The consequences of a Shia-Sunni inter-religious marriage, including the treatment of the couple and their children (October 2003 - May 2005) [PAK100048.E]

A professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University who specializes in modern Islamic developments in India and Pakistan, including women's issues, stated in a 7 October 2003 telephone interview that intermarriages between Sunnis and Shias are less problematic in Pakistan than marriages between Muslims and Christians. Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims share the same faith and abide by the same five pillars of Islam (Professor 7 Oct. 2003). There are no rules forcing a woman to adopt her husband's particular branch of Islam (ibid.).

In practice, the marriage agreement between both spouses will determine whether the woman joins her husband's religious community and whether the children will grow up in that community (ibid.). In general, the children born into Sunni-Shia intermarriages are normally raised within the father's sect; however, there are cases where the children are brought up in the mother's sect (ibid.).

In 20 October 2003 correspondence, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Toronto-based Al-Eman Society of Canada (AESC), a registered charitable religious organization, who is also an authorized imam in the Shia faith, stated that, according to Islam, a newly wed Sunni woman does not have to convert to the Shia faith of her husband, and that is true for Pakistan. It is up to the wife to make the decision (Al-Eman Society of Canada 20 Oct. 2003). The Chairman also stated that "if there is pressure applied for the woman to convert, this is a different matter and has nothing to do with jurisprudence of either the Shi'a or Sunni [tradition]" (ibid.).

With respect to the religious upbringing of the children, the Chairman stated that it is a matter to be resolved by the mutual understanding of the parents (ibid.).

In 24 May 2005 correspondence to the Research Directorate, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that

[t]here is no legal discrimination against inter-religious couples or their children. As far as the social situation is concerned, it depends on the beliefs of their extended family or the circle they move in. The society in general does not discriminate against them.

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Reports of women being forced to convert religions, either to the Shia or to the Sunni faith, upon marrying a spouse of the opposite faith could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Al-Eman Society of Canada (AESC), Toronto. 20 October 2003. Correspondence from Chairman, Board of Directors.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Lahore. 24 May 2005. Correspondence.

Professor of Indo-Islamic history, and Urdu language and culture in India and Pakistan, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montréal. 6 October 2003. Telephone interview.

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), BBC, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004, Dawn, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom in the World 2004, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), International Religious Freedom Report 2004, Shia News, World News Connection (WNC).

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