Compatibility despite Controversy: Sunni-Shia Marriages within the Singapore Muslim Community
Written by Syed Imad ALATAS
LINK TO ARTICLE
When studying a religion in any society, a basic unit of analysis would be its followers and their ability to harmoniously co-exist and interact with one another. In Islam, intrafaith marriage is an example of this unit. Throughout the Islamic world, most Muslims belong to the Sunni sect, with a significant minority made up of about 15 percent of the population belonging to the Shia sect. However, the relationship between the two sects has been a topic fraught with controversy. Marriages between Sunnis and Shias illustrate the sensitivity of the sectarian divide. Some hardline Sunni Muslim clerics opine that Sunni-Shia marriages are not allowed in Islam as Shi’ism is seen as a deviation from Islam. This article sought to address the question of why and how Sunni-Shia marriages take place despite mistrust between the two communities. It also attempted to capture alternatives to mainstream sociological trends in family formation within the Islamic community where Muslims, as with any other group of people, may choose to marry someone more similar in terms of various social categories such as cultural background and theological belief.
Keywords: Sunni-Shia relations, marriage in Islam, Singapore, religion and marriage
Syed Imad ALATAS is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His research interests include the sociology of religion and gender, topics he enjoys writing on in academic and non-academic settings. His master’s thesis at the National University of Singapore, which was recently published as a book, focused on female Muslim NGOs in Malaysia and their discourses on marital issues and gender relations. Prior to commencing his master’s studies, he worked at the Middle East Institute at NUS, where he oversaw the institute’s publications and was in charge of the internship program. He has written for journals such as Kajian Malaysia, Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, and the Southeast Asian Social Science Review. Outside academia, he writes for publications such as Free Malaysia Today, Malay Mail, The Star, and Karyawan in Singapore.