Bismillah Rahman ar-Raheem
Your Culture is what you do and think without thinking about it. Those unspoken things you have learned from your parents, family group, and the wider society you have grown up in.
If you had asked me about what my Culture was in my early twenties, I would have been able to tell you a little bit about it, but I can go into much more detail now.
The point is your Culture is mostly something you are unaware of. Culture can lead you to do great wrongs, but it can be harmless and lead to great good too. Culture is specific, related to the environment, the family, the society. When a person finds themselves in a new alien environment, our Culture can render us completely helpless.
Only when you live in a Culture, and a society glaringly at odds to your own Culture do you really begin to fathom what your own Culture is. Suddenly it rears its head at any given moment.
You suddenly realise children are in fits of giggles. You have done something strange.
You are telling a story to someone about something that has happened, and you realise the listeners reaction to the story is not what you were expecting.
In our home, I am a housewife and my husband and I have taken a good few years to adjust to each other.
In our first week of marriage I was eager to impress and please. One afternoon my husband wanted something nice to eat quickly (Bedouin people are either extremely patient, extremely impatient or both in extreme measures depending on the situation). I decided I would cook a lovely fried egg. All lovely yellow yolk, nice to dip bread in. Some salt sprinkled on, with a side salad. I brought it to him with a flourish. All happy and pleased with myself – I had ticked three boxes: quick, tasty, and using ingredients we already had so not requiring him to go to the shop first (lucky me I don’t have to do that job anymore : D).
Think again! It was the first time my husband had ever seen a fried egg with a runny yoke. His surprise, shock and disgust shot me down.
In retrospect of course it is obvious. Hot environment – in order to not get sick, it is best to thoroughly cook eggs. Usually they boil them for 10 minutes or more, and only use them otherwise as scrambled eggs (with onion) or in a tomato sauce (strange for me that one, but very tasty all the same).
We found ourselves looking at a stranger across the room, over the smallest things, striking us down at any minute. We differed on EVERYTHING: How to wash, how to cook, what tastes nice, what doesn’t, how to sit, where to sleep, how to do any given household task, what is important, what is not important, what is good, what is bad.
When you marry someone from a different Culture, there is nothing which does not arise as an opportunity for conflict. If shaytaan loves to divide a man and wife, then for a surety in a mixed/ inter-racial marriage the ground is fertile for him to exploit.
Al-hamduliliah with a lot of patience and tolerance on both sides, these surprises and differences don’t really happen any more. When they do, they cause little harm and generally we see the funny side.
However, we cannot pat ourselves on the back for this state of tranquility. We thank Allah (swt) for this blessing because I understand without Allah’s blessing and our common belief in Islam, we would have faltered and given up on each other long before now. So how did our Religion help us overcome our differences?
Islam is not for my husbands Culture, or for mine. Allah (swt) does not side with one of us, and not the other.
The Religion of God (swt) is for ALL of mankind.
When we differ the first thing we ask is: What does our Religion say on this matter? We research the issue in the Quran, Sunnah, hadith and what has been said by the scholars on the given issue. Once we know what that is, because we are both Muslims we happily accept the position, or ruling of Islam.
In this way we have a neutral and sound means to judge our every disagreement, dispute and all the little annoyances that arise between us.
When my son was born it was important to me to nurse him. This was important to my husband too so I did so. In the Quran Allah (swt) states that the best possible period of time is two years. If the woman is able to she should do this. If she is unable to because of problems with it (not enough milk etc), there is no blame on her, and Allah (swt) knows best what is in her heart and intention.
I then became pregnant with our second son when our first son was still only 11 months old. The nursing son was still extremely attached to nursing, and I knew trying to wean him then would be very traumatic for him. Also I wanted to nurse him until he was 2 yrs for the sake of Allah (swt). I myself had been nursed until 3 yrs (my poor mother). I did some research on the internet on the health risks (and if there are any) of nursing through pregnancy and on tandem nursing . I decided to Nurse through my pregnancy and then establish tandem nursing, Insha’Allah.
As time went by it became apparent to other members of the family that I was pregnant and still nursing our youngest son. It turns out that in Bedouin Culture women NEVER breastfeed through pregnancy. This probably exists in the Culture due to the harsh environment: limited nutrients, water (nursing mothers need to drink a lot), and multiple pregnancies meant that it would have put too much pressure on the body of woman.
They believe it is harmful to the nursing child.
I was then put under a lot of pressure from the family to wean our youngest son. I didn’t stop and then my husband was put under a lot of pressure. This was difficult for him because he always listens to and respects what the older people in the family say (me from my Western background finds it easier to say “thank you for your advice but I differ”).
How did we resolve this issue? Well Al-hamduliliah my husband fully supported me on it, because in the Quran Allah (swt) says that 2 years is the optimum period. We researched the Hadith and we could not find anything stating a woman should not nurse when pregnant. Then the question becomes is it physically harmful to anyone involved? Then we understand Islam would be against it, because we must do our best to live a healthy lifestyle for us and our children. The most up-to-date medical research as far as we can see states that there is no or little risk for the fetus or baby nursing. There is some risk to the mother in terms of depleting her nutrients etc and she must take care to get enough calories, nutrients and liquid.
On this occasion we were able to talk to the people about this too, and while they did not 100% drop it, for the most part I was left to carry on without too much difficulty.
While people here are honest in expressing disapproval or a difference, I also have to say that I am never made to feel unwelcome or unloved because of our differences. We negotiate this path with our Religion, and Islam teaches us to tolerate each other, and when we need to change something we are doing which is purely learnt from a tradition – our Culture.
Tolerance is something which is essential to any marriage. Without out it you are scuppered without a paddle.
Your spouse is the person which you will know most about. Their darkness and their light. They will hurt you, and you will hurt them. Only in tolerance of each others weaknesses, and with a fair and neutral way to negotiate your disputes will you find tranquility.
Subhana Allah (glory to God) the world is a wonderful, fantastical place.