Here, Aditi* is sharing her life experiences from age 17-21 and providing reflections on it. If you are in this age group and in love with someone, this is a must read for you to make a fully informed decision for your everlasting, happy married life.
Note: Aditi is conversing here with Dr. Dilip Amin, admin of interfaithshaadi.org, and the narration is interspersed with comments in [ ] by the admin.
My life till age 16
While growing up, for good reasons, my Dad wanted nothing from me but the best in all different ways. But I had many restrictions imposed on me as a child and it was too much for me. For studies, it was like “all study, no fun”. For fun, I used to put Sherlock Holmes inside the course books and pretend to be studying, as I had no rights to negotiate on anything.
On the religious front at home, we did poojas, which I found boring. We performed Hindu rituals, but no one provided us with any explanations for them. I was grilled after coming back from my friend’s (girl) home as to what exactly happened and what we discussed.
When I left home for college in Vadodara, I was very happy. I was moving out of my parents’ control and going for a free life. However, I got into a new situation where, now, a Muslim boyfriend started calling the shots. I moved from parental control to a boyfriend’s control, nothing changed for me. This was absolutely unbelievable stupidity on my part.
I fell for him
It all started when I was 17 and stepped out of home and the city for college. I felt like I had wings and could do whatever I wanted. This guy (my ex-boyfriend, a Muslim) and I were in the same class in the first year of college.
Once I styled my hair differently and he complimented me on how great I looked. Then he started showering me with compliments. I was raised in an environment where I was never good enough. Realizing I am worth something, I got attracted to him. I liked his attention to details about me and he had nothing but admiration for me.
[Why would the Muslim guy, who knows Allah does not like display of hair, praise someone’s hair? Read]
Love Progression Steps
Your video and your other comments hit the nail on the head to answer this question: Why do Hindus have low self-esteem?
It all creeps in very very slowly!
Hindus enter into the relationship assuming 100 percent equality. Even in their own Hindu homes they have seen different people praying different forms of Bhagwan; Dad could be a Rama bhakt, mom could be Krishna bhakt …and the list can go on. Someone fasts on Monday for Shivji; another one decides to fast on Tuesday for Hanumanji, and everyone helps one another. So Hindus cheerfully start volunteering in Islamic customs (I kept roza!) without even thinking twice or being asked.
The Hindu lover accepts the Muslim partner’s wishes to not do Hindu practices in order to meet Islamic expectations.
Things are hunky dory in the beginning.
The problems start coming into this paradise when the Hindu partner’s participation in Islamic practices starts to be demanded and becomes non-voluntary. When I sensed issues coming, I tried to break up, but every-time he convinced me back, saying he can’t live without me and somehow we will find a way, until I gave up trying to break up.
By this time it’s too late for the Hindu, and the only option to salvage the relationship becomes conversion, as you said. If not, it becomes 100% the Hindu party’s fault.
Love between a pluralist and an exclusivist/supremacist
When one is in love, one starts adopting what your loved one is doing (Hindu’s view not Muslim’s!). For instance, in my case I started keeping roza because he wasn’t eating and then the excitement of going and eating out doubles (after a fast).
However, there wasn’t really much he participated in what I did, for e.g., going to the temple for Janmashtami as I love singing/listening to bhajans and being part of a festive environment. He just couldn’t even think of participating, as it would come in the way of his beliefs.
I would participate (in Islamic practices) as it would not hurt any of my (Hindu) sentiments but I didn’t expect him (Muslim) to join into mine because he said he had a reason to not participate.
After falling in love, what was our dating like?
In my relationship, within the first couple of years, I realized that I don’t want to be in it. I tried to break up, but every time he convinced me back, saying he can’t live without me and somehow we will find a way, until I gave up trying to break up. If it was innocent love, he would have set me free.
If I think why he wanted to hold on to me so bad, was probably because I was the only person in the whole wide world who was open to listen to his never-ending preachings on Islam, and justifications of its practices. That’s what we talked during most of our meeting time anyways, especially after the relationship moved past the initial phase of knowing each other! I am a great listener and I really try to listen and understand everyone I meet with an open mind; maybe that’s what really worked against me!
Why he did it?
This question bugged me then and it haunts me even today.
I think he saw this girl (me), liked her and boldly showered appreciations for the thrill of it. He probably didn’t even think that it was possible that this thing would take off!
We started talking casually at first, and it was an exploration of faiths journey for both of us. Along the way, I realized that there are compatibility issues (widely different worldview) but I didn’t say anything and still wanted to be together for the sake of ‘commitment’, and belief that adjust to karna padta hai (you have to make some compromises in any relationship).
