Q. I'm a woman with a Christian upbringing. I follow the teachings of Christ but do not follow all traditions as I see many of them as constructs that men passed down through the ages.

For the past three years, I've had a relationship with a converted ('reverted?') Muslim man. He has agreed to give me time before marriage as Christianity expects marriage once and emphasizes choosing a good partner. Recently we had a big argument where he expressed his annoyance that I've taken three years (I'm hoping for a little longer) to marry him and brought up the issue of children. Before we started dating, we agreed that he could teach our children Islam, and I would teach them other religions and critical thinking skills. Their choice of religion would be their own. After the argument, he confessed that back then it was a compromise but now he wants to raise our children Islamically, subjecting them to doctrine rather than faith.

I have always been respectful and supportive of my partner's choice in religion though there are many aspects of the Qur'an that I don't agree with and especially a lot of the hadiths. He would identify himself as a Salafi (despite dating to begin with) and was converted within the more orthodox sects of Islam. While this is his choice, I feel sick to know that he would teach my children that murder of an adulterer or an apostate is okay because Allah ordained it, especially as Christian teaching encourages forgiveness, love, and support of people within these groups.

My partner is a very kind and loving man. I've brought up with him real situations where he would have to hurt his loved ones to enforce this Shari'a and I can see the idea hurts him, but he refuses to turn away from what he believes God has ordained. His knowledge of the Qur'an is shaky at best and most understanding comes from his local imam and an older woman who facilitated his conversion. It seems to be hardening his heart but I'm not sure if this is true Islam or the doctrine of man.

I completely adore this man and I love him more than anything but I can't as a responsible person have children with someone who would raise them with morals fit for the stone age. Is the old Arabian understanding and doctrine the right Islam or is there an argument for a modern understanding based on core teachings?

A. It is very painful to respond to letters such as yours because sometimes we have to utter what we perceive as the truth, and which may conflict with certain interpretations of Islam. You mention, for example, that the murder of an adulterer or apostate is ordained by God: we do not find that in the Qur'an, but rather in the Hebrew Bible and hadith. That many Muslims have chosen to follow these edicts that are foreign to the Qur'an, as well as flout the idea of freedom of religion, are items that indicate their improper grasp of the philosophy of Islam. Even the term "revert" that your partner uses is problematic, for that comes not from the Qur'an, but from tradition that, upon scrutiny, is extremely unfounded. That his beliefs are governed by two people indicate a cult mentality more than genuine spirituality. When the Qur'an ordained that interfaith marriage was okay, it left the matter of children unattended to because the idea of freedom of religion is already in the Qur'an. No one can force any person to believe anything, and as such, we have to make that declaration of faith on our own. For this reason, one may surmise, one sees Muslims several times per day in prayer declaring their faith. It is as if there is always the choice to leave.

Islam and Christianity -- indeed ANY religion -- are similar in the idea of reflection. One is not a Christian simply because s/he professes to be such: one has to act in accordance with Christian values. One finds that these values are interpreted differently by people. There is no one "true" Christianity that can be juxtaposed against "false" interpretations. Yet common sense tells us what is spiritual and righteous, and what is hypocritical, pietistic, and against human nature. Likewise in Islam, there is no one "true" Islam and the same rules apply.

You say that you love this man. We cannot interfere in matters of the heart except to suggest with all due respect that you consider carefully and pragmatically what your future would be with such a person. Marriage is an act of commitment from which walking away is not simple, given the divorce rules and regulations. You do need to have a talk with this person, show him our response, and let him know that the idea of "Salafi" is, in our interpretation, a later construct that is against the entire idea of religion. People and times change, and to try to adhere to the interpretations of some supposedly pious generation is to attempt to do the impossible. Their situation was different to the modern one, and they fought and killed each other. Religiosity and spirituality come from a personal search for God, not by adhering to the supposed actions and traditions of fallible humans, especially when we have only hearsay evidence on much of what they supposedly exemplified. Even the Qur'an has a statement that may be of guidance for you here: "It is perhaps that you love something and it is bad for you; perchance you may hate something and it is better for you." May God guide you in doing what is right!

Webmaster’s note: Admittedly many Muslims subscribe to a “stone age” version of Islam, however, there are intellectuals who advocate otherwise.

Posted August 18, 2014