Often the question is posed about the rules for Muslims in marrying non-Muslims. Many scholars have been advocating rules that are in direct violation of God’s clear law in the Quran. Sadly, and in male orientated cultures we hear the claim that a Muslim man may marry a woman of other religions (e.g. a Christian or Jewish woman), but a Muslim woman cannot marry except a Muslim man! They explain this obvious male biased innovation by a number of un-Quranic justifications. Some say that this privilege is given to the man because the child takes the religion of his father and not his mother, and thus a Muslim man may marry a non Muslim woman but still have the child raised as a Muslim, while as if a Muslim woman married a Christian man for example, the child would be raised as a Christian.
But is this what God really decreed for marriage to non-Muslims in the Quran?
The answer is NO!
To detail God’s law in the Quran let us read the following:
“Do not marry (you men) the ‘mushrikaat’ until they believe; for even a believing slave woman is better than a ‘mushrika’, even if you like her. And do not marry (you women) the ‘mushrikeen’ until they believe. A believing slave man is better than a mushrik, even if you like him. These invite to the fire, while God invites to Paradise and forgiveness, with His permission, and He clarifies His revelations for the people, that they may remember” 2:221
The word ‘mushrikeen’ (mushrikaat for women) speaks of those who commit ‘shirk’. The word ‘shirk’ is used consistently in the Quran to mean the act of setting partner/s with God in any of God’s exclusive rights. For example, in 6:114 we read that God is the only source of law (hakaman), so anyone who upholds any source of law other than God’s law (Quran) is guilty of ‘shirk’:
“Or do they have ‘shurakaa’ (partners) who legislate for them religious laws which were not authorized by God? If it were not for a predetermined decision, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed the transgressors shall have a painful punishment.” 42:21
The 2nd word in 42:21 ‘shurakaa’ is a key word and it means partners. In 12:106 we read how the majority of those who believe in Allah (which includes all Muslims) are actually committing ‘shirk’.
“The majority of them who believe in Allah do not do so without practicing ‘shirk’ (setting partners with Allah)” 12:106
From the above Quranic verses it becomes clear that the prohibition is related to marrying anyone who practises ‘shirk’. They can be Jews, Christian and indeed Muslims. It becomes also clear that Muslims may marry the followers of any religion (Jews, Christians, etc) as long as they believe in the Oneness of God and also do not set up partners with God in any capacity.
It is also clear that the law of God prohibiting marriage to the ‘mushrikeen’ applies to men and women equally. The innovation of giving men preferential treatment in this matter is only the result of male dominated cultures.
The Quran makes the point that there are those among the Jews, Christians and others who are monotheist and do not set up idols beside God. The following verses confirm this matter:
“Those who believe and those who are Jewish, the Christians and the Sabians, the ones who believe in God and the Last Day and do good deeds; they will have their reward from their Lord and no fear will come upon them nor will they grieve.” 2:62
“Surely, some followers of the previous scriptures do believe in God, and in what was revealed to you (O Muhammad), and in what was revealed to them. They reverence God and they never trade away God’s Revelations for a cheap price. These will receive their recompense from their Lord. God is the most prompt judge.” 3:199