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Marriage with Jewish and Christian Women
Social Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

It is generally held that the Qur’ān unconditionally allows Muslim men to marry women belonging to the People of the Book. In our estimation, this is a mere misconception. No doubt, there is a Qur’ānic verse which permits such marriages, yet its placement and context in the Qur’ān makes this permission conditional upon certain circumstances. Consequently, many jurists, including Hazrat Ibn Abbās called ‘The Scholar of the Ummah’ by no other person than the Prophet (sws) himself, approve of such marriages only if this condition is met.

Needless to say that the Qur’ān has been revealed as a coherent Book. It is not a disjointed collection of verses, as is generally believed. There is profound structural and thematic coherence in it. Each verse has a definite context and until and unless this context is carefully kept in consideration, the true implications of a verse cannot be ascertained. Disregarding the context of a verse often leads to serious misinterpretations which distort the stance of Islam. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that each verse be interpreted in the light of its context.

Consider now the context of the verse under discussion. The following verse immediately precedes it:

“This day the disbelievers have abandoned all hope of vanquishing your religion. Have no fear of them: fear Me. This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (5:3)

Consider next, the verse under consideration:

“This day all things good and pure are made lawful to you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful to you, and yours to them.

Lawful to you are the chaste among the believing women and the chaste women among the People of the Book before you, provided that you give them their dowries and desire chastity, neither committing fornication, nor taking them as mistresses.” (5:6)

It is clear from the above mentioned verses, particularly from the portion underlined that these directives pertain to the period when the supremacy of Islam had been established in Arabia---when the disbelievers had lost all hope of overcoming the Islamic forces and the Muslims had become an unconquerable force. Only in these circumstances were the Muslims permitted to marry Jewish and Christian women. It is evident that in such conditions and circumstances, there was virtually no possibility of the Muslims being influenced by their moral values and cultural traditions. Instead, there was a far greater possibility that such marriages would positively influence the women of the People of the Book by inducing them to accept Islam.

By analogy, therefore, such marriages, today, can only be allowed in Muslim countries---preferably those where the cultural traditions and legal injunctions of Islam hold sway. Moreover, it should be realized that the permission has only been given as a second option because the danger in which a person puts his family’s faith is extremely evident. Hence, only believing men have been given this permission; believing women, in no case whatsoever have been allowed to do so.

It is essential, therefore, that Muslims, particularly those who have settled in foreign countries, should keep in mind that such marriages are only conditionally allowed by the Qur’ān.



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