Advice: In Love With a PolytheistPosted: October 24, 2013
Dear Love Inshallah,
I have been dating a man for a few years now and we’ve been discussing marriage. However, he is of a polytheistic faith. Although he is liberal in his practice, he has a strong belief in God. We have not had any problems with faith interrupting our relationship, since we have the same morals and values and we have been blessed to be very compatible and loving towards one another. He is also very active in taking part in my religious activities, since he is quite aware that I am a practicing (semi-liberal) Muslim.
We have agreed on a nikkah (in addition to other South Asian cultural events). He has also agreed to “convert”. This is where the problem starts to occur. He wants to be able to practice both religions, but will always have his way of worship in his heart, even when “practicing” Islam with me. We have also decided that the children will be taught to practice the Islamic faith in our home. Therefore, is there really a point in him taking the shahada? Isn’t it still zina after marriage, since the marriage is not seen as “valid”? And will he be seen as a shirk, which is said to be completely “unforgivable” in Islam?
I have been lucky enough to have had exposure to different religious events (i.e. church services, pujas, etc.) growing up, so I have no problem attending and respecting his family’s customs and beliefs. I know God is the most gracious and merciful, but are we going down the wrong path?
In Love with a Polytheist
Shy Desi Boy replies:
Sorry for my short response here — in my first column, I indicated that I do not feel comfortable giving religious advice and I still maintain that. The questions you asked — is it zina still after marriage if I marry a polytheist, for example — are questions you have to tackle on your own and if you are so inclined, with an Islamic scholar.
What I enjoy about writing this column is that it gives space, at least I hope, for us to ask — what do we feel about a certain experience/emotion/person? Too often we condense ourselves to a set of rules: Islam says this, so we must do that. I do many things in life because I believe it to be a matter of faith. Sometimes I do things because I want to do them, even though my religion is against it – and sometimes I avoid things I want to do, also for the same reason.
But I also believe that we all have a compass inside us. So my advice is to seek advice from someone other than me and above all, listen to yourself. Yes, this person may be a polytheist but is that all he is?
Is he a kind, gentle person, who will make you happy? When you are stuck at the airport and have to wait seven hours on the floor of the Delta terminal will you care that this person believes in more than one God? Or will it matter more then that this person loves you in a way that is so special you cannot articulate? These are questions no religious scholar can answer. I certainly can’t answer them either. But you can.
I wish you my best.
Miss Sunshine replies:
For believers, interfaith marriages are frought with minefields that must be navigated with great thought and grace. I believe that love is powerful, that it can expand your heart and your capacity to empathize and grow as a human being through almost any challenge, but the process of building love that supports and sustains requires a lot of effort. That effort is even greater when you differ in something that so fundamentally informs your worldview.
As you may know, the consensus of the majority of legal specialists throughout Islamic history has been that marriage to a polytheist is forbidden. If you proceed with this marriage, it will not be recognized by the majority of Muslim legal authorities, or those who adhere to their rulings. Ultimately, your decision is between you and your conscience, but there are consequences beyond the interpretations of legal scholars. You have a lot to consider.
How important is this to your family and community? Are you willing to lose the support of loved ones to be wedded to this man? Do you ever plan on living in a Muslim country? If so, what might be the consequences for how your family is treated? While you may have agreed to your theoretical children practicing Islam at home, they will know that the most important man in their life practices another faith. Will you expect your husband to hide his faith from the children? What if they decide they want to practice his faith? I think you’re placing a heavy burden on him, on yourself, and possibly on your children if you’re not open to the possibility that they may choose, at an age younger than you expect, to reject your faith for his.
The shahada, or bearing witness to the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, is sacred. If your fiancé bears witness while inwardly holding fast to a faith in other gods, he degrades his own integrity, and mocks the process. It begins your sacred vows to one another with a public lie. I’m sure that you love one another, and you’d like the blessing of your community, but there is no blessing in this kind of deceit. Rather than beginning with a lie, it might be better to have a contract that honors the truth. If you decide to go through with this marriage and you want a ceremony that is like a traditional South Asian Muslim marriage, then write a new contract that details your commitment to one another in spite of your differences.
I hope that Allah (swt), who is indeed most merciful, blesses the two of you with guidance, with love and clarity.
Two more perspectives from the archives:
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