By Junaid Jahangir
He created for you mates to find tranquility in them; and He placed
between you affection and mercy
Last month, CBC
reported the news of an interfaith couple, Shaaz, a Muslim woman, and Jarred, a
Jewish man, who live in Airdrie, Alberta. While they found a Cantor, they were
unable to find an Imam for the interfaith marriage ceremony.
stakeholders may forbid Muslim women from marrying outside the faith. However,
amongst others, Muslims for Progressive Values in the U.S and across the globe,
Imam Daayiee Abdullah and Dr. Khaleel Mohammad in the U.S., Universalist
Muslims and myself in Canada have offered same-sex and interfaith marriage
The objective of this
blog is to resist juristic opinions that forbid Muslim women from marrying
outside the faith. Many Muslim scholars and Imams affirm interfaith marriages
of Muslim women to non-Muslim men. Ten such voices follow.
1. Khaled Abou El Fadl
According to Dr. El
Fadl, the Qur'an does not expressly prohibit Muslim women from marrying men
from the People of the Book, often Jews and Christians. However, past jurists
argued that express permission was not given to Muslim women as it was given to
Muslim men in verse 5:5.
Given the Qur'an's
silence, jurists used extra-textual reasoning to prohibit Muslim women from
marrying outside the faith. They were concerned about children not being raised
as Muslims and coercion on the Muslim woman to convert.
El Fadl also raises
concerns about children growing up as faithless or agnostics. As such, he
argues that such marriages for both men and women in non-Muslim countries,
while not technically forbidden, would be Makruh (detestable).
However, the category
of Makruh rests on human intellect as opposed to divine mandate. This indicates
that the prohibition on Muslim marrying outside the faith is not textually
2. Khaleel Mohammad
The strongest case for
Muslim women marrying outside the faith perhaps comes from Imam Khaleel
Mohammad's religious edict. He opines that the issue of the divinity of Jesus
is moot as Muslim men were allowed to marry Christian women. Therefore, the
main issue for past jurists was coercion on the Muslim woman to convert.
However, he argues
that interfaith marriages can proceed based on stipulations against conversion
of either spouse in the marriage legal contract. He also opines that children
can make informed decisions on their own faith when they come of age.
affiliated with Imam Khaleel Mohammad also feel that the category of the People
of the Book goes beyond Jews and Christians to incorporate Parsis, Hindus,
Sikhs, Buddhists and atheists.
3. Asma Lamrabet
Dr. Asma Lamrabet
opines that general viewpoints on interfaith marriage are not always true. She
argues that the main values of marriage lie in honesty, decency and mutual
respect. Her article evokes the question of cultural and nominal Muslims who
identify as atheists or agnostics but get married in the Muslim community. It
allows one to question the supposed marriage prohibition of Muslim women
outside the faith.
4. Al Ajami
Dr. Al Ajami argues
that there is no authentic Hadith that mentions the prohibition of Muslim women
marrying outside the faith. He feels that Muslims are dependent on their
respective social cultures and therefore do not undertake an impartial reading
of the Qur'an.
He opines that verse
5:5 was a late revelation, three months before the Prophet's death. Since the
verse allows men to marry outside the faith and does not forbid women, he
construes the permissibility opinion on interfaith marriage.
He juxtaposes the
pagan Arabs with those who give into current day materialism. Like Lamrabet's
article, this allows raising the question that if Muslim women get married to
such people, the alleged prohibition of marrying faithful non-Muslims seems
5. Hassan Turabi
The late Hassan Turabi
argued that not a single word in the Qur'an or the Sunnah prohibits Muslim
women from marrying outside the faith. He counselled women who converted to
Islam to remain married to their non-Muslim husbands. He also opined that one
can not use past juristic consensus to prohibit such marriages, as such
juristic rulings were issued during times of political disputes.
6. Moiz Amjad
Moiz Amjad asserts
that none of the extra-textual reasoning against such marriages is based on the
Qur'an or the Prophet's teachings. Moreover, such prohibitions are dependent on
their interpretations. He concedes the possibility that prohibition to polytheists
can be restricted to just the seventh century Arab pagans or it could cover
Muslims deemed as heretics by other Muslims.
He opines that any
socially acceptable method of marrying like through a registry office would be
Islamically sufficient. Furthermore, he believes that there could be difference
of opinion on the issue and that the eventual decision of interfaith marriage
should be left to the Muslim woman.
7. Taj Hargey
Imam Taj Hargey opines
that no Qur'anic verse bans Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men and that
Allah would have revealed express verses had that been the case.
8. Usama Hassan
Dr. Usama Hassan
officiates the marriages of Muslim women outside the faith. Citing the marriage
of the Prophet's daughter Zaynab, he has refuted opinions of hardliners who
want Muslim women converts to annul their marriages to non-Muslim husbands.
