Moscow, November 11, Interfax - The Spiritual Muslim Board of Russia has clarified that only the Ulema Council, a council of influential theologians, supports a ban on Muslim men marrying women of other religions, while a number of the board's members are opposed to this decision.
"Islam accepts a diversity of opinions, the existence of different approaches to this or that theological problem. The Ulema Council is an independent body within the Spiritual Board, and the theologians who are its members can freely formulate their position. It is possible that the opinion of the ulema may differ from the common position of the Spiritual Board, based on the principle of respect for a richness of views and opinions, while it is for God to judge whose opinion is accurate and correct. Opinions split in this case, and some of our clergy do not support the aforementioned theological conclusion or support it only partly," board deputy chairman Damir Mukhetdinov said in a commentary.
In a secular state, which Russia is, the rulings of the Ulema Council are of an intracommunity nature and are not legally binding in the proper sense of the word, because they do not carry any liability or punishment for failure to comply with them, Mukhetdinov said.
This document "has not caused any problems" since it was adopted a year ago and was brought to the notice of the clergy in the regions," Mukhetdinov said, adding that it "was treated as a theoretical insight into the modern-day problem of the partial collapse of families in the context of today's Russia."
Meanwhile, expert in Islam studies and Moscow State Linguistic University professor Roman Silantyev said, in turn, that fatwas, which are legal opinions on a point in Islamic law, are issued to be executed.
"If a certain organization has authorized its best theologians to enter the Ulema Council, obviously, it should trust their opinion and should not then express different points of view," Silantyev told Interfax on Wednesday.
He also said he is puzzled why no one voiced any concern over this fatwa and everyone seemed to be content with it for a whole year, but as soon as it reached the media, it immediately started to contradict the position of some "part of the clergy" within the Spiritual Muslim Board of Russia.
It was reported earlier that the Spiritual Muslim Board of Russia issued a theological conclusion that prohibits Muslim men from marrying women of other religions.
"The Ulema Council of the Spiritual Muslim Board of the Russian Federation has ruled that interfaith marriages, in particular to female representatives of the people of the Book [Christianity, Judaism], on the territory of the Russian Federation are unacceptable and are possible only in certain exceptional cases based on a decision adopted by a local mufti who shall review and heed all circumstances of the specific case," the board said in its conclusion published on its website on Tuesday.
At the same time, theologians of the Spiritual Muslim Board of Russia believe that a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman who, for instance, sees Jesus Christ not as God, but as a prophet of God alongside Prophet Muhammad, who recognizes that there is only one God, and who stands ready to obey the commands of the Holy Quran.
The authors of the statement also noted that for two people in such a close relationship as husband and wife, it is important to share core life values in order for their union to be strong.
"Unity and similarity between spouses on issues of religion and spirituality is considered one of the most important conditions for a happy life together," it said.