Saudi Arabia: Letters of Spousal Introduction

I will never forget when Abdullah asked for contact numbers for my family to introduce himself to them.  He was always good at looking ahead as well as putting himself in the footsteps and mindsets of others.  He recognized the concerns, fears and curiosity they would likely have in him even though they also had complete confidence and faith in how I made life decisions.  But to Abdullah, it was important and a natural trait in him to do things properly, including reaching out to his future American family.

We chose to marry prior to either of us having met the others parents.  I remembered how nervous I was too when I thought of Abdullah’s family and especially his mother.  Would she reject me outright for not just being an American but a woman her son chose without any input from her?  Without her having met first and approved?  Abdullah always told me not to worry.  This actually was what I had also always said to him when he asked about my own family and their reaction that I had chosen a Saudi as a life partner.

Both of us certainly learned to listen to the other after our “Meeting the Family” experiences.  The moment he called and introduced himself to my family and assured them of his sincere and honorable intentions, he won them over.  How many American men these days do something similar?  Actually, probably more men than one may be aware for chivalry is not yet lost!

But, what about me?  At the time, I did not speak Arabic and I wanted Abdullah’s family, especially his mother, to know ME before we met.  Abdullah paved the way.  I wrote letters of introduction and about myself which he translated.  Equally important, when he visited Saudi Arabia prior to issuance of my own visa, he and his mom called me.  With Abdullah as translator, his mom and I had an enjoyable conversation which allowed us to hear one another’s voice, laughter and begin to know one another.

It is up to a couple to determine how they will introduce each other to family when distance is a factor.  Abdullah chose the direct route to call my family independently (he was living in Pakistan and I in India at the time).  He spoke and understood English fluently so it was natural for him to pick up the phone and call.  Since I could not do that myself with the then language barrier, I wrote a carefully worded letter from the heart.

When writing a letter to a Saudi and you are not yet known, the words should be chosen very carefully taking the culture and traditions into consideration.  I wanted my mother-in-law to know what a treasure her son was and how much I and my family valued his sense of honor, ethics and of family.  I shared with her that my family was the same and how he won their hearts.  I thanked her for the gift she gave to the world in giving birth to Abdullah and raising him as a selfless man.  I promised her I would take care of and cherish Abdullah all of my life and was eager to meet the woman he called Mom.

By the time I finally met “Mama Moudy” face-to-face I felt like I had always known her.  She was exactly how I envisioned Abdullah’s mother to be.  She had the same expressive and sensitive brown eyes which always had the same sparkle and zest for life as her son, my beloved husband.

 

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37 Responses

  1. A proper and appropriate method of setlling marriage. May allah bless the Couple and keep them happy and on the righteous path alway and give them pious progeny .

  2. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. May Allah bless you always. And may He grant Abdullah the highest level of jannah. Ameen.

  3. Dear,

    Please keep witing more about your life stories with Abdullah but I cant control my tears when I read them. Truly you were made for each other and you both are so lucky to have mama Moudy. Keep updating us about life with Abdullah as its inspiring and may teach us how to care our families. We are really ignorant and we really dont know how much respect, care and love they all deserve as you rightly explained in your story.

    Take care dear

  4. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. I am sorry, I am just not getting it. My father would never permit a man to ask him for my hand, and would most likely discourage me from marrying a man who thought such a thing is appropriate. My father views my hand as being mine to do with as I please, so that no man has any right to ask anyone except me for my hand. And I agree with him 500%.

    Now, my father isn’t even a believer, so he thinks this way on humanistic grounds. I believe in God and view it in religious terms: I am not anyone’s property except God’s, and if I marry, I will still be no one’s property except God’s. And I view it as trashing the Almighty Himself to take any other view.

  5. My understanding of “asking for the hand” is that we are all children of God and were entrusted to our earthly father when we were born. The groom will ask for the daughter’s hand in recognition that he will also take care of her as a precious child of God.

  6. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Umm… Let’s see. When the child becomes an adult, they are no longer their parents’ responsibility. And no one who is still their parents’ responsibility should get married. But be that as it may. Why doesn’t the bride ask the groom’s parents – why should it be only the dad? – for his hand? I guess I just wouldn’t feel valued if my boyfriend tried to ask my dad for my hand. I’d probably consider it cause for a very serious talk and possibly a breakup.

  7. PS Really my take on the matter is… if I’m a child of God, then if my groom is going to ask anyone besides me for my hand, it should be God.

