Intimate Relationships with Muslim People

This isn't the easiest topic to deal with, because it meets controversy. But when we dare to honestly look at it, more is possible than meets the (traditional) eye. It's helpful to ask yourself these questions: Where do I place myself, on the large field of spirituality, religions and philosophic ideas? And where precisely on this field does the mate of my choice stand? What does the law say? If indeed we look honestly, we can reach only one conclusion: Only myself and my partner can answer these first two questions. An imam, religious leader, family member, or friend can't answer this, they can only help in general, but usually not on the specifics. Personally, I regret, that orthodoxy in Islam still tries to prevent free partner choice, because it isn't as necessary as some people think. And it's a lot simpler than that it's being made to look like. When it comes to selecting a partner, these are the very first basics, that all Muslim people must consider, according to the Qur'an:

'O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you. Give unto orphans their wealth. Exchange not the good for the bad (in your management thereof) nor absorb their wealth into your own wealth. Lo! that would be a great sin.  And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice. And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). Give not unto the foolish (what is in) your (keeping of their) wealth, which Allah hath given you to maintain; but feed and clothe them from it, and speak kindly unto them. Prove orphans till they reach the marriageable age; then, if ye find them of sound judgment, deliver over unto them their fortune; and devour it not by squandering and in haste lest they should grow up Whoso (of the guardians) is rich, let him abstain generously (from taking of the property of orphans); and whoso is poor let him take thereof in reason (for his guardianship). And when ye deliver up their fortune unto orphans, have (the transaction) witnessed in their presence. Allah sufficeth as a Reckoner.' (4:1-6)

'Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans - whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right - surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.' (2:62)

'Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise.' (2:221)

'He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.' (3:2)

'O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.' (4:59)

'This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when ye give them their marriage portions and live with them in honour, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denieth the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter.' (5:5)

'The adulterer shall not marry save an adulteress or an idolatress, and the adulteress none shall marry save an adulterer or an idolater. All that is forbidden unto believers.' (24:3)

'And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our Allah and your Allah is One, and unto Him we surrender.  In like manner We have revealed unto thee the Scripture, and those unto whom We gave the Scripture aforetime will believe therein; and of these (also) there are some who believe therein. And none deny Our revelations save the disbelievers.' (29:46,47)

And there are hadiths saying that a woman can't marry without consent of a male relative. This has led to controversy, as Qur'anic verses 2:230, 2:232, 33:50, and 60:8-10 clearly state that women can marry irrespective of male consent, even more so but not exclusively if they have been married before. The Hanafy School of Law, therefore, gives sane, adult women the possibility to marry without male consent, though sometimes not in case of her first marriage. Countries and scholars differ in their approach, however, most Islamic countries allow women to seek a marriage guardian outside their family, should they otherwise be stopped from a suitable marriage for no good reason. And mostly, marriage without wali approval is allowed for widowed and divorced women. There's a lot of information online on this topic, showing that in some countries fathers are even allowed to marry off their virgin daughters without the daughter's consent. Truth is also, that women themselves can propose to a man, and nothing indicates, that it isn't allowed in Islam. The Prophet himself received wedding proposals:

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 24:

Narrated Sahl bin Sad As-Sa'idi:

'A woman came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have come to give you myself in marriage (without Mahr)." Allah's Apostle looked at her. He looked at her carefully and fixed his glance on her and then lowered his head. When the lady saw that he did not say anything, she sat down. A man from his companions got up and said, "O Allah's Apostle! If you are not in need of her, then marry her to me." The Prophet said, "Have you got anything to offer?" The man said, "No, by Allah, O Allah's Apostle!" The Prophet said (to him), "Go to your family and see if you have something." The man went and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, I have not found anything." Allah's Apostle said, "(Go again) and look for something, even if it is an iron ring." He went again and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, O Allah's Apostle! I could not find even an iron ring, but this is my Izar (waist sheet)." He had no rida. He added, "I give half of it to her." Allah's Apostle said, "What will she do with your Izar? If you wear it, she will be naked, and if she wears it, you will be naked." So that man sat down for a long while and then got up (to depart). When Allah's Apostle saw him going, he ordered that he be called back. When he came, the Prophet said, "How much of the Quran do you know?" He said, "I know such Sura and such Sura," counting them. The Prophet said, "Do you know them by heart?" He replied, "Yes." The Prophet said, "Go, I marry her to you for that much of the Quran which you have."'

