Asalamalaikum Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl,
I am writing to you with a great sense of urgency. I'm hoping to get some insight in the following matter. My muslim daughter wishes to marry a man who is from a christian background but who is not a follower of the Christian faith. He believes in the oneness of god and he has no objection to my daughter or their future children practicing Islam. I would like to know whether a Nikaah is permissible in this particular situation. I have met with a couple of scholars but have not been able to find what the Islamic stance is in this particular situation. I would appreciate your reply as soon as possible.
[Name Withheld for Privacy]
I pray that Allah (SWT) showers you with peace, serenity, and beauty. I have written quite a bit on this matter. My previous writings can be found on the Scholar of the House website. If you wish for me to provide you with a summary, according to the classical schools of law, such a nikaah would be void and unlawful because, in the classical perspective, the marriage of a Muslim woman to a Christian man (practicing or not) is unlawful. This is according to the four Sunni schools and the two major Shi’a schools.
However, I have written an analysis of the evidence available on the website mentioned above and, in my opinion, and Allah knows best, the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim as well as the marriage of a Muslim man to a non-Muslim under the current circumstances in the West, in my view, and Allah knows best, is makruh (disfavored or admonished). I reached this conclusion because of the dilution of Islamic identity that occurs in the offspring of such marriages. The children are often put in the unenviable position of having to make sense between competing religious perspectives and commitments. The world is confusing enough for our children as it is.
In all cases, I encourage you to read my full explanation in the site mentioned above. What I always tell couples who seek my counsel is that you must ask yourselves how important is it for you as a couple to worship together. If it is more important for a couple to share dinner than it is to share their acts of worship, then perhaps, in the first place, religion is not central to that couple.
One final thought – as apparent, regardless of what our beliefs and perspectives might be, the wiser course of action is to offer advice to your children, but ultimately let them know that you love them and that you "have their back" regardless of what they choose to do. Rebuke, harsh words, and boycott often misfire and have a very opposite effect. We, as Muslims, are under an ethical duty to offer nothing but love to our children, whether they are on the right path or the wrong one.
I will keep you in my prayers and I do supplicate to God to grant you serenity, peace, beauty, and love.
Wa al-salamu alaykum,
Shaykh Abou El Fadl