By Sehrish Sarah Khan-Williamson.

I knew it would break my family’s heart If I told him I am marrying a guy named Paul.

This is my story from start till the end when I finally revealed to my family the man of my dreams but was scared and nervous of losing my family.

I met Paul on a Washington car modifying forum, many of the group followers were from DC, Virgina and Maryland. Many of my friends now are from that group.

We liked each other from the start but due to other people and previous relationships we mutually decide to go back to the friend-zone, as time past we realized how much we liked each other.

All of my friends, cousins and his side of the family would say we look good together, I would respond: “I love him,” I would say. “But I’m not in love with him.”

And I had my admission letter in hand and had to move more than 500 miles away. But denial is a powerful thing.

Just after a few months he came to visit me in Boston, soon my new friends started questioning me, why we weren’t together and after 7 days I had to drop him at the airport but on the way back I felt sad.

When I got home, I started crying but soon I tried to calm myself down.

After a few days I realized I was longing for him.

I thought Paul probably felt the same for me and I asked him out and he flat out said no.

Even though he confessed that he had feelings for me but refused to date me because he knew my parents wanted me to marry a specific type of person i.e. a Pakistani, Muslim and he didn’t want to be the reason i broke apart from my family. He did not want a secret relationship.

“If I’m going to be with you,” he told me, “I don’t know how I can keep the fact that I’m in love with you a secret.”

I tried to convince myself and Paul that someway, somehow everything will work out but deep inside I would worry about how am i going to tell this to my parents. I was following what my heart was saying and my heart wanted to be with Paul and it felt right.

But when I got back home on a spring break, me and Paul decided to face all obstacles together.

Thus began the journey full of happiness and anxiety of my life.

I was sort of ready for losing my family and marrying the man of my dreams because i knew from the start i was going to marry Paul.

We agreed to keep the relation a secret until we get engaged. I deleted my family members from my Facebook friends list so they don’t get a hint of me dating anyone. We would not go to places where my family members would often visit.

People who weren’t Muslim or Pakistani didn’t understand.

“This is about you and your life,” they would tell me.

“But in my culture, a family is a unit. Your lives belong to each other,” I would reply.

They still would not understand, even my future mother in law would say, her love for her child was so great she would accept anyone as her daughter in law.

And i tried to tell her that the reason why my parents had specific rules was because “they loved me – because they wanted the best for me.”

When my mother would bring out marriage proposals I would start crying and say I don’t ever want to get married. At the time my mother would get really angry but it was nothing compared to how angry she was when I told her about Paul.

I would pray for a miracle to happen that me and Paul somehow get accepted.

As the day of engagement was coming close i was getting excited but nervous but then came a surprise, Paul gave me a hint of a possibility of converting to Islam.

I also convinced my mother’s best friend of helping me when the time comes and she did help me.

These two things gave me a hope.

He proposed to me on our first year anniversary.

I said yes.

Then came the excuses of not telling my parents.

First excuse was till my finals end because I did not want to appear in my finals in a mentally broken state if my family refused.

Then I thought I will tell them in the winter break, but it was New Years Day when I got the courage of speaking.

My father had gone to the Mosque and I waited in my parent’s room for him to return so i could tell him everything. My father was a calm person so he was the best option to tell first.

I agree I wasn’t completely honest to my parents as I didn’t tell them about me and Paul dating.

“Daddy, I gotta talk to you about something,” I remember saying to him as he asked me if something was up. “I have this friend, he’s been my friend for a long time. He wants to become Muslim…”

“Okay, you want me to help him convert? I can take him to the mosque with me,” my father replied. This brought tears to my eyes, because I knew how good of a man my father was and how much I was going to hurt this good man with what I was about to tell him.

“Yeah, daddy, I would like that,” I replied. “But I gotta tell you something else about him. He wants to marry me. He gave me this ring as an engagement proposal.”

“You say he wants to become a Muslim?”

“Yes, daddy.”

“Well, if he wants to become a Muslim and becomes a Muslim, I, as your father and a Muslim, can’t hold you back from marrying him. It would be a sin for me to not let you marry him, if you are both Muslims. You know, Islam isn’t just for Arabs and Pakistanis or people with a specific culture, it’s a universal religion. Our culture must always come second to religion.”

I burst into tears as I hugged him hard. When I regained my composure, I asked him what we would do about my mother.

He replied: “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her.”

At this moment, the Adhan for prayer called.

“Let’s pray together for you and our family,” my father said as i grabbed our prayer rugs from the drawer.

I lined his rug and then mine a few steps behind seeing this, my father lined both rugs parallel.

“You may be my daughter, Sarah,” he said to me. “But as a Muslim, you are my equal.”