Is Marriage between a Muslim and Hindu Legal?
Needless to say, inter-faith marriages are largely looked down across the nation, by Hindus and Muslims alike. The main issue with a Hindu-Muslim marriage is not about people’s personal distaste towards it, but the legal ramifications pertaining to it. Both the Hindu and Islamic Marriage Acts have labeled marriage to someone from the opposite religion as void.
Relevance of Special Marriage Act, 1954
The Special Marriage Act of 1956 provides some legal recognition to people in a Hindu-Muslim marriage. This Act does not override the separate clauses of the Hindu and Muslim laws. The spouses continue to be bound by the laws of their respective religions, unless one of them gets converted. This Act is intended to solve the basic legal disputes or matrimonial affairs that arise over the course of an inter-faith marriage.
Qualifying under the Special Marriage Act
It must be noted that not every marriage is recognized under the Special Marriage Act. The following terms must be fulfilled to file for marriage under the Act:
- The marriage is a civil contract, involving no form of rites or ceremonies.
- Both parties must not be involved in any other existing valid marriage.
- The parties should not be mentally incapacitated, and must be capable of giving a valid consent for the union.
- The bride must be at least 18 years old, and the bridegroom must have attained 21 years.
Is Conversion the Only Solution?
The Special Marriage Act, often a convenient resort for parties of a Hindu-Muslim marriage, fails to qualify the spouses for inheritance benefits under their separate laws. This is often a detrimental scenario, particular for a child born of such wedlock. Therefore, regardless of how optimistic and liberal one is, partners of an inter-faith marriage are likely to be faced with a dilemma to covert to another religion, at least for the sake of their children.
Conversion is a common practice in India, and laws do not debar anyone from converting or re-converting. However, since religion is a sensitive issue, conversion is largely averted by the community.