One of the conditions necessary for the conclusion of a marriage is that the bride have a proxy. There are other conditions that should also be met in order for marriage to be valid. These are the consent of both the bride and groom to the marriage and the groom’s paying a dower to the bride. Such stipulations, together with the other obligations and rights that marriage involves, give marriage its social shape and helps it play the role Islam has drawn for it.
Islam gives marriage high esteem. Marriage is of paramount importance in Islam; it is not something to be entered into on a whim, nor does it have something to do with temporary gratification of sexual desires. In the Qur’an, Almighty Allah describes marriage as a solemn covenant.
According to Islam, Muslim men may marry chaste, honorable women of the People of the Book. This is because Muslims have close relations with the People of the Book and hold their religions in high esteem for being of the same origin as Islam. Muslim men’s marrying women of the People of the Book is also an invitation for those people to know Islam better through the social bonds and family relations they have with Muslims.
Islam stipulates that in order to conclude her marriage, the Muslim bride must have a proxy, who is usually her father. But if the bride’s father is one of the People of the Book, while she is a Muslim, he cannot act as a proxy for her, for Muslims are not to take non-Muslims for friends or make them their representatives. Almighty Allah says: “Your friend can be only Allah; and His Messenger and those who believe…” (Al-Ma’idah: 55). Almighty Allah also says: “And those who disbelieve are protectors one of another…”(Al-Anfal: 73).
But if the Muslim man’s bride is a woman of the People of the Book, her non-Muslim father is to be her proxy. So said Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Ash-Shafi`i, the majority of Hanbali scholars, and the majority of jurisprudents.
According to the advocates of this opinion, since both the father and the daughter belong to the same religion, he is to be her proxy on marriage. Islam does not deny the non-Muslim father, in that case, his guardianship over his daughter. As non-Muslim fathers act as proxies for their non-Muslim daughters on marrying them to non-Muslim men, they are also to be their daughters’ proxies on marrying them to Muslim men.
However, some Hanbali scholars are of the opinion that it is the Muslim rulers (or judges) that are to be the proxies of the non-Muslim women on marrying Muslim men, and accordingly, the non-Muslim fathers are not to be proxies for their non-Muslim daughters on their marriage to Muslim men. So said Judge Abu Ya`li, citing Imam Ahmad’s saying: “No Jew or Christian is to conclude a marriage contract on behalf of a Muslim man or a Muslim woman.” This opinion is based on the ground that the marriage contract in this case lacks the existence of the Muslim witnesses (who are to be two men or one man and two women) as an integral condition for marriage, and accordingly, the marriage contracts concluded by non-Muslim fathers in such cases are invalid.
However, many Hanbali scholars agree with the majority of scholars in that regard. For example, the Hanbali Imam Ibn Qudama regarded the opinion of the majority, i.e., that it is lawfulness for a non-Muslim father to act as proxy for his non-Muslim daughters on marrying Muslim men, more valid than the view of those who denied the non-Muslim fathers the guardianship over their daughters in that case.
A great Hanbali scholar, Mansour Ibn Yunus Al-Buhuti, also said, “A non-Muslim father of the People of the Book is to conclude the marriage contract of his non-Muslim daughter on her behalf on her marriage to a Muslim or a non-Muslim man, for both the father and the daughter do believe in the same religion, and so, the father can represent his daughter on concluding contracts.”
To conclude, a non-Muslim father of the People of the Book is to act as proxy for his non-Muslim daughter on marrying a Muslim man. As for what the Hanbali scholars who do not agree to this opinion have said, i.e., that the marriage contract must to be signed by Muslim witnesses, there is no relation between the proxy of the non-Muslim bride being a non-Muslim and the witnesses being Muslims, for the functions of both are different.