Marrying A Heathen

Question

I belong to a Muslim family in Pakistan (a born Muslim).Sir there is a question in my mind that has emerged as a great concern to me. I have come to know that a Muslim cannot marry a person of any other religion except to those who belong to Judaism or Christianity. Now the reason for which that question has arisen in my mind is that I have a distant friend, and she belongs to USA. We both met online, became very good friends and gradually it grew into love and now all of it has finally reached a point where we think that we should get married and become a part of each others life. Dear sir! She is neither Jew nor Christian (although she claims herself as a born Christian but not raised to be one).So as an independent soul she has always claimed herself as anonymous in any religious regards. In other words she declares herself as an Ethnic or a Heathen (a person who doesn't have a specific religious individuality) I need your answer as a solution to this problem (keeping in mind that she arrogates herself legally ethnic, but still she respects every other religion and belief, and loves to stay achromatic and impersonal in that regard). My questions are:

Is there any solution to this problem with respect to our Religion Islam?

Can we both get married to each other?

Is there any possibility for both of us getting together?

I need to be properly guided and let me tell you something here. I really love her and don't want to lose her at any cost, and I know that Islam is a religion of humanity and harmony to a great extent and it's not only a religion but a complete way of life. It preaches peace, love and harmony and teaches how to abide by the natural laws and precepts that lead to a happy and a contented life. And I have a feeling that it has solution to all the problems either social or moral. So please I request with the deepest of my concerns that you will send me with a rigorous legal solution that is acceptable to Allah, His holy prophet Muhammad (sws), our Islamic laws and the social and moral values that are linked together.


Answer

The Qur'anic verse governing the question of marriage with the People of the Book reads:

This day are [all] good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when ye give them their marriage portions and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denies the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter. (5:5)

This verse has explicitly allowed marriage of Muslim men with people of the book. As a matter of Ijtihad (personal judgment) one may include a monotheist in this permission as well. This would be on the basis of argument that the only monotheists at the time of revelation of this verse where in fact people of the book and that the main reason for this allowance was belief in monotheism (Tawhid).

It makes sense to look at every case separately and there seems to be three main criteria in looking at every case:

1. The strength of the belief of the person in one God. Believing in an Abrahamic religion makes the people of the book to have a very strong belief in Tawhid (One and only One God). The question is how strong the belief of this lady in one God, in comparison is. As a Muslim, you want your wife to have such a strong belief in Tawhid that in harmony with your belief, the general spirit of Monotheism and loving and surrendering to one God runs in your family and generation.

2. The lady does not accept any religion, but does she respect them, in particular the religion of Islam? I did notice that you mentioned that she respects all religions, but what is the practical implication of this respect? Is she respectful enough to allow and even support your future children to practice Islam, if they were convinced by Islam, for instance?

3. Do you think you will have enough support and power to generate and lead a religious family if the lady becomes your wife? The verse in Surah al-Maidah was revealed when there was absolutely no chance that (say) a Christian woman could religiously influence her Muslim husband and kids. Is this also going to be the case in your future family given the society in which you will settle in as a married couple?

I think you need to consider the above three criteria with an open mind and honesty without letting your feelings biasing your thoughts. If you find that the lady satisfies the above criteria then at least religiously you may consider it permissible to marry her.

Another point that is worth considering is that part of Tawhid (Monotheism) is to surrender ourselves to the One God. Part of this surrendering is to accept that we do not know all the truth and are in need of his guidance. This is one of the crucial points of belonging to the people of the book (Jew, Christian, and Muslim). This means we have accepted a divine guide from the Almighty. As opposed to this is the attitude of not surrendering to God while accepting Him. Such attitude will lead the person to a sate where he/she wants to be free of any obligations with regard to God except just believing in His existence.

I am not saying that the lady that you are interested in belongs to the above category. All I am trying to do is to illustrate for you the importance of belonging to the people of the Book rather than simply believing in God with no religion. This might give you some basis and motives to discuss this important matter with the lady preferably before the marriage. The point to invest on in the discussion is that while for many, belonging to a religion might be simply the matter of following the foot steps of their forefathers, to you, the main point of accepting a religion is that you appreciate that you do not know the whole truth and that you surrendering yourself to (what you believe are) the directives of God is in fact a natural outcome of your belief in Tawhid. This might change the way the lady sees 'religions' in general and might bring your beliefs closer and therefore result in more harmony in your future life.

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