Read the complete questions and answers of the counseling session with Dr. Maryam Bachmeier about the following issues:
- Relationships out of wedlock and their consequences
- Psychological explanation of cross-dressing and its cure
- Getting through Allah’s test of remaining single
- Dealing with an unbelieving spouse
Question 1: My ex left me and got married, miss his friendship
Asalamalakam...How are you? I have a question; I used to be in love with someone. But he was forced to marry his cousin back home in Pakistan. But he lied as well and hid that he was going back home to get married and said he has a family problem. However, I found out he got married and I ended it all, when he came back to America he told me he had to because of his mom and dad they emotionally blackmailed him. He begged me to marry him without his family consent before he went to Pakistan and I said no. Now when he came back he was very disturbed and depressed and even stated that he married the girl but never touched her...then I told him I know you’re depressed and I can be there for you as a friend but nothing more than that. Months passed by and we were only friends, having coffee and talking about his sadness. But he still liked me, but I didn’t because he got married and it’s wrong. Three days ago he begged me to marry him I said no and he said he can’t live here anymore and that he hates it here because of old memories, so he’s going to Pakistan...very confusing is that he hates Pakistan because he didn’t like his wife and never wanted to go there but all of a sudden he went to Pakistan I told him don’t contact me at all because you’re confused and can’t stand for your happiness in front of your family, so he left but told me that he will contact me when he gets there and all, but I think there is attachment of friendship here, I miss him as a friend...please tell me what should I do if he contacts me or tries to reach me. Before he left all he said was he’s sorry and made the decision in hurry and harsh and now he has to leave and got no choice... please tell me what should I do???
Assalam Alaykum Sister,
I cannot understand how you feel about this man by what you are telling me in your post. It sounds as if this man, whom you used to be in love with is currently married to a woman and is living in Pakistan. So, now he is living in Pakistan with his wife, but he doesn’t want to be married to her and he wants to come to the USA to be with you. However, you seem to be reporting that you have no interest in marriage with this man and you want to know if it is ethical to continue a friendship with him.
If you do not have any intention of marriage with this man, then it is not ethical for you to be talking to him at all. This is because he has strong feelings for you and wants more than friendship. To continue a friendship will always be putting hope in his heart for something that you already know you cannot give him, and this is not fair to him.
If, on the other hand, you intend to marry him, then you must encourage him to work something out in a very amicable manner with his current wife. We must be fair to her as none of this is her doing, or her fault, and she can become an innocent victim of this situation if you are not extremely careful to be very kind and fair to her. But again, it sounds to me from the tone of your post that you are not interested in marriage with this man anyway. So, if this is the case, then cut off all communication with him.
Question 2: Husband likes cross-dressing, feel sad and confused
Assalam Alaikum, I have been married for the past 8 years and have a happy married life, except for one issue which I tried finding answers for but never really got one. Soon after our marriage my husband disclosed to me that he likes to cross dress, in female clothing in privacy and almost most of the time he is wearing female undergarments. I was really upset and confused as I had never heard of this in my life, and didn’t know the Islamic perspective for it. He says it’s totally between us and has never even disclosed his passion to do so to his family or best of friends. He says he has tried a lot of times to quit but keep going back to it. In terms of sexuality he is very much straight; we have a healthy relationship with two children. He is really caring and gentle with good akhlaq (manners) and Islamic mannerism, and prays regularly, Alhamdulillah, but I keep thinking over this as I feel maybe it’s a fitnah for us to do so, (just him).Please guide us and help us, please Allah, and be clear about the issue. Jazak Allah Khairan
Assalam Alaykum Sister,
First, let me explain that I am not a scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence, and I am not a Shiekh. I am a clinical psychologist. I cannot advise you about whether or not your husband’s behavior is allowed within the boundaries of Sharia. However, I might be able to shed some light on your situation.
Cross dressing is a common practice of people who have a condition called Gender Identity Confusion. This can occur at any age and we do not know what causes it. This is very different from being gay or lesbian. Usually a gay man knows that he is a male and identifies as a male and a lesbian woman knows that she is a woman and identifies as a woman. These are people who are attracted to same sex relationship. People with gender confusion are confused about their actual gender, and/or are very uncomfortable identifying with the gender that they are biologically.
