Marriage to cousins is actually something Halal Tayib contrary to what a lot of people say. We mustn’t make something permissible impermissible. Ibrahim AS married his cousin Sarah the most beautiful woman who ever lived (the great-grandmother of Yusuf AS). Rasul Allah SAW the best of creation married his noble cousin Zaynab. It is one thing to say I am personally not inclined to marry my cousins as I grew up with them and see them as siblings and it is another thing to make that personal taste an absolute rule that you impose on others. Also forced marriages to cousins doesn’t make it wrong. It is the forced marriage that is wrong even if it is a distant stranger and not espousement of relatives.
One model for the principles of attraction is proximity, attractiveness, similarity and reciprocity. Let us see how each one applies to cousins or relatives.
1. Proximity We tend to form relationships with people who live near or somewhat near. Someone living in Nigeria is more likely to end up with someone in the nearby vicinity rather than someone in a faraway place like Zimbabwe. A lot of marriages are meeting someone at work, university, a social event, through a friend etc. Familiarity breeds love when there are no negative traits present. Getting constantly exposed to someone we like will increase love and comfort. That can apply to people who like their cousins. Knowing what to expect can produce comfort and peace of mind. When you love your relative and know them inside out that can be a reason for happiness and being at ease. A cup of coffee is drunk every day with the same amount of pleasure each day. There are things that don’t lose their pleasure upon constant exposure and in fact, increase the positive feelings towards it.
2. Attractiveness There is enough variation in cousins and relatives to make them different to us. A lot of the time our cousins are actually more attractive than distant people. In fact when someone says I would prefer to marry someone from my own race what they are saying is I want to marry a distant relative. Beauty can definitely be appreciated in cousins and relatives (so long as familiarity hasn’t bred contempt)
3. Similarity A lot of the time our cousins are very similar to us in upbringing, outlook, habits etc which can make a compatible marriage. Remember after passionate love the relationship will be comprised of companionate love and compassionate love. The latter is intimacy eg warmth, emotional connection, intellectual stimulation, trust etc and commitment- staying together no matter what the challenges are. Cousins can fit that nicely. Growing up together can breed contempt but it can also increase love. Even if you weren’t brought up with your cousin or relative the novelty can produce attraction when there is compatibility present. Cousins can be very good marriage partners especially in the second stage of marriage- companionate love and that is what the whole marriage will be based on after the initial fleeting stage of passionate love.
4. Reciprocity The family ties can produce a special type of mutual love and the difference in looks and features can cause ardent attraction- it can feel like marrying a distant stranger in that regard. That combination is powerful. You will know where you stand with your cousin (if you were brought up together). Sometimes it can be hard to find mutual love between cousins who love one another in other types of relationships. There is a lot we don’t know about strangers and there can be shocks that lead to divorce. With cousins who love one another these type of things should be less. Sometimes no one will love the person more than the cousin. Sometimes the female cousin will have a very special love for her cousin and sometimes the female cousin will have a very special place in the heart of the male relative. If someone marries their cousin out of their own choice they probably know what they are getting themselves into and they can expect mutual love.
Obviously, we are not talking against marriage to outsiders. That too has it’s advantages and at times it can be better than marriage to cousins. It is a case by case basis. Marriage to outsiders can also have all the principles of attraction (mentioned above). It is upon us to accept everything that has been made permissible in Islam. Islam has given us the choice to pick who we want to marry within what is permissible. If we want to marry our cousin or relative that is fine. If we want to marry an outsider that is fine. Marriage must be based on compatibility and chemistry. Marry the one with Deen and good character- that is the most important thing.
I ask Allah SWT to bless us with Iman and with good marriages based on affection and mercy