Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Muslim Women and Interfaith Marriage: The Doha Debates Chez Chiara


As indicated in the poster, this Doha Debate on Muslim women and their freedom to choose their marriage partners was held on May 25, 2009.  For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of  The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and the Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of  the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo is included.  Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here.


The Motion
This House believes that Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose.

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening and welcome to the last in our fifth series of Doha Debates coming to you from the Gulf state of Qatar and sponsored by the Qatar Foundation.  At some time or other, everyone wants a say about marriage.  In the Islamic world it is governed by a range of institutions and traditions - religion, law, family, culture, even politics - and somewhere on the list love gets a look-in as well. But should a woman be free to marry who she chooses, or is it right that she should submit to other considerations?  Do any or all of them outweigh personal choice about this most intimate of human relationships?  Our motion tonight is that Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose, and we have four Muslims on our panel who'll argue from very different points of view.

Speaking for the motion


Asra Nomani is a writer and activist and the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam.

Born in Bombay, India, she moved to the United States when she was four. After finishing university, she worked as a journalist, spending 15 years with the Wall Street Journal. In 2000, she wrote Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love, in which she examined her identity as a Muslim, an Indian and an American.

After September 11, 2001, she became a correspondent for Salon magazine, reporting from Pakistan. While there, her friend Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and murdered.

Since 2007, she has been an adjunct professor of journalism at Georgetown, leading a student-faculty investigation into his death. A documentary is due to be released shortly chronicling Ms. Nomani's decision in 2003 to challenge the rules at her mosque that required women to enter through the back door and pray in a separate area.

ASRA NOMANI
Thank you. Thank you so much for the honour of having me come to talk to you. This is a topic that I have meditated on for all of my adulthood. When I was a girl, at the age of 18, reaching adulthood, I confronted the barriers that just about every Muslim woman internalises: that she doesn't have the right to choice when it comes to marriage. And I am here as a 43-year-old woman now to tell you that I do not wish for any of the women that are here now, or any other women in our Muslim world to know the suffering, the loneliness, the loveless marriages, and the forced marriages that oftentimes come out of situations where a woman cannot make her own choice. To me this is equivalent to the days of jahiliya when it was an age of ignorance and we buried our daughters alive. When we don't allow our daughters to choose who they are going to spend the rest of their lives with, we essentially kill their spirits. We essentially bury them alive and to me this is not Islamic. In Islam we are clearly told there is no compulsion in religion. We do not have to agree with each other's choices, but everybody has free will, everybody has the choice to make their decisions about their lives. Islam is a religion that believes in critical thinking. We're going to hear a lot of the theological arguments tonight, that lay the barriers for women, that become the barriers around our heart. But what I would argue is that there are dissenting opinions. There are dissenting opinions, and we can use our minds, this concept of ishtihad or critical thinking to challenge consensus opinions that have denied women their rights in the most intimate place in our lives: our hearts and our bodies. And finally we have to remember that religion is not meant to bring about suffering. Religion is meant to lift our spirits. Marriage - what is it? It's about love, it's about passion, it's about kinship. All of our daughters of Islam deserve this, all of them deserve to make their own choices about their destiny. It took me 25 years. I went into a marriage that I thought would make my family happy, and I could not fool myself when I lay my head to bed at night, because in that most intimate place, it is you alone who lies there. It is not your family, it is not your tribe, it is not your country. Every night I cried myself to sleep, and I could not stay in this marriage because I knew that I, as a Muslim woman, had a right to happiness, and my salvation came because my family gave me the greatest message that there is, which is that we respect you, we have mercy on you, and we honour your own choice. This is what we should do for our daughters in Islam, we should allow them the right to choose whom they can marry and that right should extend to anyone.



Dr. Muhammad Habash is a Muslim cleric and a member of the Syrian Parliament. He leads Friday prayers at the Al-Zahraa Mosque in Damascus and is the Director of the Islamic Studies Centre in the Syrian capital.

He has been Professor of the Sciences of the Holy Quran at the Islamic College since 1998 and Professor of "Tafsir" at the College of Usul Ed-din since 1992. He has also been Director of the Institutes of the Holy Quran in Syria since 1989.

Dr. Habash has written numerous books on Islam including The Humane Rights in Islam, Muslims and the Science of Civilisation, a biography on the Prophet Muhammad and The Islamic Culture. Hundreds of his articles and research papers have been published in the Arab and international press.

He holds an M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of Higher Studies in Karachi and a PhD in the Sciences of the Quran from the University of the Holy Quran in Khartoum.

MUHAMMAD HABASH
Yes, yes. I believe Islam has given women full human rights, and respect her choice about her marriage. It's very clear in Islam there is no compulsion in religion. That means there is no compulsion in prayer, there is no compulsion in fasting, there is no compulsion in pilgrimage, there is no compulsion in marriage. Because of that, we believe the woman in Islam has a right to choose her spouse. In the same time, that doesn't mean we as a family or as a society has no responsibility, no moral responsibility, to advise her or to guide her or to lead her to the best situation. We have to remember that the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) when he received a lady, Asma bint Yaszid ibn Al Sakan, she came to the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and she told him: "My father forced me to marry someone, and I don't like him." Prophet Mohamed said directly: "He has no right to force you, but this is your right." She said: "I agree with my father but I would like to show all women around the world that fathers have no right to force their daughters. This is our choice." This is what the companions of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) around him tell us. At the same time we have moral responsibility to protect our daughters, to protect our sisters. If my daughter chose someone, some person on drugs, I have the right to reject this kind of marriage. I have a right to reject, I have a right to correct this kind of marriage, but even if I have a right to advise, I have a right to reject and even to boycott her, but I have no right at all to force her more than this. The situation of people of the scripture - non-believers or other religions - according to our faith in Islam, we believe that Islam came to confirm what came before, to continue what came before, not to cancel. In the holy Koran we can find 14 times, 14 times this phrase which means Islam came to continue what prophets came before, Islam came to continue, to confirm, not to destroy, not to abolish. With this situation I can tell you now, the non-believers or other religions, especially the people of the scriptures, we have to read in the holy Koran, people of the scriptures, they are not all alike.

Speaking against the motion


Yasir Qadhi is a Muslim American cleric who lectures throughout the English speaking world. He has written several books on Islam and is a teaching fellow at Yale University, where he is completing his PhD in Islamic studies.

Yasir Qadhi was born in Houston, Texas, to Pakistani parents and went to high school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

After graduating from university with a degree in chemical engineering, he decided to pursue an education in Islamic studies and left for the Islamic University of Madinah. There, he completed his second Bachelor's Degree, specializing in Hadith studies, followed by an M.A. in Theology.

In 2007 he started blogging at MuslimMatters.org. He is currently Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib Institute and appears regularly on a number of Islamic satellite channels.

YASIR QADHI
Thanks, Tim. I begin by praising God and sending salutations upon the messengers of God. The motion up for debate asks us to allow Muslim women the freedom to marry whomever they please. I'm against this motion because it is inherently illogical and self-contradictory. A Muslim literally translates as one who submits - meaning to the laws of God - therefore a Muslim, regardless of the gender, is completely free to marry within the allowances of those laws. If they contravene those laws, then by definition they are not submitting, in other words they are not exemplifying faithful Muslims. Now, this is not to deny the very real problems of our society, some of which Asra referred to: forced marriages, tribal and cultural prejudices, unjustly prevent women from getting married. It is an undeniable fact that women are oppressed in many parts of our world, sometimes in the name of our religion. We all agree sitting here that there's a serious problem, that sometimes in the name of the religion, Muslim women are being subjugated. However, I'm arguing that those subjugations are cultural norms that many times oppose Islamic law, and I admit that sometimes Islamic clerics themselves, as part of their culture, propagate those norms and exacerbate the problem rather than solving them, but I remind you that the motion is not arguing for greater freedom for women's rights. If it were, I would be a supporter of the motion. Rather it is arguing for unconditional freedom and that is why I oppose it. A Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, neither can a woman marry another woman, and of course let us not forget that Islamic law also puts restrictions on men as well. The point is that if a man or woman wishes to identify with Islam, if they want to call themselves Muslims, there are some boundaries for that definition. Anyone who argues for ultimate freedom is arguing to destroy those boundaries. In conclusion, this motion makes just about as much sense as someone who says Muslim men should be given the freedom to drink anything they want, including alcohol. We all agree there's a problem, there is a serious problem. The solution to this problem lies not in rejecting the prophetic message, especially if we call ourselves Muslims. The solution lies in rediscovering the true prophetic message, in educating the people about it, and in properly following it. Thanks a lot.


Dr. Thuraya Al Arrayed is a Saudi writer, columnist, poet and a member of the advisory board of the Arab Thought Foundation.

She writes several regular columns in Arab newspapers and has three published volumes of poetry. Her articles tackle current and controversial issues and she is a frequent broadcaster on both Arab and international channels.

Dr. Al Arrayed is a researcher in the literary, educational and development fields and has participated in numerous conferences, including the World Economic Forum at Davos.

She received her PhD in Educational Administration and Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I'd like you all to read with me what is written there on the screen: ‘This House believes that Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose'. Each one of these words deserves a full consideration by itself for being included here. I am not going to speak on religious grounds, because I'm not an expert on that and my friend here took that point. I'm going to speak as a person, as a mother, as a woman, as an Arab who happens to be a Muslim, educated, studied education and is very much concerned with the consequences of the choices the individual makes on the rest of society, including the family. I have some points that I jotted down here that I would like to read for you, so I don't make any mistakes. Marriage is a crucial human relationship in which we hope to fulfil our dreams of happiness and life aspirations. Point number two: whether it is Muslim or non-Muslim, women or men, this statement holds true. Third: freedom is a beautiful concept, with hazy, sometimes conflicting definitions. I see it as a two-edged tool, that can, if used without skill or wisdom, hurt somebody. Freedom must have embedded controls against abuse or misuse or hurting others. Youths, generally under the age of say 25, 27, are not the most wise or experienced, just by fact of their age and their feelings. They go by attraction, which is usually evoked physically at that stage, and needs to be satisfied with the shortest possible wait. But marriage should not be limited to the role of a quick fix solution. It is important, it impacts more than the two individuals that are there involved in any individual choice. Its results are children, you get married and you have children, whether you thought about that or you didn't. Now, the children have the right to a nurturing life and society that accepts them. Sometimes the choices we make don't think of this long-range results on the children we bring into the world. Sometimes there are impacts on whose religion are they going to follow, the mother's or the father's? Sometimes there is a split on views of how to bring up the children. I think if you avoid these problems to start with, you are more likely to have a happier next generation in your own family. A marriage threatened by failure because it is crossing any boundaries or any differences between the husband and the wife is not ... it doesn't have much of a chance for success, and a marriage that starts with a problem of displeasing somebody has to be defending itself forever.

Audience Input


Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men
AUDIENCE (F)
Hello. I'm a Palestinian from Seattle, Washington. Dr. Habash, you mentioned how, I quote: "It is not a compulsion to pray, not a compulsion to fast," et cetera and you also add that we should re-evaluate and take another look at the Koran and include people of the scriptures, i.e. Jews and Christians, under the group of people Muslim women should be allowed to marry. However, as Yasir Qadhi said, not only is there a unanimous consensus that it is essentially haram to do that, as Muslim women are only allowed to marry men of the Islamic faith. So how can you say that we should re-evaluate the word of God in a Hadith which specifically states we are not allowed to? Should we not rather choose to marry someone within the bounds set by our religion?
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, let's get him to answer the question.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
Thank you. Let me explain something about this point. According to our tradition in Islam, we believe that there is a verse in the holy Koran (quotes a passage from the Koran in Arabic). That means it's forbidden to allow any mushrik (idol worshippers) to marry a Muslim lady. What does mushrik mean? That means those who attack us, those who are the enemy of us. So I told you according to the holy Koran, if you find some people of scripture, who believe in God, believe in Prophet Mohamed as good, as a prophet, this is enough. We don't need more. Those people which we read in the holy Koran ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying the Koran is open to interpretation on this issue?
MUHAMMAD HABASH
Yes, yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi, do you agree with that?
YASIR QADHI
Well, I'd like to state here that this is a rather interesting position. So you're saying that there's this state between being a Christian and a Muslim, where there's a sympathetic Christian we're allowed to marry and an unsympathetic Christian we're not allowed to marry, is that your basic premise?
MUHAMMAD HABASH
No, no, let me explain more, please, one minute, to explain more about how we have to deal with others, with non-Muslims. The holy Koran said they are not all alike, they are not all alike. There are some of them you have to consider as a brother, as a friend, and there are some of them you have to consider as the enemy. So this is the question you have to ask: what exactly is your faith in Prophet Mohamed, what exactly is your faith in the Koran?
YASIR QADHI
With all due respect, Dr. Habash, if somebody believes in the Prophet Mohamed, that is a definition of a Muslim, so if a Christian says: "I believe in the Prophet Mohamed," he is a Muslim.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
No, there are alot who believe in the Prophet Mohamed who are of different religions.


