Why a Muslim Woman Is Not Allowed to Marry a Non-Muslim Man
This question is often asked, and before we even get into any explanations of why this is allowed not not allowed, I want to say that for us Muslims, the bottom line is, are we willing to submit to Allah or not? Do we recognize that Allah is infinitely wiser than us, that He knows our inner natures, that He loves us and legislates for us in a way to make our lives easier? Do we believe in the Quran as the revelation of Allah? Do we believe in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the final Messenger? If the answers to these questions are yes, then we first must say, “I hear and I obey.”
Only after that can we ask for an explanation, not with the intention of challenging Allah, but with the desire to strengthen our faith, and see the beauty and wisdom in it.
There are many questions that are asked by those who wish to challenge the rules of Islam regarding marriage to non-Muslim men. Some of them are:
- What if the man agrees to raise the children as Muslims?
- What if the couple do not intend to have children?
- What if the man agrees not to stop the woman from practicing Islam?
- What if the woman is the dominant one in the relationship, or both are equal?
To each of these questions there are clear and obvious answers, and I have answered all of them at some point on our sister website, http://www.IslamicAnswers.com. But I’ll try Insha’Allah to put together a comprehensive article on the subject. Let me also point out that Muslim men must think very carefully about marrying non-Muslim women, and make sure that what they are doing is not haram. It’s not as simple as they may think. For more about that, see Muslim Men in the West Should Think Carefully Before Marrying Outside the Faith.
– Wael Abdelgawad, Zawaj.com Editor
Here is a fatwa on the subject from the scholars of IslamOnline.net:
Name of Mufti: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Muhammad `Ali Al-Hanooti
Topic: Why a Muslim Woman Cannot Marry a Non-Muslim Man
Name of Questioner: Zenab
Question: Dear Sheikhs, As-Salamu `alaykum. I would like to know why a woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man while a Muslim man can marry a Jewish or Christian lady? What is the wisdom of that? Jazakum Allah khayran.
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
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 would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.
First of all, it is to be stressed that Islam does not encourage the interfaith marriages. 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. The only exception is given to Muslim men who are allowed to marry the chaste girls from among the People of the Book.
However, a Muslim woman is better suited to a Muslim man than a woman of Christian or Jewish faith, regardless of her merits. This is because marriage is not based on fulfilling one’s sexual desires; rather, it is an institution. It aims to establish a home on the bases of tranquility, faith and Islamic morals. To fulfil this task, the whole family must apply Allah’s course and try to convey His message.
It is obvious that Islam made it impermissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim with aim of keeping her away from things that may jeopardize her faith. In fact, Islam aims at protecting religion. To achieve this goal, it prohibits a Muslim from being involved in something that represents a threat to his religion. A Muslim woman will not feel that her religion is secure while being with a Jewish or a Christian husband especially as the majority of the People of the Book do not show due respect to our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Allah Almighty says: “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! The guidance of Allah (Himself) is Guidance. And if thou shouldst follow their desires after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, then wouldst thou have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” (Al-Baqarah: 120)
Given the fact that the husband is generally the head of the household, it’s not far-fetched for a non-Muslim husband to prevent his Muslim wife from performing some Islamic rituals which may seem a nuisance to him, for example fasting, or even refraining from marital relations during the fast. As a result, he might force her to change her religion, and if she refuses, the situation may culminate in divorce.
As for why Islam allows a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, it’s clear that every Muslim believes in Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) and he holds all the Prophets of Allah in high esteem. Thus a Muslim finds no harm in his wife’s being a Christian or a Jew, for the spirit of tolerance Islam holds for other religions is ingrained in him.
In his response to the question you raised, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, member of the North American Fiqh Council, states:
“If Allah is the one who prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim, then we as Muslims are supposed to believe it and to take it. As a matter of faith, you cannot become a Muslim unless you accept everything when it is ordained by Allah or carried out by his Messenger. The Qur’an says, “O Ye who believe! Put not yourselves forward before Allah and His Messenger…” (Al-Hujurat: )
If you ask about the benefits of not marrying a non-Muslim, we can count you many reasons. A man is the manager of his household. He will persecute his Muslim wife in many dos and don’ts. She can hardly guarantee that kind of operation. Moreover, marriage is an institution for elevating our levels of having a good Islamic life. Pleasing Allah is our number one goal. If a woman is married to a non-Muslim, maybe the only thing she will accomplish in her marital life is what is good for livestock.”
