“It is bad enough you’re marrying a non-Muslim and now you have found a woman qazi!!” Notice the common thread here in restriction of women.
Also notice, that in all the Muslim schools of thought there is no ruling that a woman cannot perform nikah. And of course, the ultimate defense for women qazi is that not a single line in the Quran dictates that a qazi should be a man. That’s right, it doesn’t exist.
An Islamic marriage, the nikah, is a contract. In America it looks like a pre-nuptial agreement. Yes, 1500 years ago the Quran mandated a pre-nup to protect women in marriage.
The contract can stipulate whatever the woman wishes in this married relationship. It could be that she requests no second, third, or fourth wife for her husband. She could request the right to work outside the house, the conditions for a divorce, etc. It also stipulates the mehr (dowry) the woman receives from the groom. Both partners with witnesses sign this contract.
The mehr has become a materialistic opportunity in an Islamic marriage with lavish clothes, jewelries and nauseating extravagance milked from the potential groom. The mehr is not supposed to burden the groom financially. The mehr are items, a gift that will remain in the procession of the woman no matter the outcome of the marriage. It can be a Quran if she so requests.
The marriage of Muslim men to non-Muslim believers is clearly outlined in the Quran but no such thing exists for Muslim women. The only framework for an Islamic marriage—note I said Islam, not Muslim—is that individuals need to be of sound mind, of age, and the woman needs to consent to the marriage. Any deviations from these three requirements are a distortion of Islam. Obviously these conditions are hardly adhered to in many so-called Islamic nations.
In many societies where Muslims are minority, there is a shortage of the availability of Muslim men. The men marry outside the faith because they can and finding a bride from the home country fits in nicely with cultural traditions and family expectations.
The women in the west tend to be highly educated, in many instances over-achievers. Marrying a man from the home country—a man who is most likely to be less educated, and who expects a docile and subordinate woman— well, that is simply not going to happen!
There is a ‘funny’ solution floating around in some communities—allow for polygamy.
In other words, women are expected to put up with misogynistic men, marry them despite character flaws, simply because they are Muslim?
What does an interfaith nikah look like? I recite a Quranic verse in Arabic, read the English translation, incorporate poems about love and the union of marriage. Sometimes couples include personal vows they recite to each other. Sometimes it has a more inclusive tone with acknowledgment and language of the partner’s non-Islamic faith tradition. After the, “I pronounce you husband and wife,” the marriage ends with the signing of the marriage certificate and contract. Usually, that would signify the end of the service and the beginning of an enriching married life.
Unless, of course, some alpha-male relative decides to show up at the end in jeans and t-shirt to validate the marriage with his version of the same Quranic verse I had already recited.
Islam was meant to be liberating, especially for the oppressed and especially women. 1500 years later we are still struggling to claim what are duly our rights. Our cultural practices have over-written the Quran. It is time for us to pry back the patriarchal hand that continues to hold women down. Come on my ummah, wake up!
If you are interested in a more in depth justification for the right of a Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, there will be a lecture by Professor Khaleel Muhammad of San Deigo State University at the American Islam Speakers Series at Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles) on June 16th, 2012. For more details, please visit: http://mpvusa-la.org/events/american-islam-lecture-series-can-muslim-women-marry-outside-theBy Ani Zonneveld, Aslan Media Columnist