Who are Muslims allowed to marry?

Marriage in Islam is an important institution that is regulated by religious and cultural customs. There are specific guidelines in Islamic law that determine who Muslims are permitted to marry. Some of the main factors that influence marriage eligibility in Islam include gender, religion, and family relations.

Can a Muslim Man Marry a Non-Muslim Woman?

According to most traditional schools of Islamic law, Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women who are “people of the book,” meaning Jews or Christians. This permission is based on verses in the Quran that allow Muslim men to marry women from the “People of the Book” (Quran 5:5). However, there are some conditions and differing opinions surrounding these interfaith marriages:

  • The non-Muslim woman’s religion must be monotheistic (Jewish or Christian). Marriage to an idolater or polytheist would not be valid.
  • Some scholars say the woman must be a practicing Jew or Christian, not an atheist or agnostic.
  • The children must be raised as Muslims.
  • Some scholars discourage interfaith marriage, unless the man is confident the non-Muslim wife will convert to Islam.

So in summary, it is generally permissible for a Muslim man to marry a Jew or Christian, with certain conditions. However, marriage to other non-Muslims such as Hindus, atheists or those who practice polytheism is prohibited.

Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man?

Unlike men, Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men. The Quran states, “And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe” (2:221). Since men are considered the head of the household in Islam, there is concern that a non-Muslim husband might obstruct the Muslim wife’s ability to raise children according to Islam.

There is a near-consensus among Islamic scholars that Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men. A marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man would be considered invalid and the woman would be considered committing zina (fornication).

Can Muslims Marry Within their Immediate Family?

In Islam, marriage between close family relations is prohibited. This is based on verses in the Quran that list prohibited marriage partners, which includes fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and several other close relatives (Quran 4:22-24).

Marriage between first cousins is permitted in Islam. However, opinions vary on whether the children of two siblings (cousins) can marry each other. Most scholars discourage or prohibit cousins from marrying if their parents are siblings due to the closeness of the biological relationship.

Can Muslims Marry Step-Relatives?

Marriage between step-relations is generally allowed in Islam. For example, a man is allowed to marry the daughter or sister of his wife from a previous marriage. The exception is one’s mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, which is prohibited based on the verse that lists prohibited marriage partners (Quran 4:22-24).

Can Muslims in a Temporary Marriage Marry?

Temporary marriage, known as zawaj mut’a, is only practiced by Shi’ite Muslims and involves an agreed upon timeframe for the marriage (from minutes to years). It is considered prohibited by Sunni schools of thought. For Shi’ites who do practice temporary marriage, the same marriage eligibility rules apply as in permanent marriage.

Who is Considered an Eligible Marriage Partner?

The Quran provides a general list of family members that are considered mahram, meaning unlawful to marry. They include:

  • Parents and ancestors (including grandparent/great-grandparents)
  • Children/grandchildren
  • Siblings
  • Sibling’s children (nieces/nephews)
  • Maternal/paternal aunts/uncles
  • Stepparents
  • Daughters/sons in-law
  • Brothers/sisters in-law
  • Mothers/fathers in-law
  • Stepchildren from breastfeeding (milk siblings/siblings by nursing)

Outside of this prohibited list, Muslims are generally free to marry other eligible partners. The only other major restrictions have to do with faith and chastity. To be eligible for marriage in Islam, a potential spouse must:

  • Be Muslim (for women)
  • Be monotheist “People of the Book” (for men marrying a non-Muslim)
  • Be of sound mind and marriageable age (post-puberty)
  • Be chaste (no adultery or fornication)
  • Be free (not a slave)

Are Cousin Marriages Allowed?

Marriage between first cousins (sharing a grandfather or grandmother) is allowed in Islam. Scholars generally consider this practice permissible based on the fact that the Quran and Hadith do not prohibit it. However, opinions vary on whether cousins on the parental side (whose parents are siblings) can marry:

  • Some scholars allow marriage between cousins whose parents are siblings. They point out that the Quran does not prohibit it.
  • Some discourage marriage if the parents are siblings due to the closeness of the blood relationship.
  • Others prohibit marriage if the parents are siblings, arguing this falls under the prohibited category of “sisters” and “brothers” even if they are cousins.

