Question # 301: My son wants to marry a Christian girl but feels awkward to tell her that she will have to embrace Islam before marriage. He gives me the reason that a Muslim can marry “people of the book”. My son is not a devout Muslim though he prays the Jumma prayer. In this context I feel that his progeny may not become Muslims since their mother (the Christian girl) might convert them to Christianity. My wife & I are insisting that our son first converts the girl to Islam & then the marriage takes place. Are we on the right track or should we let our son marry the Christian girl?
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: With respect to marrying woman from the People of the Book, the strongest opinion among the scholars, is that although it is allowed, such a marriage is disapproved as well as disliked; Islam encourages to marry Muslim women who are religiously committed. Marrying woman from the People of the Book can lead to a great deal of harm for one’s own religion as well as that of his children in the future. The danger is even greater today because there are very few pious and knowledgeable Muslim men. By marrying non-Muslim women, the Muslim is leaving his child under the guidance and leadership of a non-Muslim. Moreover, the non-Muslim in-laws may get involved and present their grandchildren with gifts or teach them manners that are Islamically not acceptable.
Even the scholars who allow it (and disapprove of it) have laid some strict conditions for its permissibility:
- She must be practicing her religion;
- The Woman must not be from Ahl al-Harb (those peoples who are war with the Muslims); and
- The Woman must be afeefah (chaste woman, i.e., refraining from zina (unlawful sexual relationships)).
Secondly, it is not permissible to force someone to become Muslim i.e., embrace Islam. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion”. As of now, she might embrace Islam because of her love for her Muslim husband and not as a result of true conviction towards the religion. In fact, it is better for your son to leave her and to pray to Allah to guide his heart to that which is in the best interests of his religion. So long as your son gives her up for the sake of Allah, then he should be certain that Allah will replace her for you with someone better.
Lastly, it should be remembered that whenever a non-Muslim woman is married to a Muslim man, at least one Muslim woman is deprived of finding a Muslim husband.
Long Answer: The question that “Is it Allowed to Marry a Woman from Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book)?” is a hotly debated issue, especially among many of the modem-day scholars who, apparently, have seen the evil results of being lax with respect to this question. The essential verses of the Quran related to this question are the following:
- “And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:221); and
- “Made lawful for you this day are all good foods. The food slaughtered by the People of the Book is lawful to you and yours is lawful for them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Book before your time, when you have given their mahr, desiring chastity not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as mistresses” (Soorah al-Maidah, 5:5).
There are a number of different opinions concerning how these two verses are to be reconciled. The first opinion is without a doubt the weakest opinion. This opinion states that the verse from Soorah al-Baqarah above abrogates the verse from Soorah al-Maidah above. However, it is well-known that Soorah al-Baqarah was one of the first soorahs to be revealed in Madinah while al-Maidah was one of the last. Therefore, this opinion seems to be far-fetched and cannot be taken into serious consideration.
Yet another opinion that must be considered a weak opinion is that of some Shafi’i scholars. According to them, one may only marry a Christian or Jewish woman who is descended from those who were Christians or Jews before their books were distorted or before their religions were abrogated by the religion of Islam. Otherwise, one may not marry such a woman because she is not, in reality, from ahl al-Kitab. However, this opinion has been responded to by Ibn Hajr in Fath al-Bari. While commenting on hadith in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) sent a letter to the Emperor of Rome, which contained the verse, “0 People of the Book, come to a statement that is just and fair between us…” ” Soorah al-Imran, 3:64). Ibn Hajr wrote, “Everyone who follows the religion of the People of the Book takes on same ruling as them with respect to marriage and slaughtering. This is based on the fact that Hercules and his people were not from the Tribes of Israel but were from the people, who entered into Christianity after it had already been distorted. He [the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)] said to him and his people, “O People of the Book” This indicates that they have the same ruling as the People of the Book, in opposition to those who say that it is just meant for the people from the Tribe of Israel or it refers to those who are known to have embraced Judaism or Christianity before those religions were distorted. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best.”