Muslim women not allowed to choose within the Muslim community: tribe, ethnicity, race
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm from Syria. We're concentrating on the Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, and I think the motion should extend to the fact, in most of our Arabic, sub-continent societies, she's not allowed to choose within the Muslim community. She is told who and where and what family and what level, et cetera.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So the restrictions are even greater than the motion implies?
AUDIENCE (F)
Much greater, much greater. And I think we need to expand the focus a little bit away from just Muslim versus non-Muslim.
YASIR QADHI
Can I comment on this?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi, let's have ...
YASIR QADHI
That's exactly my point. I agree with you 110 per cent. I'm the first person to agree with you, that there is too... there are not enough opportunities for Muslim women to express their own desires to get married. I'm the first person to agree with you about racial prejudice, tribal prejudice, ethnic prejudice, but the motion is as it is, and it's simply too broad. 'Anyone' and that includes non-Muslims and that includes people of the same gender. I'm living in Connecticut. Connecticut has just passed a same sex gender bill. I don't want Muslims marrying within the same gender, it's that simple.
AUDIENCE (F)
That's really too far away from the issue at hand.
YASIR QADHI
I'm sorry, the wording is quite clear, 'anyone'.
ASRA NOMANI
Right, but the point that I'd like to make is that as soon as you start deciding that you have the right to create barriers, you impinge on a woman's right to free will and my point is that it is not just about interfaith marriages. A Qatari can hardly choose to marry an Emirati man. I was told that, God forbid if I marry an African man or a black man, I mean, the prejudice in our community about who a woman marries extends beyond these interfaith issues..
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. I want to hear from Thuraya Al Arrayed.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I think we are mixing here between what came with the religion and comes under the umbrella of being Muslims, and and what came with culture and social practices. For example a woman, a female, has the right of veto. Family cannot force her to marry according to their will, no matter what ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
We're now discussing being forced, we're discussing being prevented.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
Yes. She can, under religion, she can say no, and nobody can make her marry her cousin or her neighbour, or the son of the ruler or anybody.
YASIR QADHI
Absolutely.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
If she says no, it's no, but this is not practised.
ASRA NOMANI
Exactly the point. It's not practised.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
We have to be clear on what is under the umbrella of religion or made to appear like it is under the umbrella of religion. The woman can choose.
TIM SEBASTIAN
(to the audience member) So which side of the umbrella are you?
AUDIENCE (F)
Myself?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yes.
AUDIENCE (F)
Definitely with the motion.


Arab women and higher education:  opportunity vs religiously justified glass ceilings
AUDIENCE (M)
Hi, I'm Palestinian. Higher education continues to become more and more common across the region and women constitute a majority of consumers of higher education. If higher education opens and expands horizons, then how can we reconcile these expanded horizons with these glass ceilings that are placed in the name of religion?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi.
YASIR QADHI
Well, higher education of itself has nothing to do with definitions of religion. We will not change definitions of religion based upon higher education. If somebody doesn't want to believe in the Prophet Mohamed, he can have ten PhDs, he's not a Muslim. It doesn't matter..you're comparing apples and oranges. Islam has already been defined, and what I'm talking about are universals, not defined grey areas that us or others are bringing up, and under these definitions, a Muslim lady cannot marry a non-Muslim man, nor can she marry a lady. That's all I'm arguing for, and the motion is too broad.
ASRA NOMANI
The point here is not about the marriage of her choice. The point is whether she has the right to make her own choice, that is the motion. Is she free to make any choice that she wishes? Tell me, if your daughter one day comes to you and says: "I am going to marry a Christian man," what are you going to do? Are you going to jail her? Are you going to punish her, are you going to throw her out of the faith, or is she entitled as a human being to make that choice?
YASIR QADHI
I hope that the education I will give my daughter will obviously prevent her from doing that...
ASRA NOMANI
Let say it doesn't. What would you do?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let him answer.
YASIR QADHI
In the American context, there's nothing that I can do, but she will be educated enough to know that this is not a part of the religion no matter what she does.
ASRA NOMANI
That's a cop-out, that's a cop-out..
YASIR QADHI
Don't mix religion into her personal choice..
ASRA NOMANI
That's a cop-out because ultimately he isn't accounting for individual choice. You know, I want to say just very quickly to the young women in the audience, I don't go along with any of this belittling of your minds that's happening here. I find it offensive and I find it actually contrary to the teachings of the Prophet, because when young women came to him, he did not mock them, he did not ask them why they choose not to be in the marriages that they are wanting to leave. He respected and honoured their decision without any condition, and that conditionality is not ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Yasir Qadhi, do you want to come back on that?
YASIR QADHI
No conditions, there's no boundaries - no boundaries, there's no religion. It's that simple.
ASRA NOMANI
Free-will means that you have all the options, and that is what it means to be a human being.
YASIR QADHI
But not a Muslim. A Muslim needs to submit.
ASRA NOMANI
And what do you submit to?
YASIR QADHI
To the laws of God.
ASRA NOMANI
To your version of the laws of God. Thank you.


Interfaith marriage, and socio-cultural supports for it
AUDIENCE (M)
All right. Well, I'm Lebanese and I'm a Christian and I will address the cultural debate that's been going on. Where I come from, society in Lebanon is much more lax than let's say in the Gulf, and so many individuals, men and women from different faiths have, you know, been getting married to each other, and it hasn't been much of an issue, and I think the reason for that is because of culture, and for Dr. Thuraya, as a psychologist, you should know that problems of individuals, you know, spread out the society, and society is made up of individuals, so don't you believe that if you have a problem with society and culture, it is your job as a psychologist in a society to correct these cultural problems in order for the individual to live, you know, in a better way and to have more freedom than to just say: "No, we'll have the easy way out."
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, thanks.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
No, I didn't say ... He said you'll have the easy way out (pointing to Tim Sebastian) ... I didn't say that. I said there are ways to make your life happier, if you don't look for a problematic situation to start with. And then spend your time, you know, working on being happy with each other, rather than facing the problems of convincing everybody your choice was right, you were correct. You want to make sure they see it your way and it's very difficult. To go back, I'm not a psychologist. Actually I'm a long-range planner, so I know what ‘future' means. You do not make a decision on the basis of now, because in the future you will face the consequences. You want to get married and she's in front of you. She has the basic qualifications. That is not enough because in the end you have to live with other things. You have to live with her parents, it's a package deal, you have to live with everything. In fact what you said about changing the society is true, but you don't do it one by one, it has to be enough change in the whole thinking.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you, Thuraya Al Arrayed.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
I have a comment. I believe we have to separate between two kinds of societies. There are some societies [where] there is enough tolerance to find positive results with this kind of inter-marriage. For example during the life of Prophet Mohamad [pbuh], we find Prophet Mohamed [pbuh] had two wives from the Christians but it was very, very important step and [there was] a very positive result [from] this intermarriage. The situation in Arab countries and the situation of Muslims outside of Arab countries, I believe this is the... the marriage has to find enough harmony, has to find enough similarity in the culture, similarity in the understanding...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you would support the kind of situation that our guest was describing in Lebanon?
MUHAMMAD HABASH
Sometimes we find in Lebanon for example that marriage between Sunni and Shia is very, very important, the marriage between Sunni and Shia in Lebanon is very, very important. Now there are 200,000 marriage situations in Lebanon between Sunni and Shia. It can help us to find unity in our country, to find unity in Lebanon and to make people more understanding [of] each other. But the situation of religion... I believe we cannot call for this without good faith, without good respect to other faith, to say: "I'm ready to respect your Prophet, respect your God, to respect your holy books," and in this point I believe we can call for this kind of intermarriage.


Muslim women raised by their families to take responsibility for their decisions
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm from Mauritius. I've been educated by my parents. I've been brought up within the Muslim culture, and I find it extremely frustrating that you are underestimating our intelligence to such an extent that you believe that we, as young Muslims, cannot be responsible for our choices. We have been educated by our parents in the Muslim religion and therefore we should be able to make our choice in a responsible manner according to what we have been taught and what we believe is true.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yasir Qadhi.
YASIR QADHI
I didn't say that. I'm talking about the perspective of religion.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I heard you and you speak very well. If you make the right choice, you get the green light. The family does not say no. If you made the right choice, they will not fight you.
AUDIENCE (F)
You are assuming that the family is intelligent enough to respect our choice.
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
Here it's the family differences, even in the same country, even under the same religion. One family does, one family doesn't. It has nothing to do with the religion.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can you address her point, which was, what if the family doesn't make the right decision?
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
What is the right decision, to agree with her? And why not? What is the right decision? That they agree with your fight.
AUDIENCE (F)
When I was growing up, my father said to me: "You make your bed and lie on it."
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
Exactly.
AUDIENCE (F)
So I believe that I make decisions for which I am responsible, and my father trusted me to make the right decision. However, had he not been that enlightened, then I am sure, being the person I am, I would have gone against his decision, because I know that I am responsible and educated enough to bear the consequences of my decision, and I believe that as a Muslim, we are free and I'm tired of hearing people saying that Muslim women have no rights, etc. etc. etc. We do. We're intelligent enough, we are educated enough, why shouldn't we have the right to make our own decisions?
THURAYA AL ARRAYED
I agree. I am a Muslim woman. May I respond to that. Thank you. I'm also a Muslim woman and I don't think I'm dumb. I'm not saying Muslim women are dumb and cannot make their choices. I'm saying, if you have a conflict with the family, one side is right, one side is wrong. You are better off if you listen, so that your life is easier, as he said, and happier and has less conflicts for you and for the poor guy that you want to get married to.
MUHAMMAD HABASH
I have some comment to make about this point exactly. The marriage in Islam is not just like a relationship between two persons, this is the relationship between two families, two societies, so it's not... we cannot speak about comprehensive freedom to choose. We have a right, as a father, as a mother, as a society, as parliamentarians, we have a right to understand exactly how it's gone.
YASIR QADHI
I'd just like to add here, this motion is very emotional and it's very complex and it's pretty obvious to all of us here that each one of us has a unique position. However the verdict goes, I'm happy we started the conversation.
ASRA NOMANI
I just want to say that the point is that none of you as women I hope will ever believe that you're alone. You have at least in me an aunty who will come to your wedding, if you decide to do something ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's a lot of weddings.
ASRA NOMANI
I know. Because it's going to take courage, it's going to take courage on individual levels to challenge so many of these traditions that decide they are going to control women and patronise them and diminish their intellect in the minds of society.


The role of consensus in Islamic debate and Sharia law
AUDIENCE (M)
My question is for Mr. Yasir. You must have said this like ten times through the debate: everything that you said, you said because of unanimous consensus, and at the beginning of the debate you mentioned that unanimous consensus was the strongest tool of making Sharia law or Islamic rules. Correct me if I'm mistaken, I'm a Muslim myself and I've studied just a tiny little bit of Islamic law, and according to what I've studied, the priority is Koran, Haddith, precedent and then unanimous consensus. So when you say unanimous consensus, can you define what is unanimous consensus? How many people have to agree to something, and is there any way you can count or ...?
YASIR QADHI
This is a very good technical question about the intricacies of Islamic law and I have no problems expounding on it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, he wants to know what's behind your decisions.
YASIR QADHI
OK. Unanimous consensus is stronger than an interpretation of the verse of the Koran, because it shows that everybody has understood that verse the same way. That's why unanimous consensus is considered to be stronger than any interpretation. As for unanimous consensus - how it's defined - it's defined where each and every of the major scholars of any time period have agreed about the same ruling, and to be honest, there's not that many decisions that are unanimously agreed upon. Of them, according to five authorities that I have here, which are going to be too troublesome to mention, of them is the fact that a Muslim lady cannot engage in a marriage contract with a non-Muslim man at that time.
AUDIENCE (M)
You're saying that at the end of tonight, if 70 per cent of people in this room vote yes for the motion, that's a unanimous consensus?
YASIR QADHI
No, unanimous means there is unanimity, that means everybody agrees with it, and once unanimous consensus has been reached, it cannot be abrogated after that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
(Pointing to Muhammad Habash) Well, the man who reads Friday prayers at the Al-Zahraa mosque in Damascus doesn't agree with you.
YASIR QADHI
Well, actually he has a position which is kind of, sort of in between and I don't quite understand it myself.


The Result
The vote is 62 per cent for the motion, 38 per cent against. 
 The motion has been carried.



What is your opinion of the motion?
Do you have anything to add on the themes raised here?
Are there other themes you would have introduced?
What is your impression of the diversity of  the audience members?
How do you view the positions of the panelists?
How would you vote: for or against the motion?
What do you foresee in practical terms for the future of such an idea?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

69 comments:

Susanne said...

I really like Asra quite a bit. But I also see the point of view of the man who said being Muslim means submission to Allah, therefore, the women must abide by (submit to) the rules (e.g. no marrying non-Muslims.)

The sad part for me is that people born into Muslim families really don't seem to have a choice except be Muslim. *I* could choose to accept or reject Islam, but I don't think most women (or men for that matter) born to Muslim parents ever had that choice. So they by virtue of birth had it set in stone that they must be Muslim, they must submit to these rules, therefore, they must only marry Muslims (unless you are lucky enough to have liberal parents who respect your decisions.)

