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Friday, October 6, 2017

Qur’an does not prohibit women’s marriage to people of the book

I am pleased to see more and more people speaking up about the justness of God on this particular topic. God is a just God, whatever he tells women he also tells men. Other than the biological make up, everything else is equal in the eyes of God. On the Day of Judgment, neither the woman nor the man will be asked about the role of spouse in his or her deeds, its what you do that is reckoned. Tunisia and Morocco both have declared that a Muslim woman can marry a non-Muslim man.
I have put together a 6000 words article to thoroughly answer the questions, it goes beyond the Abrahimic faiths, can a Muslim woman marry an Atheist, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist or a Pagan?  http://centerforpluralism.com/can-a-muslim-woman-marry-a-non-muslim-man/
Here is a another one:
Courtesy Orbala.net

the Qur’an does not prohibit women’s marriage to people of the book – and other facts about interfaith marriage in Islam

Pre-post: This is for those who believe that Muslim men are allowed to marry People of the Book while women are prohibited; because that means that the whole “shirk” of the People of the Book becomes relevant only when we’re talking about women but not when we’re talking about men (I address this below). If you believe it’s prohibited for BOTH genders, this isn’t for you. 
According to most (Sunni) Muslims, and to the historical Islamic tradition, Muslim men are allowed to marry Christians and Jews, and according to all Muslim sects and schools, Muslim women are prohibited from marrying any non-Muslim. The Qur’an has a few verses that prohibit marriage to the mushrikeen (polytheists, generally), and since there’s little disagreement on this and since this prohibition applies to both genders, I’m not concerned with it. I’m interested in the claim that it’s “haram” for women to marry Christians and Jews.
Muslims popularly believe—and Muslim scholars/teachers of Islam falsely promote the claim—that the Qur’an explicitly prohibits women’s marriage to People of the Book. So I’ve been doing some research on this, and it turns out that the Qur’an actually does not prohibit women’s marriage to People of the Book at all.  It merely allows men explicitly to marry them. So here’s some interesting stuff that I think people should know, especially Muslim women who are shamed and guilted into marrying People of the Book.
does the Qur’an prohibit women’s marriage to the people of the book?
No. It does not. Scholars — like Ibn ‘Ashur (in his tafsir of 5:5), Khaled Abou El-Fadl in a fatwa on women’s marriage to kitabis, and several feminist ones (see below for references, but especially Kecia Ali) — have already pointed out that the prohibition is not Qur’anic or in the Qur’an. The prohibition is based instead on ijma’ (consensus) of historical scholars. See for yourself in the verses relevant to this issue.
Qur’an 2:221:
“Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters) [al-mushrikāt] until they believe [ḥattā yu’minū]: A believing slavewoman [amatun mu’minatun] is better than an unbelieving woman [mushrikatin], even though she allures you [wa law a‘jabatkum – i.e., “even though she is more appealing to you”]. Do not marry (your women to) unbelievers [lā tunkihū al-mushrikīna] until they believe: A man slave [‘abdun mu’minun] who believes is better than an unbeliever [mushrikīn], even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise.”
This verse can easily be seen as disallowing marriage between “believers” and “mushriks” for both genders. But this is one of the most common “Qur’anic” explanation given for why women can’t marry People of the Book. Note that the verse has nothing to do with People of the Book.
Also, according to this verse, the reason the marriage is prohibited is that the disbelievers “call you to the Fire” whereas God does not. (This is I think what Yasmin Mogahed means in a video Al-Maghrib posted yesterday where she “explains why” Muslim women can’t marry non-Muslims. According to her, marriage should be based on a love for God, a suggestion that fails to explain why men can marry non-Muslims then, as though their marriages don’t have to be based on love for (the same?) God. More on this below.
Qur’an 60:10-60:11:
“O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees [al-mu’minatu muhajiratin] , examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers [mu’minatin], then send them not back to the Unbelievers [kuffar]. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers, nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower), and there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to marriage bonds with disbelieving women [wa lā tumsikū bi-‘iṣami al-kawāfiri]: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah: He judges (with justice) between you. And Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom.”
Note that the category of people Muslim women aren’t allowed to is the kuffar (the earlier category was mushriks). Kuffar generally means people who disbelieve. The category is NOT ahl-al kitab, or People of the Book.
Funny story: do you see how this verse tells men “don’t hold on to marriage bonds with unbelieving women”? That part’s too often translated as “don’t hold on to the guardianship of unbelieving women”! In other words, while 60:10 is used to tell Muslim women they can’t marry “all non-Muslim men,” the truth is that the verse tells Muslim men, too, that they can’t remain married to the kuffar. Yet, not only is this portion of the verse not highlighted to the extent the earlier portion of the verse is, but it is also consistently invoked in the tafsīr tradition as well as in contemporary conversations on interfaith marriages for Muslim women as Qur’anic evidence against women’s right to marry kitabis.
There’s also context to this verse, like to all other Qur’anic verses. Here are some sources you can check out for this, because I don’t want to make this post longer than it needs to be: Asma Lamrabet, “What does the Qur’an say about interfaith marriage?” (this link doesn’t always work, though); and Asma Afsaruddin’s “Qur’anic Ethics of Partnership and Gender: The Concept of Wilaya in Qur’an 9:71.” (There’s more, but this should suffice for now.)
Qur’an 5:5:
“This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time [al-muhṣanātu min al-mu’mināti wa al-muhṣanātu min alladhīna ūtu’l kitāba min qablikum] – when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues [muhṣinīna ghaira musāfihīna wa lā muttakhidhī akhdānin]. If anyone rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).”
This verse explicitly allows men to marry among the People of the Book. Note that it does not prohibit it to women, but that silence of whether women are allowed to or not is interpreted as prohibition in this case. It’s convenient that in this case, the text’s silence becomes a source of prohibition, despite the legal maxim that nothing is prohibited unless expressly written (lā taḥrīm illā bi naṣ). Because in most other cases, silence is NOT read as prohibition. Think about “female homosexuality,” for example. The claim is that the Qur’an forbids, through the story of Lot, same-sex relations among all people, even though the story of Lot is strictly about men. But basically, if even men are denied something, then of course so are women; but just because men are allowed something doesn’t mean women are, too. More about this hypocrisy another time.)
There are at least two misconceptions about this verse. 1) It’s used widely to “prove” that women are prohibited from marrying People of the Book. It does not prohibit women’s marriage to kitabi men but simply allows men’s; and 2) Muslims widely claim that, yes, the Qur’an allows men’s marriage to People of the Book “but only to chaste People of the Book!” Here’s the thing, though, if that verse is to be taken literally: 5:5 allows men to marry “chaste” women from among the believers (presumably Muslims) AND chaste women from among the People of the Book (“muḥṣanāt among the believers and muḥṣanāt among the people of the book”). In other words, neither an “unchaste” Muslim woman nor an unchaste non-Muslim woman is allowed to the presumably chaste male audience in 5:5.
When women read the Qur’an for themselves ❤
Also, another important fact regarding 5:5: the Qur’anic word “muhsanaat” meant “free” women in earlier exegetical traditions. For example, Tabari tells us in his tafsir of 5:5 pretty clearly that the scholars disagreed over the meaning of “muhsanah,” with many saying that as long as this kitabiyyah (woman from the People of the Book) is free, it doesn’t matter if she’s chaste or unchaste – she could be a “whore” or “lewd woman” (fājirah kānat au ‘afīfah) they said, for all the Qur’an cares, just as long as she is not a slave. This debate makes sense because slave women were not presumed to be “chaste,” given their owner’s right to have sex with them; in fact, the root word ḥ-ṣ-n means “to be inaccessible” and thus “chaste.” Also, though, the debate wasn’t just about chaste vs free women; it was also about which People of the Book–e.g., those under Muslim rule or universally?
There’s something else that interests me about 5:5. The fact that the earlier part is commonly read as addressing ALL Muslims (men and women) but suddenly the audience changes with “muhsanaat.” in other words, if the word muhsanaat wasn’t there, we would assume it’s addressing everyone equally? Na, who’m I kidding.
And of course, there were individuals of authority from earlier on (like the caliphs Umar and Ali and Sulayman bin Yassar), who did not support Muslim men’s marriage to People of the Book. There are reports attributed to him where he orders men to divorce their Jewish or Christian wives. Tabari’s tafsir talks about these reports.
