Beyond this, as my mother points out, the biggest sore point in our relationship after becoming Muslim was my decision to marry. I believe marriage is the hardest issue every person who converts to Islam out of a desire for the Truth confronts and, having spoken to quite a few of them, it seems we all make similar mistakes and face the same struggles in ourselves and with our families. I knew from early on in my adherence to Islam that this would be a major issue; when or if it would eventually arise. The Islamic method of introduction for marriage, at least as we understand it, is of course inimical to what is practised in Western Europe. With the historical exception of the aristocracy, this way of doing things is unheard of in these lands. Culturally, therefore, my decision to approach marriage in a manner in accordance with my religion came as a huge shock to my family; a shock which I do understand, despite the protestations that I clearly didn’t.
In late April during a waiting period between the end of a temporary job and my starting full time, I met a friend locally, with whom I discussed many things. Amongst them I expressed my desire to find a companion with whom to spend the rest of my life, just like any sane person does. Although I did not know that he would be able to help me personally, I did know that he was quite well connected in the local community, so I asked him if he knew of any women who had also converted to Islam, by which I really meant of British stock. I had felt some time earlier that as an English Muslim, someone of a similar background would best compliment me. As it happened, that was not to be, but as two converts we find that our bonding culture is in fact our religion, while our two superficially different national cultures strike us as being more like decoration.
Some time later, this friend contacted me to tell me that his wife knew of a convert who was also looking for a soul mate. He asked if I would like to meet her, which naturally I did, and so a meeting was arranged and dinner prepared. I decided to place the matter in the hands of my Creator from the outset and thus prayed a simple but powerful supplication with genuine sincerity. The prayer is known as Al-Istikharah and is used for seeking guidance in choosing a proper course.
…if You know this affair, that I should marry this person, to be good for me in relation to my religion, my life and end, then decree and facilitate it for me and bless me with it…
At that time I placed my trust absolutely with God and relied upon prayer as my guide. It is perhaps for this reason that I accepted this seemingly alien process towards marriage, even as it would be unacceptable to those around me. After a few meetings, having decided that we did like each other, and with me finding that God had not turned the possibility away from me as a later part of that prayer asks for something which is bad, we decided that we would marry in just three months time . . .
In the end, Zeynep and I married on the 4th of August 2001. At first we fell in like, and then, within the luxurious bounds of marriage, we fell in love, with all praise due to our Creator, who promises in the Qur’an that he puts love and mercy between the married couple as a sign for us all to reflect upon. My mother’s comments on the way we set about our marriage reflect my family’s hurt which I recognise and accept; she brackets incorrectly that I had my marriage arranged for me, but I can appreciate that the speed at which events took place prevented a lot of genuine understanding from occurring. Furthermore, greater wisdom and learning on my part could have made things easier for all concerned, but both of these are things which only grow over time.