A Muslim Man and a Non-Muslim Woman: What to Do?

09 October, 2016
Q As-Salamu Alaykum. About two years ago, I was not very religious. I believed in Allah and Islam, but I was not a practicing Muslim. I got together with a non-Muslim (Christian) girl. Later, I began reading about Islam. I read various translations of the Quran, and other books such as The Bible, the Quran and Science. Since then my faith has been strengthened. I have begun to try and pray fives times a day and also to fast. Slowly I am trying to becoming a better Muslim. Now I am not sure how to proceed with this relationship. I am aware that it is not in accordance with Islamic teachings and am going through an inner conflict. I am not sure if I am ready for marriage at this time either. What advice can you give me? How should I proceed? Thank you.

Answer

Salam Dear Ahmad,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

May Allah increase you and all of us in iman (faith) and knowledge. May He strengthen you and give you steadfastness in the face of all of your difficulties. Ameen.

By choosing iman, you have in essence purchased the most valuable thing in the entire universe. Naturally, this is not without a price. Allah is generous, however, and so while there is a price to eternal success, it is not unreasonable. Rather, it is practical for all people of all circumstances.

There comes a time in every Muslim’s life when he must roll up his sleeves and ask himself, “How much do I really want this.” To delay this process of self-assessment is irrational, for death can overtake us at any time; while to begin the process immediately is to take the first step on a long journey that is both highly rewarding in this life and the next.

Giving something up for the sake of Allah is an exceptional opportunity to gain closeness to our Creator and Sustainer, and the more beloved the thing that we give up is, the higher our rank in Allah’s sight rises.

With specific regard to your circumstances, a well known hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) mentions seven types of people who are promised the shade of Allah’s throne on the Day of Judgment, a day in which there is no shade save Allah’s shade.

Of these seven, one type of person is “a man tempted by an extremely beautiful woman, yet whose (passes he rejects saying), ‘I fear Allah’” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). In other words, Allah acknowledges the difficulty of rejecting unlawful temptations of relations outside marriage, and yet His reward for a person’s doing so is tremendous.

Furthermore, we can see in the Quranic account of Prophet Yusuf’s (Joseph’s) trial at the hands of his master’s wife that even the prophets of Allah are not immune from sexual temptation. Yusuf (peace be upon him) preferred spending many years in prison rather than subjecting himself to the evils of his own lusts, saying what means:

{“O my Lord! The prison is dearer to my liking than that to which they invite me: Unless Thou turn away their snares from me, I should incline toward them and join the ranks of the ignorant.”} (Yusuf 12:33)

Yusuf beseeched Allah for help during this period of extreme difficulty, and Allah revealed His mercy toward him by delivering him from his temptation. Similarly, a believer must constantly struggle with his base desires, while calling upon Allah constantly to grant him tawfiq (divinely inspired success) in his struggle.

It should be mentioned at this point that though you are a male, Ahmad, and this answer seems specifically tailored to a man’s perspective, all of the principles outlined herein are applicable to women as well. While a woman’s temptations vis-à-vis the opposite sex are certainly different than a man’s, they are no less difficult, and her reward with Allah for controlling her unlawful desires is no less than that of a man.

The “inner conflict” that you describe in your question is known as dissonance in the world of social psychology. The term describes a psychological condition in which a person’s beliefs and actions do not correspond.

Specifically, your renewed faith tells you that you should not be engaged in an extramarital relationship with a woman, and yet your current actions may contradict this belief.

To be sure, dissonance is a highly troubling psychological illness that can only be remedied in one of two ways: either changing one’s actions or changing one’s beliefs. Because changing your beliefs would imply your leaving Islam, let us focus our attention on helping you to change your actions.

The long-term solution to your problem is marriage, though not necessarily to the woman referred to above.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Whoever has married has completed half of his religion; therefore, let him fear Allah in the other half” (Al-Bayhaqi).

In other words, through marriage, a Muslim jumps up many spiritual levels and he or she attains a profoundly new degree of commitment to Islam. Generally speaking, the dips and sags in one’s iman lessen in their severity after marriage, and one achieves a stronger spiritual stability.

Shaytan (the devil), on the other hand, will tell you that marriage means giving up your freedom and the remainder of your youth. He does this in order to keep a Muslim vulnerable to the sin of fornication and to prevent him from attaining the spiritual fortification contained in marriage.

Ignore Shaytan, and realize that the spiritual advantages of marriage and the subsequent peace of heart are far more valuable than any alleged loss in freedom through assuming more responsibility.

Returning to your situation, I highly recommend that you not marry your Christian friend unless she converts to Islam. Her conversion should come from a sincere belief in Islam and should not be merely for the sake of marriage.

In fact, a person who “converts” for no other reason than marriage is not a true Muslim before Allah, though the Sacred Law (Shari`ah) judges him or her according to his or her outward testimony.

This is my personal advice and not the Islamic stand on the issue of marriage between a Muslim man and a Christian woman. Of course you know that Islam permits marriage between Muslim men and People of the Book women. Yet, going for such marriage in our time is a much more complicated issue than the shar`ipermission on the matter.

In any case, you must deal gently with your friend but you must be tough on yourself. You cannot expect her to completely understand and appreciate your decision, but you must be resolved and steadfast in your struggle with or without her support. Finally, do not get angry at her if she opposes you (she may feel rejected after all), but never be lenient on yourself so that you return to your old habits.

In order to ensure your spiritual survival during this time of temptation, you must never be alone with your friend, even on the phone.

Always remember her in your prayers ( du`aa’) and work on doing da`wah with her, preferably though other female Muslims. But stay vigilant and realize that Shaytan will never give up on you two. If you can avoid being alone with her, then Shaytan’s powers will be greatly diminished.

Finally, Ahmad, know that the most important thing in Islam after iman is the daily requisite prayer. If you are vigilant in your five prayers, praying them in their correct times, preferably in a group, you will notice immediate benefits in your daily life.

The minute one begins to slacken in the prayers by delaying them or, worse yet, skipping them altogether, is the minute one starts down one’s spiritual demise. Once a Muslim has left the prayer, there remains no barrier between him and disbelief.

May Allah strengthen you, me, and all of the Muslims in remaining steadfast on the path of light. May He lead us all to true success. Ameen.

Thank you for your question, and please stay in touch.

Salam.