Creating Harmonious Interfaith Marriages

Can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man?

Islam protects a woman’s freedom to choose her own marriage partner and describes a marital relationship as one of “affection and mercy.” The Qur’an explicitly allows men to marry “People of the Book,” which are Christians and Jews, but the Qur’an refrains from mentioning whether women can do the same. For a harmonious and successful interfaith marriage, a Muslim’s partner must believe in God and acknowledge the Prophecy of the Prophet Muhammad. Ideally, children should be raised as Muslim, or at the very least, be taught the Abrahamic faiths. Moreover, parents of daughters who want to marry someone of their choosing must be open minded, understanding, and accommodating of their daughters feelings and choice. 

Quranic Support:

”And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect.” (30:21)
“Are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, Revealed before your time, When ye given them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues” (5:6)

“And do not marry the idolatresses until they believe, and certainly a believing maid is better than an idolatress woman, even though she should please you; and do not give (believing women) in marriage to idolaters until they believe, and certainly a believing servant is better than an idolater, even though he should please you; these invite to the fire, and Allah invites to the garden and to forgiveness by His will, and makes clear His communications to men, that they may be mindful.” (2:221)

The Prophet’s Saying:

Marriage as equal to fulfilling half of one’s religion” (Bayhaqi 5486)

In many Muslim-majority countries, cultural traditions have led to the belief that only men can marry non-Muslims. This unfounded belief has resulted in greater numbers of unmarried women compared to unmarried men, who are marrying non-Muslim women at higher rates. Due to this blatant disparity and general misunderstanding of Islam, Muslim women feel that they have to make a choice between cultural acceptance and their happiness. When women feel compelled to elope, they are often ostracized, disowned, or killed. The Qur’an strictly forbids Muslims from preventing others from being happy and only allows peaceful, loving relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in both the platonic and martial sense.

The Quranic verse 5:5 is often misinterpreted to forbid Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims: “’This day, all innately good things are lawful for you… Lawful to you are the chaste women from among those who have been given the Book before you.” This verse deals with lineage being passed through the father’s side. In traditional thought, children born from Muslim men are automatically Muslim. However, people assume that it is not the same the for Muslim women having children. These lineage laws were created in the patriarchal society of ancient Arabia, and cannot be properly translated into a modern context in which women have become more independent and self-sufficient. As such, the Qur’an is completely silent on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men for a reason: Islam understands that the conditions in a society may change.

Today, nearly 40% of Muslims marry outside of their faith and many Imams and mosques offer services for interfaith marriages. The Interfaith Marriage Network (IMG) specializes in supporting Muslim-Christian marriages. When IMG was created, most of the marriages were between Muslim men and Christian women, but today an equal number of Muslim women marry outside of their faith as men.

WISE Position

We are dedicated to protecting and promoting the family by empowering Muslim women to choose their marriage partners. Laws that allow honor killings and ostracize women who decide to marry outside of their faith have no basis in Islam and are dependent on patriarchal fallacies. We encourage parents and their children to have open and honest conversations about interfaith marriages that ensure happiness and tranquility.

WISE Women Active on the Issue

Raheel Raza, Mona Haydar

Related Articles

Ghouse, Mike. “Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man?” Huffington Post, 2 February, 2017. Sardar, Ziauddin. "Forced marriages disgrace Islam." New Statesman 137.4890 (2008): 23. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 July 2010