Marriage between Muslims and nonMuslims


		by Arif Shamim Khan

In following discussion I will attempt to address the issues invloved in a
Muslim marrying a non-Muslim. I will first discuss the matter in the light
of religious laws and the opinions of scholars.

Then I will discuss the social aspects of family life and children in an
inter-faith marriage. The ideas in this part are based on my and my friends'
personal experiences in inter-faith marriages and may be at VERY odds with
your experiences or views on this matter.

Readers are encouraged to indicate any mistakes that I make here regarding
Islamic laws and teachings.

Note: References are provided at the end of this article.

There are several passages and verses in The Holy Qur'an regarding marriage
 and family that encourage Muslims to be married, if possible.  The Prophet
Muhammad (SAW) has even said that when a Muslim marries, he has fulfilled
half of the religious devotion and duties and then he should take care of
other half by being God-minded and aware of his obligations. [1]

Marraige is considered a religious duty in Islam and is enjoined upon all
believers who can afford it. It provides a moral safeguard and legal means
to develop relationship with the opposite sex and to extend the family. It
is both solemn and sacred above physical terms. It is not only a contract
between two persons committing themselves to eachother but it is a contract
to which God Almighty is made the first Witness. It is made with every
intention of making it permanent to the eternal success. Celibacy is NOT
recommended either for Muslim men or women.

"The motivating cause of union - matrimonial and carnal - between the
spouses is said to be love. This is a Qur'anic thesis that affirms the
primacy of love as the cause of marriage, not simple reproduction.
Nevertheless, the religious authorities, almost unanimously, interpret
marriage as primarily reproductive in nature and as a means of perpetuating
the species.

  .....Islam views the carnal act as not merely the source of pleasure but
also of as a source of "barakah" means that sexuality has apositive
conotations and is not associated with sin,.."[2]

The following issues must be observed when a marriage based on Islamic
priciples is desired[3]:

- Both parties should get familiarized sincerely with eachother without
getting involved in immoral acts or crossing boundaries set by Islamic moral
teachings. No party should attempt to deceive the other in this process.

- Woman should be chosen on the basis of their permanent values, such as,
high morals, religious devotion, and not merely on her attractiveness or
other mudane wealths.
The Prophet is reported to have said that a woman is ordinarily sought as
wife for her wealth, for her beauty, for the nobility of her stock, or for
her religios qualities; but blessed and fortunate is he who chooses his
mate for piety in preference to everything else. [4]

- Woman is encouraged to judge whether the man is actually worthy of her
respect, love and capable of providing her happiness in the whole life.
She should consider if her marriage to the man will be allow her to
fulfill the duties of a wife wholeheartedly.

- Woman has a right to demand dowry (gift) from the man that she feel
comfortable with. The man should meet her demands to show his willingness
to undertake to responsibilities of married life and his readiness and
capability to fulfill her justified needs.

- The consent of both man and woman is necessary condition for the marriage
without which the marriage is not valid.

- The marraige ceremony should be made as publicly known as possible and
should be celebrated in a joyful manner.

- The marriage ceremony should be held before atleast two adult witnesses
from the community and should be registered in official documents.

- The maintenance of the wife and family is husband's duty. The marriage
entitles her with these rights and imposes certain obligations upon both
parties. Any property which belongs to her before or during the marriage,
the man has no right to the wife's property during or after the marriage.
This issue relieves the marriage of certain materialistic objectives and
ensures the bond remain noble and beyond mundane greed.

The role of husband demands him to be bound by the promise to God to be
kind and patient toward her; to keep her honorably in the marriage or
otherwise free her from the martial bond honorably.[ Ref. Surah 2:229-232;

The wife is expected to work toward the happiness and comfort of her family.
Wife must be sincere toward the family and honest and loyal to her husband.
She should not deliberately avoid conception against her husband's will [1].
Both spouses should keep eachother's honor and protect and gratify
eachother with love.

