Interfaith marriage in Islam

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According to all four schools of Sunni law and Shia law, interfaith marriages are condoned only between a Muslim male and a non-Muslim female from the People of the Book (that is, Christians and Jews) and not vice versa. In many Muslim majority countries, interfaith marriages (apart from marriages of Muslim men to Jewish-or-Christian women) are prohibited, and/or regarded as socially taboo.

In some diaspora societies, interfaith marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims take place at substantial rates, including marriages that contradict the sharia consensus. For example, in the United States, about one in ten Muslim women are married to non-Muslims, including about one in six Muslim women under 40 and about 20% of Muslim women who describe themselves as less devoutly religious.[1]

Marriage of Muslim men to non-Muslim women[edit]

Islamic marriage rules between Muslim men and non-Muslim women are regulated by Islamic principles. There are restrictions to whom a Muslim man can marry which are further explained below.


According to Qur'an (5:5)[2], "This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you, when you have given them their due compensation, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse or taking [secret] lovers. And whoever denies the faith - his work has become worthless, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers". From this verse, it can be understood that Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women from the People of the Book (i.e. the Jews and Christians).


However, the Quran (2:221)[3] also states, "And do not marry Polytheist women until they believe, And a believing slave woman is better than a Polytheist women, even though she might please you. And do not marry Polytheist men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a Polytheist men, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember". From this verse, it can be understood that Muslim men are not allowed to marry women who associate or similarise Allah with anything.


Having all the above verses taken into account, it can be concluded that Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women with following conditions:

  • Muslim man can marry the women from the People of the Book (i.e. the Jews and Christians)
  • Muslim man cannot marry polytheist women

Marriage of Muslim women to non-Muslim men[edit]

Interfaith marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men has been a highly sensitive topic across the Muslim world for centuries, as it is considered to be a violation of Islamic law by the consensus of scholars. Although there are changes, it is still banned in many Muslim societies. While the law permits a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, it does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man without proof of his conversion to Islam. Almost all Islamic nations prohibit it. Tunisia is one of the few Muslim majority countries where Muslim women are allowed to marry non-Muslims.[4]

In parts of the diaspora, interfaith marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslims take place at substantial rates, in contradiction to the sharia consensus. For example, in the United States, about 10% of Muslim women are married to non-Muslims.[5]

Conversion to Islam of one spouse in a non-Muslim marriage[edit]

Under Islamic law, if a non-Muslim woman is married to a non-Muslim, and she converts to Islam, the marriage is suspended until her husband converts to Islam. She could, in theory, leave the non-Muslim husband and marry a Muslim one. If the non-Muslim husband does convert a new marriage is not needed. In the Quran, it is said,

O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: God knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers, then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers, nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower), and there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of God. He judges (with justice) between you. And God is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. {Surah 60:10}

Modern practice[edit]

In practice, many Arab countries allowed interfaith marriage to Christian or Jewish women but not to non-Muslim men.[6] In Lebanon for example there is no civil personal status law and marriages are performed according to the religion of the spouses. There, Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men, whereas this is possible vice versa,[7] at least if the spouse is a Christian or Jewish woman. Turkey allows marriages to non-Muslim men through secular laws.[8] In Tunisia since 16 September 2017, Muslim women can lawfully marry any man of any faith, or of none. In Malaysia a non-Muslim must convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim. The offspring of such unions are automatically Muslims and all Malaysian Muslims are legally prohibited from leaving Islam (Riddah).[9]

Interfaith marriage especially between Hindus and Muslims often have been the bone of contention and have resulted in communal riots in India. Love Jihad, also called Romeo Jihad, widely regarded as a conspiracy theory, is an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys and men are said to reportedly target young girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.[10][11][12][13] Official investigations in Uttar Pradesh had found no credence in allegations of Love Jihad that had been brought before them, with state police chief A.L. Banerjee stating that, "In most cases we found that a Hindu girl and Muslim boy were in love and had married against their parents' will. There are also instances where Muslim girls marry Hindu boys under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/identity-assimilation-and-community/pf_2017-06-26_muslimamericans-02new-04/
  2. ^ "The Noble Qur'an". quran.com. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  3. ^ "The Noble Qur'an". quran.com. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  4. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41278610
  5. ^ http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/identity-assimilation-and-community/pf_2017-06-26_muslimamericans-02new-04/
  6. ^ The Need to Unify Personal Status Laws in Arab Countries Archived April 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "More Lebanese opting for civil marriage abroad | News , Lebanon News". The Daily Star. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  8. ^ TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY LOVING: NATIONALITY, GENDER, AND RELIGION IN THE MUSLIM WORLD Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Marriage Procedures Between Muslim and Non-Muslim Archived August 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "Muzaffarnagar: 'Love jihad', beef bogey sparked riot flames". Hindustan Times. 12 Sep 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  11. ^ Stephen Brown (2009-10-16). "The "Love Jihad"". Front Page Mag. Archived from the original on 2014-03-23. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  12. ^ Ananthakrishnan G (2009-10-13). "'Love Jihad' racket: VHP, Christian groups find common cause". Times of India. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  13. ^ Mahanta, Siddhartha (5 September 2014). "India's Fake 'Love Jihad'". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 24 November 2015.