In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 221
Marital relations demand mutual love and harmony. Without these two the purpose of marriage remains unfulfilled. If a close relationship of love and affection is established with a disbeliever then where will this lead? A person might start worshiping the idols that their idol-worshiping spouse worships or in a lesser degree, stop abhorring disbelief and Shirk, as we see in the cases of the Muslim Bollywood stars. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prohibited the believers from marrying idol-worshiping men and women. Such marriages lead one to Hellfire while Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala calls us to His forgiveness and Paradise.
“And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men (to your women) until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite (you) to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His ayaat to the people that perhaps they may remember.” [al-Baqarah 2: 221]
The word tankihu [تَنكِحُوا] is from the root noon-kaf-Ha and it means to tie, make a knot, contract or to marry. The word nikkah is from the same root. The word ajabatkum [أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ] is from the root ayn-jeem-ba and it means to wonder, to marvel or to be astonish.
Although the meaning is general and includes every Mushrik woman from among the idol worshipers and the People of the Scripture, the scholars are of the opinion that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala excluded the People of the Scripture from this ruling because in Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayah 5, He stated,
مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَـبَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ
“(Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from those who were given the Scripture before your time when you have given their due dowry, desiring chastity (i.e., taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse.” (5:5)
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani is of the view that the women of the People of the Book have been excluded from the prohibition because of their lesser differences with Islam. Both Muslims and the People of the Book believe in the Oneness of God, the Hereafter and Prophethood. This was the original faith before it got distorted with personal interpretations and gains. The Christians in their love for Prophet ‘Eesa [Jesus] ‘alayhi salaam have entered the borders of Shirk which is why we see that despite the permission being given some of the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum did not marry them.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu disliked marrying the women from the People of the Scripture and said, “I do not know of a bigger Shirk than her saying that Jesus is her Lord!”
His father, ‘Umar ibn Al-Khathab radhiAllahu ‘anhu also disliked the practice but his argument was that by marrying the women from the People of the Book, Muslim men would mean preferring them over their own women. And if such a thing becomes a common practice then who will marry the chaste Muslim woman?
Many eastern Muslim men when they travel abroad they get attracted to the beautiful, white women from the People of the Book and marry them. If they are committed to another lady in their home country that wedding is either called off or that woman rots in her home country while the husband-to-be enjoys his life with the white and prettier woman.
In this ayah, we learn how Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has protected and valued a chaste Muslim woman over a beautiful idolatress. He tells us that the most virtuous thing in His Sight is one’s faith and God-consciousness. Beauty does not last long. But it is one’s character and faith that make one stand out from the crowd.
This gives us a standard principle for finding a spouse: Give importance to one’s Deen and character. Do not be blinded by your emotions. Do not allow one moment of emotional thrill ruin your faith and entire life. Emaan and aqeedah are two things that should be given priority before the marriage is finalized. Expecting to convince the other after you get married is wishful thinking. Many people do not give any importance to one’s belief. They learn the other person is Muslim and go ahead with the wedding. But what are their beliefs? Many Muslims are corrupting their faith by exclusively following their Sheikh or Peer. In their belief, one must seek help through the dead saint. Many Sunni Muslims fall in love with Shia Muslims and assume they are going to work out their differences. What happens? The children are confused whose belief to follow and the family falls apart. In many cases, they end up having no belief or no religion at all. Give importance to these matters before marriage and not after you are married.
It also tells us that not only should we stay away from getting involved in any such relationship but also refrain from encouraging others. When you learn that a Muslim is marrying a Hindu, a Buddhist or any kind of idolater, do NOT congratulate the couple. This is a call for sin and Hellfire. Since this act leads one to Hellfire, this tells us how important it is to inform others especially young children stepping into adulthood. And especially, today where unfortunately this is becoming a practice and Muslims do not find any shame in marrying off their daughters to Hindu men or Muslim men marrying idolatresses.
Someone might argue that inter-religion marriage can be a great step to da’wah such that the non-Muslim spouse can get impressed by the Islamic values and embrace Islam. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is our Creator. He understands us better than we know ourselves. He knows if there is a chance of a non-Muslim spouse being impressed with the religion of the Muslim spouse, there is a great danger of Muslim spouse getting impressed with the non-Islamic traditions and leaving his religion altogether. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala placed prohibition.
Marrying a Slave Muslim is Better than Marrying a Rich Idol-Worshiper
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you… And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you.” This ayah indicates that a believing woman or man, even an Abyssinian servant, is better than an idolater woman or man, even if he was a rich master. It means if you have to compromise on other’s financial standing then do compromise but do not give lesser value to one’s faith and character.
It is recorded in the Two Saheehs that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
تُنْـكَحُ الْمَرْأَةُ لِأَرْبَعٍ: لِمَالِهَا وَلِحَسَبِهَا وَلِجَمَالِهَا وَلِدِينِهَا، فَاظْفَرْ بِذَاتِ الدِّينِ، تَرِبَتْ يَدَاك
“A woman is chosen for marriage for four reasons: her wealth, social status, beauty, and religion. So, marry the religious woman, may your hands be filled with sand (a statement of encouragement).”
In another hadeeth it was reported that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
الدُّنْيَا مَتَاعٌ، وَخَيْرُ مَتَاعِ الدُّنْيَا الْمَرْأَةُ الصَّالِحَة
“The life of this world is but a delight, and the best of the delights of this earthly life is the righteous wife.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And do not marry polytheistic men (to your women) until they believe,” meaning, do not give your daughters or sisters in marriage to idol-worshiping men. In another ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “They are not lawful (wives) for them, nor are they lawful (husbands) for them.” [al-Mumtahanah 60:10]
Note that by saying: And do not marry polytheistic men (to your women), Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has placed a condition of Wali [Guardian] for unmarried Muslim women. A girl cannot give herself in marriage without the permission of her Wali. Therefore, a man must first approach the Wali if he is interested in marrying a girl. Those who think they can marry the person they want through court marriage without the family’s involvement should really give this a thought.
“And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. Those invite (you) to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness…”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends the address saying that the idolaters invite us to the Fire while He invites us to His Paradise and forgiveness. Associating and mingling with them can make us commit things that are forbidden in our religion. This does not mean we should be rude to them but we should maintain a polite distance. We should also be conscious of watching their soaps and movies. Sadly, many Muslim families see no harm in this. They choose to remain oblivious of the young minds being corrupted through these sources.
Let’s us leave the path of Fire and run to Allah’s forgiveness and Paradise that He is calling us to by following His law, commandments and staying away from the prohibitions. These are reminders for those who pay heed.
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