Isn’t it interesting – and unacceptable – that although the Islamic tradition, Islam, Islamic law, and the Islamic legal schools are widely acknowledged to be diverse, nuanced, and certainly not monolithic, conversations on the subject of Muslim women’s marriage to non-Muslims (specifically to kitābis) often present Islam as a monolith on the matter? I have a lot more to add to this, as it relates to my current research, but I’ll discuss this in a separate blog post where I plan to summarize my research and results.
While none of the verses above (or other Qur’anic verses on marriage) explicitly prohibit marriage between Muslim women and kitābi men, the exegetes read the above verses collectively to prohibit such unions. They decided that 2:222 is an absolute guideline against marriage to all non-Muslims for all Muslims but that an exception was made later for Muslim men to marry People of the Book via 5:5.
Kecia Ali explains this really well, summarizing the issues that arise from the traditional interpretations of verses 2:221 and 5:5:
“The prohibition of marrying women off to mushrikin in Surah 2, verse 221 does not by itself foreclose the possibility of permission for women to marry kitabis. And although Surah 5, verse 5 does not explicitly grant permission for such marriages, there are numerous other instances in the Qur’an where commands addressed to men regarding women are taken to apply … to women.” (p. 21 of Sexual Ethics and Islam)
Are “People of the Book” believers or not?
It’s complicated, honestly. If you’re referring to Qur’anic verses 5:73 and 9:30, those who believe that God has a son (Jesus for Christians, an Uzair or Ezra for the Jews, these verses say), “some” among Christians and Jews are disbelievers. But the Qur’an on the one hand tells us that marriage with People of the Book is allowed, while marriage with “disbelievers” is prohibited.
But apparently and conveniently, from what the tafsir tradition shows, the answer to the question of the People of the Book’s status in the Qur’an depends on their gender: The men of the People of the Book are disbelievers but their women are believers. This is pretty much what Muslims mean when they invoke the disbeliever status of the People of the book *only* when the question is about why women can’t marry them but never about why men can. When you ask why men can marry them, the simple answer given is that “the Qur’an says it’s allowed to men,” and I think it’s unfortunate that this claim isn’t investigated. In fact, too many Muslims will even claim that the Qur’an explicitly forbids women’s marriage to People of the Book.
You see, while the scholars debated the status of the People of the Book in relation to Muslims, the Qur’an challenges the idea that the People of the Book are absolute disbelievers and that they are absolute believers. The scholars had the option to read 2:221 as inapplicable to People of the Book and 5:5 as applicable to both men and women, but they seem to have taken a route that works most in their favor.  Thus, a conclusive point about the exegetical tradition’s view on marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is that the status of “disbelievers” depends on the disbeliever’s gender: for Muslim women, all non-Muslims are classified as disbelievers; for Muslim men, only polytheists/mushriks are disbelievers. (Lamrabet corroborates this conclusion of mine, too.)
Look, here’s the thing: I totally understand the claim that “the people of the Book of the Qur’an aren’t the same ones as those of today,” but a) how do we know that? b) what about 5:5? Are men no longer allowed to marry people of the book, then? c) does that mean that … the Qur’an isn’t for all times and people after all? Because if that’s so, can we then not argue that the prohibition on marriages even with the mushrikeen is no longer relevant? I mean, how far do we go with this claim, right?
the historical justifications for the prohibition: “marriage is a type of slavery.”
Now, note that while none of the verses above (or other Qur’anic verses on marriage)  prohibit marriage between Muslim women and kitābi men, the (male) exegetes read the above verses collectively to prohibit such unions. Why? The short answer is that the prohibition emerged because of parallels that pre-modern Muslim scholars drew between marriage (milk al-nikāh) and slavery (milk al-yamīn).
Consider this quote from Ibn Taymiyyah from his Majmu’ Fatāwa, for example:
“Milk al-nikah [the classical Islamic legal term for marriage, literally dominion of marriage] is a type of enslavement (nau‘ raq) and dominion over right hand possession (slavery) is absolute enslavement [wa milk al-yamin raq tām]. God allowed Muslim men [lil muslimin] to marry thePeople of the Book, but He did not allow the People of the Book to marry their [Muslims’] women. This is because marriage is a kind of slavery, as ‘Umar said: “Marriage is enslavement, so be careful, each of you, with regard to who will enslave his daughter [al-nikah raq; faliyandhur ahadkum ‘inda man yaraq karimatahu].” Zaid Ibn Thabit said, “The husband is masterin God’s Book,” and recited the verse of God “and they found her master(sayyidihāat the door” (Q. 12:25). And the Prophet said, “Fear Godregarding women, for they are prisoners with you (ʿawān ‘indakum).” So it is permissible for a Muslim to enslave (yastariqq) a kāfirah, but a kāfir is not allowed to enslave a Muslim woman (muslimah) because Islam is superior and nothing can be above it, just as a Muslim can own (yamlik) a kāfir, while a kāfir can never own a Muslim.”
Ibn Hanbal (whom the Hanbali school is named after) had pretty similar ideas on the obedience and superiority logic.
Yohanan Friedman, in his book Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition, summarizes this dilemma as follows:
“A marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim woman would result in an unacceptable incongruity between the superiority which the woman should enjoy by virtue of being Muslim, and her unavoidable wifely subservience to her infidel husband. In terms of Islamic law, such a marriage would involve an extreme lack of kafā’a, that is, of the compatibility between husband and wife, which requires that a woman not marry a man lower in status than herself…. (p. 161)
(P.S. For more on the relationship between slavery and marriage, definitely see Kecia Ali’s books. Start with Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith and Jurisprudence. And continue on to Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam.)
So, historically, the prohibition was rooted in assumptions of male superiority over female and Muslim superiority over non-Muslim. (That Muslims are superior to non-Muslims was a pretty common view and some Muslims still believe this. Historical scholars used this claim to explain why non-Muslims receive no inheritance from Muslims while Muslims are totally entitled to receiving inheritance from non-Muslims. This idea was commonly expressed alongside this marriage issue, with the expression: المسلم يرث الكافر لا عكسه كما ننكح نساءهم ولا ينكحون نساءنا (a Muslim can inherit from a non-Muslim, but not vice versa, just as a Muslim (man) can marry a non-Muslim woman but a non-Muslim man cannot marry a Muslim woman).
Fatima al-Samarqandi, a 12th-century female scholar
Through circular logic (“our religion is better than non-Muslims’ religion because we’re allowed to marry their women and they can’t marry ours because our religion is better than their religion…” and “women are inferior to men because Islam does not allow them to marry non-Muslims while allowing men to do so because women are inferior to men”), the scholars reinforced and legitimated merely their own assumptions, ideals, and expectations about women especially but also about non-Muslims. That is, the scholars imagined the husband as his wife’s master and required wifely obedience to the husband just as they imagined that Muslims are superior to non-Muslims. From these premises followed other ideas related to marriage and sexual relations. Since the two ideas that Muslims are superior to non-Muslims and that a wife owes her husband obedience are inherently contradictory, it follows, they decided, that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man. Marriage between a Muslim man and a non-Muslim woman is potentially the utmost form of male superiority over female, then, as the Muslim man is thus able to display his superiority over his wife on the virtues of both her gender and her religion. It simply made sense to the scholars that women would not, or should not, be allowed to marry outside the faith because such marriages would disrupt the gender hierarchy on which patriarchies have functioned historically, and so it made sense why they read their assumptions into the Qur’anic text – we all project our assumptions into the Qur’an.
Since this is the case — these totally unacceptable and (largely?) rejected assumptions — Kecia Ali asks this excellent question in Sexual Ethics and Islam: “If the Qur’an does not directly address the marriage of Muslim women to kitabi men, and if the presumptions about male supremacy and dominance in the home no longer hold …, what rationale exists for continuing to prohibit marriage between Muslim women and kitabi men in the first place?” (p. 21 of the 2nd ed) I’ll get to this question right after I discuss this idea of “kafa’a” (marital compatibility).
Kafā‘a or marital compatibility as a historical justification for the prohibition
