As salamu `alaykum,
Dear sister, thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I do not feel qualified to answer your very interesting questions about marrying within one’s own ethnicity as I think that the question, from a fiqh perspective, should be answered by a more qualified individual because it involves interpreting and understanding the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) in regards to marriage, race and ethnic relations.
Nevertheless, from what I do know, let us remember that Prophet Muhammad(SAW) in his final khutba (sermon) said very clearly:
“All Mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; in addition, a White has no superiority over a Black nor has a Black any superiority over a White except by piety and good actions.”
Also, from Sheikh Gibril F. Haddad in reference to a related statement by Imam al-Shafi’i:
“Whatever ruling Imam al-Shafi`i meant when he said he preferred Arabs to marry Arabs, does not have a bearing on affirming superiority in the eyes of Allah but only with custom and on condition that those concerned are people of taqwa, (piety). Imam al-Shafi`i never said that he would prefer a non-muttaqi Arab over a muttaqi non-Arab. It is likely, also, that what the Imam meant by “Arabs and non-Arabs” in this particular ruling was as a euphemism for free men and slaves, and this sense is also implied in the narration “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab.” Meaning – of a free man over a slave or former slave, because slaves and former slaves were overwhelmingly non-Arabs, since the earliest centuries in Islam.”
From these and many other references it is clear that anything hinting at a preference for a specific ethnicity in regard to marriage or anything else must only be related to ease and/or custom, i.e. so as to not overly burden the parties involved. Clearly, the priority in marriage is always piety, i.e. taqwa, regardless of the ethnic background of the people involved. Prophet Muhammad, remember, often reminded us to make things easy for each other, and do make things unnecessarily difficult.
Being in a mixed marriage with someone from a different ethnicity than my own, I can tell you that there are many challenges in marrying into another ethnicity and culture. Many marriages end tragically due to the inability to overcome the cultural differences that exist. As such, there is often a unique challenge in marrying across ethnic and cultural lines. So perhaps – and this is only my opinion, and should be confirmed through qualified scholarship – Prophet Muhammad was advising us to not bring undue hardship onto ourselves, meaning that people from the same culture and customs might find married life a bit easier.
In reference to the specific circumstances regarding the Arab man and your friend’s sister, I think the important issue here is not the ethnic difference. From a counseling perspective, I cannot help but be very suspicious of a man who proceeds as this man has.
It is quite obvious from the way you have described it that this man is interested in having relations with this young woman and has thrown around the “L” word (love) to get what he wants, which appears to be sex with this young woman. Whether he’s really interested in marrying her is known only to Allah. As such, I feel this young woman should proceed with much caution and do not give into this man’s invitation to engage in sinful premarital relations.
We have to understand that some men will say anything to get women to give into their invitations for sex. I know I am being very blunt in saying this but it is the unfortunate truth. I have seen it, and been around men who think that way.
Women have to be wary of this. In the case of this young woman, I would advise her that if this man really loves her, he needs to either prove it by marrying her or say goodbye. She is a Muslimah, and there is no compromise on this issue. Either he does it according to Islam, i.e. through a lawful marriage, or there is no chance of them being together. Then she will see what his true intentions are, in sha-Allah
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