Islam teaches us that we are all created equal, with nothing differentiating us, expect for our belief and devotion to Allah (SWT). Most Muslims make a sincere effort to treat others with respect, show kindness to their neighbors, and remain friendly with acquaintances, Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. However, when it comes to the sensitive topic of marriage, racism can rear its ugly head, as many families continue to frown upon (and in many cases prevent) interracial marriages.
In Quran, Allah said:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. [49:13]
This indicates that it is not preferred between one interracial over another only piety and belief And Islam encourage acquaintance and love between the interracial. Islam doesn’t restrict anyone from marriage based on trivial things such as race, tribe, etc.
Although it is clear that there isn’t any prohibition on interracial marriage in Islam, some families continue to stand in the way of perfectly acceptable marriages based solely on the premise of race. Regardless of how religiously conscious these families may be, negative attitudes towards other cultures often discourages individuals from entering into an interracial marriage. Though it is extremely important to listen to one’s parents, particularly regarding this life altering decision, it is not necessary to fully resign to their opinion based on racist notions, when in fact it contradicts the teachings of Islam.
However, when facing an interracial marriage, there are some important issues one must take into consideration which are briefly explained below:
Before Marriage – Stereotypes and Obstacles
No matter your background, an interracial marriage will be met with obstacles on both sides. It is especially the case for the generation of people whose parents were immigrants. To even broach the idea of an interracial marriage will spring forth 100 year old stereotypes of other cultures you never even knew existed.
Even those who marry within the race will often face problems in marrying outside the tribe, or people from a specific part of the same country, so much so that some people even consider these marriages to be against the norm.
Muslims who are the first generation to be born and raised in the West face a unique dilemma. They must harmonize between finding someone who is suitable religiously, and culturally. Sometimes the cultural aspect can get confusing.
It is that point though, that parents have a tough time coming to grips with. It seems some have missed the fact that their kids have a distinct culture that’s different than what they think they taught them. This is why it is frustrating to see many marriages being held up because someone’s parents are looking from a family who is from the same village back home.
It is good to see the trend of our youth overlooking the racial/ ethnic lines in marriage, and trying to marry for the deen (religion); however, the obstacles are often great. Many families are not accepting of such marriages, and many face great difficulties in pursuing them. The hardest part is breaking stereotypes that people have formed, or been brought up with. These are literally ideologies they may have held for the vast majority of their lives.
This is where the toughest adjustment comes, and the cultural differences must be overcome. It is what comes outside of that which can cause problems.
The first problem is latent cultural tendencies; i.e. once a person is married, they are now in a stage of life that they have not experienced before. Since this is the case, the only ‘experience’ they have to revert back to is that of their own parents. A person might not realize these things before marriage, but after a kid the husband may start acting a certain way, and due to the way he was brought up, he will have certain expectations as to what his wife should do as a mother. The wife, having been brought up differently, may have the opposite expectation. This is a situation where the culture has caused a clash.
In-laws are another issue that comes up. Different cultures have vastly different expectations of their sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, and an interracial marriage will bring about an abrupt adjustment period for them. Language barriers can also be an issue here. It is unfortunate that this aspect of an interracial marriage is often the most overlooked despite the heavy emphasis in Islam on preserving the family ties. Deen (religion) may very well be an extremely strong bond in preserving your marriage, but does that same bond exist with your spouse’s parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and other family members?
Kids add another dimension, and quite possibly the toughest. The husband/ wife must be prepared to deal with difficulties their children may endure from being of mixed-race. There’s also issue of what languages to teach them, and how to communicate in the house. It is important for these issues to be agreed upon before getting married. The family members should not be left cold and disconnected from the others due to difference in language.
Obviously interracial marriages are not for everyone, not everyone desires one (most probably don’t), and not everyone is cut out for one.
With that said, it is encouraging to see a rising trend in these marriages. We are after all, one ummah. Our cultures do enrich our ummah, but they cannot come before our religion. To see more couples and mixed-race children is a very apparent way of breaking down some barriers and stereotypes that exist within our societies. It exposes Muslims of one culture more intimately to those from another, and in the end it increases the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood.
The most important role interracial marriages may play is the effect that they will have on their family and friends. At the very least it will force them to look past their cultural identity and see a first-hand example of a family that is putting their religion above all else – about making themselves Muslim before being anything else.
First and foremost we should ask Allah (SWT) to purify our intentions and grant us the tawfeeq to make all of our actions for Him and for Him alone. Marriage in general is not a goal in and of itself, but it is a means of worshipping Allah by trying to establish a family upon the Sunnah.
If someone chooses to pursue an interracial marriage, they really need to ”check yourself before you wreck yourself” and make sure they are ready to deal with the consequences of their decisions. People really need to do some self-introspection and see where they stand, see what their maturity level is, and know what they can handle before getting involved in anything.
Know that it will take time for the families of both parties to integrate and become comfortable with one another. The key is for both people to be willing to put up with that and work towards their ultimate goal of having a good Muslim family. Even outside of family, you will deal with smaller things like trying to fit into social groups that exist in masaajid and communities, or being looked at as the ‘token interracial couple’ of an event.