When a marriage based on Islamic principles has irreconcilable differences
or irreparable damage done to the mutual trust, then as a last resort to
make the distasteful marriage end, divorce is applicable. Divorce has been
defined by the Prophet as the most detestable of all lawful things in the
sight of God Almighty. Scholars believe a final course must be followed
before a divorce is made final[5]:

- Both parties involved should try to reconcile the difference, settle the
disputes and solve the problems within themselves.
- If they fail to come to an agreement and solve their problems, then a
  person from husband's relations and the other one from wife's should
  arbitrate the situation.
- If both attempts fail and both parties agree, divorce can be applied.
- If after a divorce, a reunion occurs, it will be regarded as a fresh
  marriage. However, there can be no more than two reunions. The third
  divorce is a final one. In that case, the only possibility is that the
  woman need to marry another man after "iddat" (varies from 3-12 monthly
  periods for diff. opinions; See Surah 2:228), consummate the marriage and
  get divorced and remarry the first husband again after "iddat." (See 2:30).
  It allows a man to be thoughtful and composed in such serious matters and
  the marriage with another man allows a woman to evaluate if there are
  other men better than her first husband that she would like to be married.
  There is no compulsion in her getting divorced from the second husband,
  if she likes him better than the first one.
  [See also 2:224-232; 4:34-35; 4:127-130]

Some relatives that cannot be joined in a marriage are described in Surah
Nisaa 4:22-24.

The following are the positions of scholars and Islamic laws on marriages
bewteen Muslims and non-Muslims:


..... And give not (your daughters) in marriage to Al-Mushrikun** till they
believe in Allah alone and verily a believing slave is better than a (free)
Mushrik, even though he pleases you....[2:221]
** Al-Mushrikun=>Pagans, idolators, polytheist and disbelievers in the
Oneness of Allah and in His messanger Prophet Muhammad SAW) - [[6]]

Islam considers the husband head-of-the-family and therefore requires that
a Muslima cannot marry a non-Muslim because she will be under the authority
of a non-muslim husband. He may prevent her from carrying out her religious
obligations by either pressuring her or physically abusing her. But it is
not the sole reason for imposing the restriction. The situation is
considered very damaging for the woman to practise Islam afterwards and even
worse for the kids in such marriages.  There are NO conditions mentioned
under which a Muslim woman IS allowed to get married or remain married to a
non-Muslim husband after she has accepted Islam. Therefore, even if she has
freedom to practise Islam after marriage, she is NOT allowed to enter into
an inter-faith marriage.


The marriages between Muslim men and CERTAIN non-Muslim women is allowed.
However, certain restricitions exist on such marriages, especially if they
occur in non-Muslim lands where Islamic law and religion is not prevailing.

Here I am translating the "fatwaa" from Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Ludhianvi,
a well-known Muslim scholar from Pakistan, answering a question regarding
the shar'aii position of marriages in the US with non-Muslim women. This
question was asked by a Pakistani Muslim, living in the US, and it
appeared in Maulana's column that is published every Friday in a daily
newspaper, "Jang". He interprets the Islamic law as following:

1- Non-Muslim women, to whom Muslim men can marry, are the women from
Christian and Jewish religions who are residents of "Daar-ul-Islam****"
nations where Islamic law prevails) and who are thereby called, "Dhi'mmi"
(those who give Jazzia instead of Zakaat in an Islamic state??), but NOT
the residents of "dar al-kufr" (where the kuffar or non-Islamic rule exist).
To these women, marriage is allowed but is "mukrooh tanzihi." (I can't
translate it properly)

2- With Christian or Jewish women, who are resident of "dar a-harb"****,
the nikah (the marriage contract) will be valid, but will be a "mukrooh
Tahrimi" (worse than tanzihi) situation. The act which is "mukrooh tarhimi"
is so close to "haraam" (not permissible at all) that it is ALMOST "haraam"
and is "na'jaiz" ie. not legal. The man involved will be responsible for
committing an act which is so close to a state of "sin".
        **** Victor Danner describes "Dar al-Islam" as : the House of Islam,
        or the Islamic world; the Islamic community, where submission to the
        Divine Will reigns; Opposed to dar- al-harb ( the non-Islamic

3- It is required that the women should be practising their religion at the
time of marriage and they are not practically "Mulhid" (atheist). To any
women, who doesn't believe in God, religion, God's message and doesn't
practise any religion at all, the "nikaah" (marriage) will be INVALID and
according to "shari'ah" (Islamic Law), such a couple is involved in sin.

