Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Sharing Group Discussion on Jakim & Interfaith Marriages

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Sister San Yee posted this article, on The Sharing Group, on the 06th January, 2016: Marriage between Muslim & Non-Muslim Illegal, Says Jakim.

Brother Muhammad Reza Nasherudin: Is it not alright to marry People of the Book?

Brother Christopher Santoro: Indonesia has the same law, and goes one step further: you must declare that you are one of six ‘approved’ religions on your national ID; if you are of a different religion, your identity card will not list a religion and you cannot do much of anything.

Sister Jonae Cope: This goes against the Qur’an.  I wonder if they mean anyone who is not Ahl al-Kitab, otherwise this is a dangerous precedent.

Brother Jak Kilby: As I understand it, this is a Shafi’i ruling, and heard of this opinion strongly in Egypt.  The Maliki definitely allow Muslim men to marry women of the Ahl al-Kitab.  Whether it is advisable is another matter.  Jakim definitely seem to get knickers in a twist.

Brother Muhammad Reza Nasherudin: As far as I understand, it is stated in the Qur’an:


Do not marry disbelieving women until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than a disbelieving woman even though she allure you.  Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allure you.  Disbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire.  But Allah Beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of Bliss) and Forgiveness, and Makes His Signs Clear to mankind: that they receive admonition (Surah al-Baqarah:221)

And:


... (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time― when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues... (Surah al-Ma’idah:5)

Brother James Harris: The position of Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) was that there were no People of the Book after the time of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), meaning there were no ‘true’ Christians after this time.  The Imam’s position was that marriage was only permitted if a woman could prove she had Christian ancestry prior to the time of Muhammad (s.a.w.).  Many Shafi’iyyah follow this view, but this ruling has been revisited by later scholars.  It is based in an incorrect understanding, in my view, as the Trinity was well and truly established in Christian doctrine at the time of the Qur’anic Revelation.

Sister San Yee: Why did Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) think there were no People of the Book after the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), Brother James Harris?

Brother James Harris: Because he saw the doctrine of the Trinity as polytheism, shirk, and interpreted the Qur’an as referring to only those followers of Jesus (a.s.) who believed in tawhid.  This was actually the view of all the a’immah al-madzahib, if I am not mistaken, but some madzahib have not held to this view as strongly as others.

Brother Jak Kilby: Did he think that?  I doubt it, Sister San Yee.  I think he believed that such marriages were a bad idea, then couple that with increasing numbers of Muslims and therefore more spouse possibilities.

Sister San Yee: The concept of the Trinity is Mentioned in the Qur’an but God still Refers to them as the People of the Book.

Brother James Harris: Yes, he did think that, Brother Jak.  Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) was very uncompromising on matters of tawhid.  This is what was taught to me by my ustadz.

Brother Jak Kilby: But then, and this was also taught to me by one of my ustadz’s, who was a Palestinian Shafi’i, that Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) said, “Follow my way unless you find better in the Qur’an and sunnah”.

Brother James Harris: Definitely.  Later Shafi’i scholars revised the founding Imam’s positions.  This is what kept the madzahib alive.  I have found that, in Malaysia, they tend to take the hardest line on a lot of rulings these days.

Sister Jonae Cope: I have not heard of there no longer Christians who are Ahl al-Kitab.  Brother Mansoor Rizvi, is this prevalent among the Shi’ah?  It is news to me

Brother Mansoor Rizvi: In Shi’ah jurisprudence, they are still considered Ahl al-Kitab as far as I know.

Brother James Harris: The Hanafi school does not view it this way, and the category of Ahl al-Kitab was extended much more broadly, to include Zoroastrians, even Hindus, in some cases.  It should be remembered that the Hanafi school was the official school of empires that governed diverse religious communities, Mughal, Ottoman and others.  The Shafi'i school was never in such a position, and has historically tended to be the school of smaller rural communities.

Brother AbdRohim Sinwan: I was wondering, since the Shafi’i school was adopted by the Aceh, Brunei and Mataram empires, yet the school is still as ultraconservative as ever.

