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Why Muslim Women cannot marry Christian/Jewish Men


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Inter-Faith Marriages for Muslim Women

 

Questions and statements such as the following are often raised by non-Muslims and unfortunately some Muslims too:

 

 

Since Islam permits Muslim men to marry the "women of the book" i.e. Christian or Jewish,  why are Muslim women not permitted to marry a non-Muslim men?

 

Islam is biased against women!

 

Women are treated unfairly in Islam!

 

 

InshaAllah, in the following articles, these misconceptions will be cleared.

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Interfaith Marriages: Why can’t a Muslim Woman marry a non-Muslim Man?

 

By Ebrahim Saifuddin

 

People often ask the question that if Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women, why Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men. Firstly it is important to point out that Muslim men are not allowed to marry any non-Muslim women. The only people with whom the Muslim man is allowed to marry are from the People of the Book i.e. those who have faith in the previous revelations informed by Allah (swt).

 


“… (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 ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).”

– [Qur'an 5:5]

 

Also from the Qur'anic Ayah it is important to note that lawful are not all the women among the People of the Book but only the chaste ones. Apart from these, a Muslim man is not allowed to marry any other woman. Hence the question asked by people should be rephrased into ‘why can’t a Muslim woman marry from among the People of the Book?’

Islam being a complete way of life gives us the minutest details of how to live our lives and the roles we have in society. Man by nature tends to be dominant and woman by nature tends to be compromising. This is a fact which cannot be denied. Some women might claim that they are more dominant in their marriage etc and hence it is not always true that men are dominant. Even if I do agree that there are some women who are more dominant as compared to their husbands, these still are rare cases. Like two in a thousand and thus a minority. Islam is a universal religion and thus needs to secure people at a global level and thus in certain issues its rulings are based on the majority rather than minority.

One might ask here how Islam is securing the woman by its rulings on this matter. Primarily Islam teaches us to believe in all the prophets علیھم السلام that were sent by Allah(swt) to Mankind. Thus a Muslim by default believes in Jesus and Moses علیھما السلام. On the other hand, the Christian does not believe in Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the Jew does not believe in Muhammad ﷺ nor Jesus علیہ السلام as prophets of Allah(swt). This is a very important point because a Muslim man would by default respect the prophet which his non-Muslim wife believes in but a non-Muslim man would not believe or respect the prophet which his wife believes in. After the couple has children, the non-Muslim wife would teach their child to love and respect the prophet she believes in. The Muslim man would certainly not object if his child is being taught to love Jesus or Moses علیھما السلام. On the other hand the non-Muslim husband might object when his Muslim wife would teach their child about Islam.

 

It is highly likely for the man to teach his children the religion he follows. A non-Muslim man with a Muslim wife would then teach their child to be a Christian or Jew. This would mean that the mother would have to be a witness to her child being led onto the wrong path. In such a situation the mother might retaliate by teaching her child the Islamic values and principles. This in turn would lead the relations between the spouses to turn sour. This could also lead to domestic violence.

The United States is a country which is most vociferous regarding rights of individuals. In a survey carried out by The Commonwealth Fund in 1998 and it was seen that there was an estimated 960,000 cases of domestic violence. They stated that around one-third of the American women report being physically or sexually abused by their husbands or boyfriends. Moreover they add that around thirty percent of the American people claim that they know of a woman who was abused physically by her husband or boyfriend. These are the realities which one tends to overlook when they speak about Islam being unfair to the Muslim woman. Further the non-Muslim spouse could end up divorcing his wife, which would lead to trauma for the Muslim woman and the children.

The non-Muslim husband would naturally not recognize Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to be a prophet of Allah(swt) and might object to the Islamic practices of his wife. He could object to the hijab which the wife would wear. He could want the wife to dress more ‘moderately’ especially when accompanying him to a party. Moreover he could ask the wife to sit with him while he consumes alcohol. The husband could want the wife to serve alcohol for him and a couple of friends after dinner. It is a huge sin in Islam for a person to have anything to do with alcohol. Moreover the husband could want to eat pork for lunch or dinner and could ask the wife to cook it for him. Again this is something not allowed for a Muslim to do and thus would cause trouble in the family. The husband could find it okay for him to drink where his wife is offering prayers. It could be okay for the husband to keep a pet dog inside the house. This is another thing which is not allowed by Islam but the non-Muslim husband might not understand it. As it can be seen, there can be a lot of issues which can arise between the marriage of a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man.

It is also important to point out that the non-Muslim man could later on, either of himself or out of pressure from his family, compel the Muslim woman to accept the faith he follows. On the other hand, a Muslim man respects the People of the Book and is under strict instructions from Allah(swt) not to compel his wife to change her faith. Hence the rights of a non-Muslim wife are secure and protected in the house of a Muslim man whereas it is not necessarily the same in a vice versa situation.

