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Firas Maksad

The grand mufti, my wife and me

A Lebanese couple weds in a civil ceremony in Cyprus.

With a statement labeling all those who support civil marriage as apostates, Lebanon’s grand mufti, Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, struck a nerve in me, my Muslim wife, and in thousands of Lebanese hoping to get married under a civil law. The grand mufti said that Muslims who believe in civil marriage should “not be washed, shrouded, prayed on, or buried in Muslim cemeteries.”


While I am not threatened by the grand mufti’s opinion on how my remains should be handled, I am concerned about the society that he is desperately trying to control. His country is one where love, the noblest human emotion, must not cross sectarian boundaries set by years of civil wars and religious edicts; one in which families are built on love, but only within confines dictated by men claiming higher authority from God; a society where self-anointed religious leaders govern one’s most basic human interactions.

 

To the mufti: Your Eminence, I – and thousands like me – am tired and ashamed of your Lebanon. We have had enough of your threats of eternal damnation. Our most enlightened citizens are abandoning the country in droves. Those left at your mercy are either desperately trying to escape, or are sparring like primordial beasts in defense of sectarian ground. Rather than preach hope and unity, our communal leaders are fighting over election laws that only deepen our divides.

Your Eminence, your threats are not supported by the religion you claim. The book you preach instructs, “O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” Your threats do not represent Islam, but are designed only to perpetuate your own position of authority and to squash a debate on personal freedoms that may one day endanger your hold on society.

Your Eminence, while you may enjoy the support of many loyal bearded men ready to inflict violence on your behalf, you are in no moral position to pass judgments or dictate our lives. The Lebanese press is littered with pages reporting on your financial improprieties and your misuse of funds donated by the hardworking faithful. Your political opportunism took you from being a loyal soldier of the Assad regime in Lebanon, to the anti-Syria March 14 coalition, and now back to supporting Hezbollah and Syria’s other allies in Lebanon.

Your Eminence, your religious accusation was not lost on Prime Minister Najib Miqati, to whom you were referring when you said, “Any Muslim with legal or executive authority in Lebanon who supports the legalization of civil marriage is an apostate.” Miqati bowed to your pressure on the pretext that “civil marriage is a sensitive issue… and we do not need a new contentious issue in Lebanon.”

To the prime minister: Civil marriage should not be a contentious issue, but one that could bridge divides and bring people together. As Lebanon suffocates from the seemingly endless political deadlock between March 8 and March 14, this is a cause whose supporters are found in both camps. They are men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian. This is an opportunity for your government to make real progress and carve out a legacy for itself.

President Michel Suleiman seems to understand the historic opportunity at hand. Civil society organizations, enlightened intellectuals, women’s rights advocates, and those who want to build a state based on citizens’ rights – not on competing sects – must act now. They must support the president’s call to legalize the union of a Lebanese couple who recently defied the ban on civil marriage and are trying to register as husband and wife.

As a people, the Lebanese must make a historic choice: Will they continue to live and die as separate communities fighting against each other, or will they one day become equal citizens of a unified and sovereign state? In almost 70 years of independence, the former path has led only to strife and foreign domination. It is time for the Lebanese to try something new. Lebanese citizens, stand up to those insulting your intelligence, those depriving you of your freedom to choose, because those claiming to speak in the name of religion only sow divisions and hate.

My wife and I will forgive the grand mufti for his fatwa against us. We will revisit memories of our special day, surrounded by loving family and adoring friends. We will be secure knowing that our fate is not in his hands, or in the hands of others like him. Our hope is that one day Lebanon will also escape his less-than-divine grip and eventually find its own unity and peace.

Firas Maksad is a recently married Lebanese citizen residing abroad. His civil marriage has not been registered in Lebanon.

 

Read this article in Arabic

A Lebanese couple weds in a civil ceremony in Cyprus. Lebanon’s grand mufti has spoken out against civil marriage. (AFP photo)

Will the Lebanese continue to live and die as separate communities fighting against each other, or will they one day become equal citizens of a unified and sovereign state?

  • لبناني يحب لبنان

    take it easy dude, it ain't good for your blood pressure.. let me tell you, as long as Lebanon is an Arabian country this law will never pass, on the other hand why do you give a **uck about what the mufti said, if you/your wife are a Muslims you wouldn't marry like that, if you are not then why you even care.. personally I don't give a rat *ss about what the Mufti said or the marriage types and all that ... but what I'm sick of is people like you, going public, posting about their misery, crying here and there bla bla bla, have you checked what's happening in syria.. get real man! this is an Arabian country with Arabian traditions and as much as I hate them that's the way it is, and if you think you're so enlightened and much more civilized then the rest of us good for you, post a nude photo of you next time, but I can't see how such a man cares about these shallow things when he already got the girl! thought for food.

    February 8, 2013

  • Faboujamra

    Amen!

    February 3, 2013

  • bouchra.ballout

    Very well said Firas. Alf mabrouk for you & your smart beautiful wife:) You speak our mind. At the end it is a choice; Where is the pretending freedom?! We are not followers, we are respectful civilize human-been with basics values of life & its laws.... let us fight for our rights.