Some people don’t experience their symptoms of gender confusion until after marriage whereas others might seek out same sex partners. Cross dressing is a common behavior of people who truly desire to be a different sex. If your husband also identifies with traditional female roles and behaviors, this would give strength to this diagnosis. If your husband finds that his desires begin to interfere with his ability to function adequately in his relationships with others, in work and/or other vital area of his life, then it might be helpful for him to seek therapy.
You might want to seek couples counseling as well, and address how this affects your marriage and your family. Also, you might want to seek counseling for yourself to address how your husband’s behavior might be affecting your own sense of well-being.
Your husband sounds like a very kind person who is also a caring father. Counseling will also help you adjust to your situation if you decide you want to continue your marriage.
Question 3: Can’t understand why Allah is doing that to me
Salamu' 'Alaikum respected scholars,
First of all, I'd like to thank you for providing us with this great service of trying to unveil for us the mysteries of being tested by Allah SWT.
Secondly, here's my dilemma; over the past 2 years I've been trying to get married and I've been getting through terrible experiences one after the other. Not to go into a lot of details, I know that you get this question thousands of times per week, but I really don't know what's happening to me or why??? I know I'm being tested very hard but I'm afraid I'm going to lose my faith pretty soon. Every time I get approached by a suitor, something has to happen to break it off. This month and a month ago, I've been approached by two guys from work and for some reason the whole thing was off even before it started but the weird thing about both situations is that they were both my students (I teach English for adults), I gave them my uncle's phone number to go through with the issue; with the 1st guy he went to my uncle's office and met him, but then when my uncle called him back a week later to give him my approval to meet him, he disappeared and never returned his calls!!
With the second guy, he went to see my uncle at his office with his father last week, and this week they called him back to apologize for not going through with the whole thing because they were afraid of my brother's situation (my uncle told them that my brother is suffering from down syndrome) but they got it as something really bad that might affect the future of "having abnormal kids" as they put it!!! I was even surprised that people are thinking like that, educated people!!!
The more weird thing about both these situations is that before each guy approached me, I secretly had a feeling that they were going to ask my hand in marriage and also hoped for that to happen, but both ended in rejection.
All I keep asking myself now is why God is doing this to me? What kind of message is He trying to send me? For how long am I going to get rejected for doing the right thing? All girls around me keep getting married and I'm the only freak in the family circle...
I never thought that I'd reach to this point in my life where I had to lose faith in myself, for sure when Allah takes something away from us, it means that something bad was going to come of it, but now I'm thinking maybe Allah takes them away because I'm a bad person.
I really don't know what to do, but I've decided not to accept any marriage proposals again especially after this last incident that left me paralyzed. I know that I'm writing to ask for an explanation that you might not provide but I just have nowhere else to go or no one to speak my mind to!
I just want to know, why is this happening to me as I can't see the wisdom behind these tests? I feel totally blind.
Assalam Alaykum Sister,
I cannot give you an objective and factual explanation for what is happening to you. Naturally, Allah is all wise, and we can rest in his wisdom knowing that everything that does happen to us will only refine and develop our soul and bring us more wisdom for His sake. Still, these “pat” answers don’t help us to feel better when we are upset and lonely and desire something that seems out of reach.
I can tell you what I believe. I don’t know if this will bring you comfort, but I will share. I have met many beautiful, pious, intelligent women who really want to be married, and who, for one reason or another, marriage does not happen. I believe that women are being called to become aware of a strength that is inside their own self that exists as a result of a connection with Allah, and cannot exist without Allah. I have known beautiful women to grow old as single women even in cultures where this is not acceptable. These women did not choose, nor did they want to be alone, and they survived extreme emotional pain that results from not having a life partner. But they survived.
Something beautiful happens to a woman who is forced by circumstances beyond her control to live from the core of her being, relying only on Allah. Such women become beacons of light in a world of darkness; they bring comfort to those who morn and wisdom to those whose heart yearn for understanding. Such a woman will understand the depth of human nature because she keenly felt the very river from which humanity was made. Such a woman is free to live by divine guidance because her only obligation is to serve Allah with all her heart.