  8. v sweet carol.

    @Caraboska -your stand makes sense inthat you are your own person. and don’t need anyone’s approval. I agree however
    my husband had the chat with my dad just as i had the chat with his uncle. Where we come from that is important .

    Having said that i would be honored and thrilled and so happy if my daughters choice of mate came and spoke to us , likewise i’ve told my son when the time comes and he picks his bride he will have to meet her father and show him he cares about his daughter.

    I think it sets the stage for a good start, or maybe i’m just old fashioned 🙂

  9. Radha

    Praise the Lord. I guess what I am not getting here is where people get the idea it’s OK to get married if they aren’t already ‘their own person’. It seems to me that if a person hasn’t gotten to that point yet, then they just plain aren’t mature enough to marry. And if they are ‘their own person’, then why have someone ask for one’s hand?

    That having been said, a good child will voluntarily introduce their intended if possible. It does seem the respectful thing to do, unless one’s parents are just really… I don’t know, morally off the wall or something. I’ve even done this a couple of times myself. And it was a major undertaking, as it involved having my parents come to visit me here in Europe, since I live in a country whose citizens have a difficult time getting a visa to the States. But the key word here is: *voluntarily*…

  10. Basically, the entire families are involved over in this part of the world in the engagement/marriage process. Why? Well, because it’s the cultural thing to do much like in the Latin and Spanish and Italian communities in the West. The families are together quite a bit, so it’s important to at least make an effort to include everyone in the process. My husband came and met my parents and asked my father for permission first. I think that this shows strong character on his part.

    And, in my opinion, it’s not a matter of being voluntary or not. It’s basically a man saying that he is interested in that family’s daughter and he’s not just playing around. He’s basically saying that he is there for her best interests.

    The men that the future ‘groom’ brings to the ‘engagement’ should be the ones that will support and honor the commitment of the couple together in the event of any future problems.

  11. Radha,

    There can be short or long engagements just like ‘long dating periods’ in the West.

  12. @ Carol,
    I’d be very careful of writing letters to the parents of your spouse. If there is a jealous son or daughter around, they may read or alter your ‘loving’ words differently than you intended.

    Best thing is to pick up the phone. : )

  13. Riding the Wave,

    Praise the Lord. I would still be offended if my gentleman friend tried to ask my father for my hand. I would view it as infantilizing me. Am I not able to look out for my own best interests? There is a reason I am 46 years old and still unmarried. It’s because I have been carefully looking out for my own best interests 😛 And I would view asking my father for my hand as a sign that he plans to infantilize me and make my decisions for me when we get married. And that still sounds like a good reason to break up with him.

    My idea of showing that you are serious is, after you have spent enough time together for the other person to know everything they can know about you without actually living together, you sit the person down and tell them all the stuff they have a right to know about but will only find out if you tell them voluntarily. The really bad stuff. You tell them you realize that they will not be happy to hear any of what you are saying, and by the time you’re finished, the only way they will still consider you is if by some miracle they are so interested in having an honest spouse who would actually volunteer this information that they are willing to overlook the inconveniences.

    I not only expect that of a man, I’ve even been known to do it myself. For if I think a proposal needs to happen, I do not wait for the man to do it. There are those who think that I shouldn’t do that, because I might ‘scare’ the guy. And my reply is that if a guy can’t handle being proposed to, then I just plain am not interested.

  14. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Shocking as it may be – and indeed, it would never even cross my mind to engage in this kind of behavior (Opening your parents’ mail? Reading it without permission? Defacing your parents’ mail? Being anything but happy for your sibling? Absolutely scandalous!) – I have to say that is a good point RidingtheWave makes about safeguarding one’s confidentiality by using the phone…

  15. It doesn’t sound like Abdullah was asking for anything but rather showing respect for Carol and her family.

    We would have appreciated being shown that same respect when my daughter got married but, no, we just had to find out that she was married weeks AFTER the fact without having ANY clue who this person that was joining family was or what his intentions were. When you know what the protocol is in his culture and yet he doesn’t even make an attempt to meet us when we live in the same city it just seems a bit suspect eh? It isn’t up to us, the parents, to make decisions for our adult daughter so of course we would not or could not have stopped it or anything but it certainly did not do anything to gain our respect, that’s for sure.

