With a rise of professional and economically stable black men converting to Islam, should it matter to Black single Christian Women what faith a potential husband may be?
(PART 1 OF 3)
There is a new dynamic being introduced to single black women who
are seeking black men to marry. This is the rise of the Islamic faith among
black men. For a period of 50 years up until the mid-60s, Christianity was
the dominant form of faith among all African Americans. Although a form
of Islam had been introduced to blacks in the early 20th century by Drew Ali
and W.D. Fard, it was still considered to be a fringe group outside of the
mainstream religious life that most African Americans had known as
Christians. But all of that would change with civil rights as a powder keg of
religious thought, philosophy and ideologies began to emerge out of the
struggle of that time. It was during this time that the nation of Islam, led by
Elijah Mohammed began to take a greater position in the forefront by
presenting Islam as a viable alternative to what was branded “white man’s
Christianity.” Leaders like Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X., through their
speeches, writings and activism, would begin to attract a larger following of
African Americans for the Nation of Islam which would subsequently be the
door by which orthodox Islamic life and practice would be embraced.
Nowadays, in 2012, Islam is one of the fastest growing religions
among African Americans. Carl Ellis is president of Project Joseph, a
Chattanooga, Tennessee-based ministry that equips the church with seminars
and educational resources for reaching Muslims. Ellis is coauthor, with
Larry Poston, of The Changing Face of Islam in America. In an interview for
Christianity Today in 2000, Ellis stated, Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in America, and the
massive number of African American converts—in prisons, colleges,
and inner cities—is a key factor. There are more than 2 million black
Muslims in the United States, and if current trends prevail, that figure
will continue to swell.
The rise of Islam with black males is creating a new predicament for
black single women. This is especially true for those who are Christian.
Greater numbers of women are being approached by Muslim men seeking
relationships that could potentially lead to marriage. Seeing that the rise of
Islam is a relatively new phenomenon in the African American context, most
African American women are unfamiliar with the belief system or family
structure that the Muslim faith prescribes. Because of this unfamiliarity,
black women are being tempted to embrace relationship ideologies they do
not know or understand.
I encountered this situation upon church planting in North
Philadelphia. This region of the city has one of the highest populations of
black Muslims in the country. There are scores of Islamic daycares,
storefronts, and Islamic worship centers. Woman can be seen constantly
walking through the streets fully covered in the traditional clothing of the
face veil, head scarves, and cloaks, known traditionally as the niqab, hijab,
and abaya. Men can be recognized by their full beards and long robes. While
some Muslim men are more moderate in their dress, they often can be
recognized by wearing the kufi headgear.
North Philadelphia is unmistakably Muslim not only in dress, but also
in speech. It is common to hear the Arabic blessing, “Assalamu aislaikum,”
spoken as a common greeting through the streets. Terms such as Masjid -
signifying worship or the worship place; salat – being prayer; and shahadah
- the reciting of the Islamic creed; are common vernacular in the area.
Although I had studied Islam during my undergraduate studies, it was after
moving to North Philadelphia that I received a crash course into many of
these intricate nuances.
Our church’s first women congregants shared with me their
experiences with Muslims. They were constantly being approached by men
of the Islamic faith for dates. I myself noticed how the moment they walked
out of the church they were immediately being spoken to by men. Some of
the men that approached them were respectful and courteous. A good
portion of them are business owners who had a vested interest in the
community. It seemed as if they were presenting a clear alternative to the
street corner-unemployed-pants hanging low contingent of North
Philadelphia. Yet with all these apparent positives, the common question
that these women began to have was: “Is it okay for a Christian woman to
date a Muslim man?”
Written by Jomo K. Johnson
I would like to proceed with caution as I approach this subject. This is
because I want to be careful that what I am about to say does not seem as if I
am castigating an entire group of people based upon my limited experience.
I respect and love all Muslims and want the absolute best for them all.
Therefore it is my hope that my words are not misinterpreted as hateful,
judgmental, or insensitive. All peoples, regardless of faith or practice, are to
be respected and given dignity as human beings.
Marriage between a Christian woman and a Muslim man would face
specific challenges that would not occur otherwise. These challenges come
from not taking heed to the Biblical mandate to not marry a man of a
different faith. (We will discuss the basic tenets of the Muslim faith farther
down, but for now, it will be classified as a different faith.) The Bible states
in the book of 2nd Corinthians 6:14-15:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what
fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what
communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ
with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
This is one of the most explicit commands in the New Testament.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul was directing the
church not to get involved in unequal partnerships with those who had a
different belief system than that of Christ as Lord. The Apostle Paul knew
that such relationships would be marked with difficulty and could have the
potential of leading the believing party and their children, away from their
Christian faith and devotion.