Shedding more light on the question, we’d like to cite the words of the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, in his well-known book, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam:
“It is haram for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, regardless of whether he is of the People of the Book or not. We have already mentioned the saying of Allah, “…and do not marry (your girls) to idolaters until they believe…” (Al-Baqarah: 221)
And He said concerning the immigrant Muslim women: “Then if you know them to be Believers, do not send them back to the unbelievers. They are not lawful for them (as wives), nor are they lawful for them (as husbands).” (Al-Mumtahanah: 10)
No text exists which makes exceptions for the People of the Book. Hence, on the basis of the above verses, there is a consensus among Muslims concerning this prohibition.
Thus, while a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish man. There are many sound reasons for this difference. First, the man is the head of the household, the one who maintains the family, and he is responsible for his wife. And while Islam guarantees freedom of belief and practice to the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim, safeguarding her rights according to her own faith, other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, do not guarantee the wife of a different faith freedom of belief and practice, nor do they safeguard her rights. Since this is the case, how can Islam take chances on the future of its daughters by giving them into the hands of people who neither honor their religion nor are concerned to protect their rights?
A marriage between a man and woman of different faiths can be based only on the husband’s respect for his wife’s beliefs; otherwise a good relationship can never develop. Now, the Muslim believes that both Judaism and Christianity originated in divine revelation, although later distortions were introduced into them. He also believes that God revealed the Tawrah to Moses and the Injeel to Jesus, and that both Moses and Jesus (peace be on them) were among the Messengers of Allah who were distinguished by their steadfast determination. Accordingly, the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim lives under the protection of a man who respects the basic tenets of her faith, her Scripture, and her Prophets, while in contrast to this the Jew or Christian recognizes neither the Divine origin of Islam, its Book, or its Prophet (peace be on him).
How then could a Muslim woman live with such a man, while her religion requires of her the observance of certain worships, duties, and obligations, as well as certain prohibitions. It would be impossible for the Muslim woman to retain her respect for her beliefs as well as to practice her religion properly if she were opposed in this regard by the master of the house at every step.
It will be realized from this that Islam is consistent with itself in prohibiting the Muslim man to marry a mushrik (polytheist) woman, for since Islam is absolutely opposed to shirk (polytheism), it would obviously be impossible for two such people to live together in harmony and love.”
Muslim Men in the West Should Think Carefully Before Marrying Outside the Faith
Children have the right to be brought up in an Islamic environment by good Muslim parents. So Muslim men in the West should think carefully before marrying outside the faith.
Muslim men and women are told to seek faithful spouses with a strong, good belief, and not allow non-Muslim standards of selection influence them. Muslim men can marry only Muslim, Christian, or Jewish chaste women, while Muslim women can marry only chaste Muslim men.
Allah (s.w.t.) said:
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 have received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when you give them their marriage portions and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denies the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter. [Qur'an: Al-Ma'idah (5:5)].
A Muslim man is discouraged from marrying a non-Muslim woman if there is no Islamic State or if he is not living in an existing Islamic state, since the non-Islamic states do not recognize his rights as head of the family to raise the children Islamically. On the contrary, the children will most likely be brought up in their mother’s religion, since the Muslim husband does not have his Islamic rights in his non-Muslim wife’s country.
There are many tragic examples of Muslim men who tried to take their children to their Muslim countries after they divorced non-Muslim wives. The women in many of these cases succeeded in bringing the children back to be raised in the non-Islamic societies as non-Muslims. The fathers are referred to as kidnappers (of their own children) in the non-Islamic media. Unfortunately, even the governments in Muslim countries these days help the non-Muslim wives to get custody of the children. This is due to the absence of an Islamic state which would protect Muslim children from being kidnapped by non-Muslim wives to be raised as non-Muslims.
Muslim men should consider these issues before they marry non-Muslim women, especially when the man is strongly influenced by her physical appearance. A Muslim man should look to the future and consider his duties toward his children. The cases mentioned show clearly the damage that can be done to children in interfaith marriages, and while a personal sin may be easy to forget and repent from, one may never overcome the problems that arise because his children were raised as non-Muslims as a result of his negligence concerning providing the right spouse and community for them. Children have the right to be brought up in an Islamic environment by good Muslim parents.