  16. Abdullah wanted his relationship with future in-laws to get off on the right foot!

    RTW makes an interesting point but again, not everyone may have the language facilities at the time to pick up the phone and especially for an introductory call.

    Caraboska, I do understand your point. We just see the tradition through different eyes. (smile)

  17. caraboska: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”.

    Just curious, Caraboska. You start all your posts with: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

    Is that the translation of Bismillah …. ????

  18. Praise the Lord

    Harry

    ‘Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem’ means ‘In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’. Bismillah itself means ‘in the name of God’. Indeed, some time ago I felt led to begin posts, correspondence etc. with some short remembrance of God, and I used to start posts with either the Arabic version or a direct translation thereof. It seemed to me at the time to be a suitably inclusive form. The problem is that many Muslims do not view it that way and there were a lot of objections to my using that particular formulation, since I am a Christian.

    So I was obliged to find some other form, and I settled upon ‘Praise the Lord’ as a rough equivalent of ‘Bismillah’ and ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ as a rough equivalent of ‘Subhanallah’ (which actually means something like ‘God is perfect’ and is used in situations where either something less than ideal from a human viewpoint is taking or has taken place
    (the idea being that this imperfection points up the fact that only God is perfect) or else something so unbelievable that you would never have thought it could happen is taking or has taken place (the point being that only God could have ‘arranged’ for such a thing to happen)).

    In every day speech, I actually do say Subhanallah even among non-Muslims who don’t know Arabic, because sometimes you just don’t have time to say ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’. To those who see me on an everyday basis, I simply explain it. So now when I say Subhanallah in situations where something less than ideal has happened, there are people in my life who view it as amusing – that I’m managing to convey that I find the situation less than ideal, and at the same time praising the Lord.

  19. Praise the Lord

    Lynn

    Ah yes, I recall your situation. And I definitely do not agree with that kind of behavior – secretly getting hitched and allowing one’s family to find out by chance weeks later. My difference with the traditional view is that I would understand it to have been *your daughter’s* responsibility to ensure that you guys met her intended before she married him. And that if she felt you would not approve of her choice, well, it was her responsibility to present her reasoning as to why she thought this was the right choice. She definitely defaulted on that responsibility and, from my viewpoint, was therefore not ready to be married.

    The only exception I can see to that is a situation where a family are trying to force their choice of man on a girl, and their choice is a man who perhaps has social status and wealth and family connections, but is not godly – but she wants and has found a godly man to marry. I can see then presenting them with a fait accompli – perhaps after having fled the country, if the situation is such that her parents could act to have the marriage invalidated. But it should still be done immediately after the marriage, the minute it is safe to do so. Which if her family is the type to try to kill her might mean never.

    Now, your daughter’s situation was a little different. I vaguely recall details suggesting that she may have been thinking she could end up with problems if her marriage became publicly known. So if she was really convinced of the rightness of her actions and was concerned you might try to prevent it from happening, at very most she ought to have moved with her husband to a place where the problems in question would be a non-issue, and then informed you immediately. It was irresponsible of her to do otherwise and I do not envy you in the least having gone through such an experience.

    That having been said, it sounds to me like her husband was also defaulting on his responsibility, in that he would have had to fulfill the necessary formalities for her to move with him to, for example, his home country. And it sounds like he did anything but that. And I am worried that your daughter was willing to put up with that. I wonder if he wasn’t trying to keep her presence in his life a secret from the rest of his family. I’m worried that she was willing to put up with that too.

    And it’s a shame that you guys did not have a chance to speak to her about this beforehand. Now she will have to take responsibility for her actions – i.e. live with the consequences – whether she likes it or not. And hopefully she is sensible enough to realize that she can no longer legitimately come home crying to mommy and daddy if something goes wrong, expecting you guys to fix it and make it better. She’s got to deal with it herself.

  20. So many different views, yet all valid.

    “hopefully she is sensible enough to realize that she can no longer legitimately come home crying to mommy and daddy if something goes wrong, ”
    — I hope this is not true , i don’t know lynn but if my daughter were to get married unwisely and distance me and get in trouble, i sure hope to go she will come ot us with her troubles and no one else, parents hold nogrudges, i’m sure if lynns daughter regrets her decision she will be welcomed with open arms.. forgiveness and acceptance is a big part of trust.

