Essay:Consanguinity in the Muslim World

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Consanguineous marriage is common in a large majority of the world's Islamic populations.[1] In particular, many Arab countries display some of the highest rates of consanguineous marriages in the world ranging around 20-50% of all marriages, and specifically favoring first cousin marriages with average rates of about 20-30%.[2]

Consanguinity according to Islam[edit]

In Islam marriages between first cousins are not forbidden.[3] Two additional factors specifically apply in Islamic society: the belief that in contracting a first cousin marriage of the type father's brother's daughter, the marriage partners benefit from the comparability in status of their respective fathers, and the fact that two of the wives chosen by Muhammad were biological relatives, and he also married his daughter Fatima to Ali, who was his ward, with the son of his paternal uncle.[4]


Prevalence of marriages up to and including distance of second-degree cousin in 2012 (left)[5] and percentage of Muslim population in 2010 (right)[6]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Saudi Arabia reportedly has the highest rate of consanguine marriages in the world with 55% of all marriages consanguine and 30% between first cousins.[7] By country, Saudi Arabia has the second highest level of birth defects (following Sudan).[8]


In Pakistan, were population is 96.5% Muslim,[9] consanguineous marriage is reported to be higher than 60% of the population in 2014.[10] Also, BBC reports that an estimate if at least 55% of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins, and that British Pakistanis are 13 times more likely to have children with genetic disorders than the general population. Precisely, they account for just over 3% of all births but have just under a third of all British children with such illnesses.[11]


A 2000 study on Indian Muslims, reported that overall 22% of marriages were found to be contracted between spouses related as second cousins or closer, ranging from 15.9% in the eastern states to 32.9% in the western states of India. Also, the study found no evidence of a significant change in the prevalence of consanguineous unions over the course of the study period, which extended from the late 1950s to the early 1990s.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bittles, Hussain (2000). "An analysis of consanguineous marriage in the Muslim population of India at regional and state levels". Annals of Human Biology. 
  2. Tadmouri et al. (2009). "Consanguinity and reproductive health among Arabs". Reproductive Health. 
  3. Islam Online; Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Islamic View on Marrying Cousins. (archive snapshot)
  4. Bittles (1994). "The Role and Significance of Consanguinity as a Demographic Variable". Population and Development Review. 
  5. Hamamy (2012). "Consanguineous marriages: Preconception consultation in primary health care settings". Journal of Community Genetics. 
  6. "Table: Religious Composition by Country, in Percentages". Pew Research Center. 2012. 
  7. Saudis 'unaware of high birth defect rate' by Joshua Hoey (10 March 2015) al-Arabiya.
  8. Global Report on Birth Defects: The Hidden Toll of Dying and Disabled Children by Arnold Christianson et al. (2006) March of Dimes, page 3.
  9. "Religious Composition by Country, 2010-2050". Pew Research Center. 
  10. Sthanadar, Bittles, Zahid (2014). "Civil unrest and the current profile of consanguineous marriage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan". Journal of Biosocial Science. 
  11. "The risks of cousin marriage". BBC. 2005.