Will you give information about marrying a non-Muslim woman and being a witness of marriage?

Details of the Question

I know that a Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim (Christian, Jew) woman. Is it a sin to have a religious marriage (nikah) with a non-Muslim woman? Is religious marriage valid only between Muslims? I also read that only Muslims can be witnesses of marriage. Is it true?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Nikah is necessary for a marriage. Nikah is necessary even if a Muslim marries a Jewish or a Christian woman. It is unanimously agreed by Islamic scholars that both witnesses have to be Muslims in a marriage of two Muslims. For, a non-Muslim have no right of guardianship over a Muslim. (see  an-Nisa, 4/141;al-Qasani, II/253) According to Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf, the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) can be witnesses if both parties or the woman is a member of the People of the Book.

The following is written in fiqh books:

It is valid but makruh to marry a Christian woman when there is a Muslim woman to marry. For, this marriage will not be away from drawbacks. However, the marriage is valid and the offspring are legitimate. For, the Islamic law is universal and answers all needs. Naturally, there will be exceptions.  

A Muslim woman and man cannot marry polytheists. A polytheist woman is a woman that associates partners with Allah; for instance, she worships idols, stars, fire or animals. Allah states the following:

"Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe..." (al-Baqara, 2/221)

It is permissible for a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman. The scholars unanimously agree on it. The following is stated in a verse:

"...(Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book." (al-Maida, 5/5)

The reason why it is permissible to marry a woman from the People of the Book is that this woman may believe in Allah, His prophets, angels and the Day of Judgment when she marries a Muslim.

A Muslim Woman Marrying a Non-Muslim Man

It is unanimously agreed by Islamic scholars that it is haram for a Muslim woman to marry an unbeliever.

"…Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe..." (al-Baqara, 2/221)

For, it is feared that a believing woman might be an unbeliever as a result of this marriage. Her husband will call her to his own religion. Women generally follow and obey their husbands and are affected by what they do; they follow their husbands in religion. (Fatawa al-Hindiyya, XI/330)

A woman cannot be married to a man at the same time as her sister, aunt or a mahram woman.

It is haram for a man to be married to two sisters or a woman and her aunt at the same time. Allah states the following while explaining the women who are haram to marry:

"Prohibited to you (for marriage) are… and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past." (an-Nisa, 4/23)

This issue is explained more in hadiths:

"A woman cannot be married to a man at the same time as her aunt." (Bukhari, Nikah, 27)

The reason why it is forbidden to be married to two close relatives (women) at the same time is mostly related to moral issues. In this kind of marriage (that is, being married to two sisters or an aunt and her niece at the same time), jealousy and competition may occur. It causes the disconnection of kinship relations. In general, two wives of a man do not get on well. Such a marriage is haram. Therefore, being married to two close relatives (women) at the same time was rendered haram.

(see Mustafa KASADAR ve Sadık AKKİRAZ, Kadın İlmihali, p. 356-357)

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