Should Muslim Men Marry Christian & Jewish Women?
There are differing scholarly viewpoints as to whether a Muslim man in the west can marry a Christian or Jewish woman.
Soorah Ma’idah verse 5 was revealed making lawful the food of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and their chaste women for marriage. For Muslims who live in the west the ruling regarding this matter is very relevant.
Some scholars put the following conditions for Muslim men who wish to take Christian or Jewish women as wives:
- The women must be chaste (i.e. they avoid zina and unlawful sexual relations)
- The wali (guardian) of the woman is a Muslim
The first condition is difficult to fulfill in the west. The average age of loss of virginity in the United Kingdom in the 1950’s was 21. Now it is 16. The average age for the loss of virginity in the United States is around 16 as well. The global average is around 17.3 years. This has two serious implications for Muslims in the west. Firstly, the chances of finding a chaste Christian or Jewish woman are slim. Secondly, Muslim men in their teens and early 20s who are hinting to their parents about marriage should immediately be helped to get married. Neo-Islamic Imaams are pushing all Muslim men to complete their Bachelors before they get married. This means the Muslim man is being asked to wait at least 6 years beyond the average age of losing virginity to get married which for healthy young men is tantamount to torture. The neo-Islamic Imaams are thus putting a lot of men to trial without realizing it. On a side note, Imams are refusing drive-by nikaah as well. These are situations where a Muslim ‘dating couple’ want to avoid zina and so they drive to the masjid to get married and the Imam refuses by putting in bureaucratic paperwork and red tape. These Imams fail to realize that by creating blockades they turned the couples’ pure intention of halal intercourse to the abominable sin of fornication.
The second condition stipulated by the scholars for a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman is not hard to satisfy. Any Imam can take on the role of guardian for the purpose of giving the Christian woman’s hand in marriage to a Muslim man.
There are pockets of populations in the west that are known to value virginity and abstinence. For example Provo, Utah has a reputation for being the city of virgins. This may be a good spot for Muslim men to seek chaste Christian women for marriage.
Even among scholars who hold the view that chaste Christian and Jewish women can be married in western lands they are quick to dissuade Muslim men from marrying women of the scripture for the following reasons:
- The Muslim man may have to be courteous to this wife of his at the expense of his religion, especially if she is “very committed” to her own religion. This may mean that she will hang up crosses and go to the church, and the children will not be safe in this environment.
- She is not going to wash properly after finishing her period, or tell him not to have intercourse with her when she is menstruating; she is going to make him do something that is wrong according to Islamic law and cause him physical harm. (Note: it is well known that Christian women in the west do not wash after answering the call of nature while Muslim women do)
- He is going to be put in an embarrassing situation because of her careless attitude concerning dress and her mixing with men and speaking to them.
- The states and governments of these women of the Book will be on their side and will give them custody of the children if differences arise and divorce takes place. This will cause these children to be lost and to fall into kufr (disbelief). Such cases are too well known to need mentioning here and too many to count.
Some callers to Islam are even stricter about the matter of a Muslim man marrying a woman of the people of the Scripture. Chaplain Yasir Qadhi has a surprisingly conservative viewpoint regarding this matter. He notes the following:
- The woman has to be chaste and not sleeping around
- She must be God-fearing and practicing Christian (or Jew) not a token one
- She must be residing in an Islamic State (condition stipulated by companion ibn ‘Abbas)
- If Muslim men marry women of the people of the Scripture then who will marry our Muslim sisters/daughters?
Chaplain Qadhi does not perform such marriage ceremonies. It is very difficult to argue against this viewpoint for two reasons. Firstly, the greatest interpreter of the Quran after the Prophet (S) was ibn ‘Abbas and his opinion carries significant weight. The stipulation that the woman must be under an Islamic state means that no Muslim man in the west can marry and live with a Christian or Jewish woman unless he migrates to a Muslim land. Secondly, chaplain Qadhi noted that in cases of divorce the Muslim man loses custody and this means the children may be raised as Christians or Jews.
Muslim men in the west are then between a rock and a boulder. They are attacked from four fronts. On one side are the feminists pounding them into effeminate submission. On another side are neo-Islamic Imams urging them not to marry until they graduate college. On another front they are faced with Muslim women who demand exorbitant dowries and wedding costs. The final front is that of the devil himself luring prey to the easy street of illicit intercourse. In 1997, 35% of men surveyed in the States said having a successful marriage was one of the most important things in their lives. In 2012, it was down to 29%.
In the Muslim community not being able to get married has become as huge a fitna (trial) as getting married. Being coerced into celibacy while surrounded by alluring temptation is an untenable situation. So much so that even Imams have resorted to alleged prostitution at night and affairs while counseling women one on one behind closed doors in their offices or homes. Gay porn and regular porn are found on the caches of masjid computers. Women who have memorized the entire Quran are reaching out to Imams saying their parents did not let them marry and so she got into an illicit relationship and needs an abortion. Muslim women are refusing to sign pre-nuptials stating that they will abide by the rules of Sharee’ah. Scouring case law in California, Michigan, and Virginia one can find instances of Muslim women marrying and then divorcing the man taking half of his wealth with her (in some cases these exceeded $500,000 or even $1 million in assets).
In such a dysfunctional situation Muslims may explore the legitimate option of marrying a chaste Christian or Jewish woman who might be much more likely to marry him without demands for a dowry and they are less likely to give them grief for not being of a particular tribe, profession, and skin colour, and less likely to turn down his right to a pre-nuptial agreement that will protect his assets to the extent allowed by Islamic law. While marrying Christian or Jewish women is much easier than marrying Muslim women it does have the pitfalls noted previously.
Until Muslim thinkers and Imams can sort this out for western Muslims we are in a bind.