Gautama Buddha married his first cousin, Princess Yasodhara. Buddhists have the most relaxed marriage laws of any religious faction. In fact, it may be more appropriate to say they have no marriage laws whatsoever. Buddhists see the institution of marriage, and nearly all matters of the heart, as very private matters, to be decided solely by each individual.
Some may find that surprising, as Buddhist monks live a life of celibacy. Yet, even that choice is made by the individuals out of a sense of personal dedication to serve others in spiritual aspects, not out of a prescribed religious duty or requirement. It is simply a lifestyle they have voluntarily chosen, just as vegetarians in some cultures have chosen to not eat meat.
While many may assume that Hinduism, like many other Eastern Religions, allows for cousin marriage, this is only half true. Hindus are divided into two separate and opposing schools of thought regarding cousin marriage.
The Dravidian Hindus of South India find marriage between cross-first cousins (the related parents of each cousin being a brother and sister) to be a preferred marital union. (Bittles book).
In contrast, the Aryan Hindus of North India strongly oppose consanguineal marriages within seven generations on the male side, and five generations on the female side of the family. (Kapadia 1958)
According to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the degrees of prohibited relationships in marriage includes first cousins, as well as marriages between an uncle and niece. This prohibition extends to those who are related by half or full blood, and adoption. Interestingly enough, the law also specifies that those who are illegitimately related, (resulting from non-marital affair) are included in the prohibition. One would routinely assume that since an illegitimate relative still carried the same genetic similarity as a relative born legally into the same family, that this would not need to be specifically addressed.
Even so, the law seems to go unenforced among the Dravidian Hindus. A study conducted from 1980 to 1989 in two major South Indian cities reflected that 21.3% of Hindu marriages were consanguineous. (Bittles, Shami and Appaji Rao 1992).
The Prophet Mohammad married his first cousin, Zaynab bint Jahsh. It should be no surprise that the Quran has no prohibitions against cousin marriage.
22. And marry not women whom your fathers married,- except what is past: It was shameful and odious,- an abominable custom indeed.
23. Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, Mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives’ mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful
24. Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.
Copyright Christie Schuler Smith for CUDDLE International and CousinCouples.com. Contributor: KC