Can a Muslim Woman Marry an Atheist?

Muslim wedding ceremony, ticker tape

When I was recently studying marriage in Islamic culture, I realized that Muslim women’s exogamy is less researched. In the quest to understand the dynamics of such unions, I examined stories of women in such unions.

So, can a Muslim woman marry an atheist? It is strictly prohibited for Muslim women to marry atheists in Islam. Marriage to an atheist is considered invalid and the contract is basically null and void. It is not allowed for a woman who believes in the Last Day and Allah to enter in such an invalid marriage on the grounds that the man may possibly be guided after marriage.

It is a fact that the marriage between a Muslim woman and an atheist man is one of the main taboo issues in debates on Islam. According to a wide consensus, a Muslim woman is forbidden to marry any non-Muslim man regardless of whether he has a religion or not.

In the Quran, there exists only one verse that clearly explains this issue. It is the main verse that states the provision on marriage with the category of non- Muslims. The order clearly forbids the marriage of believing women to atheists and other non-Muslims.

According to [al-Mumtahanah 60:10] it explicitly states that all Muslim men should not Marry Al-Mushrikaat till they believe. It goes ahead and urges all Muslims to refrain from giving them their daughter in marriage to Al-Mushrikoon till they believe.

It states that the Al-Mushrikoon will invite you to the fire, but Allah invites you to forgiveness and paradise and makes his Ayaat clear to all believing Muslims so that they may remember.

The Quran goes ahead to state that when believing women comes to a Muslim nation, Muslims ought to examine them and after determining that they are true believers and they should not be sent back to the disbelievers. The believing women are not lawful wives for the disbelievers. It is clear indication that the Quran does not encourage any marriage between a Muslim woman and any kind of disbeliever.

The Prophet encourages all Muslims to marry those who are religiously committed. Since women are considered weak and may change their thoughts, beliefs and even their religion for the slightest reason, they are not permitted to marry anyone who has no religious commitment on the grounds that she would be able to provide guidance when it comes to religious matters.

The evidence that the marriage between a Muslim woman to kafir is invalid is very clear. This is one of the matters that is unanimous amongst all scholars of the Ummah.

It is allowed in Islam for a Muslim man to marry and atheist and not the vice versa. Though this may seem unfair, the reasons behind it becomes clear if the real reason is known. All the legislation in Islam are normally based on certain wisdom along with definite interest to all parties involved.

Marriage in Islam is based upon peace of mind, love and mercy; a family ought to be built upon firm basis to guarantee the continuity of the marital contract. Islam respects all the religions that exists as well as the beliefs stipulated by the previous Prophets in an indispensable part of the Islamic norms.

A Muslim man who gets married a non-Muslim is commanded to respect his wife’s believes, and it is not allowed for him to refrain his wife from practicing what she believes is right. Therefore, Islam tries to accord the wife with her spouse’s respect for her beliefs which in turn protects the family from destruction.

In this case, an atheist man will not respect his Muslim’s wife faith. This is because a Muslim husband believes in all the previous religions and prophets of Allah and respects them while an atheist does not believe nor acknowledge the prophet of Islam; rather an atheist may consider the Prophets to be false and may believe that Islam is full of fabricated lies.

Even if the atheist may not explicitly express this, a Muslim wife will continually feel that her spouse does not respect her religion and beliefs. Therefore, there will be no room for compliments for this matter; it is a matter of principle.

Also, mutual respect that exists between any married couple is a fundamental element to ensure smooth continuity of the marital relationship. Islam simply follows its own logic when it prohibits Muslim women from marrying atheist.

Can a Muslim Woman Get married to a Polytheist?

From the Quran order, it is forbidden for a Muslim woman to get married to a polytheist, called mushrikīn. The above order made sense because it was revealed during a period where the polytheists were engaging in merciless war against the believing Muslims.

While the Quran acknowledges the existence of mutual attraction between a believing woman and a polytheist, it strongly advices against such an alliance.

The Quran 2:221 verse seems to urge all Muslims women to choose modest believing slaves over any rich arrogant polytheists even if the latter looked more attractive than the poor slaves. The allusion to slaves is quite indicative of the moral codes that the Quranic revelation intended to inculcate in believers.

It as well showed tolerance to slavery as it sought to break the norms of social structure by preferring the poor over the wealthy. Muslim women are therefore encouraged to marry those who believe like them which symbolizes a monotheism that is purified from all injustice and divinities.

In another instance the revelation context and the general meaning depicted by the Quran 60:10 verse is associated with the marriage to non-Muslims. The classical interpretation states that the verse was written when two polytheists men from qurash for their sisters to be back, Bint Aqabah and Oum Kelthoum, after they had decided to embrace Islam and they migrated to Medina in order to be part of the Muslim community.

Oum Kethoum, who was the sole convert to Islam in her family and had escaped from the most unforgiving environments, begged the Prophet not to send her back home to her tribe so as not to be exposed once more to the unfair treatment.

The verse mentioned above clearly prevented the repatriation of women who embraced Islam and refrain from vengeance of their particular families. The above verse shows that it does not tackle the requirement of marriage to non-Muslims, but rather indicates the strategic requirements of protecting the women who have converted to Islam

It is therefore safe to say that “mixed” marriages can be more exposed to misunderstanding due to religious or cultural differences that may, at any moment bring about marriage instability. Despite all the challenges that may arise in any Muslim marriage, it is fundamentally the mutual respect that will bring about shared harmony and serenity among the partners. An atheist may present a different ideology on how to raise children within such a marriage.

This will adversely affect the general upbringing and the education of your children. Allah directs that all children should be educated through madrassa and be taught according to Islamic laws. In conclusion, any marriage between a Muslim woman and an atheist or a non-Muslim is considered invalid.

Therefore, it is not permissible for partner in such a union to engage in any intimate relations unless they choose to convert into Islam. An atheist is required to enter the faith by pronouncing the Shahaadatayn and by following the rulings of Islam. If such a marriage exists and the man is not willing to embrace Islam, then it must be annulled in a sharee’ah court.

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