By Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani
2 January 2013
(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Desk)
In the modern times, the issue of human relations has taken centre-stage. The issue of inter-religion and inter-caste marriages is also seen in the context of human relationships. Marriage has an important societal aspect too. As the phenomenon of marriages between Hindu and Muslim boys and girls has assumed importance in India, the issue of the marriages between Muslims and their ahle-kitab (Christian and Jews) counterparts in America, Britain, France and other European countries has also become a serious one.
This situation is worrying for those having a religious outlook of life whereas it does not bother the liberal thinking section. So far as the Muslim community is concerned, it can be said that they cannot continue its journey of life detached from their religious education. The preservation of the outlook of life is also important along with religious identity of thought and practice.
Islam is not merely a life style or system governing life but also has the concept of eternal life linked to it and attaches great importance to the successful end of this temporary life. The Muslim community cannot see the issue of marriage between Muslims and ahl-e-kitab Christians and Jews beyond their concept of life. It can take advantage of the permissibility granted by the Shariah but he cannot put the basic religious beliefs and concept at risk. If there is a doubt of pressure or the situation is conducive for the protection of the concept of life then it would be all the more wise not to take advantage of the concessions or relaxations, particularly when the alternatives are available. Marriage with ahl-e-kitab comes under this category but the justification of it by the Shariah cannot be denied.
A few days ago I had discussed the justification of the marriage with pious women of the ahl-e-kitab. Recently, some of the writings and letters declaring it haram raise some questions. The verse no. 5 particularly the whole ruku’ of Surah Maidah discusses the issue of the lawfulness and prohibition of marriages which puts the marriage with pious and free women of ahle-e-kitab into the category of lawful and justified but the initial word of the verse ‘today’ (al yawm) and the ending sentence ‘and one who commits infidelity despite having faith, his deeds will be spoiled and he will be a loser in the Hereafter’ makes it clear that the protection of faith and practice is also important.
If in the event of marriage with ah ahle kitab woman, one is compelled to disapprove of what is halal and accept what is haram or unlawful, one had better avoid it. It also implies at the same time that marriage with ahl-e-kitab woman is lawful and declaring it unlawful without any fundamental reason is also a risky matter because it negates legitimacy and closes the door to inclusion in Islam.
Explaining this verse Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi has said that one should not deny the lawfulness of the lawful and the prohibition of what is prohibited. Lawful should be considered lawful and unlawful should be considered as such. (See translation and exegesis of Hadhrat Thanvi R.A. Taj Company Lahore, p 131)
As for the distortion of the beliefs and practices of the ahl-e-kitab, it also existed during the life of the holy prophet (prbuh). Nevertheless, the Quran has declared marriage with Jew and Christian women lawful. There must be some wisdom behind it which is best known by God and understood by the Prophet (pbuh).
Muslims have had concerns regarding the protection of their belief and practices with reference to the beliefs of the Jews and Christians and their attitude towards the Muslim community precipitated the distance and antagonism having its bearing on the tradition of Muslims’ marriage with ahle-e-kitab women. Holy companions like Hadhrat Umar and a later age section of the Muslims have opposed marriage with ahl-e-kitab women. However, it does not imply that marriage with ahle-kitab women is originally prohibited as some people would like us to believe.
If we consider this issue logically, then we find that the stance of the majority of jurists, scholars, and experts of hadiths and the argument in favour of its lawfulness and justification is strong. The great Hanafi jurist Imam Abu Bakr Jasas has gone so far to say that in his knowledge, none among the holy companions and their successors have ever declared marriage with ahl-e-kitab women unlawful. (Ahkam al Quran, vol 1 p 403 published Deoband 2006)
Later on, commenting on what has been reported about Hadhrat Umar and his son Abdullah bin Umar, he said that they only meant that it was not better. Imam Muhammad and Jasas have reported that he (Hadhrat Umar) had written to Hadhrat Huzaifa asking him to divorce his ahl-e-kitab wife. When he was asked if he considered marriage with ahl-e-kitab woman haram, he replied, ‘No, I am advising him to do so due to the apprehension that this way licentious women might enter our homes.”