One might say that it could also be possible for a non-Muslim wife to disrespect the Muslim husband’s beliefs as well. What is interesting is that such a case is highly unlikely to occur because of the teachings present in the books of the People of the Book. The Bible tells us that when Eve committed the sin, the punishment she received from God was:

 

To the woman he said,


“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;


with pain you will give birth to children.


Your desire will be for your husband,


and he will rule over you.” – [Genesis 3:16]

 


Thus to the women of the People of the Book, their scripture teaches that their husband will rule over them and they are not to speak against them as the husbands are given this position by God. It should be noted here that such a concept does not exist in Islam and both Adam and Eve are blamed equally for the sin they committed. For details on that issue refer to my article “Original Sin or Original Forgiveness – What is the lesson?”

Now let us further see what the religious scriptures, of the People of the Book, teach. They state that the wives are to submit to their husbands just as they submit to God. The wife is told to submit to their husbands just the way the church submits to Christ.


 

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. – [Ephesians 5:22-24]

 

 

Another verse that is important to mention is as such:


 

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. – [1 Peter 3:1-2]

 

 

As one can see that the women of the People of the Book are told to completely submit to their husbands regardless of whether the husband believes in the word or not. To them the husband has been given a position by God to rule over them. Thus it is highly unlikely for her to disrespect her husband. At the same time the non-Muslim man comes from the line of thought that they are in this world to rule over their wives and that their wives should submit to them like they would submit to God. Hence it is highly likely for there to be clashes between the marriages of non-Muslim men with Muslim women.

However this would further give rise to another question which people could ask. They could say that Islam teaches the wife to be respectful towards her husband so then there should be no clash between a Muslim wife and her non-Muslim husband. This line of argument would hold to be true only if the husband was given a status above God in Islam. That is of course not the case and Islam asks for complete submission to Allah(swt) and then come other responsibilities. Islam stresses on Muslims to respect their parents yet Muslims are not supposed to follow their parents’ orders if they are contrary to the teachings of Islam. Similarly a Muslim woman is not to follow what her husband says if it is contrary to the teachings of Islam.

Thus keeping all the factors in mind any Muslim woman would agree that she is better off marrying a Muslim man as opposed to a non-Muslim man. Allah(swt) has Absolute Wisdom and thus He has set laws which are only better for us. We, being humans, have limited wisdom which is negligible in front of Allah(swt) and thus at times we might not be able to comprehend the true reason why certain things are forbidden in Islam. Allah(swt) does know that many would not recognize that which is bad for us and thus He says in the Quran:


 

But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not. – [Quran 2:216]

 

 

In the end, it is important for us to realise that as we accept Allah(swt) as our Creator, we bring belief on to what He has decreed for us and accept that to be in our best interest. Thus we hear and we obey. The reasons which were stated in the article are not absolute but the wisdom of Allah(swt) is Absolute. Thus, hypothetically, if we are to say that all the reasons stated above are invalid today, still the ruling of Allah(swt) remains and we are to obey it.

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Question
Can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man?
 

Is it permissible and is there any leeway in Sharia for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man? Recently in the UK some Imams and so called ‘Islamic scholars’ have permitted interfaith marriages and claim it is permissible in Islam.

 

Jazakallah.

 
 
Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

 

Ibn Sireen rahmatullahi alayh made a comprehensive and apt statement regarding authentic knowledge and its importance for a Muslim. He says:

 

إن هذا العلم دين فانظروا عمن تأخذونه

 

Translation: “This ilm (knowledge) IS deen (religion) so watch who you obtain your knowledge from.”

 

A persons actions are directed by his knowledge and understanding. If one has the correct understanding of Deen, his actions will follow in the correct direction. If his understanding is incorrect, his actions too will be incorrect.

 

It is therefore important to search for reliable and authentic Ulama and seek knowledge from them. The sign of a true Alim is mentioned in the Quran: Allah the Almighty states:

 

إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ

(35:28)

 

“Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge.”

 

This means that for a person to be a true, reliable scholar of Deen, it is necessary that he have the fear and awareness of Allah the Almighty embedded in his heart. The knowledge and religious information one possesses is of no value without the consciousness and awareness of Allah Ta’ala. Amongst the various reasons for this, one is that a person who has the fear and awareness of Allah Ta’ala embedded in his heart, he will be honest and truthful when it comes to imparting his knowledge; he will not blur the lines between Haq and Batil (truth and falsehood) for his gain or another person’s gain. A person who fears Allah will not say anything about Shariah he does not know. He exercises extreme caution in issues of Shariah. The “Islamic scholars” you refer to in the question are not the type of scholars Allah refers to in the Quran. Being scholars does not mean they are Ulama with authority on Shariah. Such people should be vetted by Ulama of Haq to fall in the category of Ulama.

