For newly married couples things seem all rosy and blissful. During this time, usually referred to as the ‘honeymoon stage’, certain crucial issues can easily go unnoticed, such as one’s religious faith.
These differences could stem from something as simple as what food to eat for dinner, what movies to watch or how to press a toothpaste tube.
If the couple is not compromising, such differences can lead to arguments and if not checked, they can spiral out of control and unearth other deeper issues such as differences in religious beliefs.
Father Emmanuel Malipa of Mangochi Diocese of the Catholic Church, thinks it is natural for couples to be drawn to their old faith in which they grew up.
“Often this results from petty quarrels or when one’s true characters start emerging. This is why, as a church, we often advise our faithful to marry within the church because such differences are quite rare when couples share the same beliefs and religious traditions,” says Malipa.
He, however, says couples that belong to different faiths should not have problems if they understand the concept that a husband has a spiritual leadership role as demanded by the Bible.
“It is unbecoming for a wife to go against her husband’s religious belief. Whether this is done passively or aggressively, it is not allowed. But this does not mean that the man has to completely ignore the wife’s preferences.
“Again, if the wife feels that the man is leading her into suspicious religious practices, she has a spiritual right to refuse to take part because her priority allegiance has to be to the Creator,” says Malipa.
He categorically endorses that God abhors misunderstandings about church preferences and would not want such issues to break up marriages.
Malipa further says he would not encourage couples facing this challenge to stop going to church because God in Hebrews 10:25 tells Christians not to abandon fellowship.
He says most of these issues emanate from poor conflict management and excess [emotional] baggage.
“But if couples become level-headed and accommodative of each other’s faiths, God will provide a solution. The bottom line is that the religious institutions you attend should offer spiritual growth.
“It is also good to have unselfish love and always aim to serve the needs of your spouse and Jesus Christ will show you the right way to do this. It is sad that such troubles affect innocent children,” he observes.
However, Blantyre-based Islamic scholar and writer Abdullah Mdala says Islam encourages their faithful to marry within the Islamic faith so that the family foundation is built on a solid rock.
“When you follow this, you make life easy because you all are able to adhere to Islamic doctrines. There is no need to teach your spouse the doctrines. It is also good for the children born from that family because they will not be confused even if their parents part ways,” Mdala says.
He feels this also applies to other religions.
However, he says it is not haram (forbidden) to convert somebody into Islam. It is actually encouraged, but it is better and more powerful to marry someone of the same faith,” he explains.
Mdala concludes with four marriage guiding principles of Islam.
“Prophet Muhammad tells every man to marry a fellow Moslem and that the woman must be beautiful, virtuous and from a family that you know well. This means that when you are marrying, you have to know the family of the woman so that you don’t marry a ‘rubbish pit’. By that the Prophet meant that a man shouldn’t marry street women because they are like a rubbish pit in which everyone throws dirt and filth,” explains Mdala.