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I had a pretty religious (Christian) friend from the UK (of the same age as me - late 20's) and we often used to talk about Quran and Gospel (she had knowledge of both and so did I) and it leads to often very interesting discussions and new questions.

She told me about her boyfriend who was an Arab Muslim and actually he was not as religious but pretty stern at Beliefs. Both wanted to marry each other but their parents were against this marriage; one day I asked her couple of questions:

  • Suppose you got married to him, will your kids believe in One Allah or Trinity?

She replied that "they will believe in Trinity - though he doesn't agree with me here and says its polytheism". I thought that this marriage (maybe I am wrong) is not going to work but to confirm, I asked a couple more questions and they confirmed that there is a deadlock between two.

I wanted to bring her out of this situation, so being not only a friend but as an inter-faith discussion as well, I suggested her to revise her decision to marry a Muslim as it's not going to work but she did mind that "I am interfering in her personal life" - while I had no intention whatsoever to interfere in her personal life but just to give her advice as per Beliefs conflict.

I wanted to convey but that you should discuss religious differences and how to raise your children should be before getting married. Sadly, I lost a friend in the process - she never talked with me again.

What could have been the better way of recommending the same thing if you were in my place?

P.S: Kindly note that she (or me) never minded any of the questions during our discussions and our questions used to be pretty serious ones.


Information added from comments:

  • The conversation was done over text. I didn't use any harsh words (and I don't use emojis - especially in serious discussions) and she was far away from being touchy - I have even asked her questions like "Why Christ (Peace on him) didn't have a son?" and she replied to it as well as "Very interesting question! Give me time to think an answer."
  • I had asked her about personal details before (her about her family/work and even about her bf), but never personal decisions. She never hesitated in answering of those questions.
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – HDE 226868 Sep 28 '17 at 15:37
38

Asking questions, as you've done, is generally a good way to get someone to think about something without being particularly confrontational.

If I were you, I'd keep the questions coming:

Shouldn't you come to a decision on this before getting married?
What will you do if, after you're married, you realise you'll never come to an agreement on these issues? Will you then choose to not have children?

You can also enquire about how certain aspects of day-to-day life will look like for them (e.g. prayer, worship, diet or other religious commitments or restrictions), if you think there might be potential issues there.

You can also try to point out that it's difficult while showing support.

I don't know of any successful inter-faith marriages. If you choose to go ahead with it, I wish you the best of luck and hope you'll be the exception to the rule.

The point is not to change her mind then and there, but rather to get her thinking in-depth about these things, which will either make her doubt that it will work, or set her mind at ease about it, in that such thinking might also reveal solutions.


I don't really agree with your premise that inter-faith marriage can't work (if that's your premise) - it will depend a lot on the people involved and how important their faith (and sharing it with their life partner) is to them, but what's more important is that your friend believes it will work.

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    I didn't say that Inter-faith marriages can't work - but as @Mari-LouA pointed out that "Religious differences and the upbringing of children should be discussed before committing oneself to marriage" and they often result in some deadlocks being discovered! – Failed Scientist Sep 8 '17 at 11:48
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    Just please, don't ask close-ended questions, AKA, wanna-be questions. Your first example is a closed question. They don't lead anywhere. Better ask the specific things. – yo' Sep 8 '17 at 12:31
  • @yo' I rephrased it from the not-so-great "don't you think" phrasing. I see the first question as a way to propose a solution or communicate a preference, without trying to state it as fact, which you then instantly follow up with another question to motivate that solution or preference (or ask it after the motivating question). It could also work to skip that question and let them come to the conclusion themselves, but it's going to depend on whether you want to just get them thinking or communicate your own opinion as well. – NotThatGuy Sep 8 '17 at 13:06
  • I have a friend in exactly this kind of inter-faith marriage. However, its quite reasonable to prod a friend into thinking about these things ahead of time. (I believe in her case, the daughters go to church with her, the son, er ... doesn't go to church along with the father). – T.E.D. Sep 8 '17 at 15:15
  • @FailedScientist, your comment here is confusing as the question says "inter-faith marriage not gonna work". You were probably trying to refer only this situation, in which case, I think the question should be rephrased. Plus, in general, given the issues with have in the world, I would promote inter-faith alliances if I got a chance. You are trying to help your friend I'm sure. But if I were you, I would help the friend understand and prepare for future if I could. "I suggested her to revise her decision to marry a Muslim as it's not going to work" - You don't know that for sure. – KNP Jun 19 at 23:34
72

I wanted to bring her out of this situation, so being not only a friend but as an inter-faith discussion as well, I suggested her to revise her decision to marry a Muslim as it's not going to work but she did mind that "I am interfering in her personal life" - while I had no intention whatsoever to interfere in her personal life but just to give her advice as per Beliefs conflict.

