I am a Muslim woman and I am interested in marrying a man whose religious status is confusing to me. He was born and raised a Muslim – that is, he was circumcised, taught the fundamentals of Islam, read the Quran in translation, etc. He has never publicly or officially renounced his faith, but has privately confided in me that he is an “agnostic or logical positivist or humanist or whatever.” He says that he always, even as a child, had doubts about the precepts of Islam, including its fundamental pillars. Finally, about 15 years ago he became certain that Islam and all other religions were works of highly intelligent and creative social reformers. He has no doubt whatsoever that Muhammad isn’t anybody’s prophet – let alone the last prophet of the only God – because it is very unlikely that there is any God at all. I find his views unacceptable but I can’t find anything wrong with his character. I and everyone who knows him, including his parents, think of him as a “good Muslim” even though he never performs any religious ritual, including prayer. Oh, he does fast, but that’s because he doesn’t want to offend anyone, particularly his mother, during Ramadan. He has no doubt whatsoever that he is not a Muslim and can never be one because he does not need the concept of God to understand life or the universe. I can’t argue with him because he is rather well-read and logical, and I am not even interested in arguing. All I want to know is whether a nikah between such a man and a Muslim woman would be valid. He is prepared to do anything for my sake that would allow us to appear as an “Islamic couple” for all public or official purposes, including nikah. However, he is not prepared to help me raise our future children as Muslims. He says that he couldn’t possibly teach them anything that he knows to be untrue – for example, the Quran being God’s book or Muhammad His prophet. I know that his view of the world is a good one, and his approach towards humanity is based on kindness and compassion, but he is not a Muslim. Is it legal for me to marry him in Islamic law? Is it moral in Islamic ethics? Thank you.
The most important and basic element that would validate such a marriage is missing between the two of you. Your situation is difficult as it seems you have tied your emotions to a person that is not on the same page as you. As a matter of fact, in this instance, not even in the same book. Please do not take the following in a condescending tone, however, when one wishes to marry they should choose the person who suits them best. This includes, but is not limited to the person’s temperament, goals, likes/dislikes, beliefs and ideologies. Considering that Islam, if one lives in accordance with its precepts, pervades our lives in just about every aspect. I do not mean to imply it controls everything in our lives; rather, it helps us live according to how God wants us to live. Your potential husband does not share this quality. The information you have provided about him indicates that he may be a good guy with many good qualities. However that is not what Islam is only about. It is about the relationship between the person and the Almighty, which then translates to fellow human beings and nature itself. The universe and an individual become united and commune with the Almighty. If one puts all that in perspective they will see that search for the most intimate partner in their life is of utmost importance. What your prospective husband lacks in faith will affect you and your family. It will burden the ties of the relationship with the heavy load of disagreements on some very fundamental issues; the very glue of the relationship will be tested to its limits. This I say in the general sense. Not all relationships will go in the way I have described but in all honesty in these times it is hard enough to keep a relationship together much less one that enjoys incompatible essentials. Hence this is your first hurdle.
If indeed this person becomes your husband and you are blessed with children there will be no amount of acting that he or anyone can do to dupe the endless peering mind of a child. Besides are you really comfortable with a life-long performance? As a matter of fact you yourself have stated that he would not participate in what you hold dearest to your heart. Your children will learn from you there is a God; from him there is no God. From you they will learn purpose of life; from him they will learn there is no purpose. From you they will learn the God-given nature of goodness that is inherent in all of us; from him it is the humanism that helps us to be good. After a careful of humanism you may find that there are contradictory features of it as it pertains to nature and the world as a whole. However this is research for you to undertake. This obstacle is of the most severe kind. The lack of harmony in the parent’s teachings may hinder a child. Would it be fine with you, even if the child is a good person, that they reject the existence of God?
It should be known that there have been many-a-great men/women who were well-read and “logical” that believed in God. Your friend’s logic may have sent him away from God but that could be because it was his logic that did so, unlike the logic of Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Werner Von Braun, Jabir Ibn Haiyan Abu Raihan al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and the list goes on. The fact of the matter is one does not simply follow God’s way due to personal logic. It is far beyond the scope of this reply to get into any details, however, there is no concern for you as you are already there. I can assure there are no questions, not in quantity nor quality, which would be left unanswered by Islam if they are explained correctly and if the receiver of the message is truly open. I would urge you, even if you think there is no hope, to write us any and every concern either of you have regarding Islam. This is an invitation to you and him with the hopes that at least the idea is taken into consideration.
Lastly, I would not recommend that you marry a person who does not believe in God. Another thing to keep in mind is that the nikah (i.e. marriage contract) is of an Islamic nature and he does not subscribe to Islam hence he would falsely be binding himself to a contract that is in its nature religiously legalistic. Such a marriage, in my view, is completely in contradiction to the spirit of Islamic teachings. May the Almighty shine light towards you and helps you in this difficult situation. May your decisions lead you to peace and happiness and to a closer relationship with the Almighty.
I hope I have clarified the issue.
God knows best.