A woman who is in the mist of the struggle of asking herself, “why this, and not that?”, might feel that she is in some way some kind of sacrifice for something that she cannot understand, she may feel like she is not receiving any answers to her prayers, or that Allah has abandoned her, and that none of her heartfelt desires are ever going to be met. However, if such a woman looks deeper, into her own soul and asks herself what she truly desires, she might find that her strongest desire is to connect with Allah.
The metaphysical and spiritual principle here is that Allah always bestows. The authentic and pure heart desire will be realized, but sometimes we are not aware or conscious and we do not even know what our heart is really praying for.
With that said, you may, indeed be getting your prayers met, without realizing it. The feelings of loneliness and rejection will force you to a new level of introspection and soul searching, and if you look where you are being led, you will find new treasures.
Reframe the way you perceive your experience, and consider your struggle as the steps that you are taking upon your Journey with Allah to find His will Inside of You. The rest will fall into place-as it should.
Question 4: In love with a Non-Muslim man who also hates Muslims
I am in love with a non-Muslim man. We are in a relationship for over 8 years. I really love him and he loves me too. He hates non-Muslims to the core, maybe it’s for the reason that they do not follow Quran and are stuck in worldly things. By Allah's Grace he now at least has an ear to listen to whatever I have to say regarding Islam. For me there is nothing more than Allah and at once I wanted to give him up as he is not okay to convert. I do not want him to convert only for the sake of getting married to me. But just yesterday I did an Istikhara and the result was positive i.e. I should go ahead with this relationship and try to convince him to convert. I am very confused. Please help me.
Assalam Alaykum Sister,
I am wondering, to what extent do you find yourself compatible with this man; and to what extent do you find yourself incompatible? As for your practice of Islam, does this relationship prevent you from living according to your beliefs and values? Are you in a permanent life commitment that would be considered as marriage? Do you live together? You say you have been in this relationship for 8 years. I am confused as I am not clear about what level or type of relationship this is, other than romantic.
Perhaps this man is Muslim and does not realize that he is. Perhaps your level of practice of Islam is different from each other. It does seem that you are at a crossroads and you are trying to decide if you should remain in this relationship (and it doesn’t seem like a marriage by this post) or leave the relationship so that you can be more congruent with your values.
If this is what is happening, I can truly empathize with you in that this is indeed a very difficult choice. But sister, what promises has this man made to you? What are his intentions toward you? Have you asked? Do you know? Does he plan to marry you and provide for you and live in mutual support? If the situation you have found yourself in is more of a “friend with benefits”, or a life-long boyfriend but no real marriage, I would consider what this is really doing to you as a human being and how this is really making you feel, and to take an inventory on what you really want to do and to be in your life.
Question 5: Refuse a potential suitor on political views basis?
Assalamu Alaykum, I met a guy through a mutual friend, and we did meet for a taaruf session. I felt that he is somebody that I can get along with and we shared the same passion of volunteering. After a while, when I discussed this with my family, my stepmother felt that it is better to look for somebody else because his family's political view and himself are quite different from ours. I did my Istikharah, but I'm still confused. Besides his political stand, all aspects of him seem good to me, particularly his Deen. We did not contact each other since the meeting, but he said to my mutual friend, he considered me as his potential suitor but he could not proceed with anything else until he finished his degree. What should I do?
Wa Allaykum Assalam,
It does not sound as if you are sensing a clear direction from Istikarah. But, life circumstances are preventing you and this suitor from moving forward at this time. Perhaps you can have another meeting with your wali or representative present, or your mutual friend to clear up any misunderstandings and to become clear about what to expect from this suitor. Is he asking you to wait for him to finish his degree before he even considers who he wants to marry? That would not seem reasonable. If his intention is to marry you, then he needs to make his intention clear, and then you can pray istikhara and see if this suitor is the one for you. But if he wants to wait before he even decides, then you should consider meeting more suitors so that you can choose the one that you feel will be the most compatible husband for you.
