Question # 193: As salaam u alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu. A Muslim woman married to a Christian man, but the husband continues to practice Christianity and the Muslim wife seldom offers salaat. They now have a girl child. Although nikaah was done, church marriage was also done next day. As I understand from shariah point, the relationship is haraam and the marriage is null and void. What is the status of the child? What corrective measures should be taken to make relationship and the off-spring valid/halal as per shariah? Should we socially boycott them though the Muslim lady is related to us?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: The Muslims scholars are unanimously agreed that it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim. Hence, if a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim, knowing this Islamic ruling, then she is an adulteress and if she was ignorant of the ruling then she is excused; but the husband and wife must be separated and there is no need for a divorce as their marriage is null and void per se. Even though this marriage does not carry any weight and is annulled in and of itself, it is essential for the woman to get the official divorce to settle her legal situation and avoid any obstacle in entering into an Islamic marriage in the future. However, if the man wants to remain married to her, he should become Muslim and enter into a new marriage contract with her.
As for the children from this marriage, if they both believed the marriage to be valid, because of their ignorance of the laws of Allah, then children are to be regarded as legitimate; but if they were aware that this marriage was prohibited, then the children are regarded as illegitimate and attributed to their mother only. The children are not to be blamed or put to shame for their parents’ sin.
Long Answer: The Muslims [scholars] are unanimously agreed that it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim, whether he is Jewish, Christian or anything else, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And give not (your daughters) in marriage to Al-Mushrikoon till they believe (in Allah Alone) and verily, a believing slave is better than a (free) Mushrik (idolater, etc.), even though he pleases you. Those (Al-Mushrikoon) invite you to the Fire, but Allah invites (you) to Paradise and Forgiveness by His Leave, and makes His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) clear to mankind that they may remember” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:221) and he (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “…then if you ascertain that they are true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them” (Soorah al-Mumtahanah, 60:10).
[The possible reason for this ruling is that] it is well known that the husband is in charge of his wife (qawaamah) and his status within the family is higher than that of his wife. Perhaps, this higher position may make him force his wife to leave her religion and follow his, or it may influence her to do that, and this is something that Islam cannot accept. The higher status held by the husband may also cause the children… to follow their father’s religion, which is a great error, if these offspring grow up and do not follow the final religion of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). [If we know that one of the main goals of Islamic rules and regulations is to conserve the commitment of Muslims to their religion, then it should be no wonder that a Muslim woman is strictly prohibited from marrying a non-Muslim man.] The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said; “Islam prevails and is not prevailed over.” (Narrated by al-Daraqutni and others; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’)
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak said: “… If a Muslim woman marries a [non-Muslim] when she knows the ruling, then she is a zaaniyah (adulteress), and her punishment is the punishment for adultery. If she was ignorant of the ruling then she is excused, but they must be separated, and there is no need for a [talaaq] divorce because the marriage is null and void… [in the first place]”
Note: Even though this marriage does not carry any weight and is annulled in and of itself, it is essential for her to get the official divorce …so that her legal situation will be settled, and so that she will have no obstacle to entering into an Islamic marriage in the future.
[Further, after separation] …the woman… must hasten to leave this non-Muslim man immediately, and she must repent to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and ask Him to forgive her for what she has committed of this grave evil. It is not permissible for her to remain with him for a moment longer, or allow him to be intimate with her at all… [Secondly, if the man wants to remain married to her,] …he should become Muslim and do a new marriage contract with her, because the previous marriage contract is invalid according to Islamic teaching. [If the man embraces Islam, this is enough and acceptable from Islamic perspective because it is what’s apparent, and we are commanded to judge by that, whereas Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) assumes judgment over what’s within and didn’t oblige us with opening people’s hearts.]
[As for the children from this marriage,] …if both [man and the woman] believed that this marriage was valid, because they were ignorant of its prohibition in the laws of Allah, then children of this marriage are to be regarded as legitimate, because they did not know the ruling on the marriage contract and they believed it to be valid. But if they were aware that this marriage was prohibited, then the children are not to be regarded as legitimate.
It also says in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (22/34): With regard to the illegitimate child, he is to be attributed to his mother, and he comes under the same rulings as any other Muslim if his mother is a Muslim. He is not to be blamed or put to shame for his mother’s crime or the crime of the one who committed zina with her, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden” (Soorah Faatir, 35:18)
(The above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid and fatawa from the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America on the topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.