WHAT HAPPENS TO A MARRIAGE IF ONE OF THE COUPLE CONVERTS TO ISLAM?

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

WHAT HAPPENS TO A MARRIAGE IF ONE OF THE COUPLE CONVERTS TO ISLAM?

 Traditional Islamic jurisprudence says that Muslims should only marry each other.  The only exception to this is that Muslim men are allowed to marry women who are Ahl al-Kitab (People of Scripture), usually limited to Jews and Christians.  Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men.  But what happens to a non-Muslim couple who are married, and later one or both of them convert to Islam?  Here are some fatwas on the issue, that slightly differ from each other:

A. Fatwa of The European Council for Fatwa & Research, including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah, Sheikh ‘Abdullah al-Judai and others (from Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah, Sina’at al-Fatwa, pp. 356-7)

  1. If both of the couple become Muslim, and they are not close relatives by blood or suckling that would make the marriage invalid, their marriage continues in its validity. (NB they do not need an Islamic nikah ceremony.)
  2. If only the husband converts to Islam, they are not close relatives and the wife is a person of scripture, their marriage continues in its validity.
  3. If only the wife converts to Islam, the view of the Council is that: a) if she converts before the marriage is consummated, she must leave him immediately; b) if she converts after consummation and her husband converts within 3 months or within 3 of her monthly cycles, their marriage continues in its validity; c) as before, but if a long time period has passed, she may remain with him in the expectation that he will convert also.  If he eventually converts, their marriage continues in its validity, without needing a new marriage ceremony.  d) If she wishes to leave her husband after the 3-month time period, she should seek dissolution of her marriage from the relevant authorities.

4. If the wife is Muslim and the husband is not, the four Madhhabs do not allow her to remain with him after the expiry of the 3-month period, or to have sexual relations with him.  However, some scholars allow her to remain with him, fully-married, as long as he does not harm her regarding her religious practice and as long as she has hope that he will also convert to Islam eventually.

It is authentically narrated from ‘Umar bin al-Khattab that a woman became a Muslim while her husband remained non-Muslim: he ruled, “If she wishes, she may leave him or if she wishes, she may remain with him.”  Also, there is an authentic narration from ‘Ali bin Abi Talib: “If the wife of a Jewish or Christian man becomes Muslim, he is entitled to remain her husband, since he has a covenant with the Muslims.”  Similar views are authentically-narrated from Ibrahim al-Nakh’i, Imam Sha’bi and Hammad bin Abi Sulayman.

 

B. FATWA OF SHEIKH ‘ABDULLAH AL-JUDAI (from his book Islam Ahad al-Zawjayn, pp. 249-251)

  1. There is no decisive, unequivocal text (nass qati’) about this matter.
  2. There is no consensus (ijma’) about this matter.
  3. Pre-Islamic marriages are sound and valid.  They can only be annulled for definite reasons.  Difference of religion is not a definite cause of invalidity due to the absence of an unequivocal text and due to the existence of a difference of opinion about the matter.
  4. Evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah shows that a couple remaining together with a difference of religion does not damage the basis of their faiths.  Their relationship remains sound, not corrupt.
  5. The simple fact that one of them converts to Islam does not invalidate the marriage.
  6. Despite the multitude of people converting to Islam in his time, it is not recorded at all that the Prophet (pbuh) separated a husband and wife or ordered their separation due to one of them converting, or due to one of them converting before the other.  What is authentic from him is the opposite, as in the case of his daughter Zaynab who remained married to Abul-‘As for six years after she converted to Islam and before he did so, just before the Conquest of Mecca and after the revelation of Surah al-Mumtahinah.  The most that happened was that she emigrated and left him in Mecca after the Battle of Badr, but her emigration (hijrah) did not nullify their marriage.
  7. To say that the ayah of al-Mumtahinah ends marital relations due to a difference of religion is not correct.  It only applies when one spouse is at war with Islam (harbi), not simply a non-Muslim (kafir).
  8. The ayah of al-Mumtahinah allows a believer to marry a believing woman whose husband is at war with Islam.  It does not obligate this.  The story of Zaynab shows that a woman’s marriage to a non-Muslim (harbi) man changes from being binding to being allowed.  The reason for this is the difficulty of her returning to her harbi husband, and the difficulty she faces without a husband.
  9. The ayah forbids a Muslim man from retaining a non-Muslim wife who has not joined him in emigrating from a land of kufr to a land of Islam, or has fled from him, renouncing her faith and joining non-Muslims who are at war with Islam.  The reason for this is to prevent an inclination towards ones enemies, as happened with Hatib bin Abi Balta’ah, who wrote to the polytheists about some of the movements of the Muslims due to the presence of some of his relatives in Mecca.
  10. When one of the couple converts to Islam whilst the other is not at war with Islam, they are allowed to remain together.  They are not separated simply due to difference of religion.  The evidence for this is the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions regarding those who embraced Islam in Mecca before the Hijrah and at the Conquest of Mecca.  This was also the fatwa given by ‘Umar during his caliphate without any opposition, and also by ‘Ali.
  11. A difference in religion due to the conversion of one of the couple to Islam allows the annulment of the marriage but does not obligate it, as shown by the judgment of ‘Umar with the endorsement of the Companions.
  12. The conclusions of the Madhhabs in this matter are not to be given precedence due to their opposition to what is established, weakness of evidence (dalil), weakness of juristic indication (istidlal), or all of the above.
  13. The allowance for the couple to remain together means that their marital life together is permitted, including sexual intercourse.