Another opinion, much stronger than the first, is that the verse from Soorah al-Maidah makes takhsis or particularizes the ruling of the verse in Soorah al-Baqarah. That is, polytheists are not allowed to be married yet an exception has been made for Jews and Christians while, without a doubt, Jews and Christians have been described as polytheists in the Quran. This is the clear opinion of Imam al-Shafi’i based on his own statement regarding these two verses. Among the Companions and Followers who held the view that it is permissible to marry such women are: Uthman, Talha, ibn Abbas, Jabir, Hudhaifa (from the Companions) (رضي الله عنهم) and Saeed ibn al-Musayyab, Saeed ibn Jubair, Mujahid, Tawus, Ikramah, al-Sha’bi, al-Dhuhak and others. This is the madhhab of Malik, al-Thauri, al-Auzai, Abu Hanifah and al-Shafi. The great faqih ibn al-Mundhir wrote, “It is not recorded from any of the early scholars that such is impermissible. ” (Quoted in Abdullah al-Ghumaari, Rafu al-Shakk wa al-Irtiyaab an Tahreem Nisaa Ahl al-Kuaab (Tanjah, Morocco: 1989))
Another opinion is that of Abdullah ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه). He was asked about a man marrying a Christian woman and he stated … Allah has forbidden the polytheistic women for the believers and I do not know of any associating of partners which is greater than for a woman to say that Jesus or any of Allah ‘s servants is her Lord.” Ata has also been reported as having disapproved such marriages. Continuing ibn al-Mundhir’s quote from above, he said, “But ibn Abu Shaibah recorded with a good (hasan) chain that Ata disliked marrying Jewish or Christian women.”
Furthermore, there is no question that Umar ibn al-Khatab (رضي الله عنه) was greatly against the idea of Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women. It has been narrated that, seemingly, on more than one occasion, Umar ordered a number of people to divorce their non-Muslim wives. All of them did so except for Hudaifah. However, Hudhaifah asked Umar if he could say that such a marriage is forbidden and Umar refrained from making such an explicit statement.
Among the proofs they offer is: If the evil of something is great, the evil of something leading to it being considered prohibited takes precedence over the benefit of that thing which would imply its permissibility. The problem with this argument is that such an evil should have also existed during the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and yet Allah has explicitly stated that such marriages are permissible. When invoking principles of this nature one must be very careful, especially if the conclusion contradicts something stated clearly in the Qur’an or hadith.
Secondly, when Allah talks about marrying polytheistic men or women in the verse quoted above from Soorah al-Baqarah, He says, “They call [lead] one to the Hell-fire.” This is true not just for non-People of the Book polytheistic women but it is also true for Jewish and Christian women. If this is the effective cause for the ruling concerning marrying from polytheistic people, it should also apply to the case of Christian or Jewish women. The problem with this argument is that one cannot make an analogy from one verse of the Qur’an to conclude something that contradicts what is clearly stated in another verse in the Qur’an. The second proof proves that the analogy does not hold in the other case.
Strongest Opinion: It is allowed but Disapproved and there are Some Conditions that Must be Met
There are a number of reports that show that even among those scholars who allow such marriages, they still disapprove of them. In many cases. they resorted to such marriages when they had no other recourse. Al-Baihaqi records in his Sunan that Jaabir ibn Abdullah (رضي الله عنه) was asked about marrying Jewish or Christian women and he said. “We married them during the time of the Conquests in Kufah, along with Saad ibn Abu Waqqaas. But we could hardly find any Muslim women there. When we returned [to the HijaazJ, we divorced them.”
There is no question that such marriages can lead to a great deal of harm for the Muslim. Abdul Aziz ibn Baaz pointed out that the danger is even greater today because there are very few pious and knowledgeable Muslim men. Furthermore, nowadays, he states, men are listening to and obeying their wives more and more. Hence, such a marriage could be very dangerous for his own religion as well as for the religion of the children. (Abdul Aziz ibn Baaz, “Fatawa,” Al-Dawah (No. 1593, May 28, 1997)
Hence, marriage to women of the People of the Book leads to a great deal of mischief and trouble, such as:
- A person who is married to such a woman may begin to accept the woman’s family and way of life. He may then become soft towards the disbelievers and may even end up defending them (verbally, for example) someday. He may have to be courteous to her at the expense of his religion, especially if she is “very committed” to her own religion. This may mean that she will hang up crosses and go to the church, and the children will not be safe in this environment.
