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.
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[i]
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
“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
“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
“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)”
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
“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
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai Saheb