A woman’s compatibility in marriage is really important to Islam, especially in Hanafi fiqh (jurisprudence). It’s so serious that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a man who’s not compatible with her. BUT the catch – and there’s always a catch – is that compatibility was understood as socio-economic compatibility: the woman is not to marry a man who is of a lower socio-economic status than she is. I’m a huge proponent of reclaiming and re-interpreting concepts such as kafa’a when they can help alleviate someone’s situation, and so I think we need to revive this idea more and apply it to Muslim women’s situation. By this, I mean that I suggest we reclaim the idea of kafa’ and carry it beyond (the classist, from a contemporary standpoint) view of socio-economic status (or religious status) and apply it to emotional, physical, intellectual, and other layers of compatibility as well.
I am reluctant to accept this concern for compatibility as rooted in a genuine concern for the well-being of the Muslim woman. Because, according to some schools and scholars, a non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman, is to be punished severely while a Muslim man of a low social standing who marries a woman of a higher social status isn’t punished (as far as I know).  For more on the punishment that a non-Muslim man, especially if dhimmi, was to receive if he married a Muslim woman, see Yohanan Friedman’s book Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition (ch. 5 deals specifically with interfaith marriage. The book is expensive, and I have a PDF of Ch. 5, so if you’re interested, I’m happy to email it). I mean, we’re talking corporal punishments here – and not just for the non-Muslim, especially a non-dhimmi (dhimmi = a non-Muslim of a protected status living under Muslim rule), who married a Muslim woman but also for the person who facilitated the marriage. And, worse, in the case that a non-Muslim married a female Muslim slave, his entire community was to be punished along with him, at least according to Maliki fiqh. (More about this in  Friedman’s book.)
That the community thought it worth asking if a dhimmi who marries a Muslim woman was to be put to death along with the woman’s guardian who consented to the marriage points to the possibility that this was not a question of marital compatibility but more so an infringement of Muslim male privilege.
Since much of this is either too unbelievable to most Muslims today to accept as Islamically grounded or we’re too unaware of the existence of these claims, the average Muslim doesn’t share these reasons at all to explain the prohibition. Which now brings me to the common reasons that contemporary Muslims give for the prohibition’s existence.
contemporary explanations for this (un-Qur’anic and I insist imagined) prohibition
Of course, there’s the inaccurate claim that the Qur’an prohibits women’s marriage to kitabis. But even if that were so, let’s be real here: the Qur’an says/appears to endorse or prohibit a lot of things that most Muslims today don’t pay much attention or think it’s no longer applicable or relevant. As I’ll discuss in another blog post, this idea of “relevance” is really, really crucial to what is allowed or not allowed to change with time. But for now, let’s stick to why contemporary Muslims think it makes sense to prohibit women’s marriage to kitabi men while allowing it to men.
love for God: you should marry someone who loves God like you do.
There’s the claim that Yasmin Mogahed makes when explaining why the Qur’an “prohibits” women’s marriage to non-Muslims. She claims that it’s because in Islam, a Muslim’s marriage is to be grounded in a love for God. All great and beautiful stuff, but also not exactly making sense. And also clearly not applying to Muslim men who marry non-Muslims. For all the holes in Mogahed’s arguments, please see here.
Okay, but there’s the highly recommended and there’s the utterly prohibited. We don’t get to make something prohibited so easily. Prohibition is a serious matter.
the Qur’anic verses (mentioned above) collectively prohibit such marriages.
Okay, re-read the above. This was especially something that an imam named Abdullah Ali promised his viewers that he’s going to talk strictly from the Qur’an but instead ends up saying, “Well, the consensus is that women can’t marry non-Muslim men, end of story” because none of the verses he was using were supporting his claim. Click here to see discussion on this imam’s incoherent argument.
men are dominant, so they may force their Muslim wives to convert to their faith.
Do I really need to explain this totally flawed claim? Why marry a man who’s going to be so insecure that he has to prove his dominance by forcing you to convert to his faith? And are Muslim men any less likely to be “dominant”? What do you do about marriages between Muslim men and women who have very, very different understandings of Islam? Who “wins” and how do they decide how to raise their children? Oh, never mind – I guess as long as they believe in one God, it’s all good… Oh, wait…
Also, we need some empirical research that responds to this claim that a non-Muslim husband will force his wife to convert. Because all the Muslim women I know who are married to non-Muslim men, their marriages are pretty solidly based on the idea that neither will force the other to believe any way.
children take on the religion of the father.
Ok. Don’t let them then. Again, the interfaith marriages I know, the couple tells me, they agreed in advance about the children’s faith, so they can decide mutually.
But, really, can we think about this some more? Are men really the ones who pass their religion down to their kids? Is a mother’s role that insignificant in childrearing?
And actually, according to Judaism, the children take on the mother’s, NOT the father’s, faith. So according to Judaism, when a Jewish woman marries a Muslim man, her kids are by default Jewish, whereas in Islam, they are by default Muslim.
But also, what if the couple isn’t planning to have any kids or can’t have any kids? Can they marry each other, then?
What is also interesting here is that people will claim, on the one hand, that it’s the mother’s job to raise the kids, while, on the other, that the kids take after their father. Which one is it? Both of the above explanations presume that the children are being raised by the father and the mother plays little to no role in rearing them. This is, uh, not sounding right at all.
And anecdotally speaking, I’m tempted to recount here the cases of my friends who are children of interfaith marriages (with Muslim father, usually Christian mother), and very few identify as Muslim themselves. Because, really, the mother plays a far more important role in practice than patriarchy will have us believe.
(historically) when a woman marries, she marries into the man’s family and moves into his community.
If that’s not the case anymore, can we talk about this? And what exactly does “community” mean here? Because interfaith marriages occur especially in the West where Muslims are a minority – though they’re also currently and have historically been common among Muslims and Hindus in India (where Muslim women do marry Hindu men, despite the “prohibition”).
Muslim men would honor their wives’ rights more than non-Muslims would, who may not even be aware of their Muslim wives’ rights.
Wait, what? According to what or whom, exactly? Muslim men and non-Muslim men are equally prone to being total misogynists and destroying their wives’ lives. Muslim men aren’t inherently better husbands for Muslim women, and Muslim men aren’t inherently more aware of our rights as Muslim women than are non-Muslim men. If anything, Muslim men have “rights” that actually infringe on Muslim women’s rights (like unilateral access to divorce), so …
fine, fine – then the People of the Book of the Qur’an aren’t the same ones today.
Okay, see above, under the heading “Are ‘people of the book’ believers or not?”
what about the hadiths? they certainly don’t allow women’s marriage to non-Muslims!
Yes – hadiths where people like Umar literally say “marriage is like slavery, so be careful who you marry your daughter to” and “non-Muslims aren’t allowed to inherit from Muslims, but Muslims are totally allowed to inherit from Muslims; just like non-Muslims can’t marry our women, but we can marry theirs.”  If you find this convincing or legitimate, go for it. But at any rate, I’m more interested in the claim that the Qur’an prohibits these marriages, and that’s not true.  (And when that’s not the case, then the hadiths are talking about marriage with the mushrikeen. Which, interesting fact: the Prophet’s daughter Zaynab was married a mushrik for a some time after Islam, and the Prophet didn’t declare their marriage as void. And that was a mushrik we’re talking about, not even a person of the book.)
And also, the authenticity of these hadiths need to be called into question as well.
omg, are you saying that if the Qur’an does not explicitly forbid something, it’s allowed?
Wait, you don’t believe that? Can a non-Qur’anic source really be the source of a prohibition? That’s disturbing.
the Qur’an doesn’t forbid polygamy for women, either; does that mean you think it’s allowed? Astaghfs. 
Astaghfs your face. But anyway, so, many Muslim scholars argue that the reason that Muslim men can marry multiple wives is the higher number of women in the world; when there are more women than men, men can marry multiple women to balance things out. This logic can extend to contexts where there are more men somewhere than men (China is a great example), and so in THOSE cases, can women marry multiple husbands? Might it be possible that the Qur’an was trying to say something by not forbidding polyandry? But I’m more concerned that you’re so troubled by the possibility that the Qur’an may not be hating on polyandry like you do … what’s the issue, dear?
