Monday, February 13, 2006

Dr. Mahdi Ibn Ziyad: On the Inter-religious Marraige

The progressive Muslim imam, Dr. Mahdi Ibn Ziyad has recently officiated a marriage between a Muslim woman and a Christian Man. He kindly agreed to share the marriage Khuttaba (sermon) with us here on this Blog.

P.S. Dr. Mahdi is the director of the Africana Islamic Institute in Camden, NJ and he is the author of many articles on human rights and faith. Check out his article "An Africana View of Progressive Islam" which is posted on this blog and aslo found here:http://www.forusa.org/fellowship/sept-oct-04/ibnziyad.html



Nikah Marriage
of
Muslim Woman and Christian Man
Officiated by:
Dr. A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad

Opening Prayers
Al-Fatihah, Muslim
Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, Christian
Reading of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, “On Love” by Sister XX
Part I

Key Points Pre-Nikah Counseling Session 10:30 am
(To Be Repeated in the khutbah, Part II Below)

Assalamu’ alaikuum

Liberal Islamic and Africana Assumptions of Marriage

* First, given the fact that I, as a liberal Muslim, have been called by the marrying parties to officiate at their marriage, I must follow my own religious tradition, while respecting and appreciating the Christian religious tradition of my friend and collegue, Brother Y who is set to marry Sister X, a free, adult Muslim woman.

* Mine is a life-long calling of pursuing the path of faith in God and faith in the fact that God alone is the Best Judge of our intents, behaviors and philosophical differences (Qur’an 16: 63-64).

* Though it’s a mixed religious marriage, the marriage format will follow a mostly Muslim style etiquette, interspersed with elements of the Christian tradition.

* Secondly, given that I joyously accepted their call to assist them in this mixed marriage between people two wonderful African people of different faith traditions, I take to heart the fundamental notion that all humans, male and female, rich and poor, and from whatever nationality and religion are inherently equal with certain basic human rights and privileges. Among these rights is the freedom to marry the person one chooses, within certain limitations.

* Thirdly, given the nature of this proposed mixed marriage between a Muslim woman and Christian man, a decidedly liberal interpretation of the Islamic view of marriage must obtain.

Why? Because in the majority, conservative and orthodox interpretations of Islam a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man is not permitted and is strictly forbidden.

However, since marriage in Islam is a sacred covenant or contract, the parties to the contract must be able to meet each other on equal grounds in order to give their voluntary consent to the contract.

If women are actually free, they ought to then be equal to men in both Islamic theory or theologizing and the freedom to fully practice religion.

* The liberal Muslim view for approval of this marriage is thus based on the principles of reason, justice, and respect for other people of faith who may be of a different religious persuasion.
This liberal view is both grounded in a liberal view of religion and in Islamic humanism.

It is Islamic because we note that Islam, as Divine Revelation, is both unitarian and universalist and has been since its inception over 1400 years ago as vouchsafed by the Prophet Muhammad.
It is unitarian in that God is and remains One and Indivisible, no matter the names humans understand the Divine with.

It is universal because prophets of God and God’s revelations have been sent to all nations and people (Qur’an 10: 17) and people of other faiths who are sincere in their beliefs may be as certain of salvation as sincere Muslims are (Qur’an 2:62).
It is the decidely humanistic Islamic spirit that demands that all are equal and that there be no divisions based on matters of faith for according to the Qur’an “there is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256).

* Moreover, the liberal view of this matter of woman’s status in marrying takes its cue from the egalitarian philosophical idea that Muslim women, as well as Muslim men, are or should be considered mature adults and ought to be treated equally and have equal rights.

* The liberal view certainly understands that most male scholars who have interpreted the Qur’an and hadiths have made it allowable for Muslim men to marry believing women who are not Muslims. These women may be Jews, Christians, Sabians, Hindus or Buddhists or any other religion recognized by various schools and sects of Muslim scholars. These same predominantly male interpreters have also seen fit to not extend that right of marriage to women.

