Responding to Zakir Naik about Cousin Marriage

In one of his conferences, Dr. Zakir Naik was asked about cousin marriage. Specifically, he is asked why is it allowed in Islam when it’s harmful? His response to this question was wobbly and today I am going to address it in this blog post. He also discusses eating meat, which I will address at the end.

The reason why I want to respond to Dr. Naik is to remove the veil of invincibility he has. He is seen by some Muslims as being an undefeatable soldier of Islam. But when you listen carefully, you will see how weak his arguments are. I’m going to show you this now.

When asked a very clear question: Why is it Islam allows for first-cousin marriages when modern science and medicine have shown us that this results in genetic defects Dr. Zakir Naik instantly launches into reciting a list of people who are permissible for one to marry. He does not address the issue at hand – first cousin marriages. At this point, we don’t really need Islam to tell us not to marry our aunties or our daughters. Thank you for the beautiful wisdom, Allah.

You might wonder “What stops you from sleeping with your family members under atheism?” Well, the same thing that stops most normal humans. We have evolved these instincts over millions of years. None of us have such desires unless we are messed up. And those same messed-up people will exist in the Muslim community too. They exist in all communities.

Instead of tackling the question at hand, Dr. Zakir starts this weird comparison of risk between direct relative marriages and first-cousin marriages. He does acknowledge that indeed  Islam gives permission for first-cousin marriages. However, he goes on to minimize the risks associated with such marriages claiming there is a VERY negligible risk. Not an issue he says!

When pressed by the questioner, our esteemed brother flexes his medical doctor title: Zakir Naik, medical doctor extraordinaire! But this is merely an appeal to authority. It does not make his arguments any more valid or correct. Rather, he is trying to force the questioner to accept his answers without providing sound logic/ reasoning just because he is a doctor.

Why is he comparing marrying cousins to marrying your daughter? That’s like saying smoking is bad BUT DOING COCAINE IS WORSE! Again, he is not directly answering the questioning but rather throwing out a word salad in the hopes that the audiences just agree with him without critically checking whether his reasoning is sound or not. The question was why are FIRST COUSIN MARRIAGES allowed in Islam not which type of marriage is less risker between first-cousin marriage and direct relative marriages.  

After meandering for a while Dr. Zakir Naik finally concedes that there are genetic problems in first-cousin marriages. Ohh, there are problems Zaaakkkir Naaaik? Interesting… Now how about answering why such marriages are allowed in Islam given all the scientific information that we know? Instead, he goes on to claim that such risks are only an issue when you have generation after generation cousin marriage.

Dr. Naik goes on to claim that repeated first cousin marriages are not allowed in Islam and cites a hadith to support his assertion. But here is the problem, this the first time I and a number of other people heard of such a hadith. So I decided to fact check the good doctor. I looked it up and found the following question where someone else asked for the reference for this exact hadith that Zakir Naik mentioned! So it wasn’t just me who was wondering if this was legit.

Someone posed this question on Islamweb: Shaykh, I saw a YouTube video of Dr. Zakir Naik regarding consanguineous marriage wherein he quoted Dr. Ahmad Sakr as saying, “Our beloved Prophet (sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘Do not marry generation after generation among first cousins.’” Shaykh, I want to know whether that hadith is authentic or not. Thank you very much


We have not come across any scholar who mentioned the hadeeth that you asked about in your question. However, some scholars stated that the ahaadeeth that are mentioned about the prohibition of marrying among relatives are not authentic.

On the SeekersGuidance  they mentioned the same thing:

Regarding these and similar narrations, the 7th century hadith specialist Ibn Salah said, “I found no reliable basis for them.” Many eminent hadith masters mentioned his statement and concurred, such as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Ibn Mulaqqin, and others.

It’s sad that Zakir Naik is straight-up lying here. He admitted there is a problem with repeated cousin marriage, and now is inventing hadith in order to save his religion from this flaw. Yet they accuse us opponents of Islam of using weak hadith. Here we have a supposed scholar of Islam whose one job is to know the religion using a made-up hadith to defend it!