well, after the Qur’an and sunnah, we have ijma’, so if the scholars say it’s haraam, it’s haram.
Okay, but the scholars also agreed on a bunch of seriously problematic and disturbing things (like the validity of child marriage and slavery) that you no longer accept as legitimate or Islamic, so …
And also, whose consensus? From what time period until what time period? Were women a part of the conclusion the consensus arrived at, since, you know, this is pretty real and relevant for women? Is following consensus obligatory on us at all times in all circumstances, or can we change it? If so, who decides and how–and are women a part of that re-negotiation?
wait, are you saying that all the scholars of the past came to an erroneous conclusion? Astaghfs!
Again, astaghfs your face. But 1) who said “all the scholars of the past” came to this conclusion? Only the ones whose writings survived or made it into the texts. And the way tradition writing and preservation works, for all we know, the ones who disagreed prolly didn’t even make it into the tradition because they weren’t going with the status quo. 2) there were no women who contributed to this “consensus” so it’s by definition not consensus. 3) it’s absolutely possible for the majority to agree on something that’s incorrect, wrong, or even immoral. An excellent example is, again, slavery: who exactly stood among all the scholars to challenge the idea of owning another human being? None. The reason you don’t think slavery is allowed anymore (right?) is that humans had to fight to make that happen.
yes, but that’s because Islam laid the basis for slavery to end! It promoted the idea that all humans are equal.
Yeah, that’s what everyone tells me, but you know what? Those same people also say that Islam brought about some serious, revolutionary changes for women’s rights, and it promoted women’s rights, too. Why is it that we freeze the idea of “women’s rights” in the 7th century or a few centuries later, but when it comes to human rights more broadly, and social justice more broadly, we look for bases in Islam? Do you not see how this is actually about the desire and work to maintain gender hierarchy?
all right, fine – show me one scholar who believes women are allowed to marry non-Muslims.
Oh, I will. See below for more than just one. But we know you’re going to challenge these scholars’ legitimacy – ultimately only because you disagree with their conclusions and not because they’re not knowledgeable. No one ever questions Yasmin Mogahed’s authority to speak on Islam, only because she maintains and promotes the status quo, despite the fact that her background is actually in Psychology and Journalism and not in anything Islam-related. Yet, she’s the only (oh , wait, now among two! TWO!) female teachers at Al-Maghrib. Mogahed isn’t the only person whose Islamic authority needs to be questioned. A bunch of male “scholars” and other celebrity shaikhs, like Nouman Ali Khan, also need to be questioned. Somehow, a person’s authority becomes questionable only when they challenge mainstream ideas of what’s Islamic and un-Islamic.
all of the above justifications are “cultural,” not “Islamic.”
This discussion has been really popular among my friends lately, and so when a close friend and I were discussing this recently, she asked me for “Islamic” reasons behind the prohibition. I could only recount what the popular reasons are. She dismissed each one and then blew my mind with the statement: “These are all cultural reasons. I want something that’s Islamic, something theologically grounded.” The truth is that there’s no theological reason behind the prohibition because the prohibition is not theological, from God, or from the Qur’an, or from Islam. It’s from men’s perceptions of non-Muslim men and Muslim women.
Cultures are constantly evolving, as do our understandings of religions (and arguably thus religions themselves). If the main reason on which this prohibition stands is tied to children, or to male superiority over female, we can see how weak the argument is. Yet, strikingly, despite the weakness of the argument, it’s one of the strongest, most widely adhered to belief in Muslim tradition, and one of the fewest things on which Muslim scholars came to an agreement – that is, that women are not to be allowed to marry any non-Muslim men.
Muslim scholars who support women’s marriage to People of the Book or challenge the prohibition
 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: he recognizes that Muslim women’s opportunities to find and marry Muslim men are reduced when Muslim men marry non-Muslim women simply because the latter are permitted to do so while the former are not. Relying on the legal tool of dharurah (or necessity), he believes Muslim women are allowed to marry non-Muslim men. (See his book Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America, esp. p. 131.)
– Hasan al-Turabi (and here as well), for whom the consensus of the past scholars is always open to question, argues that with changing contexts, you gotta change the rules. (This is actually what ALL Muslims do, whether they admit it or not. More on this another time.)
– Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im (see Inter-Religious Marriages Among Muslims)
– Khaled Abou El-Fadl: believes that neither Muslim men nor Muslim women should marry non-Muslims. Also that the Qur’an does not forbid women’s marriage to kitabis and that therefore at worst, such marriages are makruh (discouraged, not prohibited).
– I had a discussion about this with Jasser Auda recently, and he agreed that the Qur’an does not prohibit women’s marriage to kitabi men–and he does not think there’s a silence: the Qur’an is never silent on something; it’s always saying something even when it’s not speaking.
– Ibn ‘Ashur, while still not allowing women to marry non-Muslims, at least acknowledges that the prohibition is not Qur’anic but based on consensus.
– Imam Yahya Hendi of Washington, D.C. (he officiates Muslim women’s interfaith marriages)
– Imam Abdullah Antepli (also officiates interfaith marriages)
– most (all?) Muslim feminist scholars have at least questioned the prohibition if not downright allow such marriages because of the invalidity of the prohibition – but for some reason, the topic of interfaith marriage is one of the most understudied topics in history! I’m not sure why, given its relevance and significance in Muslim women’s lives today.
– more Muslim scholars who endorse such marriages listed here
Also, there’s a documentary called Hidden Hearts that’s currently in production on Muslim women’s interfaith marriage in Britain.
in conclusion
If all this is still unclear, here’s how the logic works (literally how every conversation on this topic goes with Muslims who think it’s “clearly” not allowed):
Are women allowed to marry Christians/Jews?
“No. 2:221 forbids it.”
But 2:221 forbids all Muslims, women AND men, to marry the mushrikeen.
“Yeah, Christians and Jews are declared disbelievers in 5:73 and 9:30 for believing that God has a son.”
Oh, interesting … can men marry Christians and Jews, then?
“Yeah, 5:5 says men can marry them. God made an exception for men.”
Wait, so are People of the Book disbelievers or not? How can God say simultaneously that no marriage with disbelievers and yes marriage with Christians/Jews if they’re disbelievers?
“Ugh, God made an exception for men! We wouldn’t be allowed to marry them if God hadn’t allowed us.”
Ha, that’s convenient. It must be so hard having that privilege. So let’s say that men ARE allowed to marry *the correct kind* of Christians and Jews, not the “disbelievers” among them (I mean, after all, 9:30 and 5:73 acknowledge that only SOME of the People of the Book are disbelievers, not all of them. The same kind of women of the People of the Book that Muslim men are allowed to marry, can Muslim women marry that same kind of men?
“No. Because 5:5 doesn’t apply to women.”
What? How does it not apply to women? It just doesn’t mention that women can do it – it doesn’t say women can’t.
“No, silence in this case = prohibition. ALL of the respectable scholars of the past and the present hung out and made this decision together. [By the way, they were all men.]”
Okay, so the scholars made that decision – not the Qur’an.
“Yes, the Qur’an made that decision. Read 2:221.”
But basically, the prohibition has no grounding in the Qur’an but in questionable cultural/historical assumptions that most Muslims don’t even accept today (like male superiority). It reflects only the (all-male) scholars’ own opinions and preferences instead, and aren’t we always being told that Islam isn’t about our personal whims? It’s therefore not a theological or divine edict and more a cultural idea that made its way into the Islamic legal and exegetical traditions and continues to impact Muslim women’s lives today. However, there are scholars and lay Muslims who have been challenging the claim and are demanding for at least a re-evaluation of the supposed prohibition, and others pointing out that the prohibition isn’t valid to begin with.
So if you’re a Muslim woman and are being spiritually shamed and blackmailed into accepting the prohibition as valid, understand that you have nothing to feel guilty about if you’re questioning or doubting it.
May God forgive us and protect us from attributing claims to The Creator that came actually from the mouths of men and that are rooted not in Islam but in fallible human cultural understandings of gender.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Can A Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim?

