Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari
Question: I am a Muslim woman who has been trying to get married to a convert and my family declined. Things got really bad with the way he was treated when he was interacting with them when he converted. He’s now saying he feels like he’s losing his interest in Islam. Now I told him if he decides to leave Islam I am not permitted to marry him and he’s even more turned off by the religion and feels all religion is restricting and unfair.
What are the reasons why a Muslim woman can not marry a non Muslim man? Isn’t the woman in charge of raising the children? Isn’t she the main person they interact with? Also, how can I help this man? Is there anyone who would be willing to take time to speak with him? I feel like he needs a knowledgeable and positive source.
Answer: Dear Sister,
I pray this message finds you well.
The restrictions on marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man have more to do with normative gender roles in Islam than individual cases. It’s very possible for the mother to exert more influence on the children, as evinced by situations where Muslim men have married Christian women and their children have been raised with the religion of their mother.
Sacred law, however, is not based on individual cases, but on the consensus of Islamic scholarship regarding how key provisions of the Qur’an and Sunna should be interpreted. The majority of Islamic scholars concur that for a woman’s marriage to be valid in the Shari’ah, her husband must be a Muslim.
As mentioned above, this derives from normative gender roles (and key Qur’anic texts) and the understanding that the husband is the head of the household. Were he a non-Muslim, it would be difficult for him to fulfill the roles and expectations placed on a Muslim husband, particularly regarding the religious and spiritual upbringing of children.
I’m most sorry to hear of the brother’s experience with your family. Being a new Muslim can be tough and when the Muslim community is less than supportive on the marriage question, it can be even tougher.
My advice to the brother is that Muslims, just like any other group, represent a spectrum of tolerance and intolerance, kindness and brittleness (to use your term), and sensitivity and insensitivity. Islam should not be particularized to the behavior of your family or any one family, but should instead be seen as a universal way of life based on a creedal foundation of monotheism and moral precepts that regulate human interaction. Unfortunately, not all of us live up to this standard.
I pray you and the brother can resolve this situation in a way where your hearts find peace.
May Allah reward you,