From the perception of some, Christian precepts and Islamic tenets are two irreconcilable truths that can only get close to each other for reasons of ruction than construction. But this generalized misconception has been defied by two mindful and divinely inspired individuals, Rev. Pierre Albrecht Carrié and Iman Yahye Omar, who better understand the depth, the size and color of Love that God has made available to mankind in order to promote unity, mutual respect and togetherness.
It all started with the arrival in Buffalo of two lovely persons who have requested anonymity, a Muslim gentleman and a Christian young lady, who wanted to tie the knot and have their wedding jointly celebrated, October 22, according to Islamic and Christian traditions. But a wedding celebration of this kind could not be possible without first bringing together an Imam -of course- from Islamic faith and a Christian Minister.
In fact, nothing of such unusual undertaking was easy. After several unsuccessful attempts to get an Imam and a Christian leader together for a joint interfaith wedding service, the relational art of Dr. Khalil Khazi who is Chairman of the board of the Catholic Health Services in Buffalo succeeded to bring together Rev. A-Carrié, a Christian from Kenmore United Church of Christ, and Iman Yahye, a Muslim leader and Program Coordinator of HEAL International in order to perform an interfaith wedding service involving a Muslim groom and a Christian bride in both Christian and Islamic traditions.
“I thought it was great but I have never done it before. That’s why I am involved in the network of religious communities because what brings us together is bigger than what separates us. Although there some differences through which each side gets to know the other, we came to realize how much we have in common,” said Rev. A-Carrié.
Although both Rev. A-Carrié and Imam Yahye were so close to each other in terms of their religious mindset and the fact that they both speak English and French, some of the conditions of the job they were about to get into set them way apart and only God’s wisdom could lead them to a consensus. In fact, a total of seven main practices needed a procedural agreement from both the Christian minister and the Muslim leader in order to make the nikah (marriage) possible: the justification of an interfaith marriage between a Muslim and a Christian, the issue of dowry, the groom and bride mutual consent, the parents’ approval, the status of the witnesses, the transfer of the bride to the groom and lastly, the signing of the marriage license by the religious leader who performed the service.
Starting with the justification of a marriage between a Muslim and a Christian, Iman Yahye made it clear that a Muslim can eat and help everybody, but he can only marry a Muslim or the “People of The Book” whom he referred to as Chrisitians and Jews. Since the bride was a Christian, the marriage was deemed permissible and the first issue got easily the agreement of both parties.
As far as the issue of the dowry is concerned, Rev. A-Carrié said that besides its eternal symbolism, there is also a background in it; something valuable that is given to the bride. Rev .A-Carrié brought up a cultural difference in indicating that in this modern age, both the groom and the bride exchange rings and the value is symbolic. This second issue did not have hurdles because according to Imam Yahye, the least a bride can ask to the groom in the chapter of Islamic marriage is the ring. But the emphasis was on the right of the bride to ask whatever she wants from the groom. The fact that Imam Yahye said it publicly to the bride during the ceremony was completely news for many including Rev. A-Carrié. “The idea that Islam would protect woman’s rights that way was surprising.” Said Rev. A-Carrié. In the earlier Christian society, he said, dowry used to be money or property that came from the bride to the groom.
Clarifying the way women are protected in Islamic marriage, Imam Yahye said that In Islam, a wife does not have the obligation to share her wealth with her husband but the husband has the obligation to share his with her. But it comes to the issue of the ring, according to Islamic laws, only the groom was supposed to give the bride a ring. Since, in the Christian tradition, the bride and the groom have too exchange rings, the two leaders once again demonstrated their spiritual savviness by only applying the rings exchange form because it includes the Islamic practice too and another breakthrough was reached.
Regarding the groom and bride mutual agreement, the Iman who services the wedding, according to Islamic laws, must ask each side if he or she is willing and accepts to marry the other side, Imam Yahye informed. In Christian wedding however, Rev. A-Carrié explained, the question of whether the two individuals accept to live together is not asked to the bride and the groom in that way. Instead, “the church minister always asks who gives to this woman to be married to this man,” he said. However, for conciliatory purpose, the same question was asked to the bride to meet the Islamic requirement and the anticipated answer from both the bride and the groom was “Yes”.
By virtue of Islamic traditions, parents must give their daughter the approval to get married and they are the ones who gave their daughter to the groom. But a reverse procedure was expected too on the part of the groom’s family. But since the groom did not have his parents in the U.S., the religious leader who serviced the ceremony had the right to represent him unless he decides otherwise. In this case, Imam Yahye represented the groom and executed all the required practices.
Then came the issue of witnesses. In modern Christian wedding, Rev. A-Carrié explained, the best man and the maid or matron of honor who are the bride’s and the groom’s best friends are the ones who sign the legal document. However in Islam, you need a man and two women or two men as witnesses. So, to solve the differences, Rev. A-Carrié and Iman Yahye decided to use two men as witnesses and another round of negotiation has succeeded.
The last and interesting part was the signing of the legal document from Niagara County by the religious leader who performed the wedding service. In fact, the document or wedding license had only one room set up for one signature of the religious leader who performed the service. But Rev. A-Carrié and Iman Yahye both signed the document. “We both put our signatures, our names and addresses and are now waiting for what the Niagara County would tell us,” They both said.
Explaining the symbolism and his role in the entire situation, Rev. A-Carrié said that the Bible does not prohibit what he has done. “God gave us religion or faith to bring us together not to separate us. It is recognizing that we all work for God’s purpose. We also recognize that Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and so forth have been misused. That is not from God but from people. That is “Sheitan,” (Satan) Rev. Carrié said.
Imam Yahye added that only wicked people use Islam for their ill-inspired ambitions. “It is for their own interests and the greed for leadership that prompt people to engage in wrong and divisive behaviors. In reality, a Muslim who does not accept Moises, Jesus and all other prophets who have come before Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), is not a Muslim. It is unholy when two people engage in sexual intercourses without being married. In managing to unite these two individual into matrimony, we make their sexual life holy,” Imam Yahye concluded.
Traditionally, religious leaders are the ones who always who unite believers in order to build a happier society. This time, it is the other way around. Two lovely believers have succeeded to unite two leaders from different religious backgrounds, and God’s Love has prevailed.