The practice of Thar (vendetta) prevailed among the heathen Arabs; blood-feuds annihilated tribes. There was not a family without blood-feud, in which the women were often murdered. There was no concept of man being murdered as innocent, thus the bloody feuds lead to frequent unwarranted deaths.
Prophet Muhammad, with a deeper conception of the remedies to be applied, connected various rival families and powerful tribes to each other and to himself by the intermarriage ties.
One of the wives of Prophet, Muhammad was called Juwairiya. She was the daughter of Haris, the chief of the Bani Mustalik, and was captivated by a Muslim soldier in a military expedition attempted to quash their rebellion. She had made an agreement with her capturer to emancipate for a stipulated amount of money. She petitioned Muhammad for the sum, which He gave her at once. In realization of this benignity, and in indebtedness for her liberty, she offered her hand to Muhammad, and they were married. As soon as the Muslim heard of this alliance, they said amongst themselves the Banu Mustalik are now connections of the Prophet, and we must treat them as such. Each victor thereupon expedited the release of the prisoner he had made in the military campaign, and a hundred families, thus regaining their liberty, blessed the marriage of Juwairiya with Muhammad. This not only lead to the victor’s goodwill in treating the vanquished but also brought two tribes closed to each other, enhancing the strength of Muslims.
Akbar S. Ahmed in his book “Discovering Islam” writes that many acts of the Prophet support the claim that Islam was supreme to the tribe: his marriages outside the clan, his preference of Bilal – a black slave, as the first muaezzin of Islam – and explicitly, for history to hear, his words at Arafat decrying race and caste divisions. There is no doubt that the tribe provided security to its members and a kind of stability to society. But its jealous exclusiveness based on nasab, ancestry, created and perpetuated divisions among people. These divisions assumed mythical proportions.
Caste, class or race would are barriers to attaining the Muslim ideal or the highest status in Islam. A person is to be judged by his behaviour not his lineage – ‘nurture’ not ‘nature’.
In another event, Safiya, a Jewess, had also been captivated by a Muslim in one of the military campaign against Khaibar. Prophet Muhammad emancipated her too and elevated to the position of His wife at her request.
The progress of nation and the advancement of ideas lead to a partial amelioration in the condition of the nation. But the pride based on casteism, clanism, racism and religionism has given rise to different divergent theories which is in fact a hurdle in the social exaltation of especially the women among the different classes in Pakistan.
The Prophet of Islam enforced as one of the indispensable teachings of his credo, “respect for women.” He placed them on a footing of complete equivalence with men in the practice of all legal powers and functions.
Prophet Muhammad had given women right of self-determination and a freedom of choice. He treated them with humanity. However, His followers have excluded her from justice.
A woman who is sui juris can under no circumstances be married without her own express consent, not even by the Sultan or Caliph, as argued by the number of Muslim jurists.
Undoubtedly, the comparatively backward condition of Muslims today is the result of a number of facts, such as the abnegation of intermarriages, which is also a strong barrier to melioration, rather than of any other special feature in the laws and practices of the Islam.
In many circles in Pakistan, which is a Muslim-dominated country, still to-date the inter-clan, inter-racial, inter-ethnic, and inter-faith union is discouraged and often disapproved if happens without the consent of parents or guardian. It needs to be reminded to the society that the “sacrilegious wars”, which lasted for forty years in the Arabian Peninsula, were concluded by the Prophet Muhammad via the inculcation and wise practice of intermarriages.
Each epoch has its own standard. What is suitable for one time may not be suitable for the other. All institutions of Islam, such as the intermarriages, are the offspring of the circumstances and necessities of time. We should bear in mind the historic value and significance of the acts of intermarriages that took place 1400 years ago.
While some of the then legislations of Islam – i.e. during the time of the presence of Prophet Muhammad and especially the prevalence of the socially deplorable condition in which the Arabian Peninsula was – were only suitable for a specific time, there still are a number of the practices of that time, such as intermarriages, that are needed to be incorporated in our society as a vital practice to gain the best outcome out of it.
While the racism of any kind receives animadversion in Islam, it is however highly encouraged in the lights of the practices of the Prophet Muhammad that the intermarriages need to be taken place to strengthen the ties, create the unity and remove the interfaith feud within the nation. And wherein lies more strength than in unity? No doubt that intermarriages can and will help reduce the substantial racism in Pakistan, and harmonize the inter-provincial and inter-faith interests. Caste, class or race are barriers to attaining the Muslim ideal or the highest status in Islam. A person is to be judged by his behaviour not his lineage – ‘nurture’ not ‘nature’.
PS: Some of the references are from the book “The Spirit of Islam”, by Syed Ameer Ali.