not run to his aid. Where were my sons? Nightmares all unfolding on the heels of reports of Breonna Taylor, then Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, my spirit was broken.

This time instead of breathing for him, we collectively screamed. I heard his cry, and I knew this country would have to respond.Click To Tweet

As the video flooded my social media accounts, I made a conscious choice, not to watch. I couldn’t. I would watch it in my own time, at my own pace. Two days. I could smell the desperation. The anxiety, giving me dry heaves a familiar feeling since the day my sons were old enough to enter the world without my presence. Now, the same fear arises for my daughters. As a Black mother, my hopes were for them to not experience the loss of their brothers, fathers, or uncles at the hands of another. Today, I simply want them all to make it back home safely. I accept this country’s apathy for the death in my community was stalwart, especially at the hands of law enforcement.

George Floyd’s lynching provides a graphic and poignant portrait of the blatant contempt for the lives of Black men and women. His pleas linger in my heart alongside the anger and outrage. It was the knee. The actual knee to the neck of Mr. Floyd, by a white officer and his nonchalant demeanor, echoed the historical torment of African American men; allowing the world to witness a modern-day lynching. What is the value of life?

In 1791, Benjamin Banneker questioned Thomas Jefferson on the merits of slavery, not as a question of ethics, but of faith. The paradox, while Jefferson and many of his contemporaries believed Africans were inferior, they recognized them as creations of God. Banneker’s letter challenges Jefferson to justify the institution of slavery by simply asking this question:

       …which are that one universal Father hath given being to us all, and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also without partiality afforded us all the Same Sensations, and endued us all with the same faculties, and that however variable we may be in Society or religion, however, diversyfied in Situation or colour, we are all of the Same Family, and Stand in the Same relation to him.

(Banneker’s Letters of Jefferson, Africans in America, November 2016)

Banneker’s question is one we have yet to confront as a country or as a community of faith. We live in a paradox wrapped in an enigma. We say we don’t see race and color, yet divisions exist when it comes to race and color. If we are all divinely created by The One, should they separate us? They do, directly questioning Allah’s very creation. He created us male and female, dark and light- each a unique expression of His Mercy and Grace.

This is profoundly different in how geographic, cultural, and ethnic variations are expressed in American society. Race as a descriptive sociological construct in the history of America seeks to justify the superiority of those who describe themselves as White and the inferiority of Blacks. Adherence to this belief emboldened America’s continuation of slavery long after their European allies abandoned the practice.

The value of the lives of enslaved Africans, similar to property and monetary value based on skill, age, and skin complexion. There were no rules, ethics, or moral standards, those who enslaved Black persons, could do anything, at any time, and in any manner. It is here we find the pattern of abuse and mistreatment of Black people. Almost sixty years after Banneker’s letter to Jefferson, the Civil War, which resulted, brought the end of slavery, but not the end of the devaluation of Black lives.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 sought protections for men born in the United States, during what is known as the Reconstruction Period, immediately following the Civil War. During this period significant efforts for integration were made but were quickly met with a renewed Southern sentiment to reclaim what was lost during the war- property and economic standing.

America witnessed an escalation in the passing of laws of segregation and exclusion. America created two worlds, one for Whites, the other for Blacks; any violation or challenge to this distinctive line was met with violence and intimidation. To put it all into perspective, it took almost a hundred years from the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1886 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since then, we have witnessed the loss of life of Sandra Bland, Trevon Martin, Eric Gardner, and countless others.

America created two worlds, one for Whites, the other for Blacks; any violation or challenge to this distinctive line was met with violence and intimidation. To put it all into perspective, it took almost a hundred years from the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1886 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since then, we have witnessed the loss of life of Sandra Bland, Trevon Martin, Eric Garner, and countless others.Click To Tweet

The existence of laws in black and white does not negate what remains in the heart. While we believe this a post-Civil Rights America, recent events reveal a different story one Muslims cannot ignore. Currently, this country is led by an elected official, who panders to those in our midst who hold animosity and hatred in their hearts and minds. Each day race-baiting tactics and imagery are employed to fuel their actions and we can no longer sit by the wayside.

This is an issue of race, plain and simple and it speaks to the very fundamentals of our faith. If Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) hears our cries, when will those who stand with us at the masjid as well?

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