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What Does Marriage to a Muslim Involve?


CBN.com - Perhaps a close friend or relative is considering marrying a Muslim. What does one say to her? (I say "her" because the vast majority of cases are women.) Maybe your friend has already made up her mind to marry him. He is so nice, a real gentleman, and well-educated. One hears "horror stories" of such mixed marriages, but surely there must be happy marriages as well. It is important, however, that she understand what she is doing.

She should bear in mind, above all, that like it or not every marriage to a Muslim is affected by Islamic law, whatever the country of residence. Face it. Islam is not just a faith; it is a way of life that is governed by Islamic law. The Muslim is obligated to live by its values and requirements wherever he might live. Believe me, the legislation governing marriage and the family is extensive, and by Western standards is not at all favorable to the woman, especially one who is not Muslim.

I can only cite a few basic facts. In Islamic law the woman is inferior to the man; she is always subject to a male guardian, whether he be her father, brother, or husband. The woman has only half the value of a man when it comes to blood-money, inheritance, and her witness in court. A Muslim man may have up to four wives. He may marry a non-Muslim provided she is of the "people of the Book" (i.e. a Christian or Jew), but a Muslim woman may not. The children of such a mixed marriage belong to the husband, and must be raised Muslim (this is why a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim). In sum, she is not on equal footing with her husband.

You will note that I have focussed on marriage in Islamic law rather than on customs. Customs will vary from country to country but one thing is certain: any Muslim raised in a Muslim society is going to feel more or less obligated to order his marriage by Islamic law. This is a primary fact that anyone considering marriage to a Muslim must keep in mind.

Here are several practical suggestions one might offer to help her sort things out. She should first of all ask him if he has a wife back in his country--or elsewhere. Sometimes the wife is left back home for various reasons, so he wants another in this country for companionship. She should also find out what will be expected of her. Don't assume anything! A colleague suggests she ask: What about our children? Must they be raised Muslim? Will I be free to take them to church? Will they be able to decide for themselves? She should also ask about his family: What will they expect of me (and of him)? In this connection, it is imperative that she visit his country and family to observe them firsthand before the marriage. She should know that traditionally, the Muslim family, especially the mother-in-law, exercises considerable social control over the son's wife. Finally, if she goes through with the marriage she had better reconcile herself to the Muslim way of life. She shouldn't enter marriage with the idea that she will change things--or him; she won't. She is just setting herself up for marital discord. And if there is a divorce, she should know that his country, being Islamic, will not recognize her claim to the children unless she is Muslim.

Arab World Ministries (Source)

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