Monday, March 5, 2012

A Circular "Debate" - on marriage to the People of the Book (Christians/Jews)

I feel like I've  discussed this thoroughly over at my Gender and Islam blog in the post "The Qur'an on Marriage: Can Muslim Women Marry Jewish and Christian Men?" but it looks as though I might not have been as clear as I would've liked -- or feel like I have. Either that or people don't have the time (or just aren't interested) to read the whole post and think they know the issue well enough to be able to make a point ... a point that I've actually already addressed in the long post they aren't interested in reading. So, I decided to just go ahead and show that such debates really get no where when you have them with people who're more interested in whether you're a Muslim or not by disagreeing with them or with the consensus. And this is how the circular debate goes as far as I understand it.

PERSPECTIVE 1 (P1): Muslims generally believe that women are not allowed to marry Christian or Jewish men (People of the Book) but that Muslim men can marry Jewish and Christian women.

PERSPECTIVE 2 (P2): Yes. That's correct. Because the Qur'an forbids women to marry disbelievers.

P1: Not quite. The Qur'an forbids BOTH women and men from marrying the disbelievers.

P2: Yes.

P1: So... but the Qur'an permits men to marry Christian and Jewish men, while never forbidding the same to women.

P2: Yes, it forbids it because it says they can't marry disbelievers.

P1: But the Qur'an doesn't deem the Christians/Jewish disbelievers exactly. For example, it permits us to eat their foods and marry their women. It just never says that women CANNOT marry their men while it makes it clear that men can.

P2: That's because they're disbelievers, and marriage to disbelievers isn't permissible.

P1: ... it's not permissible just to women or to men, either?

P2: To both.

P1: No. The People of the Book in that context are not included among the disbelievers; it is the mushrik/polytheists that verse refers to. And, yes, the Christians may be considered polytheists because of their belief in the Trinity, but the Qur'an still permits marriage with them, clearly for men but not necessarily forbidding it for women.

P2: The Qur'an forbids marriage to ALL disbelievers, and Christians and Jews are considered disbelievers by the Qur'an.

P1: ... Then why does it permit marriage with Christians/Jews if they are disbelievers?

P2: Because God felt like making such an exception for men. It's prohibited for women but permitted for men.

P1: But it's "NOT" prohibited for women; it never states that women can't marry Jewish and Christian men.

P2: Yes, it does. It states clearly that women can't marry disbelievers.

P1: ...


  1. Hmm...interesting...but when I tell people that then I often get the response that its so that 'the children are raised Muslim/take on the religion of the father' etc. How do you counter that?

  2. Yeah, many believe that. I will discuss the different rationales for why many Muslims believe Muslim women can't marry ANY non-Muslim men in a future blog post; didn't mention it here because I first wanted to get through their claim that it's supported by the Qur'an. Once they see that it's actually not supported by the Qur'an, they start justifying the tradition, thinking it makes sense and SHOULD make sense to everyone else. But it makes no sense to me.

    The ultimate issue I'd have with their reason that if the woman marries a non-Muslim man, then their kids will be raised as non-Muslims is this:

    1. On the one hand, you tell me that the woman/wife's role is critical because she's the one who raises and educates and teaches her children (and that's why you've believed for centuries that she belongs at home). But on the other hand, you tell me that she gets absolutely NO influence on her kids, that she has NO say in how her kids are to be raised?

    2. If the woman and man get married because they find each other compatible for each other, the chances of one gender forcing the other gender to raise their kids a certain way aren't too high. Today, too many people don't take religion seriously (in the west) in the same way that most Muslims do, and so a Christian father is not too likely to demand that his kids be baptized and raised as Christians. And this is where an understanding before the marriage comes in: the couple should discuss this before hand so as to avoid conflicts later in the marriage once the kids arrive.

    Also, I have met people whose fathers are Muslims but mothers Christian and people whose mothers are Muslims and fathers Christian. In both cases, the parents seemed to have had an understanding over what their kids' religion will be. I've two very close friends in this situation, a girl whose mom's Muslim but dad Christian and my friend herself is an atheist; a guy whose father is Muslim and his mom Christian and he grew up not caring much about religion, either.

    I acknowledge that my observations don't determine the real reality for everyone.

    And of course, I don't think people should get married to anyone they're not comfortable having important discussions like this with (if the religion of their kids is important to them, that is) or with whom they are not compatible. Normally, when two people of two different religions get married, they have many other similarities, and perhaps even their understanding of religion overall is similar.

    1. Your argument has many flaws, I will try to find the time to respond to each one of them. But ponder this:
      The Quran, If you believe in it, establishes that Men are "Qawamoon" up on women and as such it is permissible for Muslim men to marry women of the book while Muslim women can not marry men of the book.


    2. Fascinating that you concluded from one of the most difficiult, most debated words of the Qur'an (qawwaamun) that that word alone means that women cannot marry non-Muslim men but men can. Your logic is completely flawed. I highly recommend this book called "Men in Charge?: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Traditions" - it will help your confusion about the word 'qawwam."



Dare to opine :)

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