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Call to Prayer

Conversion to Islam where a Marriage already exists

In today’s fragile society scores of people from all walks of life and of all ages search for meaning and purpose. Many of these have been married for considerable years and have watched their children grow, hoping that they will eventually build their own homes and contribute positively to society, in the same way their parents did. Others often observe society from a distance, feeling the loss of strong family values, an overall lack of respect and the general principles which stood the test of time in their own and their children’s upbringing. Others mourn the loss of a faith born into and which, though is has lapsed over the years, its tenants have underpinned parenting skills and general perspectives on life directly or indirectly throughout the intervening years. Others actively seek spirituality.

It often occurs that one partner in the marriage may seek meaning more actively than the other. This often results in one choosing a path which may be distinctly different from the normal terms of reference applied to life and its various trials and tribulations previously encountered. A growing number of ‘seekers of truth’ have embarked on the path of Islam to provide them with direction and purpose they long for. While the choice in itself has provided great comfort and satisfaction to the individuals concerned, some confusion based purely on cultural and traditional interpretations, has arisen regarding their marital relations and whether such relations are allowed to continue in the event of one spouse accepting Islam and making their declaration of faith – the Shahadah.

Islam encourages all Muslims born into the faith, and indeed all those who have converted to Islam before contemplating marriage, to marry from within the faith in order to preserve and propagate family life in all its facets. Certain clarifications are required however, when one is dealing with the particular situation of those who were already married, before either spouse choose to embrace Islam. After considerable discussion followed by a legal ruling issued by the European Council on Fatwa & Research the following has been deduced:

• There is no textual evidence on this issue and therefore any previous responses to it have no basis in the Islamic sources and must therefore be relegated to customary practices rather than authentic sources.

• There is no scholarly consensus on the issue.

• Marriage contracts enacted before Islam remain valid after ones acceptance of the faith due to the fact that there is a lack of textual evidence to the contrary.

• Legal proofs from the Qur’an and Sunnah show that the staying of a husband with his wife after her change of religion does not weaken the validity of her religion nor does it call for the nullification of their relationship.

• The nullification of such a relationship based on either one of the spouses embracing Islam does not take place merely by that conversion.

• There is not one single practical tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he separated a couple due to one of them (the husband or the wife), embracing Islam nor is it documented that the Prophet (pbuh) commanded such a separation.

• When one of the spouses embraces Islam and the other does not show confrontation on account of it, it is allowed that they should remain together and not be separated by a mere difference of religion. The marital relationship is permissible and should be maintained on the validity of the marriage contract which requires their interaction based on all that is good between them and the sexual relationship is included in this matter.

It is clear therefore, that when either spouse of an already existing marriage partnership embraces Islam and this decision is accommodated and respected by the other spouse, the marriage continues. It is only in the event of confrontation between the two or, where the non-convert spouse is openly resentful and showing enmity to the faith choice of the other which may, should they be unable to resolve their differences, result in a termination of the existing marriage. This would occur quite naturally since it is due to conflict of one kind or another that draws all relationships to a conclusion. It would be quite wrong however, to induce such a termination simply on the basis that one spouse (the husband or the wife), has embraced Islam. 

Note: If you would like to discuss this issue further may we suggest that you contact Sheikh Abdullah Al-Judai directly at the Islamic Research Centre, Leeds 0113 23015143

The European Council of Fatwa and Research
The ECFR aims "to present to the Muslim World and the Muslim minorities in the West particularly" its interpretation of "the manifestation of Allah's infinite mercy, knowledge and wisdom".

"The objective of this Council is to promote a uniform Fatwa in Europe and to prevent controversy and intellectual conflicts regarding the respective issues wherever possible. In its endeavour to achieve this objective, it will use means of consultation, joint research as well as group Ijtihad, which has today become an Islamic obligation and necessity. The Council is also designed to become an approved religious authority before local governments and private establishments, which will undoubtedly strengthen and reinforce local Islamic communities."