Interfaith marriage: Is it always wrong?

Carine Mutesi, a staunch Catholic, says ten years ago, she met and fell in love with Faisal, a Muslim. They dated for a period of five years but when they wanted to take their relationship to “the next level”, she was told by Faisal that she was first to convert to Islam. Her parents refused this proposal and, needless to say, their relationship died at the altar of religion.

Carine Mutesi, a staunch Catholic, says ten years ago, she met and fell in love with Faisal, a Muslim. They dated for a period of five years but when they wanted to take their relationship to “the next level”, she was told by Faisal that she was first to convert to Islam. Her parents refused this proposal and, needless to say, their relationship died at the altar of religion.

Just like the two, a number of people have found themselves in a dilemma when it comes to marrying a person of a different faith. Some spouses tell their partners to first convert to their faith before they walk down the aisle.

Abubakar Mwaduma, an Imam in Nyamirambo, says that Inter-marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is something that has been clearly prohibited in the Quran and Sunnah, thus not permissible in any way. The only exception to this general rule is the marriage of Muslim men with Christian and Jewish girls, under certain conditions.

But why can a Muslim man marry a Christian woman while the same religion prohibits a non-Muslim woman from marrying a Muslim man?

“Women are somewhat weak and emotional by nature.  The husband has been given a caretaking and controlling role over the wife. As such, it is very likely that the Muslim wife may fall prey and become impressed with her husband’s faith. The chances of the husband becoming affected by his wife’s faith are remote, thus the difference between the two situations is clear,” says Mwaduma. 

Thus, he adds, “It would be permissible, in principle, for Muslim men to marry women from the people of the book (ahl al-Kitab) namely Christians and Jewish. However, this is also subject to certain conditions.

The reason behind this is that marital relationships demand mutual love, affection and intimacy and without this, the purpose of marriage is left unfulfilled. If such close relationship of love and intimacy is established with a non-Muslim, it may emotionally incline a Muslim towards disbelief (kufr) or, at least, the abhorrence of Kufr and Shirk may not remain in the heart.”

Inter-faith marriages have also been an issue for a number of Christian denominations. There have been cases where a man or woman advises a potential spouse to change his or her denomination for the marriage to go on. 

James Ntabareshya of Anglican Church, Remera, says that when he wanted to marry his Catholic girlfriend, he was advised to first seek permission from his pastor. “I just told him she was my choice and he said alright, but warned me to make sure I learned the ramifications to our future children who would decide which denomination to subscribe to.”

Catholic Church on interfaith marriage

According Sister Rachel Musoni, her church doesn’t stop a person from marrying from different denomination, but “sometimes a future spouse will choose to go through a process called RCIA to become Catholic prior to marriage.” 

However, she adds that, “Express permission of the local bishop is necessary. The Catholic person must uphold the obligation to preserve his or her own faith and ensure the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church.”

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