Interfaith marriage

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Interfaith marriage, traditionally also called "mixed marriage", is marriage between partners professing different religions. While interfaith marriages are most often contracted as a civil marriage, in some instances, interfaith marriages might be contrated as a religious marriage, depending on any religious prohibitions against said marriages by the religion of one or both spouses (based either on religious doctrine or religious tradition).

Interfaith marriage typically connotes a marriage in which both partners remain adherents to their distinct religion, and as such interfaith marriages exclude marriages between a spouse of religion X to a spouse who has undergone religious conversion from religion Y to religion X. Interfaith marriage is also distinct from concepts of religious assimilation, cultural assimilation, religious disaffiliation, and apostasy. Nevertheless, despite the distinction, these issues typically are associated with many aspects of interfaith marriage.

Interfaith marriage is also distinct from inter-racial and inter-ethnic marriage (also traditionally called "mixed marriage"), as spouses of an interfaith marriage can be of the same race or ethnicity, despite their different religions.

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 have left the matter relatively unspecified and still others allow it entirely but with some requirements for ceremony and custom.

For ethno-religious groups, resistance to interfaith marriage can constitute a form of self-segregation.

Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16 states that 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] While most of Article 16 is incorporated verbatim in Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the language about religious and racial limitations is omitted.[2] The American Convention on Human Rights Article 17 clause two states 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]

Views of Judaism

Interfaith marriage in Judaism was historically looked upon with very strong disfavour by Jewish leaders, and it remains an enormously controversial issue. The Talmud and later authorities prohibit non-Jews to Jews, and discuss when the prohibition is from the Torah and when it is rabbinic.[4] In 1236, Moses of Coucy induced those Jews who had contracted marriages with Christian or Mohammedan (Muslim) women to dissolve them.[5] In 1844, the Rabbinical Conference of Brunswick permitted Jews to marry any adherent of a monotheistic religion, as long as any children of the marriage would be able to be brought up as Jewish.[6] This conference was highly controversial; one of its resolutions called on its members to abolish the Kol Nidre prayer, which opens the Yom Kippur service.[7] One member of the Brunswick 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 an intermarriage.[9][10][11] Hence, all the Biblical passages that appear to support intermarriages, such as that of Joseph to Asenath, and that of Ruth to Boaz, were regarded by the classical rabbis as having occurred only after the foreign spouse had converted to Judaism.[12] Some opinions, however, still considered Canaanites forbidden to marry even after conversion; this did not necessarily apply to their children.[13]

Orthodox Judaism refuses to accept any validity or legitimacy of intermarriages, and tries to avoid assisting them to take place.

Conservative Judaism does not sanction intermarriage, but encourages acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse within the family, hoping that such acceptance will lead to the spouse's conversion to Judaism.[14] In December 2014, Conservative Reform's United Synagogue Youth controversially dropped the binding rule that their leaders will not date non-Jews, and replaced it with a "recogni[tion of] the importance of dating within the Jewish community."[15]

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism do not generally regard the opinions of the classical rabbis as having any force, and so many rabbis from these denominations are willing to officiate at interfaith marriages;[16][17] they do, though, still try to persuade intermarried couples to raise their children as Jews. As with many religious denominations, however, there are a few dissenting voices; 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 type of Judaism to officially allow rabbis in relationships with non-Jewish partners.[19]

Humanistic Judaism is a Jewish movement that offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life, and defines 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, stating, "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]

In the early 19th century intermarriage was comparatively rare – less than a tenth of a percent (0.1%) of the Jews of Algeria, for example, practiced exogamy,[21] but since the early 20th century, rates of Jewish intermarriage have increased drastically. In the United States of America between 1996 and 2001, nearly half (47%) of marriages involving Jews were intermarriages with non-Jewish partners,[22] and a similar proportion (44%) existed during the early 20th century in New South Wales.[23] Overall, there is a relatively high level of resistance to inter-faith marriage in Judaism[citation needed] and this often constitutes a form of self-segregation - preventing Jewish communities from integrating and merging with surrounding populations around the world .[citation needed]