The abstaining from interreligious marriages is also an Old Testament
principle. When the children of Israel inherited the Promised Land after
escaping from Egypt, one of the most direct commands that God gave them
was against intermarriage. The prohibition of intermarriage was not racially
motivated but spiritually motivated as we read in Deuteronomy 7:3-4:
Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons
or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children
away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger
will burn against you and quickly destroy you.
God’s instruction was simple and to the point. If the Israelites began to
intermarry with those of a different faith, they would abandon the worship of
the Lord and turn to the worship of a false god. This is especially applicable
to the children that would result from such marriages. How can a child be
raised and taught about the Lord as Ephesians 6:4 states if both parents have
different views of who the Lord is?
WOMANHOOD AND FAITH
There are some key fundamental differences between Christianity and
Islam. Apart from the theological distinctions, the major area of contrast
between the two is the view of women. What Christianity says about a
woman compared to the Islamic faith is very different. It is extremely
important for women to know the Islamic view because the man that she
potentially marries will seek to live in accordance with this view. We
learned in great detail from Chapter six what the Christian view of
womanhood is. You may recall that all women are created in the image of
God, coequal with man, and made for a unique role. He also identified how a
woman is not to be subservient to a man, but both male and female were
made to complement one another as they fulfill their God ordained purposes.
We also saw how a woman’s femininity is best expressed in the presence of
worthy and mature men who understand her worth.
The Christian faith is radically unique because of the role of women in
salvation. There is no other faith in which salvation comes through a
woman. As the mother of Jesus, The Virgin Mary was the instrument by
which God brought salvation to the world. God highly honored all women
by setting apart the blessed woman to become the theotokos – God bearer to
humanity. Just as Eve was the first woman created to bring life to the world,
the church as the Bride of Christ is the second Eve, ordained to bring
spiritual life into the world.
It is only in the light of the person of Christ and Christianity, that the
unique identity of all women is seen in its redemptive light. As sin was first
introduced by a woman through Eve, God was pleased to bring salvation
through a woman, Christ by Mary. And in this redemption all are totally
equal, beloved, and accepted in Christ.
One of the first and most problematic teachings of the Quran in
relation to women is its condoning of polygamy. In Islam the marriage of
multiple wives is allowed and encouraged as we read in the Koran Sura 4:3:
And if you be apprehensive that you will not be able to do justice to
the orphans, you may marry two or three or four women whom you
choose. But if you apprehend that you might not be able to do justice
to them, then marry only one wife, or marry those who have fallen in
Such passages should give trepidation to any woman who reads them. What
is interesting is that a man can marry up four wives, but a woman cannot
marry four husbands. There is an imbalance here. There are a growing
number of African American Muslims who privately practice religious
polygamy without regard for the country’s anti-polygamy laws.
It was never God’s will that a man have more than one wife. If it were
so he would have made multiple women when he created Adam and Eve but
this was not the case. While there were many men in the Old Testament that
practice polygamy, it was never God’s ideal nor did it receive His
endorsement. The Lord Jesus condoned exclusively monogamous marriages
between a man and a woman by stating in Matthew 19:5, “for this reason a
man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two
shall become one flesh.”
The problem with a Christian woman marrying a Muslim man is not
that he will immediately introduce you to his other wives. The problem is
this: a man who believes in the idea of polygamy is unable to truly
appreciate the exclusivity that he is to have with one wife. If he believes that
it’s okay to have more than one woman, what guarantee do you have that he
will be faithful to you in his heart? Jesus said that adultery happens in the
heart. When a man believes that polygamy is lawful, what moral backstop
would prevent him from considering or even fantasizing about bringing
extra partners into the marriage bed? There is none. The Koran also gives a
man the right to have an unlimited number of concubines – unwed women
that are given for sexual pleasure. So if the Koran tells a man that he can
have a woman for sexual pleasure, there is no real moral motivation to
remains faithful to one’s wife.
In the Koran, the Prophet Mohammed gives men permission to
physically beat their wives for insubordinate behavior. There have been
countless scores of Arab women and a growing number of American women
who have suffered at the hands of their husbands based upon Sura 4:34:
If you fear highhandedness from your wives, remind them [of the
teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them.
If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most
high and great.”
It would be wrong to portray every Muslim man as abusive. There are
Muslim men who treat their wives with respect and honor. Yet, the real
question that a Muslim man should answer is this: is he willing to repudiate
all forms of violence against women in the domestic setting? And if so, he
should repudiate this Koranic passage and give his wife full assurance that
he would never take heed to it. If he is not willing to do so then this shows
that a woman would always be in danger of spousal abuse from a Muslim