Marriage of Muslim Girls (and Boys) in America

Published December 27, 2010

By Dr. Shahid Athar

The marriage of Muslim girls in America is becoming a problem.  Recently, a Muslim father wrote a letter in a national magazine complaining that despite all his efforts to teach his children Islam, his college-going daughter announced that she would marry a non-Muslim boy whom she met in college. As I was wondering why a Muslim girl would prefer a non-Muslim boy over a Muslim, the following issues came to my mind:

  1. Might be she is opposed to and scared of arranged marriages. However, she should know that not all arranged marriages are bad ones, and about 50% of all love marriages end up in a divorce in this country.  Arranged marriages should be “arranged” with the approval of both boy and the girl.  I am personally opposed to the blind arranged marriages, for that is not Islamic.
  2. It is possible that the Muslim boys she or her family knows may not care for marrying Muslim girls.  In this white supremacy cult of our society, many of us are living with an inferiority complex.  Thus, Muslim boys in pretext of  dawah, get involved with non-Muslim girls because of their easy availability.  Muslim parents who also live with an inferiority complex do not mind their son marrying a white American girl, but they would object if he marries a Muslim girl of a different school of thought (Shia/Sunni) or different tribe, like Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, Arab vs. non-Arab, Afro-American vs. Immigrant.  Both the parents and the boy should remember that the criterion for choosing a spouse that was placed by the Prophet Muhammad (P) was not wealth or color, but Islamic piety.
  3. She may have been told that early marriage, that is, age 18 or less, is a taboo, and she should wait for later age. According to statistics, 80% of American girls, while waiting to get settled in life with marriage, engage freely in sex with multiple boyfriends.  However, this freedom is not and it should not be available to Muslim girl (as well as boys).  Every year, huge number of teenage girls in this country who think that they are not ready for marriage  get pregnant.  By the age of 24, when a Muslim girl decides that she is ready for marriage, it may be too late for her.  If she reviews the matrimonial ad section in Islamic magazine, she will quickly notice that boys of the age group of 25 to 30 are looking for girls from the 18 to 20 year age group.  They wrongfully assume that an older girl may not be chaste.
  4. She may also carry a wrong notion not proven scientifically that marrying healthy cousins may cause congenital deformities in her offspring.

Let us discuss some other issues.

  1. Marriage with People of the Book. The Quran permits Muslim men to marry women from the People of the Book (Chapter 5, verse 5).  Whatever Quran makes permissible remains permissible, and we cannot make it non-permissible. At the same time, Quran discourages Muslim men and women from marrying an idolater (mushrik), saying that a believing man or a believing woman, even as slaves, is better than idolaters (Ch. 2, verse 221).Thus, Muslim reformists in the past, including Caliph Umer (RA) discouraged Muslim men from marrying women from People of the Book. My personal opinion is that a Jewish or Christian girl who wants to marry a Muslim boy should preferably become Muslim for at least six months before marriage, with the conviction that even if the marriage does not take place, she will remain a Muslim.
  2. Wrong expectations. If you review the matrimonial ads in the Islamic magazines, the wish list for Mr. Right or the Perfect Wife is very similar.  All fathers and brothers want to marry their daughters or sisters to a professional such as a physician, engineer or lawyer, as if other modes of living such as in the case of teachers, mechanics, taxi drivers or carpenters, have no right to marry.
  3. Importing brides or grooms from overseas (green card marriages). There is nothing wrong with marrying someone from overseas, preferably a relative who has visited the USA.  It would be easier for him or her to adapt to the lifestyle in the USA than it would be for a total stranger from overseas, who marries a girl with a green card.  Such marriages are usually disastrous.
  4. Marriage with a widow or older woman. This does not take place anymore in our society because of the culture.  To the contrary, Islam came to abolish such customs, and the Prophet Mohammed (P) himself set an example.
  5. Role of parents and community elders in introducing prospective brides or grooms. There is nothing wrong with doing so.  Again, it is the culture that stipulates that the girl and her parents do not initiate a proposal but wait for the offer.  To the contrary, Khadija sent a proposal to her business manager through her friend and the father of Fatima (RA) sent a message to Ali, his cousin that suggested that he marry his daughter because he (PBUH) thought that both of them were suitable for each other.  Therefore, the introduction of eligible bachelors to each other is the duty of the parents and community elders, regardless of their sex or relationship.

By Shahid Athar

Dr. Shahid AtharAuthor Shahid Athar, MD, FACP, FACE is a physician (endocrinologist) in private practice and on the faculty of Indiana University School of Medicine (

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