4- If any Muslim marries a woman from "People of the Books", the children,
by shar'iah (Islamic law) are considered to be Muslim. For instance, often,
in "dar al-harb," the kids adopt the religion of their mother; and,
sometimes, a marriage is arranged upon agreements between the couples that
half of kids will adopt mother's and the other half will follow father's
religion. If a Muslim man agrees to ANY of such terms accepting the kids to
be raised non-Muslims, the person will be regarded as a "Murtid" (the one
who has denied Islam) because he has allowed his kids to become "kaafir" who
may have been brought up in Islamic religion. Anyone who willingly and
knowingly allows/agrees for his kids to become "kaafir" is regarded as
"kaafir." He is out of the Islamic circle. If he had any Muslim woman in his
"nikaah" before this marriage, the Muslim woman is free from his bond
(because a Muslim woman can't remain married a non-Muslim).

5- Since some of our naive Muslim youngmen, living in the West, get married
to the christian women in their countries. And since, usually, the local
courts allow the women to get the custody of kids and the divorce settlement
in their favor, our youngmen are "khusar al-duniyaa wal'-aakhiraah", means
the wanderer or lost in this world and the Hereafter. Since, according to
sharia'ah, the "al-maa'roof ka'almashrrot", meaning whatever is prevailing
or common practise in the society is being accepted in a marriage contract.
It means a Muslim man, by getting married under these circumstances in these
countries, is knowingly agreeing that the woman may, in case of divorce,
gets the custody of the kids and is free to raise them afterwards as she

6- For all the above stated reasons, in non-Muslim countries, it is not
allowed for Muslim youngmen to marry Christian women. For the reason #3
(woman not practising a religion), the "nikaah" isn't even valid. Since the
reason #4, leads to "kufr" and he becomes "murtid", the marriage to any
Muslim wife becomes invalid. The reason #5 is not apllicable, if the local
laws do not usually grant custody to woman or if Muslim man hasn't agreed
to any "kufriaah" terms (such as accepting some kids to be raised as
non-Muslims). "Haaza ma' indee, wal'Allah ilm bis'swaab."

As it is clear, that Maulana Yousuf's position is extremely strict on the
issue of getting married to non-Muslim women in the West. But so is the
seriousness of such situations. A scholar at Dar ul-Noor hifz school and
Al-Farooq Masjid, Atlanta, Dr. Abdul Ghaffar, recommends that if a Muslim
is already married to a non-Muslima, he should REMAIN married to her. He
should be kind and passionate to her and facilitate her understand of true
Islam. He should reflect Islam in his character and encourage her to become
Muslim voluntarily before kids are born into such marriage. At that time, I
found out the Al-Farooq Masjid doesn't even administer ANY inter-faith

The best option under these circumstances is to introduce the woman to
Islam and WAIT for her to accept Islam before getting married. Imposing any
firm conditions of her accepting Islam before marriage will NOT do any good.
Because, if a woman is willing to accept Islam merely to get married to a
Muslim man that she likes, she will be most likely to leave Islam if the
marriage ends up in a divorce or even if the marriage becomes unpleasant for

It should be desireable that a woman accepts Islam solely for the reason
that she likes Islam. Any forceful acceptance of Islam is not likely to be
permanent nor very suitable for a happy marriage. If the woman is not a
Muslim by her own choice, then in case of divorce, she may leave Islam and
be free to date and marry a non-Muslim. Her new family may ultimately
decide how to raise the Muslim man's children. This situation should never
be acceptable to any Muslim man.


Marriages between Muslims and atheists are not permissible at all. In such
cases, the man or woman should accept Islam before entering into a shar'ai
legal "nikaah."