- The mother is the most important figure in the raising of the child. By marrying non-Muslim women, the Muslim is leaving his child for most of its time under the guidance and leadership of a non-Muslim. While the husband is gone, he has no way of knowing what his non-Muslim wife might be teaching his child and what ideas she is putting in the head of the child. Furthermore, in-laws may get involved as they want to visit the child and give the child presents that are Islamically not acceptable or take them to places that are Islamically not acceptable.
- She is not going to wash properly after finishing her period, or tell him not to have intercourse with her when she is menstruating; she is going to make him do something that is wrong according to shari’ah and cause him physical harm.
- He is going to be put in an embarrassing situation because of her careless attitude concerning dress and her mixing with men and speaking to them.
- The states and governments of these women of the Book will be on their side and will give them custody of the children if differences arise and divorce takes place. This will cause these children to be lost and to fall into kufr. Such cases are too well known to need mentioning here and too many to count.
Whenever a non-Muslim woman is married by a Muslim it implies that one less Muslim woman may be finding a husband (since she is forbidden to marry a non-Muslim man). Obviously, this can have some damaging long-run effects on society as Muslim women are not able to find spouses. What happens on some occasions is that a Muslim man gets overtaken by the beauty of a non-Muslim woman. However, if this practice is allowed to continue, then it will force those Muslim women of weak faith to come out in public and mix with men and show to the men that they are just as beautiful as the non-Muslim women that they are seeing.
The conditions for Marrying such non-Muslim Women
Even those who allow it (and disapprove of it) lay down some conditions for its permissibility:
- She must be practicing her religion (See Abdul Aziz aJ-Rabeeah al-Zawaaj al-Naajih wa Mudhaar al-Zawaaj bi-l-Ajnaabiyyaat (published by the author, 1986);
- The Woman must not be from Ahl al-Harb (those peoples who are war with the Muslims). lbn Abu Shaibah records in his Musannafthat ibn Abbas stated. “It is not allowed to marry the women of the People of the Book if they are from the people fighting Islam.” Similar statements were also made by other early scholars.
- The Woman must be afeefah. There is a difference of opinion as to the exact meaning of the word muhsinaar in the verse from Soorah al-Maaidah. Some have said that it means that the woman must be a free woman as opposed to a slave. However, the stronger opinion seems to be that the woman must be a chaste woman. A Muslim is not allowed to marry a Jewish or Christian woman who is unchaste, who does not believe that fornication and adultery are bad and so forth.
(The above passage is from the book ‘Fiqh of Family, Marriage and Divorce’ by Jamal Zarabozo with excerpt from an answer provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)
Although it is permissible to marry women of the people of the Book, Islam encourages us to marry Muslim women who are religiously committed, because a Muslim’s life with his wife is all-encompassing and includes chastity, lowering of the gaze, and protection and care of the household and children. These and similar matters can only be achieved with a religiously-committed Muslim woman.
Secondly, it is not permissible to force her to become Muslim i.e., embrace Islam; Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taaghoot [falsehood, false gods] and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:256)
Ibn Katheer said: Allah says: “There is no compulsion in religion” meaning: do not force anyone to enter Islam, for it is obvious and clear, and its proof and evidence are apparent. There is no need to force anyone to enter it, rather whomever Allah guides to Islam and opens his heart to it and illuminates his insight will enter it with conviction; but whoever Allah makes blind in his heart and seals his hearing and insight will not benefit from being compelled to enter the religion by force. They said that the reason for the revelation of this verse was concerning some people among the Ansaar, even though this ruling is general. (Tasfeer Ibn Katheer)
The Muslim should be cautious about marrying a Jewish or Christian woman, or a woman who has become Muslim because of her love for her Muslim husband, for there is no guarantee that her becoming Muslim does not have to do with meeting her immediate needs and is not the result of true conviction regarding the religion that she has joined. This may have an effect on his life and the life of his children.
It is better to leave this woman and to pray to Allah to guide his heart to that which is in the best interests of his religion. So long as your son gives her up for the sake of Allah, then he should be certain that Allah will replace her for you with someone better, for whoever gives up something for the sake of Allah, Allah will compensate him with something better.
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) encouraged us to look for Muslim wives who are religiously committed. If a woman is Muslim but is not religiously committed and of good character, then the Muslim is not encouraged to marry her as well, because marriage is not simply the matter of physical enjoyment only, rather it is the matter of Allah’s rights and the spouse’s rights, and preserving his household, his honor and his wealth, and bringing up his children.
(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid 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.