With respect, you absolutely did intend to interfere in her personal life.

You thought she was making a mistake about her personal life. You tried to get her to change her mind. That's the very definition of interfering with someone's personal life.

I'm not condemning this, but I think it is important that you realize why she reacted the way that she did.

Asking questions is fine, especially if you have a history of discussing questions on religion without any signs of discomfort or conflict. The moment you make a suggestion, though, you run the risk of crossing a personal boundary, especially on any topic involving strong emotions.

Any time marriage is being discussed, it is a safe assumption that strong emotions are involved.

I believe you would have done better if you had stuck to just asking questions.

To be safe, you may want to consider supplementing questions that may touch on emotionally charged issues by using "I language". This means to focus on your perspective, to avoid making it sound like you are targeting the person you are talking about.

For example, if you felt that the response you received to "Suppose you got married to him, will your kids believe in One Allah or Trinity?" needed some follow-up, because you were concerned with her response:

If I were in a relationship with someone who didn't share the same faith I do, I'd want to be certain that we discussed how we would handle religious education for our children before we got married. I'd hate to wind up fighting with my spouse because we both wanted different things.

versus:

You should talk to your boyfriend more about this before you decide to get married. You say you want your children to be raised to believe in the Trinity, but your boyfriend is apparently opposed to that. Don't you think that will result in conflict?

The second example comes across as very personal. Phrases like "you should" and "you want" may put people on the defensive, and may be signs of ineffective communication.

The first example is not guaranteed to go over well, either, but by making it about yourself, instead of the person you're talking to, it will likely soften the tone.

  • 20
    If I were you -- but you are not her, that's the problem. IMHO, statements starting if I were you in these serious discussions are plain dishonesty. You're basically saying I don't want to push you, but I actually push you, you just put some fluffy ballast around. Asking questions and proposing topics to think about is a much better way. – yo' Sep 8 '17 at 12:35
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    @yo' At no point do I suggest saying "If I were you", nor am I suggesting any "dishonesty". I did state that asking questions is the best approach, but I rephrased it to emphasize that the use of "I language" is for after you ask questions, if you think the response needs further discussion. – Beofett Sep 8 '17 at 12:42
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    Well, you suggest: "If I were in a relationship with...", which is really the same. (Or maybe I read the answer in a wrong way, which is possible and then I apologize.) – yo' Sep 8 '17 at 12:44
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    @yo' My intent with that is for the OP to state their perspective. I don't mean that they should say "If I were in a relationship with your boyfriend...". I mean that they should phrase it as if they were in a similar, but not identical situation. Because that's what the OP is really asking to do. He has concerns because his friend is not doing what he would do if he were in that position. – Beofett Sep 8 '17 at 12:49
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    @Minix your dictionary seems to have fewer definitions than mine, then. Mine also has ”take part or intervene in an activity without invitation or necessity". – Beofett Sep 10 '17 at 14:20
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The simple answer is "you don't." Regardless of the situation, people who are in love aren't going to break it off for the fact a friend tells one of them "it won't work." If you push the issue, you are likely to lose a friend.

What might help is a non-judgemental discussion on how they will raise the children. My observation is that there are people who are otherwise not very religious still have a strong feeling about how to raise their children.

I am going on 23 years of marriage, and the 2 discussions that were most important were 'how to raise child' and an understanding of our approaches to money. Both of these can undermine a marriage if not agreed on.

I understand you don't want this marriage to happen. In my opinion, if the friend says they've discussed the issue of raising children and agree 100%, they are done. (And the money issue, if one is a saver, the other a spender, that can be a problem. 2 spenders? and they are in trouble, but together.)

