Islam, interfaith marriage, broken hearts, and human rights

flora ring

A little over a year ago I was speaking to a friend who had known me for two years and, in his own words, fallen in love.

You can probably guess what I told him. Here’s a summary: “I can’t be with you, you’re Christian, and besides that I’m not looking to get married any time soon so even if you were Muslim we couldn’t date yet with the intention of finding out.”

He was devastated. Half of you readers are probably very cross with me at this moment. And you will become more and more cross with me as you read further, but for now please understand something.

A couple of you know–and most of you have probably correctly guessed–that I don’t believe Muslim women are prohibited from marrying Christian and Jewish men, unlike what the majority of (male) scholars have interpreted. The Qur’an says nothing about this prohibition. Scholars concluded that only Muslim men were allowed to marry People of the Book because the Qur’an is very restrictive and reluctant in its permission to men, and therefore special permission would be given to both men and women were they both allowed to marry outside Islam. As the verse was only addressing men, it is therefore supposedly implied women were prohibited.

Weak, presumptuous logic if you ask me, but it’s better than the other explanation I’ve heard involving some asshole mansplaining to me that children are more likely to take their father’s religion. I will at least tolerate people who use the former explanation, but any scholar who gives this, latter one is a douchecanoe whose perspective is obstructed by submission to problematic and inaccurate cultural trends, rather than driven by the principles of truth and the pursuit of social justice, and is subsequently unworthy of my respect. Islam has nothing to do with arbitrary, sexist cultural perceptions.

This interpretation involves men making something forbidden that God had not, and therefore is an incorrect interpretation. God has clearly told us what is or is not forbidden, and we are not allowed to make forbidden what has not been said to be forbidden. Those who believe this and yet continue to conclude that Muslim women cannot marry outside of Islam regardless of the fact that the Qur’an says no such thing are contradicting themselves and picking and choosing what parts of Islam to enforce.

Now the question is why I cited his religion as a reason rejecting him, when I disagree with the interpretation that Muslim women are not allowed to marry outside of Islam, and the answer to that is simply, I want with my significant other the closest possible level of understanding and intimacy, and Islam–these beliefs and practices–are basically my soul. To feel the weight of my responsibility, the pressures of this world from my perspective, to know how my heart moves and what moves my heart–that, spirituality, is as important of a factor to compatibility as personality.

Also I don’t want to teach my kids everything myself. (And I’m going to entirely overlook for now the fact that I kind of have a loving nature and am bound to stumble over it.)

We stayed friends, because I’m a sort of idealistic kind of person, and because he’s everything anyone ever wants in a friend: astonishingly patient, deeply considerate, compassionate, and dependable. We talk about social justice, the recession, black holes in space, string theory, what kind of pasta tastes the best, deforestation, weird creatures that live in the sea, tuition, how fetuses look like weird creatures that live in the sea, books, feminism, religion, and other things I can’t remember.

Sometime during all this, he confessed that he selectively locks some of my texts in his phone, so that they wouldn’t be deleted, and occasionally he reads them over.

This is where you will become crosser with me. I demanded that he delete them. He said, quietly, that he couldn’t. I said I’d do it for him. I ordered him to hand me his phone. He did, slowly, looking down to avoid my eyes. And, as he sat there with his face twisted and crumbling in pain, I unlocked and deleted every single one.

When I think back to it now, I’m horrified with myself. I believed then, and still believe now, that I had every right to delete those texts. They were mine. I wrote them, and owned them. I can do what I want with my work.

No, what horrifies me is the motivation for deleting them. I wanted to save his heart, to shorten the time it would take him to get over me, to relieve him as quickly as possible of loving someone he could never be with so that he may move on and live happily. Sounds noble doesn’t it? That’s how it sounded in my head as I deleted them.

In reality, in the reality I couldn’t see, I was crossing a line. I was choosing for him his method of recovery, I was choosing for him the option of recovery, I was disrespecting and belittling him in being convinced that he needed to be “saved,” I was violating his basic right to choose what happened to him and to choose how to cope with his distraught. I was interfering with his thoughts. In reality I was arrogant, manipulative, and righteous. In reality I was intrusively forcing my beliefs on him.

And it hurt him for no greater good.

24 thoughts on “Islam, interfaith marriage, broken hearts, and human rights

  1. Hmmm I don't think what you did was that bad. To him, I mean, because like you said they were yours to delete. But introspectively, I guess I'd be alarmed too if I associated my behavior with people who destroyed civilizations to "save" them and recognized the connection.You seem like the bossy type. =P But you are really self-critical as well. It works.


  2. I am pretty bossy. Some people all it nagging. I prefer the term "training."I don't think people who murdered others were really out to "save" them, even in an unrealized way. I think they knew exactly what they were doing and didn't care.


