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The Fatwa concerning the permissibility of marrying women of the Book

According to the Shafi’i madhab

In Mu’ni al-Muhtaj a well-known alim of the Shafi’i madhab Khatib al-Shirbini writes: “Islam allows Muslim men marrying women of the Book. These are Christian and Jewish women. Allah says in Qur’an: “... (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). (Surah Al-Ma'idah, ayah 5)

The women of the Book were already granted the Holy Writs - Torah and Gospel. But the ones believing in the book of Zaboor and the Prophets Ibrahim’s and Shees’ writings are not considered as women of the Book, so marrying them is prohibited. It is said in Qur’an: “...The Book was sent down to two Peoples before us...” (Surah Al-'An`am, ayah 156) “Before us” means here “before Muslims”.

A list of conditions must be fulfilled for the marriage of a Muslim man to a woman of the Book to be legal.

1. It is allowed to marry a woman, whose forefathers adopted Christianity or Judaism for certain before these religions were cancelled or distorted. This means they must have adopted this religion at the times it was still true.

2. Also the marriage is legal when the forefathers of the woman adopted Christianity or Judaism after the religion had been distorted in case it was not still the next Prophet sent. They must adhere to the true part of this religion and stay away from all the modified and distorted.

3. The marrying is prohibited in case her forefathers adopted Christianity or Judaism after they [the religions] were cancelled by the next Prophet. For instance, by the Prophet Isa (Joshua) after the Prophet Musa (Moses) or by the Prophet Muhammad after the Prophet Isa, peace be upon them.

4. It is not allowed to marry a woman as a precaution when it is not clear if her forefathers adopted Christianity or Judaism before or after the religion was distorted.

Imam as-Subuky writes: “And if a Christian or Jewish woman affirms that her forefathers adopted these religions before it was cancelled or distorted (or after distortion but before cancellation) then her words are accepted. Because it is only them we can get this information from.” But if a war is taking place between the people of the Book and Muslims, then it will be disapproved to marry their woman in case she is not on the Muslim territory. But it is not hateful if there is no Muslim woman to marry.

Sometimes marrying a woman of the Book can be classified as a desired action, when there is a chance for her to adopt Islam. It was the Prophet’s companion Uthman, who married a woman of the Book, and she converted to Islam and was notable for her piety. Imam al-Kufal said that there is wisdom in making marriages of the Muslim men to the women of the Book permissible. Because women are closer to their husbands and their religion than to the parents.

If a Muslim marries a woman of the Book, she has the same rights of maintenance, divorce, number of nights together with her husband (if there is more than one wife) as a Muslim-wife does. However this does not concern admeasurement of dower. A woman of the Book must bathe after discharging the lochia and every time her menstrual period ends for the intimacy with the husband to be permissible for her. She must bathe after the intimacy as well. And if she refuses, she is made to. Also she is made to eat no pork and anything forbidden for Muslims. If a Christian woman converts to Judaism (or a Jewish woman converts to Christianity) she becomes forbidden for a Muslim man. And if she was married her marriage falls apart. Same way falls apart the marriage of a Muslim woman in case she converts to any other religion. The Almighty says in Qur’an: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).” (Surah ‘Ali ‘Imran, ayah 85)

All of the mentioned above makes it clear that it is better for a Muslim man not to marry a woman of the Book nowadays. Because there are too many conditions hard to fulfill owing to a very long time passed (more than a thousand years) after these religions were cancelled. And they were changed and distorted as well.

It is essential to remember that the woman must come from a nation adopted Christianity or Judaism before these religions were cancelled and distorted. This is one of the most important conditions. The Prophet Isa was sent 1925 years after the Prophet Musa and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent more than 600 years after the Prophet Isa. Let us draw attention to the Russian Muslims, who marry women of the Book blindly referring to the permission to do this, while Rus adopted Christianity in 988 of the Gregorian calendar. That is 397 years after the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent.

Concerning the meat slaughtered by the people of the Book it is allowed (halal) too. Qur’an says: “...and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them...” (Surah al-Ma’idah, ayah 5). But here we must also take into consideration the conditions mentioned above. If he doesn’t meet the mentioned conditions, he is not the one from the people of the Book and Muslims may not eat the meat he slaughtered.

According to the Hanafi madhab

A woman of the Book may marry a Muslim man. Jewish and Christian women are coming from the people who had Torah and Bible. Islamic scholars consider that Muslim men may marry them although the Islamic schools of law have different opinions on the necessity of meeting some conditions. The Almighty says in the Qur’an: “...This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you...” (Surah al-Ma’idah, ayah 5)

According to the Hanafi madhab Muslim man has the right to marry the woman of the Book without meeting any conditions except for her to be Christian or Jewess. Though some ulama consider this a hateful (qaraah) action. While one of the parents is monotheist and the other is fire worshipper their children are still considered members of monotheistic religion. If a Jewess convert to Christianity (or a Christian woman converts to Judaism) the permissive decision is not overruled. And if a heatheness adopts Christianity or Judaism, her faith is accepted. Although she converts to Christianity or Judaism after Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Qur’an, she is considered a woman of the Book.

But a Muslim woman may not ever marry a non-Muslim man even though he is coming from the people of the Book.

Muslim Religious Board of the republic of Daghestan, Canonical Department