Can a parent refuse a proposal from a good Muslim for his daughter on the basis that the suitor is not of the same race/caste?
In chapter 49, verse 13 is the most universal doctrine of human equality and brotherhood: “Oh humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and then rendered you into nations and tribes so that you might know one another. Indeed the most honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is most pious.”
There is a wealth of ahadith quoted by Al-Qurtubi in his commentary on this Qur’anic verse where the messenger of Allah condemned outright any racial impact on the Islamic society. For the very reason we come across many examples of people who, from a racial view, were not considered equal to Arab women marrying among the high tribal class. Bilal married the sister of AbdurRahman ibn Awf. Zayd was married to one of the noble ladies of the tribe of Quraysh and so on.
But customs die hard and no sooner are they abolished, they start to reappear again. Salman al-Farsi proposed to the daughter of Umar, the khalifa. He accepted. His knowledgeable, pious son and great companion of the Prophet(SAW) was upset. He complained to Amr ibn Al-Aas. Amr said, “Leave it to me and I will get him to retract from that.” When Amr met Salman he said to him, “Congratulations. It came to my knowledge that the Commander of the Faithful humbled himself and accepted to give you his daughter in marriage.” Salman felt slighted by this and thought and retorted, “By Allah, I will never accept to marry his daughter!”
Al-Hajjaj, the brute of the Ummayyad era married the daughter of Muhammad ibn Ja’far, Abdul Malik, the Ummayyad king was furious. He said to Muhammad, “You gave one of the noble of Qurayshite women to a slave from Thaqif!” and he ordered Al-Hajjaj to divorce her.
So this social attitude is very difficult to abolish outright. It does not make a difference whether the parents are well educated or unlettered. In the new environment of living in Britain the situation may ease gradually. However, young educated people who find themselves locked in such situations have to be patient to advance their case. Failing that, I would advise them to read my article, “Guardianship in Marriage’.