First of all, it’s important for a Muslim woman to know the essence of the ruling that she should not marry a non-Muslim; she should know that it’s a great honour for her to be bared from doing so. According to the Qur’an, the husband is the head of a household, and as such his wife should obey him. Almighty Allah does not want to put the Muslim woman in a position that a non-Muslim becomes her head in her own private life. Allah has spared her from being under the authority of a non-Muslim husband.
Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi, Imam of Calgary Mosque, Canada, and Former Professor at King Saud Univ., Saudi Arabia, answers: “First of all, I would like to explain two things before quoting the relevant verses regarding this issue:
1-Any effect in faith is decisive, and any practice of Islam will not benefit the person if he or she does not have sound belief.
2- The Qur’an and Sunnah are both the sources of Shari’ah, so we will follow the Sunnah the same way we follow the Qur’an. And the way to apply the text and to extract meanings from it is called Fiqh. So we need to seek the expert opinion of fiqh scholars for understanding the sure and exact meaning of the legal text.
Now let me quote the two verses from the Qur’an concerning the Islamic ruling of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man. The first verse is mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 221, where Allah, the Almighty, says: “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.”
The second verse is no. 10 in Surat Al-Mumtahinah, where Allah, the Almighty, says: “O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: Allah 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.”
In the light of the foregoing verses and according to the practice of Muslims, it is absolutely Haram (forbidden) for a Muslim woman to get married to a non-Muslim man. This is one of the basics of Islam, and any woman is not supposed to violate the ruling whatever the case maybe.
Now, we have some relevant cases: If a Muslim woman is married to a non-Muslim man believing that this is Halal (permissible) while being aware of the clear-cut proofs prohibiting this, then she has committed an act of disbelief by denying a ruling which has been established by Ijma’ (consensus of scholars).
Another case is that of a non-Muslim woman who has embraced Islam while her husband is still non-Muslim. In this case, it is not wise, as Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and a number of prominent scholars have stated, to tell the lady to leave her husband the moment she embraces Islam especially if she has kids and her husband can be convinced to convert to Islam. So, in this case, I would say that the lady should work on her husband and try to give him time to consider Islam in an attempt to embrace Islam and resume their matrimonial life. If her husband accepts Islam, then marriage is to be resumed; otherwise she has to leave him. If she stays with him then she will be committing a huge sin which might result also to the stage of Riddah (apostasy) if she gets to know the ruling and still prefers to stay with her husband. A Muslim lady must not take this ruling lightly for its violation might cause her to lose not only her acts of worships but her faith (Iman) too, if she insists on violating the Islamic ruling regarding this.”
Sheikh Hamed Al-Ali, instructor of Islamic Heritage at the Faculty of Education, Kuwait and Imam of Dahiat As-Sabahiyya Mosque, confirms:
“If a Muslim woman gets married to a non-Muslim, she will be committing a huge sin and will even be regarded as an adulteress. If she considers it Halal for her to stay in this marriage, denies the prohibition established by the Shari`ah in explicit and unequivocal words, and finds nothing wrong Islamically in keeping up this marriage, then she would be considered a Kafir (disbeliever) in this case.”
The late prominent scholar Sheikh Mustafa Az-Zarqa, may Allah bless his soul, points out: “As for the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man, there is no way to justify it. It has been categorically forbidden by the Qur’an: “And do not give (believing women) in marriage to idolaters until they believe.”
“O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: Allah 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.”
All Muslim jurists have unanimously agreed that this kind of marriage is forbidden.
However, I would like to take into consideration a public interest regarding some cases which result from this marriage. We should differentiate between a Muslim woman who marries someone from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), not caring about the difference in religion between them, and a woman from the People of the Book who accepted Islam while her husband is still non-Muslim, and she has kids from him. In the latter case, the woman is not allowed to live with her non-Muslim husband unless he becomes a Muslim; however it is possible that the dissolution of marriage does not take place right away upon the husband’s refusal to embrace Islam.
It is reported that the Prophet’s daughter Zainab was married, before Islam, to a polytheistic man called Abul `As Ibn Ar-Rubayy`. The latter participated with the disbelievers in the Battle of Badr and he was taken captive by Muslims. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, released him on the condition that he would send Zainab free. Abul `As did what he promised the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to do.
Then it happened that Abul `As went to Ash-Shaam (the Levant) with a caravan, and on his way back he was intercepted by the expedition of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. All the people in the caravan were arrested with the exception of Abu Abul `As, who ran away. When it was the night, Abul `As came to Zainab, may Allah be pleased with her, and sought her protection, and she did protect him. At the Fajr prayer, she, may Allah be pleased with her, went to the Masjid and announced that she had given refuge to Abul `As. Upon saying this, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said to her: “Make his stay honorable, but don’t let him have intercourse with you for you are no longer lawful for him.”
It is said that Abul `As returned to Makkah to give back the trusts to their rightful owners; then he went back to Madinah, embraced Islam, and then returned to his wife Zainab. It is not reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did make a new Nikah (marriage contract) for his daughter.
The lesson we learn from this incident is that a wife’s patience towards her non-Muslim husband might guide his heart to Islam. So, a Muslim wife should try to give her husband some time, and invite him to Islam. However, in all case, she is not allowed to have sexual intercourse with him.
Thus, we conclude that it is completely Haram for a Muslim woman to get married to a non-Muslim man, and a Muslim woman must not violate this prohibition that has been established by clear-cut proofs from the Qur’an and Sunnah. If a Muslim woman does go against this ruling out of weakness in her faith, then she will still be considered a sinful Muslim committing a great sin that would even reach the stage of Zina if she knows the ruling and still denies it. However, if she violates the ruling out of stubbornness, denying the ruling of Allah, and considering this act to be permissible, while being aware of the proofs and evidence speaking against this forbidden act, then she will be considered as a Kafir and outside the fold of Islam.