A Death Sentence to Civil Marriage
By: Maha Zaraket
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Many were expecting Lebanon’s mufti, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, to take a strong position against legalizing civil marriage, but to go so far as to declare it a grave sin that is counter to Islam took many by surprise.
Crowded out of the media by other news, last Friday’s sermons against civil marriage did not adequately capture the public’s attention over the weekend.
It was for this reason that the republic’s mufti took it upon himself to hold a press conference on Monday, 28 January 2013, to make sure that the message was not lost on anyone.
Senior officials in the mufti’s office, Dar al-Ifta, had made their position abundantly clear, with one sheikh saying that merely “proposing” civil marriage is an attempt to divide the country and ignite civil strife.
Another urged the politicians “to drop the idea forever,” adding that whether it is compulsory or optional, “it will not pass as long as there is a single Muslim in the country.”
After convening an urgent meeting on Monday, the mufti came out to confirm this position, warning that “any Muslim official, be they an MP or a minister, who supports the legalization of civil marriage, even if it is optional, is an apostate and outside the Islamic faith.”
It is questionable, even among the Muslim clergy, that civil marriage necessitates such a harsh fatwa, or religious edict, which is tantamount to a death sentence under Islamic law.
The mufti’s position was preceded by others like Prime Minister Najib Mikati who categorically refused to discuss the subject in the last cabinet meeting, saying that it was “useless” to raise such a controversial issue in the current political situation.
Fifteen years ago, then-president Elias Hrawi tried to get a civil marriage law passed without success. Since then, the issue remained on the backburner until a Lebanese couple recently found a legal loophole to conduct a civil marriage.
Their action brought the issue back into the spotlight, gaining support from President Michel Suleiman, who called for reconsidering the matter, only to be blocked by Mikati and now Qabbani.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.