An Ideal Husband?

efgThe question of marriage outside of one’s faith is not specific to any one religion. Each religion, I am sure, encourages adherents to marry within the faith. Yet while this is true across faiths, and even cultures, Islam is often singled out in a negative light. It seems that there are many who are willing to listen to critiques of Islam that show it to be backwards, oppressive, and intolerant without considering the viewpoints of the adherents and without considering its history and diversity. As a case in point, I want to focus on the issue of marriage in Islam, specifically on Asra Nomani’s article “My Big Fat Muslim Wedding” in Marie Claire, G. Willow Wilson’s response, and the recent Doha Debate on whether a Muslim woman should be allowed to marry anyone she chooses, in which Nomani appeared.

It is true that Muslim women are allowed to only marry Muslim men, while Muslim men are permitted to marry among People of the Book, i.e. Christians and Jews. However, there are stipulations that are often ignored not only by non-Muslims, but also by Muslim men themselves. These stipulations recognize the role that commonality of faith can mean for a marriage. Stipulations include marrying a Christian or Jewish woman who is practicing and dedicated to her faith and raising the children as Muslims. This dictate, some explain, is tied to the idea that children in Islamic culture follow the religion of the father. Now let’s stop and analyze this. If the woman is a practicing member of another faith, would she really be comfortable raising her children in another? Probably not. Moreover, religion is something that may not initially be  a big problem between two people, but with children it comes to mean much more. Therefore, if a Muslim man chooses to marry a Christian or a Jew he has the burden of guaranteeing that the children will be Muslims.

Turning to Nomani’s article, she describes her own journey with marriage. Nomani calls for a re-reading of Islam so that Muslim women are permitted to marry non-Muslims. She found herself falling in love with the “wrong” people as well as facing a troubled marriage to a Muslim man. This experience motivated her call to change the rules. For Nomani, the rules of Islam that limit Muslim women to marrying a Muslim man lead to loveless marriages, like her own. Thus, Nomani argues that Muslim women should be allowed to find love in whomever they choose regardless of their faith.

G.Willow Wilson sees Nomani’s assessment to be problematic. Wilson argues that Muslims, specifically the men, are often already condemned, as if loveless marriages only occur when they are a part of it. For Wilson, who herself is a convert to Islam and married to a Muslim man, Nomani’s complaint about troubled marriages is not specific to Muslim men; its just that critics of Islam get the most attention. A common religion, Wilson states, is something that all religious groups advocate.

The Doha Debate on the topic underscored the sensitive nature of marriage outside of the faith. Nomani articulated much of the same opinion as in her article. On the other side of the table, Yasir Qadhi raised a different element not addressed explicitly in Wilson’s response. He argued that a person who identifies as Muslim, man or woman, choosing consciously and purposefully to adhere to the dictates of the faith and who believes that the Qur’an is the literal word of God must stay within the boundaries of the faith. For him, marriage is tied to self-identification. Qadhi also emphasized that, while he doesn’t agree that Muslim women should be allowed to marry anyone, some reformation is needed within the Muslim community to alleviate the subjugation of women that occurs in many societies.

Are you part of an interfaith marriage? What do you think the challenges are? Does your faith encourage marriage within the community? Do you think that the Islamic dictates are harsher? Please share your comments.

7 thoughts on “An Ideal Husband?

  1. salam aleikum
    Marriage is according to Quran and Sunnah there is no doubt about that .People are trying to change the Devine laws of Allah to fit their own desires ,according to their culture ,their wishes..People interpret Quran in their own way ,to fit themselves ..
    The true believer will not compromise his/her faith ….
    People can choose whatever they want to do in this life ,but our goal is Hereafter ,and everyone will be responsible for their deeds…

    May Allah reward you for nice article ..

    waaleikum salam

  2. Forgot to add ,about Doha debate ,I agree with Yasir Qadi 100% ..A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-muslim man,there is no doubt about that ..If the woman truly believes in Allah and follows His Devine laws ,then she will no doubt submit to His command..
    But as I said before everyone is responsible for their action and its up to individual what to choose …

  3. I found this article very helpful. I live in Canada andbecause of the recent tragedies to befall your religion and continuous *crap* that surrounds the religion. It is nice to actually have the record set straight. I can now say that I am now passed the common understanding in your ways.