In this context, Imam Jasas has claimed that there is unanimity on the lawfulness of marriage with ahle kitab women and there is no proof of its opposition. The marriage of the third caliph Hadhrat Usman and other holy companions with ahl-e-kitab women is well documented. With the above quoted references, it would not be wise to declare marriage with ahle kitab women unlawful.
Among the modern day ulema, Maulana Mufti Deobandi and Maulana Yousuf Ludhianvi appear to have a harder stand on the marriage with ahl-e-kitab but even they do not consider it haram thought he chose to ignore that Hadhrat Umar is one of those who favoured the marriage with ahle kitab and the report of his favouring it seems more reliable than one opposing it.
Imam Ibn Jareer Tabari reports that Hadhrat Umar said that a Muslim man can marry a Christian woman but a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman. From the traditions about Hadhrat Umar with references to the marriage with ahl-e-kitab women, it becomes clear that he was not against it or in favour of its prohibition but his main concern was to stop the entry of licentious women in Muslim homes and the waywardness of Muslim women. And this point of view is convincing and justified as the protection of Islamic beliefs and practices must be uppermost and moderateness and balance should be practiced in this matter. It is necessary for everyone to use all the halal things. If someone finds something not to his taste or that his digestion system does not accept it despite it being halal, he should abstain from it. The marriage with ahl-e-kitab should also be seen from this perspective.
Those people whose beliefs and practices may be influenced by the marriage with ahl-e-kitab women should not marry them because the belief of their offsprings will be in danger.
In this context, jurists and scholars especially Hanafi jurists have discussed the lawfulness and prohibition of marriage with ahl-e-kitab, women in darul Islam, in darul harb, and with harbi (women of hostile community), dhimmi women. Other jurists have also raised other issues from different aspects. For example, the research of a section of scholars says that the marriage with a kitabiah (ahl-e-kitab woman) is unlawful whether she is dhimmi or harbi or free or a slave, and says that the verses regarding its permissibility is abrogated. This section says that the verse declaring the marriage with ahle kitab lawful was for the period when Muslim women were very few but when the Muslim women became abundant the justification ended.
The other section says that in an Islamic government, marriage with dhimmi ahle kitab woman is lawful while marriage with harbiyah ahl-e-kitab is unlawful. The third section led by Imam Shafi’i believes that marriage with free ahl-e-kitab woman is lawful while with ahl-e-kitab slave is unlawful. This section equates pious women with free women.
Contrary to the views of all the three sections, the fourth section claims that marriage with ahl-e-kitab women is definitely lawful whether they are free or slave, dhimmi or harbiah, pious or licentious. This is the position of the general Islamic world and the majority of ulema and the Hanafis and logically the position of this last section is convincing and strong.
The stance of Imam Azam that the verse is not abrogated but universal is strong. Therefore, with consideration to some issues (protection of faith, non-participation in the confidential affairs of the community etc) the practice of marriage with ahl-e-kitab women (from Jews and Christians) is in vogue. However, regarding marriage with the ahl-e-kitab women whose atheistic ways are all but manifest, it should be avoided and even the Muslims with atheistic or polythiestic behaviour and practices come into this category.
The extremist views on the unlawfulness or opposition to the marriage with ahl-e-kitab women should not be considered from the point of view of interfaith dialogue. Abstention based on the explanation and interpretation of the verse permitting the interfaith marriage should not be seen as a problem or prohibition, rather as a precaution.
There have been diametrically opposite opinions among our scholars and jurists on certain issues and so the scholars of the later ages should keep in consideration the contemporary situations and compulsions and see which stance our mujtahid (freethinking) imams have adopted. In modern times, the matter of slave or darul harb women is no more relevant that’s why the difference between a slave or a dhimmi woman also does not have any meaning now. Therefore, in present age also, the aspect of marriage with ahl-e-kitab woman is relevant and in vogue from social and material point of view (though not from the point of view of the hereafter).
It would not be appropriate to find ways to justify the prohibition of marriage with ahl-e-kitab women. It is the responsibility of the one who intends to marry such a woman and not the duty of the mufti to go around doing an inquiry into which of the Jews and Christians are true ahl-e-kitab and which ones are not. The marriage with kitabiah will also create problems with the upbringing of the child but only on that ground its legitimacy cannot be questioned.
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