Which of the Quranic verses forbids a Muslim woman to marry a man from the people of the Book? Is there such an order?

Details of the Question
Which of the Quranic verses forbids a Muslim woman to marry a man from the people of the Book? Is there such an order?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The ones who try to see all the orders of Islam in the Quran, will have ignored at least two thirds of the whole religion. Such a judgment is the common emphasis of thousands of Islamic scholars. Thus, we will have to alter hundreds of laws of Islam with the same reason, if we judge that a Muslim woman can marry a man from the people of the Book by depending on the absence of a verse saying “it is clearly forbidden”. It is obvious that such an approach is perilous from the point of religion.

The Islamic scholars have concluded that a Muslim woman may not marry a man from the People of the Book acting upon the following verses:

1) Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe; a slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allure you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of Bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: that they receive admonition (al-Baqara, 2/221)

"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”(al-Mumtahina, 60/10)

In these verses, it has been concluded that the believing women may not marry the unbelievers. Besides, the following conclusions were drawn from those two verses:

a. Even if the idolaters (mushriks) are clearly mentioned here , from the phrase of the verse “idolaters invite you to Hell”, we must deduce that “the believing women may not marry the People of the Book as they may not marry idolaters”. For, it is very likely for a man to cause to change the religion of the woman since the man is the head, leader and director of the family.(Fatawa al-Hindiyya)

b. The verse: “And never will Allah grant to the Unbelievers a way (to triumph) over the Believers.” (an-Nisa 4/141) expounds that it is forbidden for the unbelievers to be dominant over Muslims.(See W. Zuhayli, al-Fiqh al-Islami, 7/152)

Moreover, the main factor for the happiness and peace in the family is the harmony between the wife and husband in terms of views and thoughts. Besides, the reason for the necessity of equality between the spouses is for establishing this peace and accord in the family. The most important aspect of this equality is the religious views and beliefs that have reflections on the basis of thoughts. From this point of view, we will be able to understand the permission of marriage between a Muslim man and a woman of the People of the Book, and the prohibition of marriage between a Muslim woman and a man from the People of the Book. It is because the Muslim husband respects his wife’s beliefs –like belief in Allah, angels, books, prophets and the destiny- . Therefore, he does not follow a path that will oppose her beliefs and cause a discord that will lead to a stance that will harm the peace in the family. However, an unbelieving husband does not believe in Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and that the Quran is the word of Allah; thus, he may resort to some attitude that might cause unhappiness and discord in the family. (cf Zuhayli, 7/153)

On the other hand, a Muslim man that married a Christian woman does not deny his wife’s Holy Book and prophet; on the contrary, he complies with them and respects them. Thus, a Christian woman does not face a humiliation from her Muslim husband. She has no loss.

One of the mechanisms of the “evidences of the Islamic laws” is the Ijma (Consensus) which is an important method in jurisdiction. That means, it is the concord of the Islamic scholars on a certain matter. There is a clear and widespread consensus of all of the scholars about the unlawfulness of the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man. (see Zuhayli, ibid 7/152)

The Second Caliph Umar said the following about the issue : “A Muslim man may marry a Christian or Jew woman,  but the other way around is not allowed” (See, Tabari, Interpretation of al-Baqara 2/221)

According to a tradition coming from Jabir (a companion of the Prophet (PBUH)) , the Prophet (PBUH) said : “We may marry a woman from the People of the Book but they may not marry Muslim women” (See, Tabari, ibid)

A short comment on this hadith : The hadith was reported from Jabir by Hasan Basri. However, some scholars say he did not hear any hadith from Jabir. Therefore Tabari said : “Even if the narrator of the hadith is problematic, the consensus of the scholars supports its reliability

However, the well-known hadith scholar Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, who examined and commented on the interpretation of Tabari, mentioned those views while evaluating those words of Ibn Jarir : It is a convincing argument for us to believe that Hasan has heard hadiths from Jabir personally, that Hisham b. Hisan narrates hadith from Jabir via Hasan Basri.

To sum up, a Muslim man can only marry a Muslim woman or a woman from the People of the Book. However, a Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man. A Muslim woman who loves and knows Allah and the Prophet (PBUH), should never feel obliged to marry a man who denies her Holy Book and the Prophet (PBUH). It is a belittling situation. She should not be obliged to go through such an invalid marriage.

If a non-Muslim man converts to Islam, then this marriage is lawful.

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