    Thank you

  4. i found this article very good.

    I agree people follow according to their own wishes culture and suitable to their own requirements.But i fully agree with Nomani.

    Basically women should allow to marry her own choice a person who has pure and good heart no matter whatsover the religion be.and can follow islam
    when men are allowed to marry non-muslims women are not allowed.
    Faith has to be followed by heart and by not showing off or identifying urself to the world that we are muslim.

    Restricting to marry within the religion hurts the person who cries by heart when the person truly loves and wishes to marry the one who is not of the same religion

    Again in islam you should not hurt any one feelings.
    Every individual has equal rights then why there is diffrence in marriage.

    Marriage is an institution where in 2 people accept each other by heart.

    Restricting one to marry within the same religion is again a force.

    I think its too harsh on women.

    thank you

  5. Salaam (peace) to you all
    Nice article.
    There are many social, religious, psychological and even political complexities tied to the issue of marriage. And these get compounded for some reason when marriage of a muslim women is brought into question. Personally I sympathize with those looking into marriage from the perspective of love. And love is indeed a great gift and emotional force for all humans. However I feel some people are not approaching the issue appropriately and as a result are dissapointed by the response from the so-called “authorities” of Islam. First and foremost, no muslim no matter how grand a scholar he is will argue with the absolute authority of the Quran as the central (and in my opinion, the only) element of Islam’s (and therefore a muslim’s) beliefs. The Quran limits a person’s marriage options not only for the women, but for the men as well. “People of the book” are very difficult to find these days. The Quran holds tawheed (unity of God) above all else, so “the people of the book” referred to in the Quran are the adherents of other revelations but who still believe in one God. Christians do not follow tawheed as required by the Quran as the Quran explicitly prohibits the trinity, eventhough Christianity may claim unity in their trinity. The Jews while believing in the One God have belied Jesus and Muhammad, and therefore ignored their own books, so again they cannot be considered as people of the Book. So if sincerely applied, muslim men today are bound by the same rules that muslim women find today. On the other hand, one also has to consider the permissibilty of marriage to a supposed muslim man who neither practices nor knows about his “Book”, so is he just as valid a suitor as a practising muslim? The point is that the issue is a personal one and one has to decide in the spirit of the Quran with the sincere intention of adhereing to God’s rules. As much as I would like to be able to teach my son of the negligibility of faith when choosing a partner for the sake of pure love, I am bound as a muslim to the commands of the Quran. As a married individual I cannot ignore the vital role faith plays in maintaining a good marriage, and if the partners practice differring faiths, then not only do the kids get confused, but the marriage itself is at risk. All of this only if faith is important to the individuals involved. If faith is not an important part of a person’s life, then they should not feel bound by the rules of the Quran, or of any other culture. This should not be confused with some sort of hatred for non-muslims in Islam, marriage is first a personal then a social matter and God has asked us to protect ourselves by staying in the faith for marriage. All other social interactions with non-muslims are not subject to this “marriage” rule obviously, so lets not even go there. We can argue all we want on the wisdom of this rule, but we have to concede that all such arguments are based on arbitrary notions of marriage and love, and that as a muslim woman or man, we must in the end submit to God and so to the Quran. To people who are finding difficulty finding muslim partners, they should be made aware that almost 25% of the entire world is muslim and living and practicing islam all over the globe, i’m sure if they try, they can find someone to their liking. One must also not forget that Islam leaves the women the right to select their partners and to have the final say in any proposal made, it is unfortunate that this important aspect of a muslim marriage is neither discussed by the critics of Islam, and even worse is the fact that many muslims ignorant of their own Book, continue to violate this God-given right of the muslim woman.

    Thanks and peace.