Sister San Yee: From what I remember, Shafi’is in South East Asia take the Shafi’i opinion unless it is impractical to do so where they will then take the Hanafi opinion.

Brother Isa Husayn Johansson: There seems to be some misunderstandings in the thread in regards to the Shafi’i madzhab.  It is not so much their kufr and corruption, which was obviously blatant in Qur’anic times, which is why we clearly see the Trinity and other wrongful notions rejected in al-Qur’an al-Karim, but that Ahl al-Kitab are those Christians and Jews who adopted those faiths prior to the call of Rasulullah (s.a.w.), including their descendants that adhered to their diyn.  It has nothing to do with their kufr, since it is already established, yet Allah (s.w.t.) permitted their marriage.  Rather it means that after the call of Rasulullah (s.a.w.) the gates are closed, and one cannot simply join the Ahl al-Kitab, unless a continuous descendant.  This distinction often seems neglected in the mindset of many Muslims, including, or perhaps especially Southeast Asians, as most Greeks, Italians, would qualify, whilst most Scandinavians and Chinese Christians would not, for example.  Yet they view it as a blanket ban, and there being no Ahl al-Kitab, but this is not the relied-upon view of the madzhab.

There are obviously other views within Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, but we do need to understand and accept that this is one of the main views.  Although some Shafi’is mentioned “before corruption of the Book,” but this is virtually impossible to establish, and not really emphasised or applied.

Below is a quote from an answer I gave to a question in regards to meats.  The below definition is relied-upon, al-mu’tamad, regarding “Who are the People of Scripture?”  Their disbelief, such as the idolatrous belief in the trinity, other types of anthropomorphic concepts, denial or affirmation of attributes, rejection of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and so forth, are of no consequence in this matter.  What matters is that they confirm adherence to the God of Abraham (a.s.) and Moses (a.s.) and in the case of Christians, Jesus (a.s.), and the Judeo-Christian scripture and outward adherence to the basic tenets.

There are two points taken into consideration by the scholars of our madzhab, namely, scriptural and credal distortion, tahrif, and abrogation, naskh.  The when, how, and what of scriptural and credal distortion are at present humanly impossible to identify and establish, but the abrogation, naskh, is established through the call of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  As such, the ruling is that for a person to be legitimately considered from the People of Scripture, he or she must be a descendant of a people who adhered to a form of Judaism or Christianity prior to the call of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  This is from Tuhfat al-Muhaj.

This would disqualify many of the people we know as Christians in the West, although other schools of jurisprudence differ on the criteria mentioned, which means that there is some leniency to be found.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: As much as I dislike JAKIM, this fatwa has nothing to do with the status of the Ahl al-Kitab, and it is not unique to the Shafi’i madzhab.  However, I do take exception to the manner of the wording although that may be due to a translation issue.

In summary, there are two positions in Sunni Islam on marriage with the Ahl al-Kitab.  The first is that it is permissible and valid because it is in the Qur’an.  The second is that it is something that is only permissible in a situation where there are not enough Muslim women for the men to wed as was in the case in the early days of Islam.  The second position was based on the fatwa by ‘Umar ibn al-Kaththab (r.a.) when he was the caliph and he discouraged marriage with the Christians of Egypt after its conquest from the Byantines with the words, “Are there not enough Muslim women now?”

In Singapore and Malaysia, they adhere to the latter position, so that a marriage with a Christian need not be registered with the Registrar of Muslim Marriages in Singapore.  In Indonesia, Egypt and elsewhere, the adhere to the former position.

A fatwa is a legal opinion, not a hukm, a legal injunction.  As such, people may choose to take from the one that most suits their situation.  There may be several fatawa within the same madzhab on opposite sides of the same issue.  This is an example of the flexibility of the jurisprudence.

Brother David Rosser Owen: In Algeria, some time ago - 1980s, I think - because of the numbers of marriages with French women that ended in separation and the loss of the children, marriages with non-Muslims were banned: French women, for example, were required to convert first to Islam.  I think that the religious authorities said at the time that this was only seen as a temporary and emergency measure.  I do not know what the situation is now.


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