So, yes, if you chose Islam, you chose the rules to submit to. My problem is deeper. What about the people who never had a choice. They were born submitters whether they wanted to submit or not.

I really enjoyed this. Very interesting! The Saudi lady got her PhD from UNC-CH which is only about 45 minutes from me. :)

coolred38 said...

I dont agree with his "unanimous concensus" comment because what he means is that a group of MEN agreed unanimously that Muslim women are forbidden to marry non Muslim men. That hardly constitutes a concensus. Where are the women during this vote? Where is the womans voice when a decision about her life is being decided?

Also...he comments that once a concensus has been reached it cannot be abrogated. Which basically means religious and intelectual discourse comes to a screeching stop...because nothing more can be said about it...and any dissenting voices or opinions will not be tolerated. An effective way to shut up opposing views or varied interpretations.

The ayat in the Quran "forbidding" BELIEVING woman from marrying UNBELIEVING men refers to Women who believe in God from marrying men who dont...regardless of religion. Jews and Christians believe in God...atheists etc dont. Simple enough to understand.

In this case...the concensus of scholars who decided that Muslim women are forbidden from marrying nonMuslim men actually meant..OUR women are forbidden from marrying YOUR men....but that doesnt stop OUR men from marrying YOUR women...the more the better in this case.

Such a load of patriarchal crap...I dont understand why Muslim women swallow this line of thinking wholesale for the most part. What sort of God do they believe they are worshipping anyhow...a mean controlling hating God who wants women contained in a little tiny man made box with no chance of independant thought or choice in life? What fun

Maybe thats YOUR god...but its not mine..and I CHOOSE not to believe Im restricted in such a fashion. And thats MY right.

Samer said...

What an interesting post! Reminds me of back home because I often enjoyed watching these in Syria.:)I am familiar with Muhammad Habash from Damascus. He's pretty famous for being of the opposite view of most imams in my area.

Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you for your comment. I also like Asna's comments which at least provoke one to think differently. I also like the comments in a similar vein
of the student from Indonesia on Muslim women being raised by their fathers to make responsible decisions. However I think each panelist and student contributed well to the discussion.

I think most people's religious beliefs are an accident of birth. Some question them at different points in their life, most do not convert to a different religion, though might do so in a perfunctory way for marriage permissions (this was more common when Protestant/ Catholic marriages were not allowed or one Protestant denomination to another frowned upon. Hence I have a "Lutheran" aunt, but my cousins all stayed Catholic, despite some marrying Protestants (they were the only cousins to attend Roman Catholic schools, including one who attended a Roman Catholic university... hmmm :) ).

Many Muslims float in religiosity over their lifetime, as do many non-Muslims, and to some extent this corresponds to normal age related stages, eg childhood learning as organized by parents, adolescent questioning and reflection, adult neglect, and older adult re-evaluation and re-commitment.

I realize you are probably concerned about the punishment for apostasy against those who had no opportunity not to be "labelled" Muslim from birth, but in fact there are Muslim apostates who are left to their beliefs, eg my cousin-in-law, who is probably really a Protestant now. The ones who make the headlines are usually serving someone's political or ideological goals. Also there is a range, and their are options within Islam to find one's place there, and most options by definition are not extreme, but somewhere in a middle ground.

It just struck me that being a Baptist yourself it would strike you as more unfortunate that someone is born into a religion as opposed to being baptized into it after the age of consciousness. In Islam, children under the age of 6 are considered Muslim by birth but not held accountable for adhering to the precepts of Islam as being too young to understand. Religious instruction begins then in the form of schooling or "Sunday school".

I'm glad you enjoyed this, and how nice that Thuraya Al Arrayed studied so close by to you.

Thanks again for your comment.

Susanne said...

"It just struck me that being a Baptist yourself it would strike you as more unfortunate that someone is born into a religion as opposed to being baptized into it after the age of consciousness. In Islam, children under the age of 6 are considered Muslim by birth but not held accountable for adhering to the precepts of Islam as being too young to understand."

Yeah, maybe it has to do with the way I grew up. We don't get baptized as infants, but think people have choices whether or not to follow Jesus. For me, it's a decision each person makes for him/herself, and while we grew up going to Sunday School and church services, we were not considered Christians (Christ followers) until we made that decision for ourselves. Thus why this whole born-into-a-religion thing bothers me when it *seems* one has no choice (e.g. born into a Muslim family = Muslim.) Even if you aren't held accountable until after age 6, do they get to choose Islam, Judaism, Christianity, atheism at that point? I doubt it.

I'm glad that most apostate cases are not so extreme. :)

Chiara said...

Coolred--Thanks for your comment. I take it you disagree with the comments on consensus by Yasir Qahdi, as well as his position against the motion. I thought the student brilliantly hoisted him with his own petard in light of the final vote, or consensus among this group that Muslim women should be allowed to marry non-Muslim men (to take the motion in its more narrow context). The moderator also brilliantly ended the debate on that point.

You point out well the problems with Qahdi's stance for consensus. I am not sure that readers realize how knowledgeable you are about Islam, or even that you are a Muslim, and remain so despite being sorely tested by certain Muslims in your (now past hopefully) life. I hope you will share more of your knowledge and insights here and in other comments.

Thanks again for your comment.

Chiara said...

Samer--Welcome, and thank you for your appreciation of the post, and your comment. I can well imagine that Habash constitutes an exception. It is interesting that he trained ie did his graduate studies outside of Syria, yet is now a professor there, and a member of Parliament. That is a common enough pattern for academics ie to train elsewhere but I wonder if there is more significance to it in the Syrian context. Perhaps you could elaborate.

Your comment reminded me that I was struck by a number of aspects of this debate which expanded on aspects of the current Islamic world that are not directly addressed by the motion but are extensions on the secular position of Muslim women.

Although the motion challenges a key belief and cultural practice, the panelists and students raised a number of other views about the place of Muslim women. It is a positive, to my mind that a male student raised the issue strongly of the right of Muslim women to work, and that others raised the issues of choosing more freely to make marriages across social class, ethnicity, race, and nationality. The issues of educating women in their own Islamic duty of free will and responsibility, and providing them with the educational opportunities that will allow them to exercise that duty were very welcome aspects of the debate for me.

I do hope others will comment as well on these more social issues, whether they want to address the motion directly or not.

Thanks again for commenting.

Chiara said...

With regards to the motion itself, and part of why I found it interesting, the most practical consequences of not allowing women to marry non-Muslim men in my experience are those of North African women who marry non-Muslim Frenchmen.

Their lives, at least legally, are fine in France, but even the annual month long vacation to their home country is problematic.

Since their marriages are legal but not Islamic, they are considered in their home countries to be unmarried, living in sin, and the single mothers of illegitimate children--by their governments which follow Islamic Family Law.

In order to be able to see family, and to give their children some experience of their loving maternal family, their maternal culture, and their mother's homeland, they often travel as if they were the family nanny, or without their husbands, and as the children's relative or nanny but not mother. They live in fear of being caught and charged with fornication if they do travel with their husband.

This is part of the broader social implications of what life is like for Muslim women who want to retain their culture but marry a non-Muslim who doesn't wish to convert.

That would be the other half of the equation. The man who must decide between converting to Islam, or doing so nominally, or not marrying his Muslim love, or doing so with an unclear religious conscience.

More broadly, women are not allowed to pass on by birth their Islamic religion to their children; nor to pass on their nationality. The latter was very disturbing to a Moroccan friend married to a Macedonian Muslim. She who had sought to have her mother's European nationality as well as her father's Moroccan one (and did so with an interesting dual citizenship twist), wanted to pass on her own Moroccan citizenship. In some ways this was superfluous as they could acquire her Belgian one, yet in others not, since given wars in the Balkans and redrawing boundaries, at one point her husband was stateless. Also it seemed to her important for her children's complete sense of identity that they have her Moroccan citizenship, as she herself was proud to have been born and raised there, and visited frequently. This all came up with the birth of her first child, and being shocked to discover she couldn't pass on her citizenship as she was more focused on and imbued with feminist Islam including in her own country.

These more secular questions of transmission of faith, culture, and nationality, and the implications of them for mixed couples are ones I hope that readers and commenters will address as part of this discussion.

Anonymous said...

http://muslimmatters.org/2009/05/26/the-doha-debates-an-insider%E2%80%99s-perspective-yasir-qadhi-asra-nomani-womens-freedom-to-marry/

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Great post, Chiara!
Yet the whole debate doesn't seem to be about the freedom of choosing the right husband; it is basically about freedom.
From my point of view and from my experience in life, there is no such thing as freedom unless you are crazy or bohemian. If you are an employee, you don't have a choice but to wake up every morning to go to work. If you are a mother you don't have a choice but to be responsible and take care of your children. if you have dreams and ambitions, you will all your life to fulfill these dreams and goals...some way or the other, we are all slaves of some(thing).
Once you have a commitment in life, you are not free...you might have many options, but you are still NOT free. We are equal in this regard unless some choose to lead an animal-like life where they financially depend on others and emotionally and sexually don't commit to anyone.

Back to our topic...I agree with Dr. Thurraya AlAreed and Yasir Qadhi... marriage is not just a boy meeting a girl and making love. When two people decide to get married, they are forming the destiny and identity of their children, and if their decision id wrong and based on physical attraction, they will end up having confused children with a lost identity and probably with many other psychological problems.

I know many independent Muslim women who have been involved with non-Muslim men, and they refused their marriage proposals. One of them told me she couldn't imagine telling her child that his father doesn't believe in his mother's religion. the first thing a woman looks for when she wants to get married is a man who shares the same ideas and beliefs with her. Sometimes having different points of view and attitudes is enough to make life hard enough, so how would it be when two couples who share the same bed don't believe in the same God? Whose God will be worshiped in the family? Whose principles is going to be practiced in the family?
Even for Muslim men, marriage to non-Muslims is restricted; they can't marry a woman who believes in more than one God...they can't marry a Christian woman who is used to adultery or having multiple relationships. It's just not a healthy relationship; not because Muslims are better or worse; it's because marriage means (UNITY), and having two very different beliefs defies the purpose of marriage...eventually one of the partners has to make compromises and perhaps has to give up his/her religion, which also means there is no freedom and there some sort of pressure to make a choice.

One of my friends who had a British Christian man in love with her refused to marry him for only one reason...she told me "he is not circumcised!)" That's a very disgusting thing for Muslim women! They just can't stand it :)

I am against forcing women to get married, but believe me as a Saudi woman, this is not happening now (except in some tribes)...Me and all the girls and women I know got married to the people that we wanted and none of us was ever forced to marry someone...the thought never crossed our families' minds...there are plenty of Muslim men out there for women...and if we open the chances to marry non Muslim men, the non-Muslim women will have less chances to get married because we are hotter, prettier, and better as housewives :) just kiddin ;)

Thanks Chiara

Qusay said...

Marriage, is not easy, it takes work, it is not guaranteed to work.

Personally I really do not care who marries who or what, but I know too many dissimilarities are not good for a marriage, and that could encompass many different things... ask two brothers or two sisters on their idea of a perfect mate and you would get different answers, even though they were raised in the same household.

it is not something easy to explain... the words are not coming to me. I might have to revisit this, but since I wrote those two paragraphs I am not deleting this comment :)

Chiara said...

Qusay--thanks for sending your comment via email, since the commenting jinn was misbehaving. If anyone else has a problem, please send your comment via email, and I will post it in your name, as above.

chiaraazlinquestion AT yahoo.com

(or the other one if you have it already)

Looking forward to more comments, thanks.

Chiara said...

Susanne 2nd comment--As someone from a Roman Catholic tradition where the infant was to be baptized as soon as possible after birth, in case something happened, so the infant would be admitted to Heaven and not consigned for Eternity to Limbo, the idea of a later baptism was very foreign to me when I first became aware of it in theory.

In practice, my first experience was as an 18-year-old lifeguard who volunteered to work the hours that had been requested for the private use of the pool by a Church group. This was done for adolescent and adult baptisms with full immersion. Somehow in the prosaic surroundings and chlorine fumes it struck me that this was closer to John the Baptist's immersion of the faithful in the River Jordan, than the sign of the cross with holy water on an infant's forehead.

I appreciate both traditions, even if Roman Catholicism recently eliminated the idea of Limbo, and thus the need to baptize quickly is less.

There remains Purgatory, fortunately, not for infants, but for foolish men who critique my hand knit gifts in comparison to others they have received, and are now in knitting gift Purgatory, even though it has been lo these many years! LOL :)

I do think that Muslims make choices about their religion much the way most people do, ie within the religion they were born into, as opposed to actually converting to a different one. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part people evolve in their attitude and practice of their own religion over the course of their lifetime. They usually come to a more thoughtful understanding of Islam and a set of more personal beliefs and attitudes within its parameters. They, of course, don't make the headlines.

