Inter-religious Marriage


As the former president of a religious school, I only regret one point of collective inaction: though we had taught our kids about our religion, we failed to teach them the practical aspects of interacting with young people from other faiths. In the Western world, it is quite common that young adults date those from other faiths during their college years. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that at least one-third of our young generation of Hindus marry outside of their faith.

Religious differences can bring unexpected complexities to married life. While I feel interfaith relationships should develop based on a mutual respect for religious diversity, sometimes major differences in fundamental beliefs pose difficulties in finding a common ground. Hindus carry the attitude that all religions are good, that all bring their faithful closer to God, and thus deserve respect. But this tolerant attitude is not universal. Many Christian, Jewish and Muslim families believe in the Abrahamic monotheistic dogma. Their holy books reject what they misconstrue as a Hindu belief in polytheism. Specifically, Hindus believe that although the Ultimate Reality, Nirguna Brahman, is singular, nameless and formless, its qualities can be worshiped in many forms, Saguna Brahman. This poses a serious issue when it comes to puja, which is considered idol worship, a practice forbidden in the Abrahamic religions. Their Ten Commandments decree: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other Gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for, I the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”

Islam forbids marriage with a nonbeliever in Allah. Thus, a non-Muslim potential spouse is expected to convert to Islam by taking the Shahada oath, the declaration that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His apostle. In some Christian sects, there is also often intense pressure from family members and the clergy for the non-Christian spouse to convert by the sacrament of baptism before the church wedding. An uninformed Hindu will oftentimes discover the expectation of religious conversion after years of being in a romantic relationship.

Religious conversion may be a matter of just a brief ceremony, but do not underestimate this ritual as a trivial matter. It will not just satisfy the sentiments of the parents-in-law, but you will find that it is a binding commitment guarded by every member of your new community. As per the Shahada oath, you will be forbidden to display a statue of any God in your own home. Offering prayers or supplications to anyone, living or dead, is an unpardonable sin. Furthermore, attempting to later reclaim yourself as a Hindu, even after divorce, can be punishable by death or life imprisonment by some Middle Eastern countries’ laws (such legislation is also pending approval in Pakistan). Therefore, you should be prepared to accept conversion to a new religion as a serious and potentially irreversible process.

Most conflicts in inter-religious marriages will surface after you have children. Faithful people from all traditions usually consider it vital that their children follow their religion. So, which will it be?

Before entering into a relationship, one should have an open dialog, discussing expectations and recognizing the far-reaching consequences. Though dealing with this issue early on will obviously be important for the well being of the couple, it is also a significant issue for their children, not to mention the couple’s extended families, who take pride in preserving their religious and cultural traditions that have been passed down for generations.

~ Dilip Amin is a pharmaceutical scientist and a former president of Plymouth Balvihar in Blue Bell, PA, USA



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  • Great article. The problems you’ve mentioned, I’ve seen happening in inter-racial/religious marriages, especially after the children were born.
    It’s also important to look at why people choose to look for a partner outside their own community. In Holland, where I live, the highest rate of single women are to be found among high-educated modern yet religious Hindu and moslim women because they can’t find an eligible partner within their own community.
    As for Hindu women here who choose an inter-religious marriage, they are often forced to look outside their community because there weren’t eligible Hindu men available, often due to the discrepancy in upbringing. Here, most Indian people keep their daughters tight and want them to carry on the Indian culture, tradition and religion but they let their son loose and do whatever it wants. This discrepancy starts at a very young age. In mandirs, you will see mothers with their young daughters but not with their son. The daughters are learning how to sing bhajans and perform puja, while their son is at home reading comics, playing games and having fun with other kids. This sounds crazy, but I’ve seen it happening a lot. At a later age, the boys can date, have sex and party, and most girls can’t. Girls are expected to know their tradition, food, social behavior and religion in contrary to the boys. Once those little boys are grown up, they don’t feel any connection with the women from their community. They all want a white women, especially once they are good educated, or a very traditional women like their mom was. A lot of Indian women want Indian men who are modern and also value their culture and religion. Unfortunately, there is a big lack of them. So, in some way, Indian women are forced to look outside their community if they want to have a relationship and start forming a family. Truth must be said, that the other communities aren’t accepting of our culture, traditions and religion. They love the food, but that’s all. Since most women don’t want to stay alone and have the healty wish to share their life with someone, they are in some way forced to marry outside their community and give up their tradition, culture and religion to be accepted, or if they are brave, they stay single.

    • Unfortunately, I have to agree with you, Priya. Seems Hinduism is dying. I live in a community where I am the only hindu. My neighbors have all converted to Christianity.

  • +971502169710 I dont think this hold true any longer, if all the hindu girls start thinking like this then our community will cease to exisits,upbringing issues dont exisits in other communities?

  • It is 2015, move on. Life is to short to live it in the confines of a set of rules (religion) drafted hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

  • @priya I don’t know in which age you lived but educated Hindu women have no problem finding educated Hindu men. We are global now educated successful and modern in our outlook. The main reason why daughters are taught bhajans and pooja ritual is because we believe the mother passes on all the positives to the children. That doesn’t mean the boys don’t know the same since the rituals are done by the men. Each the women and men playing their role in our way of life. Maybe you need to expand your social circle to meet the right kind of men. All the best.

  • I am absolutely in agreement with you Priya. The issue raised by you does exist for the female as well as the male side. The number of boys/men having proper knowledge, value or connection with their culture/religion/customs is far less in comparison to those who don’t. The same goes for the girls today, but their numbers may not be as bysmal due to parental trend pointed out by you.