Given that I have recently received several calls and e-mails pertaining to parents blocking interracial marriages within the American Muslim community, I’d like to give some practical advice regarding this matter.
Of course, there were several inter-tribal and interracial marriages among the Sahabah in which several of them involved resistance from family members. Bilal, Julaybib, and Sa’ad as-Sulami are just a few who faced this.
Early Islamic scholars from Zayd bin Ali and Malik bin Anas gave verdicts on what constitutes compatibility for marriage listing deen, not just being Muslim but also level of practice and character, as being the criterion. Other scholars such as Abu Hanifah and Ahmad bin Hanbal gave other criterion for compatibility besides deen which includes lineage and ethnicity. At the end of the day, none of them said that it was haram to marry someone outside of one’s nationality or tribe.
Practicality, however, is important. Is it worth marrying someone at the risk of losing relations with one’s family?
In life, there are non-negotiable and negotiable relationships. We are religiously commanded to keep family ties and to be kind to our parents even if they are disbelievers. This is non-negotiable. Who we marry or even stayed married to, however, is negotiable. We can wish to marry someone today, it doesn’t work out, then marry someone else tomorrow. We can marry someone to later divorce them.
Though barring marriage to someone just for the color of their skin, hair texture and/or different tribal background is wrong according to my belief, I do not encourage anyone to marry at the risk of being exiled and disowned from one’s parents. To be clearer, I simply do not encourage people who have never been married before to circumvent their parents and go to an imam or the justice of the peace to get married. Khutbah an-Nikkah can’t be performed by a justice of the peace who isn’t Muslim to begin with, nor can a Muslim justice of the peace working for the state conduct a religious ceremony.
That may seem like acquiescing to intolerance, but I personally don’t view it as beneficial to marry someone to then be barred from family gatherings and not speaking to one’s parents. Having children and expecting the parents who balked at the wedding to come around doesn’t work in many cases at bringing parents into accepting the marriage. Furthermore, I would never advocate for someone to marry into a family that has racist views about them and their family; I simply don’t see any dignity in that.
Again, this is just me sharing my thoughts, not a fatwa against inter-tribal or interracial marriage if one’s parents are against such a union. I do not conduct weddings for Muslim sisters who have never been married before against their families’ wishes just as I refuse to marry Muslim men to Kitabi women.
Hopefully this clarifies my position when receiving future e-mails and calls.