What is the decree on the marriage of a person who committed fornication before with a person who did not commit fornication?

The Details of the Question

- Verse 3 of the chapter of an-Nur has different interpretations. I know it is normal to have different interpretations because of the universality of the Quran and the fact that it is suitable for every situation and every condition. The different interpretations that were made generally complement one another.
- What exactly does our Lord want to say in verse 3 of the chapter of an-Nur in this context?
- Some scholars consider the verse as a fact stating that an adulterer wants to marry an adulterer or a polytheist while others say that an adulterer cannot marry a person who has not committed fornication unless they repent; they say such a marriage is haram..
- Therefore, are those two interpretations not contradictory?
- I read the tafsir of Diyanet, Elmalılı Hamdi and many other people/institutions and could not reach a clear conclusion.
- My first question: In the religion of Islam, what is the decree on the marriage of a person who has committed fornication and who has not repented with a person who has not committed fornication?
- My second question: There are also those who say that those who commit fornication and repent can marry those who do not commit fornication/adultery. We can never know the sincerity of the adulterer, his intentions, how he repented, and whether his sin has been forgiven or not.
- If a person who says he has repented has not done it sincerely, is it permissible to marry that person since he says that he has repented? Is such a marriage valid?
​- Can you help me by answering my two questions?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

Let us first determine the meaning of the verse in question: There are three types of people in the verse:

- Polytheists (mushriks), 
- Those who regard adultery/fornication as halal and treat it as unimportant,
- Those who are not like that. 

Firstly: A believing man or a believing woman cannot marry a polytheistic woman or man; it is absolutely haram; it is regarded as fornication.

Secondly: If the adulterer and the adulteress are those who consider adultery/fornication permissible or who treat adultery and fornication as unimportant such as the owners of brothels and the women they use there, who are the reason for the revelation of the verse, they are like polytheists since it is regarded unbelief to accept something definitely haram as halal or treat it as unimportant, their marriage is not valid; it is absolutely haram, and it is like a marriage of polytheists. Therefore, the man and woman committing fornication are regarded equal to polytheistic men and women in the verse, and the following is stated: "to the believers such a thing is forbidden".

The verse is evidence that the marrying those in first two groups is haram. However, those who have truly repented are excluded.

Thirdly: The marriage of a man or woman whose fornication has been determined but have displayed no evidence of unbelief and who do not regard fornication as halal or treat it as unimportant with chaste believers is valid though it is makruh tahrimi or tanzihi; their marriage is valid.

We can summarize the answer to the question as follows: There is no religious drawback to the believing men and women who committed fornication marrying each other, whether they repent or not. There is no harm in the marriage of a chaste person who did not commit fornication with a person who committed fornication in terms of the validity of the marriage.

However, it is not free of karahah for a chaste person to marry a person determined to have committed fornication. In addition to the effect of the bad environment, it may be possible that the bad thoughts of the people around them will implicate them.

Answer 2:

It is permissible for a chaste person to marry a person who committed fornication and then repented; the marriage is valid.

In fact, the principle here is this: According to the majority of scholars, no sin, including fornication, prevents marriage. They are not included in the validity conditions of the marriage. The only thing that prevents marriage is the difference of religion.

Since marrying Jewish and Christian women who are People of the Book is approved by the Quran, it is not permissible for Muslim men to marry the women of non-Islamic religions except the People of the Book.

It is not necessary for Muslims who committed fornication to repent in order to marry each other. If there is a negative atmosphere according to the customs of the environment, the marriage is still valid, though it is makruh.

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