Regarding the political issues, consider how this suitor is in politics and if that would affect you in an adverse way. There are many topic and issues that a couple can disagree about, yet remain a devoted couple. It is when one partner is both dedicated and obligated to a political action and that devotion and obligation will cause him or her to choose between the politics and the partner that you will have problems. If the political issues are deeply rooted in heartfelt ideologies and allegiances, then you might consider what impact this would have on the sustainability of a marriage. If they are simply opinions and would not interfere with the sustainability of a marriage, then I see no harm in having different opinions.
Question 6: Marry a revert even if our families aren’t supporting it?
For six years I’ve been in relationship with a reverted Muslim (earlier Hindu). I told my family about him. He truly believes in one god, left idol worship. But he does not want his family to know about it as they will break all ties. Even my family is not supporting us because they want him to make public announcement of his conversion
Assalam Alaykum Sister,
The historical “riff” in India between Hindu and Muslim will likely take time to heal. Unfortunately this affects sincere couples like you who want to live in peace with their families, who are from these two different faiths. I would like you to request advice from a scholar to consider the possibility that in some circumstances, keeping the conversion a secret is acceptable in Islam. I tried to find some examples online, but was not able to. I believe I had heard that it is permissible under certain circumstances. I never advise taking an action that would cause the break of all ties from one’s own family unless those ties required an individual to break laws.
I am wondering if you and the man that you are in a relationship with are planning to marry or if you are married. If you are not planning to marry, you might consider ending the relationship. I mention this, not because this man is from a Hindu family, but rather because if you are a practicing Muslim, then you might not want to be in a relationship with a man at all, until you are married. If, however, you are engaged to be married, you do have some things to sort out.
If the case is such that you do intend to marry, I am wondering if you might have some success in winning the hearts of your parents as the loss of this support could affect your children negatively. On the other hand, you will also have to decide how you intend to rear your children. If you rear your children as Muslims then your husband’s parents will know this as you cannot keep this a secret.
Given the circumstances, it might be wise to really look at the risks and benefits of keeping your suitor’s conversion a secret and compare that to the risks and benefits of announcing his conversion. Perhaps a “middle road” can be negotiated between both families, where your suitor announces his conversion in a Masjed, but that he does it so quietly. And, if he can, he can discuss this with his family while not announcing on a wider scale, thus not brining attention to himself. However, there is the issue of rearing your children, which might mean that you will want to take the risk of your suitor’s family breaking ties with him so that you can rear your children as Muslims. Note that some families are able to sustain dual faith culture, where they teach their children Islam, but also teach their children about other people and cultures and allowing them to be exposed to other people’s celebrations etc.
The teaching about monotheism and Quran needs to be taught not only in Masjids, and Islamic Centers, but also in the home. This way, when they visit people who do things differently, they will not judge the people but will understand that there are other people in the world who live differently. Food for thought.
Now is the time to decide if your relationship will be able to sustain the consequences of interfaith cultures, before you marry and have children.
Question 7: Been in 2 intimate relationships, now my past is hunting me
As salamu aleikum, I am in a relationship for 14 months now and we both are in love, planning to get married soon. In my past I have done some things which I regret doing. I was in 2 relationships and was intimately involved. He found out and started to ask me questions which I replied truthfully. He asked for the details and I gave it to him which I shouldn't have. We committed zina too. After that he made me realize that my past is haunting him. I am a practicing Muslimah and repented what I did. The problem is that he is not a practicing Muslim, due to my past he says that he sees glimpses of me with other men doing shameful acts and when somebody (his friends) talks about bad girls, I come to his mind. He wants me to make things right as I made them wrong but I have no idea what to do. I offer prayers and make du’a but I am not good at communication. He wants me to talk him out of everything as I ruined by telling him the details. I don’t know what to do. I am not good with talks. I don’t know what to say to him sometimes. All that I tell him is to offer prayers and get close to Allah. He is tired of listening to that. He wants discussions. Please help me.
