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
“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.