Then he says even if you don’t marry your cousins you can have genetic issues in your children? This is embarrassingly bad logic now. First, he said, “it’s not as bad as sleeping with your direct children or parents”. Then he now says “You can still get issues even without marrying your cousins”

This is getting extremely stupid now. Zakir, yes there is always a small risk, but marrying your cousin repeatedly increases the risk substantially and is completely preventable suffering which can have devastating effects on your children’s lives. We are talking about something that’s completely avoidable. Look, if you knew you could avoid your child having a genetic disease that they suffer with for their whole lives, would you avoid it? Or would you risk their future for no good reason? This is something we now understand but was not understood back then. Lives can be altered and harmed through cousin marriage, yet it still continues in large numbers in certain Muslim communities. A doctor says: “Smoking causes cancer”
Dr. Zakir Naik says: “But brother! Even if you don’t smoke you can get cancer! So what now? We should all stop smoking?”

It seems that marrying your cousin once is actually not a huge risk. A New York Times article in 2002 stated “Few Risks Seen to the children of 1st cousins”. Marrying your first cousin adds a risk of a serious problem by 1.7 to 2.8%, and the risk is not enough to discourage this.

In regards to the issue of eating meat, the problem with what Dr. Naik said is the logic that he is using here – Red meat is bad, so is sugar. So is alcohol. Societies will always have to struggle with the balance between individual liberty and state involvement in saving people from themselves. Some would argue banning alcohol is a good idea. Some would say it’s an individual’s own choice if they want to drink. Society as a whole has to judge what the right balance is.

A complete ban on pork, on the other hand, doesn’t make a lot of sense at all. Domesticated meat like pork is no worse for you than eating cow or chicken. All forms of meat have similar risks and health issues. There is no good reason why pork should be banned and beef should be allowed. I for one learn ethically towards veganism. I think it’s a morally superior way, better for our health and safer for the planet. If we can survive without eating meat, I think it would be better to do so. I still eat meat, but I’m looking forward to modern meatless alternatives.

Interestingly, eating wild meat is riskier than eating pork. Wild animals may have viruses that are not known to humans and there is an additional risk of being in close contact with them. We are now in the middle of a global health crisis that was most likely caused by the consumption of bushmeat at the Chinese wet food market. In particular, it seems that bats were the cause. There is nothing IN ISLAM that would have prevented this global health crisis because Islam allows you to eat most meat.

In this IslamQA article, it states that the only types of flying animals that one cannot eat are those with talons and fangs. So bats are okay.

There is a strange rule in Islam that comes from the hadith that one cannot eat that which is “off-putting” (i.e. nasty). IslamQA states “There is a difference of opinion among the scholars as to what constitutes off-putting, which there is no room to discuss here.”
It’s very odd indeed to have such a subjective rule like this. Are locusts disgusting or nasty? Some would say yes. But some cultures eat locusts! And they are perfectly healthy and safe. In fact, insects might be the next best form of protein for our modern world.

Muhammad never even taught his followers to use soap. Or to make sure meat is cooked fully. Nothing at all. Just ritual sacrifice to Allah. Because apparently, Allah is jealous that we humans slaughter in other god’s names! The worldwide hajj that happens every year causes so much killing in such a short time that many Muslim cities have blood flowing in the streets. Not what I would call ideal. But then again, religion was never about common sense. It was never about cleanliness. It was about control. and submission. To submit to Muhammad.

Everything about Islam when you put it in perspective falls in line with ancient pagan practices. But modern Muslims have reinterpreted it to be something totally different. Halal now somehow means ethical. It doesn’t. It’s simply a ritual animal sacrifice. That’s all. It’s no healthier whatsoever. The meat is indistinguishable in taste from non-halal. I know, I’ve had both. You can’t tell the difference.

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