2/7/17 7:45 PM - it is a 6000 words article.  The issue is similar with Orthodox Jews and this article can be a solutions to Jews as well as Muslims. Same reasons existed for the prohibition.


Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man

The scope of this article is limited to Interfaith Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.

The sole intent of this essay is to preserve the future of “American Muslims” and keeping them within the fold by expanding the fold to be reflective of Allah’s unlimitedness and extending Prophet Muhammad’s mercy to the entire universe.

The answer to the question has always been an emphatic NO.  Guarding the flock is a human trait and no tradition wants to lose a member of their tradition to the other, whether you are a Hindu, Christian, Sikh or a Jew, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or new, indeed, any tradition for that matter.  Muslims are no exception either and there is no need to beat up on Islam for a deficiency in comprehension.  

This paper explores on possible causes for the no response, and what happens if that cause is no more applicable. 

Some of us may not want to acknowledge it, but American Muslims have their own Islam that differs from others in other lands, but precisely the same as what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practiced; a religion committed to building cohesive societies and caring for life and the environment.

If God would have said no to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, it would have been said in the Quran, there is not even an inference. God does not make mistakes; instead he empowers us to figure out our own equilibrium. 

This essay is merely an expression of what many American Muslims are thinking but are afraid to express.  I am pleased to present some thoughts to reflect on; ultimately the decision to marry rests in the hearts and minds of the individuals marrying. It is their life and it is God who puts love in their hearts for each other.
Mike Ghouse

 Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man?


It is easy to stick to the traditions, on one hand we save the hassles and the agonizing process of thinking, doubting and worry about failed marriage or family. On the other hand the change is inevitable as evidenced by our eating, sleeping, communicating, housing, clothing, moving, romancing and living habits which have changed steadily over one’s life time.

We have accepted the changes in all aspects of our lives over a period of time, and if it was not for the progressives, we would still be living in caves and many of us would not have lived beyond 50.  We are doing what our Grand Parents could not have even imagined, and hopefully we will prepare ourselves to gracefully accept what our Grand Children will do.

When God created the universe, the chief products were life and matter. He chose the matter to run precisely as he programmed it (Quran 55:5-11) ; the Earth going around the Sun with precision, and the moon circumambulating around the Earth,  the change of seasons, and how a seed becomes food through a precise process.  The Jupiter, Moon or the Seed don’t make decisions (55:5), they just act according to a well defined program, and they don’t think nor do they have a brain either (Q 55:6) to act independently, except the built-in defense mechanisms.

Unlike the matter, humans were not put on a trajectory; they were given the freedom to determine their own equilibrium along with guidance. Remember God did not compel Adam but gave him the choices and honored it, he could have stopped Adam from eating the fruit but he did not. He probably told his angels, “Look, I gave them (Adam & Eve) a choice and if I do not honor my own word, who will?  Adam chose what suited him, and God decided to upload “Freedom” into Adam’s DNA.

Indeed, the freedom to choose, freedom to believe, freedom to speak and freedom to live his life with consequences for each action is an inalienable right of every human.  You see that embedded in Quran verse 2:256 – La Ikraha Fi din – No one can force the other to believe against his or her will.  This idea was beefed up again with another sage advice elsewhere in the Quran where God advices the Prophet to do his work and not worry if people would listen to him or not. God says, let me be the decider to put in their heart to listen to you or not. It is purely because of the freedom clause God has incorporated into us.  Islam is also called a deen of fitra; that is human nature.
A few Muslims are conditioned to think in binary terms – Halal or Haram, Zero and One, Day and Night, Black and White and they are comfortable with it. They need to stick to their belief if that works for them and let others go with what works for them.  No one should be compelled to believe otherwise.
If God would have said no to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, it would have been said in the Quran, there is not even an inference. God does not make mistakes; instead he empowers us to figure out our own equilibrium. 

This issue is not religious, but cultural and is common to all societies and groups. It is more of a man feeling he is superior to a woman and that he is entitled to her body soul and mind.  That is not how Quran communicates – no one is responsible for other’s deeds.

Entitlement is indeed a cultural value – the scholars were driven by the need of the time and stamped their cultural understanding as religious values.  Cultural values are time sensitive whereas religious values are immortal.  Our needs are different today than were the needs of times when Muslims decided on their own that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man. 

It is time for Muslims to think and reflect instead of becoming judgmental. God would have made us into a piece of rock if he did not want to us to think and make our own decisions.

