Salaam Amanda, and thank you for your question.
I appreciate you trusting us enough to answer this very personal, important question.
I hope that my response will be useful to you and your friend.
Muslims Instructed to Marry Other Muslims
In general, according to traditional Islamic law, Muslims are not supposed to marry people that do not believe in God alone (the same God of Judaism and Christianity).
This is because of the following verse found in the Quran:
“Do not marry polytheistic women until they believe; for a believing enslaved woman is better than a free polytheist, even though she may look pleasant to you. And do not marry polytheistic men until they believe; for a believing enslaved man is better than a free polytheist, even though he may look pleasant to you. They invite to the Fire while God invites to Paradise and forgiveness by God’s grace. God makes God’s Revelations clear to the people so perhaps they will be mindful.” (2:221)
The verse specifically mentions “polytheistic” people, but it also applies to atheists, since atheists also do not believe in God alone.
This is not to suggest that believers are somehow intrinsically superior to non-believers in every possible way, nor does it assert that non-believers have nothing good about them.
Non-believers can certainly have very strong morals and be full of goodness.
Even so, in terms of marriage, it is very strongly encouraged for Muslims to marry other Muslims.
Marriage is, God willing, a lifelong commitment to share one’s life with another person, and it is understandably in both spouses’ best interests to have similar values and goals in life.
God says in the Quran:
“The believers, both men and women, support each other. They order what is right and forbid what is wrong; they keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; they obey God and God’s Messenger. God will give God’s Mercy to such people: God is almighty and wise.” (9:71)
In a nutshell, these are the basic modus operandi, so to speak, of Muslims, with the idea that their fellow Muslims, especially their spouse, will help them do these things.
If one spouse is not Muslim and/or does not have these same goals, it can cause difficulties in the marriage.
Everyone is Responsible for Their Own Actions
You mentioned that you dislike the idea of God sending your friend to Hell because of you, as well as the idea of you “morally corrupting” him.
The good news is that you don’t have to worry about this for him or, frankly, for anyone else.
Each person is solely responsible for their own actions, so another person’s influence, good or bad, can have no impact on someone unless they allow it to be so.
God states this in the Quran:
“…Each soul is responsible for its own actions; no soul will bear the burden of another. You will all return to your Lord in the end, and He will tell you the truth about your differences.” (6:164)
I think that it’s great that you’ve been studying Islam on your own and have positive feelings about it.
However, I do encourage you to consider your intentions behind your studies.
While it is wonderful that you want to educate yourself about Islam, it should be done for your own personal benefit, not for the sake of someone else.
If you do ever feel the desire to accept Islam, make sure that it is absolutely something you feel comfortable doing for your own self, and not to make your friend or his family happy.
Religion and our relationship with God is deeply personal, and no one should ever be pressured into taking on religious practices or beliefs that they don’t fully accept in order to please others.
Whether you accept Islam or not must be entirely up to you.
Have you discussed with your friend how he would feel marrying someone who is not Muslim?
Would it be a deal-breaker for him?
If he is fine with marrying a non-Muslim, then you could continue to pursue the relationship further without having to worry.
However, if he expresses concerns or hesitation towards marrying a non-Muslim, despite your close connection, you may both have to accept that a marital relationship wouldn’t work out.
It wouldn’t be fair to either of you to be stuck in a relationship that neither of you were completely comfortable with.
You could continue to have a platonic friendship where you maintain those close connections, while at the same time pursuing a marital relationship with someone where religion will not be an issue. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and him.
Whatever you may both decide, I sincerely pray for the best for both of you.
May God bless you, help you and guide you in your study of Islam, and grant you all the best in this life and the Hereafter, Ameen!
Salam and please keep in touch.
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