Interfaith marriage

Interfaith marriage, traditionally called "mixed marriage", is marriage between partners professing different religions. Although interfaith marriages are most often contracted as civil marriages, in some instances they may be contracted as a religious marriage. This depends on religious prohibitions against the marriage by the religion of one (or both) spouses, based on religious doctrine or tradition.

In an interfaith marriage, each partner typically adheres to their own religion; this excludes a marriage of a spouse belonging to religion X to a spouse who has undergone religious conversion from religion Y to religion X. Interfaith marriage is also distinct from the concepts of religious assimilation, cultural assimilation, religious disaffiliation, and apostasy. Despite the distinction, these issues are associated with aspects of interfaith marriage. Interfaith marriage is also distinct from interracial and inter-ethnic marriage (also known as "mixed marriage"), since spouses in an interfaith marriage may share the same race or ethnicity.

In some religions, religious doctrine prohibits interfaith marriage. In others, religious tradition opposes interfaith marriage but may allow it in limited circumstances. Several major religions are mute on the issue, and still others allow it with requirements for ceremony and custom. For ethno-religious groups, resistance to interfaith marriage may be a form of self-segregation.

Human rights

According to Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, men and women who have attained the age of majority have the right to marry "without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion".[1] Although most of Article 16 is incorporated verbatim in Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the references to religious and racial limitations is omitted.[2] Article 17, clause two of the American Convention on Human Rights says that all men and women have the right to marry, subject to the conditions of domestic law "insofar as such conditions do not affect the principle of nondiscrimination established in this Convention."[3]


Interfaith marriage in Judaism was historically viewed with disfavour by Jewish leaders, and it remains controversial. The Talmud and poskim prohibit non-Jews to marry Jews, and discuss when the prohibition is from the Torah and when it is rabbinical.[4] In 1236, Moses of Coucy encouraged Jewish men who had married Christian or Muslim women to divorce them.[5] In 1844, the Rabbinical Conference of Brunswick permitted Jews to marry "any adherent of a monotheistic religion" if children of the marriage were raised Jewish.[6] This conference was controversial; one of its resolutions called on members to abolish the Kol Nidre prayer, which opens the Yom Kippur service.[7] One member of the conference later changed his opinion, becoming an opponent of intermarriage.[8]

Traditional Judaism does not consider marriage between a Jew by birth and a convert as intermarriage;[9][10][11] Biblical passages which apparently support intermarriage, such as that of Joseph to Asenath and Ruth to Boaz, were regarded by classical rabbis as having occurred after the non-Jewish spouse had converted.[12] Some still considered Canaanites forbidden to marry even after conversion, although this did not necessarily apply to their children.[13]

Orthodox Judaism refuses to accept intermarriage, and tries to avoid facilitating them. Conservative Judaism does not sanction intermarriage, encouraging acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse by the family in the hope that such acceptance will lead to the spouse's conversion to Judaism.[14] In December 2014 the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's United Synagogue Youth controversially modified a binding rule that its leaders would not date non-Jews, replacing it with a "recogni[tion of] the importance of dating within the Jewish community."[15]

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism do not generally regard the authority of classical rabbis; many rabbis from these denominations are willing to officiate at interfaith marriages,[16][17] although they try to persuade intermarried couples to raise their children as Jews. In 1870, some Reform Jews published the opinion that intermarriage is prohibited.[18]

In 2015 the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College voted to accept rabbinical students in interfaith relationships, making Reconstructionist Judaism the first movement within Judaism to allow rabbis to have relationships with non-Jewish partners.[19] Humanistic Judaism is a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life, defining Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people. The Society for Humanistic Judaism answers the question, "Is intermarriage contributing to the demise of Judaism?" on its website: "Intermarriage is the positive consequence of a free and open society. If the Jewish community is open, welcoming, embracing, and pluralistic, we will encourage more people to identify with the Jewish people rather than fewer. Intermarriage could contribute to the continuity of the Jewish people."[20]

During the early 19th century, intermarriage was relatively rare; less than one-tenth of one percent of the Jews of Algeria, for example, practiced exogamy.[21] Since the early 20th century, rates of Jewish intermarriage have increased. In the United States from 1996 to 2001, nearly half (47 percent) of marriages involving Jews were intermarriages with non-Jewish partners[22] (a similar proportion—44 percent—as in the early 20th century in New South Wales).[23]


According to varna, marriage is between two individuals of the same varna. Ancient Hindu literature identified four varnas, or castes: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Since caste is acquired at birth, Hinduism does not accept interfaith marriage. According to the Manu Smriti, partners in an inter-caste marriage should be shunned. Rural India, which is mainly conservative, follows this rule but Hindus in cities and foreign countries have accepted inter-caste marriage (although Indians living abroad have the lowest exogamy rate). Hindus who fall outside the four castes usually marry within their community for social reasons. This is the only category of people in Hinduism who are allowed to have interfaith marriage if the spouse has a "purification" ceremony.


