Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Please shed some light on Syed lineage in Islam. There’s a trend in society not to marry Syed boy/girl to Non-Syed girl/boy. The parents of the Syed boy/girl say that their elders have advised them not to ally with Non-Syeds because marrying Syed to Non-Syed, especially Pathans. They believe this will bring ill fortune like someone in the family will die, or the children born from such marriage don’t become successful in life.
They also say that since Syed is superior to others, the Non-Syed girl or boy can never honor the status of their Syed spouse. This isn’t hype, and it’s what we are facing today in society. I’m the daughter of a Syed-Pathan couple, and my mom is a Syed. We have never seen this issue in our family Alhumdulillah.
Still, since we have started seeing alliances for my brother and me, We are observing that this is a massive issue for many families. So many partnerships don’t happen just because of this one problem. Please explain in detail this belief of people and how true it is in Islam. Is it permissible to reject somebody on this basis alone?
What you have described has a clear element of jahiliyya, or ignorance, that Islam rejects.
Marriage and suitability (kafa’a)
The marriage law incorporates a concept known as ‘suitability’ (kafa’a) of the spouses. According to this, the guardian of the woman has the right to ensure that she is married to someone who is deemed ‘suitable’ for her according to customary expectations. Thus, jurists spoke about the suitability of lineage for Arabs because this was something they customarily gave severe weight and consideration to. Someone who was not from Quraysh was deemed legally non-suitable to someone from Quraysh, while a non-Arab was considered as non-suitable to an Arab.
This did not mean the marriage could not take place or should not. Still, if a Qurashi woman married a non-Qurashi man without her guardian’s approval, classical texts afforded the guardian a legal right to annul this marriage in a court to preserve the esteem of his family, which was seen as being potentially compromised in such a scenario.
A Legal Matter and Avoiding the Slippery Slope
Suitability was not linked to any notion of superiority except when it related to religion and religiosity, in which case the explicit text of the Quran affirms that “the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious.” [Quran, 49:13] Rather, suitability was an ordinary matter linked to preserving familial esteem and protecting the family from the negative perceptions of broader society.
This is, of course, a potentially slippery slope given that racist and negative stereotypes are prominent in most societies and may influence the legal notion of suitability in ways that contradict the broader message of the sunna, which places taqwa at the forefront when it comes to choosing a spouse.
For this reason, marriage should be approached in a religious, not a legal, manner where parents and families need to be told to steer clear from perspectives that are governed by racist attitudes and/or stereotypical viewpoints that are based on incorrect presumptions and understandings that stem from their own, distinct experiences an upbringing that may be completely wrong and not shared by their children. Women should also be aware that they ultimately choose who they marry, and their guardians cannot force them.
Is it Wrong to Give Consideration to Ancestry?
While considerations of ethnicity, profession, etc., are valid when choosing a spouse, ideas that marrying people of a particular color, race, caste, or tribe will bring “ill fortune” and the like is pure ignorance that has no place in Islam. The same applies to marriages between Sayyids and non-Sayyids. Marrying an upright and respectable non-Sayyid is far more superior to marrying a Sayyid who is otherwise.
As the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Verily, God has removed from you the ignorant pride of the pre-Islamic era with its boasting of ancestors. Whether you are god-fearing believers or wretched sinners, you are the sons of Adam, and Adam was created from dust.” [Tirmidhi]
This, and instructions like it in the sunna, should guide our approach to the matter at hand.
[Ustadh] Salman Younas
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Salman Younas, born and raised in New York, graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studied Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir. He is now in his final year of his PhD at Oxford University, looking at the early evolution of the Hanafi madhab.
His teachers include: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Salah Abu’l Hajj, Shaykh Ashraf Muneeb, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Snobar, Shaykh Ali Hani, Shaykh Hamza Bakri, Ustadh Rajab Harun and others.
Ustadh Salman’s personal interests include research into the fields of law/legal methodology, hadith, theology, as well as political theory, government, media, and ethics. He is also an avid traveler and book collector. He currently resides in the UK with his wife.