A Muslim has the right to choose whom they want to marry. It is against Islam for parents to force their children into a marriage. However, the pool whom they can choose was limited by Allah for their own welfare. A Muslim is only supposed to marry another Muslim.
The Qur’an says, “Do not marry an idol worshipper until they believe: a believing slave woman is certainly better than an idol worshipper, even though she may impress you. And do not give your women in marriage to idol worshippers until they believe: a believing slave is certainly better than an idol worshipper, even though he may impress you. Such people call [you] to the Fire, while God calls [you] to the Garden and forgiveness by His leave. He makes His messages clear to people, so that they may bear them in mind.” (2:221) Another verse makes one exception for men due to specific circumstances, “It is lawful for you to marry chaste Muslim women and chaste women of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) if you give them their dowries.” (5:5) Muslim scholars are clear that this exception only applies to men, as is clear from the context. (See al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:15-20; al-Qurtubi, Jami li-ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:453-57) Yet in another verse, it clarifies this even more, “…they (Muslim women) are not lawful wives for them (disbelievers), nor are the disbelievers their lawful husbands…” (60:10)
This means that their spouse will pray the same way and to the same God, and encourage him/her to life a life that is pleasing to Allah. This will grant them the same rights and responsibilities within the Islamic moral framework, which is an essential ingredient to a successful marriage. It will also ensure that their future children can be raised as Muslims with Islamic values.
One common objection is that the potential spouse promises to allow her to achieve all the same objectives, even to let the children grow up to Muslims and attend Islamic classes. Without doubting the genuineness of the person making this claim, there is a normally a stark difference between a person who advocates for a certain way of life and a person who actually believes in it and tries to practice it.
Another objection is that a non-Muslim can have better character and behavior than a Muslim, so why should they not allowed to marry a Muslim. There is no doubt this may be true in some or several cases, but every virtue has its proper place. For example, it is important to be friendly and smile, but when driving on the freeway, driving safely is more important than that. The Qur’an is the truth, and the truth matters. Without it, even though a person may have some very good qualities, many gaps will unknowingly remain in their moral system and display in their behavior.
A third objection raised is in the case of a couple that cannot have children. The assumption is that the reason for only choosing a Muslim spouse has to do with the upbringing of children, and this won’t be an issue if there are no children. This notion is mistaken because the effect on children is not the underlying reason for the prohibition, it is just one of the many reasons behind the ultimate wisdom of why Allah prohibited these marriages.
It is necessary to believe that the Qur’an is the word of God to be a Muslim. Although someone may claim to be a person who only believes in one God, they still reject the core teachings of Islam.
There was very little discussion among Muslims, for at least a thousand years, on why there is a difference between men and women on this issue, which reveals that the current discomfort that some people have is a result of modern assumptions about gender, which may require lots of reflection. There is also a practical consideration when Islamic family ideals are analyzed. Allah says, “Men are the caretakers of women. Men have been provisioned by God for the task and bear the responsibility of financially supporting women. And righteous women are compliant and when alone, protective of what Allah has entrusted them with…” (4:34) Anyone uncomfortable with the different roles than men and women play within a marriage will find difficulty understanding why men get the exception to marry a Jew or Christian but women don’t. Some people think this verse is about a man’s authority while others see it as his responsibility. Either way, the roles are not identical, and that is the foundation on which the marriage is built, hence the difference in the rule. It is similar to the dress code difference between a man and a woman in Islam: rather than seeing the additional clothing as a burden it could be viewed as a welcomed protection for the additional blessing of beauty.
Someone who wants to marry a Muslim should seriously consider what life might be like with then. If you are ready to accommodate the beliefs, practices, and morals of the religion, then you probably respect the religion as well. If you respect the religion and don’t have an issue with your spouse believing in and following it, then you should seriously consider why you don’t follow the same path. Islam is not genetic or just an identity.
If you are a Muslim and want to marry a non-Muslim, you should remember that Allah is the All-Wise and when he prescribes something, there is immense wisdom in it. You may think you are the exception to the rule for whatever reason, or you may try to come up with justifications for why the rule doesn’t make sense to you, but remember, it is equally probable that you are emotionally attached to a person and just trying to deceive yourself. Following a command from Allah is better than pursuing an unlawful relationship which can jeopardize your next life, no matter how painful it will be to end it right now. At least a few Companions of the Prophet, both men and women, wanted to marry someone that was unlawful for them, but they made the difficult, but correct, decision to decline and earn the pleasure of Allah instead.
Shaykh Mustafa Umar