What happens to a marriage after converting to Islam?

Although we keep hearing and reading criticisms about people who live a routine life with no specific changes, there are still not many people who experience huge changes in their lives. Most people in this world live a conventional life. They go to school, then university, then they find a job and get married and form a family. And all of those critics of such ordinary lifestyle, only suggest minor changes for breaking the routine. For example, they may recommend you to change your diet or listen to a happy song in the morning. But does anyone recommend you to rethink your ideologies, and see if it is not working properly for you, then think about a new set of ideas?! 

Some people in the world are brave enough to see if the present ideology is not working well for them, then they search and find a better one; people who embrace Islam as their new religion are amongst those. Becoming a Muslim could be a long process in one’s life, and it will definitely have huge consequences for the convert person. Converts will have to let go of the past routine life and go through different experiences in all aspects of their lives such as friendship, job, family and the whole lifestyle.

In this short text, we will only point out one of the major changes that married converts may experience; what happens to their marriage if one of the spouses converts to Islam.

But before directly going to the main topic, let’s see what the rules of marriage in Islamic jurisprudence are?

converting to Islam

marriage after converting to Islam

The main verse in the holy Quran that discusses the marriage of believers with non-believers says:

Do not marry idolatresses until they embrace faith. A faithful slave girl is better than an idolatress, though she should impress you. And do not marry [your daughters] to idolaters until they embrace faith. A faithful slave is better than an idolater, though he should impress you. Those invite [others] to the Fire, but Allah invites to paradise and pardon, by His will, and He clarifies His signs for the people so that they may take admonition” (2:221)

Therefore in Islam, as described in the other Abrahamic religions, it is prohibited to marry a man or a woman who does not believe in God. In another verse Allah says: “Today all the good things have been made lawful to you—the food of those who were given the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them—and the chaste ones from among faithful women, and chaste women of those who were given the Book before you, when you have given them their dowries, in wedlock, not in license, nor taking paramours…” (5:5)

Therefore, from the above verses, besides other verses and narrations, Muslim jurists have concluded the following rules for interfaith marriages:

Rules of marriage for Muslim men

A Muslim man is not allowed to marry, neither permanently nor temporarily, a non-Muslim woman who is not among the followers of the books (Ahlul Kitab); Christians and Jews.

A Muslim man is allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish woman. However, based on precaution, it is obligatory to refrain from marrying a non-Muslim woman in permanent marriage. The reason behind it is that Muslims do not deny the preceding Abrahamic religions, but they know Islam as the most complete and the last divine religion.

Rules of marriage for Muslim women

A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man at all, neither permanently nor temporarily [1].

As you see the rules of marriage for Muslim women is much stricter than those for men. The reason behind it goes back to the verse that says “Men are the managers (protectors) of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth…” (4:34)

The Islamic belief is that in married life, men have authority over women, and Islam will not allow a non-Muslim man to have authority over a Muslim woman.

In Islam, the responsibility of providing for the family is on man’s shoulder, and women have no responsibility in this case. Men are also responsible for protecting the religion of their family: “O you who have faith! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel will be people and stones…” (66:6)

Now that we are familiar with the basic rules of marriage in Islam let’s see what happens to a person who has already been married and then decides to embrace Islam. Is his/her marriage to his/her non-Muslim spouse still valid?

When a man converts to Islam, what happens to his marriage?

When a married man converts to Islam:

If his wife is from the followers of the book (Ahlul Kitab), Christian or Jewish, the marriage remains valid, and they do not need to remarry according to Islamic law [2]. This is because of the respect that Islam has for the preceding religions, although it is the final religion sent by God.

If the wife is an atheist, the marriage will be void automatically. However, according to the ruling (fatwa) of Sayed Ali Khamenei, even the atheist woman needs to keep the waiting period (iddah)[i]. If during that period (3 months) she decides to convert to Islam the marriage will continue [3].

But what happens if the man doubts that his wife has accepted Islam as her religion truly? The Muslim jurists say that if the non-Muslim woman only recites the two testimonies (Shahadatain) for the sake of marriage, the Islamic treatment would be applied to her as long as she does not say or do anything that would contradict her declaration of the faith [4].

When a woman converts to Islam, what happens to her marriage?

“O you who have faith! When faithful women come to you as immigrants, test them. Allah knows best [the state of] their faith. Then, if you ascertain them to be [genuinely] faithful women, do not send them back to the faithless. They are not lawful for them, nor are they lawful for them, but give them what [dowry] they have spent [for them]…” (60:10)

When a married woman converts to Islam:

No matter if the husband is an atheist or a Christian or Jewish, the marriage will automatically be void UNLESS the husband accepts to convert to Islam too. If at the time that the woman is keeping her waiting period (iddah) her husband embraces Islam, their marriage is considered standing, and there is no need to renew the marriage [5].

Quran, marriage, Islam, Muslims, wife, husband

If both of the married couple convert to Islam

In a marital relationship, when both spouses decide to embrace Islam, no matter if they are both followers of the book (Ahlul Kitab) or both are not followers of the book (non-Ahlul Kitab) or one is the follower of the book (Ahlul Kitab) and the other one is not, if the marriage that took place among them is valid according to their custom, such marriage is considered valid and there would be no need to recite the marriage formula anew [6].

It is understandable that both man and woman will experience such hard circumstances for their new beliefs. Maybe that is why Allah in a chapter called “Divorce” indicates: “… Whoever is wary of Allah, He shall make for him a way out [of the adversities of the world and the Hereafter], and provide for him from whence he does not count upon. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, He will suffice him. Indeed Allah carries through His commands. Certainly, Allah has ordained a measure [and extent] for everything.”(65: 2, 3)

 

Notes:

[i] The period a woman must observe after the death of her spouse or after a divorce, during which she may not marry another man.

 

References:  

[1] Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 4, pg. 103, the book of marriage

[2] ibid

[3] Sayed Ali Khamenei, Istifta

[4] ibid

[5] Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 4, pg. 103, the book of marriage

[6] ibid