He probably realized the same thing that even if somehow I convert and he convinces his parents (it would have been an uphill task), if I don’t fully buy into the ideology, there will be intractable differences.
He probably was looking for someone like me but my wings had to be cut down to make me fit for his family. He also knew there was no way his family would accept me without conversion.
Islamic ideologies came in our ways
Why I felt he was controlling was because throughout our relationship, I felt that my Hindu way of life was dissected in every conversation and a Muslim way of life, where a woman was not equal to a man, was held supreme.
If he saw me talking to another guy, he would get insecure and upset! I actually stopped talking to all the guys in college, to please him. At that time, I understood that he lived in a very different world than mine.
When I asked about his thoughts on burkha, he convinced me why it was the right thing and how he would like his future wife to wear it. Knowing his conservative views, it was implied that I mostly dressed in salwar kameez during college days even though I was raised in a family where western outfits were as acceptable as Bharatiya ones.
Anything that doesn’t serve Allah and takes one away from Allah is haram. Music has been mentioned in the same places in hadiths and Quran where adultery and intoxication are mentioned, so many Muslims believe it to be haram.
Once I had asked him about 4 wives (polygamy) practice of Islam and he said it’s okay if a man can be fair to all four wives. He also countered by saying Hindus also have extramarital affairs, and having multiple wives is better than that. Islam provides more protection to women as adultery is prohibited.
In one conversation, he explained to me why women’s testimony is not equal to men’s because women work on emotions and men on rationale, and now modern science proved it.
Yet another time he tried to convince me why women shouldn’t manage financials at home, advancing the same reason that women are emotion driven.
His mother did wear a head scarf but not a hijab. I think other girls in the family didn’t really have outside exposure. Most girls married within close family relations, like cousins.
Afterlife vs. reincarnation
Another reflection on how what I believed in was ridiculed All the time by him. One day, he was telling me about Islam’s concept of afterlife and how whether we get together in this life or not, he is sure I will eventually learn things that will make us meet in jannat!
I asked him how is he sure there is a jannat and told him that Hindus’ core belief is in re-birth. He ridiculed me and said that if re-birth concept was true then let’s commit some crimes and we both will become some bird and live a cool life flying where ever we want!
I wish I had answers back then about what Hindu Dharma says about animal vs human life and that human life is the only way to attain moksha! Sadly, I had no answers back then!
With my boyfriend, we never had discussion on Hindu Dharma as a topic, but he believed Hindu practices were wrong. For example, if we are passing by a temple and I do namaste in front, he would criticize that god can’t be prayed in passing. Obviously, he was against murti puja (what he called ‘idol worship’).
If I wanted to go into a temple, he would say you go in, not me. If I bring back prasad he won’t take it. In the boys’ hostel everyone knew he wouldn’t play Holi, participate in Diwali program or Garba dance and should be left alone.
I love animals and am a vegetarian; he seemed to have no respect for my choices and said it doesn’t make sense since plants have the same pain and science can prove it. Also, he said that keeping dogs at home as pets is haram.
I think his liking for me was genuine but his acceptance of me as a wife was dependent on whether I was able to fully adopt, accept and appreciate Islamic way of life (not just a fake conversion), and whether he could see a future family that was pretty religious and abided by Allah’s path. He tried his best to make me that way.
On the other hand, my love for him did not depend on what each of us believed in, and I’d have married him even if he would not even step into a temple.
[Why do Hindus have low expectations from Muslims? Read]
My inability to explain Hindu Dharma
The whole idea that a book (Quran) is supreme, and my (Aditi’s) intelligence and the light within me has no significance was something I was not convinced about because as a Hindu I believe we are all pure souls in need of peeling off the layers of untruth to shine and attain moksha.
I had these Hindu beliefs instilled and coded in me, but I didn’t know how to verbalize them back then. I was uncomfortable but I couldn’t pinpoint what made me uncomfortable back then.
What I liked about his arguments on Islam was that they were very clearly articulated and nicely presented as if he had practiced them his whole life of 18 years. This was a contrast to my explanations on Hindu customs. There wasn’t a single debate I won with him in all those years. When one is constantly proven wrong, it is obvious to start thinking that maybe the other person is actually right!
Even if my mind bought his arguments on Islam, my heart never did. Regarding Hindu Dharma, I was conflicted and felt helpless. I felt a deep affinity for the Hindu way of life but some things didn’t make sense to me and the question– ‘What do I actually believe in?‘ – started to bug me a lot.
