The Message International Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine published by ICNA. What you find in ‘The Message magazine’ is a universal publication for the whole of Muslim community. Echoing the concerns and ideas pertaining to Muslims in America, this non-profit publication is a forum for the youth searching their Islamic identity in a western land.

My Life Matters

Published on December 31st, 2014 | by Suzy Ismail


Mixed Muslim Marriages: The Making of a Genuine Melting Pot

When I am invited to speak on the topic of marriage, I often open with reference to the following familiar ayah from Surat Ar-Rum: “And of His signs is that He created for you from amongst yourselves spouses that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and love. Indeed in that is a sign for people who reflect” (Quran 30:21). I usually follow with mention of how many wedding invitations carry this verse printed so beautifully on the front of the card, but that instead of reflecting upon the profound meaning of the ayah, we tend to look instead for what we see as “important information” such as the venue and the meal choice. The truth is that in this ayah there is so much wisdom regarding the marriage relationship, if only we take the time to reflect upon it.

 “All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black any superiority over a white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”

The verse speaks of the marriage relationship as a means of finding rest and tranquility in the heartfelt relation to another soul, and while the verse clearly denotes affection and love as the proverbial bonding between spouses, we should avoid falling for the exaggerated portrayal of infatuated-based love by Hollywood and Bollywood. The ayah also suggests that the love within marriage, built upon caring, mercy, and Islamic devotion, goes beyond the love that is grounded in, but also bounded by, this world. The marriage relationship thus is a mutual, shared journey towards a much higher spiritual love. The verse closes with the reminder that marriage itself is a heavenly sign and that we should reflect and marvel upon the divinely bestowed connection that makes this union functional, strong, and profound. The mere idea of taking two individuals from separate families, with differing backgrounds, life experiences, and personalities, and bringing them together to form a new bond of mutual devotion should be cause for reflection and awe. The operative idea here is that two different people join together, unite for the sake of Allah (swt), ready to weave a new tapestry of marriage and family life.

Marrying Someone of a Different Background

Yet, for many Muslims the idea of marrying someone from a different culture, race, or ethnicity is almost inconceivable. An exploration of the Quran on the topic of marriage shows that this fear of marrying outside our cultures is unfounded to say the very least. For example, the verses that precede and follow the above verse are revealing, as pointed out in a post by Shaykh Omar Suleiman. The verse before the “marriage verse” tells us: “And of His signs is that He created you from dust; then suddenly you were human beings dispersing throughout the earth” (30:20). The ayah that follows the “marriage verse” states: “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for people of knowledge” (30:22). Shaykh Omar comments that the placement of the verses shows that marriage, likewise the human diversity that is signified by “colors” and “languages,” are blessings from Allah (swt), and thus, by inference, a straightforward condemnation of ethnocentrism and racism. He notes about the placement, “Coincidence? I think not. The sequence of the verses flows with divine wisdom.”

Along with these beautiful verses of the Quran, we should also recall the words of the Prophet (pbuh) in his last sermon: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black any superiority over a white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”

We can clearly see a condemnation of any form of racism or belittling based on race, culture, or ethnicity. If our deen unequivocally disapproves of racism and xenophobia, then where does the apprehension about mixed Muslim marriages stem from?

Typical Objections to a Mixed Marriage

Below are the top ten objections to mixed Muslim marriages that are commonly cited, typically from genuinely concerned parents:

You won’t speak the same language

Your children won’t be raised the same way your culture dictates

You won’t be able to keep your culture intact within the marriage

Your spouse won’t like your cultural foods

Your temperaments won’t match because your backgrounds are different

Your children will end up confused about their heritage

Your in-laws will treat you poorly because they will see you as an outsider

Your traditions will be lost and gatherings will have no meaning

Your wedding and every major holiday will be a jumble of clashing outfits

Putting Things in Perspective

Now if we deconstruct each of these nine misgivings, we can begin to see beyond the negatives to a clearer and more compelling perspective:

Living in the Western world, chances are we are all speaking English. If not, there’s always Rosetta Stone. The couple can embark together on the journey of learning a new language or learning the native tongue of the other spouse. The language of the Quran can of course be a powerful base connector as well. And the language of love is unlimited in its expression.

The way we raise our children will surely differ from the way we were raised. Each generation can build upon what is good and effective from their parents’ generation and the culture in general, and discard what is counterproductive or ineffective. In addition, taking the best child-rearing practices from both spouses’ cultures can be a rich trove of wisdom. Our techniques of child rearing should evolve to fit the society we live in while maintaining the important things such as faith, character, morality, and manners.

