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Parents won’t let me marry outside my culture, even though we are both Muslim, help!

Parents won’t let me marry outside my culture, even though we are both Muslim, help!


I’m sick and tired of my parents being so racist all the time. As if Pakistani’s are above everyone else. This girl is beautiful, religious, and straight up wifey material. They have no reason to turn her away but I’m sure they will. I want to find out every single thing I could possibly say and things that I should know Islamically so that I can at least know I tried.

Salaam alykum,

I’m so sorry if this wasn’t the only message you sent, but it was the only one that I got; because your answer seemed to be particularly urgent, I will attempt to answer you in the best possible way.

That being said, I’d like to apologize if I misunderstand your situation, or if I am insensitive to your cultural issues that you mention. I say that because, while I might have grown up in India, and am pretty familiar with South Asian culture, I make no claim to being able to properly address your issues on those levels. Hell, who knows if I can even answer the Islamic side, Insha Allah, I hope I can.

As far as your parents, there’s a particular issue that they are highlighting, and perhaps they are doing this incorrectly (racism would be the wrong way, ps) but perhaps, and I’m just trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here, but they might be concerned about the cultural issues that you and your potential wife could get into.

Allow me to explain, if you’re Pakistani, then the question is, how “Pakistani” do you want your household to be? Do you want Pakistani food cooked on the daily? Do you expect to have your kids growing up singing “Dil Dil Pakistaaaaaaan, Jaan Jaan, Pakistaaaaan” (I might as well be Pakistani, bro)? Do you want your kids growing up speaking Urdu? What about her language? Are you willing to learn her’s? Is she willing to learn yours?

Then there’s the issue of whether you go back to Pakistan. Do you want to go back often? Does she want to go back to where she’s from? If she’s an American con/revert, is she down to go to Pakistan? Are you and her prepared for the level of scrutiny that is involved, not just from your parents, but from others?

Please don’t think I’m trying to “make your parents case,” at all, I’m just trying to raise questions that I think you should have the answer to. I think if you can answer those questions to your parents, I think you’ll be able to disarm them from a lot of their hang-ups. I just hope that you have answers for those, and that you are straight-up prepared for the consequences of you marrying someone from outside of your culture.

I’d just like to underline, again, that I’m not trying to discourage you, masha Allah, it seems like you’ve found a great girl, and Insha Allah, I hope whatever is best for you and her, happens.

Inter-racial/cultural/ethnic marriages, historically speaking, were possible and easier because there was a shared language, usually those two were either Arabic or Persian. What made it easier for people to maintain their Islamic identities, when coming from different backgrounds, is that 1st) national identities were not nearly as important to people back then as they are today; 2nd) the religion of Islamic learning was primarily Arabic, but for many periods was Persian, and thus those languages served as the “bridges” for people, like English does today for different Muslim people in the West.

So, as far as raising your children, how are you going to communicate your religious values to them? If you can’t use Arabic, then, you have to deal with the fact that language is going to be about cultural identity, and if your potential wife speaks Arabic, or Bahasa Indonesia, or Persian, or just English, how are you going to deal with that?

As far as Islamic injunctions that give you, the man, the explicit right to marry the woman of your choice, this is actually a little embarrassing, but, I can’t think of any. If someone has something, please send it to me, but really, if you a man and have the ability to sustain another human being, you should really have the right to choose.

This doesn’t mean that women don’t have this right, at all. Instead, men didn’t have to make these justifications, and only women did, thus The Prophet spoke about women’s right to choose because people were generally concerned with socio-economic factors, and nothing else.

If you were a girl, oh my, I would be able to give you some really appropriate Hadith, like:

In Tirmidhi: “When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks for your daughter in marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so there will be corruption and great evil on the earth.”

Also in Tirmidhi: “Three matters should not be delayed: salat when its time comes, burial when the funeral has arrived, and the marriage of a single woman when a man of equal status has proposed”

Let it be noted that, in the above Hadith, when discussing “equal status,” we are not speaking about equal economic factors, but, of religion and character.

I mean, you could take these Hadith and say that it applies to you, but, I feel like your parents might not accept that since it was addressed to females. However, I’m pretty sure that this could apply to you as well, and if I was the Qadi involved with this case, I would apply it for you, as well.

The funny part is, there is not much that I can see that would give the man the right to marry as he chooses, technically. I mean, you say she’s religious (I’m assuming she’s Muslim here) and so, really, as long as she has that “box” checked, you’re really good to go.

I mean, within Surah Baqarah, there is this line:

“And do not marry women who ascribe divinity to aught beside God ere they attain to [true] belief: for any believing bondwoman [of God] is certainly better than a woman who ascribes divinity to aught besides God, even though she please you greatly. And do not give your women in marriage to men who ascribe divinity to aught beside God ere they attain to [true] belief: for any believing bondman [of God] is certainly better than a man who ascribe divinity to aught besides God, even though he please you greatly. [Such as] these invite unto the fire, whereas God invites unto paradise, and unto [the achievement of] forgiveness by His leave; and He makes clear His messages unto mankind, so that they might bear them in mind.” – Muhammad Asad [2:221]

Alternate translation:

“And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember.” – Sahih International [2:221]

Besides the fun fact that men and women are treated exactly the same here, the reality is that, in a sense the central aspect that determines whether someone is worthy of you, as far as The Qur’an and God are concerned is their faith. All the other stuff, economics, culture, traditions, etc that’s something that youhave to figure out.

So, what can I tell you to help out with the whole racial/cultural element (assuming you’re okay with this difference?) There’s two things:

The first is The Qur’an, where in Surah Hujarat:

“O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, a have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” – Muhammad Asad [49:13]

Alternative translation:

“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.” – Sahih International [49:13]

This ayah clearly underlines that racism is not only untenable, but that to even attempt to differentiate between the people on this earth, based upon any distinction save their piety and actions, would be to question the will of God. Thus, it is within The Qur’an that we cannot justify racism on any level.

Furthermore, there is the famous excerpt from The Prophet’s final sermon, in which he said:

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”

When you look at the word for human being in Arabic, it is bani adam. That translated to Children of Adam, illustrating a profound, and often overlooked virtue of the word, that we are all, at our root, from the same source, and to differentiate between ourselves on any basis would be absurd, because we are all one. The only thing that can differentiate between one person and another is their actions.

This is the best that I can give you, right now. I’m honestly trying to find anything else, but at the end of the day, I really think the most important way to address your parents’ concerns is to address the first part of my answer, which is far more practical and has far less to do with “formal Islam” and much more to do with the everyday basics of living with a person who (I’m assuming) doesn’t share your language and culture.

You and her have to determine whether the things that I mentioned are okay, and you have to know what you are expecting and what she is expecting, and to know what the both of you are willing to sacrifice, and what you’re willing to do for the other person. What do you have to accommodate? What are you willing to do?

I wish I knew what her background was, and what your parents particular concerns were, so I could give you a better answer, I hope that I helped in some way, insha Allah. If you want to contact me personally, please, send me a way to contact you, and I’ll try to help.

If this is because you’re Punjabi and she’s Pathan (and she’s asking for mad gold), then, I give up. Seriously, bro. I realize ya’ll are different, but dear Lord, that wouldn’t be the end of the world.

If you or any one else has questions on this or any other topic, please do not hesitate to ask me, insha Allah.

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