Quranic Law regarding
Marriage to Non-Muslims

Often the question is posed about the rules for Muslims in marrying non-Muslims. Many scholars have been advocating rules that are in direct violation to God's clear law in the Quran. Sadly, in male orientated cultures we hear the claim that a Muslim man may marry a woman of other religions (e.g. a Christian or Jewish woman), but a Muslim woman cannot marry except a Muslim man! They explain this male biased innovation by a number of un-Quranic justifications. Some say that this privilege is given to the man because the child takes the religion of his father and not his mother, and thus a Muslim man may marry a non Muslim woman but still have the child raised as a Muslim, while as if a Muslim woman married a Christian man for example, the child would be raised as a Christian. This claim is without any Quranic justification. The Quran does not support the claim that a child must follow the religion of his father, simply because God decreed that there shall be no compulsion in religion.

God's law related to marrying non Muslims is found in the following verse:

Do not (you men) marry the mushrikaat (women who commit shirk) until they believe. A believing slave woman is better than a mushrikah even if you like her. And do not (you women) marry the mushrikeen until they believe. A believing slave man is better than a mushrik even if you like him. These invite to the Fire while God invites to Paradise and forgiveness, by His permission. He clarifies His revelations for the people. Hopefully they may remember. 2:221

The word "mushrikeen" (mushrikaat for women) speaks of those who commit shirk. The word shirk is used consistently in the Quran to mean the act of setting up partner/s with God in any of God's exclusive rights. We read in 6:114 that God is the only lawmaker (hakaman). As a result, with regards to Muslims who uphold the Quran, those among them who uphold any source of law besides the Quran are guilty of committing shirk:

Or do they have 'shuraka' (partners) who legislate for them of the religion what God did not authorise? If it were not for a decisive Word, judgement would have already been passed over them. Indeed the transgressors shall have a painful punishment. 42:21

The 2nd word in 42:21 "shurakaa" is a key word and it means partners. In 12:106 we read how the majority of those who believe in God (which includes all Muslims) are actually committing shirk.

The majority of those who believe in God do not do so without committing shirk. 12:106

From the above Quranic verses it becomes clear that the prohibition is related to marrying anyone who practises shirk. They can be Jews, Christians and indeed Muslims. It also becomes clear that Muslims may marry the followers of any religion (Jews, Christians, etc) as long as they believe in the Oneness of God and do not set up partners with God in any capacity.

It is also clear that the law of God prohibiting marriage to the 'mushrikeen' applies to men and women equally. The innovation of giving men preferential treatment in this matter is only the result of male dominated cultures.

The Quran makes the point that there are those among the Jews, Christians and others who are monotheist and do not set up idols besides God. The following verses confirm this matter:

Those who believe and those who are Jewish, the Christians and the Sabians - all who believe in God and the Last Day and do good deeds; they will have their reward with their Lord. No fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. 2:62

Indeed, among the People of the Book are those who believe in God, and in what was brought down to you (O Muhammad), and in what was brought down to them; they are humble before God. They do not trade away God's revelations for a cheap price. These will receive their reward from their Lord. God is swift in reckoning. 3:199

In addition, the following Quranic verse sheds further light and confirmation that the ones lawful to marry are the believers regardless of the religion they follow, as long as they are not practicing shirk:

O you who believe, when believing women come to you as immigrants, you shall test them. God knows best about their belief. Then if you know them to be believers, do not return them to the disbelievers. They are not lawful for them nor are the disbelievers lawful for them. Return to the disbelievers what they had spent. There is no blame upon you if you marry them, provided you pay them their dowries. Do not keep disbelieving wives. You may ask back what you spent and they may ask back what they spent. That is God's judgement; He judges among you. God is Knowledgeable, Wise. 60:10

In 60:10 God did not specify the religion of the women in question, but the only requirement is that they are "believers". They could be Jewish, Christian or other. As long as they are believers and are not committing shirk (2:221) they are lawful to marry. Various Quranic verses, such as 2:62 (above) confirm that there are sincere believers among the Jews and the Christians.