* Modernist and progressive Islamic thinking seeks the establishment of more updated notions of justice in relations among males and females, to the extent that these newer notions do not violate the fundamental standards of justice revealed in the Qur’an.

* The liberal view thus opposes and challenges the ancient cultural traditions and customs of male privilege which demands female inferiority and submission to perpetual male tutelage. Women, as well as men, ought to be free to conduct their lives in a wholesome manner in accordance with reason and a rational understanding of religion.

* Hence both Muslim men and Muslim women ought to feel free to marry men and women of other religious faiths, as long as these others demonstrate some kind of involvement in the faith or practices of their choice.

Africana Heritage

* Surely in this pre-Kwanzaa time of preparing to bring forth the yearly harvest celebration it is fitting that we African people ask the question in Swahili, “Habari Gani?” What’s the news or what’s happening? Today the obvious answer is that Y and Sister X are getting married. That’s what’s up!!!

* Our long gone African ancestors and the great Pan-Africanist teachers would rejoice at the site of this nuptial between a son and daughter of Mother Africa.

I can hear the voices of Ture, Garvey, DuBois, Kenyetta, Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Queen Mother Audley Moore and even Joaquim Chissano and his old rival Afonso Dhaklama …all joyous at the thought of this wedding between two of continental Africa’s own children, now of the African diaspora living in America.

* That both parties to this proposed marriage are of African descent is good, because racial and ethnic solidarity and similarity may help solidify the marriage over the long haul.

* Racial and ethnic relatedness is no guarantee of a life of marital bliss in paradise, yet such kinship relations can most often serve to keep the marriage partners together because of mutual cultural, language and other such interests.

* Let the words of our great Jamaican ancestor and father of Pan-Africanism, Marcus Mosiah Garvey ring true here in recognition of this marriage, as we are:

“Invoking the aid of the just and Almighty God, we do declare all men, women and children of our blood throughout the world free citizens, and do claim them as free citizens of Africa, the Motherland of all Negroes.

Up, Up, You Mighty Race, You Can Accomplish What You Will!!!”


Up, Up, You Mighty Race, In Love You Can Accomplish What You Will!!!”


Up, Up, You Mighty Race, In Marriage You Can Accomplish What You Will!!!”

ONE GOD, ONE AIM, ONE DESTINY!!!



Al-Fatihah and Christian Tradition Prayers
Reading of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, “On Marriage” by Sister XX

Part II
The Nikah or Marriage Proper 12: 00 pm

The Marriage Contract, Witnesses and Dowry

Assalamu’ alaikuum

* Are both parties free persons. Are the contracting parties of sound mind and do they have the ability to enter a marriage contract under their own volition without duress?

* Are there any reasons why the marriage parties would not be able to freely and voluntarily enter into the sacred covenant of marriage?

* Have you both reviewed the stipulations of the contract?

* Are there any parts of the contract to which either party has not firmly agreed to?

* Is there any contractual language that you do not clearly understand?

* Do you now agree to give your mutual consent to the marriage contract?

* Who are they who witness this public marriage contract?

Witness ___________________________________________________________

Witness ___________________________________________________________

* Will the two witnesses step forward and briefly peruse the written contract between Brother Y and Sister X? The witnesses must ascertain if a contract is evident.

* Is there a dowry or nuptial gift to be settled on the woman?
The dowry given by Y “is an admission of the independence of the wife” because she becomes the sole owner of the property is given (Qur’an 4:4).

* What is the nature of the gift of Brother Y Sister X? Y will please place the dowry on X’s person.

* The sacred marriage covenant or contract is now entered into by the mutual consent of the prospective husband and wife.

