What is Islam’s standings on:
- Non-Muslim man marrying a Muslim woman
- Muslim man marrying non-Muslim woman
“Non-Muslim” refers to Christians, Hindus etc.
A few aspects of your question are directly covered by the Qur’an, while in case of the others the matter would be decided by Ijtehaad. For instance, the Qur’an has clearly stated that:
Women from the people of the book, that is Jewish and Christian women are lawful (in marriage) for Muslim men (Al-Maaidah 5: 5); and
Polytheist (Mushrik) men and women are unlawful (in marriage) for Muslim men and women (Al-Baqarah 2: 221).
Although the verses from which these directives are derived may be interpreted slightly differently. For instance, in the case of women from amongst the people of the book, one could be of the opinion that
the stated permission has been granted without any qualifications, that is, all Jewish and Christian women, under all circumstances are lawful to be taken in marriage by Muslim men; and
the stated permission was granted only when Islam became the dominant force in the region (the conditions prevalent at the time of the revelation of Al-Maaidah) and, therefore, the marriage with Jewish and Christian women is permitted only when the social and cultural values of Islam become the dominant values of the society in which the man and the woman, who intend to marry are living.
In the same way, one may interpret Al-Baqarah 2: 221 as:
prohibiting all men and women with polytheistic beliefs, as the words might apparently suggest. This interpretation will mean that all groups present in the world that hold any form of polytheistic belief or indulge in any kind of polytheistic practice shall stand prohibited for Muslim men and women. According to this interpretation all the sects of Hindus, Christians, Jews and Muslims that, in the eyes of another sect, hold a polytheistic belief or indulge in a polytheistic practice shall stand prohibited for that sect;
prohibiting only those men and women for marriage who, like the Quraish of Mekkah and the Banu Ishmael, hold polytheism to be the true religious belief. This interpretation implies that a person may hold a certain polytheistic belief without ascribing to polytheism and without holding polytheism to be correct, as is the case with some of the Jews, some of the Christians and also some Muslims. No one among these three groups holds polytheism to be the correct religious belief but may due to some philosophical error or a misunderstanding indulge in polytheistic practices. This interpretation would mean that all those groups that ascribe to polytheism and hold polytheism as the correct belief and openly accept polytheism as their religious belief are prohibited for Muslims. Other groups that do not ascribe to polytheism although, due to any reason, hold and indulge in polytheistic beliefs and practices are not covered in this verse. According to this interpretation all those religions (or any sects of that religion) that hold polytheism to be the true belief shall stand prohibited for Muslim men and women. Many sects of Hindus that hold polytheism as their belief shall fall in this category; and
prohibiting only the men and women of the Banu Ishmael. That is, this verse does not prohibit all polytheists but actually prohibits marital and social relations with the Banu Ishmael only because of their particular position of rejecting the messenger of God who was sent to them. It should be remembered that according to the Qur’an the rejection of Banu Ishmael was not like that of any other group of the world. The Banu Ishmael rejected faith after itmam e hujjah1 and because of that had to face the consequences of their rejection in the life of this world as well as in the hereafter. It should also be remembered that the word “Mushrik” has been used in the Qur’an basically for this group. This view shall imply that all the non-Muslim groups of the world – also including Hindus – shall now be given the same position as is given in the Qur’an to the people of the book – the Jews and the Christians.
The case of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man – except that of prohibiting polytheist men for them – has not been directly covered in the Qur’an. One may hold the opinion that by permitting marriage between Muslim men and Jewish and Christian women, the Qur’an has also permitted marriage between Muslim women and Jewish and Christian men. While on the other hand, one may hold the opinion that by specifically mentioning the permission of marriage between Muslim men and Jewish and Christian women, the Qur’an has implied its dislike for marriage between Christian or Jewish men with a Muslim woman.
As the above explanation would clearly show the issue could have various answers. A person should consider the reasoning of the parties holding these different opinions and follow the particular opinion that in his understanding is the strongest and closest to the directives of the Qur’an.
26th February 1999
- Manifestation of truth to the extent that no excuse is left for its denial or rejection. [↩]