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thank you for the very interesting link, with is a blog post from Yasir Qadhi on Muslim Matters,entitled "The Doha Debates: An Insider’s Perspective (Yasir Qadhi, Asra Nomani & Women’s Freedom to Marry)". There he shares his personal experience of the Doha Debate (s), his arguments, his impression of the way the vote went, and concludes:

"The debate succeeded in illustrating that marriage and female rights are complex issues that involve many aspects of culture, religion, social status, and society. The fact that the conversation took place was a step forward for the region. And in the end of the day, that is the ultimate goal of the Doha Debates – to talk about controversial topics in a public forum and to began dialogue for a more productive and healthy future."

with which I agree.

Thank you again for sharing this with us. I hope all will read it, by copy pasting your reference, or clicking on the title above which is linked.

Chiara said...

Maha--Thank YOU! for your comprehensive and thought provoking comment.

I certainly agree with you that one of the concepts subtending the debate was freedom, and that freedom is not absolute--except perhaps for the hard core existentialist, and even they are better at theorizing about it, than living it.

When two people decide to get married, they are forming the destiny and identity of their children, and if their decision id wrong and based on physical attraction, they will end up having confused children with a lost identity and probably with many other psychological problems.

For the sake of "debate" or argument, not all marry with the desire or intention to have children, although I appreciate that is part of the reason or the reason for marriage for many, if not most. Still, I am not sure of the dire consequences you predict, even for those marrying for physical attraction, unless they were highly incompatible and probably both suffering from personality disorders.

I was interested to know of Muslim women involved with non-Muslim men but not intending to marry. I know more of the opposite situation. The Muslim women I know involved with non-Muslim men either get them to convert for marriage and family purposes; or one is contemplating what to do still, ie about religion, not about marrying him.

Good to know that forced marriages, as opposed to arranged, are not common, especially as Islam requires the consent of both partners, hopefully in fact given free of family coercion though that is hard to sort out sometimes.

About your last point...hmmm if one looks at global demographics Catholics and Muslims are just about matched. If they each married each other there would be world harmony! :) or chaos :( or happy but unkempt homes. LOL :) :P

Chiara said...

Qusay--thanks for your thoughtful comment. It is true that all marriages require work, and by both partners, preferably at the same time, or each on in turn where necessary. There are usually external challenges to a marriage, as well as ones internal to the couple, and to one of the partners, at any given time so enough to make working at it a requirement, which can be more positive a process than it sounds.

What constitutes too many dissimilarities is probably individual, but for sure there is probably a breaking point for any couple. Core beliefs, attitudes, values and shared goals within the marriage seem to me more important than details. Sometimes marriages break up when the core beliefs of one partner shift in a way intolerable to the other, or the usual behaviours change.

On the other hand, boredom, repetition and failure to growth on the part of the partners or the relationship itself are also marriage killers.

Yes you must revisit, and comment further!

Others too!

Anthrogeek10 said...

Chiara,

This was interesting. I found tat the cleric was a bit evasive in his answers. It was a relief to know that he does not support forced marriages at least in words.
If one wants to be literal, one can say that yes, Islam forbids Muslimm women to marry non-Muslim men and on those grounds, the cleric was correct.
Personally, I married a Christian man and it turned out much more turmoilous than my marriage to a Muslim. I had to teach him the "correct" way to do things such as not wearing shoes int he house, not bringing pork in my home, etc. It was draining not being on the same page. I am a believer off free will/choice but it also complicates matters at times.
The patriarchy in the Arab speaking world will not change anytime soon and the West needs to stop putting their version of "choice and human rights" onto the region. I think international human rights organizations tend to make blanket rulings for all no matter where they are from. I guess choice of marriage partners would be considered a human rights issue.

Off to compare ethnographies related to tourism...humm..

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--thanks for your comment, and sharing more of your experience and perspective, beyond that in your generous post here:

You do raise an excellent point that the Western perspective on priorities and human rights priorities often clashes with that of the culture they are observing. That is one of the reasons it is so important that people within the culture speak up, and have enough rights of free speech to do so, or do it in other safe fora outside certain countries.

Often when one reads on a topic there is a Western literature on it, and a non-Western one with varying degrees of overlap.

Having had this conversation with Western feminists, I can assure you that many don`t want to acknowledge that pre-pubertal maids are a phenomenon of poverty in a 3rd world culture, not some perverse sense of Arabic/Muslim/Moroccan child raising practice genetically encoded; and even less, that many of these girls are better off than starving at home.

Some of the points you raise about religious accommodation in an interfaith household are a function of the individuals as well as the the religions: their willingness to learn, to compromise, and to accommodate. I really don't find that too hard. However, this is the kind of thing that takes on power struggle, control issues, enraged inner children proportions in a marriage, or with other family members.

Thanks for your comment.

Don't go too far away! Film with an anthropology twist will be coming up here shortly!

oby said...

I found the debate fascinating...certainly there are many sides to this story to consider. There were a couple of points I had an issue with. The first was the cleric said that once a consensus is made it can never be abrogated. To me that does a disservice to the religion. In essence it freezes it in time forever regardless of new understandings or possible interpretations. It does not allow for the possibility of forward motion or a changed perspective based on new scholars revisiting the issue. It chokes off any possibility of future critical thought on the subject. These scholars will decide FOREVER the stance on a certain issue. The other thing that I had an issue with in tandem with this one was that the cleric said there must be a unanimous consensus, but he makes no room for the the attitudes and preconceived thought processes that these scholars will "filter" their decision through. So a decision is made for all eternity on a subject based on a certain moment in time which could affect the way the scholars rule. What if, two hundred years from now long after we are all dead there are different circumstances or life as we know it has changed...and Islam due to the "no abrogation" rule is unable to adapt to the situation?

I am glad it went the way it did.

I guess I could see all points of view, but in the end having done it myself, I gotta say all the stuff about culture and religion being an issue might be true BUT it doesn't have to be an issue unless you make it one.

Abu Abdullah said...

Yep, every body does deserve the freedom to choose a partner, but with freedom comes responsibility as well.

One needs to realize the long term consequences of marrying a partner which sadly teens don't realize these days.

From a marriage, a couple has a responsibility of:
1. establishing a viable and stable family unit.
2. raising their children well enough (without the side effects of identity crisis, etc)

Now in the past, we had issues of mixed ethnic marriages but now that is not much of a problem. But still in today's world religion is a important factor in many people's life and society.

Now i have the following questions for a couple looking at an interfaith marriage

1. Do you have a plan to prevent identity crisis for your children?

2. Are you sure that you or your other partner in future would not suddenly become too religious causing friction in the family?

3. How would you teach your children the conflicting ideas of your both religion. There are some major differences with all religions how would you teach it to them?

4. I have seen many cases where a partner is in mad love with the other but still despises his/her partners culture or religion. Do you have this feeling in you?

5. How do you define your identity? Do you define your identity by your religion, culture or race? Every one does stick to an affiliation and are you willing to redefine your affiliation for the sake of your partner?

6. Do you think you can handle some of the unfamiliar / uncomfortable customs of your partner? (For e.g. if you are a muslim can you sit at a dinner table with your inlaws with a pork roast onthe table?)

I sincerely believe that interfaith marriages are big challenge, esp. with children involved, they are more often miserable, from what we have seen around and esp. on the blogs run by such couples.

And also, so are the marriages where a partner converts to the religion of his / her partner just to marry.

oby said...

Life is not absolute and one cannot plan for every possibility that might come along. Having said that, there are certain things that can be done to minimize conflict. I think the first thing that must happen is that both sides MUST MUST MUST approach the situation with an open mind toward the others beliefs/culture. That doesn't mean that you yourself must believe in their religion but if you have true respect for their beliefs then that is going a long way to smoothing some of the rough edges. Ie: I believe that Mohammed was the Prophet for the Muslims and I believe that there are some very lovely parts of the religion, but that doesn't make me a Muslim...it does however, allow me to give room to a possible partner who chooses Islam as their faith.

In my particular situation we have shown our daughter both religions...we share in the celebrations in India via Skype. We have explained to her the differences and the end result is she is conversant in both religions although we tend to follow mine.(with my husband's blessing and no he doesn't feel shortchanged) As I stated elsewhere she has an understanding that will continue to grow that her paternal grandparents are different from her maternal but they both love her very much and she loves them despite the differences.

As for customs I think sensitivity should be applied but conversely a sense of freedom of choice should also be applied. For my husband eating beef is a no no. But he would never dream of restricting my desire to eat it. When we go out to a restaurant as long as he doesn't have to eat it he has no problem with me eating it. On the other hand, due to his not eating beef when I cook I take great care not to use any additives that have beef in them such as flavorings or soup stocks etc. I read all labels to be sure. Whether he will ever know it or not I do it out of respect for his beliefs and religion. I have internalized that concept and self regulate because I respect his desires/beliefs. Conversely, when I cook steak or beef stew at home I try to do it infrequently and he gives a little on his side and lives with the fact that on occasion I want to eat beef...but I don't make him eat it. I think it is a generosity of spirit that must be applied. If one is not willing to even have the pork or beef on the table even if one doesn't have to eat it then there isn't a full spirit of compromise being applied.

THE HOLY SINNER said...

It is a simple fact. Non-believers in Islam are not to be the choice. The restiction comes not because Islam thinks of the former as inferiors. Afterall, we are all the creation of the same Creator. The restriction has its own reasons that do appeal to reason.

First and foremost of all, we need to understand that the believers in God are not just believers in God but in the oneness of God. Those denying it, which include every other religion outside Islam, cannot be the chosen partners. And where it is allowed to marry outside Islam, the Surah Nisa, it is clearly mentioned that a better choice is to remain in the religion of God.

Islam lays a very clear preference on cleanliness of self. Which includes cleanliness of the soul as well. Which comes only when you practice Islam. And then there are the issues of which worshipping place the offsprings would go to, breeding confusions and at times distrust in the couple. Do keep in mind that divorce, is the most hated out of the allowed practices in Islam. Islam, the religion of peace, disallows anything which ultimately leads to suffering in any term(s).

Jay Kactuz said...

Coolred is right on this. This whole issue is about access to women. It is "we get yours, you can't have ours". It is nothing more than the right hand keeping as much as it can for gratification - married or unmarried, muslim and non-muslim, of freewill or captives / slaves. Any other understanding of this is pure fantasy.

It is strange that Muhammad Habash is listing as "suporting" when he clearly is not supportative of the motion at all, unless the non-Muslim is a cryptopseudoMuslim. As to Asra Nomani, as far as I know she still has to use the back door at the mosque in Morgantown. If she cant even win a simple argument about using the front door (in an American mosque!), why should we expect her opinion to make any difference? She is smart and her heart is certainly in the right place but she, like so many Muslims, sees Islam as what she would like it to be, not what its texts say or how it is practiced. This departure of reality not only underminds her own argument but it ensures that any vote approving the motion is totally irrelevant.

To me, the debate might as well be about voting to decide if the sun shall rise in the east every morning. The debate is essentially meaningless, and will be until there is a change of heart in Islamic societies. In simple terms, the prohibition of Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men is universal in Islam. Any notion to the contrary is wishful thing. This prohibition is legal, cultural and most of all religious. Oh yes, the statement that "Islam is a religion that believes in critical thinking" is amusing.

It gets worse: consider the case of a woman becoming Muslim yet married to a nonMuslim.... What do the Imams say?
http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/4036/marriage%20kaafir

So, if a woman converts to Islam and is married to a good, loving, hard-working, morally upright Catholic guy who is the father of her 3 children, what is she to do? Leave him, of course, because he is one of those vile kaafirs.

Anyway, nice writing here. Great blog. But what I really wanted to say was... shouldn't a blog named Chez Chiara be about food?

oby said...

@ THE HOLY SINNER...

Wow!

Your post is filled with intolerance but I don't blame you because I am sure that is what you were taught to believe.

Your points are not correct for all. I have just given examples above about how it doesn't always breed confusion and conflict. There are many people in the world like me who have worked it out. For someone who thinks in the absolute with no nuance of discernment as your post indicates it would certainly be impossible for you to marry outside of your faith. You just stated that you don't feel anyone else can be clean or follows a monotheistic religion other than Islam. That tells me you have simply accepted what your faith has told you without actually looking at other religions.

That is fine...everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. It is sad however, you are unable to make any room of any sort for other religions to be respected and people to follow their own way. Even your Prophet said that Allah created other peoples and other religions so that they might know each other and if he had wanted to he would have created all alike but it was better to have variety.

So I am thinking if it is good enough for Allah/God it should be good enough for all of His people.

Abu Abdullah said...

@the holy sinner:
Though I am curious about your blogonym, yes it’s a fact most of the inter-religious marriages do fail, unless one of the partner wills to forego their respective religious obligations.

For example, I personally know of a family which ended being totally messed up. There was this Muslim lady who married a Hindu guy who converted to Islam just to marry this lady. But as his motives for conversion was only for marrying this Muslim lady he eventually ended up becoming a Hindu, of course yes the Muslims also did not do a better job in welcoming him into the fold.

However after he went back to Hinduism he became a bit extreme forcing his beliefs on his wife and son which led to the lady becoming a bit of Muslim cultural extremist and her son becoming almost a nut bag with identity crisis. Also not to forget the lady started beating up her son bringing out her frustration on him.