Most traditional Zoroastrians and Parsis in India disapprove of and discourage interfaith marriages, and adherents who marry outside the faith are often expelled. When an adherent marries a partner from another religion, they go through the risk of not being able to enter the Agyaris and Atash Behrams. In the past, their partner and children were forbidden from entering Zoroastrian religious buildings; this is often still observed. A loophole was found to avoid such expulsion: the offspring (especially born out of wedlock) of a Parsi man and a non-Parsi woman were often "adopted" by the Parsi father and tacitly accepted into the religion. Interfaith marriages may skew Zoroastrian demographics, since the number of adherents is low.

According to Indian law (where most Parsis live), only the father of the child must be a Zoroastrian for the child (or children) to be accepted into the faith. This has been debated, since the religion promotes gender equality (which the law violates). Zoroastrians in North America and Europe defy the rule, and children of a non-Zoroastrian father are accepted as Zoroastrians.


A Samaritan man is allowed to marry outside his community if his wife accepts Samaritan practices. Since no conversion is involved, this may be considered an interfaith marriage. The decision to allow intermarriage has been made in modern times for genetic reasons. According to the Samaritan interpretation of their Torah, Israelite status is determined by the father; children of Samaritan men are considered Israelites, and children of non-Samaritan men are considered non-Israelite.


Some Christian denominations forbid interfaith marriage, citing 2 Corinthians 6:14 and Deuteronomy 7:3 (depending on interpretation). In the Catholic Church, canon law deals with mixed marriages (a marriage between a Catholic and a baptized person outside the Church) and marriages in disparity of cult (marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person). Distinction is made between inter-denominational and interfaith marriage, and some denominations extend their own rules and practices to other Christian denominations.


A primary Islamic legal concern is that the offspring of an interfaith marriage between a Muslim a non-Muslim are to be Muslim offspring, and raised as such. Sharia, thus, has differing regulations on interfaith marriage, depending on, firstly, what is the gender of the prospective intermarrying Muslim, and secondly, what non-Muslim religion is adhered to by the person that a Muslim is seeking to intermarry with.

While Islamic Law permits a Muslim man to marry up to four women, the preference is that one or all of his wives be Muslim. If he intermarried with a non-Muslim, one or more of the four allowed wives may be non-Muslim women provided that they are from among the People of the Book (i.e. female Christians or female Jews). Additionally, they must have been chaste, and all children must be brought up Muslim. Beyond this exemption, a Muslim man may not intermarry with females who are not from among the People of the Book unless they convert to Islam (which is not required of Christian females and Jewish females). Thus, Muslim men are prohibited from intermarrying, for instance, Yazidis, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc., as well as pagans or atheists, unless the woman converts to Islam. If they did, however, convert, it would no longer be considered intermarriage, but a marriage between Muslims, and thus not prohibited.

Muslim women, on the contrary, are forbidden from intermarrying as they are prohibited by Islamic law from marrying outside Islam.[24][25][26][27] This is irrespective of whether or not she wishes to marry a male from among the People or the Book (i.e. a male Christian or Jew) or a male of any other religion. A Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man, and intermarriage is always forbidden to Muslim women. This would not apply if the non-Muslim man converted to Islam, as the Muslim woman would no longer be considered to be intermarrying, but marrying a Muslim man. Additionally, she may only be married to one Muslim man at any one time (i.e. she may not have multiple husbands at the same time).

Early jurists in the most-prominent schools of Islamic jurisprudence ruled in fiqh that the marriage of a Muslim man to a Christian or Jewish woman is makruh (disapproved) if they live in a non-Muslim country. Umar (634–644) denied interfaith marriage to Muslim men during his command of the ummah.[28] According to the Quran,

Today the good things are made lawful for you, and the food of the ones to whom the Book was brought is lawful to you, and your food is made lawful to them. And (so) are believing women in wedlock, and in wedlock women of (the ones) to whom the Book was brought even before you when you have brought them their rewards in wedlock, other than in fornication, neither taking them to yourselves as mates (i.e., girl-friends). And whoever disbelieves in belief, (i.e., the religion) then his deed has been frustrated and in the Hereafter, he is among the losers. {Surah 5:5}

Scholar Ahmad Kutty of Toronto has expressed disapproval of interfaith marriage, citing Umar.[28] According to scholar Bilal Philips, the verse permitting Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women is no longer valid for several reasons (including its misinterpretation).[29] Canadian Islamic scholar Shabir Ally has also said that it is makruh for a Muslim man to marry outside his religion.[30] This prohibition preserves and expands Islam in patriarchal, multi-faith societies. It ensures that over a number of generations, Islam would gain in numbers relative to other religions.[31]

