Can Muslim Men Marry Non-Muslim Women?

Over the years, I have known tens of Muslim men who emigrated from Arab countries to the West and immediately married blond, blue-eyed non-Muslim women.

The marriages got them a new life, residency, financial benefits and eventually a passport, but also in the longer-term created many problems for them. 

However, after their children came on the scene, disputes arose and eventually, the kids became raised by their mothers on religions other than Islam, it became very difficult for these men to change their situations.

Sheikh Mohammed Explains Why Muslim Men SHOULD NOT Marry Non Muslim Women

This got me wondering if these men had acted correctly in the first place by being so willing to marry non-Muslim women. So, I decided to find out if according to Islam they had done the right thing.    

So, who can Muslim men marry? Muslim men are only allowed to marry chaste Muslim women and/or chaste women of the people of the book (Ahl Al Kitaab) i.e. Christians and Jews. Both should be religious and worship the one true God, Allah (SWT). They cannot be polytheists i.e. Hindus. At the same time, these women should not be lewd in behavior, promiscuous or having boyfriends. (Quran 5:5)

Saying Of Prophet Mohammed (SAW)

The Basis Of The Ruling Of Marriage

There are two verses in the Holy Quran that form the basis of who Muslim men can marry. They are; 1. Surah  Al Maaidah verse 5 and 2. Surah Al Baqara verse 221Opens in a new tab.

In the first verse, Allah (SWT) explains that just as the food of the people of the book (Christians and Jews) is lawful (Halal) for Muslims to eat, likewise their women are lawful (Halal) in marriage for Muslim men.

However, the conditions are that these women must be Godly, principled and well behaved. 

In the second verse, Allah (SWT) explains that it is better for Muslim men and women to marry a Muslim slave than it is for them to marry someone who is a polytheist (i.e. a person who worships a multiplicity of Gods) even if they, the polytheists, are attractive, eligible and have means.

Muslims cannot marry polytheists unless after being shown the Holy Quran and scriptures they (polytheists) sincerely submit and believe in the truth. (convert to Islam)  

So, it is NOT permissible for Muslim men to marry Hindu women, women of the Sikh religion or Buddhism.  

The same however is not true for Muslim women. They are completely prohibited from marrying both the men of the people of the book and other kinds of non-Muslim men (polytheists) unless they too submit and believe in the truth in the same way.

In summary, according to Allah (SWT), potential marriage partners for both Muslim men and women should be believers in the one true God, Allah (SWT) and someone with good moral standards and ethical behavior.

Are Christians People Of The Book Today?

Chart Showing The Main Differences Between The People Of he Book

Muslim Arab men emigrating to the West regard women in these nations as people of the book (Ahl Al Kitaab). So, they easily marry them. The reason is that these women have Christian ancestors, live in Christian countries and have Christian names, so they must be eligible for marriage. 

The problem is that today, such Western countries are not Christian at all. Most are secular and the majority of people living in these countries have never in their lives attended a church service. 

It is true though that the western population has a Christian heritage and identity. However, the people in these nations are Christian in name only. 

Most of these so-called Christian people hold secular beliefs that run contrary to Christian principles, such as denial in the existence of God, the practice of promiscuity and eating the pig.  

Thankfully, there is a small percentage who are sincere practicing Christians. The issue, however, is that 85% of the few that do practice Christianity believe in the concept of Trinity or that God, Allah (SWT) is three in one; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit

Allah (SWT) in the Quran says for those who maintain the false notion of Trinity will lead disbelievers to a painful end.

لَقَد كَفَرَ الَّذينَ قالوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ ثالِثُ ثَلاثَةٍ ۘ وَما مِن إِلٰهٍ إِلّا إِلٰهٌ واحِدٌ ۚ وَإِن لَم يَنتَهوا عَمّا يَقولونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّ الَّذينَ كَفَروا مِنهُم عَذابٌ أَليمٌ

They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment.

Quran 5:73

Also, all modern evangelistic Christian churches believe that the way to God, Allah (SWT) is by praying and seeking salvation through Prophet Jesus (AS).

It is only the Unitarians and the remaining Christian (unity) faiths who believe in the principle of oneness and who because of this could be considered people of the book (Ahl Al Kitab).

They are a very small percentage of people indeed. 

In Surat Al Ma’idah of the Holy Quran, 5:72 (below) Allah (SWT) says the people who believe that Jesus is the son of God, Allah (SWT), then calls others to that belief and wrongly associates others with Allah (SWT) will not enter heaven, are rewarded the hellfire with no chance of help.     

لَقَد كَفَرَ الَّذينَ قالوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ المَسيحُ ابنُ مَريَمَ ۖ وَقالَ المَسيحُ يا بَني إِسرائيلَ اعبُدُوا اللَّهَ رَبّي وَرَبَّكُم ۖ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشرِك بِاللَّهِ فَقَد حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيهِ الجَنَّةَ وَمَأواهُ النّارُ ۖ وَما لِلظّالِمينَ مِن أَنصارٍ

They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Indeed, he who associates others with Allah – Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.

Quran 5:72

To believe in Trinity or that God, Allah (SWT) is three in one is a form of polytheism and such people because of their beliefs are prohibited in marriage to both Muslim men and Muslim women.

In summary, all but a very small minority of women in Western Christian societies due to secularism and false beliefs may be regarded as truly eligible marriage partners for Muslim men. 

In spite of this, thousands of Muslim men emigrate to the West and enter into matrimonial relationships with women who according to Islam they are categorically NOT allowed to marry.