The Scripture, also called the Book, is traditionally seen as the monotheistic trilogy of Torah (Tawrah), Bible (Ingil), and Qur'an. The Qur'an doesn't exclude, nor does it by name include, scriptures of other creeds. That doesn't mean, that those have no chance to be recognized as genuine religious works, revealed by God. We simply don't know. As we see, the Qur'anic texts don't always specify which religious scripture is meant in a verse. Anyway, traditional scholars have always said, that Islamic men can marry Islamic, Jewish, and Christian women, and that Islamic women can marry Islamic men only. Marriage with a polytheist, staunch atheist, or a known sex offender or adulterer, is forbidden to all Islamic people. Hadiths exclude such marriages and other important ties from inheritance:

Volume 8, Book 80, Number 756:

Narrated Usama bin Zaid: the Prophet said, "A Muslim cannot be the heir of a disbeliever, nor can a disbeliever be the heir of a Muslim."

Truth is, however, that there is a large gray area here of in-betweens, that traditionalists close their eyes to. Truth is also, that there are three authorities Muslim people have deal with: Traditional scriptures and fatawat; the law of the country or countries they are bound by; and, most of all, their own conscience. Only you can decide, if the man you desire to marry, thinks and lives by the same religious standard as you do. And: if you are not strictly religious, then why marry a religiously strict man? You may make each other's life hell. A father or an uncle can't decide of foresee that for you. However, they have an advantage over female relatives, because they may know the candidate from social life among men. This is one of the reasons, why male guardians have been considered important for especially young women.

Qur'anic verses 2:62 and 5:69 expand the category of 'believers' to those who believe. No more and no less. Without specification of scriptures, scholars, or other religious traditions that 'believers' may adhere to. That can be understood very widely. Clearly, a staunch Muslim would encounter many challenges with an orthodox Jew or puritan Protestant. However, very similar challenges may arise between a Muslim traditionalist and a modernist, liberal Muslim. Therefore, why not look further, and if you're a liberal, modernist Muslim (m/f), why not also include believers outside Islam in your search for the perfect partner? A reason to include them lies in modern times and legislation in many countries that liberated women from male authority, where in the past, religious laws that gave men authority, made part of the country's law. This is the case in the West mainly. In the past, a Muslim woman would give up too much of her own freedom, if she would marry a Christian man. Therefore, that wasn't a wise thing to do, and the ulema have tried to protect us from such choice. Nowadays, we can afford to look at both the Qur'an and the country's law, notice that it allows men and women equal rights, and as Muslim women, consider men who believe in God but don't belong to the Islamic umma. Why don't people grant each other freedom, when the Qur'an and today's law do so. 

To illustrate the point, look at these Biblical verses:

'And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life'; Genesis, Chapter 3:14-17 

This is the most classical story of man listening to his wife's undisciplined speech, leading to the original sin. Man from then on had to rule over woman, in all matters.

The Biblical Book of Numbers, Chapter 27, explains how women were excluded from inheritance, unless there was no son. This rule doesn't exist in Islam, as shown in Qur'anic verses above.

And the same Biblical Book of Numbers, Chapter 30, explains that women are not bound by their promises, unless their father or their husband allows them to make such, or stays silent. Another rule that doesn't exist in Islam and that made it for Islamic women possible to do business, acquire property, or work.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
5But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
1 Corinthians 11 3-12

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34,35

The Islamic woman, however, is allowed to speak and teach. Everywhere. The only exception is, that she can't lead men in prayer.

  'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.' Ephesians 5:22-24

These Biblical verses didn't lead to a happy, content, and workable society. That's why they're gone now. Not from the Bible, but from everyday life.

Also here, it's easy to turn this into a battle between the scriptures. There's no need to change other nations--a thought that should set free. It's best to stick to Qur'anic verses 2:62, 5:69 and 4:59: Allow believers more freedom outside tradition, and stick to the law of the country. How hard can it be, after all.


University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts)

'Marrying without a Wali', (Link has updated, but is still online)

The Official King James Bible Online,