Yet all wrestled with the same concerns: different religious understandings of marriage (sacrament versus sacred contract, divine versus human institution), greater family involvement in mate selection and marriage, Islam’s proscription of dating, potential legal problems in countries with sharia (Islamic law) in force, greater cultural differences (and more difficulty distinguishing the religious from the cultural).While addressing these topics with Christian and Muslim experts was necessary, couples agreed that one of the best aspects of the weekend was the chance to discuss their concerns with others in the same situation.
Compromise is more complicated in the other direction, for a Muslim cannot agree to pray in the name of Jesus, or even to “God the Father.”It’s not just the language of prayer that can be tricky, but postures too.One Lutheran-Muslim couple said that they did not pray salat (ritual prayer that includes specific movements) together because doing so may be considered a credal affirmation of Islam.Some couples tried to find a common language that would allow them to pray together.This is often accomplished by the Christian agreeing to adopt Islam-friendly language in prayer—which is not difficult, since Christians and Muslims believe in the same God and both call God merciful, just, compassionate and omnipotent.Some fears: baptism of their children (Muslim men), moving to a foreign country indefinitely (Christian women); giving up the faith (Muslim women), being rejected by the husband’s family (Christian women).
In their lists of shalls and shall nots, the overwhelming response of the participants, no matter the religion, was: “I will maintain my religious and cultural identity; I will not convert.” One couple admitted that before they got married, each fantasized about what it would be like for the other to convert.
(The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism has just published an exellent document, Pastoral Guidelines for Muslim-Christian Marriages.)The dearth of resources, combined with the reluctance of many imams and pastors even to broach the subject, has left Christian-Muslim couples at a loss.
To whom can they turn for advice about the unique issues they face?
But there are practically no pastoral resources for Christian-Muslim couples in the United States, despite the fact that according to many estimates, there are now more Muslims in this country than Jews.
The few print resources available to pastors and couples are either outdated or written for a non-American context.
A study by Creighton University’s Center for Marriage and Family in 1999 indicates that today roughly 40 percent of all Catholics marry non-Catholics.