Culture is derived from the way we act, the way we live, our preferences and our connections. The set of rules that helps define our lives from a cultural perspective are not dictates set in stone. They are fluid and flexible and meant to evolve with time, people, and experiences.

If you love your biryani, samosas, and chicken tikka masala and are marrying someone who is used to making falafel or burritos, then it’s time to get cooking. Spouses should share with one another their traditional foods in a spirit of open-mindedness and adventure. What a great connection a couple can have through sharing and enjoying together the foods they love and grew up with.

Marriage is a large leap of faith. Regardless of your ethnicity, race, or culture, each spouse’s temperament is a repository of nature, nurture, and experience that awaits knowing by a loving partner in life. The healthiest outlook is one which sees the spouse’s personality, character, and the totality of personal traits as an exciting source of mutual discovery, increasing self-awareness, and deeper understanding. All in all, it takes a great deal of adjustment, tolerance, and effort to make a marriage work, regardless of same or different backgrounds.

Our children will take on the attitudes of their parents toward cultural diversity. If the spouses are on the same page, seeing their cultural variance and distinction as a blessing and positive challenge toward greater maturity and enlightened interaction, so will the children. That potential is not something to fear but to celebrate!

In-laws’ treatment of the new spouse does not hinge upon the cultural, racial, or ethnic background of that person. It instead depends on the in-laws’ worldview, maturity, and respect of the dignity and worth of each individual, including that of the son or daughter-in-law. That is simply adherence to the Islamic teachings and should be ascertained before marriage.

Traditions made within your family are the ones that will be passed on. Create your own traditions with your children. Bring the best from each of your backgrounds into the mix, planted in the rich loam of Islamic culture – the truest culture – and watch the beauty that will blossom from there.

Whether you wear red shalwar kameez or a white gown at your wedding or any other holiday event does not, should not, matter. What matters is the level of respect that is brought to the approach to different cultures and the acceptance of all that makes us beautifully different.

Bringing Hearts Together

In the end, if we are to practice what we profess to believe, then we must open ourselves up to understanding the ayah from Surat Al-Hujarat that states: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (49:13).

We are meant to come together, not to push away or pass judgment on others. We were meant to connect, to find what makes us similar, to focus on these commonalities and appreciate the differences. Just because we are different doesn’t mean that we are any better or any worse than one another. The weakness in our ummah comes from our divisions, and strength comes from our unity and solidarity. Imagine a blizzard made up of millions of snowflakes – each complex snow crystal is unique, different from every other one. Alone, a snowflake melts and disappears in an instant, but together they form a powerful snowstorm. In Surat Al-e-Imran, Allah (swt) reminds us: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (3:103)

Allah (swt) can bring our hearts together, whether in our marriages or in our Islamic centers. It’s time we lose our shackles of hesitancy towards mixed Muslim marriages and embrace the diversity that exists within our communities. This can make us stronger as families and as an ummah if nurtured and supported. When you find the righteous spouse, follow the deen and take the leap if compatibility of personality exists. Don’t shy away from someone just because their culture, ethnicity, or race may differ from yours. That marriage connection may yield greater richness and vitality because the cultural differences, though united through the medium and influence of Islamic refinement, still remain distinct and beautiful weaves in the tapesty of marriage and family.

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About the Author

Suzy Ismail is a speaker, consultant and author of “When Muslim Marriage Fails: Divorce Chronicles and Commentaries”.

  • Idman

    “Your wedding and every major holiday will be a jumble of clashing outfits.” Haha, this did make me laugh. Jazakillah khayr for writing such an insightful article.

  • Fai

    Such an insightful article and it applies not only to interracial marriages but also to people of the same cultures. Often, inlaws fail to see a daughter in law with respect and dignity forget a girl from another culture! I believe, if the husband and wife love each other, then the rest of the family must get on board quickly to help make that union work,not destroy it with hurtful comments and clashing of outfits!

  • Hamza Yasin

    Very nice article indeed.. and thanks for the insight

  • Alhagie Njie

    Alhamdu Lil ALLAH. What an inspiring article and assuring. It has nearly cleared all my reservations. I would very soon look over my shoulder.
    JazzakAllahu khaira jazza .

  • Nida

    This so beautifully written. May Allah bless you and may He continue to make your writings more beautiful and more beneficial.

  • Molly McCarthy

    All wonderful points!!! I really enjoyed reading this!

  • SALiyah

    It baffles me why some Muslims are against mixed marriages. It’s so beautiful seeing different races of Muslim parenthood. I told my parents I’m not marrying a Arab or Asian so it does not come to them as a shock Lol
    Also living in the west your culture has changed to that of your parents.

