Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan
Question: Salam, I have heard that if someone commits fornication they must repent before they get married otherwise the marriage will not be accepted. Are there any scholars who do not hold this opinion, or is there unanimous agreement amongst the scholars regarding this?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
The short answer to your question is that the majority of scholars actually do not deem repentance as a condition for the validity of marriage to a fornicator or adulterer.
The Understanding of Repentance with respect to Marriage
Repentance from any sin, especially an enormity like fornication, is obligatory in and of itself.
As for the marriage of one who fails to repent, it is valid since the contract’s validity is unrelated to the religious practice of the person getting married.
With respect to the success of the marriage itself, there is no doubt that increased piety and godfearingness (taqwa) of the spouses results in much, much more divine favor and blessing (baraka). And repentance is a key ingredient—if not the key ingredient—of taqwa.
The Verse in Question
The basis of your question is the Qur’anic verse, “The adulterer shall not marry save an adulteress or an idolatress, and the adulteress none shall marry save an adulterer or an idolater. All that is forbidden unto believers.” [24:3]
While a few scholars did interpret the verse as a literal prohibition, the majority of scholars held it to be a verse of general counsel and related more to suitability. The word “forbidden” in the last sentence is hence deemed a prohibition of counsel, not a legal prohibition entailing sin. Yet because that word is normally used for sinful prohibition, the counsel here is understood to be emphasized and of utmost importance, namely, for the spiritual welfare of the family.
That is to say, the verse is just strongly emphasizing that normally, a marriage between a practicing believer and a fornicator will not be a very successful marriage.
[Irshad al-Aql al-Salim ila Mazaya al-Kitab al-Karim, Abu Suud; Madarik al-Tanzil wa Haqa’iq al-Ta’wil, Nasafi; Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil, Baydawi]
And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani