Issues to Consider in an Inter-Faith Marriage
by A. S. Khan
COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL ISSUES TO CONSIDER FOR AN INTER-FAITH MARRIAGE
Here I will discuss the issues considering social and practical implications that can generally affect an inter-faith marriage. These issues will include religious compatibility, relationships with non-Muslim relatives, friendships circle, religious celebrations, food, social gatherings, acceptable dress code, cultural awareness and religious tolerance, charity, volunteer activities.
Before a Muslim man steps into an inter-faith marriage, there are numerous issues that he must understand himself and discuss with his non-Muslim wife-to-be.
Given the western environment so resentful and inconsiderate toward Islam, its always better to have peace in the "home." The family life will be much worry-free and harmonious if both spouses belong to the same religion and agree on same theology esp. if cultural differences also exist. Islam allows marriage to a Christian or Jew woman, but only under certain conditions. As described earlier in the first portion, the inter-faith marriages are permissible only in an Islamic society.
It is always better to introduce the woman to Islam and encourage her to become Muslima BEFORE marrying her. It will allow the woman to realize if she can take Islam as her religion and raise kids as Muslims; or if she has any innate notions against Islam or unwillingness to follow Islamic way of life. Most probably it will become self-evident to the man that what type family life can he expect from her as a wife.
RELATIVES & FRIENDS AND THEIR INFLUENCE
Certain situations when dealing with non-Muslim relatives and friends may occur and can lead to unanticipated misunderstandings.
A non-Muslim woman is not bounded by Islamic values regarding dressing up, mixed parties, eating non-halaal foods and consuming alcohol. She MAY avoid all such items voluntarily to make family life pleasant or as a goodwill gesture to please her Muslim husband, if he doesn't like them. Otherwise, she is under no obligation to avoid what is allowed to her by her religion.
By getting married to a non-Muslim woman, the husband should realize that he has already agreed to her being a non-Muslima and should not expect a woman to behave like Muslima if she is not one.
A Muslim should expect that the family will be invited to certain parties and dinner where all non-halaal items may be served. He may want to shun away from enjoying all the non-Islamic items, but the non-Muslim wife may want to consume them.
Personally I don't like participating in meals where Non-Muslim relatives and family friends offer prayers in the names other than Allah at their dinner tables and show no consideration for other people. It will be difficult to make kids not to eat certain non-halaal items while the non-Muslim mother enjoys them. Again, it is upon the woman's discretion to avoid all or some of the non-permissible items in Islam.
Often the problems with non-Muslim relatives arise with the birth of a baby. Most christian grand-parents attempt to test the waters by giving the new-borns baptism or celebrate other religious ceremonies. In that event, unless the non-Muslim wife makes sure her side of family understands her husband's reservations about such celebrations, the situation may get tense at such a joyful occasion and may leave bitter memories.
Grandparents and other relatives may also want to celebrate (religiously) Christmas and, above all, Good Friday- a true christian holiday commemorating the Friday of so-called Jesus's death on the cross and his rising from the dead on Sunday.
Non-Muslims friends will also invite the family on their religious events and the non-Muslim wife may want to participate and take the kids with her to such celebrations and festivities. At such instances, it may be difficult to participate in their ceremonies and esp. in telling the kids what not eat and whom not to pray to.
The family has friends from both faiths and it will be unfair that you have only Muslims friends. But sometimes certain outside non-Muslim influences in the marriage and esp. on the kids are to be avoided.
Islam prescribes the dress codes for man and woman. Not many Muslim men and women, either living in secular Muslim countires or the West, today follow the dress code perfectly. However, most Muslim women still do not go around normally in sleveless shirts, shorts or bikinis. If the Muslim man is trying to follow his religion then he will obviously prefer his wife and kids to be dressed properly. If the wife is non-Muslim then she is under no obligation to follow a strict Islamic dress code. But she may choose to dress up in proper manner again to please her husband, not to offend him and to guard her beauty from other men. But, then again, it will be her choice which may fluctuate with her relationship with the Muslim husband.
There are certain western customs that may not be acceptable for a Muslim husband. Mixed parties usually include dancing and drinking. Hugging and kissing cheeks of male and female friends is another practise which is not permissible in many Islam. The Muslim husband may have to clarify these issues with his non-Muslim wife.
RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN THE FAMILY
If a Muslim man marries a non-Muslima, either practising Jewess or Christian (a sharaii requirement), then she probably will continue to practise her religion after the marriage. If she does, then she will demand the liberty to attend, contribute, volunteer and work for her religion.
Since, the advent of Islam in the West has caused tumult in the western religious institutions, esp. the churches and christian seminaries, their efforts are now focusing on esp. proseltyzing Muslims more than ever before. The church-going women are more prone to fall to the propaganda against Islam by the missionaries prepared specifically to "reach out" to Muslims. The ongoing propaganda at churches depicts Muslims "persecuting" christian minorities in Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other Muslim countries. The religious differences, augmented under this environment, may damage the peaceful life at home.
The non-Muslim wife may want to volunteer and contribute financially to her religious institution and its activities- 10% of the income is to be given as "tithe" donations to the churches. It is usually disturbing too see your money support the exact religious institutions whose major goals now include defaming and sabotaging the religion of Islam and converting Muslims using monetary resources in poor countries.
RAISING MUSLIM KIDS
The foremost thing to understand here is that most of us who were raised in Islamic environment, even if it may have been a secular govt. such as in Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia, etc. The environment and society was mostly responsible for our learning and understanding of Islam. Right from the beginning, we learned Islam in bits and pieces at home, school, through radio, TV and even through our praticipation is Islamic students/political parties. In combine families, the grandparents and relatives helped our parents teach Islamic values to the kids.
In the West, it is a totally different environment. In most cases, the parents are probably the only "bridge" between Islam and their kids. If only the husband is a Muslim, then that bridge is even narrower. If the father himself is not very knowledgeable in Islam and doesn't participate in or mingle with Muslim (not social) community and activities in the West, then the kids will grow up virtually ignorant to Islam. In general, to them, Islam is a foreign religion.
A man usually doesn't have much time to spend with the kids and if the wife is non-Muslim too, then there is not much kids can learn about Islam even at home. Dressing them up in cultural/international clothes, feeding them cultural food and taking them to Masjid once or twice a year doesn't teach them any Islamic values or religion at all. If we assume the kids will learn Islam values LATER, the question arises: From WHO?
If the kids have a non-Muslim mother and she doesn't respect Islamic dress code and eating habits, ie. she wears shorts, skirts, bikinis and eats non-halaal meats or drinks, then how in the world can we expect that our kids will not do the same. How diificult it will be for the husband to teach the kids to avoid these "NOT-OK" things while they're okay for their respected mother. Will he be telling them that their mother doesn't have "good" moral values?
In an inter-faith marriage, where both parents practise their respective religions, often kids are grown to be confused in religious matters. They have sympathies to both religions. But due to opposing views, they are usually unable to "make up" their mind. Most do not want to reject either religions.
If Kids are drawn by mother and father to their respective worship places and to participate in their religious activies. What would a Muslim husband tell his kids if they want to go to church on Sundays with their Mom. Similarly, what will a non-Muslim mother say to her kids, if they go to Masjid on Fridays and on Sundays for taa'leem. The clildren need a single religion preached and taught to them.
Marriage is a critical decision in not only our life, but for our kids and their and our hereafter. Let's be real careful about it.
And those who pray, "Out Lord! grant unto us wives and offsprings who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous." [Surah 25:74]