My experiences with him put a seed in my heart to learn more about Hindu Dharma, as well as he knew Islam.
I was being groomed to be a submissive wife
The impact of my boyfriend’s presence in my life was extremely clear to those around me. I started dressing in a way unlike my original way. I hardly talked and started talking softer and softer. Even though I enjoyed singing and dancing with other girls, his teachings flooded my mind and I didn’t participate in singing/dancing competitions that all other girls had fun with.
I acted so submissive in all areas of my life, luckily I focused on my studies and did well in exams, but hardly participated in anything extracurricular.
Isolation as a strategy
Girls around me were really disappointed in what I was doing with my life. Dating itself was not uncommon, but no one was doing the self destruction that I was doing and no one approved of what I was becoming. When they tried to alert me, I would try to side with my boyfriend, and they started giving up on me.
We are social creatures and positive affirmations from those around us are very important, especially during formative years. Absence of approval from those around me made the need for the presence of my boyfriend in my life more and more important.
Why do Hindu youths have low self-esteem, despite being in majority in Bharat?
To have a high self esteem: what do youth need?
First of all, we need knowledge and understanding of what our culture is and what’s at risk! When Hindus agree to “fake-convert”, they have absolutely no idea what they are giving up on!
Education/Media/Bollywood controlled by Communists/Islamists/Christians did a great job at hiding information that we could be proud of and propagating misinformation that makes us uncomfortable. They maligned our gurus and broke down the social fabric.
Most of us have the value system encoded in ourselves but very few can verbalize and compare and contrast. For example, in previous generation of Hindu society it was encoded from experiences of partition that Hindu-Muslim marriage is a no-no. Their kids intuitively know they are entering risky territory when they date a Muslim, but the parents can’t come up with intelligent reasons to warn their children.
However, things are now changing slowly but surely, as more and more information is becoming available to the masses with social media.
A trap I could not escape
All my friends kept telling me I am on a wrong path, but I did not believe them. He was being exceptionally romantic and praised me a lot, so I couldn’t think of anything more but his love. I was absolutely foolish. My love was nothing but my stupidity.
In love and relationships both people can only be happy if there is mutual respect, else the submissive partner feels suffocated, and that is where I was.
When college ended and we graduated, he said his family won’t agree. I didn’t care to convince him. Actually, I was happy because I had no courage to break up after realizing all this in the first couple of years. I was just being submissive and going on with the relationship as it was hard to break up. I feel blessed that we separated, else I would just have been a burkha clad shadow of him.
[If there is a Muslim boy in your college flirting with girls, remind him why is he not being a Muslim? Quran 24:30 states that a man is supposed to lower his gaze and walk away from girls. If he claims to be a practising Muslim, is he practising taqiyya (deceitful denial of religious belief) or trying love jihad? Also, remind him of Quran 2:221 which says, “You shall not wed pagan (unbeliever in Islam) women, unless they embrace the Faith. A believing slave girl is better than an idolatress, although she may please you”]
Was it Love-Jihad?
[Before critical analysis] I don’t think it was love jihad, else he had a good chance to marry me; I would have done so because the importance of commitment was instilled in me and he knew that. At that time, I might even have converted for the sake of marriage (not because I was convinced).
I remember asking him if he would marry me if I convert, he said he doesn’t want me to convert for the sake of someone or a marriage but he’d love to see that one day in my life I understand Islam and accept it then.
So I don’t think he was a person with a sinister design in mind, he genuinely believed in what he believed in, and he wanted me to genuinely see value in Islam as well.
[Admin’s views on Love Jihad – https://youtu.be/-Y19i0dCeq4]
[After some more discussion] His behavior was deceit and dishonesty. He probably thought he could change my belief system without declaring it at first, and trying to work through it. When it didn’t happen, it was the end, and probably without much guilt as I was a kafir anyways.
Much later, when I stumbled into Zakir Naik on YouTube, I realized how similar his way of trying to convince people and his arguments (on Islam) were to my ex-boyfriend’s!
Reflecting back, I think what happened to me was a combination of Intellectual Jihad and Love Jihad.
What is Love Jihad?
It is each and every Hindu-Muslim relationship where the Hindu enters assuming equality and freedom, but in overwhelming majority of cases he/she then faces immense pressure to convert. Pressure that is direct/indirect, by the partner/his family, during dating/as precondition to marriage or as a condition for simplicity of future child’s life; does not matter how, to me it’s all love jihad when the condition (to convert) is first hidden and brought forth at a later point. This is what you say, and to me, now, it makes perfect sense!