Marrying a Polythesist, Christian or a Jew Was Disliked by the Prophet Mohammed’s Companions

Marrying Christian Women

Shaikh Yusuf Estes Explains Why Muslim Men Cannot Marry Non Muslim Women

In relation to marrying a Christian woman, Abdullah Ibn Umar (RA) 610 – 694 CE, son of Umar Ibn Khattab and a prolific narrator of Hadith strongly advised against marrying a Christian woman. He said,

‘I do not know a worse example of Shirk that of a wife saying that Jesus is her Lord’

Marrying Polytheist or Pagan Women 

Regarding marrying polytheist women, Ibn Abbas (RA) cousin of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and prolific narrator of Hadith said after the following verse ayat was revealed that people stopped marrying polytheistic (pagan) women.  

 وَلَا تَنكِحُواْ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكَـٰتِ حَتَّىٰ يُؤۡمِنَّ‌ۚ 

And do not marry idolatresses till they believe. Quran 2: 221

Giving Bridal Price Mahr With A Good Heart

The Dowry or Mahr Includes A Lump Sum Of Money and Gold Jewelry

The new wife of the people of the book should be paid a bridal price (Mahr) with a good heart. 

 إِذَآ ءَاتَيۡتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ 

‘When you have given them their due’

Al Maaidah Verse 5 

A number of companions stated that if the new wife has sexual intercourse before the marriage is consummated, the marriage should be annulled and the bride price that was paid has to be returned.    

Marrying Unchaste Muslim Men

Regarding a woman marrying an unchaste Muslim man. If the potential husband is promiscuous, lewd in behavior and takes secret lovers then she should also not marry him. Heis not permitted (Halal) in marriage.  

The following verse applies equally to Muslim men and it does to Muslim women. 

مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ وَلَا مُتَّخِذِي أَخْدَانٍ

‘…being chaste not being lewd and not ones (who are) taking secret lovers.’

Al Maaidah Verse 5 

The Problems Muslim Men Encounter Marrying Non Muslim Women

Sheikh Kareem Abu Zayed Explains How A Muslim Man Can Marry A Non Muslim Woman

Today, Muslim men marry a non Muslim woman for generally two reasons:

  1. Residency and Passport
  2. Blind Passion

Thousands of Muslim men travel to non-Muslim countries and for economic reasons wish to remain there. The quickest and easiest way to get established in a new country and to obtain nationality is to marry a woman who is a national of that country.

In most cases after marriage, he can be granted residency rights in two years and in due course a Western-type passport in three. Even though it is getting harder to do that today because of changes in the immigration rules it is still by far the most efficient way.

It happens also that having arrived in a foreign country a Muslim man meets a national of that country and falls in love. Out of blind passion, he wants to marry the girl because he believes she is one of the people of the book (Ahl Al Kitab).

He also mistakenly believes that he can convert her to Islam so as to kill two birds with the one stone that is to be married with a new family and to obtain nationality to start his new life.

Kids Suffer In Cases Of Marital Problems And Divorce

As a result of the two, there are a number of problems that can occur. The wife may be a good person but:

  • The girl is a Christian and believes in the Trinity.
  • She is a lapsed Christian.
  • She drinks alcohol, smokes and is promiscuous.
  • She takes lovers behind her husband’s back.
  • She is a pagan or nonbeliever.
  • She is divorced with children.
  • Her family is against Muslims.
  • She will not convert to Islam.
  • After marriage, she disrespects her husband’s religion, Islam.
  • She uses her family against her husband.
  • She raises children on secular beliefs.
  • She prohibits them to follow Islam.
  • She teaches her children unethical behavior.
  • She teaches her children to hate Islam.
  • She teaches her children to hate their father.
  • She divorces and abandons her husband.
  • She forces her ex-husband in court to pay alimony or child support.
  • She keeps her children away from her ex-husband.

Sadly, this is the reality of thousands of Muslim men who have left their own countries so as to set up a new life in a non-Muslim country.

These same Muslim men began with weak faith and very little understanding of Islam and in order to improve their fortunes made poor decisions and mindless of the consequences.

They have sold up their faith and religion for worldly gains.

Non-Muslim Wife Becomes a Better Muslim Than The So-Called Muslim Husband
Beautiful Testimony From Maya Wallace Who Became A Committed Muslim Woman

Conversely, I knew a number of Muslim men who married non-Muslim women of UK nationality who did convert to Islam.

With time, they grew to practice and understand the religion very well. The opposite problem later occurred with the so-called Muslim husband who did not pray or especially follow the tenets of the religion.

Initially, she had converted to Islam in response to her husband’s request but became more sincere in the practice of the religion so much that in the end, it exposed her husband’s lack of engagement, his weaknesses, and hypocrisy in relation to his practice of Islam.

Click here to read a letter sent in by a Muslim man Opens in a new tab.seeking a solution to the problems he has encountered in his illicit relationship with a good Non-Muslim woman.

The Solutions

There are no real practical solutions for the Muslim man who has committed his life to a non-Muslim woman with children in a foreign country.

Had he married her in a Muslim country, close to his own family and under Islamic marriage laws then he might have controlled events more favorably.

In this case, it is better to be patient, seek refuge in Allah (SWT) ask for forgiveness and try to work things out in more positive ways with his spouse and her family.

For unmarried Muslim men, the solution is first and foremost to trust in Allah (SWT) and to seek refuge in him.

Then, he should practice Islam more closely and if he is living in a foreign country do his utmost to find ONLY a Muslim woman for marriage or in the very least one from the people of the book that is truly willing to convert and follow Islam.

Useful References and Resources

1 Abdullah Ibn Umar – Wikipedia

2. Tafsir Ibn Kathir Permission to Marry Chaste Women– Recite Quran

3.A Righteous Women Is The  Best Delight– Islam Q & A

Salam Allekum! Hi there! Thanks for reading. Contact the Editor Mohammed Francis directly at with any questions or queries.

Mohammed Francis

I am a UK national, a college teacher, father of 3, writer and blogger.

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