There is evidence that the Prophet Muhammad himself married cousins. However, his wives Zaynab bint Jahsh and Zaynab bint Khuzayma shared the same grandfather but not the same grandmother. Overall, first cousin marriage is acceptable in Islam though opinions vary on double first cousins.

Does a Muslim Woman Need a Wali to Conduct Marriage?

The majority of Islamic schools mandate that a Muslim woman have a wali, or guardian, in order to get married. The wali, who is usually the woman’s father or close male relative, must give consent for her marriage. The Quran does not expressly mandate this, but verses such as 2:232 and 2:235 are cited:

And when you divorce women and they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. And do not take the verses of Allah in jest. And remember the favor of Allah upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Knowing of all things (Quran 2:231).

From this, most scholars deduce that a marriage contract requires the permission of the woman’s guardian. She cannot merely contract the marriage herself without his approval. Some more liberal scholars contest this interpretation.

Can Muslims Conduct Interfaith Marriages?

Muslim men are allowed to marry “women of the book” meaning Jewish or Christian women (Quran 5:5). However, scholars differ on the permissibility of this practice when it occurs in a secular society:

  • Some argue that verses allowing interfaith marriage clearly give permission for Muslim men to marry Christians and Jews.
  • Others contend that in societies where most Jews/Christians are non-practicing, these marriages should be avoided.
  • Yet others prohibit it entirely, arguing that modern secular society differs greatly from the social context when the Quran was revealed.

For women, the majority of scholars prohibit marriage to a non-Muslim man entirely since the Quran only gives permission for men to conduct interfaith marriages.

Is Polygamy Permitted in Islam?

Polygamous marriage, allowing Muslim men to have up to 4 wives, is permitted according to the Quran (4:3). However, it is generally discouraged unless certain strict conditions can be met, including:

  • The man must be able to financially provide for all wives equally.
  • He must be able to treat them equitably and justly.
  • Existing wife/wives must consent.

Due to the difficulty of meeting these conditions, most scholars say polygamy should be avoided except in certain circumstances like if a wife is unable to bear children. The majority of Muslims worldwide practice monogamy.

Is Arranged Marriage Allowed in Islam?

Islam permits parents and guardians to arrange marriages for their children as long as both prospective partners consent to the marriage. The groom and bride must be allowed to meet before the marriage takes place to ensure mutual attraction and agreement. Forced marriage without consent is prohibited. The Quran states:

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion… (4:19)

Arranged marriages are common in Muslim culture but should not be forced. Prospective partners have a right to refuse the arrangement if they wish.

At What Age Can Muslims Marry?

There is no set minimum marriage age defined in Islamic law. But, scholars say that brides and grooms must have reached physical maturity, which is generally understood to be at puberty. Consummating the marriage before puberty would be prohibited. The age of puberty varies for individuals based on genetics, climate, region, nutrition and other factors.

Is Halala Permissible?

Halala involves a divorced woman marrying someone else, consummating the marriage, and then getting divorced – in order to make it permissible to remarry her first husband. The majority of Islamic scholars consider this practice prohibited (haram) based on the following hadith:

Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) cursed the one who consorts with a woman and divorce her so that she may return to her first husband. (Sunan Abi Dawud 2076)

Some scholars allow it with conditions, but most rule it as unacceptable and tantamount to prostitution.

What Conditions Validate a Marriage Contract?

For a marriage to be valid in Islam, certain requirements must be fulfilled:

  • Consent of both parties
  • Wali (guardian) of the bride
  • Two witnesses
  • Mahr (mandatory gift to the bride from the groom)
  • Recitation of khutba (sermon explaining rights and duties)

Additional customary practices may include a written marriage contract outlining terms and signed by parties and witnesses. The marriage must also be announced publicly.

Is Secret Marriage Permissible?

Secret marriages are prohibited in Islam. The marriage contract and wedding must be publicized. The Quran instructs:

And announce the marriage to the people… (2:235)

Scholars overwhelmingly discourage secret marriages. It leaves women vulnerable, makes establishing paternity difficult, and circumvents the community’s right to know her marital status.


Islam permits marriage under certain restrictions based on faith, family relations, marital status and consent. While Muslim men may marry ‘women of the book,’ Muslim women can generally only marry Muslim men. Cousin marriage is allowed but discouraged if the parents are siblings. Forced marriage is forbidden – prospective spouses must consent. Within these guidelines, marriage in Islam facilitates halal relationships within the faith and family context.

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