* Words of love and appreciation by the new husband and wife.
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, God is Great, Muslim
Hallelujah, Rejoice, Glory to Christ, Christian

The End of the Marriage Etiquette Proper

Part III

Al-Fatihah and Christian Tradition Prayer

Short Sermon (khutbah) by Dr. Ibn-Ziyad

Assalamu’ alaikuum

* Reading of Qur’an 4:1 “O people, keep your duty to your Lord, who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same kind, and spread form these two many men and women. And your duty to Allah, by whom you demand one another your rights and to ties of kinship. Surely Allah is ever a Watcher over you”.

* Reading of Qur’an 4:28 “And man (and woman) was created weak [cannot be patient in matters of sexual intercourse]”. Thus marriage becomes a blessing against sexual promiscuity and other related ills.

* Reading of Qur’an 24: 32, “And marry those among you who are single, and those who are fit … if they are needy Allah will make them free from want out of Divine grace. And Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing”.

Brother Lemane and Sister Arline, yours is a religiously mixed marriage and that is good. It is also one in which the man is non-Muslim while the woman is Muslim. Yours is a different kind of marriage and thus demands loving, celebratory words that diminish the differences while expanding and building on that which binds humans together.

To your credit you called me, a liberal and progressive Muslim African American religious philosopher and activist, to assist you in making this marriage a public reality. I hope to not fail you in this task.

Given who I am, what then are some liberal Islamic and Africana assumptions of the nature of marriage?


* First, given the fact that I, as a liberal Muslim, have been called by the marrying parties to officiate at their marriage, I had to follow my own religious tradition, while respecting and appreciating the Christian religious tradition of my friend and colleague, Brother Y who has now married Sister X, a free, adult Muslim woman.

* Mine is a life-long calling of pursuing the path of faith in God and faith in the fact that God alone is the Best Judge of our intents, behaviors and philosophical differences (Qur’an 16: 63-64). I have a pre-Islamic background as a Christian pastor and minister of the social gospel. I also teach university courses in the history and philosophy of Africana religious thought. My own doctoral studies were in Islamic and Africana ethics and social teachings of faith.

* Secondly, given that I joyously accepted their call to assist them in this mixed marriage between people two wonderful African people of different faith traditions, I take to heart the fundamental notion that all humans, male and female, rich and poor, and from whatever nationality and religion are inherently equal with certain basic human rights and privileges. Among these rights is the freedom to marry the person one chooses, within certain limitations.

* Thirdly, given the nature of this proposed mixed marriage between a Muslim woman and Christian man, a decidedly liberal interpretation of the Islamic view of marriage must obtain.

Why? Because in the majority, conservative and orthodox interpretations of Islam a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man is not permitted and is strictly forbidden.

However, since marriage in Islam is a sacred covenant or contract, the parties to the contract must be able to meet each other on equal grounds in order to give their voluntary consent to the contract.

If women are actually free, they ought to then be equal to men in both Islamic theory or theologizing and the freedom to fully practice religion.

* The liberal Muslim view for approval of this marriage is thus based on the principles of reason, justice, and respect for other people of faith who may be of a different religious persuasion. This liberal view is both grounded in a liberal view of religion and in Islamic humanism.

It is Islamic because we note that Islam, as Divine Revelation, is both unitarian and universalist and has been since its inception over 1400 years ago as vouchsafed by the Prophet Muhammad.
It is unitarian in that God is and remains One and Indivisible, no matter the names humans understand the Divine with.
It is universal because prophets of God and God’s revelations have been sent to all nations and people (Qur’an 10: 17) and people of other faiths who are sincere in their beliefs may be as certain of salvation as sincere Muslims are (Qur’an 2:62).
It is the decidely humanistic Islamic spirit that demands that all are equal and that there be no divisions based on matters of faith for according to the Qur’an “there is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256).

* Moreover, the liberal view of this matter of woman’s status in marrying takes its cue from the egalitarian philosophical idea that Muslim women, as well as Muslim men, are or should be considered mature adults and ought to be treated equally and have equal rights.

