Q: I notice that you and Dr. Turabi are posted on the Internet as supporting interfaith marriage. You both adduce what you deem to be proofs from the Qur'an. You have expressed in the past your great admiration for Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, yet he goes against you on this subject. In his response to a question about interfaith marriage, Dr. Abou El Fadl says that he cannot find proof by any of the scholars that support your position. How do we know you are just not concocting some story just to appear ecumenical?
A: I still admire Dr. Abou El-Fadl as I put him in the very vanguard of eminent scholars on Islam. I have reread the article to which you refer and I am afraid you may have misinterpreted the entire issue. Dr. Abou El-Fadl is correct in stating that he did not find any dissenting views from the normative position of Muslim scholars, however, he is referring to the classical fiqh texts. And as any scholar knows -- foremost among them Dr. Abou El Fadl -- those fiqh books are based on the intellectual endeavors of HUMANS (in the case of classical works, that should be MEN). They do not claim to receive revelation, and as such, function very much as servants of their time and culture. That does not preclude the interpretation of the Qur'an in a different way as times and environments change. Indeed for us, that is one of the proofs of the miraculousness of the Qur'an: its ability to be read in a different light and reinterpreted throughout history. As we have noted, our approach is very much in line with what Dr. Fazlur Rahman calls the double reading: we read the Qur'an and apply its philosophy to life, and we take into context the people to whom it was revealed, as well as its historical and cultural context among other things.
Note that Dr. Abou El Fadl expressed astonishment at the juristic agreement on
the prohibition of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man. He was being a
faithful historian and a good scholar. Note also that he left the matter up to
the individual, to be made with due God-consciousness. Our position is no
different; we have provided what we deem as our proofs for our interpretation
of permissibility, and we always leave it up to the individuals concerned to make
their final decision. If you feel that our evidence does not meet your
standard, then you can simply ignore our position. Since I do not rely on any
historical precedent to support my position, I don't see any "story"
being peddled. The hermeneutics and process of deduction I apply are pretty
evident, and in concordance with the Islamic view of the law of permissibility
in all things unless God has expressly forbidden such a thing. The normative fiqh proscription
of interfaith marriage is NOT based on this rule, but breaks it. The
proscription is based on a nuanced reading that since God permitted the MEN to
marry outside of their faith and not the women, then
the case is closed. Our point is that the Qur'an was following the norms of its
time where men were seen as the decision makers, and since God never detailed
any prohibition for women, then we cannot read and follow the Qur'an today as
one would have in seventh century
Webmaster’s note: The subject of interfaith marriage is not the only controversial issue wherein we have gone against the majority opinion of Muslims scholars. Other topics include punishment in the grave, the second coming of Jesus, stoning to death, etc. For more on interfaith marriages, see our FAQ section and the referenced material.
Posted January 24, 2010