Views of Hinduism

As per the rules of caste system i.e., 'varnaashrama' the marriage must happen among two individuals of same 'varna' . Caste in this context means Vedic varna which is one of the four 'Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra'. Caste is acquired by birth, thus implicitly, Hinduism doesn't accept interfaith marriage. Manusmriti explicitly asks to boycott couples and their entire generation who marry outside of this rule. Rural India which is mostly conservative follows this rule to large extent, but liberal lifestyles in Metros and foreign countries have allowed acceptance of couples who violate this rule. Even then as per the statistics, Indians living abroad have lowest outmarriage rate. There are many Hindus who fall outside of the four castes, they also usually marry within their own community for social reasons. This is the only category of people in Hinduism who are allowed to have interfaith marriage as long as the spouse undergoes 'Purification' ceremony.

Views of Zoroastrianism

The majority of traditional Zoroastrians and Parsis in India openly disapprove and discourage interfaith marriages. Adherents who go through an inter-faith marriage are often expelled from the religion. When an adherent marries their 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 totally forbidden from entering Zoroastrian religious buildings, which is often still upheld today. A loophole was soon found to avoid such expulsion: offspring, especially born out of wedlock, from a Parsi man and a non-Parsi woman were often legitimatized through "adoption" by the Parsi father, and as such they were tacitly accepted into the religion. Inter-faith marriages may skew Zoroastrian demographics, considering the numbers of adherent are low already and inter-faith marriages may reduce their representation.

According to the Indian law, where most Parsis reside, only the father of the child must be a Zoroastrian for the child or children to be accepted into the faith. There have been great debates over this, as the religion promotes gender equality, which this man-made law violates. Zoroastrians in North America and Europe have denied accepting this rule and defy it. The children of a non-Zoroastrian father are accepted as Zoroastrians.

Views of Samaritanism

Samaritan men are allowed to marry women outside their community, on the condition that the wife accept the Samaritans' practices. This lies short of conversion and can qualify as interfaith marriage. The decision to allow this kind of marriage has been taken in modern times to keep the Samaritan community from dying out and of genetic disease. In addition, Samaritans interpret the (Samaritan) Torah to indicate that Israelite status is determined by the father, hence children of Samaritan men are considered Israelites, whereas children of non-Samaritan men are considered non-Israelite.

Views of Christianity

Some churches may forbid interfaith marriage, drawing from 2 Corinthians 6:14, and in some cases Deuteronomy 7:3, depending on the interpretation of these scriptures. Such marriage is supported indirectly by part of the Pauline privilege, in 1 Corinthians 7:12–14, with the central sentence: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his (believing) wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband."

The Catholic Church has specific canon laws dealing with the case of mixed marriages (marriages between a Catholic and a baptized person outside the Church) and marriages in disparity of cult (marriages between a Catholic and an unbaptized person).

There is a distinction between inter-denominational and interfaith marriages and some Christian sects may extend their own rules and practices to include other denominations as well.

Views of Islam

Sharia has different regulations on interfaith marriage, depending on which of the two spouses is Muslim. A primary legal concern is that the children are assured to all be Muslim. Islamic Law permits a Muslim man to marry up to four non-Muslim women from the People of the Book (that is, Christians and Jews), but they must be chaste and all of the children usually must be brought up Muslim. However, Muslim women are prohibited by Islamic Law from marrying outside of Islam.[24][25][26][27]

The early jurists of the most prominent schools of Islamic jurisprudence ruled in fiqh law that the marriage of a Muslim man to a Christian or Jewish woman is makruh (disliked) if they live in a non-Muslim country. The rightly guided Caliph Umar (634–644) denied interfaith marriage for Muslim men during his command of the ummah.[28] In the Quran, it is said,

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}

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior scholar from Toronto, has voiced his disapproval of interfaith marriage, citing the Caliph Umar's statement.[28]

