In "Voices of Faith," religious leaders answer readers' questions.
Syed E. Hasan, Midland Islamic Council: Diversity is the hallmark of Islam. From its early history dating back more than 1,450 years, Islam has embraced people from other countries belonging to different ethnicity or racial groups. For example, within a few years after establishment of the nascent Muslim state in Medina, Salman al-Farsi, a young man from Persia, met Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and accepted Islam.
Despite being a non-Arab and belonging to a Zoroastrian priestly family, Salman al-Farsi devoted his life to the service of Islam. He is credited with the brilliant military plan of digging a wide trench outside the perimeter of Medina that resulted in defeat of the huge army of the Quraysh in 627in the Battle of the Trench.
The most important criteria for marriage among Muslims are not the spouse's status, family lineage, looks nor wealth, but piety and God-consciousness. The former may be good reasons for choosing one's life mate but should not replace the latter. Marrying within one's faith is important from many considerations and, because Islam does not make any distinction on the basis of color or race, and because Islamic traditions are full of examples of inclusiveness, the question of marrying outside the faith for the sake of diversity is irrelevant.
However, Islam does allow marriage between Muslim men and Christian or Jewish women with certain stipulations. But to safeguard Muslim women and their offspring's rights, they are not allowed to marry outside the faith unless the man accepts Islam.
Two kinds of marriage
Kris Krishna, an engineer and a member of the Hindu community: Marriages are of two kinds, basically. Love marriages and arranged marriages. In love marriages, two people fall in love and decide to marry because of their love for each other. Here the question of faith does not arise.
In arranged marriages, either the parents of the two or friends of the two facilitate their meeting and allow them to get to know each other better. If they like each other and feel they are compatible, they decide to spend their life together and to get married.
The question of faith will arise, and it is up to the boy and girl to sort it out. If they live in a modern nation such as the U.S. or in the Western world or developing nations like India, China and some South American nations, they can decide if either one wants to change his or her faith or keep their faiths and be still husband and wife. Therefore, the answer to the question is, it is not a priority to marry within your faith.
If the boy and girl belong to the same faith, life becomes a lot easier because of the common beliefs and compatibility. If they are of different faiths, they can still be civil to each other and let each practice his or her faith. Raising children may create a problem. If the parents are understanding and enlightened, they should teach their children from early on about their two faiths.
As the children grow up the parents should allow their children to learn about other faiths until they realize that all faiths are the same and lead to the same goal of salvation that is realization of God.