As the controversy over the “Love Jihad” conspiracy theory rages on, I took time to have a look at what the major religions have to say about interfaith marriages. Now before I delve deeper into the theological aspects of this issue let me make it absolutely clear that I do not mean any disrespect towards any faith or belief. In case you think that my understanding is incorrect or flawed then please correct me by posting a comment in the comments section.
A small minority of Christians believe that interfaith marriage is not allowed in Christianity. To support their view they quote Corinthians 6:14.
In Catholicism marriage has two aspects to it.
- Is the marriage valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church?
- Can the marriage be considered a divine bond (Sacramental)?
A Catholic man or a woman is allowed to marry a non Catholic baptized Christian as long as permission is acquired from the Church. Such marriages are considered sacramental. The couple is expected to adhere to the stipulations of a Catholic wedding.
A Catholic man or a woman is allowed to marry a partner from a different faith as long as prior permission is taken from the Church. The non-Catholic party has to promise that the children born out of wedlock will be baptized and follow the Catholic faith. The non-catholic party also has to promise that the Catholic party will face no impediment in practicing the Catholic faith. In many cases the non-Catholic party has to attend a course with the Church to understand Catholicism. While such marriages may get the blessing of the Church they are not considered to be sacramental.
The Orthodox Christian denomination has similar interfaith marriage rules.
According to Talmud the Jewish marriage (kiddushin) can only be carried out between a Jewish man and Jewish woman.
Orthodox and Conservative Jewish movements do not recognise the validity of interfaith marriages. Although some modern conservatives support the acceptance of non-Jewish party as long as such bond leads the non-Jewish party into the Jewish faith.
Rabbis from the progressive Jewish movements are generally not opposed to interfaith marriages but they expect the children born out of an interfaith marriage to be raised in Jewish traditions.
Quran gives explicit permission to the Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman. No conversion is required. But the children born out of such a marriage are expected to be raised in Islamic traditions.
Quran explicitly bars Muslim men and Muslim women from marrying polytheists unless they convert.
Although Quran does not say anything about the marriage between a Muslim woman and Jewish or Christian man, the general consensus among Muslim clerics is that such a marriage is not valid.
Manusmruti prohibits Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas from marrying a Shudra. Inter-caste marriages between Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are allowed however it is recommended that the first wife should be from the same caste.
Modern Hindus argue that Manusmruti is obsolete and many reforms have taken place within Hinduism to align the Hindu society with modern (western) ideals. It is true that most Hindus do not read Manusmruti but that does not mean that most Hindus do not follow parts of Manusmruti. Today the Caste system is a reality in India hundreds of years after Manu coded the Hindu law. Marriages between Upper-castes and Dalits are rare. However these attitudes are changing, albeit slowly.
In the US it is common for Hindu priests to perform Hindu marriage rites for interfaith couples however such practice is rare in India as interfaith couple prefer a civil union over religious marriage. There have been instances where Hindu priests have refused to perform Hindu marriage rites in cases of inter-caste or interfaith couples.
Lately there has been strong opposition from Hindu political groups against Hindu women choosing to marry a non-Hindu man.
Sikhism is opposed to interfaith marriages. There were concerns that many Gurdwaras were allowing interfaith marriages ignoring the tenets of the faith. Responding to this, the supreme religious authority of Sikhs, Takhat Sahib, issued a decree that interfaith marriage is prohibited and if an individual desires to marry a person from another faith then the non-Sikh party must first convert to Sikhism and legally change the name.
The high priests of the Zoroastrian faith have issued an edict prohibiting interfaith marriages. This is a controversial issue among the Parsi community which is divided into liberal and conservative camps on this issue. The high priests are particularly worried about the dwindling population of Parsi community.
All the descriptions given above are for a general understanding of the subject. This issue gets much more complex when either the husband or the wife chooses to convert to another faith or become an atheist after the marriage has taken place.