The benefits of marrying a non-Muslim woman are minimal when both live in a non-Islamic state. The woman and her relatives would not see how Muslims live as a community, nor would they have close contact with family, should the Muslim man decide to marry her and live outside the Islamic State. Marrying a chaste Christian or Jewish woman in a non-Islamic state should be considered as a last resort and as the only alternative to keep him from falling into adultery. Men, however, should be aware of the fact that most women in non-Islamic societies do not qualify as chaste women in Islam, (i.e. abstention from unlawful sexual activities). Some Muslim men ignore these conditions and ignore the commands of Allah when they are misled and fooled by a smile from a non-Muslim woman.
Abdullah Ibn `Abbas, a famous companion of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and a famous scholar, said that Muslim men should not marry Christian or Jewish women from people who are enemies of Islam.
Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, a contemporary Muslim scholar, said that the Christian or Jewish women can be married only if the four conditions summarized below are satisfied:
- She must be Kitabiyyah, i.e. Christian or Jewish by faith, and not by virtue of birth into a Christian or Jewish family. Many women who live in Christian or Jewish societies today are atheists, Buddhists or Bahai’s. These women are prohibited for Muslim men. A woman who commits apostasy, by becoming a non-Muslim after being a Muslim, would not be allowed to marry a Muslim man, since apostasy is much worse than unbelief.
- She must be Muhsanah, which means chaste and virtuous. Women who are involved in illicit relationships with men are prohibited for Muslim men. Most non-Muslim women these days do not qualify as Muhsanat (chaste and virtuous women who abstain from sexual activities outside marriage), and Muslim men should fear Allah and keep this condition in mind.
- The woman should not be from people who are fighting Islam or are helping others to fight Islam.
- There should be no threat or possible harm from marrying her. For example, if a man’s children would not be raised as Muslims, he should not marry her. If the courts in a non-Islamic society would give the children to her in the case of divorce, then he cannot marry her, unless she agrees that he would have the children in the case of divorce.
Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi also said that Muslim men may not marry Christian or Jewish women if the Muslim community is a small minority in a huge non-Muslim society, and such marriages would make it impossible for Muslim women to find Muslim men to marry. This is classified under “limiting the allowed” in the Islamic jurisprudence. Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi used the example that if all people grew cotton instead of wheat, the government would have the right to stop them from doing so, since wheat is a necessary food ingredient, even though growing cotton is allowed in normal cases.
Non-Muslim women who repent and accept Islam are treated as any other Muslim if their acceptance of Islam is sincere and not merely for the purpose of marrying Muslim men. Islam forgives all that was before it. Some people, however, accept Islam by name only to marry a Muslim, without showing the least change in their lifestyles to prove that they are following Islam. One should not marry from such people.
There are many Muslim girls of a marriageable age who are living in non-Islamic countries, and it is the duty of the Muslim men to protect these girls from marrying non-Muslim men, which is absolutely prohibited in Islam. If Muslim men loosely practice their right to marry Christian or Jewish women, the Muslims girls in non-Islamic societies will be forced into unwanted circumstances and Muslim men will be at least partially responsible and will get their share of the punishment from Allah.
In considering marriage to a non-Muslim woman a man should remember that marriage is more than the private marital relationship. A good Muslim woman would provide her husband with total security, comfort, trust, tranquility, and happiness, and would raise the children as good Muslims. A man would not have to see his children taken to a church every Sunday without being able to prevent it or live with the concern that his wife would teach his children un-Islamic traditions. It is much easier to trust a Muslim woman than to trust a non-Muslim woman who does not fear Allah, and know that He is watching her all the time. And certainly a woman who does not fear Allah, who sees and knows everything, will not fear or obey her husband who is only home in the evenings.
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said:
A woman is chosen as a wife for her wealth, beauty, family, and faith. Win the one that has the faith or you would ruin your life. (Bukhari and Muslim).
The following verse from the Qur’an beautifully gives us the guidelines for selecting the right wife:
Allah (s.w.t.) said:
Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than a free woman who does not believe, even though the latter may appear very attractive to you. Al-Qur’an: Al-Baqarah (2:221)
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