Religion & Beliefs

In Islam and Judaism, Too Many Unmarried Women

Nothing highlights the difference between the Muslim and Jewish attitudes about marriage better than this article in the Washington Post. There are some new resources in the Muslim community devoted to helping new couples get to know each other before … Read More

By / May 28, 2008

Nothing highlights the difference between the Muslim and Jewish attitudes about marriage better than this article in the Washington Post. There are some new resources in the Muslim community devoted to helping new couples get to know each other before and after they’ve married, and the expected matchmaking services. That stuff is nothing new to Jews. But I was fascinated to hear that Muslims share the problem of way more single women than men in their community, and the reason is that Muslims are allowed to intermarry as long as the spouse is “a believer.”

Interfaith marriage is a huge topic with wide cultural ramifications. Because Islamic tradition, not law, holds that a Muslim man can intermarry but not a woman, a substantial gender gap in the dating pool has opened as children and grandchildren of immigrants have grown up. The Koran says for Muslims to marry "believers," the meaning of which has long been the source of great debate but has been widely interpreted to include Christians and Jews. Although the Koran does not address the gender issue directly, tradition has held that women are more easily subjugated, and therefore a Muslim woman in an interfaith marriage could be forced by a Christian or Jew to live and raise her children outside of Islam, while a Muslim man in an interfaith relationship would be able to control the household's faith.

 

Of course, intermarriage in Islam doesn’t have the pall of death that it has been given in Judaism because there are a billion Muslims in the world, and no one’s worried that they’re dying out. Still, it’s fascinating that in both communities it’s the men that are marrying out, and the women who are mostly staying in. 

Clearly both the Muslim and Jewish communities are waking up to the realities of dating challenges, but I wonder if it’s too little too late. What’s going to happen to the hordes of single women left at the end of the dating game? Something tells me they won’t be running to the synagogue or mosque for comfort.