  • To the down voter- because you think that there are actual words that one can speak to this woman to convince her not to do this? And that makes my advice of no value. – user2134 Sep 8 '17 at 14:52
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    +1 for "regardless of the situation, people who are in love aren't going to break it off for the fact a friend tells one of them "it won't work." If you push the issue, you are likely to lose a friend." -- totally right (in spite of OP's most helpful intentions) and that is the core of the matter, which I unknowingly echoed in my own answer here. – English Student Sep 9 '17 at 13:46
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    Thank you. I've been on SE a while now (my home is at Money.SE) and I'm often disappointed to not see a followup, a return visit from an OP letting us know what occurred after the post. In this case, I'd like to know if the marriage went through, if OP stayed friends with the bride, and how the kids were raised. It's amazing when I see an update 5 years later from an OP who benefited from our advice. I wish I saw more. – user2134 Sep 9 '17 at 13:50
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    Very true @JoeTaxpayer -- especially for real world problems such as these (unlike the endless but essentially irrelevant pedantic squabble at English.SE where I come from) -- when we invest a bit of our emotions in these answers its is nice to sometimes be informed how the situation turned out! – English Student Sep 9 '17 at 13:56
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    Should be the accepted aswer, as OP should mind his own business – F. Emin May 7 '18 at 11:03
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I am an Indian and there are many religions here, so I can confidently assure you that there is no easy, comfortable and friendship-saving way to tell somebody that their inter-religious marriage won't work -- and that is simply because a couple that has decided (or is seriously considering) to embark on such a potentially controversial life decision will probably not be much influenced by anybody's well-intentioned questions or arguments.

It is our widespread social experience here that inter-faith marriages carry tremendous stress, but a committed couple will make it work, because their alliance founded on mutual love and affection is often found strong enough to withstand social and family pressures. I have seen many inter-faith couples to be less interested in religion as such, and more interested in each other! Which is a very good basis for any relationship. I suppose this would be true in UK and also other parts of the world.

I can easily understand that you wanted to caution your friend about how tough the road lies ahead, but unpopular advice is also unwelcome, in any aspect of human life, so whenever we try to convince someone to abandon a course of action that they have almost committed to, we run the risk of losing a friend. That doesn't invalidate your advice by any means but it is simply the way of the world and therefore inevitable (in such sensitive matters) that when the advice is rejected, the friendship is also lost.

Now that the event is past, you might only ask yourself whether you should have chosen not to counsel your friend against the marriage. If that would have gone against your sense of integrity, then you have nothing to regret, IMHO.

6

While sometimes we feel the need to express concern over a friend's choice of partner, I strongly disagree with the tone of the question.

Many couples have fundamental disagreements, but there are often more important considerations. Do they make each other happy? Do they love each other? Do they respect each other? Do they support each other? Do they resolve problems maturely? You should be far more concerned with questions like that.

From what I understand of it, Islam explicitly permits marriage between Muslim men and Christian/Jewish women. Although not the other way around. So where do you get this idea from, exactly?

A guide was published in 2012 by the Christian-Muslim forum about mixed marriages, in order to clarify basic questions. According to 2001 census data there were at least 21,000 mixed faith marriages in the UK.

The document, called When Two Faiths Meet, is the product of months of painstaking negotiations between Christian and Muslim leaders and emphasises the need for tolerance and acceptance of mixed-faith marriages.

Among the recommendations are speaking out against forced conversions, recognising the legality of inter-faith marriages in British law, non-judgemental pastoral care and a complete rejection of any violence.

"It might sound a little like we are stating the obvious but it does need to be said," Sheikh Ibrahim told The Independent. "In reality Christian and Muslim couples often face very challenging scenarios where there is not enough tolerance or the right pastoral care and that can lead to a very damaging and negative experience for them."

The first thing you should have done is to try and help. This does not mean telling them they can't have a relationship - as there is neither legal nor theological justification for this. It means trying to find something which can help them overcome the obstacles you think will be a problem.

You were right to initiate this with questions, but you then needed to follow this up with saying something like... "I was wondering about this, and found X. I thought it was a very interesting read, and thought you may find it helpful."

Then the ball is in her court, you've tried to be helpful. She will decide whether your concern was warranted, and whether your advise was any good. If you badger her about it any more all you are doing is interfering.

As an aside, Jim Al-Khalili was born of a marriage between a Shia Iraqi father and Protestant English mother, and he turned into an atheist professor of physics... so perhaps we need more interfaith marriages to make more physicists?

4

First off @Beofett's suggestions of 'I language' is really good and I think you should definitely give that a try.

Background:
I've also had many long faith based discussions with people of many different religions, and have studied Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as part of my undergraduate degree (only my minor, and primarily from a historical perspective). I also have family who are Christians and an aunt who was a Muslim for more than 20 years before leaving Yemen/ Islam.

Suggestion:
I think you are correct in trying to help your friend and that your concerns are warranted. One of the worst things people can do for their friends and family who they think are about to make a mistake is to tell them to go for it, and not to give them as much information as possible.

