I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on inter-faith marriages and also on dating. Regarding the first part of the question, although the Qur’anic injunctions seem pretty clear as to the validity of a marriage between a non-Muslim man and women of the “book”, is this only for the context of the Prophet ‘s time? Also why is it that women cannot marry non-Muslim men? Some people suggest that it is because religion passes through the man in Islam, however this seems to be coinciding with Judaism’s view that religion passes through the woman. I can find no reference to this in the Qur’an.
Also in terms of dating, it seems as though in the present time many youth seek companionship with the opposite gender and do not have the outlet of marriage at a young age (since this society does not allow a youth to be financially independent early in their life). What are the Qur`anic and Sunnah sayings on this particular topic? I believe that Surah five has some reference to “love-companions” as being wrong? Also, have scholars tried to address this issue over the years?
As far as inter-faith marriages are concerned (especially marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man), please refer to one of my earlier answers to a similar question1.
It should be quite clear from my referred answer that marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man has not been directly prohibited by the Qur’an. However, it has not been explicitly allowed either, as is the case regarding marriage between a Muslim man and a woman from among the Jews or the Christians. Those who hold marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man to be prohibited do not do so because “religion passes through the man in Islam”. They may give a number of reasons for this prohibition, but the fact of the matter is that none of these reasons is based on the Qur’an or the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh). All these reasons are basically there own understanding and explanation of the issue. Furthermore, the prohibition – even in their eyes – is because of their interpretation of the related verses, not because of the reason that they ascribe to such prohibition.
In my opinion, therefore, the real question is not “why” is the marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man prohibited, but it should actually be: “does the Shari`ah really prohibit such a marriage”.
As far as your second question is concerned, Islam does not allow what we have come to call “dating”. Islam values chastity for both men as well as women. Islam acknowledges the fact that a young man and a young woman can naturally feel attracted towards each other. It also acknowledges the fact that if this attraction is allowed to be gratified without setting any limits, it can easily destroy the whole social structure that Islam wants to promote.
The basic principle on which Islam builds its social structure is that a man – for his healthy and natural physical, mental, emotional and psychological development – needs a family. At the time of his birth he needs a mother (or someone in place of a mother) to look after him. At that time, if his needs are ignored, his very existence can so easily be jeopardized. Although at this stage, the father is playing an important role in the background, but in his subsequent years, the role of the father becomes more and more prominent with that of the mother. Then his brothers and sisters, contribute to his psychological and emotional development as well. As he grows older, his society, his tribe, his neighborhood and his family teach him the lessons, which have a great significance in shaping his personality. Some years later, this child grows strong and young. These are the few years of his life during which he believes that he is independent enough to live his life without sharing and even without asking others to share with him. These are the years in which – due to his emotional and physical independence – he is sometimes prone to adopt an attitude of taking all the pleasure that life has to offer without accepting the responsibilities that should naturally entail these privileges (or pleasures). But soon after this phase is over, the mental, physical and emotional weaknesses start creeping in once again and once again, as was the case in the first stage, he becomes emotionally dependent on others. Not before long, he reaches the threshold of old age. Now once again, besides his emotional dependence he also becomes physically dependent on others. Sometimes, he also reaches a stage where his very existence becomes dependent on the care and attention of others.
Islam wants to shape the society in a way that would take care of the needs of the complete man and not just a part of his life. Islam, therefore, builds the society in such a way that a family is formed, relationships are created and, thus, not only the needs of a young man are satisfied but also those of the infants and the old. Islam, therefore, builds the society on the institution of marriage – an institution, which is primarily based on firm commitment, love, trust and chastity.
This is the reason why Islam holds fornication, not only to be a spiritual crime but a social crime, which is punishable by flogging in public. This is also the reason why Islam directs us to observe certain etiquettes while in the company of the opposite sex, not related to us (mehram).
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, it should be quite clear that Islam does not allow what we, in the present day have come to call “dating”. “Dating”, therefore, seems to be against the very essence of the teachings of Islam regarding the society and its values.
28th March 1999