  21. Praise the Lord

    Radha

    I’m not even talking about forgiveness. The point is that the adult thing to do is take care of one’s own problems instead of running to mommy and daddy 😀

  22. Caraboska, My daughter’s marriage WAS publicly known, it was just her family that was excluded. I don’t worry too much about her being taken away to live in another country considering that her husband is looking for US citizenship so he can bring his family here too.

    We were not left out because there was anything we could have done to stop the marriage. She was an adult and legally she can do whatever she wants. We were left out because we had been cut out of her life because we are non-Muslim. She was immature and we expect immature people to do things like that but she had mature adults that made the arrangements with her and those are the ones that I have the most disgust for. I think that if her husband was mature enough to get married he should have been mature and respectable enough to present himself and his intentions to her family and be man enough to deal with whatever came. It bothered me the most because I know that there is NO way that anyone in their circle would have accepted the same behavior if we had been Muslim or Pakistani. I see that as highly hypocritical.

  23. My daughter does not come running to me with her problems. She has spent her life trying to prove that she doesn’t need us. Seriously, she was upset that I didn’t let her walk to school alone when she was in kindergarten. I had to walk weeeelll behind her. LOL But there is no way that she can’t know that we will always love her and be here for her. She for sure knows we’d take that man cub.

  24. lynn
    interesting story of your daughter from what i’ve read so far. is she married to a saudi? i guess what caught me on this is that you portray her as independent from childhood, yet does she act so independent and stubborn with her islamic husband or more subservient…just courious.

  25. sp>curious….sheesh

  26. Gia, she is married to a Pakistani that is just a couple years older than her. I am not a part of their daily lives so I can’t really say whether she is stubborn with him. As an extremist, she seems to be ‘by the book’. She does not feel that it is her responsibility to contribute to the household income or to cook or clean! LOLOLOL He made mention of some personality quirk of hers (I honestly can’t remember what it was) and I just laughed at him and told him That’s what you get for not talking to US first!

  27. how heart wrenching to hear this. i guess if she is happy, so be it. i just don’t get the extreme thinking that some girls adopt to. i hope she relaxes her mind, so to speak, for you. my mom is not muslim, but i would never not talk to her because of religion…maybe something else that mom/daughters get into it about hehe. but not that. my mom is a free thinker any religion goes person. i hope for you all to be closer to each other soon.

  28. gia it’s the salafi thing. As her parents are kuffar, destined for hellfire, they are not worthy of respect, not worthy of her intended husbands visit.
    It’s a very nasty mindset. The way I see it her daughter was roped in by a sect. And the first action of a sect is to sever the bonds between families and friends so they can brainwash her better.
    Salafi Muslims are too special and superior to be bothered by common courtesies and decencies when it comes to dealing with the kuffar.

  29. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord

    Lynn

    Hmm… I thought the problem was that your daughter was in some polygamous situation that could jeopardize her hubby’s visa status if it became known, etc. – in which case you sure could have done something to prevent it if you’d known in advance, namely call the police. Guess I remembered wrong. Three points for you for your reply about your daughter’s personality quirk 😛

    When I was talking about ‘coming running to mommy and daddy’, I was talking about some situation where she’s gotten a good deal more than she bargained for and has to, I don’t know, flee her home in secret in the middle of the night in order to ensure her personal safety or something. God willing that will never happen.

  30. Caraboska – I also like the salutations “Blessings”

  31. Ok from now on I will start all my comments with this one:
    Let all worship the Great Goddess, She from whom all life springs

    Lynn, I remember that actually, you wrote about it, but I can’t remember exactly what personality quirk it was…

  32. Aafke, it was probably something about her stubborness or her bossiness. Mwah ha ha! I bet she didn’t list those traits on her marriage application. LOL

  33. I am happy to say that her husband has redeemed himself a bit since my son’s funeral. He was very good and seemed supportive of my daughter when my son was dying and throughout the funeral with all the big family gatherings and all (first time meeting most of them). So we do have some hope that they are coming around a bit., They have actually allowed us to babysit even though she had told us that she NEVER would. Darn, that reminds me, I’m supposed to be indoctrinating him against the whole 4 wives thing! lol

  34. Praise the Lord!

    Lynn

    Very happy to hear that progress is happening with your daughter and son-in-law. May it continue! The babysitting thing sounds very substantive indeed.

    Blessings 🙂

  35. There is nothing as precious as babysitting and spending time with grandbabies! Enjoy every moment, Lynn!!

  36. lynn
    oh, if she and he let you babysit….i think your in like flem…lol

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