Notable scholar Bilal Philips has said the verse that permits Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women is not valid anymore today due to several reasons including its misunderstood interpretation.[29]

Sheikh Shabir Ally, an Islamic scholar from Canada, has also stated that it is makrooh (disliked) for a Muslim man to marry outside his religion.[30]

This prohibition serves to preserve and expand the Islamic faith within societies which are patriarchal but multi-faith. It effectively ensures that over many generations, Islam would naturally gain in adherents, relative to neighbouring religions, through its ability to secure the adherence of all offspring from mixed marriages.[31]

If a non-Muslim woman is married to a non-Muslim, and she converts to Islam, the marriage is suspended until her husband converts to Islam, and she could in theory leave the non-Muslim husband and marry a Muslim one (analogous to the Pauline privilege among Catholics). If the non-Muslim husband does convert a new marriage is not needed. In the Quran, it is said,

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}

Marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man is possible only on the condition that he accepts Islam completely so that he shall boycott all other faiths and believe only in what Allah says and what is written in Quran. If he accepts it just for the sake of marriage the marriage will not be possible.[citation needed]

Views of Bahá'í Faith

According to the Bahá'í Faith, all religions are inspired by God, therefore interfaith marriage is allowed. In that case, the Bahá'í ceremony should be performed, and the non-Bahá'í rite or ceremony can also be performed. If it is the case that both ceremonies are performed, the non-Bahá'í ceremony should not invalidate the Bahá'í ceremony and it should be made clear to all that the Bahá'í partner is a Bahá'í and is not accepting the religion of the other partner by going through with the ceremony. The Bahá'í partner should also abstain from undertaking any vows or statements that commit the Bahá'í to any declaration of faith in another religion or that are contrary to the principles of the Bahá'í Faith. The two ceremonies should happen on the same day, but the order is not important. The Bahá'í ceremony may be performed in the place of worship of the other religion provided that it is given equal respect to that of the non-Bahá'í ceremony and is clearly distinct from the non-Bahá'í ceremony.

Views of Serer religion

The Serer religion being an ethnoreligious faith, interfaith and interracial marriages are forbidden in Serer orthodoxy. Banishment and disinheritance are just two of the sanctions that could be levied against a Serer who disobeys this law.[32] The Serer-Noon (a sub-group of the Serer people) are fervent adherers to this teaching.[32]

Other views

A common Dutch proverb warns against interfaith marriages.[33][34]

See also


  1. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Survey of the American Rabbinate, The Jewish Outreach Institute, [1] (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, [2] (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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "13 Tough Questions". 2013-05-13. Retrieved 2015-10-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Marriage to a Christian Woman: Unrestrictedly Permitted?". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Marriage to Non Muslim - Contemporary Issues - Bilal Philips". YouTube. 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2012-11-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man?". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Ben Youssef Zayzafoon, Lamia. The production of the Muslim woman: negotiating text, history, and ideology (Oxford, UK: Lexington Books, 2005) 108. [3]
  32. 32.0 32.1 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)[4]
  33. (Dutch)
    "twee geloven op een kussen daar slaapt de duivel tussen" means literally Two faiths on one pillow, the devil sleeps between them.


  • This is My Friend, This is My Beloved: A Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality (Jewish) Elliot N. Dorff, The Rabbinical Assembly
  • It All Begins with a Date: Jewish Concerns about Intermarriage: Jewish Concerns about Intermarriage, Alan Silverstein, Jason Aronson, 1995, ISBN 1-56821-542-8
  • Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism, Statement on Intermarriage. Adopted on March 7, 1995
  • 'Why Marry Jewish: Surprising Reasons for Jews to Marry Jews', Doron Kornbluth, [Targum/Feldheim], 2003, ISBN 1-56871-250-2
  • 'Dear Rabbi, Why Can't I Marry Her?', Eliezer Shemtov, [Targum/Feldheim], 2006, ISBN 1-56871-410-6
  • Strange Wives: Intermarriage in the biblical world, Stanley Ned Rosenbaum and Allen Secher [forthcoming]

External links