Relationships with non-Muslims in Islamic Law
This article or section is being renovated.
Interfaith marriage is severely restricted (and for Muslim women, completely forbidden) by Islamic scholarly consensus (ijma). The Quran states in a verse about the treaty of Hudaybiyyah that believing women and disbelieving men (Kuffar) are not lawful for each other, while a later verse states that believing men are permitted to marry believing women and people of the book i.e. Jews and Christians. Believers are forbidden to marry those who associate partners with Allah (mushrikun) in another verse. The Quran and other Islamic sources also prohibit certain degrees of close friendship/allied relationships with disbelievers in certain circumstances, including with some among the "People of the Book". Its stance appears to have evolved over time at various stages of Muhammad's prophetic career, occurring in a context when the believers had been driven out from Mecca and there was a degree of enmity between them, as recorded in such verses as Quran 60:1. Some contemporary views emphasize contextual issues and use particular verses and examples from Muhammad's life to argue that close friendship/allied relationships with disbelievers is not forbidden in most circumstances.
The Quran forbids believers from marrying those who associate partners with Allah (mushrikun). After the conquest of Mecca believing men were permitted to marry believing women and women from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). There is no similar verse explicitly permitting the same for believing women, and they had been explicitly forbidden to marry disbelieving men (Kuffar) in a verse about the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. These verses led scholars to conclude that Muslim women may only marry Muslim men. The relevant verses are Quran 2:221, Quran 60:10, and Quran 5:5. Another justification given by scholars was that a non-Muslim husband may compell his believing wife to compromise her faith or their children's faith. The prominent reformist scholar, Dr. Abou El Fadl, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, notes, “I am not aware of a single dissenting opinion on this, which is rather unusual for Islamic jurisprudence because Muslim jurists often disagreed on many issues, but this is not one of them". Today, there are some discenting opinions among Islamic modernists, arguing that there is some ambiguity in the relevant verses and using arguments such as that women have greater legal protections in the modern world, though this is very much a minority view. Such marriages are considered void under Islamic law. Moreover, if in a married non-Muslim couple the wife but not the husband converts to Islam, the marriage in annulled. It is also annulled if the husband becomes Muslim but the wife is neither Christian nor Jew. If a Muslim husband abandons his faith, his marriage to his Muslim wife is similarly annulled, and perhaps vice versa.
Prohibition on taking disbelievers as intimate friends or guardians / allies
A word common in many of these verses is awliyaa (plural of وَلِيٌّ waliyyun, from which we also have 'wali' - the male guardian of a female or orphan). It is often translated as guardians, friends and protectors, or allies. The phrase walīyu 'llāh (ولي الله), means 'friend of God'.
The prohibiton in the above verse does not apply to all people of the book, some of whom are contrasted with "those who disbelieve" in the preceding verses Quran 3:113-114. This may be considered alongside verses 5:51, 5:57 and 5:82 quoted below.
A later verse in the same surah is more concilliatory regarding Christians, though not towards Jews and idolaters.
The next two verses give more specific proscriptions concerning relations with disbelievers who mock the religion or Muslims who do not take their religion seriously.
Muhammad softens his stance before the conquest of Mecca: Allah forbids only guardians / allies from those who made war on the believers for religion and drove them out
Abraham's people, whom he declared enemies in the above verse, did nothing besides idolatry according to the tafsirs. But it should be noted that a softening of this stance occurs a few verses later in the same surah. It says that Allah may put love / affection between the Muslims and those who had been their enemies, that they are permitted to show kindness and deal justly with them so long as they had not made war on the Muslims and had not helped drive them out. It is only those who did do such things that the believers should not take as guardians / allies (awliyaa).
The tafsirs say that verse 60:7 was uttered because the previous verses were hard for the Muslims, telling them to disown their own relatives in Mecca, even their children in verse Quran 60:3. Regarding verse 60:8, ibn Kathir cites Sahih Bukhari 8:73:9 that it was revealed after Asma' bint Abu Bakr rejected her idolatress mother when she tried to visit her in Medina. He says that 'A'isha asked Muhammad's opinion on this. Al-Tabari in his tafsir records disagreement as to whether the exemption applies only to believers who did not migrate from Mecca, or to polytheists who did not fight nor expel the believers. He also records one narration that the verse was abrogated by later commands to fight the disbelievers, while others disagreed.
Prohibition on taking disbelieving family members as guardians / allies; believers disassociate from them and do not love them if they are enemies of Allah
Surah 9 (at-Tawbah) came later chronologically than surah 60 quoted in the section above, after the conquest of Mecca. Here even family could not be a Muslim's awliya if they love disbelief more than faith, though in context and according to some commentaries this may concern those who had refused to emigrate. Believers were not allowed even to have love for their relatives if they opposed Allah and Muhammad. Presumably, these restrictions did not apply otherwise.
(see also 60:4 above, where it says Abraham is a good example to follow).
An earlier (Meccan) surah tells believers to accompany their disbelieving parents with kindness / fairness in this world, even if they seek to make the believer commit shirk (which should be disobeyed):
Only pious believers where Muhammad's friends
Muhammad used to visit a sick Jewish servant
Contemporary scholars often cite this hadith as an example of Muhammad showing friendship to a Jewish persion.
Umar kicked a Christian out of Medina
`Umar said, "Is he not pure Abu Musa said, "No, but he is Christian." Abu Musa said, "So `Umar admonished me and poked my thigh (with his finger), saying, `Drive him out (from Al-Madinah).' He then recited,"(O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends...) Then he reported that `Abdullah bin `Utbah said, "Let one of you beware that he might be a Jew or a Christian, while unaware." The narrator of this statement said, "We thought that he was referring to the Ayah,
A man follows the religion of his friend
Only stay with believers
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Associate only with a believer, and let only a God-fearing man eat your meals.
Whoever joins a polytheist is like him
To proceed, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Anyone who associates with a polytheist and lives with him is like him.
Some argue that friendship with non-Muslims is permitted in most situations today, appealing to verse 60:8 (see above) and certain aspects of Muhammad's life. His uncle Abu Talib was close to Muhammad and supported him throughout his life, despite remaining a polytheist. His uncle Abbas supported him in Mecca before his conversion to Islam. They also point to the non-Muslim Bedouin who Muhammad and Abu Bakr trusted to lead them through the desert when the Quraish plotted to kill Muhammad. In terms of the hadiths quoted above, it may be relevant that modernist muslim and academic scholars typically consider hadiths to often reflect later imperial circumstances.
- Alex B. Leeman [https://ilj.law.indiana.edu/articles/84/84_2_Leeman.pdf Interfaith Marriage in Islam: An Examination of the Legal Theory Behind the Traditional and Reformist Positions] Islamic Law Journal, Vol. 85, pp. 756-759
- wali ولي - Lane's Lexicon Suppliment pp.3060-3061
- Ed, , “Wālī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 16 November 2020
- bitanatan بِطَانَةً - Lane's Lexicon p.221
- mawaddatan مَّوَدَّةً - Lane's Lexicon p.2931
- qtafsir.com - Tafsir of ibn Kathir on verse 60:8. The comment about 'A'isha is also found in Wahidi's Asbab Al-Nuzul
- altafsir.com - Tafsir al-Tabari for verse 60:8