On September 27th 2014, Hilary Cullingworth and I became Dr and Mrs Taher Sharaf.
I was raised a Muslim by my Egyptian parents in London. Hilary, raised in Ilkley, attended St. Margaret’s church where she went to Sunday School and was confirmed. Our belief and faith in God is equally important to both of us; and a wedding without His presence, in our opinion, would have no soul.
When Hilary was 13 years old her father died, and his funeral was held at St. Margaret’s. In the days and months afterwards, its community acted as a source of strength and comfort for all of her family.
So when I asked Hilary to marry me it seemed inconceivable that we would marry elsewhere. As a Muslim, I believe Muslims, Christians and Jews pray to the same God. For Hilary and me, St. Margaret’s church is the house of God that would also bring her father closer to the wedding.
When I told my family of the decision to marry in a church, I never expected there to be any issues. My only hesitation stemmed from uncertainty whether the church would accept the modernity of our relationship. In hindsight I should never have worried; after all, St. Margaret’s had informed Hilary’s faith, and she had been accepting of me. Moreover, when we first met Father Philip, his grace and understanding allowed us to feel accepted by the church, and his humour and doughnuts helped us relax. The more we spoke to him, the more our faith in God and our decision was confirmed.
The congregation on the day was even more varied than our relationship, coming from all faiths and backgrounds. They celebrated our union, singing the hymns so loudly I think they heard us in London. Their diversity proved that no matter where we come from, we are all made in His image.
Thank you to all those who helped us prepare for and celebrate our wedding at St. Margaret’s. We would especially like to thank Father Philip, who also helped us prepare for our future. Merry Christmas to you all, and we wish you many years to come filled with love, peace and happiness.
Taher and Hilary