"BUT THE IMAM SAID IT WAS OK...."
Girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl is Muslim, boy is not Muslim. They fall in love and want to get married….but it’s haram. Eventually, she finds a way to rationalize it in her head and finds an imam that will perform the nikkah. Girl and boy are now married and will live happily ever after. This scenario is one that is often heard, especially among Muslims in the West. The scenario if a Muslimah wanting to marry a non-Muslim.
Based solely on the Qur’an and Sunnah, it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim regardless if he is ahl-al-kitaab(People of the Book-Jews and Christians) or not. A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim but only if she is from ahl-al-kitaab, is actually practicing and does not engage in shirk. That means that contrary to popular perception, a Muslim man cannot just marry any “Christian" woman, she has to be abiding by the rulings in her book and must not commit shirk which pretty much rules out Catholics and any others who believe in the trinity. If a Muslim man does find this woman and marries her, all kids born from the marriage must be raised Muslim and she must not bring about what is forbidden in Islam into her home. Many scholars also add that it is not recommended for Muslim men to marry non-Muslims in the west because that results in Muslimahs not having someone to marry.
So back to the scenario that I presented earlier. Though the imam performed the nikkah(marriage contract) it is not valid under the eyes of Allah(SWT). The couple might consider themselves married but Islamically they are not. That means that any carnal interactions that they have will be considered zina(fornication) and any kids borne of the marriage will belong to the bed. Often times, we Muslims are of the opinion that the permission or ruling of an imam is always correct and supersedes the rulings of Allah(SWT). This is wrong(unless of course you’re into the whole infallible imam thing). Just because an imam says something is okay or halal does not make it so. I've seen imams who condone domestic violence, imams who tell their congregation that saying “bismillah” on non-zabiha meat makes it halal, and imams who think its okay to lead salah late because of his discretion. None of these things are okay under the banner of Islam. Allah(SWT) says:
A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though if he attracts you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the fire but Allah beckons by His grace to the garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His signs clear to mankind; that they may receive admonition” Qur'an 2:222
ARE YOU REALLY BEING A "MUSLIM"?
There are many of us who identify as Muslim simply because we were born into the faith. There are also many who identify as Muslim because they consciously decided to accept the idea that there is no deity but Allah and Muhammad(SAW) is His messenger. Being able to say you accept and agree with the Shahada is definitely the first step in becoming Muslim but BEING a Muslim involves a lot more than that. The term “practicing Muslim” is often thrown around to indicate someone who not only claims to be a Muslim but also actively practices the tenets of the faith. I honestly do not like this term because the label “Muslim” on its own should mean that you are actively engaging in the tenets of Islam. Being a Muslim is not just about abstaining from pork, attending Jummah salah or praying all the rakat of taraweeh during the nights of Ramadan. As Muslims, we should always strive to be the best we can be for our creator. The word “Islam” means submission but also stems from peace, so in essence, Islam means the attainment of peace through submission. If Islam means peace through submission then a Muslim is one who attains peace through their submission to the will of Allah. Allah(SWT) says to us “I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship.” (Qur'an 51:56). We worship Him through our ultimate submission to his commands. We submit to Him, our creator, by doing what He and His Messenger(SAW) have told us to do and staying away from what they have told us to stay away from. The point that I am getting at is that before we can proudly say “I am Muslim”, we should ask ourselves, “Am I honestly trying my best to submit to the will of Allah?”, “Am I staying away from all that is forbidden and adhering to all that is obligatory?”. If you can honestly say yes to these questions, without any hesitation or buts, then yes, you are truly BEING Muslim.
This is not say that being Muslim means you're perfect, that you don't struggle. Instead, what I mean is that if we are really trying to Muslim in every meaning of the world, we are always seeking to submit ourselves to the will of Allah. Yes, you might have hard time remembering to pray your salah, yes you might be struggling with refraining from the haram but are you sincerely trying? If so, then you are submitting yourself to the will of Allah, you are being Muslim.
As humans in this dunya we are inundated by many distractions, misguidance, and falsehoods therefore making life much more confusing and difficult. What are we thinking, saying, observing, and experiencing in our lives? Are we truly living by Islamic ideals? This is where we can choose to actively “Strive For Clarity.”