9. Siti Musdah Mulia
Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia
opines that "the whole marital law is manmade" and that "none of
it is a fax from heaven." She is concerned that people forsake reason when
it comes to religion despite the fact that the Qur'an admonishes people who
fail to reason. She argues that patriarchal interpretations were inevitable as
there have been very few female scholars of the Qur'an. Furthermore, she calls
for Muslim interpretations in support of interfaith marriage and benefit of
10. Daayiee Abdullah
Imam Daayiee Abdullah,
who officiates interfaith and same-sex marriages, sums it up well:
I have been having an
exchange with a young man in Europe who is from mixed faith background. Kamal
is 19. His father is Belgian and his mother is Moroccan. They met and fell in
love in Belgium. Kamal was born in Belgium and was raised as a Muslim for the
first 14 years of life. These days Kamal is not officially affiliated with any
faith. Yet he is conflicted between the faiths of his parents, and there is a
significant pain in his story.
“Some members of my
mother’s family did not accept the marriage of my parents,” Kamal told me,
saying his maternal family’s argument was “that Islam does not recognize women
marrying outside of the faith.”
Then Kamal asked me if
this was true. The following is part of what was my response to him:
Thank you for writing
and providing me some background information about your family. As you
indicated, and over your 19 years of life, you had seen and experienced the
tug-of-war that sometimes occur when there are interfaith marriages. Some
families would prefer to go through the tug-of-war with their child rather than
face the criticisms of their family and coreligionists in their community. This
is, of course, not unique to Muslims alone; whenever there are interfaith marriages
the couple breach an unspoken “rule” that one should marry within their own
faith. It is very similar to interracial marriages, where families of different
ethnic backgrounds are challenged with integrating their lives with the lives
of their children. Thankfully, some who are challenged with such a situation –
whether religious or racial – come to realize that they can either be
supportive of the couple, or they can continue the animosity that they have
promoted prior to the actual marriage of their coreligionists in their family.
Sadly, members of the
Muslim faith – as in your particular situation – are strongly linked to their
traditions. Although they considered these cultural traditions as part of their
religious faith, the two are not synonymous with the Islamic faith. From a
Progressive Islamic viewpoint the Islamic faith encourages marriage, but it
does not limit to whom a person should marry, i.e., their particular faith,
race, and even sexual diversity. What the Qur’an requests from the believers
who wish to marry is to (1) marry from the single among you, and (2) be
amicable towards your spouse and all things that you do, even in divorce.
The demands of the
couple are specific assurances related to age, mental health, understanding the
type of contract they are entering for marriage, verbally articulating their
acceptance of the marriage contract, and not being coerced into the marriage by
a relative for personal gain. When a couple meets those minimum standards, the
couple generally announces to the community that they are a married couple and
puts the community on notice that they are contracted and uphold the
responsibilities of their contract to each other, their families, and their
Therefore, Kamal, it
is not true that the Islamic faith would promote such limitations on humankind.
What you are facing are human limitations that were originally limiting
property rights of family and tribal groups. This was a method of agrarian and
pre-modern societies where one’s security was based upon their tribal
associations. Therefore, intermarriage between the tribal groups established
the diversity of interfaith marriages, but also highlighted the reasons why
such marriages were supported and maintained. As we moved through Islamic history,
however, the reasons for marriage have changed significantly.
In modern times,
husbands are not fully responsible for their wives – frequently due to the
change in economic stability within the household because women are better
educated and sometimes earn more money than their husbands – and men are taking
on different roles in how their households and family lives are carried out.
What is so important from this aspect, and has a more positive reflection upon
modern families, is that gender role models have changed and our attitudes
towards them must also evolve, for men who are house-husbands are just as
capable and supportive of raising their children as would traditional mothers
at home could do.
One additional thing
that is very important for you as a teenager to understand, although your
parents are your mother and father, at this age you should recognize that your
parents were adults before they became your parents. This means that your
parents were a man and woman prior to your birth, and had all of the
possibilities of greatness and weaknesses of being human. As we grow older and
are able to see our parents as human beings, we come to understand that our
parents usually tried their best – even when they were not successful – and
their intentions were for the best outcome, at least we can always accept that
fact even if in actuality it was not that clear cut.
What is very
important, and is stuck out in your conversation, is that you are challenged
that your understanding of Islam, and what you’ve come to understand as being
standards that you admire as a human being, are not being met by Muslim
standards either demonstrated in your family, extended family or community. But
what I can encourage you to do is to become more familiar with the Islamic faith
and its diverse of opinions – for it is never been a monolithic faith – and
come to understand that one has an array of opinions from different schools of
Islamic theological thought from which to choose to follow, or utilize Ijtihad
(individual thinking) in assessing your particular situation.
Daayiee Abdullah is
the Executive Director of MECCA Institute and the author of the forthcoming
book A Dialogue With the Muslim Youth. He lives in Washington, DC.
Qur’an’s broader notion of taqwa – an irrefutable testimony to its universalism
M.Yunus Saheb, You make good point;
“…remoteness of the Qur’anic ideals from many Islamic
societies,”---if these societies are “remote” then they are obviously NOT Islamic,
Sir. Muslim may be!