Is it permissible for a Muslim to marry a Jew or a Christian?

ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.



Islamic Text

Yes, it is permissible for a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or a Christian woman. This is explicitly mentioned in the Holy Quran. However, a Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man.

الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حِلٌّ لَكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَهُمْ وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ وَلَا مُتَّخِذِي أَخْدَانٍ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالْإِيمَانِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

On this day (all) pure foods have been made lawful for you. The food of the People of the Book is permissible for you and yours is permissible for them. And permissible for you (in marriage) are chaste believing women and chaste women from those given the Scripture before you, as long as you pay them their dowries in chastity, neither fornicating nor taking illegitimate partners. And whoever rejects faith, then indeed his deeds will be nullified. And in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Surah al-Maidah, 5).

In the verse of the Holy Quran above it is clear that Muslim men can marry women of the Book. This refers to Jewish and Christian women. However, this dispensation does not extend to Muslim women. They cannot marry men who are not Muslim. Despite the permissibility of a Muslim man marrying a woman of the Book, the Holy Prophet ﷺ did not marry a woman who was non-Muslim.

(وَيَجُوزُ تَزْوِيجُ الْكِتَابِيَّاتِ)
لِقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى: {وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ} [المائدة: 5]، وَالذِّمِّيَّةُ وَالْحَرْبِيَّةُ سَوَاءٌ؛ لِإِطْلَاقِ النَّصِّ. (الاختيار لتعليل المختار)

And it is permissible to marry women of the Book. Due to His words (Most High): And chaste women from those given the Scripture before you. (Surah al-Maidah, 5). Her being from Ahl al-Dhimmah (in Muslim lands) or Ahl al-Harb (non-Muslim lands) is all the same (for the ruling of validity). This is due to the verse being encompassing. (Imam al-Mowsili, al-Ikhtiyaar).

ويجوز تزوج الكتابيات ولا يجوز تزوج المجوسيات ولا الوثنيات. (مختصر القدوري)

It is permissible to marry women from the People of the Book , but it is not permissible to marry Zoroastrian women, nor idolatrous women. (Mukhtasar al-Qudoori).

In the Nusoos (texts) above we see that Hanafi scholars considered the Holy Verse to be inclusive. Therefore, it includes Jewish or Christian women from Muslim lands (Dhimmi women) or non-Muslim lands (Harbi women). Although the Nikah (marriage) will be valid when a Muslim man marries a Jew or a Christian, it is still best avoided, since it is Makruh.

(وَيَجُوزُ تَزْوِيجُ الْكِتَابِيَّاتِ)
لِقَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى {وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ} [المائدة: 5]
(قَوْلُهُ وَيَجُوزُ تَزْوِيجُ الْكِتَابِيَّاتِ)
وَالْأَوْلَى أَنْ لَا يَفْعَلَ وَلَا يَأْكُلَ ذَبِيحَتَهُمْ إلَّا لِلضَّرُورَةِ. وَتُكْرَهُ الْكِتَابِيَّةُ الْحَرْبِيَّةُ إجْمَاعًا لِانْفِتَاحِ بَابِ الْفِتْنَةِ. (فتح القدير)

Al-Hidaayah: And it is permissible to marry women of the Book. Due to His words (Most High): And chaste women from those given the Scripture before you. (Surah al-Maidah, 5).

Fath al-Qadeer: His saying: And it is permissible to marry women of the Book. However, it is better not to do so, and best not to eat their slaughtered meat unless there is a necessity. It is Makruh by consensus to marry a Harbiyah (woman from non-Muslim lands) due to the potential for Fitnah (immorality). (Imam al-Marghinani and Imam Ibn Humaam, Fath al-Qadeer).

Imam Ibn Humaam raises a significant concern when a Muslim man marries a Jew or a Christian. This can jeopardise the faith of the children or even the man himself. Therefore, it is Makruh for that reason. Imam Ibn Abideen further clarified that it is Makruh Tanzeehi if he marries a Dhimmi woman but Tahreemi if he marries a Harbi woman.

(وَصَحَّ نِكَاحُ كِتَابِيَّةٍ)
 وَإِنْ كُرِهَ تَنْزِيهًا (مُؤْمِنَةٍ بِنَبِيٍّ) مُرْسَلٍ (مُقِرَّةٍ بِكِتَابٍ) مُنَزَّلٍ، وَإِنْ اعْتَقَدُوا الْمَسِيحَ إلهًا
فَقَوْلُهُ: وَالْأَوْلَى أَنْ لَا يَفْعَلَ يُفِيدُ كَرَاهَةَ التَّنْزِيهِ فِي غَيْرِ الْحَرْبِيَّةِ، وَمَا بَعْدَهُ يُفِيدُ كَرَاهَةَ التَّحْرِيمِ فِي الْحَرْبِيَّةِ تَأَمَّلْ. (رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

Imam al-Haskafi: And it is valid to marry a woman of the Book. Although it is Makruh Tanzeehan. As long as she believes in a Prophet that was sent, and a book that was revealed. Even if they believe in al-Masih (Jesus peace be upon him) being a god.

Imam Ibn Abideen: His saying, it is better not to do so, dictates Makruh Tanzeehan and relates to a non-Harbiyah. And what he said afterwards dictates it being Makruh Tahriman to marry a Harbiyah, so reflect. (Radd al-Muhtar).

Some people believe that the permissibility of marrying a Christian woman does not apply to the Christians of today. Such people explain that they have changed their beliefs and therefore the permission mentioned in the Holy Quran is not applicable. This is a clear error.
Christians had introduced corrupt beliefs before the revelation of the Holy Quran. Despite this the Holy Quran permitted Muslim men to marry Christian women.

لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَم

Indeed, those who say that Allah is the Messiah son of Mary have disbelieved. (Surah al-Maidah, 17).

لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلَاثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْ إِلَهٍ إِلَّا إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهُوا عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيم

Indeed, those who say that Allah is the third of three have disbelieved. There is no god but One God. If they do not desist from what they say, verily those who disbelieve will be touched by a painful punishment. (Surah al-Maidah, 73).

And Allah Most High Knows Best

-Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (10.06.2022)

See also:
Are Jews and Christians Kafir?

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