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The Muslim Family Life

Marriage with non-Muslims

Question

Why is it that Islam does not permit a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man? What happens to the marriage where the wife decides to become a Muslim while her husband continues to follow his own religion? In brief, what is the position of Islam on inter-faith marriage?

Answer

A woman might have lived for many years with her husband and their life together might have always been smooth and happy. They might have established a relationship of trust and respect with nothing to complain of in their marital relationship. However, if one of them decides to become a Muslim, the general rules that apply in such cases apply to them also. It is not possible to make individual exceptions. Nor, is it feasible to make a general rule dependent on the attitude of an individual. There is a general rule that applies to the marriage of any person who decides to become a Muslim. The rule makes any marriage which is lawful to initiate between that person and any other person lawful and valid to continue after the person’s adoption of the Islamic faith.

A Muslim may not marry a person who professes a non-divine religion (Buddhism or a Hinduism, etc.). Therefore, if a non-Muslim who is already married to a Buddhist or a Hindu lady decides to become a Muslim, his marriage will not be valid except in the cases being outlined shortly.

With regard to inter-faith marriages, Islam does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim, regardless of what faith he professes. Naturally, marriage creates a relationship of patronage or care, which by it’s nature, creates a kind of implicit authority. Islam does not allow a non-Muslim to be given such authority, clear or implied over its believers.

Moreover, a Muslim woman must be guaranteed freedom to practice her own religion, without being subjected to pressure from any person or authority. How is this freedom to be guaranteed when she is married to a non-Muslim? It may be suggested that a person may be broadminded enough not to interfere with his wife’s beliefs. This may be so, but rules cannot be enacted on the basis of individual cases. If Islam allows a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim who may pledge to allow her to practice her own religion, what would that husband say about their children and the faith in which they will be brought up? Will he allow them to be Muslims? It is more natural that he would try to bring them up in his own faith? If he does not, then his affiliation to his own religion may come under suspicion.

The aforesaid and other instances place the woman and her children in an untenable situation. In the light of the foregoing, any woman who wishes to embrace Islam is well advised to persuade her husband to join her and become a Muslim himself in order that the marriage might continue unaffected.

However, Islam does not accept that pressure is put on anyone to change his or her faith in order to become a Muslim. The adoption of the Islamic faith should always come as a result of personal conviction. Allah says in the Qur’an: “No compulsion is admissible in matters of faith”(The Qur’an, Al_Baqara 2:256).

If her husband does not wish to follow her suit and prefers to maintain his religion, then the very fact that she has declared her acceptance of Islam brings their marriage to an end. She ceases to be his wife. In other words, if the woman is a Buddhist or a Hindu and the man becomes a Muslim, their marriage is terminated by the mere fact that he has accepted Islam.

What happens in these situations is that the woman observes a waiting period just like a divorcee? If the other partner in the marriage decides to embrace Islam, then the marriage continues unaffected. The couple resume their marital life without any need for a new marriage contract. If that partner does not accept Islam, then the two partners go their separate ways.

In other words, if a non-Muslim woman decides to become a Muslim, then upon her declaration that she believes that there is no deity other than Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger her marriage is deemed to have ended. She observes her waiting period in the normal way. If her husband becomes a Muslim during this period, the marriage is resumed without the need for a new marriage contract.  Otherwise, she is free to marry someone else. The same applies if the marriage is terminated as a result of the husband becoming a Muslim.

It needs to be reiterated that there is simply no ‘easy’ solution as you seemingly will wish it to be. As Muslims, we simply accept what Allah decrees and try to implement it, knowing very well that He only legislates what serves the best interest of His servants although it may appear at times to be a heavy burden.

We must always remember that Allah never wants to over-burden us. He only wants for us what is easier, better and will serve our interest well. If it does not appear to be so at certain times, we will definitely come to appreciate Allah’s favour in due course.

Bibliography

Lamrabet, A. (2012). What does the Qur’an say about the interfaith marriage. http://www.asma-lamrabet.com/articles/what-does-the-qur-an-say-about-the-interfaith-marriage/

Lemu, A., & Heeren, F. (1978). Woman in Islam. London: Islamic Council of Europe.

Mahama, A. (1996). The Muslim family life. Accra: The Call Consult.

Sabiq, S. (1990). Fiqh as Sunnah (Arabic text), vol. II. Cairo: Dar ar Rayyan

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