First of all, we’d like to state that Islam does not encourage the interfaith marriages. The general rule of Islam is that Muslims should marry Muslims. A Muslim male or female should not marry a non-Muslim male or female. The only exception is given to Muslim men who are allowed to marry the chaste girls from among the People of the Book. However, a Muslim woman is better suited to a Muslim man than a woman of Christian or Jewish faith, regardless of her merits.
Elaborating on this, we’d like to cite for you the words of the eminent Muslim scholar Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in his well-known book, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam: “Islam has made marriage to Jewish or Christian women lawful for Muslim men, for they are Ahl al-Kitab, that is, People of the Book, or people whose tradition is based upon a divinely revealed Scripture. Although they have distorted and altered it, they do possess a religion of divine origin, and hence Islam has made some exceptions in dealing with them. The Qur’an says: “…And the food of those who were given the Scripture (before you) is permitted to you and your food is permitted to them. And (lawful to you in marriage are) chaste women from the Believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture before you, when you give them their due cowers, desiring chastity, not lewdness or secret intrigues…” (Al-Ma’idah: 6)
Tolerance of such a degree is a characteristic of Islam which is hardly to be found among other faiths and nations. Despite the fact that Islam takes the People of the Book to task for their unbelief and error, it permits the Muslim to marry a Christian or Jewish woman who may, as his consort, the mistress of his house, the mother of his children, the source of his repose, and his companion for life, retain her own faith—all this, while the Qur’an says concerning marriage and its mystique: “And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell with them in tranquility, and He has put love and mercy between you…” (Ar-Rum: 21)”
Having stated the above, it should be noted that the Christians and the Jews of the People of the Book in our times are indeed those referred to in the texts ofShari`ah, in both the Qur’an and Sunnah, as “Ahlul-Kitab. Signs of disbelief noticed in the practices of some people of the Book, including Jews and Christians, in our times does not expel them from being “Ahlul-Kitab So, the rules and regulations related to them regarding permissibility of eating their food and marrying their chaste women are still applicable to them.”
Elaborating more on this issue, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, President of the Fiqh Council of North America , states: “It is Haram for a Muslim male or female to marry a non-Muslim. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe. A slave women who believes is better than an unbelieving woman even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelieving men until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever even though he allure you. Unbelievers do beckon to the Hell, but Allah beckons by His grace to the Garden and forgiveness and makes His signs clear to humankind that they may receive admonition.” (Al-Baqarah 2:221) This is a general rule and according to this rule Muslims, males or females, are allowed to marry among Muslims only If one wants to marry a non-Muslim then he or she must accept Islam before the Nikah. Otherwise, the Nikah is invalid and the Muslim man or woman who has a non-Muslim spouse is living in sin.
The only exception from this general rule is that a Muslim man is allowed to marry a woman from the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab, i.e. Christians or Jews only, but not among the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Parsis etc.).
Allah says in the Qur’an, “This day are all things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. Lawful unto you in marriage are chaste women who are believers and chase women among the People who were given the Book before your time… (Al-Ma’idah:5) This permission is granted to Muslim men only, but Muslim women have no permission to marry among non-Muslims, including the People of the Book(Christians and Jews). There is a consensus (ijma’) on this subject among all the jurists of Islam. This means that a Muslim man is allowed to marry a chaste Jewish or Christian woman without her converting to Islam. It is highly recommended that she accept Islam and her husband should try his best to invite her to Islamic faith with good preaching and good example, but if she would prefer to remain a Christian or Jew then she should not be forced to accept Islam. It is forbidden to coerce any person into Islam.
Based on the Qur’anic permission in Al-Ma’idah: 5 Muslim jurists do not consider Haram the marriage between a Muslim male and a Kitabi female, but most of the jurists of the past and present have discouraged such marriages. Imam Abu Hanifah has considered it makruh (but not haram) for a Muslim man who is residing in a non-Muslim land to marry a Jewish or Christian woman.”
Having stated the above, it becomes clear that interfaith marriage is not encouraged in Islam even if it may be permissible for a Muslim man to marry a woman from the People of the Book if she is a chaste woman rather than a woman who can have an illicit relation outside marriage. Also, she must agree before marriage to bring up the children Islamically. This special permission is given to Jewish and Christian woman as they believe in a divine book even if they are on the wrong way and are considered kafirs (disbelievers).