* The liberal view certainly understands that most male scholars who have interpreted the Qur’an and hadiths have made it allowable for Muslim men to marry believing women who are not Muslims. These women may be Jews, Christians, Sabians, Hindus or Buddhists or any other religion recognized by various schools and sects of Muslim scholars. These same predominantly male interpreters have also seen fit to not extend that right of marriage to women.

* Modernist and progressive Islamic thinking seeks the establishment of more updated notions of justice in relations among males and females, to the extent that these newer notions do not violate the fundamental standards of justice revealed in the Qur’an.

* The liberal view thus opposes and challenges the ancient cultural traditions and customs of male privilege which demands female inferiority and submission to perpetual male tutelage. Women, as well as men, ought to be free to conduct their lives in a wholesome manner in accordance with reason and a rational understanding of religion.

* Hence both Muslim men and Muslim women ought to feel free to marry men and women of other religious faiths, as long as these others demonstrate some kind of involvement in the faith or practices of their choice.



Africana Heritage

* Surely in this pre-Kwanzaa time of preparing to bring forth the yearly harvest celebration it is fitting that we African people ask the question in Swahili, “Habari Gani?” What’s the news or what’s happening? Today the obvious answer is that Y and Sister X are getting married. That’s what’s up!!!

* Our long gone African ancestors and the great Pan-Africanist teachers would rejoice at the site of this nuptial between a son and daughter of Mother Africa.

I can hear the voices of Ture, Garvey, DuBois, Kenyetta, Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Queen Mother Audley Moore and even Joaquim Chissano and his old rival Afonso Dhaklama …all joyous at the thought of this wedding between two of continental Africa’s own children, now of the African diaspora living in America.

* That both parties to this proposed marriage are of African descent is good, because racial and ethnic solidarity and similarity may help solidify the marriage over the long haul.

* Racial and ethnic relatedness is no guarantee of a life of marital bliss in paradise, yet such kinship relations can most often serve to keep the marriage partners together because of mutual cultural, language and other such interests.

* Let the words of our great Jamaican ancestor and father of Pan-Africanism, Marcus Mosiah Garvey ring true here in recognition of this marriage, as we are:

“Invoking the aid of the just and Almighty God, we do declare all men, women and children of our blood throughout the world free citizens, and do claim them as free citizens of Africa, the Motherland of all Negroes.

Up, Up, You Mighty Race, You Can Accomplish What You Will!!!”


Brother Y and Sister X, as I close, let me offer a few words of hope and encouragement to our newly weds.

Be in love with each other and your ideal vision of God.
Enjoy each other’s company and companionship.

Be of good cheer. Respect each other. Defend each other.

Hold fast to that which is good and forswear evil if at all possible; understand that evil must not be allowed to break bonds of love and solidarity.

When wrong ask for forgiveness. In the face of conflict and misunderstandings, after a short time forgive if you can and pray long if you cannot.

Attend to your religious duties in whatever way you mutually agree to.

Be generous and charitable and share your gifts with those who are more needy than you.

Enjoy the company of friends, relatives and visitors but enjoy the company of yourselves more so for you are mates and companions to one another.

Develop intellectual, artistic and recreational activities that bring mutual pleasure. Travel often if your budget allows.

Keep you financial matters tight, but not niggardly. Plan, save and invest if possible. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Make zakat or tithe some percentage portion of your income towards helping the poor, wayfarer, needy, homeless or orphan.

Remember and visit (if possible) your African ancestors and extended families on the continent and in the Diaspora.

Be pious, but not arrogant and flashy in things spiritual.

Seek understanding and clarity always.

After all is done and said once again remember your Nikah contract and its rights and obligations. After a reasonable time in marriage has elapsed, you may modify it along the way if that is mutually satisfactory.

Remain steadfast in your search for ultimate meaning as your vision of God is the being and ground of truth.

These then are my words to you, Brother Y and Sister X, as you embrak on this blessed venture of marriage.

May God grant you both the peace, happiness and security you have longed for.

Amin, Allahu Akbar!!

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