    February 1, 2013

  • nowreader

    Thanks for this excellent article and speaking our minds! Keep it up

    January 31, 2013

  • Metnman

    @neezo...get your head out of your teezo

    January 31, 2013

  • shiba

    Congratulations Mr and Mrs Qabbani I am happy for you and wish you both happy and healthy life...I am also happy that you stood up to ur Mufti or even if it was a Priest no one should make the law. Adam and Eve didn't have any of these crooks they only want to make money and they don't care about any of the citizens whether they live a happy or unhappy life they make divorces very hard unless you pay them lots of money to undo the marriage. There is no conditions in any of the books whether its the Quran or the Bible to say you cannot marry in civil ceremony. Most of the world perform civil marriages why shouldn't Lebanon has it too ..... GOOD LUCK

    January 31, 2013

  • rola.kazzaz

    Very well said...I am sure eternal damnation is reserved for the mufti for stealing from the poor; he's just trying get some people to join him there apparently :)

    January 31, 2013

  • Perspective

    Excellent article! Worth also mentioning that freedom of belief also stipulates the right not to be religious. I am Lebanese, I respect all religions but myself am not a believer. Why should I be forced to religious marriage.

    January 31, 2013

  • Finally

    The mufti represented Islam quite well, he just put it way too bluntly. In Islam, the partner you marry should be a Muslim or be converted into one for the marriage to be acceptable. Otherwise it would be as if you are living with your "boyfriend/girlfriend" instead of "husband/wife", and this is totally unacceptable in our religion. It is a serious issue, I just wish he explained it in a more calm and wise way.

    January 31, 2013

  • Metnman

    why is it serious? Please explain. As far as I can see, it's utter bollocks

    January 31, 2013

  • Finally

    Only Muslims would understand why it is a serious issue to live with "boyfriend/girlfriend" instead of "husband/wife." Moreover, if Muslims started having civil marriages because the Mufti didn't stress it out, when judgement day comes, it would be his fault and he will get punished accordingly. Now, he did his part, and it is up to the people whether they heed the call or ignore it.

    February 1, 2013

  • raniambc

    I support your stance but would have liked to read your letter in Arabic so it reaches the mufti. I doubt the translation given to him (if it will reach him) will be accurate.

    January 31, 2013

  • NaderH

    Neezo you're so cute.. I'm not gonna even try to rationalize things with you .. Just have a question: Are all Turkish and Tunisians and Muslims in France, USA & Germany animals? And did all the mentioned above had an animal marriage?

    January 31, 2013

  • Libanus

    Rabba! Neezo, are you really still waiting for a sheikh or a priest or a rabbi to bless your relationship, give you the ok to sleep with your wife, open the gates of heaven to your soul when you die, and wash your dead body so that it is fit to meet the creator? seriously? - time to think a little deeper and stop being a hypocrit.

    January 30, 2013

  • Jenny I love Lebanon

    Neezo because you cannot speak nor write English coupled with the fact that you are a backwards neanderthal, you should go and live in afghanistan as obviously your contribution is worthless. Good Job Firas and we all hope civil marriage will be passed.

    January 30, 2013

  • haddadnassib

    Very objective. Very respectful. And definitely very well said!! Bravo Firas :)

    January 30, 2013

  • dr.aaboulhosn

    Love it !! this quote applies to everything going on in Lebanon " It is time for the Lebanese to try something new. Lebanese citizens, stand up to those insulting your intelligence, those depriving you of your freedom to choose, because those claiming to speak in the name of religion only sow divisions and hate."

    January 30, 2013

  • GKA

    @neezo, If you do not know the basics of respect, how would anyone expect you to comment on civil marriage!!! Spend some time and energy learning the basics of values in life. "Animal marriage"??? This is outrageous!!

    January 30, 2013

  • neezo.arabi

    well too bad if u consider his fatwa against u but in my opinion u dont need to register your marriage anywhere if u beleive in civil marriage juat go live with her as a couple but if u r a human being and u wanna got married u nees to go to churcj=h or mosque first to get married otherwise civil marriage is like animal marriage and and dont wanna say more...

    January 30, 2013

  • Metnman

    Neezo....just FYI, all marriages in the UK for example are civil. Even if they are held in a church. In other words there is a religious blessing but the contract is civil. Is this an "animal marriage"?

    January 30, 2013

  • tarek.wheibi

    Neezo if someone is a budhist or a Hindu or a jew where do you recommend they get married in order to be categorized as humans since you seem to be an expert on this...

    January 30, 2013

  • ThisMan

    When was the last time you saw 2 animals walk into a court and change their civil status

    January 30, 2013

  • حفيدُ الغساسنة

    NEEZO.ARABI: A very poorly written comment (childish chat style, with many mistakes and typos), but this is nothing in comparison with its ‘moral’ part (or lack of). First, to say that people wanting to tie the knot “[need to go to church or mosque first to get married]” reveals utmost ignorance: 1) people can be wed ‘religiously’ WITHOUT going to church or mosque; 2) there are billions of people who belong neither to ‘church’ nor to ‘mosque’; and 3) people were getting married thousands of years before the ‘church’ or the ‘mosque’ ever existed. Second, for one living in Canada to say that if not married in ‘church or mosque first’ “civil marriage is like animal marriage” if not worse (since you “dont wanna say more..”), shows – over and above the aforementioned utmost ignorance – total disrespect and a major insult for the majority of countries in the world, including your adopted one, that adopt ‘civil marriage’. As a matter of fact, marriage in a religious ceremony is NOT recognized in most European countries unless preceded by the required civil marriage. 3) Wake up, Neezo, and smell the coffee

    January 31, 2013

  • eliaselkhoury

    Thumbs up

    January 30, 2013

  • Metnman

    Though I would hardly categorize it under "analysis"

    January 30, 2013

  • Metnman

    Well said Firas!

    January 30, 2013

  • christina.elhaddad.5

    Excellent.

    January 30, 2013