Marrying A Jewish Girl

Question

I live in Canada and I have almost decided to marry a Jewish girl. She belongs to Reformed Judaism and more like the Jewish traditions than actually practicing Judaism. I am a practicing Muslim in regards to praying, fasting etc. and I strive to be better. I have been living in Canada for almost five years now. I grew up in Pakistan. She is forty and I am thirty-eight years old. We have known each other for almost three years. We connect on many levels and then there are other places where we differ a lot. That is mainly cultural and some religious differences. We have gone through a lot of discussions and I feel that as long as its only me and her in the picture I will inshaAllah be able to be content with my decision of marrying her, despite realizing the fact that there will be obstacles and more effort will be required in this relationship than having a traditional marriage with a Muslim girl. When it comes to kids, we fail to reach a common resolution as our differences look bigger in that scenario. Just to give you an example, I think a sexual relationship can only be after marriage (based on my religious beliefs and cultural practice) and she thinks that in western culture it is not possible and as long as one can remain faithful to their partner (unmarried) they should be able to spend their lives as they want. She thinks kids could be given knowledge of both Jewish and Muslim traditions and I think they will be confused that way so they should be raised in one tradition and I want them to be Muslims and she does not want the kids to only associate to Islam but Judaism as well. So we do not have an agreement there. She is already forty, so there may be complications in having kids altogether. She also thinks that at this stage of her life and given the situation she does not want to have kids. I love her and try to make every effort so that we can get married. I have also thought about not having kids. The dominant thought is to be able to live with her and I guess that is why I try to justify this thought by feeling that it is already late for me as well to have a traditional marriage cycle where one gets married at a younger age and have kids. I am also behind in my career path and need more time and effort to work hard and establish myself. So I feel that kid will be a huge responsibility. The main reason behind this thought of not having kids remain to be the fact that it will complicate our lives as we might not even be able to get married if we decided to get married. I feel that she and I will be able to do other stuff in life that will help us not to miss having kids. For example she and I are very keen towards bringing Jews and Muslims closer and helping both sides understand that there are so many misunderstandings and misconceptions and lack of trust that is the cause of lot of friction between Jews and Muslims. I would like your comments on the whole situation and my main question would be, in the given situation, if I decide not to have kids, will it be just according to Islam?


Answer

In principle, according to the Qur'an, a Muslim man may marry a woman from the people of the book, although according to Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, the wording and the context of the verse that gives this permission is given with an assumption that is:

"It was expected that if Muslim men would marry among the People of the Book these women would be positively influenced by Islam. In this way not only would there be no clash with polytheism, but also there was a great chance that most of them would accept Islam."

Ghamidi J. A. , Pre-requisites of Nikah (marriage), translated by S. Saleem, Monthly Renaissance Journal http://www.monthly-renaissance.com/issue/content.aspx?id=351

You have raised a number of issues in your post that need to be addressed in turn:

1. Disagreement on kids sexual life in terms of having or not having sexual relationship before marriage.

Please note that both Islam and Judaism forbid sexual relationship before marriage. This is therefore (as you for sure know) is not a religious difference, but a personal and cultural one. This is therefore something that the two of you should discuss in a personal level and you have words of advice of both Islamic as well as Jewish scholars and wise men to support you in this.

2. Wanting kids to be Muslim and not to be confused with information about both Islam and Judaism.

This is something that I think is not practically possible in any aspect.

First, we cannot make our kids Muslim or non-Muslim. Islam is a belief and no person can be made a Muslim. Your kids need to find Islam in their hearts themselves, although you as a father will have a huge effect on facilitating this.

Second, whether you like it or not, in our era of technology, especially in a developed country, kids are exposed to any sort of information. It is no longer like old days where a kid was isolated in his own community and had no idea what was going on outside. A few clicks on Internet and the kids can see promotional material related to almost every religion, as well as atheism. Where father and mother are coming from two different religions then the kids are even keener to study both religions.

I therefore agree with your Jewish partner here. I think best is to leave the kids to be exposed to both religions as long as they will not do something that goes directly against the teachings of Islam on tawḥīd, obligatory worships and halāl and harām. As we are talking about Judaism (not Christianity) I do not see much that I would consider directly against these in this context. In fact there are many similarities (as you mentioned yourself) between Islam and Jewish beliefs and practices. In fact, the correct thing to say is that Judaism and Islam (as well as Christianity) are simply different version of the same religion; of course as Muslims we believe that the only authentic version at our time, which was revealed also to correct the earlier versions, is what we consider to be Islam.

I suggest raising of children in the context that you are, should start with these similarities before the differences naturally become exposed. This way the kids will have a solid foundation of belief in one God that is the most important thing and will then be in a better position to analyze the differences in a rational way. Of course you as a father will do whatever you can to bring to their attention the truth of the religion of Islam.

If you try to isolate your kids to the knowledge of Islam, while their mother is Jew and they are living in a multi-cultural society, what might happen is that they might get bored and frustrated by what you are trying to do and will subconsciously get attracted to other beliefs and culture.

3. Having or not having kids:

Having kids is a blessing from God and I do not think any concern (financial, age, job related, etc.) should stop a married couple from receiving this blessing, unless for medical conditions the couple are advised not to have kids.

Having said that, there is nothing in Islam to forbid you from not having kids. It is therefore a decision that is left to you.

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