Answer by Dr. Wael Shihab:
Wa ‘Alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah (swt), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Thank you for your question. A Muslim should have good, fair, and ethical relations with all people, Muslims and non-Muslims. However, as you may know, premarital relations are not allowed in Islam. The legal Islamic marriage is the only means for intimate relations between men and women in Islam. The concept of “girlfriends or boyfriends” is not Islamic. Islam aims at building sound, decent human communities.
As Buddhists are not from the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab), you are not allowed to marry a Buddhist girl. A Muslim can only get married to a Muslim or a chaste woman who is from People of the Book, i.e., Jews and Christians. You can only get married to that woman if she converts to Islam.
During the Umayyad period when Muslims entered Sindh (now western Pakistan), they saw Hindus and Buddhists in that area. Muhammad ibn al-Qasim, the commander of the Muslim armies at that time, sent a letter to the Caliph asking him how he should treat them. The Caliph called a meeting of the `ulama’ (scholars) and told them that the armies had met people who are neither Christians nor Jews. How should they be treated in Islam? The `ulama’ gave their fatwa that these people should be treated like the People of the Book with the exception that Muslims will not marry their women and will not eat the meat slaughtered by them.
Brother, you should cut all illegal relations with this girl. If she willingly converts to Islam, you can marry her.
May Allah (swt) accept your and our good deeds!
Allah Almighty knows best.
Answer by Counselor Karim Serageldin
As-Salaam ’Alaykum brother,
That is totally up to you! However, besides the fact that marrying a Buddhist is technically not allowed in Islam for the reason Dr. Wael explained above, I would advise you to reflect on the following points. Basically, you have to options: (i) trying to convince her to revert to Islam and not to follow this custom of Chinese or (ii) moving on.
- If you try to convince her to still marry you despite her parents’ wishes, you will need to focus on a humanistic approach that addresses the equality of all people. Furthermore, emphasize that past history of a people does not apply to the generations afterwards. This is common sense. I cannot blame or despise the German student in my class because of the Nazi regime. I would also make da’wah to her and her family as perhaps teaching them the message of Islam can address this issue and provide them with a less bias understanding of your path and culture. Through your good character and treatment of her and her family, you can dispel their negative views.
- If you move on: Since you are still in your early twenties, you still have time and other potentials for a wife to discover. I would not get too fixated on a situation that seems difficult to make happen. In your case, she is not Muslim yet (nor from the People of the Book), and in addition, there is an ethnic barrier being posed by her parents. Both of these are obstacles that can be addressed but after some time, if nothing changes, I would move on to get to know someone more compatible with your needs.
- Lessons to keep in mind: Islam promotes diversity and openness to marriages beyond our race, ethnicity, and even religion for men. What is important is that we find character, consciousness, and value compatibility in a person. You can potentially work things out with this sister, or a Muslim woman or another woman of a different faith (Christian or Jewish). Prophet Muhammad had both a Christian and Jewish wife amongst the Muslim wives, and I believe he, peace be upon him, always shows us the best of examples if we want to be true to our religion.
In principle, you should not feel bad about considering this sister (in case she reverts to Islam) as she has good qualities, but besides being romantic, also be realistic. Since this courtship process is an important one with many phases to come, I suggest you find a counselor or therapist to discuss this with. That way, you have continuous feedback as you move along with your decisions and receive the support necessary for this process with God’s permission.
Lastly, be patient no matter what, and recognize that getting married is a gift and privilege, not a right. I hope the Divine makes it easy for you, Amin.
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