Sanctifying Marriage – Not The Role of Government – Muslims Can Differ In Opinion

Imam Johari Abdul-MalikThe Washington Post recently quoted only a “sound bite” of my comments on marriage in America, the role of religious interpretation, government and law.  My comments were distilled into a discourage about same-sex marriage, which is a narrow slice of my comments.

From my understanding of the Qur’an, marriage in Islam is between members of the opposite sex.  Yet, I believe that people can engage in many types of sexual behaviors and still be Muslim.  The goal is to try to understand God’s message and then to apply it.  The way one has sex is not be their public definition.  As a person of faith, the primary identifier is one’s relationship with the transcendent God/Allah and not one’s appetite for food, drink, sex, race or gender.

In America, religion is a very personal thing.  As such, very few individuals like to be told how to define their relationship with God and wish to define their relationship with God on their own terms without government involvement.  It is for this reason that I believe that faith in America is still very vibrant, while it is falling by the wayside in Europe.

Likewise on the issue of marriage, I do not believe that our government should ever have gotten into the business of “sanctifying” marriage. In other words, the gov’t should not define what “is” and “is not” marriage any more than they should define who “is” and “is not” a Muslim, Christian or Jew. In marriage, the gov’t should only be in the business of enforcing binding contracts between adult aka “civil unions”!

The issue of (religious) marriage as should have been put into the authority of religious communities. If we do that then, everyone would be free to practice whatever they like in their own religion as long as they do not infringe upon the constitutional right of others.

This is perfectly in line with my own faith tradition. The Qur’an says:

“To you be your way and to us be our way….”

Within Muslim history there have been many groups, sects, offshoots and various interpretations of the faith, each group interrupting the scriptures on their own terms in context, content and time and today is no different.

I have a particular reading and understand of Islam that puts sexual behavior in the light of specific verses and prophetic traditions, but he priority in religion is to find out what God wants and then to do that, not to find out what you want and then find the text that you think allows you to do it.

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