And do not marry Al-Mushrikats {idolatress, etc.} till they believe
(worship Allah alone). And indeed a slave woman is better than a (free)
Mushrikah {idolatress, etc.}, even though she pleases you. And give not
(your daughters) in marriage to Al-Mushrikun** till they believe in Allah
alone and verily a believing slave is better than a (free) Mushrik, even
though he pleases you. Those Al-Mushrikun invite you to the Fire {Al naar},
but Allah invites you to the Paradise and Forgiveness by His Leave, and
makes His Ayaat {proofs, evidences, lessons, verses, signs, etc.} clear to
mankind that they may remember. [Surah 2:221] [[6]]

"...... (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are
believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book revealed before
your time, when you give them their due dowries, and desire chastity, not
lewdness, nor sectret intrigues. If anyone rejects faith, fruitless is his
work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost
(all the spritual good)."  [Surah 5:5] <<< See the following two notes >>>

# A note[7] following the above passage further describes that  a Muslim
man can marry a woman from their ranks on same terms as he would marry a
Muslim woman, i.e. he must give her an economic and moral status, and must
not actuate merely by motives of lust and physical desires. A Muslim woman
cannot marry a non-Muslim primarily because her religious affiliation and
duties will be affected by the authority of her husband. A non-Muslim woman
marrying a Muslim man are expected to eventually accept Islam. Any man or
woman, from any race or faith, upon ACCEPTING Islam can freely marry any
Muslim, man or woman, provided the objective is purity and chasteness and
not lewdness.
## In the above verse, "People of Books" refers to the "followers" of the
religions who received God's message in the form of teachings by Prophet
Moses (AS) and Prophet Jesus (AS) before Islam. However, the term "people
of Books" by no mean refers to the present Torah or Pentateuch or The Bible
which were written by various authors decades and centuries after their
respective Prophets. The term "Books" therefore does NOT affirm in any
manner the validity of the present Bible (canonized in 325 AC) or Torah
(written over an uncertain period est. 1500-1350 BCE??) as God's message
as their followers vehemently argue and would like Muslims to take the term
"Book" for their Bible or Torah. The following note by Abdullah Yousuf Ali
is worth mentioning here:

Note #390: ...The Original Gospel (see Surah 3:48 below) was not the
various stories written afterwards by disciples***, but the real message
taught directly by Jesus (AS).
*** St Paul, author of almost half of the New Testament and the one annuling
Mosaic law, and Luke, to whom "Gospel According to Luke" is attributed,
were not even among the original 12 disciples.

"And Allah will teach him (Jesus (AS)) The Book and Wisdom, The Law and the
Gospel." [Surah 3:48]
   [This clearly indicate to THE Gospel given to Jesus (AS) and not to the
Council of Nicaea which decided, in 325AC, by vote, what The Bible canon
should be comprised of .]

"There is among them a section who distort the book with tongues; (As they
read) you would think it is part of the Book, But it is no part of Book;
and they say, "That is from Allah," But it is they who tell a lie against
Allah, and (well) they know it!" [Surah 3:78]

Note: Much has been already said on this topic on s.r.i.

According to Jews, a Jewish Mother gives birth to a Jew. As one of my
friend tells, this issue has caused problems especially in Israel where a
woman who married a Muslim man was exhorted by Jews and ultimately she
accepted Islam to avoid the pressure on her family. All the rules that
apply to christian women, so apply here as well.

[1]     Hammudah Abdalati, "Islam in Focus", pg. 114, American Trust
        Publications, Indiana.
[2]     Victor Danner, "The Islamic Tradition: An Introduction", pp.130,
        Amity House, New York.
[3]     [1] pp. 179.
[4]     [1] pp. 115.
[5]     [1] pp. 180
[6]     "The Holy Qur'an: Interpretation of the Meaning of  The Noble
        Qur'an in the English Language" A summarized version of At-Tabari,
        Al-Qurtubi, and Ibn Kathir with comments from Shahih Al Bukhari.
        By Dr. Muhammad Mohsin Khan & Dr. Muhammad Taqi-Ud-Din Al-Hilali,
        1993, Islamic University, Al-Madina Al-Munawwara, Maktaba
        Dar-Us-Salaam, Riyadh, KSA. Phone:4033962, Fax:4021659.
[7]     A Yusuf Ali, "The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and commentary",
        Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Ali Publishers and Booksellers, Lahore,
        Pakistan. 1939