What Does Marriage to a Muslim Involve?
CBN.com - Perhaps a close
friend or relative is considering marrying a Muslim. What does one
say to her? (I say "her" because the vast majority of cases are
women.) Maybe your friend has already made up her mind to marry
him. He is so nice, a real gentleman, and well-educated. One hears
"horror stories" of such mixed marriages, but surely there must
be happy marriages as well. It is important, however, that she understand
what she is doing.
She should bear in mind, above all, that like it or not every marriage
to a Muslim is affected by Islamic law, whatever the country of
residence. Face it. Islam is not just a faith; it is a way of life
that is governed by Islamic law. The Muslim is obligated to live
by its values and requirements wherever he might live. Believe me,
the legislation governing marriage and the family is extensive,
and by Western standards is not at all favorable to the woman, especially
one who is not Muslim.
I can only cite a few basic facts. In Islamic law the woman is inferior
to the man; she is always subject to a male guardian, whether he
be her father, brother, or husband. The woman has only half the
value of a man when it comes to blood-money, inheritance, and her
witness in court. A Muslim man may have up to four wives. He may
marry a non-Muslim provided she is of the "people of the Book" (i.e.
a Christian or Jew), but a Muslim woman may not. The children of
such a mixed marriage belong to the husband, and must be raised
Muslim (this is why a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim).
In sum, she is not on equal footing with her husband.
You will note that I have focussed on marriage in Islamic law rather
than on customs. Customs will vary from country to country but one
thing is certain: any Muslim raised in a Muslim society is going
to feel more or less obligated to order his marriage by Islamic
law. This is a primary fact that anyone considering marriage to
a Muslim must keep in mind.
Here are several practical suggestions one might offer to help her
sort things out. She should first of all ask him if he has a wife
back in his country--or elsewhere. Sometimes the wife is left back
home for various reasons, so he wants another in this country for
companionship. She should also find out what will be expected of
her. Don't assume anything! A colleague suggests she ask: What about
our children? Must they be raised Muslim? Will I be free to take
them to church? Will they be able to decide for themselves? She
should also ask about his family: What will they expect of me (and
of him)? In this connection, it is imperative that she visit his
country and family to observe them firsthand before the marriage.
She should know that traditionally, the Muslim family, especially
the mother-in-law, exercises considerable social control over the
son's wife. Finally, if she goes through with the marriage she had
better reconcile herself to the Muslim way of life. She shouldn't
enter marriage with the idea that she will change things--or him;
she won't. She is just setting herself up for marital discord. And
if there is a divorce, she should know that his country, being Islamic,
will not recognize her claim to the children unless she is Muslim.
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