Marriage is not about how in love you are, and love is not a good indicator of how successful a marriage will be. I think one of the most important things for a marriage to be successful is a shared value system. Religion is a good indicator of individual values, as it serves as value/ morality frame work.

As you say you have had many inter-faith discussions, I think you have probably stumbled upon some of the moral/value system differences that are not only different between Christianity and Islam, but at odds with one another. These are things that people may be able to absorb as a society, but in a close relationship, such as marriage, they will cause problems. I'm sure you have had conversations where you boil down to the moral root different pieces of Christian and Islamic texts, I think the best option you have is to continue your inter-faith discussions and try to point out some of the fundamental value differences between the religions (i.e the 'guilt' vs 'shame' centers). There are a lot of resources online that should allow you to find core elements that are at odds (you already mentioned the 'trinity' aspect of Christianity), you could also discuss things like 'an eye for an eye' as a Christian meaning vs a Muslim meaning (if you decide to go this route and would like some URLs or more examples please let me know, but I think you might be able to handle this on your own).

Another important thing you mention is this:

She replied that "they will believe in Trinity - though he doesn't agree with me here and says its polytheism"

This is deeply troubling because it shows that it is important for her children to believe in the Trinity, but shows that he disagrees. You should ask her why she believes they will believe this if best case they are told two contradicting theological ideas (meaning her belief in the Trinity, vs his belief that the Trinity is polytheistic) and worst case one of them will 'win' who gets to teach their children their religious beliefs meaning that the other will be repressed. If the second case is what happens (as this is a real possibility) ask her what she would do if she lost that.

I actually have a question to wrap this up. Is the person she is planning on marrying from the UK as well/ are they planning on living in the UK?

Hope that helps.

  • Love is not a good indicator of how successful a marriage will be? I respect your opinion but this sounded a bit extreme. – Tycho's Nose Sep 9 '17 at 10:52
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    Sorry should have clarified, love alone is not a good indicator as that 'pink lens' love changes. – user5349 Sep 9 '17 at 16:06
3

First the good part -- You cared enough about her that you were willing to sacrifice the friendship in order to help prevent her from making a terrible mistake. Good for you. I think that if someone is a really good friend, they should be willing to make that sacrifice.

Now the bad part -- When you said "I suggested her to revise her decision to marry a Muslim as it's not going to work...." what you did was put her into a position where she felt that she had to choose between you and her boyfriend, and she chose her boyfriend. The downside to this is that you lost the friendship and also lost your ability to try to influence her. The difficulty with your suggestion is that it's the most dramatic possible solution to the problem.

What you should have done was to simply stick with the theme that you mentioned about religious decisions and suggested that it would be much better to work this issue out prior to the marriage. You could just have stuck with this theme and other related themes. As long as you didn't get too pushy she would probably have allowed you to present that point of view to her. You might have been able to discuss this with her on many occasions. She might have come to accept that, and then when she discussed this with her boyfriend enough times, she might have eventually come to the conclusion that she shouldn't marry him. In order for this to have been successful, the idea that she shouldn't marry him should have been first spoken by her and not by you.

1

Like someone else has pointed out, a muslim married a non-muslim and their child was an atheist.

You don't really control on what religion the child chooses at the end of your day, Michael Bisping a UFC fighter said it best. He's an atheist but he won't preach that to his children, they are free to choose whatever religion they want. I think that's the approach those two could easily take.

While the chance of a deadlock happening could be high, depending on how stern her boyfriend is on the beliefs, as JoeTaxpayer stated: "The simple answer is "you don't." Regardless of the situation, people who are in love aren't going to break it off for the fact a friend tells one of them "it won't work." If you push the issue, you are likely to lose a friend."

No matter how you put it, she would most likely not listen to your advice. The parents probably pressed the same issue you have regarding religion, etc... and you know the outcome.

In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way to approach this as long as you don't push the issue. You were concerned about your friend and tried to warn her but at the end of the day its for that couple to figure it out.

1

Engagement counseling

Churches and other organizations provide "engagement encounter" sessions where an engaged couple can be walked through the inter-faith issue and many other marital issues in a structured way with a skilled counselor. They cover money, lifestyle, children, and other topics vital to a successful marriage. This can be helpful to any couple, to identify any compatibility problems and work through them ahead of time.

What could have been the better way of recommending the same thing if you were in my place?

I would have suggested such counseling. I would have framed it as helpful to any couple starting a life together.

No need to mention your concern over the interfaith issue at all. Leave it to an experienced professional to help them think through the implications.

protected by Community Sep 10 '17 at 3:31

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