Wa Alaykum Assalam,
I am not sure, but is seems as if the man that you intend to marry wants to feel assured that you have no desire for any man except him. It is possible that he is jealous. It is also possible that he does not trust that you will stay with him and not have sexual encounters with other men. As long as a man is concerned with how he compares to other men, he will be worried about these kinds of things. He likely asked you for the details because he wanted to compare himself to the men you were with to see if he is good enough for you. When a man knows in his heart that his wife is loyal because that is the way she is, and that her loyalty does not depend on his measuring up to any ideal, then he can relax. It would be better for you to marry soon. You are in a bad situation because sex outside of marriage is unlawful in Islam. Still, you are repenting. Yet, if you refuse to have sex with your fiancé, he will consider this as a rejection now, because you were doing this.
So, now you are forced into facing a crossroad for yourself. You have to ask your own self what your values are. The discussion is about how faithful to Allah and to your future husband you intend to be. Perhaps in your discussion you can provide examples of how you are different now than you were before you repented, in addition to your sexual behavior. Yes, your sexual behavior changed, but your beliefs also.
Something inside you decided to become celibate and to keep yourself chaste for a future husband. This “something” would be your increased understanding and awareness of your relationship with Allah and a desire to live as a pious woman. With that, a pious woman would also want to please her husband and be chaste for him also. If this is true for you, then share this. You can also ask him what you can do to demonstrate to him that you are a pious woman who lives for the sake of Allah as a Muslim.
With this said, remember that no one leaves a faith, or stops praying, or decides to live an immoral life because of another person’s actions. If your future husband chooses not to worship Allah, and does not want to pray, this is his choice independent of anything that happens outside of him. Likewise, your decisions to follow Islam are your choice are a result and refection of your desire to live an Islamic life.
If you are a pious woman, then live as a pious woman. You may have to provide a lot of assurance to your future husband that this is an authentic choice of yours. And you will have to revisits the issue of your current sexual activity with him outside of marriage. Perhaps both of you can talk about how to become even more pious together and how to support each other as partners in Islam. This would certainly change things around as you both put positive energy into this personal change and prepare to live a pious life together.
Question 8: Wife leaving Islam to believe in “Light & Love”, What to do?
My wife converted to Islam 5 years ago when we got married, she went for the hijab and read the Quran and hadith but didn't learn to pray because she claimed she can't learn Arabic and it’s too hard on her, which I've been trying to help with, she’s a bipolar and has social anxiety which didn't help with taking her to Masjed. Recently she became friends with some Buddhists’ and atheists online and they influenced her a lot and became crazy about alien documentaries and conspiracies, the latest one was "Religion" including Islam was created to control humanity and decided to leave Islam and believe in the "light and love", we have 3 boys together, I've tried threatening to leave her but it didn't work, what should I do???
Assalam Alaykum Brother,
If your wife is afflicted with the condition of bi-polar disorder, then she has a mental disorder. Many people who suffer from this condition are vulnerable to delusional thinking. Rather than becoming angry with her and threatening divorce, it would be better if you were concerned about her.
Unfortunately there are a lot of television shows about alien take overs. Some sell the idea that Islam is a conspiracy to get control over the world; others say that people of Jewish ethnic decent are hybrids - half aliens and half human, with a conspiracy to take over the world along with Aliens from other planets. It’s all very sad profiling and most people do not believe these kinds of stories.
What is important here is that your wife may be in need of clinical intervention. Remember, a mental illness, and delusional thinking is not caused by a character defect. The truth is, any one of us could become afflicted with a mental illness and lose touch with reality.
Indeed, if the issue were purely theological, one could point out the theme of Light and Love in the Quran, for it surely is there. However, you’re mentioning social anxiety, makes me wonder if she is experiencing paranoia also. I pray that you will see a clinician face to face and discuss your concerns. Do not be so concerned about whether or not she is going to practice Islam and pray properly. She may not be able to. Be more concerned with her ability to function and think clearly.
Note also that there are some types of schizophrenia that also have mood disorders. I mention this because your post suggests possible delusions. When a person with bi-polar experiences mania, they can have delusions and hallucinations also. So please, see a clinician, first on your own, to talk about your wife and what approaches to use. Then see if you can also make an appointment for both of you and get help for your wife so that she is not so vulnerable to strangers. My sense of things from what you have written is that she needs your care and protection.