In innocent love, you enter into the relationship knowing that you will stand with that person over everything else and all of life’s challenges, and you somewhere assume that the other person will do the same for you. But when the other person brings a third thing, i.e. ‘conditions of Islam’, later in the relationship it is treachery and treason!
Love-Jihad: How about educated Muslims?
My story tells that even the most educated of Muslims, those who most will think of as open, fair and secular are potentially very staunch.
From my personal experience, the issue here is that a lot of Muslim men do believe and justify Quranic phrases (on polygamy, women’s testimony being half of a men’s, birthing more kids). As one sees from my experience, my ex-boyfriend being an educated man did support many of these.
Also, we can see how Muslim society in Bharat is against abolishing the Shariah laws in civil matters for Muslims. They are fighting for continuing inequality for women as laid out by many phrases in the Quran!
- Quran 2:223 Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will,
- Quran 2:228 Men have a status above women,
- Quran 2:282 One man = Two women,
- Quran 4:3 Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four,
- Quran 4:11 (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females,
- Quran 4:15 To prove rape, produce four Witness,
- Quran 4:24 You are forbidden to marry married women except your slave-girls,
- Quran 4:34 Beat them,
- Quran 4:35 Allah has made one of them excel over the other,
- Quran 24:4 Produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations) then flog them
[More on Quran http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=2&verse=223]
In their personal lives, they or someone close (their parents) believe in the Quran as is; they can be super charming in the beginning but will be hell bent on converting you one way or another at a later point for one reason or another.
More likely than not, Hindu thought processes won’t be tolerated and will be ridiculed.
Also, a lot of restrictions will come onto you even in the most educated Muslim families: hijab, food preference, dressing, talking to other men even if within family.
It is best to marry in a culture that provides you equality and freedom to choose/change/explore different paths at any point in life!
Why is it Love Jihad if the Hindu is an atheist?
Some might say that it’s not Love Jihad if the Hindu is atheist/agnostic to begin with. However, even if a Hindu is atheist, he/she is still a Hindu: a naastik Hindu, someone still rooted in the culture.
He/she still has a chance to explore spirituality/dharmik path that is fit for him/her at a later point in life. To snatch this chance away from a Hindu, disintegrate him/her from his roots and make him/her commit to a single book and not allowing them to explore is a crime!
[Conversion to Islam is a one way-street. Muhammad said: “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Bukhari 9.84.57)]
What saved you?
What saved me was my upbringing, and a rather controlled college environment with strict check-in, check-out times for hostels, which was a blessing (in retrospect) that students today after three decades might not have!
Deep scars on my life
This relationship did leave deep scars on me, and did lower my self-esteem immensely.
Once I moved on, I still dealt with low self esteem for years. I always felt that others are not approving of me even after my environment changed, and the people around me changed. I hated myself for choosing wrongly earlier and being blind to what everyone else was trying to tell me.
Yes, these memories and areas of my mind have been painful to visit, and whenever for any reason I visit those memories I feel like the most stupid person in the whole wide world. Every time I feel like that, I have to rebuild myself by practicing gratitude and reminding myself of everything else I did and have in my life.
What is wrong in Hindu parenting and teachings?
If he wanted to be together, I don’t know if I could have backed down. This is because of a sense of commitment instilled in me; even when I sensed it wasn’t the right arrangement for me. I feel Hindu families don’t allow children to fail, not even in relationships! Parents don’t tell them that it’s okay to make the wrong choice and when one realizes that it is a wrong choice, one has rights to back out. We act as if parents are perfect and children need to be perfect too.
At the age of 16, my knowledge about Islam and Muslims was pretty much ZERO. Parents always told me that all religions are the same, and all human beings equal.
People in family (uncles and aunts) even went to a famous tomb (dargah) and neighbors talked about visiting Ajmer Shareef. So, I never thought that Islam was any different than Hindu Dharma.
His behavior was deceit and dishonesty. But imagine, Hindu mental conditioning, even today after 30 years, I want to give him the benefit of doubt!
A turning point
My dating experience actually ingrained very strong thoughts in my mind, and I became extremely sure that in a few years, I would like to marry someone via a more traditional route/no prolonged dating as I had become aware of unnecessary trauma that dating brings.
When my parents started looking for alliances a few years after college, I knew what I was looking for. I was looking for someone who would not try to change me but accept me as I am. For sure, someone who is not controlling but nurturing. I am glad I looked for those traits.
