Communication is the key

NOW: Fuad and Roshaan Pather, still in love after alomost 30 years of marriage. Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI
NOW: Fuad and Roshaan Pather, still in love after alomost 30 years of marriage. Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI

Uitenhage couple’s romance overcame challenge of two religions

WHEN La Femme’s wedding page asks couples how they met, their responses are usually ‘‘it was love at first sight’’, but for a Uitenhage couple who has been married for 29 years, that could not be further from the truth.

Roslyn Koen, 48, born into a Christian family, and Fuad Pather, 52, whose parents were Muslim, were both still at school when they first met in the 1970s.

Over the years, Roslyn learnt to love Fuad and eventually came to a decision that would affect both her and her family: to convert to Islam and in the process change her Christian name to a Muslim one, Roshaan, so that she could spend the rest of her life as Mrs Pather.

The couple met when Roshaan was in Grade 5 at Dower Practising School and according to Roshaan, then only 12, “boys were the last thing on my mind”.

At the end of every school year, Roshaan and her friends would go to Magennis Park in Uitenhage to play on the swings. On one particular excursion, Fuad approached her.

“This guy from Uitenhage High School went to my friend and asked if he could go with me to the movies. I said no, because I was 12 and still in primary school,” she recalls.

Although they went to the same high school, it was only when Roshaan was 18 and studying at Dower College that the couple’s romance would blossom at a disco.

THEN: Roshaan and Fuad Pather on theri wedding day, November 1, 1986 in Kabah, Uitenhage.
THEN: Roshaan and Fuad Pather on theri wedding day, November 1, 1986 in Kabah, Uitenhage.

Fuad said when he saw her at the disco, he told himself “today is going to be my day” and he was going to win her heart.

“I thought she was it for me and I didn’t want to pursue a relationship with anyone else, even though I dated other people after she turned me down several years earlier,” he said.

They dated for a year and a half before they got married. They knew they would have to face the challenge of their two different religions before deciding to get married as the “Islamic faith believes a non-Muslim woman has to convert before marrying a Muslim man”.

Inspired by her boyfriend’s faith, Roshaan studied and researched Islam. She fell in love with what she had learnt and made the decision to convert.

According to the couple, it was not as smooth a transition with Roshaan’s family as they had hoped, but once her family found out about their plans of marriage, they gave their blessing and two days after she had converted, the couple got married at Roshaan’s Kabah home in Uitenhage on November 1, 1986.

“We had a small ceremony where both families were present and our non-Muslim family got to be part of our reception and see how a ceremony from a different faith was done,” the couple said.

The couple started from humble beginnings, with Fuad earning R400 a month as a storeman, to eventually building their first home in Mountain View and finally moving to Penford where they have lived for the last 22 years.

The couple have three sons, Ghatiem, 28, Raeez, 24 and Faariq 19, and their new daughter, Ghatiem’s wife Raeesah, 25. Their eldest sons both have sons of their own, with Ghatiem and his wife expecting his second baby next year.

“I’m grateful to have had such an understanding wife and we’ve had such an open and honest relationship. Communication was also a key factor for sustaining us,” Fuad said.

Roshaan said: “In the beginning it was very difficult. It was a new relationship and a new religion.

“I accepted it before I got married, but accepting it and living it are two completely different things. Yet looking back today, I wouldn’t change a thing,”

Trusting and respecting each other should be the foundation of a good relationship, Roshaan said.

“Your spouse must know how and what you’re feeling You can’t expect them to know what’s wrong, if you haven’t expressed yourself.”

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