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Verses on Interfaith Marriage: Still Binding?

Question and answer details
Hasna'
Verses on Interfaith Marriage: Still Binding?
2006-05-24
Scholars of Islam, as-salamu `alaykum wa rahamatu Allah wa barakatuh. We have heard some people saying that a Muslim woman can marry a non-Muslim man without leaving Islam because the verse that prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men was confined to the early time of Islam. What is your opinion in this regard?   Also, we have read in the news that a Muslim Sudanese girl has married a Christian Ethiopian man in a ceremony backed by a controversial religious edict by a local scholar allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. What do you, Muslim scholars, say on this?
Muzammil Siddiqi
Faysal Mawlawi
Answer

Wa`alykum As-Salamu Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear sister in Islam, we are greatly impressed by your question for it’s related to the affairs of our fellow Muslims. We seize the chance to earnestly implore Allah from the depths of our hearts to lead all perplexed men and women to the light of Islam, the true religion of Allah.

First of all, it should be crystal clear that the Qur’an is Allah’s guidance to people in every time and place, even the Qur’anic verses which were revealed in certain occasions during the Prophet’s lifetime are to be applied according to the general meaning of the text, irrespective of the particular cause of revelation. In the same vein, no one has the right to assume that some verses of the Qur’an were confined to the early time of Islam except with a solid evidence based on the Qur’an or the Sunnah.


As for the issue of a Muslim girl marrying a non-Muslim man, there is no way to justify it. This has been categorically forbidden by the Qur’an: [… Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise] (Al-Baqarah 2: 221).


All Muslim jurists have unanimously agreed that this kind of marriage is forbidden. Violating the consensus (ijma`) of the Muslim scholars is not acceptable under any pretext.

 

Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, Deputy Chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, states:

This is totally untrue. Muslim scholars of all ages agree that a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man. This is proven by the following Qur’anic verses:

[… Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise] (Al-Baqarah 2: 221).

[O ye who believe! When believing women come unto you as fugitives, examine them. Allah is best aware of their faith. Then, if ye know them for true believers, send them not back unto the disbelievers. They are not lawful for the disbelievers, nor are the disbelievers lawful for them] (Al-Mumtahinah 60: 10).

The overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars hold the view that if it happens that a non-Muslim woman embraces Islam while her husband remains non-Muslim, she is to leave him and separation should occur. In this specific case, some Muslim jurists hold the view that she can keep on living with him without having intercourse so long as he does not persecute her and she hopes hat he may embrace Islam one day. Another opinion is that such a woman can remain at her non-Muslim husband’s house while holding all duties and responsibilities so long as she expects his conversion and the conversion of the children. Those two opinions still go in contrary to the mainstream of Muslim scholars and it’s somehow confined to a specific case, namely when a woman embraces Islam when she is already married to a non-Muslim.

In contrast, a Muslim woman is, according to the consensus of Muslim scholars, never permitted to marry a non-Muslim man. Falling into this sin is tantamount to committing adultery. Yet, it falls short of apostasy. As for claiming that the verse(s) forbidding a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim is (are) confined to the early days of Islam, this is not true. All the Qur’anic verses address all Muslims until the day of Resurrection and they are to abide by the rules imbedded in them as far as they can. The verses forbidding Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, is for all people at all ages.

 

Focusing on the question of interfaith marriage, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America, states:

As far as the interfaith marriages are concerned, Islam does not encourage them. The general rule of Islam is that Muslims should marry Muslims. A Muslim male or female should not marry a non-Muslim male or female. Allah Almighty says: [… Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise] (Al-Baqarah 2: 221).

The only exception is given to Muslim men who are allowed to marry the girls from among the People of the Book. Allah Almighty says: [This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when ye give them their marriage portions and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denieth the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter] (Al-Ma’dah 5: 5).

For the satisfaction of your heart, let me explain why Muslim men are allowed to marry women from among the People of the Book and why Muslim women are not allowed to do so.

First of all, it is not an honor or a privilege to marry a non-Muslim. It is a burden and a big responsibility. It is better to abstain from such marriages. Muslim men who are living in non-Muslim countries in particular should not marry non-Muslim women. However, man being the head of his household is more capable to handle the needs and problems of his non-Muslim (Christian or Jewish) wife. Muslims believe that Moses and Jesus (peace and blessings be upon them all) were Prophets of Allah and so they give them full honor and respect.

Jews and Christians do not consider Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as the Prophet of Allah. Thus they are unable to give the same respect and honor to him and to his followers. A Jewish or Christian woman with a Muslim husband will be in a much better position than a Muslim woman with a Jewish or a Christian husband. Even then, there are many non-Muslim women who married outside their faith say that they wish their religion too had forbidden them, because they know how difficult and hard it is to be the wife of a husband who has a different faith.

A Muslim woman should know that Allah has really honored her and made it easy for her by not allowing her to marry a non-Muslim man.

According to the Qur'an, the husband is the head of the household and his wife should obey him. Allah does not put the Muslim woman in a position that a non-Muslim becomes her head in her own private life. Allah has spared her to suffer from being under the authority of a non-Muslim husband.

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