  • DoubleHa

    I generally don’t have any problem with mixed marriages but just a curious question: Since parents and other older family members like to be able to communicate with their son/daughter in law but they don’t speak English. Most people would want their husband/wife to have a comfortable relationship with their parents, so even if you speak the same language as your spouse, how would you solve the language difference with him/her and your family members.

    • Anm

      The husband/ wife can learn each others languages at least dats wat happens in my country when different ethinicity marries dey learn each others languages even illiterates. U can learn how to cook his type of food there is internet. U should try to do things that he/she likes as mentioned above. Read learn about spouses job and culture. Dats d solution I know. Try not to give the family a reason to break d relationship (marriage )

  • hafidah

    Assalamu Alaykum,
    SubHan’Allaah I agree with you, well thought about. BaraakAllaahu feekum for the great article.

  • Mohammed

    If only it was as simple as you’ve put it lol

  • Mohamed

    Salamu Alaikum,

    What’s about to be mentioned below is an extremely sensitive
    topic, but since people who are open to the idea to marry outside of their
    culture or who have married outside of their culture describe themselves as
    being open minded, and of course as we all know part of being open minded is to
    accept reality for what it is without taking any offense.

    Based on what’s written above, I’m going to go ahead and say it:

    When it comes to interracial marriages, in the great vast
    majority of the time, it’s the two individuals who find each other on their
    own, either through university, work, organisations and/or events in the Muslim
    community. Islamically there is nothing wrong with that especially that
    nowadays interacting with the opposite gender is something virtually
    unavoidable, and Islamically we are allowed to interact with the opposite
    gender. However in our deen, we have rulings on gender interactions, we must
    remain formal, modest and any unnecessary conversations such as flirting or
    intermingling must be avoided. They are ways on how to approach a potential
    spouse within the Islamic etiquettes, within the realm of the sharia and
    pre-marital relationships is something strictly forbidden in Islam. Sadly, in
    the great vast majority of the time, interracial marriages couples get married
    because they have fallen in love with one another, because they were engaged in
    a pre-marital relationship and some have rebelled out and caused major
    heartaches in their families. In fact one can argue and say that the root cause
    of interracial marriages between Muslims is pre-marital relationships and he or
    she will be standing on strong grounds. There’s no doubt that there’s a very
    dark and ugly side of interracial marriages between Muslims. Sadly, out of all the interracial marriages
    that I know of in my community, all no exception got married because they had
    fallen in love and caused heartaches in their families, I know a lot of disturbing
    stories. For the ones who claim that Muslims who marry outside of their
    background because they only care about deen, I have an impossible time
    believing them based on what I’ve witnessed with my own eyes. As for those public speakers who glorify
    interracial marriages and get the youth all hyped up and excited on how Islam
    condemns racism, they never mention in their lectures, articles or blogs about
    gender interactions for example or how to approach a potential spouse, all they
    do is just blindly glorify interracial marriages, deceiving people into
    believing that Islam favors interracial over intraracial marriages. For the
    longest time I was puzzled as to why this is happening, how come those issues
    are never tackled down? I believe that those public speakers are fully aware of
    the situation and the reason why they glorify interracial marriages and they
    talk a lot on how Islam condemns racism is to make it easier on the parents to
    accept to marry their child off before he or she falls into sin. If you
    noticed, those lectures, blogs and articles are a lot of times aimed at

    • Kurama

      It’s funny how you say most interracial marriages occur because people met at public places like school, work etc. I hope you understand that people have preferences and living in the West your exposed to people of different ethnicities. Its only normal that somen people would be attracted to ethnicity’s other than their own. What’s really funny most pre marital relationships that I’ve seen when I was in highschool and now in university is muslims who r of the same race! Yeah I won’t deny that doesn’t happen for interracial marriages but I don’t see the relevance. I strongly believe the reason why that people that want marry out of the race engage in pre-marital relationship is because of fear . They are afraid that if they go straight to the girls father without getting to know her first they will get rejected because of his ethnicity. Therefore they want to build a connection first with the girl and prove her that he will make a good husband for before asking for her hand so she can vouch for him to her father.

      Racism is definitely involved with people who are not supporting interracial marriages and the ones who are guilty of this are Arabs. I am not calling Arabs racist but they have serious racism issues that need to be dealt with. They are very racist to Black Muslims. An Arab will never let his daughter marry a black man soley because of his skin color. However Arabs always end up trying to marry girls of Horn of African descent, example Yemeni man always marrying Somali and Eritrean women

    • Jem

      Salam, you stated this…
      “There’s no doubt that there’s a very
      dark and ugly side of interracial marriages between Muslims. Sadly, out of all the interracial marriages
      that I know of in my community, all no exception got married because they had
      fallen in love and caused heartaches in their families, I know a lot of disturbing

      ^^as someone thinking about the same situation, could you kindly share the stories of those that have undergone a mix-culture marriage. Would like to know more about the possibilities.