My Hindu husband turned out to be a person who I was looking for. After more than three decades, I am glad he is what I thought he was.
I told my fiance everything before we got married. He was upset for a few days but came back and said that he is okay with everything as long as it doesn’t impact our future together. I promised him I have nothing to do with my past anymore and the rest is history. I have been happily married. He never raised this topic (my past relationship), ever! He is the best thing that happened in my life, and he says so am I.
I got liberty, freedom and dignity
My husband changed the course of my life. He gave me full liberty to live life as I wish. Whatever situations life brought us into, my husband always trusted me completely.
My husband is responsible, loving, caring and understanding. My intelligence was never questioned. He is completely different than my Muslim ex-boyfriend, who was totally controlling.
Unlike my Muslim ex-boyfriend, my husband may not compliment me often but his deeds are worth more than his words.
Back to Hindu Dharma
I turned from a pseudo secular person at a risk to enter (marry) a Muslim family, to now a person 100% committed to Hindu Dharma. Even today, I am not a very ritualistic person to my in-laws’ discomfort. I enjoy seeing my husband doing rituals, but I take refuge in paths of yoga and meditation for my inner well being.
I know that Hindu Dharma is not all about rituals, but rituals are part of it. There are so many paths, rituals are one. Beauty of Hindu Dharma is that each one of us can have an individual path. There are many gurus leading us into each one of those. This is a luxury only a person following Hindu Dharma has.
This led me to explore multiple paths later in my life. I got to meet people who were deeply involved academically in studying Hindu Dharma and challenges it faced. We also hosted Dharmic gurus who came to our city to preach at temples and I got to learn about the beauty of our scriptures.
However, a break though happened a few years later, when I stumbled onto Sadhguru’s videos, and when I heard that there is a path of self-discovery where I don’t need to believe anything, my life changed! We can be ‘just seekers’ is what I heard and then I knew what path I had to follow!
Now my children do all pooja, recite mantras and understand the meaning of it. Parents need to understand, respect and love children. Positive discipline is good but controlling each move is counterproductive. We encourage dialogue with our children before they buy into anything. It is certainly different from my childhood where mom-dad’s word was final, or my ex-boyfriend’s word that Islam is scientific!
Today I have full liberty and freedom to enjoy my life to the fullest with my beloved husband as an equal partner. I am glad I do not have those controls of my parents or ex-boyfriend. My relationship with my parents has also become great, as I am able to put better boundaries and encourage discussion.
How much do your parents know about all this?
My parents pretty much knew (know) nothing!
They knew he was in my friend circle, but nothing more than that. My conversations with my parents were focused on grades and upcoming vacation/exam schedules on my side, and family happenings on their side. There was no good reason for me to share it with them at that time or at a later point in time.
Reflection on life at 17
I am so grateful that I did not marry that Islamist I dated who believed women should not sing, are less than man and should be kept in burkha.
Today, I learned that my ex-Muslim boyfriend is holding a prestigious job and his wife has luxuries of life but is caged in a burkha.
I got saved. Now I truly have my own wings to fly, and have a marriage with respect and equality.
I wish that I knew the challenges of interfaith relationships as a teen, then it would not have taken 4 years and a heartbreak to realize the incompatibility in interfaith relationships.
I’d like to thank interfaithshaadi.org for providing such a unique platform. I hope that my story helps someone who is considering an interfaith relationship.
PS by Aditi: I am not saying all Hindu men will be as open as my husband, and not controlling. If Hindu men are controlling, it is because of their family and social conditioning, not because of tenets of Hindu Dharma. However, Muslim men’s control is validated by Quran and non negotiable, and Muslim women’s submissiveness is a requirement per Quran.
(This article was first published on the interfaithshaadi.org on 31 August, 2020 and is being reproduced here, after minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide and improve readability)
*Name changed to protect identity
Additional comments by Dr. Dilip Amin
People understand ‘blue-collar’ love-jihad as a phenomenon where a Muslim boy feigns love with a Hindu girl and ultimately uses her as a sex slave. However, we also have ‘white-collar’ love jihad cases which remained unnoticed and unrecognised, as the case here with Aditi. In ‘white-collar’ love jihad cases, the person falls in love with the ultimate goal of proselytism, and if the Hindu party does not convert, the Muslim simply walks away cold heartedly. In the end, the Hindu girl goes through so much turmoil and anguish, and lives with deep scars for the rest of her life.
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