If a non-Muslim woman married to a non-Muslim converts to Islam, the marriage is suspended until her husband converts to Islam; she could theoretically leave the non-Muslim husband and marry a Muslim one, analogous to the Pauline privilege for Catholics. If the non-Muslim husband converts, a new marriage is not needed. According to the Quran,

O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers, then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers, nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower), and there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah. He judges (with justice) between you. And Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. {Surah 60:10}

Bahá'í Faith

According to the Bahá'í Faith, all religions are inspired by God and interfaith marriage is permitted. A Bahá'í ceremony should be performed with the non-Bahá'í rite (or ceremony). If both ceremonies are performed, the non-Bahá'í ceremony should not invalidate the Bahá'í ceremony; the Bahá'í partner remains a Bahá'í, and is not adopting the religion of the other partner in the ceremony. The Bahá'í partner should also abstain from vows (or statements) committing them to a declaration of faith in another religion or that are contrary to the principles of the Bahá'í Faith. The two ceremonies should be performed on the same day; their order is not important. The Bahá'í ceremony may be performed in the place of worship of the other religion if it is afforded respect equal to the non-Bahá'í ceremony and is clearly distinct from the non-Bahá'í ceremony.

Serer religion

In orthodox Serer religion (an ethnoreligious faith), interfaith and interracial marriages are forbidden. Banishment and disinheritance may be levied against a Serer who disobeys the law,[32] The Serer-Noon (a sub-group of the Serer people) adhere strongly to this teaching.[32]

The Netherlands

A Dutch proverb advises against interfaith marriage.[33][34]

See also


  1. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  2. "UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  4. Talmud Bavli, Avodah Zarah 36b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Sanctity, Laws of Prohibited Relations 12:1 and commentaries; Rabbi Yosef Karo, Shulchan Aruch II:16:2 and commentaries
  5. Moses of Coucy, Sefer Mitzvot ha-Gadol, 112, as per JE
  6. Jewish Encyclopedia, Intermarriage
  7. Jewish Encyclopedia, "Conferences, Rabbinical"
  8. Ludwig Philippson, Israelitische Religionslehre (1865), 3:350
  9. Berakhot 28a
  10. Kiddushin 5:4 (Tosefta)
  11. Rabbi Yosef Karo, Shulchan Aruch III:4:10
  12. Genesis Rabbah, 65
  13. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Sanctity, Laws of Prohibited Relations, 12:22 and Maggid Mashnah ad. loc.
  14. Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism, Statement on Intermarriage, Adopted on March 7, 1995
  15. Fendel, Hillel (26 December 2014). "Conservative Judaism Youth Group Relaxes Inter-Dating Rules" (Main-News-Jewish World). Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  16. Survey of the American Rabbinate, The Jewish Outreach Institute, (retrieved 6 May 2009)
  17. Summary of Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling 2003 Survey, Irwin H. Fishbein, Rabbi, D. Min., Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling, (retrieved 6 May 2009)
  18. D.Einhorn, in The Jewish Times, (1870), No. 45, p. 11
  19. Lisa Hostein (October 1, 2015). "Reconstructionists give green light to intermarried rabbinical students". Jweekly. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  20. "13 Tough Questions". 2013-05-13. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  21. Ricoux, Demography of Algeria, Paris, 1860, p. 71
  22. National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01
  23. Census of New South Wales, 1901, Bulletin No. 14
  24. Saeed, Hassan (2004): Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-3082-1.
  25. Daniels, Timothy P. (2005): Building Cultural Nationalism in Malaysia. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94971-8.
  26. Altstein,Howard;Simon, Rita James (2003): Global perspectives on social issues: marriage and divorce. Lexington, Mass: LexingtonBooks. ISBN 0-7391-0588-4.
  27. "404 - Page Not Found". Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  28. 1 2 "Marriage to a Christian Woman: Unrestrictedly Permitted?". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  29. "Marriage to Non Muslim - Contemporary Issues - Bilal Philips". YouTube. 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  30. "Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man?". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  31. Ben Youssef Zayzafoon, Lamia. The production of the Muslim woman: negotiating text, history, and ideology (Oxford, UK: Lexington Books, 2005) 108.
  32. 1 2 Ndiaye, Ousmane Sémou, "Diversité et unicité Sérères: L'Exemple Le de la Région de Thiès", [in] Ethiopiques n°54, revue semestrielle, de culture négro-africaine, Nouvelle série volume 7., 2e semestre (1991)
  33. (Dutch)
    "twee geloven op een kussen daar slaapt de duivel tussen" means literally Two faiths on one pillow, the devil sleeps between them.


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