Dr. Azizah Al-Hibri, a Muslim scholar explains the idea of ‘Ilah” in her book, “An Introduction to Muslim Women’s rights” that, “Islamic law is usually based on an Illah- justification and reason for an act.   By agreement of scholars, when the Illah disappears, so must the law, unless there is another Illah for it.  Much of our heritage of ijtihad, however, was formulated hundreds of years ago and has not been reexamined recently to determine whether ilal (plural of Illah) for the related laws are still in place. The latter observation is especially significant because systems of Islamic law have often incorporated customs of local communities within them, so long as such customs were not viewed as contradicting the Quran. This practice, incidentally, is part of the Quranic philosophy of celebrating, rather than obliterating or punishing diversity.”

This principle of Illah gets violated regularly. Here is an analogy to make the point. In case of rape, witnesses are required to prove that the rape happened. The emphasis here is on “proof” and today the DNA test is the best proof one can get.  In a fatwa given in 2016, the Pakistani Ulema rejected the “proof” and insisted on witnesses.   This is a classic case of getting stuck in rituals instead of understanding the essence of the rituals.  

And the same “Ilah” for preventing a marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man does not exist anymore in American life.  We have to do our ijtihad – reasoning and justification must exist to prevent such union.

By the way, it is dumb to think that I am advocating a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, if that is your binary conclusion; this article is not for you. This article is for those who are about to enter into a conflict zone and this piece gives them information to make their own thoughtful decision. 

Can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man?

The scope of this article is limited to Interfaith Marriages and Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men.  The follow up article will address who are the believers and why limit it to people of the book?   Accountability is the “Ilah” here.

The question, can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man has been around for a long time, and the answer has always been an emphatic NO.  Guarding the flock is a human trait and no tradition wants to lose a member of their tradition to the other, whether you are a Hindu, Christian, Sikh or a Jew,   Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or new, indeed, any tradition for that matter.  Muslims are no exception either and there is no need to beat up on Islam for your comprehension deficiency.   

I have dedicated 20 years of my life into learning and analyzing the role of religion in the society. There isn’t a single religious group out there which allows interfaith marriages without hassle.  Thank God the goodness and ugliness is universal.

The interfaith marriage problems that we see now, may not be an issue in the near future, and we have to deal with them now.  The core belief in Islam remains the same no matter which of the ‘72’ denominations you belong to, but the cultural diversity ranges from group to group.

As a Muslim thinker, I have consciously chosen to remain within the bounds of Quran, and explore the vastness and wisdom of God’s words.   

Intent of this essay

The sole intent of this essay is to shape and preserve the future of “American Muslims” and keeping them within the fold by expanding the fold to be reflective of Allah’s unlimitedness (Aalameen), and extending Prophet Muhammad’s mercy to the entire universe (Aalameen).
Aren’t Muslims supposed to have a universal vision to embrace the whole humanity with its God given diversity?  Allah is the Rab (creator) of Aalameen, and Prophet is the Rahmat to Aalameen? We should be humans for the Aalameen and such we have to find solutions to the past exclusions to make life easy for the next generation here in America.

This essay is merely an expression of what many American Muslims are thinking but are afraid to express.  I am pleased to present some thoughts to reflect on; ultimately the decision rests in the hearts and minds of the individuals marrying. It is their life and it is God who puts love in the hearts for each other.  

Please don’t forget, you live in the land of the free and home of the brave, and America loves everyone.  She has her own culture that each one of us has subconsciously embraced and lives by her.  The first generation and the subsequent generation of American Muslims are an integral part of America in every which way.   

 A new American Muslim culture is evolving while the layers of dust accumulated on the tradition is peeling off, and along the way Islam is being restored to what it was meant to be: a common sense religion. Some of us may not want to acknowledge it, but American Muslims have their own Islam that differs from others in other lands, but precisely the same as what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practiced; a religion committed to building cohesive societies and caring for life and the environment.

Dr. Azizah Al-Hibri writes on page 53 of her book, “The Quran states that God created humans, male and female, from the same nafs so that they may find tranquility, mercy, and affection for each other. The Quran also states that male and female believers are each others’ walis (protectors, Guardians). These themes permeate the Quran and make it very clear that there is no metaphysical, ontological, religious or ethical primacy for the male over the female. The Quran also makes it crystal clear that divine will contemplate a relationship of harmony, consultation, and cooperation, as opposed to conflicts and domination, between the two genders.”

Values of Islam

One of the most enduring values of Islam is accountability.  God has created everything in balance and harmony (Quran 55:5-11), and has appointed us (all humans) to manage that balance effectively on a continual basis.

My Mother’s words echo frequently in my ears, “On the day of Hisab-Kitab, the day of Accountability, or the Day of Judgment, everyone is for himself or herself, I will be busy with my own deeds and you will be with your own, I won’t have time for you neither will you have time for me” and she would conclude, Son, be accountable and be responsible for what you think, say and do.  If you have a nightmare, no one else can feel your fear as you do.  Indeed, the narrative of the Day of Judgment is applicable in day today life.  If you murder someone, it’s your Heine that goes to jail and not your husband or wife’s. She was right; we are individually responsible for who we are and what we do here.  Islam has found its home in America.

Quran makes an individual acutely aware of one’s responsibility.  Q
6:163-164: “All people will reap the harvest of their own deeds; no one will bear another’s burden. Ultimately, all of you will return to your Lord, and he will resolve your disputes.” Indeed, each one of us is responsible for our own thoughts and actions. 

Quran places equal emphasis on men and women, a woman cannot excuse herself on the Day of Judgment or Day to Day living.  Men need to get this straight; a woman is fully empowered and responsible for her actions and not the men. 

Prophet Muhammad was obviously one of the first women’s liberators who restored her inalienable rights back to her. He further beefed it up by advising women, that if her husband commands her to do immoral things against her will,  she has the right to refuse and if unbearable, the right to divorce. Such was the empowerment of women. 

Interfaith Marriages

According to the Pew Survey, nearly 40% of the marriages in the United States are interfaith marriages including Muslims and Hindus, and among Jews it is much higher, one out of two marriages is outside his or her faith.  The trend is gaining momentum and has no reason to stop or slow down.   

For a long time, Muslim men married women of the book - that is Jews, Christians and Muslims, but the Muslim woman rarely married outside her faith. However in our land, the land of the free and home of the brave, religious goal posts are pushed further out to accommodate more inclusion of God’s creation. If that does not come through, the couple always has an option to marry outside the scope of their religious traditions with no consequences, religious vigilantism has no place in America nor will it ever gain ground. Islam is about freedom, it is in our ‘ghutti’ – DNA.

 Today with the God given freedom, religious barriers are coming down.  It may take two more generations for interfaith marriages to become a norm, but norm it will become.  Men and women become friends, fall in love with each other and take their relationship to its ultimate; marriage.  We cannot deny the fact that Muhammad (before he became prophet) was employed by Bibi Khadija. She just did not propose to marry him out of the blue; she knew him over a period of time and believed he will be the right partner.  She did not send her parents to his parents either, it was one on one. 

God has created all species in pairs and has made one for the other, and when that union takes place, harmony is restored.  God is about harmony, and marriage is a step to bring harmony between two people, and some even consider it to be a form of worship. 

Quran 30:21. “And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!” 
Legitimate Concerns

A few concerns are addressed here and I will be happy to reflect on the new ones, ultimately the couple has to make their own decision.

Head of the household

The resistance to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man is based on the cultural practices, even though it has a religious tone to it.  No one wants to lose members of their flock to others.   An assumption was made that because man was the provider, he will direct which way the house hold runs and how children are raised. That is not the truth in America and perhaps in Canada and other democracies anymore.  Women today are equal partners and frequently contribute more to the household than men.