  3. Sister, I find this alarming. This weakens are Ummah. Surely you can see that women are not as forceful as men in raising children! You are not strong enough to ensure that your children will be muslim. You must find a Muslim man.


    1. R

      I understand that we are allowed to marry people of the Book. But I don’t understand why we can’t marry atheists or Hindus or other polytheists? If they are good people, does their religion matter? If I find someone who is going to respect my faith and who loves me, why can’t I marry them?


  4. …With Nahida as a mother, I don't think there will be any issues.Meanwhile, kindly fuck off. It's obvious now that Muslim men who keep Muslim women from marrying Christians and Jews are doing it for their own interests!


  5. If you truly care about this young man, you would not speak to him. You have caused him enough distress. It is cruel of you to have continued to be friends with him!


  6. "Surely you can see that women are not as forceful as men in raising children! You are not strong enough"Listen to this random guy, Nahida, he is telling you to be bitchier!


  7. Nahida, I disagree with you, probably for the first time. But I also believe that what's important is that we do not push our values on others *ahemSyed* and respect everyone as responsible adults. What works best for a certain person is not going to work for everyone. Only Allah (swt) knows what's in our hearts.


  8. Because I don't think Muslim MEN are allowed to marry outside the religion either. There is one verse that reluctantly allows it, but only when there are no Muslim women available. There are about three other verses that stress urgently that it should not be allowed.


  9. Reena, that is an interesting and sensible observation. And I don't necessarily disagree with you. What I had an issue with in my post were men who made cultural excuses that had nothing to do with what's in the Qur'an. And men who interpreted the verse to imply that women were prohibited because the verse only addressed men, the same standards for marriage in terms of WHOM to marry are the same for women as they are for men in every other aspect. Why should this one differ? Your perspective is consistent with this, and that is the most rational thing I've heard so far from the other side.


  10. almostclever

    Nahida, you are deeply insightful, and poetic in your use of language. I love a well woven tale told by someone who is able to reflect and gain wisdom from it. "In reality, in the reality I couldn't see, I was crossing a line. I was choosing for him his method of recovery, I was choosing for him the option of recovery, I was disrespecting and belittling him in being convinced that he needed to be "saved," I was violating his basic right to choose what happened to him and to choose how to cope with his distraught. I was interfering with his thoughts. In reality I was arrogant, manipulative, and righteous. In reality I was intrusively forcing my beliefs on him.And it hurt him for no greater good."Beautiful.


  11. Nahida u r awesome eh! i understand u perfectly and agree with all ive seen so far! congratz! and i tell u something my ex husb was christian and reverted to islam… Allah has His nobles purposes with things like this sometimes, i beleive. But if u r a submissive woman, wich is not my case, i mean to men ofc, then u r right they will rule u in everything and u wont be srong enough to put your pinions and believes over , so marry a muslim man and your life will be ebtter. One must know about his limist and capacities.


  12. LinaZ

    I just discovered your blog and I really enjoy it. I just wanted to share that I was “born” muslim and am now married to the most amazing man….. who is jewish.
    I cannot see myself with anyone else. I hope that more “muslim” women decide on their own what is best for them and don’t marry a muslim guy just because he is muslim or claimes to be one!


  13. Kristen

    Your thoughts on Muslim women marrying non Muslim men are very interesting. I actually only know of interfaith marriages in which the woman is Muslim. I think that you’re right to label it as cultural rather than religious because studies show that children in the west are more likely to adopt their mother’s religion than their father’s, and that women are more religious than men. Maybe that isn’t the case in majority Muslim countries, though. I wouldn’t know. The connection between culture and religion is so strong that I really don’t see how anyone, regardless of gender, could raise their kids exclusively in one parent’s religion and ignore the other without losing one parent’s culture and heritage in the children, though.


  14. May

    From what I know there are specific ayahs that state that believing women should marry believing men, the context and wording referring to ‘believers’ as ‘Muslims’ rather than ‘People of the Books’. Btw, great site.


  15. nazmin

    hi I don’t know wether you reply Anymore or not but I only just found your blog which I am loving by the way anyway I have question and it is whether muslim women have to marry personal i think they don’t but I don’t have anything to back it with other that a strong feeling of being an independent person and belief of having free will


  16. Jenn

    hi !! I read your article and I’m happy that you didn’t go with the status quo of saying that its not permissible . I am a muslim women in an interfaith relationship and we will get married after I graduate , Im lucky because he is an agnostic , hence , he is happy to learn with me the religion and has agreed to raise our future children muslims and partake in prayers and so on . I think to make an interfaith relationship work its all about mutual understanding and it will work but some scholar however undermine this trait and say a non muslim man will take the muslim women ‘ s faith away which is utter nonsense !! I can say safely that my future life partner has never done anything remotely so and never will . Anyways May Allah SWT bless you and hope you can make Duaa for me that my boyfriend and I will be happily married and raise our children the way Allah will be pleased :)



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