 

Any true and reliable scholar would know that it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man of any other faith.[ii] Allah Ta’ala has designed some laws different for men and women. Among them are polygamy and marriage to non-Muslims. Allah Ta’ala is our Creator and He knows what is best for a male and female. He knows the temperament and nature of both and accordingly designated laws that are best for them. We are the slaves of Allah Ta’ala and simply submit to the laws of Allah Ta’ala.

 

The ‘scholars’ you refer to claim that the Quran has not prohibited Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. Moreover, if men are permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women (Ahlul Kitab) then why can’t women? Both substantiations lack academic merit. Any student having basic understanding of law would know that one is a rule and the other is an exception to the rule. The general rule is that Muslims (both male and female) are only permitted to wed people of the same faith (fellow Muslims). This ‘rule’ is based on the following verse of Surah Al-Baqarah; Allah the Almighty states:

 

وَلَا تَنْكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكَاتِ حَتَّى يُؤْمِنَّ وَلَأَمَةٌ مُؤْمِنَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مُشْرِكَةٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ وَلَا تُنْكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتَّى يُؤْمِنُوا وَلَعَبْدٌ مُؤْمِنٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مُشْرِكٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكُمْ

(2:221)

 

“Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you.”

 

The exception to this rule is the verse in which Allah the Almighty permits men to marry the women of Ahlul Kitab (Christians and Jews) i.e.:

 

وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ

 (5:5)

 

“Lawful unto you in marriage are chaste women who are believers and chaste women among the Ahlul Kitab (people of the book).”

 

In addition, in the same verse Allah the Almighty orders any Muslim man wishing to marry a kitaabi that he must hand over to her the mahr (dowry) that she is owed.

 

“When you have given their due Mahr (bridal money given by the

husband to his wife at the time of marriage)”

(5:5)

 

Mahr (dowry) is given to the wife from the husband; there is no difference of opinion in this matter and the jurists of the Ummah are unanimous on this fact. This clearly indicates and elucidates the fact that the permission granted in the abovementioned verse is restricted to Muslim men.

 

In another place, when Allah Ta’ala is talking about the Muhaajiraat (women from Makkah who have accepted and migrated to Madinah) He states:

 

فَلَا تَرْجِعُوهُنَّ إِلَى الْكُفَّارِ لَا هُنَّ حِلٌّ لَهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحِلُّونَ لَهُنَّ

(60:10)

 

“Do not return them to the disbelievers; they are not lawful [wives] for

them, nor are they lawful [husbands] for them.”

 

The prohibition; in this verse; of returning Muslim women to their former husbands is general, whether the husbands are from the Ahlul Kitab (people of the Book) or polytheists. Simply put, a Muslim woman cannot be with a non-Muslim husband.

 

There has been consensus on this issue and this is the unanimous view of the scholars from the golden era of the Sahabah Radhi Allahu anhum. Imam Bukhari radhi Allahu anhu has dedicated a whole chapter to this situation in his canonical compilation of Ahadith; Sahih al Bukhari.[iii]

 

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Saanwal ibn Muhammad,

Student Darul Iftaa
UK   

 

Checked and Approved by,

Mufti Ebrahim Desai Saheb

 


صحيح مسلم، ج1، ص14، دار إحياء التراث العربي

 

[ii] وَلَا يَجُوزُ تَزَوُّجُ الْمُسْلِمَةِ من مُشْرِكٍ وَلَا كِتَابِيٍّ كَذَا في السِّرَاجِ الْوَهَّاجِ

( الفتاوى الهندية، دار الفكر، ج1، ص 282)

 

وَمِنْهَا إسْلَامُ الرَّجُلِ إذَا كَانَتْ الْمَرْأَةُ مُسْلِمَةً فَلَا يَجُوزُ إنْكَاحُ الْمُؤْمِنَةِ الْكَافِرَ؛ لِقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: {وَلا تُنْكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتَّى يُؤْمِنُوا} [البقرة: 221] وَلِأَنَّ فِي إنْكَاحِ الْمُؤْمِنَةِ الْكَافِرَ خَوْفَ وُقُوعِ الْمُؤْمِنَةِ فِي الْكُفْرِ

(بدائع الصنائع، ج2، ص271، دار الكتب العلمية)

 

[iii] بَابُ إِذَا أَسْلَمَتِ المُشْرِكَةُ أَوِ النَّصْرَانِيَّةُ تَحْتَ الذِّمِّيِّ أَوِ الحَرْبِيِّ

وَقَالَ عَبْدُ الوَارِثِ: عَنْ خَالِدٍ، عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ، عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ: «إِذَا أَسْلَمَتِ النَّصْرَانِيَّةُ قَبْلَ زَوْجِهَا بِسَاعَةٍ حَرُمَتْ عَلَيْهِ

(صحيح البخاري، ج7، ص49، دار طوق النجاة)

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