Muslim Matrimonials and More

Articles and Essays on Marriage and Family in Islam


Marriage Between Muslims and Non-Muslims

by A. S. Khan

In the following discussion I will attempt to address the issues involved 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; 4:19]

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]:

  1. Both parties involved should try to reconcile the difference, settle the disputes and solve the problems within themselves.
  2. 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.
  3. If both attempts fail and both parties agree, divorce can be applied.
  4. 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 needs 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 until 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 to be the head of the family and therefore requires that a Muslimah 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.


Marriage with Christians and Jews:

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 Jizyah in an Islamic state), but NOT the residents of "Dar al-Kufr" (where the kuffar or non-Islamic rule exists). To these women, marriage is allowed but is "mukrooh tanzihi," or disliked. (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; as opposed to Dar- al-Har, the non-Islamic community.")

2- With Christian or Jewish women, who are residents 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 very close to a state of sin.

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 woman 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 the "People of the Book," 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 young men, 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 young men are "khusar al-duniyaa wal'-aakhiraah" meaning they have lost both 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 pleases.

6- For all the above stated reasons, in non-Muslim countries, it is not allowed for Muslim young men 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."

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 understanding 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 marriages.

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 her.

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.} until 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 until 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 be motivated merely by 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 the Book" refers to the true 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 the 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 "Book" 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 annulling 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 indicates 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, 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

Articles Muslim Matrimonials and More