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 convertperson. 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 after converting to Islam 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?
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 .
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 . 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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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)
[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.
- Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 4, pg. 103, the book of marriage
- Sayed Ali Khamenei, Istifta
- Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 4, pg. 103, the book of marriage
A family in Islam is not only a place for reproduction but also a site for growing the healthy spirit and character of human beings. To clarify this point, some principles are mentioned below which are derived from the verses of the Quran:
1. Having amity and mercy within the family and providing security and peace for each other. This verse refers to family and its spiritual relations: “And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect” (30:21).
2. Consultation and satisfaction of the couple in decision making .
3. In verse 71 of Al-Tawbah, men and women are introduced as each other’s friends and helpmates. In these verses, the importance of consultation is notified, and it is also mentioned that the viewpoints of all the family members are of equal value and no one’s approach receives more importance than the other’s .
4. The importance of family interests over personal interests .
5. Improving affairs and seeking reconciliation .
6. Forgiving each other’s mistakes, establishing peace and amour, and avoiding egocentricity: “If a woman fears from her husband misconduct or desertion, there is no sin upon the couple if they reach a reconciliation between themselves; and reconcilement is better. The souls are prone to greed; but if you are virtuous and God wary, Allah is indeed well aware of what you do” (4:128).
7. Being good-tempered in etiquette and commerce: “deal kindly with them” (4:19).
The principles mentioned above indicate that the style Islam suggests for families is achievable through a true collaboration of all family members. Every family is a small part whose rectification contributes to the improvement of the whole society and consequently its perfection.
- (9:71, 28:26, 28, and 37:102,103)
- (2:229, 4:19)
When you hear this question the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the following: “Do husbands have rights too?” and "What are husband's rights in Islam?" In today’s modern societies whenever the issue of rights is discussed, particular groups are considered; mainly women and children.
However, it seems that men’s or husband's rights have been neglected or never talked about since no one thought it was necessary!
Here we want to pay our attention to MEN and specifically those men who are involved in family life, say husbands!
Since in Islam, the family is seen as an essential entity of the society, the wife-husband relations, their responsibilities and rights over one another is to be seen in the light of their status in the family.
When a man is called ‘husband,’ it means so much to him. He has to provide, has to fulfill his wife’s needs emotionally and economically. There are so many responsibilities that a man as a husband has towards his wife, and when it comes to Islamic culture and teachings, it is even more demanding.
The only provider in Islam is considered to be the husband, and wife has no responsibility whatsoever to provide for the family, unless she works and earns money only for her own pleasure (She may voluntarily, however, support the family financially. As it is the case in many Muslim families nowadays).
The Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: 'Man is the guardian of his family and every guardian has responsibilities towards those under his guardianship' .
Also, it is mentioned in the Quran that the husband is the ‘manager’:
‘Men are the managers 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)
A modern reader of this verse may wonder why men should be the managers. One of the reasons mentioned in the above verse is due to his financial role in the family: ‘and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth...’
However, one may argue that, in today’s societies, this is not always the case. Today both men and women work, both earn money, both are educated, and they both have the same virtues. Then, what feature(s) of men has made them capable of being in charge of the family?
‘Righteous women are obedient..’ (4:34)
What does it mean to be obedient? Can it be applied to today’s societies in which men and women are considered the same?
Modern thinkers have mainly focused on the similarities between men and women to defend women’s rights. They have strived to show that women have the same power as men to build the history . At the end of the day, however, they are two ‘unique’ creatures of God, each of them possessing their beauty and strengths that fit well with his or her purpose of being. This is well addressed in the following verse:
‘And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves...’ (30:21)
The word ‘mate’ in the above verse refers to the fact that man and woman are incomplete on their own, and they need each other .
In other words, men are created to be fathers, the same way that women are created to be mothers! Is it not enough to understand their different duties, rights, and responsibilities?
Islam advocates the priority of neither gender; rather it allows every person to fulfill their potentials, without any discrimination.
Alexis Carrel, the well-known French physiologist, and biologist admits the fact that men and women have been made differently according to the law of creation and he also confirms that these dissimilarities make their duties and rights dissimilar .
When Islam introduces husband as the manager, it means he is fully responsible for all family affairs. Accordingly, one of his rights is to be obeyed by family members including his wife and children.
What is primarily important here is that there should be a balance between rights and duties for each member of the family. When a family is seen as a big picture in which every member has their own role, different rights and duties of husband, wife and children can be easily explained.
Parallel to his duties and responsibilities, a husband also has some rights over his wife. Sexual satisfaction is one of them. A wife has to sexually submit herself to her husband unless during the wife’s state of menstruation:
‘They ask you concerning [intercourse during] menses. Say, ‘It is hurtful.’ So keep away from wives during the menses, and do not approach them till they are clean’ (2:222)
This is indeed one of the advantages that Islam gives to women to protect them.
One might argue why sexual availability is considered as a duty for the wife and one of the husband's rights? An examination of the philosophy of marriage in Islam will be helpful to find the answer .
In Islam wife is considered as husband’s mate towards whom husband take comfort as you can see in the following Quranic verse:
‘And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you...’ (30:21)
From the Islamic point of view, if a man is sexually and emotionally satisfied at home he will be protected against corruption outside. Same goes for women of course; hence we have many instructions for men on how to care for their wives and pay attention to their sexual needs.
We can never talk solely about husband's rights or wife’s rights. They are members of one social unit called ‘family’; a unit that is of high value and importance in Islamic teachings. Husband, like the wife, has his own rights and duties.
As for his duties, he is considered as the only provider for the family, and as the guardian, he has to take care of his wife and children. As for husband's rights, he has to be sexually and emotionally satisfied by his wife. Also, as the manager of the family, the husband is to be obeyed.
Wife and children must recognize the role of man in the family for the family to stay on the right track. However, man is to provide whatever means possible to fulfill his wife's and children’s needs emotionally and economically.
- Mustadrak, vol 2, p 550.
- Mutahhari Murtadha, The Rights of Women in Islam
- Almizan, Tafir, Vol 16. Sura Rum, verse 21
- The Importance of Marriage in Islam’,