If the man and woman are from different races, religions or regions, it will create problems for the couple.  How would they raise their children?  What religion would they follow? Will the society look down upon them? How would they celebrate their festivities or bury their dead? How will they handle divorce and their Children? It is still a problem with many societies but not in the United States and Canada, we have figured it out.  There is a load of wisdom in Quran, Prophet’s nurturer and uncle did not become a Muslim and died as a Quraish, it is God’s design to set an example of learning to live and care for each other despite different religions.   Prophet married Maria and Safia, Christian and Jewish women respectively, and he did not compel them to become Muslims either.

The questions are endless, but the answer is a powerful one, and that is accountability.  In the traditional societies parents rightfully feel responsible to guard the happiness of their offspring, where as parents in North America are learning to believe that their kids are independent and know what they want in their lives, and will find their own happiness.  Ultimately they have to live their own lives, you cannot babysit them forever.  American Muslim parents trust their kids to do the right thing and let them run their own lives. Please note that this comparison is made with Muslims living elsewhere in the world.

There is one segment of single Muslim women that is reaching an enormous percent of all the single women.  These women are in their late 40’s and 50’s, and are divorced and certainly not looking for a provider, nor do they entertain having children.  They are simply looking to have a friend and a companion in their marriages and live their own lives.   A friend of mine puts it crudely – look,  no one in the family or work place would ever question the rituals you follow on the toilet seat, why should anyone question how one prays? In a pluralistic society, religion is increasingly becoming personal in nature applicable to the believers of that faith, just as it happened during the times of Prophet with the Madinah treaty. To you is your faith and to me is my faith, and together we can live in harmony.

Dr. Gail Saltz, New York based psychiatrists and author of “The Power of Different” writes, “In every marriage, there are plenty of issues that can divide couples, from differing cultures and religions to their stance on children, money and sex.”
Gwendolyn Seidman, associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Pennsylvania, adds that two individuals from different social strata will potentially face conflicts. “This could create conflicts where one partner thinks the other is not ambitious enough or one partner disapproves of the other's scheming,"

“So if one partner is conservative and the other is liberal, but neither is particularly politically active, this difference is less likely to be a problem than if both partners are strong partisans.”

“An omnivore and a vegetarian can happily co-exist if the omnivore is content to cut down on meat.”
"But if he needs meat at every meal, there is going to be a problem," Seidman said.
Seidman concludes,  "The more alike you are, the less there is to fight about," "But the good news is that, as couples spend more and more time together, they start to become more similar, both because of their many shared experiences and because of deliberate efforts to get along."
This is the reason why Muslim Parents (Hindu, Sikh and Jain Parents too) take charge in finding the ‘suitable” husband for their daughters. They want their daughters to be happy.  But a time comes when you have to trust your daughter to make her own decision; after all it is her own life.


A couple’s happiness is based on how they manage their affairs. Lack of communication is one of the reasons for divorce whether they are from same religion or from different religions or races.  No one wants to hear this, but Islam, the religion of common sense has made room for divorce, so the individuals can continue to live on with their lives with least misery. Acknowledging this fact may actually strengthen the relationships and become an antidote to divorces. Remember, God does not prefer disharmony but would accept if harmony of each individual is preserved by divorce. 

Harmony is a mental attitude. If the couple has enough love, the issues become stepping stones to figure out how to live with harmony. 
Dr. Abdul Hamid Abusulayman writes, "There is a clear distinction between doubts and problems. Doubts provoke obstruction, frustration and discouragement, whereas problems inspire motivation, action and diligence.” and solutions. To this, I will add, "Whatever you do in life, do it wholeheartedly, there is joy in it for everyone around including ourselves”  
Comfort Zone

Our comfort zone is directly proportional to the predictability of our environment; the greatest conformity produces maximum comfort greater security and minimal conflict. It is in this context, I am addressing the issue of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man.

On the face of it, it sounds like a discriminatory practice that a Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim woman; where as a Muslim woman cannot do the same. It is not only discouraged but declared to be wrong and some have gone on to say that you are out of the pale of Islam and even against Islam.

This discriminatory practice is cultural, and has worked in societies where women are economically and socially dependent, thus are subservient to men.  However, our women, the American Muslims women are neither economically, nor socially dependent on men and nor should they be subservient to men.  We are all created equal!

God is not bound by any culture, he sees it differently and says that a man and a woman are equally accountable for their actions, and they are each other’s garments (protectors, friends, defenders, secret keepers…..) and the relationship is not that of subserviency, but that of partnership with responsibilities and duties to each other with full dignity.
A woman is as independent as a man is. Indeed, our women, the American Muslim women live the life of Hazrat Khadija, prophet’s wife, who had her own business, her own wealth, her own home and her own comfort zone. Our women are blessed to live the life of Hazrat Khadija, and we thank God for that.  Shouldn’t that help us knock out our security concerns and comfort zone issues?

Quran on a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim Man
There is no specific verse in Quran that bans a woman from marrying a non-Muslim man. How can it be? Islam is a religion of common sense, is it not? God says we are created into many nations and tribes from the same single couple; Adam and Eve. Thus we are all one large family of humans. Then he says, the best ones among you are the ones who learn about the other, and when we do, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

There is no other couple who follows God’s advice more than the Interfaith and Interracial couples. Their union is a declaration to the world, “Look we are different, but we can live in harmony, why don’t you do the same?

There are two layers to this issue – the people of the book (Jews and Christians) and the other filter is Mushrikoon; those who do not believe in oneness of God.

Shaykh Khaled Abou El Fadl, a scholar of Islam writes, “This is the law as it exists or the legal legacy as we inherited it. In all honesty, personally, I am not convinced that the evidence prohibiting Muslim women from marrying a Kitab is very strong. Muslim jurists took a very strong position on this matter--many of them going as far as saying if a Muslim woman marries a Kitabi she is as good as an apostate. I think, and God knows best, that this position is not reasonable and the evidence supporting it is not very strong. However, I must confess that in my humble opinion, I strongly sympathize with the jurists that argued that in non-Muslim countries it is reprehensible (makruh) for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim.”

I think that would be a political consideration in most other nations, but not in America.  What we have witnessed in January 2017 is incredible, the whole nation stood up for Muslims, a tiny weenie minority. We are the nation of laws and our laws will guide us to be a just society with occasional digressions.  As Americans Muslims we have placed our trust in our constitution and will defend it with our lives, if we have to. This is the best nation on the earth and we have to preserve it for every one of us.

The fear of losing the members of the flock to others drove the Jurist to make that call, which may not be valid any more. In an article “Seven things you don't know about interfaith marriage” author Naomi Schaefer Riley offers the following information; “Children of interfaith couples are more than twice as likely to adopt the faith of their mother as the faith of their father.” Provided the mother follows certain faith.

Two out of five Muslims marry someone from other faith. This seems to be a major driver of the integration of American Muslims. Furthermore she adds this number increases to 67% for people in the age group of 36 and 45.

Despite the passing phase of political chaos now, the young Muslims believe Islam is not a divisive religion but an all embracing religion of the Aalameen, and it accepts the otherness of others through God’s own words, “Lakum Dinakum Waliaddin” to you is your faith as mine is to me, it is a mutual acknowledgement of the otherness of others. They believe in freedom, and did not believe in pushing others to believe into your way. The Quran calls, La Ikraha fid-din – there is no compulsion in matters of faith. Indeed freedom of speech and freedom of faith are the values Islam Cherishes.  Remember, it is a common sense faith.   
Verses from Quran

“Do not marry women who associate (others with God), until they believe (in God). A believing maidservant (amah) is better than a woman who associates (others with God,) even if she allures you. Do not marry men who associate (others with God) until they believe (in God). A believing male-servant is better than a man who associates (others with God,) even if he allures you…” (2:221).