  • Mohamed

    Salamu Alaikum,

    Not aiming at the author of this blog, but my experience when talking to people who are all for interracial marriages:

    They get carried away with their emotions on how Islam
    condemns racism and as a result, their rationale gets overtaken by their
    emotions not being able to think straight nor argue with logic. They will
    blindly glorify and over glorify interracial marriages. Their arguments are
    extremely superficial and as a listener/reader I had a lot of question marks
    over what they were saying. Part of their characteristics, they are extremely
    hyper sensitive towards racism, extremely bias towards what they say, they are
    generally very angry and have no etiquettes when talking to others. Question
    any of their arguments and you’ll automatically be accused of racism and
    apparently not wanting unity in the Ummah?? To them, it’s either you’re all for
    interracial marriages or totally against such marriages, they have no middle

    Just to mention in a nutshell couple of things they argue:

    1- They will mention Surat al-hujurat verse 13 as their key argument, whoever doesn’t research about this verse and ask a qualified Alim, he or she can very easily get deceived into believing that because of this verse as a Muslim you should go marry outside of your culture because this is what Islam favors.

    2- They will mention the importance of deen when choosing a spouse, but in their arguments they’ll always associate the religious is the one coming outside of your culture and the questionable character coming from within your culture. Mention to them the possibility of marrying someone religious and righteous from your culture and you’ll be accused of racism. They will give examples on how people got married to someone religious from a different culture and have a successful marriage and other people got married from within their culture and went through
    divorces. What they’ll never mention however is the flip side of each of those

  • alejandro

    This article is unsurprisingly naive. Many Muslims who seek a spouse want a spouse of the same linguistic background/heritage not because of racism or a refusal to unite the ummah (which are straw men arguments this article employs) or fear of preserving their “culture” but because they want the spouse and their parents (who may not speak English even at all, and Rosetta Stone isn’t a solution for elderly) to be able to communicate. We hear over and over that marriage is not just the union of two individuals, but the union of two families. That’s some great union if the two families can’t speak to one another! You can’t tell me that smiling to each other is enough and then quote a hadith that says smiling is charity.

    I am not so troubled by the underlying premise of this article that one’s religion is more important than other aspects of one’s identity (even though I disagree with this very simplistic attitude), but I am very troubled by the idea that that one’s religion ought to dominate any consideration of the many things that make up one’s identity. Islam certainly is not such a religion and never has been. How else could it have endorsed over a millennium and reached every corner of this world?

    • Mohamed Ghandour

      Salamu Alaikum,

      You nailed it…straight to the point.

      • Kurama

        Whether you like it or not, your culture, language, and ethnicity is going to be of no use to you when your standing before Allah on The Day of Judgement.

  • Muhammad

    The root cause of interracial marriages today between Muslims is pre-marital relationships. If Muslims knew the Islamic rulings on gender interaction, knew how to approach a potential spouse within the realm of the sharia/Islamic etiquette and did not engage themselves into pre-marital relationships, interracial marriages would nowhere be as much as they are today. They get married because they had fallen in love because they were engaged in a pre-marital relationship and some have even rebelled out causing major heartaches in their families then they turn around and say “We got married because Islam condemns racism and we place deen above culture” if this is not hypocrisy, don’t know what is.

    • Umbereen

      It is not accurate to say this about all Islamic interracial marriages. How would you know the couple had a premarital relationship? This is very narrow-minded of you to say – my cousin married someone of a different ethnicity because their parents brought them together. Despite the rarity of that happening, there are a lot of interracial marriages that start without premarital relationships. No need to have a negative eye on this and blame it on premarital relationships.

      • Muhammad

        Salamu Alaikum,

        Just to be more clear, there are two types of interracial marriages which can take place:

        1-Marrying someone of a different ethnicity, but of a similar cultural background. Ex:Marriages between Indian and Pakistani, or marriages between Palestinian and Jordanian or Lebanese and Syrian, even though they come from a different country, there are more similarities in culture then there are differences, the language is the same (just different accent) and family compatibility can very well be there. I’m not talking about those of types of Marriages, because they are more lean towards intra-racial then they are interracial and they could be arranged by families.

        2-Marriages between Arab and non-Arab or non-Arab non-Arab of a completely different ethnicity like Turkish and American convert for example. I’m talking about those types of marriages, yes the root cause of those marriages are pre-marital relationships. They usually find each other on their own and things can very easily slip up between the two.

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