By Adnan Adrees
Marriage in Islam is the tranquillity of the soul, peace of mind and the recognition that there's someone equally as weird as you. Where a man and a woman can live together in an atmosphere of love, harmony, mutual advice and tolerance of the mother-in-law. Of course things can get complicated (not to mention weird and awkward) when you’re being encouraged to marry your cousin. Up until now you’ve been like brother and sister, but now you’re being asked to be “more” than that. Can such a relationship really be allowed?
So what’s the Islamic position?
Surat An-Nissa 4:23 clearly outlines the people for whom it is unlawful for you to marry. In no specific order you are prohibited to marry: Your parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces, foster-brothers and sisters, foster-parents, step-sons or step-daughters, and a man can't marry his wife's mother either. Basically anyone you’re directly related to and after that long list may I give a heartfelt “eww”.
And lawful to you are all women beyond these, for you to seek out, offering them of your possessions (credit cards etc but no cheques), taking them in honest wedlock (as opposed to dishonest wedlock), and not in fornication. And if you still don’t believe me, I'd like to point out that the daughter of the Prophet (pbuh) was married to her cousin Hazarat Ali (ra). If there was any prohibition on marrying your cousins, do you think the Prophet (pbuh) would have allowed it?
So, what does this mean?
In short, you’re screwed hahaha! No but seriously, all this means is that you have the option to marry your cousin if you want to. All the basic rules in choosing a partner still apply: you still have the right to refuse, you have the right to nominate someone of your own choice, and anything you say or do will be taken in evidence and used against you by a jury of your extended family.
Aren’t there dangers to marrying your cousin?
Where to start, it’s one dangerous minefield after another.
- First and foremost it’s the parents. Some parents can't accept their kids marrying outside the family even when presented with a logical argument based on Quranic references and various authentic Ahadiths. In such circumstances they will most likely resort to emotional blackmail. We recommend you remind them of your Islamic rights and stick to your guns. In the end it is you who will be spending the rest of your life with that person and not them.
- If you do get married to your cousin and through a series of unfortunate events (clearly no fault of your own) you break up, it could have HUGE ramifications on the whole family. That’s right... no more biryani at your aunties and no more huge get together over Eid. The whole family structure goes in the pooper. All of a sudden this family is ignoring that family and she's no longer speaking to so and so. Next thing you know people will begin backbiting and logic has gone on a ski vacation with his buddy reason. It’s not a pretty sight, people stop talking to each other for years on end. And for those who break ties awaits the hell fire. For the one who breaks the ties of kinship all his good deeds are rejected!!!
- According to some scientific research marrying your cousins is a lot like playing Russian roulette with your future kids lives. Of course I’m talking about genetics. Many genetic diseases are caused by recessive genes (aka the bad gene). To get a disease, you have to get the bad gene from both parents. The greater the genetic similarity between your parents, the greater your chance of getting two copies of the bad gene. And yes, if you’re related to one another you tend to share a lot of the same genetic makeup and therefore you have a greater chance of your kid inheriting two copies of the bad gene . Concordantly the general mortality and disability rate almost doubles in cousin marriages compared to the non-cousin variety. And if left unchecked this may constitute an escalating probability of disaster. Which will ultimately lead to birth defects, abnormalities and people like George W Bush.
But on the other hand…
- A marriage is not just the joining of two people before God, but also the joining of two families. So not only must the two people be compatible but ideally so should their families.
- On the upside you will already know a lot about the person as well as their family background, history, temperaments. And since you're related to their parents you will get a lot of support and encouragement from the in laws as well as incessant meddling in the hopes of “creating closer ties” within the family as well as keeping the family wealth… inside the family (like they could possibly take it with them).
- Although scientifically speaking the chances of your kids being born with disability does increase, it doesn’t mean it’s DEFINITELY gonna happen. There is still a 93% chance that the kids will be born healthy and perfect . There are countless cases of people who married their cousins and their kids were perfectly healthy. It’s usually in cases where everyone in the family is constantly marrying into their cousins where there’s a real risk. But ultimately everything is at the will of Allah (swt).
So why do people do it?
It’s a huge parent pleaser, and one of the characteristics of a true Muslim is the respectful and kind treatment of ones parents as is commanded by the Qu'ran and the Sunnah. In the end it comes down to a balancing act between doing what you want and listening to your parents. If you must argue your case, do it in the most respectful manner with kindness and NEVER raising your voice (if you do an angel with an AK-47 will hunt you down and shoot you like the infidel you are).
Also, for some it’s a marriage of convenience. You spend a lot of your time studying or working so the chances of genuinely meeting someone you want to marry (in a Halal way) is very limited. You know your cousin, you get on well, you’ve grown up together and therefore know everything there is to know about them and their family.
So where do we stand?
For many people getting married is THE most important decision in their lives. It could be the difference between happily ever after and that month of hell which ultimately led to disaster. Such a decision should never be made in haste nor should you get married for all the wrong reasons. Right reasons would include 'you actually wanting to spend the rest of your life with them', or 'they make you a better Muslim', or my personal favourite 'you complete me'.
Islam basically allows the marriage of cousins but it does NOT make it a commandment. It is NOT something that is obligatory (as many parents would lead you to believe), nor something that can be used to justify forcibly marrying someone. As in ALL marriages mutual consent is a MUST. The Muslim people need to realise that constantly marrying into ones cousins DOES greatly increase the chance of a child being born with disabilities . And since Islam is one of the world’s most fastest growing religions, are you telling me that you can’t find someone outside of the family to marry?
Having said that, marriages to cousins are still quite popular among many Muslims, perhaps not as popular as they were 10 or 15 years ago but they do still happen and many of these people are still HAPPILLY married. And in the end isn't that what married life is supposed to be all about? Even the Prophet (pbuh) was married to Zaynab bint Jahsh (ra) who was his cousin. And if that’s not enough, you do realise that a lot of the Royal family married their cousins. So did Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson and H.G. Wells (the dude who originally wrote 'The Time Machine' which was then butchered by Hollywood).
I am of the opinion that if God truly made men and women into different nations and tribes so that we may know one another [al-Hujuraat 49:13]. Why are we so reluctant to have faith in his wisdom? Instead we are all too afraid of 'what will people think?' When we should be worried about what Allah (swt) will think.