A few hours after the decision was made public, it received criticism from the Ulema Council of the Muslim Spiritual Administration of Tatarstan — the region home to Russia’s largest Muslim population. Tatarstan’s DUM recalled that according to the provisions of the Hanafi legal school (a branch of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence common in Russia), Muslim men can marry Christian or Jewish women. “In matters of publishing theological conclusions it’s extremely important to try and maintain interfaith peace and harmony in the Russian Federation,” Tatarstan’s DUM underscored. Another influential organization refused to support the ban — Russia’s Muslim Spiritual Assembly, which operates independently of the DUM.
In turn, Mufti of Chechnya Salah-Hadji Mezhiyev approved of the decision, noting that this ban has always existed. “Everyone knows that in Islam [marriage] with non-Muslim woman is prohibited, there’s no need to discuss and talk about this, there are no disputes and disagreements on this issue,” Mezhiyev said.
That said, even the leadership of the Russian DUM has distanced itself from the ban. Deputy Chairman Damir Mukhetdinov pointed out that the Ulema Council is just one of the DUM’s bodies and has the right to an opinion that doesn’t correspond with organization’s general position, adding that the truth and correctness of this or that opinion is “left to the judgement of God.”
Mukhetdinov also underscored that Muslim believers are not required to comply with the decision opposing interfaith marriages. “Under the conditions of a secular state, the Ulema’s decisions have no power in the legal system’s reference frame, they appeal to the believer, his conscience, fear of God, and responsibility to the Creator,” Mukhetdinov said.