 

C. TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE LIKELY EFFECTS ON CHILDREN

The majority of jurists regard a man who doesn’t pray regularly out of laziness as still a Muslim and not a kafir, so his wife is not obliged to divorce him.

In certain situations, the wife is allowed to have patience and persevere with her marriage, despite the objectionable behaviour of her husband, especially if she has children from him and she fears that they will become psychologically ruined and wasted.

(Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah, Sina’at al-Fatwa, p. 353)

Compiled and translated by Usama Hasan, London, 13th January 2012

A PDF version of this article can be found here: One of a couple converting to Islam

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8 Responses to “WHAT HAPPENS TO A MARRIAGE IF ONE OF THE COUPLE CONVERTS TO ISLAM?”

  1. Mike hatfield Says:

    When The Prophet (SAW) liberated Makkah, Ikrama abi Jahal, fled. His wife embraced Islam and the Prophet (SAW) forgave Ikrama.

    When she caught up with him and said he was forgive, they journeyed back. He tried to be intimate with her, but she did not allow this because he was still non Muslim.

    Todays sholars will also permit the marriage of man with man soon!!! The prophet (SAW) warned the fitna of a man with knowledge!! These ulema shouild fear Allah

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  3. Zeenat Says:

    If marriage between muslims and non-muslims are valid in the case above, what’s the difference in a muslim woman marrying a non-muslim man (of the book) who is interested in converting to islam if he allows her to practice Islam, to learn about Islam together and has agreed for all the children from the marriage to be raised as muslims.

  4. naim tuna Says:

    You who give such a fatwas have te fear Allah becose the ijma of scholars is estabilishet that a muslim woman is haram to be maried to a kafir or to stay maried to a kafir if she converts to islam. Anyone who belive that this is alowed becomes a kafir for allowing what Allah has forbiden: And if you know them belivers (the muslim women) do not turn them back to dhe kuffars, no them (muslim woman) are allowed for them and no them (kafirs) are allowed for them. (Mumtehinah) So fear Allah and do not call muslim women to zina, if you want do call kafirs to islam by allowing te muslim women to comitte zina then send your doghters and sisters to find some kafir boyfrend maybe these kafirs convert to islam after having relaitonship with you doghters. Don’t change the rulings of islam and them pretending that you are calling to islam.

  5. Lina Says:

    Think about the fact, that if we divorce because of my (possible) conversion to Islam, there will be at least 30 people who will never even consider Islam as a true religion after that. That includes my husband and children, our parents and siblings and nephews.
    The only reason for that I haven´t converted yet is the question of marriage here. I am happily married and we love each other. I see my family as potential converts.

    But, maybe it´s better to stay as a christian then and still believe in one God. It can´t be right to hurt so many innocent people including my own children.

    And even if I would convert, I couldn´t do it openly or visit the mosque because of other muslims would laugh me out because of my (so far) non-muslim family (and the family is a blessing for me, nothing to laugh at).

    If I was young I would convert and marry a practising muslim, of course. It seems to be that I and many other women have lost “everything” by living our own lives… and God did know that it would go like this.

    If I have to choose between being a muslim or a mother, I choose to be a mother. And wish that my children will later choose the right path – in time!

    • hatfield Says:

      All these problems arise because Islam is a wholistic system. When you try and practise it in a non_Islamic soicety many problems/issues arise.

      So instead of changing Islam to fit fads and fashion. Muslims should construct an Islamic society in the muslim world so people then witness what islam is.

      These marriages issues are not new. Non Muslim women embrcaced Islam during the prophets era whem Muslims were a minority. So we whould follow their example and not re-engineer Islam.

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