Eventually when her son grew up he just joined the army to escape the physical abuse and the mental torture from the home, and the lady got her marriage annulled after 18 years of marriage and remarried some other Muslim guy as his second wife (yes she re-married into a polygamous setup) and her former Hindu husband took an another lady to live with.

And the worst affected was her son who suffered a lot mentally and as a result had a broken first marriage, PTSD, etc. however he remarried again and is living in a different country other than his parents and never wants to join them, but he keeps in regular contact with his both parents and has mended his relationship with his father since then. With old age his father is no longer a Hindu extremist he was once upon a time. But at the end of the day the family is extremely fragmented and broken up with no hopes of having a unified family.

No Child deserves a broken up, fragmented family, and children born in such families have lasting scars.

When one is young they are more attracted by physical characteristics, mad love, etc. heard the saying "Love is blind" and yes it is. And couples get into such relationships and end up screwing up their own life as well as that of their children.

So based on the above case, which I very much personally know of, I don't think inter-religious marriages are possible. The only way for an inter-religious marriage to be successful is where the Muslim lady walks away from Islam and marries a man of other faith. But the question is it really worth abandoning your faith to marry some one else? Would you abandon your identity to marry some one else?
Not only inter-religious marriages but also so are inter-cultural marriages and marrying any one who is of different race, nationality or ethnicity. One must clearly visualize what one is getting into before taking the big step.

And sometimes yes parents are right when they deny their children the right to marry any one and every one but again this purely depends on what reasoning the parents use.
My mother was sadly racist and did not want me to marry a new Muslim who was "mixed afro-Caribbean". Actually most Indians are obsessed with fair skin and would never let their children take a African, there have been cases of Indian Parents (irrespective of religion) doing honor killings

(http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/jun/14black.htm).

So I saw her reason was racism so I happily married my beautiful wife ignoring my mom.

So bottom line, I don't think it is worth abandoning your identity for the sake of your partner and parents could be right given that they have the right reasoning.

oby said...

@ Jay...

Hello! Good to see you. I think your point is well taken. However, once again it is too absolute or B/W. NOTHING can happen, no awareness can be borne, no ideas exchanged IF it isn't talked about. Perhaps Asra Nomani might be arguing a point that is Qur'anically mute, but you failed to recognize that the audience of whom I assume were many Muslims, had 2/3 the vote in favor of marrying whomever the lady wants. I would like to know how many non Muslims swayed that vote in the direction it went...still this being held in Qatar and the clothing of the participants I must assume the majority of the audience was Muslim. So whether the point is mute or not people are listening and talking and ARE using critical thinking skills even if it doesn't agree with the Qur'anic injunction.

I personally believe the one reason the woman MUST be Muslim and marry only a Muslim is that she bears the children and the children are to be raised Muslim. If the people were not going to have kids then I don't think it would matter nearly as much due to the fact that it would not matter to propagation of the religion.

The other thing is, children can still be raised Islamically if the couple agree to it...it is that one parent will have to do the lions share of teaching and the other the lion's share of supporting.

As for Abu Abdullah's comment: It is not impossible to have a mixed marriage. I believe that with all my heart because I have lived it...but I also know people who have done it and neither person gave up their religious identity. They continued to be faithful to their respective faiths, participate in each other's holidays, intermingle families. It can be done...full stop. What is the determining factor is the open mindedness and willingness of all the respective participants to make room for each other's faiths and beliefs/customs. If they are unable to do that then of course it is doomed to failure.

Jay Kactuz said...

Hey Oby, thanks for the kind word and concern.

You are right. It is not impossible to have a mixed (religiously, that is) marriage but it helps if neither takes their religion too seriously. Like I mean how can a strict catholic woman or baptist or LDS marry a strict Muslim, or vice-versa? Aint gonna work.

Religion is one of 1,000,001 factors that make a sucessful marriage. There are no formulas. I have seen marriages that seem to have everything going for them end in failure, and some that should not work turn out ok. Of course, I also know that only the husband and wife really know how things are. It is complicated.

Yes, it would be interesting to get a breakdown of that vote: men - women, Muslim - nonMuslim, married - single, cats - dogs.

As to the 2/3 vote, good for them. I am sure it expresses their desires. They have my vote.

At least I never had any trouble with my in-laws (except for one brother) even if it is a mixed marriage. People are strange. Parents weren't a problem because hers were dead as was my mother. The sad thing was that we never had mothers or mothers-in-laws to leave the kids with. Bummer!

Perhaps the Holy Sinner could tell me what exactly is a "clean soul" and why only Muslims have been washed... Souls more like Christian theology than Muslim....

Got to go...
K.

PS: Yes those mixed marriages are really problematic. Imagine a Mormon - Muslim marriage! At least neither drink the good stuff but then one said "let us follow the example of our dear prophet" and then all hell broke lose. Bad joke! (or maybe Mormons are not people of the book! They are not exactly monotheistic, you know).

oby said...

Jay...

I read your link...yes I agree it is kind of crazy! They are forcing a good, loving relationship to fall apart due to her becoming a Muslim. In that case, I think it the wiser choice to permit a woman to become Muslim and remain in the marriage. Especially if they have children, because it will rip the family apart and certainly cause confusion in the kids to do it any other way...in fact, I would go so far as to say that in this case if the kids were being raised another religion and are old enough to be cognizant of the fact then I would say, too bad, they should stay in their previous religion. Islam will have to forego the children in this case. The woman should not be denied her choice to convert to Islam, which will no doubt upset the balance of the family and it may end in any case. But she should not be torn from the loving arms of her husband or children. Nor should the father be torn from her or the children due to a change in religion. If she changes does that mean he can never see his kids again now that he is kuffar? I say she should practice her faith in the calmest manner possible. As I hear so many Muslims say over and over Islam should not cause pain and should not make life difficult to bear which in this case I think it would. To change horses in mid stream and tear the family apart is insanity. In my opinion she should either not convert or be the only one to convert. Otherwise she is destroying too many lives with confusion and difficulties. That is if the man is not called to Islam.

Having said all that I had the impression that the cleric indicated that in the case of a marriage already underway there are special dispensations...but maybe I understood it wrong.

Plus I thought that a nonMuslim man can marry a Muslim woman...if so I am not sure what the issue is about. Why would she have to leave him at all?

oby said...

ooops...

I realize I said it backwards. Muslim MEN can marry non Muslim women not the reverse...hence the whole debate. Don't you just love it when you type faster than the brain can engage? :-)

THE HOLY SINNER said...

Oby, you are right to say you typed faster than your brain could engage. I wonder what in my comment made you think it was all intolerent. The best part is, you have no idea of who I am and you drew a conclusion! No respect for other religions? Probably you answered the question even before it came to you. Forgiven. But I will come to this one later.

Now, since I also do not know who you are, I will not draw a conclusion on your line of thinking. I said what I did basing on the reading and understanding I developed from it. Where you must have had an experience or more to think what you do, afford me the opportunity of having an experience or more of my own. Eitherways, it is very clearly mentioned in The Book, as I also quoted that the first preference should be marriage within the muslim faith. That simply does not exclude any chance of out of the faith marriage. Read this again and slowly. Let the brain engage there.

I have studied other religions and will be glad to answer any questions you might have on any, but you must also then understand what purity means, as I mentioned it. Ofcourse there are exceptions. More social than religious, when people draw their priority chart. There are many interfaith marriages in my country as well as others that I have heard of and I do have friends in far off places. I do not know about the latter, but in my country, the couple gets accepted as "one of our own" and we heartily participate in any such marriage, without a bias. That they last or not is a different argument altogether.

I was born a muslim, guess there was not much choice there. But I chose to remain a muslim. That definitely is by choice. And choice by understanding. Islam teaches tolerance as the first example, also set by The Prophet(PBUH)and I am honour bound to follow it. (No choice there though). A few of my best friends are outside my religion and we live happily together.

Read my post again. You will understand the point I am trying to make. It is not against anyone and carries no sweeping statement against anyone.

Abu Abdullah said...

@coolred and oby:
You have the right to believe in what ever you wish as well you have the right to interpret facts incorrectly or correctly.

The verse which expressly prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims is as follows. Also I have put in the original Arabic Words with their English translation and you may if you wish check it out in an Arabic dictionary:

Surah Baqara 221
And do not marry Al-Mushrikat (idolatresses, etc.) till they believe (worship Allah Alone). And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than a (free) Mushrikah (idolatress, etc.), even though she pleases you. And give not (your daughters) in marriage to Al-Mushrikun till they believe (in Allah Alone) and verily, a believing slave is better than a (free) Mushrik (idolater, etc.), even though he pleases you. Those (Al-Mushrikun) invite you to the Fire, but Allah invites (you) to Paradise and Forgiveness by His Leave, and makes His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) clear to mankind that they may remember.

From the above verse its pretty clear a Muslim woman is prohibited to marry a non Muslim also a Muslim man is prohibited to marry only a Muslim, Jewish, or Christian.

Now coming to the point here, if a Muslim woman would like to marry a non-Muslim man she can very well step outside the realm of Shariah and do so. But remaining a Muslim she cannot marry a non-Muslim man. So at the end of the day she can't remain a Muslim disobeying the Quraan and marrying a non-Muslim man.

A Muslim is expected to adhere to the Quraan word by word if he or she has a problem following the Quraan they can step out of it though they would be the one at loss.

Even Christianity prohibits marriage to non-Christians as in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (King James Bible):

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"

Also the above verse is from New Testament not the old…

Also Zoroastrianism also prohibits inter-religious marriage.

Bottom line one can't remain a Muslim while going against the Quraan i.e. marrying some one against the rules mentioned in the Quraan.

Note: I am not gonna debate the verses I mentioned, I have a deep rooted conviction in them and I take them at face value. Hence do not expect a response from me if you have a problem with the verses, which some of you may have.

Chiara said...

Thank you all for the excellent comments on the post and on each other's comments.

Thank you as well for being so civil to each other and all in what is obviously a delicate topic, and one postulated in stark terms by the Motion of the debate itself.

As I learned from one of my own carefully worded, and especially carefully punctuated sentences on another blog, even the best laid plans of writers may be unintentionally misunderstood by readers. I had to clarify with a new set of sentences.

I do hope that in addition to reading each other carefully here we will all be willing to clarify for each other where we have somehow been misunderstood, or have dealt with an aspect others may be unfamiliar with.

I am looking forward to more comments and discussion by those involved and others as well.

Carry on commenting!

Chiara said...

Oby at 11:02pm--Great observations on the challenges in this particular view of consensus, both the absoluteness of it over time, and the absolute 100% agreement in setting it. While one might want more than a 51% majority to establish a "consensus", one could easily set the bar higher and still allow for dissenting opinions, and minority rights. This view is however more of a majority democratic vote than an irrefutable "consensus". I think that the only way such 100% consensus votes are achieved is by repetition until all agree, eg in electing the Pope. Even that is not for all time.

I agree that culture and religion are not issues for all, and don't have to be such great issues as they might be for some. However, they do make excellent ammunition for inlaws, friends, and society in general. One of the external challenges to a marriage raised above.

How a couple deals with this is part of the work of marriage that Qusay suggested in his comment.

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah at 5:41am--I certainly agree that with the freedom of choice comes responsibility, and you have raised a number of points that couples should consider and questions individuals and couples should ask themselves.

The statistics on the breakups of interfaith or inter-cultural marriages are not that far off the high divorce statistics in the USA or KSA. I also wonder how often what is a problem of the individual personalities involved, or family interference, major illness of a partner, or just regular marriage difficulties are falsely attributed to cultural differences. I had a patient whose Arab Muslim father and Italian Catholic mother divorced. However his mother developed schizophrenia fairly early in the marriage and that seemed to be the main challenge to the survival of the marriage, not any cultural or interfaith differences which may in fact have contributed to keeping the marriage together as long as it did, and to the father's ongoing financial support of the mother long after his legal or religious obligations were past.

In between bouts of illness the mother made sure the son was well versed in both his heritages, and spoke their languages along with English and French. Unfortunately, she was very ill and very non-compliant (they go together), and he had a milder form of schizophrenia himself.

One of the best psycho-pharmacology consults I've ever read was by a female Ashkenazi Jew of Russian descent, who graciously addressed his cultural background as well as his illness, and treatment--but then I knew she would which was part of why I sent him to her.

Fortunately insight and compassion can be transcultural, or cross-cultural, and interfaith as well.

Chiara said...

Oby at 7:55am--Respect does go along way towards smoothing a relationship even when beliefs and customs aren't shared; and certainly children are usually best off being positive about all of their heritages, and conversant in them. This allows them to work out of 100%, rather than 50%, when assessing their own self-worth and appreciation.

You have shared some lovely examples of accommodations in your family, thank you!

I would only suggest that for some the compromise might include not having certain things in the home or on the table during mealtimes. This can occur even without their being a strong cultural or religious attachment to them but is probably more important when their is. I find it easier to eat certain ethnic foods out, or listen to certain types of music when alone. The first has no religious or cultural significance, while the second sometimes does (eg religious Christmas songs, as opposed to the secular songs). Some things we just do out of consideration for another persons preference, like not eat seafood in front of my aunt who has an aversion to it. It also prevents repeated "You aren't going to eat that are you?" comments. Rather incomprehensible really, since she was raised in part on the Adriatic coast of Italy--or maybe THAT is the reason!

Thank you again for sharing what has worked well for your interfaith family.

Le Croyant said...

It's not like only Muslim women have restriction son who they can marry. While Muslim men might have the choice to marry a Jewish or a Christian woman, they too can't marry polytheists, atheists, or member of any other religious group. They too can't marry members of their own gender. IF they choose to, then the marriage is not recognized by religion.

If a Muslim man or woman chooses to go out of these boundaries & marry, nothing can be done to stop them especially in non-muslim countries. The problem I have with such people is that they want to violate the laws of their religion & expect to the religion to change to accommodate them not vice-versa.

Chiara said...

THE HOLY SINNER at 9:17am--Welcome and thank you for your comment! I hope you will comment on older and newer posts as well.

I understand your comment to be giving the Islamic perspective as you understand it, while not necessarily condemning other individuals and their faith choices. The issue of cleanliness of the soul and body I understood in this way too. That they should be in synch, and of course Islam thinks it is the right path, just as other religions think that they are.

You do raise a number of considerations that are important: Islam like other religions thinks it is the best religion; in that sense although it is permissible for Muslim men to marry Daughters of the Book it is not recommended over marrying a Muslimah; some Muslims will have a problem with marrying a Christian because of the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity; and, marrying outside the Abrahamic faiths is not permitted for men or women.

Certainly Islam expects the children to be raised as Muslims, just as other religions expect the same of couples who marry in their religious rite, or where one member of the couple practices their religion.

This is, in fact, one of the core problems with Muslimahs marrying a non-Muslim. Since transmission of the Islamic faith is patrilineal these children must convert/revert if they are to be considered Muslims.

Similarly Judaism, for which religious transmission is matrilineal, has much more difficulty with Jewish men marrying non-Jews, than with Jewish women doing so, although they are not happy about that either.

Or, as I told my Catholic friend with the Jewish husband: In my experience no one makes overly much of a fuss about the marriage partner's religion once they are sure how the children are to be raised religiously--except of course the family who feels strongly the child should be raised only in their religion and the child isn't.

Welcome, and thanks again!

Chiara said...

Jay Kactuz at 10:49am--Welcome and thank you for your comment and compliments! As wishy washy and non-committal as ever, I read! LOL :) :P

Your points are well taken about the panelists who are for the motion, but I am sure those against the motion have their detractors as well. All 4 seem to me to have admirable qualities, and do speak from different positions as Tim Sebastian promised in his Introduction to the debate.

I would assume that a woman married to a non-Muslim, and who converts to Islam is aware of the consequences before doing so, and of the stance of at least some, if not all, imams.

Often such a dramatic change in the belief system of one partner, results in the marriage ending as they grow apart in core ways. This happened to a friend's sister whose husband became heavily involved with Transcendental Meditation, leaving her with 4 small children, few marketable skills, and court ordered visitation rights with children traumatized each time by his and his new wife's proselytizing.

She went from happily married to her similarly WASP high school sweetheart now lawyer, to someone she didn't recognize, and a small flat and a training course to become a massage therapist. She has done well since but it was initially a major shock--more so than divorce usually is.

I would imagine that choosing to convert to Islam for a woman in a Christian marriage would imply choosing to risk ending that marriage, and so the decision and its timing should be made accordingly.

Whether or not such debates change anything, I do think they show the range within Islam across the Ummah, and open the religion conceptually--not to mention being in part at least, in the tradition of ijtihad.

Ah yes, a Chez Chiara should be devoted to many things, including food, fashion, and film. Stay tuned!

I do hope you will enjoy newer and older posts and comment on them as well.

Chiara said...

Oby at 11:06am--I agree that Allah/God is infinitely more forgiving than people, by definition in fact. I think you and THE HOLY SINNER have misunderstood each other; hopefully I understood that correctly! :)

Abu Abdullah at 12:46pm--thank you for sharing a painful example of how horribly wrong things can go in an interfaith marriage. As I said above, other factors besides the faith itself--personality, family, society--often play into this type of problem. I am not as pessimistic about interfaith marriages as you seem to be, but I do think that they are challenging, in some cases more than others. Certainly whenever children become a casualty there is an immense problem. Fortunately most resolve this identity crisis in a positive way.

The son you described suffered a great deal and hopefully is doing better. Your own example as you describe in your comment here, and in the posts that were done on this blog about you, your wife and your daughter--From the International Ummah to Married in Saudi: Colour, Conversions and Complications Parts I, II, and III (see the category Personal Stories)--is one of a positive resolution, though hard won.

You were right to go beyond your mother's clear racism to marry a woman with whom YOU are compatible, with a shared faith despite different racial and cultural mixes.

Thanks for sharing your example of the potential negatives.

Oby at 2:01pm--you raise more excellent themes! The result of the debate was clearly for the motion but we don't know fully the composition of voting audience members. However they are most likely a majority of Muslims. An older less educated audience might be expected to vote differently.

Where children are involved most are somewhat more conservative than they would be otherwise. It is true that there are successful interfaith marriages.

Studies indicate the model that is the best long term is one of mutual respect and blending or bending between 2 more liberal members of their faith.

Where one adopts the religion of the other, resentment and changed attitudes may occur later, somewhat in the way Abu Abdullah's example of the case he knows describes. Where both are strong believers in different faiths and operate in tandem they are more likely to diverge more over time; and where neither is religious it may become an issue later if one becomes more religious. Each of these models works for different people though.

And of course over a longer marriage there are no guarantees that the original agreement about religion or anything else will hold.

Chiara said...

Jay at 4:35pm--LOL :) Again I am not as pessimistic about interfaith marriages but then I am in one, so...

True, many factors enhance or disrupt a marriage. Part of a healthy marriage is building on the shared values and letting the disruptive elements go--ideas, behaviours, and people.

I think the main issue that Islam would have with the Mormon Church is the same one that the Christians have: they believe in the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr, and the Holy Book of Mormon.

Oby at 5:03pm--We seem to agree that a major directional shift in marriage is as challenging or moreso than the fact of that shift being towards Islam, especially for the male Muslim partner.

THS at 4:54am--As I said above, I think you and Oby have misunderstood each other, although you would probably disagree with each other anyway. Thank you for sharing more of the background that informs your perspective.

Jay Kactuz said...

Oby, my brain never engages with anything. It goes its own way. Sometimes its gone for weeks!

So, Abu, what about a nonMuslim woman that is married to a nonMuslim man and then converts to islam? What does she do?

Chiara, this whole issue of a "clean soul" or even being "good" is much too vague. These words may have a generally accepted meaning but when applied to an individual they fall into a limbo inhabited by meaningless vocabulary waiting for clarification (or a final determination). What is a good person? One who avoids the seven deadly sins? One who follows the 10 commandments? One who obeys the goldren rule? One who has never been convicted of a crime? One who follows the rituals of his religion or creed? I don't know. Of course, this all goes back to the note that was nailed to a door on a church in Germany 500 years ago: faith vs works (ie, goodness).

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah at 7:23am--Thank you for sharing more of your religious perspective. I don't challenge the ayat you cited, and perhaps it is my weakness in Arabic but from your translation it would seem that idolatresses/idolaters are the ones Muslims are not allowed to marry, ie those who are not of the Abrahamic faith, and that is true for both male and female Muslims, which we know is not the usual interpretation. I will check simultaneous Arabic-English translations to see if I might better understand the surah, thanks!

It is true that having an interfaith marriage, especially one that is outside the faiths norms is a challenge and should not be undertaken lightly. On the other hand, it does require one to think more carefully about one's religion, beliefs and how one wants to live them in the world. In this way both partners can strengthen each other's knowledge and faith. The usual challenge is what to do with the children. As I have said elsewhere I and other women I know have no problem with the children being raised Muslim. Some others would though. Also, as with any faith one would likely take care about who was teaching them what about the religion from which sectarian perspective.

Thanks again to all, and please don't let all these palm trees wave unanswered! LOL :)

coolred38 said...

Abu Abdullah...you are indeed right in that it is my right to choose how I interpret that ayat. If I am to believe Islam and therefor God is a religion for EVERYONE...how can it then be exclusive to ONLY Muslims? How can we bring nonMuslims "into the fold" if we cant bring them in through the most basic of human activities...marriage? You assume a great deal about God..for one...that God believes a Muslim woman has NO power or ability to continue to practice her religion after marriage to a nonMuslim. You also assume God believes a Muslim woman could never convince her nonMuslim husband that Islam is a religion he should consider and by her example..eventually convert.

The basic fact when preventing Muslim women from marrying nonMuslim men is that Muslim men believe SHE will be the influenced party and not the influencer. In other words...she will be influenced to LOSE her faith and possibly take on her spouses rather than the other way around.

Such restrictions placed on Muslim women are based merely on property rights...Muslim women are the property of Muslim men...and cannot be "owned" by a nonMuslim...simple really. Very deep into Arab culture here. The Arab/Muslim should be the conquerer (acquiring "the others" women as conquests) rather than be the conquered...losing their women to the enemy...so to speak.

An unbeliever is someone that doesnt belive in God...the Quran makes reference to jews and christians as people of the book...or believers in Gods original message. The christians of the prophets time already believed in the trinity concept...yet marriage to their women is allowed for Muslim men...so we are to believe. So what your saying is that Muslim men are quite allowed to marry Christian women, who probably believe in the trinity, because they can maintain their faith and resist conversion while a Muslim woman cant? We are "weak in our faith"...or so Ive been told. We are the acted upon and not the actors in our lives.

Meanwhile...when these Muslim men do marry nonMuslim women...they assume that the nonMuslim wife will have a vested interest in teaching HIS children about HIS religion...as if hers doesnt matter or will have no influence. If it didnt then why even care what her religion is?

A muslim man can therefore marry a christian or jewish woman, leave the caretaking and upbringing of his "muslim" children to her and whatever her beliefs may be as obviously what she believes WILL influence the children to some extent (children spend more time in the company of their mothers than fathers across the cutural spectrum) but he will still claim them and believe that because HE is Muslim...by default they are too.

On the reverse side...a Muslim woman married to a nonMuslim man will spend the same amount of time with her children (traditional set up) and yet will be deemed unable to influence her children to follow her beliefs and remain Muslims.

Anyhow...whether or not YOU believe..or a concensus of Arab men who grew up in a society based on patriarchy and mysogny believe...that Muslim women belong to Muslim men and have no choice or options in who they spend their lives with...that is your belief...does not have to be mine or any other woman. To claim we are outside the Sharia based code of male ethics is entirely your belief....we face God on judgment day...not a bunch of men who base their religious beliefs on restricting, controlling, and limiting women in too many ways to count.

Gets old fast.

No argument from my side either.

To you be your religion and to me, mine.

oby said...

the Holy Sinner...

I wrote my comment to you because your words offended me...and believe me if you knew me on these blogs you would know it takes a lot to offend me. I believe Islam is a monotheistic religion and I give it that respect, but your statement below says that every other religion in the world is not monotheistic and that is not the case. Obviously for you Islam is the best and only religion or you would have chosen another one. To say that any other religion believes in many Gods and therefore is wrong and by inference not really a religion says to me you don't understand other religions.

"First and foremost of all, we need to understand that the believers in God are not just believers in God but in the oneness of God. Those denying it, which include every other religion outside Islam, cannot be the chosen partners."

"Islam lays a very clear preference on cleanliness of self. Which includes cleanliness of the soul as well. Which comes only when you practice Islam."

This second statement says or seems to say that only Muslims can have a clean soul and again that is offensive. I don't view and would never view Islam as a "wrong" religion. I give space for it and it's followers to believe as they choose. Because I believe that all of us may choose to take a different path to God-yes, the monotheistic God. My path might be different than yours and perhaps I am wrong in God's eyes which for you are the eyes of Islam, but then again perhaps you are wrong in God's eyes which for me are the eyes of a different faith.

Perhaps I misunderstood your meaning. Or maybe I didn't. I guess you can clarify for me if you choose to what you meant.

Abu Abdullah said...

Thanks for asking Chiara it’s my pleasure further explaining the verse to the best of my knowledge. But please note I am not a religious scholar who knows the in-depth of this.
And in my earlier comment I only meant that I wouldn't debate the verse but can further explain or elaborate the verse.

I believe your question revolves around the Arabic word "Al Mushrikun". The word Al Mushrikun means "any one who takes some one other than Allah for worship/prayer/asking"

However in the Quraan the Jews and Christians are also referred specifically as the "People of the Scripture" or "Ahl al kitaab" and in the following Suraah Maeeda verse 5 it has been explicitly said that a Muslim man can marry a Christian or a Jewish lady as follows:

Suraah Maeeda
5. Made lawful to you this day are At Tayyibât [all kinds of Halâl (lawful) foods, which Allâh has made lawful (meat of slaughtered eatable animals, etc., milk products, fats, vegetables and fruits, etc.). The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals, etc.) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time, when you have given their due Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girl-friends. And whosoever disbelieves in the Oneness of Allâh and in all the other Articles of Faith [i.e. His (Allâh's), Angels, His Holy Books, His Messengers, the Day of Resurrection and Al Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], then fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.

And again quoting Suraah Baqara which I mentioned earlier

Suraah Baqara
221. And do not marry Al-Mushrikât (idolatresses, etc.) till they believe (worship Allâh Alone). And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than a (free) Mushrikah (idolatress, etc.), even though she pleases you. And give not (your daughters) in marriage to Al-Mushrikûn[] till they believe (in Allâh Alone) and verily, a believing slave is better than a (free) Mushrik (idolater, etc.), even though he pleases you. Those (Al-Mushrikûn) invite you to the Fire, but Allâh invites (you) to Paradise and Forgiveness by His Leave, and makes His Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) clear to mankind that they may remember.

So when one reads the above two verses its is evident that
1. Prohibition of marriage to non-Muslims to both Muslim men and women.
2. But an Exception being made for Muslim men to marry Christian or Jewish women.


Now having said that I must inform you that there is renewed debate recently on whether a Muslim Man can indeed marry a Christian/ Jewish women or not. Because after the prophet there have been many schisms within Christianity and today’s Christian followers are not exactly the same as those who were during the Prophets time. Also from Suraah Maeeda it is pretty much evident that we can eat from the Christians given that they follow Halâl standards or the Jewish dietary standards and today as we know only a few sects like Ethiopian Orthodox follow it and have their creed almost close to Islam. So a Muslim man's marriage with Christian women is also debatable.

THE HOLY SINNER said...

Oby, "Oneness of God", very clearly means that He is Almighty. The Only One. That means no son, no daughter, no kith, no kin, as is very clearly mentioned in The Quran. You can try and read the meaning of the 112th Surah of the Quran, in the 30th and last chapter. That was the point I was making, to those who understand it as Muslims. Now the verse which was refered to by Abdullah, very clearly says "it is better...". So that leaves one with the option of chosing the lesser or the better. Ofcourse the better one, remains the recommended one. No comments on that as I am not a judge and human beings cannot be judges. We are all too imperfect to be able to decide wihtout our biases getting involved in our decision making process. As they say, "lawyers win cases".

Cleanliness of soul comes, when you surrender all your wordly desires to the will of ALLAH. There are worldly desires that attract me as well. I told you earlier on that some of my best friends are out of my religion and I am out of theirs. I also get attracted by different elements sitting in their company. In one of the interviews I had in an advertising agency (I am in advertising), I was asked about which one campaign I wish I had worked on. I told them Absolut Vodka. The expected next question was "do you drink?" No I dont. They didnt ask me if I wanted to, to which the logical reply would have been a big YES. But I do not as I try to do the maximum I can to please my God. I am sure you and others do to. There are examples in the muslim history of mushrekeen, those who posed to be muslims but were still idol worshippers and skeptic about the religion. The Quran mentions them and tells us to stay clear of them as they have chosen a path of self-destruction for themselves.

The current trends of muslim bashing and blaming (I am glad they dont blame muslims for global warming), are all too freightening from a "non-muslim" perspective. Add to it the reaction we show and one is bound to have a reprehensible view of the faithful, much less to talk about the Faith itself. But also understand this. Once again, I am not judging you from any pair of eyes and have no clue how you re being judged by ALLAH. It is a very difficult thing to do. Only we muslims find it very easy to do so for others, quite to the contrary. To quote the words of a Saudi scholar, who went to Paris..."i saw a lot of Islam but no muslims. When I came back, I saw a lot of muslims but no Islam(!!)".

Now I am not going to indulge in a comparison of religion(s) here and have no inclination to preach my practices. But as far as I have studied, Quran remains the only book which has not had any editions, additions or deletions since the history has recorded it. And a closer examination does say that what is not allowed in the Quran is not also allowed in other holy scriptures. That someone choses to deviate is really not my issue. Abdullah qouted above an excellent example from the (King James) Bible on the subject. That we chose to deviate, once again, remains our thing for which we will be held responsible on the Day of Judgement. But that does not warrant our rebellion against the religion, simply because of fogged vision to distinguish between "freedom of choice" and "rebellion". We are all bound to find out who is right and who is wrong and I am in no hurry to get there.

Coolred said...

If worshipping something else was the over riding factor that prevented a Muslim woman from marrying other than a Muslim man, I would venture a guess that many Muslim men would fall outside that criteria as well, as they either worship the Prophet or the fact that they are male, which makes them off limits to Muslim women.

The Quran is written for BOTH men and women. Arabic language has feminine and masculine endings depending on who you are speaking to. If you are speaking to a male...male ending, to a female...female ending. A group that can have both genders then masculine ending, but with a nuance that indicates a group of mixed genders.

When God speaks in the Quran MOST of the time it’s to a mixed audience, to everyone, not one gender specifically. When He forbids something He forbids it to everyone; when He allows something he allows it to everyone; unless He specifically points out a gender and speaks only to that one. That doesn’t happen very often. He doesn’t have to say, “Forbidden to you is the eating of pork MEN AND WOMEN”. He just says, “Forbidden to YOU” as in ALL of you. He doesn’t SPECIFCALLY forbid Muslim women from marrying other than Muslim men. He doesn’t point them out and speak directly to them.

The women complained to the Prophet that the Quran seemed to be directed solely at men, and so the ayat came down referring to both "believing men and believing woman", mentioning both genders again and again in connection to beliefs, requirements, rewards and punishments etc. God reaffirms that the Quran is meant for BOTH genders regardless of whether or not HE addresses both at any given time.

Or rather, not necessarily the Quran itself is meant for both genders, but the responsibilities and ultimate judgment etc of males and females. In fact, the Quran is not specifically FOR Muslims as God addresses mankind on more than one occasion: "Oh mankind....etc", and specifically addresses the Prophet, "Oh You (Prophet), tell the people...etc. So when God specifically addresses someone or a group etc, He points them out so they understand HE is talking to YOU or THEM.

But in the ayat referring to marrying ahl al kitab, or believing woman etc, He does NOT address men specifically as in, "Oh Muslim men", so we can assume He is speaking to BOTH genders. But the masculine form comes out and it appears He’s speaking to men only.

If we believe God is addressing EVERYONE or BOTH genders throughout the Quran, and only specifically mentions someone or a group when he wants to make a point, then we have to assume that’s true in every instance. God is NOT addressing ONLY Muslim men in that ayat, or He would point them out specifically.

And, the Arabic used in allowing marriage to believing woman is inclusive, meaning He’s speaking to both genders, but because generally the Arabic form is masculine when speaking to both genders, that’s how it’s read. So Muslim men assume in THIS instance God is speaking ONLY TO THEM, but refuse to assume that is so in other instances in the Quran.

Otherwise, you could get nitpicky and say He allows men to marry ahl al kitab, eat their food etc, but only allows Muslim women to eat the food etc but not to marry. Why assume God has such strict criteria for Muslim women, and a more lax one for Muslim men, when through out the book God makes us equal in every way?

We are all held accountable exactly the same; punished or rewarded exactly the same.

THE HOLY SINNER said...

Well since I do not have the grasp on Arabic or lets just say, do not know Arabic at all, let me just say that the responsibility falls more on the women simply because they are the ones who give birth to the child. I will not delve into the medical aspects of it, but it is the woman who bears the essentials of giving birth to a child and therefore the understood importance of her being with a muslim partner. And then since women are weak and not the ones navigating the ship there, it is very likely that they do not command their offsprings following their religion. This is all based on ceteris paribus. There are examples where men are weak, either weak willed, or weak enough to be able to lead the way, as they should. This does not in any way mean that women are not equal. This is not about the "rights".

Eitherway, it is given as a better option to remain within the bounds of the religion so I would rather take the sane approach of going from A to B directly than going to all the others before I get to B.

Susanne said...

"And then since women are weak and not the ones navigating the ship there, it is very likely that they do not command their offsprings following their religion."

Some women may be 'weak' in this regard, but not all of us are. IF I married outside of my faith, I'd for sure teach my children about my faith if it were important to me. Mothers tend to spend more time with their children than fathers do. And those of us sincere about our faiths WOULD NOT be so 'weak' as to not teach our children our own faiths which are important to us. For those women who are 'weak' or for whom their faith is wishy-washy, that's another story.

I'm talking about strong women here. ;-)


I thought I'd commented on this a day or so ago, but it seems I either hit the "cancel" instead of "publish" button or the moderator wisely thought my comment too provocative and censored me. I can respect that since it's not my blog. :)

Jay Kactuz said...

Abu, you did not answer my question about the married lady that converts to islam? Does she leave her husband? The answer is, of course, yes.

The problem I have with Muslims is they don't read their own texts and assume that what Muslims do has nothing to do with islam. You are a good example of this. You quote verses about slave women like they were a commentary on the weather, without any moral pondering. You assume that that those Al-Mushrikun are inviting Muslims to a barbeque but you don't explain what how the infidels get them to walk into the fire. You say that "if a Muslim woman would like to marry a non-Muslim man she can very well step outside the realm of Shariah and do so" as if there were no apostasy laws or restrictions. You quote verses saying that the food of the "people of the Scripture is lawful to you" when this is not true and because a deeper analysis would be to conclude that Allah / Mohammad didn't know beans about Christianity because we eat pork, ham and lots of bacon. As to the "oneness of god" I think I could make a good case from the Quran to argue that Allah and Mohammed are a duality, partners, amigos, co-gods. The only thing I am not sure of is who is the senior partner. As to the "current trends of muslim bashing and blaming" I again mention that Muslims never consider their actions. They are incapable of moral reflection. They have standards for others but not themselves. Maybe, just maybe, who knows, quiem sabe, the Muslim bashing has something to do with what Muslims do. Try that on for a thought.
You also know little about Christianity. Somewhere in the New Testement is says Christian spouses to stay with their unbelieving husbands. Somehow one spouse "justifies" the other. Don't ask me why. Every time I read the Quran I get the impression that Mohammad didn't really know much about Judaism and even less about Christianity, except what he heard around the campfires as a youth. Many of the references to Jewish / Christian doctrine and practices are distorted or wrong.

I really don't have a problem with Muslims thinking their religion is best. I do have a problem when they ignore their own texts and the reality of what Muslims and Islamic societies do. As I have said before, Muslims want to think Islam is what they want it to be, not what it is. You mention the old story about the Muslim visiting Europe and finding Islam everywhere while not finding it in Islamic societies. Does that raise any questions?

Chiara, I hope I am not being too mean for you and ChezChiara. I would also say that you have a story for everything, every situation. I suspect that if we were discussing earthling – Martian intermarriage, you would have a story about a friend's sister whose husband became heavily involved with Little Green Women, or something. I see you comments around, and they are not short. You have an academic work life and intensely relate to students. How do you find time to do so much?

Coolred....About that comment regarding a Muslim woman convincing her nonMuslim husband … well, if “convincing” doesn’t work, she could always go for plan b – nagging. I know, nothing makes men move like nagging. My wife will not only tell me to do something, but add a 5 minute lecture on why I should do it. After several decades I have learned that resistance is futile.

K

THE HOLY SINNER said...

Well you could capitalise on the more time spent by mothers with their children and make sure you teach them what you practice as a 'strong' woman, but then the situation might become complicated IF you married an equally strong or a stronger person out of the faith, and that is the whole point of argument. In the competition between the strong man and strong woman, the kids will suffer.

Now check out this example. The indian actor, Shahrukh Khan, perhaps the most well known face in Asia (atleast), married a hindu woman. In his attempt of posing to be beyond the boundaries of the religion and politics, he has a temple in his house for his wife and children and a place to practice the Muslim faith. Imagine a child coming out of a temple, bowing to an idol, going to a sort of a mosque to read you cannot bow to an idol. Seems quite flashy for portraying self as "secular". But then imagine what the child would do a few years after down the line.

I guess the moderator censored your comment because it probably didnt have the half now mentioned!!

oby said...

Part 1:

the Holy Sinner...

I am so sorry for my delayed response to you. I was not able to get back to it until now.
Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to explain your meaning.
As far as marriage goes and marrying someone from your own religion, I find it normal that Islam would say such a thing. I think it is an idea common to most religions. It makes sense when trying to have as many ducks in a row to facilitate a successful marriage which thrives on as many points of commonality as possible. Of course, when it comes to raising children in a faith I do think it can be easier when both parents are on the same page. I once had a Jewish friend whom I asked if she would be OK if her son married outside of the faith. Even though the woman was a self made millionaire and very forward thinking and independent etc. her answer was an emphatic “No”. When I inquired why she said because that would be tantamount to contributing to genocide and it was very much not allowed in the Jewish faith. Whoa! That was a pretty strong answer and at the time I was unmarried without children so I didn’t fully understand her meaning. The Catholics were very strong in the rules of their faith as well. I am not married to a man of my faith and as I explained above it has worked well and we have had to work to make sure each side is respected and make room for the other’s beliefs. That doesn’t mean he believes what I do, it simply means he respects my right to my faith and I for his and we maintain that respect without stomping on each other’s beliefs. As far as the Son of God idea goes it is called the HolyTrinity and too involved to get into here. Suffice it to say that Christians believe in ONE God, not three although many people outside the faith have that misunderstanding.
“Cleanliness of soul comes, when you surrender all your worldly desires to the will of ALLAH.”
We wouldn’t say Allah, of course, but Christians are SUPPOSED to do that as well. Some are more successful than others as I am sure is the same in Islam. But the point is we are to strive for it in all things. We are supposed to submit ourselves to God’s will. He gives us free will however. Meaning we have the freedom to make choices we shouldn’t. We can either embrace the correct choices and thereby draw a bit closer to God and what pleases him OR we can make bad choices. God has taught us what He expects from us and has made very clear what we should and shouldn’t do. But He doesn’t force us…he allows us to make our own choices and hopefully we will choose the right ones. If we make the wrong choices we must accept the consequences of that.

oby said...

Part 2:

“The current trends of Muslim bashing and blaming (I am glad they don’t blame Muslims for global warming), are all too frightening from a "non-Muslim" perspective. Add to it the reaction we show and one is bound to have a reprehensible view of the faithful, much less to talk about the Faith itself.”

If I understand you correctly I do agree with that statement but only to a degree. And I can only give you my experience and perspective and of course, I don’t speak for all. To non Muslim eyes what is going on in the Muslim world is quite confusing. There is so much violence and non peaceful like behavior and worse it SEEMS, at least on the face of it, to erupt over small issues sometimes. And it seems as if Muslims are hurting a lot of other Muslims…so of course this creates a sort of disconnect for non Muslims. It is a “religion of Peace” yet it seems not very peaceful at the moment. I grew up in a time when I was a kid and a teenager NO ONE thought of Muslims or Islam in a bad way. Or if they did I didn’t know any of them. Islam was thought of as peaceful. This is about 30 years ago or so. Having said that, I believe that most Americans are confused about what is happening, BUT would still consider Islam peaceful overall. I think that if asked they would feel that perhaps there are a group of bad Muslims who have taken the religion and adopted it for nefarious purposes. I don’t think non Muslims have as reprehensible a view of the Islamic faith as Muslims might think that they have. I have always thought that if most Americans had the opportunity to meet Muslims and shake hands and talk it could go a long way to helping them understand more. Unfortunately most people don’t know Muslims due to the demographics of the country. Most Muslims are in specific areas around the country (big cities) and most people will not have the chance to know any Muslims on a personal level. So they get their info from the media…and we all know how balanced media all over the world is! NOT!

Even though I am not Muslim, I have an interest in it (the Qur’an) from a historical point of view. Due to that , unlike you and other Muslims I don’t believe that the Qur’an is the unaltered word of God. I believe, like every holy book, it has been influenced by the politics of the day and the men who wrote/translated it starting with the Uthman Qur’an and the many that existed before that, that he gathered and put into one book. But I need to emphatically say that, in my mind at least, that does NOT mean it was not divinely inspired nor does it take anything away from Islam’s value as a great faith of the world. It provides great comfort and guidance for many good people throughout the world.

“ a closer examination does say that what is not allowed in the Quran is not also allowed in other holy scriptures.”

That is so very true. Most religions say much of the same thing they have a different way of achieving that.

“ We are all bound to find out who is right and who is wrong and I am in no hurry to get there.”

Amen to that.

Chiara said...

Thank you all for the great comments! And for sharing your knowledge, expertise, experience and perspectives, in a respectful manner. Obviously we have differences but are able to enrich each other's understanding in a civil way.

As for my moderating policy, I read every comment in full, and have approved all I have received to date on this blog, this post included.

I have in the past only poofed spam, pseudo-comments that are really spam, and straight vulgar-filled rants of no bearing on the topic of the post or the blog.

In general, I want to be sure that posts and the blog remain a good place for people to share with out personal attacks on others or feeling or being attacked themselves.

For that reason it is important to be sure to address the topic, and clarify with another commentator if you feel their words were disrespectful, or attacking, ie before attacking back.

I am very happy that everyone here has remained so civil on challenging topics around religion, women's issues, marital relations and who should decide about these for others.

I welcome the debate that has happened on the religious aspect and hope it will continue. I also hope people with address the less religious side of the topic in terms of practicalities, experiences had or known about, what to do with/about the children, the extended family, the society etc.

I am also interested in people's thoughts on the poster that opens this post and announced the Doha Debate. It was in the collection on the Doha Debates site of their best posters. Is it a good one? Does it suggest the breadth and openness that the Doha Debates want? What about the colours? Any symbolism or psychology going on there?

I will address individual comments and themes a little later, but in the meantime...carry on commenting!

Susanne said...

Thanks,Chiara, for running a lovely blog. I figured I must have just hit the wrong button on the comment that never showed up. Because it didn't seem off-topic. Thanks for letting us know about your moderating policy.

I like the poster, but then I like red and black together. :) Hmmm, symbolism.... well, red seems more free to me than black. It's a vibrant, attention-grabbing color. I think a lady wearing a red abaya in KSA for instance would stand out. :) Perhaps the black is to symbolize lack of freedom (or conformity) like you can only marry Muslims whereas the red is symbolic of what this "house" believes: "Muslim women should be free to marry anyone they choose."

The Holy Sinner, you wrote:

"In the competition between the strong man and strong woman, the kids will suffer."

Yes, I agree. That's a reason I couldn't marry outside of my faith. Thus the big IF in my previous post. :) I guess this scenario works best if the nonMuslim wife isn't as serious about her faith and is fine with her children being brought up outside of her faith. Then again some people just aren't as rigid about passing along their beliefs because they are more universal in their beliefs on faith. I *wish* I could be that way. Thanks for your reply.


Enjoying all the discussion on this interesting topic!

Imperfect Stepford Wife said...

I agree with Coolred about the Masculine/Feminine language in the Quran.

History doesn't lie, and from what I see, men in every corner of the world, faith and culture have used religious texts, constitution and education to relegate women to specific speheres.

Also, I see so much here that I agree with right on the button. For instance, sometines having conversations about Islam turns into cultural stuff, many people do not know how to have a dialogue without feeling that they are being attacked.

Marrying outside one's faith? What does that mean? Does being born into a family of Muslims make me a person who practices Islam? Now religion is inherited? Silly.

If I as a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim, how did that come to be? After-all dating/free-mixing is prohibited. I guess I would ask what the background is to all of this.

On a final note, closed arguments about the issue of "non-Muslims" is very dangerous because it turned me off Islam for a long time. I don't think that many Muslims know this, but speak to many converts and you will find they think the same.

I think practicing dawah, is speaking about the positive attributes of others, not saying YOU are this or that, and we are Muslims.

I just hate that, worse way to let people see the beauty of Islam, and as a convert, I can say this makes and made a huge difference for me.

Thanks for letting my give me two cents Chiara. Great post.

Chiara said...

Le Croyant--Thank you for your comment that popped up after I had responded to the others. Your points are very well taken that there are restrictions in Islam on whom men may marry as well, and that in that sense choosing to marry outside one's faith is choosing to be outside the faith. I do understand however, that some would think they are staying within the broad guidelines of their faith if they are marrying someone within the Abrahamic tradition, or just exemplifying the core values that underpin Islaim.

Thanks again for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this commentary on Asra's book?

http://loga-abdullah.blogspot.com/2010/03/asra-nomani-standing-alone-in-mecca.html

Interested to hear your thoughts.

Chiara said...

Anonymous--Welcome to my blog, and thank you for linking the commentary on Asra's book, Standing Alone in Mecca.
The review is very well written, argued, and documented (nice and correct use of ibid. included).
Since I haven't read the book itself it is hard for me to add more to what was written. In general I would say that the author is honest about being at a philosophical opposite pole from Asra and is careful to document the references to counterarguments to hers. The author also wisely allows for personal interpretation and sticks to elements which are debatable according to the Quran and the Hadith. As you know, some would debate the authority of any hadith.

I enjoyed the linguistic analyses of al-LAh and Allah, and of khimar and khumur; and thought the points were well taken. A more minor point, at least to me, about the desirability of a beard seems to me to have taken a narrow interpretation of the hadith, whereas one might argue that the idea is only IF one has a beard...rather than recommending one to have a beard.

If you are the author of the commentary and the blog, kudos on both, if not, kudos for directing our attention to both.

I hope you will comment on older and newer posts of interest to you; and, please feel free to create a name for yourself no matter how non-identifying, just so we can follow along on when you are commenting. the Name/URL option does not required a URL and will accept any name you choose for yourself.

Thanks again for your comment and a link that enriches the discussion here.

All-thanks for all the comments since my last one. I am still getting back to the comments that I have been interrupted by life from responding to. Please feel free to continue the discussion and dialogues.

Usman said...

The presence of Asra Nomani on the panel was enough turn off for me and I closed the video even before she could spur from her sleaziest mouth.

Oh, I don't have guts to hear an opposite opinion. Well, call me fool, but there is a limit. A mother of illegitimate child will advocate for Muslim woman's rights of marriage? What next, man bites dog?

I know a number of Muslim feminist who would be offended to have this clown presenting their side of defense. And isn't it the same clown who put a circus of female leading Friday prayers back a few years ago? Abusing Islam, criticizing Muslim values is new scholarly value these days. Make a cartoon, put a drama, and then make millions. You are person of "opinion".
Gross!

Poor Shibli Nomani would be curling up inside his grave!

Chiara said...

Usman--thank you for your comment. One might get the impression that you don't like either Ms Nomani's beliefs nor her personal conduct! LOL:)
I personally try to tackle the substance of what someone is saying even if they live their life differently than I do.
I do agree, and Muslim friends have said, that the fastest way to make a name for oneself these days seems to be attacking Islam. All and sundry seem to have their say, and present themselves as defenders of various freedoms through Islamophobic discourse. Hopefully that will change. Thanks again for your comment.

Usman said...

Chiara,

To your surprise, I don't mind who Muslim women like to marry, Muslim or non Muslim. My point is, couldn't they find anybody from entire world to represent that side? Why they had to import Asra Nomani from US?

In certain situations, personal conduct does matter, specially if it has to do with the issue in hand.

Chiara said...

Usman--actually, I assumed from your comment that you didn't mind. And I take your points about the choice of Nomani and her personal conduct as invalidating for you and others her right to speak on certain topics. It may be that she was deliberately chosen as representing one current of Muslim feminist thought.

I would make an Irshad Manji joke but I am afraid you wouldn't find it amusing! LOL:)

Usman said...

Irshad Manji, the avowed Lesbian?, My God!

I would like Asma Jahangir representing that side.

Chiara said...

Usman--LOL:) See, I knew that would get you!
Yes, Asma Jahangir would be a good choice. Thank you for reminding me about her, and her sister.

Emaan said...

I didnt read all of the above comments. But of what i read, i didnt know asra before i came across this debate.
i agree and i strongly criticize of how born muslims have NO say or choice to be muslims, altho it is considered a great gift. no matter how complete islam is, imperfect as humans are, they can end up finding themselves anywhere.
As for whether muslim women can marry non-muslims. they most certainly can, and there are several talks, papers, scholars who are ON the side of this debate.
it feels like i am doing nothing nowadays running around this topic.lol .. i am out of breath and out of words ... lol

if you feel like, please join my page about muslim women's freedom to marital choices here:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Freedom-of-Marital-Choices-for-Muslim-Women/118335021511676

you might also want to go peek into my blog:
http://emaan-wahaj.blogspot.com

cheers!

Chiara said...

Emaan--Welcome, and thank you for your comment! Both your blog, and especially your Facebook Group are very much on topic. I do hope others will check them out.

I also hope you will comment on older and newer posts of interest.

Anonymous said...

anthony wiener didnt convert nor did robin van persie both of whom married muslim women.But eric abidal an Franck Ribery have converted.
usually when nonbelvier marries muslim man she can keep her belief.
but nonbeliver an muslim woman the man will have to convert to marry her.
an this is usually the case...in this context if anythin it benefits women cuz they are free to practice theyre beliefs after marraige

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thank you for your comment, and welcome to my blog. I hope you will comment on other posts and topics of interest to you.

When a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim their marriage is considered invalid in countries with Islamic family law. Their children are considered illegitimate. They may have problems if traveling or living in such a country. They most certainly would if anyone inspected their documents or they were to attempt to do anything official, like obtain a residency visa.

Anthony Weiner and his wife are currently expecting their first child. As far as I know, she travels without him to Muslim countries, eg to Pakistan with Hillary Clinton while Weiner was defending himself.

In the sense that non-Muslim women of either Christian or Jewish faith can marry a Muslim without converting, yes the system favours these women. That is because they are part of the Abrahamic faiths, and because the father's religion is the one deemed to determine the child's.

In my experience, religions care about the faith affiliation of the spouses because the religions care more about the faith affiliation of the children. For that reason, although interfaith marriages are rejected by Judaism, they are better tolerated if the mother is Jewish rather than the father, because in Judaism the mother's religion determines the child's.

Thanks again for your comment!

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