The ‘Ilah’ or the cause of reason for discouraging marriage between two different people is to prevent disharmony given the several factors of economic dependency, social cultural and other factors.  Ilah becomes discretionary here as the couple is determined to live in harmony and not let the other factors to affect their relationship.  Please remember Quran is a book of guidance in most aspects of life, and commandments in a few areas such as stealing, lying, rape, incest, cheating etc.  Do not steal.  Do not lie. Don’t be unjust. Don’t cheat.
The verse 5:5 expressly allows a Muslim man to marry any believing woman regardless of religion. No argument about it. The verse, however, remains silent about whether a Muslim woman is free to marry a believing non-Muslim man as suggestive in the verse 2:221, which predates 5:5 in the revelation calendar.  Please look at this from an American cultural perspective, and American Islam is gaining its own identity.

The issue is that of compatibility.

When Quran talks about believing women over polytheists (Mushrikoon), a contrast is drawn to highlight the compatibility part of the relationship.  God has created a mate for everyone and he is happiest when that union lives in harmony.  God is within us, he is closer to us than our jugular vein, meaning he is aware of what goes on with us, as our conscience, he reminds us to consider someone who is compatible over someone who is not.  At one time in history, the Mushrikoon and Muminoon (Muslims) could not live with each other, but that is not the case today in America.

Likewise, compatibility was the key factor in the verse to marry someone who is close to you (believing) than someone who is not (Mushrikoon).  

Furthermore, the strife existed between the tribes; the ones who believed in the prevalent customs hated the idea of accountability that Islam was talking about, here the issue of trust was in play, particularly when the phrase “Charming, bewitching, allurements” were used.  Don’t be beguiled with charms was the caveat. 

The following two paragraphs were sent by someone, and I cannot trace back, thanks to whoever it was.

 “This allusion to "slaves" (men and women) is quite indicative of the moral values that the Quranic Revelation tended to inculcate in people. On the one hand, the Qur'an showed ‘Tolerance’ towards the fact of slavery that was universally common at the time; on the other hand, it sought to break the first chains of social hierarchy by preferring these "poor" believing slaves to those wealthy people who formed the elite then.”

“Furthermore, the new believers needed to be protected from polytheists' abuse who considered this new religion of Islam as a threat to their own interests. The Qur'an urges Muslim men and women to get married to believers who had, like them, such faith awareness and were conscious of justice on earth. The purpose was to absolutely avoid the marriage of Muslims to polytheists who made every effort to stand against a religion that was defending the most vulnerable people on earth.”

Thus the said verse stipulates that Muslim men and women are allowed to contract marriage with believers and prohibited to marry polytheists. Here the Quran takes an egalitarian approach in addressing both men and women on an equal basis.

The “proof” item in case of rape over “witnesses” can be applied here as well.  We need to understand the essence of God’s wisdom rather than the words, as the words do expand and shrink in meaning. 

The rejection of Polytheist has to do more with the specific people who were harassing and making the lives of Muslims difficult than Polytheists in general.  That is not the case anymore.  Everyone is a believer, whether you are a Pagan, Hindu, Wicca or a Buddhist, you do believe in accountability of your actions, and that is the key to nurturing harmony in the world, which is an Islamic value.  The Sikhs, Baha’i and a few others are certainly the people of the book and so called monotheists that need to be included.  Even the people without books are accountable and responsible, that is how the society works now.  I always welcome the cautions in our holy books. 

Why would God want you to say “to you is your faith and to me is my faith” in verse 109:6? Indeed, the entire chapter of Kafirun is loaded with wisdom.  Allah wants us to learn about carrying a civil dialogue and the ground rule for that is to respect the otherness of others and giving equal value to others’ stance as you do your own.  In each one of the six verses, the other is treated on an equal footing and zero denigration.  God chose not to denigrate other’s faith and that is pure common sense.

By the way, almost every group has a book to follow, and they all should be Kitabi’s at large, but there should be no rejection for those who do not have a book to follow.  God loves his creation, all of his creation; he does not make any distinction between one and the other.  He declared in Quran 49:13 that he has deliberately made us into different tribes, communities and nations, and that we are all from the same couple. He does not stop there, in another verse he says he sent a messenger to every tribe and each nation to bring peace and harmony to the respective groups. 

Then he wraps it up by saying the best ones among you are those who take the time to know the other individuals and other groups. What happens when you sit down and talk? Conflicts fade and solutions emerge leading to peace, and name for that actions is Islam and that is what God wants- Peace and harmony on earth.  The best ones are those who care for the other. 

Pope Francis is a genuine religious man; I believe he is one of the few individuals on earth who has understood God as a name to a system of harmony and balance.  His understanding on some of the key issues resonate more with Islam.  He believed in “Rabbul Aalameen”- Universal God, and embraced everyone into his fold including the Atheists, for the simple reason that they are not out to get you, to them is their belief and to me is my belief. Unlike the Atheists a few hundred years ago, the Atheists of today are responsible, and as accountable to their actions as any Muslim, Christian, Jew or a Hindu.

I hope you are still thinking.  I urge you to think and see Islam as an all embracing religion to accommodate God’s entire universe.  When we say Islam means peace, it is obligatory on us to make sure everything we say and do leads to peace and not conflict. Exclusion breeds conflict, inclusion builds bridges, and let’s build bridges and bring peace on earth.  Let’s not subscribe to divisions and go against what God wants; Unity.

A Muslim is someone who is constantly seeking to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for humanity to live in peace and harmony.  Indeed my talk as a Muslim Speaker on Prophet Muhammad highlights 15 of his actions that led to conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturance.  Creating a better world is our duty.

It is disappointing to the potential brides and grooms that their clergy or a parent invariably insists on the other person to convert to their faith tradition, and some do, and some fake it and some are not comfortable with the idea at all.
When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married any way but sorely miss out on the ceremony. Over the years, I have seen too many couples miss out on the joy of that additional sense of completeness that comes with a religious ceremony. Marriage is between two individuals, and their families and friends ought to be supporters and cheerleaders to celebrate and complete their joy.

God bless the Interfaith and Interracial Couples!
Despite their religious, racial or cultural differences, they are setting the new standards of civility by showing the world how to live in harmony. We have to cherish and honor the couples who embrace genuine humanity by accepting each other's uniquenesses.
When people are showing extreme intolerance towards each other, the interfaith and interracial couples are showing the way to live in harmony and are contributing to the idea of one nation. They are indeed exemplary patriotic Americans.
You are who you are and I am who I am, and let's acknowledge that and live in peace. As long as we don't mess with each other's space, sustenance and nurturance, and respect each other's uniqueness, we all will do well.  If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
As a society, the least we can do is acknowledge them for their contributions towards the idea of one nation that is America.
 God bless them!

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a pluralist, activist, newsmaker and an interfaith wedding officiant.  He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, terrorism, human rights, motivation, and foreign policy and is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him in 65 links at www.MikeGhouse.net

Also published at:  https://www.academia.edu/31312261/Can_a_Muslim_Woman_Marry_a_Non_Muslim_Man

Our regular site is down today, and hope it will be back up tomorrow and the article is there too www.Interfaithmarriages.org