A little over a year ago I was speaking to a friend who had known me for two years and, in his own words, fallen in love.
You can probably guess what I told him. Here’s a summary: “I can’t be with you, you’re Christian, and besides that I’m not looking to get married any time soon so even if you were Muslim we couldn’t date yet with the intention of finding out.”
He was devastated. Half of you readers are probably very cross with me at this moment. And you will become more and more cross with me as you read further, but for now please understand something.
A couple of you know–and most of you have probably correctly guessed–that I don’t believe Muslim women are prohibited from marrying Christian and Jewish men, unlike what the majority of (male) scholars have interpreted. The Qur’an says nothing about this prohibition. Scholars concluded that only Muslim men were allowed to marry People of the Book because the Qur’an is very restrictive and reluctant in its permission to men, and therefore special permission would be given to both men and women were they both allowed to marry outside Islam. As the verse was only addressing men, it is therefore supposedly implied women were prohibited.
Weak, presumptuous logic if you ask me, but it’s better than the other explanation I’ve heard involving some asshole mansplaining to me that children are more likely to take their father’s religion. I will at least tolerate people who use the former explanation, but any scholar who gives this, latter one is a douchecanoe whose perspective is obstructed by submission to problematic and inaccurate cultural trends, rather than driven by the principles of truth and the pursuit of social justice, and is subsequently unworthy of my respect. Islam has nothing to do with arbitrary, sexist cultural perceptions.
This interpretation involves men making something forbidden that God had not, and therefore is an incorrect interpretation. God has clearly told us what is or is not forbidden, and we are not allowed to make forbidden what has not been said to be forbidden. Those who believe this and yet continue to conclude that Muslim women cannot marry outside of Islam regardless of the fact that the Qur’an says no such thing are contradicting themselves and picking and choosing what parts of Islam to enforce.
Now the question is why I cited his religion as a reason rejecting him, when I disagree with the interpretation that Muslim women are not allowed to marry outside of Islam, and the answer to that is simply, I want with my significant other the closest possible level of understanding and intimacy, and Islam–these beliefs and practices–are basically my soul. To feel the weight of my responsibility, the pressures of this world from my perspective, to know how my heart moves and what moves my heart–that, spirituality, is as important of a factor to compatibility as personality.
Also I don’t want to teach my kids everything myself. (And I’m going to entirely overlook for now the fact that I kind of have a loving nature and am bound to stumble over it.)
We stayed friends, because I’m a sort of idealistic kind of person, and because he’s everything anyone ever wants in a friend: astonishingly patient, deeply considerate, compassionate, and dependable. We talk about social justice, the recession, black holes in space, string theory, what kind of pasta tastes the best, deforestation, weird creatures that live in the sea, tuition, how fetuses look like weird creatures that live in the sea, books, feminism, religion, and other things I can’t remember.
Sometime during all this, he confessed that he selectively locks some of my texts in his phone, so that they wouldn’t be deleted, and occasionally he reads them over.
This is where you will become crosser with me. I demanded that he delete them. He said, quietly, that he couldn’t. I said I’d do it for him. I ordered him to hand me his phone. He did, slowly, looking down to avoid my eyes. And, as he sat there with his face twisted and crumbling in pain, I unlocked and deleted every single one.
When I think back to it now, I’m horrified with myself. I believed then, and still believe now, that I had every right to delete those texts. They were mine. I wrote them, and owned them. I can do what I want with my work.
No, what horrifies me is the motivation for deleting them. I wanted to save his heart, to shorten the time it would take him to get over me, to relieve him as quickly as possible of loving someone he could never be with so that he may move on and live happily. Sounds noble doesn’t it? That’s how it sounded in my head as I deleted them.
In reality, in the reality I couldn’t see, I was crossing a line. I was choosing for him his method of recovery, I was choosing for him the option of recovery, I was disrespecting and belittling him in being convinced that he needed to be “saved,” I was violating his basic right to choose what happened to him and to choose how to cope with his distraught. I was interfering with his thoughts. In reality I was arrogant, manipulative, and righteous. In reality I was intrusively forcing my beliefs on him.
And it hurt him for no greater good.