Al-Azhar professor sparks fierce debate with 'misinterpreted' comment on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men

Al-Azhar professor sparks fierce debate with 'misinterpreted' comment on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men
Professor Amna Nosseir sparked public outcry after she said there is no text in Islamic law that prevents a Muslim woman from marrying a Christian or Jewish man.
3 min read
20 November, 2020
A couple pose for their wedding video in the Egyptian capital Cairo [AFP/Getty]
A professor from Egypt's Al-Azhar University has clarified her position on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men after her comments sparked fierce online debate.

Amna Nosseir, Professor of Islamic Thought and Philosophy at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, said on Wednesday that her comments on the issue were misinterpreted, Egypt Independent reported.

Nosseir denied reports that she had said Muslim women could marry non-Muslim men, blaming social media for twisting her words.

Under Islamic law, Muslim men can marry Jewish and Christian women while Muslim women can only wed Muslim men.
Professor Nosseir said on Wednesday that her comments came in response to a specific question about the existence of a Quranic text prohibiting such a marriage for women.

In her Wednesday interview on Egypt's "The Ninth" programme, she clarified her position on the issue, saying it's important that children are not confused between the faith of their mother - were she Muslim - and the faith of their father were he Christian or Jewish.

Professor Nosseir caused a public outcry on Tuesday, when she allegedly stated during an interview with Al-Hadath Al-Youm that there is no text in Islamic law preventing a Muslim woman from marrying a Christian or Jewish man.

"The non-Muslims, the Christians and the Jews, are People of the Book. They do not worship idols," she said.

Nosseir reportedly went on to say that "in such a case, [the non-Muslim husband] can act the same as a Muslim man when he marries a Christian or a Jewish woman, by not forcing [the wife] to change her religion, [and] not preventing her from going to the mosque, [and] not preventing her from praying".

When asked by the interviewer what religion the children in such a marriage would follow, Nossier said the fathers. She later said this is the reason why marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men aren't permitted.

Nossier received criticism for her comments on social media.

Dr. Ahmed Karima, a professor of comparative jurisprudence and Islamic law at Al-Azhar University, demanded Nossier "respect her specialization in philosophy and not address issues of Islamic jurisprudence", BBC Arabic reported.

But others supported Noseer's view, with some describing Naseer's statement as a bold step "to correct what the man permitted for himself and forbade the woman".

Egypt's Dar al-Ifta, a body responsible for issuing religious edicts, was also pulled into the controversy.

It issued a statement on Tuesday saying it is not permitted for Muslim women to marry non-Muslim man.

Meanwhile, Egyptian news outlets are circulating an old statement from Al-Azhar's Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb in which he said Islam forbids a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man.

Speaking to members of Germany's parliament in 2016, Ahmed al-Tayyeb said that "marriage in Islam is not a civil contract as it is with you [Germans], but rather a religious bond based on affection between its two ends", Egypt Independent reported.

Read more: Sisi the so-called secularist sets his sights on Al-Azhar

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar is considered the foremost religious institution for Sunni Muslims.

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